Growing pains for India Inc

One man’s traffic jam, is another’s opportunity. That is exactly what I take away from Business Week’s latest cover package on India that focuses on the infrastructure problems with the country that is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Ports, roads, buildings – the infrastructure just can’t keep up with the pace of growth. Business Week is right: the whole thing is creaky and needs a makeover, quickly.

New Delhi MetroIts not like they are not trying: Business Week writes about New Delhi Metro, which miraculously finished ahead of time. I can personally attest that it is one fine piece of mass transit system, and is viewed with pride by Delhi locals. (Read: My Personal Perspectives on an emergent India.)

The last time I visited India, it reminded me of 1950s in the US (as seen on old news reels) with consumerism and rapid growth just getting under way. Three years later, many similar macro-trends are unfolding – organized retail for example. Technology, may have gotten India the kick-start, but it is retail, financial services and manufacturing that will keep the Indian economy rolling and create jobs for the non-tech locals. (Sramana Mitra’s thoughts on where VCs should invest in India.)

The Weekly harps on manufacturing, though I believe the infrastructure and other issues are linked to the agricultural sector – by far the most important segment of Indian economy. As big box retailers try and set-up shop, one can expect that new “food” supply chains will be set-up to feed the middle classes that live in the cities, there by pushing the economic gains into the hinterland – perhaps will bring some kind of economic relief to the poor farmers. Many are being forced to sell their lands and move to the cities in search of a livelihood, putting more stress on an over stressed urban infrastructure.

Atanu Dey and Vinod Khosla have their own version of a Marshall Plan, that could alleviate some of the human issues that come with a growing economy.