India Unbound : Book Review

05 Oct

India unbound‘ by Gurucharan Das is the narration of salient features of pre independence India (with focus on British Raj) and post-independence India ( with focus on Liberalization and its impact) . The book takes you through the journey , recounting on the way – the follies which held us back , the strengths which saw us through , the eternal socialism-capitalism struggle , social stigmas which challenge upward mobility of people even today , the rise of Consumerism and Knowledge Economy and everything that defines the idea of India.

Interval between decay of the Old and formation of New is the period of Transition which has Uncertainty , Confusion , Errors and wild & fierce fanaticism .

Author has very deftly enlisted the grave mistakes committed by India after Independence . Firstly , 17 major industries were reserved for public sector which in turn discouraged entrepreneurship and competition . Aditya Birla , for example was so disillusioned with the Indian policy that he expanded his enterprise outside India . Secondly , a bizarre and damaging licensing system was introduced with Industries Act of 1951 which required entrepreneurs to get a license to set up a new unit or to expand it or to change the product mix . It thwarted competition , brought about delays and corruption , did not achieve any social objective and killed any possibility of Industrial Revolution which could have salvaged our Manufacturing sector in India . Thirdly , Mixed Economy combined worst feature of capitalism and socialism -the controls of socialism with the monopolies and lobbies of capitalism . By suppressing economic liberty for 40 years , system betrayed Indian citizens who were robbed of their growth and future . Then instead of providing quality education (that could make people self sufficient) and health care , system gave subsidies for which our economy is paying price till today . We are still paying price for investment in large Public sector at the expense of Private sector with emphasis on Heavy industry at expense of Consumer goods with focus on Import substitution at expense of Export promotion .

On social front author talks about Caste System . Education and not the reservations/quotas is the answer to issue of upward mobility of backward , yet no politician talks about Primary Education because of Vote-Bank Politics . The logic of ballot box is too strong in India .There are caste wars/clashes between various castes especially in Bihar where massacre of both upper castes and Dalits happen very frequently till date.

On corporate front , Author has given examples of Business houses like Birlas , Tatas and Ambanis who flourished despite of obstacles . Reliance’s success story is not just the classic rags to riches story but a superb example of how to create globally competitive enterprise which responds rapidly to customer through clear focus on Vertical Integration . It questions whether one should give up dream of building world class enterprise defeated by Retrograde Laws or one should match wits against the system .

Case of Vics Branding and Marketing – By working as a Brand Manager for Vics , author realized that building a global brand does not means applying homogenous strategy across the pluralistic world . Vics inspite of being an international brand was market leader in its domain because of its Ayurvedic ingredients which appealed to Indians . Hence globalization involves nourishing local insights and cultivating local pride and ownership in synergy with the brand proposition . The ideas/strategy depending on their success and feasibility can be reemployed across different geographies of the world .

India , thanks to Green Revolution , has surplus food production , but still there is Hunger and malnourishment . This is because of abject poverty and lack of purchasing power with the people . So increasing output is not holistic solution . More employment and skill development will bring prosperity to masses .

Rise of Entrepreneurship – There is a new section of millionaires who have created wealth through their knowledge and innovation . There is a new social construct in India which respects hard work , ideas and managerial expertise rather than inherited wealth . With plethora of reforms and deregulation , competitive business environment has promoted entrepreneurship in India . Many Indian firms which started small , have grown big through innovation eg – Reliance , Infosys , NIIT , Zee TV .

Road Ahead :- In the Joint ventures between Indian and foreign firms , Indian firms should absorb technology & management practices rather than concentrating on ownership . Eg : Samsung did not learn aircrafts from Boeing as much as it did about its projects management which it later applied to its electronic assembly operations . We still have lingering mistrust for modernization yet we are mordernizing at astonishing pace . India has painfully forged an independent judiciary , free press and vibrant and pluralistic society . These are the institutional advantages that will take India long way .

And, following is apart from the book .

There seem to be a pervading pessimistic sentiment in countrywide political and economical scenario . With multitudes of scams , scandals , coalition brawls.. it is but natural to lose hope , but there are million reasons to believe that India will survive .

Quoting India After Gandhi by Ramchandra Guha

So long as constitution is not amended beyond recognition and Elections are held fairly and regularly , India will Survive .
So long as citizens can speak and write in language of their choosing , India will Survive
So long as there is a moderately efficient Civil services and Army to uphold our sovereignty , India will survive .
And lest i forget , so long as Hindi movies are watched and their songs sung , India Will Survive .

P.S This lizard on the wall of my room has been still since eternity . I have no choice but to conclude that it is either dead or it is an outrageously ugly spy device installed by an enemy .

P.P.S The Song of the Post – Phir Le Aaya Dil , a Beautiful-Soulful-Refreshing song from the movie ‘Barfi’ . Composed by Pritam , it has two versions – one by Arijit Singh and other by , none other than , Rekha Bhardawaj . Lyrically , it is a lovely Urdu piece and is like a Ghazal in its treatment. So ,not worth missing.

Jai Hind!


Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Uncategorized


4 responses to “India Unbound : Book Review

  1. Anish V Chandrasekaran

    October 5, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I am stuck between buying India After Gandhi and India Unbound..
    Which one would you suggest ?

  2. kanika

    October 5, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Tough choice ! since both the books are masterpieces in their own self and both focus on post independence India . In India After Gandhi , Guha has very comprehensively focussed on Historical incidences and their implications on the lives of people . India Unbound is more about personal musings of author and it captures the transformation of country which once depended on foreign aid for feeding its people and is today one of the fastest growing economies of the world . Focus here is more on economy . So pick up any one and you will not regret .

  3. Shailesh Thorat

    October 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    Nicely penned. Seems one of the must-read types. Grabbing one soon.

  4. Rajesh Allam

    October 6, 2012 at 12:49 am

    Its one of the best books I have read. ‘The difficulty of being good’ is another great book by Gurucharan Das. Though a different genre, book describes the contemporary moral issues. Also, if you get chance, try to read ‘Super Power’ by Raghav Bhal. Its a must read for anyone looking to understand China and India and the ways in which these two nations are about to change the history of the world


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