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Imagining India: The Idea of a Renewed Nation Hardcover – March 19, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The premise of this suave and unabashedly free market overview of the New India—the rising economic powerhouse—is that ideas lead economic and social policy rather than the other way around. It's not a consistently held position, however, as Nilekani, cochairman of the board of directors of Infosys Technologies (a leader in India's burgeoning IT sector), refers in the same breath to a longstanding (postindependence) antipathy to teaching English reversed by its economic advantage in a global market. Theoretical consistency aside, the author makes a bid for a centrist position in the globalization debate. His focus rests on India's particular domestic and international advantages in such areas as population, English proficiency and information technology. But there's little separating his take on India's recent past (hobbled by Nehru-era socialism) or best present course (embracing globalization, seen as a harmonious and harmonizing amalgam of democracy, equal opportunity and resource access) from such neoliberal champions as Thomas Friedman (who supplies the foreword). Readers inclined to a free market perspective will find Nilekani eminently reasonable, if less than startling; those seeing it as antithetical to an equitable and sustainable future will meet a familiar frustration on nearly every page. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Nandan M. Nilekani is the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Infosys Technologies Limited. He is the recipient of several awards, including the prestigious Schumpeter Prize for innovative services in economy, economic sciences, and politics. He was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2006 and was named Forbes "Businessman of the Year" in 2007. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (March 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594202044
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594202049
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,341,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is not often that an engineer writes a book about his country. It is even rarer if that engineer is from IIT and is also the CEO of a company with over 80,000 employees. So when I first heard about this book, my reaction was the same when I saw an advertisement in which Hema Malini models for a water filter. The question that arose was does she really have to do this? Similarly I asked does Mr.Nilekani really have to do this?

Keeping in mind the author's illustrious background, a forward by Thomas Friedman and the backing of a "stellar team of editors", my expectations from this book went sky high. In order to understand it, enjoy it and do full justice to it, I read this book for no more than an hour each day. If one were to sum up the essence of this book in one word, then it would be "heavy". This book is heavy in weight, in content and full of heavy weights (i.e. experts in different fields).

The gist of the book is that it explores the growth of India from the era of Nehru to Manmohan Singh and beyond. In 1991 economic reforms were introduced in India and with that says Mr. Nilekani "the baton for growth passed from the government to the human spirit of creativity, adventure and enterprise". Beautiful words! The author explains this by exploring different issues. He has put in a lot of effort to study each issue, discuss it with the local experts and then write about it. For a writer it is one thing to understand a complex issue but what requires extraordinary skill is to break it into simple blocks of past, present and future and then write about it in simple words, so that the common man can fully understand it. Thomas Friedman calls Mr.Nilekani "an explainer" and I couldn't agree with him more.
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Format: Hardcover
Author Nanden Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys, traces the ideas that shaped India's past and present, and looks forward into its future.

India's socialist ethos is still dominant, rooted in abuses from early British rule, memories of the Great Depression, and greatly exaggerated growth statistics from the Soviet Union's early days. Initially, after gaining independence, entry into industries set aside for the private sector was regulated through a licensing system, and the government controlled pricing of commodities. This spawned massive expansion of a slow-moving bureaucracy, the opportunity for corruption, and eventual change. Until that change occurred, businesses procured multiple licenses to preempt competition, resulting in most industries having just 1-2 competitors, poor quality, and high prices. The 1980s and 1990s brought change out of frustration and a nearly bankrupt government treasury. De-licensing, dismantling price controls in some industries, lowering tariffs, and changed tax policy that no longer sapped profits brought reinvestment, growth, and a 5X multiplication in government revenues (aka Arthur Laffer) in ten years. Annual growth has exceeded 6% since the early 1990s, a record in history exceeded only by China. Nilekani, however, conceded that much more remains to be done - India still ranks below China and Pakistan in ease of doing businesses (especially new start-ups), and he doubts any businessman could be elected to high office.

Nilekani has no doubts that India's Democracy is superior to China's government, and cites China's tumult under Mao and even since as evidence. However, his contention that India's laissez faire approach to birth control will be more effective than China's mandated "one-child" rule is not compelling.
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Format: Hardcover
Although "Imagining India" will undoubtedly raise some hackles, this is a very powerful and important book that needs to be taken seriously.

Nilekani presents a decent historical picture of India since Partition and includes an annotated timeline at the back of his book. And he takes a very clear-eyed look at the present, seeing enormous room for improvement.

There is an old saying that the first step to correcting a problem is recognizing that a problem exists. Soberly and succinctly, Nilekani recognizes and addresses India's problems head-on and offers a variety of practical and innovative proposals.

At the same time that India is growing its economy and raising the standard of living for its citizens, there are serious problems with shortages of drinking water, roads, schools, dependable electricity, load-shedding, pollution and environmental degradation. Serious infrastructure reforms are needed. Political corruption, industrialization, lack of uniform sanitation policies, need for universal literacy, environmental degradation, and serious energy problemd are prevalent.

The book is essentially a business plan for improvement. Offering economic, environmental, political, and IT suggestions and solutions on where and how India might cut through the murk to become a world leader in environmental and business reform, Nilekani makes a lot of sense.

Rather than simply pushing IT solutions at the reader as some reviewers have suggested, Nilekani has thoughtfully interviewed many different kinds of specialists and authorities.

Many of the thinkers and practioners referenced in this book are from India; others are from across the globe. Collectively they offer practical and sensible solutions for moving the country ahead.
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