Since the start of the recent global boom in information technology, there's been much talk in economic circles of an India covered with bold stripes, the next Asian tiger. Gurcharan Das, however, sees a much larger but lumbering elephant rising out of the muggy history of a country in which one-sixth of the world's population resides. India, as he states in India Unbound, "will never have speed, but it will always have stamina." How that stamina has evidenced itself over the past half-century is the focus of Das's book, an intricate, personal account of the beginnings of India's ongoing economic and social transformation.
Das begins his story shortly before India gained its independence from the British in 1947. He was born into a middle-class Punjabi family well ensconced in the new British-educated professional class. Das's borrowed term of "cultural commuters" fits his father's generation well, and his description of life lived between the more philosophical and spiritual worlds of Indian tradition and the Western-influenced business world of the British Raj reveal both a versatility and disorientation that was to permeate succeeding generations of independent Indians. Though mindful of Jawaharlal Nehru's influence on India's embrace of democracy, Das takes to task the economic leadership of the man who, while beginning his democratic rule with ambitions to end "poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity" ultimately failed in this regard. With an ever-present eye on the economic plight of his fellow countrymen (and frequent use of anecdotes and statistics), Das examines the irony of the socialist governments of Nehru and Indira Gandhi, which were founded in the name of the poor but became inefficient, bureaucratic behemoths, sucking the economic lifeblood out of the country. His education at Harvard introduced him to a slew of influential theories, including those of economist John Kenneth Galbraith and philosopher John Rawls. But instead of remaining in academia, Das began his career in business, joining the Indian subsidiary of Vicks and rising to become head of its Indian company, Richardson Hindustan, in 1981, and eventually, a CEO at Proctor & Gamble. Soon after the economic reforms of the early 1990s, however, Das left to employ his keen observational skills as a journalist and writer, and the latter part of this book is crammed with his insights into the opportunities of present-day India. Das is obviously enthusiastic about the possibilities that the knowledge economy has opened up for India, but he thoughtfully examines these economic options within the framework of the cultural past and future of a country on the "brink of the biggest transformation in its history."
As an autobiography that touches on every area of life but focuses a keen eye on economic development, Das's account is jam-packed with detail. At every chance, he sets the personal story of his family and ancestors in the wider context of history (often for full chapters at a time), creating a broad and richly detailed picture of Indian life. Though he writes in colorful, descriptive prose, Das's succinct and matter-of-fact statements occasionally seem to belie the complexity and ambiguities of historical and cultural transitions. However, India Unbound is a vast undertaking, and Das's combination of historical account, economic analysis, cultural observation, and personal experience is often intriguing and always informative. --S. Ketchum --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Das, an Indian venture capitalist and columnist for the Times of India (and former CEO of Procter & Gamble India), uses his own experiences as a businessman as the context in which to comment on India's postcolonial economic policies. He begins with Nehru's mixed economy (which he argues achieved democracy but ignored entrepreneurship and competition, resulting in an absence of industrial development) and continues through to the economic reforms of 1991 under Prime Minister Narasimha Rao (whom he labels a "reluctant liberalizer"), demonstrating how India has abandoned state-directed industrialization and finally become a free-market democracy with a burgeoning middle class. He also points out how India's late (and incomplete) entry into the international economy continues to hamper its growth, as compared to other late entries, such as that of China, which had a lower per capita income than India did in the mid-'60s and today boasts one twice as large as India's. Nevertheless, Das remains optimistic that "the new India is increasingly one of competition and decentralization," particularly because of the Internet and the boom in software entrepreneurship. In explaining India's economic policies, he gives much credence to theories about high-caste Brahmins being averse to making money and the government's fears that capitalism would crush the poor; but Das only mentions in passing Russia's ideological sway at the time of India's independence and does not discuss the Cold War or the context for India's belief that import substitution was necessary to make India less dependent on the outside world for its survival. Business readers with an interest in Third World development will learn much from Das.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Editorial Reviews
Very well written. Never gets too slow. Facts and figures definitely help my engineering mind digest the magnitude of events.Published 1 month ago by Himanshu Mehta
Superbly written about Indian economy and the politics affecting it.Published 3 months ago by Rajamani Muthuchamy
A must read for people who are interested in the history of Modern Indian Economy. Gives great insight into where we as a country made a mistake and how heavy it's implications are... Read morePublished 6 months ago by shreyans
Sincere work of an NRI optimist.....makes one feel good but lacks deep analysis...Published 10 months ago by Raj Kumar Moitra
A reasonably good book about our dismal showing as a nation during the first 45 years of independence. The chains that shackled us have largely been struck off. Read morePublished 12 months ago by VIVEK SHIVDASANI
This is the best book I have read on the huge gains made in India after it abandoned socialism in 1990. Read morePublished 13 months ago by David A. Olson
This is the book that describes India's economy growth in 20th century and its pitfalls of socialism view of government that initially looks a ideal for the peoples but ultimate... Read morePublished on August 4, 2013 by Sita Ram Meena
India Unbound is a perspective of a businessman in dealing with the government and civil servants in India. Read morePublished on August 15, 2010 by MeterManja
The author explains the various governments of India and the implications each had on society and the next steps for the economy. Read morePublished on September 11, 2009 by Tom Zimmerman