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Indias new global strength

22 Jan 2009

Corporations in the developed world increasingly see India as a high-growth market and its companies as acquirers of their assets, global competitors, partners for enhancing the competitiveness of their global value chain and a source of new energy and dreams for the world economy.

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How did this all happen? Nirmalya Kumar shares the essence of what he has learned in his new book, India's Global Powerhouses.

Early 2009 sees the publication of my new book, India's Global Powerhouses: How They Are Taking on the World (published by Harvard Business School Press). The book is the outcome of two years of research that took me to India more than 10 times.  Along the way I interviewed more than 30 CEOs and top executives leading the globalisation of Indian firms; from those interviews emerged 11 case studies on companies such as ArcelorMittal, Bharat Forge, Hindalco, Infosys, Suzlon and the Tata Group.

Indian companies have made many high-profile foreign acquisitions in this decade including Arcelor, Corus, Land Rover, Novelis and Tetley Tea. The globalisation of Indian firms is the outcome of a journey that found the best of them shackled by government policies until the 1980s, took them through a tough corporate restructuring programme in the 1990s to gain competitiveness, and has them spreading their wings overseas in this decade.

What we are observing is only the tip of the iceberg as many more leading Indian companies will use the scale they acquire in the domestic market to launch foreign operations. Unlike the previous waves of Japanese and Korean competitors, Indian companies have two special advantages: they are populated by many executives fluent in English and comfortable in the Western world; and, second, they enjoy a much larger domestic market to exploit. As overseas companies increasingly encounter Indian firms as competitors, customers and collaborators, my book outlines some unique tendencies of Indian companies in these roles.

Surveys of developed countries in 2008 show historic lows with respect to the outlook for future living standards. The financial crisis only reinforces the fact that growth is in the East and debts are in the West. As a result, the fears expressed in the West for its economic future are diametrically opposite to the confidence and desire to succeed one observes in India.

The New York Times columnist Roger Cohen provocatively wrote: "It's the end of the era of the white man. By 2030, India will probably overtake Japan as the world's third-largest economy behind the United States and China. But in the end, transformation is not about numbers. It's about the mind. Come to Asia and fear drains away."

Listen to Nirmalya Kumar's podcast.

Nirmalya Kumar (nkumar@london.edu) is Professor of Marketing at London Business School.