India is a land without parallel. With a population of over 1.3 billion, it is set to become the world's most populous country, overtaking China in the near future. One in six people on the planet live in India.
India is by far the largest democracy in the world. It is a federal constitutional republic consisting of 29 states and 7 union territories. Government is conducted through a parliamentary system, with a central government based in Delhi and state governments in each state. Considering that the most populous state – Uttar Pradesh – has a population of over 200 million, and with 15 states with a population more than 30 million, state governments themselves have considerable power, with Chief Ministers who have greater responsibility and influence than the Prime Ministers of many smaller countries.
It is estimated that there are 29 languages each spoken by more than 1 million people and 122 languages spoken by more than 10,000 people each.
Since the "economic revolution" of the early 1990s, India has experienced unprecedented growth – with great strides in economic and social progress. Modernisation and globalisation have proceeded at an ever-accelerating rate. In modern India, there is a constant awareness of the global family, and of the opportunities to be grasped in all parts of the world.
This trend has been facilitated in no small part by the successful global family of Indian entrepreneurs, business leaders, scientists, politicians, technologists, sport stars and writers, and has been fuelled by the traditional Indian perspective "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam" – "The world is my family".
From the 1990s onwards, the first sector in which India became a truly global player was in the IT industry. India's IT companies quickly became the engine for development in IT-related industries the world over. Starting from a position in which Indian companies were providing support services for companies in North America and Europe, the Indian companies rapidly became innovators and leaders in their special fields.
Global companies moved substantial operations to Indian cities such as Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Pune and Chandigarh – initially because these locations were less expensive with the availability of a large cost-effective workforce, but later because these locations in India gave the opportunity for world-leading innovation and development.
Very quickly, Indian professionals gained high-ranking positions in global IT companies, and Indian companies have set up substantial operations overseas.
India's success in the IT sector launched rapid development in other commercial and professional areas. India's economy now has vibrant contributions across many sectors in which the country has become a global player. Additionally, many large overseas companies have substantial operations in India's cities.
In the early 1990s, when the economic revolution gained pace, there were concerns that limitations in infrastructure would severely impede growth and progress.
India's landline telephone system presents enormous challenges. It is based on old technology and an antiquated network of lines across challenging terrain.
The solution was found not in modernising the old landline based system but in creating an efficient nationwide mobile network for voice and data, with a combination of government and private sector operators. According to figures for February 2017, there were over one billion subscriber accounts, with over 13 million new mobile users in that month alone. In contrast, there are only just over 24 million landline connections, with very few new subscribers – indicating the enormous prominence of mobile connectivity.
Nearly all professionals use mobile-based internet and other data services, as do many home users.
In one stroke, the enormous challenges of the out–dated telecoms system are almost forgotten. The new generation of professionals would find it difficult to believe that just over 30 years ago, it could take up to 3 days to place a "lightning call" from one city to another.
Forty years ago, travel from city to city was an adventure that took some planning. Only few could afford air travel; road travel was a huge challenge; and rail journeys would be planned and tickets booked sometimes weeks in advance.
Now, a new network of modern roads is spreading across the country, and the rail network is being modernised and expanded. New rail corridors are planned and high speed rail routes are at an advanced stage of planning.
More importantly, there is an efficient fleet of modern aircraft run by around 10 companies, offering a range of services from budget to luxury. No city is out of reach, and you can be in the air within a couple of hours of deciding to travel. Air travel is now affordable to a sizeable proportion of the population.
Up to 1984, there was a single TV channel, Doordarshan, which until 1975 was available in only seven cities across India. Newspapers contained scant international news, with just a few columns devoted to news and information from overseas. As a result, even those with higher education qualifications and professional experience had little access to current international affairs and news.
With the advent of digital satellite TV technology, there are now as many or more channels than are available in many western countries. Furthermore, the channels represent a truly cosmopolitan spectrum. In addition to national and regional channels covering news, drama, sport and culture, there are English language programmes from the UK, North America and Australia, as well as programming from many other countries, including Japan, China, South Korea, Russia, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The most important challenge that must now be faced in order to maintain the momentum of economic and social growth is to ensure that today's growing generation can receive high quality education and that everyone in the workforce has access to training and skills development fit for the global workplace.
More than 50% of the population are below the age of 25. Creating adequate education for over ½ billion young people is an enormous and unprecedented challenge.
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