India as a global factory: A project seventy years in the making

A potential watershed event in India’s modern economic history passed by recently. A state of the art, globally recognized, electronic product is to be made in India for export to the world.

Apple announced plans to make its latest phone model – iPhone 14 – in India, a significant milestone in the company’s strategy to diversify manufacturing outside of China.

Five percent of iPhone 14 production is expected to shift to the country this year, much sooner than analysts had anticipated.

While Apple is big, a more telling example of India’s potential is at the end of this post. But before that, how did India, a country that struggled to feed itself in the 1950s, get into the running for ‘factory of the world’ ?

In 1950, less than 1% of Indian college students studied science and engineering. By 2022, this number had risen to more than 30%. In fact, science and engineering have become so popular in India today, that a counter culture has arisen in the form of movies like 3 Idiots. Back in 1950, India’s best students were focused on subjects like law and social sciences, primed to manage the Empire. In fact, some have remarked that the independence movement was a result of the British producing too many lawyers in India.

Since independence, a concerted effort has been made by the Indian state to popularize science and engineering. This was done under the aegis of spreading a ‘scientific temper’, starting with the establishment of Vigyan Mandir in 1953. Subsequently, following in the legacy of medieval India’s Jantar Mantars, Nehru planetariums were established in major Indian cities. Further, the establishment of the IIT system gave a formal structure and high standard to engineering education. In 1976, the cultivation of scientific temper was included as a fundamental duty in the Constitution.

By the late 1970s, India’s growing pool of scientists and engineers had attracted attention from abroad, specifically Japanese automakers. This resulted in a dramatic increase in India’s automobile production, more than doubling from 700,000 to 2 million in the 1980s.An entire ecosystem of vendors producing automobile components came up around Suzuki’s Gurgaon factory. It is perhaps surprising that the Indian government did not think about replicating this success in the electronics sector. This oversight turned out to be an enormous missed opportunity.

The post 1990 period saw an acceleration in India’s economic growth, with the software and IT sector taking a prime position both in the export numbers and the economic narrative. However, India was a manufacturing star as well, particularly its pharma, petrochemical and automobile industries.

However, its potential in the wider manufacturing arena remained unrealized and indeed unrecognized. The late 2010s produced new exigencies in the global order, with Western countries trying to pivot away from their dependence on China. In this process, India has emerged as the only real alternative to achieve the technical complexity and economies of scale demanded by modern industry.

An equally important turn of events has been the precipitous decline in India-China relations. If Chinese support for Pakistan had made Indians wary of the CCP, its direct clashes with India on the border have made China enemy number one in the Indian public’s eye. There is a determination at the political and public level to not depend on Chinese manufacturing imports. This mark has already been achieved for toys, cell phones and PPE. Make no mistake, India wants to bring Chinese imports down to zero. This is what ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ (self reliant India) really means.

On the other hand, Western business seems keen to move out of China. The LA Times describes the experience of one European manufacturer to move away from China,

In 2019, he began assessing the possibility of moving some manufacturing capabilities to Vietnam. But he abandoned the plan eight months later after price increases for about half of the company’s projects upset his customers. Product development also took longer — one prototype that would have been completed in three weeks in China required six months in Vietnam.

A review of other countries in Southeast Asia proved even less fruitful, he said.

By late 2020, Gaussorgues turned farther afield — to India. The local electronics and automotive ecosystem offered lower manufacturing costs and easy access to parts. With five employees so far, he aims to start assembly work next year, and hopes to host the majority of manufacturing there after five years.

What is important to note here is that India being able provide an alternative to China is not about the population. SE Asia, where the person in the article first when to has enormously populated countries, all with fantastic port access. India is able to provide an alternative because of the consistent emphasis on science and technology education over the past 70 years.

If you build it, they will come. Eventually.

71 thoughts on “India as a global factory: A project seventy years in the making”

  1. As much as it is true that a part of India is on a ramp to a manufacturing power, it is certainly not the case that this was “a project seventy years in the making”.

    Nehru and Congress did their very best to retard large scale manufacturing. The heroes of modern Indian manufacturing (like Dhirubai Ambani) are the survivors of hunger games played by Indian bureaucrats.

    Four Indian states (Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Gujarat) account for almost the bulk of industrial activity and GVA (gross value added).

    In FY 2020, India’s manufacturing GVA was 16.9 lakh crore (USD 211 billion). The four states accounted for a staggering 90% of this GVA.

    The Indian story of manufacturing are the individual stories of these four states, not any top-down prescription (scientific temper or Nehru planetariums).

    The requirements are bipartisan consensus and ideological commitment. Nothing could be more relevant than to trace the political history of these four states. That is the starting point. Rest is only logistics (of the bureaucratic type).

    Another embryonic reason for success in these four states is an OBC base that has made industrialisation and urbanisation key political demands.

    1. “not any top-down prescription”

      You seem to think that industrialization is driven by a grass-roots initiative and entrepreneurship, but then say,

      “bipartisan consensus and ideological commitment” is needed. Both these things can only be done at the top.

      In any case, MH, TN, KA, GJ would not be able to add that value if only 1% of Indians were becoming scientists and engineers.

      Regarding your point about OBCs, Marathas in MH did not drive industrialization, Gujaratis did. Although, the Marathas and Dalits partake in it now as well, often under Gujarati tutelage. The key Maratha economic demands were water management and sugarcane cultivation, both related to agriculture.

      1. The Indian federal setup did not push any buttons to kickstart manufacturing. Except for now….where Modi is doing some serious initiatives. After all, he was Gujarat CM, one of the Big 4 states of Indian manufacturing.

        The average Indian engineer works in a service industry (IT, finance, marketing). The average Indian manufacturing firm has about 5% of its workforce from engineering backgrounds. The majority are diplomas or 10th Pass, certified in some technical area.

        Culture has not contributed to the Indian manufacturing sector. The Big 4 all have individualistic paths to where they are today.

        Some commonalities are bipartisan consensus at the state, OBC networks, successful navigation of communist urges.

    2. in my opinion, industrialisation in karnataka was ‘old mysore’ specific, and was earlier based on the key industries set up by the maharaja of mysore. also helped by the higher education system. the second phase of industrialisation was essentially driven by the large number of public sector factories set up the govt.
      the current phase of industrialisation is essentially service based and that too mostly soft ware, which were all started by brahmins, muslims (as in wipro) , and multinationals etc.
      the o b c role directly was very minimal, however, in the current phase, o b c are into large scale real estate which supports the software industries.

      1. Yes, this is absolutely spot on. Harish Damodaran talks about this in his book on entrepreneurship outside merchant castes in different states.

        The roots of Bengaluru’s tech industry are in Krishna Raja Wadiyar’s initiative to build dams in the erstwhile Mysore kingdom.

      2. [email protected] and [email protected],
        the common features of GJ, MH, KA, TN and some extent the NCR region is the buy-in of the agri castes to industrialization. They may not setup big manufacturing units but they setup ancillary units and allied service industries. These castes esp. elites will still hanker after cushy government jobs but they realize that not everyone in the community will be able to get a government job and ultimately you need a functioning economy.
        It was annoying to see the entitlement and arrogance of BH youth during the recent agniveer protests. Never remember seeing such kind of protests in these 4 states.
        I think IN has its own resource curse. Eastern UP, BH, WB, KL etc have gifted with plentiful water/good soil. Hence the appeal of communism/socialism in these areas.

    1. All that’s reflecting is that better educated immigrants who work in white collar jobs are less insular.

    2. I wouldnt worry about this. There is a good chance that Indian culture will supplant Western culture in the coming years.

      1. Vikram Bhai,

        300-500K kamate hain saale, phir bhi chindi pana karte hain in giving away money. Feel really proud of having gamed the system and consider it a great achievement.

        I used to go to the ISKCON in Mountain View. Other than actual devotees, folks don’t give much money. The worst of the lot are Bengalis, all of them seem to be ‘cultural’ Hindus. No daan, no dharam.

        1. The Sub is very left wing and Islamist/Khalistani sympathizing at this point.

          You see the same types start shit like this. Every single Gujarati I know in all generations can speak fluent Gujarati.
          The funniest thing is that another thread started a few days ago talked about most insular and conservative groups and Gujaratis came up lol. So in the end, everything spun negative is pushed onto majority Hindu groups. This shows up a lot on that sub. When people riot of some communities and engage in gang warfare, they are tough and cool. When Hindus stand up for themselves, they are fascist Hindu nationalists.

          The systematic banning and mods on there are very similar to /rindia. The comments about 9/11 are funny. Trust me Hindus got a decent brunt. The S Indian engineer killed for being a suspected “Iranian” wasn’t some lone incident. People with brown skin in general were stereotyped, especially because American media hired desis to play terrorists. My parents were stopped multiple times from grocery stories to libraries with random whites asking them things to the effect of “Why are you doing this to us.”
          Some of it on there is envy of code switching ability. These richer on average Hindu groups are better assimilated and able to better mingle with the upper classes because they tend to be more upper class.

          They then get the moniker of “whitewashed.” On the other hand, other poorer groups are more insular and happen to live in poorer areas, until recently with things like property price surge in Canada. They happen to be around more regressive and ghettoized people. And the appropriation of that stuff is there. Hence the heavy drug, gang, and gun influence in Punjabi rap songs. In both cases, there is cultural blending. But one is strategically vilified more. One because of group level hatred outside of all of this. And two because of envy on some level of economic success.

          1. My parents were stopped multiple times from grocery stories to libraries with random whites asking them things to the effect of “Why are you doing this to us.”

            Never been stopped even though I had big black beard,, shaved head and wore a beret.
            except once in Idaho, 1995. Was returning from Yellowstone. Cop car followed me for a couple of miles. Then made slight search of boot Asked where I was going Said my wife wants to Potato Museum He looked really surprised. Explained wife really loves Idaho Potato.. Then cop explained got a call about suspected drug transport. Kind of made sense, old car, NY plates in the middle of nowhere..

          2. @sb

            Lucky you. I got both cow piss drinker and terrorist jibes thrown at me. People are dumb. Also, I grew up small and physically weak so I was an easy target. It was more that than racial honestly. Part of that was my fault. I started working out and trying to be more socially well rounded later than I should have. Also, this was in NE in a diverse area. Honestly, I noticed less frequent racism in less diverse areas. Basically minority population has to reach threshold to cause friction.

          3. trying to be more socially well rounded
            I think less socially rounded, more confidence in oneself. Also to be oneself. Never wanted be dressed yuppie (other than work). Hotel, camping etc I get into a sarong the SL batik type. If it is warm then barebodied. O course questions on what I was wearing etc. Curiosity and an ice breaker.

            My wife was a real village woman, much older than me though she did not look it She could barely speak English, but she had that easy going low key confidence of Sri Lankans.

            As a grad student I travelled a lot criss crossing the US many times for conferences. I got reimbursed upto USD 700 for mileage. So drove in my old 1980 Chevy Celebrity that I got free from a Prof and 150K miles when first started using it
            Before that had gigantic Ford LTD station wagon with V8 450 cubic inch (7 liter) engine. The first forays into US were in that, including a trip to New Orleans in 1993 (I think) No internet guides, just a RandMcnally map I bought at a garage sale for a dollar.
            Anyway got lost getting out of NY and ended up somewhere in NJ Slept in the car and made our way to Washington DC and from there to Blue Ridge Parkway. As usual for me I was late and just got into the park before the gates closed. Now I was worried to go too far, the car sucked up gas though only USD 1 at that time. So saw a sign for back country parking, plus even more important a water tap. I think we had single burner camp stove. So made some food and went to sleep in the back of the station wagon. When you put down there is more room than room back home.

            Next day morning we had park rangers tapping at our window They said you cant camp here. The campsite is just a mile away. After the Rangers left we had a catwash + food. We did not know a campsite was like or how much we would have to pay. Anyway went to the campsite, had a shower and moved on. On the way bought a pup tent, i.e. 3 feet high. Also stayed at a chain campground, something like K something. The owners were OK, but you could sense we did not fit. Never stayed in private campgrounds after that it was always State and Local. The RandMcnally gave enough parks on their maps.

            Anyway back to my wife. Like I said she could barely speak English. By the first trip to New Orleans in 1993 she knew what to eat out. That was every couple of days, we cooked food at the campsites enough for breakfast and lunch. And then dinner again at campsite. Luckily no food restrictions for either, so sausages (real pork), bacon, eggs and she would make dhall/lentils and rice or bread.

            Like I said my wife knew her mind. She loved to eat from Truck Stops when travelling. Sloppy Joes, Meat Loaf, Home Fries real working peoples food.
            I would serve my self quickly and sit down and eat Chandra would take her time serving. I would see big huge Truck drivers black and white talking to her. On and off somebody would come and say, you have nice woman, man.

            Anyway fast forward to around 2000. By that time Chandra was OK fluent in English. Even better she would get the Wheel of Fortune words before I did. Many a desert rose will wither away and Chandra bloomed partially in later life.

            Thats me an Chandra in Sandusky Ohio.
            Warlock, I look big in the photo. I am 5’4″
            https://imgur.com/gallery/pUzigHX

            finally:: I wrote this more for myself. To remember.

          4. warlock

            A few months later she was diagnosed with late stage 2 cervical cancer..
            The second most common cause of cancer for women in South Asia and Japan.

            warlock, why dont you educate why for reader here,, or are you shy.

            Anyway the doctors asked if we were OK with some experimental platino meds (this was in 1992). They would ask me to translate to Chandra.. I would repeat the same in simple English. After a couple of dayss, the head oncologist, Eva Chalas says you are speaking to her in English.

            i did not explain why my wife and I spoke English in the presence of others. I was a visitor, and did not try to impose my values.

            Chandra and I with my big assed station wagon.

            https://imgur.com/gallery/kTwJfjF

          5. @SB
            First off, thanks for your story. I appreciate you sharing something so personal and touching. May your wonderful wife rest in peace.

            To your inquiry:

            I am not sure why cervical cancer is a more common affliction among S Asian women. Cursory glance at the literature implies less frequent screening frequency with pap smears. I’d have to investigate other genetic/environmental causes.

        2. I see plenty of young Indians at the Hindu temples here. They actually seem more devoted to me than the same cohort I knew back home, although its possible that South Indians are generally more religious.

      2. Just look at any temple donations board you will only find last gen’s: Marwaris, Gujjus, TamBrams…

        Yeh sab naye coder launde lalchi, chutiye hain.

        1. The increased devotional element of Hindutuva is good. Making Hinduism a more formally confessional identity is good. Less tragedy of the commons moving forward, when people give a shit beyond the ability to say “I come from a colorful culture” vapidly at work cocktail parties.

          1. I have family members who donate in the tens of thousands annually and maybe attend on average once every 3 months because they live far from the big temples.

            Patels donate a ton. Outside of just caste, legit I know some who will strip off a piece of gold jewelry every holiday and give it to the temple upon leaving.

      3. I wouldnt worry about this. There is a good chance that Indian culture will supplant Western culture in the coming years.

        That’s a very bold claim. Why do you think so?

        ———–

        I think people are misunderstanding Ugra’s point.

        Industrialization will naturally be led by groups with social and economic capital.
        But it requires the populous middle castes to cooperate. That’s where bipartisan consensus comes in.

        You don’t see that in UP or Bihar where groups will bring each other down for the tiniest bit of power.

        You can think of it as the OBC veto.

        —–

        Some other factors common to the four states:
        1. All were under Hindu rule for significant parts of the last 500 years.
        2. Coastaline.

      4. @sbarkum
        Kind of you to share those old memories with us. Always take interest in your comments when they take a biographical turn. Those photos feel so familiar to my eyes even though we’ve never met.

    3. Why are Indian ABCDs more whitewashed than Pakistanis/Bangaldeshis? Note that OP excluded Punjabis (Sikhs).

      This is just common sense. Pagan belief systems don’t do well outside their homeland. The gods are localized, and people adopt the gods of the new place when they migrate (which seems to be what is happening here). Once you remove caste barriers in the diaspora, there is not much left of Hinduism to hold onto.

      1. Q, disagree. Too reductive.

        The whole point is that they hold on fine. They just code switching better, so they come off that way to more insular groups. Heck in India many people also don’t truly believe in classic polytheism. There are monotheistic and atheistic Hindu schools as well. There is enough outside of caste to hold on. My entire Gujarati family friend circle holds on just fine.

        One can contend for occassional Hindu sub lopulation that there might be something going on. But that is true for Muslims too. The issue is some already deracinated populations immigrating in general. You see this Islam with American Muslim Iranians leaving the faith. Many Levantine ones are similar.

        You can see it among even lower caste Sikhs leaving to Christianity in droves in Punjab. But they tend not to immigrate.

      2. I would say that Abrahamic religions have serious problems in liberal and free speech environments. There is very little reason to think that Islam wont go the Christian way as Muslim societies industrialize.

        1. Iran, Egypt, and Algeria are not going to start looking like the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy in 50 years or even in 100 years just because of “industrialization” or whatever. (Nor will India, for that matter.) Perhaps organic forms of ethnic nationalism and secularism will emerge eventually though to replace the pan-Islamist ideology that presently seems dominant.

          Western liberalism is on its way out as a preeminent global cultural force, with the rise of China and India and the success of the oil-rich Middle Easterners the West and its culture are less relevant than they have been in centuries. By the end of the 21st century America itself probably won’t even be a Western country anymore due to mass immigration and multiculturalism.

      3. Theological reasons are exaggerated.

        The bulk of the explanation lies in three factors:

        1. Dual citizenship –
        Pak, BD have this. India doesn’t.
        2nd gen PIOs aren’t very involved in the affairs of the motherland.

        2. Visa issues –
        Indians have a long green card queue. So most 1st gen-ers have little mobility. They can’t take their kids back and forth as easily.

        3. Socio-economic class of immigrants
        Because of country caps, the Indians who do make it to the US are mostly Anglophone upper middle class liberal-ish.

        Indian Muslims in US seem much more whitewashed than Pakistani Muslims. Maybe less than Hindus because they are more conservative as a group in India to begin with.

        1. Well disagree on the Indian Muslim thing, their diaspora is the most conservative relative to Pakistanis or Bangladeshis. All gender segregated weddings I ever attended were Indian Muslims (Gujrati and Hyderabadi), and just in general they seemed to be more conservative. I also disagree on visa, Pakistanis wait the longest on visa, and US has generally the same socioeconomic immigrants from Pakistan/Bangladesh as they are from India. So I think it has to do with one’s religious identity and religious self conception. Jews survived assimilation for 2000 years living as a minority because of a combination of belief in religious supremacy and and aversion to marrying out of group. Same with Christians when they were a minority in Europe and same with Islam. It seems like Sikhs also display this trait common with Abrahamic religions. One needs to believe that one’s religion is actually the best, in order to retain the values of that religion. Hindu’s don’t really believe that, their exclusivity seems to be on caste rather than religious belief, so once caste barriers are broken, there is not much left to retain.

          @warlock

          Atheist, monotheist, polytheist, it doesn’t matter what type of Hindu you are referring to, (a)theism is not the defining feature of that Hindu, rather caste or ethnic/linguistic identity is. These are lost easily in the new world, so is the identity.

          I also think you keep being disingenuous referring to Iranians, most Iranian diaspora is still Muslim and the ones you refer to – the exiled anti Islamic Iranian atheists – were never really that Muslim to begin with and their opposition to Islam should be seen in context to their opposition to the Ayatollahs.

          1. I also disagree on visa, Pakistanis wait the longest on visa, and US has generally the same socioeconomic immigrants from Pakistan/Bangladesh as they are from India.

            1. You can compare the visa wait times in Delhi and Islamabad. Or the green card wait times by nationality of birth.
            2. More working class Pakistanis/Bangladeshi than Indians. Might be changing in recent times. Can look at the median income data. Or educational qualifications by country of origin.

            Only Indian groups with any working class immigration are Sikhs and Patels. But those are a small fraction of H1Bs and L1s.

      4. A significant chunk (10%) of American Hindus are actually non-Indian. (For eg tulsi gabbard).

        Subcontinental Muslims seem to have this smug superior attitude with regards to Hinduism, viewing it as primitive paganism. But there is a lot more there than meets your eye.

        Hindu spiritual traditions are quite sophisticated and probably only rivalled by Buddhist traditions in terms of depth (which Muslims also tend to think is just primitive idol worship).

        Data on my 10% assertion,
        https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/religious-landscape-study/racial-and-ethnic-composition/

    4. Idk what’s the issue here. If Indians want their kids to primarily be “Indian”, then they should stay in India. You want American money, but Indian culture? Get the fuck out of here.

      1. I agree. I think the contention is related to “betraying” roots in terms of things such as not even knowing language at all. Philosophically Western liberal values and civilizational ethos is what made America what it is. And adopting that is key to success and assimilation.

        1. Sure, but it only applies to the second generation. Perhaps the third generation. Surely you can’t expect anything beyond that to remain “Indian” in any way(or any other immigrant culture for that matter). At that point not only have they have been in the US for generations, they are probably mixed too.

      2. (a) Most of us are Indians, not American citizens. I am here primarily for the professional experience. ‘Expat’ not immigrant.
        (b) India gives Americans living there freedom of religion, America returns the favor, what is the big deal here?
        (c) Why is this point not raised when folks send their kids to Sunday Church school? Is Christianity American culture? Put that on the visa forms.
        (d) Almost every single Indian who comes to the US came because Indian taxpayers paid his college tuition. Many come because their entire family in India contributed. They get jobs in a competitive market trading time for money. Overwhelmingly they are Indian citizens, obey the law, what the fuck are you shouting about?
        (e) What is ‘American culture’ anyways? How is it different from ‘Indian culture’ ? No tropes allowed you say caste, I will cry race. You invoke poverty I will throw the genocide and colonialism. You say equality I will cite Indian constitution. You say individualism I will point to old age homes. What is this unique American culture? What are these ‘liberal values and civilizational ethos’ that Indians do not have already and are uniquely ‘western’?

        1. What are you even talking about?Indian constitution, old age homes lmao. I am saying if you raise your kids here, they are going to be “whitewashed”(aka assimilated to the host culture). By the time of grandchildren and great grandchildren, they are going to be as Irish as “Irish” Americans. Indian immigrant parents can cry all they want, that’s they way of things. If you are an expat, looking to get out of this country soon, good for you, none of this applies to you.

          1. You were saying become American. I was asking what being American is? What is it that is fundamentally different between Indian culture and American culture?

            Then I was trying to come up with counter-examples to normal tropes Americans employ to claim higher moral ground.

      3. There are of course differences : Americans are more professional, more honest and more hard-working people than Indians. But I don’t think Indians in America are far behind Americans on these. And no one is saying we want to litter in America like we do in India, or honk or bribe.

        Indians everywhere are very warm and hospitable, will feed you, invite you over, unlike the dull Americans who go ‘dutch’ even for birthday parties. Indians try to learn new things, knew quite a few practicing Hindus who frequented Churches and Mosques to behave like nice human beings. Share their inner lives, not try to convert you to their faith or mentally think ‘false gods, purgatory, yada-yada’ about you.

        Indians do not take away freedoms of their women folks, nor indoctrinate their children, nor ghetto-ize, nor do they commit terrorism or rape children like the Pakistanis do.

        So what is this different ‘American culture’ that we must aspire to? We raise stable, psychologically nourishing, morally sound, prosperous families in India as well as the US. What is it that we need to learn from the west?

        1. Why are you acting like this is some kind of competition between USA and India? Like 10 points for Americans here, 10 points for Indians there. No one said you have to learn anything. If anything, its the opposite. Indian Americans over time are not going to speak the language, practice the religion or do the Indian part of the Indian American. I don’t see this as a bad thing. There are more than enough Indians in India to carry on Indian culture.

  2. I am skeptical of the idea that the diaspora must carry on the culture of the motherland for generations. Sure if you are nation without a state, like Jews before 1948, then it makes sense to do the very difficult task of carrying on ancestral culture across generations. But if your people have a country and constitute more than 1/7th of the world population, then it’s ok if a few million get deracinated in another country.

  3. What do people make here of UP’s belated attempt at industrialization?

    Yogi has done some good work building infra. Western UP might attract some industries. Jewar should be a shot in the arm.

    Anyone with deeper insights?

    1. The level of difficulty in industrializing UP can be understood by imagining it as an independent country. A flat, densely populated fertile plain with not a single source of energy. Not a speck of coal or a drop of oil. It is an incredibly resource poor region.

      Famously energy poor Japan has mountains and got 50+% of its power from hydro well into the 1960s. Good infra is welcome, but the power situation is key.

  4. Interesting how a thread about India’s manufacturing prospects derailed into a long-winded discussion on diaspora politics and cultural retention. I guess it shows what economists call “revealed preference” 😀

    To be brief on the topic, I would say Indians have a habit of declaring victory at the first sight of success. Nobody talks about “leapfrogging” manufacturing the way they did in the 1990s and early 2000s, but it’s the same mentality.

    IMO, until India crosses $25,000 per capita in constant 2020 dollars, the jury is still out. Mexico and Malaysia have both shown you can get close to $10,000 per capita without much innovation and just assembling other people’s stuff. To get truly rich you need to create your own innovation ecosystem.

    So far, most of what we’ve seen have been JVs between local Indian firms and foreigners producing for a third party (often Western).

    That said, I am more optimistic about India today than I was a few years ago, because the geopolitical situation is more favourable than ever. Everyone is trying to diversify away from China and Vietnam is simply too small to absorb most of it.

    1. Lack of open thread means spill over here for random topics.

      I think even 10,000 per capita on a nominal basis would be big. Lots of people pulled out of poverty.

      1. India at $10k constant 2020 GDP/PC would be a phenomenal win. Its more or less where China is right now, with PPP GDP/PC > $20k. At that level of development, the most wretched suffering of our kinfolk would be a memory, perhaps replaced by a new set of social problems, but a trade worth making. Not unlike China, a handful of regions would be rich developed economies in their own right, and not because they are micro-states, but possessing 50 million + people each.

        In terms of on-the-street quality of life, the difference between greece/portugal and denmark is very subjective and the marginal returns on GDP growth beyond 20k per capita dwindle as regards human flourishing. Unlike a small country, India will be an economic behemoth long before that inflection point. That said, if one were to muse on what could get India the escape velocity to break out of the middle income trap, its perhaps the FIRE economy + consulting that Indians already thrive in.

        1. @girmit
          Question::
          a) Is there limit to knowledge workers in a country. Based on avg IQ and std deviations.
          b) Is it not better to concentrate on the 90-110 IQ who actually produce or help produce..

          To give SL example, IT is less 1% ((India 4% despite the hype)).
          Housemaids etc bring 30% FX

          Re Limit to Knowledge Workers
          Maybe the US has hit a upper limit because
          a) School System
          b) Inherent IQ

          The US has a work around. Import high IQ.
          But then what happens with mid IQ types who would work the factories

          1. @ sbarkum
            Agree that its not all about focusing on cultivating the cognitive elite. India needs truckers, masons, plumbers and sales agents who are more competent though. Even intelligent, well- nurtured people, when surround by a sea of neglected people, lower their standards of communication, independence and problem solving. I’d conjecture that there are society-wide effects that feedback even into the smartest section, when the floor is too low. Indians from non-elite backgrounds, when given the chance to work in a highly developed economy like the US, Germany ect, consistently undergo a personal transformation in a remarkably short stretch of time. Its like they are recalibrated.
            On my last trip to SL, I’m always caught off guard by the fact that a cab driver in south asia is well fed, often tall, well groomed and able to converse as equals. Easily someone that could handle a multi-step task and improvise. Same for countries like Lebanon, Jordan, Malaysia, and Kenya. With the exception of the latter, they just come across as moonlighting middle class guys you could have otherwise have gone to school with. In most parts of India, there is a steep cliff of competence bellow the highly educated. I know this sounds outrageous, but the level of obtuseness in the services sector is something to behold.

    2. One of the triggers for this post was reading about Vietnam’s struggle in building the Hanoi metro. Vietnam, by most anecdotal accounts, is richer and has a more stable government, with large manufacturing exports. But the creation of a large and experienced technical workforce in house is not a trivial matter. India’s achievements here are genuine and not easily replicated.

      I still remember one of my American advisors incredulous that a student whose work she liked was not from an IIT. Her whole model of any Indian excellence was based on a large number logic, nothing good could come from the Indian system itself. Australian media brought our this ‘one from a billion’ argument out when India beat them at home, again totally wrong.

      The opportunity to manufacture in India was always there. Why the West eschewed it so far, was always down more to the West’s preconceived notions than India’s shortcomings. It is possible that the Silicon Valley types were happy working with India and in India because they did not share these preconceived notions.

      1. @vikram
        I work in India with people truly of all educational levels. Malnutrition and disease are first order bottlenecks to the loftier growth projections. Culture and policy are secondary. We know what non stunted , parentally invested Indians are capable of. I can’t help but feel there are hard limitations when i see what are cognitive limits of certain people because of nurture issues. Population IQ is massively suppressed, and while im not a hard IQ determinists, the floor must be lifted. Its one of those things that can’t wait until the next wealth plateau is achieved as a condition to prioritise. The demographic dividend will be a curse if it is suited only for exploitation.

        1. @girmit
          Whilst I will agree that Population IQ may be highly suppressed due to nutrition, I don’t think that has much to do with industrilisation.

          One gets to hear a lot about merica and they do seem more dumb (not just ignorant) than indians. Just that for the populace as a whole; they have a “can do” attitude and that they don’t need “mai baap” to help them.

          That is lacking among the poorest; many of whom think the sarkar is doing the right thing. Hence give away power to the overlords.

          Many educated (graduate) people, I hear that what random bureacrat has decided is right – even when i explain how that decision is dumb. The bureacrat is right cause he was selected among all those; when the reason he was selected was cause of his rote learning skill.

          It’s a question of mentality, of narative – Not IQ; which will improve as people get more work -> more money.

          1. Not sure I agree. Indians have a bit of dunning-kruger on the societal level. A lot of these educated indians who lack the can-do attitude are actually quite dim, they just have the social markers of intelligence. Ive had this debate with indian friends of mine and realized that we are referring to different things when we speak of intelligence. I may think of abstract reasoning ability and they may think of how shrewd someone is. At any rate, I know “underachievers” from the dumbest part of america. They have no interest in appearing intelligent, but their skills are not easy to mimic. I’d still trust them to manage, service and operate a $150,000 asset like a freight truck, write a coherent email or know how to cooperate with peers. These things require alacrity and smarts.

          2. ‘One gets to hear a lot about merica and they do seem more dumb (not just ignorant) than indians.’

            This is not true, I used to think like that before coming to the US. IQ does quantify something, Americans are brighter than Indians.

            Live in a Indian village and see how malnourished and frankly retarded most people are. Try finding good welders or plumbers in India and see the difference. The folks Indian Americans consider dumb or working class Americans just have different priority in life.

            ‘A lot of these educated indians who lack the can-do attitude are actually quite dim, they just have the social markers of intelligence.’
            +1
            Most of my school teachers in India were quite dumb, their only skill was English proficiency.

          3. I tend to agree with Bhimrao. Most Americans who some snobby upper class Indian American types sometimes see as “lower class” are the same types who can do basic house repairs on their own, car repairs, hunt, fish, and farm. They have a ton of practical skills. They also have more integrity on average because they are raised in a system that works better. In India, life is so hard and things are so corrupt. People are all tricking each other just to get by.

            Interestingly, my mom is this type of practical person. My Dad is more classic book smart type but because he did engineering in a time of a lot of manual stuff, he learned enough to work decently with his hands. He worked in the first Indian Maruti factory in the 80s.

        2. Agree with girmit.

          There’s a general lack of competence in India.

          Go to any restaurant. You’ll see 5-6 guys loitering around. But most of those would be less than useless. They won’t be able to tell you about the menu nor know how to take payments.

          None of this is rocket science. Requires basic memory, thinking and communication skills.

          You see such a pattern repeat in industry after industry.

          IMO this is due to a mix of poor schooling and stunted cognitive development owing to malnutrition and childhood diseases. Almost half the kids in India are stunted. It’s pretty obvious that we’ll bat below our strike rate.

          1. Prats bhai,

            How is your battery company coming along? I see so many e-bikes here, lots of e-skateboards too. These sell for well > $2K, that is more than what RE Bullet costs in India, I smell a lot of money to be made. Are you guys making batteries (or battery management magic) for e-bikes too?

            I saw that Euler motor has raised $90+ mil for their e-tuk-tuk.

        3. @girmit, regarding nutrition and competence, sloppy work is so common in China, it has a name. See here for example: https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/ub6lwn/comment/i64g9fa/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3

          Workplace fatality rates in India occur at the same rate as China, which is much richer. Pakistan and Bangladesh have higher rates. https://www.arinite.co.uk/the-worlds-most-dangerous-countries-for-workers#:~:text=The%20countries%20with%20the%20most%20workplace%20fatalities

          Are you sure that the incompetence you are seeing is not due to incentive structures and/or resource constraints ?

  5. The pop-econ YT channel thinks India can use its strength in services, tech and R&D as a multiplier to leapfrog purely manufacturing-driven economies such as China
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtvmqI0PV2M

    I largely agree, the future is for those who work smart not necessarily the hardest. Not to throw shade at the stellar work being done by Indian industrialists, but I don’t think its India’s destiny to be the next factory floor of the world. For starters China isn’t going anywhere, there isn’t room enough in the world for two global factories. At some level, I don’t think back-breaking work in an industry will appeal to too many Indian youth, but I could be way off the mark here. Thinking out of the box, in addition to industrialising India would do well to market and export in some fashion it’s traditional strengths in art, handicraft, film and TV, music, education and other soft/creative areas that leverage strengths the tech and Engligh language skills, such like how India has become Hollywood’s VFX back-office. And farm-law debacle notwithstanding, the agribusiness sector is also one that India’s private sector could massively expand through state-level reforms though climate change could throw a serious spanner in the works in the coming decades.

    1. Siddarth, China wont go anywhere, but we should also account for increases in demand in the coming decades. Perhaps, that is a bit optimistic, but I feel that energy costs plummeting due to solar and many countries escaping basic public healthcare problems, a major economic boom is not too far away.

      India’s labor force is going to be enormous and will remain so for the rest of this century. I think we can manage a large industrial sector and expand the service economy if we can tap into the coming increases in demand.

  6. warlock
    I am not sure why cervical cancer is a more common affliction among S Asian women. Cursory glance at the literature implies less frequent screening frequency with pap smears. I’d have to investigate other genetic/environmental causes.

    The highest incidence o cervical cancer are countries where men are uncircumcised. eg Sri Lanka, India Japan.
    Low incidence in Israel.

    Other factors, early child birth and many children. My wife had her first child when she was 17 and altogether 5 children. Husband was dead by the time she was 25. Minor staff supervisor in Railway yard. Got a nail on foot and died of gangrene. Luckily, my wife got a govt pension.

    One ref out of many
    https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(17)30386-8/fulltext

    1. definite bias will be in this type of editorial. but some interesting arguments here, particularly in some of the critiques cited.

      https://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/for-professionals/alleged-medical-benefits/cervical-cancer/

      But I’ll have to do more reading about this for sure. Looks like that 2002 NEJM is the pivotal study, with females with male partners with high risk sexual behaviors driving the situation. HPV is the main factor. Things like lower age of first intercourse correlate with HPV. Interestingly, HPV co-testing doesn’t occur until later because young women frequently clear it. A lot of factors cited are just surrogates for higher risk sexual behavior (eg. more partners) which leads to more HPV exposure and thus infections. This leads to more dysplasia of course and eventual cancer.

      But I definitely encourage everyone to vaccinate their kids. Vaccinations help protect from several high-risk oncogenic subtypes.

  7. @Bhim bhai

    Business is going to pretty well. Battery is not our main business.
    We are mostly working on battery raw materials refining. Very new industry for me but very exciting.

    Batteries are going to become commodities with very low margin.
    Battery Management Systems will be a good business in high voltage scenarios for cars, trucks, ESS etc. Here again, there will only be a few players who’ll dominate. Most of the small BMS startups will get subsumed by OEMs.

    e-bikes etc are decent businesses because you can charge for the ‘experience’ but the market will eventually consolidate around a few players.

    in e4W – BYD and MG are going to eat Mahindra’s lunch. They’re just far superior at pretty sweet price points. Let’s see how Tata competes.

    The Chinese are going to do to EVs in India what the Koreans and Japanese did to ICE.

  8. The President of the New York Stock Exchange, a White American woman named Lynn Martin, looks completely like a NW South Asian; she would fit among Kambojas/Rors/Khatris/Pashtuns/Jats/Sindhis:

    https://youtu.be/4GVkJCEzHOs

    While this South Asian man interviewing her wouldn’t be out of place among non White Latin Americans, looks indigenous to South Asia/America:

    https://youtu.be/4GVkJCEzHOs

    They both look like members of different races and ethnicities. The difference is akin to that between White/Caucasian Americans and Indigenous Latin Americans. For Americans and for people outside of South Asia they are members of vastly different racial groups. This is how vast South Asia’s diversity is.

    A good analogy in the South Asian context would be the difference between generic Gujaratis and NW South Asian Caucasians. Tamils would not even figure in the comparison due to a having different AASI strain and possessing Onge—like admixture.

    South Asians span the range from indigenous South American to White South Americans and everything in between. Then there’s the East and SE Asian looking/admixed South Asians, ranging from Chinese/Thai looking all the way to Hazara and Uzbek and Turkmen and Tajik looking. While AASI is a form of an ancient SE Asian element, it’s best approximation are the natives of the Americas.

    The Hoabinhian admixed Southern and Eastern Indians are unique as well, different from all other South Asians, and have their own AASI strain and unique appearance indigenous to South Asia.

    To think that all South Asians belong in one box or color (Brown) is a laughable notion. It is an impossibly absurd sentiment, one that isn’t supported by science or indeed, by social and cultural norms. Or by anyone with two eyes and a functioning brain. The genetic PCA spans the entire range from almost purely West Eurasian to almost purely East Eurasian.

  9. @Vikram @Ugra @Prats

    Indian brands selling rebadged Chini E-scooters:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQAyzcGP5kQ

    Video is in Hindi.

    Bulk manufacturing must precede cleverness. We may beat around the bush but the fundamentals must be made stronger. Some difficulties in starting a ‘clever’ business in India: there is no local market for deep tech, there is no big enough manufacturing base to sustain innovation and pay for cleverness. Because no money is being spent, there is no money to be saved.

    Example: I knew these guys from IIT M and IIT R who started a NDT pipe inspection business, they were initially funded by the Reliance Jamnagar refinery. I knew another guy who made some money consulting on why one of the steel bar coiling machine at TATA Jamshedpur was not producing uniform coils. The best example of this is Zeus Numerica from IIT B who would be considered a C/D-tier small business in the US.

    The opportunities to be clever are limited in India. Cleverness, book-smarts doesn’t cost money, plus it pays well and MOST IMPORTANTLY for Indians it gives the right social vibe (who wants to do loha-langar when you can do regression on Python and package it as DS.

  10. The genetic and phenotypic differences between South Asian groups just within the Indian subcontinent are mind boggling.

    You have midcaste Gujarati Vanias at 60-65% West Eurasian and Kambojas and Khatris and some Sindhis at 85-88% West Eurasian and Jaats and Rors and Pashtuns at 88-90% West Eurasian.

    That’s a difference of 25-30% West Eurasian between Gujarati Vanias and NW South Asian Caucasians, akin to the difference between Amhara/Eastern Africans/Ethiopian Jews and the average Saudi man, or akin to the difference between the average Uzbek and the average Iranian. Or the difference between the average Hazara and the average Russian.

    We can never be one people. It would make a mockery of identity and science and biological realities the world over.

    Since AASI has additional West Eurasian in it, this means these NW South Asians are >90% West Eurasian in many cases, which would only inflate these distances even more.

    We’re also all mixed with different AASI strains and most of us lack Hoabinhian admixture and SE Asian admixture found in Bengalis and South Indians as well. This makes us all extremely different from each other.

    1. This makes us all extremely different from each other.
      Dude, NO ones cares but you. An AASI rich Punjabi would still side with his fellow Steppe rich Punjabi and vice-versa. It doesn’t matter how you look, you can only operare within the confines of Ethnicity&Religion in India.

      India can never succeed until it Balkanizes.
      “Succeed” in what, getting colonised again? Oh boy, i can’t wait to learn Mandarin and keep track of my social credit!

  11. India can never succeed until it Balkanizes. It only succeeded in the past when it was Balkanized into different regions. The south and the east, as well as the north east were always distinct empires from the north and north west; even the Mogul empire at its zenith did not include these different regions.

    India was conceived as a union of states on the lines of the former USSR by Nehru, and obviously failed just like the USSR fell apart, and unless we change direction and go back to how things used to be before the British came in and before Sardar Patel tried to unite the subcontinent, we will continue to be the laughing stock of this planet.

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