Trends – 2010 onwards – quite spectacular

If you’re interested in trends, then take a look at the attached – quite spectacular…

Richard Watson, who’s a futurologist created this, and he claims that those on the outer fray of this tube style map is already taking place.

Incredible stuff. Enjoy.

Trends Map

Feed the woorrlddd – let them know its Christmas time…

Remember those words? Remember Bob Geldof on TV during Live Aid launching into a tirade asking people to call in to pledge money for the people of Ethiopia? Well, guess what?

I’m on my way to Addis for the Africa Summit of the World Economic Forum, which last year was held in Cape Town – in Africa’s largest economy – South Africa. So, when they announced that this year it’d be in Ethiopia, I, and many others, looked a little puzzled – about their choice.

Since then, I’ve paid attention to everything “African” and am actually looking forward to attending, knowing that Ethiopia is one of world’s fastest growing economies – YES, you read correctly – Ethiopia’s BOOMING – who would have thought!!

Take a look at this BBC report if you want to learn more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15739706

I’m going to be live tweeting from Addis, so please do follow me on Twitter if you want to know what’s being said.

Strategists shape the future at WEF Summer Davos in China

Given his advocacy of a flat world, it came as no surprise when Tom Friedman was asked to moderate a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum’s Summer Davos event in China, deliberating what forces may shape our futures.

The assembled panel included Otto Scharmer who teaches at MIT, Kai-Fu Lee, a Chinese entrepreneur, and Dov Siedman, an American CEO – it needs to be said that whilst I hadn’t heard of the latter two, they stole the show as far as I was concerned.

Kai-Fu’s remarks on innovation were clever, but must have gone down like a lead balloon in China. After learning more about the guy, it comes as no surprise that he may have used the platform to score a political point with the Chinese authorities. Since the event, I learnt of his influence in China as a result of his previous roles as Microsoft and Google in China. His following on Twitter clearly shows he’s hot property.

He put forward a view that the next decade or so would be characterized by micro innovation – where entrepreneurs build on other peoples ideas, launch imperfect products, which they quickly refine and add value to. He explained that a Google or Apple come around once in a generation, and in all likelihoods regardless of the hype surrounding China’s emergence, the likelihood of successful innovative products coming from the mainland were almost non-existent.

To raised eyebrows and a growing sense of dismay, he spoke about the deficiencies of the Chinese education system, which he said didn’t allow for ‘out of the box’ thinking, thus holding back breakthroughs and progress that China so craves. Of course, he explained as a result of his own American education, he saw that America was better placed to deliver the next BIG discovery – thi in particular would have hit the nationalist nerve in China.

What he said made absolute sense, but to say it on home-turf in such an open manner must have been part of some plan in his head. Whatever game he’s playing (if any), I’m sure he’s likely to emerge victorious regardless of the type of reaction he received from the assembled Chinese media fraternity in the room that afternoon.

On the other hand, what Dov Siedman said chimed with everyone. He specializes in advising companies on ethics, and one his comments left an indelible mark on me.

He explained that in today’s world, whilst we’re able to exercise our judgment about what’s right or wrong, the clarity that a corporation needs to find should centre on how they’ll scale, not the company, but the values that we cherish the most. By doing so, the probabilities of building a sustainable and successful organization would, he suggests, increase dramatically.

By putting thought leaders like, Friedman, Kai-Fu and Siedman in the mix for a concluding session at a meeting like this, I believe that a strong signal has been transmitted by the WEF, marking a departure from one in which, not bankers, but genuine strategists were able to articulate their visions for what the future holds for us.

World Economic Forum’s Annual Summit of the New Champions

For someone who really finds it difficult to pay attention and actively listen to people, it may come as a surprise when I say that I really found the recently concluded World Economic Forum’s ‘Summer Davos’ meeting for Global Growth Companies in Tianjin, China to be thought provoking and stimulating.

Sessions ranged from the technical subjects such as the future of solar energy solutions, to the crystal ball gazing type that the WEF team facilitates extremely well.

For me, the Mentor Sessions with Chief Executives of Anglo American, Infosys, Metro Group, and Nestle were the highlights. The CEO’s provided their views on & experiences of various aspects of the journey that leaders from emerging companies will go through – just like they once did.

It goes without saying that the WEF brought together interesting people and communities to interact, debate and learn from each other, not just as speakers, but attendees. Given that they’ve been fine-tuning their proposition for so long, you can be assured of some high quality networking, which is exactly what I found.

All in all a great few days, well organized, and importantly – an enriching experience.

Britain must adjust to being the junior partner with India, also

The following is an article that’s been carried by Reuters, written by me (http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate-uk/2010/07/26/britain-must-adjust-to-new-relationship-with-india/)

Last week, on his first Prime Ministerial visit to the United States, David Cameron conceded that Britain was the “junior partner” in the special relationship. Next week, I fear that at the end of the much anticipated visit to India, he may yet again, have to concede that Britain is the junior partner in this ever increasing important relationship.

I attended an event some years ago in which the then Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) — Digby Jones — evangelised the need for UK Plc to embrace India, not for nostalgic or historic reasons, but to secure their survival. He explained “in the fullness of time, the past 250 years will be seen as a mere blip, an anomaly, in which India was subjugated. The future belongs to a resurgent India”.

It’s difficult to argue otherwise, just take a look at some of the statistics that stand out:

• Almost 25 percent of the world workforce will reside in India within the next 15 years. The average age of its citizens will be a youthful 29 in 2020, whereas in Western Europe the average stands at 45. India’s demographic profile provides a huge opportunity for her in the next century.

• India has a middle class larger than the entire population of the US — some 300 million residents, armed with a disposable income and looking for new avenues to spend their cash. The spectacular thing is that India’s middle class isn’t confined to its big cities or metros as they refer to them, but to far flung corners of the country in what are second and third tier cities, representing new markets — the Holy Grail as far as some of the world’s biggest fast moving consumer goods companies are concerned.

• Just today, I read a tweet from someone I follow on Twitter about how the Indian Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council has forecast GDP growth at 8.5 percent this year and nine percent next year. Now, compare that with all the talk of Britain having avoided a double dip recession as a result of the growth in our economy at a measly 1.1 percent.

That David Cameron understands the need to forge a stronger relationship with India is not in question. He’s made all the right noises, starting with a pro–India election manifesto culminating in the Queen highlighting her government’s desire to cosy up to the sub-continent in her first speech in the coalition era. He’s packed this visit with an unprecedented number of Cabinet Ministers signalling his intent on developing a wide-ranging cross departmental affair with India.

But the true question on the minds of crystal ball watchers, like me, is to work out whether this visit will fundamentally change the way we work with India or whether it’s just about style, something Cameron’s been accused of frequently.

In either case, in true Indian fashion, Cameron will be welcomed with open arms; and his eagerness to strengthen the bilateral relationship will be warmly reciprocated. Howeve securing the future prosperity of British jobs and industry will be on India’s terms, as the senior partner, unlike those set by the East India company some 250 years ago.

Does Uncle Sam get India?

Manmohan Singh should breathe a little easier now. In the run up to the visit, I can imagine that his blood pressure would be higher than normal for the simple reason that Obama has been busy cosying up to the Chinese and he’s also been lavishing Pakistan with a lot of attention – both states who have a fraught history with India.

I say that he must be breathing a little easier because Obama rolled out the red carpet for his first state visit, and said all the right things on the big subjects that define the current relationship.

In a TV interview, I was asked about the state of the US – India relationship, and rather than focus on the icy nature of historical bilateral ties, I decided to emphasise that the US and India don’t really have the luxury of avoiding each other, any more. The truth is that in the interdependent global economy we live in, US & India need each other to prosper.

Take the attraction for the US:

  • India’s middle class (approx 300m) is the size of the entire US population. This presents American companies with a larger market.
  • India’s demographic profile is a massive advantage. With nearly 40% of its population under the age of 30, you can imagine the opportunites that are thrown up for American service lead companies.

For India, the US has always been a major market, so it came as no surprise when I interviewed the ten entrepreneurs for my book (http://www.indiaincthebook.com), that the US formed the centre-point for their global expansion. Take for example:

  • There are more drugs from Indian pharma companies on US supermarket shelves than in India
  • That Mahindra & Mahindra has stolen market share from native American firms selling tractors to their own farmers
  • That, on average, Indian IT firms earn nearly two-thirds of their revenues in India
  • That Bharat Forge supplies components for 2 our of every 3 trucks in the US

However, what I’ve found is that the bilateral relationship in increasingly defined by the US – India Nuclear Agreement that was signed in 2008. With the market being valued at $150 BILLION(!) and American firms like GE and Westinghouse in pole position, they seem ( surprise, surprise)  eager for India to push on with its nuclear programme.

In its pursuit for energy independence, this visit gives Manmohan Singh and equally, Barack Obama something to smile about. It’s safe to say that Uncle Sam gets India.

Impact of Monsoon rains on the Indian economy

Was interviewed by Al Jazeera today on the impact of the monsoon on the Indian economy. I said there were a few things to note:

The impact of a poor monsoon is huge. India has approx 240 MILLION farmers, and an average of 60% of the labour market is dependent on the agriculture sector – directly & indirectly. Water is important to their livelihoods.

The problem is that the monsoon pattern is changing. Instead of long rains on a regular basis, India now experiences short, heavy showers with long dry periods inbetween, the risk of flooding and paradoxically, drought is increased.

The Indian government needs to look at strategic ways to help farmers. Instead of dishing out seeds and providing subsidies, they need to look at the ways in which rainwater can be captured, stored, and distributed more effectively. Only 30% of all agricultural land is irrigated, imagine if they could improve this figure!

The second way is to educate the farming community about new technologies available to improve their harvests, such as installing sprinkler irrigation systems or extending what the ITC group has done with enabling farmers to get latest market data on their mobiles that allows them to set the right prices for their crops.

Lastly, improve access to microfinance, in which small ticket loans could be provided for investments in technology & know how.

What’s also evident is that around the time of Indian independence,  India used to be wholly dependent on the agri sector. However, as time moves on India’s dependency has declined to around a level where agriculture accounts for almost 20% of her GDP. My point is that India knows it needs to reduce its dependency on the monsoon to deliver a bumper harvest, and has been doing so gradually.

I read a really interesting note, which will help me conclude this post. A bad monsoon isn’t just bad for India, but for the whole world. We need to look at the agri-food sector like a Rubiks cube, in which if you change one face of the cube, you inevitably create changes on the other sides of the same cube. In a similar vein, a decline in, for example, rice production has an impact on the cost of wheat in North America – after all we live in an increasingly interdependent world.

India Inc: …

I’ve got a small dilemma that I need your help in resolving. You may be aware that for the last two years or so, I’ve been writing a book on the emergence of Indian companies in international markets, and have profiled ten Indian CEOs / entrepreneurs / promoters such as Narayana Murthy, Baba Kalyani, Subhash Chandra, Malvinder Singh, Kishore Lulla etc. who have lead the charge to globalise their firms.

Well, I’ve now finished writing the book and can now focus on the presentational aspects of the project, of which, the most important being (at least for today) the title of the book. My original choice was: ‘India Inc: How India’s Top Ten Business Leaders are Winning Globally’. However, as a result of the economic downturn, is this title appropriate, given that the world has been turned on it’s head as a result of the banking crisis and subsequent global recession?

It would seem a little to extravagant to use the original title in the environment we’re currently in.

For this reason, I’m searching for something appropriate as a subtitle to ‘India Inc: xyz…’. Or is ‘India Inc.’ substantial enough?

Your ideas are welcome.

In conversation with Jim O' Neill – emerging markets guru at Goldman Sachs

Attended a Q&A with Manchester United mad fan – Jim O’ Neill – author of the BRICs report and Chief Economist of the mighty Goldman Sachs, in which he spoke about the I in BRIC. I thought the following was interesting:

He referred to the current economic crisis we’re facing as the “crisis of the developed world”; and highlighted the fact that countries like India were experiencing growth of over 6% at a time in which ours is contracting. Jim referred to this as being “pretty remarkable” as it wasn’t too long ago that economists believed that India wasn’t capable of breaching the so called 3% Hindu rate of growth that she was known of hovering around for a very long time.

In marked contrast to China, India’s growth is a result of her personal consumption. People are still spending money and it’s domestic demand is what’s keeping it going. Interestingly, the current challenges that China is facing, Jim said, was going to be good for the world as it’ll force China to rebalance their dependence on exports.

Often criticised about the inclusion of Russia in his analysis, which shows that despite what’s happened in the last year, Russia has long outperformed Goldman’s first tranche of projections to 2050 – hence keeping those arguing for the removal of the R from his BRICs analysis at bay.

On India, the recently concluded general election was welcomed by the markets, with a surge in the Sensex of approx 20% on the day after the results were announced. Interestingly, Jim’s co-authored a paper titled ‘Ten Things for India to Achieve its 2050 Potential (http://www2.goldmansachs.com/ideas/brics/ten-things-doc.pdf) in which he highlights the need for improved governance as one of these factors.

He was asked as to what indicators would demonstrate that India was taking this seriously, which was a brilliant question that needs further consideration. In many senses the answer may be as straightforward as some of India’s biggest crooks – bureaucrats and politicians – having to face penalties for their behavioural failings. O’Neill said he would start thinking of this and perhaps write something on this matter. Please leave any comments on this post if you have any ideas.

Also asked of the real impact of being surrounded by some very populous countries, he reiterated that the potential for the entire sub-continent being lifted onto a different plane if cross-border trade could be encouraged, was noted and well received.

The briefing was taking place a day after the first BRICs summit, in which the Heads of Brazil, Russia, China, and India were meeting to discuss substantive matters such as the establishment of an alternative currency to the Dollar. In response to a question on the potential of this bloc, his analysis explained that Brazil and Russia were commodity rich, whereas India and China weren’t, which suggested that if they were to work together to realise synergies like this, then the grouping would have a dramatic effect on global economics.

In addition, he highlighted that any discussion on tackling climate change without these four economies would be futie. He joked that it was time that international institutions like the G7 & G8, the UN, IMF could do more than just “invite them for coffee on the sidelines”, which drew a few sniggers from the audience.

There’s not many people on this planet that could take the credit for coining the name of an international summit that brings together future superpowers together to discuss major issues that should concern all of us.

For this and more, Jim – we salute you.

Being such a smart guy, it beats me why you’d want to support Manchester United! Viva Barcelona 🙂