Amongst the vast number of claims that India and Indians make, the one that stands out for me is that India is truly the land of entrepreneurship. There are several examples of individuals who have gone from rags to riches in one generation.
For this reason, I was delighted to have attended the Ernst & Young Entrepreneuship Awards in London last week and found that in their main category of Master Entrepreneur, two out of five finalists were Indian. One of them, Dr Lalvani, of Wellman fame, went on to be specially recognised for his successes.
Both Indian finalists – Dr Lalvani and Rami Ranger place a huge emphasis on family support. It’s not unusual for winners to namecheck their family in their speeches, but Dr Lalvani’s was exceptional as he, in his very humble manner, made a simple point – he thanked his wife and family for allowing him to work every hour that he could.
I’m not claiming that Indian’s have a monopoly on family support – but as part of our cultural upbringing, families play a huge role in defining identities.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been fascinated by the way different systems and cultures deal with disasters and crisis situations. Take the Chinese earthquake as an example. Their departure from their “normal” mode of behaviour i.e. closing down any access to politicians, access to western media, providing statistics on the death toll etc has to be welcomed.
I think Premier Wen Jiabao has shown that the Chinese, too, are normal human beings and not the robots who work 24/7 without any signs of emotion to provide us our DVD players and Gap jeans.
Everyone goes on and on about China, but, I for one, have simply not caught the bug to visit the country. I suppose my reasoning is that it simply doesn’t feel like a fun place to go to.
Sure, it may have history, sure indigenous culture is important to note, but the overarching rules that dictate daily life that are laid out by the Communist Party of China (as portrayed in our media) seem a little too strait-jacketed for me and for this reason any effort made by Premier Wen to bring in more openness in China has to be welcomed.
Perhaps the Burmese should take note?
I was invited to a glitzy bash (www.awaawards.com) last week by the Asian Foundation for Philanthropy (www.affp.org.uk) at the Park Lane Hilton where women of Asian origin were recognised across a range of categories for their achievements. Among all the stars were prominent people like Sarah Brown, Cherie Blair, and LIZ HURLEY. However, the biggest star in the room – and I don’t think there’ll be any disagreement from any quarter – was Pinky Lilani OBE, whose brainchild this celebration was.
Sitting there at the event, surrounded by women who’d made such a difference, what struck me was that the portrayal of women of Indian origin in the media is dismal but their contribution is absolutely massive.
Just in India, the number of women who are leading politicians, business leaders, social entrepreneurs, engineers, IT graduates outranks the numbers you will find in other countries in the subcontinent. As students of society, this poses an interesting question to which the answer, I feel, lies in the culture of India and Indian people.
Going back to the event, the funny thing was that Liz Hurley – despite being such a uber model type of person was upstaged by her Indian husband – Arun Nayyar! The number of women around that man that evening was unbelievable! On my way out, I bumped into her and asked her if she wanted a lift home 🙂