India Revisited: Shifting Dynamics in Economy, Technology, and Society

It can be difficult coming back especially straight after a couple of weeks away. 

There’s the bulging inbox, outstanding admin tasks, and that nagging feeling, “Yes I really should have mowed the lawn before I went away”, all added to the pressure to once again move at speed, the pace of the herd, now you are returned.

However, the change of scene can also be a welcome breath of fresh air. Having a couple of weeks (rather than only one) gives the time to actually go places too.

So this year, after what has been a 10+ year hiatus, I have just returned from a trip to India.

And although I thought I knew what to expect, I was blown away by the changes since my last trip. Still friendly and generous, with great food, however now also

  • Generally much more prosperous, new buildings and infrastructure – including now the ability to be able to attempt to build your own furniture, with IKEA just opening in Chennai
  • Mobile phones everywhere – everything is converting to online, from ticket offices to road tolls, you need to have a phone (and data), it is a must-have, and everyone had one
  • Cash and use of cash is declining – everywhere was either pay by card, phone or QR code, Paytm

One of the great things about India is being able to also more easily chat with people, finding out a little about what was going on in their local community in terms of themes and trends.

  • The impact and fallout from the lockdown and the pandemic is still being seen, even today.  This really is a common bond across humanity, it seems. We have all found it hard and are still in recovery
  • The weather feels different.  Too wet or too hot, 2023 is a different weather year than many could remember
  • Prices are going up. Inflation is increasing and people are finding the cost of food and fuel increasingly absorbing more of their budget
  • Looking at the number of ‘for hire signs’ across businesses, and my straw pole, it appears there is also a labour shortage
  • And lastly, I also got a sense of a general sentiment of dissatisfaction.  Whatever the issue; the government, local issues, or personal politics, there is some disillusionment – like norms previously taken for granted have been shattered, the feeling of order and certainty altered.

The similarities of these experiences with many I have also heard in Europe and North America were really quite striking.  I could have written this about almost anywhere. 

For good and bad, it does feel like human society is converging. Are we, becoming more similar, than less? It seems so. It does feel increasingly easier to relate to people where ever they live or are from.

And, whilst I also loved the quirky individual differences between countries, it does feel these are becoming smaller all the time. There are big societal tectonic forces at play here, ones that are going to be almost impossible to stop.

Yet, this convergence does have a big silver lining.  As differences fall away we understand each other better and in our markets, what works and does not. 

With a single state in India being the size of a major European country, and nearly 20% of the entire world’s population living there already, this could be a vast source of ideas for everyone, an opportunity for sure…. time to revisit China and Brazil next 😊

Have a good week everyone…. it’s good to be back

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