Nandan Nilekani: Imagining India

Nandan Nilekani’s book, Imagining India, has been called both exhaustive and exhausting. It is a big book – a clear-eyed look at one of the world’s fastest growing economies where, nevertheless, millions are still poor and illiterate.

For a quick summary by the author himself, watch this video.

Nilekani begins by pointing out India with its huge young workforce will be the only young country in an ageing world and ends by saying why India matters:

  • India is home to more than a billion people, one-sixth of the world population.
  • India is the world’s largest democracy and its rapid economic growth shows democracy is not incompatible with growth.
  • If India continues to grow by 8 percent a year and population growth drops to 1.5 percent, then per capita income will double every nine years.

And the growing prosperity of more than a billion people makes a big difference to the global economy.

Thomas Friedman acknowledges his debt to Nilekani in his foreword to Imagining India:

It was his insight that the global playing field was being levelled by technology that inspired me to write my own book, The World Is Flat.

Even Bill Gates wants to work with Nilekani, the cofounder of the Indian software giant Infosys. Microsoft wants to partner the Indian government agency headed by Nilekani which is building the world’s largest human database and will create a unique identification card for every Indian, says the Wall Street Journal.

The media calls Nilekani the Bill Gates of India. But he modestly denies they are in any way comparable in this BBC interview you can listen to on the BBC iPlayer.