Bangalore: Nandan Nilekani, co-chairman and co-founder of Infosys Technologies Ltd., speaks to V. Sridhar about his recently-launched book, “Imagining India: Ideas for the new century.” He speaks about his agenda of reforms that can transform India.
“I hope the book generates a heated debate and even criticism, so that it results in something positive,” he said. He hopes the book’s adjunct on the Web, imaginingindia.com, will act as a launching pad for his ideas.
Question: What prompted you to write Imagining India? How long did it take and how did you find time for it?
NN: I started the book in April 2007 and finished it last month. As I travelled around the world, people asked me about India. They wanted to know why there are so many contradictions in life here. I found I did not have a convincing answer to many of the questions they posed. That is when I decided to write the book. I also felt that it would, in the process, also clarify my own thoughts about why we are the way we are.
Another reason was that I felt that India had a small window of opportunity, within which problems needed to be addressed quickly. Time was running out and I felt I needed to put forward my agenda in the public domain.
I call this book a safety net of ideas. Even if the political leadership does not react, I hope enough thinking people would buy into the ideas I have presented. If some fantastic leadership comes along, it will at least be galvanised by the ideas I have presented.
How did you find time to write the book?
Fortunately I had a very good researcher, Devi Yashodha, who worked with me on this book. I interviewed 126 people for this book, meeting eight to 10 persons a day.
Your book appears to be a celebration of economic reforms, which accelerated in the 1990s…
Yes, but the approach is not one of market fundamentalism. It recognises that economic reforms created opportunities for many more people. But halfway reforms results in benefits for only some of us who were dealt the right cards. Reforms is not just about a few rich guys. It is about providing access to education, health, jobs, markets, infrastructure to the common man.
This book was written before the global economy went into a deep recession. What would you have added or amended in the book if you had another chance to write it, in the context of the slowdown in India?
Reforms are even more relevant now. The financial injection from overseas during the last several years accounted for about 2 to 3 percentage points of the annual growth rate of 8 to 9 per cent of the Indian economy. I think these capital flows made us complacent. We started to think we had done what needed to be done.
In order to have sustainable reform we need to implement what I call fundamental reforms, which are what my book is about. It is about reforms in education, infrastructure, health, urban policy and other such issues.