Sunday, 20 December 2009

Predictions for India's next decade

Irrespective of all that went wrong in the last decade for India, the growing strength of the Indian (urban) middle class has to stand out as the one trend that presents the most hope and has the maximum momentum. As long as this ‘class’ keeps the balance in favour of wealth creation as opposed to consumption, India will benefit.

In the next decade, there will be opportunities to move forward, there will be a decline in some areas and as usual we will continue to see rapid change. Before the media steps in with their sponsored hype, allow me to present my 2¢ worth of predictions for the next ten years.

  1. Urbanization will continue. The burden of migration will shift from the metros to Tier II cities and we will see a spurt in infrastructure projects in these cities as well (finally!). Will rural and urban India run on two parallel tracks or will they be going in opposite directions? Going by the trend in this decade, there will be a large marginalized population in rural India that will be headed in the opposite direction. This will be the single largest challenge for all levels of government in India.

  2. Regulation of Indian Media will improve. There will be legislation brought into play after all efforts at self-regulation fail. Accountability within the media will increase. The focus will be back on journalism. Distractions in the form of infotainment, psephology and advertising will reduce substantially.
  3. A Green Party! Indians will start to recognize the impact of climate change. This enlightenment will result in direct action as well. A political party that has environment as it’s main electoral platform will win a seat or two in the Lok Sabha. In the worst case scenario, this party will take a toll on national parties by fracturing their vote back in some pockets. 

  4. Intellectual Property Rights will see a major overhaul. Developing countries and poorer countries will be paying “actuals” for the transfer of technology and NOT exorbitant premiums in the name of copyrights and/or patents. This will be most true in the areas of energy, healthcare and agriculture. The West will back-track completely on GATS when they realize that they will be paying more than they will earn. In particular, this will kick-off a virtuous cycle in Africa. (i.e key ingredients for sustainable development will come together at the right place and at the right time)

  5. Large Dams. The decommissioning of some of the largest dams in India will begin. There will be a realization that these dams need to be broken down into much smaller dams along the major rivers. This will be driven by an acceptance of environmental science and by a ‘real’ threat of major earthquakes. Some of the democratic people’s movements that have their roots in the impact of large dams,  may coalesce into a green-party that I referred to earlier. [The large dams debate from 1999]

  6. The mobile generation will skip the PC. A large number of Indians will have their first and (addictive) taste of the Internet through the mobile phone. This leap forward in local appropriation of technology will open up many opportunities for better governance (UID will NOT be one of them). UID as a project will slip into oblivion. It may be perceived to be successful in a few urban pockets thanks to some good PR by the project manager.

  7. Narayanamurthy for President? (Okay I am sticking my neck out here) The co-founder of Infosys will launch a bid for the Rashtrapathi bhavan. Whether or not he will succeed is not clear. His name will do more than just the rounds, he might even end up with a nomination.  He will be supported largely by the corporate lobby. 

  8. India becomes THE exit plan in Afghanistan and Pakistan for America. But first, America will continue it’s blundering ways. The continuing loss of civilian lives will mean that America will not just be “perceived” as an enemy, but will be treated as one by non-combatants and combatants alike. In a few years, India will be first nudged and then shoved into engaging in the AfPak region. The repercussions for India will not be good. The US of course will close another failed chapter in it’s history of imperial ambitions and leave somebody else to clean up the mess. The only positive outcome of such an intervention could be a conclusive resolution to Kashmir. [A status report on Obama's current strategy from an Indian perspective].

  9. If Congress wins a National election in the coming decade (60% chance that they will). Chidambaram will replace Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi will have independent charge of the remote control. This government will be packaged in populist policy but at it’s core will be a capitalist engine. This will put the poorest of the poor at risk. The government will be different because it will NOT camouflage it's complete alignment with US policies on war and neo-liberal economics.

  10. Naxal violence will be mitigated and controlled through the partial nationalization of mines. Large corporate interests will still be pillaging natural resources, but there will be reparations given to local communities both in the form of cash and infrastructure. This will happen through the partial nationalization of mines. The movement for equality and tribal rights will continue to be brushed under the carpet. The violent element in the Naxal movement will be held at bay and will rear it's head when convenient to the central government. 

  11. Circket in India will be in turmoil. BCCI will continue to behave like the school bully both in domestic and international cricket. Interest in the sport in other nations will be in decline as cricket becoming predictable. This decline in interest in other countries will have an impact on the fortunes of the game in India. The process has been set in motion and looks irreversible. 

  12. Women’s literacy will improve by a massive 30% or more. This will not happen thanks to government action but because non-government organizations working across different areas of development will approach the issue of women’s literacy as a a panacea. The impact will be exceptionally positive.

  13. India Vs China (Tortoise vs Hare). India is far less likely to implode than China. This is based on the fact that i) India's trajectory of growth is not as steep ii) Our checks & balances in the areas of finance, banking and accounting is far more transparent and robust than China's. India is more of a socialist country than China (which is the largest capitalist country in the world thanks to it being Milton Friedman's playground in the 80s). Power within India is far more distributed than it ever will be in China. 
Happy New Year!


  1. The only thing I would add is that health [rather the largely unhealthy population] will polarise urban India; while rural India will continue to fight for better basic health services.

  2. Dear Bala,

    One more or less agrees with your predictions, as they all appear to be on the ‘safer’ side. That is, you seem to have (unconsciously) not made predictions on some difficult (but unavoidable) issues.

    For example, what about the economy? What will be our GDP like? Our stock market/sensex? Energy sufficiency (especially Nuclear Energy, post the deal with the US)? Though you have referred to a Green party, what about the substantive issue of climate change, inherent legal framework and its impact on people/industry?

    A good effort at addressing certain other critical forecasts though, like IPR/AfPak/India-China.

    Twitter id : @amancool5

  3. @ Anita Lobo
    Agree. Health is a key factor. Basic healthcare will be an issue particularly in Rural India.

    @ amancool5
    Agree the predictions do not touch every facet. That gives me good fodder for another post/update.

    That said -
    1) Markets - I have no clue which direction they will head and would not hazard a prediction. Will play ignorant here.

    2) Around energy Sufficiency, I predict, that there will be some "disruptive" technologies. Technology around energy will easy to appropriate locally and hence we will move towards energy sufficiency. Nuclear energy - will take at least 5-7 years before it hits the grid in an impactful way.

    AND thanks for the comments

  4. good article... as mentioned by aman... you played very safe..just a bit too hopeful for a green party to come up in india... :P . but as you have mentioned .. congress will win...(60%).. what about the other 40%?? do you want to comment on it? will regional parties take over the national parties... is bjp or left or mayawati the most probable alternative ?? and what do you hope to be the growth engine for india...?

  5. @ Anonymous

    The other 40% is to allow adequate room for congress to shoot itself in the foot. Something that it is exceptionally good at doing. Their current formula of divide, divide, divide and rule seems to be working well for it. However, they do have a reputation for botching things up at the grass-roots level. Mayawati is too regional and should retain a comfortable presence in UP if not the UP government.

    To answer your question and hazard a prediction- regional parties will continue to be encouraged by the voter but this will only deepen a split in the vote (congress for example has won only 1 in 10 votes in 2009). The deeper the split, the better it stacks up for the congress (e.g. 2004 and 2009).

    BJP, will be presented with opportunities, but are unlikely to cash-in.

    Left needs a re-structuring. Needs to move from failed communist policies to a more Liberal Social agenda if they are to make a dent again in parliament. Prediction - unlikely to happen.

    A key election that I just can't predict will be the TN elections. Key state, healthy economy with caste politics. Regional parties will be slugging it out and the national parties will stand in the shadows.

    Growth engine will shift more towards manufacturing and services as urbanization increases.

    Thanks for comments

  6. Some notes,

    Regulation of Indian Media: I think this is a much bigger challenge than many of us think. The problem is we are primarily concerned with the English language media. Our entire debate and IB Ministry orientation is geared towards the English media. The much more powerful Indian langauge media, we barely even understand, let alone try to regulate effectively.

    A Green Party: I agree here, one reason why a green party can be effective in India is because of the multi-party system. This is an issue that I feel urban India cares about increasingly more, it is also an important for the marginalized. An alliance is a real possibility if someone can rise to the occasion.

    India becomes the exit plan: I doubt this. I think the Indian army is very tied down right now, undermanned and its morale is also quite low. It will fiercely resist any such move. I just dont see such a move garnering any kind of support, anywhere in India. Not from any of the parties, not from the corporate elite (who want strong relations with America, but will not favor what would basically be a war against Pak) and certainly not from the people.

    Naxal Violence: I seriously doubt your conclusions here. The trends certainly dont back them. I think low intensity violence will continue and spread, most likely across West Bengal. This will pose a serious security threat to India, as the North East could be cut off. It is very likely that the army will be seriously involved.

    Women's literacy: Agree with you here. Pratham's data shows the same. The next big issue will be quality of education, we have to develop strategies to tackle that issue, before we reach the stage where we are ready to scale up our ideas on a large scale.

  7. @ Vikram

    Thank you very much for the comments.

    1) Your point on the vernacular (for the lack of a better word) is spot on. That said, I still think that clamour for regulation will increase as long as the current state of "self-regulation" continues.

    2) An alliance? - all I can say is - I am licking my lips and waiting in anticipation of such an alliance. I hope, like you say, somebody rises to the challenge.

    3) India exit plan - There has been some noise from the self-proclaimed "liberals" in India about the fact that India should be sending troops. My worry is that the corporate lobby will support and not go against it. They have learnt the lessons of crony capitalism fairly well. This is one prediction I hope I am absolutely wrong about.

    Thanks for the comments.