Sign The Guestbook
View The Guestbook
Archived Guestbook
Submit An Article
Staff List
Privacy Policy


Weekly Features
Letter from New York
Mathew Tombers is Managing Director of Intermat, Inc., ( a television company which executive produces programs and consults with industry companies on a variety of issues. Intermat, Inc. is currently involved in approximately thirty hours of television in various stages for a variety of networks. He is one of the Executive Producers of OFF TO WAR, a ten hour series for Discovery Times and for a one hour on international adoptions for Discovery Health. He has consulted a variety of companies, including Ted Turner Documentaries, WETA, Betelgeuse Productions, and Creation Films, Lou Reda Productions as well as many others.
A Date With Delhi

September 15, 2005

When I received this consulting assignment one of the things that intrigued me most was that it would return me to Delhi, where I had been based for two and a half months in 1995/6.

Since then India has come to the forefront and is in the center of the target when it comes to outsourcing. India is attracting American companies who are placing call centers there, having resourceful Indians do their software development [somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the world’s software engineers are of Indian origin] while other companies are beginning to forge serious manufacturing relationships on the subcontinent.

Ten years ago India played second fiddle to China when it came to the world’s consciousness regarding emerging economies. Now they are neck and neck. China excels at manufacturing; India wins the code writing prize. Plus, India has the basics China lacks in a judicial system, a functioning democracy and an English tradition rooted in the Raj.

In the ten years I have been absent from Delhi, the city has changed. The airport has been buffed up and more closely resembles a functioning enterprise with some sense of purpose as opposed to the almost overwhelming chaos I encountered ten years ago. Then I encountered a city wrapped in a middle of the night orange glow, streets inhabited by curbside tent dwellers burning tires for warmth, in a dusky smoke that never released its grip on the city. Like Los Angeles in the ‘ 70’s, you could reach out and touch the air.

Now the air is cleaner and fewer people live curbside in tents; the massive number of beggars is still considerable but less omnipresent as my friend Kiran said, there are now more options on ways to make a living. Kiran is head of NASSCOM, the national association of software developers, which makes him a very big deal in India -- and the world.

Indians are good at software. For some reason their minds “grok” the workings of 1’s and 0’s, making those two digits sing. It comes, said another acquaintance, of having for years to create work-arounds due to a dearth of resources. Necessity, of course, being the mother of inventiveness.

In 1995 I visited the head of Pepsi India in an office that would have shamed a 1930’s American executive and that was about as good as it got in Delhi then. Today Pepsi is headquartered in building that looks more Dallas than Delhi.

Not unlike Poland, India has an emerging, vibrant young [half the country is under 25] professional group who were born under the socialist constraints of the later Nehru/Gandhi era and who have come into adulthood under the economic reforms that began to rock the country in the 1990’s.

They drive chic new cars [or rather are driven in chic new cars; everyone seems to have a driver]. They live in the chic new areas of Delhi and both husband and wife work “important” jobs and are not sure about having children or how many they will have if they do. An affluent single woman I know is thinking of adopting a child a thought that would have been absolutely shocking in India ten years ago but is gaining social acceptance in middle class urban areas.

A businessman I know there is looking to a hire a V.P. for his company; his secret hope is that he can attract an Indian who has been living abroad but who now wants to come home. Those are increasing in number.

The Indian Diaspora of a particular age are turning their eyes back to the homeland and are returning for they see the kinds of opportunities they never expected their homeland to give them.

Ten years ago in Madras my friend William asked me my overall reaction to my time in India . I told him I thought India would be one of the great powers of the late 21st century, based on its brain power.

I think my prediction was right.

Currently the U.S. is turning out about 60,000 engineers a year. Due to immigration restrictions resulting from 9/11, we are no longer always the country of choice for study by the best and the brightest of the world.

Between them, China and India will shortly turn out between 500,000 and 600,000 engineers a year. America will be overwhelmed by these numbers. For us to remain a world power, much less a pre-eminent world power will require an enormous degree of resourcefulness, flexibility and focused policy.