Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Youthful India

As you walk into leading private Indian banks you cannot walk out without noticing the youthfulness. Walk into an Indian IT company or a management consultancy and you cannot help recognizing the young upwardly mobile. Watch the Indian news channels, the Indian soap operas or the advertisements and you feel young. The FM radio stations blare to the sound of youthful music with commentary by youthful RJ’s. Everyone around is young. The roads are full of the dashing bikes, sporty cars and shop displays that exude youthful energy. Everywhere you see the young and the country addressing the young.

7 out of ten Indian’s are under 30. That’s almost a billion, a sixth of the worlds population! A third of the working cohorts are under 30. That’s close to a 150 million! Each year 15-20 million youngsters enter the working cohorts promising to keep the youthful organizations young.
The markets, be they of votes, products or services, have not failed to notice the demographic pyramid. Politicians are appeasing the young votes, service providers the youth-savvy services and the products are now more hip and sporty. Even the President spares few opportunities to address the young.

India is an opportunity for reform, for innovation and for change. How does one make the nation grow up to missions critical to the current century and responsive to the next? How does one use the opportunity to introduce best practices in business and government? How does one build a nation of global citizens? How does one liberate a billion young minds to value purpose and character? How does one build this new society’s trust in itself?

What are the challenges governing a youthful nation?

A bank manager is increasingly unaware of procedures, processes or services. Mobile customers find increasing dissonance between the advertised and delivered service or product. Students discover their graduating seniors return to teach the concepts and skills. Younger teachers are imparting newer attitudes and different set of habits than the older mature teachers that existed earlier. Young playwrights, journalists and editors are wiping out generations of societal memory, attitudes and habits. The concept of coping is being radically redefined, as is the purpose of society or the institution and even life itself.

How will we make the institutional memory learn anew?

Can we invent technologies that will bring world best practices to the procedures, processes and services that the managers are forgetting? Can we create concept and skill-building communities spread across geographies to build global citizens? Can we define the habits and attitudes of a global citizen through exchange of contexts that promote different habits or attitudes? Can we teach the community to trust its citizens by altering the way they share information? What stories, poems and films can we usher in for the future? What will we teach to value by valuing it ourselves?

Financial institutions, mutual funds, medical services, construction industry, airlines- every sector is facing the crisis of experience. Each in turn has increased its exposure to un-quantified risks through the demographic change as well as a simultaneous rapid growth in demand as India moves into the “flat world”. Vote-banks have further driven this loss of experience as increasingly India fails to move its working cohorts through the aging process finding “business-sense” to replace entire offices with the new entrants into the working ages every year.

Can we teach our institutions to reinforce the individual’s focus on the institutions interest, not just self-interest? Can we allow the youthful democracy to evolve into a mature global nation? Can we discover the business sense in the balance between renewal and continuity?

Will the world wakeup to the opportunity to transform a sixth of its humanity to global citizenry, spread best practices and create good governance?