The Indian business press is a little like science fiction. The “pink pages” are full of stories related to the hundreds of millions of dollars that investors are pouring into India’s technology industry. All that money is a bet on a future in which more than a billion people conduct their lives on a smartphone. The stakes are huge: The winners will be the next Facebook or Alibaba. It makes for exciting reading.
One is left with the impression that the future is right around the corner. It’s not. The billion-dollar tech companies in Bangaluru, Mumbai, and New Delhi don’t make money. India is still a poor country: More than 20 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, and the gross national income per capita is only about $1,600 (U.S.), compared with more than $52,000 (U.S.) in Canada, according to the World Bank. Even Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, says he will need a decade to turn around an economy that is recognized widely as one of the hardest in the world in which to do business.
The future hinted at in the papers will be delayed in part because old habits die hard.
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