English in India

Here's a fascinating interview about the economic rise of India over the last 30 years -- India and the State of the IT Industry. I love the "snake charmer" story, but what I found most interesting was how S. Ramadorai feels that English in India is a critical component for the knowledge economy there -- enabling better communication with the West and also providing a convenient competitive advantage with respect to China, where English is not as pervasive.
Comments:

Though the english proficiency has made a significant difference till date, it will (and should) cease to be important when China catches up on that front. An unless India uses this head-start to move up the value chain (and place emphasis on higher education for starts), competing with China be an uphill tough ask.

Posted by Bharath R on October 15, 2006 at 12:19 PM JST #

I totally agree that the competitive advantage of language is a short term deal. I understand that China is aggressively teaching English now. I hope the Japanese adjust their position on this issue. I think they will eventually as they see China and India pass them by.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on October 15, 2006 at 01:56 PM JST #

The only competitive advantage of a country is its infrastructure, since almost everything else can be offshored or trained. Who would have thought x-ray analysis and tax preparation can be done in India few years ago?
India will either stay as a low-cost provider (that they don't want to be), or upgrade its infrastructure (that their government cannot do).
English will not carry them for long.

Posted by Chinaman on October 16, 2006 at 06:42 AM JST #

Well, I agree that the language competitive advantage may not last that long. It's just one of many competitive advantages. China has better infrastructure, but that, too, is temporary. Again, it's just one competitive advantage among many. Just look at the U.S. The U.S. has the best infrastructure in the world, some of the best universities in the world, and obviously leverages the use of English since it runs the biggest market on the planet. Yet, companies are outsourcing and leaving the U.S. all the time for countries like Mexico, India, and China. The entire system is now extremely dynamic.

Posted by Jim Grisanzio on October 16, 2006 at 03:22 PM JST #

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