Friday Aug 15, 2008

India celebrates Independence Day

India celebrates its Independence Day, today. Sixty one years ago, on this day, the first Prime Minister of Independent India said, "At the stroke of the mid-night hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance..... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."


India is 61 years young. Today's India is resilient, vibrant and is a nation of over a billion dreams and aspirations, raring to go. The genie of aspirations and unbridled enthusiasm has been set free from the bounds of the bottle to which it was confined.

Keith Bellows, the Editor-in-chief, National Geographic Society had this to say, "There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won't go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds. It was as if all my life I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolor."

India is the 7th largest country in the world in terms of area and the 2nd largest in terms of population. To put that in perspective, India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains approximately 17 per cent of the world population. With over a billion citizens, India is the World's largest Democracy. India is also a free-market democracy with a legal system that, though tends to be slow, is easy for Westerners to understand and works.

Sixty one years of freedom has not meant that life's a bed of roses for its citizens. I came across this interesting observation, which said that living in India was like running an obstacle race. Every day, one is overcoming obstacles all the time, over-crowded cities, corrupt officials, unhelpful yet functional governance, infrastructure short-comings and many such elements that litter the path to progress. It is an ode to the never-say-die spirit, the can-do attitude and resilience of its people that despite all the hurdles thrown its way, has managed to overcome and how. Many of the major global organizations today have CEOs, presidents & leaders who are of Indian origin. In the recent Forbes Billionaires List, four of the top ten richest Billionaires in the world are Indians, a feat unthinkable a little while ago, but today a fact that stands testimony to a growing breed of entrepreneurs breaking free of the shackles of the past and setting their sights higher & wider.

For years, government controls and restrictions, the infamous "license Raj", shielded Indian businesses from foreign competition, isolating them and stifling innovation. But in the early 1990s, the government began to slowly open up the economy. Anticipating an eventual onslaught from outsiders, the country's more far-sighted industrialists decided to modernize their operations. Indian companies flush with cash from a booming domestic economy are on the look out for overseas acquisitions. The number of acquisitions by Indian companies and those with founders of Indian origin have grown by leaps and bounds. Some of the more recent acquisitions that hit the news include - Mittal Steel, the world's largest steel maker and Indian owned, acquiring Arcelor, Europe's top steel producer; Indian Tata Tea (which owns the Tetley Tea brand) acquiring Energy Brands (U.S., maker of Glaceau bottled water and vitamin drinks); India's Tata Steel's $8.1 billion bid for Anglo-Dutch steel manufacturer Corus; Tata Motors of India, buying the Jaguar and Land Rover brands from Ford for $2.3 billion; Indian Dr. Reddy's acquiring German rival Betapharm and many more hundreds of such acquisitions across different verticals and segments each year.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new beginning, here's saluting this incredible nation - a nation that speaks over 22 official different languages and several hundreds of different dialects, apart from English which is needless to say the language that connects India to the world; a nation that is an amalgamation of over 28 states; a nation where people follow different religions and where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and others co-exist in harmony; a nation that is the symbol of tolerance and peace; a nation on the move.

Listen to the Indian National Anthem
Listen to the Indian National Song

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John Morrison

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