Monday, February 13, 2006

"The Indian economy did in our marriage!"

I came across this short narrative which captures the essence of entrepreneurship brutalized in India, and well, (kind of) did in a marriage. Read Hillary Johnson's interesting experience at India, economics and me. And here is an excerpt.

He [Alex Singleton] mentions India's former closed economy, where no foreign imports of any kind were allowed. I lived in India for a couple of years (1988-89) with my Indian (now ex-)husband during that era and experienced firsthand the stultifying effect of such a bizarrely hermetic trade policy. The idea was that the absence of imports would keep domestic markets for Indian producers. However, the meddlesome socialist government was reluctant to allow for any kind of domestic competition, either.

My ex-husband came from an entrepreneurial family, and his life's ambition was to build a food processing plant in his native state of Orissa, bringing jobs to the area, purchasing crops from local farmers, and earning India foreign exhange through the export of processed tomato and mango pulp. All good, right? A business plan even a communist could love. But the red tape involved in getting the project approved was overwhelming. It took him (if I remember correctly) around eight years to even break ground--or four times the length of our marriage. If I'm honest, I'll admit that part of my disillusionment with him came from my dismay at what I took to be his foolishness in persisting--after two years, I did not really think the factory would ever be built, and came to see him as a self-indulgent Don Quixote. I had a father with a startup in Silicon Valley, and the idea of spending years to to launch an extremely simple business--a ketchup factory!--struck me as absurd and loony.

It's only a slight stretch to say that the Indian economy was what did in our marriage. Looking back, though, I think that my frustrations at living there really could be summarized by the general suppression of opportunity and creativity on the part of the Indian government. I knew how intrinsically entrepreneurial Indians really were back when Thomas Friedman was still in diapers--for all the good it did them.
I haven't elaborated before but my favourite fantasy if appointed in a government position is this. Every night, after all the employees leave, I will burn or delete the original copies of bureaucratic and legislatives rules issued against entrepreneurs. Delete a rule a day and wither the state away! We need better governance not necessarily more governance.

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