Stop tilting at windmills, Mr Trump & Co.
Donald Trump and his fellow travellers in Europe are doing their countries a disservice by recklessly pulling up the drawbridge on immigration, writes India Inc. CEO Manoj Ladwa.
Everyone knows that whenever their fortresses and castles came under siege, kings of old would pass the order to pull up the drawbridges and every able man would take up position to repel the invaders. And most of you will be familiar with the story of Don Quixote, the fictional medieval Spanish nobleman, who attacked windmills under the delusion that they were dangerous enemies.
Combine these two narratives and you get a very disturbing picture of the present and the future.
The US and large parts of Western Europe, collectively still the world’s most powerful economic bloc, are drawing up the drawbridges to stop the flow of immigrants. Like the Don mentioned above, his real life counterpart in the US and several politicians in Europe have marked out foreign workers as the proverbial windmills they have to wage war against.
One of the unintended upshots of this is that Indians, who have a large presence in these regions, especially in the US and UK, suddenly find themselves being labelled job stealers and worse.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The globalisation of the Indian economy has been led by its services sector and driven primarily by the talent of its people. And India’s services companies, especially in the IT sector, have spread their wings across the West by identifying and filling crucial gaps in the value chain that have actually helped increase the efficiency and improve the profitability of companies domiciled in the US and Western Europe.
And as numerous studies by Indian and foreign institutes and think tanks have shown, these companies are net job creators in the countries they operate in. For example, the much maligned Indian IT companies, which have been accused of misusing the H1B visa facility to ship cheap workers to the US to the detriment of the local workforce, has actually created more than half a million IT services jobs for local Americans. The number will be much higher if the indirect job creation potential – from efficiency gains as a result of Indian IT services support – is taken into account.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, the Tata Group, which owns Jaguar Land Rover, the erstwhile Corus steel works and the iconic Tetley tea brand, among several others businesses in the UK, is the largest manufacturing employer in the country. And only a minuscule fraction of its workforce in Britain is Indian.
This is where India’s globalisation model differs fundamentally from China’s. The Middle Kingdom’s expansion abroad was primarily state-led and often used multi-billion-dollar infrastructure projects as baits to bulldoze its way into positions of influence in many countries. And its emergence as the world’s factory did move jobs from several developed markets to sites with relatively cheaper operational costs back home.
As the global recession set in following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in the wake of the sub-prime crisis in the US and people started losing jobs in the developed world, there was a backlash against outsourcing of manufacturing activities to cheaper locations in Asia.
With many western economies going through a prolonged downturn, the adverse reaction to outsourcing began to gather public support that populist politicians latched on to and turned into a political movement that has, unfortunately, began to claim Indian services exports as collateral damage.
That’s because the free movement of talent across borders has always been the cornerstone of India’s globalisation model. If you live in the UK, you’re likely to see a disproportionate number of Indian doctors in your engagements with the National Health Service. If you drive around the US, you’ll probably be surprised at the number of Indian, mainly Gujarati Patel, motel owners in that country.
The contribution of these and other Indians in business, academia, professional services and to their local communities have been widely recognised and universally applauded.
They form an important link in today’s interconnected world. To view them as windmills to be fought and invaders to be repelled will be a folly.
A more detailed reading of Don Quixote’s mis-adventures reveals that his interventions never achieved their intended goals. Perhaps, there’s a lesson there for the trans-Atlantic Don and his fellow travellers in Europe.
In this issue of India Global Business, do read the section on India is engaging China positively even as it takes steps to safeguard itself from any possible adventurism on the part of the Middle Kingdom. Then, we bring to you incisive analysis on what a Trump administration means for Indian companies and now India is projecting its strategic interests by befriending Vietnam.
And don’t miss the Go Global section on what Indian companies want from globalisation.
Wish all of you happy reading.