Tue, 29 Jun 2004

India, Inc.

Just got back from my third trip to India. I've been working with Rediff on Rediffmail for going on five years. When I first went there, they had 125K users. When I left ten days later, they had 143K users. Now they're pushing 30M users if they're not there already, with terabytes and terabytes of disks spinning and servers and servers handing out webmail.

On my first visit, we were troubled by two strikes. One was actually not so bad, as it was the taxis and I had a company car and driver (if you can drive in Mumbai, you can drive in Boston; the converse is not a given) at my disposal. Without the badly-tuned diesel taxis on the road, the air cleaned up first-rate. But still, Mumbai basically shut down for the day, and the taxi drivers made their point. Similarly, truck drivers went on strike the same week, and delayed shipment of the servers we needed for the cluster.

The strikes were caused by the government trying to increase the price of diesel fuel to match the market price they had to purchase it at. Clearly, it was the opinion of the strikers that they should not be subject to market discipline. Perhaps if they were, the taxi drivers would have taken their taxis in for a tune-up to increase their fuel efficiency. Pollution is not just trespass, it's waste.

Several of the people I spoke to said that conditions for business were improving in India. This is good. It is VERY good. All the socialist redistribution in the world won't help if there is no capitalist production to redistribute. More than that, a wealthier economy helps everybody by creating surplus. This increased prosperity increases the price pressure on the only truly scarce commodity: human attention.

India is reducing its tariffs, making it easier to start a business, eliminating anti-competitive laws, and privatizing businesses. They still have a long way to go. They gave up about fifty years of development while pursing a socialist fantasy. But they are making progress, and we should cheer them on. Go India! Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

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