Cutting the Gordian Knot – India’s Quest for Prosperity


The book “Cutting the Gordian Knot – India’s Quest for Prosperity, by T.N. Hari and Hari Menon was released recently. Here’s a sneak peek into the book by one of the authors T. N. Hari, Head – HR, Big Basket and Strategic Advisor – Fundamentum. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.

India is a country with multiple realities. For those familiar with India’s history, Bharat is a term that is increasingly used to describe the part that has been left behind in the journey of economic development. ‘India’ and ‘Bharat’ are the two participants in a three-legged race. Like any three-legged race, one can’t win if the other is unable to keep pace. We have reached a point in our history when India is ready to race ahead but Bharat seems to have unending woes. Bharat’s problems have begun to permeate into India and slow it down. The interdependence between India and Bharat has grown as we progressed. Most of us in industry think it isn’t our problem or that we can continue to focus on our business and hope that the problems of Bharat do not permeate to our neck of the woods and slow us down. But, industry can’t afford to any longer ignore this because these problems have crept up to our neck of the woods! Industry cannot afford to be unaware of the challenges of Bharat.

Most of Bharat’s problems are interconnected and need to be addressed holistically. It is difficult to deal with issues of education and employment in isolation. Any solution in isolation quickly results in regression to the original state.

Intellectual awareness is never enough to appreciate a problem sufficiently. At Bigbasket, we had a first-hand exposure to the blue collar workforce and marginal farmers. This helped change our perspectives and created a desire for telling the story of India’s ‘wicked’ problems – so complex and intertwined that they look unsolvable.

In our quest for some answers we met with an amazing bunch of folks. Every meeting was inspirational. We were touched to see some young and brilliant individuals who had given up bright corporate careers to work on India’s social problems. Their collective efforts are leading to the creation of more meaningful jobs and improving the quality of lives of the underprivileged.

Cutting the Gordian Knot – India’s Quest for Prosperity

These meetings inspired us to put together this book. A book that touches on the different sub-themes underlying India’s quest for prosperity by leveraging its youth bulge. We realised that the best way to do this was to get these amazing individuals who had dedicated a significant part of their lives to understanding and working on the various pieces of this complex problem actually write large parts of it. These are individuals who had gotten their hands dirty and elbows greased by years of working in the trenches.

Cutting the Gordian Knot T N Hari

Misplaced aspirations due to a lopsided education system

The underlying pieces of the puzzle are complex and intertwined. We have an education system that has fuelled a misplaced aspiration for white collared jobs, which don’t exist in the numbers needed to absorb everyone that enters employable age. With more than 12 million youth entering employable age every year, we need to think out of the box. India got educated before it got skilled, as a result of which we are able to send a mission to Mars but are unable to build roads that can withstand a monsoon.

Future job creation will be in Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs)

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are going to be the job creators of the future. Skilling along with micro-entrepreneurship needs to be rejuvenated. Private enterprises (for-profit and not-for-profit) need to work collaboratively with the Government and leverage its reach to create impact on scale.

Technology adoption in farming for improving productivity

The farm sector needs a rethink in terms of improving productivity by leveraging new technologies and introducing the right reforms. The migration from rural to urban will be a continuing process and the migration must be eased by creating urban settlements that can ensure absorb the migrating population seamlessly.

Need for gender inclusive measure to increase the number of women in the workforce

India cannot progress unless we make a strong push for enhancing the gender mix in the workforce in favor of women. The biggest difference between China and India is the difference in the number of working women. This needs creating safe work places and safe cities, besides a broader transformation in the cultural outlook.

Rapid developments in technology are changing the nature of jobs and employment itself. We are living in truly interesting times. India’s youth bulge makes it one of the youngest nations in the world. A youthful demographic profile is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic growth. It needs to be harnessed well. Some miscalculations and wrong moves could very easily transform a demographic dividend to a recipe for mass discontent.

India has a long way to go, and global disruptions due to rapidly changing technologies are creating hazards on the way. New ways will have to be found, and dominant narratives will have to be challenged. On the face of it, changing or undoing some of the deep rooted paradigms would appear almost impossible. It is not without reason we have said that the Gordian knot needs to be cut and bold decisions taken. Fortunately we are at a point in history where there is a confluence of several factors conducive for driving change — there is a burning problem at hand which makes it easier to introduce change; a Government that has the majority to confidently take the right decisions and a prime minister who is determined to bring about change.

The book presents views, data and insights, with intent to spark dialogue, awareness and eventually, change. We’ve tried to make a very serious topic insightful and exciting so that everyone from a college student, to a corporate executive and a serious academic should find it interesting and stirring.

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