Why Learn About India?
FLOER: I have a general question—and I think this rounds out this first part of the discussion nicely—but why should we talk about India more? Why should more people be listening to, not just your expertise, but anyone who spends their time doing research and talking about India?
RAJAGOPALAN: The world demographics are changing, and I think we are not good at looking at the 30-, 40-year horizon, because of Twitter and all the other things we talked about. We’re so in the moment of what’s happening now. If you look at global demographics—and I recently started a Substack, it’s called “Get Down and Shruti,” and the first post was on this topic—the developed world is depopulating, or at least, the fertility rates are dropping quite rapidly. In fact, China will start depopulating next year, and it’s so far the largest country in terms of population.
RAJAGOPALAN: India will not depopulate until 2065. India’s population, which is right now 1.4 billion, will continue to grow and then start to go down only in 2065 when it peaks. Over the next 40 years, China will lose a quarter of a billion people and India will gain a quarter of a billion people. That’s like the size of Brazil and three-quarters the size of the United States, so that’s big numbers. What this means is India is very young; it’s only going to get younger as the world gets older.
RAJAGOPALAN: One in five young people in the world actually live in India, and half the Indian population is below 25. Even for very self-serving reasons, if people have nothing to do with India, the global talent pool, the workforce is going to come from India. And as India starts peaking, then it’s going to come from Africa. That’s where we need to pay more attention. The world just doesn’t pay enough attention to India or Africa, so that’s the big picture.
The other part of it is, India is also a subcontinent. It’s 1.4 billion people. It’s stitched together as a collection of people with different—it’s actually, religiously, the most diverse place in the world. It’s linguistically the most diverse place in the world. There’s, of course, caste heterogeneity. For these reasons, it’s difficult to understand India. Thinking that India is your buddy from accounting or IT in your office, that’s like one type of India and one type of Indian that you may meet in your social circle or in the neighborhood or in the office place.
India is actually very diverse and requires a lot of context to actually understand. If the future is India, and you’re going to have more people coming to universities, and there’s a good chance that some of the older listeners in this episode, their children end up marrying an Indian they met in college.
RAJAGOPALAN: Even if the base reason is you don’t want to make a cultural boo-boo in front of your future in-laws, you’ve got to know some cultural context. You’ve got to know a little bit more about India. I think, for various reasons, of course, if you’re a university or if you’re hiring, if you work in the AI or tech space, all the talent there is coming from India. So for different groups, India might be more or less relevant. If you work in the climate space, you should really focus on India. It’s going to be one of the largest-growing spaces, which means we need to worry about technology and how to control carbon emissions. It’s different for different people, but I think everyone should pay more attention to India.
RAJAGOPALAN: More generally, the baseline has to increase. And then, depending on what you do, you may want to zero in on certain kinds of books and podcasts and experts. Most Indians now have access to electricity. About 800 million-plus Indians have access to a smartphone, so now they’re on the internet. We are slowly getting to a point where the internet will also get dominated by Indians. In terms of natural language processing, more people sound like me than sound like you, Dallas. More people will spell like me than spell like you and so on.
I think, with an overwhelming number of Indians on the internet, people will also see that landscape change faster than immigration or them visiting India. Their Netflix front page will change quite dramatically and so on.
Floer, Dallas. (2022, December 22). Ideas of India Podcast, episode 69: 2022 in Review [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from https://ideasofindia.libsyn.com/eoy-2022