In the past decade and a half, one word that has been used and abused in India (sometimes in context but mostly out of it) has been globalization. The Indian champions of globalization attribute all development that has been taking place in the country, especially the surging Sensex which – notwithstanding few shocks, has been on a gravity-defying upward trajectory. Yet, the critics smell a Western conspiracy of colonization by default. If they are to be believed, then globalisation is nothing but a Western (read developed nation) design to dominate the developing and the under-developed countries. The truth obviously lies somewhere near the midpoint of these two extreme poles.
However, before dwelling into the details of the subject, it is essential to define the term globalization. Journalist and author Nayan Chanda, in his recent and much acclaimed book, Bound Together, writes, “Globalisation is a process of ever-growing interconnectedness and interdependence that began thousands of years ago and continues to this day with increasing speed and ease.” The traditional definition of globalisation categorizes it as the expansion of global linkages, the organization of social life on a global scale, the growth of a global consciousness – hence the consolidation of world society. It is the increasing interconnection of people and places as a result of advances in transport, communication, and information technologies that causes political, economic, and cultural convergence.
Given this, it becomes clear that globalisation stems from inter-dependence and primarily started as barter between individuals, subsequently between states and nation states. All through its recorded history, India has been known as a trading country – with Indian products going as far as to the east coast of Africa in the East and the various islands of Indonesia in the West. Similarly, produce from these countries used to come to India. While this may be globalisation at the very basic level, it establishes the human desire for the best (at competitive prices) available in the world, whether food products, clothes, tools, equipment or technology.
Through a long process of globalisation, spanning centuries, India today is truly a globalized country, whether in terms of cuisine, entertainment, economy, information technology, fashion, education, religion or even spiritualism (in the form of Yoga, Art of Living, Ayurveda and so on), which certainly is India’s biggest export to the Western world.
A large number of global multinational brands such as Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz are successfully operating in India. Pattern of consumption in India has also changed. Level of spending on private consumption has been growing significantly. Adoption of globalisation and liberalization principles has widened the horizon of Indian consumers worldwide and they have become more conscious, even as market information has become more clear.
Moreover, liberalized policies have led the industrial sector to grow at a faster pace. BPO, IT, ITES, retail and insurance sector are performing well. From being merely a third world country, India has become a major player in the socio-economic arena, particularly in such areas as investment, entertainment, fashion, food, lifestyles, etc.
The globalization has had a huge impact on the investment sector of India. India’s minister of commerce, Mr. Kamal Nath said that the foreign direct investment into India nearly tripled in the last fiscal year as more overseas investors flocked to the country. It rose in the fiscal year end, March 31 to about US$16 billion from just US$5.5 billion a year earlier. He attributed the surge to India’s economic boom and increasing liberalization of rules related to foreign investment in recent years. India began switching from a socialist-style economy in the early 1990s, but foreign companies had been wary about investing in India because of a limited domestic market and bureaucratic hurdles. But what this article suggests is a completely new India, with investments flooding in.
Along with our investment sector another illustration which pays testimony to the fact that globalization has come to India in a big way and is here to stay, is our fashion industry. For a country like India where Western influence has been absorbed, ethnicity has been fused with Western and a completely new dimension of fashion designing has emerged.
Globalization however is a two way process, India though being one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalisation has in equal measures given back to the world as it has taken.
Will Durant, an American historian, once said, “India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of European languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother (through the Arabs) of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all”. This quote is enough to tell us about the innumerable contributions that our country has made to the world. Even the greatest scientist of all ages, Albert Einstein said that they all owe a lot to the Indians, who taught them how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made. There are countless fields where India’s impact on the world can be studied, for example information technology, food, culture and Bollywood among many others.
Thus, perhaps the most important aspect of globalisation is that it is a process which has been in motion since time immemorial and cannot be stopped by any region or regime. Globalisation is inevitable simply because of the advancement of technology. If the world is becoming a smaller place because of the Internet and the telecommunications revolution, it is natural that information should flow freely across the globe. Some countries like China, and recently Pakistan, have sought to regulate this flow of information. Yet, it is a safe bet that no country can stay insulated for ever. Since the United States has the largest resources to transmit information, several cultures across the world are feeling threatened. Globalization’s critics say it is actually Americanization that is being imposed across the world. France is no longer as French as it was a few decades ago, they say, and that it has become more American despite the political clash with the US over several issues. Neither is Japan as shut to outside influence as before. Both France and Japan, like most other countries, have come under increasing influence of American culture. However, wherever people have been given a choice by their governments, they have embraced American pop culture and junk food, along with other things American. So globalisation is here to stay.
Globalisation is, therefore, a two-way street. India has only to gain by globalisation because if it opens its expanding markets to foreign companies, it has big companies of its own that can go out and expand into foreign markets as well. In the process, Indian companies will have to become more competitive. The Indian consumer will gain as Indian companies will improve their goods and services. Plus, there will be an increasing choice of foreign products as well. Also through the processes of creolization, foreign brands are being packaged and marketed keeping the Indian mind-set at the forefront.
The real test of globalisation, and the worst criticism against it, is its impact on the divide between the rich and the poor. In India, however, one does not need to undertake fancy surveys to find out that the general standard of living has improved since 1991, when the Indian government decided to open its economy to foreign competition. More people are enjoying the fruits of technology, at much cheaper prices than a decade ago, and we have globalisation to thank for it. In return, India is providing reliable services to a host of foreign companies benefiting people across the globe.
Thus, globalization which has brought the world onto a common platform, though is criticized on various grounds is here to stay. And complementing it, a cosmopolitan culture has indeed arrived and is here to stay and evolve.
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