In the early days of broad-scale industrial manufacturing, when the Henry Fords of the world got up on their soapbox, everyone listened. True, while many made fools of themselves -- just as Ross Perot did when he overstepped his natural place in life a few years back -- many were viewed as demigods to be listened to and reckoned with. In today's world, the only equivalent to the industrial titans of old are those who preside over billions of dollars in knowledge empires filled with what a colleague of mine calls "virtual goods". These are the publishing kings (e.g., Murdoch), the bankers (e.g., Paulson) and the software kings (e.g., Gates). But they're also outsourcing leaders as well, such as Azim Premji, CEO of Wipro, who oversees an empire of influence that extends far past the borders of the Indian subcontinent.
Outlook India recently interviewed Premji, drawing some fascinating observations out of him. Above all, Premji believes that India’s advantage on the world stage is not "just about cost and skills". Rather, it's about India's country-wide entrepreneurial ambition and the knowledge and focus of its professional classes, among other areas. According to Premji, "We have found good people everywhere. It is inevitable that industry will spread across the country, and that is very good ... the work ethic in smaller cities is often stronger; the urge to be successful, the desire to prove themselves often burns more intensely in people from small cities. But we need to improve education at every level -- school and college -- this is very critical, across the country -- in big and small cities and in rural India."
Improving India's physical infrastructure also plays a role in Premji's ambitions: "we must improve physical infrastructure--roads, airports, civic amenities, again in big and small cities, and in rural India." Now that's advice you can take to your local Indian bank. Just watch out for the massive potholes and wandering cows as you make your way down the smog and trafficked filled streets to make your deposit.