India and China: Partners, not adversaries

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 10, 2015
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 [By Zhai Haijun/]

When the U.K.'s Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Jim O'Neill visited India this February, the international hotel he was staying at provided a car with free wifi. He said that experience "sums up the changes in India."

When I visited India this July, I couldn't find wifi in quite a few cafes and restaurants. Wifi-incorporated cars seem far from representative of India as a whole -- or the United States for that matter. In either country, but especially so in India, such an automobile would be a luxury product, far removed from most people's lives.

Still, India is developing at a fast pace, and changes in how the upper class live could be representative of some subset of that development. Using examples from everyday life are one way to illustrate economic circumstances in a way that is more concrete to most readers than dry growth numbers. But anecdotal experiences can also be misleading or imperfect measures.

Thomas Friedman, in his notorious 2006 book "The World Is Flat," put forth the KGA Golf Club in downtown Bangalore as an emblem of India's modernization. On my visit to India, I didn't see any golf courses or wifi cars. I did see some nice coffee shops, crowded markets, bumpy roads and uncomfortable trains, and indeed, my experiences were also not representative of the whole of India.

Since Friedman and I both like coffee so much, let's start at Starbucks. The first Starbucks in India opened in Mumbai on Oct. 19, 2012 in the Elphinstone Building. Inside, the two story store has elegant Indian-style decor with wooden carvings on the wall. It offers pour-over and other special varieties grown by Tata Coffee. Starbucks in India is a 50:50 venture with the mega conglomerate Tata, with 76 outlets in seven cities. Clearly, India has some nice places for the middle class to relax. Another Starbucks in a premier location was one in the back of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

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