India’s Importance Abroad: The Rise of the Indian Diaspora By William Ortel.
One cannot consider India without thinking about the massive impact that its language and culture have had abroad. Many common English words — among them, “thug”, “shampoo”, and “pundit”— have their origins in languages from the subcontinent.
That’s not much to go on for an investing website though. Many things are culturally relevant, yet do not directly affect the evolution of value in business. This is different.
For one thing, consider the rise of India as an outsourcing hub. Why is it that India was particularly well suited for that activity? Beyond being suitable, why was it chosen?
Narrative is an excellent means to understand far-reaching topics of this nature, so for more depth we turn to Anita Raghavan, the author of The Billionaire’s Apprentice, a book which chronicles the rise of Rajat Gupta, formerly Managing Director of McKinsey, and Raj Rajaratnam, founder of The Galleon Group.
If those names are familiar, it is because they are at the center of one of the largest insider trading scandals in history. However, Gupta was perhaps as influential as anyone else in promoting the rise of India as an offshoring hub. Along with Anil Kumar, he was “the face of McKinsey in India“.
Though the crimes these men committed are deplorable and are inseparable from their stories, there is also a lot to be learned about India from them. For one, Gupta played a significant role in promoting offshoring to India in his role at McKinsey.
Though it may be seen as negative that that story is intertwined with one of the business world’s more significant scandals, Raghavan sees the cup as being half full for the Indian Diaspora. She closes her book saying that these scandals are “a sign that Indians, much like the immigrant groups before them, have attained a certain security and a once unimaginable position in America's society.”
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We're talking about her book "The Billionaire's Apprentice," which is both the story of the rise of Indian American elite and the fall of the Galleon hedge fund.
Anita, you close the book with, "As tragic and heartbreaking as Gupta's fall from grace is…" Gupta, of course, being a key player in this "…it is a sign that Indians, much like the immigrant groups before them, have attained a certain security and a once unimaginable position in America's society."
Can you expand on that?
When I was growing up in the United States in the 70s most of the Indians we knew were doctors, lawyers, and professors.
What we see today is Indians of all walks of life. We have Indian filmmakers, Indian lawyers, Indian prosecutors, Indian authors, Indian businessmen.
I recently was Googling, and I saw that there is even an Indian visioner. Someone pays an Indian woman to provide her vision of the world.
When I was growing up in the 70s the idea that anybody would pay anyone from India to provide a perspective on the globe was just unimaginable.
I really think that while this is a very sobering story and it's certainly heartbreaking for Gupta's family, it is really a sign that we as a community are no longer on the fringes of society.
We're part of American society. We're part of the fabric. We're standing up and we're being counted.
One of the stories you have in "Gupta's Rise," I don't know if it was about him or about someone else, but a partner was saying, "You guys are great consultants, but will our customers ever relate to you?"
It doesn't seem like that's so much of a concern anymore.
Exactly. Yesterday I was speaking to a group, and a young man who had been at Penn in the mid 80s came up to me and he said, "When I joined the University of Pennsylvania in 1986, somebody asked me, 'Where are you from?'"
"I said, 'India.'
"The person responded, 'What tribe?'"
I think you'd be hard pressed to find that today.
Today, Indians have a cultural identity, there was even a sitcom based on the Indian offshoring model. Indian food is enjoyed. It's a very different picture than what it was just 20 years ago.
Yeah, exactly. To harp on what it was, is that this process of getting over here from India, this is not like just a random group of Indians. This is the best and brightest of the entire country. I mean, the process to apply for a visa, how competitive was that?
Oh, absolutely. Both Gupta and my own father came on an F1 student visa. In those days, the only way you could get an F1 student visa is if you either found an American