Hammad Siddiqui, Deputy Country Director for CIPE’s Pakistan field office, contributed to this report.
To begin addressing the issue of why some women’s business organizations thrive while others do not, CIPE recently launched a project to build links among women’s chambers and associations in South Asia.
CIPE identified 11 organizations, from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka – and for the first time reached out to groups from India and Bhutan – to participate. With the assistance of long-time partner the Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BWCCI), conducted a diagnostic survey of these organizations’ governance, finances, membership, strategic planning, advocacy, services and other issues. The organizations were then invited to participate in a networking meeting held this February in Dhaka, Bangladesh. CIPE’s efforts complement a U.S. State Department program to build links among women entrepreneurs in the region, the South Asia Women Entrepreneurship Symposium.
Indians shop for televisions at a big-box store. (Photo: BusinessWeek)
The middle class in emerging markets has started to draw attention as a force to be reckoned with. Economically, the global middle class has new-found wherewithal and an appetite for consumption, and in many cases is the product of upward mobility out of poverty. Politically, this demographic may bring new demands to assert itself in politics and policy. On October 9-10, Instituto Fernando Henrique Cardoso hosted a pair of seminars on “Democracy, Development, and Emerging Middle Classes.” This distinctive event was a joint effort with the Centre for Development and Enterprise in South Africa and the Centre for Policy Research in India.
Now, what the middle class is and what it means proved hard to pin down – and also fertile ground for debate. Those who focus on median income observe a significant, possibly fragile, shift away from poverty in Brazil and India. Others observe a qualitative transformation among certain groups, such as the expansion of the black middle class in South Africa through public service employment or a highly educated, globally connected middle class in India. The complexion of the middle class shifts depending on whether its members rely on the state or the market for their livelihood, and whether they are new or old entrants to this segment of society.
A man cooks by candlelight at a small roadside shop. (Photo: AP)
For the last several days, half of India’s population — HALF — has been without electrical power. That’s 600 million people, twice the population of the United States, trying to keep on about their lives without lights, public transportation, or utilities. That’s tens of millions of businesses losing income, product, and potentially livelihoods.
Last month a powerful, fast-moving storm called a derecho disrupted power for hundreds of thousands of people in the Washington, DC area. We all complained mightily, but most suffered little more harm than some spoiled food and a few days without air conditioning. In many places around the world, including India, a few days without power is not at all unusual. In fact, daily brownouts or blackouts are sometimes the norm. Many established firms and wealthy individuals adapt by installing batteries or generators — a drain on the economy. But how can small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs survive and thrive in such uncertainty?
When power is unreliable or inaccessible, businesses and businesspeople suffer. An appropriate, adaptable infrastructure is crucial for economic development and growth, and governments must make it a priority. Investing in infrastructure doesn’t mean simply that the lights stay on. It means that power is available for offices, factories, schools, and hospitals. It means that roads are clear and available to transport goods and services. It means that water is clean and accessible for public consumption, as well as for manufacturing and agriculture.
Infrastructure is not cheap, and many nations believe they have more pressing needs. As India swelters in the dark, however, it is worth remembering that investing in infrastructure is worth it.
Photo (c) RIA Novosti. Sergei Venyavsky.
A bit of interesting news – The Russian Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) is getting medieval on corrupt officials. The party just submitted a draft law in the Russian parliament that would brand public officials with a K (the first letter in a Russian word for corruption) on their hand for giving or receiving bribes. In addition to this, the proposal calls for banning public officials convicted of corruption from holding positions susceptible to bribery. The idea is that branding people for corruption would create a social disincentive to engage in bribery.
Do you think this would work?
The proposal got me thinking, however – what other unconventional anti-corruption efforts have been proposed or implemented? For instance…
India: A bill valued at 0 (zero) resembling a 50 rupee bill given to public officials – done! From the Economist:
One official in Tamil Nadu was so stunned to receive the note that he handed back all the bribes he had solicited for providing electricity to a village. Another stood up, offered tea to the old lady from whom he was trying to extort money and approved a loan so her granddaughter could go to college.
Kyrgyzstan: Chopping off hands or fingers of public officials – proposed by a member of parliament (in Russian).
Brazil: A short film contest to make the public aware of the dangers, costs, and mechanisms to fight corruption – done!
Last January, a massive fraud was unearthed at an IT outsourcing giant Satyam. Satyam’s founder and chairman B Ramalinga Raju stunned India’s financial world when he declared he had overstated profits for years and inflated the company’s balance sheet.
On December 10, Indian Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid announced a new draft law to protect investors and make it binding for unscrupulous companies to pay damages to shareholders. Mr. Khurshid said, “We will now provide stricter penalties, greater disclosures, greater participation of shareholders in terms of scrutiny of company records.”
The law is based on recommendations submitted by The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).
Corporate citizenship, or corporate social responsibility (CSR), is a global concept increasingly adopted by companies around the world. At the same time, good corporate citizenship becomes truly meaningful only at the local level where a company’s commitment to CSR principles translates into concrete actions that affect local communities.
In this Feature Service article, CIPE interviews Sanjeev Jain and Ari Sarker from General Electric. They speak about GE’s corporate social responsibility initiatives in India and emphasize that multinational corporations, just like any company, have an inherent interest and responsibility in engaging with the communities in which they work.
Article at a Glance
- Being a good corporate citizen is not just about lawful and transparent operations. It is also about innovation to best utilize local assets to create new products, services, and markets.
- A company, even a large one, cannot address all local problems. It is much more effective to choose a specific area of focus for corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and excel at it.
- Companies should always be responsive to local needs and engage local stakeholders to maximize the effectiveness of their CSR initiatives.
The King Cobra is not the fastest snake, and it is not the biggest snake, but it just might be the most revered. The city of Nagercoil, at the southern tip of India, contains a temple to the King Cobra, worshipped as a deity. India’s new mascot might be the King Cobra. It is not the fastest growing economy, nor is it the biggest, and who doesn’t like Ghandi?
India’s newest metaphorical cobra is a 3,633 mile long highway connecting its four major population centers, Delhi; Kolkata; Mumbai; and Chennai. Dubbed the “Golden Quadrilateral (GQ)” by the Indian Government, officials expect it to stimulate further economic development in rural India, where 70 percent of India still live, by facilitating the movement of goods into and out of the country.
Combined with past-established Special Economic Zones (SEZs) providing tax holidays to foreign direct investors, the GQ already appears to be a major success in its own right:
Every factory on the GQ, including Hyundai, creates its own “ecosystem,” opening dozens of specialized niches that are quickly filled by energetic Indian entrepreneurs. Hyundai, for example, is surrounded by 83 smaller companies, which supply it with windshields, fasteners, headlights, rearview mirrors, and other specialty parts. Each of these companies in turn has suppliers of its own to provide truck transport, warehousing, clerical services, and logistical support….Today there are more than 200 SEZs in India, which generate more than $15 billion in annual exports and provide jobs for more than half a million Indian workers. The vitality of these ecosystems is partly responsible for India’s soaring economic growth rate of 9 percent a year, second only to China among comparable market economies. Read the rest of this story in October’s National Geographic Magazine…
Next to China, the GQ and its many adjacent SEZs may soon become even more attractive to multinational companies, as China’s seemingly endless supply of surplus labor dries up.