A prominent Indian businessman visited Adams House on Monday to urge Harvard students who might enter careers in business to consider India as a potential place to invest.
R. Ramakrishnan, executive director of major Indian manufacturer Bajaj Electricals, told the audience of 20 students about dramatic economic, social, and educational upheaval in India and said that the transforming nation presents unique opportunities for business.
“You guys are at the cradle of innovation,” he said to the students. “If you can create relationships with India, you can really rewrite the rules.”
Ramakrishnan did not shy away from pointing out dismal statistics about Indian society alongside facts about recent growth.
His talk, sponsored by the Harvard College U.S.-India Initiative, presented a series of stark contrasts, abundant in a country where the GDP is rising rapidly but vast portions of the population remain uneducated and extremely poor.
“I don’t want you to think that everything is hunky-dory: 300 million women in Indian cannot write their own name. ... One hundred thousand villages in India do not even have electricity,” Ramakrishnan said. “It’s a tough environment, but therein lies tremendous opportunity.”
He blamed corrupt bureaucracy for hindering change in India. “
Transforming a country as large as India is not easy,” he said. “Red tape-ism and archaic legislation are a huge problem.”
To address these issues, Ramakrishnan advocated governmental reforms that he said would increase international capitalist involvement in India and expand access to education.
Economic development will help people in all social strata, Ramakrishnan said.
“When India grows this fast, the sheer amount of transactions will result in higher income levels, bringing the poor out of their social abyss,” he said.
He mentioned that he would like to see a Harvard satellite campus in India someday.
“If someone is willing to invest in India and increase our intellectual capital, that can only be good for India,” Ramakrishnan said.
Students said they were interested in Ramakrishnan’s speech because of his first-hand business experience running a company that ranks in the top five corporate employers in India.
“As a real Indian businessman, I think he’s possibly more on point than a lot of academics on what’s really going on a daily basis,” said Christopher K. Lee ’13.