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India Unbound: From Independence to the Global Information Age [Paperback]

Gurcharan Das
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 April 2002
A personal History of India’s Economic and Social Transformation since independence. The riveting story of a nation’s rise from poverty to prosperity and the clash of ideas that occurred along the way. The old centralised, bureaucratic state, which stifled industrial growth, is on the decline; the lower castes have risen confidently through the ballot box; and the middle class has tripled in the last two decades. This economic and social transformation is one of the major themes of this book.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (25 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1861974450
  • ISBN-13: 978-1861974457
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,387,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`An insightful guide to a rapidly changing nation...Something tremendous is happening in India, and Das, with his keen eye and often elegant prose, has his finger firmly on the pulse of the transformation.' - New York Times Book Review `One of the most readable and insightful books to appear on India's tortuous economic path in its 54 years since shaking off British rule.' - BusinessWeek

About the Author

Gurcharan Das is a columist for The Times of India and other newspapers, and is the author of three plays and a novel. He graduated from Harvard College and attended Harvard Business School. A former CEO of Proctor & Gamble India, he is currently a venture capitalist and a consultant to industry and government leaders. He lives with his wife in New Delhi.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightenment 29 April 2003
There is no doubt that Tully, Dalrymple et al provide a good read, but to me their snapshots are more of a passing India than representative of the present. This book helps to make modern India make more sense but it is harder going and, to be truthful, it is of greater appeal to people with experience of business life as much of it is written from that perspective. In fact, in its own way, it is a mini-management manual full of good sense about understanding what makes people tick. If you believe, like me, that the growing well-educated, hard-working and prosperous middle-class are currently transforming India (not least through IT) into a world powerhouse for the mid-21st century then this is the book to help you understand why they are where they are and what they have to contend with to complete the task. I've yet to find another book about India that is half as enlightening as this one - but I do keep trying! Buy it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative 16 Oct 2003
A very good book which gives a far better account of India's transformation over the past fifty years than any other book I've read on the subject. The author's experience of the West aided his very forthright views of capitalism and how it should be adopted with some enthusiasm in India.
The author concentrates a lot of the economics of India, but brings in the social impact on the developing economy. India is a largely unique case, and this messages is reinforced with the anecdotal evidence he presents.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory Reading 13 Nov 2002
This is a must read for anybody interested in finding out about India as today, why is it strugling to be a 'so called world power'. This is compulsory reading for anybody with an Indian heritage. It's well written, good english, structure is excellent. It made me really understand the real problem India has. BUY IT!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent work by Gurcharan Das where he has analysed threadbare, the Indian economy. What is wonderful about this book is the way he puts in context various facts of history and how they impacted the Indian economy. I think it should become a must read for anyone interested in Indian economy -- and my prediction is it will soon become one of the must reads for managers and Indophiles. And the best part of the book is, you don't need to be an economist to understand the issues -- the language is simple and the style lucid !!!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  25 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest boks written about India 20 Dec 2000
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Recently, while vacationing in India, I happened to watch an episode of 'Question Hour', an Indian political talk show hosted by Prannoy Roy on BBC World. Gurcharan Das was one of the guests and he, just like the other guests, shared his views on the Indian economy, the past policies and the needs for the future. The views expressed were so insightful and honest, that I decided to buy Gurcharan's book, 'India Unbound'.
Honestly, I couldn't put the book down for a minute. I finished the book, cover to cover, in three days. In my opinion, this is one of the finest books ever written about India (in the same league as 'Freedom at Midnight'). This book is not only superbly written, but also provides valuable insight and perspective.
The author discusses his childhood, his humble beginnings in corporate India, and his views about socialism and capitalism. In parallel, he discusses history, India's freedom, Indian politics and government, the Indian bureaucracy and even the caste system. Most endearing though, is how he describes the events in his life in a broader perspective of national politics and policies. He performs insightful analysis of the workings of Indian bureaucracy and how it influenced/touched not just his life, but the lives of millions and the workings of corporate India. He talks about all the failed attempts to reform government in the past (including his own) and the failures of the people in power to perform introspection and to do course correction.
He talks about the new beginnings after the reforms of 1991, the hopes and aspirations of millions in this new millenium, the IT boom, and the wonderful possibilities of the future.
This book is a must read for anyone who feels strongly about India.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars About Indian economy and its potential 27 May 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very informative book (and a thrilling one for every Indian) on the current state of Indian economy, what policies and factors shaped it and what can be made of it in the new century. The book blends government policy details of the past half a century (of independence) with interesting anecdotes of successful businessmen. The author is a strong advocate of free market policies and comes down heavily on Nehruvian thinking. The statistics and facts that are presented to support his reasoning are compelling.
After reading this book, one would tend to see a lot of mistakes in Nehru's view of modern India. The book squarely blames Indira Gandhi for most of the damage done to the system, citing the nationalization of banks and enactment of laws thwarting entrepreneurship. Overall, the book is very positive in what the new millenium holds for India. It presents a glowing future in the face of the recent economic liberalization.
A must read to catch up with post-independence Indian economy.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elephant or Tiger? 17 Mar 2001
By Sandeep Sheth - Published on
I could relate to this book because frustration and economic hopelessness, brought on by the absence of free markets and strict government controls in India, forced people of my generation overseas in droves. Das' ability to contrast his experiences as a student and an executive in the United States, with the ideals of Nehru Socialism, enables the reader to peel back the onion and smell the stink that emanated from the economic cesspool created by the "Licence Raj".
He provides the reader with a succinct account of the major reason why the nation with largest English-speaking population in the world with the second largest number of technically trained personnel was still mired in the throes of economic poverty five years ago.
An interesting book. I hope it inspires young Americans and people all over the world to work hard to preserve the ideal of a free marketplace where entrepreneurship, economic growth and freedom of expression are held in high esteem.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended! 10 Oct 2001
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on
India's recent leadership in information technology and software design is just one facet of the country's economic transformation and re-birth. Journalist, former CEO and Harvard graduate, Gurcharan Das was born in India shortly before its independence. He moved to the United States in the 1950s, then returned to India as a marketing executive. Das deftly weaves history, cultural commentary and astute economic insight into a page-turning tale, and then brings it to life with the connective tissue of his personal story. We [...] were spellbound by his splendid book, which details India's emergence into the global economy, while delving deeply into why it took the country so long to come into its own.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it today!!! 20 Aug 2001
By "cooolman" - Published on
India Unbound is the riveting story of a nation's rise from poverty to prosperity and the clash of ideas that occurred along the way. Today's India is a vibrant free-market democracy, and it has begun to flex its muscles in the global information economy. The old centralized, bureaucratic state, which stifled industrial growth, is on the decline; the lower castes have risen confidently through the ballot box; and the middle class has tripled in the last two decades. This economic and social transformation is one of the major themes of this book.
Gurcharan Das recounts the hope and despair of the last fifty years. The Licence Raj created a work environment in which a cousin of the author, one his first day at work in the railways, could precipitate a strike just because he was honest. An on one occasion, the author, even though a seasoned executive, was driven to sit by the polluted Yamuna and weep after a fruitless meeting with a bureaucrat. The transformation began in the golden summer of 1991, when a reticent reformer, Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, finally changed the nation's course through sweeping economic reforms. A restrictive regime, in which the state dictated everything, from a woman's choice of lipstick to the programmes on television, gave way to the optimism of a rising middle class eager to compete with the rest of the world. It was a quiet revolution, one that has not been chronicled before.
Gurcharan Das examines the high's and lows of independent India through the prism of history and his own experiences and those of numerous others he has met following the reforms, from young people in sleepy UP villages to the chiefs of software companies in Bangalore. Defining and exploring the new mindset of the nation, India Unbound is the perfect introduction to contemporary India.
Here is a totally fresh look at India based on today's values. Unlike other books on India, its heroes are not political figures but private individuals. And the dualism that it focuses on is not between the rich and the poor, nor the village and the city, but the contrast between the vibrant private space in India versus the impoverished public space.
Mr. Das argues that "India embraced democracy first and capitalism afterwards and this has made all the difference. India became a full fledged democracy in 1950, with universal suffrage and extensive human rights, but it was not until 1991 that it opened up to the free play of market forces. This curious historic inversion means that India's future will not be a creation of unbridled capitalism, but it will evolve through a daily dialogue between the conservative forces of caste, religion and the village, the leftist and Nehruvian socialist forces which dominated the intellectual life of the country for 40 years, and the new forces of global capitalism. These 'million negotiations of democracy,' the plurality of interests, the contentious nature of the people, and the lack of discipline and teamwork imply that the pace of economic reforms will be slow and incremental. It means that India will not grow as rapidly as the Asian tigers, nor wipe out poverty and ignorance as quickly."
"The Economist has been trying, with some frustration, to paint stripes on India since 1991," adds Das, "It doesn't realise that India will never be a tiger. It is an elephant that has begun to lumber and move a head. It will never have speed, but it will always have stamina." And in moving into the future, if India manages to avoid the negative side-effects of an unprepared capitalist society and hold it own against the onslaught of global culture, then, states Das, "it is, perhaps, a wise elephant."
The story of this "silent revolution" is narrated in the first person by someone who has lived and intimately participated in it. He breathes life into the clash of economic and social ideas by recounting how one middle class family has lived its life and responded to the ups and downs of the past fifty years.
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