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In the Land of Dreams, Anything is Possible

Sunrise, burning heat
Nothing is as traveled as a Bombay street
Contradictions, city of extremes
Anything is possible in Bombay dreams

Some live and die in debt
Others making millions on the Internet
Contradictions, city of extremes
Anything is possible in Bombay dreams

– "Bombay Dreams," A.R. Rahman and Don Black

The lead feature in this issue, "High Tech and Hope: India wakes up to a new economic reality," provides a snapshot of what I experienced during an eye-opening trip to India in November. This was my first trip to the world's second most-populated country to reconnect with alumni, observe firsthand the remarkable changes that are taking place, and experience the sunrise, burning heat, contradictions, and extremes of India.

Johnson School Dean Robert Swieringa
"An increasing number of our students and alumni are pursuing opportunities in India"
Indian students have been attending the Johnson School since 1948. Some of them settled in India to run successful family businesses or join multinational corporations, but many pursued opportunities in the United States or other countries. Now, with India's economic transformation proceeding at a magnitude and pace that is staggering, this pattern is rapidly changing. To get an edge in the booming economy, more Indian citizens are seeking MBA and Executive MBA degrees at the Johnson School and other top schools around the world. Our applications and enrollments from India have increased dramatically in the last three years. An increasing number of our students and alumni are pursuing opportunities in India, as well as in Hong Kong, Singapore, and other port cities where firms provide a broad array of consulting, investment banking, private equity, and real estate development services in India.

As our lead article shows, a confluence of forces – economic and human – is driving this transformation. Seventy-five percent of India's population is under age 44, providing an expanding workforce to meet the needs of global business. The services sector, especially information technology services, is taking advantage of India's highly skilled, low-cost, English-speaking labor force. Manufacturing, agriculture, and consumer markets also are booming. As a result, India's thriving middle class of 300 million, a number equal to the total U.S. population, is growing. It, too, is a force for change and support for new entrepreneurial activities.

At the same time, India faces great challenges. Its global sourcing industry now struggles against wage inflation, a global war for talent, and increasing low-cost foreign competitors. Bureaucracy and politics slow progress in developing the necessary infrastructure of roads, airports, and ports and in making improvements in primary and secondary education. And the poverty is almost beyond description. Over a third of India's population lives on less than $1 a day. Poor people are everywhere – living in tent cities or huts along roadsides and train tracks, in the middle of cities, and just about anywhere with open space. India needs to expand even faster if it wants to bring more of its citizens out of poverty.

In spite of these contradictions and extremes, the alumni I visited in Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay), and Hong Kong expressed overwhelming optimism for the future. In their view, anything really is possible. We are glad to be reconnecting with them as they pursue their dreams.


Robert J. Swieringa
Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean