Friedman and Nilekani @NYPL


Last night, I attended another NYPL Live event. The evening was, once again, stimulating and a good way to learn some new things about the world. Thomas Friedman was in conversation with Nandan Nilekani. Who is Nilekani? I didn’t know either, but after the evening was over I was surprised that I was so ignorant before.

For one, Nilekani is the one who gave Friedman the idea for the title of his book, The World is Flat. For another, he is someone who came from modest beginnings to being a founder of a huge multinational corporation, and a personal net worth of over 1.3 billion. A great American success story if I ever heard one, except all of this took place in India, and the company is headquartered there. I think Nandan may be something of national hero there because of this.

Maybe it’s just PR but I was surprised by how honest Nilekani was about what it takes to run a business in the 21st century, especially in light of the recent global economic and climatic changes. For example, he was very clear that companies can no longer afford to do business with the kind of disregard for the environment, that companies in the west, had up till now. He has many ideas on how to make India competitive in today’s world. He seems very pragmatic and he doesn’t overlook India’s many problems but is instead very aware of them, and seems to have solutions for them.

We should all pay attention because, as John Stewart said while interviewing Nilekani on the Daily Show, India will probably be our new overlord soon.

some interesting facts from the evening:

  • india has one sixth of the worlds population, about 1.15 billion people
  • infosys, nulakani’s company, gets 1.5 million job applications a year
  • there are only about 25,000 positions
  • India has more cellphones than the US has people
  • India is very diverse religiously but these religions are able to generally coexist peacefully.
    Nilekani hopes India can become a role model for other countries in this regard.
  • a demographic dividend is a good thing, India has one right now
  • global climate summits are essentially unfair for developing countries like India, because developed countries got to reap the benefits of not worrying about polluting and now they want to share responsibilities in the repercussions
check out Imagining India, Nilekani’s book
or check out future NYPL LIVE events