Indian Decade

India vs China

Entrepreneurship in India looks much more sustainable than it does in rival China.

The Economist's cover story last week captured perfectly the discussion I see all around me–the ubiquitous India vs. China debate. The magazine, which showed a picture of a pair of hands locked in an arm wrestling contest, chose to call the rivalry ‘contest of the century’.

But The Economist is far from the first publication in recent months to run such a story–reports on how China and India are pitted against each other are pretty much a daily occurrence for readers of business newspapers. While India's democracy, free speech and individual ingenuity are typically feted, China's formidable infrastructure, policy-led drive for growth and single-mindedness are admired.

Recently, the Legatum Institute, an independent London-based think tank that focuses on what it says is an ‘understanding of global prosperity’, released an extremely interesting publication on what motivates Chinese and Indian entrepreneurs, and how these motivations compare and contrast with each other.

Ryan Streeter, a senior fellow at Legatum Institute, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that their findings suggest entrepreneurship in India was marked by a kind of sustainability that’s less evident in China.

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‘Because India’s entrepreneurs have succeeded amid dysfunctional government and financial institutions by developing a kind of independent and experimental ingenuity, it stands to reason that the enterprising class would prosper even more, were India to reduce barriers to business and clean up corruption. In China, it is unclear what will happen if state efforts are no longer sufficient to entice and groom the entrepreneurs its economy needs,’ Streeter wrote.

I couldn't agree more. I’ve done several entrepreneur profiles for a well-known American business magazine I write for, and am always overwhelmed by their ambition and ingenuity in the face of the tremendous roadblocks entrepreneurship encounters in India. The incredible entrepreneurial buzz here is the main reason why many of us know we couldn't have chosen to live through a more exciting time in India than now.