Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The World Really Is Flat

We traveled this morning from Mumbai to Bangalore. Sure enough, the city is flat.

Maybe not so much flat as in topography, but clearly it is flat as in geography. In fact, the city is a mini-lesson in world geography because every major multinational corporation seems to have some type of presence here.

We saw buildings, in some cases campuses, with names like HP, Microsoft, Accenture, CapGemini, Intel, Cisco...the list is seemingly endless.

What are they doing here? In faraway southern India? In a city that just 20 years ago had 500,000 people and today has 5,000,000?

Two reasons:

1. The weather is spectacular Think San Diego. And that's true just about every day of the year, with just enough rain to make the city look like a giant garden with blossoming flowers and trees everywhere.

2. The education is abundant and technical. Over 150 schools, colleges, universities and technical institutes are located here. PhD degrees are more common than temples.

Prior to the early 90s, when growth happened, the city was home to many Indian defense facilities. The thinking apparently was to locate as many of India's brightest people and sensitive projects as far away from Pakistan and China as possible.

So Bangalore had a history of being a home to many very bright engineers and scientists even before Tom Friedman discovered the city and wrote about it in his 2005 bestseller, The World Is Flat.

Growth since then has skyrocketed. It's apparent everywhere. New freeways. A new Metro. New buildings.

We visited upon our arrival with two leading examples of the types of companies that have benefitted from this explosion.

First, we toured the learning facilities of Wipro Ltd. With over $6 billion in revenues, it is the world's number one provider of integrated business, technology, consulting, testing, and process

The company currently employs 120,000 people worldwide, over 18,000 on the campus we toured. Continuous learning is the corporate mantra, however, and each employee is required to complete 13-14 days of professional and continuing education annually. To meet this requirement, the Wipro learning center employs 127 full-time faculty, most with doctorates.

Next, we went to the sprawling corporate campus of Infosys. This company, started in 1981 with only seven full-time employees, it now has 150,000 (but with only 200 having a "title".) The company has revenues of $5.7 billion, designing and delivering technology-enabled business solutions to "help Global 2000 companies win in a flat world."

Again, education and lots of it was the recurring theme. Infosys has a $120 million campus, InfosysU, located in Mysore, about 90 miles away.

Each year 1.3 million people apply to work at Infosys but only 15,000 are hired, making entry into the company's year-long training program more competitive than Harvard.

The world may be flat but we're going to be looking up to the Indians and the Chinese if we don't make a new commitment to education. They already have.

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