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Happy Republic Day

27th January 2020

India's economic potential makes it impossible to ignore.

So don't ignore it.


Yesterday saw India celebrate its 71st Republic Day. Delhi was a focus of activity, featuring a military parade and a series of exhibitions proudly showcasing the country’s economic vibrancy and cultural diversity. January 26th marks the date in 1950 that India formally adopted its constitution, adding an important new element to the country’s independence. Seven decades on modern India, the world’s most populous democracy with almost 1.4 billion citizens, is an emerging economic powerhouse. By 2030 it’s forecast to reach annual GDP of $10 trillion, vaulting above Germany and Japan to become the world’s third largest economy. The republic has come a long way, and the journey is only just beginning.


The richness of Indian culture is fuelled by its range of native languages. The Ethnologue lists 415 living languages in India today, and 29 of them have over a million native speakers each. Hindi is by far the most widespread, with well over half a billion speakers. Bengali (over 100 million speakers)  Tamil (75 million speakers) Gujurati (60 million speakers) and Urdu (55 million speakers) are among the major languages that will help you build a bridge to productive relationships with the sub-continent.   


The first Republic Day was celebrated almost exactly two years after the death of Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the man most closely associated with India’s movement towards independence. In his lifetime Gandhi learned a total of eleven languages. A native speaker of Gujurati, he learned English and Sanskrit at school. As a law student he studied French and Latin, then later he learned Hindi and Urdu to foster better communication with his compatriots. He went on to study Tamil and Telegu and used those languages in his humanitarian work with illiterate and disenfranchised South Africans. Then he enhanced his understanding of the Middle East by learning Arabic and Persian. Learning eleven languages is a tall order, but the ability to communicate effectively in more than one is increasingly likely to make the difference between success and failure, in commercial enterprises or in humanitarian work. As we step forward into the third decade of the twenty first century, Gandhi’s native country is emerging as a confident player on the world stage and yesterday’s Republic Day celebrations paraded economic and military strength that makes it impossible to ignore. So don’t ignore it. Respect it, engage with it, seek partnerships and make those partnerships work. If this is going to be India’s decade, why not make it your decade too?


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