I have to be honest, I know very little about India. I have seen a few movies and documentaries, heard stories from friends who have visited the country, and gotten a few insights about the culture from friends who are from various regions in India. This assignment is designed to reflect on my current perceptions of India, its people, its social and cultural environment, and its business world. I will do my best to accurately reflect what I have learned but predict that these perceptions will change after this class.
One of the most iconic aspects of the Indian culture and the one that I have been the most exposed to is Bollywood. I have seen several Bollywood movies that provide a little insight into the Indian culture. Slumdog Millionaire is a popular british movie that was co-directed in India by Loveleen Tandan, a famous India film and casting director. This movie shows the hardships of people growing up in the slums and showcases the unrest between Muslim and Hindu religions in India. Another Bollywood movie that I have seen is Outsourced. This shows the implications of the outsourcing phenomena and how it affects both stateside and international stakeholders. Both of these movies have a dance scene that is typical in most Bollywood films and feature music known as filmi, based on a hindi word meaning 'of films'. These dances can be traditional or in the cases of the movies I mentioned, take on a more western pop dance approach mixed with traditional styles.
Another perception I have about the Indian culture and its people is that they know how to throw a party. I am vaguely familiar with three festivals; Holi, Diwalli, and the Pushkar Camel Fair. Holi is known as the Festival of Colors. It's a Hindu holiday that celebrates the start of a new season, Spring. The activities start with a bonfire where stories are shared and is followed by a day of throwing colors at each other that represent the abundance of colors in Spring. It is disappointing to me that not many people know about Holi, even though color runs are becoming more popular. Milwaukee has had several 5k Color Runs with no mention of how they originated. Diwalli is known as the festival of lights. It is a five-day Hindu festival that uses small lights to signify that good triumphs over evil. The house is cleaned to welcome good spirits and firecrackers are lit to drive away bad spirits. The Pushkar Camel Fair is a very popular event that attracts thousands of people from all over the world. This festival is based on the cleansing of sins in the holy waters of Pushkar's lake and selling livestock. It has become a major tourist attraction with camels being dressed up, shaved and entered into beauty contests.
India seems to have a male dominant culture. Last year, the rape case of a 23 year old medical student made global news. It is perceived that sexual harassment is prevalent in India and that women often feel scared to be alone. The 23 year old woman was criticized for being out with a male friend so late at night, 11pm. They had just seen the movie "Life of Pi" and were on their way home. The rest is too hard to write about but the moral of the story is that the woman should not have been out so late. In doing more research about this case I learned that rape is often blamed on the victim and criticized for using cell phones and going out at night. A congress party leader, Botsa Satyanarayana, was quoted solidifying this assumption, "Just because India achieved freedom at midnight does not mean that women can venture out after dark." The woman's case sparked civil unrest bringing sexual harassment to the forefront of social issues in India. This year a new law was enacted protecting women from sexual harassment in their place of work. A huge step forward with a long way to go.
A perception I have about business in India is that it thrives with technology based companies. I remember reading in the Economist that Bangalore was is known as the Silicon Valley of India. They technology focus started in the late 1960 in Mumbai with the Tata group and became very popular. IT outsourcing to India is prevalent with double digit growth over the last decade with predictions of the same for the next decade.
My final perception is that India's economy is in a downward spiral. The rupee's value has dropped considerably and India has been deemed one of the five most fragile economies in the world. They fell victim to quick foreign investors and when the rumors started about India's fragility, most of the investors pulled out, leaving the economy weak. In September, India raised its interest rate to look more favorable and it mildly worked, slightly raising the value of the rupee from its all-time low in late August. The upcoming elections are also a factor. India is the world's largest economy and the global market is skeptical of its future.