Purdue News

March 2006

Discovering why India fits well within Indiana's global economy

By Pankaj Sharma


While President Bush was touting trade with India last week, a business delegation from India was touring Purdue University's research facilities.

What was the common goal for the U.S. president in India and the India trade delegation visiting Purdue? To outline how these two worlds thousands of miles apart can work together to establish research alliances, help create jobs and grow our economies in an extremely competitive global marketplace.

In other words, Disney's "Small World" meets author Thomas Friedman's "Flat World."

Members of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce last week spent a day in Indianapolis and a second day in West Lafayette at Discovery Park and the Purdue Research Park, looking at how state and business leaders and Purdue can help them start new businesses or expand existing businesses here.

These 15 executives from small but fast-growing firms and multimillion-dollar companies had specific interests in nanotechnology, biotechnology, pharmacology, alternative energy, health-care engineering and entrepreneurialism — areas of keen interest to Discovery Park, Purdue's $300 million interdisciplinary hub for research, as well as the 130 businesses at Purdue Research Park.

Their message was clear: Indians are looking to the United States as an investment opportunity where they can profitably expand and grow their businesses. Along the way, they hope to create jobs for Hoosiers and reverse the offshoring tide that has sent thousands of manufacturing jobs overseas. That also would add to the 130,000 Hoosiers employed by foreign-owned businesses in Indiana.

It's no coincidence that Purdue was the only university visited in connection with the India trade delegation's two-week U.S. tour of Indiana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho:

• Purdue has 1,020 students from India currently studying on its West Lafayette campus, the third-largest international enrollment among all U.S. universities. India students comprise the largest international group at Purdue — well ahead of China (782) and South Korea (680).

• Thirty percent of Purdue faculty members were born outside the United States, and 84 are from India — accounting for 15 percent of Purdue's international faculty.

• Top executives within major India companies — TVS Motors, Rane Brake Linings, Asian Paints, Agarawal Business Group and Dr Reddy's Laboratories — are Purdue graduates. Ravi Venkatesan, now chairman of Microsoft Corp. India Pvt. Ltd., received his master's degree in industrial engineering from Purdue in 1986.

The possible dividends from this India-Indiana alliance are great, and this state's educational and business leaders know what's at stake with a major emerging market like India. With a middle class of 300 million people fascinated with buying American-made products, India as the world's largest democracy is poised to eclipse Japan and China as Asia's fastest growing economy by 2010.

U.S. businesses now invest $3.8 billion annually in Indian companies, or 17 percent of all investments in India, the U.S. State Department reports. The U.S. also is India's largest trading partner, with exports and imports between the two nations amounting to $27.1 billion a year.

Indiana companies, in the meantime, exported more than $90 million worth of goods to India during 2004, up 127 percent since 2001, according to the Global Business Information Network at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. India is the 22nd largest export market for the Hoosier state, behind leaders Canada, Mexico and China.

During his visit to India, President Bush said an economically stronger India is good for America and that both countries benefit from free trade. America's best response to globalization, Bush added, is not to erect economic barriers to protect U.S. workers but to provide education and retraining to make sure those same workers can compete on any stage.

That's why Indiana must look to form stronger educational and business relationships with countries like India in order to flourish in a global economy. We must build global pipelines for the innovations developed in our laboratories, pipelines that can then be transferred to the marketplace where a skilled work force developed in our classrooms can help keep the U.S. economy competitive.

Perhaps "onshoring" will become the political and economic catchphrase as the first decade of the 21st century draws to a close.

Pankaj Sharma, the assistant director of Discovery Park, moved to the United States 23 years ago from India and has spent the last 13 years in Indiana.


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