Chandran Nair, the plain-speaking and articulate founder and CEO of the Hong Kong-based think-tank Global Institute for Tomorrow (GIFT), has no qualms when he says that the Asian ‘subservience to predominant Western narrative’ and ‘aping of the Western economic model’ would bring us down one day, unless we take course correction and develop a strong “counter-narrative and an Asian world view”. Nair, in fact, is leading the counter-narrative new thinking and is actively engaging with world’s leading companies and policymakers to bring out a different perspective to the dominant worldview. Recently in Kochi, along with senior executives from top companies of Japan, China and even Germany for a two-week leadership programme of GIFT which he conducts, Nair reminds that it is absolutely necessary for companies to send their best talent tocountries such as India and understand the different cultures, the needs of the people there, among others. “When we took companies to Iran in October, it was an eye-opener for them; Iran is not the horrible place they thought it was throughAmerican propaganda.”
Similarly, he underpins the folly the Indian policymakers and politicians make by following the Western model of education, economic policies and development. “1.5 billion Indians thinking like Americans is not a good idea,” he says, adding that the current obsession of students in India to go to the West for higher studies, including PhDs, is such a bad idea that for all the problems we are already starting to think like Americans. “We are already under the spell of the Silicon Valley hype. A Google or an App is not going to solve our problems. What India needs is interconnected cities, connected not by fibre optics but sewerage system, water supply, electricity and basic housing,” he says.
Nair, whose parents are from Palakkad (he was born in Malaysia), in the same vein adds: “We have so many people that we don’t need robots.” Sensing that you are starting to think if he is some ‘Communist’ or a ‘Left ideologist’, he clarifies: “I work for profits”. Western-educated economists know what he tells is the truth and hence don’t question his counter-narrative, he says.
“We need to think differently to solve our basic problems. For instance, health care is about opportunity, but it’s not about large hospitals.”
A strong advocate of public transport system, Nair says he saw the Kochi Metro work in progress, which is a good move. “We need to think smartly. All Indians can’t have cars. We have to change, and change fast, or change will come to us,” he says, and adds looking at the backwaters that, “it seems you have not looked at developing inland water transportation.”