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Growing Economies Look Like This

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Growing Economies Look Like This

I spent a week in India courtesy of my great client, Mana Energy. They'd asked me to put together and present the case for saving costs and the environment by reducing the fuel consumption of large diesels. And if that sounds rather dreary and worthy, think again. My host for the week was Uday Bawa, Mana Energy's CEO, and you couldn't wish for better, more entertaining company.

We spent most of the time in Srinagar, where I was to address the Indian Minister of Transport and the heads of the State Transport Companies. Rather than put up in an aseptic, air-conditioned hotel we took exclusive ownership of a 100-foot houseboat and commuted to and from work each day on board a beautifully painted shikara. You could very easily get used to this.

I'd been repeatedly warned about Delhi Belhi and Indian driving so was prepared for the worst. A week later, uninjured and still able to fart without peril I revised my views. This place is bloody superb. It's possibly the best place in the world for a vegetarian, so every mealtime was a short trip to paradise. Even the dinner served on the brand new Air India Dreamliner that took me there was outstanding.

But let's deal with the driving. OK, so a two-lane road will have at least five lanes of cars on it, every motorcycle will have at least three people on it, and every lorry (which move in hordes at night) will have at least no lights on it whatsoever. But strangely enough, it all works like a Swiss watch. Nobody collides, nobody even brakes sharply, and nobody gets upset or aggressive. Ever. Drive around Paris and you never see a car with a straight panel. Drive around Delhi or Srinagar and you never see a dent. Work it out.

But what was most humbling was the respect and deference I encountered from business people who, demonstrably, leave us for dead when it comes to knowing how to run an economy. Faced with so much warmth and humility it would have been easy for me to underestimate them. That would have been an unforgiveable mistake.

There's a genuine national fondness for Britain here. It's vital that we continue to work to deserve it.

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