Let’s give credit where due – India and China are greening the planet!

Congrats to India and China – these two are doing heaps to green the planet.

NASA discovered the good news – the world is a greener place today than it was 20 years ago. What prompted the change? Well, it appears China and India can take the majority of the credit.

The countries are responsible for the largest greening of the planet in the past two decades. The two most populous countries have implemented ambitious tree planting programs and scaled up their implementation and technology around agriculture.

India continues to break world records in tree planting, with 800,000 Indians planting 50 million trees in just 24 hours.

So – let’s give praise where it is due.


Megacities right on Australia’s doorstep – opportunities in Asia-Pacific

In 1900 only 15% of the globe’s population resided in cities. By 2008 over half of the world’s population lived in cities. The trend continues.

Megacities have 10 million or more people and the future growth is in Asia Pacific.

In 2017, Asia Pacific accounted for the largest number of megacities, with 19 of the 33 (58%). China and India are the regional and global leaders, with six and four megacities each in 2017, respectively. For India these are Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata. Chennai will join them within a decade.


Pictured – Mumbai, one of India’s four Megacities

Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, (picture below) will replace Tokyo as the globe’s biggest city – 35.6 million by 2030.


Ageing is expected to have an impact on many key megacities in East Asia over 2017–2030. Growth in the share of over 65-year-olds will be particularly apparent in Seoul, and Chinese megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

The twin opportunities for Australia – become involved in the move towards “smart cities” and provide services for the ageing populations. It’s right on our doorstep.

The harmony of Kerala was so real

Experience Number Three – my series on India tourism. This one is in Kerala – Gods Own Country – we have been in the mountains, on the beach, we are in a floating hotel on the backwaters. Kerala is a long thin state on the south west side of the very bottom tip of India, so it is hot, tropical and amazingly friendly. One friend told me this is a legacy of always being a global trading centre and not a place of conflict. In the first evening on the backwaters – pull in for the night – the lovely sound (for Australian ears) of the top being popped off a bottle of beer – but there are some real spiritual sounds – the singing of Christian hymns comes from one side – the chant of the Hindus and the call to prayer of the Muslims – all at once – my friend says let’s get the leaders of the world here so they can see it is possible to be different but live in harmony. Ah, Kerala, well done!!

More tourism experiences in future blogs…


When in India in a suit and tie, watch out for the Holi Festival!

Experience Number Two – my series on tourism experiences in India. This one was in Kolkata, lots of sweets, love the intellectual culture, last day of a business trip I have just one more business appointment and then on to the plane – but with an hour to spare I get my friend to take me to the museum home of the great Rabindranath Tagore – poet, thinker, philosopher – and we are on the second floor – I look out the window – the building is next to a university and has become surrounded by students – throwing pink purple blue and red powder over each other – Holi Festival has started – so we have to leave for the final appointment – walk through, so far so good, then two charming young students say “May we Sir?” with their powder – I am in India, I am here for the experience, so I say YES. Arriving at the appointment my host laughs and hugs me – and we remain strong friends.

More experiences of India in future blogs…


Yes Steve SIR!

In the last 10 years I have been to China once and India 7 times. Why? Both are exciting and the new thing. I choose India because it is more than a destination – it is an EXPERIENCE.

Experience Number One – is actually here in Australia, where I work as a volunteer helping Indian university students improve their employability skills. They are so polite. By contrast, Australia has a very informal culture where everyone is regarded as equal – old and young, rich and poor, powerful and not. First names are used everywhere – 10 year olds at my golf club often say “How was your game STEVE?” But Indians have a formal courtesy which is charming and it is the only time in Australia I am called “Sir”. I ask the students – can you adjust to our informal culture here and call me Steve? Their answer – yes we can Steve SIR.

More experiences of India in following blogs…Anna3

Have an ayurvedic massage when visiting India

Experiences of India tourism – Ayurvedic massage in Kerala. 

Staying at Bruntons Boatyard in wonderful Kochi, an old style hotel right on the ocean where you can watch passing ships, the ferries and traditional fishing.


You can also have an ayurvedic massage – my friend and I booked in for our first. Bit nervous. Explained to the masseur that my left shoulder was operated on and could he please be careful with it? Turned out he did not speak a word of English – but by his actions he must have thought I was asking for a special workout for the shoulder! In tears of pain, covered in oil, lying face down on a wooden slippery table – and he indicates I should turn over. Can’t – too slippery. So one grabs my head and the other my feet – FLIP!

But here is the thing – now my left shoulder is by far my strongest, thanks to ayurveda. I am a believer. Have never experienced a massage like that one. Give it a try.


The outside restaurant at Bruntons Boatyard – have dinner, watch the sunset and the seaside activity

India has a huge future in tourism – not just a destination, India is an experience!

Think tourism in India and most people think Taj Mahal and the Golden Triangle. But there is so much more to the Indian tourism story.

India is changing and tourism is growing – it is now 10 million visitors per year and will grow to 30 million by 2028. The growth will include new parts of India, and new forms of tourism – cruises, medical, mind and wellness, sports, adventure and religion.


India has just built the world’s tallest statue – the “Statue of Unity” of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, an independence fighter and India’s first Home Minister. At 182 metres, it is already bringing tourists into the state of Gujarat.


Things can change quickly these days – China is now the world’s leading tourist destination with over 100 million visitors per year. Other high ranking countries are France (90m), USA (77m) and Japan (30m).

For Australia, India provides around 300,000 tourists per year, but China is number one at 1.4 million.

Some of my wonderful experiences of touring India include ayuvedic massage in Kerala that fixed a problematic shoulder, covered in coloured powder in Kolkata during Holi, visiting Raj Ghat the wonderful Gandhi shrine and gardens in New Delhi and being embraced by an Indian family I met there, being on Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai during the Ganesha Festival with one million of my closest new friends. And on it goes. India is not so much a destination as an experience!

Watch out for the next phase of India tourism – it will take you beyond the Taj Mahal.


Are you ready for the facts on how much India has changed?

(Based on an article by Monika Halan, consulting editor at Mint and writer on household finance, policy and regulation)

Indian elections have just opened – so, how long does it take to find out if your name is on the Indian electoral role? Go to the Election Commission site, it asks you to SMS to check if your name is on the list—thirty seconds later, you will get a confirmation that your name is or is not there. Things move fast in modern India.

As Monika Halan writes – “Most people get their Provident Fund (PF) balance on SMS too. Also, the passport and visa processes are mostly all automated and keeps us well-informed about the progress of the process.”

So, what else works fast and well in India?

The metro network where it exists, in cities like Delhi and Kochi, is superb.


Getting or renewing a passport used to be a total nightmare a decade back. Enter private sector plus technology and the average time it takes for the passport application process is 30 minutes to under 4 hours. The passport reaches home by courier in a couple of days. At every stage, you get an SMS informing you what will happen next.

What about getting a driving licence? At least in Delhi, the process is mostly painless—online form filling, and 30 minutes to three hours of time in the local office. The licence reaches home in just a few days – according to Monika Halan.

Property registration used to be a nightmare. But Halan says “That again is a breeze. Again, a mix of technology and processes has reduced transaction time and pain hugely.”

Payments is the other huge success story of modern India. Forgetting your wallet at home is no big deal anymore. The money is in the phone. In a wallet, on an app or available through mobile banking. Riding on the backbone built by the National Payments Corp. of India (NPCI), transaction options and ease are both world-class.


So how long does it take you to get a Wi-fi connection? How long does it take you to open a bank account? At least in the big metros, a Wi-fi connection happens within a day. Opening a bank account takes lesser time. The average time for these services in most developed countries is much longer. In most of Europe, for instance, it takes at least a month to get both these services.

Modern India is fast. Click on “buy” at 11pm and hear the doorbell ring at 9am the next morning.

A huge shift has happened in India and even Indians have failed to notice. The mix of technology, competition and cheap labour – plus reformist governments – means modern India has some of the simplest and fastest processes in the world.

All of this in just over a decade.

Time to catch up with what is really happening in modern India?

Australian media – especially Fairfax – misrepresent modern India

India is not understood in Australia – China continues to hold our national imagination. Our myopia on India is a problem because within ten years India is tipped to become the third largest economy in the world.

Multiple cliched views of India dominate – slums (despite millions lifted out of poverty), public sector corruption (despite serious advances through use of IT) and the so-called Hindu fundamentalism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (despite four years of relative communal stability).

How does Australia get India so wrong? Our media influences our national perspective on India, and recent coverage of developments in the holy city of Varanasi (The sacred as strategy, The Age, 9 April) shows how we focus on cliché and miss the big picture. The article branded development in this city as Modi’s move to “insert religion into the centre of the political debate”.

So, what is happening in India and why should Australia care?

Four things are important for Australia – India’s investment growth, rising local consumption, over a decade of around 7% economic growth per year and governments (central and 29 states) awash with money due to the GST.

As a result, every part of this country is being transformed and demand is rising for products and services of the type Australia is good at. By contrast, our trade with India is stagnant – if not for rising numbers of Indian students, trade would be in decline. Clearly, we are missing something.

What is the real picture in Varanasi? Sure, as reported a major new promenade is being built – as much as anything to enhance the tourism appeal of this great city. Branding it as driven by a religious view is as silly as claiming tourist development around Uluru is “divisively pro-indigenous”.

But the bigger picture is far more interesting. Varanasi is just one of one hundred “smart cities” being developed across India, with new roads, freeways, cleanliness, sewage treatment, trade and convention centre, traffic management and more upgraded within five years. Located on the banks of the River Ganges, the city will also become a multi-modal river and road transport hub, supporting local industry.

Varanasi is preparing for a 25 per cent growth in tourist numbers, fuelled by a combination of India’s middle class and international visitors.

To see this as promoting “a distinctly Hindu state” displays a stubborn refusal to see the bigger picture in India. What is happening here is happening across India.

Just look at tourist numbers for the Taj Mahal, India’s best-known symbol of Muslim India rule – located in Agra, another city having infrastructure upgrades as part of the Modi Government’s Smart City program. In the last year there were approximately five million tourists, of which 4.5 million were Indians of all beliefs. This weight of numbers demands infrastructure upgrade, and the Taj Mahal and Varanasi are examples of many across the country.

Indians are becoming more interested in their own history and they can afford travel. It makes no sense to link this to some divisive religious plot.

International yoga day is another example of Indians promoting and being confident about their heritage – celebrated in countries around the world with many millions in the west now more interested in yoga. That yoga grew within Hindu India is incidental.

Australia should know how much India is changed – we have just taken our first delivery of railway carriages made in India for Sydney’s public transport upgrade. Modi’s “Make in India” program is working.

Health is improving – a new study shows that the lives of 50,000 Indian children have been saved through a measles vaccination campaign run between 2010 and 2013.

We know a lot about the generosity of Bill Gates, but Indian tech billionaire Azim Premji has just given away US$21 billion to philanthropy, becoming the biggest endowment in Asia – our region.

At a BDO “Improving Business with India” seminar last month I tongue-in-cheek explained rapid change in India by launching my “India Shopping Mall Index”. Here goes – there were 3 shopping malls in India in 1999 – just 20 years later there are over 350 malls and another 85 in the pipeline.

The Indian Finance Minister has estimated India will have a middle class of around 600 million by 2030 when it becomes number three economy in the world.

All of this is exciting news for Australia – we would know about these great changes and opportunities if we avoided the old cliched views of India. If we continue to view India though a prejudiced lens, we will see only what we look for – such as Modi and Hindu nationalism or the poverty of slums – and we will miss the great changes that offer real possibilities for us.

Within our volatile and changing region, India could become our most important friend – but right now we are looking at India with blinkers on.

Stephen Manallack is a blogger at IntoIndia.blog and former President, Australia India Business Council (Victoria)

The above article was submitted to The Age on Tuesday 9 April – not yet published.

History in the making as India begins shipping trains to Australia  

When a consignment of six metro coaches built in Baroda was shipped from Mumbai on Friday, it created history in India’s manufacturing sector.

The metro coaches, built for the Australian government, was the first of its kind India has ever exported.

The coaches, which measure 75 feet in length and weigh 46 tonnes each, were loaded in house by the Mumbai Port Trust.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, a total of 450 ‘Made in India’ metro coaches will be exported to Australia.

This is also the first of its kind export India is doing ever since the launch of ‘Make in India’, which aims at turning the country into a global manufacturing destination.

Things are changing fast in India and it is good to see it linking with Australia as it creates history.

(Thanks also to my friend and former AIBC President Rashi Kapoor for alerting me to this story)


Pictured are “made in India” carriages for the Kochi metro system – so India is supplying for domestic demand as well as exporting