On a dockside near the port of Bristol, an extraordinary sight. The port, famous for its stockpiles of imported Japanese cars, finally has lines of Range Rover Sports, Evoques and Jaguars ready for export. For the first time in my lifetime, Britain shipped more cars, by value, in the first quarter than it imported. This has been driven by the remarkable turnaround of Jaguar Land Rover. Ratan Tata seems to be single-handedly reindustrialising a country that had thought deindustrialisation a one-way street.
Tata so seared India’s industrial expansion into western psyches that a landmark British TV show ended with the UK avoiding an IMF bailout by arranging a credit line from India. Inventive fiction maybe, but rooted in British reality. Tata is Britain’s biggest manufacturing employer. His acquisition of Tetley tea was treated as a rather amusing spot of effrontery. But with the purchases of Corus steel and the car companies, Tata has become central to UK industry. Tata implores Britain to reacquire its economic patriotism, to decide if it wants a car industry.
On occasion, his interventions have unintentionally misfired. The economic crisis squeezing western living standards has created some sensitivities. Tata compared the work ethic of middle managers at the UK companies he’d bought with Indian managers. British managers did “not go the extra mile”, he said, suggesting that Indian managers had the mentality of a “war-like situation”, regarding, for example, working late on Fridays. He pointed to a “certain comfort level that comes from a country that has had good times”. He exempted workers from the observation, but some politicians did not take too kindly to the idea, particularly at a time of job losses at Corus steel plants.
The substantive point: these days, Jaguar Land Rover managers meet at 5 pm on Fridays, and sales, production and exports are booming. His counsel is sought in UK politics. He’s on David Cameron’s Business Advisory Group and co-chairs the UK-India CEO Forum. His injunctions are helpful to British politicians trying to make Britain competitive again. But he also challenges the western presumption that governments are generally helpless in this global economic battle. He pointed to Japan’s decision in the ’60s and ’70s to launch a “major thrust” into cars and electronics as an example Britain could follow.
His influence has stretched beyond India, and beyond business. He is the totem in London of the new global realities that indebted western economies are facing. The Empire has struck back. And it started with Ratan Tata.
Economics editor of Channel 4 News, London, Faisal Islam is the author of The Default Line; E-mail your columnist: faisaldinho AT mac.com
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
For a country like the UK with zero gdp growth, a rich man willing to invest willbe welcome, whereever in the world hebis from.
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