After linking to my previous post, where with reference to this "Best of…" by Dominic Basulto at the Fortune Innovation 2005 blog (hey, you’ll have to drop the 2005 🙂 he very kindly shared with me the context of the quote I’ve questioned. Here is the background,
Anyway, I noticed that you made a quick comment about the "India as
Wal-Mart" quote in my "Best Ofs" list. It was a quote from one of the
speakers – Peter Georgescu of Young & Rubicam. He spoke at length on "why innovation is important." He called
commoditization the "cancer of our time," and pointed directly to China and
India for pushing down prices worldwide. So, the
context of the quote was: if America doesn’t invest every resource it
has into being innovative, it will be swallowed up by India and China,
the same way that the mom-and-pop stores of the world have been
swallowed up by Wal-Mart. That’s why I called it a "scary" comment.
Wow! I must agree with Dominic that that is indeed a "scary" comment, and I’d remove the quotation marks too! Here are my 2 rupees worth (how much is that in Yuan?), in fact I’ll use far better words than I could have written. Grant McCracken wrote a post back in June titled "India:China; Walmart:Target" that best sums up this conundrum and clarifies Peter Georgescu’s mixed metaphors, or was that a mangled analogy? Here’s a paragraph, and a link to the rest.
There is a better way to make the comparison:
China is to India as Wal-Mart is to Target
I apologize to 2.4 billion people so characterized and to TBSA
readers for this violent insult to their intelligence. But as long as
the NYT is trading in dubious metaphor, surely bloggers have license
equally rash and quite as ludicrous.
Heres what I mean by the analogy. In the international economy,
China is a commodity player. India’s promise lies in its control of
cultural particulars. And by this I mean, India understands and participates in the culture of the First World West in ways China does not.
As long as the world wants its merchants to "pile em high and sell
em cheap, China will flourish as Wal-Mart does. But as Virginia
Postrels vision of the marketplace comes to pass, and all consumer
goods begin to add value and win share by embracing design
intelligence, India will flourish as Target has.
India has a large intellectual and creative class. Many of these
people are worldly in ways the chattering classes of the West are not.
More than that, India is its own intellectual challenge, a culture that
knows a thing or two about diversity and discontinuity. Moreover,
India has been drawing on the intellectual and educational resources of
the West for several hundred years. (What’s theirs is theirs, what’s
ours is theirs.)