Inside the Dragon's Den
I submitted my proposal for funding for the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund
A comparative socio-economic study of Mumbai and Shanghai
The 21st century belongs to Asia. There is no denying this. However, for some Asian countries, the future looks grim, viz. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, etc. For others, the peak of their economic miracle is in the past, viz. Japan and the ASEAN states. For two countries, however, the best is yet to come. India and China have been growing at roaring rates over the past couple of decades, and their development will blossom around the half way mark of this century. Since its liberalisation in 1978, China has grown in excess of 8% per annum. India, which opened up much later in 1991, has grown at nearly 7% per annum. By 2025, China and India are predicted to be the second and third largest economies of the world respectively. By 2050, according to a Goldman Sachs report, China and India will become the world’s largest two economies. Such a stupendous phenomenon cannot be left unstudied.
The focal point of the Indian and Chinese economic engines is based in their financial capitals, Mumbai and Shanghai respectively. My aim in this project is to undertake a comparative coverage of the potentials of each city, their weaknesses, their achievements and finally, their characters. The thrust of the research would be to compare these cities on parameters of economic success and social justice, and draw a conclusion on their respective prospects for the future.
The Importance of Mumbai and Shanghai
Once given as dowry to Charles II for his marriage to Catherine de Breganza, Mumbai is India’s premier port city, located on the Arabian Sea. It is the capital of India’s most industrially advanced state of Maharashtra, on the west coast of India. Nearly half of India’s total foreign trade passes through its harbour, and around 40% of India’s total income tax collections come from the city alone. Culturally, it is India’s most vibrant city- hosting the famous ‘Bollywood’ film industry. It is the seat of human enterprise- home to over 18 million people.
Shanghai is a bustling metropolis located on the mouth of the Yangtze river, hosting over 13 million people. Known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, Shanghai boasts a glittering skyline, thanks to its Pudong district. Pudong also hosts some of the world’s top multi-national corporations, all doing brisk business in the city. The city is at the forefront of the economic boom in China, popularly known as the ‘Chinese miracle’.
Why Mumbai and Shanghai?
Thriving metropolitan cities exist in both countries- Delhi and Bangalore in India, Beijing in China. However, no two cities are so uniquely economic in their orientation as Mumbai and Shanghai. Beijing and Delhi are the political capitals of their respective countries, which serves as a distraction from the economic focus of this project. Bangalore is primarily economic in its outlook, but the economic development there is riding on an Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing boom. It lacks the all-rounder status of Mumbai. Mumbai and Shanghai occupy centre stage in their countries’ economies and the surrounding regions.
Benefits from the Project
Much has been said about China since its liberalisation began in 1978. Far less, but still substantial has been said about India since 1991 when it hopped on to the capitalist bandwagon. These countries are now aiming for the top. At the onset of the Asian century, we need to identify the epicentre of their aspirations, more specifically, economic aspirations- Mumbai for India, Shanghai for China. If we are to understand how India and China will shape the future world, we need to comprehend how globalisation has shaped these two cities, how it is still shaping them. There is much to identify that is inherent in the character of these cities that will reveal the story of their rise in the 21st century. It is extremely useful to be aware of their perceptions of each other, and their prospects when seen in each other’s context. For it is only then will we be able to appreciate what these cities have truly achieved, what more needs to be done and what will be realistically done. Today the global economy feels any movements in the markets of New York or Tokyo, a few decades ago they used to follow the lead of the City of London. In the coming decades, as India and China occupy centre stage in the global economy, same will be the fate of Mumbai and Shanghai. Now that it is beyond reasonable doubt that these two cities will shape the global economy, the only question that needs to be answered is how. I seek to answer that question in my project.
Direct interaction would form the bulk of the material that I hope to collect. Essentially, my interviews would target three economic entities, viz. employees, employers and tourists. This would enable me to encompass individuals from all income brackets and thus would enable me to paint a clearer picture of the city in question, both from the perspective of the insiders as well as that of an outsider. Time permitting I would like to interview two other classes- students and the unemployed. The former would help me identify the perceptions of the younger urbanites, while the latter would enable me to comment on the equitable distribution of the fruits of growth. I have already identified some companies in Shanghai for this purpose, among which Satyam Computer Services (IT/ITes), Reliance Industries Limited (Telecommunication, textiles, energy, etc.), State Bank of India (financial services) and Raymond Limited (textiles) would be a priority for me, as they are market leaders in their sectors in India. . My questionnaires would involve the interviewee’s opinions about the business environment, the political climate and the nature of the society of the city in question.
Following the local press would be an important part of my schedule. This would take the form of internet-based outlets, local newspapers and television. The presentation of pressing issues by the local media would enable me to grasp the mentality of the city towards important public policy concerns and their impact on the economy and society of the city.
Visual evidence will also be part of my methodology, as they would vividly depict, more than any other method, the achievements of the city, and the pressing concerns that lie ahead of it. Photo journals of popular urban centres, business parks and slums will help us identify the equitable distribution of growth.
My study is essentially comparative in nature. The mention of the cities in isolation would be restricted to the introduction and in areas where the same criteria does not apply for the other city. Similarities and differences between the cities would be identified in the following areas
- Factors of production- business environment, quality of workforce, infrastructure, investor perception, political environment etc.
- Losers of growth- the extent to which their economic boom is equitably distributed.
- Performance of domestic industry- How Indian companies are faring in Shanghai and their Chinese counterparts in Mumbai.
- The soul of each city- popular places of urban life and entertainment and changing trends.
After this comparative analysis, a comment on their prospects would be made. As an endnote, the following categories will be included-
- Limitations- I will be an outsider in Shanghai, therefore my background knowledge about the city and its people would be minimal. For instance, I might not correctly interpret questionnaire responses. The language barrier would make it hard for me to maximise my interaction with the subaltern classes. However, an empty page is neater than a scribbled on page. I will try to turn my position as an outsider into an advantageous one, for I will be bereft of any previous prejudices or beliefs of my own while making my conclusions.
- A brief description of interesting encounters during my interviews will be included. This will illustrate more vividly the experience of interacting with dwellers of these cities.
- Recommendations- I will include a brief section to note the main points for a future visitor or researcher to note about these cities.
I will take out travel insurance before I leave the UK to cover for any accidental damage to my possessions or myself. My family lives in India, therefore I would have enough security, both financial and otherwise, readily available there. In Shanghai, I would contact the Indian Embassy in case of an emergency. To be on the safe side, and also for the convenience of language, I would take a tour guide with me everywhere in the city.
There are certain criteria that make me particularly suitable to carry out this challenging project. I was born and raised in the port city of Kolkata in eastern India. Coming from a bustling metropolitan city of India very similar to Mumbai, I am well aware of the character of urban India, which will reflect in my methodology. My first language is Hindi, which is the language primarily spoken through out India. Knowledge of the native language would enable me to reach the most subaltern of people in Mumbai, and to appreciate the dynamics of the lower classes in India’s political economy. India and China share much in common in terms of culture and societal norms. Hence, I would be in an excellent position to conduct a meaningful inspection of life in Shanghai. For example, the issues raised by the poor in urban China reflect to a large extent those of their counterparts in India. Therefore, I will be in an immediate advantageous position to compare the demands of the two classes within the context of their adversaries, and scope for future action by the administrations. Finally, the most vibrant class in these two countries is the thriving middle class, especially since economic liberalisation. My background is also of a typical Asian middle class type. Thus, I can put myself in the shoes of the urban masses of these two great cities and calculate their aspirations and disappointments very easily, something that would not be so natural for someone with a different class profile.
Item Cost (£)
London-Mumbai Return Airfare- 450
Mumbai- Shanghai Return Airfare- 450
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Shanghai- 350
Accommodation for approx. 15 days in Mumbai- 250
Maintenance (Food and Travel) for 1 month- 700
- I have chosen Tongmao Hotel in Shanghai because it is located in the Lujiazui Development Zone, at the centre of Shanghai’s Pudong district, which is the heart of its business community.
- I have chosen Hotel Apollo in Mumbai because it is located close to the Flora Fountain business centre. It is also adjacent to the Gateway of India, the seat of Mumbai’s urban life.
- The need to visit business centres and urban hotspots entails a lot of travelling, which incidentally will take place in India and China’s most expensive two cities.
- This project was drawn up keeping the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund in mind, therefore without almost total help from the fund, this project cannot be undertaken. I have worked part-time this year and I can contribute around £200 from my funds, but I would need a grant of a minimum of £2,000 to undertake this project. My estimate of maintenance might not be entirely accurate regarding Shanghai, due to my lack of first hand experience of the country. I will also have to employ a tourist guide in the city, the costs of which are unknown to me. Therefore, I have estimated around £30 per day as maintenance expenses in Shanghai. I will maintain regular accounts of my spending.
I expect to leave for Mumbai around the 25th of August. After having spent a week in Mumbai, I would fly to Shanghai and spend approximately 2 weeks there. On my return to Mumbai, I would stay a further week and then leave finally for the UK. The whole project would take approximately 4 weeks and should be finished by the 25th of September, 2005. I have chosen this particular month, because it is the time when the monsoon season finishes in these countries. The monsoon has a significant impact on the country’s economy, since a large number of people in both countries are employed in agriculture. The impact of the monsoon on the harvest would be evident in late August/early September and would consequently effect the issues that would be raised in the public domain. I have decided to sandwich my Shanghai trip between my stay in Mumbai, because once I have experienced Shanghai and returned to Mumbai, I would be in a much better position to compare the two, rather than if I had stayed in the cities one after the other.