December’s Miss World com- petition was, if not the most good-natured, among the more memorable. Included in the usual recipe of bikini-clad events were a number of new ingredients: the most notable being a group of young women who promised to swallow cyanide capsules and then set themselves alight. It seemed likely to prove a hard act to follow.
The reason for this unexpected addition to Miss World 1996 was the event’s venue. For the first time, the pageant was staged in
Among other ambassadors of this consumerism to have felt the sting of
Drawn in by the drama,
Accordingly, Rao set about trimming the country’s over-manned workforce, in hopes of attracting foreign investment to her newly streamlined economy. Five years of high unemployment and constant union strife later, he was rewarded for his pains by being removed from office.
The BJP’s victory represented more than popular disenchantment , with Rao’s economics, however. For the first time since independence, Indians voted for a party openly hostile to foreigners, their FDI inflows, fast food out? lets, and motor cars.
Even the BJP’s ousting in June by the foreign-friendly Union Party of H.D. Deve Gowda could not disguise that xenophobia in
To see the impact on foreign investment, take the train from Mumbai to Pune in
German auto giant, Mercedes Benz, made the same trip in 1995, and for good reasons. Although at the epicenter of
Such caution is understandable. “The situation is a complex one,” says Marian Stanley, Boston-based VP in charge of the Polaroid Corporation’s extensive Indian operations. “I’m very enamored of Indian culture myself, and I don’t for one minute blame them for trying to protect it. But, yes: all this stuff has given me pause. We’ve just decided to take the long view here, and the government is being very supportive.”
This is not entirely surprising.
The real question, though, is whether Gowda can convince this same middle class to spend its new money on foreign cars, cameras, and fried chicken (not to mention bikinis). While considering the hysteria sparked by December’s Miss World, investors might muse on a curious coincidence. The leader of the Forum for Awakening Women, Kinay Narayana Shashikala, is not some unlettered firebrand. Like Mahatma Gandhi, she is a lawyer.
Charles Darwent is senior correspondent for the World Economic Forum magazine, WorldLink, based in