India has the knowledge, capital and experience to make poverty history. The world stands to learn a great deal from India; beyond pilots, it’s a mecca of scalable solutions to both local social issues and world business challenges. Yet, the widening gap between the haves and have-nots has emerged as a salient feature of the Indian paradox.

The Young Global Leaders’ Learning Journey during the 2012 World Economic Forum on India was the best exposure to the Indian paradox. The Learning Journey stands out first for showcasing scalable solutions. In a world in constant search for scalable solutions, nowhere is this quest more relevant than in India, an emerging superpower for providing world-class business solutions.

The New India or the progress India has made was witnessed through a visit to one of the pioneers in the IT services industry, Genpact, a business process outsourcing (BPO) pioneer. It is a US$ 2 billion company operating in 20 countries, with 70 offices and over 60,000 staff. With a high turnover of approximately 20% combined with strong growth, this represents 2,000 new staff every month.

Genpact is articulating and executing solutions by integrating the analytics business into BPO. After meeting the CEO and staff, we visited several of the floors to see the different areas of business the company is involved in. It was incredible to see the level of outsourcing that was taking place.

What makes the company truly unique is its culture. The company’s organizational software is rooted in the six-sigma philosophy. Yet, as one visits each side of the company, the experience one gets is that of several companies glued together by a culture.

The CEO of Genpact insisted that quality driven by high capacity is more important to the company than cost. Genpact is migrating towards high-value services and knowledge-driven segments of low-income housing.

Another challenge YGLs noted was why talented people do not make it into politics. This issue is clear in India. YGLs remarked that this is indeed a global issue. However, do you need to be in politics to make a difference?

In India, social challenges are many. India’s amazing growth has not translated into prosperity for the base of the pyramid. For example, 42% of children are undernourished. To address these conditions, India has been able to leverage their experience with innovative scalable solutions.

Started in the mid-1970s, Anganwadi is one of those scalable solutions to address undernourished children and underprivileged pregnant or nursing women. Anganwadi by translation means a courtyard. Its primary goal is to take care of malnourished children under the age of six and underprivileged nursing women. A total of 1.8 million Anganwadis support 58 million children and 2 million pregnant and nursing women. It works out to one centre for every 800 people.

Some of my best memories of the trip are from the school courtyard. What most of us forget is that a significant percentage of children do not have access to such schoolyards. Yet, three key gaps were lack of water and power, no data to track impact and lack of managerial capacity.

It became clear that Anganwadi would benefit from both insights and money from corporates. It is my belief that the prosperity of any society will be driven by its ability to meet its own challenges while transforming the lives of their citizens for the better. This is one of the reasons why the YGL Learning Journey was inspiring.

Three elements stand out. First, India is all about numbers. Second, the level of trust between the sectors could be improved. Finally, India has the skills to overcome its own challenges and some of those of the rest of the world.

As one presenter told us on the YGL programme: “Think of India as 17% of the world’s population on 2% of the world land with 1% of the water. We are forced to innovate.

Author: Eric Kacou is co-founder of Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners (ESPartners) and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2010

Photo Credit: Young Global Leaders Team