China and India: Billions of Entrepreneurs

Last Updated Jan 31, 2008 12:49 PM EST

With one-third of the world's population between them, China and India are quickly emerging as economic superpowers on the world stage. As a business person, how do you view this reality? Opportunity, or threat?

Yes, there is a tremendous amount of potential consumers in these countries for your business to target, but also a wealth of human resources that China and India are tapping to compete against you.

In the new book Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India are Reshaping Their Future and Yours, Harvard Business School professor Tarun Khanna looks at the economic, social, and political impacts these countries are likely to have on the world stage in the coming decades.

Reading this interview with Khanna about his research, I walked away with several take-aways.

  • Although relations between India and China over the last 40 years have often been at gunpoint, the countries are starting to work together in formal and informal ways. Imagine the economic clout they could muster from cooperation.
  • Conditions for entrepreneurs on the ground are, as can be expected, very different in each country. In China, much entrepreneurship is tied to government programs and investment; in India, entrepreneurship springs more from private ventures. New ideas are accepted more in India, but foreign direct investment is encouraged more in China.
  • Very few multinationals have succeeded in both countries -- success usually comes in one or the other.
So how do you size up the economic evolution occurring in Asia: opportunity, or threat?
  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.