India’s Biggest Blessing

This one is in the context of an entry on HP’s Thin Client at Rajesh Jain’s weblog. In response to a bunch of comments on that entry, Rajesh wrote to me:

I think we will need to create the large domestic markets for the affordable computing solutions.

I totally agree. And I am thankful for one positive factor in India’s favor.

The most significant positive factor in India’s favor is its size. It is what we economists call a “large economy”. Large economies have the luxury of changing parameters which define the market itself. In comparison to that, “small” economies have to take those parameters as given (or ‘exogenous’) or external to them or outside their control. In a way, you can consider a large economy to be have some sort of ‘monopoly power’. Monopolies have the power to change one parameter (price) at will which firms in competitive (or oligopolistic) markets don’t have — the latter are ‘price takers’ in that they cannot dictate prices and take whatever price they can get.

So India is large enough to be able to change ‘world prices’. Suppose you were to create a widget which is suited to Indian conditions. Assume that the cost of production of these widgets exhibit economies of scale — that is, fixed costs are extremely high and marginal costs are very low, and hence average costs continue to decline as the volume produced increases. In such a case, given India’s enormous population, the number of widgets required would be high, and thus the average cost will be appropriately low, and therefore the market clearing price for widgets will be low and quantities will be high.

Now replace ‘widgets’ in the above with whatever — “COMPUTING SOLUTION” for instance. Get the hardware that is appropriate for the Indian market developed and get the software developed for the same. Concentrate on the needs of India alone to begin with. Note that hardware and software meet the criteria of high fixed cost and low marginal cost. Marry the hardware and software to create the computing solution, price it just above average cost, and voila! YOU HAVE LIFT-OFF!!

Do we need to create the large domestic market? If by creating you mean bringing the solution to the market, then yes. However, all the ingredients exist. We just have to judiciously put them in them together using the right recipe. I suspect that we are more than up to that job.

The CAT and Transaction Costs

It is important to remind ourselves from time to time what poverty is all about. Poverty has something to do with production. Not exactly the most esoteric bit of knowledge but often it gets forgotten in the shuffle. To produce you need to have what we call factors of production which are usually broadly classified into land, labor, and capital.
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ICT and Development (Part 2)

Rambling on about transaction costs from the last post.

Transaction costs are all over the place. When I travel to talk with someone, the cost of the travel in terms of time and money is the transaction cost of the talk. I could use the phone to have a talk. That reduces the transaction cost of having the talk. Telephones are a lower cost substitute for transportation in this case. This is one way that information and communications technologies reduce transaction costs. It is cheaper to move electrons than to move molecules.
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It is transaction costs all the way

In my last post (Transaction Costs — Part 1) I claimed that the fundamental role of ICT is reduction of transaction costs. What, you may ask, is transaction costs? The answer is this: pretty much everything is transaction costs, with a little bit of physical stuff thrown in.
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Transaction Costs — (Part 1)

It is worth pondering this question: What exactly is the role of ICT in any economy?

This week, I would like to address myself to that question in detail. The answer can be succinctly stated as: It reduces transaction costs. It will take a pretty long time to explore that answer. But first a few personal experiences to set the stage would be appropriate.
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Outsourcing and Comparative Advantage

Are you as tired of reading the next article on the out-sourcing of white-collar jobs from the US to India as I am? If not, here is one by Katharine Mieszkowski in Salon.com called “Gone in the blink of an eye”.

A couple of UC Berkeley economists, Ashok Bardhan and Cynthia Kroll, estimate that 14 million white-collar jobs are at risk of being outsourced, or about 11 percent of the total, by 2015.
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