Breaking News
Nagaland Post Logo
You are here:  Skip Navigation LinksHome » Show story
Chinese Chakkar: India losing English-speaking benefit
Published on 13 Dec. 2010 12:00 AM IST
Print  Text Size

Alok Mittal trades in anything ‘made in China’-from printer cartridges to locks, children’s toys to wrist watches. He buys them cheap in China and sells them to retailers back home for a handsome margin.
The nature of his job requires this small businessman from Ludhiana, in Punjab, to travel to Beijing and Shanghai almost four times every year, but each time he makes a trip to these cities, he has to tug a companion along.
“I can’t speak Mandarin. So I need to take a translator with me, lest I fail to hire a reliable person in Beijing to help me crack the right deals,” he says, ruing that Chinese translators are so sparse these days, thanks to the growing business between the two countries, he has to shell out a bomb on mere translation.
Today, China is already the world’s second biggest economy after America, beating Japan a few months ago. The pivot of business is gradually shifting from the West to China, and the day is not far when Indians will do business in China just the way they do business in the US and Europe today. “So, it’s time Indians learn Mandarin, or Chinese, as much as the Chinese are busy polishing their English and taking lessons in Hindi,” says an official of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which last week asked schools to introduce Chinese as a subject from the next academic session.
Also, China has overtaken the US to become India’s largest trade partner, and bilateral trade is expected to be around $60 billion in 2010.
At present, India is only the fourteenth largest trade partner for China, implying that there is a larger opportunity for India if the Chindia story gets bigger and better, and Indian companies get greater market access.
Given this background, if China continues to put its thrust on a domestic market driven economy - a post slowdown phenomenon - the importance of Mandarin is bound to increase further. Professor Yasheng Huang from MIT Sloan School of Management, says that the Indian government’s emphasis on teaching and learning of Chinese is timely. “It will be inevitable for China to shift from this export-driven emphasis to domestic consumption model.
Jenny Zeliang, additional director of India China Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Delhi agrees. “Knowing Chinese language is important. But it is also important to know about Chinese culture and their customs while dealing with them. It helps in building trust,” she adds.
That has also been the experience of Indian companies, which run businesses in China.
Information technology services firm Infosys Technologies, which employs 3,000 Chinese and had revenues of $48 million from its Chinese operation in the fiscal year 2010, is one of the many Indian companies, which have already started promoting the learning of Chinese language.
About 150 Indian companies operate in China as there are about 40 Chinese companies doing business in India, according to a KPMG report on India-China business opportunities.
Most Indian companies setting up businesses across the Great Wall are asking employees to train in Mandarin.
The Indian government too recognises the fact, as one bureaucrat in the foreign affairs ministry, who did not wanted to be named, said that the primary education board started working on introducing Chinese in schools at the behest of the ministry.
The CBSE’s notification dated December 2, 2010 says that the introduction of Chinese language from class six is in view of “China emerging as one of the major global economies and Mandarin is being spoken by a large population of the world”.
For Indian companies, the challenge now is to get market access, but once they succeed in penetrating the Chinese market, the knowledge of Chinese language will be more important than ever.
India’s ambassador to China, S Jaishankar in a recent seminar in Shenzhen said that Indian IT and pharma industries have made little progress in penetrating the Chinese domestic market. “Indian companies struggle every day to overcome barriers posed by regulations, policy and market practices. We still don’t have enough examples of success.
However, they have no choice, but to persevere as we cannot neglect the world’s second largest economy,” he said.
But while India takes the initiative to speak their language, the Chinese are quickly polishing their English and also picking up Hindi.
The Indian business community must remember how Chinese premier Zhou Enlai had created a diplomatic advantage for himself when he interacted with America’s master diplomat Henry Kissinger. “Whereas Zhou Enlai understood English and could prepare what he would tell as the interpreter was speaking, Kissinger had disadvantage of not knowing Mandarin,” says Amit Mitra, economist and secretary general of Ficci.
Kissinger later said Zhou was one of the two or three most impressive men he had ever met.
Adds Infosys’ Mohandas Pai, “Whatever language they learn, the Chinese are very nationalist and a continental economy.” The Chinese language will continue to dominate their commerce. A child who learns Mandarin today will have an advantage tomorrow, he adds.

Comments:(0) Login or Register to post your Comment
(Available for registered users only)
More News