We recently spent a week in Delhi, our second visit this year. If you ignore the jet lag, is always a pleasure spending time in India, as so much is being done – both from top down and grassroots up – to try and cope with a long list of challenges. There is a ‘can do’ attitude which is great. And a real contrast to the bureaucratic fog, waffle and cynicism we are used to in Europe.
Another big contrast is the way that business leaders, politicians and academics over there are prepared to work together to tackle problems without first making sure they get on the payroll or have the consulting contract signed.
You might think this is all a bit of fluff, but the other week in Delhi we spent the best part of three days around a table with several company owners, senior academics and industrial managers whose sole purpose for being there was to help us work out how to put low cost sustainable electricity supply into rural Africa, using local bio-waste (grass, leaves, twigs, coconut shells – basically rubbish that is not being used for something else).
Note carefully – this was no ‘think tank’, no collection of £750k per annum luminaries giving speeches, no Now-or-Never, Traffic-Stopping-Climate Change Summit. This was a group of people, most of them with engineering backgrounds, teasing out a solution to an engineering problem. The proposition – ‘this is working quite well in India, and they should maybe do similar things in Africa’ – was not a patronising one, at all. My take on the proposition was – ‘this is working quite well in India, and maybe we should be doing similar things in the UK’.
Okay, there were no politicians in our group, but you get the point. Okay, maybe they see an opportunity down the road to sell some of their equipment. The fact is they pitched in. They showed up. They shared their expertise with no retainers being paid, no promise of future orders, no post-meeting press release designed to raise their green credentials.