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Paul Miller: Why India matters to Finland?

"In order to thrive in the future, Finland will need to turn itself inside out. It should try to become a global hub where new relationships are formed and attract talent with networks. Good collaborations between India and Finland should be built especially in the field of science and technology. That means that action should be taken to build awareness and acceptance of Indian culture in Finland and Finnish culture in India. Also more network building is necessary."

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A quick signature and the deal was done: Indian software and IT services company Wipro bought Paul MillerFinland-based Saraware for €25 million. Saraware, a company with 200 employees located in Rovaniemi, provides design and engineering services to telecom companies including Nokia. Wipro is valued by the market at over €15 billion. It was the first such takeover by an Indian firm that Finns had witnessed.

For those who noticed the Saraware deal, the conclusion was unmistakeable. The Indian economy was no longer ‘third world’ or just a place for Europeans and North Americans to invest. Neither was it a place limited to the ‘outsourcing trend’. 

The Indian economy has grown at above 7 percent over the last three years, and future expectations for growth are even higher. The overarching vision of India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is that of an “inclusive, prosperous, democratic and equitable India” and he is courted by global leaders because of India’s economic might and influence over the future. 

Finland, by almost any international measure, is an incredibly successful nation. It has topped the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness rankings. Its education and health systems are the envy of the world and the quality of its environment is ranked among the best on the planet. 

Much of this success is based on innovation. Finland has a strong science, technology and engineering base both in its universities and through companies in telecommunications, biosciences as well as more traditional industries such as chemicals and paper. It has thrived because it has been able to develop and apply new technologies and processes and then sell these to the rest of the world. In relation to population, Finland is also one of the most active scientific publishers in the world. 

Finland has opened up its economy and made the shift towards a knowledge economy but it has also realised that there is benefit in retaining social security and investing in public services such as education and healthcare. Finland furrows the brows of neo-liberal economists because it retains a level of equality between its citizens as well as generating massive wealth. Prime Minister Singh’s aim for India of being prosperous and equitable could be said of Finland more than it could for many other countries. 

Yet there is an uneasiness about Finland’s position at the top of the global podium. With an ageing population, the drain on financial resources of maintaining social welfare could prove to be crippling for the economy. The only solutions to the long term problem of an ageing population are, “Either you make more babies, or you make immigrants,” as Manuel Castells told a seminar in Helsinki in June 2005. The problem says Castells is, “Finland is allergic to immigration.” 

Competing in a fast-moving, quickly changing world means that no nation can stand still. Every country needs to constantly renew, to build its capacity to innovate. And the past decade has seen a gradual realisation that there are two new powers in particular that the established developed world needs to contend with and understand: China and India. Each with a population of over a billion people who are rapidly becoming more educated and affluent. Both countries have attracted significant foreign investment. Both countries have firms that compete on a global stage. 

India also seems to be muscling in on Finland’s traditional economic territory. India has become a powerhouse at just the things that Finland built its success on during the 1990s. India has surged ahead on mobile telecoms and software. It has a strong and quickly moving pharmaceuticals industry and it is rapidly developing capacity in high tech areas such as biotechnology and nanotechnology, even if this capacity is small at present.  

More collaborations are needed  

However, compared to other countries in Western Europe and North America, Finland has very weak links with India. According to Statistics Finland, there were only 1618 Indian citizens living in Finland on 31 December 2005 (although this number is gradually rising – it was only 270 in 1990). 

Each year, Finnish Universities take only approximately 30 students from India.  Compare this with the UK which hosts over 17,000 Indian students at any one time and has an estimated 1.3 million people of Indian descent living in the country, or with USA where there were 80,466 students from India studying in universities in 2005, or with France with its high profile joint research centres in India. And bare in mind that India has an estimated diaspora of 20 million people around the globe. 

It is fair to say that, other than a few small pockets of activity, interaction between Finland and India is at a very low level. Culturally, economically and scientifically prospects for collaboration between the two countries start from a very low base, even compared to relationships between many other countries that have a similar international standing to Finland. 

We are entering an age of global interdependence of innovation. It is no longer enough to focus on the capacities and relationships between institutions within a single country to predict its future innovative capacity. Individual companies spread their operations and networks across several countries, they compete in some areas with particular companies but collaborate on other tasks. 

This goes contrary to a historical Finnish pride in keeping innovation close to home. Finnish companies – even if they do outsource research and development – will often not tell anybody that they do. A national pride in is admirable, but without an admission that outside and focus on global links to the new sources of human capital and powerhouses of innovation Finland and Finns could lose out. 

In order to thrive in the future, Finland will need to turn itself inside out. It should try to become a global hub where new relationships are formed and attract talent with networks. And good collaborations between India and Finland should be built especially in the field of science and technology. That means that action should be taken to build awareness and acceptance of Indian culture in Finland and Finnish culture in India. Also more network building is necessary: it is very important to facilitate meeting of Indian and Finnish scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. And direct particular collaborations should be funded. 

A supportive context where people have an understanding of one another’s cultures leads to working relationships and conversations between people which in turn lead to formal and productive collaborations. In turn collaborations lead to greater cultural understanding and new networks being created around the edges of successful projects which may lead to yet further collaborations.

Paul Miller

Theme

India

Along with China, India has become a world power. The India Programme (2004–2008) showed modern India to be an interesting partner and well worth knowing.

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