Gradually it has dawned on me that the new Silk Road is rather like dream-time: with tracks everywhere and separate tribal dreamings singing songs with different lyrics but overlapping and similar tunes.

OK: so I have Australia on the mind; and the upcoming trip with talks about investor psychology in light of all we know and don’t know about the world. I picked up a book called “Global ‘Body Shopping’ by Xiang Biao: an incredible ethnography pointing to a culture I had no idea of, but that is so, so close: indeed, a very good friend travels the world continuously, talking to software developers everywhere. But I never put his work together in a wider, “Silk Road” context.  So here it is, in a nutshell:

Roughly 100 years ago, a few families in an agricultural region of India decided that they would do something about the Brahmin lock on education. They began sending their kids to school in local towns- which, by the 1990′s had caught the IT wave- and were now subsidized by the state. Together with college,  students began to study in for-profit institutes teaching corporate-based training models (Microsoft, Oracle— that sort of thing: and also the sort of thing which my friend goes around the world, teaching).

Turns out that the corporate certification is more powerful in landing work than the undergrad degree; but most powerful is the institution of a “body shop”- the outfit supplying corporations with IT gruntwork all over the world, in compliance with local national law but circumventing niceties like tenure and continuous employment: and so, I’m reading about the Indian IT diaspora in Sydney.

Thing is, as these workers see themselves moving on: to Canada, the US, etc (and within their worlds, their international portability is a high-ticket item— commanding great dowries etc), their skills and flexibility challenge other countries’ national interests (like fuller employment, for example). Truth is, though, that the IT mills of Hyderabad fan out across a new Silk Road, with human capability as the product.

Much of what I discuss with clients is about what we know/don’t know about organizations. Here was a world of work and experience known by a good friend, who makes his living from servicing these folks—- but by not digging deeper, I had no idea!

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A New Silk Road


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