While writing for the Fool, I spend quite a bit of time covering software -- which means understanding the megatrends in China and India. But it's not easy grappling with complexities. That's why I was excited when I saw a copy of IT and the East: How China and India Are Altering the Future of Technology and Innovation, which covers the information technology (IT) issues for both.
The authors, Jamie Popkin and Partha Iyengar, are analysts with Gartner (NYSE: IT ) . They have followed Asia for several decades and rack up quite a few frequent-flier miles in the region.
They have put together a well-organized book. The first 125 pages analyze China and India. Then, the rest of the book looks at how both countries may increasingly integrate and create a massive power block in the global economy -- a potential phenomenon that the authors refer to as "Chindia."
Looking at China, the authors note the tremendous success over the past 20 years. The country is the manufacturing leader in a variety of categories, such as refrigerators, air conditioners, DVD players, and so on.
But to continue its growth, China needs to take things to the next level and offer more innovation. While there are some elements of this -- with companies such as search engine Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU ) -- there is much work to be done.
The authors believe China will experience progress. But it means that the Chinese government needs to lessen some onerous regulations as well as improve intellectual property protection.
India's IT juggernaut
India, on the other hand, has a much more developed IT sector, as seen with standout companies like Infosys Technologies (Nasdaq: INFY ) , Satyam Computer Services (NYSE: SAY ) , and Wipro (NYSE: WIT ) .
It's hard to imagine that back in 1995, India's IT services exports were a mere $1 million. Ten years later, they reached $13 billion.
Yet India faces considerable challenges. First of all, the infrastructure -- such as roads, airports, water, and telecom systems -- are decrepit. In fact, some companies have resorted to building their own campuses, which are almost self-contained cities.
Next, there are political and ethnic tensions; restrictions on foreign investments; and difficulties in cultivating workers for the demands of the global economy.
Scary, huh? But it's not enough to deter major countries from investing in China and India. For example, GE (NYSE: GE ) expects to double its revenue in China to $10 billion over the next few years. Or look at IBM (NYSE: IBM ) , which continues to hire large numbers of Indian IT workers and expects to invest $6 billion in the country over the next few years.
Emergence of Chindia
Perhaps these companies are anticipating that China and India will get closer? It seems like a good bet. China can sell its products to the massive Indian market, and in turn, India can provide its IT services to China. According to the authors: "[A]lliances building on each country's complementary skills could create truly global IT behemoths, disrupting almost every other business in specific industry sectors."
Keep in mind that Chindia represents a third of the world's population. More importantly, China is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world's leader in purchasing power parity by 2015, and India is expected to be No. 3.
However, the authors are not just providing a litany of scary facts. Rather, they have extensive analysis of various scenarios. What happens if China becomes isolated? What if there is a breakdown of the politics in India? Or, what if India continues to neglect its infrastructure?
Such analysis is extremely thought-provoking and should be helpful for any business trying to understand the complexities of the global economy. As GE's CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, has said: "The new competitors, China and India, are unlike any competitors we have seen in our lifetime."
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