Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” Growing up in Calcutta in the Indian state of West Bengal, I witnessed firsthand the many layers of truth behind Gandhi’s words. For beyond the obvious physical consequences of living in want, there lurks a constant and pervasive threat to human dignity, social bonds, and basic aspirations.
In the India of my youth, this violence was by design. Here was a nation with unlimited potential in both human capital and natural resources continuing to lag behind because of the bureaucratically stifling nature of its command-and-control economy. Opposition political parties in the 1970s and 1980s were mired in ideological dogmas of one kind or another and offered few realistic alternatives.
My father, Chitta Ranjan Ghosh, was committed to bringing social justice to the poor. Fueled by leftist ideology, he opposed the en- try of foreign multinationals—he feared that the countless Indians using traditional methods of work would lose their livelihoods. His vocal opposition to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s policies landed him in jail in 1975. As a young boy I admired his positions and yearned to follow in his footsteps. I became involved in politics and various charities, with the intention of alleviating poverty in India by helping reinvent the public sector as an agent of progress.
At the height of the Reagan Revolution, I moved to the United States to pursue my MBA. Here, for the first time, I experienced the tangible benefits of capitalism. In 1991, I watched with excitement as India moved into the global economy. By opening the door to multinational firms, India strengthened and diversified its economy. I became a strong believer in the proposition that, although the private sector cannot solve poverty, poverty cannot be solved without the private sector.
After college, my career path took me through the private sector, diplomacy, and defense contracting. When I eventually returned to the development field, I had a new perspective. I was convinced the lessons I had learned in other sectors could be applicable to development.