On a recent trip to China, I had the opportunity to visit the Zhi Zhu software park in Shanghai. Construction started just a couple of years ago and companies have recently started moving into the park. However, I was very impressed with the infrastructure (road, telecom, etc.) that has been put up for the park – it is just fascinating to see that. In general, the rate of infrastructure progress that I got a chance to see in both Beijing and Shanghai (the last time I visited Beijing was about 3 years ago) has been phenomenal. This reminded me to how the ‘wheels got turning’ in the United States. Starting in 1893, General Roy Stone’s team promoted the construction of roads to serve bicycles and wagons. Then in the roaring 20s, the 1921 Federal Highway Act facilitated the construction of interstate highways. I may be wrong but I think it was only in the 1950s that the interstate system as we know today took shape. The focus and investments on infrastructure played a critical role in the US development. Without this infrastructure, imagine the state of ecommerce or even plain old commerce in the US.
Given that I have spent the last 16+ years at Microsoft, I have a “platform” bent of mind and so could easily resonate with this. I am a big believer on building a great platform (or infrastructure) and then good things will automatically happen.
Over the past year, I have traveled to different parts of the world including what I call emerging markets. Some of them had pockets of accelerated development in various industries but unfortunately without equivalent progress in infrastructure development. For example, in one country I saw several new car showrooms with an equal number of potholes on every road. Their billboards displayed ads for new kinds of air-conditioners but the power supply was erratic.
The state of the infrastructure in a country or a company is directly proportional to its rate of progress. And I do hope that the leaders really focus on the infrastructure, which in my opinion, is a critical step in economic success.