LG and Samsung Go West (to India)

Dear Financial Times, “Shhhh”. Sincerely, LG and Samsung Electronics

Recently, this article appeared in the UK’s influential Financial Times. Singing washing machines are nothing new to native Koreans, and the Seoul Gyopo Guide wonders whether or not there is a chance that LG/Samsung have learned (or as the English might write, learnt) how to program Bollywood songs into the washing machines. Anyways, I digress. As is the case with China, Korea’s financial relationship with India is symbiotic indeed. India represents an enormous opportunity, and in some respects, India poses a future threat.

India Has What Korea Needs: A Large, Youthful Marketplace
The Seoul Gyopo Guide has pointed out that Korea faces the problem of an aging population. The effects are yet to be realized but they include a growing need for medical care for its growing elderly population, a growing need for social services (including national pension payments), and a shrinking number of young consumers, who are the buyers of sophisticated innovations necessary to spur economic growth. India, on the other hand, is a very populous nation, which is projected to have the world’s largest in just two decades. Moreover, this population is young over 50% of the current population is younger than 25 years old. It is no wonder that exporters such as LG and Samsung are targeting India.

India Has What Korea Needs: A Highly-Educated, English-Speaking Population
While much of India still does not speak English, the students at the best universities in India are fluent in India. If you go to the top universities in India, all of the students are completely fluent in English. That is a key difference between Korea and India. Not only young Indians read (as many Korean students can), but they are also fluent in conversation. While this is the source of some derision in the United States (as in the sit-com Outsourced), it is a fact made possible only because the university-graduate population is largely English-speaking.
As many know, Korea does have some excellent, highly competitive engineering universities. Some have linked KAIST’s controversial tuition policies to the large number of recent suicides by KAIST’s students. India itself is no slouch in this regard: the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) may be the most competitive university in the world. Across IIT’s numerous branches scattered around the country, the students are ranked system-wide. Highly competent, English-speaking: that is the makeup of the graduates of India’s top universities.

For now, India remains a destination for Korea’s dominant exporters. It represents a marketplace which specifically matches Korea’s needs. In a way, it may be even more critical than China as an export market. In other ways,the skills that the young Indians possess point out that Korea’s youth has almost no choice but than to pursue English fluency. Now.