Venky’s deal good news for Blackburn Rovers

My wife and I spent our honeymoon in India. It was the late seventies.

Our family thought we were being very adventurous – and I’m not sure that we would even have made the trip if we had not had friends living in New Delhi at the time.

We went right round India. Bangalore, the capital of the south eastern state of Karnataka, was then just another provincial city, with wonderful gardens, good air, and – by Indian standards – a tranquil feel about it.

I went for my customary jog, and felt great after it.

I went out again for a run in the city – from the very same West End Hotel – 14 years later, in 1992.

I choked.

There had been a mushrooming of industry in the intervening years, and with it serious atmospheric pollution.

The last time I visited the city, five years ago, it had changed again.

The air was better, but that wasn’t all. Large parts of it looked like Silicone Valley, in California.

Bangalore had become not just the high-tech centre of India, but one of the technological powerhouses of the globe.

It is now ranked alongside cities like Geneva, Copenhagen, and Boston, in studies of city life.

Bangalore’s transformation to world class is a parable for what has happened to India in the last two decades – since the then Finance Minister, now Prime Minister Manmoham Singh, began India’s entry into the world economic system.

In two more decades, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country, and in slower time may overtake them in the size of its economy too.

The Prime Minister who appointed Singh as Finance Minister in the early nineties was Narasimhha Rao.

The founder of Venky’s, the poultry business now poised to take over Blackburn Rovers, was Dr B V Rao.

I’ve no idea whether they were related – Rao is quite a common name in India. There’d be a nice symmetry if they were.

For Venky’s growth, from next to nothing, is another story of the explosion of entrepreneurship which is turning India into a global power.

Britain was the pioneer in world economic dominance, as the first country to move from an agricultural to an industrial economy in the late eighteenth century – and East Lancashire was at the heart of this.

Napoleon correctly described us as “the workshop of the world”.

We exported far more goods than we imported, then used the surplus to invest abroad.

India, among others, is now returning the compliment – and we should welcome it.

Rovers’ great benefactor Jack Walker realised his fortune by selling his steel stockholding business to the then recently privatised British Steel.

They became Corus; more recently bought by the Indian giant Tata, who also bought Jaguar Land Rover, and are now investing heavily in the UK.

Even top-flight soccer was once entirely local. Its supporter base, of course, remains local, and nowhere more than in the UK.

But it’s now global too. If the Venky’s deal for Rovers passes the remaining hurdles, then in my view it will be good news for the club and its loyal fans.

And it may too have the bonus of encouraging a trend already there, of seeing many more folk of Asian heritage at Ewood Park.

Author: Jack Straw

Jack Straw was elected as the MP for Blackburn in 1979 and is currently the Secretary of State for Justice.

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