The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman


The World is Flat had been on the bestseller list for a long time. And hence had the curiosity to read it. Especially as its online promotions spoke a lot about the place I work. But at the same time, I was not interested in investing in this book. Don’t ask me the reason, but just didn’t feel like it. So had to wait for this to get it from my office library. The book is well written but is too American.

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

In the first part of the book, The World is Flat, where the author talks about the 10 flatteners of today’s world. I just get a feeling of an American who lands up in India and other Asian countries and suddenly discovers there is a world out there. Which he never knew of. And even if he knew of it, he knew of it as a developing place. Where people had no access to anything. And looked up to America for everything. But to his credit, he very honestly identifies the 10 things that in his opinion balanced the whole power structure in the world both at a macro and at a micro level.


His chapter on ‘America and the flat world’ echoes his worries about the future of American kids. His worry is that American kids are not prepared for the competition that they are going to face from the rest of the world. They are taking too many things for granted. But at the same time, he tries to reassure the reader (i.e. American Reader). That America still remains the most powerful nation. And the best place for nurturing talent and innovation.

Developing Countries

The chapter on ‘Developing Countries and the Flat World’ is interesting. It compares the various countries that were developing around a decade back. And how they have all reacted, adapted, and benefited from the flattening of the world. Later in the ‘Geopolitics’ section, he tries to compare how the same flatteners can be used constructively and destructively. Depending on who is using them and what is the motivation behind them. Overall the book is pro-India. And talks a lot of good things about India. Either he has been shown India very selectively or is that the way the world has started looking at us?

My favorite chapter is ‘The great sorting out’, which I think is the best part of the book The World is Flat. The only place where the analysis has been done and few questions were raised. I particularly liked the example of TCS getting a project for one of the US state governments for upgrading their unemployment department. And somewhere down the line, the state government changed. And the new one decided to take away the contract from TCS. As they wanted the locals to be employed.

Questions Raised

The case is presented 360 degrees and the questions raised are:

  1. Are Indian companies exploiting Americans by taking away their jobs?
  2. Are Indian companies exploiting Indians by paying them less salaries?
  3. Are American companies exploiting America, by getting the same work done at a higher cost?
  4. Are American companies exploiting Indians by looking at them as low-wage workers?

All in all who is exploiting whom? There are other interesting questions in this section. Read this section if you don’t want to read the whole book.

I am not too happy about his whole stand on 9/11 and the Muslim world, where he sounds like any other American, and not a journalist or an analyst or someone looking at the future. I feel he could have found another platform to voice his views on the same, rather than riding on this book. And he refers to his other books just too much, cross-sell is fine, but as they say ‘Har cheez ki koi limit hoti hai’.

PS: Something new that I learned from the Google chapter when you don’t know what to cook, open your refrigerator, see what is there, type it in Google, get a recipe, cook, and enjoy! Seems simple, but never thought of using Google so creatively… will try and post the experience.

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  1. Ms Anuradha: I am an American who is about 2/3 of the way through The World is Flat. I enjoyed the same sections as did you and many more. As a teacher, I share many of Friedman’s concerns about American students. I am also very curious about Bangalor (sp?). Can you tell me more about your city?

    Thank you

  2. Hi Jim, Tell me what you would like to hear on Bangalore. It is the hub of Indian IT industry, has world’s most pleasant weather around the year, is becoming the back office of the world while also stepping into the innovator’s shoes. While being all this, it is culturally vibrant, becoming a cosmopolitan city, infrastructure is struggling to keep pace with the growth, but we all hope one day it would catch up.

    Let me know what you would like to know about the city, and may be I can reply you on your e-mail Id. It would be intersting to know your view on how you perceive Bangalore and India.



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