Istanbul, Boston and changing global equations
Two groups with Hyderabad connections were in the news this week, and both touched two overseas towns of historical importance linked to colonial history while they marked new milestones in India’s economic globalisation.
Information technology firm Megasoft Ltd said it would acquire Boston Communications Group Inc for $65 million in a rare instance of a Mumbai-listed company buying out a Nasdaq-listed firm. A day earlier, the GMR group, which is building Hyderabad’s new airport, said a consortium it leads with a strategic 40 per cent stake had won a competitive global bid to modernise the airport in the Turkish city of Istanbul. The project is worth $2.7 billion.
Both Istanbul and Boston have significance in the history of India.
In 1492, European explorer Christopher Columbus discovered the New World that later came to be called America, reaching islands off the coast of the mainland later named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Columbus was actually seeking a new sea route to India and adjourning regions, because Muslim Turks had captured Constantinople – which was later named Istanbul.
The blockade of Constantinople laid the ground in its own way for what later came to be called the United States of America that would emerge as an economic and political superpower. Vasco Da Gama, in 1498, landed in Calicut (now Kozhikode) via the South African coast to lay the ground for the Western colonisation of India.
I would like to think that the building of an airport in Istanbul by an Indian-led consortium in a way marks at least a partial turning of the colonial circle, reversing an economic decline of a land that once enjoyed special status as an exporter of much-needed spices and tea to Europe.
Tea was a key commodity that the British East India Company sold in its American colonies. And the American war against British rule started with what is now called the the Boston Tea Party.
The Boston Tea Party incident was a protest by American colonists, who destroyed many crates of tea bricks in the Boston Harbour on December 16, 1773, sparking the American Revolution that culminated in 1776. The rise of American colonists inspired the French Revolution in 1789 which in turn inspired Tipu Sultan to fight the British from Mysore, not far from Bangalore.
Now, more than two centuries later, spices and tea have been replaced by software as a key commodity. And Bangalore, the Garden City built by Tipu Sultan’s father Hyder Ali, is arguably the singlemost important hub for services globalisation aided by high technology.
So, it seems strange and surreal when Megasoft acquires a Boston-based IT company, reminding us of the inter-linkages that marked colonisation then, and globalisation now.
Megasoft was incorporated in Fairfax, Virginia, but is essentially a global company headquartered in Hyderabad. And somebody in the company has a sense of history and some humour to boot.
The subsidiary company of Megasoft that will acquire Boston Communications Group Inc has actually been named the Tea Party Acquisition Corp.