Monday, March 31, 2008

In search of our Daily Bread

Inflation has hit an all time high (again?). Inflation is very closely linked with the prices of essential commodities which has rosen sharply worldwide. Restricting inflation has become the matter of most important priority. First things first , other things including (growth) can come later- seems to be the mood of the government. Faced with a difficult task of checking price rise, attributed to global hardening trend, Finance Minister P Chidambaram had said that tackling inflation would be the top priority of the government even if economic growth rate has to be sacrificed by a few percentage points.
Inflation is almost cancerous in today's economic scenario, that it might seem too much to dream of a decent growth. After 4 long years of the 9% figure of GDP growth, things seem bleak. Morgan Stanley has estimated a growth of 7.5% for India at the most. The 9% dream(Read: Krishna Prashanth: An Illusion called 9% )is finally about to break.
A small analysis of the instruments taken to check the inflation shows that most of these are deterimental to growth. The government had reduced import duty on edible oils, including palm oil from 45 per cent to 20 per cent. Besides, stringent conditions have been imposed on exports of non-Basmati rice while export incentives on 40 to 50 items, including steel and chemical products have been withdrawn.
It is also important to remember that rising commodity prices for the consumer, is because we have to import them, and that we are not self sufficient. It is equally important to improve the efficiency of our local production of these essential commodities, which means better farming and distribution techniques. Industrial farms may be a viable solution. It is essential that the government reduce subsidy to farmers who are not (or who cannot be) efficient!
This is difficult in India's populist government, more so because with the growing population, and farmers traditionally dividing their farm lands to accomodate their sons. This means productive fertile land owned by a single landlord is consistently reducing in area. Studies however show that farming is more efficient in larger areas of land than smaller chunks !
This means farms cannot get divided. One way in which the governement can acheive this is to bar inefficeient lands from all subsidies. This will ensure that farms dont get divided below their minimum area to maintain efficiency. Besides this the government should increase subsidies to farmers resorting to technology in their farming. Also efficient distribution systems, that leave everybody --the farmer, the distributor and the consumer--in a win win situation should be encouraged and rewarded.
Uniform subsidies, or even loan waivers cant help.(Read the post on kplogs : Krishna Prashanth: Loan Waiver -A bad precedent?) What we need is the simple rule of nature. Survival of the fittest farmer!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Boycott in the Name of Buddha

The ongoing crisis in Tibet seems to have taken a bitter turn of events with the protests aiming the Beijing Olympics as a hostage. The latest headlines in this matter revolve around the Indian American Intellectuals Forum urging the United States to boycott the coming Olympics intending to send a message to Beijing that Washington would not tolerate suppression of and brutalities against peace-loving Tibetans.
Narain Kataria the President of the Indian American Intellectuals Forum justifies the demand for the boycott saying ''Hindu people in India even believe Lord Buddha to be an incarnation of Hindu God Vishnu. There is a symbiotic relationship between Hindus and Buddhists and hence, the Hindu people are very concerned about the miserable plight of Tibetan civilians at the hands of Chinese army.''
With due respect to the Tibetans in exile and the inhabitants of Tibet, and in no way diluting the expression of dissent over the Chinese atrocities in Tibet, the question is whether boycotting the olympics (although a strong and effective form of protest) is the right thing to do or whether it is like burning the house over to kill a few termites?
What Kataria seems to forget here, is the very motto of universal brotherhood that Olympics stands for "Citius, Altius Fortius'-"Swifter Higher Stronger". He is also forgetting what the US boycott of the Moscow olympics due to political disagreements did - prevented many great athletes from appearing in both the '80 and '84 Olympics. These competitions were marred by both the United States and the Soviet Union -- the U.S. boycotting the 1980 Summer Games and the Soviets following suit at the 1984 Summer Games. Intended to be a source of universal brotherhood amongst people from all around the globe, the people (especially the athletes) were the ones punished by these entirely political actions... not the opposing governments. China for one has been a country in today's world moving Swifter than most economies, stands Higher than most countries as far as their trade status goes and remains Stronger than most to withstand global economic catastrophes. China as of today is the future where the world is heading towards. It might be safe to say that what happens to China, decides the future of the world.
Hindus do believe Buddha to be an avatar of Lord Vishnu, but Kataria seems to forget that Buddha symbolises universal brotherhood, precisely what the Olympic games stand for. The solution to the aggression against Tibetans is not to boycott Olympics, but to conduct more symbolic events of brotherhood starting with that of the Olympics. The US and the rest of the world should politically and diplomatically ensure that China ceases its atrocities. Surely Lord Buddha himself would approve of that!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Sugar Candy that you Cannot Eat

The European Union has now decided to open its markets to exports of refined sugar from developing nations including India. This is an oppurtunity that we could make good use of, if we can get geared up to face the challenge before the markets open in 2009.

India currently exports a paltry 0.33 percent of the 27 million tonnes of Indian refined sugar to the EU. If we are to benefit from the EU opening up, we need to increase that percentage! Currently India has manufacturing capabilites to make sugar of ICUMSA 200 to ICUMSA 100 standards. (ICUMSA is a standard of sugar purity measured through the brightness of sugar. read the standards at What does ICUMSA mean?)

In my opinion, 4 things India should work on in 2008 .

1.EU consumes sugar of ICUMSA 45 and below, mainly made from beet. Indian Sugar mills dont yet have the infrastrucutre to manufacture this grade of sugar. This needs to be developed with immediate effect.

2. India should start increasing its percentage of exports in the EU to Chemical and other non-food processing industries which accept white Indian refined sugars. The EU opening up will directly mean a business oppurtunity for India in this segment.

3. Sugar Mills of India are heavily unproductive compared to thier European Counterparts. Its high time for a sugar revolution in India, and we need to set higher standards of productivity in our Sugar producing units.

4. Government should include a more flexible regulation as far as the price of cane is concerned. As of now , the central and the state governments fix the price of cane, and the farmer gets the same amount of returns irrespective of demand or volume of sugar exported. The mills now, have to (by law) consume all the cane produced by the farmers in their territory at a price fixed by the government. If mill owners have to be more profitable after the EU opens ,cost of sugar should also be allowed to vary based on export demand.

These measures and more will be essential to take advantage of the EU markets opening up!! Else with the situation that it is right now, this gift may very well be a sugar candy that you cannot eat!!

Friday, March 28, 2008

One Day, Two Records !

Two people of the sporting world broke interesting records today. Both hailing from two very distinct cultures and in two very different games had one same result-They joined the club of elites in their respective domains.

One was our very own Virendra Sehwag when he reached the 300 runs mark at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai in the Cricket Test series against South Africa, and the other Australian swimmer, Eamon Sullivan, as he raced past to finish his 50m freestyle swimming lap in barely 21.28 seconds at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic centre in the Australian Swimming Championship and Olympic trials.

Virendra Sehwag was still on crease as today's play ended, at 309*, and was looking confident of going ahead and beating Brian Lara's "Highest score in a test match" record of 400 runs not out (held since 2004) in a single innings. With his 300 runs in this innings he enters his second 300 run haul, and joins the club of Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara , the only other two batsmen in cricketing history who have two 300 run scores against their name. Sehwag had his last 300 against Pakistan at Multan in 2004, where he finished with a score of 309. He will now also hold the record for the fastest ever 300 (in terms of number of balls faced) having ‘blitzkrieged’ to the triple century in a mere 278 balls. While he took 116 balls for his first hundred, he needed only 78 balls for the second and just 84 balls for his third!

Eamon Sullivan on the other hand, broke his own record in today's finals, having just broken the same record yesterday night in the semifinals. The record for the fastest 50m freestyle lap was being held by Alexander Popov of Russia for 8 long years at 21.64 seconds since year 2000. On February 17th this year Sullivan first broke the record with a timing of 21.56 seconds. It was only last weekend in the European Championships that Alan Bernard broke the record again and held it briefly at 21.50 seconds only to be improved by Sullivan in yesterday's semifinals to 21.41 seconds. But today’s record of 21.28 seconds clearly puts him on the lead with 0.36 seconds of improvement over the record held for 8 long years.

While Sehwag will be hungry for Lara's record as game resumes tomorrow with India on the trail by 72 runs, a lot might depend on when Kumble will choose to put the innings to and end! For Sullivan however, his record seriously puts him at the favourites' slot in the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
For now, its wait and watch!!

Earth Hour - A practical Joke?

On March 31st 2007, several households and businesses in Australia , mainly in the city of Sydney turned off power in a unique first of its kind attempt, to symbolise proactive reduction of carbon emissions .Nearly 2.2 million individuals participated in this mega event. A lot of publicity thrown in by creaters of the first ever 'Earth - Hour' seemed to have emphasised their message clear. "We care about Global Warming."
The cynics started jeering though when reports were released claiming that Earth Hour helped reduce carbon emissions by 10.2%,as against the targetted 5%, and that the whole concept was a huge success. There seemed to be a small catch in the report and all the fanfare. Tim Blair, a popular Australian journalist and an avid blogger quips " Is there any greater example of green stupidity than Earth Hour. The whole stunt requires people to turn off efficiently made and distributed energy —electricity — and replace it with alternatives like candles and gas barbecues that have to be transported by oil-burning ships, trucks and cars to the point where they are to be set fire to in the open air without any means of capturing emissions.” . (Read his rather cynical post on his blog, posted this March 25th on the wake of Earth Day 2008 planned this saturday!- Hour of Power). Critics argue that any saving would have to be offset against additional carbon burnt during the publicity campaign for Earth Hour — for example, a gas-powered hot-air balloon flying over Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide in the weeks running up to Earth Hour, extolling the virtues of energy saving. University of Chicago economist David Solomon claims that the reports on last year's Earth day was exaggerated. He says Statistically speaking, Earth Hour appears to have been a complete flop.
Inspite of all the criticism, the organisers have managed to get on board, several individuals and business units in various parts of the world including those from cities like Bangkok, Chicago, Suva, Copenhagen, Manila, Tel Aviv, Christchurch and Toronto. The campaign is expected to take off at 8 PM on Saturday March 29th 2008, when units will turn off thier electricity for an hour! Organisers said more than 6,000 businesses are participants in Earth Hour. The Glass Brasserie at Sydney's swish Hilton Hotel is promoting an extravagant candle-lit dinner during Earth Hour this year.
The idea sounds truly good, but only symbolically. So if you really care and want to turn off your lights this saturday, make sure you do so without having those candles burning!!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Growl of the Jaguar !

After Tetley and the Corus, its the Jaguar and Landrover from the very Ford family itself that ushers the TATAs into the international space .But this time though the acquisition is even more special because of the very brands Jaguar and Landrover, exceptionally dear to the parent company that will now grow under the stewardship of the TATAs . The US $2.3 billion that TATA will shell out for the brands, the manufacturing facilties, the engineering, technology could surely be a good buy for TATA.

High praise from Tony Woodley, joint general secretary of Unite the union. He says that if Jaguar Land Rover had to be sold then Tata was the best option. "We would have much preferred Ford to keep the companies in the family, so to speak, especially with Land Rover being so profitable," he said. "But with the commitments Tata have given to the future of Jaguar Land Rover and the long term supply agreements for components, especially engines from Bridgend and Dagenham, we're obviously pleased they are in the game." (read the full article in The Economic Times).

Many experts are silently surprised at this buy though. Although Landrover was quite a profitable baby for the Ford, the Jaguar with the rise in fuel prices was more of a loss making bad boy for the American company. Ford badly needed the US $ 2.3 Billion in its banks in the wake of the credit crisis, and there might have been no other reason they would have chosen to part with the premium brands.

For TATA though this acquisition might mean more of a tough challenge ahead. The language of the TATAs seem very confident though.The TATA's are out to do with the Jaguar what even the Americans couldn't. Make profit with the luxury brand-Jaguar. This may not have been possible if not for TATA's huge and diversified conglomerate, ranging from steel to several automobile components. Having shocked the world with the US$ 2,500 Nano, the TATA is now set to surpirse the world in the luxury segment.

While it its yet to see whether Ratan Tata can turn around the loss making Jaguar, one thing is for sure, that the TATAs have proved it yet again , that they are in no mood to rest. Its Vini Vidi Vici for the TATAs.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Art of Consuming and Looking Eastwards

In an earlier post (Krishna Prashanth: An Illusion called 9%), I had compared the GDP growth figures of some developing nations with that of India and had stressed the need for focusing more on growth of consumption than merely GDP growth. This is important if we are to delink our growth more effectively from global catastrophes. With the centre of economic gravity shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it is all the more important that we start looking more eastward and less westward to continue our dream of one day becoming a superpower.

In this post I want to talk about some interesting methods we can do to achieve these two objectives, namely, Increase levels of consumption and starting to look Eastwards.

First things first. Henry Ford, after the Great recession of 1929, increased jobs by largely recruiting people for his great car conglomerate, in turn increased consumption. We can try this novel approach. What India now needs is infrastructure. Roads, houses, and electricity. The government can offer jobs (irrespective of cast , minority status ) to the unemployed by way of creating jobs that will boost our infrastructure. When I refer to infrastructure, I mean better roads, more houses, and better access to uninterrupted power!

Now take a look at our Unemployment rate. It stands at a staggering 9% at the end of 2008. With a population of 1.2 billion, 9% is approximately 120 Million unemployed individuals. Even if you take 50% of that population to be employable (I guess the percentage could be higher in India) , we are talking about 60 Million , or 6 crore work force. Lets say in the first year we talk of targeting 15% of that population we have a work force of 1 crore. Even with a salary of Rs 50 per day (a lot higher than our current annual consumption rate of a little over Rs 20 a day!), we are talking about a total labor cost of 15000 Crores only! (Just 25% of the amount allocated for loan waiver for inefficient farmers) . Put in another 15000 Crores for basic skill training of this work force (irrespective of their level of education!) , and voila we have just created a consumption of 15000 Crores annually. Besides we have brought the unemployment rate down by 7.5% of its existing value. I guess a work force of 1 crore can create wonders.

This may not be sufficient to create better infrastructure, that’s when we open our markets for global power companies to generate more efficient power. Sign the nuclear deal with the US, and create cheaper efficient nuclear power. Privatize distribution and allow even global companies (even Japanese and Chinese ) to distribute power more efficiently. We should target to double our generation capacity in the next 5 years, and quadruple it in 7.

In the manufacturing sector, reduce the aids to EOUs (Export oriented units)and subsidize people willing to manufacture for local consumption. Allow more competitive products in the country from volume manufacturers like the Chinese! Encourage bulk manufacturing and make products cheaper for the masses to consume! Thus the domestic consumption can increase.

Looking Eastwards:
India should sign trade treaties with Pakistan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Japan and allow for foreign investments from these countries. That could be the beginning of our looking to the east. India can allow Japanese agriculturists to grow in India, if they can make cheaper commodities with better technology that is monsoon proof! Don't worry about the Indian Farmer's future. Identify farmers incapable of competing against the Japanese! Offer him jobs elsewhere! His sons will get employed with Rs 50 per day as against the Rs 20 per day that the farmer anyway makes today!

This recession, by the time it is over would leave behind the real winners. Not the ones who can bask about the growth of the past, but the ones who would have delinked their economies from the global catastrophes!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Its Blogs all the Way!

Dear Reader,
This is my 50th post on this blog. And I want to thank you for your valuable reading time and some really insightful comments on the same. I will dedicate this blog to refering to some interesting blogs that have come my way in the recent past.
At this juncture I want to point out an observation that I made about blogs in general. That they are (apart from being the most advanced form of communication) valuable sources of detecting the general pulse of public opinion. While some topics receive extra attention some are just touch and go. You will appreciate this if you have been browsing the 'Hot Keywords' at Blogscope ( While traditional media like the TV or the newspaper relies mainly on what "they" think is important to communicate, blogs in general tell us what people all over "like" and would like to opine about.
I leave you with this thought and a few interesting blogs that I have enjoyed reading.
That's all for now. Happy reading (and Blogging of course!)
Best wishes
Krishna Prashanth

The Mozhi of Music

I watched a tamil movie produced by Prakash Raj last night-- 'Mozhi'. It was a story of a young woman 'Archana' ,who was born deaf and dumb , who didn't appreciate speech,who did'nt understand music and who falls in love with a man of music, a keyboardist. Well, it was a neatly crafted movie with humor aplenty. If you haven't watched it yet, I might recommend it.( Warning: Dont expect some intelligent thinking or curious plots. Its not of that class. Just enjoy it!).The movie however resounds an important thought that i want to discuss about here. The idea of music as a language rather than just a form of sound delivery. The idea of music as a medium of instruction rather than a mode of entertainment.
Music has been the friend of man since time immemorial. It is still not very certain regarding the origin of music amongst human beings. Besides in my opininon such information might only serve as valuable piece of historical information and no more. Because unlike the art of writing or engineering , 'an-ear-for-music' cannot be taught and does not go down through generations. Its more instinctive than intellectual. Although the art of creating good music can be taught. Not the way to appreciate it. May be thats why even a small kid in Algeria can get turned on listening to M S Subbalaxmi, or an old man in Taiwan listening to David Gilmour.
No, I am not suggesting that 'an-ear-for-music' has nothing to do with the culture of individuals. It is very much the case that culture, profession and standing in the society define the level and the timbre of music somebody appreciates. However , I would first want to distinguish between people who can listen to music and enjoy it and the ones who can listen to music and feel its message and hence enjoy the feeling. These are two categories of individuals in the world. And I would be compelled to refer to the former as 'Music-Deaf' (Kindly distinguish these from the 'Tone-Deaf' )
I meet numerous Music Deaf people all around me everyday, who appreciate "Kabhi -Kabhi' because its catchy and easy to remember, who like A R Rahman because his tunes are 'different' from the rest, who like ' Metallica' because they are 'heavy' , who like 'Harry Belafonte' because he is 'funny' , who like Nirvana because Kurt Cobain was a 'true' rockster, who like Roger Waters because he goes well with Dope and who like Joe Satriani because his fingering is very fast and Bhimsen Joshi because he can hold his breath for long.
But many times (although rarely) I meet those who can see the 'Mozhi of Music' . They can see the image each tune conjures up in their minds. As if each song were telling them something about life. As if each section of a stanza in (irresepective of the language or the content of the lyrics) can mean something. The feeling is the same world over. Perhaps thats why we have chord notations like minor , major or diminished. Because when you play a major , world over anybody who has the 'an-ear-for-music' will feel a positive message, a diminished will create a feeling of sinister or a feeling of depraved sorrw etc.
Whales are supposed to be the only other mammal on earth, capable of singing. But humans cant understand their music. This brings me to a thought that Human-Music is probably the only true universal language of humans cutting across all lines of political , religious, racial and enconomic barriers. If we went world over , a man of music can easily speak to another, irrespective of cultural differences. Music creates a higher world order. Music is the solution !

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Fallen Leaves

Fallen leaves on this pathway
some brown or yellow green
Shine on this sunshine mellow
remind me of what things have been
Of the days I was a young fellow
Of the fleeting images I have seen
Of trains and buses and trite
Of people and their unseen might
Of rivers that whistle a song
but quietly and all night long
Campfires, dances and rosy flowers
broken huts, shining towers

Fallen Leaves on this pathway
some cracked some a mossy mess
Varied like the people I have met
People whom I couldn't like any less
Or those trapped within hatred's net
Of children and their innocent games
Of fights that ended before sunset
people with forgotten faces and names
Weird ideas and unbeleivable powers
wary incidents but certain to the core
Waking to watch those midnight showers
I could never walk that way anymore

Fallen Leaves on this pathway
as they dry down to meet the dust
Like myself at my finest hour
Fleeting seconds that count my breath
As I watch down from this ivory tower
60 seconds before my death

Hide and Seek

I lived on a plateau
with the kids of the plains
played till the moon rose
never knew any pains

They hid in the shadows
and I called out their names
they showed up sometimes
Oh those lovely games

The huts had no lights
save for the lantern flames
and before the sun rose
The beams of the goods trains

Crickets and birds
Chirped in the night light
We knew no reason
No sins and no Fight

And then

The kids of the plains
Went hiding someplace
Now I call out their names
But they left me no trace

Not by the boulders
nor behind any door
and there is no sign
Of those days anymore.

I call out for them
But my sounds die in the noise
of money and sinister
And they dont hear my Voice

The Daughter of D

Diamonds on her fingers
and a stone studded wear
pearls from distant lands
Amidst a platinum glare

Kings from all lands on earth
Princes from far and wide
Ministers, all men of power
All her girl friends beside

Large palaces of grandeur
And mansions flowing with glee
A moment of a divine occasion
The wedding of the daughter of D

She looks like an heavenly angel
She shines under the camera glaze
with all the glitter, and color adorned
Where is the smile on her face?

She stares at a distant nowhere
Beyond the oceans of this noise
Behind all the pomp and grandeur
She has everything but a choice!

Bound by the stones on her neckline
and the words on the Morning Times
She sits without a word spoken
Nor listening to the wedding Chimes

She can’t stir away to her freedom
Feel the breeze in the Arabian Sea
For no matter what she is by herself,
She is the lovely daughter of D.

Distant Moon

Down below falling swords
Craving for a human hand
Nothing said but silent words
Parted fingers, falling sand

And when she smiled a human smile
radiant and warm as the distant moon
dispelled fears of the dark and vile
I learnt I can be be alive too soon.

Saw the light of a friend's trust
Saw the might of a tender touch
The power of love over skinny lust,
and Adam's sin,but none too much

Stretched a second over several hours
Pushed a minute to over day and night
midnight winds into morning showers.
A Picture perfect in Black and White

Learnt the way to share a pie
Learnt the way to lose a game
Learnt to laugh and learnt to cry
To follow a rule and break the same

The grass around my fence grew green
The sky over my roof went blue
The air went fresh like it never had been
Daylight glowed with an yellow hue.

I knew she liked the way I sang
I knew she loved to hold my hand
The spreading joy when her laughter rang
Dismissing grief with a magic wand.

Growing plants of the trust we had seeded
Grew into branches that spread high above
And when at last I felt like needed
I knew for sure I was in LOVE!

Immersed in a fantasy of marmalede dream
Living on the clouds of a sunny day
I fell to trust an untrue scheme
Like an actor in an endless play

Failed to pluck out the thorns beside the rose
Failed to see the end coming soon
To sense the darkness before it shows
To see the craters on the Distant moon!

The end it came like a silent bird
Admist the noises of merriful glee
It came and left without a single word
It was bound to flow,and it did flee

Lost in words of a poets frame
Bound by the limits I cannot cross
An helpless player who lost his game
bearing the brunt of an unbearable loss!

Friday, March 21, 2008

An Illusion called 9%

Looks like we suddenly have something more serious to worry than catching up with China , on its fast paced growth. The harsh reality seems to be that we need to grapple the global recession.
After 4 years of consistent growth of above 9% on our GDP, and Chidambaram's trust on our strong economic fundamentals, many of us reluctant to agree that we may have to fall along with the rest of the world, if the US hits (or has it already hit?) the bad 'R' word.
Was reading an article by Swaminathan Ankleshwar Aiyyar of the Swaminomics fame. (Read the full article here : End of the 9% Growth dream) and would like to present at this point the growth figures of the last four years of some countries probably unheard of by the normal Indian.
Country GDP Growth figure Year
Azerbaijan : 31% 2006
Azerbaijan: 27% 2007
Turkmenistan: 18% 2006
Sudan 12% 2006
Liberia 9% 2007
These growths only go on to accede to the debate that the growth in India was purely a result of surfing on the global tide of growth. Not necessarily due to Indian resourcefulness. The sustained growth of 9% might have pushed us into an illusion with a foul after taste.
The US over spending has undoubtedly created a huge demand for products and services, across the globe and when the demand got stretched beyond limit, anybody who could produce a good or cater a service got the chance to supply the same and make a lot of Forex. The growth has been directly or indirectly connected to the demand from the US. Propelled by the dream of sustained growth the markets were furthur opened. But is the promise of free global markets failing to work?
How delinked we can get to such global catastrophes is dependent on how fast can our domestic consumption grow. We need to aim at a high growth of domestic consumption and not merely an illusory growth due to external demand!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Unhappy Anniversary

Today is the 5th anniversary of the US military operations in Iraq. World over, there is an increasing distaste over the US operations . Nearly 4,000 US soldiers have lost their lives. More than 30,000 US soldiers have been wounded. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed. Millions have been forced to flee their homes. Suicide rates amongst US soldiers have increased by atleast 10%. About half a trillion US dollars have been spent on this mission, and another 2.5 trillion US dollars will be spent on the continuing US operations. No Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) were discovered in Iraq.And yet Al Qaeda is still alive and running!
Enough fodder for one to question the usefulness of this magnanimous sacrifice of human lives and money! However, George Bush , in a speech marking the 5th anniversary of Iraqi operations sticks firmly to his stand. He says that the operations have made the world a safer place to live in.
After the initial embarrassment of not finding any WMD's , it was claimed that Saddam's Government had links to the Al Quaeda, which is still is not proved. Later it was said that Iraq was funding the Palestinian Suicide bombers which didn't seem to be true. Finally it was the oil in Iraq which was blamed for all the burning. The invasion resulted in the gory execution of Saddam, and finally the civil war between the Shias and the Sunnis in Iraq. Many people have begun to wonder if Iraq was after all just another Veitnam, a huge waste of precious lives and money!
In the wake of all this, one is astounded at the ability of Bush to still cling on to his veiws. A better leader might just realise the folly and call his troops back!!

A Bad time to Be a Banker

The US Federal Reserve moved in as a saviour to stop the downward tirade of the stock markets by cutting 0.75% of key interest rates in the wake of the all the misfortunes in the world wide markets. Things indeed seem to have bettered a bit. The stock markets world wide have bounced back significantly. But the question for the moment is "How long will the party last?"

Experts feel that these kind of Fed cuts are fine as far as they are only a stimulus package. Not if these can become the sole backbone of good times. They fear that the environment of rising inflation is not the best for such cuts. Inspite of all that partying today when the markets closed, the fear of recession still lurks!

The fear for the moment is the worst for those working for banks (large or small!) in the US and UK. The fall of Bear Searn has probably triggered the panic already!(Read :The Fall of the Bear!) Its hard to digest that a bank as established as Bear Searn could not manage to convince other banks to loan it money to bale out of its hedge fund crisis. The condition seems tense and the banking districts (mainly in London and New York) are waking to a new reality. The reality of losing jobs.

An official forecast predicts the loss of atleast 10,000 banking jobs by the end of this year in UK alone. Already several employees have got their pink slips in various banks including Citigroup , Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch. The dot com burst in 2001-2003 saw atleast 20,000 banking jobs lost in 2 years. Bankers feel that this recession could be worse.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fall of the Bear !

One of the headlines making its rounds in all newspapers worldwide is the story of the fall of Bear Stearns & Co Inc.(BSC), one of the largest Global Investment Banks and Securities trading and brokerage firms in the world. For a bank having braved several market recessions in the past, including the Great Depression of 1929, this fall comes as a shock to many.
BSC was known for its distinctive performance, and unique employees (close to 15,500 world wide! ) that it housed in its 85 year long tenure from 1923 to 2008. A two time winner of the "Most Admired Company" tag in the Fortune Magazine and the creater of one of the most widely read Market Intelligence report, the "Early look at the Market- Bear Stearns Morning View" failed to get an early view of its preciptious fall on March 16th 2008. The event is all the more shocking as it happened after a firm denial of any cash liquidity problems faced by the company and its Chairman Mr James Cayne , was found participating in a Bridge tournament just after the denial ! Barely a week since then and BSC stock went down to effectively 0! and JP Morgan bought out BSC paying a paltry $2 per share!!
A very interesting character in the rolls of BSC was Alan Greenberg, the CEO of BSC for nearly two decades begining in the late 1970s. His memos to his employees are famous world over for thier candid quality , with a tinge of humour. (It has even been published as a book for the reading pleasure of millions outside BSC ) He wrote to them about a wide array of subjects including the ever so popular topics on Cost Cutting. He is known to have been a cutting writer, and a gentleman who glided his company over the waves , the troughs and peaks. His famous methods include saving on paper clips and reusing paper. But many people also find his weird cost cutting exercises amusing and impractical , like Tying knots on rubber bands to reuse them, Licking one half of the envelope so it can be reused etc.
I will present an excerpt of this memo, dated March 13 th 1979 (Kindly note: this is Copywrighted material from the book "Memos From the Chairman" by Alan C Greenberg).
" certainly looks like we have a dynamic future as long as we remember the words of the famous philosopher Haimchinkel Malintz Anainikal: "thou will do well in commerce as long as thou does not believe thine own odor is perfume'..."
That's exactly what the Great Bear Searn & Company Inc. did!!!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Virgin Concept in Mobile Telephony

More and more companies have realised that Innovation is the only thing that can distinguish any player in this ever increasing competitive environment. Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic fame, has always been a forerunner in this aspect. He was on news for two reasons in the recent past. The first one for his unique experiment of flying his jet liner -for the first time-on bio fuels. This has raised many an eyebrow. Purists in the business argue, that there is nothing remarkable as far as that experiment goes, and that it was just another typical Branson trick to attract media attention. Well! that he certainly attracted. His eccentric, out of the box image has surely gone well with the media so far!

The second reason was his message on the launch of Virgin Mobile in India. Virgin announced a jaw dropping, 10 paise return back to the consumer for every 60 seconds of incoming call entertained. A unique idea atleast for the vast Indian consumer base.
The idea is clear enough. An innovative move to attract users to encourage more incoming calls to have a limit on their bill, and hence encourage more callers to subsribe to Virgin! Neat idea I must say . But before you jump over to change to Virgin connection a small analysis of your scheme would do no harm!

The service expected to be available any time this year, is expected to target the ever increasing youth consumer base (which is an estimated 400 million in India, six times the number in the US!) , and will be purely prepaid in nature. They plan to use TATAs CDMA network infrastructure .

Now for the catch. They plan to charge every subsriber 50 paise per minute for every outgoing call pulse of 60 seconds. So for every 60 seconds of call made on a Virgin -Virgin pair, Virgin stands to make 40 paise per minute, which is actually still higher than some prepaid schemes of Airtel or Vodafone, which make only 30 paise per minute! In both cases (Virgin or Airtel) the idea is to attract a larger volume of customers at the cost of lowering a revenue. But Virgin goes one step furthur by sharing that revenue with the consumer , by encouraging him to entertain an incoming call, thereby attracting a larger subscriber base, and still managing to make 10 paise per minute more than its rivals!
I remember way back in 2001 (When Mobile phones were still the gadgets of the rich!!) people carrying huge brick like phones , and paying heavily through their nose for both incoming and outgoing calls. Barely 7 years later, we are to see people actually being paid for using their phones. Now thats what I call a 'Virgin' concept!

Just In Time- IT Professionals

Many IT firms in Bangalore are looking at a Zero-Bench situation finally. The theory of 'Benching' employees was a typical IT tradition, for some years now. Companies used to recruit huge number of IT professionals in the past and keep them in the "Bench", hoping to utilise them when newer projects will surface. But with most global banking majors across the world delaying or even cancelling contracts, the situation has changed. The Indian IT providers now feel that these very Benches that were once an important asset to capitalise on new oppurtunies, are now a disposable liability. Huge "Lay-Offs" are expected in Bangalore's IT fraternity. Companies that used to show the door to the lowest performing 7-10% of their employees, will now hand the pink slip to the last 25-30%.
Industry experts decline to refer to this as "Downsizing". They prefer to call this a Market dynamics driven cost cutting exercise. Quoting Mohan Lal Menon, managing director of executive search firm Sentient Consulting.
"The message is to cut everything that's directly unlinked to revenue. The heat of the recession is already being felt among Indian providers. As a result, they are looking at all kinds of cost-cutting measures, including people-pruning,"
Productivity through right sizing is not a new thing in the Industry. I would like to draw a parrallel between this, and what happened with the Manufacturing sector, a couple of decades ago.
The Manufacturing sector, realising that productivity can be improved only through lean manufacturing, introduced the JIT (Just In Time) Inventory model. In this model no raw materials will be stocked for future use in the inventory books of any company. The raw materials will be delivered just in time when the final product needed to be manufactured. This ensured reduced cost of Inventory and hence improved manufacturing productivity.
Drawing a parrallel, I wish to replace the 'Inventory' of the manufacturing industry with 'Benches' of the IT Industry. By that logic, the only actual rationalisation of IT professionals can happen, if IT professionals were made Just In Time available when the IT company had a project in hand. This model would comprise, IT Professional vendors recruiting professionals and lending them in contract, for a huge host of IT companies, as and only when they have projects to execute. This would mean that the same professional could work for an Infosys for one particular project, and TCS for another! There will be no need for Infosys to bench employees in anticipation of projects as JIT IT professionals will always be available for contract from the vending company.
This might mean that the huge palatial campuses of IT industries will be crashed down to small offices employing only the bare minimum required, and hence saving the cost of having to maintain huge buildings and IT parks. Besides companies can do away with a host range of HR services,and employee entertainment expenses, which IT companies in Bangalore today boast of.
This is probably imminent , to stabilise Lay Off behaviours in the wake of a volatile market! For it clearly doesn't make sense to 'stock' employees when the going gets good, and 'scrap' them when the going is tough!!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Do you see a Pattern?

When the art of 'Writing' was first being introduced in the Greek Culture, the Greek Orators decided that it was going to be the end of all intelligent thinking. They claimed that if you could write down things which you otherwise had to memorise, your brain was not going to be utilised anymore. They advised their kids not to write as writing reduced thier ability to memorise.
Much later when Bell invented the telephone, the people then declared, that this technology will prevent people from having to write letters. And they will hence be unable to appreciate the thrill and the beauty of writing. They advised their kids to not use the telephone, but to write long letters the conventional way.
When Calculators were invented people concluded that calculators will reduce the ability of the brain to calculate. Teachers and parents frowned at their kids rushing to use the calculator even for the simplest of arithmatic problems.
When the Television was becoming a household commodity, people tagged it the idiot box. Because young kids remained glued to it, and did not pertain to any physical exercise for entatainment. They advised their kids to reduce TV watching.
When Google and Wikipedia , today provide for everybody free and copius amounts of information, people say that such ease of availability of information has made young kids forget the charm of searching of information in a library. Governments (Like China) have tried to ban their people from having access to google and wikipedia because there is simply too much information, and that is dangerous. In fact one lecturer in UK has demanded that her students be banned from using Google or Wikipedia as references for their research work.
Guess what will happen when the new Google Goggles will be launched. A pair of intelligent glasses that will store information about all that you see, and when you want to find that key bunch you have lost, will automatically search and display the image of the location of your keys!
"What you dont have to remember where you left your keys? And Google Goggles will do that for you ? That will make you more lazy and indisciplined"
Do you see a pattern?

The Most Recent Man to have Discovered India- Rahul Gandhi

After his recent expedition in the 'Discover India' campaign, Rahul Gandhi, lashed out a dignified but powerful speech at the Lok Sabha, which was somewhat off-beat ,in an otherwise 'conservative' political environment.
This speech marks the culmination of his campaign which he chose to call as 'Discover India'. A campaign where he visited Orissa starting from March 7th, 2008 and pursued his two favourite themes 'The Tribals Bill' and the 'National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme'. 12 years after both his parents visited the same place, and created the hugely traditional tribal support for Congress. After almost a decade, Rahul entered Orissa in a completely different scenario where the BJP had already made inroads and the Congress was seen to not keep up its promises.
Kalahandi in Orissa is one of the most poorest regions of India, and Rahul managed to strike a chord with the tribals in general. However, it is his speech in the Parliament that managed to take in the limelight. His very strong rhetoric, and powerful oneliners were characteristic of the young and vibrant India image that Rahul Gandhi has been talking about for quite sometime now.
Rahul Gandhi is reminiscent of his father to many people. He has an uncanny habit of appearing more people friendly than party friendly and an ability to appear less agressive and more sophisticated are some traits he might have borrowed from his father.
Whether or not Rahul Gandhi will manage to inspire youth and energy into politics, or whether he will be able to revamp the image of Indian politicians from ' huge , big bellied corrupt individuals' to the ' young educated dignified individuals' , time can only tell!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Athithi Devo Bhava

At a casual dinner table discussion with some of my Spanish colleagues, I was impressed in the way they spoke of tourism in Spain, as a major contributor for their annual GDP. Quite understandable from any Indian's point of veiw.(Don't many of us fantasise of that golden honeymoon at Spain!) What is interesting is that the seriousness with which many tourist dominated countries , look at their tourist guests from other part of the world. This seriousness is a result of a very candid understanding of the nature of the business itself. Tourism in that sense is slightly different from that of other service businesses. Tourism is not just about making available "places" for people to visit, its about making a tourist feel like a king. Its about the people who make him feel that way.
As I get down from my bus at Bangalore KBS at 4 AM , returning from my trip to Vijayawada, I am greeted by a flurry of Auto Rickshaw drivers (the capital 'A' is out of respect), waiting at the door of my bus, compelling me to accept thier services, often quoting favourable phrases like "pre-paid" "meter only" etc. I dont feel like a king waiting to be served by a million Auto Rickshaw drivers.I feel like a guinea pig, waiting to get experimented on by smart, sinister cunning Auto Rickshaw drivers, and only count the seconds before I fall prey to the devious plans of somebody waiting to cheat me. If this is the way touting makes me feel, I cant imagine how abused a tourist from a distant country is bound to feel. Surely not like a king at all!
Touting leaves a bad taste on everyone. I hope somebody understands this. I understand the competition to catch the unknowing tourist from a foreign country (read as white skinned idiot!) I realise that the taxi drivers in the Airport, Railway station or the tourist guides in front of the Taj Mahal or Charminar or the beggars in MG Road are all waiting to make some business. But little do they realise that touting may make them money in the short run, but in the long run they are themselves burning their own business. The disturbed tourist is not likely to speak well of the Charminar or MG Road, to his friends back home. The chances that he chooses India for his next holiday,is that much reduced.
India has a huge possibility of a much increased tourist revenue. But that can be possible only if a few things are to be taken in serious interest by all of us.The most important of all those things is to respect and recognise tourist as a guest. Tourists come to India because they think of it as the land which has welcomed millions of cultures open heartedly. We need to appreciate the cultures of our guests , and demonstrate our open heartedness towards guests. We cannot afford to depict a closed mind towards tourists.
The government and the private sectors have already identified tourism as an important avenue for revenue. A lot of investment is already underway to realise this hidden potential of ' Incredible India'. But all these investments will only make better places for tourists to visit and enjoy. What is more important is that we as Indians make ourselves better people to meet and get to know.
As a closing note I want to tell you about a Swedish passenger , with whom I travelled once. He was 52 years of age! After he realised I was an Indian, he struck into a very incredible conversation with me. He said that he loved India and he loved Indians. He said that he saved money working for 10 months a year (without any leave) and then travelled to a village in North Rajastan to spend the remaining 2 months of his year! He looked like a satisfied tourist. He didn't come to the Taj Mahal, or the Charminar to see India. He straight went to a remote village in the North of Rajasthan to meet the Indians he loved. The Indians who open heartedly allowed him into their village and made him feel like a part of the family! Made him feel good about having to come here every year. I am sure , we city dwellers have an important lesson to learn from those villagers in North Rajastan. A lesson India is supposed to have taught the rest of the world from long long ago. The lesson is simple. 'Athithi Devo Bhava' .

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Railway Dream!

The Indian Railways has come a long way! From being content of being referred to by every Quiz Master , as the largest employer in the world, today it stands at the brink of occupying the slot as the No: 1 Railway company in the world.
The inimitable Lalu Prasad Yadav, Minister for Railways, has proven to be (of all things!) a fine businessman. He quips in his rather non-chalant style, hitting out at the NDA Government for not even being able to pay the Rs 2473 Crores dividend, while in his term the same company has made a whopping surplus of more that Rs 1,00,000 Crores. He proudly declares, "We are not dependent on the Finance Ministry or the Government for any money! We have our own resources."
A truly commendable job one must admit. Hats off to Lalu and whoever else is behind this successful parade. The increased realisation of revenues through increased movement of goods traffic, introduction of easier ticketing services, introduction of "Rail Neer" and many other similar innovative initiatives has really paid off!
But we still have a long way to go! I recall the agony, that I have had to go through every time a ticketless traveller bullies his way through to my seat. In my opinion , Lalu will have to address this one very important setback, that can be a big bottleneck,in the furthur growth of the railways- Ticketless travelling.
I have personally encountered hordes and hordes of ticketless travellers, making their way to their daily routine, (to office mainly) using the Indian Railways free-of-cost! The Mumbai Suburban Rail System, Surat- Mumbai Lines, Bhopal-Itarsi Lines are some of the places where ticketless travelling is a daily routine.
If at all the Railways needs to continually grow in this fashion, the capitalistic approach adopted sounds very useful. But then one needs to balance that off against the socialistic temptation to remain slack against ticketless travellers , just to enable the poor man who cannot afford a ticket!
For many a time, socialism favours the meek and the weak, and gives an incentive for everybody to become weaker to derive its benefits!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Time to Change our National Game?

Sharukh Khan in his award winning movie "Chak De India" plays a hockey coach, driving the not so famous Indian National Women's hockey team to win a gold medal and drives home the populist point "A tribute to the National Game". Makes fine entertainment value. But with our National (Men's) hockey team failing to even qualify for the Olympic event, a lot of dust has been raised about the lack of importance given to our dying national game. With all these controversies the only game to take some beating is the ever so popular Cricket.

I was in Helsinki last winter, a place so far of from India, and with such a sparse percentage of Indian population. I happened to meet a fellow Fin on a train. After some short "hellos and "How do you dos" (typical of a European stranger on a train!). He ventured to ask me "Are you from Malaysia?" I replied in negative. I told him that I was an Indian. Pat came the reply" Oh! Indians guys are so passionate about your cricket!"

I recall this incident, today again as the media and all other notable observers are suddenly back to the cricket bashing, on how too much of importance is given to cricket. The accusations range between varied aspects right from -- how cricket gets too much of media attention, on how too much money is spent on cricketers, on how government spends too little money to protect our National game.

The nationalist pride again displayed for the wrong reasons. (read the post on
This only raises several questions on my mind.

1. Why (on Earth) is Hockey our National Game?.
Yes I know about Indians being the unbeaten heroes of 6 Olympic medals, way back between 1928 to 1956. But then that’s exactly when Hockey started to be played on synthetic turfs, as against the natural turfs earlier. Let us admit that Indians have been struggling with their performance ever since. Today a distant Finnish stranger identifies an Indian through his passion for Cricket! Our identity has changed a lot ever since 1956. Today we are no more an underdog third world nation. Our identity is with rapid -growth, BPOs and Cricket! I think its time to change our National game to a game where we have just beaten the World Champions!

2. Why shouldn't there be too much publicity for cricketers?
Coca Cola is an American Company, Its an avid sponsorer for cricketing events. But so is Sahara Pariwar an Indian Company. Both these companies would rather invest their money in publicity into a game like Cricket which can attract millions of Indian viewers rather than on a game like Hockey, where it is difficult to find one Indian who can recall the names of all players on the hockey turf! Publicity and sponsorship have nothing to do with Nationalist feelings. Its about populist feelings. So it makes fine business sense for Coca Cola, to invest money in cricket in India and maybe Ice-Hockey in Sweden. After all in advertising the returns are where the audience is.

3. Why shouldn’t we treat Cricketers as Heroes?
As far as the Indian psyche goes, Indians enjoy watching, playing, criticizing and commenting cricket! They love the game. Its players provide us a lot of entertainment value. And simply by that logic, they are heroes. I happened to meet a friend of mine in Gurgaon, who told me this,
"I don’t watch hockey, because its boring! there is no charm , thrill and a feeling of strategy in hockey which is characteristic of cricket!" . Cricket is a game of long term strategy which excites Indians. Indians have never been enamored by 22 people running behind a ball (with a stick or otherwise) in a display of physical talent or immediate thinking. Indians invented Chess, again another slow game with a lot of strategic play! If the Cricketers can entertain us, why can't they be heroes?

It’s a new and a vibrant India. Should we still fight to keep the legacy in calling Hockey—A game which we don’t seem to be able to imprint in our identity—as our National Game?

A Costly Celebration - The return of Kashmir Singh

Kashmir Singh was on news with his emotional release from the Pakistani jails, as he crossed the Wagah border last week after having spent 35 years on a death row. His return was celebrated, with the Government of Punjab, declaring him a national hero who had sacrificed his life for the sake of the nation and honored him and his wife with pension, and a job for his son.

But the same hero did probably a costly mistake just as the media approached him. Being 35 years in jail, might have made him unaware of the role of media in today's world and he failed to realize that a miscalculated statement could start a storm.
Quoting him ''My mission in Pakistan was not to explode bombs. I was in Pakistan to get the location of their Army and take pictures to get information about their tanks, their guns, their army divisions and brigade, their units and the names of the officers,''

Ansar Burney the Minister of Human rights in Pakistan's caretaker Government had managed to convince the release of Singh who was convicted of espionage. He managed however to get Singh released with the explanation that he was actually a business visitor, an electronic dealer with a lost passport. He thought that this release will pave the way for a new Indo-Pak relationship, releasing innocent prisoners from either sides of the border.

But Singh's retort has really changed things for Ansar Burney, the Government of India, the 600 Indian prisoners in Pakistani Jails, and 200 Pakistani prisoners in Indian jails. I doubt if Singh's statement of denial later that he was not in a stable state of mind when he made that remark, will do any good. At least not after one reads the rather acid remark in the Associate Press version of the story published in websites including the famous Khilafah. (Read the full report at

In the face of the political change happening in Pakistan, where the elections have clearly shown for the first time, a desire for useful trade relationships between the rival nations, India has a question to answer. Will it remain content with the release of Singh at the cost of throwing a spanner on all the good things happening to erase the hostility between the two nations?
Or will India take steps to avoid running a stick into the spokes? Can India reciprocate by releasing more prisoners from the Indian Jails? (May be even some convicted of espionage?)

This decision can be critical; a soft decision as such can really boost the morale on either side to take the path of friendly economic development.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The worst form of Terrorism!!

I recently heard from a friend about her recent experience in an interview where she was a panelist. She was working for a leading software firm in Bangalore, and happened to be rather proud of her accomplishment of having recruited a large number of competent professionals for her company. What startled me of course is a candid admission she made while saying that, she made sure that no Muslim got screened into getting selected. It shocked me and I thought that I heard her wrong! She explained that it was a dangerous risk to take in Muslims into an organization anymore, besides she personally preferred to work with non-Muslims!

The recent occurrences of educated employees from leading firms and respectable professions in Bangalore being involved in terrorist plots and being accused or arrested have opened a can of worms. I suspect a strong undercurrent which I wish do discuss in this article.

There are two aspects to these occurrences’.
1. The new face of terrorism, which breeds itself within unsuspecting neighborhoods of educated and sophisticated individuals.
2. A form of terrorism, which creates a rift between people on communal lines.

It is the second aspect, which I believe can get alarming. As far as this new face of terrorism goes, it is very interesting that terrorism improvises newer and newer methods of looping in individuals into its fold. In a few years the methods will not be the same. The police system and the government would have posed a check on today's events from happening. That will provoke promoters of terrorism to invent newer ways of propagating themselves.

The alarming aspect however, is that this method employed to loop in unsuspecting individuals is leaving an indelible mark on the communal perception of individuals. It is creating fear in the household, in the peaceful workplace and hence creating a communal rift!!

What has been the worst act of terrorism so far? Is it 9/11 or the London bombings? I don’t really think so, for although these events have caused a tragic loss of life and property; history shows that discrete events however disastrous are easily overcome. But the form of terrorism that is most dangerous and self sustaining is the one that causes permanent fear in the minds of the masses! I am afraid that this form of terrorism has struck!!

The perpetuators of 9/11 or London bombings or any other such act will be sooner or later brought to punishment. Terrorist outfits will also be disbanded in the future. But what all the Governments across the world will find it challenging to erase, is the fear in the minds of the masses, against the innocent peace loving Muslims spread across the world.

While we resolve to fight terrorism, we also need to address this concern! We need to educate our children in schools and homes to delink terrorists from religious identities. We need to realize that a terrorist is a terrorist whether a Muslim or not! It is a tough fight against the worst form of terrorism! But we need to fight it. We need to be more cautious of acts of terrorism, but not let ourselves fall prey to allowing terrorism from taking a communal color.

Friday, March 7, 2008

My Daddy Strongest

Its been quite sometime I have been thinking of writing about this man , who has been more than just my dad .He's been an inspiration, a guide and a role model. Today he is 60 years old, and in my opinion he's led a life examplary , that brings me pride as a son and brings me warmth as a person.

"Born" in India 1948 an era remembered for the left overs of the world's most ugly partition, , "Adoloscent" in an era of bell bottom pants,Indira Gandhi and Shammi Kapoor, "Bachelored" in an era of American Hippies, ABBA and Premier Padminis, "Married" in an era of Cold wars, Mr India, Azharudin and Gorbachev, "Fathered" in an era of Sachin Tendulkar, Reforms, IT industries and AR Rahman, "Retired" in the era of mobile phones, Bluetooth, Dhoni and 20-20. I would call that a rather remarkable profile for this man, who's lived life like the Roman in Rome, revelling his age in his character.

The earliest memories I have of my dad, include watching him when I was about 3 years old, while he was contriving an electric immersion heater out of household junk! Dad has been what one would call a "natural engineer" . A handyman with dexterous fingers that could just fix up anything in a jiffy. He repaired faulty scooters, fans, televisions, VCRs with the ease of an expert, many a times without any formal training to do so. Most of his engineering solutions were ingenious experiments of a clear thinking engineering mind.

All he needed was an old aluminium dish to make a dish antenna to catch television channels in the cable TV era. He was a born innovator. He made lamps, fires, structures, electronic gadgets all with a little bit of imagination and a lot of ease.

The truest of all lateral thinkers I have seen, with a keen eye for puzzles, sudokos and Complex problems. His problem solving techniques were always out of the box, fast and simple. A strong chess player with special strengths in end games and a champion in Tic Tac Toe or Chinese checkers, playing with him was always a pleasure and challenging.

Being a very pragmatic personality,he was a man of few words and strong values. He trusted the power in keeping things simple. He taught us (my brother and me) to enjoy the simplicity of thinking and the joy of taking up challenges. He taught by example the importance of taking difficult decisions quickly and firmly.

60 years might seem a long time for many, but not for this energetic man , an avid gardener and an internet enthusiast now, is still raring to go for long. Looking at him makes you feel that there is no end to learning. It makes you feel the desire to know and to enjoy the pleasure of result!!

On this very day , I want to say , I am what I am because of him and that he has been the inspiration for me to go on to try to reach where I want to go.

Thank you dad, and a Happy birthday.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Bell- All the Way

Today we inaugurated one of the latest Video Conferencing systems , and for the first time communicated with 19 different locations in India, ranging far and wide from Ludhiana to Coimbatore, from Ahmedabad to Bhubaneshwar . All in same real time. At the headquarters at Bangalore, we had meetings ,discussed strategy, decided on important action plans and concluded with an all surmising communication of our BU Manager addressing atleast 300 people from the nook and corner of India. All done in real time. What would have otherwise cost several weeks of laborious travelling and a lot of money, was now over in just 1 hour and just a fraction of the money spent!!
I felt overwhelmed and excited at the distance technology has come.It has come a long way for sure. And today just as I am browsing through the wiki sites, discover, that this very day in 1847, the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was born.
Bell was also called "the father of the deaf" His father, grandfather and brother had all been associated with work on speech and sound and both his mother and wife were deaf! His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices that eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the invention of the telephone in 1876
The telephone in its earliest form from Bell's labs was a far far cry from what communication is today. With the first invention, users had to have dedicated lines running between their units for transcoding sound. With the invention of multiplexing, and several other technologies, followed by the copper cables, then the fibre optics, the internet and finally today , technology is an indispensible part of our communication.
I read recently that Cisco systems were offering Video conferencing solutions that not only enabled you to see and hear people across the world, but also feel their presenceas if they were really sitting next to you.
Where technology can take communication into, is just anybody's guess. All the way every March 3rd, Bell counts on, what his invention has created for the world.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Loan Waiver -A bad precedent?

The Budget- 2008 has been termed as a "Farmers Budget" by many. Even before the entire budget speech was concluded, crowds thronged before , 10 Janpath street celebrating and revelling at Chidambaram's promised Rs 60,000 Crore of agricultural loan waiver to farmers by 30th June 2008.
Meanhile Sonia Gandhi flashes a victorious smile before the camera and declares "...this has been a revolutionary budget ...for the farmers in particular.." Quite a revolutionary budget one must say. Given the fact that it is still not clear what kind of financial instruments the Government will resort to ease the writing off of Rs 60,000 Crores in loan, it is indeed a 'wait and watch' situation.
Now, with Chidambaram's inimitable style of setting himself a deadline for a task such as this, one can only expect to see one of the two possible outcomes
  1. The UPA Government fails in meeting the deadline or calls for election before that date and passes on the new found burden to the next Government.
  2. The Government actually manages to find finances to fund the whopping waive off.

If the outcome happens to be number 1, then its a furthur 'wait and watch' situation. But my concern in this blog is what if the outcome happens to be number 2.!!

Whether policies like Loan Waive off or Reservations are populistic political measures employed by Governements in power , I am not sure. But I cant help wondering what repurcussions do such measures have in an economic sense!

If the Government actually manages to waive off the loans, wont it be sending a message to every farmer in the country that " If you take a loan and repay it, You are a fool!"? Wont these measures act as incentives to loan defaulters to continue to default, because sooner or later , any Government in power will have to follow Chidambaram's precedent and waive it off.

Won't these measures act as deterrents for banks from actually handing loans over to farmers for agricultural developments? Won't these throw our agricultural economy to dwindle furthur from want of funds? In the name of a " Farmer's Budget" are we compromising on the farmer's competance to produce efficiently and make a profit enough to repay a loan? Are we throwing the agricultural sector into the dark ages?

Why can't we on the contrast penalise farmers for defaulting? Why cant we force the agricultural sector into becoming more efficient? This probably leads to the most disheartening and dangerous truth of a democracy like that of ours. That populist Governments no matter how well they mean, cant overlook the pressures of the majority vote!