Monday, March 23, 2015

Why a strong Indian National Congress (INC) is essential for India

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don't want to jump to that conclusion yet but fair to say that the indicators are not too good. The BJP having got a full majority on their own has made them feel invincible. Remember the India shining campaign. Similar thing is happening now with the kind of advertisement spree of the BJP. It is such a shame that they think they won the general elections 2014 due to a strong media blitz. Such lack of respect to the then Prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and his team of lieutenants.

This government won on the basic premise of development with the Gujarat model of development as a benchmark. I do not want to dwell much whether the Gujarat model is a model which can be emulated nationally or whether the model is itself self-sustainable, as the naysayers would say. The Prime Minister has been quite forthright with his views and is in a combat mode to get the economy back on track. His direct interactions with people, and putting India on the world map through international engagements and diplomacy has no precedence in Indian politics. Kudos to that. However, all these good aspects have been over-shadowed with various aspects of Hinduism, ghar-wapsi, attacks on minorities among other things.

If BJP believes they won the general elections 2014 because of direct interaction between the PM candidate through Twitter then it should also realise the double-edge of twitter. Every small mis-step is blown out of proportion on Twitter and can come back to bite BJP in a big way.

Here it is required that the Indian National Congress, a national party in true sense of the word steps in. If INC are not strong, BJP will face un-sustained resistance from other parties and it will not be good enough. And it will allow BJP to get away with unpleasant things. Moreover, 4 years down the line when the general elections are due in 2019, the electorate would not have a viable option if BJP fails to perform. The Indian electorate has been intelligent enough to not give a fractured mandate in 2004, 2009 and 2014 and I would not want them to be a position where this could come true. Because as they say, lesser of the evil is better. The small regional parties in the Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and a few other states do not have the vision to take India forward nor are there enough intellectuals to know what is good. They have too many vested interests to be good for the country. Therefore, like it or not, do wish and pray fervently that Rahul Gandhi takes on the mantle and is ably supported by good people in the Congress. The Gandhi family is the glue keeping the INC together and we have to take the thorns for the roses.

A special note for AAP considering the positive attitude it gets amongst the middle class for taking on the establishment. It will be naïve to think that they will be a national player anytime soon. I wish I am wrong. They need to prove themselves in New Delhi before venturing on the national stage. It will be better if it proves itself in a few other states before going national. Else it too will add to the possibility of a fractured mandate in 2019.

To be less harsh on the INC, there did some miserable mistakes during their two terms. I hope they have learnt their lesson. Only if they get their act together will they have a chance of redemption and give India a viable and strong option, come 2019. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Live for money or money to live

When the Sensex is down a few points, it becomes a headline. Farmer suicide never becomes a headline. Corporate awards are headlines. Why are there never awards for agricultural excellence. Attack on the rich in Taj Hotel becomes a headline. Attack in Assam never becomes a headline. Subsidies and loan waiver to farmers become a headline. Land at concessional rates and tax breaks to industry never make headlines. Oil spills in the Sunderbans never make headlines. Restrictions on industry to pollute makes headlines as anti-industry. Minimum Support price for farmer output makes headlines as subsidy but salary increments in April for industrial employees is a right. Profitability is measured on the Sensex but is employee life measured on the Sensex. Down-sizing of employees starting with blue-collared workers is acceptable when real down-sizing will start if white-collared workers in middle and senior management are asked to go. But that is not palatable because a white-collared worker is considered to be an asset for profit-making whereas a blue-collared worker is a liability during weak economic demand.

For all its good aspects, Capitalism fails on these points miserably. For a country like India where there is such a large population without basic food, shelter and clothing and there is constant pressure on urban infrastructure, capitalism can never be the answer. Because the vested interests for a capitalist mind-set will hinder increased standard of living across the spectrum.

We all have lost our first identity as humans. We prefer to identify ourselves by our nation, religion and name, in that order. Humanity and compassion are being lost in pursuit of materialism.  

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Growth is the most important word for everyone these days. How do we define growth? Simplistically, the amount of money we earn. As it increases, we are growing. And for others to grow, we need to spend. Velocity of money, isn’t it? Surprising though that in a world as divergent as the human race, money has become the sole parameter to define and measure growth. It doesn’t matter what we do to the environment. It doesn’t matter about the deep chasm between the haves and the have not’s. Ethics, values, compassion, love are all kept as ornaments on the mantle. It is not needed on an everyday basis. Use it as we deem fit for our comfort.

Why are we moving towards such a consumption mindset, if we already not were? Why do we require material assets to be happy? The demon of inflation never had so much of fury than it is now. We are all defined by governments as economies rather than societies. What we offer to the world in terms of supplies and how much we consume show our place in the world pecking order.

Thus we have the Thanksgiving or Black Friday sale in the US, the Dubai Shopping festival, and a host of online sales by retailers at deep-discounts.

This brings up the question of online retailers which are the biggest thing in India currently. We have India’s locally grown flipkart closely followed by US giant amazon and other local players such as jabong, snapdeal, indiatimes among others. Every other day there is a big sale announced. The USP of these online retailers is less price vis-à-vis brick-and-mortar stores. And that too from the comfort of the house without having to venture out. This saves us a lot of time. But by saving the time, what good are we doing? Do we go out and play sport? Do we read more books-online or offline? Do we spend time with our family or friends? Do we explore nature? Do we go out and help the needy? Then why are we saving time. What is our achievement in saving time. This is least of the problem. The problem lies because the kind of promotional activities that are done makes one wonder how did we all survive and make purchases when online world wasn't there. We are enticed into buying a host of goodies which you would not bought in the first place were it not for the low price and deep discount. You begin to wonder that do we buy because we need it or want it or desire it or just because we are getting it at a low price.

In the Maslow's hierarchy of needs, after the first two stages, there has to be a third stage of deep discount. We all are swayed immensely by low prices. Digging deeper, one feels that consumerist mindset isn’t the real problem here. The real problem is our disillusionment with the world and our surroundings. There is lack of empathy among people. Tolerance levels have reached its nadir. And therefore we find gratification when we are in possession of physical objects. We love that object more than the people surrounding us. Why? Because the object behaves as we want it to. It doesn’t expect from us. Whereas people expect from us. Thus it is easy to be in the arms of a dispassionate object than having to make sacrifices or leeways with our loved ones. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Did god fight with bhagawan? Then why are we fighting.

It is ironic and sad that there is so much of hatred in the name of religion. A common thread in all religions is live and let live. What is religion? In simple terms, religion is a set of ideals laid out by the Supreme force unknown to all and who we are in awe of. I will not say here if it is god or bhagawan or deva or or allah or give it any identity. The whole concept of an individual believing in the Supreme and the one who doesn't believe in Supreme (an atheist) itself is wrong. Because the Supreme is called into the field of play of our life only when we are taken over by the fragilities of human nature- happiness, sadness, fear, greed, jealousy, and to satisfy the ego of our five senses. Thus everyone believes in the Supreme at some point in life and is an atheist at other times.

Critics might point out that there have been wars since time immemorial on religion. This argument precisely defeats the purpose. Every religion has its sacred books and mythology which talks of the way of life and asks us to choose a path. It means we all have to learn from these stories and from the past. Therefore, if we have a history of wars based on religion, this should not act as a rationale to continue. No history in the world talks of a war between god and bhagawan or between allah and deva. It is individuals who have fought wars out of fear of the morbid.

In the current context, the people of all religions have been wary of existence of another religion. There seems to be an one-upmanship race between different faiths. This is like asking a mother to choose between her two children. Different religions ask you to search for the end result which, in Hinduism (or better say as Sanatana dharma) is Moksha, Christianity is Gratification or Nirvana and in other religions has different names. Wishing is done by people in different ways. Some say hello, some say namaskar, some say salaam, some say as-salamu alaykum. Does the underlying feeling of greeting one another change with the change in language. If it doesn't, then why should our belief in our Supreme change.

If some people do not believe in a particular religion and foul-mouth it, they will pay for their deeds. Letting your anger overpower the good in you affects the Self more than the other. And this has scientific acceptance than mere philosophy. Killing, to avenge the desecration of a Supreme manifestation, cannot have any justification. If everyone starts to think for themselves and not assume that self-thinking is a voice of the collective, there will be no bloodshed. Ever. We all are humans first. Humanity takes precedence over any other belief or ideology or faith. Humanity reigns the Supreme. Being humane will always be in fashion.  

PS: I have used lower case for god, bhagawan, allah, deva because, for me, these are the collective. It is an objective perspective, an idea rather than a material being. And I have used Supreme as a proper noun to signify that that is the only idea which, although non-material, is the one binding force. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Loss of compassion

Why have we all become so discompassionate about our fellow human beings. There is anger everywhere. And this anger is exacerbated by social media where we vent this anger and have our friends and acquaintances add fuel to it. We are unhappy with each and every product and service we are offered and make sure that those companies know it. Should we not give them a benefit of doubt that they made an honest mistake? Probably they knew they were not doing the right thing but were hampered by the system.

We get angry with the airlines if they are late. Fair enough. But no airliner is perennially late. We are angry if the check-in baggage comes late. We are unhappy about our telecom service providers. We have endless complaints about them not responding to us. We are unhappy about politics. We are unhappy about corruption but will indulge in it as per our discretion. We are unhappy with the restaurant if the food comes a second late. We are sarcastic about the food with the waiter if the food is less tasty by an infinitesimal amount. We are unhappy about rickshaw and taxi drivers over-charging but we can do it with our customers. We will break all traffic rules and blame others for the traffic.

All companies have their senior management living a luxurious life but go for downsizing as soon as the quarter sales are not up to the levels of ‘stratospheric’ satisfaction. All that each company cares is profit at the end of the year and for attaining that, the process is immaterial. Ethics, laws, helpfulness, care, empathy, respect and family can take a back seat. Sales people are driven by fudging sales numbers, accounts people are driven by window-dressing the financial statements, finance people find ways to raise money through short-term objectives, human resource people are worried about least employee cost. There isn't an end to it. No one cares about the skilled worker on the shop-floor. Or the security personnel who is watching over your multi-billionaire conglomerate. It is ironic that you have mega photo-shoots with poor children to show that you are doing your bit of charity and spend millions on television ads when the same money can be used for the betterment of those children.

Why are we becoming so impatient. What are we going to do with the time we are saving by not stopping at the 30 second traffic signal. We are always on the worry about our jobs because we have so many wants which we assume are our needs. Social media has made people consume things to show others that they are living an exciting life. The situation is rather contrasting. Lifestyle diseases are on the rise. Love is at an all-time low.

Look inward and you will see that there are solutions. If we stop living life like wanting to consume each and every materialistic pursuit available, we will have more time for ourselves. We will be more accepting of supposed problems in our life and be compassionate towards people. Respect a human being and not the chair that he occupies. The sweeper is not less human than the Chief executive officer. Everyone is bound by the same life and how you help others show who you are than the external manifestation.

Our current ways of life can be summed up by the two lines of this beautiful poem from W.H. Davies “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ban on loose cigarettes. Uncalled for. Look beyond the obvious.

It is sad that we all consider cigarettes and alcohol as the only evil. An individual smoking a cigarette of drinking alcohol is considered to be having a bad habit or an addict. There is a whole laundry list of wrong things we humans do but none get the kind of blame as cigarettes & alcohol. I do not smoke and I drink occasionally but I abhor the kind of condescending attitude towards smokers or drinkers. We all do corruption in some way or the other. We all find ways to avoid taxes. We all (Men, in this case) are to be blamed for the crimes against women. We all exploit individuals working under us (agree it or not) through less pay or inhuman working conditions (read, workers cleaning the sewers or coal mines or maid at homes among others) yet take the moral higher ground when it comes to ethics. We all watch pornographic videos. Has banning porn reduced divorces or infidelity? Guns kill more people in the world than smoking and alcohol combined. The crux of the matter is that we pick and choose what is right and wrong for us.

The problem lies in our attitude to look at external beauty and get impressed, to look at materialistic objects and feel proud. We never look beyond what is visible to the physical eye. Since time immemorial, cigarettes and alcohol have faced a larger tax because it is a luxury and the government wants to reduce its consumption. Yet the consumption doesn’t reduce because for every person dying or giving up the habit, there is a college going student introduced to it as the solution to all ills. There were written warnings on cigarette packets. Subsequently they introduced gory photos. Why is there not a warning on liquor bottles? Why are there no photos on liquor bottles. Man is designed to find out ways to do things when told not to do so. We all know that corruption is wrong. But it still exists. The only way we can reduce consumption is by educating the people about the perils of both these things and then let them decide their course of action. Force will not work and never will.

The government needs to find ways to educate the children, right in school. Education is the only way consumption will decrease. Who is the government or tell a person what is right and what is wrong about a personal consumption. It is entirely his or her prerogative. If it doesn’t affect other individuals, then it shouldn’t matter. Every individual is intelligent enough for his or her volition. A teetotaller isn’t a morally better individual and neither is a smoker/drinker a morally degraded one. Move beyond the obvious. Try to find the underlying which affects human decisions and then work on that underlying. Until then, we will have more bans which will not work. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yuvraj Singh and the frustrated Indian citizen!

Who can forget Yuvraj Singh crying after the World Cup win of 2011. It still gives goose bumps thinking about that campaign.

The seething anger at Yuvraj Singh over India’s surrender at the finale of the cricket World T20 shows a lot about the state of mind of the current Indian.  To put it in a harsh way, it shows a lot about ‘what is wrong’ with the state of mind of the current Indian citizen. The stress of elections 2014 and the hope of better governance is taking its toll on the average Indian. Let us look at cricket first and then move on to Indian psyche.

The rise of Sachin Tendulkar coincided with India climbing up the global success ladder giving it confidence to be world-beaters. The era of the Gangulys, Dravids, Laxmans came to an end with the meteoric rise of current India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and present heart throb Virat Kohli and in-between we had Yuvraj Singh and Virendra Sehwag. The contribution of out-of-favour Virendra Sehwag has been exemplary but it does not match the heroics of a Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj has been the darling of the masses starting from his exploits in India’s win in the under-19 World cup followed by a dream debut against Australia in 2000 in Kenya consolidating it at the Natwest series in England in 2002, catapulting himself with six-sixes in an over in World T20 in 2007 (which India won) and the ultimate pinnacle of World Cup 2011. It would not be exaggeration to say that the kind of influence he has had over India’s success is unmatched. Don’t compare his individual records with others because individual performances matter less in a team game.

Yuvraj’s personal fight with to overcome cancer and his subsequent return to International cricket is nothing short of a miracle. He has not been the Yuvraj of yore though. We can draw parallels to the state of economy that India finds itself here in 2014. India also was a darling of the International investors not too long ago and the eminent rises of the Indian economy never ceases to the hopefuls. We have flatter to deceive more often than not. As the world comes out of a trough after the highs between 2002 & 2007, India does not seem to find favour with those who form the bulwark to get the world economy back on track. Yuvraj and India seems to follow a similar path. Just like Yuvraj who finds favour with the captain and selectors based on past performance and talent, India too finds favour among the international community on basis of past performance (namely the importance of BRIC) but this does not translate into on-field performance.

The suppressed energies of India’s youth due to an overall letdown of the incumbent government over the last decade find its outlet with the seething anger at Yuvraj. Cricket has always been passionately followed in India but the expectations surrounding the grand entry of India into the World Cup final turned into a damp squib. Yuvraj found himself at the centre of attention when he unintentionally turned out to the anti-hero with his hapless performance. But the Indian fan who had sky high expectations could not bear the loss. A team failure was attributed to one person who bore the brunt of freedom-of-speech on social media. It doesn’t augur well for the incumbent government considering the kind of restlessness among the citizens. Sports and movies are an escape route for the citizens of a country who are under stress of under-performance and lack of satisfaction in daily life. When this escape route meets a dead end, it is bound to create repercussions. And the seething anger at a failure in sports is one such repercussion. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Good guys always win. Arvind Kejriwal’s story though is unfolding otherwise

Good guys always win. And I think Arvind Kejriwal’s innings in the politics reinforced the fact. Last two months though have saddened the lot of people who believed in the Arvind Kejriwal Story. I still think over a longer period of time, he might bring about a change in the political mindset even though he may not remain a major player.

He won people’s hearts with his actions which were in sync with the way people liked their leaders to be. Simple, straight-forward and action-oriented. Everything he said after forming his political outfit, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was in tune with the ground realities. Corruption has always been an impediment all over the world and it is no different in India. That does not make us attuned to it and he rightly made it is agenda to root out corruption. He also understood the people’s problems with the current political functioning and the disillusionment of the working class who contribute the majority to the exchequer. Against all odds and disrespect from the leading political parties and with a lot of trepidation, he fought the Delhi state elections 2014 and came out the second largest party. As destiny would have it, he became the Chief Minister of Delhi.

With all due respect, he had the chance to prove that he walked the talk. Unfortunately, we do not know what transpired or what was the thought process of him and his team. They went berserk with announcements which by all counts were populist. A lot of unconventional methods went into the kind of governance. Austerity drive that did not materialise, alleged anarchist attitude with the Dharna, vigilantism to catch corruption through hidden cameras, on-ground mob mobility against alleged drugs & prostitution. All the actions were for the larger good although they might not be too pleasing to those who follow the rule of the book. It won him friends and foes as well. Lot of arguments about the process being right or wrong. And then the Jan Lokpal. Not being allowed to get it through, the unnecessary accusation of the Lieutenant Governor being ‘partisan’ and the ego battle to pass the Jan Lokpal finally took out life out of the Arvind Kejriwal Story with his resignation as New Delhi Chief Minister.

It is a case of missed opportunities. He could have been slow with the announcements and could have had a measured approach to governance. He though thought otherwise. Wanting to go for the big-bang statements and have an immediate impact.  I think he has over-estimated the success story of AAP far too much. I hope I am proved wrong. There is a theory going around that they are looking at the bigger battle now i.e. the Lok Sabha elections 2014 in May by contesting 350-400 seats out of 544. Apart from the resources required for such a large scale elections, they do not have the individuals who have a mass acceptance. Merely fielding social activists or corporates will not guarantee success. It worries me that in case the results do not come out as expected, the whole movement might fizzle out. Thus I hope better sense prevails and Arvind Kejriwal takes a long-position rather than go for instant gratification. You should not try your luck too far. But then Arvind Kejriwal has being unconventional and might make a lot of us ‘eat crow’ with its success going forward.

Bottomline is- goods intentions do not necessarily translate into actions. And altruism isn’t always better for others especially when it comes to being on the administrative and governance side. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Romanticism- thy name is Rahul G

                                                   (pic source:

It always is a pleasure to see romanticism in every walk of life. Rahul G personifies the romanticism in politics at its pinnacle. Much has been said about the interview this week and reams of newspaper and electronic space will be devoted to intricately dissect every word said. It was sort of a damp squib at the end of it.

Any individual who isn't related to India and has not seen the last 10 years of India's journey would not be blamed if he chooses to endorse him for the next PM. On the basis of sheer innocence and forthrightness. But as always, there is more to it than what meets the eye.

Rahul wants to go for 'Business Process Re-engineering' of the political system i.e. make radical changes than go for ‘Kaizan’ i.e. slow and steady improvements. Nothing wrong in the thought. However, if you consider the anomalies, extremities and dichotomy in behaviour. On one hand you want to scrap the ordinance which bars individuals with criminal proceedings to stop contesting elections but on the other, you align yourself with the RJD chief implicated in a scam. On one hand you pride yourself on bringing in the Lokpal but on the other, you save the politicians from the Adarsh scam. On one hand you talk of 'women empowerment' but on the other, you do not take a 'zero-tolerance' stand against injustice meted out to the fairer sex. On one hand you talk of opening up the system and bringing in meritocracy in selecting individuals for elections but on the other, you are a beneficiary of dynastic politics. On one hand you talk of RTI as a game-changer but on the other hand, you have the biggest scams in India- Coalgate & spectrum allocation wherein your coalition partners ran amok and you were a sitting duck. On one hand you talk of Narenda M and his government abetting 2002 riots in Gujarat in spite of him being exonerated but were audacious enough to accept that 1984 riots had a few Congressman involved. This isn’t an endorsement of what happened in Gujarat. It is your double standards on two heinous events.

Having said this, you still want to believe him when he says that he isn't afraid of Narenda M because it is a trivial thing for someone who has seen his Grandmother and Father assassinated. When doubts are raised on him being afraid of a one-on-one contest with Narenda M, it is a metaphor being used. We know he isn’t physically afraid of Narendra M and he need not be. If I want to be harsh on him and turn this issue on its head, it can be argued that he is indeed afraid of being the PM as it gets him directly in line to be assassinated next. He might like to be in power yet without having this precedent and thus have a dual power centre as is the case with his mother and the current PM. I do not want to believe this but circumstantial reasoning might force me to.

'Women empowerment', opening up the system to meritocracy, making India a manufacturing hub to compete with China, and eradicating corruption are issues common to not just India but all countries in the world. It is a no-brainer that this has to be done. You will be treated with respect if you show- in actions- how this will be done.

Sycophancy is ingrained in Indian politics and thus he isn't shown the mirror by someone. And this is the reason you have to Aam Aadmi party taking shape to fill in the void. They have ideas and have shown the willingness to take actions. They are faltering at the moment but no one doubts their credibility. Credibility for the other political parties is at stake. Lip service and honest intentions will only help you to a break-even point. Deeds will get you the respect and support to govern. An attempt to have an upheaval in the current political system isn't necessary. What is necessary is to bring accountability. Having your ear to the ground will help. Hope a time doesn't come when you behave like Queen Marie Antoinette of France who, on being told that the peasants had no bread, said “Let them eat cake”.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Request to the Aam Aadmi Party’s First Among Equals

 Success has taken quite a liking to you. Your impeccable strike rate of hitting the bulls-eye on first attempt might have few precedents. IIT in first attempt. Civil services in first attempt. Chief Minister in first attempt. And who knows, Prime Minister in first attempt as well. Life is good to good people.

 You have been like an Arab spring of 2013 for India. It has shown our democratic foundations are as strong as ever. But admit it that you too would have been surprised by your performance in the New Delhi state elections. Even more surprising would have been Indian National Congress' support to you to form a government. And most surprising would be your own acceptance of the support provided by the INC. Because your entire election was fought against Congress' indiscretions vis-a-vis corruption. Pragmatic people have no doubt this was the right thing to do considering the high cost of re-elections. And this also gives you an opportunity to prove your mettle the first time. The start of your innings as the CM started on good footing with attempts to be a common man as the name of the party suggests. No red beacons on cars. No palatial bungalows. Although these are small issues and tokenism, you have won the hearts of millions by practising the Gandhian principles of austerity and not just wear the Gandhi topi.

 Things though have been off-course. Nothing against populist measures such as electricity and water subsidies but retracting on the FDI has been a regressive step. Yes, there are instances of FDI not helping many countries though that cannot be considered as empirical evidence. As marketers have understood, no other country can even come close to India's diversity in terms of cultures, languages, perspectives and landscapes. FDI will help India in solving supply chain issues via infrastructure growth and reduce inflation related to supply-side constraints. Kindly have a rethink. You also need to have an economic cell to develop economic policies because being new, your team doesn't have the experience of policy-making. Not that it’s a problem but it needs to be addressed on priority.

 Two things have to be addressed by you- citizen empowerment and economic development through the most-abused word in politics these days – inclusive growth. Both these things are inter-dependent and could act as imbalance in isolation. When the citizens are empowered, there will be economic development and when there is economic development, the citizens will feel empowered. Your movement was started with an endeavour to root out corruption and the disillusionment of the populace towards the political establishment. The latter is because of the former and the helplessness towards the former. All countries face the uphill task against corruption and India is no different. It would be foolhardy to think that corruption could be eradicated although that could be the ultimate vision. We, as human beings, are the ones who make laws and therefore have the wherewithal to find loop holes and make ways around it. Materialism is the root cause of corruption and any government cannot change the thinking of an individual. It would be better to concentrate on the process and reduce the dependence of any individual on another individual especially a government employee in different department. Corruption in private sector is generally towards the giver rather than the taker. It is in bureaucracy that corruption is at an individual stage and palm greasing becomes the norm rather than an exception. Thus rationing, excise, property, water, electricity, energy, public works department and such places need to have oversight and less influence over policy. If this can be done, then corruption automatically takes a back seat. Sting operations & phone help-lines will help but as I said, eventually people will find a way around it. gauging the root cause will help rather than excessive policing. It is better to have more controls in place rather than administering medicine on a case-to-case basis.

 The other necessary issue is of economic development. And this I am saying from a national perspective. There is a need to bring accountability in public institutions. No white-collar job is safe in private sector where you perform or perish. Why doesn’t the same barometer apply to government institutions? There is a tendency in India to apply for government jobs because they offer job security. An endeavour should be made to change the perception because this results in lack of accountability. There are no checks and balances. Cartelisation is banned through the Competition commission of India which keeps a hawk eye on private companies. But no accountability is the biggest cartel by government employees. They can hold the public to ransom at their whims. Socialism has its advantages but this is harming all. Free electricity, free water, low energy prices are affecting the overall economy because subsidy becomes the norm rather than an exception. Would it not be better to have the infrastructure and businesses in place that people earn enough to pay market price. This would bring equilibrium to society and the gap between the haves and have-nots will come down.

 The kind of activism that is on display will alienate the thinking middle-class and further increase the disillusionment with politics. A goodwill wave with the Aam Aadmi party isn’t strong enough to catapult it into the national centre-stage. You need to go slow. An attempt to expedite might result in unfavourable situations. Like if you contest 400 + seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, and if you lose heavily, it will have a domino effect on your supports, majority of whom are youngsters looking for instant gratification. It would be better to show you mettle in New Delhi and decide to strike it by going national. That doesn’t mean you don’t contest Lok Sabha 2014 but go small and in territories where you can relate to the issues at the grass-root level.

You have bought politics from a dirty word to the buzz word. Efforts need to be in place to sustain it and work towards cohesive governance. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why the Indian Rupee isn't appreciating anytime soon


I might not be wrong to say that at no point in time since India attained sovereignty, has the Rupee depreciation seen such a public discourse. Social networks have played a part in this. It also points to a fact that the Indian masses are much more educated and aware of the economic scenario in India and the world over. They are discerning to the issues affecting their lifestyle and savings. India was always known for its scientists and mathematicians, from Aryabhatta to Bose among others. Indian economists were not too revered. It was always about the Keynesians & Hayekians. Things have changed now with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen to the Prophetic Raghuram Rajan and Ex-RBI governor YV Reddy, who got accolades for his iron fist in insulating India from direct damage of the 2008 economic tsunami.

Getting back to the vertical descent of the Indian rupee, it’s slightly difficult to give weightage to the factors for this slide. Global economic scenario and India's economic policies are to be blamed. It was a foregone conclusion that as soon as cheap money through US quantitative easing starts reducing, it will have direct consequences for the emerging markets where majority of this money flowed. The timing though was not factored in. Among the BRIC countries, India is the only country with most diverse democracy. It can be strength and equally a weakness. The economic loosening for the Indian industry expected as early as 2004-5 never occurred. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and Foreign Direct Investment  (FDI) in India was ‘despite the policies rather than because of’. The overflowing coffers of cheap money from developed nations had to flow in India. The developed markets were saturated with predictions of a laboured economic recovery. Economists again got it wrong this time with US showing more than just green shoots. Naturally the money was going to flow out at the slightest hint of recovery. This was exacerbated by the India's obsession with gold and the ever-burgeoning import bill for energy- oil & gas.

India has flattered to deceive more often than not on the economic front and this time was no different. With the desired policies not on the anvil, the rupee will continue to fall or abate slightly but appreciation seems a far-off. A year to go for the General Elections 2014, economic policies would be the last thing on the minds of the government. With so many allies to answer to, arriving on a consensus on policies which are harsh in the short-term but good long-term is extremely tough. The focus will be on cobbling their allies to stick together during times when there will be heavy horse-trading. The government and the bureaucracy will go in auto-pilot mode with no major reforms allowed to go through.

Increasing interest rates too cannot be an option because the domestic industry has been calling for reductions from the Reserve Bank of India to facilitate growth. Interventions by the central bank in currency markets will be a temporary balm. It cannot be sustained. Thus they too have been wary of meddling with the markets. Good economic outlook in US/Europe, coupled with lack of reforms and significant energy increases - all these factors are heavily against the rupee strengthening anytime soon. It might recover about a percentage point or two but to levels about a year back seem improbable. 

A clear path might start be visible once the General Elections are over and economics takes precedence over politics. That too would depend on the overall economic strength of the developed markets. Till the time, India has to survive with a weak rupee and hope to live to fight another day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pepsi & Coca Cola – contrasting TVCs

Pepsi and Coca Cola are fighting for the same market through the same media. Such a stark contrast in its communication. Coca Cola’s TVC is a continuation of its Open Happiness message. A melodious and hummable sound track about all the crazy things we do. A good blend of young and old characters can be seen in the ad. Pepsi’s TVC, on the other hand, has a peppy tune. It uses its three brand ambassadors, Priyanka Chopra, Ranbir Kapoor and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Clearly they are targeting the young audience. Coca Cola’s ad though is sans any brand ambassador. Over a last couple of years, Coca Cola seems to have moved away from using any brand ambassadors.

Pepsi’s ad is more a reflection of the current thought-process of the young Indian. They want to live in the present, enjoy in the present without much future planning. It may seem reckless on the face of it but it shows a couple of things – one, they are confident about the money flow in their future i.e. with respect to their careers and two, confidence in the Indian economy to outgrow any downturn and churn out high paying jobs. Coca Cola is the more sedate of the brands and its communication mirrors that. 

Pepsi has a slight upper hand in the coming summer due to its title sponsorship of the IPL and it will go all out to leverage this. Plus having MS Dhoni as its brand ambassador, arguably IPL’s Most Valuable Player over the last 5 IPLs, will catapult it over Coca Cola in the short run at least. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mahindra and its font change

When Mahindra launched their vision of ‘Rise’, I hailed it as an outstanding though-process. Mahindra was getting ready to catapult itself into one of the biggest brand for automobile manufacturing in the world. It already was the largest manufacturer in terms of Tractors with the acquisition of Ssangyong.

With the aim to continuously strive for more, and rise in terms of everything- volumes, numbers, brand awareness and brand equity, Mahindra was charting its way on its own accord. The type of communication through Television, print and online showed that Mahindra had marketing and brand managers attuned to the highest forms of creativity. Mahindra has changed their font in its latest communication change. The ad released in national dailies talks about the rationale behind selection of the font. Creative renditions of fonts are subjective like all creative outputs but the adjectives used to explain the font are slightly haywire. How can hunger be attributed to that font. Or for that matter, nimbleness. Quite strange reasoning. Plus it mentions that the logo is subtle in change, which indeed it is. But if it was subtlety was to be kept, why change it in the first place.

Another thing of note is that the full page print ad doesn't show the Mahindra symbol. Wonder about the future usage of that symbol. And if it is going to be used in future, why make its absence conspicuous. In the complex jargon of advertising and abstract thoughts, basics or obvious interpretations are given a miss. 

Source: Mumbai Mirror - 30 January 2013

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hermes - Absolute luxury

Only a handful of brands command the kind of awe, adulation, aspiration and unqualified love as Hermes. The mere mention of the name gets ooh-and-the-aahs from the audience. Wearing a Hermes accessory is a sign of arrival on the uber-luxury scale. A favourite amongst the fairer sex especially the page 3 socialites from Sydney to Mumbai to London and New York. Hermes gets unparalleled attention.

This full page ad just showcases the carefree attitude of the Hermes user. It is of note that nowhere in the ad is there a mention of a product/accessory of Hermes. The question arises that if it has so much of a brand value, why does it need to advertise. The objective of the ad is only to increase awareness of the brand in the nouveau riche and the aspirational-wealthy class. Thus although an ad, it hardly has the requisites of a print ad. Just the contact details to know more about the brand. It isn’t loud yet subtle and classy in its appeal. The target audience of Hermes doesn’t differ in any of the attributes required by a buyer based on location.  Undoubtedly, it is an international brand. 

No wonder then that the creative rendition, by Publicis EtNous, isn’t from the Indian arm of Publicis and uses an international model. Luxury brands have to be extra-careful in its communication because the awe is its unique selling proposition. It is intangible. It is priceless. And it’s tender in its image. Handle with care. Hermes it is.

The only slight disappointment - it should have been on the first page rather than the last.

Source: Times of India - Bombay Times- Last page - 16 January 2013

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mercedes – downgrading the elusiveness

Everyone feels the pinch of the downturn. Luxury brands feel them the most since they are conspicuous consumption. Luxury brands chose the communication of conspicuous consumption to stand apart and be a luxury brand. The secret of a luxury brand is to always remain aspirational and elusive. And yet have a target market to generate your profits. Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Gulfstream, Porsche, Gucci, Rolex, Jimmy Choo among others are brands who stand for absolute luxury.

These brands command a premium for the badge value. And the only way it is lost is if it becomes ubiquitous and thus loses the aspirational value. There is always the pull factor associated with such brands. They should never go for push. Discount, sale, freebies, value-for-money should never be associated with luxury brands. Mercedes was most luxurious known brand in India for a long time before Indians started knowing about BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Rolls Royce. Having already lost this tag, Mercedes is doing itself no good by having the ad as above. Zero insurance cost, zero maintenance cost and zero interest cost seems like an ad by any of the other mid-level car brands such as Maruti or Tata or Hyundai. Anyone owning a Mercedes wouldn't just have that car but at least one more. Such costs wouldn't matter to the targeted audience. Reduction in these costs wouldn't be the deciding factor or compelling factor to buy a Mercedes. Although it seems that this ad hasn't been done by Mercedes but by the Distributor, Mercedes shouldn't have allowed it. Building a luxury brand takes eternity but losing it doesn't take more than an ad like this one.

Source: Times of India – Bombay Times – January 06, 2013 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

IDEA’s idea of customer engagement

India is one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing countries for telecom companies with tele-density on an ever increasing curve. No wonder the last few years have seen outstandingly creative work coming for telecom brands. To name a few, the Vodafone pug and then the zoozoos, Airtel’s catchy tunes, Idea’s sirji, Tata Docomo’s series of ads.

Idea has consistently come up with diverse attempts to stand out from the clutter. Their new campaign ‘honey bunny’ tries to go the ‘ringtone’ or ‘caller tune’ way. A famous musical piece always gives a top-of-mind-recall. it’s very much a tried and tested formula. Thus goes away from the risk-taking creatives IDEA is known for. Having said that, the tried and tested works and this case is no different. We are seeing, or should I say hearing, a lot of these ring tones and caller tunes.

An example of the popularity can be found out from the following video done by a family. The entire family is the cast who enjoy the song to the fullest. IDEA brand managers would be smiling from ear to ear on seeing this creative rendition of their baby. It won’t be a surprise if this video goes the ‘Kolavari de’ or ‘Gangnam style' way. The success to viral videos is the simplicity and how it connects to the audience. This video is shot well, although post-production work has gone into it. It doesn’t look like a professional’s job done in a studio but a wonderful effort nonetheless.

This video might not result in increased sales for IDEA but it increases brand awareness. With technology available for shooting videos, companies must attempt to engage customers to join in fun. This could give some food-for-thought to brand managers to leverage technology to gain customer engagement. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Nice campaign by Gillette – shave or crave!

They say role models sway buying decisions or at least influence it heavily. Hrithik Roshan made the one-day stubble as a fashion-statement after his mega hit debut movie. It surely resulted in guys shaving less and keep a stubble. Shah Rukh Khan sported a beard in Chak De India. It might not have resulted in guys keeping beards but it did bring facial hair in vogue again. Gillette’s launched its “women against the lazy stubble” campaign in 2009 to make men shave and not keep a stubble.  2012 now has the ‘shave or crave’ movement by Gillette. It talks about women opposing the evening stubble. An attempt to increase sales through increased shaving times.

This strategy, with an objective to increase product usage, is the low-risk growth strategy as mentioned in the Igor Ansoff product-market matrix. Gillette authenticates their claim of women opposing facial hair by showing off the Nielsen survey. The findings may be true but it’s quite a personal choice. A good attempt by Gillette in a low-involvement category. Not only would it increase sales, though not substantially, but also help in top-of-the-mind-recall for the Gillette brand. With good looking ladies such as Malaika Arora Khan & Neha Dhupia endoring the product, it will also grab eye-balls.

Gillette Fusion Gamer priced at Rs. 299/- seems to be a tad high. Such a strategy should focus on absolute margins through volumes. A use-and-throw razor priced under Rs. 100 would have been more appropriate. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Renault Ensemble

This ad deserves to be on the front page of a leading daily newspaper or its centre-spread. Not because it has a great creative but because of the objective with which it is made.

Renault has had a very slow start in India. Their partnership with Mahindra & Mahindra resulted in Logan but it did not last long enough. Seems the synergies did not work out between the between the Tractor-behemoth and the French elegance. Renault rejuvenated itself and we see this awesome ensemble (Renault Koleos, Renault Pulse, Renault Fluence, Renault Scala & Renault  Duster) from the design houses in France. This ad showcases what Renault has to offer and thus had to have a bold visibility to take effect. Rather this ad was languishing on the last page of Hindustan Times and one of the middle pages in Mumbai Mirror eschewing the whole objective. And what's worse, it was just a half page ad.

Wonder if their agency Law & Kenneth had any say in the size and placement of the ad because they would have not agreed with what eventually happened. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

NO! YAMAHA for guys

Yamaha’s foray into the scooter market, for females, with the launch of Yamaha Ray hasn’t enthused me too much. Yamaha, as a brand in India, has a masculine feel about it. It is one of the earlier entrants in the Indian bike market in 1990s before the Hero Hondas, Bajajs, TVSs were even thinking about bikes. Yet it seemed they were never keen to market their products in India. Reasons could vary from an lack of understanding about market potential or focus on other high value developed markets or reluctance to introduce products in the price range available in India.

Past few years has seen them aggressively enter the Indian market with the launch of its various products such as FZ, FZ S, Fazer, R15 among a host of other 10+ products. They did well to have John Abraham as the brand ambassador. Although not a leader currently in the Indian two-wheeler market, Yamaha is making deep inroads with its offerings. Their Yes Yamaha campaign is well received and has a strong recall value.

Yamaha always was considered as a Male brand. With John Abraham as the brand ambassador and the kind of communication, the belief was further strengthened. The belief would be on shaky grounds now that Yamaha has come up with scooters for the fairer sex. Yamaha Ray has Bollywood actor Deepika Padukone as its brand ambassador. The target audience would relate to Deepika endorsing the product. But it surely is going to make the boys unhappy. Imagine tomorrow Harley Davidson coming up with a scooter for girls. Would it not affect the cult following the brand has. With this new offering, Yamaha might be able to expand their market and add to its bottom line through volumes but it loses on its core value of a masculine brand. Building this identity has taken years but breaking it isn’t go to take that long.

The least they could have done was bring it as a product, and promote it, with an individual brand identity separate from the family brand Yamaha. Probably that might have helped preserve its original character. And the guys would have kept on identifying with YES YAMAHA

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The politics and economics of FDI !

The INC  would feel a sense of déjà vu because in its first term, the CPM pulled out over the nuclear deal issue and in its second term, the TMC is pulling out over the FDI issue. Both parties from West Bengal, a state which has not grown as well as other states (with Metros).

The big-ticket reforms by UPA 2 have taken everyone by surprise. The corporate world has welcomed the move, the so-called rating agency S and P has stopped short of downgrading India’s credit rating and the stock markets are on an upward movement. All the news channels are going crazy over the positive news as if a magic wand has been taken out by the government to spur India on its growth trajectory.

Somehow we are made to believe that when the corporate world is happy, everything is fine. There is a perception the world over that when stock markets jump, it is good news. There is no thought given to how does it impact the common man. Now I m not being a socialist. We saw it during the 'occupy' Wall street movement in the US. The markets show just the 'sentiment' not reality. The volatility in markets is considered as a positive virtue whereas for me it shows the frail nature of thinking of those involved in influencing the markets. How do the fundamentals of a company change every day?

Is there a thought given to how would FDI in retail help the farmer. Would the farmer directly be able to sell to the manufacturer of food products or sell it directly to the retail megamart. What are the resources to enable him to do that? We indirectly assume that these multinationals such as Walmart, Carrefour or Tesco would take care of the back end of the supply chain. There have been umpteen examples of companies failing when a business model which works in one country is applied in other country. Yet we believe Walmart will be successful in India. Yes, we would get more products from abroad and there would be reduction in prices but it is beneficial only to the middle class and upper class. Not to the producer i.e. the farmer.

There are insinuations that the government acted because there were criticisms in the western media. It may or may not be true. For the western world, FDI or FII in developing countries decides whether the country is moving in the right direction or not. Should we not think ourselves about our people? I may sound as protectionist and anti-globalisation but it isn’t the case.

Yes, our fiscal deficit is increasing with diesel subsidy. Why can we not increase taxes for companies say, for example, over USD 10 billion. If a company makes USD 100 million in profits taking USD 10 million as taxes doesn’t change much in its coffers except for the promoters stake.  We have a leading airline about to go bankrupt although its promoters own a multi-million dollar racing team, million dollar cricket team, owns yachts and flies only corporate jets. They hold the country to ransom since there is systemic risk of losing jobs, PSU banks losing money indirectly affecting the investors.

Politics is affecting the economy adversely. Awaiting the time when we would start thinking in a balanced way and move over materialism.