Showing posts from September, 2008

Would India be hit by Global Economic Crisis?

This has been the dinner table topic for most of my week, with everyone asking about it. It is interesting, because for most Indians, this economic crisis is still a distant thing. Well, most, except the workers in BPO , who got hit first. I was telling someone that this is like an impending Tsunami. It is instructive that when the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami took place, the ocean water actually receded in some places and people flocked the shores wondering what's happening: And, then it came. I see the same confidence on many Indians, especially those investing in real estate. Someone told me that in fact this crisis will eventually result in global economic leadership shifting to India and China. Not an unusual opinion. Another opined that India will not have a mortgage crisis, as lots of black money is actually sunk into property and there is little reason to default for Indian borrowers. Yet another said that India has real demand - as opposed to speculative demand which d

Travelling in India - Delhi

We have finally left Mumbai and come to Delhi. New Delhi, more precisely, and put up at the Le Meridien , on Janpath . So, I can look into the Rastrapati Bhaban out of my window, and can take a morning stroll on the Rajpath . The contrast between Delhi and Mumbai is so prominent that one of the fellow mission members could not stop pondering, in the bus, why we went to Mumbai at all. I am sure she was doing a mental comparison with the stream of humanity outside the Lower Parel station, and tree-lined streets and roundabouts on Janpath . There were comparisons made of the roundabouts on Delhi streets and the roundabouts in Craigavon . Delhi appeared calm, well-composed, planned and beautiful, a different world from the frenzy of Mumbai . The difference was even more pronounced in the evening. The reception was hosted in a farmhouse in Basant Kunj , instead of a city hotel. While the road to the farmhouse seemed leading to nowhere, and we covered miles of unlit road to turn into

Travelling in India - Mumbai

I am in the middle of a tour around India - with a Northern Irish trade mission first, but then by myself - wherein I shall cover six to ten Indian cities over next two weeks. With a break, of course, I shall be in Manila the next week, but this is possibly the longest exposure of India I shall have after a real long time. As I said, I am already there in Mumbai . I am staying in Le Royal Meridien , which is a fine hotel just by the International Airport, and within a close range of Andheri , which I presume is a sort of a commercial hub. This hotel is styled for colonial luxury , with Mahogany desks and beds, and dining and wining facilities in the style and tradition of the raj. I am here with other Northern Irish business executives, and for most of them, this is the first time to India. I am certain they will find this hotel a bit alien, but thoroughly enjoyable. I confess - I haven't asked them; I just guessed. However, I have noted the most common question Indians ask their

A Party for Bengal

It clearly seems end of the road for Tata's in Singur , as Mamta Banerjee continues her intransigence and Bengal Government continues to fiddle. Ratan Tata was fairly clear when he warned that he would not mind shifting, if the safety of his employees is not guaranteed. He also has a deadline to catch and a commitment about cost to honour. With every passing day, he is getting better and better offers from other State governments, all of whom want an iconic investor like Tata come to their state with a path-breaking project like the Nano . All it will take now is a single incidence of violence for Tata to pull the plug. In a democracy, protests like this are allowable, but have their own place. Democratic countries are still to be governed, and unreasonableness can not be tolerated. With all due regards to democratic rights, this was one situation where a firm administrative hand was needed. And, in this regard, the government of West Bengal failed its people. The Governmen

The Great Indian Middle Class

I have been reading a number of books on marketing in India, and noticed a consistent theme in the analysis. I am referring to a body of published and unpublished literature, research reports commissioned for specific purposes and sociological studies. While these agree/ disagree on a number of issues, all these research agree on the peculiar position of brands in the Indian marketplace. India is supposed to be an attractive marketplace. Supposed to be, as the numbers are huge and a bit of money is supposed to be floating around. So, there is talk about an Indian middle class, the size of which is hotly debated and put anywhere in between 40 to 400 million. The variance is based on what one will call the middle class. The bottom three-fourth of this populace will not qualify as middle class by any rich country standards; but, of course, the new fortune-at-the-bottom-of-the-pyramid thinking has certainly brought them into the party. This is the figure which George Bush famou

How bad is the economy really

As we are trying to restructure our business, but also launch in the new countries at the same time, the key question that we need to answer is - by our best estimates, how bad is the economy and how long this crunch time is going to last? This week had its share of bad news. Lehman Brothers, an Wall Street institution but now a struggling bank, is on the verge of collapse. Since it announced bigger than expected losses last week, most of its market value has been wiped out already. The executives at the Lehman Brothers are trying to find a buyer - Bank of America is in the reckoning as well as Barclay's - and they must do this by tomorrow evening. If they can't do it before the Asian markets open on Monday, we are possibly looking at a full collapse - of the bank, but this will possibly affect banks elsewhere and may be countries. The housing market news isn't any better. It continued its downward trend in the United States, and in Britain, the house prices are down 15% f

Restructuring Our business

I came back from India with a rather expected discovery - that we need to fix our business model somewhat. There is this thing about business models, they are easy to get wrong. We have got it wrong because we haven't done all the thinking beforehand. However, the good news is that it is still not beyond redemption, and it can still be fixed. I realized that I could blame no one but myself for getting this wrong. Not just this was my responsibility, no one else was looking. So they would not have known. They wont still know if I don't tell them. But I have now decided to live my life differently, and vowed not to run away from trouble, but to stand up and face it. I am not sure this courage thing will pay off. I am not even sure that this is an intelligent strategy, given that the job market is turning south and i haven't saved much money to see myself through. However, I have not done the 'right' thing too many times in life - when I faced a difficulty and even if

Should Britain Apologise?

Italy recently apologised to Libya for its occupation of the country between 1911 and the Second Word War and offered an investment deal of $5 Billion over next 25 years towards reparation. This is largely symbolic, and investment deals could have been done without adding this moral halo . But the apology itself is an important step. The key question is one of principle, indeed. It is about whether the occupying countries do accept that their colonial exploits did enormous harm to the occupied, and whether they are ready to accept the responsibility. As the world becomes more sensitive towards the wrongness of occupation [even George Bush was heard saying that occupation of Georgia by Russia is unthinkable in the 21st century!!], and the world justice system gears up to try the leaders causing genocide and violence, paying for past crimes - including occupation - becomes ever more relevant and important. There are several issues which are still hotly debated - slavery, for example,

On My Way Back

Finally, I am back in Dubai, after an almost three week long visit to India. My longest till date, most involved, and most frustrating at the same time - but I learnt my lessons and going back with enough food for thought. I spent most of my time in Hyderabad, where our business is primarily based. My time was productive - we signed half a dozen outlets in Mumbai , as well as started an interesting conversation, which may actually lead to a few big orders. More importantly, I got significant strategic insights - not something completely new, but something which I have been thinking about and needed proof to take action. The insight is, as I actually wrote earlier, that we got our business definition wrong - we are not in the English training business, we are in the franchising business. We got this wrong since day one - trying to run the courses ourselves and creating a tried-and-tested model. But the truth is, while we learnt important lessons by doing training ourselves, financially

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