Showing posts from May, 2009

South Asia : The Chasm Inside

If one is to sum up the affairs of South Asia so far this year, it will read like this: (A) Pakistan resumed its civil war, after attempting to reach, and then aborting, a peace deal in the Swat valley. Currently, Pakistani Armed Forces are engaged in a civil war and they claim that the extremists are pushing back, at least from the main towns. (B) Sri Lanka claimed victory in its two decade long civil war, after the LTTE Chief, Prabhakaran's body was recovered. This victory, however, comes at a great cost - the final phase of the battle saw brutal tactics employed by both sides. Cornered LTTE used Tamil civilians as a human shield, and the Sri Lankan government, emboldened by the silence of all major powers, bombarded the civilian positions without any humanitarian considerations. Peace holds, for now, though thousands of Tamils live in refugee camps, and despite the military victory, the society remains deeply divided. (C) Bangladesh put down a bloody mutiny earlier this year, wh

Amitabh Bachchan Turns Down Australian Ph D

The news reads like this - Amitabh Bachchan has turned down a Ph D degree from Queensland University of Technology , Brisbane, on the wake of racist attacks on Indian students in Australia. In a statement on his blog, Mr. Bachchan said : "I have been witnessing, with great dismay and shock, the recent violent attacks on Indian students in Australia, on the electronic media the entire day. I mean no disrespect to the institution that honours me, but under the present circumstances, where citizens of my own country are subjected to such acts of inhuman horror, my conscience does not permit me to accept this decoration from a country that perpetrates such indignity to my fellow countrymen." This is indeed a grand gesture, sure to get some media attention. But in my view, a rather meaningless, and possibly a dangerous one. Obviously, the racist attacks are obnoxious , and need to be nipped in the bud by Australian authorities. However, this should not elicit, at least at this

Elephant in the Neighbourhood: India in New South Asia

Over the last week, the shape of the new Indian administration has become clearer. It did emerge that the leadership of the Congress party is ready to do some fresh thinking, and they are fully using their mandate to take some strong decisions which were long overdue. Unlike the recent fresh faced administrations in the United States, Bangladesh or Pakistan, the new Indian administration does not start with a burden of a huge expectation. So far, they have used this to an advantage and delivered, or at least appeared to be delivering, more than what was expected, booting out the incompetent and the corrupt, reigning in undisciplined allies, projecting a national agenda over regional populism, and instilling a sense of new initiative and direction. Next few months will affirm how much of this will hold the momentum and make a difference. For the moment, however, it seems okay to enjoy a sense of new urgency. We have already seen that in Finance, where, if rumours are true, the governme

Back in India

I am back in India after a considerably long time - 7 weeks! Considering that I travelled almost 129 days in last six months, seven weeks at home was a really long time. I was enjoying the wonderfully summer, and almost getting back to normal - all appliances in my house was back functioning, I was picking up the post the day it is delivered, reading the current magazines, driving the car - I probably have not lived like that since June 2007! As if I was becoming too happy! My nightmare indeed started the moment I landed in the Kolkata airport. I almost concluded that Emirates Airlines will soon lose its edge with the rest of Dubai, and even toyed with the idea of flying Jet Airways between Heathrow and Mumbai this time. But then the relative ease of getting to Gatwick won the day and I decided to give Emirates a try. I was proved wrong - the flight was unbelievably busy - and right, because it did seem that Emirates is losing its touch. The Emirates flights between Dubai and Kolka

Looking at Cross Culture Training

I am currently working on putting together a business plan for a Cross-cultural training practise. Initially, we offered such training for our clients in Hyderabad covering the symbols and rituals of Western culture. And that was alright - that's exactly what the clients want in India. This is a critical requirement particularly in the outsourcing space, where the agents, usually an Indian graduate, sometimes with an advanced degree, need to taught to interact of the clients, usually an European or a North American organization. A big slice of this training focuses on language, how to talk like an American, for example, and some part of it goes to the manners and rituals of American life. The continuous stream of requests that we got convinced me that there is an opportunity to create a specialist Cross Culture training practise, either as a separate business or as a separate division within an existing training business. However, I am also convinced, by watching what is being deli

Wishing An Indian Cabinet

The currently popular pastime in India is picking a cabinet - rather wishing a cabinet - to lead various important functions of the Government for next five years. Like everyone else in the country, I did play this too. My wishes are on the basis of assumed competence and knowledge. Alas, the cabinet in India is usually not picked on that basis - the legislature and the executive are closely linked in India, and besides, some allies are keen on extracting a pound of flesh. Besides, I would not know all the ministerial positions and all the MPs , so this is indeed an useless exercise. But then, I am sure I am entitled to play this game, like everyone else. My choices here: The Prime Minister: Dr. Manmohan Singh. He has proved himself to be an able administrator, a man of principles, and a competent leader. Deputy Prime Minister: Needs to bring back the position. Pranab Mukherjee . Played this role for most of the time anyway. Manmohan Singh needs a political man to cover him sometime

The Question Of Burma

While I am in the midst of many other things, I feel duty bound to write about Burma/Myanmar. This is common knowledge that there is a trial on, and Aung San Suu Kyi , the 63 year old leader of Burmese democratic movement, is being tried for violating the terms of her house arrest. Her crime: An overzealous American well-wisher swam across the lake to enter her house, without her prior knowledge, of course. He was told to leave, but the American, who tried to do this before and was stopped by the military authorities, pleaded exhaustion and was allowed to stay. So, the general kindness, allowing someone who took enormous trouble to reach her, will get Suu Kyi into jail again. This is outrageous. The trial is, the charge is. But more than that, it is outrageous to see how little we can do, and we shall do. I said the trial is common knowledge, but I know it is not. Most people in India, Burma's immediate neighbour, do not care. There is indeed a strong public opinion in the Stat

Private Notes: Finding A Direction

I am all set to travel this week after almost six weeks, if we discount the travels to Ireland. This is also going to be one of my last trips to India in my current job. I am hoping to conclude a deal to sell our centre in Hyderabad and if that happens, though I have initially committed to stay on till end August, I may want to prepone that date and leave earlier. May be by 31st July! That will make me happy. The point is I am not enjoying what I am doing any more. Hence, this day-to-day business is hard to keep up with. This has happened for quite some time now - I have told my colleagues about my decision to leave back in November and serving an almost one year long notice period - and progressively it is becoming difficult for me to keep my focus. More difficult is to sell at this time, knowing in my head that I shall not be around when these sales come to fruition. It is not about the commission because I actually don't get anything upfront, but also the involvement - business

Spare A Thought for West Bengal

The election dust is all settled. There is indeed no final settlement in politics, and today's victors and vanquished can change positions almost overnight. But while everything is transitory, there is one enduring truth, politics is cruel on people and parties who refuse to learn. And we shall see. The results of this election lead to continuity, in governance and in political equation overall. Except in one state, that is. Indeed, West Bengal just experienced a mini-revolution. After 32 years of Left Front rule, this is suddenly the first time when the opposition has done better than the ruling left front. No one expected this. In fact, the Left Front expected a better show from opposition - there was a palpable voter fatigue - but they were benchmarking the opposition performance 1984 - 16 out of 42 seats. This result, 26 out of 42 seats, reducing the communists to an insignificant 24 seats in the parliament [which is the all India tally of the left parties], was unforeseen. Thi

The Watershed Moment

India's electorate continues to spring surprises. A largely illiterate, prejudiced electorate - what do they know of governance and democracy one would think - defies the political pundits and vote maturely and with great judgement. I am so delighted to be proved wrong regarding my fear that this election will have disastrous consequences and I hope my delight will be shared by many across the country. We did think that the terrorists attacks on Mumbai and Varun Gandhi's antics will create an wave of hatred in India towards minority communities and carry the election. We thought Prakash Karat's private revenge will play spoilsport. We also thought that the royalists in Congress will jump in with Rahul Gandhi's candidature and undermine the strong record of competence of Manmohan Singh. Everyone predicted that this will be a fractured mandate and the real game will be played after the election, and various end-of-shelf-life politicians propositioned and postured

Withering of The Alternative Front

We are more or less 12 hours away from the results of the Indian election. The exit polls are out now, and there is a huge swirl of speculation around at this time. I am trying to follow NDTV, though they are now mostly showing footage of 2004 because there is actually nothing to be shown. This wait is most agonising, especially because this is a watershed election and the results will have a long standing impact on our country. This is also the perfect time to indulge in a little speculation. In a private blog like this, there is no fear of being off the mark - in fact, that indeed is the point about this freedom. So far, the exit poll data and all the commentators are pointing to one obvious thing, which we indeed knew much before all this had started - that the Third Front, a so called opportunistic amalgamation of self-important parties led by the communists will wither away even before the results are announced. So far, various parties, who allied with the communists, have already

The Question of Caste: How Caste Affects Work and Consumption in India

In my previous post about caste in India, I made a reference to Rama Bijapurkar's We Are Like That Only, a book about Indian consumers and devising strategies for Indian market place. In this book, Ms. Bijapurkar made a comment that caste is not important in business and consumption behaviour in India. My point was that this commonly held view is wrong and that the Urban India is in denial of the problems of casteism . I saw Ms. Bijapurkar's comment as representative. However, I do think my comments on the contrary need elaboration. I said caste is important, but did not explain which way. Some readers wrote to me stating that while Caste is an issue, it may not be of significance in the urban markets, which the multinationals are primarily concerned with. I think even this view is wrong, and that caste has an enduring and deep significance in Indian culture and our behaviour. This post is a quick comment to justify why I think so. Let's face facts. Today's India'

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