Yesterday evening, I was at the Royal Academy of Engineers to attend an event arranged by UK India Business Council, around an Indian Business delegation from Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI). Chaired by Rt Honourable Patricia Hewitt, the former Secretary of State for Health and current UKIBC Chair, this was an interesting conversation between British Asian businesses and the representatives of Indian businesses.
The theme of the evening was focused on what the election victory of Narendra Modi led BJP means to business, and everyone was quite upbeat. The conversations focused on decisiveness, on things happening, and the fact that this is the first one party government in India after 25 years (Rajiv Gandhi's government, which had a massive majority, lasted till 1989). Rather than actual policy changes, the message given out was that the things that were stalled will now happen.
In audience were Srichand and Gopichand Hinduja, who confirmed that they have seen immediate impact on project clearances after the new government has come to power. This was about infrastructure projects that were awaiting clearance for three years and have now been cleared within a few days. There were other such points made about transparency, including quick environmental clearance, web-based project workflow and the government's intent to make India business friendly.
Naina Lal Kidwai of HSBC, who was in the panel, spoke about new initiatives of RBI in proposing new banking licenses, including creating special purpose banks, which will be exempt from the priority sector lending requirements (requirements of lending to agriculture and rural industries, which all banks in India have to, and which often becomes non-performing).
Another point made by Ms Kidwai was interesting to note. She spoke about the states taking the lead in legislative innovation - the talking point was Rajasthan proposing radical reform of the labour laws, which is a big issue for Indian businesses - with a benign centre facilitating the same. This was a observation worth noting, and one factor about Indian policy-making which often gets obscured. It was also interesting in a way because she made an important mistake: she said Mr Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to have served previously as a Chief Minister of a State. It was an astounding oversight from a person of Ms Kidwai's intellect and erudition, because Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh and H D Deve Gowda were all Chief Ministers of their respective states before they became Prime Minister. Indeed, one could argue that Mr Modi had a significant stint, which none of the others have had, but there are only a few State Chief Ministers in Indian History who have enjoyed an unbroken stint like Mr Modi (but there are others, including his party colleague, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, and indeed the Bengali Talisman, Jyoti Basu).
Regardless of this, Ms Kidwai's observation was important, because one remains unsure whether Mr Modi's victory will mean the Union government in Delhi trying to claw back more powers than it already has. In fact, one of India's problems is that the government is too distant from its people, and its States, which often is very powerful (a point was made that while one talks about business friendliness of the Indian government, it is the state governments that make all the decisions) but has limited resources to do anything. If Ms Kidwai is right, and India moves to a more devolved financial structure and decision making, that would be great: But, at the same time, this is at odds with the strong central government Mr Modi is promising to deliver.
One could also sense from the conversation that the Indian businesses are yet to overcome their protectionist mindset. Despite being urged by Dominic Jeremy, the new Head of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), about Britain's interests in doing business with India, it was clear that Indian businesses are far more open to investment liberalisation than trade liberalisation. In fact, the FICCI President, Sidharth Birla, said as much - that many FTAs are hurting Indian businesses, particularly those with ASEAN countries, and they would be reviewed soon. There is a clear rationale for protecting domestic industry, and China (and Japan before it) has demonstrated how to do this: However, India may find it exceedingly difficult to attract investment that it needs and yet keep the trade protections going.
There was an interesting aside made by the former Chief Election Commissioner of India, S Y Qureshi, who was in attendance. Addressing the questions about corruption, that invariably came up, he made the point about reforms about political funding. One could argue that without stringent campaign funding norms, no democracy is safe, as its institutions can be bought, and despite all the celebrations about Indian democracy (there is much to celebrate, no doubt), the facts that the spending norms are never followed and the campaigns cost more than US presidential elections this time around paint a chilling picture.
In summary, the mood was unfailingly upbeat. The most interesting question of the evening was posed by Najmal Hasan of University of Greenwich Business School: His question to the FICCI representatives were what do they think wouldn't happen, despite all the optimism. Mr Birla spoke about the expansion of the tax base, and the FICCI Secretary General, Dr Didar Singh, added many other things, including infrastructure and multi-brand retail. The new government has a burden of expectation, and if things don't change rapidly, the euphoria may be over as soon as it started. This question induced a well-earned pause in the rhetoric, and perhaps, such reflection serves everyone well.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.