Showing posts from June, 2017

To Change The Conversation

My attempts to write a true Sunday Post failed in the past.  I started this blog to maintain a scrapbook of ideas, as I live through my immigrant life (which, presumed I, would only be a temporary phase). But the overarching priorities of the migrant life - to 'prove' myself - soon took over. Over time, this blog became more like a 'billboard', an advertising space, an extended CV of sorts, where I, somewhat desperately, wanted to show off and make a point. Indeed, all that was counter-productive: Experts write papers, not blogs. But it is that the charm of expertise, even if limited to occasional recognition by complete strangers through my blog, which subverted my motivation. This is what I want to undo now. It is important to undo this for several reasons, but primarily as I change myself. At this very moment, I am at the end of one journey and embarking on another. It has been three years that I stepped out of my boot-strap enterprise and got into working

Reforming Indian Higher Education: All Change Please

Indian Higher Education needs reform, and urgently. The post-Independence system of education, built on the edifice of the colonial structure, largely made of State-owned and State-supported colleges and universities, largely failed to create the publicly minded citizenry it was set up to educate. Even its elite segment, set up at great public cost and access to which were tightly controlled through nationwide aptitude tests, and which has created a large number of Silicon Valley millionaires (and some billionaires of repute), fell short in terms of the local impact: As China powers itself into Higher Education, creating not just highly ranked universities but also stealing the march on technological innovation, the shortcomings of these institutions have become as apparent as ever. But this is not all: The reform is needed because attempts at reform have failed. The wave of privatisation since 2006, encouraged by the state and the central governments in India, has created a syst

EdTech And Culture

Education will be transformed by technology, but not until the technologists have fully appreciated the Culture question. This is EdTech's blind spot. Culture is 'soft' - it is hard to capture in a spreadsheet - and yet Education is a 'cultural activity', deeply embedded in the society that surrounds the learner and constantly informed by its history. Tech, on the other hand, at least in its modern, global, incarnation, wants to be culture agnostic: Its quest for scale is intricately linked to its ability to operate culture blind. The EdTech businesses fail to account for culture for more reasons than just its inherent claim for scale. They also assume technology is used in an uniform way, despite all evidence on the contrary. The users almost always adapt technology to their own purpose, rather than changing their habits to suit what the technologists originally intended, but such ideas are not welcome in technology circles addicted to the idea of 'ha

India and Its History

One big conversation in India is about its resurgence, of its getting back to Global top table. However, the very conversation also indicate an admission of a fall, that there is a period of Indian history that is not that glorious. There is no consensus about the history of the fall, though: For some, the ignominy commenced with the Islamic conquest a thousand year ago, for others this started with the Colonial period in the Eighteenth Century. But everyone interested in India and its supposed resurgence must at some point or the other face this question of History: Why did a supposedly great civilisation succumb so easily to invaders from outside? There are some conventional answers. The most obvious one is the diversity of India, that India is not really one country. However, while this may be the conventional answer, there is little agreement on what this really means. The thesis, originating mainly from British Colonial historians, positioned India as merely a geographical e

UK General Elections: Reconfiguring The Politics of The Centre

As one of my correspondents accurately pointed out, responding my earlier post on UK General Elections , one big loser on the 8th June was Centrist politics. The Labour Party, under a now secured Mr Corbyn, is likely to move further to the Left, just as the now insecure Theresa May, living on the support of the reactionary DUP, is likely to move further to the right. The Blairite domination, which moved the Labour Party to the Centre is well and truly over, and the Compassionate Conservatism of Cameron is now a distant memory.   As someone who celebrates the end of Careerist politics, I should perhaps welcome this. But I acknowledge Centrist Politics is more than just a Careerist ploy. At a time when Britain faces existential questions - and the Post-War World System is endangered - the ability of politicians work with each other is crucial; polarisation of politics does not help in these circumstances. And, besides, it is perhaps time to revisit the categories of Right and Left,

UK General Elections: Counting the Losers

 UK General Elections are over.  It is hard to say who has won. The Party with most seats in Parliament is looking very much the loser, and the Party which came second, now three elections in a row, is arranging Victory Parties. The Prime Minister, who is likely to continue, seems to have lost; the Opposition Leader, who would not perhaps get to try to form the Government, seems to have won. It is equally intriguing to figure out who really have lost last night. Indeed, the mood, in a particular section of the population, is all doom and gloom: They are going on TV and proclaiming that the country has lost in a whole. They are looking at the hung parliament and claiming that it is a bad thing, because markets don't like uncertainty. That is obviously nonsense: Markets exist because they are the most efficient mechanism to price uncertainties, and if everything was certain, we wouldn't need markets at all. And, indeed, if they are trying to tell us that we should hav

The Strange Case of British Hindu Vote

The British Hindus, particularly the first generation ones, vote Conservative.  This is strange, because most of them, yours truly included, are in this country because of the Immigration Policy of Labour Governments under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. In fact, the successive Conservative Governments, with Theresa May as the Home Secretary and then the Prime Minister, made things difficult for Indians to come to Britain. And, even if the later changes may not have affected people who are already in the UK, it did affect their ability to bring their parents and relatives. And, yet, the community remains decidedly Conservative, and Anti-Labour. Indeed, there are strong reasons with which the preference for Conservatives could be explained. The First Generation immigrants are relatively young - so they use public services such as the NHS less - and they have little engagement in the wider community to have any first hand experience of deprievation. They are also likely to fall in

The Battle Against Human Rights

President Trump wants to withdraw from the UN Convention of Human Rights. Theresa May in Britain is promising to sweep aside Human Rights legislation. The governments in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe are coming under pressure every day to suspend Human Rights obligations and deal with terrorism with a firmer hand. Saudi Arabia, which regularly chops off hands and heads, and cane and imprison women for the crime of being raped, made it to the UN Council for Human Rights. Israel, which has a habit of bombing at random to teach Palestinians a lesson, is seen as a model state by many, despite the very logic of Israel being founded as a protection against state terrorism. And, all this is happening with middle classes, including those from Minority and Immigrant communities, cheering on. This is a great paradox, but reasons are not difficult to understand. The idea of Human Rights became a central element of Post-War order because of the horrific experience of the Second Wor

Democracy and Its Enemies

Democracy is endangered, from itself. Or, more specifically, myths about democracy is now threatening the continuation of the democratic system. Myth, such as that modern democracy is a top-down product, something that enlightened aristocrats gave to the masses. This narrative is sustained by all sorts of symbols, like Magna Carta, that make democracy a gift of the few to the many.That there would have been no democracy without the King's severed head in Place De La Concorde. The point is that it is not something that was handed out; it was fought for, and earned by the many from the few. This understanding is relevant today as democracy faces an encroachment from special interests, particularly in the aftermath of the 2007 Financial Crisis. The Great Recession has not, as one would like to believe, loosened the grasps of special interests on policy; quite the contrary, it has strengthened it. The policy of loose regulation has continued, just that Banks and Financial Ins

If You Are Going Global, Which Country?

Wrong question, perhaps! Some of the times I asked the question, I got awkward pauses in return. This is a dinosaur question, so dated, reactions indicated: Going global means being on the Cloud, countries are totally irrelevant in this conversation. As I wrote in an earlier post, Global or Multinational , I think this is one of the big mistakes companies make. Their assumption of flat world is totally off the mark. One has to touch the ground as long as they involve people from different nations as customers. This idea of 'global market', borrowed mostly from the playbook of hedge funds who seem to move money from one place to another seamlessly, does not apply to most businesses dealing with customers. One has to be 'national', multi-national if you like, because markets are national. And, that claim of being on the cloud is based on complete innocence of how marketing and product development work in real life. Once I get past the mistaken assumption of '

Global or Multinational?

There was a way of developing a business: A company captured its local market first and then went abroad. Indeed, we are excluding Trading Companies such as the East India Company, which was set up as an overseas trade monopoly, and restricting ourselves here to more everyday sort of business. While not comparable to the spectacular rise and ignominious fall of the East India Company, many other businesses trading globally were spectacularly successful. The pinnacle of the 20th Century corporation was the Multinational Corporation, which attained unparallelled power, prestige and profits.  But in the Twenty-first century, even this shining example of business success is considered dated. 'Global' took place of 'multinational'. The usual model of building advantages in the home market before venturing abroad fell out of favour and we had born-global start-ups instead. And, a decade into the new millennium, this idea has spread from the domains of purel on line serv

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