A Bangalore vacation of a Mumbaikar

So, the quintessential summer vacation with the kid is done. This time in and around Bangalore (Bengaluru for the puritans). This time around, I got a chance to have a real look at the city, where I have been flying in and out a zillion times on day-trips for business, not to mention a 2-year b-schooling about 20 years back. The recent business trips have recorded in my memory traffic snarls, long airport drives and an easier work routine among people as compared to that in Mumbai (OK, I know this is a controversial statement already). However this time, since we spent 7-8 days roaming along the Bangalore streets, I did manage to note more interesting things about the Garden City or now, the IT City.
• Of the 9mn population in Bangalore, there about 4-5 lacs IT professionals. 9mn population may translate to 2mn households. 4-5 lac IT professionals may be spread across 3-4 lacs Households, accounting for couples or siblings working in the Industry. This implies 20-25% Households having an IT professional!!! Very high !! If we look at only the middle-class and upper class HHs, then the %age might be much, much higher. So Bangalore is indeed an IT city, and any marketer of any product or service needs to take that into account while designing their marketing (and business) strategies. Offering has to be online, on social media; go-to-market should involve corporate worksites; offshore-onshore behaviour should be understood, and so on.
• There was an average of 7-8 full page ads in the Times of India every day for Real Estate properties !! Realty market is still going strong. With ticket sizes of Rs.80 lacs to 2 crore being the sweet spot, this is a breath of fresh air to Mumbaikars, who may have to own a bachelor’s (or spinster’s) pad in the outskirts with that budget. 25-storey buildings loom on the skyline in all directions. Sarjapur, Outer Ring Road, Hosur Road are fast replacing the Whitefield mania of the previous decade. North Bangalore is of course going to be the darling in the coming decade with an IT park threatening to come up there as well.
• Language of communication in the shops and markets is fast becoming Hindi, with the huge influx of North and West Indians into the city through the IT route. This might be provoking the “Kannada wave in schools” sort of movement. Having seen similar movements in the past in Maharashtra, I think commercial interests will prevail in the long run. Development always pips sectarianism.
• Housing complexes have become swanky, with many complexes having 6-10 buildings of 20-25 storeys each, having 2-3 swimming pool, large gym, hyper-market. The pools are full with people from 8am-9pm !! And then the odd post-dinner star-gazers lounging on the pool cots. This could possibly be because it was May, summer vacation for kids. 8-9am, one sees young IT professionals swarming out of the complexes in their Zens, WagonRs, i10s, i20s and many on bikes. Some amble across the complex on foot, boarding their company buses reaching outside the gates.
• Eating out is growing exponentially (no hyperbole here, I actually mean doubling every 2-3 years). There are 87 such joints on a 1-km stretch on the 100-ft road in Indira Nagar. In addition to another 100 retail outlets for apparel/ fashion-wear. Delivery still is not as rampant as in Mumbai, with overall low service levels of Bangalore hitting this space too. What I mean by lower overall service levels is seen across restaurants, shops – the sprightly, spirited entrepreneurial zest seen in Mumbai is sorely missing here among waiters, kids manning the tills, delivery boys etc.
• Very few places to see!! We did manage a few – Lalbagh Botanical Gardens (4.5 on a scale of 5), Cubbon Park (4), Suryanarayana Swamy temple at Domlur (3.5), Sankey Tank (3.5), Art of Living Centre on Harohalli Road (3), Pyramid Valley 50km from the City (3), MTR – the Mavalli Tiffin Resort at Basvangudi (3), St Marks Cathedral (2.5)
• Lalabagh was a revelation! One has to take the Electric powered Buggies to really enjoy the Garden (Rs 100 per person for a 35-minute ride, with three photo-op stops). The cotton-silk tree with the 4-metre wide trunk is a marvel (possibly the largest tree in India?). The Eucalyptus tree grove and the Japanese Black Bamboo plantations also came a close second.
• Cubbon Park matched Lalbagh in natural beauty, parts of it coming close to Hyde Park and St James Park in London. Some parts were desolate and barren, and hence one has to select the correct parts to visit (it’s huge and may be covered in 2 visits, same like Lalbagh).
• MTR was a bit of a disappointment, largely because the Menu varies widely with the timings in the day. 0630-0730, one gets Idli-Chutney, 0730-1330 one gets only Masala Dosa, Rawa Idli, Khara bath, Gulab Jamun, Kesari Bath – but all with only chutney !! Beware if you ask for Sambhar – that will expose your non-traditional roots. We hit MTR for breakfast at 0830 and were ushered into the Deluxe Family Room upstairs (behind the water cooler).
• We of course managed to overcome the MTR visit with a visit to the MTR1924, a hipper version of MTR, started in Malls. We gorged into sumptuous Rava Masala Dosa (Masala being a separate potato vegetable called Sagu), “actual” Masala Dosa, filter kapi.
• Sankay Tank (lake) in Malleswaram is a beautiful jogging spot for the TamBrahms living closeby. One could jog in Lalbagh or in Cubbon Park too. But none of them could match the class of Jogger’s Park or Priyadarshini Park in Mumbai (OK, OK, both man-made, I admit).
• Very few street eating joints like Vada-Pav stalls or Bhelpuri-Panipuri stalls like in Mumbai and Delhi. Possibly because rent is low here and such people can rent a small shop instead of running an illegal stall, as in Mumbai.
• There were at least 10 Biryani chains and 100 outlets I came across the drive from MG Road to Bommanahalli on Hosur Road, a 10-km drive. Ammi’s Exec Biryani and Ambur Biryani topped the list of maximum number of outlets.
• Other than Biryani (or Biriyani, as spelt in many outlets), one finds Bakery shops as every 10th shop on the streets. I remember the chain of Iyengar Bakery outlets from my stay here 20 years back. There are many more now, of course. Bread and Cakes remain a popular choice of Bengalurites even now.
MG Road-Brigade Road is still the same, art gallery along MG Road is a superb stunt, traffic is terrible, bikes jostle for space with cars. Energy is definitely on the rise!!

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Religious Diversity – India 70th among 200 countries !!!

Pew Research has come out with the concept of a Religious Diversity Index for all countries of the world. This Index for a country indicates the presence of multiple religions within that country. The higher the Index, the more is the diversity of religions within that country. A look at this RD Index of different countries (http://www.pewforum.org/files/2014/04/Religious-Diversity-appendix-1.pdf ) throws some surprises.

Though we Indians have been repeating the “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Isaai” slogan for ages, India is surprisingly at an Index of 4.0, ranked about 70th among 200 countries, i.e., our religious diversity is lower than 69 other countries in the world. Looks like it was more of an attempt through Bollywood songs of the 1950s and the nation-building efforts of our early leaders which have instilled that sense of religious diversity within ourselves. Statements like “we have the second largest Muslim population in the world (after Indonesia)” and “it is tough to govern India with its huge cultural, lingual and religious diversity” have subliminally bombarded our minds over years and made us believe that we are indeed different and more diverse than other countries. Not so, says the data…

Leading the charts is Singapore with 34% Buddhist, 18% Christians, 16% unaffiliated, 14% Muslims, 5% Hindus and so on. Another 5 countries from Far-East also figure in the “High RD Index” category (top 12 countries with score of &.0 and above) – Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China, HK.

In the “High” category (score of 5.3 to 6.9), figure the larger developed countries – Japan, France, Australia, Germany. And some surprises like Bahrain, Qatar, North Korea, Lebanon. The “Moderate” countries (3.1 to 5.2) include UK at 5.1, Russia at 4.9, USA at 4.1, India at 4.0 !!

The least diverse countries (score of 0 to 0.2) include Vatican City, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq – one would think that it would be easy to govern these, correct ?

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Once there were brands…

There was an article some time back in The Economist, which spoke on the phenomenon of Brands losing their significance world-wide. A Survey across 23 countries showed that majority of respondents would not care if 73% of the brands mentioned would just have disappeared. This number was 92% in the more mature western markets. The neo-rich and new-to-marketing Asian markets revered brands slightly more, but were moving fast towards the western patterns.

The Internet and the ease of comparing products there is one of the single-largest reason for this impending doom of conventional branding. 46% of young American consumers born in the 2000s compare prices and online comments on their phones while shopping in a brick-n-mortar shop!

The article mentioned that Companies, marketers and advertising professionals are fighting out the above battle through 5 routes :

  • By acknowledging the scepticism of consumers in the ads themselves – “what if these things were really free ?”
  • By suppressing the scepticism with humour – using chirpy talking animals
  • By disarming consumers with honesty – seems Dominos campaign talked about their awful pizzas of the past 50 years and how things have changed now
  • By aligning with some social cause (HDFC’s Cancer Fund), and finally
  • By what they call the Holy Grail – befriending the consumers.

For making friends with the consumers, haughty-mighty sounding brand names are giving way to jollier ones. Fidelity, Bank of America have given way to Giffgaff and Ally. Close home, in earlier times in India, one had to communicate authority and reliability by using names like  like State Bank of India, Unit Trust of India, Reliance. Now we have Myntra, Zynga and Jabong. And even in the non-online world – Pantaloons and even Yes Bank!!

Making friends is of course happening in the biggest way on social media – companies are conversing with consumers and prospects on Facebook and Twitter. Very quickly, companies are realising that their brand communication has to be AUTHENTICALLY tied up end-to-end with their business vision, strategy, execution (product quality and customer service). Otherwise, they get busted sooner or later.

It will be interesting to see if brands in India follow the descending trajectory of the western brands, or will all the brands collectively be able to fight back and end up increasing their salience with consumers !!

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How to win the next Bharat Ratna

So, now that the Bharat Ratna has been awarded to the youngest winner so far, Sachin Tendulkar, we make an attempt here to deconstruct this award by analysing the backgrounds of the 43 awardees so far. For some, this might prove to be a great peek into the post-independence history of India – a humbling journey indeed! For some others, this list may possibly help to plan your lives accordingly!!

So of the 43 awardees, following is the break-up of the seven “streams” to which they belong :

  • Presidents/Governor General :         6 (Rajendra Prasad, S Radhakrishnan, VV Giri, Zakir Husain, Abdul Kalam, C Rajagopalachari)
  • Prime Ministers :                                      6 (Pt Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Gulzarilal Nanda, Morarji Desai)
  • Freedom fighter-turned politicians : 12
    • Sardar Patel,
    • Maulana Azad,
    • Gopinath Bordoloi – Congress Assam CM,
    • Dr BC Roy – Congress West Bengal CM,
    • K Kamaraj – Congress Tamilnadu CM,
    • Govind Ballabh Pant – Congress UP CM)
    • Jayaprakash Narayan – socialist opposing Indira Gandhi,
    • C Subramaniam – Congress Union Minister, Maharashtra Governor,
    • Purushottam Das Tandon – Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha MP, Speaker of UP Assembly,
    • Aruna Asaf Ali – socialist who later on joined Congress,
    • Bhagwan Das – later founder of Kashi Vidyapeeth,
    • Badshah Khan (had opposed formation of Pakistan, kept on fighting for Pashtuns till 1988).
  • Social Reformers :                                 4 (Mother Teresa, Acharya Vinoba Bhave, Maharshi Dhonduba Keshav Karve, and to some extent, Nelson Mandela)
  • Artists :                                                    6 (Ravi Shankar, Bismillah Khan, Subbulakshmi, Bhimsen Joshi, Lata Mangeshkar, Satyajit Ray)
  • Politicians :                                             2 (MGR, BR Ambedkar)
  • Others – Scientists, Economists, Engineers, Academician/author, Sportspersons, Businesspersons : 7 (CV Raman, CNR Rao, Amartya Sen, M Visvesvaraya – famous engineer who built the temples of modern India – dams and roads, Dr PV Kane – VC of Bombay University, Sachhin…Sachhin, JRD Tata).

On closer introspection of the List above, some trends emerge :

  1. The first four Presidents were awarded Bharat Ratna and none of the 4-5 after them. So, looks like the office of the President has lost some of its respect after the first 25 years after independence. Also, two of the first four Presidents (Prasad and Giri) were intense freedom fighters too. The other two were super-academics. In later years, politicians who have been Ministers of the ruling party have been rewarded with the Presidency post, and hence, possibly do not deserve the Bharat Ratna. Why Abdul Kalam then ? Well, see the year of Bharat Ratna – 1997, much before he became President. Yes, he could have been included in the Scientist category above.
  2. Six of the first seven Prime Ministers have been awarded the Bharat Ratna, two of them posthumously. The rest of the clan – Charan Singh, VP Singh, Chandrashekhar, PV Narsimha Rao, AB Vajpayee, Deve Gowda, IK Gujral and Dr MMS possibly couldn’t contribute to the nation to the same extent as the first six. Once I re-read this statement of mine, then I feel that Vajpayee and Dr MMS possibly deserve to be on the awardee list. Both of them were responsible for some path-changing moves for the nation during their tenures, and they lasted their terms as well. Shastri served for 2-3 years but he died while in office. Also, his freedom-fighter credentials are impeccable. GL Nanda, by that measure was possibly not such a worthy contender, though he had fought for freedom and later on also became the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission.
  3. Looks like the “easiest” way to have got a Bharat Ratna was to have given your blood for the country’s freedom struggle. There are 12 freedom fighters turned politicians who got the Bharat Ratna award. Of course, there’s a bit of a catch- 8 of these 12 were Congress Ministers, 4 being the first Chief Ministers of states (UP, Tamilnadu, West Bengal, Assam). Jayaprakash Narayan was the only person in this category who opposed the Congress later on. However, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1999 during BJP-NDA regime. Hence, looks like that if you were a freedom fighter, but did not toe the Congress line after freedom, it would have been tough to become a Bharat Ratna. Finally, speaking about freedom fighters who lived beyond independence, we are missing names like Ram Manohar Lohia (but then, he opposed Congress after independence), Sarojini Naidu (passed away early on, in 1949), Capt Lakshmi Sahgal, Sheikh Abdullah.
  4. Only three “Indian” social reformers made the cut, which could change in the coming years as the dearth of true noble politician-leaders hits hard, and as the leadership space gets filled increasingly by non-governmental social reformers (called activists nowadays). Aruna Roy, Medha Patkar, Ela Bhatt, Arvind Kejriwal could be on the list of contenders through this route. In the past, we seem to have missed some wonderful people like Baba Amte and Sundarlal Bahuguna.
  5. Moving to artists, out of the six awardees, four were masters of classical music – Hindustani or Carnatic. Some people who possibly missed coming through this route were – Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, DV Paluskar, Kumar Gandharva and a decent list of other classical music exponents. From films, some great awardees could have been Mohd Rafi for his soulful singing and Raj Kapoor for the wonderful cinema he made. There is a reason however for the classical music maestros having missed making it to the List – five of the six awards given through this category have been given in the post 1998 era. That could coincide with the evolving Civilisation Quotient of a country which was outgrowing its post-independence era, and moving to a stage where appreciation of arts, sports and business would progressively increase. Some others who could still come through this route in the future are other living maestros of classical music –Balamuralikrishna, Ustaads Amjad Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain, Pandits Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia. As for films, Amitabh Bachchan is a sure-shot candidate for the Bharat Ratna along with possibly Rajinikanth (we may change the name of the award to Bharat Rajini after this).
  6. Ambedkar and MGR have been categorised into the pure politician category because they weren’t really involved in the freedom struggle. Both however lie in cusps with other categories, MGR through films and Babasaheb through social reform – one of the strongest! Looks like the post-independence quintessential politician is not a category at all for the award. In the current mood of cynicism, some people may thank their stars for this thought. However, there could be a few state chief ministers who might not become PMs and hence may not be considered for this reason. And that may be unfair. Nitish Kumar, Navin Patnaik, Shivraj Chauhan and Raman Singh might be candidates for the same, based on the millions of people pulled out of poverty in their states, possibly resulting because of their focused leadership. I am skipping Narendra Modi and Sheila Dikshit here because of them leading already rich states. Similarly, national leaders like Jyoti Basu and Kanshi Ram could have been considered and LK Advani should be considered even now.
  7. That brings us to the “Others” category which is an eclectic and heady mix of some juicy categories like businesspersons, sportspersons, economists, educationists, scientists, engineers, doctors and academicians. I believe this category should see an explosion in coming years with so many people doing great work in many of these. Names that readily come to mind of people who could have been considered in the past were Aditya Birla, Dhirubhai Ambani, V Kurien (White revolution), Dhyan Chand, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, Dr Venkataswamy (Aravind Eye Hospital). Some that could still be considered are Ratan Tata, NR Narayanamurthy, Azeem Premji, Deepak Parekh, MS Swaminathan (Green revolution), Vishwanathan Anand, E Sridharan, Dr Devi Shetty (Narayana Hrudayalaya), Jagdish Bhagwati, VS Naipaul.

Outlook for the next 50 Bharat Ratnas : With India having glided successfully into our post-independence phase of history, I am seeing the following mix of categories from where the next 50 Bharat Ratnas should emerge :

  • Prime Ministers : 2-3 (sincerely praying for a few great leaders to come from here – for the sake of the nation)
  • Presidents : Zero
  • Politicians making difference to lives of millions of people : 7-8 (should be state CMs, and given the increasing regional play of politics, there could be more. Hoping that there could be some National Education Minister, Rural Development Minister, HRD Minister who would also do something memorable at some point of time)
  • Social Activists : 8-10 (have to plug the gap created by the demise of freedom fighter-turned politicians)
  • Artists, sportspersons : 8-10
  • Businesspersons, engineers, lawyers, doctors, architects : 10-12 (need some serious nation builders)
  • Scientists and economists : 5-6 (if India has to move into the league of innovation-driving countries).

May their tribe increase…

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The spread of languages in the world

This is a short piece taking off from Ian Bremmer’s Tweet on the leading languages spoken globally by people as the first languages (called mother tongue here in India). The top 7 languages spoken as first languages along with the %age of people speaking these are :

  1. Mandarin 12.4%
  2. Spanish 4.9%
  3. English 4.8%
  4. Arabic 3.3%
  5. Hindi 2.7%
  6. Bengali 2.7%
  7. Portuguese 2.6%.

 A few observations :

  • Top 7 languages accounting for 34% of global population speaks about the wide dispersion of languages in the world. The world is not all that flat!!
  • The spread of the imperialistic powers of the 17th-20th centuries is seen well from the above. The Spanish dominance of the Latin American countries, and the British dominance of disparate countries across the globe (Australia, NZ, West Indies, Singapore, and of course the USA accepting English as the lingua franca) catapult them to the 2nd and 3rd positions in the global ranking, respectively. The Portuguese bring in the rear in the List. I am guessing that French and Dutch, the languages of the other two colonising nations should be in the top 10-15 languages!
  • 870 mn speaking Mandarin forcefully establishes it as the numero uno language of the world. The remaining 500mn Chinese speak Cantonese, Tibetan, Mongolian, Taiwanese. However, the uniformity of China as a nation comes through with the dominance of Mandarin. This has been one of the reasons for the high economic growth across the country – no communication gap and quick execution!
  • The point on China above contrasts with that on India. India has so many regional languages that Hindi, the language spoken by maximum Indians turns out 5th ranked in the world. Of course, if one were to include its twin across the Pakistani border, Urdu, then the %age would go up to about 4%!! However, the script being different prevents the two languages from being clubbed as one. I am assuming a few millions also get added to Hindi from Nepal.
  • Bengali coming in at No. 6 may surprise a few Indians, but this is because of Bangladeshis also speaking the language across the country, combined with those speaking the same on the western side of the divide.
  • The top 25 languages of the world should have Marathi and Telugu coming in (being the most populous non-Hindi speaking states).
  •  Arabic figures as the No. 4 language of the world, thanks to many countries in the Middle-East and North Africa having Arabic as the national language. Egypt with 86mn population, Algeria with 37mn and Saudi/Syria/Yemen with 25mn each are the main contributors.

 So, while the world shrinks into a global village, the first languages remain stubbornly diverse. The rose smells sweet everywhere but one should know what it is called in that country to ask for it first.

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A Layman’s Guide for New Banks of 2014 (A Bank for a Buck)

I recently read “A Bank for the Buck”, a “biography” of HDFC Bank, by Tamal Bandopadhyay, one of the most eminent business journalists in India. This was his first book, and from the ease with which words and stories flowed in this one, I am sure this is the start of a new career for him.

Anyways, coming to the book, this was an amazing way to narrate the history of a company, and I am sure that soon, there will be copy-rights on similar stories for the other new-age companies which have made it big – RIL, Infosys, TCS, Bharti Airtel, ICICI Bank – all, children of liberalisation (well, RIL and TCS were there in the dark ages as well, but they really took off only in the last 20 years). Possibly, one of the better pharma companies as well, like Sun Pharma.

Moving on to HDFC Bank, seems that the founding team members really enjoyed building up this world-class institution – the passion in each of them really screams out of each page of the book in the first half. I am not sure as to how many of the Dirty Dozen are still around in HDFC Bank, but that doesn’t matter – wherever they are, they must be remembering that stint with relish.


Some interesting points from the book (and you will have to read the book for many, many more)…

  • The initial story of training people under a Pipal tree and wires stuck with scotch tape on the floor of the make-shift office reminds many of us of our start-up days in different companies.
  • Aditya Puri’s style of hiring his A-team sounds incredible – while interviewing, he made it sound as if the person needed HDFC Bank more than the other way around – possibly, coming out of his confidence that they were going to build a huge institution.
  • Most of the founding members were people who were working in foreign banks – takes us back to that era to remind us that foreign banks have been around much before the advent of the new private banks (starting 1993). Citi, HSBC, Stanchart, BankAm and even Barclays were the hunting ground for talent for HDFC Bank (and am assuming for ICICI Bank also). Hence, culture and processes of HDFC Bank should be somewhat similar to that of the foreign banks – but, I don’t think I have heard of such a thing from the people I have met in the past five years.
  • The transformation of HDFC Bank from an uber-urban bank to a mass-diversified-rural bank in recent years has been really well brought out. That story still has to pan out in real life, and am sure Aditya Puri can have another book written about that part, five years down the line.
  • Importance given to selecting and implementing the IT system – the core banking solution – is amazing. This is leadership vision at its best – has proved to be a differentiator for them. The rural foray and the march towards financial inclusion might well be predicated on this.
  • The journey of a successful business model of a diversified bank has been captured well – HDFC Bank started off with corporate banking, a relatively higher profit business, which fed the increasing Urban Retail business later on with positive cash-flows, till Urban Retail acquired critical mass. Then, Corporate and more Urban Retail started feeding the Rural Retail & Inclusion piece with their positive cash-flows. This will continue till Rural Retail & Inclusion becomes profitable on its own – various business model innovations might have gone into that part by that time. This is the journey of many a successful diversified company – minimise front-ended operating losses by setting up multiple sub-businesses in a smart, staggered fashion!
  • Finally, the common larger purpose of “Ab desh ki seva karo” which Deepak Parekh tells Puri while hiring him, also is a subtle but very important theme. This is so because as people start becoming more senior, they need to find a purpose larger than increasing profits or adding value to shareholders.

A few things which could have been brought out a bit more :

  • A bit more about the financial services environment (or at least banking) – summary of what was happening in the other relevant banks – ICICI Bank, IndusInd, SBI – how were they looking at HDFC ?
  • Is there a similar big story in ICICI Bank also ? They are no also-rans
  • How were the HDFC Limited Board Members reviewing HDFC Bank and giving directions? – am sure there must have been directions, reviews, questions, possibly board-room tussles
  • How do their customers look upon HDFC Bank ?

But possibly, the above points might have been left out to make the book more human, and not convert it into a comprehensive Business Strategy Document!

Moving on to the environment today, this book fits in completely as new banking licences are going to be awarded soon. Industrial houses and NBFCs are making a bee-line for the licences (well at least if 24 constitutes a bee-line). Some of them have some sort of a set-up in financial services. They might be more than green-field. Some others may be setting up completely green-field operations. Also, some of the 13 Old Private banks might be forced to turbo-charge their Business Plans and consequently their Management Team to stay relevant in the increasing competitive place. Finally, the 6 “New” private banks – HDFC, ICICI, Axis, IndusInd, Kotak, Yes – might also have to re-think their strategies in light of the new upstarts coming in (recall what happened to Airtel, Vodafone, Idea after Uninor, DoCoMo, MTS came in – well, actually, not much, but only after going through the first 2 years of turbulent upheaval).

Some of the 2014 licencees might want to use Tamal’s book as a rough guide for setting up a new bank. I don’t think that’s a good idea – because, each Bank will have its own identity, own way of working, and own Team – there won’t be any book for that. The book comes post-facto…and that too, not for all companies!!!

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How to become a USD billionaire in India ?

The latest issue of Forbes India (Dec 2013) had a listing of the Top 100 wealthiest Indians. It becomes my solemn duty to analyse that list and find if there are some recurring themes behind many such billionaires, so that some of you could use that fact for shaping the rest of your lives.

I have looked at the Top 50 wealthiest here for a quick analysis. These 50 accounted for 215bn$ wealth (out of the 260bn$ for the top 100). Some observations are :

  • 9 of the top 50 are owners of Pharma businesses. Dilip Shanghvi of Sun Pharma tops the list with USD13.9bn. Poonawalla’s vaccines have earned him 4bn. The others in decreasing order of wealth are owners of Lupin, Ranbaxy, Cipla, Reddy Labs, Cadilla, Piramal Healthcare, Alkem. Of these 2 businesses have been sold already – Ranbaxy to Daiichi and Piramal to Abbot Labs. The next 50 also brag names like Torrent, Divi’s, Mankind, almost completing the who’s who of Pharma owners.
  • 8 Owners of all top 4 IT software development companies figure in the top 100 – Azim Premji at USD13.8bn leads this list, followed by Pallonji Mistry – yes, I have decided to classify him into IT because majority of his wealth comes from his 18% holding of Tata Sons, which in turn is driven to the extent of 60-70% by TCS. Shiv Nadar at 8.6bn rings it in for HCL Tech. All 5 Infosys founders (including K Dinesh) find themselves in the top 100 list, with the Big 3 (NRN, Nandan, Krish) in Top 50. Between the 5, they have USD6bn. Valuation-wise, TCS leads the race, with Infy, Wipro and HCL following in that order. But the higher stakes that Premji and Nadarji own make them wealthier than the Infy quintet.
  • 4 owners of Indian FMCG companies make it to the top 50 – Anand Burman of Dabur, Vijay Chauhan of Parle Biscuits, Harsh Mariwala of Marico and Pepsi Bottler Ravi Jaipuria. Commendable job done by these guys in light of the intense competition with global FMCG majors – HUL, P&G, Nestle, GSK etc.
  • DLF, Lodha and Raheja owners make it to the top 50. RE, as expected makes it bigger presence felt in the next 50 with Kalpataru, Hiranandani, Embassy, Sobha, Prestige, Panchshil.
  • 6 Diversified Group owners figure in the list. Hindujas at 9bn lead this list, followed by Adi Godrej at 8.3bn, KM Birla at 7.6bn, Anil Ambani at 6.2bn, Ruia brothers at 5.5bn and Rajan Raheja at 1.6. Tatas are conspicuous by their absence, let down by their minor holdings in their own group companies. I have classified Reliance’s Mukeshbhai into Oil and Gas – and yes, you are right, he is the wealthiest Indian with 21bn$.
  • Then there are 2 players each from  :
    • Steel – Lakshmi Mittal at 16bn and Jindals at 4.9bn
    • Two-wheelers – Bajaj and Munjals (Hero)
    • Retail – Micky Jagtiani (Landmark Group – Lifestyle etc) and Yusuf Ali (Lulu stores) – both based out of Middle-East
    • Media – SunTV and Bennet & Coleman (Times of India)
  • One each of Telecom (Sunil Mittal), Education (Sunny Varkey GEMS schools, Middle-East), Financial Services (Kotak), Metals (Vedanta’s Anil Agrawal), Power (Adani), Consumer electronics (Dhoots of Videocon), Airlines (Bhatias of Indigo), Cement (Bangurs of Shree Cement), Adhesives (Parekh of Pidilite), Paints (Asian Paints – again all 3 founders are in top 100).


So, looks like the smartest way up into the billionaire list is to start a pharmaceutical or IT business or surprise, surprise, venture into Real Estate (11 of top 100). But then, that was the formula to adopt 10-20 yrs back to become a billionaire in 2013. I think that, sectors from where new billionaires will come in the next 10-20 years may be coming from will be:

  • Online portals
  • Alternative energy companies
  • Micro-Financial services
  • Banks (though I think regulatorily, this might be tough to do with owners supposed to pare their ownership to 10%. Possibly, Uday Kotak will also slip from Top 50 if finally forced to reduce his ownership below 10%)
  • Rural and agri-focused companies
  • Export-oriented companies.

Hope this helps :) .


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Why Rahul should become the Prime Minister of India…Rahul Dravid

The thought started off with the newspaper report on Sachin Tendulkar’s polite refusal of the Congress Party’s invite to him for campaigning for the Madhya Pradesh elections. This reminded me of the time when Amitabh Bachchan’s star value was sought to be tapped during the 1984 elections. And of my subsequent conclusion that stars from other fields who have no experience or more importantly, temperament, should not try their hands at politics just because they are famous – it is an easy observation that some political party is trying to cash in on this fame of theirs. Having said this, there have been enough and more instances of this having happened – Ronald Reagan, MGR, NTR, Jayalalitha, and in sports, Pele among the more famous ones. (Not counting Imran Khan, Navjyot Siddhu, Marat Safin who have just about only stepped into politics). Some of them have been successful too, but that is more because they have had the temperament and gritty attitude to understand the new field (politics) and the will-power to persist as equations become clearer after a few years.

Well, put the words “temperament, gritty, attitude, persistence” together, and viola – the image of Rahul Dravid comes to mind! Possibly, that of Sachin and Hrithik Roshan as well. But for some reason, I see both the latter celebrities too focused on their art – cricket and movies respectively, to be able to do too much beyond that. Let me put forth a few more points on why Rahul Dravid should be the PM of India.

  • Honest to the core – none of the various allegations of match-fixing etc have ever been mentioned in the same breath as Rahul’s name. It’s a no-brainer that India needs an honest leader.
  • A Team Person – whether a captain or a team member, Dravid always contributed to the team’s larger cause. Most important for the PM of India today – the way the current PM has been unable to show a team display of intent (PC vs Pranob, Jairam vs others), and the way the prospective candidate from NDA is not really known for taking people along, it will be very tough for either of them to make any big change for the country. It is a well-researched fact, at least in corporate life that as business/governance is getting more complex and multi-variable driven, carrying the team along is a necessity.
  • Leading from the front – which Top 5 batsman-captain in the world drops himself to No. 8 when few overs are remaining and some mindless hitting is required ? Dravid has the amazing penchant for putting the team’s cause above his own. Even at the cost of slipping away from the score-board and from the individual records-book.
  • Humility – We saw this when he used to share credit for success with all his team members. He never put himself ahead of Sachin and Saurav while speaking with the media. His humility was also borne out from playing under Kumble as a captain (as under Sachin and Saurav and Dhoni too).
  • Middle-class, educated background : Well, I don’t want to come out as biased here, but I personally think that this is an asset – to understand what makes the huge middle-class tick, use technology and social media well. And most importantly, education brings the power of thinking and the power of accepting change – something which are a must for a growth as an individual.

While current leaders of political alliances bring their strengths to the table, I think what is needed for the India of today is a unique leader with ALL the above qualities to lead India out of the mess we are in, and into an era of success.

(I think Priyanka Chopra is also a great Role Model for such a leadership role – intelligent, modest, hard-working, meticulous, understands youth. But what am I doing ? Rahul, Priyanka ? I think I should stop now, before I become frivolous from my current state of being only naive & ideal :) ).

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Hi-touch style of management : A must in turbulent times

I have been blessed to have worked with a few different types of Leaders/Managers. Some of them have been strong on Strategy but slightly weaker on people contact. Some of them have driven strategies to execution through extremely strong people “control”. This piece is about the latter type of managers – the High-Touch Manager !!

The High-Touch Manager believes that no Strategy is great till it is broken down into programs and actionables, and till each of these actionables has a single name against it. And then a date by which this actionable has to be completed. Of all these steps, she gives the most importance, time and thought to the step of “Naming of the responsible person”. Once the Actionable Table is completed, she sort of “forgets” the Vision and Strategy, and converts her life into tracking the people responsible for executing the actionables. She understands from each such person the risks attached with their respective actionable, gauges the human limitations of each such person, and the inputs that she will have to give this person till the actionable is completed. She sits with each person and explains what is the importance of his Project/actionable in the overall business. Depending on what drives that particular person, she sometimes has to explain as to what is the impact of the Project on Society and Environment.

 So, in essence, after the initial effort in finding out “What to do ?”, most of the “How to do?” comes from working with People, for the High-Touch Manager.

The High-Touch Manager maintains a list of people reporting to her, and the key people reporting to her reportees. She maintains a People Reach Out Program – PROP with her so that she is in touch with all “her people” (first liners, second liners) on a periodic basis. Depending on the inputs required by each person, and the criticality of their roles in the business, she is in touch with different people at different periodicity – some daily, some bi-weekly, some weekly.

The High-Touch Manager also likes to meet her frontline employees (if different from the list of “her people”). Many of such Managers meet the frontline staff during market visits, or during visits to offices in other cities. However, some of the Managers miss out on the frontline employees in their home city and in their own offices. That requires discipline. Some High-Touch Managers drive the PROP more diligently to include formal one-to-ones with frontline employees in their monthly calendar itself.

The High-Touch Manager tracks on her system birthdays and joining anniversaries of her people. She wishes the people, and many times sends gifts. Some Managers send cakes / cards to the homes of the people, and make their people look good at their homes – the ultimate compliment for many people.

Businesses with High-Touch Leaders/Managers at the helm show lower attrition, higher employee engagement, higher employee satisfaction. Most of the times, this way of working finds its way into the Culture of the organization (or that of the relevant Business Unit).

At the same time, this does not mean that such Managers are necessarily good Strategists. However, from my experience, inputs on Strategy also many times comes from the people working for such managers, and if such managers are humble enough to keep on taking inputs as well, then, chances are that overall strategy will also be correct, or can be corrected.

Coming to the current environment of macro-economic gloom and business slow-down. A high-touch style of management is easily the best way to keep the Team together and get the best out of them. Almost a must !!

Finally, the role of communication in High-Touch Management can never be under-estimated. But we will leave that for another time…

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10 different ways Lunch-box could have ended

Hope you have joined the ranks of people who have seen “Lunch-Box” and have salivated over the surrealistically romantic movie as well as over the lovely food shown throughout the movie. If you have not, and still intend to see the movie, then I would advise you to skip this piece and re-visit after having seen the movie. Somehow I feel that it may make more sense.

OK, now for the boxed-up people, many of us were wringing our hands in despair at the end and were trying to guess as to what would finally have happened in the lives of the protagonists. Well, think not – here are a few possible endings. You may choose the one that is closest to your hearts.

  1. Saajan Fernandes takes the slow local to Malad, gets down at Malad East, brisk walks to Ila’s apartment. He sees Ila and her child going in the cab to Bhutan (I mean through the airport). Saajan stops the cab, and asks “May I come along please ?” and Ila smiles. They discuss later about Saajan not having a passport, and go instead to Nashik, where the kid goes to Boarding School, and the two live happily ever after.
  2. Saajan stops the cab and thanks Ila for the lovely food. He says he has thought it over, has reaffirmed the age difference in his mind, and wants to adopt Ila as his daughter. Ila gets the Bandra bungalow, and the kid goes to a Bandra West nose-in-the-air school.
  3. Saajan realises that he is on a Borivali fast, which doesn’t stop at Malad. He sees Malad station whizz past. Ila is standing on the other platform with the kid (she came to the station in the cab). She has the Lonely Planet of Bhutan in her hands. Saajan vows to learn about the funda of “Fast vs Slow” Trains well for the future. Realises that living in Bandra, where all trains stop, had spurred him into a false world of convenience and ease. He also learns the hard way that Ammi was wrong – “a wrong train can never lead you to the right destination”.
  4. Saajan is chatting with the dabba walas in the train coach. Ila’s dabba wala tells him that he is the dabba wala who used to pick up the dabba from Ila’s home. He narrates how he was paid by Ila’s husband to deliver the box to a wrong address, so that the husband would not have to eat her lousy food everyday. Saajan rushes to Ila, informs her that her marriage is over, and they proceed to Nashik (please see Plot 1 for “why not Bhutan”).
  5. Ila’s dabba wala hints that Ila and her husband have hatched the entire plan of purposely sending the dabba to Saajan to earn his confidence. Then Ila will move in with Saajan, marry him and inherit the Bandra bungalow (they feel he doesn’t have anything more than that). Then, Ila would hasten Saajan’s death by feeding him high-calorie stuff (in dinner too). Her ex-husband would rejoin her, and they would live in Bandra West happily ever after. Possibly, get the bungalow redeveloped into a building, and become wealthy too. And the kid will say in Bandra speak “what yaar, he was a gone case only”.
  6. Saajan reaches Ila’s place, but Ila has had a re-think. She thinks that any husband who has survived on aloo-gobhi for months without complaining much is not all that bad. So, what if he has a couple of flings at work place. She politely refuses Saajan’s proposal and gives her ticket to Bhutan to Saajan. Saajan gets a tatkal passport, gets a visa-on-arrival,  and spends his last days in Bhutan.
  7. Ila has found out that her husband works in a perfume factory in the second shift, to make ends meet. And the perfume on his shirt is from that (the dabbawala reveals this to her). Ila is really ashamed of her lack of Bharatiya naaripan. She apologises to Saajan for flirting with him over kheema-pav (almost), and decides to live happily ever after with her husband and kid.
  8. Saajan bumps into Ila’s mom, Lilette Dubey while walking from Malad station to Ila’s home. He finds Lilette prettier than Ila and more amusing and well, ahem, of his age. Lilette is a gold-digger anyways and coquettishly entices Saajan – mein to non-veg bhi bana leti hoon !! Saajan informs Ila that he sees her as his daughter, and well, meet your new mom…er…old mom…whatever.
  9. Saajan reaches Ila’s home and sees “Aaunty, Aaunty…” hanging the basket down. He imagines Bharti Achrekar’s husband lying on bed staring at the fan. And shudders to think that he may end up in the same stage, with such an age difference with Ila. He bids Ila good bye and goes back to Nashik. This time, he meets an older woman in the train, and proposes to her over kaali maina in Igatpuri.
  10. Ila and Saajan and the kid board the plane to Thimpu. They don’t like the scenery as much had been promised in the kid’s geography book. Saajan grumbles, “Nashik would have been better”.  They meet the king, Jigme Singhye Wangchuk, to complain to him. When the camera pans from the king’s towel-like dress upwards, the audience is shocked to see that the king is…Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The movie gets over in THIS incomplete way than the one it ended in the cinema hall.

Hope you found the ending of your choice from the few that I have described above. Apologies for this frivolous post about a film which should have made it to the Oscars as our official entry over the “Good Road” Gujarati movie because Lunch-box was so much better than Good Road…shall write something about Good Road after I have seen it !

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