Attribution Analysis of “The Fall of India”

Finger-pointing is the worst use of an Analysis. Using the outputs of an Analysis for learning to avoid similar mistakes in the future makes the Analysis worthwhile. It’s with the latter intention that I am attempting an “Attribution Analysis of The Fall of India” – why we are where we are ? Seeing the deluge of articles / news-stories on the state of India, I thought that it might be useful to try to find as to which of the many factors are really responsible for our current state, and how much has each factor attributed to our fall.

What is “Fall of India” ?

“Fall of India” refers to a combination of :

  1. Fall in the real Economy (Slowdown of GDP growth, Increasing Fiscal Deficit, Increasing Current Account Deficit (CAD), Rising inflation, High interest rates, Poor corporate earnings growth)
  2. Fall in the Capital markets – Equities, Commodities
  3. Fall of the Rupee.

I don’t think anyone can debate that there has been a Fall of India after going through the above list of KPIs defining the state (situation) of India. Some people may debate that some “qualitative factors” have improved and that too, especially in Bharat – Poverty has fallen by 15% points, rural economy is growing. But then, I shall show parameters on quality of education, healthcare, sanitation, employment, law & order and corruption, and the argument on these qualitative factors will also be convincingly clinched.

Key factors behind the Fall of India

Now that we have laid down a seemingly decent foundation for the fact that India is not doing well as a country, let us try to identify a short list of key factors / theories explaining this Fall :

Failure to carry out meaningful economic reforms from 2009 onwards; High fiscal deficit, caused by subsidies on fuels, agriculture and now food security.

  1. Not managing the Import-Export balance well structurally; not encouraging enough exports and not being able to rein in imports. Leading to widening CAD, and hence bigger impact on the Rupee (especially, knowing that QE had to end some day).
  2. Global factors :
  • Slowdown in economies of developed countries
  • QE…and then of late, stopping of QE
  • Worsening condition in West Asia & Middle East – Syria, Iran, Libya, Egypt.
  1. Obstructionist parliamentary Opposition & sometimes Allies, clamorous & Quixotic media, over-zealous CVC & Judiciary
  2. Vociferous opposition to large-scale projects from Environmental Ministry and Activists
  3. Series of scams from 2010 – Commonwealth Games, 2G, Mining, Coal, Railways, and hence Anna Hazare and hence slow-down by bureaucracy; Moral degradation of people at large.

According to me, out of 100% total impact that the above factors had on the Fall of India, my attribution to the 6 factors would be 20%, 15%, 40%, 10%, 5%, 10%, respectively.

 Attribution Analysis of Fall of India – chart


1. Impact of global events

We all would have understood by now that there is no such thing as “Indian markets are decoupled from the world”. With Quantitative Easing starting after 2008 crash, emerging markets clearly benefited from easy money coming into their equity and commodity markets…without any positive change in fundamentals of the economy. This trend has been noticed across all emerging markets, and it has wrought havoc on interest rates, inflation, forex rate and hence on the economy. The battering of the equity markets is a logical fallout. Hence I rate point 3 above as the single most destructive factor in the “Fall of India”.

Europe slowdown has hit revenues of companies exporting to these countries. USA Itself had slowed down till 2011. To that extent, the real Indian economy got hit. However, the easy money coming in to “better” markets like India kept the equity markets propped up – and at that time, no one was complaining on why the markets are so high without an accompanying change in fundamentals ?

Besides the Western economy factors, the serious situation in Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya have a straight impact on price of crude oil increasing, which increases our Imports bill and widens our CAD further. One thing which amazes me is the time it takes for the (global) equity markets to factor in these changes. Once it’s known that Syria has used chemical weapons, it should be expected that US & allies will attack Syria or impose some strong sanctions. This in turn will hit crude and hence the Rupee. But our markets fall on the day USA makes a statement that they are contemplating to attack Syria, a whole one week after the first revelation of chemical weapons.

Having said all of the above, please note that I hold Global factors to be 40% responsible for our situation, and domestic factors for the rest 60% !

2. The simple Job description of a Govt

We have been guilty of not pushing ourselves on economic reforms, cleaning up the system, correcting exim balance during this wonderful 2009-2011 period (wonderful because our economy was growing faster than western countries, and monies were pouring into our capital markets). There’s no better time to repair the roof than when the sun is shining bright! Points 1 and 2 above represent the sheer Job Description of any responsible Government. And this particular one has fared miserably on both. Many analysts have explained this strange behaviour of a Govt with avg IQ of cabinet >130 as a calculated one, which was thinking that 2009 election victory through NREGA and other populist measures can be repeated and hence nothing needs to be done on points 1 and 2. This is again manifested in passing Food Security Bill in such haste – it could have waited for 6-9 months more till Aadhar and other enabling infra could have become more stable.

Because of sheer macro-economic mis-calculation (IQ of 130 and not 140 J), the UPA2 think-tank did not reckon that economic growth will slow down so much because of no work done on points 1 and 2…and that QE3 tapering will be the death-knell of the irrationally exuberant stock markets too.

Also, coming to the subsidies, while a big song-n-dance has been made regarding the Food Security Bill, the fuel & fertilizer subsidy is more damaging in terms of quantum. In fact, most of the arm-chair analysts criticising the food security subsidy must be driving in their diesel cars / SUVs and have been contributing to the burgeoning fuel subsidy.

At 35% collective responsibility, this is the second most destructive factor and almost equal to the impact of the Global factors.

3. Obstruction from the “Enablers”

Since Sep 2012, as Chidambaram became the FM again, they have been trying to solve the situation on the economic front, but now points 4 & 5 started coming in the way. The other enabling pillars of our Democratic system refused to play ball with the Govt, and after 4 years of requesting/pushing the Govt to act responsibly, their frustration is not completely unfounded. Hence, I hold these blocs only 10% responsible for the state of affairs (not zero though).

I have personally been a huge fan of the role of Media in our nation-building, and think that it’s usually been a great watch-dog on people in power. Without their pressure, some of the more brazen elements of the powerful elite would have shamelessly walked away with bigger portions of funds meant for the needy. However, at points of time in the past two years, Media has been unable to rein itself on a few issues and have caused the bureaucracy to be extra-extra-cautious and to slow down. Media has also had an unintentional impact of glorifying street protests over parliamentary debate, one of the most dangerous things to happen in a democracy.

Coming to the other alleged obstruction – from environmental ministry and activists – someone has attributed 2.5% GDP growth Loss to the over-activism of Environmental Ministry and social-environmental activists. However, when a country is growing at 7-9% pa, then the quality of this growth should also be watched. In corporate life, there have been umpteen cases in which a reckless CEO has grown the top-line aggressively, but has ended up (or his successor has ended up) with a business having many non-existent customers, with unsustainable revenue streams, quick-fix one-time revenue deals. This has required years to correct and to bring the business back to original levels. So, for the country also, growth should not come at the expense of future environmental issues or through opportunistic land-grabbing from original owners. 2009-2011 was a good time for the environmental ministry and activists to ask such questions to ensure long-term foundation-building. However, 2013 is possibly a time to relax some such rules, be tactical and knowingly increase speed, with a note to correct things later on.

Hence, I don’t think that this is a factor deserving more than 5% credit for the nation’s woes. However, if this continues for some more time, it could become a more damaging factor.

4. Moral Degradation

That brings me to the last point (No. 6) in the list above and one of the most destructive long-term internal factors. While economic growth course correction can be done through a series of measures, moral course correction can take an entire generation. Kaushik Basu in a speech this week actually cited this as a bigger issue than “these short-term economic issues”. At some point of time, we forgot the positive lessons from the great entrepreneurship model of the 1990s decade (Infosys, TCS, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank). Newer companies which have grown fast in the 2000s are all in the rent-heavy industries like Power, Mining, Coal, Real Estate, Telecoms – politicians and bureaucrats are talking about personal incomes in billion dollars – I mean, come on…with 22% people not having even one square meal a day, these people need to have specially armoured skins to be able to sleep straight at nights. Anyways, I rate this at 15% but super-destructive for the future, since newer generations might just accept this as the new normal !

Posted in On India, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

TV – the opium of the masses…and it’s role in nation-building

I had visited an office on the 10th floor of a building in Bandra East, and saw the view from there. The view was brilliant since there were no tall buildings close by, and hence one got a clear view of a few kilometres. As I saw lower and closer to the building, bam ! Dotting the many terraces of the LIG buildings (Low Income Group – believe it or not!) and the roofs of the shanties were at least 2000 DTH dish antennas – in a radius of 500m!

And this is the scene of a country, of an economy which has seen one of its worst times in the past 4-5 years, almost ever since DTH started mushrooming across India. Easily, television is recession-proof. In fact, I almost think that it is counter-cyclical, i.e., worse the economy goes, more the usage of TV increases in Indian households. After all, eating out has become more expensive, movie tickets are Rs 290 a piece, a roadside tea costs Rs 8…in such an environment, families are best placed in front of their television sets.

I have heard somewhere that TV viewing per person is 28 mins per day in India vs 42 mins in developed world. But I think that the huge denominator of our population spikes this indicator adversely, and am sure that the weekend viewing of all the households that I saw from the 10th floor must surely be at least 3-4 hours per day. This time in front of the TVs is a sure-shot way to forget the worldly worries – of onion prices, EMIs, falling bonuses, disappearing jobs, fees for computer classes, withdrawn job offers, and so on.

TV is indeed the opium of Indian masses…along with Bollywood and cricket!

So, how are media companies addressing this need, while simultaneously making a profitable business model ?

I would say quite well – news channels are a constant watchdog over politicians and the bureaucracy. And easily is a strong pillar of our almost fragile democratic system. Holding the fort on the other side are Entertainment channel s, which are feeding the insatiable appetite for entertainment of different segments – the housewives, the working women, kids, the youth, and the lifestyle builders. Tough considering that India is a nation of nations, a melting pot of cultures. Am sure the top 5% elites might be feeling a bit left out from the barrage of programs on such channels. But then, the P&L of channels will dictate putting their minutes where their money is…or going to come from. (I don’t know if there is a business case for an elite channel…I think Fox History, National Geographic serve some of that purpose).

Where I feel some of our mainstream channels missing a trick is in educating the backward segments. There is so much education to be done – from basic medical programmes of the Govt  to hygiene guidelines to traffic guidelines to even character-building (corruption is not the “normal”). I discovered to my pleasant surprise that Doordarshan National plays that role quite well – there are many filler educational programs there. Even their re-plays of Chanakya, Mahabarat etc play a great role of teaching our history, our culture and Values to our kids.

We are a young country, moving very fast – partly on our own, and partly being pulled ahead by global forces. I think Television has a great role to play in building our nation – we should not miss that opportunity…actually, it’s almost a responsibility….I also think that if TV doesn’t do it, Internet might…but then, that’s a different topic for some other day…

Posted in On India | Leave a comment

Delhi Airport Metro Express vs Paddington Express

So, I sat in the Delhi Airport Metro Express for the first time during my visit to Delhi this week. I had heard about this Express for some time but because I have been flying Low-cost airlines (non-Jet Airways) whenever on official work, I have not been in the T-3 Airport Terminal for quite some time. So this time when Indigo seems to be losing their cost competitiveness over Jet, I snapped the opportunity…it was a “T-3 + Express” driven reason to fly Jet.

I called the local office cab to Shivaji Stadium railway station instead of at the airport, smart decision because the last 1.5 km from Shivaji Stadium to my office in Connaught Place might not have been physically possible in my suit and dragging my overnight bag.

The journey took me 16 mins flat !!! Am still to get over it. The 1.5km cab ride from Shivaji Stadium to Baarakhamba Road took another 16 mins. A normal cab ride from the airport to my office would have taken 1 hour in the peak morning hour that I had landed.

Anyways, coming to the COMPARISON, I had the opportunity to use the Paddington Express on my family holiday to London a few months back. Heathrow to Paddington in 20 mins flat (normal London tube would take 45 mins and a black cab would take 1 hour). So here goes Delhi vs London :

Delhi 9/10. London 7.5/10 !!!! Our Express is a clear winner.

  1. Fare for Delhi Express ride from airport to Connaught Place (Shivaji Stadium) is Rs 120. Paddington Express fare was 20 Pounds ! Even at purchasing power parity of a 1:4, it come to an equivalent of Rs 450 !!! Also, (Meru) cab fare in Delhi for same distance would be Rs 400 and in London 80 GBP.
  2. Cleanliness of Delhi Express is 9/10 vs 8/10 for Paddington, largely because you are not allowed to eat in our version. A bit authoritarian but smart…People in London start eating the moment they enter their Train and over the years, the trains get spoilt. Indian solution – NO EATING OR DRINKING ALLOWED J. Cruel but effective. I sipped in my water bottle surreptitiously.
  3. There is an indicator in Delhi Express which tells the passengers as to which side the platform is going to come. Amazing !!! I have not travelled in Mumbai locals for past 12 years but when I used to do that, for new travellers, guessing which side of the train does the next railway platform come was a great game. And it was not funny. As crowds moved from one side to the other, and shirts used to get ironed both sides. Not there in Paddington or for that matter in any of the London Tube trains.
  4. Announcement of the next station – available in both Expresses
  5. There is an LED map of the entire route (Dwarka to Delhi Railway Station) – a series of LEDs lighting the route. The LEDs keep on getting lighted as the Express covers the proportionate distance on the real route. So between Dhaula Kuan station and Shivaji Stadium, which is a non-stop run, one can know roughly as to how far Shivaji is. The LEDs were lighting in 24 seconds per LED (40 LEDS, 16 mins).
  6. Connectivity from the Express Station to other places in the city – Delhi 3/10, London 9/10.


Other aspects about our Delhi Express : Ticket was easily purchased from inside the airport itself. A blue plastic token with Reliance ADAG written on it. ADAG have given up operating this route since last month because of not being able to break even. However, the token tickets remain.

Occupancy at 9:40am train was 60% – not much in demand. Should be unprofitable. 50% of passengers were young lady executives from Dwarka, easily a preferred mode of travel for them – all power to them – more such alternatives need to be generated. Trains leaving every 15 mins.

A must-do !!!

Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous | Leave a comment

HUL Chairman’s Speech – Learnings galore

Thanks to the AGM of HUL being held on Friday July 26, the full-page speech-text was printed in The Economic Times only on Saturday, giving me time to read and re-read the entire speech. And man, what an amazing bouquet of thoughts ! My attempt here to summarise key highlights, and possibly to glean out some learnings…

  • The post-2008 world has been acknowledged as the key context of doing business itself. The war-term of Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) has been picked up to describe the extent of chaos in the global business world. SNAFU is another one which comes to my mind (Situation Normal, but All Fouled Up).
  • The speech identifies three mega-trends within the VUCA world, which are transmogrifying (I learnt this word from Calvin & Hobbes) the way business is being done –
    • Digitisation : Telegraph invented in 1840, Telephone in 1880, TV in 1920, IC in 1960 and Smartphone in 2000 (combining all of the above) – the world is never going to be the same again !
    • Shift of power to the developing world, and
    • The Importance of keeping Environment at the centre of business strategy.

Any company intending to do meaningful business globally has to understand, nay, internalise these mega-trends as part of its core strategy.

  • Historically, Business Growth was supposed to be comprehensive only if it was :
    • Profitable Growth,
    • Competitive Growth and
    • Consistent Growth (consistent over the first 2 dimensions).

Now, to win in a VUCA world, Responsible Growth has to be added to this list quite irreversibly. Society, Community has to be kept in mind while planning Growth.

  • Leadership required to achieve the 4-pronged growth and to succeed in the VUCA world should have the following traits :
    • Have an optimal mix of foresight and agility, the ability to balance the short-term with the long-term
    • Be consumer-centric, especially as consumers move across income bands, geographical regions and needs clusters
    • Ability to think local, act global : consumer insights are local, processes & best practices to act on these insights could be global
    • Values-led : values have to be non-negotiable, especially in bad times like now. Unilever Values can be described as “Spirited IRR”, covering Integrity, Responsibility, Respect and a Pioneering Spirit. Each company, each business has to firm up their set of values, and stick to them through thick and thin
    • Purpose-driven : purpose of the enterprise has to be over-arching, should far exceed the boundaries of business strategy,  and should be adding value to the lives of people  – both, consumers of the business and others.

Many Business Leaders may have thought through most of the above points for their Business; however, I found it interesting to see at one place such a beautiful amalgamation of inter-related variables, required to succeed in the new world order. And another point, I don’t think your company has to wait till it becomes of the size of HUL before one starts working on the above comprehensive landscape. In fact, if your company is small but growing, now is the right time to adopt such an all-encompassing, multi-directional approach…before it’s too late !

Posted in Management, Leadership and Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Response to my Gh(a)alib post…by my amazing not-so-layman friend

The below response comes from an amazingly erudite friend of mine, in response to my piece – A layman’s primer of Ghaalib…by a layman

मेरे अज़ीज़ी दोस्त

ग़ालिब के ऊपर आपका लेख देखकर ख़ुशी भी हुई और ताजुब भी हुआ – ख़ुशी इसलिए कि आप जैसे जवांमर्द सिपहसालार मिजाजी ने शेरोशाइरि को तवज्जुह दी और ताजुब इसलिए कि आप जैसे होशमंद नौजवान ने एक बहुत ही ज़लील सा तर्जुमा बिना देखे भाले खरीद लिया। आगे का वाक़िया हमारे मादरी ज़बान में बयान किया जाता है.

But really, you made a decidedly bad choice, based on the evidence of translation in your blog post. Ghalib is one of my beloved characters, more for his life, than for his work, which I am only now beginning to understand and have many miles to go before I can actually say anything.

There is no doubt that Ghalib was a revered celebrity when alive, except that he wore the celebrity status very lightly. An index of his stature can be estimated by the fact that three collections of his personal letters in Urdu where printed and published in his lifetime. And indeed these Urdu letters, rather than his poetry, are the means which let us (people like you and me) access him most readily. They provide irrefutable proof of Ghalib being one of the progenitors of modern Hindu/Urdu besides being someone highly advanced on the path to salvation. They are extremely enjoyable – ironic, acerbic, self-deprecatory, and sometimes refreshingly mundane – and have been popular among Urduwallahs for the last 150 years; the latest Urdu edition runs into five fat volumes. They have been partly translated into English which is how I first encountered them and I must say the prose translation is a lot more felicitous though there are some transmission losses. The one book in English is :

Ralph Russell. The Oxford India Ghalib: Life, Letters, and Ghazals. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003.

I will not bore you any further with my impressions but merely direct you to that one internet site which will quench all your Ghalibiana besides giving Devnagari versions of his Diwan.


Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 years ago this day, spent the night under Goregaon flyover…as the skies opened their hearts

July 26, personally for me, still ranks among the 9/11, 26/11 etc. I thought I should share a recap of my memories of that day, 8 years ago. I don’t know why am I sharing this first personal experience on my blog, but possibly, the purpose is to let you readers re-live your experience of that day or similar ones experienced some other time.

It had been raining in Mumbai since July 25 noon and by July 26 noon, people started concluding that something unprecedented was happening. Most of us learnt the term “cloudburst” only a few days later. I was working for Airtel, heading  a part of the Marketing function at Mumbai then. At around lunch time, we decided to ask employees to leave for home. A few of us Manager-types stuck around for some more time and started off at 4pm. From Mindspace in Malad West.

There was a bumper-to-bumper traffic from Inorbit junction to SV road junction, and we reached there after an hour of crawl, at 5pm. Just before hitting the Western Express Highway, we had to tackle a smallish road which was filled with water, and as we crossed this one in our car, water rushed in into the car (I think from the floor of the car or from the doors). About a foot deep.

The highway was better and there was no water. The water from the car got drained out, but the damp floor and bottom of seats would take a week to cure. But the moment we hit the highway, we joined a traffic jam under the Goregaon flyover, of vehicles turning right on the Highway, headed towards south Mumbai. We realised after 10 mins that it was not a jam, but a complete stop. My driver walked ahead and returned with the news that there was about 3-4 feet of water collected on the highway near Santacruz, and vehicles had stopped short of that water, and the queue had reached Goregaon. By the time we realised anything, we had a 100 cars behind us coming from Malad west behind us, and a km-long queue of cars on the western express highway till Kandivali. We were stuck, couldn’t move back or forward or anywhere. My driver walked down the junction and tried to check if we could go through the Aarey Milk Colony road, but as expected, it was also jammed.

I had given a ride to some colleagues in my car, and another car full of colleagues from my office was parked in the jam next to us. It started raining heavily at 6pm, but by some stroke of luck, we were exactly under the flyover and hence, in a dry zone – miraculously! Because this allowed us to get out of the car and stretch about and relax a bit.

I should mention that the mobile networks had collapsed because the antennas had run out of batteries & diesel after the electricity had got disconnected (by design, because there were news of lots of people getting electrocuted with loose wires strewn around). So, we were not in touch with anyone since 5pm. My wife was in her SEEPZ office (last that I spoke to her at 4pm) and our baby was in my in-law’s place – thankfully.

Then, the wait started. 6pm…7pm…8pm, and we thought that at some point of time, the water in Santacruz will recede. However, news coming from people around was that the high tide at 5pm had coincided with heavy rains and water was increasing instead of receding. My driver walked around the place and bought us some onion pakoras (lots of) to eat, along with some bottles of water. We later on heard that these had got over quickly after that in all shops nearby. By 9pm, it struck us that we were going to be there the entire night ! The onion pakoras (bless Ravi, my driver) had been a great dinner (while eating, we had called it “snacks”), and after chatting with colleagues, trying to sing songs, we retired in the car seat. I tried to work on my laptop but for some reason was unable to concentrate.

We slept in fits and starts, and saw with some gratefulness the rains stop pouring after midnight. By 5:30am, some cars started moving along the Arey Milk Colony road, and we started off behind them. The scene on the road was one of carnage – huge pieces of the road – 4m in diameter had been washed away and it was a challenge driving on the road. There were a few cars driven off the road in the night – people who had tried to attempt a getaway in the rains.

We made our way to SEEPZ, where I went to my wife’s office to check on her. The tough security of SEEPZ didn’t try to stop me when I said that my wife’s inside and I don’t want to make a gate pass now. I found out from some colleagues of her that she had managed to take the office bus at 5am out of the office. (Her driver and car had got stuck at home after getting our baby to the in-law’s place). I later on found out that she had walked the last 2km to home.

In the rest of our drive from SEEPZ to Chembur, we witnessed the most harrowing picture of my ultra-protected life in Mumbai. There were cars parked on both sides of the road, as people had dumped them in the long jams in the night and walked home. There were Mercedeses and Skodas, with doors open parked on the side. We hit another crawling jam around Ghatkopar, as we joined a line of cars, who had spent the night somewhere like us and had figured out that it was time to go home now. We were 2-3 km from my home. I exchanged my Florsheim shoes with my driver’s rubber shoes (thank god, we wear the same size of shoes), requested him to drive the car back slowly home and I set out on foot for home. I waded through knee-deep water close to home and reached home around 9am, looking like a ghost.

Since there had been no telephone contact, I was given a warm reception. My wife had reached a couple of hours before me and had moved from the denial phase to the acceptance phase by now. She had a blissful, grateful smile now, different from the tired frown that I had. It took 3 cups of tea and a baby to hug to get my face unwrinkled and relaxed.

For some reason, we found ourselves visiting the temple close by that afternoon, and after a warm shower, did not wake up till dinner that night. I let my driver keep the Florsheim shoes (thank god, we wear the same size of shoes).

We later on learnt that in the past 24 hours, in quite a few instances, some people had got suffocated in their cars overnight, having got locked in with water coming in their doors. Scores of people had drowned in open gutters. Poor people had got electrocuted. Walls of few homes had fallen. We slept in a Corolla under a flyover on a highway…God had been kind !

Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A layman’s primer to Mirza Ghaalib…by a layman

So, I have just now completed executing my 25-year old ambition to read about Mirza Ghaalib and to try to understand some of his famous shaayari. Well, I think that, at least, I have completed the first part well. To achieve this feat, there had to be a translation into English, obviously. My schooling in Maharashtra Board Hindi used to leave me gasping for breath whenever I heard some Urdu couplets, and I could make about 60% of what was being said. Or at least I could guess. So, when I came across a book by Kuldeep Salil, an English trans-literation and translation of Deewan-e-Ghaalib, the most popular work of Ghaalib, I hit the “buy” button.

Asad Ullah Khan Ghaalib seemed to be a happy-go-lucky sort of person who was never revered so much when he was alive. He lived from 1797-1869 in an interesting era when an incoming British culture was mixing with an outgoing Mughal culture (or receding from its pure form), and where the science/rationale of the western world was encouraging several poets and artists to ask tough questions of the existing Mughal culture. I think this nudging was only a catalyst and not a cause, since generations of poets starting from Kabir downwards had been harbouring such an irreverent & interrogative stance towards religious rituals. Continuing this stance and brought up in this unique mix of cultures, Ghaalib has written irreverently about the chequered character of the Mullah, the nobles and everyone in general. He was a secular writer and wrote about all faiths with reverence till God was involved. The moment it came to rituals, he was an aggressive iconoclast.

Many of his shers are humorous and laced with satire and ironical twists. His resilience of bouncing back from each of his insolvent situations crept into his work, and he is found cracking jokes about his own imprisonment – self-deprecation at its best. However, modest he was not. All his shers have reference to himself by name, a style of shaayars and poets of that era. I think this was a smart way to imprint their copyrights on their work.

He suffered abject poverty at points of time in his life and at the age of 51, he had to take a steady job (the shame of it !) of tutoring the royal prince. He was imprisoned a couple of times for becoming insolvent and owing people money. The bloody aftermath of the 1857 Revolt shook him up a bit. He died of old age, and after a prolonged sickness.

Of the 50 ghazals from Deewane-e-Ghaalib covered in the book, about 30-35 are on love, lover and the on the pain of love (the emotional wrench or amazingly, Runj in Urdu – my own poetic discovery of homophonic trans-lingual pairs). Rest are on friendship, drinking, irreverence towards customs. The English translation has been made to rhyme and that makes it funny to read and many times looked a bit forced-down-your-throat. I would have preferred a better translation which may or may not have rhymed.

Listing down below a few popular ones of Ghaalib that I found in the book…you will see what I meant about the translations :  

  • Woh aaye  ghar mein  hamaare Khuda ki kudrat  hai; Kabhee ham unko, kabhee apane ghar ko dekhte hain (He comes to our house, God shows his grace; sometime we look at him, sometime at our place).
  • Hazaaron khwahishen aisi ki hur khwahish pe dum nikle; Bahut nikle mere armaan, lekin phir bhi kum nikle (Thousands of desires, life-consuming and tough; I had them fulfilled in plenty, but not enough)
  • Yeh na thi humari kismet ki visaley-yaar hota; Agar aur jitey rehte, yahi intazaar hota (It wasn’t my luck to meet my beloved ever; I would have only waited and waited, if I had lived longer)
  • Aah ko chaahiye ik umra, asar hone tak; Kaun jita hai tiri zulf ke sir hone tak (It needs a whole age for a sigh to reach somewhere; Who lives long enough to conquer the heart of his beloved fair?).

Brilliant stuff – no wonder, Ghaalib is also called the Shakespeare of Urdu poetry !!!

Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Most admired companies in India – 2nd edition (Fortune India)

(For my blog piece on last year’s edition – the first one by Fortune India – please click the below link. Had recorded some serious observations on methodology then. Hence, this time’s piece below is some sort of an addendum.  )

 First of all, this year, the survey has been published in July issue, a 1-2 month’s delay as compared to last year’s. Goes against the principle of “Endurance”, Team Fortune…much touted as one of your key metrics to evaluating “admiration” in companies.

 Who’s in, who’s not

Coming to the ranking, TCS is No. 1, followed by HUL, ITC, Infosys, SBI.

Good news – the Banks have made an entry – they were conspicuous by their absence last year (almost got tongue-lashed in my piece of last year J). With the addition of NBFC category, now, there are 4 companies in top 50 admired companies from the Financial Services space – HDFC, HDFC, ICICI, SBI.

Of the top 50, 10 are from IT/ITES, continuing their domination from last year. 3 of these are the top Indian services companies – HCL Technologies for all its EFCS strategy doesn’t seem to be admired !…by peers at least. Rest 7 are the Big global MNCs peddling chips, network, PCs and now software services. Won’t be far before Google India, Facebook etc start making the List.

The top 10 FMCG companies of India figure in the Top 50 easily. 5 consumer durables / devices companies make it to the list – Samsung, Sony, Nokia, Siemens, Godrej & Boyce.  

Maruti, Tata Motors, Toyota make up the auto sector. Airtel, Vodafone and Idea (AB Nuvo) bring in the fast-sagging telecoms group.

The rest 15 are from the “heavy” sectors – Steel, Oil & gas, Coal, Engineering.

Again, 27 out of 50 are Indian-born-and-bred companies. Rest are global MNCs. This is similar to the tally of last time. And of the 23 firangs, not all of them have been here for many decades (like HUL, ITC, Colgate, Nestle have). The IT/ITES and tech devices ones have sort of come in in the past 2 decades only. So, it’s not that eventually, Indian companies will dominate this list. Newer global MNCs will also keep on coming in.

 Criteria & Methodology : Ten parameters – Global Business Footprint seems to have been added to last year’s 9. Am hoping that global MNCs should not get unduly rewarded because of this. “Endurance” continues to impress me. Might get replaced in bullish times. Corp Governance & CSR is one cluster. Financial Performance, soundness and endurance is another. Leadership & Talent mgt is the people criterion. Innovation & Quality brings up the long-term business quality.

Number of respondents has increased from 300 odd to 550 odd this time. Increase the robustness of responses.

Possibly, I have speed-read this Fortune issue in today’s flight. Hence, am unable to figure that if IDFC is No. 1 on NBFC List of top 10, then why does it not figure in Overall Top 50, while HDFC Limited does ? (which was below IDFC in NBFC List). Similarly, Cipla is No 1 in Pharma but does not figure in top 50, while Reddy’s does. Same for some other categories too.

 Let me end this one with saying that “People spend entire life times waiting to be admired. Not so easy. 10 criteria and 550 peers. It’s hard work.”

Posted in Management, Leadership and Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Secrets of Leadership – some key points

Have just finished reading (most of) “The Secrets of Leadership” by Prakash Iyer, MD of Kimberley Clark Lever. I say “most of” because of the beautiful construct of the book – it’s an ensemble of short stories each with a moral…or sometimes two. Hence, one can pick and choose the stories to read, and one may decide to complete the book in multiple sittings.

The book is targeted at young leaders or even young executives / managers. It is not a classic for “established leaders” and does not claim to share any cutting-edge research on Leadership or its building blocks. For that, one can go through the massive number of articles in HBR, Sloan’s Mgt Review and Leadership books. If you are an established leader, this could be a fun book to pick up anecdotes / morals / quotes (at least) for your own sessions of coaching your younger team-mates.

It’s a bit of Jataka tales meets Stephen Covey meets HBR meets Larry Bossidy – amazing flow !


Some interesting ones :

  1. Strong leadership in adverse times is many times more valuable than that in “peaceful” times. A leader’s true flavours come out in such times like that of a good teabag in boiling water.
  2. Leaders need Passion, Hunger, Discipline to succeed – need to do their own PHD
  3. Initially, what you learn is more important than what you earn
  4. I did it because no one told me it was impossible – don’t get too daunted by low/negative benchmarks. Like the only frog who climbed the TV tower because it was deaf, and thought that the nay-sayers were actually egging him on. Or Australia being the first team to cross 400 runs in an ODI by scoring 434…South Africa won that match by scoring 438 – they had learnt that it was possible.
  5. Be positive – there are several stories in the book which bring out this learning, in different ways. Look for Opportunity in Difficulty. Else you will get Difficulty in (using the) Opportunity (when it comes).
  6. Some nuggets on the serendipitous beginning of large businesses – Sochiro Honda getting rejected in Toyota interview and starting his own scooter making shop. Or Colonel Sanders being able to sell his chicken recipe to only the 1000th (!!!) company he tried – KFC !
  7. Look at gaps rather than fielders – Ricky Ponting
  8. Shed your pre-conceived notions. Santro Black-n-Yellow cabs had a tough time initially as passengers thought they were more expensive to ride in. Grown-up elephants don’t break the flimsy chains in wooden pegs because they had got hurt in their childhood doing the same – forgetting that they have grown 50 times ever since.
  9. If it is to be, it is up to me – one of the few ten-word sentences with all 2-letter words. Very powerful meaning. Exhorting young people to take ownership, take charge.
  10. FEAR is False Expectations Appearing Real, and hence Fear being only in the mind. Kapil Dev hitting four sixers when 24 runs were needed to avoid follow on and only one wicket was left.
  11. Be Happy, but not satisfied…if you want to be successful
  12. Meet Luck half-way. An Abe Lincoln classic.
  13. It’s nice to be important but more important to be nice. HTDO – Hold the door open..for the next person.
  14. And many others…which you will have to read yourselves.

You can sort the 60 stories into your own categories of wisdom and then use the book as a Reference Book before addressing your team members…

Posted in Management, Leadership and Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quick learnings from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

First of all, my apologies for destroying the fun out of the film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag by extracting “Learnings” from the film. But then, spending 3 full hours on a film in the multiplex, and seeing the audience spontaneously clap at the end of a film doesn’t happen many times. Hence, there must be something to learn :) . Here goes :

1. Single-minded focus : If you have set your eyes on an ambitious goal, then realising that goal needs single-minded focus. This has been told to us through different people across times. Arjun’s focus of seeing only the fish’s eye, Rahul Dravid’s famous focus / concentration when on the field, Amir Khan’s intense focus while executing any project at hand. There have been instances of people failing to achieve their goals because of lack of focus – Naarad Muni’s loss of focus while carrying a pot of oil on his head and his consequent forgetting to chant Vishnu mantra, Infosys founders losing focus temporarily as they involved themselves in other pursuits (Aadhar, Catamaran, Philanthropy) and for some time, Milkha Singh after meeting the Australian girl during the 1956 Olympics. Subsequently, he finds his way and rejects the company of the pretty swimmer Perizaad to regain his focus, and consequently starts winning all the races (see another article in my Blog for “Focus in Leadership” ).

2. Achieve closure to your problems : Milkha lived through his entire youth remembering the gruesome massacre of his family back in Pakistan at the time of partition. The memories were so terrible that he couldn’t sleep properly and this even cost him his Olympics medal in 1960, even after being the World Record holder. When he visits his old village in Pakistan and his friend tells him that “It’s not the people who are bad, it’s the circumstances” – suddenly, Milkha achieves closure. He seems to have forgiven the past and moves on. After that, he beats the competition by a mile in the next race, and seems genuinely happy. You need to reconcile with your problems, with your past, take them to a logical conclusion…and then, move on !

3. Set your goals high…and then Execute like Hell : After having lost in the qualifiers in the 1956 Olympics, Milkha comes out of his shell quickly and sets an unreasonable, audacious target for himself – that of beating the world record ! After that, he practises like there’s no tomorrow and tires (pun intended) himself to the extremes till he achieves his goals. Be Fool-hardy while setting your goals, Fastidious & Fool-proof in building your Plan, and Fierce in executing the Plan. My own 4Fs of Strategy formulation :) .

4. Get a mentor and achieve extra-ordinary goals : Especially in sports and corporate life. Milkha got his two coaches who were aligned with his aspirations and strengths. They brought out the best in him, and at times, pushed him to move towards his goals. Identifying well-wishing experience people who like you and are interested in your career is very important. They will hand-hold you through career moves, tough times and inspire you to super-achieve your goals.

5. And finally, the frivolous ones :

a. Don’t drink too much beer before the big days… especially with people of a country you might be competing against tomorrow

b. Swimming is good for health. Never know who you will meet there.

c. Three people by train from Delhi to Chandigarh to deliver one line…is an over-kill

d. A vest on the body is sometimes better than a blazer on the peg on the wall. You may lose the vest while trying to get the blazer.

e. In sports grounds, never consume drinks you can’t recognise. They could be the sweat of the athletes…at best !

Posted in Miscellaneous - Parenting, Culture, Urban living, and… well, miscellaneous | 2 Comments