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Showing posts from September, 2011

Garibi Hatao, Tax Badao

The brouhaha over Rs. 32 setting the poverty line in India heralds a return to classic socialist idiocy. But then again you shouldn't be too surprised at such idiocy in India. After all, shaking off an embedded socialist welfare psyche isn't easy because of two reasons. One, cultivating economic sense in a welfare state isn't easy. Two, from a psychological perspective the welfare state idiocy makes people feel like they are the caring kind.

Lets for a moment suppose the poverty line were raised to a higher rupee level. The result would be greater 'people numbers' in the poverty bracket. Pray, who will then feed, clothe, and care for these enhanced numbers? Of course government, the socialists will clamour. Pray when has government ever fed and cared for the poor? Remember the Indira Gandhi times, when taxes were at its highest, and 'Garibi Hatao' was loudly bandied around? What happened? The poor remained dirt poor! The well off and the salary earners paid …

Clueless 'bout me!

I am not surprised at times I am clueless about what I do. I always knew this 'lack' was bound to happen. I only wished I'd spot it quick.

I did.

Last Sunday at church I see this kid buttoned to the hilt. I thought he looked cute. Then his dad walks in buttoned up too. Soon it dawns. I realise its the dad's influence playing out on the kid. The former's choice of clothes for himself drove choices made for the kid (at least when it came to clothes).

Then it hits me. By Jove, extend that to yours truly!

I've always picked the more casual kind of clothes for Jaden. Why? I love causals and wear 'em, even at church (though most think that's inappropriate). It was unnerving for me to realise I've made choices for my kid based on choices I make for myself. Without even knowing it!

The influence of the family on a child, I believe, is vastly underestimated. We are who we are, deep inside, thanks (or maybe, no thanks) to our family. The generation influence that …

Death of the Cool

'Cool depended on liberalism. In fact, it was an offshoot of it, suckling on the mother’s milk of Keynesian economics. As long as there was plenty of deficit spending to go around, we could all be cool. Life would be one long evening at Max’s Kansas City.

Of course, it’s not. In today’s pay-as-you-go world, being cool is a luxury few can afford. This accounts for the extreme discomfort we may be seeing in our media and, to a lesser extent — they still have more money — Hollywood. Our media, our journos, depend on being thought cool and, consequently and perhaps more importantly, thinking of themselves as cool. When they suspect they are not, they begin to behave like worker bees when the queen is killed. They tend to run around and act out. After a while, they seem lost. Their numbers dwindle.

This is just because cool depended on a hive mind in the first place. It was little more than fad. We are well rid of it.

And in part because cool is gone, the remaining liberals are the new re…

The attitude contrasts to Moditva

When brand gasbag Suhel Seth terms Modi a 'transformational leader' he ends up saying more about himself than the Gujarat Chief Minister. He reveals himself as someone who's taken the 'affective-feel' route to forming attitudes. Such attitudes are what lead to the usage of a descriptive term like 'transformational'. Now, pray why Suhel writes such stuff? Because an invite from the Chief Minister lands him a sermon that he gives the business-wallahs in Ahmedabad. I am not surprised. Guys like Suhel thrive on ego needs. A chance at a sermon and they'll bellow the tune you seek.

Contrast Suhel with some one like Teesta. Her route to attitudes is the cognitive one. She's not one to sway to ego-lures. She sticks her ground and focuses on what she's after. Justice for the victims of Gujarat.

The affective route to forming attitudes works with the gasbag types. For they'll do anything to ride an ego trip. Its important therefore for brands to go over…

The Hindi, Hinglish, & English crowd

Segment the young in India and you get three kinds. The Hindi, Hinglish, and English. The first kind, mostly found in towns and villages (north of India) take to Hindi, lock, stock, and barrel. The second, the 'Hinglish' crowd populates towns and metros. They oscillate between, and integrate Hindi and English to suit them. This is the 'going on dude' crowd that inadvertently or knowingly peppers English with large doses of Hindi, or the other way round. The final bunch is the convent educated, metro crowd. They are the 'dude' crowd. They frequent cafes, sport sneakers, swear by denims, and pretty much are clued into everything digital.

The young pose the biggest interest to marketers. In addition to being large in numbers, the young don't hold back on consuming, and because it'll be while before they kick the bucket, the moolah marketers can extricate from them (read, customer lifetime value) can be quite a sum.

Featured above are two commercials from Tel…

The sensory adaptation in callousness

At times we are surprised at our callousness. Other times we wonder how others can be that way. Especially when everything around seems to be screaming out for care and empathy. Take the aftermath of the bomb blasts in Delhi. Relatives of the dead and injured ran pillar to post to get information. Some even had to pay money so they could a buy a cloth to cover the dead at morgues.

Imagine that. How callous of the hospital authorities to disrespect the unfortunate and the dead! How dare they leave the bodies bare, and then demand money for a piece of cloth to be used as covering!

Morbid as it is, there's an explanation to why we and others turn callous. Its called sensory adaptation. What can shock doesn't because our senses adapt. Our senses adapt when our sensory thresholds go up. And those thresholds travel north if there's consistent repetition and reinforcement of stimuli. The hospital authorities turned a blind eye on the dead because being dead and lying around wasn…

Imagine Me

The charade of deregulation

Know why petrol prices are up? Or why intelligence agencies fail in India? Well, its the same reason why we have pathetic roads, tripping power, dry pipes, the misery list is endless.

The reason? Government and regulation.

When there's zero accountability, and tax payer money in plenty, what else is to be expected? Of course, the defence of government is their tom-toming deregulation in the oil industry, but tell you what, that's just a charade. For example, the price hike from tomorrow according to the government is in response to the weakening rupee leading to a higher import bill. Really? Where are the figures? Tell us the actual increase in cost to government, and then tell us how you arrived at a price increase of three rupees. Also, if its real deregulation, why aren't prices moving up and down everyday, based on global demand and supply? In the US, prices even change morning to evening.

Truth is, deregulation isn't real deregulation in India. It is regulation in di…

The Real Winners

Its indeed distressing to know our hockey players get close to zilch despite winning the Asian Champions Trophy. But then again, the hockey federation supposedly has no money in its kitty. And then there's the veritable comparison made with cricket, and its board that's rolling in money.

Well, I say the comparison's rather unfair. Don't give cricket and its administrators too much credit for all that money. Instead give more credit to the fact that we can't as a nation produce winners in the global arena in any other sport. Couple that with the good fortune Indian cricket enjoys in earning the world champion tag in a boring sport that a handful of countries play.

Its almost like the adulation the IITs and the IIMs enjoy. There's hardly any real competition thanks to regulation keeping the biggie B Schools from the West out. Plus the first four decades of artificial scarcity meant these institutions got a headstart with near zero competition for all that time.


Much ado about nothing

Part of our problem in India is the excess virtue that we ascribe to stuff that needs no such worshipful attitudes. Look at our response to parents and teachers. We aren't supposed to question their wisdom for they can't be wrong. And even if they are, we must stay mum and buy into their nonsense.
Beats me.
I for one don't think parents or teachers deserve any more respect than anyone else. In fact every person deserves respect. We don't need to dish out respect in larger doses for any particular entity. In fact doing the extra doses for ages I believe, is at heart of why there's never any deviant or radical thinking (read, innovation) that comes out of our country.
Now such virtuous attitudes extend into consumption territory too. Much virtue for example is seen in minimal consumption. If one dares to consume in plenty, there's a bout of condemnation waiting round the corner. Agreed, there's a great divide between the 'have' and the 'have-nots'…

Why we can or can't forgive

Forgiving isn't easy. But its easier doing, if either the act doesn't cut too deep, or is an exception, not the norm.

Words can hurt. If such words repeat often, forgiveness will run thin eventually petering out. It will also then become difficult to separate the articulated from the articulator. Meaning the person now starts to embody the language mouthed. Forgiveness turns next to impossible.

Its the same with our experiences as consumers. The first one that goes sour may not sound the death knell for the service provider. After all, we are willing to forgive. But if it happens one too many times we won't be as forgiving. Chances are we'd abandon the provider and move to another.

This then harkens the beginning to the end of a service provider. In life as in business, its important we get our language and our service right as many times as we can. For there's always someone at the receiving end who may be called to forgive if we mess up.

If we stumble too often, chan…

Lest we forget

'September 11 is but one part of a long struggle, one that continues to be a testament to our humanity and our ideals. While 9/11 seems apocalyptic in our history, it is neither the first nor the last chapter in America's fundamental story. Our nation exists because Americans had a vision. They believed that there should be one place on Earth premised on the ideal that every person should be allowed to rise to his or her fullest potential.

Hostility to that vision is the reason that we have been the repeated target of aggression. And why we were the target 10 years ago. Our triumph has not come from being unscathed—then, or even in the future—but in refusing to fall, either as Americans or as America, from our vision. That is 9/11's deeper message. And it is indeed one we must never forget.'

- J T Young, 'Remembering 9/11 and Recognizing Its Message.'

Standing up

So let me understand what the third world commentators are saying about America fighting the wars its fighting. Their collective chorus recommends America should have taken the 9/11 aftermath lying down and playing mum. Yeah, its a thought. But thank God, the Americans thought otherwise. Thank God, there was someone who stood up to evil.

Make no mistake, America must stand for liberty. Communist, freedom depriving China can't and won't do it. Ditto for socialist Europe. The United States of America is our only hope for a free world.

But be worried, for everything isn't as hunky dory as it seems, even in the land of liberty. Note Michael Filizof, 'If the World War II generation was "The Greatest Generation," their baby-boom offspring upon whose watch 9/11 occurred are "The Weakest and Most Narcissistic Generation." Instead of unifying the nation, the political left manipulated the worst attack on the American mainland since the War of 1812 with shamele…

Ground the Maharajah

'It’s not difficult to understand why Air India is in so much trouble. The airline industry belongs to the “hospitality” sector, which needs high service standards to be maintained. Now in a government company, the last thing on any employee’s minds is customer service. No wonder then that the air hostesses are rude (and crude), the food is ugly to look at (and tasteless) and even the basic facilities inside the aircraft (upholstery, toilets, air conditioning, choice of newspapers and magazines) leave much to be desired. Yet, the pricing is as high as that of the much better private airlines. Why? Because Air India’s costs of operations are high…..and they must be passed on to their customers! And why is that so? Many reasons but primarily because it has a bloated work force. The number of people who work in Air India is some 40000 odd; in comparison, the number of people in the much larger Jet Airways is less than 10000. Such a big workforce – leading to a huge salary burden – an…

Selfish self pursuit is way better

The problem with Arundhati's socialist rant is that propagates an 'equalising' process that achieves the exact opposite. In fact the outcome of such drives (read, to achieve equitable prosperity) is greater inequity, and of course the loss of freedom.

Societies that are freer, and that allow for the pursuit of selfish inequality have end up with what comes closest to equitable prosperity. Meaning the general lot of people who populate such free societies are far better. On the other hand societies that have through government tried to engineer equitable prosperity have miserably failed. Plus they have perpetrated on their people a system that eats into their freedom to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Its important every nation recognise the value of liberty. Liberty is what engineers prosperity on an near-even platform. There is no government anywhere in the world that's achieved the utopian dream of equity dreamt by likes of Arundhati. Attempts at equity su…


What we remember

Riding the bus back home puts a smile on face, and its got nothing to do with getting away from work. Truth be told, I love what I do at work. I get to teach the smartest students there are, and the interactions I have with them are as rewarding to me.

Going back home sporting a smile has much to do with with the images that play in my head, drawn from memory. I can see the kids and Alphy. Their lovely welcome that I get to see every evening is what splits my face in two via a smile. In fact, I can almost remember everything about them, right from the beginning. I can do that because I draw those recollections from what is called my long term memory. I can see Alphy waiting for me at the Cafe' where we first met. I can draw the call (from an uncle) that told me Jaden's left his mama's tummy to tumble into the world. I can hear Brooke's cry even though my mom-in-law hadn't yet seen her, but she had her phone up (with me on the line) to catch Brooke's cry from ins…

Its people who matter to consumers

In our everyday life at home the rare 'tense' moment (while raising our kids) between Alphy and me is quite an influence on my immediate subsequent behaviour. The hassled me turns a tad bit harsher when it comes to disciplining Jaden. The hassle hangover stays for a few minutes after which I am jerked back into a realisation of my own behaviour. Thankfully its then back to normal.

Our states of mind influence what we exhibit as behavior. Our states of mind in turn are highly susceptible to the quality of the preceding human engagement. A pleasant encounter with people puts us at ease. A testing one frays our nerves.

In the world of business, every service encounter can either have a pleasant or a bitter aftermath. If its the former that plays out, expect the consumer to exhibit a negative attitude to what's encountered next. For example, a callous waiter can be real cause for our grouse with the food. Conversely a lovely store person may be reason why we buy more than we nee…

What terror aims to disrupt

The terror strike on innocents in Delhi is an act of cowardice. Such an act aims to take away what is our legitimate right. The right to life and liberty.

As a nation we are indeed vulnerable to such dastardly acts. But we stand firm in our resolve, both out of choice and compulsion to go back to what we do in our everyday lives. The aftermath of this tragedy mustn't be blame-games. Instead the focus must be on how we pre-empt and prevent further terror attacks through strengthening intelligence.

Praying for families who have lost loved ones, and for the injured.

The definition of a Jerk

The one difference between a child and an adult is the latter's ability to delay gratification. For children, delaying gratification doesn't come easy. Their demands are the 'right now' kind. It's natural kids do that because they are obsessed with themselves. It takes time for them to realise there's others in the world, that those others matter.

The funny thing is, there's enough adults out there who haven't grown out of being kids. Like children, they too are self-obsessed. The difference is, their behaviour makes them jerks while children at their age are tolerable. Self-obsessed adults are easy to spot. They are the insensitive louts we put up with.

A focus on the self erodes our ability to delay gratification. Which is good news to marketers, for it hastens a sale. Marketers on their part do everything to lure consumers by giving them umpteen reasons on why gratification needn't be delayed. For example, EMI payments, a 'limited period offer&…

Hungry Eyes

Buffett's buffet ain't generous

It isn't what Warren said that's bothersome. After all what else can you expect from a liberal? Its the hypocrisy that's irksome.

Note the WSJ editorial: For a guy who spends a lot of time advocating for higher taxes, Warren Buffett does a remarkably good job of minimizing his own corporate tax bill. This is all to the good for Mr. Buffett and his fellow Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, who no doubt can invest the money more wisely than the federal government is likely to do.

Mr. Buffett's recent decision to invest in Bank of America represents another tax-avoidance triumph for the Berkshire chief executive. U.S. corporations are subject to a top federal income tax rate of 35%, the second highest in the world. But the Journal's Erik Holm notes that Mr. Buffett and the Berkshire bunch won't pay anything close to that on their investment in BofA preferred shares.

That's because corporations can exclude from taxation 70% of the dividends they receive from an i…