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Showing posts from February, 2012

The Potty Path

'Even if the Indian Railways does invest crores of rupees to install at least 1.6 lakh 'green' and, presumably, clean toilets in all the coaches of its vast network in the next 10 years, it is unlikely that the corrosion of tracks will stop entirely. For, it is not only passengers who leave something of themselves behind on the tracks as they take those interminable journeys.

One of the enduring sights of tracks in India are the number of people in the hinterland who seem to prefer to carry out their morning ablutions in the vicinity of the steel rails, though why this open-to-view option is so favoured has never been definitively ascertained.

This may be the key to resolving the issue, along with a parallel scheme of making conventional toilets a must-want in rural areas. Of course, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh has rued that women apparently covet mobile phones more than toilets; if true, that desire would probably not be gender-specific, and may be spurred by…

Market is People

'At a human level, somebody else's vulnerability creates empathy when it is located in a fear about tomorrow, but diminishes us when it is rubbed into our faces as a fact about today. When a Yuvraj Singh, flush after the success of the World Cup talks about the vulnerabilities involved in professional sport, it humanises him, when he watch him do the same after he has been diagnosed of cancer, it de-humanises us. The belief that the market as a mechanism is somehow exempt from social and cultural conventions as it resides outside the bounds of society, makes it possible for it to act in this way. Like it is with human beings, sometimes the market can gain much more from not using an opportunity than by wringing it dry.'

The problem in Santosh Desai's commentary stems from his misunderstanding of what a market is. His delineating the market from the people (read, consumers) it carries, and associating it only with business firms it consists of, is a flawed representation…

What's with Kingfisher?

The Kingfisher mess is actually a problem at three levels, cascading in a sequence.

Its first a regulated industry problem. Meaning the government as a regulator has made it virtually impossible for any private player to make any money out of aviation industry in India. I hope you know our national carrier has stayed afloat all these years on squandered taxpayer money.

Second, its a business model problem. Kingfisher dished out a business model that was neither a pursuit of cost leadership, nor an attempt at differentiation. it was somewhere in between, stuck in the 'middle of the road'. Surely it was bound to fail.

Third, and finally, its a perception problem. Despite the legitimacies in Vijay Mallya's requests on structural changes in the industry, there won't be too many out there lending sympathy because the man's lifestyle sticks out like a sore thumb. Crafting the right perceptions about a business (never mind reality) require that the promotion game be played w…

Change, and working at Change

'With the necessary will and the necessary help, demons can be conquered. What is needed is the determination that leads to intense, deeply motivated effort. Promises and resolutions to do better in the future will inevitably be broken without doing the work to connect the dots and to understand why a person does what he does.

Yes, it takes time, and yes, it takes money. The time will pass, anyway: it’s better spent in therapy than in bed with a lover. On balance, psychotherapy can be enormously worthwhile, far more so than any material object – from a closetful of shoes to a powerful, flashy vehicle or a humongous-sized television screen. Many therapists offer sliding scales of fees to enable all to benefit. If you believe that a new thing (or person) will make you feel better, it or she won’t — except fleetingly. The benefits of psychotherapy will outlast anything else you can buy.

Nothing in life is more costly than the errors we make because of woeful ignorance of ourselves...


Staying Ahead, Staying Dumb

I must admit the Hindu's broadcast media campaign taking potshots at the ToI arrests attention with its content. But is it good enough to sway consumers to make a change in their choice when it comes to their newspaper?

I doubt it.

For the campaign to work, two things must happen. One, people must admit they are dumb, and two, they must want to do something about it. Now getting either of that to happen is close to wishing the impossible. Plus what makes the Hindu think people are interested in knowing what an ATM stands for, and not who's size zero?

Agreed, the campaign will enhance Hindu's recall as a brand but then again, is that good enough?

For information sake know that I read the ToI. The way I see it, I ain't dumb. I'd be if I wanted to read socialist sermons the Hindu preaches. If the Hindu wants me to switch, they don't need to sink big bucks into a TVC campaign. All they have to do is get into bed with free market capitalism.

They won't. I know.

Thank God we're Free!

'As I understand the Catholic ban on contraception (after slogging through much of Pope John Paul II’s mind-wracking Theology of the Body), it’s based on the idea that people should act in the completeness of their spiritual humanity even in the moments of their most intimate physicality. Thus sex should only take place within a sacralized and lifelong commitment of love without being detached from its essential purpose of conception.

I don’t have to agree with this doctrine to understand that it’s an heroic attempt to defend the one most essential ingredient of freedom: the concept of the inviolable human soul. In taking this stand, the church of Rome is doing exactly what churches are supposed to do. It is institutionalizing the fact that man is spirit, that he cannot live by bread alone.

Kings have wanted to snuff out this idea forever. They want to convince us that we’re bodies only, collections of material needs — and that they can fill those needs in exchange for their power o…

Why we cast stones

Its easy to see why in India we have books being banned, and artists hounded out. Of course, the threat of violence is real, and so stymieing such possibilities through a 'ban' may be a good idea. But the real reason for such asinine acts (read, bans) playing out is because the books and the people in question dare to take on precepts and symbols from which others in the country draw their own identity.

Our sense of identity either is nurtured from within, or is drawn from the outside. At times it may even be a combination of the two. The most dangerous of places in the world to live in are those that house people drawing their identities from the outside. Such people draw their identity constructs through deep connections they build with their country, their social class, their religion, ethnicity, and so on. If you knowingly or otherwise hurt the latter lot through for example published literature, pretty soon you'll be an author on the run. The zealots will come after yo…

The Class warfare we need

'The point is this: If we’re going to have a war, let’s do it right. The battle lines should be drawn orthogonally to the oversimplified “rich versus the rest.” A virtuous war would be one that rewards society’s honest earners and productive contributors, while punishing society’s predators, pirates, and parasites—all without regard to anyone’s income level. It is a target-rich environment that includes anyone (of any income level) who is cheating to win, any business or union (of any size) with its snout in the public trough, any politician filling that trough and feeding those snouts for reciprocal gain, and any group using the political system (at any level) to maintain its monopoly, or its winning “edge” against less-well-connected competitors.
Among “the rich” are many entertainment superstars, artists, CEOs, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Are all of them villains because of their huge incomes? Of course not. Most of them get where they are because they produce things that ent…

How does owning spectrum help us?

I hope amidst all the license cancellation din in India, the real issue isn't swept under the carpet, or misunderstood.

The honourable Supreme court may have cancelled licenses, but don't for a moment assume the business scene will get better if regulations are 'tightened' to ensure fairplay. Regulations and their stern application isn't the answer to business fair play. Instead its the opposite that works. Do away with regulations (read, licenses). Let the market do its job in deciding who gets in, stays, or goes.

Saying spectrum belongs to the people of India and the state is the trustee sounds mushily appealing. But what licensing 'people-owned' spectrum really does is raise costs for those who want to get into the business of telecom services. Such increased costs will see license buyers legitimately pass it on as higher service prices to consumers.

So where is the tom-tommed benefit to people in being spectrum owners if they have to pay higher prices? Sur…

Liberty & the menace of Dowry

Consider this latest move being proposed by the Indian Planning Commission's Working Group on Women's Agency and Empowerment. A high-powered government panel has recommended income-linked cap on marriage expenditure, including gifts and food served. The panel wants wants to improve implementation of the anti-dowry law by appointing sufficient number of dedicated, full time dowry prohibition officers to enforce the Dowry Prohibition Act. It has also recommended a relook at the existing definition of what constitutes "dowry", and penalties for violation.


But then again, its another classic example of government infringing on individual liberties under the garb of protecting them. I agree the problem of dowry in India is a depressing one. Latest statistics show there's a bride burnt every hour in India.

How tragic.

But if you think regulation and its enforcement is the answer to curbing this menace, you're wrong. As I have said umpteen times before, t…


'When one friend hurts another, a caring friend apologizes at once. The Master or Mistress of the Universe doesn’t: it’s the difference between being empathic and being arrogant.

Some people have more trouble apologizing than others. As the gifted psychoanalyst Dr. Nancy McWilliams has written, narcissists have particular difficulty expressing remorse because to them it implies fallibility and personal error, admissions that are psychologically intolerable to such people.

Apologies can be difficult for everyone. An apology includes a clear statement of one’s error or offense, such as being disrespectful, underhanded, mean-spirited, deceitful, disloyal, unfair, hurtful, condescending, inconsiderate, insulting, heartless, cruel, abusive, as well as negligent, careless, feckless, and reckless.

Is it pleasant to acknowledge that you’ve been any of these? No. It takes self-awareness, backbone, and a strong desire to do right by another human being.

Apologies matter if you value a relation…