US-India-relationship
Business, Finance, Politics, Public Issues

US and India Relations – A tale of two democracies

(One more guest article by Ankur Singh . You can read his previous article here. Ankur will soon start writing on Strat.in as a regular author. Do you want to write on Strat.in too? Read this for details )

US and India Relations – A tale of two democracies –

Democracy, as its meaning suggests, is all focused for the welfare of people. And its two most celebrated practitioners are India and the US. Both are the world’s largest democracies with plural societies tolerant of diversity. However, both of them are now bound on a journey that may twist the very fabric of this system.

The social and political conditions in both countries have never been amazingly similar as they are now. Both countries have witnessed a nation-wide public movement (Lokpal and Occupy Wall Street). Both the governments are struggling with economic and financial problems. Important elections are due next year in both countries. And finally, governments of both countries are entrapped in a mire of allegations and stalemates.

Let’s start with US. The government formed a super-committee that had representatives from both republican and democratic party who were expected to suggest a solution to the debt crisis of the country. It was also decided that the suggestions made would bypass the conventional rigmarole and would be implemented expeditiously. However, the committee tossed up its hands on 21st November and left millions of Americans disgusted.

Now let’s see the Indian scenario. A few days before, key industrialists like Mukesh Ambani & Ratan Tata emphasized on fast decision-making on the part of government. This statement was made in front of representatives from both Congress and BJP. However, our parliament seems unperturbed. The 1st two days of winter session of Parliament have been disrupted by opposition  with no significant output. Plethora of reforms (some good and some adequate) are lying in the pipeline. But neither our responsible government nor the constructive opposition have accomplished anything.

The reason for stalemate in both countries is the lack of social responsibility on the part of politicians. As the elections are close, the opposition parties could not let the government get their policies right. That could mean severe damage to the vote-banks. I am sure that similar thing will happen if the parties’ positions are swapped (ruling party becomes opposition and vice-versa). This vicious cycle may go on leading to delay in a number of welfare schemes over the decades. However, none of the parties are violating any rule of democracy. So, we can’t complain.

So did our constitution-framers made a mistake? Should we resort to system like that of China which is undemocratic and partially capitalist but has yielded much better growth results than both US and India? Perhaps not. Perhaps, the current events may just be once in a while scenarios. But the current situation definitely calls for some changes in the decision making. “What those changes could be” is an open question. Please express yourselves on this issue. Notes from the Editor: This is an article contributed by Ankur Singh – A guest strater. Ankur works as aStrategy and Operations Analyst with Deloitte Consulting and studied at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi earlier. The article serves as an eye opener about the value added by Engineering Entrance Exam coaching centers in the Indian Education Ecosystem. We look forward to more insights from Ankur in the coming months. Also, the views expressed are author’s own and Strat.in neither supports or opposes them. Strat.in is a forum for thought provoking discussions and will continue to remain so.

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engineering-education
Planning, Public Issues, Strategy

IIT and AIEEE coaching classes – Villians or Necessary evils

Article by a Guest Strater – Ankur Singh.

In the 1st week of October, Mr. Narayan Murthy, one of the greatest visionaries of our times, said at a Pan-IIT conference that quality of IIT students is falling because of coaching classes. Few days later, Mr. Chetan Bhagat, a noted engineer-turned-novelist, remarked that Narayan Murthy could have been gentler in his comments. He even slammed Infosys as a “body shop” and said that one should look into the system and not criticize students.

Both of them had a point. The falling quality of IITians may indeed be true. Mr Murthy has been in industry for long and he may have observed that. However, putting the blame straight-away on coaching centres may not be right. The main criticism leveled against coaching centres is that they kill the innovation instincts of students. That coaching centres are actually producing dull students.
Let’s take a look at an alternate scenario. Suppose that there are no coaching centres. Everybody prepares for engineering entrance exams with help of the education provided by school. Now consider what is taught in the school and what is asked in the entrance exams. The concept may be the same but the difference comes in the level of practice provided by schools and the level that exams like IIT-JEE and AIEEE demand. Almost 99% of Indian schools worry about the result of class XII board exams. And here we see the reality. The board exams are so easy (at least those for Maths stream) that anybody who has studied Maths sincerely for 2 months may score 95+ marks. Do coaching centres kill the innovation instincts will always remain a debatable question but most of the students who both take coaching classes and pass entrance exams with good ranks are hard-working and well-versed in basics. They have a good background of Physics-Chemistry-Maths and are better prepared to take on the rigors of college academic system. So who is better, a 99% school topper with fragile concepts or a 90% percent scoring student with good knowledge-base of Maths and Science? The choice is not difficult to make.

Another keypoint is that Mr Murthy said that quality has been going down “OF LATE”. Now coaching centres have been there since 1980s. Hence, some recent phenomenon must have aided this downfall. And that could well be the unnecessary increase in quota for backward classes. I am not against helping the needy but one must understand there is no feedback mechanism in this quota system. Government passes the law for increasing the seats and then walks away. What they should actually do is to see if the students who got admission via quota are actually doing well or not. Analyse their performance in college, look at the jobs they have got or the research they have done. I, being an IITian and a placement student-head of an IIT, know that the results, as measured by these parameters, are grim. It clearly states that help must be given, but not as reserved seats in premier institutes but compulsory primary and secondary education.

This is where our government should rise from deep slumber. Rather than making blunders like increasing the quota or making the Class-12th exams easier and “stress-free”, the curriculum and the level of papers should be re-modelled. The logic is simple, if the Boards exams for science students are difficult enough, then they would not need any coaching preparation for entrance exams.

The fault lies in our education system. That’s why I mentioned in the beginning that Mr Bhagat had a point. As we don’t have a good-enough class 11-12th education level, coaching centres are actually doing this country a favor. I am not saying that they are a necessity but to make them redundant would require a considerable effort on the part of government and a sound thinking on the part of guardians, parents and students. I request all of you to express your views on this glaring educational issue of our time.

Notes from the Editor: This is an article contributed by Ankur Singh – A guest strater. Ankur works as a Strategy and Operations Analyst with Deloitte Consulting and studied at Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi earlier. The article serves as an eye opener about the value added by Engineering Entrance Exam coaching centers in the Indian Education Ecosystem. We look forward to more insights from Ankur in the coming months. Also, the views expressed are author’s own and Strat.in neither supports or opposes them. Strat.in is a forum for thought provoking discussions and will continue to remain so.

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Strategy, Technology, Web

What if 7 billion people write their autobiographies?

(Editor’s note: This article is written by Kalpesh Muchhal – a student at IIM Bangalore, Batch of 2011. He takes a new, radical view at the concept of blogs, lifestories and social networking in general. You can write to Strat.in at contribute@strat.in , if you have views to share with the Strat.in community as well)

A new concept in social networking

The first question you will probably ask is why? After all, isn’t it one of the major undertakings in life to write one’s autobiography? Don’t we need enough interesting experiences before we start writing one? And who will read it? What if I don’t want to reveal my details to someone else?

Well, let us take this up one by one. If you actually think about your life, at least in some ways, it is different from that of everyone else. It can be the movies we like, the people we adore, the particular flavor of coffee that we just need to have after getting in the morning. But more importantly, it is the ideas that we individually possess, and the ways in which we express them. Fingerprints can match sometimes, even DNAs can. But no two people, not even twins, think exactly the same.

And so each one of us has a unique life story to tell. Now if someone starts telling you about his or her experiences, at first it will appear to be random, unrelated information. After all, why would I care that someone started going to school at the age of 5, or that someone has a Doberman called Tommy? But as a story goes on, several important themes emerge. The state of the society one lives in, the beautiful and depressing things that one saw in life, the struggles one has had to make and the things learned from them, the unique ideas one possesses, and so many other concepts. All this is knowledge, which can help others, inspire others, bring about greater understanding, give rise to new ideas. Now combine 7 billion such stories, and you have got an ocean of such knowledge, which is probably the most valuable infrastructure in the world.

Is it a difficult task to write one’s story? It sure is. Firstly, it requires one to sit down for a good amount of time, go over one’s life, and think what are the things that have happened. Secondly, many of these things may be unpleasant, embarrassing, or not in line with one’s self-image. And when one gets over this, there is the whole task of putting it down into words. But, if you really think about it, its not necessary to write everything at one stretch. Nor is it necessary to talk about those experiences which you had rather not share, experiences which are very private. You write a paragraph, then you modify it a little, then after some time, you write another one, then maybe you see a pattern in both of them, and you modify both paragraphs and so on. Isn’t that how a story always gets written, bit by bit, and always emerging into something new?

Does a life story need to have a traditional conclusion, like victory at the end of pain, or rain after a long period of drought? Aren’t the most interesting stories those where the interpretation is left open? Think No Country for Old Men. Or Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End. And aren’t the most addictive stories those which do not end? Think Batman and Joker. A real life story has all these elements. The plot often changes, an experience may not have any goal, sometimes things are done just for fun. In fact, it is precisely this randomness and absence of conclusion that makes real life stories interesting.

Some people say they don’t have enough experiences to talk about. Firstly it is not the experiences in and of themselves that matter when you say your story to someone else, but what it meant to you that is more important. Secondly, I have never believed that people have nothing to write. That is only possible if a person has been in a dark room like Sanjay Dutt in Zinda for many long years (and even then there will be sufficient content). Another example. If you tell a 8 year old to describe what happened during the day, he/she will describe at great length all the things they did, the children they talked to, the games they played, what they thought of the stranger guy going around the corner, etc. So everyone of us have enough experiences. It just requires one to say that they are important.

Who will read it? One never knows. Say you are an ardent football fan, and your expertise of all things football comes out in your story. Next thing you know, many co-fans may want to hear more from you so that you start a nice football blog. Or maybe you were once stranded and lost in a forest, and you came up with a brilliant plan to get out and avoid becoming a meal of some carnivore. Someone in a similar situation may find your story useful. Say you are someone who battled a long-time disease but didn’t give up your spirit and enjoy good health now. Someone going through such distress may find your story inspiring. There are probably a countless ways in which sharing your knowledge through your life story will contribute to others and back to yourself. And while you are at it, you of course don’t have to reveal the names of your friends. You can easily take care of their and your privacy by not revealing personal details, without taking away anything from the story.

Wikipedia has been a phenomenal success in bringing people together to write on different topics. What comes out is often useful factual information and conventional wisdom. A lot of structured information. But is that enough? The vast majority of the knowledge lying within our heads is unstructured, individualistic, not belonging to any pre-specified topic. We somehow need this unstructured knowledge to come out, for it is as useful as its structured counterpart.

So I felt a site was in order and have started a project called Bionama.com. Its free and will never have a business model (maybe a donation button in the future is the way to go). After all, its supposed to be a common pool of stories and ideas, just like a water pond. The stories are in Creative Commons. Well, the site is up and working, but it still needs a lot of help from everyone who can help. Probably the biggest task is making it accessible to everyone in the world, for not everyone has internet access, atleast regularly. But there are other things too, like how to make it searchable enough to be useful, what features should go in, should it be minimalistic or completely embrace social networking features (I have thought the former is better in this case). Need your help in figuring this out. You can start writing your story. But also suggest how to improve upon the idea further. Thanks.

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Business, Entrepreneurship

Emerging business opportunities in rural Bihar

14bihar-pavilion-delhi-iitfHistory is proof of the fact that businessmen of all times have always been on the lookout for unsaturated markets. For past two decades Bihar was nearly untouched, be it by business or by development. In the present scenario, it takes no special effort to realize the fact that Bihar has become one such place where immense opportunities lie for business. With the 2nd highest GDP growth among Indian states this financial year, Bihar has already shown its mettle how it can utilize improved infrastructure and better governance.

Bihar has majorly been an agro-based economy with various small-scale industries supplementing it. Due to its highly fertile land and desired climatic conditions, there are varieties of agricultural produce which are cultivated here. Bihar has significant levels of production for the vegetables like Brinjal, Cauliflower and Ladyfinger and fruits like Mango, Guava and Pineapple. Litchi and Makhana (Foxnut) are two such products, 70 percent of whose national produce is supplied by the state. These facts indicate that there is a need to integrate the rural producers of these to the mainstream economy using food processing technology. Sudha dairy is already a shining example of how rural produce like milk can be marketed well with the aid of proper food processing technology.

Apart from its highly fertile soil, Bihar is also blessed to have sweet water ponds in its Mithila belt. Fishes of these ponds are considered to be of the best quality in the world. If cultured scientifically to increase the production level, it has the potential to be marketed in the international market at a premium price. Similarly, sugarcane also finds its commercial application in Sugar and Ethanol production. It is an immediate economic opportunity and also contributes to the government’s green agenda.

On commercial front telecom is one such domain which foresees a huge market in Bihar. With the falling ARPUs , telecom companies are looking towards rural market for next wave of growth. To pull the rural customer, the information VAS (value added services) can also be a major factor. Already IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd has created a platform to offer free daily voice updates on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecast, rural health initiatives and fertilizer availability etc.

With the lower strata getting economically active, micro-finance has emerged as an inclusive business enterprise to ensure easy access of the credit to them for their entrepreneurial and social empowerment. There are various Microfinance institutions(MFIs) coming up in the region ( e.g. Saija, Bandhan, SKS just to name a few)and they are expected to be the propeller of much important inclusive and sustainable growth of the region.

Bihar is the next frontier for businesses in India both as an Investment destination and untapped market. Its high time that business enterprises take a leaf out of CK Prahlad’s theory of ‘fortune at bottom of pyramid’ and invest in land of boundless opportunities.

(This post has been written by Neelanjan Sinha, a ‘guest-strater’ – (a guest author on strat.in). Neelanjan is a 1st year management student at the Chandragupt Institute Of Management, Patna. Strat.in thanks Neelanjan for sharing his insights with our reader and looks forward to more from Neelanjan in future)

Do you want to write a post for strat.in as well? Check our Write a post section for how you can do so.

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Politics, Sports

IPL 2010 – Indian Political League!

(Disclaimer: The views expressed below are those of the author and not of strat.in as a blog in general)

ipl-logosSee the greatness of the IPL (Indian Premier League), how highly it stands among other sporting events, which has already provided us so much drama before the play has actually begun. It is in the news all over, flashing here and there, and catching eyes of all. Media is so much excited! After all, everybody was so much bored to see bald-headed Headley and evil-smiling Rathore’s face every day at the breakfast. IPL has provided the idle-sitting cricketers something to chirp about, write columns and give fancy statements in the media. It has given some freshness to the Pakistani people who had all got bored burning effigies of the US and the Taliban. It has given Pakistani ministers something to brag about and divert attentions from more serious issues.

Anybody who is not aware of what actually happened (I doubt this), here is the summary. It all started when the star-studded Pakistani team and others, went under the hammer at the IPL auction in Mumbai. To everybody’s surprise, nobody from the T-20 champions got any call! Meaning, all the Franchise owners sidelined the Pakistani team and all of this was pre-decided. They defended themselves saying they were doubtful of Pakistani players stay in India, whether they will get a visa- or not. This makes complete sense! After all, which business group will pump money into something that gives no returns! Now, this is the rubbish part of the story we all have heard. Here is the truth-

Government of India in a media release said that it has already granted visa to 17 Pakistani Players who could go under the hammer at the auction. It said it did not interfere by any means. So why, why after all, all the franchisee ignored Pakistan? Why was Pakistan embarrassed? Reason is not too hard to guess! It was the Shiv Sena’s hard talk that haunted IPL teams. It would not let matches happen if Pakistani players played.

In the past also Shiv Sena had disrupted two Indo-Pak matches, by digging-up the pitch! This is not unusual for them. They dared the Australian team to play in Mumbai. (After ‘racist’ attacks on Indians in Australia). The MNS threatened candidates from North India who want to take a job in Maharashtra. They forced PSU banks to admit only Maharashtrians. They asked film-makers to use ‘Mumbai’ and not ‘Bombay’ in movies. They beat up an MLA for taking oath in Hindi, in the Assembly and in front of the Governor and the media. And, above all, they call themselves patriotic! They are afraid of no-one! Seems like jungle-‘raj’ going-on!

But, it is the Government which is the biggest ‘Gunda’, yes, you heard me right. Can’t they stop all this hooliganism? Can’t they teach this ‘moral police’ a lesson? Can’t they put these law-breakers and murderers behind the bars? What holds them from punishing those crooks who beat-up an MLA? Is the Government afraid of losing its vote-bank and if it is, this is the saddest part of the world’s largest ‘democracy’ where the Government has to bow to hooligans and crooks to retain power.

Everybody is free to work anywhere in India, and nobody can encroach upon this. Every Indian national is free to speak the language of his choice. I find no wrong in Shiv Sena’s (and the MNS) ideology! I support their philosophy and respect the love they have for their state. Maharashtra is a great state, it has rich culture and traditions and they are great people! I appreciate Shiv Sena and MNS for various programmes they conduct for the promotion of the Marathi language. But what I find irritating is the methods they use and misuse to promote their views. They misguide us. I hope you will agree with me.

This post is written by Puneet Yadav. He is a student at IIT Delhi, pursuing graduation in Chemical Engineering. Involved in varied extracurricular activities, Puneet has great interest in history, political affairs, management and engineering. Recently,he has developed keen interest in Fuel Cell Technology. Read his previous post here.

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Politics, Public Issues

South Block (MEA) holding India back?

(South Block houses the Ministry of External Affairs)

When I look back and see if India should really have been like what it is today after 62 years of our freedom, I feel that we could certainly have done much better. We have shown progress on several fronts, both domestic and international, but a lot more needs to be done and a question that needs to be addressed is ‘Are India’s foreign policy makers holding India back?’

We Indians would never want to remember Nehru’s goof up on Kashmir and his complete misunderstanding of China in 1962 which left several bad memories for us and left India bleeding. India not only accepted the UN mediation on Kashmir (which provided it an international status, and has remained a headache for us since then) but also remained in deep slumber accepting the ‘ hindi-chini bhai-bhai’ formula. Here I study the relations we have fostered with some of the countries that matter us most.

China: – Till date we have no fixed policy to counter China’s claims on Tawang and Arunachal Pradesh and are bullied by the rising military and economic giant. If China can issue stapled visas for Kashmiri people, why can’t we render the same for Tibetans? Home Minister P Chidambaram accepts arms being illegally smuggled from China into India via Nepal (for the Naxals) but not a word of his signals action he plans to take. China also aims at encircling India by befriending our neighbors and continues to pursue its foreign policy aggressively, largely aimed against us. It continues to supply arms, ammunition and military know-how to Pakistan.

Pakistan: – This is the saddest and perhaps the most unfortunate story of our foreign policy. We have no answer to the proxy war our neighbor has waged against us for the past 25 years. We have missed every single opportunity to make Pakistan dance to our tunes. Why did not India ask Pakistan to recede from Kashmir when we had 90,000 Pakistani soldiers in our captivation in 1971? Not only this, India was shamed at the recent talks in Sharm el sheikh, where we entered the summit to deface Pakistan in front of the rest of the world but came out as guilty of sponsoring terrorism in Baluchistan! Pakistan has successfully deprived India of resource rich Central Asia and smuggles fake Indian currency to destabilize our economy.

US: – We have taken our relations with US on a new level with various agreements in military and mutual trade. We saw the nuclear deal go through. But still, we need to clearly lay down our strategy on issues like Iran if we want US to pursue pressure on Pakistan. Also, US continues to support Pakistan both financially and militarily which should be a cause of worry for India, specially with reports coming in from the West that Pakistan has modified US provided Harpoon missiles and aimed them against us.

Bangladesh: – I was really surprised when India kept mum few years back. The Bangladesh Border security force had massacred Indian soldiers and returned their mutilated bodies to us. When a small nation like Bangladesh who owes its freedom to us can commit such a heinous crime, we can gauge to what extent our foreign policy lacks teeth. Also, North-east insurgents operate their terror-training camps from Bangladesh soil.

Russia: – India has made a mockery of our time-tested relationship with the nation. The mutual trade stagnates at 4 billion $. Russia feels isolated as our relations get cozier with US. But can we stand to lose a friend that has supported us blind-folded at so many important international issues? I don’t think so.

Afghanistan: – India is helping the nation torn out from war in a big way! Certainly we don’t want it to become the fifth province of Pakistan. Stable Afghanistan is a big asset to India against Pakistan. What stops New Delhi to name Pakistan’s hand in bombings at Indian embassy, when Kabul can boldly blame Pakistan, its immediate neighbor? Why to beat around the bush and not clearly name Pakistan? Certainly, there are lessons for us to be learnt from the Afghan nation.

Nepal: – India has failed to keep Maoists at bay in the Himalayan state. While India sleeps, China has dug deep into the nation and aims at building up relations that certainly harm our interests. China is laying down highways, building hospitals, schools and assisting in big power projects. Certainly, India stands to lose.

Sri Lanka: – If there is any silver lining for us, it is Sri-Lanka. We continue to build strong relations and were successful in forcing the island country to cancel several arms deal with China and Pakistan. But China continues to play a spoil-sport here too. It has constructed several shipyards for refueling its naval fleet patrolling the Indian Ocean.

These are issues to be immediately addressed.

Why aren’t we still a permanent member of the Security Council? Why don’t we get a strong say at the WTO? Why have we not able to solve the Kashmir issue even after 60 years? Why do we give so much importance to Pakistan? Why do we lie dormant on issues that should concern us so much? Why do we just sit on things that require immediate attention? When will we learn from our mistakes? Certainly these issues govern our present and future. We need to do away with our old-aged and good for nothing policy of ‘Non-Alignment’ if we aspire to get support for our cause.

We need to sharpen our bureaucratic brass and train them to meet challenges of today’s world. You will agree with me that men who speak for the interests of a billion people have to properly polished. If we want the 20th century to be ours, it is high time that we get talking tough and dictate terms.

(The views expressed above are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect views of strat.in )

This post is written by Puneet Yadav. He is a student at IIT Delhi, pursuing graduation in Chemical Engineering. Involved in varied extracurricular activities, Puneet has great interest in history, political affairs, management and engineering. Recently,he has developed keen interest in Fuel Cell Technology.

Strat. In thanks Puneet for his article, wishes him all the best and hopes he writes another post with us soon. You can also write for strat. in . Check the Write a Post section to know more.

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Business

Only Businesses that THRILL win in the long term!

Around 80% of startups close down within their first year of operation. While some of these go down simply because of part time involvement of the founders, lack of persistence and fizzling out of passion, a large percentage go down during their transition from a Startup(Micro) phase to a Small Business phase. A business can aim for the long term only when the owners have vision and concentrate on building a value system based on THRILL – Trust, Honesty, Respect, Innovation, Loyalty and Love. Since most of these are subjective, many businesses don’t believe in writing them down or have policies to define the role of THRILL in their company. But a closer look at each of these factors tells us how important it is for each one of these to be a part of your day to day business activities if you are seriously looking at building a company that grows consistently.

Trust:
If your customers don’t trust you, they are going to buy from someone else – no matter how good you think you are. If your employees don’t trust you, they are going to treat your customers badly. If your vendors don’t trust you, they are not going to extend any credit to you. So trust is a factor that forms the basic foundation pillar of pretty much everything that is your business. So how does this trust develop?

Honesty:
If you , the owner of the business, think that you are going to get away with treating people with anything that is not totally honest, you will just be fooling yourself. Not being honest is sooner or later going to land you as the owner in the shoes of someone like Dick Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Ken Lay of Enron or Ramalinga Raju of Satyam Computers. If you don’t do what you said you will, you are going to shake up the integrity of the business. Sooner or later, your employees are going to follow suit and it is going to lead to nothing but degradation of the culture within the company. Honesty and fearlessness go hand in hand. A simple example of this is telling your client that you have not clearly understood the exact requirements for the second time in a row instead of feeling embarrassed to ask again and working with half an understanding. Or not letting your customer know that you are not going to be able to deliver in time. Committing fake product features. Sometimes, this may lead to some short term profit, but it is going to cost you heavily in the long term. Dishonest behavior is almost always going to create a communication gap, reduce trust and boost corruption Being diplomatic may seem to be a simpler affair most of the times, but it is honesty and straight forward attitude that’s going to hold the company together in the long run.

Respect:
To a certain extent, honest behavior can be embedded into the business through policies – but respect is one factor that is born within the organization and must seep through from the owners to the management and finally to the employees. You cannot treat your employees rudely and expect them to be sweet and caring to your customers. In your absence, your employees are going to treat customers just the way you treat them. You are going to command respect only if you give respect. And a culture of respect is born only when the owners lead with example. If you come across a company where the employees are frowning all the time, check their immediate bosses or the owners, most often than not, that’s where the root of the problem is going to be. Dedication and passion come from people who feel good about themselves and have a high level of self respect which comes from being treated with respect all the time. This also applies to the quality of the product/service you deliver. If the employees observe that you are sloppy and not worried about the quality of the final delivered product, they are going to nurture the same attitude.

Innovation:
Innovation is basically trying the same thing in a different and more efficient way for better results and a higher level of excellence. Anyone who says that this is the best way to do something and there is no need to look for alternatives, is giving an open invitation to competitors to come and screw their business. Change is essential because companies who don’t adopt change are going to be stagnant and are bound to be hit by competition. If you, as the owner are not prepared to adopt change and do not encourage people to go through some apparently unpleasant changes for the future of the company, you are just going to keep digging into unsuccessful rut for years. The entire American car industry had to learn this lesson of innovation the hard way when Japanese car makers started taking them apart. Businesses that show the willingness to embrace change during difficult times are the ones who are vibrant and show sustained growth. It is companies who are continuously finding better ways to market, manage HR, log in accounts, handle cash flow, and are striving hard to consistently achieve excellence in every aspect, who come through sailing smoothly through thick and thin. And for those who don’t believe in measuring and improving continuously, sooner or later, they are sure to go out of business or just stay a mediocre business that keeps dragging along for years.

Loyalty :
Loyalty is an automatic effect of the points discussed above and is the cause for amazing level of faith, increase in productivity and gain in competitive advantage. Loyalty within the company is going to lead to high levels of morale which naturally results in low absenteeism, higher levels of dedication and smoothening out of day to day operations. A growing business means that the owner has to move out of the day to day operations and concentrate on the business rather than stay in the business. Responsibilities can be easily delegated if the level of loyalty in the organization is high. Any owner caught up in the daily activities is just going to find himself doing a mundane job and not running a business. And unless loyalty is developed within the company, delegation is always going to be a tough task.

Love:
If we have a look at the most influential business leaders like Sam Walton of Walmart, Richard Branson of Virgin, Dhirubhai Ambani of Reliance Industries, Steve Jobs of Apple Inc (after his return to Apple), Narayan Murthy of Infosys etc., one thing that we observe is their ability to lead with love. They command so much love that there are people whom they have inspired to sacrifice their whole life for their mentor’s ideals. A more precise way to look at this is to look at so many smart people who don’t step ahead as influential leaders. You can be exceedingly smart, but unless the smartness is backed with the instinct of doing something good, you are going to be just momentarily impressive to people. Crude smartness starts to stink after a while unless it is backed with the willingness to do some good. And this is good for anyone who is running a company with 5 employees or 5Mn employees.

Anyone approaching employees, customers and vendors with anything that is less than the 6 points of THRILL is not looking forward to a long term relationship with either one of them. Try judging businesses on the scale of THRILL and you will find that the ones who score high are the ones who have the ability to achieve excellence and sustained growth and more importantly, higher levels of overall happiness throughout the business. After all, isn’t happiness what we all are seeking!

(This is another post by Rahul Rane. You can refer to his profile in his earlier post. He is currently based out of Melbourne and blogs at www.arerelax.blogspot.com – for politics,economy and gossip.)

(To write a guest-post on strat.in – Check up our Write-a-post section. )

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Public Issues

The Indian TEDdy

(Note: The following views are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of strat.in)

ted1Last Month TED had their India Conference at the Infosys Campus at Mysore. As the videos are being published one by one, analyzing the highlights of the conference may give us some idea as to where we are going –

Pranav Mistry : This guy is mad. He is out to get rid of the laptop/desktop/iphone that you are using to read this right now, and put it on you. So your computer is going to be ON you like a parasite wherever you go.  On a serious note, a true genius. A true face of innovative India that I feel was lost during foreign rule and pre liberation period. Not surprisingly, he does all his research at the MIT labs. What we need to look forward is that, when we start computing in this way or may be start embedding chips in our bodies, will our educational reforms take us to a position where the pranav mistrys of tomorrow do their research in India. Not that we would not take all the credit of his inventions even if they are done elsewhere.

Hans Rosling : The king of data and information statistics. He predicts that if the ‘conditions’of the past 2 decades remain constant, India will be at par with the US and UK in terms of economy, health and standard of living by 2048 ! Now the skeptics disagree saying that this is non-sense and that Hans Rosling’s own findings suggest that there are discrepancies due to conditions like war, famines and stuff – but being a true Indian at heart – I like to believe that this is all true. Wow, it would be such an awesome day ! Hopefully the rupee is so strong that it pains much more to pay Rs 25 for a hair cut in India than paying $25 plus tip in the US .Our PM bloody has the power to go and poke his nose in any part of the world. Technology being outsourced from India to the west ;).So much power to just crush Pakistan like a fly. Speaking of Pakistan, I have always wondered why no one considers Pakistan in such surveys – oh ya, most probably, they would have ceased to exist by 2048.

Mallika Sarabhai : Well here we have an activist, politician and artist dishing out something that was hard core “arty”. I am not too fascinated by slow, puzzling art films dishing out indirect messages to, many a times, very few people, who always look down at people like me who say that they didn’t really understand anything. She focused on including arts along with all the economic, social and political development and that any true development would not be possible without including the development of art. Though her performance is rated as obnoxious and unconvincing at TED, what really came out from it was how the super upper class looks at the social issues. It gave a feel of how showing to do something social is ‘cool’ for what can be called – the page 3 type people.

Sunitha Krishnan : Activist working against human trafficking and sex slavery. I feel this short, confident and humble woman represents the true face of the strong upcoming Indian woman – who is courageous, inspiring and fearless. Her talk agenda is very close to what Mallika Sarabhai speaks, but it is straightforward, no non sense and it touches your heart. It takes something for a female to come upto the stage and explain her condition on being gang raped by 8 men when she was 15 and overcoming all that anger to bloom into a super woman who has rescued more than 3200 girls who had been trafficked for sexual reasons. She rightly points out that the society is the major issue that builds walls against accepting rehabilitated women and things are going to change when we just change our outlook even within our small social circle. Well, if this is the face of the Indian woman tomorrow, we are getting there much earlier than 2048 .

Anupam Mishra : Look at him once and you see a true Gandhian at appearance, speech and attitude. And hell he is. He pointed out an interesting thing – of how traditional methods, in application in draught prone regions of Indian from something like 800, are still working perfectly and how the million rupee projects of the government have fallen flat on their face. Well, we all know for a fact that long long time back, we had fascinating technology, architecture and probably the best standard of living – where we intend to go back again by 2048 . He has stressed on how we can still use these traditional and age old technologies even today and it is sheer ignorance of the government that we are not doing that in other parts of India. Now this brings us to an interesting point – if we are going ahead to become a super power, are we going to get there by being true to our roots and becoming an easternized eastern super power or are we going to adopt the west and follow their ways to become a westernized eastern super power.

Devdutt Pattanaik : Following the east and the west question above, he speaks about how east is east and the west is west and how our different history and culture have influenced our behavior and how this applies to business. Eventually leads to the all important question that almost all businesses in India come across – should we put things in a process or will that hamper the innovative* quotient of the company. *Well, innovation in the Indian way can be defined as finding your way through the traffic and making it to the front, in spite of having 50 cars and bikes packed in front of you at the red light . Of how the best Indian companies cannot be driven by institutional demands but by individual instincts. While time will only tell how we adopt or clash when we start influencing the world more and more, I think its time to include ‘jugaad’ as an official management funda and’ jugaadu’ as an official profession .

Shashi Tharoor : I just love to see people like him come up the Indian political scene. He has spoken about the soft power of a country. A power that a country develops as a result of its culture, people, policies and also a sixth sense subjective matter that every country has about itself. You know, like the US portrays capitalism, rich, technology, credit . India – rich culture, yoga, technology , population , Australia – beaches, laid back lifestyle, nature . China – cheap quality, small eyes, eating lizards. Pakistan – terrorism. So will India, empowered by all the technology, communication, entertainment, democracy and its powerful growing economy mergeits benefits with its ancient culture to come across as a consolidated super country and use all these powers, not to power the world, but to overpower its own problems first? May be if more and more like Tharoor start coming up instead of the Behnjis, and we start making use of them for their intelligence rather than concentrating on their tweets .

Just taking an outline from the published talks, do have to say that the Indian TEDDY is looking pretty pink and healthy and laughing all the way .

About the author: Rahul Rane : Rahul is the managing partner at Ensemble Consultants Inc – a web2.0,  CRM and BPM software development company based in Illinois, with their main development center in Pune,India. Intersts include Indian politics, world economy , travel & bisiness and mocking about current affairs. Currently based in Melbourne and establishing base for 2 of our products : EC24x7.com – end to end web solutions for SMB’s and Surecents.com – custom CRM for small businesses.

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Planning, Public Issues

Issues of today’s India

This is an article by our guest strater – Sasmita Patnaik – a student from XIM , Bhubaneshwar. We thank her for her thoughts and hope she would continue writing on strat.in!

Today we often talk of concepts like Globalization and World Economy. While we reinforce these ideas again and again, what we tend to ignore is the reach and impact of these concepts. Do we ever think of what these mean to a man in a village in rural India where more than half of Indian population lives or to an illiterate housewife. They say India engulfs an America and an Africa in her. On one hand while Delhi is looking forward to launch the Common wealth games hoping it would bring great publicity, exposure and opportunity to the nation, there is another part of India that is struggling to locate itself even on local maps of District Authorities. The question here is not if we should stop focusing on events like the Commonwealth Games and Olympics that India aspires to host in 2020 but if the focus is balanced. As much as we need to work at increasing opportunities, it is equally important to ensure that these opportunities created are accessible to all sections. Can we look at alternative modes of passing on the benefits of the Globalization to the ones who are indirectly an integral part of world economy? No one may recognize the individual farmer who cultivates crops, but he definitely is a part of our nation’s export economy. Recently the finance minister of our country came up with this idea o having cluster meetings with banks once in 3 months instead of annual meetings. This was done to ensure that smaller banks have a say in the meetings and are able to express their opinions more openly. If the government is looking at making the meetings more Participative, why can’t we come up with similar models of ensuring participation at grass roots. We have tried to integrate villages with nearby town economies. Why not look at a village – village integration, where the villages are interdependent for raw materials or markets. There are several small villages which cannot become self sustainable unless they are provided with adequate infrastructure and employment opportunities. It becomes too expensive for the government to develop infrastructure for smaller villages and settlements. So, the government could look at integrating smaller villages with larger ones and bring in cost effectiveness.

In a recent edition of The Hindu they talked of the recent HDR report 2009 making a strong case for removing barriers to migration within and across borders, arguing that human movement had brought about all round benefits and could potentially improve the lives of millions of poor and low skilled people.

This era is actually challenging age old beliefs that we thought were the ultimate way of doing things. The entire perspective of looking at migration as Brain Drain is being challenged today. The HDR report says majority of migration happens not between the developed and developing nations but within the country. 1 billion i.e. One out of seven people the world over are migrants. Internal migrants are four times as many as those who have moved internationally (740 million). 70 million have moved from developing to developed countries but 200 million actually between developing or developed countries.1 Migration has led to increase in income levels, better access to health and education and improved prospects for their children. Research in United States found that a 1.3% increase in share of migrant university graduates increased the number of patents by 15%. Mobility brought new ideas, knowledge and resources besides job opportunities.

It is a time to rethink our approach. Instead of suggesting a new model every time completely shunning the existing system, there by incurring additional costs of setting up new infrastructure and institutions. For example, instead of completely discarding the idea of Seasonal Employment and trying to provide the community with some occupation they haven’t even heard of, could we think of some similar set of seasonal occupations which could provide the community livelihood for the entire year? Sometimes one seasonal engagement could provide you more money than an all year job. Moreover, the community inculcates a habit of saving which is a positive development. Again, this saving may go into investments increasing our GDP ultimately.

Many scholars in their great works have talked of societies making a choice for themselves. But is it the fact? Most of the times it is the influential people, a few opinion leaders who decide for the people at large. The case is the same for rural and urban scenario. Therefore, the true opinion never comes affront. Therefore instead of looking at issues individually; we should look at them in a holistic manner. Before passing a judgment about something currently in practice being good or bad, it is very important that we evaluate the pros and cons very carefully and not just shut our minds completely.

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Finance

What is hindering the popularity of Interest Rate Futures in India?

This is a guest article by Saswata Das. He graduated from IIM Calcutta earlier this year and works in the Financial sector. We thank him for his article and look forward to his future articles!

With trade volumes of IRFs in NSE barely touching the 1000 mark these days, it seems that all the initial excitement has fizzled out. This apparently dismal performance doesn’t bode well for the second edition of Interest Rate Futures introduced after a long hiatus of six years.

It’s really intriguing that in India interest rate derivative constitutes only 5% of the total derivative instruments traded value wise vis-à-vis 70% of that traded worldwide.

So what could be the possible reasons for such a state of the Indian financial market especially in the interest rate futures segment? Despite the fact IRFs have been made accessible to a wider base of 638 participants in NSE including 21 Banks, Primary Dealers, Mutual Funds, Insurance companies, FIIs, NRIs and individuals etc. Besides it’s expected that there shall be some significant changes in the interest rate movements owing to a stricter monetary policy on the horizon. Yet the volume in the IRF space has been waning at a faster pace in the recent past.

IRFs can be considered as one of the first few steps the Government of India has taken towards the fulfillment of multiple objectives. Some of them would be the development of corporate debt market; fuller capital account convertibility; complete deregulation of interest rates; strengthening of risk management; development of term money market and lastly a better risk management device to hedge interest rate exposure owing to volatility in Interest rates.

Improvements over the previous edition of IRFs would be the pricing procedure, settlement norms and restricted participant base, which have been changed for better. Previously banks, who are high volume players in the fixed income markets, weren’t allowed to trade in IRFs other than doing ‘effective’ hedging. This time banks are being encouraged to participate in big way as all the rules previously applicable have been done away with.

In any financial market a market maker is required to absorb and infuse liquidity to foster depth in that market. Who is willing to own up the responsibility of market making in this case?

Yet players who are supposed to pour in significant volume are still dormant although for resurrection of IRF their participation is of prime importance. Mutual funds, financial institutions including Insurance companies who claim to be the users of IRFs, have been loath to provide the much coveted liquidity. Mutual funds still waiting for volumes to pick up and they are waiting for the first round of settlement of contracts to be over. In a way this could be a self fulfilling prophecy since a substantial amount of volume was initially expected of them and now they themselves are testing waters.

As far as Insurance companies are concerned, Insurance Regulatory Development Authority has just given a go ahead to insurance companies only on the IRF front. IRDA should allow all the players to use all derivative instruments and facilitate a wider participation from this set of investors. Insurance companies quite predictably are reluctant to act as liquidity providers and have become mere users of the instruments. Insurance giant LIC is still shy to dabble into the IRF space because of reasons like poor volume and liquidity. Most importantly the fact that IRFs first quarterly settlement is due this December and thus it is still in its nascency, nothing much can be expected of the investors who are still not sure as to how effective IRFs would be in serving their purpose.

Here kicks in the importance of the regulator, SEBI in our case has improvised a lot over the previous avatar of IRF contract terms but has missed out on some crucial issues like working in tandem with regulatory authorities like IRDA governing the participating capacities of the insurance companies.

Another facet of the problem would be the underlying of the IRF which is nothing but a notional 10 year bond bearing a coupon of 7% paid semi annually. The current underlying might create basis risk and cause inconvenience to smaller participants. Individuals who are not educated enough to neutralize the basis risk would incur losses. Effective usage of derivative instrument calls for sufficient amount of knowledge on the various facets of the product and the underlying security. Knowledge on pricing of the instrument, dynamics of both short and long term interest bearing instruments help players act with utmost maturity while trading IRFs and this is also one of several factors hindering IRFs from taking off in a big way. Lack of sufficient Benchmarks in the IRF space could be another reason as in India are available only on long term instruments as underlying and this complete absence of short term instruments as underlying in partially responsible for illiquidity in the segment.

Thus it’s high time the regulators act a little proactively and effect certain changes especially in terms of availability of IRFs on a broader spectrum of securities. For instance International Monetary Market, a part of CME has contracts on discount instruments like US Government T-Bills, Eurodollar futures in its short term interest rate future space apart from US Treasury Bond contract popularly traded as long term financial futures contract.

In economies with financially developed financial markets, Interest rate future prices reflect the reactions of the investors to the anticipated movement in the interest rates just the way government signals on expected interest rate by repo and call money rates to the economy.

It is anticipated that a quicker economic recovery, accelerating inflation rate, implying a higher interest regime will come into existence with a quarterly policy review by RBI due on this Oct 27th, investors will soon feel a greater need to hedge fomenting a surge in the volumes of this most successful financial innovation of 1970’s vintage.

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