Infographic, Politics, Technology

Can Indian Optimism create newer opportunities

Its been nearly 18 months since PM Modi took the reigns of a then floundering economy spearheaded by ex-PM Manmohan Singh. Despite several shortcomings which are structural in nature related to India, one can definitely visibly see the efforts being made by the Government in various industries. One big example of the same is the PM himself visiting innovative companies of the world like Facebook, Tesla Motors etc during his recent visit to the USA. At some level, transforming India is a massive challenge given these staggering graphs. How do you actually shape the lives of 1 bn people at varied stages of their life and lead them to prosperity? How do you drive 300 mn+ people out of relative poverty and give them hope and vision for a better future? How do you remove the habit of people who have been used to live on Government doles and subsidies and get them to work more diligently? These are problems that are massive in nature but I think, the way the Government is approaching them is quite interesting in itself.

The Tech approach to solve problems – At some level, the mobile resurgence has come at the best time for the Government. PM Modi and his Mann ki Baat has been such a hit that opponents in Bihar actually asked EC for a ban on this program. With Mobile and internet becoming more popularly used by the day, PM Modi’s social media presence has actually helped in propogating their policies and programs faster than any Government has done before. Twitter and Facebook have become massive channels for the Democracy which is good to note.

However, this is just the start. To create momentum is one thing , to sustain it through thick and thin is another. China’s relative slowdown/recession has put focus on India for now as a developing nation, but this won’t last more than 6 months in my opinion. Can India sustain the optimism beyond 18 months well into 2017? That would be the true test of the policy decisions taken by the present Government.

Whats your view – is the current optimism about India truly meaningful? Write below!

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Politics, Public Issues

Justice Verma Committee – Criminal Law about Women Safety

The earlier course of events about Women Safety and security, particularly in the aftermath of the heinous gang-rape case in New Delhi has caused more than a kerfuffle in the Government machinery, thankfully. The Government has formed a three member committee to form a law and this committee will be headed by Justice Verma.

The objective of this committee is to to the following in case of “aggravated” sexual assault

(a) Provide for speedier justice

(b) Review Law for enhanced punishment



The notice encourages people to give their suggestions about this. Its really great that the Government and Judiciary is willing to improve itself. Whats a bit disturbing is that it takes such massive protests to make the judicial machinery take notice, but anyways, at least efforts have begun in the right direction.

We at thought that we can act as the messenger in this case. We have created a form about this below – whereby we shall collate all responses and send them over to Justice Verma on January 4, 2013.

Please fill in your requests and send them back to us. We would be glad to send them back to Justice Verma committee.

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Business, Leadership, Politics

Modi, the management guru

I first heard of Narendra Modi, like many others, post the unfortunate Godhra incident and the subsequent riots that shook the collective conscience of the nation. Before that, I must admit, I had never heard of him. In fact, in those days, the only two CMs of any state I knew of was the West Bengal CM and the Tripura CM – Bengal because of obvious reasons and Tripura – because the person concerned had a long reign at the top. And I knew vaguely about the Delhi CM, and knew that “one of the two” were CMs in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh

In those days, I, like most young men of my state, were enamored of so-called “leftist” ideals, and found Modi to be a hate figure. Over cups of coffee, reading about his interviews, his “methods” in various magazines, I had a strong dislike for him. Then I got admitted to an engineering college, and started concentrating on my studies. NaMo gradually slipped out of my mind, almost _ though some reports of the Best Bakery case, the Sardar Sarovar Dam protest, the “ban” on Fanaa just about kept him alive in my mind

The next time I heard of him was when a professor in the college where I was doing my MBA came out with a report on how NaMo had used masks of himself to spread his message and keep his persona alive and kicking. We had a long discussion over cups of coffee in the canteen over this strategy, and the parallel it had with the world of marketing, specifically, brand positioning

It is at this point of time that I began to take interest in the management guru (not the politician, not the stylish gentleman). Here was a man who did not have much formal education, yet symbolized and stood for many of the principles and theories taught in long lectures and to which many people owe their PhDs

I have picked here 5 aspects based on 5 incidents of NarendraBhai

1. The masks before 2007 Elections and Swami Vivekananda in 2012

It’s a oft repeated statement in marketing that if you keep reminding a customer something over and over again, chances are – he will not forget to buy the product. Here the “product” was an idea – “Brand Modi” or rather, the implicit message “Vote for Modi”. Now there is a risk in this – “what if the idea is oversold? What if the customer, here the voter, gets angered and refuses to vote?”

The answer to this is simple. Again, using a marketing parlance, if we consider the 4Ps of marketing – first P would be the “product”. If the “product” is value for money, “positioning” will bring a smile on the face, rather than irritate the customer. An example of a bad “product” over positioned and angering the customers, in the world of politics, would be, without going into great details, celebration of birth and death anniversaries of “certain leaders” in all leading newspapers, and crediting anything under the sun to them. That does not apply to NaMo. He has delivered over the last 5 years, hence the “brand recall mechanism” created through masks worked to a great positive effect (

In the past few months, NaMo has made Swami Vivekananda as his own. It is said that he is a big fan of the 19th Century Great and has spent a significant time in Ramkrishna Mission in Calcutta, which was established by Swami-ji himself. (it is rumored the respect towards Swami-ji also comes from sharing the same first name – Vivekananda’s real name was “Narendra Nath Datta”). It’s also a matter of luck for NaMo that Swami-Ji’s 150th Birth anniversary falls in 2012, election year in Gujarat. And NaMo made great use of this as a political weapon – tweets, blog posts, youth fairs, yatras, even cricket kits given away as rpizes – everything had a brand association with the great Ascetic. NaMo projected him as a symbol of great Hindu pride ( Here the management lesson seems tobe a clever association with a well known “brand” (personality in this case), who has great brand potential, yet has not been used by anyone else for some reason

2. Focus on women and children

This is not an attempt to be sexist, but the ladies generally make more rational voters. They vote based on issues which affect their livelihood, budget and less on matters of caste or religion. Modi understood this perfectly well. Right from day1, his focus has been more towards the women and the first time voters. He was faced with a serious challenge as far as women’s literacy and health and nutrition issues were concerned. And he took on these issues head on – he introduced several schemes for girls – “kanya kelavani”, giving away money earned from selling gifts given to him as charity to organizations fighting female foeticide etc ( ) . The message was clear and simple – “Ladies’, I care for you, something very basic which many leaders in this country don’t”. This simple message found a lot of takers. Today he has a dedicated vote bank. He followed a simple management principle – choose your target wisely and kept on persisting with his promotion

3. Modi, the darling of the corporates

It’s an old fact in the history of politics that businessmen and politicians are the best of friends. The reason is not hard to fathom. Each one of them feed off the other. The politician needs funds; the businessmen need the right business environment. Modi was clever enough to realize this fact very early. He had realized how the incidents of 2002 had damaged his reputation in certain sections of society. He had to find an alternate way to build a reputation. And he chose the path of development. Development would require funds, and for most of his tenure he had had to deal with a hostile government at the center. So he thought of an alternate way – business

The people he governed are ones with good business acumen, he reasoned. So why not give them an ideal opportunity to carry out business? There is the story of how when the Tatas decided to pull out of Singur, Modi immediately send an SMS to Ratan Tata welcoming him to Gujarat, and a dejected Ratan Tata didn’t have too many alternatives but to invest in Gujarat ( ). Uninterrupted supply of power, almost unheard of in other states of India barring a couple in the North-East, broadband connectivity in almost every village of Gujarat means both large and small scale industry has thrived as well as benefits of mdern technology could be used by the people

He has made business easier to be carried out, and this has been an invitation for investors, from not just in India, but from other parts of the world as well to flock to invest in Gujarat. The “Vibrant Gujarat” summits” have seen MoUs worth lakhs of crores being signed, and a significant portion implemented as well, which has brought huge investments to the state. Corruption has almost been eliminated, setting up business is easier than many parts of India, and the infrastructure (road networks, ports etc) compares to best in the world. Reduced costs and red tape has made investing attractive, bringing down unemployment significantly. This has had domino effects in terms of healthcare, sanitation etc and education. People have more money to buy better agricultural products, thus bringing up agricultural productivity. Higher returns mean they have more money to send their children to school; arrange for more nutritious food and make better sanitary arrangements. Thus Gujarat has entered into a virtuous cycle of higher income -> more taxes -> better quality of life. A simple lesson of finding what your customers (in this case the voters) need the most and provide that service the best turned out to be a trump card for Modi

4. Use of technology + social media and great back-up and PR-team


Narendra Modi has 1 million followers on twitter ( ). Now, that is no mean feat. Leaders far bigger to him as far as constitutional authority is concerned, heads of state, etc have far fewer followers. It is here he scores big. He understood the value of technology and social media, something which would appeal to the youth and place from where he can take direct feedback from. It also helped him spread his message quicker and cheaper. He has taken potshots at his political rivals, showcased his methods and results and has connected to a segment of the population that is rarely given too much attention – the aspirational middle class. His use of 3-D hologram technology turned out to be a huge hit wherein he could be heard and seen, as if live in a number of places at one time ( ), as did his Google+ hangout hosted by actor Ajay Devgn( )

NaMo has a great back-up team and an efficient PR-team, which not just keeps posted about him, helps spread his message on the social media, but also does great research for him. For example, when he went to China earlier this year, he had his visiting cards made in Mandarin, besides of course, having done solid research on the business environment of the country ( ). The Management lesson obviously is  have a good back-up team and to be well prepared when visiting a potential client (here he was wooing Chinese investors to Gujarat, and created the simple analogy of being the “two fastest growing economies in Asia”

5. Turning adversity into advantage

Narendra Modi has inherited a state ravaged by an earthquake and jolted by communal riots. Red-tapism, nepotism, poor infrastructure almost engulfed the entrepreneurial spirit of his subjects. However, in 10 years, he not just turned it around for the state, but for his own image itself – his lack of immediate family members barring his ageing mother and estranged mother (rumors of a wife were later found to be unfounded) kept him away from own personal gains, aided by his RSS-background discipline. He has cleverly molded his own image with that of Gujarat. Any insult to him was turned into an insult to “6 crore Gujarati”, his own portrayal as a “CM = Common Man” and “servant of the masses”, evoking of “Gujarati asmita” or pride has made him a man of the masses he lorded over. And the opposition – Congress, has fallen time and again into cleverly laid traps. In 2007, Sonia Gandhi called him “maut ka saudagar” or “Merchant of Death”, and he immediately used this to his advantage by claiming this was an insult to the state. Needless to say, he won by a thumping margin (–maut-ka-saudagar–sonia-cong-tread-carefully-on–muslim–issues/1042507/ ). Even this time around, during the campaign he was called a monkey by the Gujarat Congress Chief (  ), which he immediately turned into “Lord Hanuman out to serve Lord Ram – the people of Gujarat” argument ( ). Here the management lesson is “take stones thrown at you and turn them into milestones”

It is difficult to predict whether Narendra Modi will win Gujarat, leave alone to go the national scene as a possible PM-candidate. But history will remember him as one of the longest serving CM of Gujarat. And his legacy of trying to bring all round development as well as his methods of electioneering, bringing in industries and taking care of deprived sections of the society will remain for long, a lesson in management for a lot of people

It can be argued none of this matters as far as voting is concerned, people vote a host of issues; even if he wins in Gujarat, he won’t be able to replicate it elsewhere and such claims. Well, all these can be argued, statements and counter-statements put in, but what matters is that these are some of the traits that very few leaders in India has shown. It is of little wonder then, that he will have several spokespersons who will speak on his behalf, not out of fear or greed, but out of love ( )

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Free, free , free!!!

On Friday, 20th January, Samajwadi Party promised the voters to give them heaven if SP comes to power. The list of freebies that the party promised to roll out includes books, tablets, laptops, medical treatment and everything that could please the voters. And when a reporter asked the SP general secretary, Ram Gopal Yadav, as to how they will manage the cost for these items, the reply was “Where there is a will, there is a way”. I could be a naïve, but I surely don’t see any way.

From the day Mamta Banerjee came into power in West Bengal, the financial statements of West-Bengal government have taken a beating. The input costs were rising, yet “Didi” continued doling out price cuts and subsidies to the general public. No wonder the Mamta government is high on debt and low on spirits.

These two studies underscore the mindset of politicos. Most of the politicians believe that freebies, subsidies and price-cuts are the way to woo the public. These tricks only provide short-term relief but they do pave the way for future troubles for the government. The basic financial model is that production involves cost and selling of items generates revenues to cover the cost and generate some surplus. Now giving freebies put a very high pressure on the cost-recovery area. To cover the cost, the state government uses the tax-payer’s money. So, in a sense, the general public is not getting any advantage. It’s just that some people get fooled and give their vote to someone undeserving.

It is imperative that both public and government understand the troubles mentioned above. The public should realize that paying for something that they get will help them and the administrators in the long run. The results of the UP election will throw a light on the mindset of the people of this state. If SP fairs badly overall and also in those constituencies where it was strong, then one may say that people do understand that “there are no free-lunches in the world”.


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Politics, Public Issues

Rang De Basanti – Annaji leading the way!

Rang De Basanti is a legendary movie for all Indians. If there was a list made for the best movies of Bollywood I am sure it would feature in them.

Rang De Basanti gave us –

  • Enlightenment that freedom struggle in not over – We are still not free of corruption, dirty politics and inefficiency
  • Candlelight march at India Gate – One of the best ways for peaceful protests in Delhi
  • Power of Youth – Showing that the youth has to take the responsibility and take the nation forward.

An awesome point from the movie is “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota… use perfect banana padta hai… Police mein bharti honge, military join karenge, IAS banenge …. Politics ka hissa ban kar is desh ki sarkar chalayenge ….. Yeh desh badlega, hum badlenge ise

What Rang De Basanti showed is the way forward, Anna Ji’s movement is doing in real life. They are doing a peaceful protest, they are educating the masses about the corruption present, they are involving the people in Government decision making! Still the Government is trying defame Anna Ji unsuccessfully. Will the Jail Bharo Andolan succeed? Don’t know. Is it the way forward? Yes!

India’s freedom struggle did not happen overnight, it took 150 years! Will the second freedom struggle happen overnight? No, but we have to make it succeed.

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Politics, Public Issues

India – China : The Asian Divide

India and China, the 2 most populous countries in the world, the 2 fast growing economies in the world, the 2 Asian countries bordering so close – yet with so many ideological differences!

There are so many differences as well – India is more services centric and China ia manufacturing centric. India has freedom of internet, China doesn’t. India’s growth rate is x, China is y and so on. But the main difference which everyone talks about is Democracy!

Democracy is supposed to give power to the people and make people elect its leaders. We have had democracy in India for the past 64 years now and it has been successful. China does not have democracy and it has also been successful. What people are trying to understand is which system is better. I heard an interesting thought a few days ago and this post is about that thought.

A person claimed to me that a newspaper took the interview of the Chinese Premier and he said that he actually favours democracy! But he thinks China might be ready for it only in a about 50 years or so. He also said that they have already given the first freedom to their people, Capitalism. I searched a lot on the internet but could not find this interview.

However the thought process behind this needs to be given thought specially with the currency situation in Indian democracy. Democracy empowers people but when people themselves don’t know whats best for them then is democracy functional? When voting % falls below 50% and votes are openly sold for money then is democracy functional? When regionalism becomes so prevalent that majority governments become impossible and coalitions are unable to pass any laws then is democracy functional?

A lot of questions, not many answers. Time will tell whether democracy in India will be successful or not? Something tells me that on this success / failure the whole future of Democracy in the world will be re-defined.

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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 as a regular author. Do you want to write on 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 neither supports or opposes them. is a forum for thought provoking discussions and will continue to remain so.

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Politics, Public Issues

Bharat Bandh – An agitated nation or merely a political game?

Having read too many views about the Bharat Bandh that happened today – which had real impact from what I saw in Mumbai, and what I saw reported in the media – I can definitely say that the Bandh has impacted everyone in India in some way or other.

There were some incidences which could have been avoided. In my relative’s office, one of the officers was beaten up for ‘showing the courage’ to turn up for work. Really, such incidences can be avoided, infact should be avoided – they leave a mark in the minds of those affected.

In pure monetary terms, the cost of the Bandh is huge – quoting from this article on Rediff

According to Assocham, the strike eroded the national GDP “by a production loss of nearly a full day which in monetary terms can be roughly estimated at Rs 13,000 crore.”

The calculation is based on assumption that the GDP would stay around Rs 50 lakh crore with a growth rate of over 8 per cent in current fiscal, Assocham added.

I believe in a lot of cases, the ‘support’ to the bandh was a case of people avoiding going out in fear of possible damage in many cases. How useful will such agitations be in real terms, I have my doubts. Over the afternoon, ‘Bharat Bandh’ was a trending topic on twitter – everyone had strong views about the topic.

Quoting a few top tweets on twitter today:

Coming back to the point, it is true that inflation has raised its ugly head in India. Whatever it is, life has become tough with the steep hike in prices of almost all commodities. Those who called the bandh referred to the state of the nation as ‘agitated’. The members of the ruling party however dismissed this as a political game of oneupmanship played by the opposition. What do you think about this? Do post your views in the comments section or on our facebook page .

Finally, leaving you with this enduring image – Bandh-istan – made by the famous cartoonist and good friend Shreyas Navare for HT

Credits: Rediff , HT – links quoted in context.

PS: I haven’t been writing regularly for the past few months. Work had been hectic. But now I promise to write regularly , irrespective of external factors. Keep writing to us about issues you feel about strongly, at contribute AT strat DOT in and we can feature your article on our site. To those who wrote to me to start writing again, Thanks!

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Finance, Planning, Politics, Public Issues, Strategy

Lessons from Greece for India

By now almost everyone will know the entire Greece story and if you don’t then please do read some economic news on the world. The effect of the controversy on one country (Greece), one region (European Union), one currency (Euro) and million of people is unbelievable. Not really unbelievable … because this has happened to countries before but everytime the nuances are different. The important thing is to get a few lessons from the entire debacle specially for India!greece

  • Taxation System: I read last week that Greece has over 11 million residents but only only a few thousand claim to have an income above 100,000 euros. Is it really possible? Nevertheless if residents can get away without paying taxes then they will. For now India also has a taxation system full of loopholes, where anyone with a big company has to pay taxes but small/big business don’t and black money is prevalent. Government needs taxes and without taxes budget deficit cannot be reduced.
  • Importance of Currency: One of the main issues facing Greece is the issue of currency! Greece comes under European Union and has Euros as its currency. If Greece had an independent currency then it could have taken a hit on its currency, exports become cheaper, imports become expensive, the life in the country changes but it would not be as complex as it is.
  • Market will not always be rational: A lot of people ask that why has the focus on Greece come now? Why didn’t it come last year? The budget deficit was still very large last year. All the existing problems have existed for many years. Thus why now? Its because markets are not always rational and we all should be used to it. The bandwagon effect is most prominent in financial markets and when a run begins it is very .. very .. very difficult to fight it even for nations.
  • Don’t spend more than you earn: This is very difficult to maintain specially for Governments but if you continuously do it for years then what can you do.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list. Would be great to hear your views as well!

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Politics, Public Issues

Hats off to Rahul Gandhi!

Although I have historically been a supporter of BJP, I feel that everyone should be open to change and if anyone does something right then it should be commended. I have been trying to follow the political happening in India and recently Mumbai has been on its forefront. Shiv Sena, once a powerful force and probably a righteous organization, has started taking the same path as MNS and going on the Marathi and Maharashtrian Fundamentals. For a good number of days when MNS and Shiv Sena both were making statements which promoted regionalism, and no national leader came out criticizing them and this made me feel all the more terrible.

Thus when RSS and Rahul Gandhi took the bold stand and countered them I felt a relief and I felt proud of both of them. The steps which Rahul Gandhi took might be considered a political game by some, nevertheless I think he deserves a big applause for them. Quoting from IBNLiveIn Mumbai, men in the NSG were from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. At that time they were silent and did not say that those from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh should be taken out. India has to move forward and all have to be taken forward. India belongs to every Indian. Every part of India belongs to every Indian. All Indians have every right to go and work anywhere in the country.” The demands which Sena have been making are nothing short of regionalism and if left uncriticized will probably lead to a demand for a new country! It seems even to work or stay in Mumbai, people should apply for a Visa according to Sena. By answering them Rahul Gandhi actually took considerable risk but in the end came out shining brightly as a star.

Moreover that is not all that Rahul Gandhi did. Rahul went to Mumbai to show Sena that he does not fear them. Although he had a million security guards to protect him but the step was important, because it actually showed that Rahul does not fear a faceoff with Sena for his words! Moreover what Rahul did after reaching Mumbai is unprecedented. Rahul went to an ATM, took out cash, bought a local ticket and traveled in the mumbai local! This is a big achievement because I don’t recall any chief minister of Maharashtra or any major leader who has presented himself as a common man and traveled through the common man means. Rahul Gandhi would have a many security men, and the train will probably be on the fast track and many other things, but the experience of walking inside the station to the platform, the smell and dirt on the platform, the noisy mumbai local, are all a part of Rahul’s memory and hopefully one day he will make an effort to rectify this.

I feel the young leader has shown bravery in his approach and truly deserves appreciation. Will wait to hear your comments on this one though!

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