Friday, 26 June 2015

The most important moment of your life!

"It took me years to forget your landline number", she said. A lovely forty minute conversation was brought to a stand still when she said it. He stopped breathing for a moment and sunk those words in, one syllable after the other. It all came back to him in a flash. The 8 digit number that he knew too well. Her phone number. The one that he used to call out loud in sleep. The one he dialed and dialed so many times. "Well, I still remember yours clearly", he said.

It was twelve years back in time. Bajaj Chetak's "gaadi bula rahi hai" was doing the rounds. It was on the TV during the world cup and on almost everyone's lips. Transistors were still used a lot. Boys took it to school and surreptitiously tuned in for cricket scores. TVS 50 became TVS champ and people were upgrading their moped (Moped seems like a term from the past). Tuition classes were about those first five minutes when her batch got over and his about to start. And a slew of ladybird cycles were going out and a chain of hercules getting parked. Life should have paused. Just there. Not an inch ahead, not an inch behind.

There are a million things in our lives that we want to change. We feel like we should have had the option to go back in time and redo those things. We wonder what would have been...if nice if. To remain trapped within the confines of good times is more than just a luxury. It is some kind of salvation. It could even be unachievable.

Thirty years from now I will be near the wrong end of birth. I would have changed a lot as a person and I would probably look back to this day and smile at myself in the mirror. Not realizing how much of me is still in me after so long. We don't suddenly wake up one day and see life-altering changes in ourselves. It takes a lot of time for change to happen, our identities to shift, like the larva from the cocoon.

While all of it is so complex and there isn't much that can be changed about the past, it is better we understand this predicament in life's design.

1. If there is an asset worth more than all your assets put together, it is time. Especially when you are young, this is the greatest thing ever in your possession.

2. Some people and some moments are there to be etched in your minds forever. Love all your folk and cherish all the moments for you don't know which ones will make it to the final précis for etching.

3. Most of us in this world want the same things. So when you want something, just go and take it. Someone else also wants it and it pays to not be late.

4. Just enjoy everything that is available with you right now and take care of them really well. Be it your girl, your bike, your books or your coffee mug. After a while you will realize your stuff is special and other stuff is someone else's anyway.

We all want to describe our own lives through a bunch of breakthrough narratives. So we wait for these breakthroughs to happen. And we wait amidst all hope and despair When we see that cute girl down the road we think she is the one. When we start a new job, we think this will be the one. When we put the money in that oil company stock, we are anxiously thinking that will be the one. We are always waiting for those life changing moments to come and knock us out of slumber and give us some flowers.

Only that they will never show up. They have come and gone. Those moments that we were living and dying for came and went. Like it did 12 years back when he was driving that moped in front of her bungalow, slowing down hoping she would hear the sound of the motor and run out of her room into the balcony. She did. She came out and saw him till he disappeared round the street corner. Albeit a few seconds later.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Grass is Green on the Other Side!

I'm back! or so it feels. I thought of a better come back line because this one was a particularly long hiatus from this chirpy world of small talk and polarized opinions, but couldn't do better. A come back line is more of an irony at this juncture as I would not summarize my current state of affairs as anything like the one of Earl of Emsworth after the Shropshire race for instance. It's placement season here after all. Nevertheless, I am back to writing and it feels good.Similar emotions with the title of this post as I was wondering what to name it. Cliched as it sounds, a truer word was never spoken.

The "grass" is greener on the other side. Is there a better time for the avid blogger to make a comeback than placement time at b-school? Probably not. But I ain't going to whine here as one would expect from a lesser soul than mine. It's a matter of time before the curtains would roll down on this one year roller coaster ride called b-school and I have mixed feelings about it. Sucking blood is an amusing hobby by any standards. Vampires used to do that notoriously as they say in many a folktale. But this one called b school is adept at sucking blood even more than the vampires. This bubble reminds me of that carnivorous island in the movie "Life of Pi". One makes merry now and one is left gaping for breath the next moment. It's an amusing place to say the least.

Talking of greenery and grass (as I rightly should after naming it so), though they could mean one and the same thing in some sense of the words, they are two entirely different concoctions when looked at from the "other side". The "other side" is an amusing place to be or so I understand from people who tell me to look at it from thither. Think about grades. There is the other side called learning. Think about a job shortlist, there is the other side called long term prospects. Think about money. There is the other side called true happiness. What I fail to understand in these analogies is how people flip the coin to see it from the so called other side.

I remember this day when I was in school, vividly, for various reasons. The girl I used to have a thing for during that time was moving out of town. I guess her father was in the army or something and at that time call of duty came from an "other side" of the country. So they were moving to Mizoram or some such place which I failed to place on the map during that time, thanks to me being geographically challenged. I would deceive one if I said I am any better now. But for one thing, it was far away from Bangalore, where I was picking shells at that point in life. The incredible thing about this girl under scrutiny was that she was the most beautiful thing on earth back in the day and many eyeballs rolled at her sight. I use the word incredible carefully here because, among all the eligible boys in class, she chose to do combined studies with me. Stressing upon the wise usage of the term incredible in this particular context, I would like to bring to the reader's notice here that I had a head in the shape of a full onion at that time and my brains were slightly better than that of a cauliflower by any standards. Incredible, when I come to think why she chose me! But all's not fair in this world of jerks and morons and so be it. The point here is that her last day in school was a melancholic one of sorts for many a soul. I was sobbing when I thought of the next term after summer break and the dark clouds seemed to close in faster than I could imagine. Then an interesting thing happened. It involved my best pal from school, who I hang out with solely for image pepping purposes. If my head was the shape of an onion, his was more like a soda bottle, if you get my drift. He told me many things at length, but I don't recollect much of it since it was more nonsensical than one would imagine. But one thing that he said made sense to me. He told me to look at the neighbor's lawn, the other girl from section b who was better looking, healthier and overall greener in order to forget the loss of this one.

There is always scope for some free advice to say things like there's other stuff on the other side and all that sort of gibberish. But the problem here is that it is frigging easy to say things like these (happens often in the b school classroom too, especially with these strategy professors) and bloody difficult to make anything of it.

So the story, for the curious, ended on a sad note and as I grew up, the onion on top of me grew into more of the beetroot kind and I lost chances if any to hold on to a beautiful girl since then.

The point is that this other side argument is complete bull crap and I wouldn't buy it for as cheap as dirt. But the thing about "grass" and the greenery has amused me to some extent. The other day I was reading a Wodehouse since I was completely demoralized due to a sequence of events here at b school and I came across this thing about greenery. Most of Britain according to Wodehouse tales is covered by lush green lawns with a lake here and there and beautiful couples strolling with their Pomeranian.

The part that is amusing is that they always have an air around them, these people from those country side castles. They seem to own excessively large chunks of property and sit on filthy piles of cash that their daily schedules look like this:

Wake up for the breakfast gong,
Eat till the chicken yells from inside the stomach,
Look at the blue sky and pass a comment or two about the weather,
go to the library and pick up a book like "How to fool the princess at the castle" or some such piece of literature,
Wait for the lunch gong,
Repeat step 2,
Go for an afternoon siesta,
Wake up for an evening stroll with some gorgeous girl who also sits on a pile of cash,
Wait for the dinner gong,
Double up the efforts and perform step 2 even better,
Repeat step 1.

When will I get to engage in such routine? Will I ever get to? As greedy as I sound, that is what one would secretly wish for. Let's face it (as my room mate here would put it). It is so funny to be dreaming of such things when one is fighting to get a shortlist (let alone a job) for a handsome pay package to pay off the huge loans post b school. But nonetheless, I want to live like those characters in Wodehouse (on the "other side" of the ocean :-P)

I said I wouldn't whine, but here I am whining in front of you, but only for two really really sound reasons.
1. There is no brighter other side. period.
2. The greens are a mirage they don't seem to up the mood anyway.

Screw the green, screw the sides, Cheer up! For in times such as these, there is "grass" (a soft pillow from mother nature to sleep on, if you got the message wrong!!!)

P.S: As lame as this post would sound, I request for some concern and pity owing to the long gap in writing. Thou shall only get better.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Jihad - A Taxonomy

After reading through a couple of books on the subject of Islamic Jihad and its roots, I side with Mahmood Mamdani, the author of 'Good Muslim, Bad Muslim' on the matter of Jihad's categorisation. I believe that Islamic Jihad is more political than theological as Mahmood proves (or tries to prove) in his acclaimed book about Islam, USA and the Cold War. People who kill in the name of jihad don't kill as dictated by any religious decree, but do so due to a political decree that governs a quest for power. Lets analyse that school of thought in a bit more detail.

Jihad : Personal Profile

Name : Jihad, The War within.

Father's Name : The United States of America

Mother's Name : CIA

Place of Birth : Afghanistan

Time of Birth : Cold War

Civilisation : Wahhabi Islamists

Current Residence : Afghanistan

Previous Residences : Afghanistan, Egypt, Post Apartheid South Africa, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and many more....

Motto (Then) : Defeat the Soviets (USSR)

Motto (Now) : Defeat the hegemonic (USA +) 

Friends (Then) : USA, CIA, Saudi Arabia, Israel

Friends (Now) :Iraq, Somalia, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan

Foes (Then) : USSR

Foes (Now) : USA and Allies

Achievements : Wiping Soviet Influence in Afghanistan and Eastern Europe (Cold War), 9/11 Bombing of Twin Towers, Attacks on US friendly nations viz. Britain, France, India (more recently)

Failures : Refer to Friends and Foes section above

So, from what you've read above, the only intriguing part is how Dad became Foe between then and now. The answer to that interesting conundrum makes us understand Jihad and its various manifestations over time in a clearer fashion. Lets go back to the birth of what is called 'Jihad' in today's context. The USA, which was one of the two super powers in the world after the Second World war wanted autonomy in world power and thereby resolved to eradicate Soviet's influence in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The much hyped 'Cold War' is just about this. If we remember right, the Second World War was fought in Europe and Asia and the countries involved in the war by and large were labelled 'Third World Countries' (where the Soviet wielded some influence). One of the aims of the Second World War was to dethrone dictators around the world including but not limited to Hitler. We all know how that war ended and how it gave birth to the next global war in line viz. The Cold War. The perpetrators of this war - America, decided to wage the entire war 'proxily' and hence the name : 'proxy war'.

The Afghan resistance to USSR was nothing but a US intervention and that intervention was well executed by way of 'privatization'. America decided to operate from behind the scenes and in the process exposed various religious groups and extremist groups on the battle field. So, instead of controlling aspects like training directly, the CIA allowed private organisations to spread information about violence, especially tactics and methods to drive out the Russians. Al Qaeda was one such organisation that was fed and brought up by the USA Government under Ronald Reagan with technical assistance from the CIA and ground zero assistance from the ISI. That is how far behind the US-Pakistan relationship goes. If one does not understand why US has been an ally of Pakistan over the last decade even after so many instances that proved Pakistan's association with the Taliban, the answer is the long lasting friendship between the CIA and the ISI right from the Cold War times. So the US tactics during the cold war was well thought out and at the ground level it had learnt from its earlier mistakes in Vietnam.

After the Cold War, which was very satisfactorily won by the US, a few global problems arose from the very operations during the war. One of them was a realisation viz..a realisation about the cost of blood to various Muslim nations in Africa and Middle East. Countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran paid the price for America's victory. The price they paid was in denominations of livelihood and blood. Millions of people in Afghanistan and Somalia were devoid of food, security and shelter immediately after the Cold War. This point (just after the end of the Cold War) marks a paradigm shift in the identity of Jihad. People who were nurtured and fed by the US had no place to go after the completion of the war and they started revolting against their very own creators for their exploits hitherto. It is important to note that private organisations like Al Qaeda and Haji Group were armed up to their teeth with highly advanced US weaponry which were supplied to them in large numbers during the Soviet whitewash. Osama Bin Laden led from the front and called all his 'political' brothers to wage a war against the perpetrators. He and the other Jihadist leaders saw an opportunity to show their military and political might in a bid to become empowered. They believed that they could defeat their creators with their own methods and weapons. In retaliation, the US, which was apprehensive about the weaponry (biological and nuclear) in possession of those fundamentalists, declared the global war on terror. This clash culminated in the happenings of September 9th of 2001 at New York.

So, the story of Islamic Jihad is essentially one of a family Saga where the son decides to revolt against his very own cunning Father who exploited him to achieve his personal goals. This global war on terror and the holy war called Jihad, that are at loggerheads currently, cannot be ended until and unless governments worldwide acknowledge the fact that both of them are political battles and not religious ones. It can also be said that the political battles involve some monetary benefits besides the quest for power. The war on Iraq, as is known to many of us worldwide, had its roots in oil and natural resources. But America's strategy during and after the cold war - proxy fighting and sedition shall not work in today's world of complex foreign policies. America has to understand that Jihad is its own creation and it can only end it by accepting to live with a wider distribution of power on the world map. The ascent of countries like China, India, Brazil and South Africa on the global trade platform makes the relationship between friends and foes a complex one. For instance, India, which supports America's war on terror (either by design or accident) cannot afford to break its ties with Iran or Yemen to appease the United States. The simple reason is India's growing energy interests in the region.

To conclude, it may objectively correct to blame America for having a corrupting influence on Islam in their 'Global War Against Terror'. But the very elements of that corruption are those Jihadists who are busy waging the 'Holy War'.

So, the job of the innocent muslim who is caught in these crossfires is to look at Religious Islam and Political Islam from different angles.
A neutral spectator should see the American Think Tank and the Jihadist Ideology as two superficial smart players in the global pursuit of power and treat the two imposters just the same.

P.S:The views expressed in this article are totally personal and are based on opinion and understanding of various events from history as recorded in various books on the subject.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

What's with a writer's block

Ladies and gentlemen, I am back to where I was. So, after a long time out from this block, I thought of writing about...

Enough of that... I didn't know what to write about. So, I tried to break the ice and start blabbering about something or the other and I used the backspace key on my laptop more than anything else while I started this post. After striking through and through so many times, I decided I would write about that very thing - The Writer's block. Wiki defines it as a 'condition', which can even put an end to one's writing career - in the professional sense that is. Not for an amateur blogger like thou and thee. But I think it is more of a curse than being just a condition.

Consider my last post on this blog, I wrote about some random Margabandhu and tried to correlate his activities with Indian cricket by and large. That thing apparently did not make for a hit as I noticed on my statistics page. There was only one person who commented/liked it on facebook and that person was him. If I had to go by his taste, my writing career would have long been over. I mean, the point is, one shouldn't get an orgasm if someone like him vouches for one's work. So, for a person who understands this fact, technically, the problem is that he starts wondering what needs to change to make a successful product on his blog. I was wondering exactly that and that seemingly was the reason for my prolonged absence from here.

One of my friends suggested me to write on 'How to fall in love and get married in 90 days' as an ode to another friend and his accomplishments. He even gave me a 'title idea' for that post - 'Le Executioner'. But I somehow got the feeling that it wouldn't bring home the bacon. I felt that they might end up being the only persons to appreciate my thoughts on that subject. The other problem was that I have no clue about achieving that kind of a feat in 90 days, so to speak. Some weird guy in my wing had a book while I was at college. It was called 'The Game' and it apparently helped teenaged dudes to pick some threads with nice girls and walk out of pubs like a couple. That book would probably have an answer to that 90 days love and marriage and all that kind of jazz, not my blog. The same set of friends also suggested I write a book instead of wasting time on a blog and I looked at them askance at that suggestion. I don't need to elaborate. That suggestion was nothing more than just 'stupid'.

With so many suggestions and ideas, both from external sources and internal, the only good was that I came to realize one real fact viz.The mind and the heart belong to two different sexes. The mind is a testosterone based thinker and the heart is a lot like those pinkish fetishes. In the process of contemplating, I thought I should write about cricket, especially about that internal unrest in Team India's dressing room. The mind suggested that topic of course, if you didn't get that part clear. The heart pounced at that suggestion and said, "Don't be a loser, get a life. Write something more romantic.". See? I said the heart belonged to the female sex. Then I thought of writing about passion, life, love and all those abstract things. This time, the guy retorted in an even bitter tone. He said, I would look like a fool if I write something so cinematic. That seemed sensible too. Especially with the kind of readers I have. It would easily become a topic for them to mock at me in public. So, I decided against that one too. Politics Economics, Money, Career, Work, Football etc. said HIM...... Pets, Fashion, Nature, Trees, Oceans, Flowers et al. came from HER. But I found none really meaningful.

I asked those two friends of mine for some more ideas. And one of them told me to write about 'why women are not funny'. His argument was that, those kind of topics could possibly bring a lot more female attention to this blog which is something that is lacking as of today. But I begged to differ. That kid of writing would probably bring a lot of scorn to me and my chauvinistic ideas. I prefer to play it safe and say that women are actually very funny and move on.

Another idea was to write about smoking and drinking as stimulants for a writer and his creativity as is talked about  here. But I felt, I should do some more research to write about something of that sort, especially since I am a complete teetotaler as you guys know.

So yea, due to a lack of ideas, I ended up taking a long vacation from writing, until I figured I could write about that block itself. I guess I did get past that block in the end because as I scroll up, I think I've written enough for a post. More than 4 paragraphs it appears. So, Wiki could have actually got it right. It is probably just a condition.

If you are here,

Thanks for getting this far, You have played a part in removing my writer's block. Thank you!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Manam Irundhal Margabandhu (If there's a big heart, it has to be Mr. Margabandhu)

It is very uncanny that I have a striking resemblance to this character called Margabandhu. In general, full length comedy movies in Tamil have had an impact on my actions and my words. The title of this blog post is one that has been carefully hand picked from Vasool Raja MBBS (Munna Bhai MBBS) for the tamil challenged and the indi padam maniacs. The character is known for his huge heart and heavy patience. The point I am trying to drive home is that like him, even I seem to have a really huge heart and with it I seem to display a really huge amount of patience at certain times. One such time is during the India-Australia series 2011-2012.

In the same movie Vasool Raja, a follow up dialogue goes like this "Margabandhu Mudhal Sandhu". This one is senseless by and large and doesn't qualify as one for which I should write an English translation within braces. But the point is. it's a well timed dialogue that seems to convey the emotions one goes through when one is in really deep waters. December 26, 2011 was a significant day for me as an ardent cricket fan and much like many other purist fans of this game, I woke up before the cock and waited anxiously for the proceedings to start in the much spoken about boxing day test. The first day was really going India's way until Sachin succumbed through his bat pad gate to a wonderfully bowled delivery from Siddle. It was a heart break for many fans who were waiting for his most talked about hundredth ton. But the situation was such that one could manage to move on because the day arguably belonged to India and the Indian top order had to an extent lived to their hype.

One such day never came again in the 2 and a half tests that we've seen ever since. The sad part is, even after so much, I don't seem to give up. I know I am not alone in this and I am well aware that many more Margabandhus around have wasted their sleep hours at dawn. But mark my words Maarkku, we have been foolish. Test after test, the script has been the same. It has now become all too familiar now. Still, we have not given up. It is the third test in the series and Indian batting has been in the same Thakkali(Tomato) Soup that it has been in for the past 3-4 weeks.

With very sad emotions gushing through my heart after a disastrous start to this tour down under, I wish to make a few points.

1. Indian batting shall never ever be deemed as one of the most formidable. Period.
2. Indian bowlers are not to be spared. They are equally complicit because they don't seem to bowl consistent length and line like their Australian counterparts.
3. Why is Dhoni talking about 2015 and all? If logic remains and fairness triumphs, he should be on his way to Ranchi sometime towards the end of 2012. Luck is a good thing and it can cling on to a person for astonishingly long whiles. But it can't get longer than this.His period at the helm is almost over.
4. Sachin Tendulkar will score his hundredth century before retiring. Let us put to bed any apprehensions about that fact.
5. Rahul Dravid has had a changeover ever since England. If I remember right, Venkatesh Prasad used to close his bat pad gap better whenever he came on as nightwatchman.
6. When India dropped Ashwin for the third test, they dropped their most in-form batsman and with that they resolved to fall short of 120 runs across two innings.
7. If you have forgotten this fact, India were world number 1 in tests 6 months back.
8. I will wake up tomorrow morning also and see the first session with some hope. A brand new day, A brand new approach and all that sort of hopes.
9. I have a big heart and hence my name is Margabandhu (Maarkku)
10. If you have a big heart too and if you could be called Maarkku, don't shoot yourself, it's ok. Ivanga eppodhume ipdi than (This Indian team is always like this).
11 And, Finally Maarkku brothers, we shall never walk alone. Zaheer, Umesh, Ishant, Vinay, Ashwin....they are also in our club only. They have a big heart, if you get my drift.

Image Courtesy : Cricinfo.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Simon, Come back!

On October 30, 1928, a group of protesters led by Lala Lajpat Rai waved black flags and shouted 'Simon, Go Back' to protest the arrival of the Simon Commission. What started then still seems to go on as we blindly shout on the top of our voices to brush aside heavy money investors from the west. FDI in retail has been a hugely debated topic on the news and print media for more than a fortnight now and the age old attitude of sending all Simons back isn't perceived too well in the current scheme of things.

Why don't we have Harrods in Delhi? A simple question for a four year old who asked her dad while they came out of a shopping center in London. Though the question might seem simple, the answer to it is a tough nut for the dad to crack as he gapes for reasons. In my opinion, FDI in retail makes a lot of sense especially with a 51% limit to overseas stake. Here are the reasons:

1. With FDI in retail, we are attempting to organize and put in order one of the most unorganized and deeply corrupted sectors in the country.

2. Against a production of 180 million mt a year of fruits, vegetables and perishables, India has a capacity of storing only 23.6 million mt in 5,386 cold storages across the country. With overseas investment, we are moving towards a regime of optimal cold storage and superior logistic capability.

3. India has 1.2 billion consumers, 600 million farmers and 5 million traders. Should we save the penny for the 1.2 billion consumers and improve lifestyles of 600 million farmers by affecting the margins of 5 million traders? YES

4. Cauliflower is sold at the mandi Rs 5. a kg. After travelling a few miles to the vendor, the price goes up by 400% to Rs 25. per kg and what the farmer gets from the sale at the mandi is a meagre Rs. 3. There is something wrong with this system and it has to be addressed at any cost.

5. Naysayers say that FDI capital in multi brand retail has a tendency to multiply itself and could lead to an unthinkable application of 'capital for profit' and in the process deepen the gap between the rich and the poor. But how flawed is that argument? The government promises to keep an eye on the prices and hypermarkets would be introduced in only those cities which have a population of more than 10 lakhs. As of now only 53 cities qualify the aforementioned criteria. With a rural population of 70%, the 53 cities (a fraction of the remaining 30%) cannot contribute as much to a deep divide.

6. The proposal states – 51% stake in multi-brand retail with a minimum investment of $100 million of which about 50% has to be spent on back-end infrastructure.That translates to a good amount of job generation in unprecedented quarters especially in the supply chain arena. 

With so much to speak for the introduction of this long awaited reform, there is only one thing that is worrisome in my opinion. With the amount of capital and the power of foreign investors, it is possible that the ultimate aim of the game is defeated. The hypermarkets could hypothetically beat all competition from small traders and reach a stage of monopoly. With that they could fix prices for all commodities as they wish and book higher profits as they establish themselves in the long run. But as I have already mentioned, even that possibility arises from a hypothetical standpoint. More importantly, as per the proposal, the government promises to keep an eye on the prices.

What stops the reform from being implemented when it has the capability of addressing one of the biggest problems of our economy viz. food wastage? The reason is two pronged : Politics and Corruption. Opposition parties want to make a clear political issue out of this debate in an attempt to derail a government that is already in shambles. Also, the distance between the mandi and the vendor is filled by a well connected gang of goondas who inflate the prices and make undue profits. These goondas don't standalone, they are strongly backed by a nexus of political heavyweights. These political big names (un names) are not ready to forgo their illogical profits for the good of their voters.

Another reason why we are not able to debate this and enforce the reform is the fact that the people who argue against FDI in retail are a well organized group of traders. According to rough data released by the Ministry of Labor, trade unions had a combined membership of 24,601,589 in 2002. Contrastingly, there are too few organized farmer unions in the country that they are not able to raise their voices and stage successful protests.

All said and done, there is one thing to lift our spirits. Amidst complaints of parliament dysfunction and neglect of responsibility by politicians, our prime minister remains confident and positive about implementing this trend-setter bill. At the time of this writing, the Prime Minister spoke to the media from his private aircraft and expressed strong opinions about FDI in retail. He feels that we need to evolve a broad based consensus and he is committed towards it. His strategy is to wait until the elections to state assemblies (in the offing) get over and I believe that his very intent is a positive sign of things to come. I wish the proposal goes through when the time is right as it would help us lay the platform for many more reforms akin to the 1991 globalization.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

We can sub-sell better

The major difference between a totally developed country like the United States and a country with large number of people below poverty line like India is that, in the former, almost everyone has access to products and services alike including but not restricted to healthcare, education, movies, taxes etc. According to 2007 estimates, India has about 25% population below the dreaded poverty line. Let's label that part of India as the "subsistence category". These people have money only for daily subsistence and not more.

In the recent past, India has been witnessing a swell in the number of people choosing the entrepreneurial path. In contrast to its definition in an empowered economic platform, the term entrepreneurship in the subsistence marketplace has a totally different definition. These entrepreneurs are not the usual literates with sharp business sense and superior technical prowess. They are local vegetable sellers, goods traders and petty shopkeepers. They are the people who can drive business in the aforementioned resource constrained contexts.

Knowing that, what stops these little "enter-preneurs" from growing and creating sustainable businesses? They face a heavy lack of resources that would enable them to sustain and expand. These resources include deep understanding of the market, cognizance of consumer behavior patterns, specialized and unique management techniques required for such scenarios and of course free flowing capital. When they ventured out, micro finance institutions resolved to address one part of this problem. They aimed at making capital easily available to small sellers in villages and towns. But that has not led to a success story of sorts in the few years of their operation. The reason for that is pretty much intuitive. Only one of the problems viz. availability of capital has been addressed and the rest of them still loom at large.In the process, these NBFCs (Non Banking Financial Corporations) have shown creativity and have invented as they increased their presence in various rural parts of the country. They provided highly interlinked and innovative insurance products with their micro loans. But they did not enable the consumers to innovate.

After witnessing repeated failures in the private microfinance sector led by SKC, government has come out with a new credit risk guarantee fund to enable established banks to lend to the poor. This, if implemented is definitely a step towards inclusive growth accompanied by the upliftment of a sizable number of people below poverty line. But, the other problems of market literacy and business strategy for subsistence marketplaces are being overlooked. Helping women to be part of this improvement cycle is a good strategy and many NGOs and microfinance institutions like IFMR have been exploring those options. It has yielded commendable results. But it has not created any sort of revolution per se.

The solution is to make these small businessmen understand the way in which low income households access and use the finances that are available to them. The bottom line is that besides providing capital, it is important to provide the awareness and teach the rural business people strategies and ways to use the capital in the best possible way so as to suit resource constrained markets and societies. Also, bigger businesses need to look at subsistence marketplaces as areas of possible growth. They should not only expand to such areas but also implement and teach selling techniques as they go about expanding. That would be an innovative version of a bottom-up approach in enabling growth and would teach consumers and sellers in the economically challenged geographies to buck up and be at par with the country's growth rate.