Friday, June 26, 2009

Demographic Dividends: Fresh Challenges for BJP

As days pass by the challenges for BJP to strike back are getting tougher. Fresh challenges are cropping up as the UPA government is taking newer steps in desirable direction. But that’s indeed a healthy scenario because now the opposition has a higher goal in front of them. Like it’s always more challenging, and satisfying too, to become the first boy in a class of all bright students, it can be a really cherishing coming back to power for the BJP because of the competition from a rejuvenated Congress after the decisive victory in 2009 elections.

Coming to power in the 1990s for BJP against a decaying Congress and coming back to power now against a fresh Congress are not the same thing. Nevertheless, it’s indeed a positive sign. At the end of it the country would be benefitted with a better and stronger opposition and alternative in future. It’s same as that of a fiercely competitive market where the consumer is finally benefitted by the constant improvement of the quality of the products from competing companies.

In the 1990s both the bottom and the middle of the pyramid of Indian population were equally frustrated with the complacence, misgovernance and corruption of successive Congress governments. The emergency, the anti Sikh riots and the Bofors scam were still not things of distant past. The constant and brazen appeasement of the minority community for years by the Congress had also alienated them from the majority class, who by no way were communal. At that point of time BJP came up with fresh hopes for everything better not only for the educated people, but also for the ‘Aam Aadmi’.

Very ironically this very section of the voters turned their back to BJP in the recent election. But the reason is little different. Over the decade the aspirations of the people have changed.

People had already tasted prosperity since the days of NDA rule. Buoyed by the strong wind of the global economic boom the subsequent UPA government had limited chances to stop India’s growth. One had to be really dumb to stop the natural growth and prosperity that India was enjoying out if inertia of the high-speed global economy.

It’s no longer a mystery how Lalu Prasad Yadav turned around the fortunes of Indian Railways. Driven by the initial ground work done by Nitish Kumar, the previous Railway Minister, and the buoyant economy, anyone else also might have turned the Indian Railways around.

The perception of the UPA government being in favour of ‘Aam Aadmi’ was also created without much of effort. The ‘Aam Aadmi’ saw prosperity not because of the fact that the UPA government did something extra ordinary. The natural growth of Indian GDP, in lines with the flourishing world economy, bore the fruits of development for the ‘Aam Aadmi’ too. On top of that a few further gimmicks like loan waiving and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme added more to the perception. Hence, surprisingly, the anti incumbency wave was quite low against the ruling government.

All this itself had made the task for BJP to come back quite challenging. To add more to the challenge, UPA has started taking some steps that can’t be ruled out as just gimmicks.

The recent induction of Nandan Nilekani into the cabinet as the overall boss of the National ID project is one such act. It’s a very well thought plan.

The UPA government could have inducted any one of the Ambanis, or a Godrej or the Tata or someone else for the same job and still it would have worked out quite well. But no one else, than Nandan Nilekani, is looked upon as an ideal by anyone who is educated and hails from the middle class and who is young – someone who represents, or would be representing, India in the very near future. In Nandan Nilekani’s own words, India’s best asset at this point of time is her ‘demographic dividend’ coming from this huge chunk of educated, urbanized, middle class people. A few years back also this ‘dividend’ was not considered that big a thing either in business of politics.

Nandan Nilekani’s story, along with that of Narayan Murthy’s, is something that anyone with limited means but unlimited vision and ambition and passion can associate with. He comes from a middle class family without any golden connection as is the case with majority of Indians. He achieved everything in life by his sheer credibility and the favourable economic conditions of India – something that majority of Indians would also aspire of. His is an inspiring story that can raise hopes among the majority of Indians – but not the stories of the Tata or an Ambani or a Godrej.

Narayan Murthy has described this event as important as Sam Pitroda’s Telecom Revolution and Swaminathan’s Green Revolution. Inducting someone like Nandan Nilekani into the cabinet is a master stroke that can endear the UPA government to the majority of educated, urban, middle-class Indians, who are going to be the main driving force of our country over the next few decades.

I see this as a fresh challenge to the opposition. BJP has to come up with strategies that will align with the future class that would yield ‘demographic dividend’ to our country. This class no longer would be ‘Aam Aami’ staying in the hinterland of India waiting for a ‘White Tiger’ to become a ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. This class, again in Nandan Nilekani’s own words, would be the one that would change the way politics is looked at and the way our country has been functioning. This class can’t be ignored or crushed. The system has to change as per their aspirations. Anyone who is not aligned with this new system would perish and anyone who goes with them will cherish the fruits of ‘demographic dividends’. So it’s high time that BJP gets aligned with this new ‘White Tiger’.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Best Thing for a Father on Father's Day & World Music Day - 21st June, 2009

Today was Father's Day and also World Music Day. Many of us are parent and all of us love music. I won't find a more apt moment than today to share this piece of music.

All of us would perhaps like our kids to learn some music. The first time our kids perform at school, the first time they learn something to sing or play, the first time they win any music competition at school - all these are among the most memorable days for us. To capture these moments we take camcorders and cameras with us, upload the recordings in youtube for their grandparents to watch and we keep on telling everyone about them. I just wonder, how this father called Leopold would have felt when his 5-6 years old kid composed this piece of music.

Well, no points for guessing the kid - I haven't heard of any kind other than Mozart to compose at such young age.

I just came across the sound track and notation, recently in web, of this piece, accepted widely as Mozart's first composition. It's enumerated as K.1 and called 'Minuet for Harpsichord'. It was recovered from his elder sister's notebook. His sister Nannerl, then 10/11 years old wrote it down in her notebook when her little borther suddenly started playing something on piano which they were not taught by their father. Though very rarely this piece features in Mozart's best compositions, but for any music loving parent, there can't be a better composition than this one. It would be the dream for any father to have a prodigal child like who can compose such good music at an age of 6. Also there's something in this composition which any kid would like. My 6 years old kid Hrishav, who has just started learning western classical music in keyboards, has been listening to it every now and then ever since I've downloaded it. After all who else, than a kid himself, would know better what kids love?

Happy Father's Day to the fathers and Happy World Music Day to all.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Makes & Breaks in Politics: Analogies with Corporate World

One of the most important concepts in Indian culture and philosophy is that of the role of a creator, savior and destructor. People in India, since ages, have believed that the life cycle of anything, be it a nation, or civilization or a human life, is nothing but three phases of creation, survival and destruction. From the religious point of view also Brahma the creator, Vishnu the savior or protector and Shiva the destructor have been associated with the highest level of divinity. Keeping aside the theological aspects of this concept, it also has a very far reaching implication in almost everything thing – including the corporate world and the politics.

In a span of three decades the creation, growth and the recent debacle of BJP is a very relevant phenomenon in this respect. There have been introspections (or atmamanthan – one of the terms that Vajpayee had made popular even among the Hinglish crowd), review meetings, innumerable columns and writings on the causes of the debacle. Very logically nothing surprising has come out of all these. Most of the things that have been pointed out seem to be known to all. Nevertheless, none of these findings should be ignored with a ‘we-all-knew-this’ attitude like the kids in the class of Christopher Columbus who were all asked to place a boiled egg with shell firmly on a table and Columbus was the only one to break the shell, flatten the bottom and place it firmly on the table.

In Swami Vivekananda’s words ‘education is the manifestation of perfection already in man’. It’s no rocket science or the lack of it that makes someone a success or failure. In most cases debacles happen for reasons that are always known. So all the exercises for reinventing the reasons for any failure is always welcome. It’s also important to study success and failures at various fields and spheres because at the end of the day the reasons for any success or failure have some common things, knowing which just helps us to become more aware, educated and enlightened.

I’d like to analyze the growth and decline of a company which I’ve see from a close distance and draw an analogy to the same for politics. The intention is to infer that growth and decline always follow a particular pattern and the successful corporate and politicians always try to understand the pattern as best as possible.

The nineties saw a large number of technology startups in the San Francisco Bay area, popularly known as the Silicon Valley. The nearby universities at Stanford and Berkeley always provide an uninterrupted supply of talent to the Bay Area. Most technology companies either are head quartered or have important design centers in Bay Area. Intel, HP, Sun, Google all started in Bay Area. One of the technology areas which saw quite a few startups in nineties is called EDA or Electronic Design Automation, which provides CAD (Computer Aided Design) tools for designing semiconductor chips for electronic products. While semiconductor, which includes behemoths like Intel, IBM, Nokia, Motorola, Sony, Samsung and innumerable others, is a huge industry, EDA is very small. Individual revenues of Intel and Nokia are $40b and $50b respectively and the entire EDA industry has revenue of only $4b. That’s why EDA is perhaps one of the most fiercely - often bordering to nasty – competitive industries.

Little different from the Congress monopoly in Indian political scene, EDA had a sort of oligopoly dominated by the big brothers Cadence & Synopsys for quite some time. There were many small entities like the regional parties, but none could do anything significant till late nineties when a company named Magma suddenly rose like a sphinx. With barely a few million dollars of revenue in late nineties it attained $250m (1/8th of total EDA GDP) in 2005. When the semiconductor design houses were getting frustrated with the complacencies of the biggie-duo Cadence & Synopsys, a dashing young Indian entrepreneur, Rajiv Madhavan, still in his twenties, brought in fresh hopes and newer and more efficient ideas for making chips. The big brothers Cadence and Synsys didn’t provide a one-stop-shop and the customers had to buy a suite in pieces and stitch them together. On the contrary Magma came up with a single stitched elegant suite. Most importantly Rajiv exactly understood the problems and the aspirations of his customers - the chip makers.

The result was phenomenal. Apart from Google, not many startups in Bay Area can boast of such a success in so less time. Magma came into being in late nineties and by 2002 it had already become number two in areas of its operation, displacing the big brother Cadence. Magma’s reputation in customer satisfaction became a matter of threat even to the other big brother Synopsys. The entire designer community felt proud to be associated with Magma. In started attracting the best of the talents.

In a few years Rajiv could ‘destruct’ the old hegemony of the big brothers Cadence & Synopsys and ‘create’ a successful company. Rajiv was indeed a great Creator with all the right traits required for ‘creation’. He was aggressive, emotional, passionate, possessive, ruthless and ambitious. The Big Brother Synopsys tried its best to put him down, but he was just unputdownable.

The next logical phase of the business is retention or ‘protection’ of the growth. There’s a startling difference between destruction/creation and protection. It’s no theology, but sheer practical sense, that the protector Vishnu has been given a totally different image than the destructor Shiva. The Protector is much more matured, not emotional, very practical, composed and off course much more benign than the Destructor. The traits required for destruction/creation and protection are as different as playing cricket and singing songs. It’s not necessary that Sachin Tendulkar can also sing like Kishore Kumar. That’s when the problem started with Magma.

Rajiv is an excellent creator but turned out to be a bad protector. He went on with the same aggression, arrogance and emotions with which he’d created the company. He slapped a law suit on the Big Brother Synopsys without much reason and drained huge amount of money for fighting the case. Synopsys kept on dragging the case as long as possible because they knew Magma would bleed heavily with the sky-rocketing legal costs in USA. His views and comments in public became too harsh and arrogant as compared to the relatively soft image of Synopsys. At the same time his lofty claims about some of Magma’s future products didn’t turn out to be fully true in due course. Gradually people started to dislike the very arrogance and aggression in Rajiv that they had liked few years back. In the mean time very silently and humbly Synopsys came up with a really good product that challenged Magma’s superiority in recent times. Gradually people started to prefer the ‘softer’ Synopsys rather than the ‘hard’ Magma. That was also the time when the global slowdown starting taking its toll and Magma went into a whirlwind downfall.

Let’s turn back to the rise and decline of BJP from just two seats in 1984 to close to 200 in 1999 and down to 120 in 2009.The nineties saw the dramatic rise of BJP who could well understand the pulse of the nation. India had been frustrated with the fifty years of misgovernance, corruption and minority appeasement by the Congress. Indians badly needed some fresh outlook, transparency and a cultural nationalism to pump up the declining global position of India. BJP came up with the right mix of aggression, passion and emotion to destroy a fifty year old dynastic misrule and setup the startup of a successful coalition government in the center for the first time. Almost the entire educated middle class aligned themselves with BJP in the nineties.

But when came the turn of protecting the same government it started losing ground because of the same reason why Magma started failing. The same aggression that brought BJP to power became the negative point. The excessive attack on the older Big Brother Congress was not taken in the right way by the same people who’d voted the Congress out a decade ago in favor of BJP.

Like I hope Rajiv matures as a protector, BJP can also overcome the transition from a destructor/creator to a protector. It’s just a maturing phase that will pass by. The same people who had brought BJP into power in nineties might not be the best candidates to play the role of ‘Protector’. There has to be a change of guards. This shouldn’t be seen as an embarrassment or humiliation for the old timers because their contributions and expertise are not being ignored. It’s only that after Sachin’s innings it’s time for Kishore Kumar to sing. Let Sachin not attempt to be Kishore Kumar. Sachin is Sachin and Kishore Kumar is Kishore Kumar. It’s no embarrassment to Sachin that he is not Kishore Kumar. It’s just not his cup of tea.

Coming back to where I’d started – let’s understand that we not only need a Shiva, but also a Vishnu. That’s what runs a business, and that’s what runs politics!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The “For Aam Aadmi” image of Congress

There’s no denying that fact that the image of Congress being a pro ‘Aam Aadmi’ party did lot towards winning decisively in 2009 LS elections. It’s totally a different thing all together whether the steps that the UPA government had taken in the past five years were really the best possible ones. Nevertheless, on the basis of all these the perception that Congress has worked towards the overall development of bottom of the pyramid has been already been created.

It’s now the task of the opposition, lead by BJP, to make sure that the populist steps, that UPA has taken in the past five years and will take in future, don’t put a long term dent in the financial health of our country. But again doing so is a double edged sword. Saying anything against the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme or waiving of loans would directly hit popularity. There’s lots of credence in making people understand that any step with very short term populist outlook would be very detrimental to the same people for whom the schemes are being created.

Let’s take the example of the NREGS. Yes, it did give some economic security to around 45 million households amidst a global slowdown. But couldn’t something else be done that would have had even greater impact? Already there have been enough talks about the futility (1, 2, 3) of the work against which the employment has been provided. In many cases the sort of work done is comparable to what is said of the US about what they did to come out of the great depression of the thirties – one group digging up a hole and another filling it back. In stead of that the government could have launched many useful infrastructure projects and provided employment. The Golden Quadrilateral project has been almost stalled. A lot of employment could have been generated had all the incomplete roads were completed on time.

There’s no doubt that loan waiver scheme for the farmers was just an eye wash. In reality only the rich farmers were benefited. Majority of the poor farmers, who take money from the local money lenders, are still not benefited at all by this and they are the ones who continue to commit suicide throughout our country. In stead of waiving the loans, which anyway doesn’t impact majority of the farmers, the government can think of something like micro finance which can have much greater reach and impact.

Things like RTI and fixed terms for civil servants are indeed very good steps in instilling hopes in people. The RTI was a great success. A large number of PILs were filed in the past few years just because more and more information were available to the common people. These steps are simple to implement and can’t be criticized easily. BJP should come up with more such steps and propose them in the parliament.

It’s written in the wall that you can’t win any election any more unless you have the confidence of the bottom of the pyramid. But that doesn’t mean that you have to become populist in an unviable manner. That’s where BJP has to play a great role – that is to serve the “Aam Aadmi” in a much more efficient way than what Congress is perceived to be doing or have done.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Urgent appeal for millions affected by Cyclone AILA in West Bengal

To provide relief materials please contact -
Shayan      +91-9883395449
Debolina   +91-9836922336
Prithviraj +91-9830481370

As of Wednesday, 27 May 2009, more than 200 people are reported dead and an estimated 3 million displaced from their homes by Cyclone Aila that made landfall in eastern India on Sunday, May 25.

Please visit AID's site for regular updates from the ground. Rs. 10 Lakhs (Rs 1 million) has already been approved for Baikanthapur Tarun Sangha (BTS) working in the Sundarban region to provide food, water and temporary shelter to the affected.

According to the Press Trust of India (PTI), 13 districts in the state of West Bengal have been hit. However, the islands in the ecologically diverse Sunderbans delta have borne the brunt of the cyclone.

Those displaced are suffering acutely due to lack of food and clean water. "There is water everywhere. We could reach aid to only 10 percent of the affected population. We could not even airdrop food packets because of the flooding," Kanti Ganguly, West Bengal state minister for Sundarbans, told Reuters, as quoted in the Washington Post.

This is an hour we all must come together and show our wholehearted support for the cyclone victims. It is critical that the immediate needs such as food, clean water and medicine are provided to those affected.

AID is a volunteer movement, and a registered non-profit charitable organization. All donations are tax exempted under 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and receipts will be issued. For online donation please click here.

Thanks to the support of the community AID has helped support relief and rehabilitation work following natural and human-made disasters, in various parts of India, including Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Assam. We worked with the flood relief in Bihar in 2008 and with the Tsunami relief effort since 2004.

Right now AID is actively working with several partner organizations in West Bengal for relief and rehabilitation of the survivors. It is committed ensure that the funds get dispatched at the earliest.

We hope you will help us maximize the support we can provide as quickly as possible. The need is dire and we all must act with the greatest possible urgency to rush aid and relief to those affected.

For further information on Cyclone Aila, please visit the following links:

AID INDIA Relief Work:

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Does Educated Young India Get Attracted towards Educational Qualification of Candidates?

Now that enough introspection and analysis have been done, it’s time for BJP to take corrective actions and work effectively towards improving the confidence of the people. It might not be possible to come up with a single antibiotic for all the headache, stomach pain and body ache at the same time. And by any chance if someone comes up with any such single-shot-solution that will surely be another grave mistake to apply it. Corrective measures are meant to be staggered and modified from time to time in order to account for all possible feedbacks. Faster the feedback mechanism, faster would be the settling time for the corrective measures.


Failures are the pillars of success. It’s good to fail and learn. That way the arrogance and the adamance of the success can be controlled to a great extent. But at the same time success shouldn’t be looked down. It’s always a good think to find out what all factors lead to a success. In the context of the recent election it’s not a bad thing to identify some aspects that might have helped the Congress to win more seats than BJP.


One of the aspects, as pointed out several times, is indeed the projection of youth by the Congress. Besides that there’s also one important thing that people may be overlooking. Doesn’t the election throw some light on the hypothesis that the educational background of candidates might have played a greater role than any other election in the past?


It’s not that highly educated people never took part in election in the past. Also education is not just measured by some professional degrees - otherwise Rabindranath Tagore can’t be considered educated at all. But that can be taken as an exception. As a general rule qualification is indeed a good measure of education and learning. Going by that standard this election did have some highly qualified people and most of them have won decisively.


Starting from Manmohan Singh (Cambridge), Jayaram Ramesh (IIT), Prithviraj Chauhan (BITS Pilani), Shashi Tharoor (UN) to S M Krishna, Kapil Sibal and many others there have been a platter of technical expertise from various domains ranging from engineering, to economics to law and International Relations. Most of these people are from Congress.


To top all these there are also a few personalities like Montek Singh and Shyam Pitrada, who are not directly associated with politics but are no less involved with the Congress machinery.


For the millions of first time voters, most of whom are not illiterates, such credentials might have played a great role in creating a perception that Congress is better ‘qualified’ to run the government. Such a perception may or may not be true always, but at the end of the end it’s this perception that might have turned the wheels in favour of Congress.


Even though a rational person may be against dynastic politics but still the suaveness and external polish of many second generation (and fourth generation in one case) young politicians did tilt the public sentiments in favour of dynasty because the alternative in many cases were just no match for the sophistication of the heirs of the chairs.


Does that mean that more educated the youth of India would be more and more they would prefer the sophistication and suaveness and polish rather than a rustic down to earth true worker? It might be too premature to come to any conclusion like this.


Whatever be the case even the most techno savvy person would prefer a half naked Gandhi, devoid of any popular perception of sophistication, against the impeccably dressed and eloquent and suave Jinnah.


So when there is indeed some basis for the hypothesis that qualification of candidates may have helped Congress this time, but at the same time it’s not the only criteria for winnability. People did see ground work also apart from qualification. That’s why Captain Gopinath could get only 18000 votes in perhaps the most techno savvy and hi-tech constituency of India – that’s Bangalore South – against BJP’s Ananth Kumar, who defeated not only Gopinath but also another US returned and educated young turk from Congress.


I’d like to conclude by saying that a safe bet is to field candidates with really good educational background and also strong track record of developmental services.


Mamata Banerjee won’t have won so much this time had she not had Derek O’Brian, one of the most popular personalities among the elite Calcuttans, a well educated and popular singer – Kabir Suman – who had revolutionized modern Bengali songs some two decades ago, a very successful doctor like Kakali Ghosh Dastidar and few others from corporate sectors also – most of whom had fought and won this election. Mamata played a very safe game this time by attracting the elite and highly educated people from various spectrum of society.


This indeed is a good thing to think about for BJP. One of the major reasons for the unparalleled popularity of Atal Behari Vajpayee among the youth of 90s is off course his literary sense and poetic style of oratory. People used to wait for Vajpayee to speak because every time they expected some new expression and new words hitherto unheard to most vernacular unaware English educated youth. The educated people used to get attracted to his diction of words and impeccable knowledge of literature and language – something a rarity in politics. By the same logic the next generation youth of the 2000s getting attracted to Cambridge, Harvard, United Nations and IIT may not be a fluke.