Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where is India’s Gardener?

Indian businesses, post economic liberalization, have competed and succeeded quite admirably. It is not just the Information Technology (IT) sector but in various other businesses. Practically every major industry has an Indian success story, Mahindra, Tata, Bharat Forge, TVS in Manufacturing, Ranbaxy, Dr. Reddy’s, Biocon in Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology, Essel group in packaging & entertainment, Asian Paints in Paints and Chemicals, the Larsen & Toubro group in engineering, Bharti in Telecommunications are a few. There are many more examples to cite. If you check the latest CII communiqué, you will see the vision it has for India in 2022.

A major reason for this success is leadership. The Indian corporate leadership is a success story in itself. Names like Ratan Tata, Anand Mahindra, the Ambani brothers, Narayan Murthy etc. need no introduction. They have led their respective business to glorious heights. Some of the common qualities exhibited by them are foresight, ambition, and desire to achieve. However they have not limited their role to merely leading their business empires. They are nurturing and mentoring younger leaders so they can continue the good work.

One such example is Subroto Bagchi of MindTree Consulting Limited. Mr. Bagchi is one of the founding members of the company that is much admired today and consistently ranks at the top in all leading industry surveys. The company’s focus on innovation, knowledge and integrity has been particularly praised. In fact the company is said to be uncompromising in its integrity policy.

Mr. Bagchi is now taking on the role of a gardener. That actually will now be his official designation in the company. Much like a gardener, he “will repot, fertilize and, yes, weed and clip the human resources”. This is essentially a role to nurture the promising young talent within MindTree while upholding its values. He plans on building an "emotional infrastructure" within the company. By laying emphasis on “high caring”, Mr. Bagchi feels MindTree can gain an edge over others. This new role will see him paying personal attention to promising talent and have one on one interaction with them. The idea is to channel the immense energy within the young talent and groom it to realize its full potential. Mr. Bagchi says "It is capacity building through self-awareness". For the company, "he will anticipate future industry shifts much in the same way a gardener anticipates weather change and pest attacks," says Ashok Soota, chairman of MindTree.

This indeed is a unique concept. The term ‘gardener’ has not been applied to any of the corporate roles so far. The hierarchy too is a first of its kind. As a gardener, Mr. Bagchi will not report to anyone, neither will he have anyone reporting to him. He will also give up his office and take an open desk, much like an average software engineer’s desk. There will not be any assistant either. That way the approach will be direct and personal. The regard for the company’s interest is apparent.

Such altruism is lacking in the political leadership of our nation. The contrast between the corporate leadership and the political leadership cannot be greater. We need a leader who will be India’s gardener and restore credibility in the public offices. The primary responsibility of our political leadership should be to create an environment conducive for our country’s progress. What we need is a political leadership that exhibits the care our corporate leadership shows towards stakeholders.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Christianity any different than Islam?

Well now Pope Benedict XVI has himself asserted that Jesus Christ has called for conversion of all nations to Christianity. Apparently the Christists have 'indisputable right and duty to convert anyone to Christianity' just because the Gospels says so.

And Islam says, convert all non believers for that alone is the true word of God.

If the scepticism about Jesus & Bible is any Indication - it's increasing & growing in credibility - provides proof that it's all a hoax. And the 'Word of God' as claimed by the Prophet of Islam when actually read makes little sense leading us to believe that it was the work of a seventh century semi-intelligent man. All this leaves the two beliefs to merely a cult.

So what's the difference between the two? Only that the Islamists blow up non believers & the Christists trick people into their belief. But the Christists aren't non-violent at all, all their violence in India exposes their evil core behind the 'benevolent' facade.

Monday, May 19, 2008

America needs oil

The American argument that we must eliminate all WMD has lost all it’s credibility. It’s now abundantly clear that this was not the original intent behind attacking Iraq. It most definitely was oil.

The concern for global peace & security shown by the US leaders is hardly sincere. If that was the case they would not support Pakistan & Saudi Arabia. These two countries are the two largest financers, suppliers & trainers of terrorists in the world.

The US consumes 1/4th of the world’s oil. It has only about 2% of reserves of what it really needs. That’s just not enough to support they domestic oil demand. The American & indeed the world economy are heavily dependent on oil. Almost every single thing in the modern world is made possible by oil. Today’s urban lifestyle is all oil driven. An overwhelming 98% of the world’s vehicles run on oil, not to forget a lot of industries as well. And at the same time, the world oil reserves have been depleting fast. Since the late sixties, there have hardly been any new discoveries of substantial oil fields. And the existing ones are drying up fast.

Today the motorists & gas stations in the US are 2/3rd empty most of the time. That was not the case a few years ago. The gas stock today is historically low. A while ago, America produced copious amount of oil domestically. But the production has dropped now & the domestic infrastructure is rusting. It is importing much needed oil from Saudi Arabia. This has profited the Saudi King & a few politicians & oil companies in the US. Saudi Arabia is home to 25% of the world’s oil. Naturally a relationship between the two developed. The US had the money & Saudi Arabia had the oil. But this oil is not going to last long. The Saudi oil fields are on the decline. It’s current production capacity of 10 million barrels a day is pretty much at its peak. Now with the increasing demand, due to the growth in India & China, this could soon turn into demand & supply imbalance triggering a crisis. And the increasing oil prices could be an indication. Saudi Arabia will not able to meet the world’s demands for oil in the coming years. It seems that Saudi Arabia is ‘cashing out’ on its remaining oil by inflating the ‘proven reserves’ so the OPEC allows it to produce more. Aramco has not released detailed production data for 20 years now, so no one knows that the real ‘proven reserves’ are.

The American dream is literally fuelled by oil. The lifestyle that Americans enjoy is rather wasteful when compared to the world. Only 300 million Americans manage to burn 25% of the world’s oil. And this demand is only increasing. In order to meet this demand, the American foreign policy is all oil driven. This is evident from Bush’s regime. The president himself dealt in oil & has close ties with the oil executives. The close friendship of the Bush family with Saudi royal family is not a secret either. Besides politicians are concerned with their electorate, giving Americans the bad news of oil shortage would surely defeat any politician. Besides Americans find it hard to be frugal & think about conservation. Why else would so many of them live off borrowed money with no savings.

With the Saudi oil becoming pricey & falling short in supply, Iraq was conquered. Upon doing that, the first thing the American army does is secure all the major oil fields. No concern for the WMD which was the pretext behind attacking Iraq. Actually, there weren't any. The concern for democracy is also proven bunk when you realize that the petrodollars in Saudi Arabia have failed to uplift ordinary Saudis. Only the King benefited. The average per capita income of the Saudi’s went down from $11,700 to $6,300. Where did all the money go is anybody’s guess. However for America, it's all about oil.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A question for Sonia & Manmohan

What did you mean when you said you won't tolerate the charge of being weak on terrorists? Our fellow countrymen have been losing their lives in thousands while you continue to mouth platitudes. Can you refute the charges against you with proof & without rhetoric? And no, you can't use the Kandahar incidence as justification for your failures. We're talking about our nation here.

Honourable (?) Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, is this what you meant by reforms with a 'Human Face'? The Home Minister Shivraj Patil doesn't even acknowledge there's a problem. Just how clueless can one be. There can't be any hope with such leadership.

Sonia & Manmohan your failure to tackle terrorism is costing our country dear.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Courts trying to talk sense into our leaders

Our courts of justice have tried to talk some sense into the UPA leadership. First, on May 8, the Supreme Court had the following suggestions in Ram Sethu petition filed by Dr. Subramanium Swamy -

“There is a specific direction of the Madras High Court that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should carry out investigations on whether Ram Sethu is an ancient monument or not,” said the Bench also comprising Justices R V Raveednran and J M Panchal.

Dr. Subramanian Swamy argumed that the UPA government decided go ahead with the Sethusamudram project ostensibly under pressure from coalition ally DMK. He also argued that the sethu was a matter of faith to 100 crore Hindus. Other strong arguments included that there were other ways to implement the project more economically, without damaging the Ram Sethu & the environment, which were the principal drawbacks of the proposed project.

In an another case relating to the controversial Sachar committee recommendations, the Delhi High Court, today, had the following to say -

“Is this meant to appease some community? If you intend to fight poverty, cut across religions and communities and fight. Never mind whether it is a Hindu poor or a Muslim poor,” said Justice Thakur. “When you say in your Action Taken Report on the Sachar recommendations that ‘we will spend more for this minority community... does it mean that you will spend less for the major community?” he asked. Reminding the ASG that “we live in a welfare state”, the Bench observed: “There are Sikhs, Muslims and Christians here... Why are you not doing it (welfare measures) for the majority community?”

The Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P P Malhotra representing the centre argued -

“The Sachar Committee report is for all. Of course, there are certain Muslim dominated areas where there is no development at all,” the ASG said.

To which the bench headed by Justice Thakur said -

To this, the Bench said: “So are you saying there are no Hindu slums?” “Tell us Mr Malhotra, in our Constitutional framework, can a welfare scheme say we concentrate only on the benefit of one community and not for all?... A lot of money is spent in a welfare state, is it that you (Centre) spend it only for one minority community?” the Bench asked the ASG.

ASG Malhotra had the following to say then -

The ASG assured the court that “special care is taken care of all minorities” but drew the line by adding that “political issues be best left to the public to decide during elections. Courts cannot decide”.

Interestingly, the matter has now become a political issue best left for the public to decide when it became clear that appeasing only to the Muslims was being questioned by the Court. It wasn't political at all when the UPA decided to spend loads of the tax payer's money on Muslim ghettos. When faced with sound arguments, the matter is sought to be brushed off or changed in course.

Another noticible case was that between Dr. Venugopal & Ramadoss. The UPA is getting kicked all over, by the public & the courts, yet it refuses to realise it's fallacy.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New infrastructure good, but maintain it

The recent developments in aviation, telecom, national highways etc. has prompted a few gushing columns. It is true that today in India we have better domestic & some international flight services. The telecom services are better when compared elsewhere, not to forget them being the cheapest. And the ‘Golden Quadrilateral Project’, though not 100% complete, has improved our national highways. Other projects like the expressways between some of India’s major cities have helped in forming such a view.

Today, on account of new investments in infrastructure, we are experiencing better services in the airlines. Here’s a column by Rajeev Srinivasan comparing services & experience between the domestic airlines in the US & India. Similarly, the telecom revolution has helped Indians be better connected then a few years ago. Gone are the days of cross connections, booking ‘trunk calls’, waiting for a connection & such. Private companies have invested in creating an advanced fiber optic network offering world class services to subscribers. The choices to the consumers are numerous. Cellular consumers are free to choose the carrier they want without being tied to contracts (as it is the west) & are free to switch at any time. However, we still do not have number portability & that’s the only one drawback. But that hasn’t stopped us from being the largest users of cellular services in the world.

In the same manner, investments in creating a quality network of national highways & expressways between some of India’s major cities has improved road travel in terms of time & money. Travel times have gone down considerably & there are fewer delays owing to the monsoons, because the roads don’t deteriorate in quality.

But there is something to watch for. In the US, some of the things that helped it become such an attraction are in a bad shape. The road network is failing in quality. So are the bridges. Recent incidents of collapsing bridges are an indication. Some reports by CNN (I'm not a fan of Lou Dobbs) indicate that amounts in billions of dollars are needed to repair & maintain these bridges & roads. The US made massive investments in building the roads, but today a lot of them are in need of attention. Such heavy investments take longer to break even & it is not easy to keep making investments on a large scale. However, to avoid such situations, periodic investments are necessary for the upkeep of roads & bridges.

The same is true of intra city rail networks like the New York City subways or the New York – New Jersey PATH rail system. These are very old networks that needed massive investments when they were built. Today, they suffer from equipment that is no longer in tune with times. Station platforms that are ill maintained, often filthy. Trains those are old & noisy, sometimes smelly. Overused, over burdened rails that cause power failure frequently causing delays. The situation with the suburban railways is exactly the same.

While we are excited with the investments in infrastructure, it is also important to keep in mind that these will need to be maintained & upgraded when necessary to avoid them becoming an impediment in our future progress. The lessons from examples cited above in the US should be kept in mind to avoid landing ourselves in a similar situation.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Record crops in India

Says the NASA Earth Observatory. Apparently rice & cotton production were at record levels this year. Although only rice is mentioned here, could this mean that the food shortage will be a short lived phenom?

Here are a couple of satellite images from NASA supporting it's claim.

Friday, May 2, 2008

India among worst hit by terrorism...

...says the US State Department. This is further proof of total failure of the UPA government on this front.

As sad as this is, it's hardly surprising when our Home Minister is Shivraj Patil. Here's a man who considers it important to spend more time with his masters attending to their comfort than working for the nation's security. When his Prime Minister says that Naxalism is a great threat facing the nation, our hon. Home Ministers differs with him on the issue. He simply fails to understand the seriousness & tries to downplay the threat by reading the numbers as convenient to him.

Predictably, all the 'secularists' which include news channels, activists, 'eminent' personalities & human rights activists aren't crying hoarse at this. So much for objectivity.

Is it any wonder then our countrymen continue to die due to terrorism with such clueless leaders at the helm. The last year alone cost us over 2,300 of our compatriots. Who's the 'Maut ka Saudagar' now?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Dr. Manmohan Singh continues his sermons to the nation

This time the Prime Minister calls for pay cuts to the corporates. This is in continuation of his tradition of mouthing platitudes & delivering little, as witnessed in the 4 years of his premiership. One can’t help but think of him as clueless.

Dr. Singh forgets that corporates get paid more because they deliver more. Besides it’s not the government that pays them. Folks in the corporate sector get paid based on their performance, hard work & results delivered, something that’s totally lacking in the government. It’s a universal rule; you get paid more, if you perform better. People doing better should be appropriately rewarded so they are motivated to continue their high performance rather than chiding them for doing so.

This latest advice from Dr. Singh is little more than rhetoric & completely lacking in serious thought. The Prime Minister continues to fall for the ‘socialist’ & ‘inclusive’ trap. The corporates & the private industry doing better financially are actually better for the nation. But the Prime Minister doesn’t agree. He seems intent on dragging the nation back to the ‘Nehruvian’ rate of growth. The economic growth that India has been witnessing has been on account of the corporations doing better. This in result creates direct & indirect employment. This can be seen in places like Bangalore, among others, where the software export boom has created a large number of jobs for our engineers. This employment allows them to earn more as compared to the public sector. Higher incomes result in greater spending boosting the local economy, which in turn results in indirect employment. The boom in transport, catering, communications, entertainment, real estate etc. is a result of flourishing businesses.

All the growth in the private companies is on account of them being productive & merit based, not because of reservations & entitlements or ‘socialist’ & ‘inclusive’ policies. All the wealth generated is on account of the hard work put in by the private sector employees; again something that is lacking in the government agencies. Dr. Singh also forgets one important thing, if the corporates & the employees in the private sector are earning more; they are also contributing more to taxes.

The economic liberalization of India was the brain child of the late P.V. Narasimha Rao, easily one of the best Prime Ministers India ever had. Dr. Singh seems to have been wrongly credited for what was Mr. Rao’s brainchild. If Dr. Singh is serious about India’s economic growth & wants India to be a global leader, he should eschew rhetoric & reward merit.