Singapore and Indian Cities

orchard-road-singaporeI was in Singapore for a few days during my winter vacation. Sandwiched between two weeks in India and a week in Thailand, the contrast between Singapore and these two third world Asian countries could not have been starker. As we all know, a few decades back all three countries were equally under-developed. Today Singapore is an advanced economy and continues to grow (though not in 2009) led by an enlightened government.


Wanted: An Indian “Yes We Can”

A couple of weeks after the Mumbai attacks, India and Indians are still fuming. There is this great stirring to action, particularly among the young and the educated, who want to see some change. All this is good, but the big question is how do you take all this energy, this dissatisfaction with the status quo, and convert into constructive action?

The recent US elections had some similar contextual elements to it. A general dissatisfaction with the way the country was being run and a section of the electorate – again, the young and college educated – who were highly motivated to do something about it. But that’s where the similarities with India end. In the US they had in Barack Obama, a leader that they could rally around, who represented that hope for change. In India there is no such leader. Most of the ideas for action that one hears today from the intelligentsia are policy related, rather than politics related. And that is a problem. Real change can’t take place unless governance changes.


ISI Chief Visit – PR Mistake or Oneupmanship

Indian PM, Manmohan Singh talks to Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani President. He is angry. Zardari is trying to placate him. Manmohan Singh asks him to send his ISI Chief over to participate in the investigation. Zardari agrees.

So far so good. Then the Indian side, presumably, announces/leaks it to the press. Headlines in newspapers say “PM summons ISI Chief to India”. Bad mistake. They should have let Pakistan announce it to the world. The headline could have been very different. “Zardari says ‘We will work with India to fight terrorism’. ISI Chief leaving for India.”

Now India looks stupid and Pakistan looks petulant. Not a good way to start working together on what is the biggest challenge facing both countries.

Better Security Takes Money and Willpower

In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, if there is one thing we take up with seriousness, I hope that is upgrading our internal security – police, NSG, intelligence – and other organizations that contribute to it.

After Mumbai, my friends have been burning the wires online and on the phones. There is anguish, some anger but the overwhelming reaction is that we need to do something. A couple of my friends are IPS officers. Much of this post will be quoting them or channeling them.

This new style of terrorism – sophisticated yet brazen – requires higher levels of sophistication in battling it. The terrorists who are used to finding chinks in the armor of the American security apparatus, are the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai and made it look so easy. Don’t be fooled by the name they gave the media. Laskhar, Taliban, al Qaeda – they are all names given to different parts of a terrorist cooperative that shares weaponry, training, technology and indoctrination.


Mumbai Terror

Got news of the terror attacks while on vacation. Some random thoughts while its still not over.

Never watch an India related news event through the eyes of CNN or any other US TV channel. Thank goodness for NDTV Live which worked surprisingly well from the hotel over broadband. Until, that is other people found out about it and it crashed.

But for print news I found myself going to BBC and New York Times. Why?


Setting Targets or Expectation Setting

Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in an interview about India’s slowing GDP growth, to the Wall Street Journal says,

“We must aim at 9%, as I will, and we must be happy if it’s between 8% and 9%.”

This begs the question “Is he setting a goal for GDP growth for the country or is he managing expectations?”

A goal, IMO, is something that is ‘actionable’, i.e. you and your team can take actions which help you achieve that goal. Much like a goal in football, you can’t score one by just being on the field.


Haryana and Orissa lead Investment Tables

Ila Patnaik reviews CMIE data on state wise per capita investment in 2007. The states with the leading investment per capital are Haryana and Orissa. It just happens that I am quite familiar with both states since I am Oriya and go back there to visit my folks quite often and because I grew up in Haryana and go back there once in a while as well.

Both states have able forward thinking administrations. And some help of course. Haryana’s proximity to Delhi is something they have taken advantage of. Orissa is blessed with more than its fair share of natural resources. But beyond that there is still a lot of good work going on. In Bhubaneswar, the traffic isn’t anywhere near being a problem yet. But the government is working hard to widen roads. Shows that someone is thinking ahead.

Patnaik attributes the differences and the trends in investment per capita to the quality of the state government administration. If I were to drill down a little more and ask myself the question, what would I look at if I were to set up a new center for my business my criteria would be as follows:


The Dharma Indexes


Stock indexes are an important part of the stock markets. A Wikipedia entry here will give you a good overview. Last month Dow Jones launched a family of indexes called the Dow Jones Dharma Indexes, in association with Dharma Investments.


BCCI and Indian Cricket – Monopolies are Never Good

Last week the returning winners of the Twenty20 World Cup, jammed up traffic in Mumbai. Sharad Pawar, the BCCI President and also Union Minister for Agriculture, cancelled all his appointments to receive the Indian cricket team. There was a big press conference, at which he made a speech that was, it seems, more a political speech than anything else.

And why not? He is a politician in a cricket crazy country. Why shouldn’t he take advantage of the rare occurrence that is an Indian team winning a major championship? Many other politicians in various states had the same idea and showered gifts and cash upon their home state players. Everyone loves a winner.