Friday, December 15, 2006

Talking up Sachin Tendulkar

You’re watching an F1 race. Michael Schumacher is 50 seconds ahead of Alonso, with 8 laps to go and no pit stops due.
Common sense would tell you that the race has been won and lost, and you could go back to your knitting or needlepoint or whatever. But you don’t. You stay riveted.
Because of the commentators.
They remind you that anything could happen in a F1 race. That, perhaps, there’s a suspect sound emanating from Schumi’s engine. And would his tyres last the course? The left rear looks like it’s wearing out? Can Schumi last? Can he? Can he?
Of course he can. And he reaches the chequered flag almost a minute ahead of his competitor.
And you got suckered by the commentator, waiting for Schumi’s engine to blow, waiting for the tyre to destruct.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the responsibility of the commentators and experts: to make the game more interesting.
We’re seeing it with the Ashes. Where every wicket Panesar gets converted into an increased likelihood of England winning the third test. And there are four days to go.
We’re seeing it with the India-South Africa series. Where, pre-first test, all the channels talk about how test cricket is very different from one day cricket, and Indian fans could erase the 4-0 one day whitewash from our collective minds.
Because, contrary to the pessimistic view each of us holds, we believe all the optimistic pronouncements of the commentators and the experts. That Sachin will come good, that our bowling is good enough, that test cricket is a whole new ball game. We believe.

Because belief gives us hope.
And it's hope that will make all of watch sport. Whether F1 or the Ashes or tennis or golf, who wants to watch a one sided contest? And without hope, where will ESPN Star recover the $1.1 billion that has been invested in cricket from?

All you doomsday prophetic commentators, get out of there!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Internet is in the heartland

Thanks to the weightage accorded to the eight top Indian cities by TAM and by NRS and IRS, a lot of us in the media space fail to see a world beyond these eight cities.
In the case of the Internet, considering the fact that “technology” plays such a big role, the presumption of dominance of usage in these eight cities continued.
Of course there are users beyond these eight. We all know that.
So what is Webdunia saying that’s new? Nothing.
But a picture says it better than a thousand words or spreadsheets.
59% of Internet users are from towns and cities that are just dots on the map.
And the 59% will grow.
Chew on that.
And why am I surprised? Take a look at the Clustrmaps on this page, and there are readers from dots across the world. Dots I can't name.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Of an affair with the voter

Marketing myopia is when you have a love affair with your own product or message rather than an affair with your consumer.
And we’ve seen this time and again in India with politicians and political parties, the most notable instance being the BJP’s India Shining campaign.
One would have thought that the Western world would be immune to such myopia, but that’s not the case.
Arianna Huffington blogs about Bush’s distance from reality, saying “Bush may not be into things like facts, truth, or reality, but he loves a good slogan.”
Bush does not seem to learn.
Neither do Indian politicians.
If India Shining was rejected by the voter, so will Incredible India. Slogans such as these are an exercise in stupidity in these days of intrusive, all-seeing 24X7 news and the Internet.
So I’m watching a news clip on the burning Deccan Queen and the channel takes a commercial break. What do I see now? A commercial touting Incredible India.
And I’m riveted by a story on how Dalits were raped and killed in a Maharashtra village followed by the Incredible India spot.
And it goes on and on.
News television will highlight all the bad news. Because bad news sells.
And the realty is, there is a lot of bad news in India.
Even if I’m feeling good about my own lot, I cannot, after being exposed to today’s news media, feel that India is anywhere near Incredible.
Because I know the stock market lost almost 1000 points in the past three days, I know CITU wants IT companies to join a nationwide strike, I know the Tata Motors project in Singur is a little shaky, I know the Indian cricket team is a disaster, I know Parliament is adjourned for the most trivial of reasons, I know the Indo US nuclear deal is not hunky dory, I know cotton farmers in Maharashtra are going through a terrible time, I know life for terrorists is easier than life for the law enforcers, I know Shibu Soren won’t resign, I know Narendra Modi can go on and on.
I know all this because I consume media.
The same media where the Incredible India campaign runs.

In any two-bit advertising agency, any two-bit account executive fills in a brief which goes to the creative guys. In that brief, loud and clear, is a question which has to be answered:
(of a promise, or an offer or a proposition or a claim)
Why will the consumer believe it?

Perhaps politicians need to work for a year or two in advertising agencies.
Or, perhaps, advertising professionals need to get into politics.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I have been tagged by Dina Mehta in a Blog tag game where you tag 5 people whose blog you enjoy and ask them to tell the world about 5 things that most people may not know of you (this entire sentence cut and paste from Dina’s intro).
Both difficult tasks. Limiting the number of tags to five, and thinking about five things that most people don’t know about me.
The first is easy; it’s the blog that got me blogging. My brother JP’s blog,
The second is Amit Varma’s Indiauncut.
The third, Shane Richmond in The Telegraph.
The fourth, Deborah Schulz.
And finally, Georgia Patrick.
I figured out what makes me visit these sites so regularly. It’s easy: they all blog regularly.

Now for the harder part: five things about myself that most people don’t know.
1. I have more than 1000 published crosswords to my credit
2. My annual beer consumption is about 850 litres
3. That I actually like reading The Times of India
4. The only instances that I’ve had car accidents are when I’ve been absolutely sober
5. That I once owned a bookshop called Bookends

Monday, December 11, 2006

If Rbk is Reebok, what is...

I’m an old man, and I like things old fashioned.
But I have two kids, and I have to learn new fangled mores and values.
And spellings.
So I might prefer Reebok, but I understand Rbk is cool.
And I’m slowly learning to read txt splng.

So what do I do when I open the new issue of India Today, (The special anniversary one, which is a steal at 20 bucks, by the way) and I’m blown by the lovely Audi car…
… and the license number reads FKS 2207.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Is it time for circulation to de-grow?

I know a lot of print space sellers. Some of them are friends.
And those who are still in the business are doing well, making serious money, holidaying abroad.
And close to burn out.
Because, as they grow older in the business, the weight of the business rests on their shoulders.
Because it is, virtually, the only source of revenue for print products, considering the ridiculously low price of newspapers and magazines.
TV has distribution as a second revenue stream.
Put in other words, the consumer pays for the content.
Which the consumer refuses to do in the print paradigm.
Which gets me thinking. The same human being, the same consumer, is willing to pay for content in one medium and unwilling to pay for content in another?
What is this guy? Some kind of whacko?
Or is he simple and predictable, it’s just the print media that reads him wrong?
Will he pay Rs. 30 for a copy of India Today instead of the Rs. 20 he pays today? Will he pay Rs. 40? Rs. 50?
How many buyers of India Today will drop out if Aroon Purie jacks up the price to Rs. 50?
Ten per cent? Twenty? Thirty? Fifty?
And suppose it is as high as fifty percent; is Malcolm Mistry, the man who has the responsibility of filling the magazine with advertising week after week, a happier man?
And what happens if The Times of India is priced at Rs. 10 per day? How much will they lose in circulation? Fifty percent? Sixty? Seventy? Fifteen?
And suppose it is fifty percent, would Bhaskar Das be a happier man?

It depends, primarily, on two stakeholders: the consumer and the advertiser.
It depends on how reliable, authoritative, relevant and trusted the consumer perceives your content to be. Which is the simple truth in any product category: the consumer pays a premium when he believes that brand delivers a premium product.
It depends on the media owner’s answer to this question: while we have built a brand for the advertiser, are we a brand or a commodity vis-à-vis the consumer?
It depends on how the media planners and buyers and advertisers deal with the new circulation and readership numbers. Which, today, come from ABC and NRS and IRS.
Which they take with spoonsful of salt.
And in a number of cases, as the publications do not subscribe to ABC, they are left with just NRS and IRS.
Which, as history teaches us each year, is full of holes.
So why not bite the bullet if you have a product that you believe delivers value to the consumer? And raise the goddamn cover price?
Don’t gamble and endanger a product you might have taken decades to build. Don’t endanger the well being of the thousands who depend on your paycheck.
Do it as the Udipi restaurants across the country do. No disruptive changes in the prices, just keep nudging them upwards.
And, each time you raise the price, analyse the impact. Every six months, reduce the advertising rates.
Yes, reduce them, in keeping with the loss of circulation and readership.
You keep doing this till you have your balance. And a significant portion of your overhead comes from content, not advertising. And your dependence on the advertiser is significantly reduced.
And now, start increasing the advertising rates.
Because by this time, you would have more involved, more loyal consumers than you have at present. Who will significantly revise time-spent figures on the next NRS and IRS. Who will notice the advertising and who will have the propensity and the income to buy the products and services advertised.

I know, I know, I live in Utopia.

But it will happen. And when it happens, I will be able to say to all of you: I told you so.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Levi’s launches jeans for suckers

The more things change, the more they remain the same.
Sometime in the late 1800s, PT Barnum (might have) said, “A sucker is born every minute.”
And Levi’s, who have an awesome memory, extricated this gem from the recesses of their corporate brain.
And launched a pair of iPod compatible jeans, which will cost the Indian consumer Rs. 9,000 a pop.

And they will sell many pairs.

Because, sometime in the late 1800s, PT Barnum (might have) said, “A sucker is born every minute.”

And despite what Henry Ford might have said, History is not bunk.

Dangers of a one-cent newspaper

Artificial USPs have always fascinated me; more so because, often, they work.

In what was then a hypercompetitive market for shaving creams, Palmolive introduced a new, improved version with “SGL 4”. Whatever it was, it sounded good, and hirsute Indians queued up to buy it.

Mankichand of gutkha fame got into an overcrowded bottled water business. They knew what they were doing when their product had a chemistry-defying “300% more Oxygen” that justified the name Oxyrich.

Stories such as these, despite their successes, beg the question: can’t one find true USPs?

And I ask this question again and again when one sees new media products being rolled out. In category after category, the newcomer is a clone of the incumbent. And, more often than not, the category explodes, and the biggest gainer is the incumbent, the biggest losers the newcomers.

So we have a DNA with massive discounts on the card rate, and a Times of India which has seen two rate hikes since DNA and Hindustan Times, Mumbai were launched.

And we have a Dainik Bhaskar which has dropped the price of their Jaipur edition to 50 paise. That’s their USP, give the damn thing away.

And the Jagran group has announced the imminent launch of a youth directed tabloid in Hindi. Interesting positioning and a ridiculous name: i-Next. I’m not being bigoted, but their genetics will prevent most of their prospective readers from pronouncing the name correctly. And why, for heaven’s sake, a clearly anglicized name for a clearly vernacular paper? That’s an injection of artificial cool and patently unnecessary. Cool can be cool in the vernacular as well, and the English name is almost a patronizing thought.

On the surface, one gets the impression that all these entrepreneurs and media owners want to do is to launch another paper in what is, clearly, an exploding market. No great thought on the space available for another product, on the reason for its existence. No well thought-through business plans. No great differentiator. Artificial positioning and artificial USPs rule.

And that amazes me. In no category other than media do we see risk taking on these lines. The thought seems to be, if your pockets are deep enough, you’ll succeed in time to come.

And losses don’t worry the investors too much. Because there’s another benefit, both tangible and intangible, which comes as baggage to the media product: influence.

And then, one understands the risk differently. Money is lost on the one hand, but influence and opinion creation gained on the other.

Which is why a state like Uttar Pradesh has more than a few thousand registered newspapers. Most of which make losses in the business of publishing, and make handsome gains in the business of influence peddling and power broking.

And as long as this business sense prevails, India will continue to sell content at the most ridiculous of prices – our newspapers are cheaper than those in fourth world countries.

And, therefore, the costs and profits of media products will continue to come from the advertiser. And the advertiser, which includes the government and the public sector, will continue to influence the newspaper.

50 paise for a copy of a newspaper! That’s not helping freedom of speech.

It’s endangering it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The child is the father of the man

A few minutes ago, my daughter turned eighteen.
And I worry.
Not about the normal generation gap issues, but about the closure of the generation gap.
My daughter and my son (who will be twenty in April) keep me in touch with a world that is incredibly important. And incredibly complex.
And a world that one cannot learn about by reading.
It’s a world that I learn about by watching my children, by talking to them, by being with them.
The world of the Indian teen.
Through them, I figured out that Macarena would rule, but only for the moment.
I figured out StereoNation’s Oh Carol WOULD become cool.
I learnt about the power of peer pressure when it was important that they had the Harry Potter book on the day it was released.
And I learnt that the world is more complex for them than it was for me.
And I learnt that the options that they have before them are not quite the blessing that I perceived they were.
And I learnt, from them, that Close Up Gel would threaten Colgate.
And I figured out that MTV was becoming cooler than Channel [V]. Later, I learnt that MTV was becoming uncool.
And I knew, from them, that the iPod would rule, and that the Motorazr would be a threat to Nokia.
And I knew, from them, that Kingfisher Airlines was a product for the future.
And I learnt, from my daughter, that it is important to notice the beggar on the road. And to buy him a snack.
And I learnt, from my son, that higher education in India sucks, even in premium institutes.

And I learnt, and I learnt and I learnt.

And today, my daughter turned eighteen.
In a few months from now, my son will turn twenty.

And I worry.

Tomorrow, who will teach me?

Media in 2007: Through the looking glass

It’s now that time of year when most professionals in media are trying to figure out what the next year holds for them.
I wrote a rambling piece for Hindustan Times, Mumbai on my take on the immediate future.
I’ll be posting in-depth pieces on what I believe 2007 holds for print, TV, radio and the Internet.
Watch this space.

And I found the awesome image courtesy this site, which has some terrific learnings if you want to understand the online newspaper biz.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Outlook survey for paedophiles

OK, I'm nitpicking.

But I studied in a Jesuit school, and we spent a few zillion hours understanding grammar. And a subset of those zillion in understanding antonyms and synonyms.

And when Outlook magazine's e-mailer referred to "men" in opposition to "girls", it jarred.

And I checked with Roget's.

The antonym of man is woman.

The antonym of boy is girl.

The antonym of men is not girls.

End of post.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Are TV channel polls irresponsible?

Back to one of my pet peeves.
News channels and their polls.
1.They never tell you how many people voted.
2.They only give you a choice of Yes or No.

And these two issues, combined, get on my nerves. And I would like to believe, get on the nerves of a lot of people.
For example, I surely want to know how many people think, say, a minister should resign. NOT a figure in per cent without an idea of the polling population, which might be only 10 viewers. Similarly, I would respect people who weren’t sure, not force them to say yes or no.
Today, providence gave me an opportunity to underline my point. As I was surfing, I came across a poll on a blog, powered by magikwidget. I went there, signed in and got the right to try out 25 widgets, absolutely FREE!
Here’s the first use I make of these widgets. A poll that will tell anyone how many people voted, and a poll that factors in people who have an opinion other than Yes and No
Since the traffic on my blog is not too hot, and since I post fairly regularly, I’ll cheat a bit with this one, and keep changing the date stamp so that the story stays on top for a few days.

Not allowed to vote? Magikwidget tells you why:

Chances are you have already voted in your poll. Security features built-in to MajikWidget polls will remember that your IP address has voted and will not allow you to vote more than once in a single poll. Therefore, it defaults to the poll results when it recognizes your visit as a previous voter.

This causes issues with some corporate environments where many different people have the same IP address. Our developers are working on ways to combine other methods with the IP address method to address this specific issue.

Radio Indigo: Thinking different

In a recent interview in Brand Equity, Jean Marie Dru, CEO of TBWA Worldwide, says it is more important to do things different rather than do things better.
And that’s not rocket science.
Differentiation has been a key lesson in almost every marketing textbook since marketing was born.
So why does Dru still harp on it?
Because most of us still haven’t learnt the elementary lesson.
It’s visible in the Indian print media. DNA launched with much hype and hoopla, focusing on bettering Times of India, not being different from it.
When STAR Plus took the #1 slot with KBC, Zee and Sony tried to hit back with “better” rather than different offerings – both (expensive) game shows that bombed. Now all the channels are getting on to the reality show bandwagon, hoping to better each other.
And we’re seeing the same strategies on radio.
Each channel is trying to be “better” than the other, not different.
That’s why all of Bangalore talks about Radio Indigo.
It’s different.
Not for them back to back play of packaged Hindi songs with the RJ’s contribution being limited to links.
Indigo plays no Hindi music.
And that means that their potential audience shrinks incredibly. But those who do listen to Indigo are loyal, sticky and supportive. And Indigo is selling commercial time at a commercially viable rate.
Indigo, by focusing on English is charting a brave course for itself.
Or are they?
Perhaps it’s a lot easier to be different than to be better.

Image courtesy:

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Big B as Frankenstein's monster

I know Sanjay Jha as a lover of cricket. He and his wife started, lost money running it for ages, but neither of them cared a whit about the cash drain. Cricket is Jha’s passion, and thankfully, the bleeding didn’t hurt him too much. was sold to, and Jha now has a canvas beyond cricket, with his very own non-cricket blog on the site, jhakas.
And the first of his non-cricket posts that I’ve read made me sit up and think.
Titled Kaun Banega Conpati, Jha writes with (near) anguish on Amitabh Bachchan’s doublespeak and duplicity vis-à-vis politics. The same man who left “the cesspool of politics” plays brand ambassador for Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh, and this disgusts Jha.
But this side of Bachchan is unpalatable to any number of Indians, including me. So what’s new?
What startled me when I read the blog was Jha’s observation on who created the phenomenon that is Amitabh Bachchan:

“It was to do with a nasty punch in his belly during the shooting of Coolie, a typical Manmohan Desai madcap trash.
Thanks to the only TV channel the country had, the government owned Doordarshan broadcasting regular bulletins on Bachchan’s regular pulse beat, Breach Candy overnight became a tourist destination.
An anxious nation fervently prayed for Bachchan’s recovery, making the lanky tall man from Allahabad our first real Bollywood hero into a national obsession.
Mrs Indira Gandhi, then India’s prime minister left her official engagements to visit the ailing actor, as she valued his eminently revered parents and their close family bondage.
In my opinion, that was the day the real super-hero was born in India. A mass entertainer battling a grievous threat to his life, was given a special legitimacy by India’s first family.
Bachchan became a bigger household name, and captured the national imagination like no other.”

Indira Gandhi is the Frankenstein and Bachchan the monster?

Jha’s is the first piece that I’ve read editorially challenging the Big B. In a country like India, we are reluctant to criticize phenomena and idols. Jha does so, with fact and conviction. That, in itself, is refreshing.
Click here to read Jha’s entire take. It’s worth the journey.

Image courtesy:

The "if cricket fails" media plan

Last night, I posted on the Kingfisher calendar, and it got me thinking about why men would give an arm and a leg to own one.
And I finally figured it out: because the Indian cricket team sucks.
So men, SEC A, B, C, D, E, 0-99 are turning to other sources of entertainment.
Enough of jest, down to serious stuff (not capitalized).

If the Indian team fails to get its act together, where on earth are you going to find these missing eyeballs? Here’s a list of my recommendations:
Formula 1: Catch SEC AB males here, English Speaking Markets, especially those who own motorcycles and cars. They are likely to have girlfriends and/or wives.
European Soccer: SEC ABC males, English Speaking and Hindi Speaking Markets, especially after CAS is a reality, and since you get commentary in two languages. They are likely to be boisterous and are unlikely to be able to pronounce names of key clubs and key players.
Golf: With Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh doing so well, CEOs (even those who don’t know a club from a spade) are a guaranteed audience on golf programming.
KBC 3: It’s the format, stupid! Whether it’s Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan, KBC WILL get eyeballs. It would take a genius (and SRK is not one) to make audiences turn away from a magical format such as this one.
CNBC: With the Sensex hovering around 14000, and betting on cricket not worth a rat’s ***, the only decent place left for gamblers is the stock exchange. The cool guys will be betting on futures, whatever that is.
All news channels: For those cricket fans who want to relive their cricket watching years: You turn on the TV with optimism, and, as the day goes on, you learn that there’s no hope
FTV and Trendz: SEC ABCDE males without a DVD player or an Internet connection.

Finally, the Kingfisher Calendar.
If the TA can’t get hold of one, catch them at the nearest bar, next to a Kingfisher.

I’ll be next to a Foster’s.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Calendar keeps Kingfisher cool

Foster’s India was sponsoring the visiting Australian cricket team, and TBWA India, the then agency, was briefed on all requirements for the tour. These included a name (the winner was "The Wizards of Oz"), all clothing for the tour (including T-Shirts, Shirts, Caps, shorts, kit bags, track suits) and signage and point of purchase odds and ends, a range of merchandise for consumers, and the branding for the various launch parties and for bars and restaurants.
At the party revealing the “Wizards of Oz”, Ponting and team mingled with the glitterati, the who’s who of Mumbai.
Who proceeded to steal the signage.
And Foster’s management was ecstatic.
That, then, was the ultimate certificate to TBWA for a job well done.
Dealers called to report PoP stolen, and all but begged Foster’s sales and marketing team for replacements. And each time a dealer called, he was asking for a favour, getting closer to Foster’s and getting that one inch further away from Kingfisher.
Who ruled the beer industry then.
And who rules the beer industry now.
Their signage and branding might not get stolen, but Kingfisher’s calendar is one that many a beer guzzler would give an arm (not the drinking one) and a leg for.

The calendar costs a bomb to produce, shot as it is by Atul Kasbekar, featuring the top models and set at exotic locales.
It’s worth all the money. Every single newspaper worth the newsprint covers the launch each year; every single TV channel gives us consumers “exclusive” bits and bites. And Kingfisher (mineral water, not beer) is rejuvenated every December. I’d be more than interested in knowing the delivery by PR that Kingfisher gets on this single activity year on year, and I’ll be surprised if it’s not increasing geometrically.
The wonderful thing is, a calendar is not rocket science. Tens of thousands of firms will commission calendars this year, and Sivakasi will do no printing other than calendars for the next month or so.
Most will find their way to walls in garages and store rooms. Some will simply find their way to the waste paper basket.
Because none of the firms will commit to a calendar as a brand building tool as Kingfisher and Vijay Mallya are doing. It is not just "something to keep the customer happy". For Mallya, the calendar is the focus of his brand building for the year, and an exercise that helps keeps his beer most thrilling.

I don’t have a Kingfisher calendar. I'm in the majority.
I still drink Foster’s. I'm in the minority.
Kingfisher photo courtesy: Reuters


There was a time when you walked in to meet a CEO or MD of a company, and your focus on the meeting (if you were an avid reader) was distracted by the books behind the person you had come to meet.
Sadly, that is less and less the case now. And that’s why this photo jumped out of the ibnlive website when I visited a story on Infosys Mentor NR Narayan Murthy’s comments on the Bharti Wal-Mart deal.
The original photo, I learnt, was published in The Economist.

The bookshelf-behind-the-CEO tells a story of its own. It gives you an insight into the man you are dealing with, of his likes and dislikes, and, often, into what makes him tick.

A similar learning is available in the reception area of offices. The newspapers and magazines that you see there give you an idea of what senior management in those companies read and expect you to read.

I wish I could zoom in on the bookshelf behind Mr. Murthy.

Photo courtesy: The Economist

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Depression continues: Get used to accidents

And on this Sunday morning, a few stray thoughts and observations, all my own work.

Like, the media is baying for Alistair Pereira’s blood, making him the poster boy of the Don’t Drink and Drive activists. We’re seeing “great” headlines, like the one in Mid-Day, “Drunk as a Skunk”. Drunk as a skunk? Except for the fact that drunk and skunk rhyme, what is the connection?
Like, the media, as it is wont to, focuses on what is marketable, and what they presume their consumers want to see and read, and ignores the rest of the points of view.
Like, car loans are easier, and more and more cars hit the roads every day. Cars with more powerful engines, cars with superior acceleration.
Like, licenses are a joke, and a one eyed man with one leg and no brains can get a license by joining a driving school and paying a “premium”.
Like, the roads are getting worse every day, and it does not require one to be drunk to lose control of the car.
Like, the police department is overstretched, and has more serious issues other than drinking and driving to look into, such as terrorism, murders, rapes and law and order situations caused by political parties and religious groups.
Like, more and more people are sleeping on roads and footpaths, and the driving surface available is decreasing by the day. And since lots of these footpath dwellers are voters, nothing will be done about them.
Like, more and more commercial encroachments eat into the little available driving surface, aided and abetted by corrupt politicians and government servants.
Like, slums which encroach on the roads house the make or break voters in a constituency, and nothing will be done about them.
Like, there is absolutely nowhere for the pedestrians to walk except on the road, and nothing is being done to address this issue.
Like, corruption, apathy and general slothfulness cause solutions to traffic problems, such as the Bandra Worli Sea Link, to take forever to be realized.
Like, every two-bit idiot goes to court to prevent solutions to traffic problems, knowing that the legal process will also take forever.

Like, why doesn’t the media focus on all the issues other than drunken driving which cause accidents?

Disclaimer: I do not know Alistair Pereira or anyone connected to him. I do drink. I do drive. Sometimes, I drink and drive. I do not endorse or encourage drinking and driving.

However, I do not pretend it does not happen.
I do not believe drunken driving is a millionth as serious a problem as the rest of the problems listed above.

So there.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Get used to riots in Mumbai

In a post a few days ago, I said that I wasn’t normally a doomsday prophet.
Incidents in the last few years cause me to worry about things – perhaps it’s just that I’m growing older.
Earlier this week, the desecration of a statue in faraway Kanpur caused Dalits to resort to violence across the country, closing down the commercial capital, Mumbai. The next morning (yesterday), Mumbai’s citizens checked the newspapers, the TV news and spoke to friends before venturing out.
Because someone in Kanpur desecrated a statue which led someone in Mumbai to torch a train.
Where is the security of living in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai? The security which the city once prided itself in offering to citizens? None. Because, tomorrow, someone in Tirunelveli might desecrate another statue. And that could cause a train to be torched in Mumbai, or a building to be burnt down in Delhi, or cars to be stoned on NH4.
And that worries me.
And I tried to find parallels elsewhere, and I stumbled upon a discussion on the decline of nations – with reference to the US-- on a blog. Warning Signs When Nations are in Decline is an interesting read if you’re a worrywart like me. I reproduce a bit here, and the parallels are interesting, to say the least.
The strength of a nation comes in part from its ability to assimilate immigrants from diverse cultures while keeping its own culture in tact.
When massive immigration, (especially for economic reasons) is left unchecked there is a tendency for new immigrants to identify first with their personal heritage. Sub-cultures or societies within societies are formed and well defined divisions rise up like walls that isolate them and restrict their opportunity. The recent rioting in France is a classic example of what happens when the melting pot doesn't melt.
An impediment to effective assimilation is language. Immigrants isolated by language often group in cloistered sub-cultures, such as we see in Little Saigon, China Town, etc. and they have little motivation to learn the national language or appreciate their new culture.
The division caused by closed and isolated sub-cultures weakens the main societies ability to achieve necessary understandings for problem resolution as communication breaks down. Communication and consensus is fundamental for democracies to operated effectively, without that they are increasingly facing a sort of governmental gridlock (an inability to identify and prioritize needs).
Further, the isolation caused by sub-cultures create social and economic ceilings fueling inequities, injustices and prejudices. That is why its often said, "Strength does not come from diversity, but diversity united behind a common ideology."

Club all these observations, add the caste factor in India and corruption in India, and – why are we surprised at all when incidents such as the Dalit uprising occur?

Can we learn something from history? Anything at all?
Or shall we get used to the idea of such riots being a part of our daily lives?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Indiauncut turns two

Having recently discovered blogging, each day has been an adventure. As I posted here, I would often have no clue where the journey might start and where it might end. To me, it was a library where one could come across no end of authors you had never come across before.
But, like any library, one needs to have a few books that one is familiar with, which one reads again and again, never tiring of them.
One such blog, for me, is, Amit Verma’s creation. And when I visited it earlier today, I learnt that it was now a toddler celebrating its second anniversary.
And I remembered a visual I chanced upon, in another time and in another world, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to let it loose on the world.
Here’s to you, Amit.
Photo: Copyright acknowledged
Corrigendum: I've misspelt Amit's surname; it should read VARMA, not VErma. Apologies. However, I'm blaming the beer.

Criconomics 101

Of a weak dollar, of poor cricketing form and of Landmark Book Shop
Last night, the pound sterling had reached 1.95 to the US dollar, the strongest it has been in decades. What this translates into is that UK travelers will find shopping in the US an absolute delight. It also means that the US traveler will find a visit to the UK expensive. It also means relief for US exporters to the UK and worry for UK exporters to the US.
Such is economics. When someone gains, inevitably, someone else loses.
When the Indian cricket team does well, the gainers are the TV channel with the rights to telecast the matches, the sponsors of the tournament, the advertisers on the telecast, and the audiences that get entertained.
The losers are ALL other TV channels, the competitors of the sponsors and the advertisers, and the spouses and friends of the cricket fans.
And, of course, Landmark Book Shop.
And many other book shops, restaurants, malls, pubs, bars, multiplexes, roadside eateries and so on.
Last weekend was a great example: the third loss to South Africa.
South Africa is batting. India gets early wickets. Across India, cricket freaks are glued to the idiot box, thinking, this is the turning point of the South Africa Tour. India is going to bounce back!
The South African innings continues, in fits and starts. Kumble gets a couple of wickets, and the Indian fans are more optimistic than ever before. Cricket freaks are fevicolled to the sofas.
And Landmark Book Shop branches across the country remain empty. As do Shoppers Stop branches, Westside branches, and 112,785 malls across India.
India bats, and cricket owns all the eyeballs.
And India loses the fourth wicket ar 60 odd.
And I speak to my cousin Jayasankar in Chennai, whose wife Hemu is the genius who started Landmark and is the genius who runs Landmark. JS is a cricket freak, and I find him far from despondent.
“What do you think,” I ask him.
“Fantastic,” is his answer. “Millions of Indians are now leaving their houses and making a beeline for bookshops across India.”
And that, my friends, is a lesson in Criconomics 101.