Monday, October 06, 2008
Why do we have an Indian Mujahideen?
Terrorism is not new to India but having home grown terrorists has taken the country by surprise. India had got used to blaming a "foreign hand" for all terrorist attacks. Now India has to face up to a brood of homegrown Islamic terrorists feeding off popular and growing Muslim resentment toward the purported injustices and atrocities of the Hindu majority.
Its time for Introspection
All the parties across the political spectrum have contributed to the situation. Congress the biggest party that claims to be secular contributes to the insecurities of the minority Muslim community to maintain an electoral base; BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) on the other hand fans anti-Muslim sentiment for similar reasons. At the receiving end of decades of such politicking and social bias, the Muslim community — which forms 13.4% of India's population — remains impoverished and is increasingly alienated.
A commission instituted by the ruling Congress Party–led government found Muslims underrepresented in government jobs and faring badly in social indicators like household income and literacy.
Every time you have a community that has been brutalized, it is inevitable that there will be a pool of ready recruits. It is a very serious situation, which has arisen because our government has failed to accept the ground reality.A growing percentage of India's Muslim population is getting alienated.
The Indian political parties must focus on issues facing the country and India has so many of them. However seldom do we see Indian politicians give speeches on Climate Change, Homosexuality, economy, jobs or poverty. For India to be truly secular, it is very important that all the political parties stop dividing people on a communal basis or on a caste basis. I am of the opinion that India should enforce a law that any politician that attempts to divide people must be immediately arrested and must not be allowed bail. Alas in a democracy like India, I wonder even if that is ever possible!
Can India be energy independent?
The Indian Scenario
India is a country occupying 2% of the world's land mass and currently generating about 2% of the global electricity, mostly using low grade coal of which it has about 5% of the world reserves.
India has, however a share of 16% in the world's population. To achieve a modestly high level of economic growth, the domestic generation capacity needs to be increased at least tenfold. Even with full utilization of all existing commercially exploitable domestic hydrocarbon, hydroelectric and non-conventional resources, this level of increased generation capacity cannot be sustained for more than a few decades. For a large country like India, bulk imports of fuel or energy are neither affordable nor strategically prudent.
So what options is the Indian government looking at?
The Indian Uranium reserves, about 0.8% of the world - cannot contribute to any significant improvement in the situation if this Uranium is used on once-through basis and then disposed off as waste. However, with a carefully planned program, the available Uranium can be used to harness the energy contained in non-fissile thorium, of which India possesses about 32% of the world's reserves.
- The first stage of this programme involves using the indigenous uranium in Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) which efficiently produce not only energy but also fissile plutonium.
- In the second stage, by reprocessing the spent nuclear fuel and using the recovered plutonium in Fast Breeder Reactors, the non-fissile depleted uranium and thorium can breed additional fissile nuclear fuel, plutonium and uranium-233 respectively.
- In the third stage thorium and uranium-233 based nuclear reactors can meet the long term Indian energy requirements.
For power hungry India, solar energy is a source that has not been adequately tapped. Rapid advances have been made and advanced solar technologies can be leveraged to power at least the remote and inaccessible parts of the country.
- The Ministry of State for Non-conventional Energy Sources announced plans to expand government programs supporting the development and utilization of solar energy resources in 2005 and 2006.
- Additionally, they announced that the government has established a commission for additional sources of energy to plan and oversee the implementation of programmes relating to solar energy and other renewable energy sources.
- To popularize its usage the government has been offering rebate on electricity bills to those who install solar systems. Some banks provide soft loans to buy solar equipment.
- There are many big names that have entered the solar industry. Tata being one of them. It sells approximately 30,000 kw of power. Tata BP Solar India Ltd claims to export approximately 60 per cent of its solar products.
The Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change has prepared a strategy for sustainable development known as the National Action Plan on Climate Change. Like the Philippines’ bio-fuels program, which promotes plants such as jatropha, which is not a food crop and does not substitute agricultural land.
- New Delhi is in the process of formulating a national policy on bio-fuels and the setting up of a National Bio-fuel Development Board, which will likely follow the Philippines approach.
- Jatropha oil is produced from the seeds of the Jatropha curcas, a plant that can grow in wastelands across India. Jatropha oil is considered to be an excellent source of bio-diesel.
- The Government of India has identified 400,000 square kilometers (98 million acres) of land where jatropha can be grown, hoping it will replace 20 percent of India’s diesel consumption by 2011
Although a number of energy initiatives are going on in India, I wonder if they will produce enough energy to make India energy independent. Given the bureaucracy in the Indian government it is highly unlikely that the Indian government's measures will alone make India energy independent. Hopefully in the next few years we will see more participation by the private sector which has the potential to revolutionize the energy production industry
Sunday, October 05, 2008
How American greed collapsed the financial system
Since most of these loans go to people wanting to buy a house, they come with higher interest rates — even if they’re disguised by low initial rates — and thus higher returns. These mortgages packaged together and bundled into investments, often known as collateralized debt obligations(CDO).
Investors then boosted their returns through leverage. For example they made a $100 million bet with only $1 million of their own money and $99 million in debt(backed by a CDO). If the value of the investment rose to just $101 million, the investors would double their money.
Similarly the American home buyer did the same thing, by putting little money down on new houses. The Fed helped make it all possible, sharply reducing interest rates, to prevent a double-dip recession after the technology bust of 2000, and then keeping them low for several years
All these investments, of course, were highly risky. Higher returns always come with greater risk. People assumed that that the usual rules didn’t apply because home prices nationwide had never fallen before. Based on that idea, prices rose ever higher — so high, that they appeared riduclous when compared with real wages.
The American home seemed so lucrative and easy money that all the banks in the global financial system ended up owning a piece of it. In a strategy to distribute risk many banks sold complex insurance policies on the mortgage debt. That meant that they would now have to pay up in case the mortgage owner defaults
Thursday, October 02, 2008
India's Improved Foreign relations
With the nuclear deal approved in the US and India getting a NSG waiver to begin trade in nuclear material it is evident that India has much improved its relations with all the developed nations. India's relations with Pakistan has dramatically improved over the last few years. But how are its relations with countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran which generally worry the developed nations around the world?
India Afghanistan relations
The government of President Hamid Karzai is currently focused on securing continued assistance for rebuilding the economy, infrastructure, and military of the country. It has continued to maintain close ties with the United States, India, Iran,the European Union, and the Islamic world.
During the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, India offered intelligence and other forms of support for the Coalition forces. After the overthrow of the Taliban, India established diplomatic relations with the newly-established democratic government, provided aid and participated in the reconstruction efforts.India has provided USD 650-750 million in humanitarian and economic aid, making it the largest regional provider of aid for Afghanistan. India's support and collaboration extends to rebuilding of air links, power plants and investing in health and education sectors as well as helping to train Afghan civil servants, diplomats and police. India also seeks the development of supply lines of electricity, oil and natural gas
India Iraq Relations
The bilateral relations between the Republic of Iraq and the Republic of India have been traditionally friendly and collaborative. They advanced considerably during the rule of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in the 1990s over strategic issues, oil and commerce. Although initially disrupted during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, diplomatic and commercial ties between India and the new democratic government of Iraq have since been normalized.
India had preserved its neutrality over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, criticizing the lack of U.N. approval, but also hinted that it would consider sending troops to post-war Iraq to help maintain security and peace after a unanimous vote in the U.N. Security Council over the Coalition's presence and mission in Iraq.However this was ruled out after protests from public and political parties which have been opposing USA. It normalized its ties with the new democratically-elected government of Iraq in 2005, seeking to restart trade and co-operation. Indian businesses applied for contracts for reconstruction projects to the Coalition Provisional Authority, and more recently the activities of Iraqi businesses in India have been growing rapidly.
India Iran Relations
Currently, the two countries have friendly relations in many areas. There are significant trade ties, particularly in crude oil imports into India and diesel exports to Iran. Iran frequently objected to Pakistan's attempts to draft anti-India resolutions at international organizations such as the OIC. India welcomed Iran's inclusion as an observer state in the SAARC regional organization.Lucknow a city in India continues to be a major centre of Shiite culture and Persian study in the subcontinent. There are also small communities in India who trace their ancestry to Iran.
No matter what the media reports, in my opinion India has done very well to improve its relations with all countries around the world. This is an important but much overlooked aspect of globalization. Good political relations with all countries is the first step to increasing trade and India must continue on this path to further improve relations with all countries
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Financial Crisis - The Potential Impact on India
America's financial markets have been hit by a credit storm. Companies that once symbolized Wall Street have disappeared thanks to the tons of mortgage securities that were purchased by these companies. So how does this crisis impact India?
Interbank lending has been slow globally. This means that banks are lending to each other at high rates which further implies more expensive credit .In short, capital has suddenly become more expensive than a few months ago and, in many cases, it may not be available at all. Many consumers today in India are quite leveraged. More expensive money means that floating rate loans begin to get more and more expensive.
Real Estate Market
The big risk is a possible repeat of what happened in 1996.Projects that are halfway to completion, or companies that are stuck with cash flow issues on businesses that are yet to reach break even, will run out of cash. The big sector that potentially could be hit would be real estate, where building projects are half-done all over the country and some developers who touted their 'land banks' find now that these may not be bankable.The only way out of the mess is for builders to drop prices, which had reached unrealistic levels and assumed the characteristics of a property bubble, so as to bring buyers back into the market, but there is not enough evidence of that happening.
Any uncertainty in global markets always proves to be a poison pill for the stock markets.The drop in real estate and stock prices robs a much larger body of consumers of the wealth effect, which could affect spending on a broader front. The stock market values can fall further if the foreign institutional investors start pulling out money in large numbers over a short period of time.
As I write this, a number of companies in India especially in the IT and financial sectors are downsizing to cut costs. More than the downsizing itself, these companies will not be hiring in the near future and that will change the complexion of the job market.
A financial crisis of this magnitude is bound to affect India and other emerging economies. The scale of damage will depend upon what the American Congress does to minimize the effect to the global economy
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
India benefits the American worker
There is a strong public opinion regarding outsourcing (especially when combined with offshoring) that outsourcing damages a local labor market. Outsourcing is the transfer of the delivery of services which affects both jobs and individuals. It is difficult to dispute that outsourcing has a detrimental effect on individuals who face job disruption and employment insecurity; however, its supporters believe that outsourcing should bring down prices, providing greater economic benefit to all.
A number of hi tech jobs have moved to India from the US and people often wonder whether this trend benefits the US in anyway. So, how does a developing India benefit the American worker?
Outward Indian FDI
The increasing number of home-grown Indian firms (e.g. Tata Group, Infosys,Ranbaxy) and their improving ownership-specific advantages, including financial capability, are among the key drivers of outward FDI. In addition, the growing competitiveness of Indian firms involved in providing outsourced business and IT-services to foreign clients has provided a push for these firms themselves to go offshore to operate near their clients and to look for new markets. All this requires considerable investments and hiring local candidates who understand the market.
- The Tata Group that operates 16 companies in the US -- from luxury hotels and beverage business to manufacturing, telecom and IT consulting -- employs over 5,000 Americans.
- Ranbaxy is creating jobs and stimulating the economy in North Carolina, New Jersey and Florida
- Mahendra & Mahendra is planning to launch a car in the US.
- Infosys and other IT companies are employing US workers for their American operations in search of newer markets.
According to one study Indian companies have created 30,000 new jobs in the US.
India - US Nuclear deal
India plans to import eight 1000 mw nuclear-powered reactors by 2012 and the US hopes to win at least two contracts, which it feels will significantly boost its atomic industry. The envisaged sale of at least two reactors, to what it calls ‘lucrative and growing Indian market’, would create 3000-5000 direct jobs and 10,000-15,000 indirect jobs in the US nuclear industry, the US Department of State has said.
The Indian government's adoption of liberal measures and various monetary relaxations paces up India's economic progress. Indian companies are now increasingly being encouraged to open units in the US and other developed nations. The same Indian companies that were blamed for "outsourcing" are now providing large-scale employment opportunities in the USA giving rise to a ''reverse outsourcing'' trend.
Increasing US Exports
Over the last five years, U.S. exports to India have more than doubled, helping to create better-paying jobs in the United States. The United States and India agree that trade is essential to promoting global economic growth, development, freedom, and prosperity. A richer India will have a greater purchasing power to buy US goods indirectly impacting job growth in the US.
Trade will always be a two way street and the India- US trade relations is only the beginning. With the growing strategic ties between the US and India coupled with people to people contact both countries are poised to mutually benefit from this cooperation. In years to come, USA is likely to receive more investments leading to job creation in the USA. Hence, the American worker should not view India as a threat but as a partner.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Why does India not excel in sports?
- In most developed nations kids have an an opportunity to select any sport as a choice of career and even discontinue education.
- Government provided facilities are available will help them in confidently selecting any particular sport as career.
- The membership fee to utilize the facilities is also nominal given the average income.
In a developing country like India
- Most schools in India don't even have a ground; forget getting kids exposed to sports like swimming.Let us consider an average Indian child. Think about the access to sports facilities that he has at the school age. The facilities probably will be there for one or two sports that too shared by so many other children.
- No parents in India would like to encourage their children to discontinue their studies as there is no guarantee of earning a livelihood in a nation where not all the sports are patronized by its citizens.
- At the same time the nation cannot create such facilities even if it funds the same due to the high population density.
- In addition to the basic problems, there are some created reasons as well that trouble the sports persons in the country. Cricket is the only sport in India which is truly patronized and a lot of private enterprises support the game. For almost every other sport the payscales for sportspersons is low and recieve very limited support from private enterprises. Many of India's sportsperson maintain day jobs with companies and only participate in events as time permits. There is no adequate support for sportspersons and families from the government.
- At least urban Indian citizens are moving away from idolizing cricket icons and are beginning to take interest in foreign sports thanks to television and broadcast media.
- With a growing awareness,income and globalization parents are taking extra efforts to expose their kids to other sports besides Cricket.
- This bottom up change is beginning to get noticed by advertisers who are looking to sponsor events in India which is helping sports persons to be focused.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Why does India have so many people?
Have you ever wondered why the Indian population is so high?
India is the world's second most populated country with over 1.1 billion people, not far behind China which has 1.3 billion.But China's population is expected to level off in the coming decades because of the government's one-child per family policy.India's population will keep on rising and the UN expects it to reach around 1.6 billion by 2050, by which time it will have overtaken China to become the world's most populated country.
Visiting any major Indian city feels like the most crowded place in the world. For example in 1975 Mumbai's population was 7 million. Now it is one of the biggest cities on earth with around 19 million inhabitants and a transport infrastructure which cannot keep pace with the increase.
Better Life expectancy
In 1947, when India became independent from British rule, average life expectancy was just 33 years. Improved living standards and healthcare have raised that figure to almost 70.At the same time birth rates have been falling. But the reduction has not been fast enough to prevent the overall population rising rapidly. And it is often the poorest families which have the most children.
Even in todays time people believe that a child is another mouth to feed but will provide two hands to help work and bring in money for the family, especially as the parents grow older.Some communities believe that every child is a gift from God and the more you have the better it is.
Various barriers to child and adult literacy exist in India, most prominent are the issues of gender and poverty. Literacy is the key to development, health care, employment and last but not the least, it is the key to population control
Failed Family Planning Initiatives
India still lacks a coherent approach to holding back the population explosion and knowledge about basic birth control techniques is pitiful. The government has not done enough to educate people about family planning techniques.
Unlike China, India is a democratic country and cannot enforce a One Child Policy. People have a right to decide the number of children they want to have and they choose to have many children!
So how does one address this issue? Or is this even an issue any more?
A large population is not necessarily a bad thing. It is a burden on society only when the population does not contribute to the economic development and is unable to derive benefits of economic growth. Most companies look at the Indian population as a huge customer base that can potentially buy their products. In the past few years India has increased its middle class to more than 300 Million almost the size of the US population. If the population and economy continues to grow at the rate it is possible that India will probably be the most populous AND prosperous country in the world by 2050. However it is also true that prosperity and literacy is expected to slow down the population growth in India.
Statisticians can do all the analysis that they want but only 2050 will tell us who was right and who was wrong!
Friday, June 27, 2008
Technology and the Indian Farmer
When farmers in northern India's Uttar Pradesh state harvested their wheat in the past, they usually had to sell to local middlemen at whatever price was offered. Now, thanks to the Internet, they can get higher prices for their crops.In villages in Uttar Pradesh and eight other states, farmers can go to an Internet kiosk where they have access to a network set up by the India Tobacco Company. On the network, known as e-Choupal, they can check prices and sell their crops online.
A quiet revolution is taking place in the unremarkable town of Baramati. It was all very different in Baramati just a few years ago. Then, the milk was sold locally, if at all. Its recently installed computerised and automated milk collection centres are helping India retain its new-found position as the world's largest milk producer.Its 100,000 largely illiterate dairy farmers milked their few cattle by hand and struggled to get to market before the searing heat turned the milk sour. At the market, they could never be sure they would find a buyer, day after day. But cutting-edge technology used in the collection, processing and sale of milk is triggering a "white" revolution in the 150 dairy-farming villages around Baramati.
Text Messaging Advice
IITians are helping farmers find answers to their crop problems. And they do this with SMSes.Standing in the middle of his vineyard with a laptop in hand, 30-year-old Sandeep Khode is perhaps the face of the new techno-savvy Indian farmer, who gets expert agricultural advice by posting queries online at www.aaqua.org.Eighty-four call centres across the country are answering farmers' queries related to everything from fungus on brinjals to kisan credit cards and prices of insecticides.Set up by the Department of Agriculture, under the Ministry of Agriculture, in January 2004 with an initial investment of Rs 100 crore (US$1=Rs43), the Kisan Call Centres - a single-knowledge pool catering to Indian farmers across the country - are proving a boon for the farming community. Farmers can dial the toll-free telephone number - 1551 - to get specialists, positioned at 84 call centres across the country, to answer a repertoire of questions related to agriculture and allied fields.
AgroSupply Chain Improvements
Infosys Technologies has partnered with ACDI/VOCA, a non-profit international development organization that promotes broad-based economic growth, to develop an Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled application that would improve efficiencies in the agro supply chain in India. The solution minimizes inventory requirements, reduces waste and allows retailers and farmers to be better integrated.The application also gives farmers real-time access to agricultural experts, thereby improving farming technology at an overall level.
A video-conferencing system
Intellicon does wonders for farmers in Rajasthan. Technology is moving ahead and so have the farmers in Rajasthan, all credit to the two-way Aethra video conferencing system. The video conferencing system has recently been installed by the Rajasthan government in Krishi Vidya Kendras (KVKs) in 10 districts.The system connects 11 locations spread across Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology in Rajasthan. The farmers are now using video conferencing to procure good quality seeds, fertilisers and for others inputs. These systems also help them access market-related information and most importantly market their products in a better way.
Millions of Indian farmers will soon get district specific agro-weather advisories to boost agricultural produce and reduce losses due to the vagaries of nature. This will be done by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in collaboration with agricultural universities across the country. This will cut down the error margin and benefit the farmer most.
I wonder about the scale of these initiatives and hope one day all farmers will have access and use these technologies to make their business's better and more efficient.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The race to build India's biggest mall
The DB Realty -Orchid Ozone
DB Realty, India’s fastest growing real estate and hospitality conglomerate, is developing Orchid OZONE - India’s biggest mall with over 2.5 million sq. ft at Dahisar, North Mumbai. Being built with an investment of USD 175 million (Rs. 700 crore), the mall promises to transform the sector by ushering the Next Level of international benchmarks in the Indian retail industry.
Orchid Ozone will be a complete and unique retail experience spread over 1.6 million sq. ft for urban shoppers. In addition, it will also comprise of luxurious lifestyle and entertainment choices such as:
* Mystifying Water themed atrium by Wet Design Inc, USA
* A 20-screen megaplex theatre
* A 125 room boutique hotel
* A 50,000 sq. ft kids ‘play & care’ zone
* Travolators to connect shoppers seamlessly from one level of the mall to the other.
* Large food courts offering world cuisine that overlook the scintillating water themed atriums.
Open to shoppers :2009 -2010
Mall of India
Gurgaon, already over-crowded with malls, is set to get the mother of all malls -- a humungous 40-lakh sq ft sprawling property that is being touted by its developer DLF Universal as the biggest mall of the world.The average size of malls here is 2.5 lakh sq ft; this will be 16 times bigger. The mall -- christened Mall of India -- will be spread over 32 acres and will have parking space for 10,000 cars.
Open to shoppers :2009
Emaar MGF Mall
Taking realty major DLF head-on, Emaar MGF is planning to build India's largest mall. Currently on the drawing boards, the mall will ape the world's largest mall (spread over 5.8 million sq. ft.) being built by the compan’s partner (Emaar) in Dubai.
Open to shoppers : TBD
It will be interesting to see how the decline in the Indian real estate market affects the construction of these projects. With a growing inflation and high oil prices, it is likely that the malls open up at a time when the Indian consumer confidence is at its lowest since 2002.
The Electric Vehicle Revolution in India
- Reva, a battery-run, two-door electric passenger car runs like a car but doesn't pollute like a car.India's accelerated economic growth over the past decade has given rise to tremendous growth in air pollution, 70 percent of which is attributed to cars, buses and other vehicles.Designed to fill the niche between the two wheelers and traditional, gas-guzzling cars, Reva comfortably seats two adults and two children. The car's battery has a life-span of 40,000 kilometers, and on a single charge, the Reva can be driven for 80 kilometers. It's price-approximately US $5,000-is competitive in India's current car market.You can read more about it at www.goinggreen.co.uk if in UK or http://www.revaindia.com/ if in India.
- The Morbi-based world famous clock-maker Ajanta group is planning to manufacture an electric car at its unit at Samkhiyali in Kutch district and market it at a price lower than Rs 1-lakh Nano. The Ajanta group is serious in its attempt to keep the basic price of the proposed car as low as Rs 85,000. At present, in the electric car segment only Reva car is available in India.
- Indus Elec-trans, a division of Electrotherm (ET), is formed to manufacture electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. .Currently INDUS has commenced manufacture of hi-tech electric two wheelers, YObykes at the state-of-the-art plant at Kutch in Gujarat. Development of Electric three wheelers, four wheelers and hybrid electric low floor buses are on anvil for future.The price of products range from 16000 to 36000 depending on the power of the battery and the electric motor.
Can this industry reduce India's dependence on foreign oil? The price of oil over the next few years and continued government support will be important for the growth of this industry.
Monday, June 23, 2008
A billion dollar home and a billion dollar slum
Up a winding, tree-lined street away from the constant chaos of India's financial capital lies the construction site for what is believed to be the most expensive home in the world.The house -- more like a tower, really -- is estimated to cost $1 billion, and its future resident, Mukesh Ambani, is India's richest man.As designed by Chicago architecture firm Perkins + Will, the in-progress glass-tower is estimated at $1 billion and is known to feature, at the least, a health club, multiple "safe" rooms, 3 helipads, 168 parking spaces and require 600 servants to maintain, and physically, the structure stands at 27 stories, or 570 feet tall.The Billion Dollar Slum
Dharavi, in India's commercial capital Bombay (Mumbai), is Asia's largest slum. Made up of ramshackle corrugated tin sheds it is home to almost a million people. It is 500 acres in length and is estimated to be the most densely populated area on earth.But it is a unique shanty town.Thanks to a thriving crafts industry, Dharavi generates business worth nearly $1bn a year. Local workshops turn out leather goods, pottery, and jewellery, much of it destined for shop shelves in the West.
As India progresses into the 21st century the growing divide between the rich and the poor grows wider!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
BMC and the Monsoons
A month ago, the BMC ( Mumbai’s local municipal body) had assured the masses, that this year, there will be no waterlogging on the streets due to the annual rains. They had claimed to have arranged for an efficient drainage system which was ‘monsoon-ready’ !
With a budget of Rs9,865crores (or more than US$ 2billion), the BMC is the richest civic body in India. Understandably so, considering its mandate is to keep Mumbai running.
But year after year, inspite of BMC's assurances, Mumbai drowns during Monsoons. I have attempted to research the reasons for their failure.
For close to two decades, the BMC has been run by the Shiv Sena-Bhartiya Janata Party combine. However, with the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party Combine winning the State Elections in 2004, power over the city had been split.
With opposing parties running Mumbai’s largest and most important organizations, there have always been spats, face-offs and blame games between both organizations, and hence political parties, for all the ills plaguing this city. Crater filled roads ? Blame the MMRDA for digging up all the roads for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). Choked up drains ? Blame the BMC for not clearing the pipes before the monsoons. And so on and so forth the blame games between both organisations have continued for some time.
Even with the rains a few days away from the city, our traffic cops are yet to get their basic rain gear. The department claims their written requests for the same to the state government and the BMC have not garnered any replies yet.The budget for the monsoon gear — including raincoats, boots, umbrellas, torches, emergency food packets, medicines, inflatable boats, etc — is approximately Rs 15 crore. The traffic department is now thinking of using last year’s rain gear, most of which is likely in very bad condition
The problem of subways getting flooded during monsoon is due to the absence of proper drains. While most subways are situated below railway lines, the BMC and the railway authorities have done nothing -- except heavy paper work -- for improving conditions near subways
A major link between the eastern and western part of a suburb have been flooded with storm water. The BMC makes pre-monsoon arrangements like desilting of nullahs close to subways but the proximity of stables owned by former corporators has left BMC with no option but to neglect them.
People in Mumbai are used to throwing garbage on the streets, drainage and sometimes even from their houses. Much of this garbage finds itself in the drainage pipes and chokes them. We see the result of choked pipes during the monsoons. The growing Mumbai population does not make it easy for BMC to execute its planned tasks.
Given the issues above BMC cannot be soley blamed for Mumbai's woos. The state government , political parties and the people of Mumbai are all to be partly blamed for this mess.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
A Letter to Raj
You know this as well as I do, Mumbai is a city of immigrants and for so many generations Indians have migrated to this city of dreams to find prosperity and a better livelihood. Mumbai is what it is today, only because of these immigrants who come from around the country and give it their best. These migrants come to Mumbai and fall in love with the city and decide to make it their home. Mumbai offers them everything that they don't find elsewhere in the country.
Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in India wherein people live in harmony with a focus on business and entrepreneurship. Gujarati's,Bihari's,Maharashtrians, Muslims and Christians live in harmony and are free to follow any religion. They all consider Mumbai to be their home.
We want Mumbai to be the financial capital of Asia. We want Mumbai to be the most prosperous and respected city in the world . We leave our homes to find our dreams here. We hope to improve our quality of life whether it is a taxi driver, a bus conductor or an autorickshaw driver. The jewellery market is dominated by Gujratis , the steel market is dominated by Marwadis while the food industry is dominated by Punjabis. Does it really matter if someone speaks Marathi or not in this city? We all manage to converse in Hindi or English, learn and respect each other's language.
How would you define Maharashtrians? Are they people who are born and live in Mumbai? Are they people who have immigrated and have adapted to Mumbai? Are they people who pay taxes in Maharashtra? Does the ethnicity, race or language change anything?
Arent we all Maharashtrians?
This is a humble request from a person who loves Mumbai just like everyone else from Mumbai. Please do not divide us. Please do not plant the seeds of divide between North Indians and Maharashrtians. These divisions have forever been an impediment to our progress . Lets talk about Unity for a change. Lets talk about a better livelihood for people. Lets focus on infrastructure issues that have plagued our city now for more than a decade.
Let us make MNS a party of change, a party that unifies all Mumbaites, a party that works for the betterment of all, a party that does not play vote bank politics. I sincerely believe that any political party that works sincerely with this goal in mind will be loved by all and will have the support of all Mumbaikars. Let us all unite and make a new beginning !
Jai Hind! Amchi Mumbai
A Man from India
This letter is written in response to recent events in Mumbai
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Should India deregulate gas prices?
- Inflation will be biggest risk at this time. With current food prices at record highs , deregulation in the oil sector will only cause inflation to go higher.
- The aviation industry which has just recently taken off may run into issues as they will have to deal with a sudden jump in petrol prices.
- The retail Industry that is just taking off may witness a slowdown.
- Strikes by unions in the transportation sector bringing businesses down to its knees.
- Opposition pressure to the government forcing the government to subsidise it again or lose power.
This issue like everything else is a challenge for the Indian government and they will need to innovate to find a way to save the country from higher world gas prices as inaction can lead to a high import bills compounded by slower exports resulting from a slow US economy!
The debate over organized retail in India
- Foreign investment will hasten the pace of organised retailing. Their case in point: China.In just ten years after China permitted FDI in the sector, the share of organised retail has grown from 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
- Current laws allow foreign retailers to access the Indian market via the franchisee route, as has been done by the likes of Marks & Spencer and Mango. Foreign retailers are allowed outlets if they manufacture products in India or source their goods domestically.Foreign retailers therefore, have access to the Indian retail market, while India loses out on the foreign direct investment(FDI).
- Foreign retailers would be inclined to source from the Indian market to ensure that goods reach customers on time. As they grow familiar with Indian products, they are also likely to increasingly source from India for their international operations. This will benefit the farmers and help improve quality of their produce.
- Some argue that the the "mom & pop" stores have unique advantages such as an understanding of local needs and superior service in the form of home delivery, which will help them retain their edge over the large supermarkets, foreign or Indian.
- Competition for the neighbourhood "mom & pop" store could come just as easily from the Big Bazaars and Food Worlds of modern Indian retail.
The Opponents of Organized Retail argue that
- The entry of big foreign retailers will displace labour in the retail sector, which employs a massive unskilled workforce.
- Any retailer Indian or foreign will have to to invest huge sums of money in setting up a supply chain, cold chains and train farmers to produce goods that meet quality standards.Most retailers have succeeded in this only at the regional level. They do not have the financial muscle to set up a supply chain on a national level. This would give foreign competition an edge and hence the government should not allow foriegn players into the retail space.
I believe preventing foreign investors from entering the Indian retail space only delays the inevitable. Just like any other developed country, the "mom & pop" shops will need to go but most of the unemployed will probably find jobs with the Large retail chains-foriegn or Indian. Big retail chains will fancy the work experience of folks running the "mom & pop" shops and will probably hire them. Historically, such changes have always resulted in the betterment of the consumer and the worker. Furthermore ,Increased competetion is likely to benefit the consumer, the farmer and the worker.
Hopefully the next government elected will not be a coalition government and will be able to take bold decisions to end this debate and take steps to reform the retail sector in India.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Obama,Clinton,McCain - Does it really matter?
- Post 911 people are questioning America's involvement with Pakistan and have realized that Pakistan is the epicenter of terror thanks to the media coverage around the "War on Terror". They also realize the strategic importance of allying with India to combat this threat.
- A large number of Indians have immigrated to the USA in the last couple of decades which has resulted in people to people interaction and blending of cultures. Americans better understand India today than even a decade earlier.
- A large portion of their outsourced work goes to India which forces another level of interaction between people. The India Growth Story is no longer a secret and almost every edition of Business Week or Forbes carries stories about Indian Businesses or Entrepreneurship which was not a case even five years earlier.
- With a hefty trade deficit , the US sees the Indian middle class as big customers for its products.
- The US government sees rising India as a balance to China's growing dominance on the World Stage.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Should India trust the PPP?
- India and Pakistan will never be able to resolve the Kashmir Issue bilaterally. This issue will always fuel terrorism and bitterness.
- India and Pakistan will not be able to address poverty while they are in an arms race. All the surplus funds will always be used to buy military equipment
- Many Indians and Pakistanis have families living on either side of the border. Given the current relations and visa issues between countries many have not seen their families since 1947.
- India needs natural resources like coal, iron and most importantly gas to fuel its growing economy. Pakistan provides a great route for Indian companies to access gas from Middle Eastern countries.
- Indians and Pakistanis speak a similar language, have similar cultures and interaction will help them jointly combat issues like terrorism ,poverty and education.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Naxalism! Can it derail India's economic growth?
Monday, May 19, 2008
Is India Causing a Food Crisis? Or...
Saturday, April 26, 2008
India - A country of sharp contrasts
There are fascinating clubs that have opened up in Mumbai where a drink may cost you upto $30 dollars and at the same time you have many others standing outside those same clubs who do not make that kind of money in a month
The rich stay in well constructed buildings that are priced at Manhattan rates and have servants and car drivers working for them who don't even make a $100 a month!
Bribes are still rampant and the rates charged by government employees depend upon the car the customer drives. Government offices are plagued with bribery and corruption.
The conversations of the rich revolve around the trips to the US and Europe while the poor discuss inflation and the rising cost of living.
Though these disparities always existed but the magnitude of the divide has increased.
So why does this pose a threat to India's stability?
If you live in India you must have noticed the growing unhappiness portrayed in the form of rising pick pocketers, robberies,etc. You hear endless stories of security guards robbing the same apartment dwellers they are supposed to protect. Most of these cases go unreported as people believe it is a hassle to deal with police stations as the police does not have enough resources to focus on small crimes.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Outsourcing Pregnancy - Is it the right thing?
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Islamic Investment Opportunity in India
In the future they plan to build alliances with Mutual Fund companies , Housing finance companies and car finance companies. Through the website they plan to educate Indian Muslims in relation to Stock Market investments which are Shari’ah Compliant
The website provides details on any stock registered on the BSE and NSE and provides information whether the stock is Shariah compliant or not(along with a reason) based on the following guidelines -
- Exclude companies if Total Debt divided by Trailing 12-Month Average Market Capitalization is greater than or equal to 33%.
- Exclude companies if the sum of Cash and Interest Bearing Securities divided by Trailing 12-Month Average Market Capitalization is greater than or equal to 33%.
- Exclude companies if Accounts Receivables divided by Total Assets is greater than or equal to 45%.
For example a user could search for the "Zee" stock on the website. The results show that although Zee news is compliant with Shariah laws , Zee Entertainment Enterprises is not and the results will state the reason for non compliance.I think this is a great start for millions of Indian muslims and muslims worldwide who are looking to invest in the Indian Stock Market based on Islamic law.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Nano - A Big Win for the Consumer
- The Nano is a boon for the users of millions of two wheelers who would finally be able to afford a car. Nano promises to offer very stiff competetion to the two wheeler marker in India. I presume that for the two wheeler industry to remain competetive we shall see a price drop for the two wheelers.
- Nano will soon be exported to other developing countries in Asia and Latin America and millions more will get the opportunity to drive a car.
- After the initial euphoria of Nano is over , I believe the nano will be available with many accessories and Tata will give the option to customers to buy the car from a its base of $2500 to approximately $3500 dollars.
- Nano marks a revolution in the small car segment and will be much spoken and researched by other Automakers and we shall see a slew of cheaper cars being launched all over the world.
With millions of new cars expected to hit Indian roads in the near future,maybe the government will get its act together and speed up infrastructure development in the country.
- The lauch of Nano is bound to put pricing pressures on the existing small and medium car segments and we may see a slight drop in prices there.
With a crumbling infrastructure,narrow roads filled with pot holes , are the road's ready to take another set of million cars on these roads? We will have to wait and see how successful Nano gets in India. To me, this is another example of our companies taking huge strides without the adequate support from the government. In cities like Mumbai and Bangalore traffic is an utter kaos with thousands of vehicles on its roads.Now with a$2500 car , we can expect millions more to be there on our roads!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Improvising ATMs in India
We all are familiar with the acronym ATM ; Automatic Teller Machines commonly known as ATMs traditionally used to deposit and withdraw money from bank accounts. The concept of ATMs came from America to India but in India ATMs perform many functions like a wending machine, railway ticket counter,Zipp money centers and also in the field of microfinance.
The Railway Counter ATM
According to a report in "The Times of India" ,the Railways have recently introduced a new high-tech system through which passengers can procure their reserved-journey tickets from ATM counters. The railways are in the process of making an agreement with nationalised banks to install ATM counters at various stations. These ATMS would serve a dual purpose of functioning as a basic ATM and also as a virtual ticket counter!
A Wending machine?
According to economic times, India’s largest food brand Amul is set to launch 24/7 ATM (Any Time Milk) outlets. The concept is already being tried out at a few places in the state and will eventually be replicated across the country.The company believes it can provide better customer service by offering this kind of service.
Zipp Money centers
ATMs have traditionally been considered as extension of banks, but in India a bank could become an extension of an ATM!.According to the Business Standard,there would be green, carbon neutral money centres lighted by solar power, equipped with a biometric ATM, manned by two trained officials and powered with network connectivity through VSAT.The plan is to include one billion people with no bank accounts in the banking network.These are the Zipp money centres which are being introduced for the first time in the country by the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), a forum formed in 1997 and which has inclusive banking interventions as one of its key projects.
Citigroup bank has developed a biometric ATM designed for poor city dwellers that could help relieve loan officers from manually collecting loans and managing accounts, as is the norm in microfinance.
These are some of the articles I have come across in the last few months,and I wonder about the different kind of functions an ATM can perform in India. If you are aware of any other ATM functions in India, do comment on the article or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Is the Indian Market correlated to the US Market ?
The three graphs represent
1) Long term perspective ( yr 2000 - till date)
2) Medium term perspective ( yr 2006 - till date)
3) Short term perspective ( Sep 2007 - till date).
The correlation values for the above turn out to be 49%,85% and -3%. There is some margin for error as I downloaded the date for the BSE and the DOW there was some discrepancies in dates because of different stock market holidays in India and the US. A correlation of 45% for the long term is good and clearly proves the India growth story. As people around invested in undervalued stocks in india in the early years of 2001-2005 the Indian market moved ahead purely on valuation basis. A correlation of 85% in the medium term indicates that the markets over the medium term have been correlated to a high degree. But the last few months has a correlation of -3%.
This indicates that the Markets are absolutely uncorrelated and are moving in opposite directions over the short term. Can this continue?. It seems that either the Indian market will crash or the US market will have huge bull rally!. The latter is unlikely in the US because of recession fears, credit crunch etc. It does seem that the Indian market has discounted world markets for the moment and Indian investors will likely have to face the realities of globalization.
I believe this quarter is crucial for the Indian stock market and investors must liquidate some of their positions in the Indian markets as it does seem that a big bubble is building up in the Indian stock market