Archive for the ‘india’ Category

The splendid victory of South Africa against Australia set my mind thinking about their leader, Graeme Smith, and how he led from the front. And about his leadership career, as South Africa’s cricket captain.

When he took over as SA captain, he was young and almost brash. There were other seniors who were still in the team, and yet, they gave the reins of captaincy to this young cricketer, who had not been in international cricket for very long.

He came with new ideas. He rubbed the seniors like Jonty, Allan Donald, Pollock, Kluesner and others, the wrong way. He also did not win enough, amidst all this friction. There were talks of him being an incorrect choice, criticism of his hot temper, and what not.

But he learnt. And he learnt fast. And he was fundamentally the right choice, which the South African selectors pursued with. And the persistence paid off. As he became more acceptable as a leader among his teammates. And as he led from the front, with an aggressive, winning approach. And started delivering far better results. And today, he is considered one of the better captains in the cricket world.

A very different background is that of Ratan Tata. As a young entrant in the Tata fold, he took over reins of companies like Tata Textiles and Nelco, and had disastrous results.

Then, when he took over the group, after JRD Tata, he seemed to be going after senior pros like Russi Mody (Tata Steel), Ajit Kerkar (Indian Hotels) and Darbari Seth (Tata Chemicals). At that time, it looked like his insecurity to work with these giants, and he took the route of seeing them off. As later events proved, these people had created virtual fiefdoms, out of their companies, and the decisions to replace them, were extremely brave and bold ones, taken by Ratan Tata.

Over the years now, Ratan Tata has become a fanstastic leader of the group, driving them to unprecedented growth, with very high ambition, and proved to be a real champion.

Another young leader who has quickly worked his way up, and grown by leaps and bounds, has been Kumar Mangalam Birla. Never easy to follow an icon like Aditya Birla, and at a young age too. But he grabbed the opportunity well, and has created brilliant new growth opportunities for the group now.

Not so successful has been his cousin, Yash Birla, who was also thrust into the hot seat, at a very young age, on account of the sudden demise of Ashok Birla. Yash however, has found the good life more to his liking, and running the business, just one of the many things that he does in life.

Rajiv Gandhi was also thrust into the seat of power without much notice, due to the assassination of Indira Gandhi. As a young and unspoilt (by corruption and power) clean leader that time, he promised a lot. And his early years were akin to the Kennedy years, for the US. Held out a lot of promise and the youth of the nation, especially looked up to him, for providing a new direction of growth for the country. However the phase did not last too long, as he got caugh in the political web of deceit and corruption. So the hopes were belied. And ultimately, it all came to an early end, due to his also being assassinated.

Coming back to cricket, it appears as if Australia almost always have the right leader waiting in the wings. After Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor, it looked like Ponting had already been primed up, to take over the reins. And he led by strong example, and providing exemplary leadership, from the outset. And at this time, it appears clear that Michael Clarke is being groomed for the opportunity, and will be all set to take over when his time comes.

Okay, so the economic crisis gave way to the Mumbai terror attack, in as far as the centre stage of news is concerned. But the challenges of the current times have not gone away.

Raw material values skidding to reduce credit limits of companies and making value-added production becoming unviable.

Reduction of US and global pickup hurting exporters in spite of the favorable currency.

Job losses in IT and ITeS (large emplyers) sectors, due to serious US downturn.

High priced real estate not getting bought, developers defaulting on payments, leading to cascading crisis.

Stock markets, the mood indicator for the masses, continuing to flounder, and not giving any hope of an early recovery.

Empty cinema halls, malls, restaurants, hotel rooms.

Huge drop in advertising rates. Reduced newspaper sizes, especially the appointments pages, clearly indicative of job losses.

NO! I am not trying to be a doomsday messenger. But all of the above, and many others, are realities of the day.

And yet, I am staggered to see umpteen statements coming out that say, “…… is recession proof”. Replace the blank with any of Entertainment / F & B / India (yeah!!) or whatever you like to. And the statement will be in the press.

Who are we trying to kid? Movies and entertainment are recession proof? On the first Saturday, after release, the big budget Yuvraaj was playing to 20% occupancy. Food stalls, the big buck earners in multiplexes, are running low queues. Discounts to the extent of 35% on ticket prices have been offered (check out

Its a seriousl connected world now, snowballing factors have cascading consequences that impact one and all. Anyone talking about India not being affected, or all is well, is living in a fantasy world.

Living in denial has never helped anyone. It is important and necessary to face facts, and confront them.

What is clearly required today, is what is referred to as the Stockdale Paradox, and quoted and explained brilliantly by Jim Collins:

“Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

AND at the same time

Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

There has been a lot of talk, rumors if you will, about how India is ready to take battle into the boundaries of Pakistan. How, if necessary, we are ready to wage war also.

As long as it is rhetoric, it is fine. But could it actually move from talk to action? Should Pakistan call India’s bluff, do we have it in us, to press the W button? I have my serious doubts.

I have no doubts on the capabilities of our armed forces. Irrespective of corruption charges in the Defense purchases, I still believe that we have enough fire power, guts and numbers, to take on Pakistan in battle, if we had to.

But for any war, there is one most crucial element, and which is the Commander in Chief. You need a strong person at the top, to commandeer and army into war. Someone who is aggressive and smart, someone who can motivate, someone who does not worry about petty politics and votebanks, but has a clear eye on the best interests of the country. Someone who, if required, can go and stand with the jawans, in the trenches, and without his Z+ security tagging along!

Do we have anyone of that stature at this time? Do we even have a Commander-in-Chief?

I can trust Dr. Manmohan Singh, our PM, to go and battle in the boardrooms of the World Bank, or position India at Davos, or pitch for investments to heads of states of G8 countries. But can he command our forces in a war?? I don’t think so, really.

Defense Minister A K Anthony who has been meeting the Defense heads? External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who has been making the loudest official noise regarding war? Nah..! These guys are politicians to the core. Also they are not politicians with charisma that can make the country follow them. I cannot imagine either of them coming on TV or at the Red Fort, and goading the country and countrymen, with anything like a “jai jawaan, jai kisaan”, or a “ask what you can do for the country…”, or a “har har mahadev”.. ! Nah.. these chappies can negotiate with Sharad Pawar or Mamata Banerjee or Jyoti Basu, for poll alliances and the like, but commanding the forces in war.. no, I will not put my money on these characters.

The official designated commander-in-chief, the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil? As someone who could lead us in war?? Ho..ho.. ho.. ho.. Laughable to even think about it, right? On the other hand, a scary thought, that if we are pushed into war today, she would actually be the commander in chief! Oh My God.. ! We have a LOT to be worried about. Until this is resolved, I pray that there is no war..

One of the commanders of the defense forces? The Army or Navy or the Air Force? I am not sure how well the Chief of Integrated Defense Staff has been working in India now. But the potential of this Chief, being the commander-in-chief at wartime, appears to be the best option for India. The hiccup to this being the fact that in India, politics has always been supreme over the Defense forces, and it is unlikely to change in a hurry. So getting the Chief of Defense Staff to take over the overall reins of decision making and leading the country in war, looks like a remote possibility.

We had stronger leaders during war time in the past. Indira Gandhi, whatever be her other problems, was a strong woman, and one who could lead from the front. One who could fire the public imagination, and motivate the armed forces, with a strong speech from the Red Fort. The country was behind her in the 1971 Bangladesh Freedom war.

War was thrust on India, during the Kargil confrontation. It was still a conflict that was restricted to the location there, and did not become an open war, with no holds barred. Still war it was. Again, the Defense Minster then, George Fernandes, with all his other faults, was a courageous man. A union leader, he could again fire up the people, did not hesitate to go to the trenches when required, and was a suitable commander of sorts, at that time.

But at this time, we lack a serious commander in chief! No, this is not the right time to go to war – if only for this one reason!!

Come across some of the most shocking instances in recent days, that convinces me that we, the ordinary citizens, are helpless fools, and much as we agonize over things, shit happens!!

Some stark examples:

  1. Vilasrao Deshmukh, after resigning as CM, does not feel it necesary to attend the Legislature. And he justifies it in public saying that “now he does not have any specific responsibility, so what’s the big deal about attending the House?”.  Is he so pathetic as to not realize that he is an elected representative, and his constituents would expect him to be in the House, and playing a role?? CM or not??
  2. R R Patil, dropped as Dy CM, on account of Mumbai terror attacks, is made the head of the NCP Maharashtra unit. So where is the accountability factor? Punishment for being responsible??
  3. Chhagan Bhujbal, involved in Telgi scam and other messes, and who had to vacate his chair earlier, is quietly brought back, again as Dy CM..?! Again, what about accountability?
  4. The board of Satyam, a public company, involved in IT, having name brand independent directors on the board, still go and strike a deal with the Chairman’s family owned infrastructure and real estate companies, for a staggering $1.6 billion. And actually expect to get away with it. Because after all, shareholders are supposed to be suckers (could not go through, however..!)
  5. Telecom licenses which were always auctioned earlier, given away to new and unknown entities, for peanuts, and on a “first come, first served” basis. And those entities, immediately go and sell stakes in their companies, for HUGE profits. No heads have rolled so far. The minister is not feeling an iota of guilt. There will be the political protests and the Joint Parliamentary Committees, so that all the politicians can get their own share of the loot. As far as citizens are concerned, they know the public memory is small, and this too will be forgotten and forgiven!
  6. Amar Singh, crooked Indian politician contributes more than $ 1 million to a Clinton fund. As do others from India. But Amar Singh? Any questions on the sources of the income? And why the Clinton fund? What goes on here? We the suckers of the world, the citizens, cannot question!!
  7. Cabinet minister, A R Antulay makes allegations about the cause of death of ATS Chief during the Mumbai terror attack. Crass, crude and clueless as these statements are, and also for once, not appealing to ANY section of society, he still insists on making these. Perhaps with an idea to break the for once, united thought across the country. The Congress apart from distancing itself from his statements, does not have the guts to take action against the minister, nor condemn him in public. Because they fear minority vote backlash. And we the citizens of the country need to be silent observers to this nonsense.

When will things change? When will a common man ask questions and expect to be answered? Will it ever happen? Do I live in a dream that life can be different?

I have no answers. Meanwhile… shit happens!

A quick and immediate protest that Mumbaikars can go for, is to make an income tax contribution of Re 1/- as advance tax, in December!

A token payment that is a slap on the face of the government, to protest against the betrayal of the city’s taxpayers. For the government’s apathy towards the city, for their inability to protect us.

Let’s spread this message. ALL tax paying Mumbaikars must pay only Re 1/- this December. The empty coffers of the Income tax will let the country know the real value of Mumbai’s contributions to the exchequer.

We have been admirers of our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. In the 90s, when he took over as a Finance Minister during precarious times for the country, he single handedly brought back the country from the brink of disaster. Even this time around, when Congress was to form the government, he was a good choice. Better he than the old foggies like Arjun Singh or Pranab Mukherjee or Shivraj Patil… !

But there has to be the right person at the right time! And at this time, Dr. Singh is far from being the right person!

One had to only hear him speak to the nation in the midst of the encounter, and you could sense that he was totally out of place. He looked like he was addressing some Global Conference in Economics, and he was presenting a technical paper there!

The time was to inspire, to motivate, to rekindle the nation’s patriotic fervour. To speak strongly and let the nation know that he was going to act, to let the world know that we will not be suckers anymore. And that had to come out in an emphatic speech.

Instead, he was insipid and boring.

How can we have confidence that he is the man to lead us out of this mess? When all this time, he has not been able to stand up to the Left parties, to his own party colleagues and ministers, leave alone to “Madam Gandhi”, how do we expect him to stand up to terrorists or to a fearsome neighbour, who is willing to go to war with us??

Surely, at this critical time, we need a younger PM, one who shows huge energy, one who can motivate us. A strong leader. I do not quite see a person in the horizon at this time. And in that, maybe our misfortune. But if we can find someone who fits this bill, we must go with such a person, and Dr. Singh could continue to be the Finance Minister, and wade us out of the economic crisis (hey, that’s not gone anywhere, just in case we forgot about it!).

Thank you, Dr. Singh, but not now, Dr. Singh.. Enough is Enough!!

Okay, so everyone has a right to this. And I exercise mine.


1. I am getting a little sick and tired of the following words:

  • Iconic structures (about the Taj and the Oberoi): good for a while, but gets on my nerves as they keep repeating these words,
  • Resilience and spirit: enough is enough. With these two words, I mean.. !

2. It’s easy for the rich and famous to say that there is no prejudice in society. Yeah, maybe it does not matter as to who it is that they party with, at the Taj or the Oberoi. The reality of prejudice is with the common man. So poignantly shown in Khalid Mohammed’s Fiza, when the educated Muslim youth, played by Hrithik Roshan, could not get a job in Mumbai! If some of these youth then succumb to brainwashing and go to the other side, who is to blame for that? This society, who else?!

Would YOU hire a muslim youth to work in your organization almost as comfortably as you would hire a Hindu? Is there an inkling of bias in the back of your head? Until that is there, let’s not pretend that the prejudice does not exist. Also let’s accept our role as a society, in this situation, then.

3. I have seen some very shocking reactions, which I hope, are only the result of these special circumstances and the stress caused on account of that. From highly literate Maharashtrians who are even more convinced now about Raj Thakeray’s anti-North Indian agenda, to celebrities like Simi Garewal advocating war against Pakistan and also advocating action against slum dwellers en masse, because few of them have been seen to carry Pakistani flags. When will we raise ourselves above all these petty matters, and take up the bigger challenges confronting us?

4. Is there anyway that a proper chain of command can be spelt out, on priority, just in case, such or similar incidents occur in future as well?? All of us who are familiar with government departments, including the police, are well aware of the heirarchies existing there. And how it takes ages for papers and files to move from one table to the next, just because of those hierarchies. About how the left hand does not know what the right is doing, in such departments. How then, will one government body interact with another, or take a person from the other department as his commanding officer, during such events.

I am sure time went by, just in straightening these things out, when events transpired this time. And when we had the Mumbai police, the ATS squad, the Naval Forces, the Coast Guard, the Army and the NSG, all involved in this exercise. Who was calling the shots? And if there was no one person, it was bound to be chaotic. At least in terms of their press briefings, all of these agencies were interacting on their own with the media, and giving out at times, different messages!

Please let us have a defined chain of command in place, for the future.. !!

Ever since the CNN correspondent reported the Gulf War from the trenches, no global event, no terrorist attack is an isolated incident anymore. All such events play to the gallery as a large reality television show.

The purists may not like it. But they cannot deny it.

It was no different this time around when, for an extended period of 4 days, terrorists battled the security forces in Mumbai. The plethora of news channels that have come up in India, all covered the events non-stop, round the clock. One had the choice to view the different perspectives and in that itself, there was a story.

While the events were going on, it was all about giving fresh news and inputs on the developments, post events, it was the analysis. Both of these aspects were important and showcased the values that the channels stood by.

During the period of encounter, there was temptation for the channels to give that bit of extra information, even if it was speculative to an extent. There was also the temptation to get that little extra peek into the happenings, and for the cameraman to move to a more vantage point compared to the others. In spite of the security restrictions. There was a temptation to get to the terrorists if they could, to get a scoop of a story in terms of the persons responsible for it, etc.

I was following the events, essentially on two channels. For a long time, I followed it on CNN-IBN. Over the years, one has generated some respect for Rajdeep Sardesai, and for regular viewing, this channel had become the default news source for me. So it was the channel that I kept watching for a long time, when the events erupted.
Prior to CNN-IBN, the favorite used to be NDTV. But this time around, due to recent habit, I continued to stay with CNN-IBN.

Till one evening, I turned to NDTV, just to see if they had anything different to offer. And I was amazed. I think NDTV, and especially Barkha Dutt and Sreenivasan, take reporting to a different level altogether. Their coverage was a clear notch above that of CNN-IBN. For one, Barkha manages to cut across layers, and gets interviews and soundbytes, where others are unable to. Secondly, she has amazing energy. She moves from place to place herself, gives a variety of perspectives, get the camera to go to different angles or different views, and in short, unleashes some great reporting for the benefit of viewers. Both she and Sreenivasan have excellent reactions, they gauge the situation well, ensure that politicians do not go into drivel. Besides that, they are also very concerned about the responsibility that they carry as a broadcast medium, and ensure that no randomness is picked up or pushed out through their channel.

In short, they provided some great coverage.

I tried Times Now briefly, and it seemed fine. The clout of the Times group was also enabling them to get some good insights including pictures and video coverage.

The defaulters who ran away with speculative stories, were the usual suspects, viz. India TV and Aaj Tak, although I did not really follow either of them closely. This conclusion is drawn from what others have shared about the two channels.

Its easy to be a great channel, with some principled reporting during normal days. It’s a crisis of this kind that really tests your resolve. I think NDTV sailed through the crisis well.

The citizens’ voice has never been heard louder than on this occasion. And the citizens are also, more or less, speaking in a common voice. Their anger is directed to the same one direction. And some results are there for us to see. And with the relentless focus of the citizen groups that have emerged, more action will be taken. It appears that for once, the government cannot sit on proposals, cannot wait endlessly.

So what was different about this time than before? Was it just that last straw that broke the camel’s back, or was it something else?

Cruel as it sounds, I think the terrrorists may have actually done India a favor by targeting the targets that they did. Surely, I do not belittle the losses of life at these luxury hotels, but I am viewing this from another perspective.

NEVER before had the rich and famous gotten so close to terrorist mayhem in India. The earlier occasions were all in crowded places, where the common man was to be found. In markets, on railway platforms, in buses. Even when the Mumbai blasts happened and places like Zaveri Bazaar and the Stock Exchange were targetted, it was still the sub-brokers and the day traders who got hurt and not so much, the business owners. Maybe a one-off case of a mid-sized business owner might have been there.

This time around, the people who have got hurt or killed in the 5-star hotels, other than the hotel staff, have ALL been a high profile category. Bank chieftains, eminent lawyers, large business owners, etc.

This has been a huge wake up call for the elite of the city.

When blasts happened at Ghatkopar or Mulund or even at the Gateway, it was still something to chat about, but for all practical purposes, the blast might as well have been at Malegaon or Jaipur or Bangkok, as far as the glitterati of the society are concerned.

This time, their comfort zone is broken through.

That terror could reach the plush comfort of their favorite hotels has shaken them up. Would a Simi Garewal have been so angry earlier? Would a Milind Deora openly taken on the CM, Dy CM and others earlier? Shobha De and Rahul Bose have never minced words. But their ire was only sharper this time, and this time around, we expect them to carry on their tirade, since they have proclaimed that ‘enough is enough’.

When no politician was willing to come and face the angry crowds on “We, the People” (Barkha Dutt anchored program on NDTV), the only exception was Abhishek Sanghvi, spokesperson of Congress. He had a rough ride against the citizens’ anger. But he made a huge commitment in front of the TV audience. He talked about 4-5 very critical changes, which have been pending for many months / years, to take effect within the next 3-5 DAYS! Yes, DAYS. The kind of speed that you can never associate with anything that has government written on it.

And we are already seeing the urgency at Delhi. Manmohan and Sonia realize well that this time, there is no running away. No way to let public memory die down. Because it will not die down.

The events were tragic. But if they have put the entire country into positive action, there is hope for the future.

If there was any time when this phrase made famous by Obama, could also be used in context of Mumbai, then its NOW!

Can we come out of the mess that we find ourselves in?

Can we ensure that sanity is maintained and knee jerk outbursts do not put us into more chaos?

Can we show good-for-nothing politicians the door? Get them out??

Can we come up with worthwhile alternatives?

Can we get the city back in order?

Many more questions…. of this kind. Challenging us for what we are. Challenging our being, challenging our capabilities.

And the answer can only be one, “YES, WE CAN”.

For mere words to convert to action, and that also not action that is “high in the air” and which “someone else needs to do” (read politicians, policemen, security agencies, industrialists – in short, everyone other than oneself), a thought that I shared with few others on an email (most people were from online businesses) is reproduced below:


It will only be repetitive to state that its been the most painful
experience of life, even at a distance. That something of this kind
could happen to our city is shocking. But as I said, that would be
repeating things.

Here is a specific thought though:
1. Till date, we have been stuck with these as***les of politicians,
simply because it was not possible for a good alternative candidate to
make any kind of decent penetration. To go from door to door, muster up
support, generate a following.. it all seemed impossible to do. When up
against old time penetrations of the party, and the ways and means that
they have followed to generate their so-called support bases.

2.But its a different world today. An online, connected world. One where
you do not need to go from door to door to get your point across. One
where a message can have a viral movement and a following can be built.

3. We might have just hit the tipping point on the online viral push of
messages - Facebook, Twitter, blog postings, emails of this kind are
evidence of that fact - with this incident.

4. On this mail list, we have people who have managed to get their
brands and businesses inside large number of homes in the country. They
know how it's done. Till date, this knowledge has been used to pursue a
commercial motive related to their business.

So here's the opportunity then! Can some of these leaders of the online
world, get together, along with other management experts, technocrats
and the like. And plan out a strategy, perhaps even a clear alternative
(if not for all the constituencies of the country, begin with a few; a
start has to be made somewhere, and any small penetration will put the
current lot of politicians on high alert), and then generate a clear
online campaign (with some offline support) and convert all these well
sounding words into action??

To borrow a phrase that became very popular recently, "Yes, We Can!".