Saturday, December 31, 2011

The TCS Decoded

At the evening of year 2011,its hard to say whether the whole year should be considered splendid or squalor,but reasons are yet ample to redeem few harshness and rising to normalcy.Ofcourse, there we will found the best way for humanity; I am not over cheering but also not less than sanguine for new sure,many thing will be up to the mark this year.Best wishes to you and for yours in 2012.. :)

Book Review: Non-fiction/Memoir,The TCS Story by S.Ramadorai, Penguin/2011, 287 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The humble admittance of S.Ramadorai for being less expressive and an unplanned writer augurs well. Like an efficient professional and unintended writer, he keeps progressing with neutrality in the initial pages of his autobiography, The TCS Story. Henceforth, the narration drives in rhythm once the TCS story enters in his present cognition. When someone’s occupation started routing the fore, things take place in different resolution. Author himself being one of the catalysts of India’s new economy could easily relate his own progress across the ladder with the changing developmental landscape of this nation. His rise or TATA’s rise simply reminds the progress, India has made over the years. But neither this book, nor any other inserted views from outside would falsify, that the progress of nation is below the potential?

TATA is a big brand or even more than only a brand tag, it’s the height of India’s entrepreneurial drive. India’s largest business conglomerates so motto, “leadership with trust “is justified throughout its long course of existence in the diverse domains. The nationalist legacy of the two great business leaders, Jamshetjee Tata and J.R.D Tata’s has still not come to halt in different companies of TATA group. Much before the philanthropy stuck western world, first as fashion and later as profitable holy business, founder of TATA used to return the two third of his earnings to the nation. Numbers of the institutions made by TATA like, TIFR, TISS, IISc or the city of Jamshedpur simply reminds the essentiality and scope of sustainable business in longer course. Author of this book, as the founding member of TCS has lived those ideals and that’s easily evident through his honest conviction in writing and undoubtedly through his professional ethics, which have been shaping this company very well in decades.

This alumnus of Delhi University, IISc and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) had sailed against the stream to join TATA at much lower compensation, and then the USA used to be the dream place for every technical aspirant. But as he admits, that was a conscious decision for making not only a career but a purposeful career. Like a typical Tambramh, his Civil Servant father entrusted within him the importance of frugality and keeping ones greed at toe, which made a perfect metamorphosis possible. The TCS Story, is not merely confined with the success sagas of India’s biggest IT Company but it in parallel, encompasses the nuanced views on external factors that have been influencing the growth of this enterprise. Reading this book enables a reader, to know the functional intricacies of software business and in particular, the successful journey of India in this domain.

TCS was founded in 1968 and it touched the $1billion mark only after thirty five years of long struggle in 2003, next year it went for IPO and rest is the history, how this company has maximized its worth to six fold in last seven years. Fortunately, more or less, same remained the case with other Indian IT companies as well. Despite facing the ire of recessions and consequently the major alteration in services demand from the offshore client, they have somehow managed to keep the growth momentum intact. Reason is obvious of comparatively stable doing of Indian IT companies, till now; they have been indeed running by the ethical business leaders barring exception of Satyam. But it’s also possibly the best case of scam management anywhere in the world; once a beleaguered company is again in the sound race; all credit should goes to the finest infusion of corporate governance and timely interference of government!

The business leaders in IT domain have emerged through the scratches and the way once TCS/Infosys have started were not very much different from the startup in SMEs. There were all hurdles and few respite for working in relax for the early IT guys. Regulatory interference was the major killing force for its genuine bloom till 1990’s;second major blockades were coming from the slow technical advancement and especially the snail’s pace of its sharing from the western innovators. Under S.Ramadorai, first TCS and later other Indian companies acquired the basic transfer of tools, expertise and services demand from major western economies. Today, a company like TCS works in many areas including consultancy, date centers etc but never to forget, the rise of this industry is one of the satisfying outcome India’s ushering into reform era. N.Narayanmurthy always says this and Ramadorai has also referred this, though implicitly throughout the book.

Those who also know, S.Ramadorai outside of the scenic TCS house, equally give him fine credit for his humane gesture and extraordinary zeal for pursuing ethical business. He has been living a simple life but rose to uncommonness; similarly he remained under promised but ended high delivered. What else could be more rewarding for a gentle professional? This book will inspire the aspirants of different profession and also those, who have entrepreneurial leaning. In short, this work is a full proof of excellence and India’s different realities!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 31, 2011, Saturday, New Delhi

Friday, December 30, 2011

Jobs,was up to the mark?

Book Review: Biography/Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Hachette India/2011, 630 pp; Rs799 (Hardback)
The biography by Walter Isaacson on Steve Jobs is indeed a work of details. Departure of Steve was painful, including for those who never ever used any of APPLE products but have bearing with the innovation of control and perfect design for that Steve was popular and hyped. Steve spent fifty-five years on earth, of which fourty-two years of working life across the ladders and boards. Walter Isaacson’s biography carries almost all the mentionable things related to his personal life and unprecedented success in the world of technological innovation. For passive reading, this biography stands fine and fulfills the basic curiosity of readers who want to know the story of a successful man, who was once deserted by his own parents, brought up by foster parents but more caring than real one, a drop out, a humble starter from garage but rose to rank where sometime his company’s fortune in the American banks was ahead of U.S government!

It’s also true that a biography can’t be totally free from good or bad preoccupations. That intrinsic weakness also very much inflicts this book and Walter Isaacson, seems alienated from his author’s profile for persuading readers to acknowledge every functional characteristics of Steve’ as acts of virtue. That leaves extraneous and flawed impression, is probably not very distinct from the friendly American media which always projected Steve as evangelist and his products as symbol of successful life. Those all claims if accumulated and judged, would be come up as classis bunch of exaggeration, with little or no merits. In proper assessment, Steve could be recalled as an extraordinary technical mind with amazing quality of learning, copying and then its untemprable execution barring exception.

He learned lot about the electronic circuits from his father and later during internship in Hewitt-Packard at the age of thirteen which ahead proved fateful. The best thing was with him, he could catch workable ideas even from the trash. Instead spending time on listening stodgy lectures at university, he opted to search precious books and electronic equipments from second hand and grey markets, all those bonhomie played formidable role in his shaping which were humane and fallible, against the popular myths about him. Search for commandable ideas had remained his keen pastime, and his visit to India as teenager was one among the early assertions of those incessant quest. Much before he felt the influence of Gandhi on his leaning for peace and simplicity, he spent few months in Haridwar and other calm Himalayan townships for knowing the essence of frugality and ofcourse his efforts were not for knowing the core of Indian spiritualism. In this book, Walter Isaacson should have recalled Haridwar as north Indian town instead what written on the pages as “west India town”, besides he could stop hyperbole views regarding Steve’s over attachment to an unknown Yogi, about him there is even feeble trace among Indians!

In late 1970’s, an ordinary garage of his father was chosen by Steve and cofounder Wozoniak as the birthplace of APPLE. Idea of name was not generated from the namesake fruit, with Steve remained faithful throughout life but from APPLE Corp, for which, he had to fight a long battle which he succeeded to command at last. The major breakthrough came with APPLE, once it awarded collaboration with XEROX, and then this company was getting closer to produce world’s first personal computer without the hassled essentiality of complex operating system. The bright brains of APPLE stolen those noble concept and also the competent engineers from XEROX and further left the company off from computer manufacturing. Today, we all know XEROX as manufacturer of photocopy machine, hadn’t Steve dealt with them, today the technical scene would have much nobler and decent for XEROX and mass consumers. APPLE used those expertises for making its first computer, LISA; which was named after Steve’s daughter from his girl friend, whom he never treated properly except in the evening of life. APPLE’s next product, Macintosh in 1984 generated huge attention worldwide, but this time stolen expertise of Steve was unethically drained by Microsoft and since then, Operating System became synonymous with Windows and hostility in business between APPLE-Microsoft. Book gives subtler explanation of these events and how the Steve’s downfall started tinkling around 1986.

He had to leave apple this year, after falling in row with his once confident turned super rival, John Sculley. That was wrong happened with the founder of APPLE, but similar happened with his core team members as well by his decisions in past, so it’s better if his forced ousting understood as manifestation of existing subhuman work culture in APPLE and other corporate. He left the company after retaining only one share to attend the shareholders meeting. Henceforth, he relied on Nietzsche’s quotation “The spirit now wills his own will, and he who had been lost to the world now conquers the world” and these lines were completely justified when Steve was back at APPLE in 1997 to revive its fortune. In the meantime, his original entrepreneurship grew up with his ventures, NeXT and Pixer; these ten years should be considered as peak of Steve’s genuine instinctive merit.

Once back at APPLE, he not only regained his lost position but he overachieved the command in second stint. In product innovation too, the last fifteen years were satisfactory for him; he came out with Ipod, Ibook, Iphone etc, which are one among the best gadgets if not the best itself. Steve was essentially a man for class, his product reveals it; he always disliked journeys through commercial flights though it’s also true he was a perfectionist who didn’t have any furniture in his room, because he couldn’t found a proper match. The good thing with him, he stood with high quality products, bad side remained his aversion to make APPLE products peoples friendly. This biography could be essential read for tech enthusiasts and also for those stands with business as creative profession. Steve’s consciousness was never determined through his material beingness, same he thought for his targeted consumers…he was up to the mark or not, rests on us to decide!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 30, 2011, Friday, New Delhi

MSMEs financing bottlenecks!

The markets are in jittery, and for valid reasons. The rupee has hit an all-time low of 53 and macroeconomic indicators of the economy are sagging. Industrial production is on a downward spiral. Policymaking is ground to an apparent halt, and the rollback of the decision to open up multi-brand retail has sapped investor confidence. The negative growth registered in industrial production in October, a sharp 5.1% decline, and shows that industrial productivity is slowing far more rapidly than expected.

All these pose greater risks for overall economic growth in 2011-12, already watered down to 7.6%, with further downward revision on the cards. For now, slowdown worries take their toll on capital goods and companies stocks. Its impact is going to be more severe on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), which have been already running through bad time a rough patch, affected with huge financing gap and consistent decline in global demand for their products.

Despite being hamstrung by these, MSMEs rely on open market for their business finance, as internal mobilisation through informal sources makes the business more vulnerable. Though the socioeconomic importance of MSMEs is well recognised in academic and policy circles, they are starved of funds, with little interest shown by institutional investors. The priority sector lending policy outlines that 40%of net bank credit of public and private sector banks must be earmarked for those sectors, which include MSMEs. The policy stipulates 32%of net bank credit of foreign banks for the priority sectors, of which 10%is allocated to MSMEs. But barring regional rural banks, how many banks comply with this criterion? In the absence of proper channelisation, the mandated allocation hardly makes a difference to the business of the firms get financed by them.

Here, it’s imperative to keep in mind that the MSME sector is not homogenous, but is constituted by three different sub-sectors. These sub-sectors need to be serviced separately. For micro enterprises, access to credit is priority. For small enterprises, access to credit is relatively easy, though limited, and therefore remains important along with cost. For medium enterprises, access to institutional finance is easy though the cost incurred on credit is quite high. Collateral based lending offered by banks and financing companies is normally made up of a combination of asset-based finance, contribution-based finance and factoring-based finance using reliable debtors and guarantors. Substantial numbers of MSMEs are falling short on collateralised security needed for bank loans, and lack the prospect of high returns to attract formal venture capitalists and other risk investors like private equity funds. Moreover, market is also suffering from deficient information, diluting the effectiveness of financial statement based lending and credit scoring.

The sector expects that the government will take the decision to earmark 20%share in public procurement (wherein it will procure 25-30%of its needs from MSMEs), a proposal which is hanging fire for quite some time. Anil Bhardwaj, secretary-general of Federation on Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (FISME), observes that “this will work as lifeline in ongoing slowdown. To ramp exports, FISME has suggested the need to take up export promotion in urgency to enhance MSME participation in export from 0.5% to 5% in next 10 years”. For this to happen, the prevailing support mechanism, which heavily rely on Export Promotion Council for exposing MSME s to export market, has to be discarded. FISME also has valid reasons to criticise the RBI’s indifferent approach on MSME finance, but their demand for separate financial regulator for MSME seems not practical. Because, it alone wouldn’t ensure the micro centric approaches of new regulator on these small businesses, also after a certain point, policy must be shaped with optmising the interests of industries involved and its end consumers. So, basic idea should be at the ground to address the odds, which restraining the finances of this segment of industries.

James Carville, who advised US President Bill Clinton, once remarked that for being ecstatic on bond markets, “I used to think that if there was reincarnation, I wanted to comeback as President or the Pope or as a 400 baseball hitter. But now I would like to come as bond market, you can intimidate anybody.” Such is the negativism about the bond market even in western economies, but surprisingly that hardly directs the saving towards financing MSMEs worldwide.

Venture capital, as financial intermediary, also not providing viability to MSMEs for better engagement; the basic proposition could be found through their working model, that being able to secure finance is critical and most difficult for any business. It’s applicable to startups seeking venture fund or mid-size companies that need cash to grow up. So venture capital is most suitable for business with large up-front capital requirements which can’t be financed by cheaper alternative such as debt. Another financing option, private equity shows explicit interest s in typical leveraged transaction, where it buys majority control of a growing or mature firm. This works different from a venture capital or growth capital investment fund in which the investors invest in young business and rarely bids for decisive control. Beyond these lesser suitable options, bank remains the most appropriate route for bridging the gap of financing for MSMEs. So, it’s essential, bank come forward for effective partnership with MSMEs which is the engine of growth.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 15, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi

A Route Less Travelled

Book Review: Creating Risk Capital by Ian Whalley,Vision Books/Business , 222 pp; Rs495 (Paperback)

Peter Drucker said "Because of its purpose is to create a customer, the business has two and only two functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results. All the rest are costs". The idea holds true, once we think on the potential risk capital; investment funds allocated to startup firms with potential is primarily procured through the combined strategies of marketing and innovation.

In Creating Risk Capital, Ian Whalley strengthens the case for royalty funding as a financial solution for the ownership of an enterprise. The idea of the royalty fund however remains an elusive even after one has read the book. To postulate an explanation, the royalty fund exists as an alternative to traditional systems of borrowing — bank loans, venture capital, private equity — that allows risk finance to be raised without compromising on ownership or control of the firm/startup. This method of funding is grounded in licensing wherein enterprises pay for the invested risk capital by means of royalties on the sales revenues they achieve, instead of becoming debtors or partners to those who provide funds. The author's arguments offer an unclear explanation on the functioning and benefits of this innovative model of risk capital formation. Whalley declares that, "Licensing will be the cornerstone of the royalty funding system...It involves the granting of permission by the owner of a property to another party, allowing the later to make use it "again appears too much formal and further this quote "royalty funding is a form of risk capital, but it is not the equity or owner ship capital which is risk capital in its classic form," which only adds to the ambiguity.

The next complication arises from the fund's narrow focus on areas of business; the royalty fund essentially targets specialised businesses and also follows a very technical line of project hunt. Hence, its suitability for small and medium business as an option for risk capital option dwindles. Moreover, big businesses hardly need the royalty fund, so is the case with mid size ventures that have easy access to reasonable debt or the option of going for public listing. It is important to realise that unlike the saturated markets of Europe, businesses in emerging markets will certainly opt for other routes of financing risk capital rather than falling into the vicious trap of permanent sharing their earning owing to royalty funds. Royalty funds function with the motive of acquiring maximum, stable earnings throughout the span of any business. Where the market is dynamic, there would be feeble chances of this untested innovative model to succeed. In this context, the book fails to explain the diversities of business and the specificities of various markets accordingly.

There have been very few books that address the issue of risk capital, thus the basic contention of the book is important. The first two parts of the book, however, reproduce textual basics of financial management, which can generally expected of management students to who are necessarily acquainted with the world of finance. Even for the general enthusiast, this book creates little value with its excessive emphasis on conceptual details as opposed to context specific examples which would have proven to be more useful. The other big impediment lies in the author's point of view where he (somewhat erroneously) uses the UK business model as a universal system of business planning and ownership. It is only in the third and final section of the book that Whalley provides some workable insights on the subject of royalty capital much to the reader's solace.

With regard to the Indian economy, it is imperative to keep in mind that the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector not homogenous, but comprises three different sub-sectors. These sub-sectors need to be serviced separately. For micro enterprises, access to credit is priority. For small enterprises, access to credit is relatively easy, though limited, and therefore remains important along with cost. For medium enterprises, access to institutional finance is easy though the cost incurred on credit is quite high. In the present scenario, collateral based lending offered by banks and financing companies is normally made up of a combination of asset-based finance, contribution-based finance and factoring-based finance using reliable debtors and guarantors. Substantial numbers of MSMEs are falling short on collateralised security needed for bank loans, and lack the prospect of high returns to attract formal venture capitalists and other risk investors like private equity funds. So, there is potential for experimentation from banks in order to find a niche as the source of risk capital.

Beyond banking sources, there are only a few options left for funding small and medium businesses. Venture capital, as financial intermediary, does not providing viability to SMEs. The process of securing finance is critical and most difficult for any business. It’s applicable to startups seeking VC funds or mid-size companies that need cash to grow. So venture capital is most suitable for business with large up-front capital requirements which can’t be financed by cheaper alternative such as debt. Another financing option, private equity shows explicit interest s in typical leveraged transaction, where it buys majority control of a growing or mature firm. This works differently from a venture capital or growth capital investment fund where investors invest in young business and rarely bid for decisive control. Therefore, this is equally afflicted by the syndrome of permanent sharing of profits like royalty fund, and hence stood little chances for sustainable business, if taking things straight. Beyond these lesser suitable options, banks remain the most viable option but though a lot of change is required in their procedures and composition of providing futuristic risk capital products. While the right kind of financial innovation is needed, following the route of the royalty fund, a somewhat exotic source of risk capital seems like chasing a will-of-the-wisp and that ends up nowhere.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 29, 2011, Thursday
(Published in Business World,January 31, 2012/ )

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Editor's First Draft!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Memoir, Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, Penguin/2011, 325 pp; Rs499 (Hardback)
The first generic view comes with reading Lucknow Boys is like passing through an unedited first draft. But the moment we realised, it’s written by India’s most charismatic editor, Vinod Mehta who always ran against the stream and set his own benchmark in journalism, the respect for author’s candidness grows manifold. A child born in the fateful decades of 1940’s, graduated from Lucknow University in third class and touched the land of UK, not for being the part of elitist Ox-Bridge but to sustain on menial industrial occupation. When the world was troubled in 1960’s, young Mehta was solemnly adjoining with cosmopolitanism…after difficult eight years in London (including break up with Swiss girlfriend), he came to India with added personal qualities but notwithstanding any big accomplishments.

After spending time with making Rogan josh at home and roving with dear friends, which were retrieval exercises of old routine, he moved to Bombay for editing a skin or nefarious magazine at that time, Debonair. In the dry and unhappening world of journalism, even this chance was a serious offer…here the life of an editor begun and rest we know today, how this man shaped the publications like Sunday Observer, The Indian Post, Independent, The Pioneer and lastly Outlook-all standard journalism. In the initial days, he filled the pages of Debonair with all sincerity before engaging the doyens in pseudo appearance as contributor. Today, it will shock many to know Kuldip Nayyar writing north Indian reports incognito in Debonair or Saeed Mirza’s intellectual tussle with the India’s all time best cinema director, Satyajit Ray. In the later days, his pastime for hosting rigorous intellectual confrontation remained hallmark…in Outlook; readers can easily recall the few among many rows, like between Ramchandra Guha-William Dalrymple, Pankaj Mishra-Premshankar Jha, Ramchandra Guha-Arundhati Roy. V.S.Naipual and Salman Rushdie too had mix time in Outlook despite their proximity with editor, he always let maximum chances of open debate instead of synchronizing it with narrow technicalities…and that’s the best quality with Mr.Mehta as an editor.

The early part of book opens Vinod Mehta’s fond memories of Lucknow as a child and teenager, which are lucid and frank. Portrayal of his family is equally honest and shows his own leaning for a good family life. But the characteristic sketches of his uncle-in-law Mohit Sen, his grandfather, renowned poet Raghubir Sahay “Firaq” and versatile actor Sanjeev Kumar are better if seen as an individual observation of author. He also presented the controversial stances as personal observation on Firaq and Sanjeev Kumar…so, here closes a quintessential drive of moralistic inquisition. Iconic journalist, Nikhil Chakravorty, about whom the author has high regards, has appeared in serendipity. That’s associated with the row over publication of excerpts of P.V.Narsimha Rao’s unpublished novel in Outlook…that created huge unease and surprisingly he sourced it through Nikhil Da over a lunch in Delhi’s Taj Man Singh hotel.

There are also many instances where the author has maintained love and hate relationship with the same person but mostly those ties were for journalistic compulsions rather for seeking any personal favour. Duality of his relations with NDA government and Atal Bihari Vajpayee rose to the level of income tax raid on Outlook office in Mumbai…but it took place only after the series of sting on the ministers which left maligning affects on Vajpayee government and lately pioneered the investigative journalism in India. In his career, he shattered many age old impressions about the people holding high offices and also inside the journalism; he stood high with spontaneous impulses. He made many journalists, founded and developed many institutions of repute and today naturally qualifies to stand as living legend in the Indian journalism. But all this came not without the rough patches in his career; it was not without reasons, why he still possesses the record of India’s most sacked editor of all time?

He is among those rare editors, who stood with principles while negotiating the shrewd terms-conditions of management. He left The Indian Post, Sunday Observer, Independent and lastly Pioneer for defending his rights as an editor. Those know his works are well acquainted with his zeal to produce unaltered story on any issue…he never let down himself before any political or management pressures. Ofcourse, he paid the price for it but at the evening of his career, today he has little to remorse about past. Sharad Pawar and Lalit Mohan Thapar’s combo could not lessen his flame for the right kind of journalism…still he is carrying daring stories in Outlook and his own impressions are far from being shifted as people’s editor. His autobiography is as much memorable as his time in journalism. Lucknow Boy will inspire aspiring journalists living in the nook and crannies of country, who really want to be change agents but will lend little hope for those tempting for a managerial kind of journalism. Personally, I strongly recommend this work and would count it among my best read in 2011.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 28, 2011, Wednesday, New Delhi

Nepal's Dooming Transition!

Book Review: Non-fiction/The Lives we have Lost by Manjushree Thapa, Penguin/2011, 266 pp; Rs350 (Paperback)
It’s completely puzzling to observe Nepal, till few years back, the only Hindu kingdom in the world still carrying the tracts of mysticism and secretive overplay within its public space. Since the wind of change directed for democracy in 1990, public information means got the much needed professionalisation but alas those were proved inadequate as the large chunk of population kept relying on the feudalistic attributes like “rumour”. But what the protests of 1990 importantly strengthened, the complete disillusion of masses from the continuing Panchayati system, a pseudo model of democracy. Then the monarch, King Birendra sensed the rising aspiration and affluence of the new educated intelligentsias and wisely absorbed the contemporary political demands in the mainframe of statecraft. This was indeed a commendable survival strategy for both the Monarchy and democratic movement.

Manjushree Thapa, writer and journalist of substance and international reach, represents that informed class with series of remarkable works on Nepal’s painful democratic transition and beyond. The author of very much unforgettable, Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy of Democracy, The Country is Yours, A Boy from Siklis: The life and Times of Chandra Gurung, Mushatang Bhot,The Tutor of History, Seasons of Flight, Tilled Earth and now with an anthology of her essays, “The lives we have lost” exudes the concern she possessed for her native Himalayan state. Most of the twenty-nine essays in this collection were already appeared in the different newspapers/magazines across the world but its compilation allows now a greater sense to read all them in sequence. Its naturally appears enabling in confronting and understanding the complex political dynamicism inside the Nepal, until the end of monarchy in 2008.

Manjushree deserves all admiration for maintaining a principled stand against the institution of monarchy, which until the royal massacre in April 2001, used to be seen as the permanent holy manifestation. Manjushree hails from a top military family and her father was a serving minister and close rank to the King Gyanendra, but she stood with the time that was leading a different fateful course. In such circumstances, her resistance to the unnatural royal successor, following the mysterious royal massacre is the solid proof of Nepal’s growing impulses for democracy. Indeed that’s a positive sign amidst the ongoing flux in political circle. She has beautifully presented the parallel developments in democratic movement since 1990 along with inconsistent responses from monarchy over the changing times. Her focus on insincerity of Gyanendra in controlling the situation post 2001 reveals the self destroying elements within monarchy, which certainly grew only after the takeover of throne by the most notorious and unworthy successor of Shah Dynasty!

Throughout the rich histories of South Asia, Nepal remained cornered except actively reciprocating in the two base areas-religion and ideologies. Rest, its diverse ethnic and caste communities are still unexplored and normally throw bewilderment for an enthusiast while being in search of perfect knowledge about the antiquities of these communities. This is partly because of non-interference from Western imperialists in the 19th and 20th centuries. By its effect, while the new genre of English educated middle class emerged in India and stepped ahead for self rule, Nepal remained a feudal country under the canopy of superficially commanded “quintessential monarchy”. Anyhow, Nepal did catch the modernisation in 1950’s through the effects of new educated class who were in close touch with the changes inside India and even participated in the India’s struggle for independence against the tyrannical British rule. Ofcourse Koirala’s were the prime mover of those new trends but millions others too joined the league soon, which paved the way for essential radicalization that finally lead to the limited democracy in terms of Panchayati system executed by the King Mahendra.

Subsequently, in the 1990’s, India ushered towards the liberalisation regime but not without the acute antagonism from the substantial ultra left forces. Infact, those were the gulfs of chronic socio-economic disparities, failed to found the new way around in democracy. Although on Indian scale, Nepal couldn’t integrate itself with the global economy but its middle class started to be denounced by the Maoists as “comprador capitalists” after the phenomenon rise of Maoists in mid 1990’s as ultra and later as democratic force in Nepal’s politics. That added a new twist in the hitherto bipolar power division in the nation...barring Maoists, there were feeble ideological contradictions among the major Nepali political parties. The top leadership of these parties was mostly constituted through the upper castes but the sudden claim of Maoists in the power circle, originated a different discourse for democracy that was stricter and poised to dethrone the most explicit class enemy-“the institution of Monarchy”. The sudden shift in national politics tolled high on the lives of ordinary citizens, most of them were died cold blooded and without being the part of activism.

The initial years of Maoists were full with the outrageous crimes. The rule of Gyanendra further supplemented the violence, and rest political parties spoiled their time in mutely staring the open failure of civic life for a decade. The twists and turns also compelled India to follow a much nuanced approach in Nepal’s internal matters…at the time of transition; a constructive and non-interfering role from India should be seen in proper light and without getting it stretched in awkward zone. By locating herself in centre, Manjushree provides the candid picture of those uncertain times where to form a stable stand against the Monarchy was not without inviting grave risks. But among those who succeeded in this way, author was one among them. Her consistent anti-Monarchy stand remained continue from both the Kathmandu and Delhi…as always, Delhi given the ample space of expression for the restoration of peace and normalcy in Nepal. Manjushree’s nostalgic recalling of her Delhi’s days and the supports she got from her journalists friends simply reminds the unaltered concern of Indian’s for their most confidant neighbour.

The last essay of book “In our House “, is written with great sense of attachment for legacies left by the Monarchy. Few pages found caliber in meticulously recalling the Nepal’s Monarchy in flashback. There is also sign of certain losses felt by a big population of Nepal and the question simply can’t be ruled out, whether King Birendra could met with the similar fate like of undeserving Gyanendra? Ofcourse situation would have different today, even the most overt critic of Monarchy, realizing now the merits of King Birendra. It’s essential however to not confuse his popularity with any other man of royal family. After a long row of power tussle, none the other than Maoist chief Pushpa Kumar Dahal “Prachanda” admitted the scope of symbolic Monarchy but the time is passed now as the real Monarchy ended with the massacre of 2001 and King Birendra. This book would be worthwhile for every enthusiast on Nepal and like before, they may find the well intentioned writings of Manjushree streamlining the memories and emotions to a right end. As Nepal is now on a steady but stable path of complete multi-party democracy, so looking back towards history will be vital…”The Lives we have Lost” is a step forward in this way…!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 27, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi

Monday, December 26, 2011

Junkable Jihads!

Book Review: Non-fiction/Jihad on two fronts by Dilip Hiro, Harper Collins/2011, 443 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
The Cambridge economist Joan Robinson’s remarkable quote on India “whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true” is worth of amplification in the context of south Asia as well which exudes the wider political/historical shadow of India’s influence in the past and substantially of present. This book closely justifies this timeless observation, equally after putting it into strategic domain. Like many recent accounts of the south Asia’s strategic scenario, Dilip Hiro’s book is overwhelmed with the mythical faith over the much chronicled details of twin disturbing fronts, Pakistan and Afghanistan and their umpteenth adverse marks on India. Thus, extraneous primary details leave here the reasons of bliss for occasional enthusiast on India’s strategic standing in the neighbourhood, but mostly deject the readers with eagle eyes on strategic dynamics.

There is something very retro and repetitive about his over emphasised themes that over the years have shattered the chances of peace in India. Certainly he didn’t need a different angle for reaching to the derivation, blossoming and crest status of Jihad, but in narration, he must have tried to differ from the newspapers honchos who are on daily basis feeding not only the instant curiosity but also the sound inquisitors. Incessant meticulous research of Praveen Swami, C.Rajamohan and few others gives easy access to firsthand expert observation on the entire construct, function and proliferation of Jihad powerhouses in India’s historically maligned North West frontiers and in its greater spread. So, the stories of General Zia, India-Israel relations, Cold war nostalgia or dangerously rising wave of fundamentalism inside India’s territory not simply could be the proud possession for concerned readers without adding something noticeable or subtracting even the tints of irrationalities and misconceived observations!

In plain terms, it’s essential for every south Asia expert to realise the absence of steady pleasures and narrowness of crystalline vision while getting fixed with the crucial issues of this region. Expressions are better if they are weak in pedagogy and attached with the subjects, which indeed assist author to concentrate on geopolitical sagas rather keep falling in the waves of unrealistic reprisals. Exposure to raw actuality rather the paper bounded wisdom gives better leeway to align with an absorbing and purposeful work. Here, this gain is nowhere in the sight, that would make many remorseful after spending hours reading hundreds of pages. Fresh way of looking at people, landscape and architecture of terror are more vital today than a conceited effort based only on surpassable details and its over stretching to the level of desperation. A plank to confide on interlude for regenerating appropriate intellectual impulses is very much desirable at this time, when strategic policy debates are increasingly being threatened with the saturation from “awkward running commentary “where no end appears visible in parallel sight.

Not estrangement or preoccupied perspective could be the driving force in reckoning the existing happenings that severely affecting India’s strategic normalcy…an engaging, if not an insider’s frame of mind is an unspecified prerequisite in this regard. An engaging visit to troubled regions like, Kashmir bring face-to-face with the brutality of Jihad and reach of dangerous nasty plots. Equally, it enables in knowing India’s response against the Pakistan sponsored terror network in its territory. The basic point arises here, whether India should continue the traumatic status quo in Kashmir or come with the conclusive steps without acknowledging the roles of wicked third party/Pakistan? Dilip Hiro falls short in taking into account, the basic bone of contentions. With his long journalistic experiences, he would have appealing, had he could elaborate India’s rising position in the world, which is simply unmatchable with its counterpart, Pakistan or the forces engaged in proxy and direct war-game of Jihad.

The wider look allows sorting out few misgivings regarding the view that “Jihad is politically motivated fundamentalism rather merely a fundamentalist assertion”. The political aim of fundamentalism could be understood with its potential tantamount on the normal humanity, where history resides in the minds for few strict purposes and ofcourse not for inserting any unrealistic antagonism among the living communities. There is dearth of constructive works on this particular malady, above journalistic production that could streamline the missing links. This book too appears on backfoot in this regard but still could enlighten many who are perceptively short with the historical background of violence in Indian sub-continent and its perpetual growth over the decades. Experts will miss their chronic searches of any constructive model of solution within the book, though elementary readers would be benefitted by Dilip Hiro’s labour of love for details. Moreover, Junkable Jihads have short lives and few takers beyond the rogue state’s compulsions and bewildering bookaohlic debates, which are lucid from the recent developments and this scenario, would be strengthened more in the days to come!

Atul Kumar Thakur
December 26, 2011, Monday, New Delhi

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The war of water!

Book Review: Diplomacy/Water: Asia’s new battleground by Brahma Chellaney, Harper Collins/2011, 386 pp; Rs699 (Hardback)
Water in ambit of serious diplomacy is a new arrival. As part of many international disputes, including of west Asia, water holds an inescapable centrality. Though in proper intellectual debates, mostly the concerned issues have been harshly marginalized. Brahma Chellaney, an strategist of repute with deep concern for flawed water management has come out with a very sensible work. He has succeed well to present the center as China and periphery as south Asian nations while leading the debate on water issues that largely shapes the international relations of these participants.

The deep search on the historical transformation of China from a shy water conserver to an overgrown infrastructure builder on water management leads the debate to a broader scale. At the beginning of Mao’s rule, China had only twenty five dams which grew one thousand times in last six decades. Its political/economic gain in Tibetan region keeping China more proactive, even the persisting discomfiture from India seems hardly making any impact on China. That is indeed a blunt assertion of denying any meaningful bilateral or regional co-operation and pursuing opportunist planks which are leaving extraneous negative effects on key environmental issues including water.

The title of book exactly justifies the apprehensions that have directed after reckoning the odds lying in future. Further, the sharp edge of analysis gives reader of this book a clear understanding, how artificially India and Pakistan are maintaining the deficiency of water consumption. Case was entirely different before the surge of heavy industrialization in mid twentieth century which altered the contemporary scene and replaces further it with a wayward dynamicism. India, along with Nepal and Pakistan have been forced for victimization by the obstinate stand of China and chances are still feeble that China would ever stop its claim for extra water sharing from the rivers originates in its command areas and flows in the south Asian nations.

Water is one among crucial factors that could have been the basis of unflinching support among the Asian countries but alas, the continuances of irrational choices are blurring the possibility of well woven and durable Asian fraternity. Central and south Asia are grappling with their own technical complexities and keeping aside any streamlining procedures in neighborhood. Same blockades are going on here; Mr. Chellaney has tried skillfully here to decipher some of the main constituents of disputes.

Book also covers the India’s bilateral position in water sharing with Pakistan and Bangladesh quite meticulously though on Nepal, more concentration would have a perfect boon. The perennial destruction through floods that India has been sharing for long with Nepal has lot to do with the denial of reformed water sharing between two nations in diplomatic relations. Here, the need is for closer examination, why India-Nepal is lacking co-operation on a pragmatic water sharing model which could assist millions of lives in north Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and in Terain region of Nepal out of slapped misery. Overall, this book is an essential read for serious readers with expanded interests of environmental diplomacy.
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 11, 2011, Sunday, New Delhi

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Lost American dreams!

Book Review: Current affairs/That used to be US by Thomas.L.Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, Hachette India/2011, 380 pp; Rs599 (Hardback)
World is still not noticing the fading shine of U.S, this is being realised and expressed only through the growing anxiety of insecure future among the mass people and policy makers of U.S. In its idea and shape, this book seems a prolonging exercise of similar mental state, in which Barack Obama saw Bangalore as “buffalo” and Indian youth amazingly competitive over the lazy generation of his own country. He feared, new generation lacks the very strong “U.S exceptionalism” that once made this nation a dreaming land full with unprecedented potential.

In the last six years, since Thomas Friedman had written the bestselling book “The world is flat”, one and half recession (one complete, other is in progress…) and two ultra damaging wars has badly trembled the strong core of nation-materialism. If co-author, Michael Mandelbaum is a man with academic temperament, Friedman stands opposite with his natural flamboyance that has been shaping over the years his hyperbole views in New York Times columns. Though, as a sensitive man, he could sense the shrinking confidence of mass countryman for plethora of innovation which is good for nothing and is in process to endanger the leadership edge of U.S at major global platform. So, book look over the issues of concern without falling in the trap of popular sensationalism which earlier was the case with Friedman. Honest revelations of ground realities are the basic things that readers would enjoy reading throughout the book but only with patient mind and their own labour in decoding casual intents of the authors!

Within the civilised state, U.S has a very short history that can leave the themes for constructive discourses…until few years back, it was not a matter of concern but the same is not true now. The last lines of this book crave for history where the thinking mind of U.S could trace the lost dreams and an unwounded America. The subtle details of the book suggest that the way U.S is moving will be unsustainable in the medium or long term. Hence, both the leadership and its followers must have to be ready for action with well thought models instead luring by structured solutions bound to be doomed.

For the sake of U.S, it’s good if the world is still unaware of the crude facts, how much its artificial supremacy is under the strain and its hard struggle for retrieving its old edge on policy matters. Modesty of observation from outside remains something which U.S has been thoroughly enjoying and still appears its withering away a distant reality. With erotic opulence, it may be likely that U.S would continue its unjustified lead at the decisive global platform for some more years. Another positive factor for U.S is the failure of political of political polarization from the emerging economies and old power blocks including Russia. So, even in deep troubled water, U.S can sail its boat with shrewd skills its conscious applications.

Hope simply can’t be forced to out from normal affairs through reasons are ample to believe that unflat world is still intact and full with the frills. Time has indeed moved up and so are the discourses. Nice to see, with this book a new humble Friedman which he was certainly not during the high time when his world was irrationally flat and friendly!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December10,2011,Saturday,New Delhi

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A diary details

Book Review: Non-fiction/PORIBORTON by Ruchir Joshi, Harper Collins/2011, 162 pp; Rs199 (Paperback)
Those who read Telegraph know Ruchir as a column writer. But for others, his election diary/ PORIBORTON let a chance to read his casually written details of recently held Bengal assemble election.Ironically, this book captures more the subtle aspects of election days, rather producing anything practical about the political change recently happened in West Bengal that ended the historic dominance of the left front government from the state. Substantial chunk of the book has spent on notifying its readers how the permanent faces of TV talk show displayed their elitist background and illusionary command over Queen’s language. Why the empirical studies were not considered as base of this book is surprising…even in field trip, non-issues have prioritized over the vital public opinion. At first instance, this is disappointing and seems like a chance lost of reading something remarkable on West Bengal politics.

North Bengal is full with scenic beauties though also hold toughness inside it when it comes to politics. The winds blow there with unsatisfied gesture towards the politics from Calcutta where many chronic demands have piled up over the years. Among the many blunders, left front government did, was its inaction over the north Bengal proved fateful in its gradual receding of supports from this region. Second half of the book is little bit interesting but hardly insightful. Normally, what we could expect from a travelogue should not necessarily be part of a political reporting like this. But here, again political issues are in backyard and description of British made bungalows and defunct local leadership found premier attention. A scribe too has right to be naturalist but when working on an assignment of political nature, it’s desirable to have better say on original subjects.

Election reporting is quite established in India but its formalisation is still in nascent phase. Effort of Harper Collins is commendable; also relevant was the occasion but lack of sound field studies and failure to eternalise the actual scenario proves a major bottleneck. Though this innovative initiative has promising future indeed…in the days ahead, expert pshephologist as well as the journalist too will be enthusiastic in carrying out and prolonging of their election experiences into physical shape of book. As the most successful democracy, Indians genuinely enjoys the exercises of politics and it’s always full with responses, especially when someone writes over the related stories in authentic capacity.

Diary writing used to be an act of historiography, case of Anne Frank on German holocaust, Franz Kafka’s literary/political doubts or Nehru’s elegant political narration are some of the most living examples. These all peoples were remarkable in their own way and their elucidation of universal events added the much needed insights for knowing the contemporary time. Compilations of diary details or jottings have enough potential and collaboration with electoral experiences may be helpful in shaping it as a new discipline of writing.

As new arrival on this fresh theme, PORIBORTON will sure generate good readership for it and will also usher a culture of publishing the political reporting more active. This lead must be come from a democracy like ours…reckoning political processes will be always a boon!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 06, 2011, Tuesday, New Delhi

Monday, December 5, 2011

Unbankable realities!

Book Review: Fiction/The Suicide Banker by Puneet Gupta, Rupa Publications/2011, 279 pp; Rs195 {Paperback}
The modern corporate runs with uncertainty and asymmetrical rewards. Here, mind is bound to be in fear and counted on top from the bottom-line positions. In such unnatural scenarios, Marx again appears as wisest man with his immortal quote, “Material position determines ones being and not vice-versa”… that he referred for the peak of capitalism, there he could figure out the self destructing elements within this very unfair system. No doubt, we are living in a high time of capitalist supremacy where moral justification of any act considered as awkward tuning of moralistic running commentary.

This book is written by a person, who as insider of top shot banking knows the maligning corporate culture from close angles. His writing is shaped through realistic understanding and a self imposed ethical that makes his fictional debut a complete success. The Suicide Banker is endowed with the quality of flowing narratives and without subscribing any extra-curricular hitches of lingual over display. As the book has more closer affiliation to the realities rather with the aesthetics of puritan literature, so it seems good that both targeted and general readers will read this book with high proportional delight.

Fortunately, Puneet never went to any of Ivy League institutions, not even to IIMs itself though he burnt his midnight oil for a mythical MBA at less hyped academic place like Jammu, which made him a tough man rather a virulently mechanized manager with all greed and no senses. To an extent, his protagonist, Sumit resembles him with modest beginning but remarkable achievements ahead despite remaining at odd with fraudulent mass culture in his organisation. Within organisational limits, he follows the much essential conservatism with maintaining a righteous virtue that gathers a plethora of impulses finally destined to expose the fraudulent practices of banking sector and counter action in terms of empty policy follow-up. The inside gamut of frugal innovation that promotes the half-measured “Microfinance& Agribusiness banking” among the reckless private sector banks leaves nothing but horrific end for genuine stakeholders. Moreover, a stint with multilateral organisations often considered perfect for leadership position, which is simply a dangerous and unsustainable trend. For the nonsense flashes of power point slides, ambiguous model of Muhammad Yunus may be an easy available choice but lastly results imperfect in a not so wretched economy like India. Except Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and few Co-operative/Public Sector banks, Indian banks have to still learn the basic rural banking and compliance of constitutionally mandated Priority Sector Lending as very humane welfare gesture.

This novel also unconsciously carries the sociological investigations on family which is passing under the consistent stress amidst very unhygienic imbalance of work and family life. A short interlude of distraction and its ramification over protagonist’s familiar life shows the sinful lure of extended professional engagements and here finally ousting toward normalcy juxtaposes the prevailing practices but not totally uncalled off.

Lot of inferences could be drawn from The Suicide Banker, which will be of immense help for the aspiring and established finance professionals to find proper ground beneath their feet. This will be best out of this book, if few baseless macro policies too will be corrected out of sentimental overtures, though it sounds not less than hyperbole as the shackles of misdeeds are globally integrated and induce its all participant for a homogenous puppet living, without even a tint of remorse for their ethical winding up. Spirits of reform must be channelizing an atmosphere of sustainable business; unfortunately regulations are not properly addressing the challenges which are indeed very compelling and needed cure. Until that will happen, bad guys with altered professional dreams will be continuing with wining, dining and marrying Mary’s…only for few, it will be unbankable proposition!
Atul Kumar Thakur
December 05, 2011, Monday, New Delhi