Five very important things happened in the month of May for India. They have actually made an impact on our destiny. I will write just in a while about what those events are and how they affected India.

Two words seem to have become very popular in popular media: governance and leadership. From America to Greece to Venezuela to India, the big journalists that I know and the media that I read and watch seem to complain that the world faces a crisis of governance and leadership. Even during my recent trip to America, I sensed a public cry about great leadership. I think almost all of us will agree that there is indeed a crisis. People across continents are angry and the media is doing a wonderful job of highlighting that anger. Frankly, I am more concerned about India.

In my last editorial, I wrote that the Indian media seems to have forgotten its purpose and mission as the fourth pillar of our democracy. In fact, I often call it a demonocracy! But perhaps, it is also time to remember leadership… of the type that has vision... of the type that can inspire a whole nation and society... And of the type that leaves behind a lasting legacy.

So let me start with my May events. In 1964, our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru passed away. He ruled India for 17 years as the Prime Minister. In recent times, I have read many articles and scholarly papers that say Nehru was actually bad for India. I have stopped getting angry at these illiterate comments. I know Nehru was a human being, and I don’t buy the propaganda sold by some that Nehru was as good as God. But I laugh at people who criticize him commenting that he was bad for India. Do you think this stupid cartoon controversy would have taken up so much time of our Parliament if he was the Prime Minister? There is simply no doubt about this and we all must respect that Nehru was so popular that he could have become the dictator of India and the voters would have probably voted for it. He had big differences with India’s first President Rajendra Prasad and yet the issue never became ugly. His son-in-law Feroze Gandhi argued against him in the Parliament and exposed India’s first scam where a Finance Minister had to resign. I am sure Nehru must have been angry. But let us all applaud his leadership. Nehru had a vision for India. In some things, he did fail, like with the humiliating military defeat against China in 1962. But he was a leader and he took it on the chin without blaming others.   Read More....

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While the media demands special privileges because they claim that the press is the fourth pillar of Indian democracy and serves a national purpose, the sad reality, especially over the last two decades is, social conscience and pursuit of public good have been replaced by total commercialization of media. “As Rekha takes oath, the camera kept focussing on Jaya Bachchan’s priceless expressions”... Thus went the first few lines of articles on the first pages of all national dailies the day after Rekha took her oath in Rajya Sabha, and that is exactly what TV channels had done the day before! Add to that the shameless gossip about Amitabh and Rekha.What national purpose does this story serve? And that too as headlines in the front pages of respectable dailies? Or even as the key stories of TV channels? Yes, Rekha is a big star, and her swearing in makes news. But is this the way to cover the event? Aren’t there enough Bollywood shows on TV and entertainment pages in newspapers where such news could have been easily showcased? For that matter, a few days before this incident, the biggest stories were to do with the ‘hurt’ of our so called respectable MPs due to some cartoons in NCERT textbooks. Or for that matter the front page outcry over SRK’s detention in the US airport or Salman Rushdie not being allowed to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival or whom Oprah Winfrey met during her India visit or Robert Vadra saying he wants to join politics or the entire Sunny Leone saga or the scores of lines on who killed Aarushi Talwar or the two kids taken away by welfare authorities in Norway or for that matter even the entire big deal made out of Rahul Gandhi’s UP campaign!

Are the above the real issues that concern India? Of course not! The real issues that confront Indians are farmer suicides, crisis in Indian agriculture, pathetic human development indicators, a virtual collapse of the public health and education system, and rampant corruption because of a paralyzed judicial system.

The only issues highlighted by our media are very, very high profile corruption cases... that too without any follow-up. For example, it is almost a decade since the Ghaziabad PF scam came to light but who cares about following it up? Many witnesses have died mysteriously and keep dying regularly in each and every high profile case and how... Yet, there is hardly any follow up coverage in the media. Because – as I wrote in my earlier editorial – just like no lost child can wake this country up and change laws or school rules, similarly, no killed witnesses will wake this country up or change laws for their protection! And while our mothers keep dying at childbirth and our children keep dying before the age of 5 (in both these counts, our figures are shamefully comparable to those of sub-Saharan Africa while China’s are comparable to the most developed nations of the world), our media will keep our masses busy, feeding them the ‘Silsilas’ in our Rajya Sabha.  Read More....

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Continuing my American series from my previous editorial, I must admit that my American tour didn’t start so well. On my flight to the US, I saw three films which symbolized the epitome of boredom of made-only-for-Oscars and Oscars nominated stuff! First, I saw The Iron Lady; then I saw another forgettable movie whose name also I have thankfully forgotten; and finally I saw the movie J Edgar – each outdoing the other in trying to be slow, boring and almost meaningless. But then, when you want to win at the Oscars, a boring biopic is often the best way! Nevertheless, in the most boring J Edgar, what struck me was the fact that perhaps the biggest achievement of the iconic Hoover, the man behind American intelligence, was his investigation of a case of kidnapping of a little boy called Charles Lindbergh. The film and the American society, way back then in 1932, made such a huge issue around the kidnapping and disappearance of a kid – so much so that a famous newspaper writer called the kidnapping and its trial thereafter “the biggest story since resurrection”. The whole incident led to landmark acts and laws being passed, making transporting a kidnapping victim across state lines a federal crime. The accused was given the electric chair after being caught a couple of years later. But Hoover had used that particular kidnapping as a tool to lobby for a centralized record-keeping system leading to the fingerprint mapping of every citizen and the beginning of the world’s most efficient intelligence body – the Federal Bureau of Investigation; FBI.

Upon landing and reaching the hotel, even as my thoughts on the importance given by the American society to a single case of kidnapping had barely subsided, I read in the papers about the story of a 1979 kidnapping... that of a child called Etan Patz. What amazed me was that though the boy was kidnapped 33 years ago at the age of 6, and declared dead in 2001 since he could never be found, the police and FBI didn’t give up on him and continued their search. And then, in April 2012, they discovered a basement under a road near the boy’s home, where a carpenter lived, who was possibly someone who had had a hand in the murder. What struck me in the story again was how the kidnapping then in 1979 had shaken up the entire America and had resulted in amazing new awareness and changes in various systems – of parenting and schooling. Earlier, schools never alerted the parents if a child didn’t show up at school; but post the Etan case, schools started doing so, in order to ensure that in case there were a similar tragedy, it wouldn’t take till the end of the day for the parents to come to know – thereby saving precious hours for search operations to begin. Ronald Reagan even declared May 25th – the day of Etan’s disappearance – as the Missing Children’s Day. More importantly, a national system was laid down to track children who disappeared. The National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children since then has tracked down more than a hundred and fifty thousand kids. And as per statistics, the rate of recovery now stands at an extraordinary 97%, up from 62% in 1990!   Read More....

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Just back from a lecture tour of American universities, there is so much to write about. But what I wanted to share this time is something about which I have had strong feelings quite a few times in the past, but never as strong as I have now! Crisscrossing the US of A twice from the West Coast to the East Coast, I met one after the other Indians and their families over lunches, dinners and other meetings. And I do feel sad to say that perhaps the only thing that I found common between most of them was their hidden bias against the Blacks in America. A number of times in the past, I had heard my friends from the US speak derogatorily about the African-American population, often even pejoratively referring to them as Negroes and saying that they wanted to stay in a locality which had no Blacks. I couldn’t really accept this sentiment as a normal phenomenon, and rather used to wonder whether it was mere coincidence that I had so many friends with such an unabashed bias. But after this American journey, I am sure it was never a coincidence.
 
Friends, relatives, consultants and professors... anyone I got talking to for more than a while almost invariably explained to me at one point of time or the other why the locality they lived in was especially good since it didn’t have Black people! Or for that matter why a particular city was better because of the lesser number of Blacks! Of course, I didn’t pick up fights. But it made me feel sad about the education, schooling and upbringing we are giving to our children. How could educated people, after coming to America, still discriminate on the basis of the colour of the skin? That too coming from a land where they themselves are mostly brown and a land where gods and mythological characters like Krishna and Draupadi are described as being uniquely attractive due to their dark complexion!
 
 
Not that Americans are not biased. A breakdown of the human development index criteria shows that if only White America were to be considered, they would invariably rank #1 in human development. Similarly, if only Black America were considered, they would rank between the ranks of 60 to 70. And yet, Americans finally did choose Barack Obama as their president, showing that although as a nation they have not yet been able to provide equal justice to Blacks, at an individual level they are educated enough to discriminate far lesser. So am I trying to say that Indians are more colour-biased than the Americans? Well, that’s what a Harvard research seems to say too. Harvard University’s Project Implicit website has compiled data on the implicit biases of millions of Americans on a range of issues, such as age, race, skin tone, disability, gender, sexual orientation, etc. And it’s unbelievable but true that Asians demonstrated the highest levels of bias on race and skin tone when compared to people of any other region in the world; Asian-Americans were second only to Whites in their biases in the racially and ethnically sensitive categories. Asians and Asian Americans in fact reported the highest level of explicit prejudice on issues of race and skin tone – higher than even Whites.
Read More....


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Did the word ‘Authoritarian’ shock you? Well, political correctness aside, there is at least one unique quality of the madman Hitler that is followed by leaders of some of the most successful corporations across the globe – an authoritarian leadership style – a quality that has been a significant reason in ensuring that such corporations are viewed as being amongst the leading business units of this world! This is because while leadership styles which are more democratic are wonderful to read and be applied, such styles can be successful only when the people you are leading are most mature, responsible and ambitious. And despite what one may wish or imagine, finding such people to work with is near impossible!

If you believe that I have tumbled over the edge and am referring back to the days of Theory X management – which used to be ruthlessly applied in the early stages of industrialization when coal mining used to be the key industry – well, it almost is so. The only difference is that technology has made today’s autocratic leadership look very savvy! The best of corporations today have the same lack of trust in their employees’ sincerity levels as they used to have years back in the coal mines. But today, they never really exhibit it vocally. Instead, we have automated processes which leave no option for an employee to work as per his personal preferences.

Whether he likes it or not, phone calls are thrown at him by the automatic software, his restroom breaks are timed, his precise location during office hours is tracked through GPS, and more. Be it manufacturing or services, employees are not given a choice in any great organisation anymore. For the leaders have realized that given a choice, most employees are under productive. So technology is today used to force them to deliver. Autocratic leadership is done unhindered through the use of more and more ruthless technologies. And the most successful leaders use this style of leadership without guilt and to achieve the best of results with the majority of people (but intelligently spare the few mature colleagues they might have who work with passion and without the need for being ordered).

Late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple (still the face of Apple), was the exemplar of this style of leadership. Once out of Apple after a power struggle with the-then top management (the top brass considered him a “control freak”), he struck back, and is today the strongest example of how an insistence on total control over your company and employees (call it totalitarian leadership if you like) and a focus on innovation can keep the clock ticking, with the sound getting sweeter by the second. There was a time when during late 1997, only a year after Jobs had taken over as Apple’s Interim-CEO (he had returned to Apple in late 1996), someone had asked Michael Dell during a conference what he would have done had he been in Jobs’ shoes. Dell’s reply to this was, “I’d shut Apple down and give the money back to the shareholders.” Then, Apple was just worth $3.1 billion, while Dell was worth $28.1 billion. 14 years later, Dell has been almost stagnant with an m-cap of $28.9 billion (as on April 26, 2012), while Apple’s m-cap has grown by 18,248.39% to touch $568.8 billion (as on April 26, 2012) and it is today the most valuable company in the world! [The next most valuable is miles behind – Exxon Mobil with an m-cap of $409.34 billion.]

What Jobs did was to use a tyrannical leadership style – fire and force at will – to ensure that his employees delivered products that consumers lusted after, in an ever-evolving digital world. It has worked so far. Writes the American author Andrew Keen’s in his best-seller titled, The Cult of the Amateur, “There’s not an ounce of democracy at Apple. That’s what makes it a paragon of such traditional corporate values as top-down leadership, sharply hierarchical organisation and centralised control. It’s Steve’s company – pursuing his vision, at his pace, with his team, making his products. Without Steve Jobs’ authoritarian leadership, Apple would be just another Silicon Valley outfit...” In one of his conversations with one of Planman Media’s publications, Discover The Diamond In You, Colorado-based technology expert Rick Sturm, CEO of Enterprise Management Associates, says, “Steve Jobs is a special example of a leader who dominated his company employees and guided them rightly with his authoritarian leadership style and unmatchable vision. He believed that one man with one vision can make Apple an iconic brand and company. And we see that his belief has actually materialised.”     Read More....

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I have been in the United States the last few days on a lecture tour. Every time I come here, I discover more fascinating things about this fascinating country! Though my hectic tour has not allowed me much time, as I would have loved to go through all manners of newspapers and magazines, I have still managed to go through a lot of them. And one thing strikes me as very strange. I mean, most of the media is full of stories about the imminent face off between the Republican Mitt Romney and the Democrat incumbent Barack Obama. But the media seems to have an equal number of stories on the Tea Party, on how the Republicans are waging a war on women and on how Obama has a massive lead over Romney when it comes to women voters in America. One thing you must grant this country – even those from the ‘Left’ ideologies who dislike America so much – the freedom of speech here is genuine and everybody seems to exercise the right to yell their heads off! I was blown away by some of the articles, columns and opinion pieces on controversial issues like Obamacare and the shooting of the Florida teenager by a white man that would have almost surely caused riots in India or would have been banned!

But even as I enjoyed reading about these ideological issues and debates here in America, one thought kept coming back to me. It was about how the extreme Right in America seems to be so ideologically rigid, so stubborn and so divorced from reality. And yes, so obsessed with so called family and Christian values. I was shocked to know that a significant number of people in many Midwestern states of America still think that Obama is a Muslim who goes to a mosque! And I couldn’t help thinking about how, in a way, the extreme Left in India is behaving in a manner similar to the extreme Right in the United States. I mean, if many extreme Right-wing types in America seem to nurture a hatred for Islam, many extreme Left-wing types in India seem to nurture a hatred for Hinduism. And I realized three things that are very disturbing. The first is that the extreme Right in America and the extreme Left in India have a very dominant space in mainstream media. The second is that in their respective countries, they both have an unusual influence on policy making. The third is that such rigid ideological stands and blind opposition to anything that doesn’t suit their worldview is literally screwing both countries.

When it comes to a dominant voice in mainstream media, it does appear as if the extreme Right-wing in the United States has less of it than the Left in India. Look at the two most controversial issues in America now – the healthcare act (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) and the urgent need to cut deficits. For both these issues, the liberals seem to get as much space as the conservatives. You also have liberal voices that are blasting the Supreme Court judges in America because they have got a hint that the ideologically Right-wing inclined Supreme Court might declare Obama’s dream healthcare act as unconstitutional. Then again, you have an equal cacophony of conservative and liberal voices about raising or not raising taxes on the rich. You have a Rush Limbaugh who calls a lady student a slut because she wants contraception to be part of her health insurance package. There was a huge outcry and many radio stations and advertisers banned Limbaugh for his remarks. But there were a lot who defended his right to free speech and said the lady had no business to talk about pills and condoms during an important debate over health insurance. But in India, it is the Left that seems to be the dominant voice in mainstream media. I have been following media reports since the horrific riots of Gujarat in 2002 and I have been astonished at the manner in which the extreme Left spews venom and hatred towards the Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. A campaign by these secular fundamentalists led to a situation where the chief minister of a state of India was denied a visa by the US almost as if he was a war criminal. I mean, why single out only Narendra Modi to the exclusion of everything and everybody else? Have there been no other riots in India? Have Muslims and Sikhs not been butchered in other riots? Why single out Modi?
Read More...

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Unlike T. N. Seshan, when you meet Vinod Rai, the current Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he comes across as a very suave and soft-spoken bureaucrat. At the recent convocation ceremony of our graduating students, when our institute’s Director Dr. M. K. Chaudhuri challenges Vinod Rai and says that he isn’t bold enough like Mr. Seshan and is not as strongly taking the government head-on as he should, he very firmly says that he is doing what he is constitutionally allowed to do. So what does Vinod Rai have to say about Pranab Mukherjee’s public snub that 90% of CAG findings are dropped in the first stage? “Yes, Mr. Mukherjee is right in some sense. CAG raises questions and it’s true that a large proportion of issues do get answered to our satisfaction in the very first stage,” he says very politely, yet very firmly; and at no point in any self-doubt about whether he was doing less than he should be. Does this sound slightly lame? Perhaps. Specially because, being slightly aggressive about such issues myself, I might have personally liked Vinod Rai to stretch his constitutional limits slightly more, redefine them, and take the government head-on perhaps more loudly. But then all human beings don’t have the same approach to dealing with identical issues. Our current election commissioner Dr. S. Y. Quraishi is a very soft-spoken, music loving man; but he is the man behind bringing democracy to the killing fields of Bihar, Bengal and UP! Similarly, Vinod Rai is a man who again is soft-spoken, abhorring the limelight, but doing his work with amazing sincerity, courage and commitment. Similar to what T. N. Seshan did with the Election Commission, Rai has made CAG a household name in India and a body that Indians are now looking up to with respect to exposing our government’s corrupt practices! Today, our government fears his reports like nothing else, for in these days of heightened social activism and rampant corruption, those are CAG reports that are giving the maximum ammunition to critics of the government. So what is the CAG authority doing and why is its role so important? Well, CAG is bringing to public the sham and the shame behind India’s Blood Billionaires – the saga of corruption and transfer of national wealth into private hands at the cost of the tax payers’ money and the country’s national interests.
 
What exactly do I mean? Well, the annual Forbes billionaires’ list now regularly features a significant number of Indian businessmen (almost 30 plus) with an accumulated worth that’s a staggering USD 200 billion plus (almost 15% of what the entire Indian population earns in a year). In fact, of these billionaires, three of the names also appear regularly in the top 20 of the global rich! The only other economy that outscores India still on these parameters is USA, which still has one or two more billionaires in the said list. Today, India is the only Asian economy to have so many billionaires in that list; next to it is Japan, with a history of many years of stupendous national development! How did this awesome Indian miracle happen? When I go abroad, this intrigues everyone! They are amazed that while billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others have made their fortunes after years of investing in brand building, R&D and by painstakingly focusing on capturing international markets, we have managed so many billionaires without having any brand in the international markets. Look at the BusinessWeek-Interbrand survey of the world’s 100 top brands – not one is Indian. That kind of explains the story. While the Japanese, French, Swiss, Germans, Italians and the likes get beaten hands down in the billionaires’ lists by Indians, they are the ones who dominate the top brands’ lists... and of course, not to forget the Americans, who spent a hundred years competing in the global markets, creating brands, investing massively in R&D, losing out to competition, fighting back again, and finally creating wealth and billionaires. Then how are the Indians dominating the various lists of global billionaires? The answer is quite simple actually – Indians are there right at the top within these lists purely through scams, loot and the criminal transfer of national wealth into private hands… consequently ensuring mindboggling market capitalisation for their companies and the billionaire status for them; and all this without churning out a ‘single’ global brand or product! Yes, that’s the truth!!!
 
After Independence, our industrialists were given a monopoly market to operate in, thanks to the bureaucratic system of bribery-driven work culture we created. Over the years, the private sector industrialists were further helped by the government (after more quid pro quo greasing of palms by these industrialists) in amassing additional wealth and profits by allowing them to buy public sector products – like, say, steel – at subsidised prices, while these very private companies sold the finished products – like, say, buses and tractors – in the markets at the market price. Thus, real and potential profits and wealth of the PSUs were transferred to private sector balance sheets without flinching; and at the same time, PSUs were branded loss-making failures! This was the first phase of growth for our Indian business houses, giving rise to monopolies and fraudulent rupee billionaires. Since this first experiment kept us a third world and third class country, the second phase of growth started post liberalisation.
Read More....


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IIPM: Management Education India
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