The year when India is going to host both the Commonwealth Games as well as the World Cup Hockey championships couldn’t have started in a more unfortunate way. The first is of course the fracas revolving around the strike of the Indian hockey players and their refusal to play till the time their arrears were paid. While the governing body known as Hockey India was quick to literally term the players unpatriotic and accuse them of putting money before the essence of playing for India, what was appalling was not only the fact that the arrears (running into lakhs) of the said hockey players had not been paid for a long duration, but also that Hockey India actually offered a pittance of Rs 25,000 for each player in lieu of the arrears. And this too was offered to them only with the condition that either the striking players accepted it or left the conditioning camp within 48 hours. Needless to say, the authorities were perhaps thinking that it would be easy for them to lure junior players to replace the existing team. But then as it turned out, the juniors refused to budge and sided with their seniors. The striking hockey players have been consistently telling that this agitation is not for any self-serving mission, but to fix the rot in the system. And finally, when it caught the fancy of the common man and the media, and there were cries to set things right, money did start pouring in and things were settled down for the time being after the intervention of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) Chairman, Suresh Kalmadi. But this clearly is more like a band-aid strip. The rot still remains!

The second incident is with respect to the way the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) behaved with Abhinav Bindra. NRAI suddenly remembered that discipline is a virtue and disqualified Abhinav Bindra from participating in next month’s Commonwealth Shooting Championship. Well, Abhinav needs no introduction. But for those who manage NRAI, perhaps being India’s lone gold medalist in the Beijing Olympics was not a sufficient condition to give Abhinav a readymade berth. This time too things got sorted out later after the intervention of the IOA. As in the case above, the rot still remains.

It goes without saying that Indian hockey players are paid chicken feed when compared to their cricketing counterparts. And the most shameless thing is that even when this team wins the Asia Cup (2007), Azlan Shah Cup (2009) or bags the bronze medal at a Champions Challenge tournament in 2009, they are still not paid their promised piecemeal few lakhs in time. Well, patriotism is not something that can happen on empty stomachs. The crux of all the problems lies in the way each of the sports associations have become a personal fiefdom of politicians and also a place to settle their remaining political scores. For example, for a long time, Indian hockey was the personal fiefdom of former Punjab police DGP KPS Gill. It was in 2008 that the Indian Hockey Federation was dismantled following a series of bribery scandals and it was replaced by Hockey India, which has proved to be equally inept. The same is the case of IOA, which has almost become a personal fiefdom of Suresh Kalmadi, even when India’s performance in international sports has only been sliding and has almost reached the nadir. Had it been a private entity, no such non-performing CEO would have been kept at the helm for such a long time without any substantial result to show. Just like a soldier cannot fight without the right kind of support system in terms of logistics, food, ammunitions, weapons, clothing and information about enemy positions, no team of any sporting order can perform effectively unless the governing bodies are accountable for what they deliver to the players, as well as to that game. Cricket is an interesting case in point. BCCI is one of the richest sports bodies of the world, yet has created a clear demarcation between election bodies and the efficient administration of the game. It has been extremely successful in marketing the game – and thereby bringing in billions of revenues - and also in nurturing and nourishing new talents. And the results have been there to see. Not only has BCCI nurtured and worked towards improving the Indian cricket team’s performance in this century, but BCCI also has been successful in launching the IPL and making it a resounding success and an interesting example of what a sporting body can do to a game. IPL has opened up a vista of opportunity for hundreds of players, who would probably not even make it to the final eleven of their national teams, yet have enough talent to enthrall the audience. The same is the case with what FIFA has done to football.     Read More....


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In the first week of January 2010, most newspapers carried a stunning report. And the report was based on data from the Central Statistical Organisation, which revealed that Bihar has clocked the second highest growth rate in the country, only second to Gujarat, between the period 2004/05 and 2008/09. Although in the same period, most of the backward states have shown a reasonably decent growth rate, but none could match up to Bihar. And what is even more remarkable is the manner in which the state has turned around. It was only in 2003/04 that it had shown a (de)growth of a negative 5.15%. Five years hence, the state has an aggregated growth of 11.03%, beating all conventions.

Initially, analysts were skeptical about the data, but once it was reported that the data had been released by CSO – a central government agency – all doubts were put to rest. What is more interesting is the fact that most of the growth has taken under Nitish Kumar’s regime – which also proves that howsoever poor a state might be, finally it all depends on an able leader whether a transformation can occur. And all credit should go to Nitish Kumar for his intent and a proper follow-through with governance. It is not just Bihar – the same can be said with respect to Uttarakhand, Orissa, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, as these states have clocked growth rates of 9.31%, 8.74%, 8.45% and 7.35% respectively for the same period, beating the conventional growth rates that had been seen over the years. What is even more intriguing and creditworthy is that of these states, four states – namely Bihar, Uttarakhand, Orissa and Jharkhand – have beaten the national growth rate of 8.45% during the same period!

But then, without taking away any credit from these states, there are a few issues that should also be taken into perspective for a more balanced evaluation. Though on the face of it, Bihar has stood second nationally, and next to Gujarat, but the fact is that the state has a long way to go to even get close to Gujarat in real terms. As we all know, growth rates are always relative. And in absolute terms, the growth of these states is nowhere close to that of Gujarat or a Maharashtra. States like Bihar, Jharkhand were growing on a very low base of historically languishing state GDP, whereas states like Gujarat and Maharashtra are already on a much larger base. Therefore, if states like Bihar, Orissa et al have to catch up and earn any kind of parity with other progressive states, then they have to grow even faster than the latter. Other than this, a high growth rate also does not guarantee that the growth is uniform – encompassing all sections across the state. A case in point has been Madhu Koda’s government. We all know the level of corruption that states like Jharkhand have been subjected to in the past few years. Indications now also are very clear that the so called growth rates have actually not touched upon the masses in these states – and this is not good news at all. As this means that the income disparity has grown not only at the national level, but to a large extent at the states’ level too. Along with all this, we also know that these newly praised states are also the states which are subjected to the maximum number of Naxal atrocities, which is also an indicator that though apparently the states have scored well on growth, the masses still remain disconnected. I’ve written about this a number of times earlier and would like to reiterate here that Naxalism has a deep connect with poverty. Over the years, Naxalites have prospered only in those states where poverty has been deep-rooted; and that’s why we don’t hear about the Naxal menace in Gujarat, even though we hear about the same in Maharashtra (because there are poor pockets in Maharashtra where Naxals thrive).     Read More....

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THIS FILM IS NOT ABOUT THE 3 IDIOTS, IT’S A FILM ABOUT THE MANY IDIOTS RUNNING OUR EDUCATION SYSTEM

I hadn’t read the book, but even before going for the film 3 Idiots, I had heard the movie was based on Five Point Someone. So after seeing the movie, I immediately congratulated Chetan Bhagat on the outstanding philosophy of his book! However, after the controversy, I thought of reading Five Point Someone... and immediately realised the crux of the trouble! The book and the film have about ten to fifteen percent similarity. The book is more of a diary on IIT days without taking a strong stance on anything and without inspiring anyone to think of changing the education system. It has got its locker room humour of friends and is a decent read. But after reading the book, you don’t start thinking of the education system and about how to change it. So, to say that the film 3 Idiots has a lot in common with the book, is totally incorrect...

The Aamir character in the book is a plain rich guy who doesn’t like the education system but does nothing to change it either, completely unlike what Aamir does in the movie. And of course, the character in the book is surely not a gardener’s son, as portrayed in the movie. Neither is he even close to Phunsuk Wangru (the research genius in the movie)... nor does he start a science school... or vanish into oblivion after graduating. The book’s character is not even a topper but one who trudges in last academically. In fact, the book doesn’t even have the quintessential Chatur character, nor does it have even a millimetre of the Javed Jaffrey character. The Principal is not the crazyscientist variety either. And further, the Kareena character in the book actually has an affair with Madhavan; and by the end of the book, they both don’t even get married – they split! Well, that’s how similar the book is to the film. It would be criminal to take away any credit from the extremely talented writers of 3 Idiots and give the story credit to anyone else. Yes, the story surely must’ve been conceptualised around Chetan Bhagat’s book’s characters, but it’s purely a new story.

All I would say is, if you wish to know what is called making a movie out of a book, watch the Clint Eastwood-directed The Bridges of Madison County – you can virtually feel Robert Waller James’ best-selling novel unfold right in front of you, page by page, character by character. Nothing of that sort happens in 3 Idiots. Anyway, that’s not the crux of this article.

On a lighter note, even my mother almost cried after seeing the film. She felt the writers/director must’ve heard me speaking on education during one of my seminars or must have read my articles on the IITs/IIMs and lifted the film idea from there! :-) It took me some time to explain to her that Rajkumar Hirani had made a similar film earlier called Munnabhai... and had there too tried to visualise similar things on the education system. Two concerned people can surely think similarly, can’t they? :-)         Read More....


An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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ONLY THEN WOULD WE KEEP GETTING GOVERNMENTS TRULY FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND OF THE PEOPLE

Last December, the state assembly of Gujarat passed a bill to make voting mandatory – that bill is still to see a nod from the Governor. Revisiting the issue, L K Advani and Narendra Modi both recently echoed the viewpoint again and asked the legislation to make voting compulsory in the state, especially after a low turnout rate in the recent civic elections. On an average, the voter turnout rate in Gujarat has been around 50 per cent, while a month back Bihar saw a turnout rate of 43-45 per cent! The recent developments with respect to compulsory voting remind me of an editorial of mine that I wrote way back in 2007 – on allowing voting through SMS! Although I never advocate mandatory voting in a democracy, as that is not logical, what is essential is a larger engagement of the electorate which has been diminishing by the day. In fact, this larger engagement need not be just for a few constituencies, but it should be applicable for the whole nation!

Obviously, there is practically no better way to rationalize the electoral process than by making the electorate wider with a singular objective of universal suffrage. Given the current voter turnout rates that hardly touch a mark of 50 per cent these days, the election results fail to reflect the actual mandate, as a major proportion of the electorate chooses not to exercise their franchise! And the most unfortunate part is that a majority of people who abstain from voting are the youth and the educated class. They feel completely disengaged from the election process on account of the process itself (which till recently was full of rigging and other forms of malpractices), the quality of candidates, and the political system as a whole. But then, what most do not realize is that their not voting not only leads to the selection of an incapable person (who is a criminal 25 per cent of the time) but, for that matter, also questions the duties attached to our fundamental rights. This also reminds me of those horror years when India saw the repercussions of low voters’ turnout rate – where the government lasted for few days to few weeks (twice in 1996 and then in 1998) costing the nation massively! The situation has been so bad that the last 13 general elections have seen an average turnout rate of 59.63 per cent (least being 33 per cent and maximum being 61.97 per cent).

The issue of a larger engagement gets more pertinent as conducting of elections are a huge expense to the nation. As per the official reports, India invested a staggering sum of Rs 100 billion – or Rs 10,000 crore – in the last general elections. A trend analysis on the expenditure over the last 30 years indicates that every year the expenditures on Lok Sabha elections increase by nothing less than 40-45 per cent. Over and above the official expenditure, even the political parties indulge in huge expenditures in their respective campaigns and to lure the voters. In 2004, in the much hyped about ‘India Shining’ campaign, the BJP had frittered over Rs 75-100 crore, while the last election saw Congress and BJP spending more than Rs 250 crore each.

Moreover, the idea of a larger engagement in voting is not discreet but is well present across the world. Countries like Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Fiji, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Nauru, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, Uruguay et al, witness an average of 90-95 per cent voting, thus bringing to power those governments that are truly people’s representatives – all thanks to the systems they practice!

As I wrote back in 2007, along with making voting broadbased, it’s important to make it accessible – more mobile polling booths and voting through mobiles/Internet could assure high turnout. And further, along with this, there should be the final choice that many in India have been fighting for. The choice to vote for ‘None of the above’! Democracy might take a new form then. We might have a result that looks like – ‘Congress’ 24%, ‘BJP’ 24%, ‘Others’ 1% and ‘None of the Above’ 51%! The seats in every Parliament should also be distributed in the ratio of votes polled as it should be in a true democracy. While democracy then will replace the existing DEMON-OCRACY in India, politicians will know that the only way to stay in power is by hard work for the people; and they will start doing that, instead of indulging in criminal activities. And whenever there is a new scam, mobile companies can make some more money by having a snap opinion poll asking voters to comment on whether they still want the government in power. Such opinion polls can’t go wrong, nor can they be debated. 3

We might finally end up getting governments truly for the people, by the people and of the people!


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Gandhi has been my favourite for seminars on leadership and management for years! In fact, in the last chapter of my first book Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch, I described him as the ultimate successor of Krishna as a management guru! The reason is simple! To me, there is no greater a management guru than Krishna; and the Gita is my ultimate guide to management! Krishna guides a handful of five brothers to victory against the army of a hundred brothers in the mythological Mahabharata, and in a similar way, Mahatma Gandhi guided us to Independence against all odds! Whether Krishna was true or not is debatable, but Gandhi was for real! And what we all know about Gandhi is that when he died, he said, “Hey Ram, He Ram, He Ram,” – though now even that is debated by various scholars. However, what many of us don’t know about Gandhi is that he used to read the Gita daily and called it the most important guide to success.

So what is it about the Mahatma that makes him such a revered figure even when it comes to management and especially marketing? For that, we have to perhaps study a little bit about his past and look at world history on the whole. World wide, freedom from the oppressor always meant violent struggles! Freedom was always synonymous with violent revolutions. You conquered with the power of violence and you got freedom by fighting violence with violence! But India had a peculiar problem! The problem was our prevalent religion. Gandhi himself called Hindus cowards. I wouldn’t say that, but we sure were complacent, patient and tolerant and relatively the most peaceful race in the world. We had not developed in us the spirit of war and violence! And therefore, when it came to motivating Indians and bringing them out for a violent revolution, even the man who defeated Gandhi’s own candidate in the Indian National Congress (INC) elections and became the President of INC – Subhash Chandra Bose – failed miserably. His war cry – “Give me blood, and I will give you freedom” – would’ve worked in every part of the world... but for India! And Bose finally had to leave India to collect his army from outside India to fight the Indian war of Independence! Gandhi, of course, was a keen observer and a quick learner – a key trait of a great marketing man! This man, with a burning desire to succeed in getting India freedom and realizing that violence didn’t appeal to the common Indian man, changed and did what was never done world wide – again, a great trait of a good marketing success story is being first! And Gandhi surely was the first to bring to the world, the concept of non-violence! This concept made him the TIME magazine’s Man of the Year way back in 1930 and won him followers ranging from Martin Luther King Junior, the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi amongst others over the years.

At first, non-violence was looked as the stupidest tool of revolution. But Gandhi knew what he was doing. He knew how to market his concept because he knew he was satisfying an existing need – the need to participate in the freedom struggle and throw the British out, which was combined with a desire to not be forced to take up arms and risk one’s life in a violent manner. He knew that his concept was a great solution to this need. The next thing he had to do was to connect with the masses and spread the word. In those days, when newspapers were a luxury, telecommunication absent and even transport and connectivity a rarity, getting the message across the length and breadth of this huge nation was the biggest possible challenge. Gandhi decided to go about it man to man! He always had a great respect for the end customer. He had said, “The customer is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.” And in his struggle, the end customers were the masses. To connect with them, he gave up his suits and ties. In fact, to connect with them, his marketing campaign included burning of foreign clothes and making khadi. Many like Tagore didn’t find it logical. But being a marketing man, Gandhi knew it was helping him connect emotionally with his audience and convey his message across. The common man oft en understands symbolic gestures better than great works of poetry. And Gandhi reveled in such symbolic gestures. Being a great leader, leading from the front was never an issue, but what many Indian leaders fail to do even now in these days of easy connectivity, he did way back in the early 1900s. He went to his masses and became a part of them. He walked with them and inspired them to walk along with him. His new attire – the khadi – was something the common man identified with; and his half-naked clothing was symbolic of the man whose support he wanted – the unfed and suffering Indian looking for salvation. As they say, there is nothing to beat a great word of mouth! The word of his work with masses spread like fire and soon the entire country was finding out ways to follow the activities of this man of peace, who was talking of giving India independence and looked closer to achieving it than anyone had ever had!

As a great marketing brain, he had done a great SWOT analysis. He knew his opponents and competition – the British – well. He knew that unlike, say the Nazis, the British were more cultured and believed in being fair and had a court that they were answerable to. So he knew that it would be almost impossible for the British to kill him if all he did was to walk and talk of peace. He used their weakness to be ruthless to his advantage and used intellectuals amongst them for his own PR! Not to forget, he used fasting as a great tool to drive home the message – that he was not scared of losing his life when it came to the cause.

But perhaps the biggest marketing tool behind a great success story is always the art of owning a simple uncomplicated line in your customer’s mind… Marketers spend millions to do it! That’s what marketing is about finally – owning that one line in your customer’s mind. Be it “Just do it” or be it “Taste the thunder”, if you own this one line in your customer’s mind, you have cracked the marketing code. And Gandhi owned the line “non-violent movement”. It was the perfect positioning line for him for the market he was catering to. And thus, success had to be his. Today, years after his death, our nation is using Gandhi to market itself, by printing his snap on all currency notes; celebrities across the world are wearing him on their t-shirts to market themselves better, United Nations is using him to market itself by declaring October 2 as the International Day of Non-Violence; and the Congress party is marketing its NREGA programme by calling it the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA programme! Commercial companies are not far behind, with Mont Blanc making its India presence felt with the launch of its Mahatma Gandhi Limited Edition pen. Inevitably, when it came to this year’s Hall of Fame issue, we felt Gandhi on the cover was the best way to market our magazine to you… no doubt he was the Mahatma of marketing!

 
 
Post liberalization, India has not only witnessed tremendous economic growth, but has also experienced something which was more of a distant dream preliberalization. With stock markets surging northwards, India Inc. has been all set to storm the lists that feature the “-est” of the world, both in terms of scale and scope. Not only did the Indian economy, within a span of less than two decades, touch the trillion dollar mark, but at the same time, India Inc also booked their slots in the Fortune 500 and Forbes lists with unprecedented frequency. However, such entries did not change the attitude of these Indian corporations towards social cause. Unlike the West (and even China, Hong Kong and other Asian countries), Indian billionaires largely kept themselves away from the whole idea of philanthropy. This is quite evident from the fact that in spite of the surging number of billionaires, the fate of our workforces has not changed much. Else, how can one justify India’s Gini coefficient (an economic indicator that indicates the income inequality of the nation) of 36.8, which is even worse than Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Asia-Pacific Wealth Report developed by Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management reveals that in 2008, India had 84,000 HNWIs (High Net Worth Individuals) with a combined net worth of a staggering $310 billion (equates to approximately Rs 14,000 billion) with each HNWI on an average maintaining a balance of Rs 166 million – or more than $3.6 million. In 2009, the number of HNWIs grew and crossed the mark of a hundred thousand; and today, the same is estimated to be around 127,000. For the uninitiated, HNWIs are those who have assets of $1 million or more, excluding primary residence, collectibles, consumables, and consumer durables. To top this up, Forbes’ magazine lists around 69 Indians as billionaires, with the net worth of 100 wealthiest Indians being estimated at $300 billion as of 2009.

Now, to get a better perspective of the huge disparity, one just needs to compare this prosperity at the top of the pyramid with the misery at the bottom. The average Indian currently earns $1030 annually (the latest per capita figure). If one were to assume that everyone in India is caught in a time warp wherein the current billionaires’ wealth does not grow beyond the current levels, and at the same time those at the bottom do not spend a single penny for the next many years, then it would take more than 970 years for the average per capita earning Indian to even catch up with the current billionaires! With such high income disparities, if the top 100 HNWIs decide to donate merely 1 per cent of their total wealth, they could add around $3 billion every year to the economy, which could then fund a huge amount for basic developmental initiatives, which the average Indian is devoid of.

Again, to get a perspective of what this money can do, it is significant to understand how much does the government earmark for social imperatives. With the government planning to spend $6.72 billion in education and $4.83 billion on health & family welfare this budget, such a donation as mentioned above would go a long way in comfortably enhancing the allocation towards these social imperatives. Thus, a single year of donation can double and in some cases even triple the flow of funds, depending on the sector! If not for anything else, this $3 billion, which is a mere one year’s donation for India’s richest, can take care of the sanitation problems of 700 million Indians for good! And all this without causing much dent to the personal wealth of these top 100 wealthiest Indians. And mind you, here we are just referring to one year of donation; imagine the magic it could create if this trend of donations could continue for perpetuity. Also, here we are referring to just the top 100 of India’s wealthiest; imagine the social revolution that could be brought about if all 127,000 HNWIs donated 1% of their wealth every year for social development!

Going by the way that India and Indian companies are making their positions formidable in various esteemed lists, it is very important for them to model their commitments in the way today’s global companies view their duty towards society. If not for anything else, at least for all selfish reasons, because it is time for India’s wealthiest to awaken to the fact that donating is not just about philanthropy, it makes good business sense too. A healthy, educated and a well endowed society is a future market. And a 1% contribution to create this huge market is definitely a worthy investment!