May 18, 2009

 

Congress needs to learn inclusiveness

The stunning victory of Congress in general elections has surprised everyone including those in Congress. As they have reached the required number comfortably, they are not being lenient with some their allies who switched the sides some time back. That mainly includes Lalu's RJD and Mulayam's SP.

Congress distanced itself from Samajwadi Party for more than 4 years in last term. But, when left withdrew the support, it was SP who came to the rescue of the Congress. How can Congress claim they have nothing to do with SP except when they need SP?

RJD's Lalu Yadav was a key facilitator of UPA govt. Just because the seat sharing agreement went kaput in Bihar and Congress happened to win everywhere else, doesn't mean they show him the door.

Pundits are claiming that the era of big national parties has arrived. I am quite skeptic of that conjencture. My reasons for skepticism? Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Mayawati, Mamta Banerjee, Jayalalitha, Sharad Pawar.

Congress should be mild with the allies. 5 years is long enough for the tables to turn. And Indian voters have shown their ability to vote out the supposedly "performing" governments earlier.

And I would really really love to see what Mr Manmohan Singh will do in his next 100 days. Also, let's watch if BJP's zeal for black money continues to be at the same level in next 100 days.

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The non-news of the day

Consider this hypothetical situation. You visit the fruit market early in the morning. The shops are yet to open and trucks are unloading the fruit baskets. There is only one guy with 20 mangoes in his basket is selling those mangoes. You go and ask the price. 3 days back you bought these mangoes for Rs 200 per dozen. Now this seller senses that he is the only guy selling there and asks you to pay Rs 1000 per dozen. And the entire market goes crazy about this one data point and start screaming the prices of mangoes have gone through roof.

Sound silly? Well, not so much when you see this.

Indian stock markets were shut down today. Well, it has happened earlier as well, but the twist this time, rather first time in the history, is that it was going up and it was closed. Nifty up by some 17% before it closed. The anchors on the blue business channel seem all excited about it. The headlines are gushing over how billions of dollars worth of (paper) wealth was created in just one day.

As usual, the truth continues to be boring. Not many were able to convert their paper-wealth to real, sweet-smelling 1000-Rupee notes. Here is why. The markets were open only for few minutes in the entire day. The total trade on Nifty amounted to Rs 170 Crore. The lowest volume in the month of May was Rs 13594 Crore and the highest turnover was Rs 18634 Cr on 6th May 09. So, today's turnover was barely 1% of the usual volume. And remember, these are not exactly euphoric days. Very few people got a chance to either sell or buy.

Now only if tomorrow, we register volumes of Rs 20,000 Cr which sustains this 20% spike.

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May 09, 2009

 

The Great Indian Retail Story : Customer's perspective

The organized retail in India is dot com of 2008. Now that the big boys of Indian retail are in trouble people are trying to find reasons to justify their downfall - high real estate costs, poor logistics, expensive manpower, high leverage, etc. etc. But, here are my thoughts on how that went wrong and how it is still going wrong.
To sum, I have switched back to kirana store to save time and get more choice.

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Solving the auto-riskshaw problem

Every Indian city has an autorickshaw story. Broadly those can be catagorized in two sets - bad and Mumbai. To the best of my knowledge, Mumbai is the only city where citizens are happy about the autorickshaw scene. You land up in the city comfortably past midnight and ask the auto-wallah to ferry you to a place 18 km away, and you can be very sure that he will drop you at designated place without charging a single rupee.

Last week, Pune's rickshaws went on a flash strike for 4 days holding the entire city to ransom. As it is dealing with them on a daily basis is a pain. They refuse to ply to closer place because it is closer. They refuse to ply long distance because it is far. They never charge by meter. Night charges come into play much before what the rule book says. And since they have a very strong union, they are quite fearless about law of the land. The story for every other city is not much different, except for Mumbai, I suppose.

So, what's it that clicks in Mumbai? From my observation, it the migrant population of auto-drivers who have maintained the sanity. I have had couple of bad experiences with Mumbai autowallhs who talked to me in Marathi and conned me. Though, choosing them for ride was had nothing to do with they speaking same language as mine. The local auto-wallahs did it because they knew they can get away with complete disragard to the rules. They know they have a local dada to help them out. (As a matter of rule, I avoided Marathi autowallahs in certain suburbs of Mumbai.)

But, the migrants from Darbhanga, Vaishali, Kanpur or Unnao do not enj0y a powerful hand on their head. They are on their own. That leaves them with the option of working honestly. Also, since they happen to come from a place where work is extremely difficult to find, they tend to be grateful of the opportunity coming in their way and work honestly on that.

So the solution to the arrogance of autowallahs in Pune and other cities is to bring in lots of migrant autodrivers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. If 20-25% of autodrivers are migrants, that's a sizeable population to keep the locals on their toes.

But, this is a pipedream as long as we have the supports of "sons of the soil" theory in every city who are ready to ransack at the drop of the hat.


PS: Yes, it's been long time that I am posting on this blog. Scarcity of the time is one thing. And Twitter helps me broadcast my thoughts in 140 characters makes blogging less compelling.

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