Dec 31, 2006

Golf In India - Elitist Still

Today was my first golfing day in Hyderabad and I guess have seen enough to post a small one on this. The only other course in India where I have played a few times is the East Point Golf Club in Visakhapatnam.

The feeling one gets is that in India, golf is undoubtedly an elitist sport. In general golfers are people who are very well off in society coming from at least in the top 1% percentile. Contrast this with the US where the average course is frequented by the average Joe who carries his own kit and who could be anywhere above say, the bottom 25% percentile. Most golfers in India tend to be older people and have caddie boys running at their beck and call - it is almost a must to hire a caddie in India at a golf course unlike the US. This caddie thing almost seems to have a feudal/colonial hangover to it too, the way the poor boys are treated at times.

Things seem to be changing for the good with the likes of Jeev Milkha Singh (Awarded Top #1 Sportsman of India by ToI) and Jyoti Randhawa bringing in more young blood into the sport. But the Secunderabad golf course I visited today doesn't give that sense with several 40+ folks and the distinct old-buddy-network feel. Being run by the armed forces adds to this dimension too, but then this 125 year old place wouldn't have either existed or been what it is today without the Indian Army.

One hopes the sport picks up more in India so that we can compete with the Koreans, Japanese and Chinese in Asia first before stepping into the wider world. I am sure this has greater potential to bring more fame and global business to India than cricket, played by a mere handful of countries.

Saddam Executed On An 'Auspicious Day'

Obviously Mr Bush seems to have been in a hurry to end the year 2006 with some sense of victory and chose the easy route of executing Saddam Hussein yesterday. If he had any idea of Indian mythology, he would have avoided Dec 30, for it was the Vaikuntha Ekadasi, the most auspicious day in the Hindu lunar calendar for someone to die. Legend says that a person dying this day goes directly to heaven. Bhishma the father figure of the Indian epic Mahabharatha, after being mortally wounded in the epic battle, waited 56 long days on a bed of arrows to finally breath his last on this very day. Even in the Biblical and later Islamic traditions, this was the day of Eid (or feast) when Abraham sacrificed his son for God; this significance should have made them let Saddam languish like an ordinary criminal isntead of bestowing a halo of martyrdom on him. So Mr Bush unwittingly has once again allowed something to happen which without foreseeing neither the implications nor the repurcussions.

More seriously, this is yet another demonstration of the utter brashness and stupidity of the current US President, who hasn't learnt an iota from his previous mistakes in Iraq. B Raman writes two incisive pieces on the South Asian Analysis Group website, on what this could mean - the impact can only be bad for both the US and India. Iraq goes into a deeper abyss and if the US loses there, the impact on the wider world will be catastrophic with the jehadis going wild(er). Let us hope that the US extricates itself out of the situation without losing to the jehadis.

For this new year, look for more turmoil, higher oil prices, global inflation and cooling (if not sliding) stock markets. What a way to cap an otherwise wonderful year!

Dec 28, 2006

All India Crafts Fair at Shilparamam, Hyderabad Rocks

This fair is being hosted upto 31 Dec and the sheer variety of artistic creations is mind boggling. Paintings of every kind, Glasswork, Metal work, sculptures, Apparel with artwork, Wood work, Lacework, the list is almost endless. Close to 850 stalls offered an amazing visual treat. Imagine a dinner buffet with 850 kinds of dishes, that is the closest analogy/example I can think of.

To top it off, there were enchanting cultural programs in the evening. Harikatha and Kuchipudi Ballet were awesome. One wishes the local media covered events like these in greater detail and chose a few toppers to focus on in more depth.

'Sunita Williams as Indian as Santa Claus' - How Indian Media Grovels

Nice point made by a Times of India reader in his letter published in today's editin of ToI Hyderabad. While Sunita is a celebrity and has achieved something that everyone can take pride of, the way India media has adopted her as fully Indian is amazing. One gets to see similar attitudes for Hollywood celebrities who visit India or during Oscar times when we debate which Indian film has a remote chance of making it. Media has a role in encouraging original thought and talent from within the country, the rest (and the world) will then follow.

Dec 12, 2006

Telangana (T-Factor) resurfaces in AP, Is Separate Statehood only Solution?

Last week's Parliament By election in Karimanagar resulted in the expected win of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief (KC Rao), albeit by a larger margin. Financial Express examines the impact of the win on the Real Estate scene in Hyderabad and rest of AP. The widely held belief is that prices in Hyderabad would fall/stabilise while in Andhra they would rise.

Why this trend? Will a separate Telangana not be attractive to investors and hence the decline in prices? The humongous investments that several MNCs and Indian IT companies have made in Hyderabad will not disappear, but will future investments be forthcoming with as much vigour? What will happen to Hyderabad if Andhra Pradesh splits?

Small states has been a favourite election past time of Indian politicians. Though they mean more overhead costs for the state machinery, the local populace tends to self-express themselves better. The logic goes that if Hindi speaking folks can have more than one state (in fact they have almost a dozen), why not Telugu speaking people have two states? I believe the logic is flawed because AP cannot be simply split into two states. Rayalaseema comprising of four districts (Cuddapah, Anantapur, Kurnool, Chittor) forms a region too and soon there will be demands for a separate state there too. Even within the Coastal Andhra region, from Srikakulam to Nellore comprising of nine districts, there is considerable variance in dialect, food, attire, customs and so on. What I hear people speak in a Nellore bazaar is very different from what I hear on say, a train to Bacheli from Visakhapatnam. There is this considerable diversity within India in general and in Andhra Pradesh too that needs to be celebrated rather than manipulated and exploited for political reasons.

So here you have the prospect of one reasonably stable and upcoming state like AP split and Balkanise into three states, with some possible repercussions on neighbouring states. Imagine the diversion of public attention and energy into this major fission reaction! All this while competing neighbour states like Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka are racing towards industrial strength and greater bargaining power with the center. One doesn't hear similar separatist dialogues as much in these states inspite of significant divides existing there, take the North Karnataka (aka Hyderabad Karnataka) divide with South Karnataka for example or the Vidarbha cause in Maharashtra.

There is significant common history: the famous Vijayanagara Kingdom used to have Telugu as its court language. Most of the Carnatic music sung in any concert in South India even today constitutes of songs composed in Telugu by the famous Trinity. The need of the hour is greater unity and sincere attempts by the government and politicians to address the core needs of the population and ensure equity across regions. Creating a new state is a mere legislative procedure, what is needed is a vision that is able to harness the true potential of the people.


Update on 17 Aug 2013: The recent developments have indeed hastened the process of 'division'. This in itself is not a bad idea as I blogged earlier - this could unleash energies to build afresh. One hopes there is no acrimony in the division and that contentious issues are resolved amicably upfront.

Dec 7, 2006

Dhoom2 - "Bollywood OR Bodywood"

Shekhar Kapur, eminent Film Director in his blog says this about Dhoom2..
"It's the only film in London other than Casino Royal that is consistently 'house full'. The film is a lot of fun in a charmingly silly way. But I think it is time to change the name 'Bollywood' to 'Bodywood'".

NY Times too recently had a review in its Arts section on Dhoom2. The movie was also in the US Top 20 list for that week having been shown in 63 theaters. Goes to show how much Bollywood has gone global, catering to the desi audiences abroad as well as the local audiences there. In the past years, Amitabh Bachchan was a big hit world over, especially in Egypt and before him Raj Kapoor in Russia. The trend definitely now is that of Bollywood corporates crafting movies that cater to a decidedly global audience.

We paid Rs 300 flat for two tickets for Dhoom2 without a second thought at Pune's e-Square multiplex. Compared to that Sangeet Theatre at Hyderabad still sells for Rs 35 (black trading would go upto max Rs 100), no dynamic-pricing there.

Dec 6, 2006

Action Item Jargon

Amusing take on the jargon we are all so used to in a day to day business setting. Thanks, Sanjay!

Dec 5, 2006

Rambles around Pune - Dehu and Aalandi

Last weekend, we traveled around Pune's dusty suburbs to see some places of historical and spiritual importance.

A quaint village about 25 kms from Pune. We reached there via Chinchwad, Ningadi, Dehu Cantonment. Dehu is famous for its association with Saint Tukaram who was famous for the 'Abhangs' he wrote. He faced several troubles in his life but his steadfast devotion eventually prevailed. Shivaji himself was an ardent follower of Tukaram. Tukaram never died, there is no samadhi there for him at Dehu; he was summoned to heave directly by God Vishnu himself in a Vimana, so the legend goes. The Indranila river nearby was scenic. We skipped going to Bhandara where Tukaram used to spend his time composing Abhangs.

About 15 kms from Dehu is Aalandi, another great place of spiritual importance. Saint Dnyaneshwar lived there and attained samadhi. I saw a movie on his life when i was a child (dubbed into Telugu, of course) at Guntur and was impressed with his achievements.

Overall the stay in Pune was helpful as it helped me sort out issues on all fronts, pick up some Pranayama and do a bit of travel (we also covered some forts, Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani).

Walmart in India! Will it Succeed or Retreat?

Now Walmart is coming to India in a tie-up with Bharti, India's telecom major. It will be interesting to see how long they last (given their Germany, South Korea experiences) OR if they will be able to dominate the Indian retail market like they do in the US. Walmart statistics are always impressive (300b revenues, comparison with world GDPs, International trade figures etc).

India will be a tougher nut to crack as it is a much more diverse market than the ones where Walmart has apparently not succeeded. While huge scope for economies of efficiencies and supply chain improvements exist, same cannot be said for 'homegenising' the tastes of 1.2 billion people. Combining Walmart's worldclass backend with the knowledge of India's retail consumer which Bharti ostensibly has, will be the key to success. After all, Bharti has defined its core competency as marketing to the consumer, having outsourced the rest to third parties.