Thursday, April 28, 2016

How would have India been, had it been liberalized in 1950 instead of 1991?

Someone asked this very enlightening question. Here's an attempt at answering it.

While it is extremely tempting to imagine a radically developed and rich India now, had our government attempted liberalization right from the early 1950s, that assumption most likely is futile.

I think so because -

  • The British had almost completely hollowed out India before leaving - we had practically no capital resources, no industrial base, and no roadmap for the future. We were a blank canvas.
  • Economic liberalisation through a democratic political process would have most likely led to a huge centralisation of wealth and resources within a decade, and the almost total annihilation and usurpation of all things indigenous (and we had/have tonnes of them). China avoided that largely for a long time post-1979 as a one-party system could take on the most convoluted of problems head-on.
  • India was still developing its concept of nationhood through the entire 1950s, 60s and 70s, and in that sense, we may have become a carbon copy of the American model, something unsuited to our ground realities.
  • Our military and security apparatus were relatively nascent. We were not a nuclear power.
When Rajiv Gandhi brought the first wave of economic reforms post 1985, (reducing import duties on technology products like computers, opening up of telecom sector - remember STD PCOs?, etc.), that itself took some time to show results.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What can Indians learn from the rest of the world?

Work is worship. Well, almost always. - Learn that from the Americans.

Be friendly and smiling - Learn from the Nepalese and Bhutanese.

Be very very proud of who you are - Learn from the Japanese. Shinkansen-style.

Think big - No one beats the Koreans at that. Lucky gold diggers!

Never say die - Russians all the way. Come attack us, and discover for yourself!

Be a friend in need - Russians all the way! Thanks guys for all you did for India.

Focus on the micro and the finesse - Achtung! Germany leads the way.

Be very thankful - Learn from the Afghans.

Once an enemy, always an enemy - Yo, Pakistanis! (Umm, not exactly)

Me correct, my philosophy correct, you horribly wrong - Saudis rock.

Revolt like there's no tomorrow - Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité

I am the world, need no more (Aham Brahmasmi) - Kim to the North

Love your peace and empty spaces, and burn the most carbon per capita - Down under

Give the best public healthcare at reasonable cost - Salute to my former colonists

Rise like a phoenix, even if you were almost dead - Israel, Israel, Israel

Think gigantic - Umm, my Chinese friends are teaching that the hard way right now to the rest of the world economy!

Claim what's yours. Make it yours. Don't let others steal it. - Long live the American and European patent offices. 

Don't play with my privacy. I'm warning you Google! - European Competition Commission rocks

Play the powers against each other - Sri Lanka. Hmm.

Keeping others' secrets forever. Well, almost - Panama, Liechtenstein, Switzerland!

Deep philosophy, nature's secrets, mankind's place in Universe, effective organic medicinal formulations - We Indians really must learn that from our own ancestors.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

How can you tell a person is rich just by looking at him / her?

I will tell you six tricks I use. Allow me to use a personal definition of "being wealthy".

FIRST - Look at the contentment on the man's face. It usually cannot be faked. A man who is content in the moment now, is Alexander the Mighty!

SECOND - Look at the number of brands the man is wearing and using. The more the number and the more blatant the good(s), the poorer the person is. He needs a lot of external support to project his personality - a frail, weak, hollow individual. Remember the Naga sadhus - naked, all powerful, one with the divine. (OK, that was an extreme one!)
Happiness, Success, Contented, Satisfied, Enlightened, Spiritual, PT education, Sandeep Manudhane
Find the light - it's not too difficult

THIRD - Look at his company. Family, Friends, Kids, Acquaintances. The more crooked and twisted they are, the poorer the guy is. The more simple and loving that group is, the richer the guy is. They are both reflecting upon each other. A man is known by the company he keeps.

FOURTH - Look at his typical day. If reading a variety of stuff and forming informed opinions on multiple issues is a core part of his life, you are staring at a very rich person, who can add immense intellectual value to everyone around. I think, therefore I am.

FIFTH, find out what diseases he is suffering from. If he was born perfectly healthy with no defective genetic baggage, and has managed to pile up loads of beautiful diseases with big names and bigger bills, oooh! A poor man. The treadmill he couldn't slow down enough.

and FINALLY, try finding how he feels about the poor, the destitute and the needy. If he is moved from within and wants to help them even with a bare minimum to spare, you are looking at the richest man in the world. Man - human - humanity.

For, of what use are the billions stashed away in those tax havens when you are crooked, jealous, stingy, diseased, can't laugh, are full of hate and envy and useless for mankind at large? Human life is a speck, practically meaningless, in the vast expanse of this time-space. Make it meaningful.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

World trade and India

The storm of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation that started blowing across the world from the 1980s was so strong that all the standards and benchmarks of world trade underwent a metamorphosis. If a nation wanted to become prosperous, it became not only important but also mandatory that its economy integrated, or tried to integrate, with the 'world economy'. India undertook reforms in several local rules and regulations to ensure this. It is a separate matter altogether that pressurised by several factors acting in tandem, we undertook economic liberalisation from 1991. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao undertook systemic reforms on such a scale that the entire industrial landscape of India began transforming. The Chinese dragon, under the leadership of the dynamic Deng Xiaoping, had realised the need for comprehensive reforms much earlier starting 1979 and had unleashed the wave of change starting from the Special Economic Zones located in the south-eastern coastal regions. That very nation is the source of the biggest headache for us today, when it comes to trade deficits.

China Deng Xiaoping SEZs India PT education PT's IAS Academy Sandeep Manudhane SM
The SEZ miracle of Deng

So we woke up from our slumber in 1991. Now the licence-quota-permit Raj in place since the 1950s was on its way out, and quality-based, research-oriented and entrepreneurial-energy driven products and services alone were to flourish in the markets. The good part was that India was a part of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) right from its inception in January, 1995. We had also hoped that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation will boost our trade volumes, and our global exports will fly. Every government that came after it pushed the agenda of reforms further. But today, after all these attempts and experiments, our position in world trade remains extremely delicate. It can be attributed to five primary causes, and the solutions lie within those problems.

First, India's share in global annual world trade is less than a measly 3 percent. While there are multiple historical reasons for it, a nation that is home to 18% of world population will lose out significantly in such a scenario. This percentage has to be grown anyhow. Several policy changes are being undertaken even now. These will lead to more business and newer jobs in the country too.

Second, the pathetic state of our exports. If we examine closely, then barring the Information Technology exports where we rock, the condition of our merchandise trade is not too good. Two prime reasons explain this situation - our huge domestic market that makes it easy for even low-quality goods to get absorbed quickly, and our relatively small manufacturing base. We need to improve on both these parameters. Perhaps that is why the government is pushing ahead with its 'Make-in-India' programme with such urgency.

Third, and an important reason, is our introverted nature. This is quite surprising given the fact that our ancestors in the Indus Valley civilisation were great traders, who 5000 years ago would roam thousands of miles in boats without engines. The Silk Route also had India as the most prominent player after China. Then, despite us claiming upto half the world's GDP, we just lost our way. Today is the time to recover that lost glory in the truest sense of the word. We need to work on transforming our mindset. The fame that Ayurveda and Yoga enjoy should find its reflection in our exports as well.

Fourth is the compulsion with which we have resorted to the legal safety measures - pressed by our huge population numbers and omnipresent poverty - that angers our Western partners on fora like the WTO. For example, consider the 'compulsory licensing' norms in Pharma sector, or the 'public stock-holding programmes' in the public services sector. Our trade relations have continuously soured due to this. And simultaneously, the size of trade among the south Asian nations has been so small that no major benefit can be expected from it. Till the time Pakistan does not open its doors whole-heartedly for business with India, we are not going to benefit at all.

The fifth emerging challenge is the eagerness of America to rapidly conclude new mega-trade deals like the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) and the TTIP (Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership). These would be the new giant trade bloc that would exclude India, and whose regulations, especially pertaining to the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), would be so stringent as to make our present system look completely anachronous. We need to immediately improve our local IPR structures, including making the administrative and judicial machinery fast enough to dispense effective justice quickly, so entrepreneurs launching innovative products through original research are not frustrated.

The constantly growing youth population and the need to generate new jobs reminds us time and again that we must use opportunities to augment our world trade quantum. In such a scenario, the new rays of hope visible now are the mega-ambitious infrastructure programmes of the government of India like Sagarmala, Bharatmala, High-Speed Rails, Industrial Corridors etc. that hold in them the potential to totally transform India upon fruition. We will need to restructure the entire educational structure of India in such a manner that the needs and imperatives of world trade start reflecting in the study-patterns and examination system of our students. That alone will ensure a steady supply of trained manpower so essential to make these government plans a reality.

Quality in all we do, an extroverted mindset, and the insuperable desire to have our flag flying high across the world alone can transform our genuine potential into trade numbers. It would benefit everyone. Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam (the world is one family) can include trade also, in addition to the staple ingredients love, compassion and trust. After all, it is only when we multiply our per capita incomes by a factor of 3 or 4, will be reach a moderate prosperity level.

[ This article in Hindi originally appeared here ]
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Friday, April 15, 2016

What are the biggest mistakes you can do in life?

These are some striking ones.
FIRST, by not respecting those who love you the most. Taking them casually. Assuming they'll always be there and there are more important things at hand that merit attention. And then, slowly seeing their love and affection diminish as the poor souls fail to get any reciprocation.
Philosophy Life Lessons BrightSparks PT education IAS UPSC Civil Services IIM Sandeep Manudhane SM PT Indore
The Worst and the Best
SECOND, by only chasing stuff that is totally temporary and has no lasting value. Each such experience will make you poorer, and hungrier. The vicious circle goes all the way down. You cannot get permanence by chasing scintillas. They may give pleasure in the "here and now", but life needs much more to be fulfilling.
THIRD, by assuming that your present skill-sets will see you through for the next decade or more, and not constantly reinventing yourself. It actually is quite easy - keep an open mind, embrace change, read a lot and love new thoughts.
FOURTH, by constantly berating and insulting your own roots. While you may think you look stylish and "in" doing that, those who truly seek originality will maintain their distance. That's one powerful treasure you are now going to miss.
FIFTH, by destroying yourself in your own eyes. And that's done by bench-marking your Chapter 1 with others' Chapter 100 or 350 or 799.
Life is too precious to be lost in worthless pursuits. Love your work, but don't lose yourself in it. Create value, but don't become worthless in doing so. Build brands, but ensure your own gets built too. Be thoroughly sincere towards your work, but don't forget detachment. Best of luck!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Panama Paper leak, and Indians

What does the Panama Paper Leak mean to Indians?

TLDR - Many of the super-rich Indians, first generation or otherwise, decided they'll have nothing or little to do with the regular taxation system back home, as that would be too tiresome, unfair and extortionist. They decided to siphon their wealth, or a large part of it, outside India to places like BVI, Cayman Islands, or Panama, where it'd be safe from the prying eyes of the taxmen, to be enjoyed at leisure later. Sadly, some pure soul in Panama decided to take some load off itself and brought a few lac documents to public attention worldwide! So we have yet another proof of what everyone suspected always.

BUT - If you look closely, it is not just about India, or Indians. The real issue is the Mega-Rich versus The Rest of Humanity.

Sample this -

  • An Oxfam report indicates that 62 individuals now have as much wealth as half the humanity. That's a cool 320,00,00,000 people (3.2 billion / 320 crores). [ 62 Super-rich ]
  • It is almost acknowledged that there are maybe a few thousand individuals (5000?) holding most of the power in the world, with the rest being mere inconsequential cogs in the giant wheel
  • The Elite versus Non-Elite division was never so stark, anywhere, including the great land of equality - the USA. Hence the protests.  [ We are the 99% ]
We are the world, we are the children

In this backdrop, it is not surprising that there are two parallel financial systems running in this globalised world. One is for the 90% plus majority of the 7.3 billion people alive today. The other is for the rest who do not wish to share their riches (as taxes).

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What are the most important things I should teach my child?

Well, there are many, and these can form the top list -
    Parenting, Children, Happiness, Success, Exams, PT education, Sandeep Manudhane, Sandeep Indore, PT's IAS Academy
  • Be a great learner.
  • Listen to wise people with an open mind and closed mouth.
  • Read an hour daily.
  • Don't hoard stuff.
  • Don't be a brands person. It's the quickest route to spiritual death.
  • Discover new perspectives without losing your own.
  • Read two hours daily.
  • Write something with a pen on a paper daily. Have a good handwriting.
  • Walk.
  • Laugh a lot. Laugh like mad!
  • Fail. Enjoy failure. Emerge with lessons.
  • Respect others' success no matter how much you detest it.
  • Read a lot daily.
  • Don't be a jerk, meet and talk to people.
  • Help someone in need regularly.
  • Learn about the Universe; it's the most mysterious thing you won't ever get out of!
  • Love science and its approach. But don't hate religion and spirituality.
  • Learn Sanskrit shlokas even @ 2 or 3 per month.
  • Cry when you need to. Don't be ashamed of it.
  • Don't expect a smooth, hassle-free and scratch-free existence. Enjoy the tumbles. Love life!
And guess what - these lessons apply to all of us!