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7 Must-Read Books to Understand Indian Economics Before You Vote

As the 2024 elections continue, understanding Indian Economics and its issues is key for informed voting. With a complex landscape shaped by rapid growth, persistent challenges, and reforms, Indian Economics is at a pivotal juncture. Understanding its intricacies can empower voters to make decisions as India stands on the brink of significant change. Dive into these seven must-read books, packed with insights to help you make sense of it all and vote wisely for a brighter future.

 

India in Search of Glory
India in Search of Glory || Ashok

India and the Indians have made some progress in 75 years after Independence. The number of literates has gone up. The Indians have become healthier and their life expectancy at birth has gone up. The proportion of people below the poverty line has also halved. But the shine from the story fades when India is compared with that of the East Asian Tigers and China. It looks good but not good enough. India looks far away from the glory it seeks. This issue forms the core subject matter of this book. It tries to argue why India could not achieve more and what all it could have achieved. It paints a picture of its possible future and highlights the areas that need immediate attention.

 

Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India
Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India || Viral V. Acharya

How to maintain financial stability in India? Quest for Restoring Financial Stability in India is a classic work to understand this critical subject. In this Penguin edition, with a new introduction, Viral V. Acharya, former Deputy Governor of RBI offers a concrete road map for comprehensive improvement of India’s economy. Authoritative and definitive, this is a must read for the students and scholars of Indian economy, policymakers and anyone interested in India’s finance sector.

 

Breaking the Mould
Breaking the Mould || Raghuram Rajan, Rohit Lamba

India is at a crossroads today. Its growth rate, while respectable relative to other large countries, is too low for the jobs our youth need. Intense competition in low-skilled manufacturing, increasing protectionism globally and growing automation make the situation still more difficult. Divisive majoritarianism does not help. India
broke away from the standard development path—from agriculture to low-skilled manufacturing, then high-skilled manufacturing and, finally, services—a long time back by leapfrogging the intermediate steps. Rather than attempting to revert to development paths that may not be feasible any more, we must embark on a truly Indian path.

In Breaking the Mould, the authors explain how we can accelerate economic development by investing in our people’s human capital, expanding opportunities in high-skilled services and manufacturing centred on innovative new products, and making India a ferment of ideas and creativity. India’s democratic traditions will support this path, helped further by governance reforms, including strengthening our democratic institutions and greater decentralization.

 

Slip, Stitch & Stumble
Slip, Stitch & Stumble || Rajrishi Singhal

Manmohan Singh’s 1991 Union Budget speech made history by altering the course of the Indian
economy, especially its financial sector. His measures took a broom to multiple cobwebs in this sector. What Manmohan Singh started over three decades ago is still a work in progress today, but it does raise some questions: Why did he focus on financial sector reforms? What has motivated continuing these reforms?
This book tries to answer questions like these while focusing on the evolution of financial sector reforms which, oddly, remain incomplete even after thirty years. The fabric of this sector has been fraying and initiatives over the past three decades have resembled hasty, temporary needlework; the patchwork, incomplete reforms make the sector further vulnerable to failure. Hence: Slip, Stitch and Stumble.

 

India's Finance Ministers
India’s Finance Ministers || A.K. Bhattacharya

India’s Finance Ministers: Stumbling into Reforms (From 1977 to 1998) is the second volume in the series of books on some of India’s unforgettable finance ministers. Analysing the role of India’s finance ministers who managed India’s economy during one of its worst phases (post Emergency to the late 1990s), the book highlights the lasting impact they left on India’s political economy. This volume also provides a fascinating account of India’s economic history offering an incisive view of the key events in India’s journey from an closed, agrarian economy to a liberal economy.

 

Economic Sutra
Economic Sutra|| Satish Y. Deodhar, YS Rajan

A general perception exists that ancient Indian literature on economic matters is fatalistic and an admixture of sacred and secular thoughts. Economic Sutra provides a comprehensive perspective on the elements of Indian economic thought leading up to and after the Arthashastra. Economic Sutra is a perception-correction initiative to distil the Indian mind in the realm of economic thoughts and behaviour as brought out by the ancient Indian authors. It highlights the broader spread of economic ideas both prior to and sometime after Kautilya, giving insights into the purpose, actions and vision of our forefathers.

Poor Economics
Poor Economics || Abhijit V Banerjee, Esther Duflo

Imagine you have a few million dollars. You want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it? Billions of government dollars, and thousands of charitable organizations and NGOs, are dedicated to helping the world’s poor. But much of their work is based on assumptions about the poor and the world that are untested generalizations at best, harmful misperceptions at worst.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo have pioneered the use of randomized control trials in development economics through their award-winning Poverty Action Lab. They argue that by using randomized control trials, and more generally, by paying careful attention to the evidence, it is possible to make accurate-and often startling assessments-on what really impacts the poor and what doesn’t.

Amazon Vs Walmart: Who’s Winning the Battle for Your Buck?

Curious about the evolving retail landscape and the roles played by industry giants like Amazon and Walmart? In Nirmalya Kumar‘s Clash, find out how these titans impact the lives of everyday consumers, giving a new meaning to digital convenience and challenging the traditional shopping experience. ​

Read this excerpt as the world’s two largest companies, redefine retail and business best practices, and fight the ultimate battle for your buck!

CLASH
CLASH: Amazon vs Walmart || Nirmalya Kumar

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In the charming suburban town of Harmonyville lived a woman named Elimijn, a dedicated and caring housewife. Her days were filled with taking care of her family, managing the household and pursuing her creative hobbies. Two giants, Amazon and Walmart, played unexpected and integral roles in her life’s journey.

 

Elimijn was an avid reader and an aspiring artist. She loved exploring different genres of books and finding new sources of inspiration for her art. Amazon became her digital haven, offering an extensive collection of books, art supplies and crafting tools. With a few clicks, Elimijn could order the latest bestseller, a set of watercolour paints or even a specialized easel, all delivered right to her doorstep.

 

But Elimijn’s affection for retail didn’t end online. Walmart, with its sprawling store just a short drive away, provided a unique sensory experience. Elimijn enjoyed the tactile pleasure of wandering through its aisles, exploring a vast variety of products. She would often visit with a list in hand, making her way through the neatly organized shelves, hand-picking fresh groceries, household essentials and even some affordable fashion finds.

 

What set Amazon and Walmart apart in Elimijn’s heart was their balance in her life. Amazon’s convenience saved her time and effort, allowing her to spend more precious moments with her family and immerse herself in her hobbies. On the other hand, Walmart’s physical presence gave her a chance to step out, breathe in the air and indulge in a bit of old-fashioned retail therapy.

 

During holidays, Amazon’s quick shipping helped Elimijn avoid the holiday rush. She could order thoughtful gifts for her loved ones, wrapping them up with care and sharing the joy of giving. But the annual tradition of visiting Walmart to select the perfect Christmas tree with her family remained unchanged. The smell of pine needles, the twinkling lights and the festive atmosphere created cherished memories that couldn’t be replicated online.

 

Elimijn’s relationship with these retail giants wasn’t just about transactions. It was about the roles they played in her life’s narrative. Amazon’s efficiency became a trusted ally in her daily routine, while Walmart’s physical presence provided a sense of connection to her community. In a surprising twist, Elimijn’s creative endeavours gained recognition online. Her artwork found a following on social media, and soon enough, she was approached by both Amazon and Walmart to collaborate on exclusive lines of products. Amazon showcased her art supplies and books, while Walmart featured her artwork on select merchandise. Elimijn found herself at the crossroads of the very stores she had come to love. Her story was a reminder that these giants weren’t just about commerce—they were about opportunities, experiences and connections. Through Elimijn’s journey, Amazon and Walmart became not just retailers, but integral parts of her life, shaping her routines, her passions and even her dreams.

 

The battle between Amazon and Walmart, or more generally between online retail and physical stores, is often presented as a zero-sum game. It is believed that as online retailing becomes more popular, consumers will increasingly abandon brick-and mortar stores. Clearly, there is some evidence supporting  this as many traditional retail chains have gone bankrupt while online retailers like Amazon and Alibaba continue to deliver dramatic growth numbers. This difference in growth is also reflected, as noted earlier, in the hefty valuation that the markets place on disruptive e-commerce players relative to incumbent physical retailers.

 

In this chapter, we will build a more nuanced picture of this competition. Specifically, we will investigate if there are certain types of customers, particular buying situations and some product categories where the relative attractiveness of physical stores like Walmart is superior to online stores like Amazon  and vice versa. In exploring this, we will restrict our focus to the US, as it is the country where online retailing began and is most evolved, while also being the largest source of revenue for both Amazon and Walmart. Furthermore, we will use my Marketing as Strategy book’s 3Vs framework of valued customer (who to serve?), value proposition (what to offer?) and value network (how to deliver?) to investigate the differences between these two retail giants. The valued customer and value proposition aspects are discussed in this chapter, while the value network will be the focus of the next two chapters.

 

Who is the target segment for each retailer? Market segments, as we are taught, should be mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. Therefore, instinctively, marketers seek to answer this question by demonstrating that the types of people, based on demographic variables such as age, sex, education, income and geographical location, who prefer Amazon are different from those who patronize Walmart for their shopping needs.

 

However, customers in the real world, as the data will show, do not fall neatly into well-defined boxes. When asked, people often respond that relative to Walmart, Amazon shoppers are younger, more urban and educated, with higher income levels. They also see Amazon shoppers as more technologically savvy, forgetting that ordering on the mobile phone app is not a novelty or challenging any more. While the data does feed this stereotype to some extent, the differences in these demographic variables between Amazon and Walmart shoppers are not that dramatic, and furthermore, are decreasing over time.

 

Research indicates that the average (mean level) income of Amazon shoppers at $84,449 is only 11 per cent higher than for those who shop at Walmart ($76,313).2 Digging deeper, the typical (modal level) Walmart shopper is a married white woman with an undergraduate degree, between fifty-five and sixty-four years old, living in the suburbs of south-eastern USA, earning about $80,000 annually.3 However, this segment also frequents Amazon because Amazon’s typical shopper is a college-educated married woman, living in the south-east, earning more than $80,000 a year, but split across two age brackets: thirty-five to forty-four and fifty-five to sixty-four. Thus, a segmentation based on demographic variables does not give an accurate picture, as consumers do not shop exclusively at either Amazon or Walmart, which I am sure also reflects the behaviour of any American reader of this book.

 

***

Get your copy of CLASH: Amazon vs Walmart by Nirmalya Kumar wherever books are sold.

5 innovative insights to get started with your start-up!

Startups have changed the world. In the United States, many startups, such as Tesla, Apple, and Amazon, have become household names. The economic value of startups has doubled since 1992 and is projected to double again in the next fifteen years.

As venture capitalist Alexandre Lazarow shows in this insightful and instructive book, this Silicon Valley ‘gospel’ is due for a refresh–and it comes from what he calls the ‘frontier,’ the growing constellation of startup ecosystems, outside of the Valley and other major economic centers, that now stretches across the globe. The frontier is a truly different world where startups often must cope with political or economic instability and lack of infrastructure, and where there might be little or no access to angel investors, venture capitalists, or experienced employee pools.

Here’s a glimpse into some of these insights for all you future entrepreneurs!

 

Learn from the microfinance industry

‘In [the industry’s] early days, a key insight was that the poor were creditworthy borrowers. By placing borrowers into groups with a sense of strong social accountability and shared responsibility on the loans’ repayment, microfi nance lenders found that repayment rates were high.

But this insight was also the biggest challenge: the in-person nature of putting people in groups, making regular visits to collect money, and maintaining deep customer engagement is expensive. Companies like Tala, Branch International, and Safaricom’s own M-Shwari now offer consumer loans, relying entirely on the mobile money platform.’

Front cover of Out-Innovate
Out-Innovate || Alexandre Lazarow

 

Create rather than disrupt

‘Timbo Drayson founded OkHi, a technology-driven startup that creates addresses where there are none. OkHi’s mission statement is “Be Included.”

Creators do three fundamental things simultaneously. First, they offer a product or service that solves an unserved, acute pain point in the formal economy. Second, Creators offer a solution for the mass market. Finally, Creators are focused on game-changing innovations that fundamentally rethink a market and a sector.’

 

Raise a camel, not a unicorn

‘The growth-at-all-cost model simply does not translate to the realities of the Frontier. Instead of the unicorn, then, I propose the camel as the more appropriate mascot. Camels live in and adapt to multiple climates. They can survive without food or water for months. Their humps, primarily composed of fat, protect them from the desert’s scorching heat. When they do find water, they can rehydrate faster than any other animal.15 Camels are not imaginary creatures living in fictitious lands. They are resilient and can survive in the harshest places on earth.

Signing up for Silicon Valley’s unicorn-hunting strategy is a bit like mortgaging your home to buy three new homes. If things go well and the market moves in the right direction, then the rewards are massive. Facebook’s eye-watering returns for investors are a case in point. Yet this approach also increases the likelihood of losing everything.’

 

Build A-teams, don’t hire just A-players

‘…in Silicon Valley, companies and employees see their relationships as short-term affairs. Retention rates are among the lowest in the United States. More than 13 percent of staff turn over every year, and in certain job categories like user design, the rate is well above 20 percent, which translates to short employee tenure.

Frontier Innovators […] use fi ve key strategies to build and scale top teams. They test candidates for behavior and capabilities, develop a proprietary talent pipeline, leverage global distributed options, take a growth mindset to retention and training, and think critically about compensation and perks.’

 

Cross-pollinate

‘Frontier Innovators […] cross-pollinate. They leverage diverse lived experiences, often across multiple geographies, industries, and sectors, to build their businesses. They tap global networks for capital and resources.

At the Frontier, a typical innovator’s lived experience is longer and spans geographies, sectors, and industries. This diversity in experience explains the issues they choose to tackle and the unique approaches they employ.’

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With rich and wide-ranging stories of frontier innovators from around the world, Out-Innovate is the new playbook for innovation–wherever it has the potential to happen.

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