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Is Consumer India on the Brink of a Lifestyle Revolution?

Discover the intricate world of consumer India in Lilliput Land by Rama Bijapurkar. Explore the aspirations and attitudes towards credit that shape consumer India’s behavior and learn through the many valuable insights for businesses navigating this dynamic market amidst India’s digital revolution.

Let the Mega Consumption story begin!

 

 

Lilliput Land
Lilliput Land || Rama Bijapurkar

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A lot has been written about this in media stories and books, and ‘the changing Indian consumer’ is a favourite conference topic. However, given the structure story of the many Indias, all these anecdotes and observations of how different parts of the elephant behave need to be distilled into a holistic view of the nature of the beast. This chapter looks at key shapers of behaviour—aspiration, dignity, Indian identity, brand orientation, the phenomenon of monster consumers, how to understand and navigate heterogeneity of the market for strategy development, and how to read change in the confusing way in which Consumer India changes. Shapers of Consumer India’s Consumption Behaviour A macro-consumer view of the people of India Consumer India, as the previous chapter on structure has demonstrated, is a fragmented and complex hydra-headed monster, based on just its economy, demographics and living conditions. Add to that a layer of different social and cultural factors aff ecting diff erent parts of Consumer India (including community, region, politics and language), and diff erent levels of exposure to diff erent worlds outside, it gets even more complex. Requests asking me to speak on the topic of ‘Indian Consumer Behaviour’ or ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour in India’ terrify me. How does one capture the enormity of behaviour variations in Consumer India? No matter what one could say, the opposite would also be true in some audience members’ recent experience! Therefore, for reasons of both prudence and competence, this chapter will not attempt the near-impossible task of chronicling diff erent kinds of consumer behaviour and diff erent patterns of consumption.

 

The focus of this chapter will instead be on understanding the lives, mind spaces and attitudes that shape the behaviour of the people who comprise Consumer India. This is useful because consumption and brands do not live in the narrow confines of a market space but exist as a part of the larger canvas of  people’s lives. Serving a consumer base without understanding what makes it tick does not make for winning businesses, sound market strategies or creating brands that deeply resonate with consumers.

 

This chapter has three sections:
1. Shapers of Consumer India’s consumption behaviour: A few important themes that are common and relevant to all income groups.
2. Structure and drivers of heterogeneity in Consumer India and how to think about consumer segmentation.
3. How India changes and reading change in Consumer India.

 

As everywhere in this book, this chapter will also examine many of the commonly held hypotheses and theories about Consumer India to test their validity and change, nuance or caveat them as the case may require.

 

Section I:

Shapers of Consumer India’s Consumption Behaviour This section identifies and explores a few important themes that are common across all of Consumer India and shape the consumption behaviour of all income groups. A Tectonic Shift from Acceptance to Aspiration, Facilitated by Credit.

 

Aspirational India is a tectonic shift from the pre-liberalization days when we would often hear consumers of lower-income groups tell us in focus groups, ‘This is not for me, this is for the badey log (big people).’ Now, there is a strong statement of, ‘I want to have something like that, be it products or experiences.’ A car is obviously not affordable, but a bike and a taxi for special family outings is. Now, having what celebrities have has become easy with social media. Copies of actress Alia Bhatt’s mehendi pattern and cheap knock-offs of her wedding dress are available. Influencers and beauticians of every social class tell you how to use make-up like celebrities do and style yourself at a price point that you can afford. As ad man Santosh Desai puts it, the big shift is that ‘life is not a condition to be endured but a product to be experienced’. Aspiration-led living is the opposite of the way it used to be. The attitude and mindset shift is from ‘this is what I have and how do I manage best within it’ to ‘this is what I want, so how do I manage to get it’. We see this resulting in choices which can best be described as ‘stretch for more, do not settle for less’. Borrow and buy the higher category car or two-wheeler or buy a second-hand one rather than settle for the easily affordable small car, even if it means waiting a bit, buying a pre-owned vehicle or taking a loan.

 

Credit or borrowing for consumption once considered a very dangerous thing, is now acceptable and ‘normal’ to Consumer India. Amazon and consumer durables stores and travel sites helpfully ask you, at the time of checking out, if you want to pay by EMI, that is, equated monthly instalments of credit. Credit is also morally purified. Its cultural label has changed from indebtedness, which can lead to ruin, to being the working capital for life and the helping hand that everybody needs to reach their goals. Financial services companies have been exploiting this attitude shift leading to the regulators and the courts coming down hard and framing laws to curb irresponsible lending that leads to imprudent borrowing, and strong-arm tactics for recovery that lead to customer stress and even suicides. An example of this is what happened to the microfinance industry in 2010 leading to a new law in 2011 that banned MFIs from approaching the doorstep of their customers, lengthened the loan collection cycles and told lenders that they had to get government approval to give a second loan to the same lender. The Reserve Bank of India, India’s banking regulator has issued a charter of customer rights for banks and non-banking financial services companies (NBFC) that includes the ‘right to suitability’, where ‘only products and services that are appropriate to the understanding and financial conditions of the customers may be offered to them.’ It is a caveat venditor (let the seller beware) as far as enforcing this right is concerned.

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Get your copy of Lilliput Land by Rama Bijapurkar wherever books are sold.

Crack the Code of Business Success with these Books!

Dive into a handpicked collection of books that unlock the secrets to success, challenge traditional thinking, and inspire personal growth. From workplace wisdom to extraordinary journeys, entrepreneurial endeavors, and captivating corporate tales, these books offer insights that are both enlightening and entertaining. Whether you’re a business enthusiast or an aspiring leader, these books are your gateway to a world of knowledge and inspiration.

 

 

Play to Transform
Play to Transform || Avinash Jhangiani

Play to Transform is a book that challenges the traditional mindset of business leaders and encourages them to tap into their inner child to accelerate transformation with purpose. The book argues that we are all born creative geniuses with an innate ability to empathize deeply with others, but somewhere along the way, we have lost touch with these qualities. In the post-pandemic world, leaders need to be more empathetic and agile than ever before, and a conscious shift in mindset is required to achieve this.

 

Office Secrets
Office Secrets || Harish Bhat

Office Secrets offers a selection of fascinating and useful secrets that can help you be far more successful at your workplace. As a bonus, they can make you happier as well. You will find within a range of subjects-whether the best methods of fighting exhaustion, organizing your work desk, the power of listening, why kindness is so important, workplace lessons from Hercule Poirot and what you can learn from the cookies that your colleagues eat.

Harish Bhat wields his pen with his signature insight to delight, inspire, provoke and change the way you see offices forever.

 

Unlocked
Unlocked || Gezim Gashi

Gezim Gashi recounts his extraordinary journey-from escaping the Kosovo genocide to becoming the first Albanian-Swede to launch a high school institute in the United States – Gezim lays out a path to personal success and fulfillment that is accessible to all, regardless of their background. With his mentorship, readers will be inspired to overcome obstacles and achieve their biggest goals.

 

Unlocking Unicorn Secrets
Unlocking Unicorn Secrets || Kushal Lodha, Ishan Sharma

Unlocking Unicorn Secrets captures the entrepreneurial journeys of some of India’s new-age founders and looks at the challenges they faced and how they overcame them. It covers themes such as developing an idea, building out the minimum viable product (MVP), finding a co-founder, setting up the founding team, raising funds and scaling the business, among others. Through primary research and a series of interviews conducted with the founders of these billion-dollar companies, the authors weave a narrative that is both accessible and informative.

 

The Big Bull of Dalal Street
The Big Bull of Dalal Street || Neil Borate, Aprajita Sharma, Aditya Kondawar

The Big Bull of Dalal Street looks at the life of India’s big bull, as Rakesh was famously known, both as a person and as a professional. Providing a fascinating account of his journey, it analyses the records of Jhunjhunwala’s investments and interviews he has given over the years. More than just a biography, a large section of the book is devoted to understanding the stocks that made him rich and the mistakes he made. Looking at the journey of the legendary investor, the book offers retail investors some useful insights—-benefits of long-term investing, mistakes one should avoid in the stock market, risk associated with leveraged trades, among others.

 

Exprovement
Exprovement || Hersh Haladker, RA Mashelkar

Through the various examples highlighted in this book, Hersh Haladker and Raghunath Mashelkar emphasize that searching for growth opportunities within an offering’s existing industry usually results in incremental improvement, whereas exponential improvement can be achieved by drawing parallels from outside of the current context.

 

Unfinished Business
Unfinished Business || Nandini Vijayaraghavan

Unfinished Business is a chronicle of contemporary Indian corporate history, narrated through the professional trajectories of four high-profile businessmen: Anil Ambani, Naresh Goyal, V.G. Siddhartha and Vijay Mallya. Following these four entrepreneurs’ careers and professional decisions, Unfinished Business throws light on the evolution of Indian capitalism during the first two decades of the twenty-first century, set against the backdrop of a dynamic political, regulatory and business climate in India. And, with great insight, clarity and analysis, Nandini Vijayaraghavan explores the takeaways for entrepreneurs, regulators, lenders and investors in this compelling, illuminating read.

 

Doglapan
Doglapan || Ashneer Grover

A young boy with a ‘refugee’ tag growing up in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar outpaces his circumstances by becoming a rank-holder at the pinnacle of academic excellence in India-IIT Delhi. He goes on to do an MBA from the hallowed halls of IIM Ahmedabad, builds a career as an investment banker at Kotak Investment Banking and AmEx, and is pivotal in the making of two unicorns-Grofers, as CFO, and BharatPe, as co-founder.

 

The Dolphin and The Shark
The Dolphin and The Shark || Namita Thapar

The Dolphin and the Shark is born out of Namita Thapar’s experiences of being a judge on Shark Tank India and running the India business of the pharma company Emcure as well as her own entrepreneurship academy. The book emphasizes how leaders of today need to strike a balance between being a shark (aggressive leader) and a dolphin (empathetic leader).

 

Work 3.0
Work 3.0 || Avik Chanda, Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay

Work 3.0 tackles this and some of the other most pressing and complex questions of the present age, head-on. Avik Chanda and Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay employ rigorous research supplemented with industry reports, business case studies, expert interviews, anecdotes, their personal expertise and insights, to present a rich multi-disciplinary brew that spans economics, statistics, public policy, history, sociology, psychology, law, political science, literature and philosophy. Highly ambitious in scope, astonishingly rich in analytical detail and far-reaching in its conclusions, the book will change the way you think about the future and how the past and present still shape it.

 

How Business Storytelling Works
How Business Storytelling Works || Sandeep Das

Whether you are a corporate professional, an entrepreneur, a tech guru, a marketer, a strategy consultant, a social media influencer or a student, the book tells you how to succeed in the REAL world. Sandeep brings in nuggets from his numerous storytelling workshops at leading corporates and business schools, and intersperses it with illustrations and hordes of popular culture references, making the book
as engaging as a good story. So, what are you waiting for? Head to the checkout counter.

 

The Company We Keep
The Company We Keep || Divya Khanna

The Company We Keep is a market research-based exploration of Indian corporate culture. It looks beyond the glamour and jargon of the business world to individual stories that share real personal insights into the aspirations, vulnerabilities, pressures and possibilities of corporate careers and lives. These are urgent conversations we need to keep having as we reflect, review and decide where we can go from here.

 

Gautam Adani
Gautam Adani || R.N. Bhaskar

Gautam Adani needs no introduction. One of the richest men in the world, he also helms a business empire that is now India’s largest player in ports and renewable energy. He is also the country’s largest private sector player in sectors like airports, city gas distribution, power transmission, thermal power, edible oil, and railway lines. Yet, look beyond these facts, and startlingly little is known about Gautam Adani, the maverick businessman; about his motivations and vision; about his life, and the episodes, minor and major, that propelled him to make the choices he did.

 

Build Don't Talk
Build Don’t Talk || Raj Shamani

Your school taught you how to run in the race; it didn’t teach you how to win. And that’s what this book is for. To help you win the race. Packed with useful advice gleaned from his own journey as an entrepreneur and content creator, this book by Raj Shamani is a must-read.

 

Rahul Bajaj
Rahul Bajaj || Gita Piramal

Rahul Bajaj is a billionaire businessman, the chairman emeritus of the Bajaj Group and a former member of Parliament. This book is not just the story of Rahul Bajaj but the story of India. The author takes us through the country’s transformation from the time Rahul Bajaj’s mother was imprisoned during the freedom struggle to the prism of his eventful life.
Based on unrestricted interviews, the book is full of anecdotes, business learnings and political asides. It is, at its core, a moving human story.

 

Investonomy
Investonomy || Pranjal Kamra

Investonomy not only explains modern value investing principles but also unveils certain secrets of the stock market. It busts popular myths and misconceptions as well. A thorough reading of this book will enable you to chart your own investment plans, and soon, you’ll be all set for your personal wealth-creation journey through equity investment. Investonomy is an initiative to empower existing, as well as potential, investors like you.

 

Unfiltered
Unfiltered || Ana Lueneburger, Saurabh Mukherjea

A pioneering book, Unfiltered: The CEO and the Coach, for the first time, opens the doors that normally shield the confidential world of coaching conversations. The book, through its candour, helps readers fully grasp the life-changing impact that coaching can have. Conceived as a leadership development book, the authors share the narratives (both individual and mutual) of their partnership over the course of five years. The resultant narrative provides not just unique insights that executives and entrepreneurs will find useful for their own development but also deep insights into how, by understanding ourselves, we move towards mastery over the world at large.

 

The Dream Founder
The Dream Founder || Dhruv Nath

The DREAM Founder is an essential entrepreneurship guide for early-stage Indian start-ups. It also has interviews with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world of start-ups, such as Sanjeev Bikhchandani of Naukri.com, Deepinder Goyal of Zomato, Meena Ganesh of Portea Medical and Dr Annurag Batra of Businessworld.

The macro and micro of a pandemic economy

COVID-19 has impacted individual lives and collective communities, making it more urgent than ever to rethink the way our economy runs and the aspects it chooses to focus on. The macroeconomic aspects set the stage for microeconomics, since the latter can be geared according to the former. But macroeconomics can be counter-intuitive and needs to be understood before the other aspects of the economy can be discussed. This is also true in the context of a lockdown. In his book Indian Economy’s Greatest Crisis, Arun Kumar bases his analysis of macroeconomics on the understanding of what happens to variables like incomes, investments, savings, exports, imports and the growth rate of the economy.

In India, the lockdown was substantially loosened June onwards; given the state and spread of the virus in the country, this relaxation came at a time when the pandemic was not brought sufficiently under control. The number of tests was also far below the adequate or ideal number. While some countries have completely controlled the pandemic, it is still unlikely that it will be brought under control globally anytime soon. The economies of different countries have also been affected in different ways under their prospective lockdowns. China was initially reported to have ramped up production after the lockdown ended. In the first quarter of 2020, the rate of growth of the Chinese economy slipped from about +6 per cent in the previous quarter to -6.8 per cent. But the brutal lockdown in the Hubei province ensured that the country could overcome the virus faster. This also ensured the lockdown could be relaxed quickly in the country. As a result, in the second quarter, the economy recovered to +3.2 per cent growth.

front cover Indian Economy’s Greatest Crisis
Indian Economy’s Greatest Crisis||Arun Kumar

According to Arun Kumar, the situation around the world now is actually worse than it was during the depression of the 1930s or during the world wars. A major difference between a situation of war or recession and that of a pandemic is that during wars or recession, while aspects of the economy might be affected adversely in significant ways, production does not stop. This however is not the case during a pandemic. In a lockdown, production cannot take place, so both supply and demand collapse.

Simultaneously, workers get laid off and their incomes fall, and most businesses close down and their profits fall and even turn into losses. The result is that a large number of people lose their incomes and, therefore, demand falls drastically. This is a unique situation and past experiences of dealing with crises have not been useful in predicting what will happen in the future and how one should deal with the present situation. Therefore, according to Kumar, we need a new understanding of and strategy for the macroeconomics of the nation. The macro-variables—output, employment, prices, savings, investments and foreign trade—need to be reformulated and studied in the light of the changed situation.

In such a situation, the economy goes through three stages. From the normal phase, it declines during a lockdown, but even with the easing of lockdown restrictions, it is unlikely that the economy will immediately bounce back to the pre-pandemic phase. Due to continued wage cuts and unemployment, demand is likely to remain low. Many sectors of production will suffer and take long to revive, businesses will fail and the cost of doing business will rise. It is important that India learns from the trajectory of the economies of China and the US. The Indian economy, like the US and Chinese ones, is likely to recover slowly, especially due to its large unorganized sector which has taken a massive hit despite being at the helm of services which can easily be consider essential.

It remains to be seen how recovery and rehabilitation takes place in India, what the role of private businesses will be, and how the government will handle the new few years, which would end up becoming crucial in defining the trajectory of the country in the near future.

 

 

 

 

5 things India should do to achieve greatness

What is it about the Indian psyche that makes us so incapable of fulfilling our promise as a nation? Why are we so averse to risk, resigned to mediocrity and mired in a collective lack of confidence? India has so much potential but seems forever stuck on the brink of actualization, unable to muster the political will and geo-economic force to clear the final bar. The stakes are higher than ever, and India’s moment is now.

Super Century by Raghav Bahl highlights the Indian psyche that makes us so incapable of fulfilling our promise as a nation and questions our constant aversion to risk, resignation to mediocrity and our collective lack of confidence.

The below points share what India must do in order to achieve the greatness that is it’s due:

Treat any friction in the India–US relationship as temporary and stay focused on the long-term prize: an unequivocal alliance.

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India’s leaders should consult with experts, from private industry as well as the public sector, to figure out how best to deliver top-quality, state-of-the-art service in each sector, make them operate with maximum efficiency and provide an effective safety net for society’s neediest.

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India’s leaders must be truly committed to liberating— rather than squelching, or redirecting—the ambitions of the Indian people. Only then will the nation fulfil the promise of all its potential both at home and in the world.

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Instead of treating tourists with indifference or worse, we need to recognize their value to India. Not only do they bring in desperately needed revenue, but they also expose us to new perspectives and raise our global profile.

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The ratio of allopathic doctors to citizens should double to 1 per 1000 by 2027, and India would also seek to increase the density of health workers— nurses and midwives, as well as doctors—to WHO’s ideal of twenty three per 10,000 people. There should be at least one medical college per district or 1.5 million people and a system for training community health workers.

Super Century offers a cogent and candid assessment of how we got where we are and a clear blueprint of what we need to do, both at home and in the world, to fulfil our promise going forward.

Six Proven Principles that Indian Entrepreneurs Can Use to Co-create Frugal Solutions

The groundbreaking new book Do Better with Less by the bestselling authors of Jugaad Innovation—Navi Radjou,  and Jaideep Prabhu is here to show how India can harness the three megatrends — the sharing economy, the maker movement and the circular economy to drive inclusive and sustainable growth in the coming decades.

The world faces a stark challenge: meeting the needs of over 7 billion people without bankrupting the planet. India, with its large population and limited resources, offers a creative response to this. Its resilient jugaad mindset, dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem of start-ups and NGO-government collaboration promises to meet its own requirements, and those of the world, in a sustainable way.

Read on for six proven principles that Indian entrepreneurs and businesses can use to co-create frugal solutions in education, energy, healthcare, food and finance!

Principle one: engage and iterate

Rather than using insular research and development (R&D) departments that rely on educated guesses about customer needs, E&I starts with customers, observing their behaviour in their natural environment, and then considers how products can be made as relevant as possible, going back and forth between the customer and the lab to refine designs. As former CEO of Intuit, Brad Smith says: ‘If you never lose sight of the customer problem, how you attack the solution can remain more flexible and iterative and ultimately be more likely to succeed.’ This innovation model is based not on pushing new technologies onto customers, but on starting with customer insights and looking for ways to solve their actual problems.

 

 

Principle two: flex your assets

Customers are becoming ever more demanding. They increasingly want tailored products and services where and when they desire. The trend towards mass customization,  new tools (such as robotics and 3D printers) and new approaches (such as social manufacturing and continuous production) can help operations and supply chain managers ‘flex’ their production, logistics and service assets to satisfy demanding customers better and more cheaply. The goal of flexing assets is not only about saving resources, such as carrying less inventory, but also about saving time—a business’s most valuable resource.

 

Principle three: Create sustainable solutions

This demonstrates how companies can implement sustainable practices such as cradle-to-cradle and the circular economy (where components and materials are repeatedly recycled) to design and manufacture waste-free products of value to customers. It shows how the sharing economy—in which customers share products as pay as- you-go services rather than own and consume them—can boost customer loyalty and generate new sources of revenue. And it explains how some pioneering firms are using techniques such as upcycling to combine and integrate the principles of the sharing and circular economies, thus paving the way for the ‘spiral economy’: a virtuous system that generates evermore value while reducing waste and the use of natural resources. Thus R&D and manufacturing managers can develop self-sustaining solutions that help both businesses and the environment



Principle four: shape customer behaviour

 Companies can influence consumers into behaving differently (for example, driving less or more safely) and feeling richer while consuming less. Marketing managers can improve brand loyalty and market share by tailoring frugal products and services more closely to the way customers actually think, feel and behave—and by properly positioning and communicating the aspirational value of these frugal solutions. Indian brands can use clever design and marketing techniques to encourage Indian consumers to adopt a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

 

 

Principle five: co-create value with prosumers

Consumers want a ‘conversation’ with their brands. Consumers now design, build and sell products themselves especially the tech-savvy millennials and Generation Z (those born between 1981 and 2012)—are evolving from passive individual users into communities of empowered ‘prosumers’, who collectively design, create and share the products and services they want. Sales and marketing managers can build greater brand affinity and deepen their engagement with customers by co-creating greater value for all.

The horizontal economy which allows consumers to design, build, market, distribute and trade goods and services by and among themselves, is being encouraged by Fab Labs and maker spaces, the low-cost building blocks of DIY products, Peer-to-peer sharing platforms, collective buying platforms, and crowdfunding platforms that finance new ventures.

 

 

Principle six: make innovative friends

R&D and operations managers can develop frugal products, services and business models more efficiently by collaborating with diverse external partners (such as suppliers, universities, venture capitalists and start-ups) than by working alone.  In addition, makerspaces can connect large companies and nimble inventors and enable them to co-create new products faster and cheaper using digital prototyping tools.  Brands must increase the breadth and depth of their partnerships in order to understand the real nature of the so-called wicked problems and solutions. Companies must also transform themselves from within by setting up an innovation-brokering function, increasing internal agility, and monetizing, intellectual capital beyond just protecting it.

 


Do Better With Less is India’s guide to claiming global leadership in frugal innovation.

 

7 Reasons Why Indian Economy Didn’t Recover After the Global Financial Meltdown

Puja Mehra’s book The Lost Decade is a reconstruction of the ten years after the global financial  shock of 2008, in which the Indian economy could not achieve its potential or its pre-crisis growth momentum. Prior to the global financial crisis, India’s economy was growing impressively. But after the shock,  that momentum could not be achieved again due to the influence of politics on policies. Puja Mehra explains this failure of the Indian economy to regain the pre-crisis momentum in her book with sharp analysis and in-depth reporting, drawing on her journalistic experience, of the policy decisions taken by two different governments in the last ten year.

Here we chart a few of the reasons discussed in the book for the continued state of decline in the growth of the economy:

1. The shock of the financial crisis in September 2008 slowed the economy for one year. It rebounded a year later, but that recovery was not sustained.

2. In the following year after the financial crisis had hit the country, the then finance minister’s policy decisions and approach only weakened the recovery. Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, who the finance minister wrongly assessed the need of the hour and rolled out a third fiscal stimulus package even though two stimulus packages were already in place.

3. Furthermore, he sharply increased allocations for social-sector spending by the finance ministry without factoring in the revenue position. As a result, the fiscal deficit expanded even as the economy’s capacity for absorbing the fund releases in a productive manner failed to keep pace. 

4. The failure to focus on reforms  in the recovery period in 2009, further weakened the industrial sector that was already reeling under impact of the global economic downturn that followed the global financial shock. 

5. After a tedious and slow recovery of the country’s economy during the years 2012-15, economic growth was hampered yet again by the failure to address the problem of bad bank loans in a timely and effective manner.

6. The incumbent government chose to prioritise the infrastructure sector, rather than concentrating on the bad bank loans, resolving which was more important for building the growth momentum. 

7. Even by 2018, the rates of increase of investments, consumption and exports, the three engines of growth in the economy, were not robust enough, and the sustained high GDP growth seen in the runup to the September 2008 shock was still out of reach for the Indian economy. 

 


The Lost Decade tells the story of the slide and examines the political context in which the Indian economy failed to recover lost momentum.

Games Indians Play – An Excerpt

Drawing examples from the way we behave in day-to-day situations, an all-new and revised edition of Games Indians Play tries to show how in the long run each one of us-whether businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats, or just plain us-stand to profit more if we were to assume a little self-regulation, give fairness a chance and strive to cooperate and collaborate a little more even if self-interest were to be our main driving force.

In a rare attempt to understand the Indianness of Indians-among the most intelligent people in the world, but also, to a dispassionate eye, perhaps the most baffling- V. Raghunathan uses the props of game theory and behavioural economics to provide an insight into the difficult conundrum of why we are the way we are.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of the book!


NOT WHO BUT WHY

‘Who am I?’ is not a question that occupies me much. I have neither the intellectual curiosity nor the intellectual endowment to ask or answer that question. But, off and on, like when I have just returned from a visit abroad (by ‘abroad’ I mean not only countries like the USA, UK and UAE but also the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia or Botswana, Burkina Faso and Burundi), I find myself asking some less philosophical questions. For example:

Why is my sense of public hygiene so porcine? Why do I throw my garbage around with the gay abandon of an inebriated uncle flinging 500-rupee notes at a Punjabi wedding? Why do I spit with a free will, as if without that one right I would be a citizen of a lesser democracy? Why do I tear off a page from a library book, or write my name on the Taj Mahal? Why do I light a match to a football stadium, a city bus or any other handy public property, or toot my horn in a residential locality at 3 a.m.? Why do I leave a public toilet smelling even though I would like to find it squeaky clean as I enter it? Why don’t I contribute in any way to help maintain a beautiful public park? Why is my concern for quality in whatever I do rather Lilliputian? Why is my ambition or satisfaction threshold at the level of a centipede’s belly button? Why do I run the tap full blast while shaving even when I know of the acute water shortage in the city? Why don’t I stop or slow down my car to allow a senior citizen or a child to cross the road? Why do I routinely jump out of my seat in a mad rush for the overhead baggage even before the aircraft comes to a halt, despite the repeated entreaties of the cabin crew?

Why do I routinely disregard an airline’s announcement to board in orderly groups in accordance with seat numbers? Why does it not hurt my national pride that in international terminals abroad extra staff is appointed at gates from which flights to India are to depart? Why don’t I vote? Why don’t I stand up or retaliate against social ills? Why is it that every time the government announces a well-intended measure like a higher rate of interest for senior citizens I am not averse to borrowing my ageing parents’ names, or the old family maid’s for that matter, to save my money? Why is it that, every time the government announces no tax deduction at source for small depositors, I split my bank deposit into fifteen different accounts, with the active connivance of the bank manager? Why do I jump red lights with the alacrity of a jackrabbit leaping ahead of a buckshot? Why do I block the left lane, when my intention is to turn right? Or vice versa? Why do I overtake from the left? Why do I drive at night in the city with the high beam on? Why do I jump queues with the zest of an Olympic heptathlon gold hopeful?

 


Get your copy of Games Indians Play today!

Game India- An Excerpt

India may widely be acknowledged as one of the fastest-growing major economies in the world, but how can this vast, diverse and heavily populated nation sustain growth prospects? Game India offers a decisive answer.

Through chapters, at once ambitious and engaging, it outlines seven key unrealized opportunities India can pursue to remain a leading player on the world economic superhighway.

Here is an excerpt from the book!


Everybody likes stories. They are what we grew up with, what we turn to when in doubt. Stories are the beginning of all thought. One of the triggers for this book too lies in a story, narrated to a large gathering by the late Nani Palkhivala — eminent jurist, management guru and tax consultant.

For those who were young in the 1980s, Nani Palkhivala was iconic. He was such a lofty legal luminary, he was almost an institution. But he was renowned for yet another unique contribution. Every year, about a week after the budget papers were presented to Parliament, he would deliver a much awaited, much-eulogized speech — his critique on the budget. This was a time when there were no private television networks in India. Doordarshan, the sole master of the airwaves, was reluctant to telecast views critical of government policy.

So those who wished to benefit from Palkhivala’s views had no choice but to attend his public discourse.

Palkhivala would pore over every clause and sub-clause of the budget and deliver his appraisal of the government’s plans and intentions. His views were revered; almost every corporate baron, tax consultant, finance manager from all over India— even students—thronged to listen to him. Such was his hold over people’s imagination that most flights from all major Indian cities to Mumbai (it was Bombay then) were filled to capacity a couple of days before and after the date that Palkhivala had chosen for the delivery of his evaluation. Palkhivala continued this ‘free’ contribution to the nation year after year till the late 1990s when age made him give up this practice. That he made a deep impression on me would be an understatement. I owe a great deal of my understanding of India’s economy as well as my vision for the country to his thoughts and analyses. That is why it is not surprising that the inspiration for this book comes from one of the ubiquitous tales he told in the course of one of his speeches, a story that is as relevant today as when he first narrated it.

When God decided to create man — a version goes — He made a clay image of Himself and then put it into the oven to bake. Impatient, yet excited about creating this creature, God took the clay model out of the oven rather quickly, for fear that it would get burnt. He was in for a shock. The creature was half-baked! Yet conscious that He couldn’t undo what He had already created, He breathed life into the clay model. And man was born. Not exactly as God might have wished him to be, but marvellous nonetheless.

So God gave his creative efforts a second chance. He made another clay model of Himself and put it into the oven to bake. Now, He told himself to be patient, to wait. Finally, after a great deal of time, He pulled the creature out. This time, the being was burnt ebony black—extremely beautiful, but still not quite what God had in mind. As before, the Lord imparted breath to this creature as well.

Then, God decided to make one final attempt. He crafted a third clay model of Himself. This time He took care that it would bake for neither too long nor too brief a period. At the precise moment when He believed that it was perfectly done, God extracted this model. Glowing a rich brown, it looked stunning—and exactly as God had hoped he would be!

So thrilled was God that He began bestowing qualities on His latest creation. ‘You shall be wise, creative, adventurous, hard-working . . .’ A few more adjectives were just waiting to trip off his tongue, but before he could utter them, the white and the black creatures rose in unison and shouted, ‘God, stop!’ God looked at them incredulously. Pointing accusing fingers, the two castigated Him roundly. ‘A God is supposed to be impartial. He has to be fair. He should bestow His gifts on all.’

Realization struck God. They were right. Instead of being balanced and just, which was His essential nature, He had got carried away. But, what could He do? He could not take back what He had already given. As He wondered and worried about just how to right this wrong, an idea struck him. ‘I know,’ God said, ‘if I cannot erase what I have already given the brown man, let me at least restrict him with a handicap.’ Then he broke into a twisted smile and softly murmured, ‘I shall give him the Indian government.’


Weaving together industry lore, keenly analyzed data, and one-on-one interviews with corporate moguls-from Verghese Kurien and the Pais of Manipal to Gautam Adani and Brij Mohan Munjal- Game India is essential reading for every Indian looking ahead.

The Age Of Awakening – An Excerpt

Indian leaders at the time of Independence had their tasks cut out. The nation that was marred by an ugly Partition, had to be prevented from coming apart at the seams. An economic policy had to be shaped for a widely impoverished population.

The Age of Awakening tells India’s economic story since the country gained independence. It unfolds a tale of titanic figures, colossal failures, triumphant breakthroughs and great moral shortcomings.

Here is an excerpt from the bookwhich sheds light on the post-Independence scenario.


“India is an elaborate mix of contradictions and complexities. It is rare to find other countries in the world that embrace such an extraordinary diversity of religions, a multitude of ethnic groups, a disparate assortment of languages and a range of economic development levels in society. For these reasons, there was considerable skepticism surrounding the idea of India as a nation.

The British were especially doubtful that any unity of the Indian state could outlast their reign. A ‘Balkanization’ of the region was widely expected as soon as they left. When the renowned writer Rudyard Kipling was asked in 1891 about the possibility of self-government in India, he exclaimed,‘Oh no! They are 4,000 years old out there, much too old to learn that business. Law and order is what they want and we are there to give it to them.’

Among others, Sir John Strachey, a British civil servant who gave a series of lectures in Cambridge in 1988 that were later compiled in a book titled India, also held a similar view. In the lectures, he argued that ‘India’ was merely ‘a name which we give to a great region including a multitude of different countries’.

He pointed out that the differences among European nations were much smaller than those that existed across the Indian landscape. All the nation states that had formed in Europe arose from a shared identity of language or territory. India displayed no comparable sense of national unity. Most popularly, Winston Churchill, the formidable prime minister of United Kingdom during the Second World War, once infamously remarked that ‘India is merely a geographical expression . . . no more a single country than the Equator’.

But, against all cynical assessments of the possible establishment of an Indian state, when the country gained independence in 1947, speculations arose on how long it would stay united. With the death of every leader, eruption of new secessionist movements, or even failure of monsoons, the survival of India as a single entity was vehemently questioned. But the Indian experiment remained resilient through it all.”


Weaving together vivid history and economic analysis, The Age Of Awakening makes for a gripping narrative.

India Transformed — An Excerpt

Rakesh Mohan is the former deputy governor of the RBI. He has also served as the executive director of the IMF and secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, and Ministry of Finance. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow with Brookings India.
India underwent a major economic reform in the form of liberalization in 1991. In India Transformed, India’s top business leaders and economists come together and provide a balanced picture of the consequences of the economic reforms, initiated in 1991. They ask themselves some imperative questions: What were the reforms? What were they intended for? How have they affected the overall functioning of the economy?
Here is an exclusive excerpt from the foreword of the book, written by Strobe Talbott, the former Deputy Secretary of United States of America.
This timely, authoritative and policy-relevant volume sheds light on India’s dramatic changes over the past quarter century. That transformation has not only been a boon to the people of India, it has also contributed to the progress of the human enterprise as a whole. The world’s largest democracy is a major player on the world stage. It is certainly viewed and valued that way by my own country, the United States of America.
The economic and commercial dimension of India’s evolution is, of course, crucial. Hence, the focus of submissions in the pages that follow is political economy, financial development, trade and globalization, technology and innovation, agricultural and industrial development, and the interaction between the private and public sectors. The contributors include some of the original designers and implementers of the reform process, along with the prominent business leaders who have been the most successful builders of the economy.
There is also, thanks to the inclusion of wisdom from Shivshankar Menon, Shyam Saran and Sanjaya Baru, due attention paid to India’s foreign and security policy.
Over the course of the last half-century, I have had numerous opportunities to watch India’s evolution, first from the vantage point of a student of international relations and then for two decades as a journalist. During my eight years in government during the 1990s, I also had a chance to participate in the effort by the Indian and the US governments to put the bilateral relationship on a sounder—indeed, a transformed—footing than had been the case in the first four decades after Indian Independence. Dennis Kux captured the perception on both sides of that star-crossed backstory in the subtitle of his 1992 book, India and the United States: Estranged Democracies.
What stymied a robust bond between these two countries? After all, both had wrested their independence from British rule while adopting and adapting many of the features of British constitutional governance (minus, of course, the monarchy).
The key factor, I’ve always believed, was the Cold War.
It was approximately at the midpoint of that global schism that I first visited India forty-two years ago. I owe that enriching and informative experience to a glitch in my career as a Sovietologist.
In those days, I was a reporter for Time magazine concentrating on East–West relations and was assigned to the State Department beat. This often meant whirling around the world, coping with what seemed like a permanent case of jetlag, trying to keep up with the then secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
In October 1974, Kissinger embarked on a seven-nation diplomatic tour starting with Moscow. The Kremlin was eager to welcome the secretary of state as the personification of continuity in the US policy of détente, in the wake of Richard Nixon’s resignation and Gerald Ford’s ascension to the presidency. The Soviets, however, were not about to extend their hospitality to me. I was persona non grata because of my role in translating and editing Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs. The material for the two volumes was surreptitiously recorded and spirited out of the country while he was under virtual house arrest, since his ouster from the leadership ten years before. The second volume, published earlier in 1974, particularly irked Foreign Minister Anatoly Gromyko, who sent a message to Kissinger’s plane over the Atlantic, denying me a visa.
After I was unceremoniously dropped off in Copenhagen during a fuelling stop, I hopscotched to New Delhi, which would be Kissinger’s second stop after Moscow.
On the personal front, my several days of free time were immensely gratifying. I made friendships that lasted for decades. I also came to know Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan (whose desk officer at the State Department was none other than Dennis Kux). Moynihan’s wife, Elizabeth, took me under her wing and drove me out to—where else?—the Taj Mahal, where she was already deeply into studying the Mughal gardens.
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