December 31, 2008

How mega brands cope with these changing times

Changing times require corporations to make suitable changes to stay afloat and to live upto investor expectations. While some resort to job cuts, others go overboard in cost control. However the really large global corporations revise their business plans drastically, sometimes it means taking a new look at all their properties to see if they can be put to some alternate use.

December 26, 2008

2008 - The year of amazing highs and painful lows

2008 would go down in Indian public memory as a year of extremes, the highs of the year were exhilaratingly higher and more glorious than those of past many decades while the lows were so horrendously painful that we may not forget this year for a long, long time.

The year that was saw India achieve many notable milestones - the most outsatnding being the landing of a probe Chandrayaan on the moon with pinpoint precision and accuracy and at a cost that was a fraction of what the western world spent on similar projects. This one achievement can establish India as the world's leading satellite launch agent. It can help us garner billions of dollars of global business both in terms of the launch itself as also the satellite time that we can sell.

The second major feat was in the arena of sport. Something that no Indian sportsman had achieved, since the beginning of the modern Olympics over a century ago, was achieved by Abhinav Bindra when he won the shooting gold at Beijing. The gold also demonstrated to other sportspersons that one has options all the time : the option to curse the officialdom or the option to get up and do something about the way things are.

Of course there was the added joy of Vijender Kumar and Sushil Kumar, our boxers from Bhiwani, picking up India's first boxing medals at the Olympics. It was equally heart-warming to see Vishwanathan Anand emerge stronger and claim the undisputed World Championship in chess.

The impossible was achieved by our boys in cricket when they beat team Australia in their own backyard to emerge as a force to reckon with. The test series and ODI victory over Australia was followed by beating England in a test and ODI series comprehensively in India by Dhoni and his boys. The emergence of a galaxy of new, younger, fitter and hungrier stars in a variety of sporting discipines gives us tremendous hope for the future.

The salience that the first T-20 Indian Premier League (IPL) championship achieved has catapaulted India to a global leadership role in cricket. India is a major moneyspinner for world cricket, thanks in no small measure to our billion plus cricket crazy population. Today when India speaks, the cricketing world listens. In the earlier era Indians went to faraway lands to pursue careers, today cricket brings many international cricket stars to Indian shores to seek fame and fortune.

These were all moments that would be etched in our collective memory for long.
2008 also saw the horrying terror attacks on the Indian state and its hapless citizens in Mumbai, Jaipur, New Delhi and at countless other places. The patience of a giant is time and again being tested by a pygmy amongst nations. Pakistan doesn't realise that the state of Pakistan could easily get crushed should this gentle giant merely wipe the irritating sweat off it's brow. The only solace in this entire episode was the emergence of a national feeling against terror, with people rising up in arms agains Islamist jihadis, irrespective of their religious beliefs unlike the past when people responded to such extreme provocations based on whether they were Hindu or muslim. That India manged to gather world opinion in its favour and organized a UN Security Council resolution against the LeT (or JuD, as it is now known) speaks volumes about not only the fairness of our claims but also the victory of our diplomacy and our economic policies.

The global financial meltdown which has already caused tremendous hardship to many by erosion in net worth and loss of jobs and employment would be the catastrophe of the century. It is variously estimated to be graver and more severe than the great depression of 1930s. Many iconic centuries old financial institutions such as Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Citigroup, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae just wilted in the aftershocks of this grave crisis. Analysts anticipate this crisis to last over 3-5 years in the west. However China and India appear to be somewhat better-placed to cope, considering their large populations and growing, domestic consumption-driven economies.

So I feel 2008 would go down as a highly forgettable year in our collective memory. A year which need not have been.

December 25, 2008

Pakistan - A state of denial

The events of the last month have amazed the global community. Post 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, when ten armed terrorists of Pakistani origin, the intelligence agencies of the countries whose nationals were targetted agreed that these ten Pakistani men were trained, armed and provided technical and logistical support by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) or the Jamat-ul-Dawa (JuD) as it is now called. They were aided and abetted by the ISI and to a limited extent by the Mumbai underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who virtually operates as a Guest of the Pakistani establishment, residing a few hundred meters from the President's bungalow in Clifton area of Karachi.

The Pakistani media is largely irrelevant in the current scenario since we can not be sure of its objectivity. The establishment has reduced the once independent media to a mere propaganda arm of the state apparatus. Some good stories do emerge from time to time that provide a ray of hope like the story on the surviving terrorist's home, family and village elders etc and the Nawaz Sharif interview where he accepted that the surviving terrorist, Ajmal Kasav was a Pakistani national and his family was in isolation and their village cordoned off and out of bounds of world media.

One has just to see the glaring anomalies in the state's positions which have shifted faster than sand dunes in a desert storm. Any self-respecting and truly patriotic Pakistani must be hanging his head in shame at the brazenness of the Pakistani establishment.

One day the Pakistan government wants evidence of Pakistani nationals' involvement from India. The evidence that results in the JuD being branded a terrorist organisation by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and banned worldwide also forces Pakistan government to claim arrest of the JuD leader, sealing of their offices and freezing of their bank accounts. But to them that is still not evidence enough.

When Ajmal's father acknowledges to the media that Ajmal is indeed his son even that is not evidence enough. Zardari and Gilani and their assorted lackeys go to extremely untenable positions saying one thing one day and contradicting themselves, and many times other spokesmen, the next day.

No sensible observer of world events has any doubt whatsoever that the ISI is deeply involved in the affairs of LeT / JuD and its personnel are manning these organisations to wage a low cost war on India while the Pakistan government continues to hide behind the fig leag of non-state actors may be involved.

I think the time has come to call Pakistan's bluff. If India does not act decisively now this menace would not die. The Indian politician must stop playing the Muslim card. I sincerely hope the likes of A.R.Antulay get a well deserved kick on the back. Such guys need to understand that this is the time to play the India card.

Uncle Sam needs to ensure that denial does not become an instrument of foreign policy of the Pakistan state. If that happens, then the government of Pakistan would be responsible for the ensuing destruction and for denying its citizens the right to life and liberty since they would be pitted against the might of the civilized forces of the world who at this juncture seem well and truly behind India.

Information post ....

I have transferred 17 posts today from (Radical Thoughts) to (my main blog). The purpose is to provide access to all visitors of my blog to all my documented thoughts.

December 8, 2008

The aftermath of terrorism

The events of the last ten days since the terror attacks in prime south Mumbai locations, which left the nation dazed and extremely angry, have seen a huge amount of writing in the print media and blogosphere. A vast amount of air time has also been spent in discussions on various aspects of the issue on TV and radio.
However the following thoughts emerge after having religiously followed the discussions:
  1. That ten terrorists arrived unhindered and managed to land at the Gateway of India shows without any doubt that somewhere someone who was supposed to guard our shores goofed up. We need to identify and hold accountable the people concerned and if there is an iota of doubt about their motives they should be penalized.
  2. The Taj & Oberoi Trident staff have shown remarkable courage in extremely trying times. We must appreciate that they were not trained to handle this kind of a situation and hence must be recognized and suitably rewarded.
  3. This attack and its aftermath have shown to us the true character of our politicians. Some of the placards which one has seen at various rallies in Mumbai and around the country show the utter contempt that a vast majority of the Indian people have for this class. It should goad the political parties to introspect. They must try to make amends in the general elections that are fast approaching by fielding men of a nationalistic fibre who would rise above partisan politics in times of national crisis and refrain from politiking in calamities.
  4. Some renowned columnists have written about their childhood memories of the grandeur of The Taj. Many have gone to great lengths bragging about how they discovered the joys of 'The Wasabi', 'The Tiffin', 'The Ocean Bar', 'The Zodiac Grill' and so on. One columnist went on to write about an unsubstantiated story of a waiter offering the appropriate wine glasses to a white guest who when hostage inside the hotel whisked away some rare wine for consumption when the hotel was burning. Can one say anything to these trivia mongers disguised as celebrity columnists who I guess are just trying to earn some brownie points with the owners of the two hotels so that they can wrangle some invites when these hotels re-open. All of this so that these celebrity trivial writers can get sloshed on some expensive and prized spirits and wines for free.
  5. That we lost our top cops just as the battle of Mumbai started shows we need to ask serious questions about hierarchy and line of command in our armed forces. It is akin to losing the army chief in the first half hour of a war. Why should they have visited the site so soon. That the inferior equipment used by them offered no protection is a national shame. It is a sin that we can not wash away in a million years.
  6. There are technologies, such as 'Snifex' available, that can detect even a millionth of a gram of almost all known types of explosives. Why were these systems not in place in The Taj & The Oberoi hotels should be investigated? These hotels are known to charge upwards of Rs. 25,000 per room night and over Rs. 2,000 per head for a meal sans liquor. If they can't afford it for their top customers it is unreasonable to expect the Government of India to install it in public places ?

If a serious effort is made to find answers which have so far evaded public eye, I am sure we may be able to prepare better and see terrorism being thwarted in future.

December 2, 2008

Delhi state assembly elections

It is evident from the general anti-politician mood, and more so anti-incumbent party mood prevailing in the country today that ruling parties are not expected to do well in whichever state goes to the polls.

Delhi state assembly elections happened in the midst of the Mumbai terror attacks. The jihadi elements who caused so much devastation and death at The Taj Hotel were still engaged in a fierce battle with the NSG Commandos and a fight to the finish was underway when polling started on Saturday 29th Nov 2008 at 8:00 AM.

Delhities were out in large numbers to vote. The voter turnout was over 60% which was almost 6% higher than the last assembly elections.

Coupled with the anti-incumbency mood arising out of the Mumbai terror attacks and the insensitive effort to exploit the death and destruction of Mumbai in the fag end of the Congress media campaign was the huge daily distress caused to hundreds of thousand commuters, by the hare-brained BRT traffic management system. These are sure to lead the Shiela Dixit led Congress government in Delhi out of office. Psephologists predict a keen contest with the BJP but I feel BJP will romp home with some help from the independents.

I hope the expected rout of Congress in Delhi would be a lesson to the likely new BJP led dispensation that you can not afford to ignore the public sentiment.

Let it be known that the people want career politicians and not dynastic politics. We deserve accountability and transparency in public life. We alos need a just and fair civic society that believes in live and let live. Divisive politics must end. We do not want another basket case of a failed state like Pakistan ruled by feudal families who continue with mindsets of the 16th century in the 21st century.

In this information age, we the people of India would not allow that.

December 1, 2008

Yeh Jo Desh Hai Mera !!

(This country of mine, this line is inspired by the famous song of the hindi film 'Swades' by Ashutosh Gowarikar starring Shahrukh Khan)
India is a land of culture and strong democratic traditions. Since times immemorial it has been recognized as a land of learning and wisdom. But the events of the last few days in Mumbai when hundreds of innocent people were massacred by islamist jihadis with links to Pakistan-based outfit Lashkar-e-Tayebba (LeT ; army of the pure) force me to abandon my cosmopolitan and democratic heritage and values and seek vengeance.

The memory of the dead is not served well by our politicians. Mouthing platitudinous comments like ‘we have provided incontrovertible evidence of LeT’s involvement to the government of Pakistan’ is of little significance. In the past too, India has provided the international community with ample evidence of the involvement of LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the like in similar terror strikes. It is naïve, rather stupid of us to believe that the rogue elements within the fast-Talibanizing society in Pakistan, spearheaded by the demonic ISI will call a halt to their nefarious designs to destabilize India.

It is high time we wake up and smell the coffee. We need to first understand what we are up against before we can declare a war on terror. We are up against a failed state, which under the garb of democracy propagates feudalism, which in the last 60 years of its independence has failed on all parameters of development, which is woefully devoid of industry and economically so weak that it can not even pay for two weeks of its imports and now seeks to confuse its citizens with the ultimate opiate “even India is no better” so that they do not revolt and the ruling elite continues its dynastic rule for generations to come.

It is time we decided enough is enough and gave hot pursuit to the rogues who cause death and destruction in Indian cities including those behind the recent Mumbai attacks. We need to show that the benign sleeping giant has awakened. That India of today is a mighty and self-respecting nation, who refuses to allow the likes of ISI, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammed to kill even one Indian and all efforts of disrupting our lives will be dealt with firmly. They would only understand strong and decisive action, not mild and veiled threats. Only a strong adversary gets respect in present times and we need to show we are strong and capable. If we do not act decisively now we would forever be consigned to living our lives in fear.

The political leadership knows all that needs to be done. Any more advice is meaningless. Any effort by them of obfuscating matters by appointing empowered teams of experts to help in deciding the government’s response will meet with a terrible backlash from Indian society. Rahul Gandhi was spot on when he said he did not want India to be seen as a nation of Wimps.

Sh. Man Mohan Singh should disregard the advice of Sh. Pranab Mukherjee, India’s External Affairs Minister who said a war between two nuclear states can be catastrophic. It just goes to show how out of sync with India of today he is. The youth of India would be willing to die in a do-or-die nuclear war with Pakistan if need be but hate to die meaningless death at the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.

The message of the youth of India is clear. Either carry the battle to Pakistan’s backyard or make way for a leadership that understands the youth of today. The ruling party needs to pick up the signals fast or else the young people of India would speak in a deafening roar at the next elections.

That politicians like Shiv Raj Patil, India’s Home Minister and R. R. Patil, Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, who tried to pretend that the Mumbai attacks were ‘one of those things that happen in a big city’ have been shown the door are good omens. Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh must also be cashiered for his insensitivity in trivializing this national calamity and taking his family and friends on a conducted tour of The Taj Mahal Hotel and The Oberoi on Saturday. You cannot trample on the society’s sentiments so ruthlessly and hope to remain in a seat of power. It would be suicidal for Congress in Maharashtra if he is allowed to stay even for a day.

Mumbai must be the last Indian city to be attacked by terrorists backed by Pakistani authorities. My motherland must never be held to ransom by these or similar elements. Anyone who tramples on my fellow countrymen must never go free. He must be made to pay dearly. I am sure the whole world would stand by India should such an act recur.