Its not Meat, it’s Modi — Stupid!

Frankly speaking the war over the ban on meat in Maharashtra is not just a matter of palate or choice, but is a political war with currents that run much deeper. In fact, the meatban3The controversy over the meat ban in Maharashtra, has less to do with Meat more to do with Modi. outrage against the ban has more to do with Narendra Modi as the PM, than the availability of chicken-koliwada on the streets of Mumbai.
Ever since, Modi has ascended to the top seat in Delhi, there has been much discomfort in Maharashtra, as to how to really deal with him. You see, for a very long time Chief Minister Modi of Gujarat was a big time rival of Maharashtra, and he made no bones of it. On a typical day, he would wean away the corporates with his Vibrant this and that, tom-tom ‘the 24 hours’ of power availability in state (as against load shedding in Maharashtra), or talk about how farmers are thriving in Gujarat (while committing suicide in Maharashtra). Since, there was a Congress Government all the while Modi ruled in neighbourly Gujarat, he invariably always attacked Maharashtra, to showcase how well Gujarat was doing. He was like the schoolboy who spoke most and shone brightest, while the rest sulked, especially Maharashtrians.
meatban5Historically too, Maharashtra and Gujarat were rivals for a long time (even though they did not really exist back then). There is an economic history behind it. The Britishers first established their ‘factory’ in Surat, which essentially was a trading place for Indian goods to be exchanged with those of the British. This made Gujarat (especially Surat) the financial hub. So much so, that when Shivaji was running short of money, he ransacked the city (then under Mughal domination) and made off with much booty. That was essentially the first clash, but it send the agenda for subsequent interactions. When Bombay came into being as a trading post, it were the Parsees from Gujarat that took the lead. When the state of Maharashtra was being created from Bombay Presidency, the Gujjus, especially Morarji Desai opposed it. He had even advocated creating Bombay as a union territory. The rivalry, so, is not really a new one.

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Is it only Chutzpah, Mr. Yadav?

Frankly, of the very many words the English language has in its roster (or rather dictionary) today, chutzpah truly stands out for the variety of things it represents. Of Yiddish origin, the term loosely connotes “extreme self-confidence or audacity”. But rather than a straightforward simple meaning, it is more like an oxymoron with contradictions as its rahul-yadavmainstay. So, it could mean audacious at one moment, and mega-stupid at the other, bold at one time and arrogant at another. Effectively, the meaning of the word chutzpah keeps changing in the context it is used. Quite like the affair of Rahul Yadav, the founder and former CEO of Housing.com.

For the past few months, the saga of Rahul Yadav has gripped the corporate world. Starting with his scathing letter to Sequoia India’s Shailendra Singh, to an audacious resignation letter, to distributing his stake to employees, or posting a snap of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka giving him a royal snub. By default or design, Rahul Yadav has ensured that he has stayed in the news all the time. Through his antics like donating his stake and tagging fellow IIT alumni Deepinder Goel of Zomato and Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs to follow suit, he must have thought that it would kick-start an ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ kind of a thing. But that was not to be so.

The saga finally came to an abrupt end with the board of directors called in for a meet and relieving Rahul Yadav on an immediate basis. The message was terse, “The board believed that his behaviour is not befitting of a CEO and is detrimental to the company.” In fact, so unsure were the board members of how Yadav would react that they had called in cops before the meeting started, anticipating a violent outbreak. Though, Yadav walked the plank pretty peacefully, much to the surprise of everyone.

11188275_10153043550393110_7501860590449627804_n In all the conundrum that has ensued, the portal Housing.com has taken a beating of sorts. With loses mounting annually and oodles of controversy surrounding it, the portal that was supposed to solve people’s housing problems, is mired in a whole lot of problems itself. There are talks about a sell out, people leaving and so on, even as competition is catching up. Started in 2012 by a dozen IITians including Yadav, Housing.com claims to have 11 million monthly visitors and raised $120 million in four rounds of funding from Japanese telecom and internet giant SoftBank, New York-based hedge fund Falcon Edge Capital, Helion Venture Partners, Nexus Venture Partners and Qualcomm Ventures. While there were a lot of competitors, Housing.com stood out simply because of its intuitive UI, and the use of technology. For instance, the portal has a whole page dedicated to data analytics that displays in real-time a whole lot of infographics gleaned from the user data that is generated. Yadav is largely credited for being able to think out of the box, or at least letting his team do so. In the tech circles, he is also renowned for his knowledge and passion, and ability to take decisions by his gut-feel. Continue reading

Why barking Abhijeet must be Bitten

Abhijeet Bhattacharya was a decent enough singer, who was lucky to get a good break in Hindi film industry. He made pot-loads of money, so much that it went to his head. And he displayed his rude insensitivity, when he tweeted about the Salman Khan verdict by justifying the murder of the pavement sleepers and referring to them as a dog. This was money power in its most vulgar way in display.abhijeet-bhattacharya

But have you ever wondered how come the likes of Abhijeet Bhattacharya manage to make so much money? How is singing so profitable as a profession? What is their secret of wealth? Well, thanks to my exposure to Bollywood, I am privy to quite much hands on knowledge and let me tell you how it all works.

Essentially,  these singers made their headway singing for Bollywood films, but this is not how they earn the monies. Typically, even the A+ list singer does not command a very high price while singing for a film. The very best that say a Sonu Nigam can get per song say for a AR Rahman movie is a lakh or two, which essentially is a pittance when you compare it to the few crores pocketed by Rahman or any other music director. Thus getting to sing for Rahman is great, but it does not make you rich for sure. Then what does?

ShaanIt is what comes next, is where the cream lies. After the singer has finished his song, the film gets released and hopefully with a good chance the song is a hit. This is when the singer starts milking the song. The most primary and basic way is shows, parties, concerts. Typically, even a little known face can easily demand a few lakhs for a few songs. There is so much demand in the market, for launches, parties or soirées. In fact, there are event organisers that have with them a menu list of such ‘performers’ and at what price they come. Couple of years back for a conference that was being planned, I had chanced upon one such list. Back then, I had the option of having Jagjit Singh belt a few ghazals for 25 Lakhs, Prince (a group of dancers from India Got Talent) for 10 Lakhs, Harsha Bhogle as emcee for 8 Lakhs, even Javed Akhtar ready for sher-o-shaiyri for 5 lakhs. And then there were these bunch of Indian Idols that were available for a Lakh or two. There are scores and scores of small events happening all the time, real estate launches, IT conferences et al, and more often than not the money on the table is in cash form, black and unaccounted for. Recall how Rahat Fateh Ali was caught at the Indian Airport with 50 Lakhs in cash? It was apparently earned at some event, where Rahat was singing. Good manna for the soul-stirring music isn’t it? Continue reading

The People (r) you encounter as an Entrepreneur

Any new venture or project is seldom down in isolation, in case you are not Michaelangelo or Picasso. So long is the project is not externally funded (or till it is), you will have to be dependent on a set of people to help you through. Based on my numerous interactions (not to mentioned ideas discussed or launched) here is a lost of people that you are most likely to encounter:

The Believers
They will stand by your project irrespective of its merits or demerits just because they believe in you, your vision or your capacity.

The Exciters
These are the set that will get excited, discuss grand plans, but they will not commit anything till the idea has taken shape.

The Promisers
These are motley set that will listen all, nod and then make grand promises of collaboration, only to Not fullfill them.

The Backers
These are a set of people who don’t really believe in you but like the idea and would back it up now and then just to be in the loop of things. They are there to back up on things.

The Jealousers
This set will listen to the idea and grumble at how you stumbled upon it. And while they would not help you with yours, they will either start working on a “similar” their own secretly, or starting digging a pit.

The Opportuners
These are the people who will wait to see how your project is shaping. They will concur with you, take time, but only work once the project is truly off the ground. Not before, not later.

The Connecters
These people have a lot of connection, or atleast know a lot of people who can be helpful. If the idea is sold to them, they will readily connect you to a whole bunch of relevant people who can be good help. Continue reading

The rise of Arvind Kejriwal and the revenge of the Fourth Estate

If you have been following the news from Delhi (and am sure that if you are an Indian or in India, you can’t miss it), one thing is seemingly unmistakable; Modi Magic is waning. The electoral projections have been pretty dour; AAP might just have crossed the laxman-rekha, and might form the government soon. The opinion polls till now had always projected Arvind Kejriwal as the most popular man for the CM’s post, but AAP was never even close to forming the government. BJP was going to win the election, even though rise of aap 1Kejriwal was the most popular. But over the past month or so, the gap has eroded, and now if the latest figures by ABP NEWS-Nielsen and ET-TNS polls predict a landslide victory for AAP. There is apparent defeat that is being foisted on BJP, even before a single vote is polled. The atmosphere is so electric that for the first time ever, the chief of a political party (Amit Shah) openly blamed a network channel (Aajtak) for conniving with AAP, to help it win the elections.

So, what has actually gone wrong for the BJP, has it snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, much like the Indian cricket team?

Honestly, if one were to do a serious analysis of the way BJP has gone, there isn’t anything tragically/tactically wrong about all the things they did. Let’s look at what are the reasons that are being presented for BJP’s loss and possible reasoning:

1) Bringing in Kiran Bedi: Almost all channels are unanimous in their assessment that Kiran Bedi was a wrong move for BJP. But considering the choices they had, bringing in Harshavardhan or any other would not have helped either. In comparison, Kiran Bedi has a more ‘mass appeal’ than rest, and her past performance would have much helped her case. Possibly, the timing was an issue, as Bedi has very little time to get in the groove, not much else.

2) Waning appeal of BJP: There is also this talk of how BJP’s appeal is waning, especially so in light of the lackadaisical performance of the Modi government. Yet, the fact remains that in the recent elections held in Haryana and Maharashtra, the party did exceedingly well. There is no governance deficit, and PM Modi is still known to be a popular and strong leader. Relatively speaking, BJP has only reduced much less than their opponents, so this is certainly not the case.

3) Its about team play: Considering how AAP’s biggest detractors are former AAP members, the fact remains that the AAP is certainly not a Barjatya family, so as to say. Right from Shazia Ilmi to Vinodkumar Binny, AAP has been beset with many more desertions in comparison to BJP or even Congress. In fact, even one of the founders of the party was seen thumping support for Bedi, endorsing her credentials over Kejriwal.

4) The dying Hand factor: The only positive thing in AAP’s favour is the complete decimation of Congress. With the latest Jayanti Bomb, the little credibility that remained has now been lost. With Congress not even in the contest, voters are now forced to choose between BJP & AAP.

Yet the fact remains that BJP is losing this elections big time, irrespective of whatever they do. Already the party has deployed its biggest contingent of leaders, Modi is speaking at rise of aap 3rallies, they are cornering AAP on various points, yet the battle of perceptions seemed to be lost, and now the battle of ballot remains.

The loss of Delhi can indeed a big setback for Modi-Shah duo, who risked quite a lot by unilaterally foisting Kiran Bedi on top of everyone. A loss here, could mean a loss of face for sure for duo from Gujarat. So, why are they losing the elections? Or could it be, that, they are being made to look like they are losing by the media, quite like Shah alleged? And in case it is so, why would Media do so?

To analyse that, we would have to make a short trip down the past. Right from the onset of his political career, starting as a Chief Minister, Narendra Modi has had a tenuous relationship with the fourth estate. Post Gujarat riots, the relations were ambivalent at best, with Modi being portrayed as a monstrous villain. And the hatred was pretty mutual. After a few early failed attempts made by Modi to co-opt the mediawallahs, he retreated to his fortress and closed the gates.

Come 2014, and as Modi rose, he apparently softened his stance, gave a few interviews and made a few laughs. Yet the undercurrents of acrimony were still there. Except for a few journos like Rajat Sharma, who made the right bets, the rest were much flustered by the way Modi came to power, riding the wave of euphoria. While, the journalists were now compelled to cover the PM Modi, the fact remained that they still did not like the man that was. And Modi was in no mood to help them do it either.

But while, Modi was a bit accommodating while running for the PM’s post, he turned into a stone wall, once he became the PM. In fact, ever since PM Modi has parked himself at 7 RCR, he has been running the government quite like he did when he lived at Swarnim Sankul in Gandhinagar. The government is mute, the ministers are gagged. There is nothing that moves without Modi’s permission. The government now communicates with the rise of aap 5audience through social media, trying to effectively by pass media all together. Modi is also using radio to reach the masses, every month he takes out time for the Mann Ki Baat address, but press meets, are still a rarity. He will not even take mediawallahs along with him in the plane on foreign trips, which almost all the predecessors did. The angst that media hold against Modi runs pretty deep and they were just looking for an opportunity to get even, Kejriwal in a manner of speaking is their payback.

Unlike other elections like J&K and Maharashtra, or even Haryana, Delhi is a very different ballgame. It is a largely urbanised centre, much susceptible to popular opinions. There is a huge-chunk of undecided voters, who might just go with the party that is most likely to win, so that their votes aren’t wasted. And then comes the minority votes that often does strategic voting — namely transferring the bulk of votes en masse to any opponent who is most likely to checkmate BJP. Hence, all the positive noise, and projections is actually helping AAP formulate the victory many days before actual polling date. Thus, even though there are quite a few issues that could potentially harm AAP, right from the number of charge-sheeted candidates, to how rich they are, or even the funding issue, a lot many channels are actually playing soft with Kejriwal and the party. And they have even thrown the caution to the winds, I mean, for channels that have often got the projections wrong when Modi is in the electoral fray, yet the numbers are anything but fantastic, like one projection was that AAP will get 50 seats. The idea is simple, hurt Modi (and Shah) the place where it hurts the most, a loss in the elections.

rise of aap 6By the way media isn’t alone in desiring Modi’s defeat. The over-arching Sangh is not pleased with the way Modi-Shah are running the show. The earlier campaign (the Ramzaade one) was completely vetoed by Modi-Shah, as they brought in Bedi into the fold causing heart-burn in the Sanghi setup. So far, the Sangh has played a significant factor in crafting Modi’s victories. This time, they have taken a hands-off approach. Even as the size of Kejriwal is growing, Sangh has retreated into the Jhandewala fortress. People there, also wish for a loss in Delhi elections, so the presumptuous duo are thought a fitting lesson.

Thus, the battle of Kurukshetra (or rather Delhi) is a much complex one. There are many factors at work here, many futures at stake. The fact is, in case the Modi-Shah duo emerge victorious, than the ambivalence between the media and them is only going to increase. In case of a loss to AAP, Modi-Shah will have to make concessions to the Sangh, and resolve to play by the rules, especially for the big elections of Bihar and Bengal. The repercussions of a victory and defeat in Delhi would be much widely felt, and only one set would be laughing at the end of the day.

— (Disclaimer: All the images used in the story have been randomly downloaded from the Net. In case of copyright issues, please do let me know, and I will remove them)

The curious case of Rajdeep Schwarzenegger

It was a moment of euphoria when the whole of India, and a significant little bit of the US, were looking with expectations at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit, especially his address at the packed hall of Madison Square Gardens. The limelight was supposed to be on Modi and what he is going to speak. Top-billed as a mega event, almost everyone had India's Prime Minister Modi gestures while speaking at Madison Square Garden in New Yorklanded up for the glitzy event, all agog to hear the man speak. This was supposed to his moment through and through.

But just like Jayalalitha’s conviction had overshadowed his UNGA address, there was another event which almost did the same to the Madison Square address. Just an hour before Modi took to stage another news broke out, that veteran editor Rajdeep Sardesai had been assaulted by a mob at the venue.

The script was so jarringly repetitive, saffron fanatics hitting out at people who ‘disagree’, trying to muffle out the voices. The sad part was that this was happening in America. As, you could hear Rajdeep say, “Something and some people don’t change”.

Not surprisingly, the news was picked up by many, people were tweeting, retweeting and belabouring the conduct of the so-called Modi Bhakts, and there wanton acts. There were aspersions being thrown of how sane and sensible voices are being progressively silenced under the new regime. It was indeed a shameful event, something we all should be ashamed off.

Suddenly Rajdeep, who was just another media star in a star-studded affair in NY, was now trending and popular. By a quirk of fate, he had stolen the limelight from Àrnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt and Bhupendra Choubey, all of who were diligently trying to cover the event and raise the stakes. By their wanton act the Modi Bhakts had given the Modi baiters a good chance to draw the attention away.

But then, as the dust settled on the matter, and the time progressed, conflicting stories started to emerge. You know there, were these small mobile clips, where Rajdeep could be seen exchanging blows (rather trying to) than just receiving them in Buddhic acceptance. As time passed, there were more clips and more testimonials that hinted at a bigger story that what one got at first measure. Continue reading

How the Indian PM was abused & denigrated in the name of democracy

Reading the excerpts of Sanjay Baru’s book on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, The Accidental Prime Minister (http://bit.ly/1iawxNv), I am somehow reminded of a cartoon that was done by the brilliantly nonchalant Abu Abraham. Published in the tumultuous period of the Emergency, it shows a rather ungainly President in the bathtub, signing off the proclamation. Indeed, on midnight of June 26, 1975, the office of the President of India was delivered such a body-blow, that it has not recovered even till today. Not surprisingly, the president of the nation, was considered to merely a rubber-stamp, a puppet in the hand abu_abraham_cartoon_20120326of the government, who signs off the bill, the ordinances, proclamations of Presidents Rule, etc., living off the lard in a cosy colonial palace, the Rastrapati Bhavan. Indira Gandhi, who selfishly wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having to resign following a verdict of Allahabad High Court, decided to enact the most brazen and oppressive abuse on Indian democracy. The rest of the government, including the President, were merely stooges or at-best hapless no-bodies, who could no nothing.

Somehow, the stratagem that was deployed by Indira in 1975, was mastered by her daughter-in-law in 2004, who foisted on a nation a political cipher as a prime minister, just to warm the seat for the eventual transition to her son, Rahul Gandhi. Manmohan Singh as a prime minister in 2004, was as much as an accident as much as it was a design. Just like her mother-in-law, who was under fire for electioneering crimes, Sonia Gandhi was under pressure over her Italian root. The then President APJ Kalam too had apparently raised the issue of her origins, and showed reluctance in ordaining her as the PM. After having burnt her fingers with a thankless PV Narsimha Rao and ambitious Sitaram Kesri, Sonia decided to find a PM that was not only pliable and amenable, but also deferential to the 1st family, and drawing his support from the family itself. Thus by a curious tragedy, in 2004, we never really got a prime minister but rather a care-taker prime minister, someone who was always “caring” the needs of the family and careful not to fall out of favour with his mentors.

While the stratagem deployed by Sonia Gandhi was vintage Congress-stuff, the implications and ramifications were far wider. Over the course of reign from 1966 down to 1984, Indira Gandhi had ruthlessly destroyed all the power-centres that could pose a challenge to the PMO. Stooges were given positions of power, and those who stood in the way were somehow sidelined and cut to size. For instance, not many were surprised when Giani Zail Singh on being made the President had apparently remarked, that “If my leader had said I should pick up a broom and be a sweeper, I would have done that. She chose me to be President!”. Little wonder, when Operation Bluestar was launched, the President did not even know a thing about it beforehand. India was Indira, and Indira was India, truly speaking. Continue reading

The Legacy of Sultan Manmohan Singh Tughlaq

Time is a rather malleable entity, unpredictable and quite unfathomable. Linear it is, say many, like a fabric all meshed up, say few, heavy like gravity, like a quasar, multi-dimensional, ephemeral, unreal, say the rest. The passage of time, quantified by the circular rotation of two sinewy arms on our clocks, is meant to signify a sort of permanence, a moment that is lost or gone, ceases to exist. There’s nothing that one can do to bring it back, lost in the ever-infinite sea of eternity. Past is past, and present is present, and never the twain shall meet, is good a testament, that could have well been etched in stone on that tablets that were forged at Mount Sinai.

And yet for all its permanence, time sometimes also seems permeable, like a sponge or something. The little circles on one side forming a connection to another side. The connections are unmistakable, inescapable. And while the recorded history of our species only stretches a couple of thousand years, even in this short period we have seen events taking shape in different time, different climate, mirroring each other in a very strange ethereal manner. Separated by a vast ocean of time, yet, these events seem like some sort of cosmic clones of each other. History (which is a product of time) indeed has a very uncanny knack of repeating itself.

To give you an idea, lets flashback to 14th century India, much long before the very idea of India even firuzexisted. The precise time on the dial is set to sometime in the latter half of the century, somewhere say 1380s AD. The place is Firozabad, not very far from modern-day Delhi, and it’s the reign of Malik Feroze ibn Malik Rajab or more renowned as Sultan Feroze Shah Tughlaq. The Sultan is a septuagenarian man, lording over a dominion that is much weaker and lesser than what his pre-decessor had bequeathed to him. He is a sort of weakling, little in control of things around him. He had succeeded the strong-willed and maverick Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq, who was most famous for his decree to shift the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad or his experiments with token currency that failed spectacularly. But unlike his predecessor, Feroze Shah Tughlaq was a softie, or a little more of fruitcake. When he took over in 1351, the empire was vast but in a mess. There was much confusion as Muhammad bin Tughluq had died without an heir, and in the ensuing unrest, Feroze was enthroned as the new sultan. Continue reading

Half-Full or Full-Empty

Typically, any lateral thinking workshop involves an exercise of a half-filled glass of water.

Cover_October_low

“Is it full or empty?”, the gregarious moderator will ask. The exercise apparently highlights the power of hope, optimism and positive thinking. The moral being that even in the dourest situation, there’s always the hope of redemption. We aren’t over the cliff, till we are actually over it.

Were we to employ the same drill to the issue of water scarcity that plagues us, even an optimist will not be able to discern the glass as full, or rather half full. It is full-empty in an oxymoronic way. We seemed to have reached a stage that statistics, figures, projections, etc, don’t matter anymore. In fact, from no matter which angle you look at it, we are going to be in a big mess, if we aren’t in it already. It is an issue scarier than we can actually imagine.
Forget countries, even states within the same dominion are battling each other for every tiny water source. The current crisis in Andhra Pradesh over water is a vivid reminder of where we are headed. And when the whole world is going into a topsy-turvy, how can businesses continue as is? When the land is parched, the taps in the company premises will run dry as well. Just, last summer, in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, factories and breweries were shut for months simply because there was no water available. The cost of water is rising by the day, for instance, the average cost of water in Mumbai was `25 / m3 last year and shot up to `40/m3 this year. Businesses need now look at their water consumption from a purely economic purview. Continue reading