New Columns – Economic Times and Mumbai Mirror – November 2014

Planet of the Apps
27 Nov, 2014, 06.16AM IST
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By Anuvab Pal
I heard a reasonably odd economic story recently. A young person had lost her phone – as they all seem to very casually and very often nowadays – before luckily recovering it. That a phone now costs the same as a twobedroom flat did in 1985 and someone from my generation would probably have a peripatetic seizure if they lost something that valuable (as opposed to the youthful reaction, ‘meh’) is another story for another day.

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What time is the right time?
Mumbai Mirror | Nov 19, 2014, 12.00 AM IST

By Anuvab Pal

The times we live in are unsure of the values of the times we live in. There is inevitable chaos.

She’s definitely into some inappropriate things and all – and with that declarative grammatically incorrect statement, which was part character assassination, part incompetent analysis, a young single foreign woman who lived in a building near mine, was described and summed up at an ad-hoc meeting of her building elders. A serious looking lady chimed in, “Probably prostitution. Maybe even – who knows – I’ve seen her with odd things” – almost not able to articulate the more heinous nature of things involved, which made me think, “Did she mean murderer?”

November 13, 2014, 6:41 am IST Economic Times in ET Commentary | Edit Page | ET

The 100-Year Notice Period: There is no reason to linger after you’ve quit
Our workplaces have some of the longest notice periods in the world. A few weeks is average generally across the world. A caveman from the Neolithic era who’d given notice to his boss that he was unhappy throwing spears at gazelles in 4,000 BC, just got around to starting his new job at this week.

Fundamentally, the notice period is a sensible, gracious thing from a time when a human had knowledge of things. I’ll explain. There was a time when Rajiv in a shipping company was a fountain of knowledge of how that particular shipping company worked. Rajiv leaving suddenly meant ships that company built would lose direction, run into the shipyard, run over employees or erratically swing about to-and-fro mid-sea.

Having Rajiv explain in detail how to make the ship go straight and into the water was why he couldn’t just pack his things and have the next guy take over. Rajiv’s head — his memories, his knowledge, his way of doing things — was the asset. The rest was mindless machines operating on his whim. The notice period (in theory) meant Rajiv would handhold his successor and share all that he knew.


For The Economic Times- On Financial Advisors

In India there are more financial advisers than people

“You are in your 30s and you have a risk profile of a 60-year-old? Why? WHY?” a financial adviser told me recently in a ‘I am scolding you’ tone. I’d gone there to seek some investment advice but halfway through, I felt like I’d stolen someone’s tiffin box and was now being told to put my finger on my lips and kneel in a corner. After a while, I wasn’t sure if he was investing and I’d somehow lost his money or I was the client seeking some basic information on investment options.
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For – India’s Last Week

Why are West Indies cricketers acting like characters in a 1980s Bollywood movie?
Plus, everyone’s buying a football team.
Anuvab Pal
Yesterday · 12:30 pm

Last week, in a situation hitherto unknown to world cricket, the West Indies team touring India decided to leave mid- way through the tour with a few apologies. Something to do with not being paid enough (or at all). So, like 1980’s mill workers in a Bollywood movie (any Amitabh Bachchan father character), they said, hell with it, I’m not working.

It is quite brilliant (and very funny, although not to the players), that a labor union struggle has moved into a cricket stadium. It is logical. Factory workers express their rights in their place of work and stop fixing bolts in a car. Sportspeople can only revolt in their factory ‒ the field. That they didn’t hold up placards with photos of Mao and Che Guevara singing We Shall Overcome and go on strike mid-third over is, I suppose, a blessing. Not knowing the inner goings on of the West Indian cricket board, Indian fans could perhaps interpret it as, “Wow, they dislike Dhoni this much?”

It could set an odd precedent in world sport. Some Chelsea striker or Real Madrid center forward, could, in their respective club leagues, choose to freeze mid-attack on the goal, and say he’d only carry on if his contract was re-negotiated. Or an Olympic athlete could in the 100 meters dash, choose to run in the opposite direction to his competitors to express unhappiness over his incremental bonus. Or a Libyan gymnast could say, “Right, I am not getting down from these ropes unless I am given asylum in Europe.” The can of worms now stands open.

For, On India’s Nobel Laureate

Why should India know Kailash Satyarthi? We have cleavage debates to worry about
Plus, Mark Zukerberg inspires India’s headline writers.
We’ve had a few Nobel winners. Tagore, CV Raman, Mother Teresa (like all people from Calcutta, she was European, so it counts), Amartya Sen. We’ve never had one where the country went, “Um, who?”

And there is very good reason for that. We are busy. Busy busy with important things. There are people upset with cleavage photography. There are debates to be had whether involuntary cleavage photos pointing out said locale or voluntary cleavage film promotion photos linking cleavage to unrelated film release by star PR is apt. Abishek Bachchan is telling us to play football, sitting chief ministers are going to jail for having servants on standby with Horlicks (which I think is a noble profession, as standing professions go), people are having to write witty comments on an online store’s big sale day goof-up (a very urgent need), there’s the actress Preity Zinta telling people to stand up when patriotic songs are played or risk eviction. Where is our time to focus on Kailash Satyarthi, our latest Nobel winner, telling us children should be in school instead of washing cars and twirling in circuses?

There just isn’t the time.

Swedish people have time to notice these things. It’s cold over there. They are at home, snowing outside, looking at Indian kids at traffic signals or running around with empty plastic bottles, thinking why are those children not in a school and instead delivering Kellogg’s and Bisleri to rich people? Shouldn’t kids not have to be roaming streets half-naked? Who is helping them? That Kailash guy. Why didn’t anyone locally notice? Let’s get him over here and give him a double espresso and a medal.

Look, we did notice, ok. We aren’t caught up in our upper middle class cocoons. Absolutely not. In fact, many Indians have seen Slumdog Millionaire, some of them even twice. About 45% of our elite know that Dharavi is not a Maharshtrian house wife.

Some have even lowered their power windows and shared a Kurkure packet with said underprivileged child. People donate regularly to charities like Pratham, Doosra, Andha (blind), Bhook (Hunger), Akanksha and Anokhi, even if some of these are women’s clothing stores.

We would absolutely like to help him organise a fundraiser for the cause. It is not like urban India cannot understand this problem. Every summer, when wealthy parents can’t find things for their kids to do, apart from play on their I-Pad as they search maddeningly for speech and drama classes, Shaimak Davar dance classes, foreign language classes, swimming classes, they totally understand what its like for a child to be loitering without a goal.
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India’s Last Week- For

What did Modi actually say to the US President after he was asked, ‘Kem cho?’
Plus, why was an Indian farmer with a cow knocking on the door of a Victorian club in an American newspaper?
Our Prime Minister is back from America. Like the early explorers and travelers, Da Gama, Columbus, Magellan, Ibn Butata, Huen Tsang, he brings back news of a couple of things from that faraway land. That it is there. And that they have hands that one can shake.

The media in India seemed to think it was quite a big deal that US President Obama said “Mr Prime Minister, kem cho?” suggesting he took the trouble to learn the Gujarati greeting and therefore us and America must now be best friends forever. I would be far more interested to hear Modi’s response to that, which could’ve ranged from, “Quite hungry actually” to “What up POTUS?”, suggesting that if the US Presidents’ diplomatic corps were clever enough to update him on hitting our PM with unexpected insider lingo, our foreign service could match them (or at least have watched the TV shows Veep/West Wing set in The White House).

There was some inside joke going on when at The White House reception the media caught Mr Potus smirking as our leader shook hands with John Kerry. Again I thought the far more interesting bit was right after, as he shook hands with our foreign minister Sushma Swaraj. Secretary Kerry stands at six foot six or even higher, making him definitely taller than the tallest secretary of any kind and indeed some trees.

When you saw our foreign minister next to him, it seemed two of our Hon’ble Minister would be required to get to the height of one Secretary Kerry. One could see now why we don’t win that many international diplomacy negotiations with the Americans. Certainly makes it harder to discuss our territorial rights in the South China Sea if two of one Indian minister is required, one on top of the other, just to make eye contact with her American counterpart.

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For, India’s Last week

Attention, world: India has arrived on Mars
Also featuring: Federer Photoshopped and dhoklas in DC.

We sent a mission to Mars. Naturally, there was a collective thrill, as a nation, that we’d succeeded. One of the few countries in the world to have a Mars mission etc. But it appeared that the core of that joy was in the idea that it was the cheapest Mars mission ever done. So cheap in fact that Martians on landing inquired how we got there so quickly, and could we help them with an inter-galactic autorickshaw because they’d quite like to visit Jupiter using their discount vouchers.

Jugaad, our invented economic technique of last-minute organising, the heart of any Indian even- management company, was thrown about by the media as one of the key achievements of this Mars mission. I’m not sure how jugaad worked in this case unless en route, the Orbiter passed other space stations and said, “Hey you using this spare part? Can I take it?” and fitted it on itself. Not to mention that last-minute organising of stuff and space travel should perhaps not be spoken of together as a good thing. There aren’t that many times you’ll hear NASA or ISRO say, “So we had this space craft heading out tomorrow and we had no engine, my Head Of Department was tied up at wedding, we thought, what should we do, so we took this Maruti Suzuki engine and this Hero Honda steering…”

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For The Economic Times- Mr. Modi’s Concert Review

PM Narendra Modi’s Madison Square Garden blues: US President Barack Obama thinking about how to top it

There’s nothing more to say about what our prime minister did at Madison Square Garden except to say that perhaps US President Barack Obama, the only other politician rock star, is thinking about how to top it.

No world leader in history ever — let alone ours who had to wait once with the leaders of Burundi and Chad for a quick handshake with Jimmy Carter, behind White House tourists — has sold out the Garden.

Moving the stage to the centre of the Garden, where there’s a boxing ..

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