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All posts for the month December, 2014

THANKS, MSD… YOU WERE A GREAT CAPTAIN!

Published December 31, 2014 by vishalvkale



I didnt say this for Sachin, nor for Rahul… great though they were, and far better cricketers… 

But for you, MSD, A short post. A vote of thanks from my side for leading our India through thick and thin…

You, Sir, Captained Our India, and that to me personally is the most important. You were the leader! The man who represented us all in cricket, the king.. for several years… 

You were there to take the brickbats when we lost. You were there to share the spoils with the team when we won. You took the failures on the chin, and yet shepherded Team India in Cricket for several years… through the highs and the lows… through victory and defeat… in the manner of a king, a true leader… you took us to Number 1; and when the fall came… you were there equally unperturbed… in the true manner of a king! One of the finest Captains India has had! 

And that is why you deserve this… 

Thank you from a fellow Indian… 

Thanks a lot, Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni… Ex-Captain Of India!  

NaMo, The International Prime Minister

Published December 30, 2014 by vishalvkale

Our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, has seen a remarkable rise in his overall popularity and perception as a leader on the international stage. This has been done by partly some aggressive and bold diplomacy, firm positions and tough negotiations at various stages and with various players on the international stage. This has been further supported by his extensive touring abroad, so much so that I recently read one article asking when is NaMo in India, or words to that effect. 

Let us not forget a simple reality : we are a developing country with limited financial resources of our own. The fulfilment of the need can be either internal through home grown capital or external through FDI-FII etc.  And that is where the positive international perception of our leader is so vital. However, international perception of a leader, and of a nation is not entirely based on diplomacy; rather, in some ways, achievements in diplomacy are in reality based on a few internal factors.


International Perception is driven primarily by : 

1) Returns to be had from investments into that nation, 

2) The safety of those investments, 

3) The strategic utility of relations with that nation, 

4) The depth & breadth of the financial markets and currency markets, 

5) Internal legal setup, 

6) Conformance of laws with international standards, 

7) Ease of enforcement of laws and contracts and 

8) Stable political atmosphere. 

Note that Democracy is not a pre-requisite; equitable income distribution is also not a factor.Strong diplomacy is also not mandatory. In many ways, these two are intertwined – the internal strength of a leader gives potency to the diplomatic moves; the successes in diplomacy tend to strengthen the leader domestically. But the base of the leader is his or her own bastion, the mother country. 

It is inarguable that Narendra Modi’s international reputation is very favourable at this point in time; further, this favourable impression has actually improved India’s standing and image as well, as also his reputation of being a strong, tough, aggressive and pro-business leader.  A strong leader gives a hope, a direction and a clear vision – and, as of now, Mr Narendra Modi has brought all three to the table on the international relations arena, which bodes well for India especially since that vision is largely in line with the interests of international money. 

Analysing the points above, we can easily see that 1) – 8) all points are hugely in Narendra Modi’s favour. Hence, the perception of India is bound to rise in the global race. Add to the above one additional point : the ability of the nation to propound, present and enforce its views and interests in international negotiations. As we have seen in Trade, Climate and Indo-US talks, India is in no mood to compromise on anything, period.  Our successes in that sphere have been driven primarily by the points enumerated above; thus supporting the hypothesis that our international standing has improved; while simultaneously further buttressing the standing of NaMo!

On a global scale, it is all all about trade and money, pure and simple. The modern world is a connected world, and money drives the world. Further, we are an investment starved nation, and need investors – who will need a return on investment. From a trade perspective, money put into India will get superior returns to the tune of several percentage points over and above investments in the developed world, given the interest rate differential. That is the single most vital factor driving investments into India – be it NRIs, PIOs or FIIs or MNC Firms FDI Investments. 

In a finite world, it is primarily a question of attracting surplus funds in the global economy. Few people do it for patriotic reasons, or developmental reasons, or for strategic relations. Money drives money. Even our own NRIs and PIOs {exceptions only prove the rule} invest in India only and only due to better returns, driven by more attractive special packages for them, and the better returns from the economy; not patriotism. 

It thus becomes a question of creating a conducive internal atmosphere for investments and economic growth. Given that atmosphere, even sworn enemies will trade, like India – China – Pakistan. And when we the matter view from that perspective, this government has taken steps, or offered promise/s like : 

1) Giving a chance of a stable future, given its majority in Parliament 

2) Taken steps perceived as pro-business, like easing of Land Acquisition Laws, GST, roll back of Taxation problems, negotiation on peripheral matters 

3) Taken steps to simplify trade, with steps like  the promise of the GST and action starting on the same

4) Shown firm intent, as demonstrated by the Ordinance on the Land Bill recently

5) Taken steps to improve governance w.r.t. to the matters above

This is not to state that there aren’t real and present worries regarding any number of issues related to the Economy, Social matters, Politics and other issues in India. I myself am on record raising a few of these in no uncertain terms. But credit where credit is due; let us understand and appreciate the good that is happening while pointing out the negatives, in the highest traditions of our democracy. 

I respectfully submit that the points raised by the critics are thus not relevant to the international public at large, and Governments in particular. Particularly since their time-frame in the short to mid-term. And the true impact positive or negative of the points raised by others will show up in the long term, unless something is done now. And between then and now, a lot can happen, there are other internal social and economic parameters to be considered that are not relevant to this discussion. These parameters may curdle it, or may solve the issue; but that is another story…

All {or at least some of the points} are {or may be} accurate; granted. But I was talking from the external POV, or, in other words, how much will Rs 10 fetch if an international investor invests in India, in what level of security of the capital investment, under what economic / demographic conditions vis-a-vis investment in other nations for the same parameters. That is what will drive investment in India, which will benefit us as a nation given our finite resources

It is a question of attracting excess liquidity in the Global Economy, and offering a better return on investment vis-a-vis other comparable nations, nations with a higher chance to reach middle-income levels. And on that, with our professional legal, financial and currency setup, with the current status of the economy combined with the demographic factors – is where we are scoring under the current political dispensation, with their aggressive approach on the international front, building relations while providing, or trying to provide a conducive atmosphere at home for the business community. 

It is too early to take any call on these matters yet; this Government is only 7 months old. While on some other matters 7 months is more than enough time to gauge direction and intent; on these matters, it will take a little time to see and gauge the results, and see whether the signed agreements and promises convert into tangible gains for us as a nation. Our Prime Minister has made an excellent start by getting these in place through his extensive touring and outreach to other nations, now the task for us as a nation is the conversion of these promises into results and tangible benefits for all of us…

Note & Disclaimer : These points are my own analysis; having said that, my views are formed on the basis of my study of the following reference material :

1) Breakout Nations – Ruchir Sharma {Book Review Here}


2) Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor {Book Review Here}


3) Fault Lines – Dr Raghuram G Rajan {Book Review Here}


4) Assorted business newspapers and diplomatic and political analyses in various news media both in print and on the digital medium

Book Review : Scent Of A Game

Published December 29, 2014 by vishalvkale

Scent Of A Game

By Raghav Chandra


The Author can be found on Raghav Chandra : His Website Biography : http://raghavchandra.org/Biography.aspx. He is an IAS Officer, and the pertinent aspect of his career is summarised below. 

He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1982 and was posted as Assistant Collector in Satna and Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Ashoknagar near the Shivpuri National Park, and Sihora midway between Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves. Later he was Additional Collector at Korba near the Achanakmar Sanctuary where he was exposed to the conflict and interface between the development needs of the tribal communities on the one hand and the aspirations of the burgeoning mining/public sector/industrial sectors. 


Why You Should Read This Review :

The internet is a fantastic tool : one google search can reveal a lot; and that one internet search has led me to reviews by wildlife websites, as well as others more specialised into these matters. My take on this will therefore be from a more consumerist point of view; giving reasons to read, the weaknesses and the strengths of the novel, and its most scary aspect. 



The Plot

The plot, shorn of all its embellishments, is straightforward and simple. The scary part lies elsewhere. This is about Tigers, or more generally about wildlife conservation in India, the illegal trade linked around the conservation, the various nexus that operate around it. There is absolutely nothing else to it, period. Please note my use of words. 


The embellishments are an excellent attempt at creating an engaging fiction novel out of this concept which is boring in the extreme to anyone not from this field, or not interested in it, or not having an education in Biology. The story is told mainly through the trials and struggles for survival of two individuals who get caught in an ugly nexus partly by chance, partly by design.

One is an NRI, who gets caught in the quagmire of poaching due to no fault of his. The other is a journalist, who is on the trail of a story on Tiger Poaching. The entire story revolves around a famous Tigress Badi Maadaa, who has disappeared, despite being radio-tagged. The experiences of these two as they trail, or are entangled in this affair, and how they get out of it form the bulk of the book. 

In short, there are, in effect, two parallel but entangled tales here; one is of the missing Tigress and/or Conservation of Wildlife, and the other about these 2 central characters and their struggle to survive, as one is framed, and the other targeted for Termination of the permanent kind. This is the essence of the entire plot.


The Analysis

The book is slow and tedious, make no mistake about that. It is painstakingly slow in places – not boring, but slow. This is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a painstakingly, lovingly put-together tale, with incredible attention to detail and plot. The plot, though unbelievably simple at one level, is exceedingly complicated at another level, as we shall see in the remaining analysis. 

The key question is, for a lay reader, has the author managed to keep the interest alive? Yes, he has – through an engaging use of the related and intertwined plotlines, with both plots moving forward alternatively; a few pages on the frame-up, or personal lives, or the journalist’s experiences; then interleaving it with the details of the wildlife conservation efforts of the Tiger Park, or moving the poaching and international smuggling plot forward

The punch of the book is the real and main story, shorn of the embellishments : the tiger poaching ring, the movement of smuggled skins and other items, and the nitty gritty of the entire modus operandi, told in detail. The book is a fascinating repository of information of National Parks like Pench, Kanha, of wildlife conservation and of the working of the forest departments, as well as the forest ecosystem including tribals. Importantly, here you get the corrupt officials, the incompetents and the high-and-mighty who are involved in the entire matter.

This is something you can find in other novels as well, with a difference : in this novel, the author has exposed the interplay of incompetence and low-level corruption and its interaction with high-level corruption and serious crime, carried out in an atmosphere of bureaucracy and political control. This is where the author is in unique territory; read the book solely for this, if for nothing else. 

And that is the scary part; the Author, as I pointed out, an IAS Officer with practical experience in this precise geographical tract, spanning these Tiger Parks. The shocking callousness and incompetence, the vicious nexus that operate in this fiction novel, when seen in the backdrop of the Author’s background, paint a terrifying possibility, and underline the need for positive change in India, and the need for supporting the good officers from the IAS Services, as has been shown in the book as well!

This is a must read for all… dont miss this one… 

Music : A Question Of, And A Case For, Marathi Music

Published December 26, 2014 by vishalvkale

Music : A Case For Spreading Marathi Music


I am not a music expert, or practitioner; far from it. I am a regular, casual fan of Music; this post is not a post of an analysis of the two languages’ musical traditions. Furthermore, as a confirmed former member of the Macaulay’s Children Family, I am a fairly new convert to Marathi Music. But basis what I have seen, and heard {!}, I am stunned, and more than a little sorry that I ignored my mother tongue for so very long. 

It is perhaps because of my newness that I have noted the things I have; principally, the total lack of exposure to Marathi Music in the mainstream Social Media, as also Marathi Films. There is an abundance of exposure to the latest as well as the oldies in Hindi Music and Cinema, while the vernacular rarely gets exposure, at least insofaras Marathi is concerned. 



People can and do share Hindi music, articles and updates related to Hindi Music and Cinema, performers, artists and stars; this same is muted in the case of the Vernacular. At least, I havent seen many posts. The sad part of it is, the vernacular music section is truly filled with wonders, and we run the risk of it getting subsumed; there are two ways to solve this : write an article analysing this behaviour, hoping to change people {unlikely; forlorn hope}, or…




Do something about it, be the change you want to see in others, by starting to share Marathi Music and Cinema updates alongwith my other FB updates and Blogs. This is what I have started doing, so that I can repay the favour to the unnamed person who exposed me to the wonder that is Marathi Music and Cinema, and made me a convert. This is an article that highlights some of my favourite new Marathi singers and Musicians – not through their biodata and life-stories, but through their prominent songs… some you have heard of in Hindi music, while some may be new to the readers…






Vaishali Mhade, Bela Shende, Swapnil Bandodkar, Vaishali Samant, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Kirti Killedar, Suresh Wadkar, Sonu Nigam… and Nilesh Mohrir, Ajay Atul & Avinash-Vishwajeet among others {Music Directors}


This song stands as among my top favourite, sung by Vaishali Mhade who is in singers, ahead of even Bela Shende in my favourites, who features later… Vaishali has an unforgettable voice, with such haunting melodies as this one : Dhuke Daatle Megh Zaraashe…


Or this rendition of Soor Anandaghan with Suresh Wadkar :



There were others I could not find, like Mounaat Bolte Raat… 




Moving on, listen to this beautiful number Paavsaa Re Paavsaa from the talented Kirti Killedar, featuring music by Nilesh Mohrir {featured in the previous post as well in Devaa Tujhyaa Gaabhaaryaalaa Umbaraach Naahi}… 



I have already given one of her top duets – Sar Sukhaachi Shraavani Ke Naachraa Valiv Haa – in one of my previous posts; let us look at a couple more from the talented Bela Shende, with Swapnil Bandodkar; Music by Avinash Vishwajeet : Aikaavi Vaatate



The next song in my list is the soft, soothing morning number Padat Aakashi Sonsade : Kedar Bhagwat/ Hariharan / Shankar Mahadevan; listen and enjoy this absolute stunner bejewelled with equally fabulous lyrics : 


Sonu Nigam, a known name… well, prepare to be suprised by this lovely lilting tune sung by him : Hirvaa Nisarg



A superb love song sung Swapnil Bandodkar and Music by Kedar Bhagwat, Parat Tulaa Paahataa Parat Tulaa Sparshtaa


Kedar Bhagwat features yet again in this post, along with Hariharan in the touching sensitive love song Shwaas Mee Aakaash Tu Re Bhaas Mee Swaprakaash Tu Re


The last 2 in this list of 10 contains two songs diamterically opposite to each other, one a complete classical song, the other a fully commercial song… first, listen to the fantastic Jeev Bhulalaa from the house of Ajay Atul, sung by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Goshal


Let us close this list of 10 with 2 renditions of an old classic song – Kathhin Kathhin Kathhin Kiti Purush Hrudaya Baai; one by the inimitable Hridaynath Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle


And then listen to this rendition of this same old number  by Rashmi Moghe… to get a fuller idea of the contemporary scene in Marathi Music, which is cutting across all genres… 



Literature and Arts / Music are what keep a language alive; we are already in a society where we get little chance to read Marathi {or our respective Mother Tongues}; not only that, we – at least Urban people like me – are not too good at reading Marathi. We just arent used to it. Thus, the only way to continue our heritage is through arts and music… 

For residents in Maharashtra, this is not that much of an issue; but for the rest of us, the exposure was hitherto limited. This is now changing rapidly with the inroads made by Technology, as I noted in my previous post on this issue. And, to be honest, for some reason, I find Marathi Music and even films {the topic of one of my future posts} more attractive, diverse and fun… could be because it is my Mother Tongue, and I am new to its Arts. Be that as it may, I am enjoying and revelling in this new hobby…

Book Review : The Mouse Charmers

Published December 23, 2014 by vishalvkale



The Mouse Charmers : Digital Pioneers of India  

by Anuradha Goyal


Anuradha Goyal has a Master’s Degree in Computer Applications with practical work experience in the IT industry for several years; she has subsequently moved on; She has co-authored the India Innovates series published by CII, and was a Jury Member for the Economic Times Power Of Ideas Contest 2010. Her papers on Business Innovation have appeared in various journals and forums


The digital industry is a nascent industry, with a long way to go, as I have myself noted in my previous articles; the road is long, and we are at the very beginning. We have no idea what works, and what doesnt; essentially we are learning as we go along, making processes, dreaming ideas, charting strategies, monitoring tactical execution as we go along. There are no defined roadmaps, and no study material in an organised format; there are no case studies and previous experiences to go by. We ourselves are the case studies of the future…

And this is precisely what Anuradha has done in what I can only refer to as a landmark in this industry; a first book of what can be called case studies of digital entrepreneurs of India. That there will be others, is beyond question. But this work will be the one that was the first, the one that was to set the ball rolling… and full marks to the author for this!

The focus of the book is to lay before the readers a set of Indian Entrepreneurs who made brands out of their ideas, and became successful in converting an idea into a successful business venture. Given the nascent nature of this industry, the author has further decided not to go too technical on us – whether in terms of technology, or in terms of business jargon and strategies, and has opted to keep it simple. 

The net result of this approach is that the reader gets 12 superb analytical case studies, with a relatively short, precise but very meaningful historical précis of what went wrong, what worked, and how the business got to the current status. In addition to this, you get a basic of the technological platform used, as also the difficulties faced and challenges overcome on a strategic front. In addition to these 12, you have a mention of other businesses that didn’t make it to the 12, but are good enough to have done so. 


The choice of the 12 cases is the hallmark of the book, as they set to define the digital space into 3 clear logical segments : ECommerce, Content Platforms and Connectors. In simple terms, sites that provide trading facilities, content generation platforms that provide reviews, or other digital content; and thirdly connectors – sites that bring users together in the B2B, B2C or C2C space. This approach serves to clearly define the digital space in our minds, and gives a clear view to the reader as well as gives a defined form with clearly demarcated broad market segments to the nascent space in the digital marketplace. 

The book is divided into 3 segments accordingly : ECommerce, Content and Connectors. And, the best part is that there is a concise description of each segment in which the scope and breadth of the segment as well as its emergence and future possibilities find an adequate mention. Again, this serves to clearly define each segment of the market, and gives us a firm and clear idea of the digital marketplace. This is the most important take-away from this book : it will give a firm shape to what was once a shapeless concept, helping to channelise your thoughts and ideas. 

The 12 cases are a wide variety, a kaleidoscope, almost – of India; they are so diverse, that they typify our India! Here you will find the story of names you know very well : Flipkart, Shaadi.com, MakeMyTrip, Zomato, Indiblogger. But you will also be surprised to learn of the success of niche sites, or different sites like  BigBasket, Caratlane, Games2Win, ImagesBazaar, Chai With Lakshmi, Rang De and Commonfloor, in areas that you would not have thought that the digital marketplace can make inroads… like the unique case of a C2C Microfinance firm on a digital platform! This is a book that will set you thinking of the enormous potential of this new medium will double force, which is the second takeaway from the book.

The way the different cases monetised their offerings, making a financial success of things as diverse as selling online to making money from reviews of restaurants is a real tribute, and a study in ideation, logical application of mind, perseverance and sheer chutzpah. This gives the reader a basic insight into what are the requirements for a person who wants to get into this industry. 

But the most important takeaway from the book is the marriage of the online with the offline; the old with the new; and the brick and mortar with the click. In each and every case, the way the offline gels in with and strengthens the online is the most vital learning. Be it the stunning efforts of Team Zomato who collected those hundreds of menus initially, or be it the dedication of Team ImagesBazaar who personally compiled the photographs to start off, every case has an offline presence in terms of hard work, and dedication, or in terms of creating and further leveraging a strategic advantage, like logistics. 

You get to appreciate and understand the stunning level of effort required to create a running business; you get to understand how they went about building it up brick by brick; looking at the strategy, the technology, the market, the customers, the monetisation, the failures, the marketing of the products – be it advertisement or be it the core product, This is a book that covers most aspects of business, creating a complete picture and business case in front of the reader. All in all, rated 5 stars!

Corporate India : Understanding The Ethical Dilemma

Published December 16, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second part of the article of Is This Business? Professionalism? Planning? Management?


We looked at some real-world examples of the result of unethical behaviour in the Corporate World in the previous post linked above; these can be easily added to by the simple means of a google search; any number of real cases will appear for ready consideration. As I asked in the conclusion of the previous article, why does this happen? 


There is no simple answer to this; I personally refer to this as the Ethical Dilemma that each new employee is faced with. At this juncture, let us all move away from the oft-repeated excuse that we are a corrupt society, and this is the way things happen. That is not the issue here; the focus here should be to understand the underlying factors that result in on-the-job unethical behaviour, and how are they rooted in core corporate concepts, processes and methods. 


It is only through such an exercise that we can evolve new processes that can alleviate the problem. The objective is not Gandhian or some abstract social change paradigm; I am a hard-core, hard-wired corporate professional, and my objective here is only to assist in creating a more smoothly functional organisation that can deliver better bang for the buck while remaining within legal and moral parameters; in fact – harness ethics and ethical behaviour as an asset, rather than as a liability that most people currently believe it to be. It can be done; that is certain. All it requires is a process-centered approach and an iron-will…


UNDERSTANDING THE WORD ETHICS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD

In this article, I shall focus on the ethical dilemma; we shall subsequently look at some processes in the 3rd part of this mini-series. Before we move into corporates, let us establish the bedrock : our society. Whether we like it or not, the current trend is that morality and straightforwardness is not an asset in the modern world, with corruption being almost endemic, and there being an almost ubiquitous belief in “duniyadaari” or being worldly wise. And most discussions on ethics are brushed aside by saying you need to be worldly wise. Keep this in mind; this is a vital attitude that we will return to later in the 3rd part, as it betrays a lamentable lack of understanding of  a few basic concepts. 


To be frank; such an attitude is neither here nor there, and is in reality totally irrelevant. There are only two terms that are relevant to us : being ethical, and being naive. If you open all your cards in a business negotiation, you are not being ethical; you are being naive, and foolish. This has nothing to do with ethics! As another example, if your channel partner is not giving adequate focus to your business, then the question of how to proceed is not one of ethics, it is a straight and simple business question, and has nothing to do with ethics. 


We need to be specific : what do we mean by the term ethics? By that, let us be clear  that we are referring to illegal behaviour, actions and steps that are against standard societal norms, and such actions that will eventually lead to loss to the organisation in the long term due to their being focused on individual gain. Let us qualify this last point with one caveat : unless short term steps are deemed to be necessary for short-term organisational survival, and documented as such by the concerned management.



THE ETHICAL DILEMMA

Let us start with an example; you are in a negotiation with a prospective business partner. In the course of negotiations, you hold back certain information; as I stated before, that is a standard and indeed essential practice. But this needs to be clarified : all information that is pertinent to the decision of the business partner as well as is vital for a long term association needs t0 be revealed; holding that back is unethical. Such is the fine line between ethical and unethical behaviour in a business situation. 


Furthermore, there is also a very high degree of probability that the above may be against the law, which mandates release of all pertinent information in a business contract. Be that as it may, the decision as to what is pertinent is a very situational parameter, and requires experience. Look at it this way : if the Channel Partner is looking for a long-term association with a solid or upcoming brand with a clear way forward, whereas you are in it only to solve a short-term crisis without having any long-term intentions, there is a potential fundamental disconnect. If your brand then does not have a clear way forward in terms of new products, marketing activities and their range & scope, and you nevertheless imply or commit that you do, then you are in unethical territory. 


So long as you give complete disclosure, that you need a business partner urgently, can provide a solid business case to the potential partner, and can meet objections, you are fine. All you have to do is identify the core non-negotiable points of the other party, and what points can be negotiated on, and build your case on them. But the moment you cut corners, and start lying, you are on suspect ground. This leads to a disconnect between the partner and the organisation upon the start of business when the partner learns that there is no clear way forward – leading to him or her withdrawing from the business. 

This is just one example of the ethical dilemma, wherein professional falter  : my KRAs versus Solid Business Logic. The inability to connect the two is the ethical dilemma; the word dilemma means specifically “a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable“. Here the choice is the unpalatable choice of breaking norms and lying to achieve the goal, versus the equally unpalatable choice of having to struggle hard while keeping on the right side of ethics. 



UNDERSTANDING THE ETHICAL DILEMMA


Why should the employee be faced with such a hobson’s choice : KRAs, or Ethics? The next question then comes automatically : Are the two really mutually exclusive under current circumstances? Or is the entire feeling of a totally different origin? Or is it that both the KRAs as well as the other factors need consideration and reworking? And what are these other factors? 

One thing needs to be clear at the outset : the question of ethics is fundamentally an individual decision, an individual choice. And yet, we see the improbable sight of a large number of people sacrificing ethics at the altar of the rat race, the race to succeed, to survive, and to get ahead. This is the single largest indicator that there is something, some fundamental weakness or oversight within the core processes of the companies that either catalyzes or fails to check unethical behaviour. No company states unethical behaviour as acceptable; 100% frown upon it, and yet large swathes of companies are struggling to bring unethical conduct under control, which is a strange paradox. 

Optimally, the ethical dilemma should not occur to employees in the first place; ethics should support and in fact strengthen the business process. That they dont is a manifest reality, as indicated in the examples I mentioned in the first article linked above. Granted that in the real world, there will always be difficult choices and borderline cases; but that does not take away from this core reality. 

Since the choice is one of individual behaviour, and is made with an objective to achieve some business goals, KRAs automatically become a part of the discussion. So does the entire system that the employee is exposed to; why is the employee having to make such decisions on a regular basis? KRAs, Relations with superiors, Support systems, Checks and Balances, external environment all come into the gamut of discussion. For the ethical dilemma may be that of an individual, but it is of an individual who is a part of a larger system, which shapes as well as influences the thinking and decision making of the individual. 

The key point, the way forward is to understand the functioning at an organisational level, and plot the pulls pressures and developments in both the organisation and the external atmosphere it operates in. The reason is simple : we are in business for profit, not an NGO for social development. We need to plot a way forward that is largely ethical, that rewards ethical conduct, and that does not instill a feeling of threat while being ethical; all the while operating in the external atmosphere as it exists in the modern day – and we certainly arent living in a Utopia. 

This is the subject of the 3rd part of this series… 

Book Review – Vishnu’s Crowded Temple

Published December 12, 2014 by vishalvkale

Image result for vishnu's crowded temple

VISHNU’S CROWDED TEMPLE : INDIA SINCE THE GREAT REBELLION

BY MARIA MISRA

A treatise on Casteism, Religion and Political Inteplay from 1857; A look at how Caste was shaped by The British Raj


This is a book that belongs in your collection, its weaknesses and shortcomings notwithstanding; a book that helps us understand, or at least get an insight into why and how we Indians are what we are today. This is a study, an investigation, an attempt to understand Modern India, and trace how it arrived at the current place, a unique effort to present our history and our today as a single connected and linked thread.

The book successfully challenges many current beliefs, takes them on head-on and demolishes them in no uncertain terms. It very successfully traces the sad interplay of Raj Politics & Modern Independent politics, Religion and Social Forces; and analyses their cumulative impact on Indian Society. This is a hard-hitting, thought provoking and deeply disturbing yet engaging research into the origins of the modern Caste relations, Religious fractions and how political forces came to be influenced by these tectonic forces

On casteism, it delves into excruciating detail, proving the impact of the Raj on caste equations, analysing the situation at the advent of the Raj, and going on to provide factual details, events, strategies, tactical maneuvers and machinations that resulted, inadvertently at times, into the solidification and cementing of casteism into its most repressive form. The painstakingly put investigation comes as a revelation, despite it being exhausting in its detail. A better presentation would have made the absorption of the material much easier; having said that, there are no discernible logical gaps in the material, apart from it being slightly tedious due to the stunning level of detail. 


As a matter of fact, the main overarching theme of this book, throughout the 449 pages, is caste, and its interplay with various societal and political forces from 1857 till around 2006. This is a stupendous effort, and thus deserves accolades. Furthermore, it provides the proof of a connected chain of events, leading to a better understanding of what we are today. That is what makes this book a must read for all Indophiles; its many weaker points notwithstanding!


Woven into this main theme is the theme of colonialism, and how the forces of the day intervened in all facets of Indian life, from the mundane to the esoteric, definitively shaping them for the worse. Before the advent of the British, the caste construct was fluid and interchangeable. The British intervened with their coloured glasses, and  created a system of differential treatment of various classes and castes, differential economic treatment and power-sharing, combined with labelling of some tribes as criminal {who could be imprisoned on suspicion alone}. This led to a cascade impact, as a caste identity became the key to economic, political and social status under the new dispensation

The book also looks in rather uncomfortable detail at the rise of what The Great West {as also some Indians} likes to call hindutva; and the rise of aggressive Hinduism. This fills in a major gap in most contemporary books, which focus on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in India and elsewhere. This book does more than the reverse; it looks in painful detail at the rise of Hinduism in a more aggressive form. 

While it is true that this is a needed exercise; societal movements depend on all forces in operation within a society : the fact remains that this comes across as excessive, targeting the Hinduism movement, the rise of the Hindi language etc in needless detail. This is done without a proper reasoning of the full background, which gives a biased picture. Furthermore, given the seeming bias added to the evident inconsistencies and ill-disguised disdain for a few facets of ancient history, this tends to give a skewed picture of the scenario as it existed in those days. This is a significant weakness throughout the book, one that lessens its impact. 

Post independence era, the book falters a little, but is a treasure trove nevertheless, as it traces the rise of Indian Democracy through the early years, right till the modern day. However, the content fails to leave as deep an impact as the section dealing with the pre-independence period. In this section, the effort, though laudable, comes across as disjointed, and lacks focus in my opinion.

The book traces, or attempts to trace, key events in this period, like the secularism debate and the entire common law issue, going into the history of this debate in parliament. It also looks at the changing caste equation, but sadly in much lesser detail , preferring to focus on economics and political intrigue. This is where the book loses steam and finally surrenders its engagement quotient.

The entire Indira Gandhi – Sanjay Gandhi – Rajiv Gandhi saga has been dealt with in considerable detail, almost too much detail. In this phase, the story meanders into unfamiliar territory, leading to a lack of focus, as it swiftly looks into the Rajiv years, before metamorphosing to Mandal and VP Singh. Despite that, it does manage to recreate the canvas of India quite successfully, plotting the problems and events in various states in relatively short sequences, creating a kaleidoscope of the nature of the country in those days. This is what makes this section invaluable; it places in one contiguous section all the problems faced by our nation; you begin to appreciate our development as a people with double force and pride. 

The rise of the BJP from its genesis in the Jan Sangh, and the entire sequence of events has been dealt with in detail; as has the tumult during the Mandal years; this is in keeping with the overall theme of the book. Thus, at the fag end of the book, it manages to return to its core theme after meandering into politics. While the impact of politics on society is a given, in this section, the connection and the impact has not been fully traced. It comes across as half baked. It attempts to trace the rising equality in castes, and the influence of the downtrodden, but partially fails to do this, giving a definite idea, but stopping short of a deep insightful analysis…

The main criticisms of the book are 3-fold; first, it is irreverent towards Hindu sentiments, Gods, History and tends to take an ill-disguised condescending tone on more than several occasions. The unbalanced and one-sided analysis of Hinduism in its more aggressive form comes across as rhetorical in the absence of an equally rigorous examination of other forces. It  is frankly dismissive on many points which have common acceptance and have proofs in support. To be honest, I felt as though this is a look at only one side of the equation, and more data and facts are needed from the other side. Furthermore, there were some sections that I felt were inaccurate, and the portrayal of Hinduism as being completely negative and objectionable almost throughout the entire book…

Secondly, it is also surprisingly kind towards Pakistan and Islamic terror. But the most objectionable point was the reference to Kargil, and the claim that this was an operation carried out by Kashmiri insurgents! Similar are the unflattering references to terrorism in India, and a completely inaccurate analysis of the same. 

Thirdly, and most damning, is the shoddy presentation, and editing / finishing. The book is extensively researched; but the bibliography, annotations and end-notes are just not upto the mark. The impact of this is a lack of conviction, as the links and references to the statements contained in the content do not immediately link back to the source of the said claims. This significantly impacts the readability of the book

All in all, this is a must read book, despite the weaknesses mentioned above, for the simple reason that it adds enough value, despite being unreasonably critical {in my opinion} of Hinduism, and economical with the facts in some cases, as I mentioned in the third point given above. I would rate it 3 stars, and as a book that is a good read, and a great value addition, given that it clear many cobwebs…