All posts for the month April, 2016

Book Review : The Wisdom of Ants – A Short History Of Economics

Published April 24, 2016 by vishalvkale

Book Review : The Wisdom of Ants

A Short History Of Economics

By Shankar Jaganathan
The Wisdom of Ants makes an ambitious attempt : tracing the roots and development of Economics and Economic Thought right from its origins in the mists of time, going back all the way to Chanakya and Aristotle. While this may seem appealing only to the academician, it is in reality a riveting account, full of learnings and deep insights, as well as thought-provoking facts and arguments. The book traces the entire history in a relatively short 300-odd pages with consummate skill, making for a fast read, yet packed with powerful content.
From The Beginnings To 1776
Image result for the wisdom of ants shankar jaganathanThe beginning is with an examination of the politico-economic thoughts of ancient thinkers in trade, commerce – like Chanakya, Aristotle and Lord Shang. This is the only section that has a jarring aspect; given that the rest of the book is beyond reproach, let me first document the only negative I could find. In tracing the roots of Economics, the author has examined the lines of thought and books of the ancient thinkers, but has curiously dismissed any feasibility of anyone other than Europeans being the inventors  of Economics, which I find rather strange.
Was there no trade and commerce before the 1600s and the 1700s? Obviously there was; so why the cursory dismissal of their works? Aristotle gave a pretty detailed breakup of sectors; he also dwelt on the positives of money. Chanakya went much, much farther : segregation into Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Manufacturing and Commerce; Taxation rates and details including incentives like exemption, wages, working conditions etc. Pretty much what we study in the basics. The theories were of course developed later, that is neither here no there.  Dismissing such ancient works or the grounds that they did not give any analysis seems rather far-fetched to me.
The book lays the foundation principles or prerequisites for Economics to flourish : The right to property, social sanction for a self-centred individual; and material acquisition being the measure of welfare. I don’t argue with the transparent logic of the first and the third; there cannot be commerce and trade without these two basics. The other one – self-centered individual is an idea I don’t accept, notwithstanding anything argued in the book.
The only real requirements as per me are right to property, and wealth acquisition. Commerce would still have flourished despite and even in the presence of a more, shall we say, altruistic belief in human societal set-ups. Needs and wants would be there; humans would need products for consumption; and thus specialisation would be there – meaning economics would be needed. The rise of a self-centered approach, so successfully traced to medieval Europe, is in reality a telling indictment of those European so-called thinkers. But that is another story, not fully relevant here.
Enter The Modern World : Adam Smith Onwards
It is in this section that the book really comes alive, and all arguments against its presentation fade away; my only wish is that this should should have been more detailed. In this part, the author lays before us the origins of Patents, Free Trade, {Free Trade, well – which, as I have looked at in earlier articles – isn’t and wasn’t free; but that is the way of the world, Might is Right}, Monopolies, and the general rise of the Europe, along with the attendant rise in economic thinking, and its currently laid out theoretical premise and basis.
The most engaging part of the book is the examination of the searching questions raised by Malthus, Ricardo, Say, Simonde – and Keynes. I found large common ground with only Jean Charles Leonard Simonde De Sismonde, whose works will bear reading even today.  In the observation that national wealth is the participation of all in the advantages of life, or in the observation that a large number of moderately rich people are better for a nation than a few super rich; or even in the development of intellectual “faculty”- we can spot powerful parallels in the modern world and India.
For the most part, the second half of the book is an enthralling see-saw between demand and supply side Economics, and the questions they attempted to answer as well as the problems they created. The succinct presentation does leave you wanting more details, to be honest; but inasmuch as this is a one-of-a-kind book, this isn’t a weakness; people like me can refer the bibliography for more; as I intend to – read up on Simonde, in whose questions I find many commonalities, as these are questions I have asked myself.
On the topic of Free Markets versus Government Interventions, I want the book seriously short of material – it was just not enough, period. The approach was way too succinct, and skirted the practical aspects of the matter; but then again – this is not an examination of Free Markets, but of the evolution of Economics. Given the approach, the material is justified. This topic can be and is the subject of research as well as volumes upon volumes of books!
The abrupt shift from this theme to the Nobel Laureates and their detailed examination almost defeated me, to be brutally frank; but given that I learnt quite a bit from this section, I am not classifying this as a negative. The abrupt shift from the Keynesian Era to the new Era has not been adequately covered – it could be that I am not upto speed in Economics, being a passionate reader {as well as schooled in Managerial Economics} on this subject only rather than a specialist.
The book closes its journey with a superbly analysed growth path and set of events that lead to the crash of 2007; the increasing financial deregulation, the belief in Free Markets, unregulated sectors combining with low interest rates that fuelled the growth, which, as it turned out, was hollow – leading to the great crash of 2007. This gels rather well with the book by Dr Raghuram Rajan, who has also identified no less than 7 fault lines.
The book is a 5-starrer, despite the negatives pointed out above. It is a deep reservoir of knowledge; leaves you with a far better understanding of the modern world and the business and trade environment; and, as the icing on the cake- raises questions inside you and a desire to learn more.  At the last page, you don’t discard this book to your shelf, but bookmark sections to be re-read, raising further reading and research ideas, like one quoted above : Simonde for me, as well as the Arthashastra, both of which  I now intend to read and review…



Published April 17, 2016 by vishalvkale

Gurugram! Yet again, another day, another point for controversy. This most recent event has again attracted comments, thankfully muted; while one side sees it as justified, the other side sees it as excessive, or needless, or incorrect. Good point is that the response is muted – though it could be that the event is also small in scale. But you can notice the comments and observations by the nay-sayers, who for once I don’t agree with.
Indeed, some see a Hindutva agenda in this; while others find the downmarket, some others worry about Business. How can a name create dissonance is what I would like to know, for starters. Arent we seeing too much when we say this? How can a name of a city impact business its prospects? One article even carried a comment from a Westerner that this name will defeat them! Do we do business with city names, or on business fundamentals? Some people stated “Gurgaon had acquired a global and high-end cache despite being a “vernacular” name and that Gurugram will simply not have that brand sheen”:
Read more at:
On the Hindutva agenda, I can appreciate the concerns; but let us not get paranoid now. What possible impact can such a step have – even if it is part of a so-called Hindutva agenda, which I doubt? As it is we see far too many names on the Nehru-Gandhi Family, and clichéd names; I for one am all for name changes that better reflect the diversity of the Indian Cultural Scenario.  And, given that we have an established and long history, there is a crying need for the right names that are better reflective of our history; this will help in building pride.
These reactions are only to be expected, and you can expect more of the same. This arises out of a complex situation curdled by our addled understanding of history as well as our penchant for fawning over Western symbols and The English Lanuage. Add to this our rising desire to establish a local pride and a unique identity for ourselves.  So long as that identity is multicultural, we will be fine. The comments clearly identify the Western penchant and the Hindutva Bugbear. Here, through the analogy of books, I look at the Western Penchant of ours.
India went through absolute hell {far, far more than our history books tell}; right till 1947 – something which has created a complex situation which is going to take time to resolve. Be it the Religious issues, or the issue of Language over English & Hindi, or be it the habit of sneering at our traditions and ancient history that some anglicized people have – our past experiences have created an identity crisis in us. It would have destroyed a lesser nation; it didnt us. That is one.  
Second, the West does have a disturbing tendency of in-your-face arrogance of a very high order indeed. That is two.   Quite a few city names have their origins in the Colonial rape, and have no connect with either history or reality. There is absolutely nothing wrong in getting it right, or changing names. That is three.  
Why do we fawn over westerners? Let us study this through an analogy : I just came back from a mall, and I did not find even one single Indian business book in a bookstore measuring well over 1000 sq ft! And tonnes of business books by westerners. This is, well, just not acceptable. This isnt ethnocentricism. I found Shakespeare – the full collection, a rack full of western classics – but very, very few Indian classics. We do tend to, most of us, fawn needlessly over western stuff which just isnt upto the mark, to be brutally honest. That is four.  
To be blunt : I find more meaningful literature and books on roadside thhelaas than in swank AC bookstores, which are full of meaningless stuff. Not one of my past, oh – 136 book reviews is from bookstores – thhelaas, online, small tiny bookstores, etc. That is a fact, Look up my blog for the book reviews. Not even one; and they still arent found. Saddest part is that the non-fiction titles are containing solid irrefutable official evidence from across three continents; but we still lap up biased Western stuff.  
That is the reality of India, sir. We ape and fawn over the west, one hell of a lot; sample the comments above.   In this environment, some dose of national pride and sentiment are vital. It fuels national pride, when used in the right doses. That is  why I make no comment on Gurugram; to me it is fine. Gurgaon was also fine; this is in some ways, better, it has a nice feel to it. But that is an individual matter.
It is frankly of no material importance whether we are or arent ethnocentric per se; it becomes vital when we just refuse to recognise, as a people, genuine Indian Achievements and Indian contributions. It becomes an issue when you actually sneer at the past, and callously dismiss it as Myth, or counter-factual, or unimportant; holding onto imported views of our culture and our history.
Look at the books reviewed on my blog. One book – India, Uninc – contains precise economic data-  authentic data, and is a class analysis of the Indian Economy. I have not found it anywhere in any bookstore, save one in Thane. Ditto my latest read : Wisdom of The Ants, a seminal invesigation on Economics and its history, dealing in Keynesian and NeoClassical schools and their current influence; I havent seen it in any book store anywhere, Ditto Upanishad, or Ved, Dramas, Kabir, Tulsidas… while every store carries western books.
I am using books just to drive home the point; ethnocentricity, if in control – is actually better than the current state of fawning over western symbolism. Just how does Gurgaon sound right, and Gurugram doesn’t; why does Gurgaon sound right despite having a Vernacular name? Thus, Vernacular is unacceptable, and the Anglicized Gurgaon isn’t?
Sad part is – the comment is spot-on accurate – it does seem to have that sheen. That is the worst part of it, and is a mirror on us; I  learnt a lot and was eventually able to correct my deep-seated mis-impression, thanks to this insightful comment. This argument isnt about Gurugram, or Cricket alone – it is a backlash; a strong and hard backlash against Westernism in every sphere of life.
In the same article, you can spot comments in support, for very ethnic reasons that immediately click, like this one by Prof Abraham Koshy : ” Gurugram will take a long time to take hold as a new name in the minds of people. But, interestingly, he also said the new name can become a plus: “It is the village of teachers. With its credentials, it’s like saying we are the teachers to the world. If carefully utilised, it can be a big plus.
This is ably supported by other pointers and events from India : The data in The Indian Media Business 3rd / 4th edi shows increasing sales and penetration of the vernacular language Media and Books; The Kellogg’s case teaches us to craft Indian responses to Business Strategies, not just replicate Western models; rising popularity of local music {Katyaar Kalzaat Ghusli, Mangalashta Once More in Marathi for example} and the rising usage of ethnic streams in music + rise in classical music teaches us to give a heed to Indian trends;
The problem is and remains a deep-seated complex, a western fawning. This isnt phobia, and there is nothing wrong with taking the good from alien cultures, as a cursory glance at the 136 books I have reviewed will prove. Why should it be so – when there is quality literature in Indian writing? Why the overt presence western classics, and the complete absence of Indian classics ,as an example? That proves the western fawning; this  is the fault of the Indian People, which proves the analogy I was using..   Thus, it is vital that some ethnocentricism comes into play, to reinforce a pride in our culture.
Books are just an analogy; I can use other terms of reference, plenty around us – be it movies where we place needless emphasis on Oscars, or a refusal to engage with our ancient culture and traditions, or regarding our ancient developments as not important, or our penchant with English, or be it any other example. This is ubiquitous, and is to be seen in any number of examples; the good part is that it is slowly receding.
Almost everywhere you look – the Indian is rejecting  the Western Symbols {not saying Gurugram, please} emphatically; and is in a hunt for the true comfort and identity. Yes – there are other complicating factors; there are others considerations. But the Anglicized fawning looked at above is undeniable. This hunt will continue till the question of identity is resolved, as superbly taken up Pavan Verma in his book  “Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity”. We have no choice but to adjust; the Indian masses seem to have woken up from their stupor. None too soon! 

Book Review : Storm The Norm – 20 Brands That Did It Best

Published April 10, 2016 by vishalvkale



By Anisha Motwani


Image result for storm the norm reviewThis book is yet another milestone in Indian writing on our internal marketing and business success stories; for way too long we have been fed Western success stories in our marketing books and cases, virtually 100% of which have little direct applicability in India and consequently learnings from them. There is precious little literature on our own stories, of which we have examples aplenty. The complete lack of quality research on and writing on Indian cases is a major lacuna we face; one that is now being slowly bridged.

I recall reading only 3 books so far – one a book on Positioning giving Indian case studies, another a more recent book by Anuradha Goyal on Ecommerce companies, and this – the third one. And sadly, not one of these is available on book stores prominently; while I can spot an entire series of books by Western authors, Harvard and what not; as I mentioned in my review on HBR Case Studies book on Decisions, I can understand the concepts; but the setting is totally alien and inapplicable to the business atmosphere in India, rendering the much-vaunted HBR useless to me as a practicing business manager in the Indian Economy.


This book takes out 20 case studies from contemporary India – making it a treasure trove for all Business Managers. These are companies we have worked in, producing products we have purchased in a socio-cultural atmosphere we are comfortable in, and in a geography we understand. The chosen case studies are basis brands that have challenged norms, redefined markets or created new ones, brands which have been transformational in their impact and approach; all in all – brands which have done things out of the ordinary.

These brands can be categorised into 3 – Legacy businesses {Cadbury, Kissan, Raymond, Saffola, MTR, TOI}, Entrepreneurial {PVR, Makemytrip, Mirchi, Real} and Challengers {Tata Tea, Sprite, Axis Bank, Cheetah, Kurkure, Honda, Sensodyne, Idea, Ford Ecosport, Fiama Di Wills}. Challenger category represents brands which came from behind and launched an attack on the market leader/s; Legacy represents stories of old & established companies that have constantly reinvented and reinvigorated themselves to maintain contemporary relevance –and Entrepreneurial, representing brands that created new categories, and start-ups which defined a clear space for themselves in in emerging markets and product lines.

It is this varied approach, which attempts to cover most types of business challenges a brand can face in the market, that is the best part of the book. It also makes for a riveting read, as you are treated to an entirely different market, business environment and reality every few pages, breaking the monotony. It also gives deep learnings and fascinating insights for industry specialists like self, as it gives a peek into processes, best practices from other industries, which is a vital aspect.

I would not like to make any comment on the choice of brands; we are such a large and diverse market that a different author would like as not find 20 other cases as well; what matters is we are seeing a write-up on a wide spectrum of business cases cutting across industries – and this may just be a first. Earlier books I have read have been pretty much industry-specific. There is a crying need for more such quality research – I hope and wish Management Institutes and Top Professionals are reading this, and will in future place before us more such quality output.


All in all, rated 4.5 stars out of 5; it was a tough call – 4 stars or 5; and, as befits a man who has studied Decision Making in detail, I simply used elementary statistics to arrive at this scholarly evaluation. 5 stars for the reasons mentioned above, and 4 stars {minus one} for one case study that I found to be inaccurate both as an professional as well as a person, for reasons I shall withhold; as well as due to undue focus on what I perceived to be Urban Indian Case studies. Be that as it may, the remains that this book is one of the best I have read for practicing managers and educationists alike, unlike all those HBR Books which I found to be impractical and  theoretical in the extreme.

The approach that I liked the best was getting the companies that actually did the tasks to write about how they did it within a framework developed by the author and her team; while this approach may have it downsides, it does bring an interval view, a cockpit view to the entire matter, and gives a realistic vision and exposure to thought processes, analysis of business realities, and how they planned it out, what decisions and risks they took. This obviously comprises valuable insights; what I would have loved , and what would have elevated this book to the level of 5 stars overcoming all other objections is if each case had an external expert analysis as well, giving a complete view to the professional. I especially felt the need for more numbers, and industry analysis to be present. But what is there is way more than enough, that is also a truism.

The learnings one can glean from these cases are diverse, and stretch across the fabled 4 Ps of marketing, giving a full insight to the thinking reader, as well as the practicing manager. The impact of each decision, the way it was taken, the approach taken in each case and the focus of the leaders on the various elements are covered in detail, which is valuable. In reading all, one gets a deep insight from the level of importance and emphasis placed on each component “P” by each company. Given that they are from diverse industries, it becomes a valuable learning when in the process of reading each case, you attempt to place the decisions and the marketing mix in the context of the industry it is from; this is what actually furthers your own personal growth, imho.

The book is a fast read, written in easy simple language and thankfully devoid of any jargon. It covers a diverse set of industries and Sectors – FMCG, Auto, Banking, Ecommerce, Services, Telecom, Media, Entertainment. What I felt lacking was that a couple of cases exclusively focussed on rural India could have been used; having rural sales experience, I am aware that what is applicable in our cities is not applicable in the interiors in many, many cases. Then, I also realise that it is not feasible for one book to do all –  and given the relative paucity of such material, this is a really class book, all things considered… 

Independence – The Origins Of The Struggle

Published April 3, 2016 by vishalvkale

The most common misconception is that The Indian Independence Struggle started with The Mahatma, or with The Lokamanya, or indeed with Gopal Krishn Gokhale; a rising stream of thought credits Netaji, with another stream adamant on crediting The Mahatma; nothing could be more simplistic; and nothing could a more incomplete picture of the true story.

The events leading upto and of 1857 were integrally connected with the Independence Struggle in the latter period of 1900-1947, and deserve equal credit. Furthermore, crediting any one single event or source is also not advisable. Such an attempt assumes history to be a standstill pond – rather than the river it is in reality. Let us look at the full picture in a relative short panoramic and simplified view, focussing on key factors that will hopefully place the entire scenario in front of everyone’s eyes
FACT NO 1 : THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS {Let us first settle this, as it is at the center of the current debate}
No Indian could have started The Congress; If an Indian had come forward… the officials would not have allowed it to come into existence – Gopal Krishna Gokhale… [ISFI / Bipin C Pal et al]
The INC was not formed by the British; it was not a sudden event, as the entire sequence traced from around mid 1860s shows. Please read the truncated article for more – ideally the referenced book for detailed evidence and proof. The reason was simple – at this stage, there was no struggle as we know it; it was all about getting greater concessions and better life for the people within the Raj. The Lokamanya and Poorna Swaraj lay all in the future at this juncture. This stage was all about fighting court cases, and more court cases.
Why this was so? Why was there no demand for more? And where did these leaders arise from? Read on further for the truth.
{Before we dwell on the above questions – it is imperative that we dispel the myth that India was one political entity}
“So, we are looking at a people in a state of flux, a people in whom the first stirrings on national thought had begun to awaken. For example, the family of the Authorrefers to the trip to Gwalior as a trip to “Hindustan”, “their women are full of wiles and entice an innocent man” . We are looking at our India in a proto-nationhood stage of its lifecycle, and that is the prime take-away from this book… ” [Italics from : TRSOTGU, M Pande / Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse]
Despite the many claims of United India going back eaons, the fact is that there was no concept of a politically united India as late as 1885 – the date the above book was penned. There was a realisation of a strong cultural union; of the concept of Bharat; of an interdependent economic and socio-political concept [ORL – Parag Tope / EI – Romila Thapar / TLOTSR – Sanjeev Sanyal] – but politically the people were just stirring in the mid-to-late 1800s. When and how did this stirring happen? Read on…
It is commonly assumed that the real struggle started around 1905 – 1915; this is counter factual for the following reasons :
The anti British sentiment was building up rapidly due to socio-cultural, religious, political and economic reasons from the early 1800s almost like a tidal wave, with a series of movements and revolts, and wars being fought against the British – culminating in the grand-daddy of them all, the First War Of Independence. The origin of these feelings lay in the period from 1757- early 1800s, with a series of events that rocked the foundation of life in India. The full-on attack on Religion, Arts, Language, Culture, Society, Economy in India was stinging, brutal, forceful-  and hard. That is what kindled the War of 1857.
The evidence of this attack from 1757 till 1857 is aplenty – from the denigration of traditional education, to the virtual destruction of our handicrafts and arts; from the wrecking of  the existing industrial strength [TCOI – Will Durant; IEUBR – Irfan Habib] to full-on targeting of religion with open targeted attempts at conversion and clear targeting of Sanaatani as well as Islamic people [ORL – Parag Tope; TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi], to the destruction of the agricultural backbone, to the targeting of our beliefs and degradation of our dramatics and culture.
We can see the impact as late as the 880s – 1890s  in The Mahatma’s autobiography of open conversion pressure; other sources above make the picture crystal clear. Given the first-person account of [TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi], it is a valuable window into those tumultuous times, despite it being dated some 40 years afterwards. . Thus, by the turn of the 1840s, the situation was ripe for major upheaval, with every aspect of life in India being under a vicious attack. That lead to a solidification of forces, and perhaps a first stirring on oneness, of us versus them on a relatively national scale
The evidence is catergorically clear – The Rani of Gwalior, with the Pune rulers sent letters to a series of local rulers from mid to late 1840s, culminating in the Bahadur Shah Zafar Decleration [ORL, Parag Tope]. The contents of that Decleration, given in the references, make the matter clear, and virtually beyond debate. Thus, by the time we reach 1857, we have a set of rulers aligned against the British, smarting under the insults and the damage; we have a people whose entire life – earnings, eating, music, life, culture, religion everything was under direct external attack. The combination proved deadly, almost – as they rose as one… [ORL-Parag Tope]
This was the start of the fight against the British – a common, massive uprising – one that was brutally crushed in what is one of the most heinious genocides ever conducted in Human History [ORL – Parag Tope, TRSOTGU – Pande-Godse], when villages, towns, cities were exerminated by the British – it stands as one of the largest targeted war on civilian non-combatants conducted with the express purpose of bludgeoning a people into hopeless surrender. And that is where things stands as the year 1859 turns to 1860…
[culture – extrapolated from BI:TURCI – Pavan Verma; also in ORL – Parag Tope; full research in VST – Maria Misra, FTROE-Pankaj Mishra, rising anger in ISFI / Bipin C Pal et al, Economic Destruction in IEUBR – Irfan Habib, AEHOI – RC Dutt, and in Tope book]
By the beginning of the 1860s, India lay in a total shambles; the old order had crumbled fully, and there was a void; the people were shocked into senseless surrender – leaving no question of an independence struggle, The combined fight against the intruder had been brutally crushed, and not by courage & war, but by brutality, fighting civilians and crushing the people, and mass genocide. In such an atmosphere, there was no question of a struggle.
It is from this void that arose the first set of leaders, people who went on to create the Indian National Congress. This was the link; without 1857, 1947 was a pipe dream. 1857 is what caused and practically assured 1947 – in almost every way you can think of. This period also made clear one thing – the fight had to be done differently, an armed war was out of the question.
That is why you have the lawyers fighting in courts for greater amenities from 1870s-1900s – which the British gleefully allowed in their short-sighted myopia. That is why you have the rising local groupings, that went onto become almost one by the 1930s.
1857 was lost due to treachery – as some Indians supported the British; this was a learning well learnt-  as the first task became eradicating treachery and building a consensus – a feeling of nationalism. The next large scale uprising was also similarly lost, as the plans were in British hands within minutes of finalisation, by two treachorous swines in our midst.
1857 also lead to the communal problem, as the British that there was a need to divide the two communities. Enter Divide and Rule. End of United India dreams. From this point onwards, United India was impossible.
1857 was thus the prime mover and causative in 1947…
[ORL – Parag Tope; ISFI – Bipin C Pal et al; BD:TUOAN – Nitish Sengupta]

I have attempted to trace the Independence struggle as one continuous flow right from the 1700s till 1857, as well as lay bare the reality that Independence was only feasible the way we had it; and that one cannot lay the laurels on any one person alone. As we stand on the cusp of the 1900s, we see a fledgling INC debating in the courts and fighting for greater rights, and a rising tide on two fronts – the bolder leaders who started to desire more than just rights… and the second front being… the rise of communalism as the British policy of Divide and Rule began to pay rich dividends, culminating in what I and [TSOTGG – Narendra Singh Sarila ] call the Anglo Muslim League Alliance… this is what we look at in the second and concluding article on The Independence Struggle
REFERENCES {consulted and read during the past 7 years of study; the article  above is a collective result of the following. Where stated above, the relevant sections were basis some facts stated in the referenced book enabling me to understand or to extrapolate} :
1.                  [IFSI Bipin C Pal] : India’ Struggle for Independence, Bipin C Pal et al
2.                 [TRSOTGU, M Pande / Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse]: The Real Story Of The Great Uprising, written by Vishnu Bhatt Versaikar Godse, translation by Mrinal Pande
3.                 [ORL, Parag Tope] : Operation Red Lotus, Parag Tope
4.                [TLOTSR, Sanjeev Sanyal] : The Land Of The Seven Rivers, Sanjeev Sanyal
5.                 [IE, Romila Thapar] – Early India by Romila Thapar
6.                [BI:TURCI – Pavan Verma] : Becoming Indian – The Unfinshed Revolution Of Culture And Identity, Pavan Verma
7.                 [VST – Maria Misra] : Vishnu’s Crowded Temple, Maria Misra
8.                [FTROE-Pankaj Mishra] : From The Ruins Of Empire – The Revolt Against The West and The Rise of Asia – Pankaj Mishra
9.                [IEUBR – Irfan Habib] – Indian Economy Under Early British Rule, Irfan Habib
10.             [AEHOI – RC Dutt] : An Economic History Of India, RC Dutt
11.               [BD:TUOAN – Nitish Sengupta] – Bengal Divided – The Unmaking Of A Nation, Nitish Sengupta
12.              [F : Arun Shourie] – Fatwa by Arun Shourie
13.              [Jinnah : Jaswant Singh] : Jinnah : India, Partition, Independence by Jaswant Singh
14.             [TSOTGG – Narendra Singh Sarila] – Partition : The Shadow Of The Great Game by Narendra Singh Sarila
15.              [TCOI – Will Durant] – The Case For India by Will Durant
16.             [TSOMEWTT – Mahatma Gandhi] – The Story Of My Experiments With The Truth by Mahatma Gandhi

Book Review : Rebooting India : Realising A Billion Aspirations

Published April 1, 2016 by vishalvkale

Rebooting India : Realising A Billion Aspirations

By Nandan Nilekani & Viral Shah

Rebooting refers to a computer term that involves restarting the operating system; that describes the book and its approach will remarkable accuracy. This is a book that looks at how we can reboot the operating system of our nation : our Governance Backbone; most of us will agree that this is a concept worth looking at, an idea worth consideration just on the basis of the concept stated – without going into the specifics.
Moving further, this is also a very hard concept to practicalise / operationalise – and take it beyond the realm of concept and ideas. It is one thing to conceptualise the rebooting of a nation; quite another to suggest a practical and doable method of doing so. This is something that has been on the minds, pens and lips of quite a number of Indians – eminent as well as everyday you and me people; hence some amount of scepticism, or questions are warranted. My humble  suggestion : don’t knock it till you have read it.
Image result for rebooting india realising a billion aspirationsMoving on, if we are to reboot India and / or its Governance, & ensure delivery of governance performance to the people at a service level better  than is the current situation – what are the parameters that need consideration? Let us first take a look at the parameters taken into consideration by the Authors :
Ø Aadhaar
Ø Government Payments, Cash Economy, Banking for all, Credit
Ø Social Safety Nets
Ø Goods & Services Tax
Ø Roads & Highways
Ø Government Spending
Ø Strengthening Democracy With Technology
Ø Politics
Ø Innovation Economy
Ø Health
Ø Education and Teaching
Ø Power
Ø Justice
It can be easily seen that the above list represents the core components of a nation that need to function properly for it to prosper, for its people to realise all their aspirations. These are thehard-core basics that need proper attention, careful nurturing, well-designed plans & programmes, investments – and above and beyond all, flawless execution and in-depth monitoring for them to be effective and deliver on promises and performance expectations.
I will not attempt to summarise the book – chapterwise, or the chapter-wise contents; that is virtually impossible in a book with such a vast scope and breadth; each chapter deserves an article dedicated to it – which is essentially what journalists and analysts do – each point above is a topic unto itself. Suffice it to state that the content cover the basics of Governance, and how it can be done with much-increased vigour, effectiveness and performance.  The best part is that the topics covered are almost comprehensive, spanning social justice, access to subsidies etc, as well as credit and economic impact. That is the most significant aspect of this book in my humble opinion
The main thrust of the book is how technology can be used to improve the basics of Governance in India under these various heads pointed out above; the most exciting part of this the way real examples of how efficiency, deliverance have already been improved and solutions crafted using technology. This is the first part, or rather the first few chapters of the book. The remaining chapters then delve into what can be done in other fields – given the live examples and success stories shared earlier, one cannot dismiss the rest of the material so very easily.
The main thrust for the most part is of course Aadhaar and its impact – first in areas where it already has made it presence felt – with some real stories, examples and data that drive home the power of The Aadhaar Card and how it has already been used to wonderful effect. The hard-hitting example of the Micro-ATM in operation {for example}, built around Aadhaar, and how it made an impact drive home the point of the authors with irrefutable proof and solid evidence of both the way forward as well as the current and real impact of technology  – and its vitality.
The widest known secret in India – leakages in the system, and the problems of the current systems or styles in operation are ruthlessly revealed through live, real examples of leakages, sad stories of poor people, the problems of farmers, the manifest inefficiencies in the system and the various schemes and the various subsidies that all Governments run for the benefit of the people is a recurrent theme in the book in some chapters. The scores with a solution suggestion in each such case stated; or the presence of a pilot project already carried out with success; or the outline of one. That is the best part of this book – it doesn’t cry in woe – but rather keeps and confident and solution oriented approach throughout.
The chapter on the Goods and Services Tax is the peice de resistance of the book – a lovely chapter that is completely practical, solution oriented as well as comprehensive. This chapter introduces us to real-world success stories – like the case of the state of Karnatak, with its implemention of the invoice solution. Here we see the usage of technology to make processes simple; but most of all, the chapter is a superb refresher for what is the most awaited reform for a good many years…
The author has also focussed on the basics of it all – Democracy and Politics, and how technology can be or has been used to make it more even, better and more impactful. The chapters that cover these points are enthralling, as the concept of technology in Democracy opens an entirely new possibility in front of your eyes – be it the linking of Voter IDs to Aadhaar {yet to be done; just a concept I believe} or be it the usage of technology to clean up voter rolls; or be it the ever increasing use of technology by politicians to reach, connect and set up a dialogue with the people. This is one part of the book that is a must-read for all Indians, in my humble opinion

The book does all this and much, much more – going deep into the very basics of Governance and raising in our hearts and minds the hope of good things to come and good tidings. You also get a fascinating ring-side view to many, many Government moves, like GSTN and its establishment, or like just Aadhaar was implemented; for the professional, this book is almost a tutor on how to manage diverse opinions, implementation challenges, and yet succeed. The only negative that I could spot – the insistence on using Billions as opposed to Crores; the authors should realise that we Indians think far more easily in Lakhs and Crores than in Billions. All in all – rated 5 stars out of 5!