All posts for the month August, 2016


Published August 28, 2016 by vishalvkale

The rise of Patanjali cannot be explained by mere Marketing Factors; to further underscore my point, let me just quote a small observation : for the first time, I am seeing an FMCG Brand {or any other product, for that matter} being discussed in Social Media, Whatsapp forwards and discussions, personal discussions etc. Now this is absolutely unique; for a mere Brand to get so much traction as to become a talking point in such areas does call for comment as well as some pretty serious thinking and analysis on the part of both Academa as well as Corporates; it is {yet another} indicator of the seismic shift in the Indian Consumer that should have been spotted
The Indian Consumer Story is admittedly complex with deep differentiation and divisions that most corporate honchos love to parrot – and they are spot-on accurate. However, when trying to pin down the growth of Patanjali, one has to go beyond these narrow Segmentation & Positioning / 4Ps / Product Market approaches, and take a larger market overview before getting into the specifics of jargon and strategy. The reason for that is that while the inter-segment divisions and differences are indeed pertinent from a Marketing Standpoint, some aspects of consumer choice determinants transcend these divisions due to their emotive appeal and perceived closeness to the consumers’ hearts


The first and most important aspect is the India Story; the rising feeling, a fast-rising swell & tide  of nationalism combined with an urgent need to modernise several sectors and encourage investment is creating a climate of fast-rising acceptability of Indian Goods and Products gaining larger acceptance – across sectors & socio-econo-cultural divisions, spanning all the way from Telecom to FMCG / High Income to Low Income. This is happening in a market historically used to and comfortable with Indian Products and Brand Names. That is one aspect of the story that needs to be kept in mind. The impact of this is that it makes the consumer more amenable to experimentation with local products – which also fuels and enhances nationalist aspirations as well as gives a satisfaction.
The second aspect that needs consideration is, as some people have pointed out, Yoga; but, in my opinion, you have to add the Hindu Pride aspect in no small measure to this potpourri. There is a present and fast rising upsurge in Hindu Pride and community feeling  – I mean no negative connotations here. I refer to the rising need for the Sanaatani {Hindu} personality to seek solace in a long cultural history that is frankly unparalleled on this planet. There are other products on the health parameter, or Ayurved, or other such factors; none have come even close to the now-iconic status of Patanjali, the Brand. It is now high time that Brand Pundits gave Patanjali its due – it is now an Iconic Brand.
The third aspect, dutifully covered elsewhere, is the central figure at the core of it : Baba Ramdev, a man who is a cultural icon and a famous personality. This is one aspect that needs much greater attention : as marketers, you need to understand how and why this is so relevant. Baba Ramdev is not just a renouned Yog Guru, he is also a very well-known quasi-political personality with his activism around anti-corruption and The Jan Lokpal Bill. Both these topics hold emotional appeal of a very high degree with most Indians. The fourth though relatively minor aspect, is the name itself : Patanjali – which happens to have cultural as well as Religious connotations going back millennia


Thus, from the above rather lengthy preamble, it can be seen that the term Patanjali has some deep associations attached to it, ones that appeal to the mind at a very, very basic and deep-rooted cultural level : Indian, Sanaatani, Yog, Nationalist, Cultural Similarity, Activist, Anti-Corruption, Community Pride, Health, Ayurved, Sanskrut as well as History. A quick perusal of this list will easily clarify that it clearly has pan-Indian Appeal, across divides and segments – be they economic, geographic or demographic.
Patanjali lies at the confluence of several independent but important factors that come together at a cross-roads to create a definable, marketable opportunity; these factors – identified above – have together created a vacuum that needed to be filled; a definable desire that needed to be tapped. That is why Patanjali has scored so highly and at such a blinding pace. To be sure, the opportunity presented had to be identified, a working plan built, product lines identifed and created / manufactured, a distribution to be built, and all the rest of it. But the core reason cannot be these marketing aspects; we have to understand the core market and the core consumer that Patanjali is targeting.
For far too long, Academia and Corporates have focussed on the easily definable aspects of Brand Management; the time is ripe for a genuine effort to understand the many, many other aspects of Brands and what determines their equity, image, associations and personality with particular reference to India. For far too long, there has been a total absence of quality research in the public domain in the scenario of Brands in the Indian Context. The reality on the ground spanning innumerable product failures from abroad bears mute testimony to the difference between India and the West. Given India’s cultural difference from other nations, there is a felt need for a much better and improved understanding of the Indian Business Scenario that caters to Indian Realities.

Consumer Choice is not a simple either-or option, not even in simple repetitive purchase cycles as typified by the FMCG Sector, to say nothing of my core speciality Telecom. It is influenced by a series of factors, the listing of which is beyond the scope of my blog. Unless you pin-down each Brand in detail, as opposed to a superficial 4Ps approach, the risks of not getting a full understanding remain very high. This is not something we can afford in the modern ultra-competitive marketplace. From such a fundamental understanding will emerge the way-forward – which is the topic of the third article in this mini series, wherein I look at the feasbile competitive responses that can be adopted…

Previous Part : Click Here


Published August 27, 2016 by vishalvkale


The Rise, Rise And Rise Of Patanjali…

The rise, rise and rise of Patanjali in the FMCG Sector is the cause many a heartburn in the trade  whose marketshares it has eaten, excitement in the media which gets something magnificent to talk about and report on – analyse – discuss; and a whole new range of products for the customer to experience. A lot has been said and anaylsed about the rise of this brand, and a few responses are also trickling in from the current majors in the trade, which is where the issue stands as on date.
A lot has been said about the key reasons behind the rise of this brand; a lot of it does actually make perfect sense; the factors that I have read are indeed pertinent and contributory factors behind the rise of the new brand. But, and this is a big but, all of these factors together will account, or rather, ought to account for, the rise of Patanjali. I respectfully submit to all Marketing Pundits out there, that let us first of all recognise that we arent talking of the rise of Patanjali; we are talking about the phenomenal  rise of Patanjali. The additional adjective does make a huge difference indeed…

A Look At Some Reasons…

On perusing a few articles around this these, I found several contributory factors identified; Health platform, Ayurved, New and Tailormade products to Indian palates and needs, Distribution Network, Yoga Connection and Baba Ramdev, Make in India, Indian products and so on and so forth. Each of these factors is quite pertinent, and does present an undeniable advantage that can be converted into a defined competitive advantage for the new brand.
But not one of these, or even all taken together, can account for the phenomenal growth that we have witnessed, which is nothing short of miraculous; we are talking of expected revenues to the tune of Rs. 5,000 Cr in FY 16. Now that, I respectfully submit, is quite stunning for a new brand in any industry – let alone in an industry with a well-entrenched competitive scenario and wide competitive choices and defined customer likes and dislikes with low comparative innovative potential like the FMCG Trade.

Objectons To The Reasons…

If you say health or bio-products or ayurved, there are other examples aroiund, like Himalaya; if you state distribution, then any number of companies can challenge the network. If you state the owned or exclusive network, then you can just point to its shelf space and sales from other regular outlets to defeat than claim.  Same can be stated for Swadeshi, or for product formulations and so on and so forth. The problem with this analysis is that all it, just about 100%, is internal and post-facto analysis that competely ignores the Market, The Brand and The Consumer : the three most significant aspects that need need contemplation and study when analysing any brand in any industry.


Let us start with the Brand; what does a Brand typically mean or entail in practical terms? One of the most pertinent descriptions I have found is this one – which is my particular favourite : In other words, the real power of a brand is in the thoughts, feelings, images, beliefs, attitudes, experiences and so on that exist in the minds of consumers.  This brand knowledge affects how consumers respond to products, prices, communications, channels and other marketing activity – increasing or decreasing brand value in the process.   ( Keller, 2003)
What I like about this line, which has somehow stuck to my mind, is that it encompasses all three components – The Brand, The Consumer, and The Market which is in reality consumers responses in totality. What can we say about Patanjali in the light of the above? Looked at it from this perspective, it becomes clear that we perforce have to look at consumers; and that further, we have to try and identify relevant trends that impact or influence consumer choice. From this perspective, all the factors identified as reasons for the Patanjali phenomenon do not sufficiently explain the concerted and combined consumer response to the Patanjali offering,
This stands true for any Brand in any Industry; in order that you get to the bottom of the reasons for either the success or failure of any Brand, you have to look at the consumers’ responses; analysing the behaviour takes you deep into the psychology of the consumer body and their collective attitudes, value systems etc. It is these aspects that determine the purchase behaviour of any consumer. And, when you are talking of Beliefs, Attitudes etc, you perforce have to analyse all parameters that can influence the same. With respect to a product, we are talking of the external environment as well as marketing factors, of the kind mentioned above, including socio-cultural and political factors, inasmuchas these have a defined and well-studied influence on our beliefs etc.


Would you buy a Made in Pakistan product? Or rather, how many of you would buy a made in Pakistan product? If yes, why – and if no- why not? What are the associations in your mind vis-à-vis that country? Some may view it as an enemy; some as an underdeveloped nation incapable of manufacturing good products; point is that these have nothing to do with the 4Ps of Marketing, and yet have a significant and defined impact on the Brand’s fortunes in the market. The question is, can we spot major shifts, trends in the external environment that can be our guide in understanding Patanjali?
One such possibility is Make In India / Indian Products; here again, we run into major trouble when we expand and consider that there are other companies across industries which are definedly Indian, or Make In India. And yet, not one has managed to match Patanjali and its speed and success so far as I am aware. Why should that be the case? What is it that is so different that can explain the phenomenal growth and consumer pull? That to me is the key; the competition is missing this simple reality. A holistic analysis would take us in another direction, when we consider trendlines in the society as well as in corporate India / consumer behaviour & choice / market trends across industries / economic realities…
This is the subject of the second part of the this analysis… watch this space as we look at Brand Associations, Society Trends, Industry and Consumer Trendlines. Consumer Noise & Pull, The Phenomenal Pull Of the Patanjali Brand. This is frankly a subject of research, and should ideally be a research in some top management institute as well as Brand Managements functions  of Major Corporations, as frankly I see Patanjali as yet another indication of the seismic shift in Indian Choices, which are established players would be well to pay attention to…

Pay Commission And The Armed Forces – A Layman’s Introspection

Published August 15, 2016 by vishalvkale

This is a topic I came across when I got a Whatsapp forward of an NDTV Discussion on the 7th Pay Commission and its impact on the Armed Forces – given in the Video clip below. This was a discussion anchored by Barkha Dutt, and featured an Ex Army Chief, A former Finance Secretary, A Senior Retired Police Officer, several other middle level Armed Forces Officers and political representatives of two parties. A very high quality discussion, this featured decently presented pros and cons form both sides of the debate very fairly, and yet, the contents were worrisome.
The debate, or dissatisfaction of the Armed Forces {as per the media video above}, is around the 7th Pay Commission Recommendations in terms of some allowances – Hardship Allowance, for example in comparison to the other services, and parity with other services, among other things. Yet another vital point raised was the apparent absence of representation of the Armed Forces in the commission. Some recommendations are, to be quite frank, even from a layman’s perspective, very strange indeed; add to that the views of the civilian bureaucrats, and it creates a rather mildly troubling scenario
I am trying to choose my words with caution, given my lack of expertise in this area; I don’t proclaim to be an expert on Service Salaries and Service Rules of either The Armed Forces or any other Government Service; that discussion – debating the minutiae involved is beyond the scope of my blog and my knowledge. Neither is that the point of the article I am writing; these matters are complex, requiring specialized knowledge of a high order. Naturally, these are not amenable to public debate in social media, at least; that said, matters arising from this debate, tangential in some ways, and yet extremely vital and disturbing need the public consideration.
When a Former Army Chief uses the words “Blatant Discrimination”, and “Injustice” in reference to the Armed Forces treatment – on whatever parameter – it is time the public takes note of this. The points raised by the Ex Chief in this debate are hard-hitting, and specific; they need to be addressed. I am sure this is happening at Government levels, but given that these are public statements, we should take note of them, and be informed
Furthermore, when 18 Ex-Chiefs write to the Prime Minister, in regard to any matter whatever under the sun, and the said public authority does not respond, it is one thing; that matter might be under consideration, requiring silence on the part of his office. But when an Ex-Chief laments the lack of response from the same august office in response to the letter, and in the same discussion notes this has never happened before, {or words to that effect} , this is frankly disturbing. We aren’t talking of one or two Ex-Chiefs; we are talking of a whole bunch of them – no less than 18 in number.
This is not a matter for blame-gaming; neither is it one for hypernationalism and fervent patriotism. This is a matter of silent contemplation, of a deep introspection. The reason for that is that the statements above, disturbing as they are, point not to the political class, but straight to us, the people of India. Yes, the same people who go hyperbolic in arguments, conversations, Social Media and the like on nationalism and the praiseworthy deeds of the Indian Armed Forces. This includes I, My And Myself, as I too have been sharing Indian Army Deeds on my Facebook page quite regularly.
I say this because of two reasons : one, the political class is due to us, due to our votes, our opinions, and our ambitions. It responds to the people and what they value. While it is beyond debate that the political class, despite the weaknesses, has tried to do their best – their hands are tied by the conflicting demands on the exchequer in a resource-scarce economy. In such a scenario, balancing the scales of the spending is not a task for weak hearts. We can’t just up and blame the political class; it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it responds to the public, howsoever much may anyone deny it.
If we want the political class to give more to the Armed Forces- then that “more” is going to have to come from somewhere else. That means, some other areas will have to sacrifice; it is for us, as a people, through our voice and opinion, to determine the percentages to each demand – and this is expressed through our elected representatives. Similarly, if the issues of disparity etc expressed are to be addressed – it might just require additional spends on the budget. Where is that money going to come from? It has to come from some other head!
That is the entire point – we accept that The Armed Forces are pretty damned important, they protect us and so on and so forth; but do we, through our deeds – as opposed to statements and Social Media comments – express this sentiment? Are we, as a people, prepared to go the extra mile for the sake of the betterment of the Armed Forces? Are we prepared to sacrifice something for these people – the ones who readily give their lives for us? You can even extend that argument for the Paramilitary and other security forces, some of whom sure could do with more!
This is important, as it is only when the political class realizes that The Armed Forces are on priority no 1 for the Indian People, or at least among the top, will a fundamental change in approach come about. And that won’t happen unless we really understand what they go through and the sacrifices these brave soldiers do in order that we can be safe. Further, there has to be a far greater realization of the working conditions, demands and the career problems faced by these brave people. Rather than give armchair comments from the complete safety of our laptops, desktops and sofa sets, we should try and understand what these people go through.
I say this because of some rather stunning comments I heard in discussions around The Armed Forces by civilians which have surprised me and frankly shocked me; the insensitivity shown towards the Armed Forces is quite shocking, as is the complete lack of understanding of their requirements, their problems and the conditions under which they operate. Excuse me, these people are willing to die for the country – are you willing to do that? Are you even capable enough of such a tall order? Do you have that inherent capability? It is far harder a task than going to a foreign land to work, or working in the safe protected environs of most civilian jobs, perhaps even all!
Take the example in the discussion – how can you equate a posting to the North East for some classes of bureaucrats with a frontline high-altitude posting in the Armed Forces? It is, on the face of it, ridiculous! And yet, that is what has transpired as I understand from the discussion – correct me if I am wrong. How did this come about? Clearly because of the factors listed above – given that the bureaucrats arose from within us, they didn’t drop down from Mars! Would this have transpired had there been a better understanding of the reality among the educated civilian classes, from which the public servants arise?
But we, the people – are interested not in these things, by and large – but in going to foreign lands to earn, migrate and quit the nation;  or to do a cushy peaceful  job that guarantees our safety. We are the armchair  brigade – self included. There is nothing wrong in that – each individual has own desires and ambitions; and is entitled to self-fulfillment. But that does not mean you ignore the justified needs of the people who lay down their lives for you; or that you are not prepared to sacrifice – should the need arise – for their sakes, just as they have done a million times over since 1947!

Sure, this is a dreamy article; an article that calls for public introspection, internal soul-searching. I do not blame the political class, scream at them, or find fault with them; and the reason  is that, so far as I am aware, no peaceful permanent change has ever been triggered without a dream at the core of the change, a dream that initially sounded foolish, immature and impractical. If I can influence even one reader to introspect – my task has been done. But this introspection is required for all of us – we, who wear our patriotism on our sleeves, and yet spit on the road, bribe, urinate in public, ignore the needs of the poor, and so on and so forth…

Book Review : Bengal Divided – The Unmaking Of A Nation 1905-1971

Published August 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

By Nitish Sengupta
Image result for bengal divided the unmaking of a nationThere are some books which can honestly be classified as yearnings, or – in the reflected light of reality, as forlorn hopes & a deep yearning. This is one such book, which is from start to finish a softly melancholy yearning, and a deep sigh for what could have been. I don’t begrudge the author that yearning, that is a human trait – and given the power of cultural similarity, or should I say, perceived cultural similarity,  the author’s view can be accepted.
This is the story of United Bengal; the sad and tragic story of the division of a people that were once one in almost every way except religion; this is the story of a time when the ties of culture and people were stronger than the ties of religion for some people. And this is also the story of how precisely the one people became two for a part of their community, of how external forces brutally played havoc with cultural unity and drove a rift into the community along religious lines, tearing asunder a land into two.
However, this didn’t happen with Bengal alone – it happened with India, of which Bengal is but one part; a nation was split into two, as some Indians up and decided they didn’t consider themselves Indians, that Religion was more important than nation… but that is another story. What is relevant to us is that this is a story with deep current ramifications on our Western Border; and that we need to, as a people, understand how this happened. The current book goes a long way in filling the gaps.
The book starts from the 1905 partition and its aftermath, and the unity that was displayed across belief systems for a united Bengal. What follows, from Page 1 almost, is a pathetic, tragic and shocking series of events that rent asunder the unity that Bengal displayed in and around 1905. While the book is debatable on several counts, one or two of which I mention in this review, I would rather readers ignore the errors or presumptions / assumptions made by the author in some instances. I say this as subsequent discoveries have laid bare the reality of the British Role in no uncertain terms.
The book traces a malignant and brutal British policy of Divide and Rule, specifying how they played this ugly game which had far-reaching ramifications for us as a people long into the future {looking at it from 1905 perspective}. This ugly game, which rent friend from friend, successfully befooled many an Indian, and created a sordid tale of unmitigated disaster. The way in which existing raw spots were masterfully used by the British, of how ambitions and desires were manipulated by the Empire to attain their own ends has been exposed thoroughly in this masterpiece of a book, its several clear weaknesses notwithstanding.
The best part of the book is the succinct manner in which the facts have been presented, making for a very fast, rapid and highly engaging read. The complete absence of deep analysis in some parts, though a clear problem, is actually a great benefit for those readers like self  {who are avid readers of partition, and are aware of the full facts} ; it helps create a sequence of events in your mind, without having to read reams upon reams. This style of presentation also has the added advantage of creating a panoramic image of that time in your mind; you can quite literally see the years passing by and feel the emotions building up towards a sad and tragically thundering climax.
However, this absence of deep analysis, and in my opinion, presentation of interpretations that can be called the opinion of the author, is deeply troubling, as it seeks to inadvertently downplay some vital leaders of the freedom struggle, which is both sad and, I feel, inaccurate. This, in my opinion at least, presents an incomplete picture before the audience. I accept that the author is entitled to his opinion as much as I am to mine, but the overall approach in the first part was deeply troubling, and offensive to me in many ways and instances.
The overall portrayal of Suhrawardi, for one example; the man who was an intergral part of the Direct Action Day 1946 events; whose role has been questioned by several people; the 22 August 1946 report by the British Governor Mr Frederick Burrows {For me – not Sir – Mr. I don’t recognize colonial titles} is damning and almost incontrovertible; and yet, later parts of the present book are much softer on this person, Suhrawardy, which is stunning to say the least. Those interested can read the relevant sections on this sad day on pg 222-225 of Partition –The Untold Story
Or the yearning for a lost hope –  that meaningless cheque on a failed bank – the Cabinet Mission Plan, which has been justifiably crucified as a disastrous answer to the problem of independence. Given that the plan contained a time-bomb, that of reconsideration after ten years, this was bound to create problems later on, which could have been disastrous for Independent India, as has been revealed on Pg 211-212 of the book referred in the paragraph above; in it, Woodrow Wilson has been shown on record saying he convinced Jinnah to say yes only on that ten year point, I quote from the book : “though the statement announcing the plan ruled out Pakistan, it was the first step on the road to it
The most surprising statement, one which I cannot understand, talks of “Bengalis in India having to balance their trans-national Bengali cultural Identity with the very powerful force of Pan-Indian identity, of which they are also partners”, as stated in the epilogue. Being a Maharastrian who has no problems of any kind in any balancing whatsoever, and a person who clearly sees a Marathi-speaking non-Indian as an alien, and not a common whatever, I neither understand nor accept this statement, which I find surprising, and stunning to put it very mildly.

All in all, this is a good book; not great-  but definitely good. As all things in life, there are some things and aspects about it that will tend to rub some readers the wrong way; but the question is whether it has sufficient good points and learnings contained within it to help its classification as a must-read book on Indian Independence. And in that there can be no doubt : it is a good book, its weaknesses notwithstanding. Rated 2.5 to 3 stars overall, but a must read, 

Book Review – Sinhasan Battisi

Published August 7, 2016 by vishalvkale

Worded by : Gopal Sharma
Translated by : Arun Kumar
A chance stroll to a railway station book trolley on Nagpur Railway station lead me to yet another discovery – having had prior experience of a rewarding nature on such strolleys, I was open to more experimentation after reading good, and yet cheap books on Chhatrapati Shivaji and The Mahatma. This time, I found a book that took my memory back to my childhood and young adult years – the fabled stories of Sinhasan Battisi… and at a very cheap Rs 40/-! Not believing my luck, I went for it like a shot
The stories of the Sinhasan Battisi revolve around the Ujjain King Vikramaditya, who also is credited with the Sanaatani Calender Vikram Samvat, which is one of the two major calendars still followed in Modern India – Vikram Samvat, and Shaka era. {For Western readers – we use local calendars, one of the above two – for almost every cultural event wherein everything is determined by the Sanaatani dates} This book is a series of short stories, well  documented through the ages in a series of ancient writings.
But first, a small word on King Vikramaditya: he was a first century BCE king, and quite a fabled king, renowned for his good traits and qualities, as also for his overall excellent rule. While it is true that there were at least two Kings with the same title, given that the stories are around the King who started the Vikram Samvat – as per me,  it seems pretty clear that we are talking of the time period of around the first century BCE in these stories, as the Vikram Samvat era starts at 57 BCE
The book starts with King Bhoj – thought to be a parmar king of around 1000-1100 AD in Ujjain – discovering a lovely throne of stunning beauty buried deep within the Earth. Transfixed by the splendor of this throne, he decides to install it in his court, and use it for his own throne. But the moment he tries to sit on it, he is prevented from doing so by a puppet – one of the 32 that adorn the throne – that comes alive, and tells him that he doesn’t deserve this throne, and tells him a story of the greatness of the original owner of the throne, the great King Vikramaditya. The puppet  then asks King Bhoj are you as great a ruler?
There are 32 such puppets, and each time the King attempts to use the throne, he is prevented from doing so by another of the puppets, who each time tell a story of the original owner of the throne, and asks at the end – do you think you are as great a ruler as the great King? If you are not, then you do not deserve to sit on the throne – and advises King Bhoj to try again, and forget about sitting. Eventually, in later tales, the puppets start telling him to forget about the throne altogether…
These tales are incredible tales, stories of charity, valour, good governance, benevolence and all the good qualities that a well-loved ruler and human being should have; stories that build character as well as entertain all at the same time. These are stories of humility, of incredible sacrifice and pain on self for the sake of others, of complete selflessness, of justified anger and valour, of a strong moral timber and of a an incredible ruler who was clearly one of the finest ever to rule in Ancient India
Even if you grant that some of the tales are allegorical in nature, it is significant that not one tale talks of greatness of King Vikramaditya in terms generally understood for greatness in our Modern Western-dominated world-view, a world view which calls conquering kings great. Instead, the picture that emerges – even if you make allowances for exaggeration and allegories, is of a ruler who was a genuine people-first man, a ruler who cared deeply for each subject, and yet who had full support from the nobility who never deposed him even when he was away on his long absences due to his charitable works. This itself tells the tale of a tight, fair and able administrator!
Much has been written of the historicity of King Vikramaditya – it is now known there were at least two kings who bore this title; much has been debated; but it cannot be denied that the Vikram Samvat Calendar still exists, and has wide Modern usage and following; the tales specifically credit King Vikramaditya of Ujjain with this calendar. The first  known written record is from around 11th-14thcenturies {from a quick internet search} and there are a series of writings since. Furthermore, there are various references in more ancient works right from the 1st Century BCE that seem to prove that we are talking of a genuine historical figure.

This book is a fast read, short and can be read in one sitting on a journey, is very cheap, and is very entertaining and great fun to read. It also gives a superb series of short lessons on Good Administration, Charity, the virtues of being selfless, placing people above self {Managers read that as placing team above self}, honesty, integrity, hard work – or, in short – all the good and desirable qualities that we would ideally love to see in ourselves and our children… 


Published August 5, 2016 by vishalvkale

A recent interview of a top film star set my mind on the topic of history and its representation, or as some people would have it, misrepresentation, in movies – or to be more specific, contemporary Hindi movies.  The specific movie that set off this train of thought : Mohenjo-Daro. And the gist of the comment was that movies aren’t literature or documentaries. The implication I draw from this is that movies can take so-called artistic licence, or, to put it as I see it, take liberties {meaning alternative theories, or speculations etc} , albeit mild, with the truth. Or, at least, place before the public a narrative that may not be the accepted one
Take the film stated above – Mohenjo-Daro; as per the trailer I have seen, there seems to be a ruler in that city that has been represented. Now  the problem with that is, Mohenjo-Daro was not the original name, but that is a relatively minor detail. In all that I have read – and my regular readers will know that I have a passion for reading history with more than a couple of dozen books reviewed as well – I have never come across any ruler in that civilization. This is, as far as my reading goes, one of the big questions around that Indus-Saraswati civilization
Then when I come across comments from moviedom to the effect that movies cannot or  should not be taken literally, or that films in not a part of academia, or that  movies aren’t documentaries , or that you don’t believe or suspend belief or some such thing– I am,  quite frankly, left flabbergasted, to say the least. It is fine to say this to educated people, people whose minds and thought process, analytical and thinking abilities have been honed by education, income and opportunity : the middle, upper middle and richer classes; although even that is highly debatable if made in such generic terms.
It is quite another thing to expect uneducated people, or the lesser fortunate people, to not take what is displayed in movies as the gospel truth. We have no idea, to be completely frank, whether or not such movies are thought of as believable or truthful by the people. But that is a possibility that cannot be denied. For a lay person, not educated, or not educated in the specific history or the relevant historical period, it might just come across as totally believable. And what if they actually do regard it as the truth, or even as substantially the truth or even the representative truth?
We are in an age when the habit of reading is in slow and firm decline, when people gather their information, by and large, through tidbits and news articles, social media snippets, local word of mouth, television and movies. By information I refer to information not relevant to the core job or bread earning activity of the individual in question. In such an environment, media such as movies automatically become the most powerful medium of communication and information dissemination. Why should I go further than myself to prove this? Almost all that I know of at least one part of our history is through the medium of Television – it is only now that I am reading it slowly bit by bit.
Thus, it becomes incumbent on the presenter of the historical to be as true to history as it is feasible to be. I understand that some aspects in history are debatable, or under study, and that this concept of accuracy is a very high bar to achieve, but it is my humble submission to the Hindi moviedom to take the extra effort : India needs it, in my opinion. We cannot brush it away by saying artistic licence. If your artistic licence gives a wrong impression and wrong idea in the minds of some people – this is something that needs attention. Either that – or do research to prove that people don’t believe it at all!
Now that is hard for me to believe – given that my entire knowledge of some particular period of our history is from Television. I trust the serial was true to the facts as we know them – and my subsequent reading has justified my trust. But the key is that I believed it as gospel. The fact that I subsequently read and found it accurate is irrelevant. The key, the vital part  – is my belief, that of an educated person. And that is precisely why Television serials and Movies need to forget the nonsense of artistic licence when making movies!
Movies are a powerful medium, with their capacity to tell a story, give a message, create opinion, an impact on the mind being incomparable. They stand in a class all by themselves, and their tremendous power needs to be understood by we the people as well as the movie makers as well. It is high time the Hindi movie people became a lot more sensitized towards these matters, and taken their role in our lovely society far more seriously.

Movie makers are not, repeat not, just entertainers; they have a far more effective, powerful, important and serious role in our lives. High time they wake up to their reality – especially in the Hindi movie world in my humble opinion. Their real role extends far beyond just being entertainers : they lead change, form opinion, entertain, educate. ask hard questions of society and so on and so forth. That being the case – they should be as close to the truth as it is possible for them to be!


Published August 4, 2016 by vishalvkale

The GST bill – the single biggest economic, and, dare I say – the single biggest reform across the spectrum – enacted since 1991 at least, and perhaps since Independence, is now a reality. But wait – is it really a reality? What has happened to justify the euphoria that I can see in tweets and media? Is there any reason for celebration, or is there just more reason to introspect, contemplate and look forward with increased hope towards the future?
First, nothing has changed as on 4thAugust 08:52AM; absolutely nothing; not for us, not for business, not for trade, and not for daily life. Forget the big debate of last evening and night – and move on; get to your office / classroom and try and perform exactly as you have been doing for the past umpty-ump years. There is a lot more than meets the eye, and a lot more that needs to be done; a lot that needs to be understood. Let us forget the promises and the game-changers stuff. There is a long process to go; let it come to fruition!
Yes – there is reason to celebrate; and for more reasons than one. For the first time in my experience at least, I was treated to a calm, balanced and fair & frank debate in Parliament; used as I am to ugly scenes, such a calm and reasoned debate – with both sides trading not punches & barbs, but rather point and counterpoint, giving an inch or more where due, and moving the process forward  – was a pleasure and a genuine treat to watch. This entire episode, quite apart from the benefits in economic terms , represents a true victory for our democracy, in the way the many hues and sides of the argument debated and made it possible; full marks today to all who made this possible!
In economic terms – the GST, when implemented, will, depending upon the final structure that sees roll-out, be a massive booster whose impact just cannot be stated in simple and straightforward terms. It will impact, in my assessment, almost every aspect of business, as anyone who has handled inter-state business can readily testify to. Reams have been written on the precise economic impact, let me not waste space on that aspect; please google for details.
The point I would like to make here in bold italics is that everything, literally everything, depends on the final draft that sees the light of day; what are precise rules, the exact  rates, the exemptions, what is in and what isn’t; impact on competitiveness and the rest of it will only be clear once the final version is in and all is known. Till then – we can remain hopeful for a great positive impetus on business, and little else in specific terms. Only one thing is certain – ease of doing business across state boundaries will have a sea-change, alongwith all its attendant benefits in terms of cost, market access, logistical and supply chain management impact etc
For the rest – we have to wait for the full details to come in, then and only then can a firm picture emerge. To quote an example, the handset trade is worried about the incentives offered to local manufacturers on making phones locally; as we saw in my budget analysis of last year, an attempt to address the inverted duty structure in prevalence was started by the Hon. Finance Minister; such changes were a sea-change, making local manufacturing cheaper to importing. What happens to such benefits, spread across states, SEZs etc is a matter of conjecture for us laymen; only time will tell.
Let us be crystal clear – even without the benefits that might accrue as alluded to above – this is a game-changer; just the operational efficiencies and cost benefits that arise from doing business in the changed reality of one unhindered market are simply too massive, too important and too large to be dismissed or ignored. Logistics and Supply chain benefits alone will justify it, almost; the ease of managing inventory and shipping to various locations, and not having to bother about state boundaries is bound to lead to massive cost savings over the long term. Add to that the lower administrative tasks – lesser and less cumbersome reports to file, less approvals, time saving etc : it all adds up to massive benefits.
Curiously, just the benefits listed above – which few Media articles have dwelled on, strangely – list the challenges as well. Who to file the reports to? In what format? Who to take approvals from? Who is the nodal authority for implementation, redressal and complaints? What is the rate – and how will the new rate impact the business competitiveness and pricing, given that it involves a financial implication in a world where margins are wafer-thin? If we add the other benefits, a whole list of to-do articles emerges, and clarification points become evident.
A common market will also require a strong and well-connected nation in terms of Information Network, common forms, formats and protocols across states, departments essentially speaking the same economic and tax language; it will also require a completely re-trained taxation staff across the nation –   with new procedures to be learnt and the old to be unlearnt. We are talking about an entirely new way of taxation; while it is welcome – let us not be euphoric. Euphoria has a tendency to lower our guards and allows mistakes to creep in; while hope ensures we are focused. At this juncture, India does not need Euphoria – it needs hope and hard, back-breaking hard work.

A lot has been said about how GST will  do away with Tax evasion – I can’t quite see how. Sure, to some extent it will increase the taxation base, make evasion difficult given the advent of technology as well as the streamlined and bottom-to-top connectivity in the taxation regime, but I somehow don’t see it having a stunning and large impact on corruption. Maybe, over time, it will slowly weed out the corrupt practices – but that remains to be seen. I am not fully convinced on the corruption aspect; you can put that down to my ignorance if you disagree with me. And if you have firm ideas on how it will lessen corruption, do drop a comment…