Saturday, August 22, 2015

AAP - the Flanking Brand of the Congress

A flanking strategy in marketing is the strategy of creating a parallel brand to take over competitors not directly served by the main brand.

So,  a popular soap brand introduces a soap themed on a rivals in order to both protect its own market share (at a lower or higher cost), plus offer a different brand experience to the competitors. A Unilever has many  soap and detergent brands at different price points and categories. Likewise for almost any brand. The best example is the automobile market where there are brands owned by different companies and it is quite difficult to figure where the ownership goes up to.

In India, AAP is the flanking brand for Congress.

The AAP is a masterstroke. It started off as India Against Corruption - a direct result of the great Indian corruption scheme launched under UPA1 and grown vigorously under UPA2. Soon, the original founder members parted ways leaving India Against Corruption with a few people. These few people got together to form what is known as the AAP.

The AAP made all the right noises. Peoples participation, neutral agenda, fight against corruption, crony capitalism, collusion - all the right words that get the voters goat. And translated the votes into a spectacular victory in Delhi State elections. At this point, they could have stayed genuinely neutral, but guess what they did - they allied with the Congress (against whom the entire anti- corruption was aimed at) - instead of allying with the BJP (for whatever reason). The ostensible story was that the BJP was communal while the Congress was saykoolar.  Be that as it may, subsequent efforts by the AAP pointed that the AAP was primarily interested in protecting the Congress in the manner that they quietly started ignoring the CWG scam and so on and so forth.

Post the 49 day fiasco, AAP came back with yet another spectacular victory that gave them an absolute majority in the house. Yet, even after that (and a huge internal fight which Kejriwal won by unilaterally throwing out dissenters) the AAP refuses to do much on the much hyped anti-corruption platform. Indeed, that has almost been forgotten.

Now cut to the Bihar elections. Where the AAP has offered to support - hold your breath - Lalu Prasad Yadav who has been convicted in a massive Fodder scam. So, whither anti corruption?

Because if AAP fights on its own, it will eat into its main brand - the Congress - or what has now become a grand alliance against Narendra Modi - whose government is probably the cleanest since NDA 1 or perhaps Lal Bahadur Shastri before that.

So the AAP is now protecting the main brand of which it is a flanker (or perhaps it is the other way round). Ever notice, Kejriwal never, ever, ever, ever criticises Sonia Gandhi? Therein lies an answer...

PS: Ironically Yadav himself came up on a (again, hold your breath) anti corruption platform in the 70s.  From the wiki entry on Yadav:

Yadav entered in student politics as General Secretary of the Patna University Students' Union (PUSU) in 1970 and became its president in 1973. In 1974, he joined Bihar Movement, a student movement led by Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) against rising prices, corruption and unemployment. PUSU formed Bihar Chhatra Sangharsh Samiti to spearhead the agitation with Lalu Prasad Yadav as its president.

So, perhaps Kejri is the Lalu of the 2010s as a twitter user wryly observed. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mr. Modi you won't win if you play their game

Whatever you do, Mr. Modi you won't win...

Case in point, recent visit to Dubai - just a sample...The echo chamber started off

Start off by insinuating that Modi won't visit labour camps...(clearly unlike MMS, they don't get to accompany him on junkets or have a advance preview of what he will do, so speculative guesses are the norm)

If he does visit a labour camp, he is a fine political mind. (Note the snide first visit to a Muslim country - completely ignoring the earlier visits all the Central Asian republics)
Or gratuitous advice
But it is different strokes for different folks...

And just for memories sake, here is what Mr. Tharoor said about visiting those Central Asian republics
When "their team" did a midnight knock on Ramdev, it was perfectly alright, but when police comes to rescue someone who was being held 'captive' it is cause for outrage

The Delhi election was a litmus test for Modi - but not for Soniaji whose Congress is getting walloped in every election..
And Bihar is also a litmus test for Modi - not Soniaji...So, whatever you do you won't win Mr. Modi in the eyes of this echo chamber who profess to express of the whole country but in reality are just talking about drawing room chatter in Lutyens Delhi..

The only thing you can do is "Change the game"

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yay, Sundar Pichai

Replace Sundar with Satya Nadella or any Indian executive who has made big in the US. Extend that to many prominent academicians and entrepreneurs.

The moment it happens - two things we get. First up, interviews with anyone who went to school with them, who shared a PG with them or who were their study partner or whatever and the fawning adulation. Sometimes, there is a bit of chest thumping on how Indians are ruling every sphere in the world and so on and so forth.

And then, someone will finally ask this question. Why can India create a Sundar Pichar but not create a Google. 

The answer is a fairly simple one to start with and a rather complex one beyond that.
So, why do Indians leave India? For one, quality of higher education - which is why people leave. Why can't that they do that in India? Because for one, because of our socialistic outlook - there are simply limited seats. Second, because in India, universities and educational institutions are stifled under "Cannot make profit" laws.  Third, foreign universities cannot enter (I think even Indian universities are not allowed to go out of the country - or with a thousand regulatory hurdles.) At the very least, it needs an overhaul.

Second, if it is not for education, it is for research. Our research sucks. And one post is not enough to capture all of the sad stories. But the combination of the bad universities and bad research and funds is about as worse as it gets.

Third, they leave for jobs. Well, we do have jobs, but the better ones are in the US(mostly) because of the points A and B above. And, not to mention the ecosystem that runs between academia and business.

And don't forget basic infrastructure like electricity and land and water that is needed for universities and industries alike.

Even if all this did not matter and somehow a set of students broke through and had a great idea, it is not an easy business environment in the country. Setting up a company is not easy. Running it, more so. So, even if someone who went to the US for either of the three reasons and wanted to come back  - that is still not easy.

So, Sundar exemplifies what India could have done had we had a great university ecosystem that allowed people like him to research and do what they love to do. And the similar ecosystem plus ease of doing business allowed someone like Sergey Brin and Larry Page to set up a Google. The issue therefore, is our socialist legacy that stifles both these and ensures that we don't grow.

So, the next time we ask ourselves why we have a Sundar Pichar who goes to US and makes it big, we need to also ask ourselves, what can we have done for the countless people like him who can make it big, provided they are given access to an ecosystem like that. Of course, to build an ecosystem like that, we need visionaries and not socialist fetters...

Monday, August 10, 2015

The upcoming Bangalore municipal election is a test for Sonia Gandhi

Bangalore, Indias so called Silicon Valley is as silicon as cosmetic silicon. It is a fake. A pretender. Congress has been in power since 2013. And in the last 2 odd years, the city has become a bigger pretender.

Electricity is as predictable as the Indian monsoon and perhaps the monsoon is more reliable than the electricity in Bangalore. When it rains, electricity stops (and oh, by the way in the 21st century we are still just about getting the powerlines underground).

The sewage situation in Bangalore is so bad it will put third class cities in third world cities to shame. The sewage (much of it untreated) flows into the beautiful lakes of Bangalore - killing them slowly. What has not been killed by builders is now being killed by sewage. A few days ago, one of these lakes actually burnt - it was so polluted. At other times, when it does not burn, it froths and foams with all the untreated waste that is let into it. There is an urgent need for STPs, cleaning lakes - these noises are raised every now and then, but nothing happens.

Traffic - the situation gets worse with every passing day. Roads are clogged badly. Public transport within the city is good (thankfully a legacy of the previous government), but roads, road sense, traffic are all as bad as they get. The metro is connecting some random points  on the city map. The flyovers and the road networks have already gotten clogged and there is no plan in site.

The water supply situation is precarious - as precarious as it can get. The Kaveri river can only supply so much and there is no long term plan for Bangalore in sight. There is a haphazard ground water regulation mechanism, but in many new areas, the water mafia rules. But the level of groundwater is dropping perilously on the one hand and the existing surface water and ground water is steadily getting contaminated.

And what of garbage? Every few months, Mandur rises up in revolt - it is where the Silicon valley garbage goes to die (and kill). Garbage segregation is happening in bits and pieces, but not in a manner that makes life easier for Mandur.

(These are just a glimpse of the issues - and there is a much longer laundry list that simply keeps getting added to.)

[Into this situation the BBMP goes in for election. A state ruled by Congress and a city municipality ruled by BJP currently. And hey, all of this does not (repeat - does not) translate into any litmus test for Sonia G or ever on vacation Rahul G. At this point, this is the only major state that Congress rules - and they have nothing to show for it - and that is a reality.]

That headline is a fake, btw. Just prefix this sentence at the start of the post "In one year of Modi at the centre, nothing has changed in Karnataka". Now replace Sonia with Modi and replace what is written within [] with

[In this situation the BBMP goes for election. People are fed up of the BJP at the centre with Modi wearing monogrammed suits. Therefore they won't reelect BJP in this eleection and Congress looks like it will retain the Bruhat Bengaluru Municipal Paalike. Truly a litmus test for Modi on how the entire technology industry votes for BJP in these elections.]

...and it will read just fine. Meanwhile on litmus tests...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Will the cloud rain

This blogger has been a longtime supporter and votary of the Indian outsourcing industry, but it looks like the wheels of technology have come full circle.

The industry - which has been fairly people dependent is slowly moving onto the cloud. And that means lesser people, fewer maintenance and fewer manual intervention. That also means that the manpower driven technology offshoring business will, eventually, taper down into a more technology intensive industry.

Ironically, the same engineers who once transferred knowledge from offshore to India are now building the same 'cloud' systems that will take their jobs away. Not that it is something to shed tears for, any industry will transition as it should.

So, here is the time for those in the industry to start moving up the value chain - or into the value cloud and quickly or look at solving problems differently or solving different problems.

Infosys - has moved - quickly - by hiring someone who has that experience at the helm. Whether he will turn around the Titanic before the iceberg only time will tell. But for the others, this change is round the corner.

May we live in interesting times indeed for the industry.

Meanwhile, people have read the writing on the wall and here is one company - Freshdesk that has a SaaS model originating out of India and doing very well for itself!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The long road to success

Narendra Modi - has been at it. For more than a year now. Sure there are promises, there is work being done, there is outrage being created, there are speeches and there are other things happening.

But you have to give credit to the man for something that he has done. And therein lies a lesson for us as well.

Modi is cleaning up the muck left by the last 60 odd years of government (or lack of it). He is laying the highway to the future - both literally and figuratively.

He is bringing in rules, transparency, technology in all spheres. Whether it is fixing leaky subsidy buckets, whether it is making policies independent of people, whether it is convincing people to give up subsidy (now isn't that one out of the box idea), whether is getting coal plants operational, whether it is fixing up nuclear supplies...

And on the literal side, building highways, defence capabilities beyond just procuring weaponry - but actually capability to manufacture in India, building rail lines, making it easier for travelers and so on and so forth.

He could done it the other way round - like the Congress does. Hoard resources, create crony capitalists, create supra legal advisory bodies that only take care of their own needs, create communnal and caste based legislations, talk symbolism but deliver little on the ground.

As a Modi supporter, I wish he did better than this - and really worked on decimating the Congress ecosystem that has bled the country over so many years, but this is a good beginning.

And therein lies a lesson from "If:

If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, 
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, 
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, 
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, 
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

He is taking the long road to success. Instead of bleeding the country with more populism, doles or handing out proverbial fishes, he is laying the foundation of teaching people to fish. This is tough for any leader. 

Kudos to him for going the hard way - and a lesson for all wannabe leaders around. Do the right thing - the hardest thing - at a given point to get to success.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fathers day, Mothers day, Valentines day, Yoga day

Today was the first ever International Yoga Day. It falls on the day of the Summer Solstice. As events go, it was a spectacular day in India with celebrations across cities. There was an unmistakable buzz over the past many weeks with yoga teachers, yoga schools, schools and offices also pitching in.

What started off as a proposal at United Nations is now a full blown international event.

Yoga is undoubtedly Indian and Hindu. Created by Patanjali and enhanced over the years by many schools, gurus - it has brought benefits untold to many - and for free, no royalty, no nothing - while many have made their millions out of Yoga. Yoga is undoubtedly Indias gift to the world. And there is no shame in stating that it is Indias gift to the world.

But there are a few who want the country to resist and deny the traditional knowledge. Why would they want it to be so, I fail to understand. Truth is, as a nation, we are emasculated - over the last many hundred years. With our education, with our upbringing, we are ashamed of what we are traditionally - in general. And hence a larger disinclination to brand anything as traditional (read Hindu) - lest it be branded as regressive. And it is these mindsets that prevent us from seeing good in anything traditional (ditto).

We want to ape western civilization - we love celebrating Mothers day, Fathers day (incidentally it is also today) and perhaps even Valentines day. And there is nothing wrong in celebrating all of those - while at the same time it is ok to acknowledge and recognize our traditional festivals and traditions. One can have both. One can celebrate Thai Pushyam with as much gaiety as much as Halloween (and that is one of the great things of Hinduism - that we are not exclusivist unlike monotheistic ones).

Despite having so much going against them, these traditional knowledge systems have survived - though they could have thrived and been much more than what they are today. And perhaps Yoga day will help this process, if not for other things, for yoga atleast.

Therefore, full marks to the Modi government for having marketed this to the fullest. There were quite a few non-controversies manufactured around this event, but the net event was a grand success.

And for all those days we have imported, we can export this one day and it is a good move.

India does have quality yoga schools  and this one yoga day can have a cascading effect on tourism, yoga teachers, among others both within the country and outside.

Perhaps a yoga university is in order.

Not to forget health benefits to those who do yoga just at a physical level - it has increased awareness by a huge factor...

(Yes, yes, there is a large body of yoga knowledge beyond this obvious physical exercise and those who are interested can go beyond...) Meanwhile the naysayers can continue...

And I am sure the next Yoga day will be an even bigger event with more scale and fervor...

[And btw, the Summer Solstice positioning is a smart one as well - traditional festivals always coincide around these astronomical events (notice that the sun shines through Stonehenge on this day - that is no coincidence).]