Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Not Such a 'Hard Talk'!!

The Interview:

I was eagerly looking out for this interview (termed as Hard Talk) on The Devil’s Advocate. It could well have been termed as a good watch, with Mr. Murthy a person of impeccably clean image and Karan Thapar not letting go of any opportunity to challenge, provoke and accuse on any front. One led his business very well and another does his research with sheer brilliance unearthing reports and facts. I expected it to be different.

However the interview was as interesting as to predict in what digits are Sehwag and Sachin are going to score these days in a match. When I read the whole transcript, I found that Karan mainly talked about the following points

  • Capitalism and entrepreneurship

  • Governance Issues

  • Public-Private partnership

  • Importance of privatization

  • Lack of political will and vision

  • Why does NRM not want to join politics?

Now I think the media as a whole need to do a better job at interviewing when it comes to NRM. Abhishek and Ash wouldn’t have been thrown as many questions on their relationship as Mr. Murthy has oft reiterated:
  • Success story of Infosys with particular mention of seed capital of 10000 Rs borrowed from Mrs. Murthy.

  • “Those days”, with Infy as just a start-up.

  • The whole saga of transformation from Marxism to capitalism following an arrest

  • “Breaking-up” with GE Money, one of the biggest customers of Infosys.

  • ………

Soft Grounds:

There are so many troubling issues which Karan didn’t even come close to.
  • One of them as pointed out on Reality Check, the issue of seemingly perpetual tax-holidays for IT sector.

  • Issues like haphazard expansion of SEZs and STPIs, for example.

  • Some probing questions like blind hiring rate which seems to mask otherwise high attrition rate of Infosys would have been a food for thought for audience.

  • If he sees that current Infosys model is efficient enough to insulate it from the growing threat because of the shift that Google is bringing in.

  • Some questions related to socio-corporate issues as to how is Infy going to take initiative on reservation issues, skewed ratio of women in top management etc.

These questions are not what I want to ask but I feel Karan would have done a good job by watching the Quarterly Town Hall (event in which Infy declares its results and CEO addresses employees) and heard what questions are generally asked there(Here is the Nandan’s interview aired on the day Infy declared the Q3’07 results). Not all of them are very relevant to general Indian audience but some of them do make a compelling case.

From the transcript available, it seemed Karan either seemed intimidated to challenge or just chose oft-repeated questions to put forward to. In another interview of Ratan Tata (the only link I could find was this. NDTV, it seems doesn’t publish the transcripts of interviews; something which they should) taken by Barkha Dutt, she was forthcoming in challenging his position on Singur, his position on Corus deal and realizing that Ratan Tata is far more reserved than this wonderful orator, DA didn’t do justice to the task at hand.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Whose Govt. Is It Anyway??

This question popped into my mind today. I’ll tell you the reason but let me first ask you to guess the first answer that came to your mind: UPA’s, ministers’, bureaucrats’? Well I don’t think so I think it’s the Supreme Court’s govt.

Well this thing became evident and the extremely controversial debates judicial activism would be revived with increased fervor. In some landmark judgments today Supreme Court revoked the “sanctity” of 9th schedule, set stage for police reforms.

Definitely some of them are compelling examples of judicial activism although with a grain of salt. The Parliament is entitled to make laws by a vote of chose representatives of India but it seems that Supreme Court is out quashing them if they seem to be violating fundamental rights of any party thus granting it a level above Parliament. SC can hardly be said to be running a parallel govt.

This also makes the Indian Supreme Court the most powerful govt. as it has now powers to repeal any law (of course, which violates basic structure of Constitution) which is in the 9th schedule which was designed by Constitution as a safe area which so far could not be reviewed by the courts. Nearly every state has contributed to 9th Schedule by framing its own sets of labor laws, govt. contract policies and the most contentious TN’s reservation policy. So SC suddenly has a magic wand which if it wields may bring about a political, social and perhaps economic turmoil in the country

Now the grain of salt is here: How would it be received by the public at large. As far as the 9th Schedule is concerned, it may depend on case to case basis depending on the size of the parties affected in each law but the second would be welcomed by almost everyone. But I can safely assume that there won’t be much organized resistance from the aam junta, which clearly is indicative of the balance of democracy inclining away from the executive arm. Although the above two judgments are cases of judicial activism but the recent decisions (read Jessica Lal murder trial, upholding tainted MP’s expulsion, convicting bureaucrats’ for murders)of courts in taking govt at task have ignited in people high quantum of hope and respect for judiciary.

Just a week back Rajdeep Sardesai wrote about the same, equilibrium shifting against the govt Barkha Dutt puts a different angle on those sitting in judgment asking who would judge the judges!! Read more about 9th Schedule here.

P.S.: Update 1: Some different views but nonetheless a landmark decision accd to me.

Update 2: Probably above video is not loading... will fix it up asap

Friday, January 05, 2007

VCism '06 From My Eyes

I was just seeing ContentSutra for updates on what companies are getting funded by Venture Capitalists (VCs) and angel investors. Check out this article on companies getting funding in 2006. I am sure you might have heard of many of these start-ups. Nearly 98% of these start-ups are dot-coms serving on retail or wholesale basis.

The amount of funding that these companies get versus the idea that they are pursuing, made me take a few observations:

  1. Ideas in most of the services are not very creative/original or hitherto unheard of but infact such services have already been provided by some other provider across the globe in well-of countries eg: Burrp, Seventymm, Carwale.

  2. They don’t provide unique service but instead most often they are directed at the general psyche/inclinations of the people. TutorVista hits at the psyche of every parent to get the best education for their wards at cheapest prices available; Carwale, solves the problem of asking agents, car mechanics to look for a second hand car.

  3. These companies haven’t sprung overnight and claimed success. They have been around for at least 2-3 years. Like any other businesses these ventures too have challenges; if not competition then dynamics of predicting the trend a fickle consumer group will take. Because most of the businesses are aimed in areas which are still in nascent stages (such as IPTV, selling second hand cars on portals etc) or very limited in few areas.

  4. The one big advantage (according to me) is that this business, although run by professional companies elsewhere, is still unorganized in the sense that not all such discrete services are provided by one giant service provider. This is a great comfort to any investor since the risk of stronger competitor/hostile-takeover is greatly mitigated.

Some of the ideas may seem too farfetched to be successful and may be dismissed with a wave of cynicism such as saying Indians ka koi bharosa nahin- jab dukaan ki CD nahin waapas karte to online waali to nahin hi karenge (for 70mm.com). But it’s the eye-popping figures which are noteworthy.

When we talk of globalization I think that not only all the companies are shifting their operations to India but the increasing polarized social status, probably increasing tendency of people to have one-stop-shop for most of the chores and easily accessible (hmm, internet) avenues of service is the reason people are taking cues from outside and implementing them locally. May be it’s this part makes the effect of globalization more complete and complement win-win argument.

P.S.: While I write this, I view these from the aspect of a user/ virtual partner and probably with a naïve sense too since I have no expertise in any of these areas. I am not even sure about the business models for these portals. Most of the portals are just fun to hang out (Mauj) or are just search portals (such as Burrp), so is the revenue model just advertising (Ad-sense, eh?)?