Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Screen As A Strategy : Understanding The Internet

I closed the previous article {found here : Understanding The Internet : Reaching Into The Gut Of Existing Systems} with a statement that few organizations truly understand how to use the 5-21” space of the screen;  this article looks at this aspect in a little more detail. A great many companies use the customer-facing aspects of the internet as merely another tool to communicate and connect, completely ignoring the full power of the internet ecosystem.


The Screen, first of all, is mistakenly defined as just a mere device that displays, or acts as a window, disseminating information to your prospects and customers, and the general audience. The screen is more of a doorway, a portal that transports – or has the ability to – transport your customer into a world of constantly interacting stakeholders in your product, your company and your addressable market segment. If that doesn’t scare you as a Brand Manager, as a Marketer, and as a Sales Professional, high time it did.


Before the internet ecosystem evolved, the touchpoints a customer had for interfacing with your products were limited – The Shop, Company Offices, Other Customers who were limited to those who were met personally, Media, Competitors and a few more. But cut to today and that has undergone a sea-change, with the potential ability of the customer connect having increased to almost infinity, with the feasibility of getting exposed to and influenced by a much larger array of touchpoints, viewpoints, opinions - as well as both positive and negative customer feedback and experiences


It stands to reason that in the changed environment of freer flow of information & increased touchpoints, the customer communication has to change from a one-sided monologue to more of an engagement with the customer. The reason is straightforward – a greater number of touchpoints mean larger information volume and interactions, contrarian opinions, noise and greater scope for replaceable products to engage with prospective customers, as well as greater potential of the medium to enhance audience experiences.


Thus far, we are on established management jargon, which is spouted by a good number of companies. Only a select few organizations manage to actually convert the monologue with an active engagement; very very few, in fact. For, a large majority of the sites I visit, at least in India, still adhere to the old style of communication; little effort is made to enhance the customer experience, and make it more rewarding and meaningful. In some cases, the customer experience is actually negative in many ways. The reason this is not showing in sales is either due to the price differential; products are cheaper on the Ecommerce sites, or due to other attendant disadvantages.


Let me illustrate with 2 examples : one B2C and one B2B. The internet is so vast, that it is not feasible for me to cover more in a blog post; neither is it advisable. In B2C, let us take books. Why does a customer buy a book online? There are two reasons : Price, and Convenience, which has lead to galloping sales at online book stores. But halt a moment, and analyse in depth. And, instead of asking what does the internet give you, ask what does a book stall give you? Reverse your viewpoint for a minute!


In a book store, you can get a feel of the book, you can flip its pages – which is pretty damned important if you are reading a new author, or a serious topic; you can easily compare similar books or two options on the same subject. Furthermore, you can far more easily spot new books; the interface is much bigger than a small screen; in a store, you are exposed to 4 walls crammed with books, which  make for easy discovery.


To compete with this, you have the price-offs and the convenience factor of the small screen; till date there has been on attempt at going beyond this. Reviews do not count in the age of the convergence of technology; it is simple enough a task to look a book’s reviews on your smartphone and purchase offline! The offline stores are also now becoming more nimble, willingly offering discounts to regular customers, and other small facilities, like getting selected books for them. They are now allowing customers to sit on sofas in comfort, and browse books to their heart’s content – in other words, they have added several value-additions to the customer interface, making for a much more rewarding experience


And that is where the digital players are not doing anything : trying to make the customer interface more rewarding. Sure, this will be expensive, time-consuming and demanding; but it will have to be done sooner or later. Currently, you are not facing the pain as the market is untapped, and there is a scorching growth pace, that is hiding the underbelly. All are advised to study Telecom, and how its ARPU fell, and draw parallels and extrapolate to the future, with penetration at higher levels. That is a reality every industry has to face.


In our example, a moments’ thought and you can spot any number of ways that the customer experience can be made more rewarding. You can facilitate browsing titles – and the usage of technology can ensure that the browsing experience in online stores will be leagues ahead of the offline experience, as you can offer targeted searches in the book’s content. Author-searches, cross-selling opportunities, specific searches of interest – all of which can make the customer experience exceptionally powerful.


You cannot match the dexterity and ease of new book discovery in offline stores; but you can work around this issue by offering other advantages. You can offer first 1o pages downloads free, as an example. You can look at facilitating direct interactions with the author, fan pages, discussion forums; you can facilitate book searches and book discovery in a much wider database, and can give options for time of delivery if book not in stock {beyond the current We Will Get In Touch When In Stock} and so on and so forth.


All this can be achieved at the touch of a button for the customer, which cannot be matched by the offline store. The current model of price-driven sales online is already driving a deep schism into offline models, leading to a massive backlash by offline models, who are competing with extraordinary tenacity and dexterity, and are in the process not only maintaining relevance, but actually winning back lost ground.


And all because the online people aren’t using the full power of the medium; and that is because the pain isn’t showing in the numbers, as the high growth rate is ensuring the new customers are greater than Churn. As I said, learn from Telecom : there will come a time when Churn will exceed new customers. And no one can say how far away that time is, given the stunningly scorching growth rates in this industry.



In the next article, I shall take a look at the B2B marketplace, as well as some interesting entirely avoidable mistakes made by the best of them in this trade in both the B2B and B2C Space. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

UNDERSTANDING THE INTERNET : Reaching Into The Gut Of Existing Systems

UNDERSTANDING THE INTERNET : Reaching Into The Gut Of Existing Systems



At first glance, the title – understanding the internet – seems an anachronism, something out of place in the modern world, where the internet is ubiquitous, at least among the educated classes; and is rising fast in the rest of the people. You only have to look around to see people using the internet, gaining from it, and being completely comfortable with this medium.



And yet, that is precisely what my contention is : that this medium is actually the least understood, and in just about everything. The potential of this medium is being felt in just about every human endeavour, and as I have observed before, its raw power to reach into the gut of existing models is only just being felt across industries. What is this raw power I am referring to? And why is it the least understood medium?



The average person comes across individual levels or layers of the internet at various times; this interaction is in two distinct areas in terms of purpose of usage : Personal, & Business / Professional. On a personal level, we come across Facebook and Twitter, News Apps, Online Shopping portals, and many more sites targeted at the individual; traditional classification extends to such terms as Social Media, News Portals, and so on and so forth. But, on a professional level, depending upon our profession, we similarly interact with many sites and types of portals like dedicated B2B or B2E portals and other sites - which include the above listed personal sites!



If the above sounds confused or disorienting, let me clarify : my point, simply put, is that we need to reverse our outlook; when we think of the internet, all of us think of it from the lens our personal interaction on the internet, even when looking at the professional aspects. We always think of how the internet has reduced distances, made price discovery easier, information dissemination faster and borderless, made customer contact easier and so on – in other words, looking at it Point-To-Point, individually or lacking a systems perspective



The internet is all that, and much much more. We need to turn it around 180 degrees, and look at it from a business perspective, from a strategic perspective and a systems perspective to understand the raw power, as well as appreciate how little we understand this medium, or just how wrong we have been. This has profound implications for all businesses, as we shall see.





Reaching Into The Gut Of Existing Systems


Let us start at a very basic level – the simple point-to-point interaction. Consider pricing – in any market, it is now common for a customer to compare prices with the internet; it is equally common for a customer to compare prices across geographies. This applies to retailers and distributors as well; meaning, quite simply, that price differentials within the same market will go the way of the typewriter. What all team managers, especially senior managers, tend to forget is that this also applies to your teams, which is now stunningly well connected internally.


It has always been a simple sales tactic, that of differential pricing, which in an earlier era, was nearly undetectable, given the low interconnectivity between the constituent customer profiles and the channel partners / retail / Your own team members. This at times unhealthy practice gave results while harming the system and leading to a leak of corporate money, and harm to many a top performer and talent, as needless discounts are given;  in the current era of Facebook + LinkedIn + Whatsapp + Email + Mobile Telephones, this is just not tenable, as people are way too interconnected at each level of the business ecosystem – making for easy discovery of the stated underhanded tactics.


The combination of just these 5 – Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Facebook, Email and Mobile is hard to beat. You can share information over the mobile – back it up with proof of pricing by the simple expedient of a mail or a Whatsapp photograph, or look and compare online and offline prices with ease, given the penetration of the Mobile Internet. Convergence of technologies at its very, very best.


From a systems perspective, this means that the old tactic of having differential prices for varied distributors and geographies is now a much more challenging task, given the convergence of technologies and gadgets, and ease of connection. It has meant unhindered flow of information across and within markets, ensuring that the price differential gets easily exposed. This is driven by the entire interconnected ecosystem, as employees and the channel connect with each other with ease over various media; customer openly voice opinion on the internet etc.  


What most companies further do not understand is this : there is an increasing push-back from the retail end of the business as well as from teams, who are now converging into interest groups and power fora, and getting together to force companies and managers to alter their short-term tactics of differential pricing within the same channel as well as across channels. This is a direct result of the free flow of information wrought by the internet, the mobile and the entire information ecosystem.


And that is what I meant by stating reversing from an outward looking perspective of how the internet is changing the business environment and making life easier for businesses. That way is a strictly personal look – you are essentially analyzing the advantage you have as a professional. What needs to be done is analyse the entire impact from a systems perspective, from the perspective of not the Manager, but the entire business. In other words – get into the shoes of the Business, not the shoes of the person managing the business.


And that is the most critical learning, and the real power – we aren’t talking about just the internet, we shouldn’t be thinking about just the internet, but rather the entire ecosystem – The Internet, The Computer System, The Mobile, The Falling Cost of Access, The Fast Rising Usage. We should further be looking at it holistically, and from a dispassionate analytical perspective, and changing the operating style as the market changes all around you.


In simple terms, the entire basis of business, the entire basis of doing business on the ground is changing fast, driven by a vastly changed ecosystem. And managements just aren’t in sync with this simple reality. What has happened is, quite simply, the entire bedrock on which internal systems are based has vanished almost overnight, contributing to an exponential rise in pressure on employees, managers, systems and organizations alike, as they failed to change with the times…


There are many other parameters – like the impact on the simple things  - like telling the truth, or stretching the truth; and how the internet ecosystem is setting about revealing the truth and making lying impossible for organizations; or the simple fact that even some of the most tech-savvy organizations don’t understand the 14-21” screen, and how it is to be used for maximum impact, or indeed how to strategically use it… which is the subject of the next article in the Digital Series, of which this is the third…










Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Book Review : India, Uninc. By Prof. Vaidyanathan

Book Review : INDIA, UNINC

By Prof. Vaidyanathan


About The Author : R. Vaidyanathan is Professor of Finance and Control and UTI Chair Professor in the area of Capital Markets. His areas of interest are Corporate Finance, Investments, Portfolio Management, Risk Management and Pensions. He is the Chairperson for the Centre for Capital Market and Risk Management [CCMR] at IIMB. He is a National Fellow of ICSSR. A graduate of the Loyola College, Madras and a Masters from the Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta he obtained his Fellow in Management (Doctorate) from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta where he also taught for four years... Read his full and very impressive Biodata and achievements Here




ABOUT THE BOOK


photo



The book is about the unsung and discounted sector of the Indian Business Environment and Economy in the first part; it goes where no book has gone before, at least not in my readings. This is a book that looks at the Small and Medium Enterprises, or more specifically, the unincorporated sector and its contribution to the Indian Economy in exhaustive and nevertheless entertaining detail


The second half is where the real fun and games begin, as the author takes you into deep insights and truths about the Indian Business Environment, in a roller coaster journey that will leave you breathless. These are not words that can normally be used to describe a business book, but fit the bill nonetheless. The Author has skillfully managed to connect culture with business, in a fashion that makes eminent and practical sense. How? Read on! 


This is a book that should be compulsory reading in each and every Business School and in each and every organisation. Why? Read on!



THE REVIEW

The first part of the book is a treat in numbers, and more numbers - and when you get tired, you get treated to even more numbers. Then, you get exhausted. And, as a welcome relief, you get an even greater variety of numbers. The beauty lies in the presentation - an easy to understand tabular presentation that drives home the point the author makes. Then, the long and uninterrupted series of numbers are never boring, because each is cogently explained by the text, as well as concern a variety of areas and sectors, keeping the reader riveted. 


This is a point that needs to be underscored, as the Author has presented a theory that shakes many a concept in our minds - making it vital that the theory be supported by data. What is even more important, the author has relied on authentic and irrefutable data from official sources, and has also presented a multitude of perspectives and data sources from various data-collection and presentation sources, ranging the entire gamut of available data. 


The Unincorporated Sector
The book looks at several aspects - contribution of the Unincorporated Sector in GDP, Income, National Savings, Employment. The data is conclusive; the unincorporated sector is the major contributor to the Indian Economy, whereas the corporate sector contributes only 18%. If you add Unorganised Agriculture, the contribution of the Unincorporated Sector comes to a humongous 60%+, which is a shocker, and a wake-up call, as the data forces you to rethink quite a number of concepts. {I shall go into details in further articles, as this is a book that can spawn several lines of thought and analysis}


Factors of Business
It looks at the important factors of business - especially credit offtake from banks and support mechanisms, the role of Social Support Groups, Chit Funds, NBFCs, Taxation coverage, Bribery as well as the challenges faced by this sector bringing you face to face with a rather uncomfortable reality of the problems faced by these organisations. The most important is the data-supported contention that Bank Credit is not easily available to this sector - which contributes the most to our Economy. 


Service Sector
The book takes on a life of its own in two segments - the Service Sector, and the social aspects of business. The data and logic presented in the entire section on the Service Sector is superfluous, as the argument presented is completely logical and intuitively sensible; you end up wondering why didnt you see or think of this, as you see it around you every single day! 


We think of the service sector as the or in terms of the IT industry, in our uninformed or prejudiced urban metro MBA-schooled viewpoints; here is data - irrefutable data - that proves that IT isnt even a drop in the ocean as on date; it brings you face to face with the intuitively logical reasoning that IT is only and only an enabler, and that the real service sectors' contribution far outweighs not only IT but a good many other sub-sectors; we are referring to {"we" as I fully agree with the Author here} the innumerable retail kiranas, travel shops, restaurants, transport, real estate, construction services etc. 


And in this sector, the unincorporated sector has a 75% contribution, dwarfing the other corporate contribution. I find it hard to refute the statement that conversely, it is the corporate sector that is garnering the lion's share of the focus of everyone in India, whereas the data shows that reverse should be the case. We should actually be celebrating the innate ability of the small Indian Entrepreneur to succeed, given the environment and the chance. 



The Social Aspects of Business
This is the frontispiece of the book, the piece de resistance. In 4 or 5 short chapters, the author has presented what can be called the real Indian way of doing business, and this is something that needs no data proofs - it is obvious to anyone who has been in business in India, and has seen and observed keenly. The way Indian Entrepreneurs leverage social contacts and social structures to create a business, open markets, gain access to working capital, employment is evident in the cornering of various verticals by various groups in India - numerous examples can be quoted, and have been extensively quoted in the book. 



The Role of The Stock Markets
The book contains all this and more; it looks at the inflated role of the stock markets, and the obvious conclusion that they arent representative of the Economy {we intuitively knew that in the recent past, comparing the stock indices which is diametrically opposed to the fundamentals of the economy; it was an amazing sight : disturbed and shaky fundamentals,and yet a robust stock market!}; here you find the data to back that intuitive logic. 

If corporate India contributes 18%, and Unincorporated 45%, Agriculture {unorganised} 17%, if 34%-41% of manufacturing is by the unorganised sector, if 70% of national savings are by households and unorganised sector, then by no stretch of imagination can an index representing 30 or 100 or even 500 stocks be called representative. Period. End of argument as far as I am concerned. And yet, the focus is all on Corporate India. 



Summary and Criticism...
I am purposely summing them in one, after expostulating the many positives of the book; the reason is that this book is a must read despite its weaknesses. The book draws a contention that the unincorporated sector succeeded despite the corporate sector and the government, and draws a clean line of separation. That cannot be strictly true - only partly true; as the role of the corporate sector and the government in creating opportunities that could be exploited by small units, travel shops, restaurants, hotels, construction etc cannot be denied.

Having said that, it is equally true that, given the paucity of Bank Credit, and an attendant lack of focus, the achievements of this unsung and real-cum-most-important sector  of the Indian Economy are truly fantastic in the past 2- years. That cannot be doubted. It is equally evident that this is a feat that required commendable ingenuity, planning, strategising, courage as well as superb execution skills to achieve. That is a given. 

The other weakness is the rather critical tone that is taken on many aspects, and the sometimes flippant attitude; but this is not a major concern anywhere in the book. Yes, it does stray significantly in one conclusion - FDI in retail, where I dont agree with the contention that FDI and organised retail will destroy Indian retail. The book itself is the greatest proof-  the small entrepreneur has succeeded because of self-driven passion, and without much support; hus, the contention that organised retail will inconvenience them in any way seems fanciful at worst, and premature at best, to be honest. 



Summary...
This is a book that brings to face to face with the real India, the real Indian Economy - not the one extolled by the Pink Papers, or other Media Outlets and Business Pundits. This is a book that brings you face to face with your business prejudices, and raises several deep and penetrating questions in your mind, its shortcomings notwithstanding. This is a book that presents a fact-based, extensively data-supported and nearly irrefutable chronicle of all that is wrong in our approach individually and severally, and that India is different to The Great West in just about every way from Religion to Culture, and from Economics to Trade. 


This is a book that introduces you, possibly for the first time in your business career, to the Real Indian Business, The Real Indian Economy, and the real way forward. But that is another story, to be told in another blog post; for now, suffice it to state that this book stands as one of the most powerful, entertaining and educating books I have ever encountered in my entire life...


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Ranaangan : Third Battle of Panipat, Drama Review


Ranaangan - Marathi Natak
Artist - Avinash Narkar, Ashok Samarth, Shreekant Desai
Drama Director: Vaman Kendre
Video Director: Shweta Parulkar
Story: Vishwas Patil

Synopsis:-
The Third Battle of Panipat took place on 14 January 1761.The battle pitted the artillery and cavalry of the Marathas against the Afghans. Ranaangan is the brave portrayal of the Maratha Soldiers who fought the war with true grit.


THE BACKDROP

Ranaangan is the background story of the battle of Panipat, and a look at why The Maratha Confederacy lost; a heart-rending tale of treachery, deceit, courage, valour, back-stabbing, infighting, internecine issues, and lack of a common narrative. A tragic tale of  the defeat of a superior force, and an even more tragic tale of the descent of India into chaos! It is also a tale of a superb leader of men, a far-sighted genius {Bhausaaheb}, & a tale of the unknown hero in Jankoji Shinde and Dutta Shinde - whose progeny were yet again to feature in another pivotal battle, 1857; and who would be wrongly understood for centuries {as per me}, a product of the disturbed narrative we are exposed to...


It is also a stunning revelation to those who arent aware of the Maratha Power, or that The Mughal throne was actually put up and supported by Maratha Power by the mid of the 18th century, or that there was a treaty between The Maratha and The Mughal for the protection of Delhi. The real national power were The Maratha Confederacy; and in the Maratha Confederacy you get to see how India came to be subjugated by a completely inferior British Man... 

For that was what this battle meant : it meant an easy path to the rule of India by the British; The 3rd Battle of Panipat will always remain etched in our history as one of the most epochal battles to have determined the fate of India. After Panipat, while the Marathas were still strong, the aura had diminished; it was just a matter of time before they were vanquished, as the Anglo-Maratha wars were to subsequently prove!





THE PLOT AND THE REVIEW

Portraying a historical event on the limited creative platform of a stage is always a massive challenge for any number of reasons; the limitations imposed my time, space, content mean that telling the story in a clear and precise manner is rather hard, to put it frankly. This calls for a script that is woven with great care and attention to the requirements of the overall plot. 

The plot here is the run-up to the 3rd Battle Of Panipat, the sequence of political and military events that led to the battle; the planning of the battle; the various historical figures and their roles; the internal relationships and internecine problems; and finally the battle itself. The script has been handled exceptionally well, given the wide and extensive scope of the plot of the play; the entire historical narrative has been adapted to the theatre with remarkable aplomb. 

The direction : excellent, period. This is not an easy play to perform; it ranks as one of the most difficult stage adaptations I have encountered in my life. Every aspect - the props, the stage and the character intonations and delivery  are excellent and top-notch. Getting everyone to gel together for 3 long hours of continuous performance must have been exceptionally challenging. What got my admiration was the blocking: the usage of the limited space, which was sheer class. It has to be seen to be believed; and how it actually adds to the story in places!

The performances are all top-class; among these, performances of the characters of Jankoji Shinde, Datta Shinde, Malharrao Holkar, Abdali & Vishwasrao deserve a special mention. But the one man who stands above all is Avinash Narkar, portraying Bhausaaheb, the titular leader of the Maratha Force; Avinash has brought forth the sheer power of the character, personifying the adroit skill with which he wields these infighting people into battle-ready mode, with tremendous skill; you can feel the power and the conviction of the performance!


THE LEARNING

This is a drama that shatters several myths, and takes more than several reputations head-on! A story of how even people with good intentions, as shown by Holkar, Gaikwad, Vinchurkar, Bhausaheb, Gardi, Jankoji Shinde, etc lead to collective disaster, as infighting destroys morale, leading to defeat - even of a much superior strategy and a comparable strength. It also gives a completely different look at the Shindes of Gwalior... as well as the entire ensemble. 

This is a chilling and blunt portrayal... a story of infighting, deceit and high treason... the true story of Panipat; the story of the infighting among the Holkars and the Gaikwad's on one side and the Peshwa's emissary Bhausaaheb and Jankoji Shinde on the other side, with planned backstabbing in Pune to boot... a story of how lack of internal trust and teamwork combined with vested interests and lack of knowledge in some key generals was to lead to a superior force being decimated. 

It is the story of how one mistake can cause disaster- leaving a man {Najib} due to his being supported by Holkar, despite anger of Shindes of Gwalior, Peshwas of Pune... one mistake. Najib was later to prove instrumental in both killing Datta Shinde and retaining Abdali back in India at a crucial juncture when he had given up... Just one mistake - compounded again and again and again by the infighting... a tragic story of infighting!  It is the story of how The Holkar and The Gaikwad group's lack  of trust in Ibrahim Gardi was to lead to disaster...

This battle left India open and defenceless; had The Maratha Confederacy managed to rise above its internal squabbles, maybe, just maybe, history would have been different. We shall never know now; but we can all learn from this sad episode - Divided We Fall, United We Stand. The old maxim is spot-on accurate... watch this drama to understand exactly why... 

I normally base my historical articles on evidence-based books; this is based only on the presented drama, linked above. Thus, I make no claim of its historical accuracy; but have taken the trouble of watching a news presentation {linked below}, which tallies in all essential details with the drama; further, it also tallies with what I have read in some other pedigreed historical books reviewed on my blog. But to say more, I will need to study the history in a good and pedigreed book. 



Thursday, 2 April 2015

India Versus Japan 1947

One of the most common rejoinders of our failure to develop ourselves, at least among the Urban Educated Indians, is a straight-on comparison with Japan, about how it was destroyed by World War 2, and how it is now a developed country, taking on The West on its own terms, standing tall among the committee of nations as a developed country with a tremendous set of achievements in its past 60 years, a nation with every comfort the West has, and more; whereas we stumbled from mistake to mistake, resulting in a massive gap between the two of us.

From an outside perspective, it seems like Japan and India were at comparable stages; 2 destroyed economies; and that today, Japan is years ahead. While the above statement is completely true in every respect, it also hides the reality that lies underneath. Let us peel away the above statement and take a look at the reality of the situation, which goes a long way in explaining this riddle. While we did make some mistakes, we cannot extrapolate those mistakes to the complete story, not without looking at some underlying facts that tend to throw rather a different light on things.

Just one statistic is enough to drive home the difference between Japan and India - and that we cannot compare the incomparables. The literacy rate in Japan in 1929 was 43.8%, with over 90% enrollments in schools. In India, in 2001, the literacy rate is 62.8%. Japan was at this level of literacy around 1960 or thereabouts. Whatever economic strategy we took, we would never have been able to catch up Japan, given this reality.

The net result of this high level of education in Japan can be seen in the inventions that happened between 1900 - 1945. Inventions and discoveries like The Power Loom, Aberic Acid, B Vitamin, Portable ECG Machine, VectorCardiograph, Epinephrine, Thiamine, Monosodium Glutamate, Japanese Typewriter, Electric Rice Cooker were all discovered or invented by Japanese scientists between 1900 - 1950. These are symptomatic of the overall climate in Japan in those days, as well as act as indicators of the readiness and potential of the Japanese to innovate. For, War can take away everything - but it cannot take away the basic indices of Human Development; in which Japan in 1947 was already approaching developed economy levels. War also cannot take away the culture of innovation and the internal climate from the people.

It is thus a complete fallacy if we compare India and Japan in 1947, or indeed today. The Japanese were as ahead of us in 1947 as they are today. You cannot compare the incomparables. In 1947, India was a new nation, whereas Japan was a colonial power with established nationhood concept going back a century or more. India was a shattered and demoralised new nation, who had achieved near-static GDP growth between 1900 - 1945, whereas Japan had clocked a GDP growth rate that fluctuated between -0.53 to as high as 15.85% in the run-up to 1939. There were only 4 negative years; the others were between 4 - 16 %! Japan was the first non-European country to Industrialise in 1868. Japan had hospitals, schools, basic infrastructure in place; India had nothing. Japan had an educated population with a per capita GDP that India enjoys today. In fact, as far back as 1868, the Japanese per capita GDP was 740 dollars - and the Japanese were independent to boot.  It would not be wrong to state that we are only today at the position where Japan was at in 1947!

It is thus no surprise that Japan is where it is today. And, unless we set basic parameters - Education, Health etc - we will never be able to catch up Japan - regardless of the economic model we follow. The Japanese success is the demostrated success of concentrating on the Human Development Indices. And the most critical difference of all: Japan was a colonial power, India was not. It had access to colonies, which it could harvest so that investments could be made in their own country. This is a vital factor; for 80 years, the Japanese were brought up on a diet of we-are-as-good-as-the-west; this fuels national sentiment and confidence. Take this factor, add high education levels, and established record of innovation - the result is there for all to see.

Japan is ahead today because it was comparably ahead in 1947 - along any parameter you may choose to assess. And I have not even considered the factor of diversity and national size- and the attendant difficulties being faced by a diverse  large nation as compared to a small homogenous nation. I have not even started to look at the absence of the basics of life and governance in newly independent India, or its security challenges, its internal problems or its varied challenges. We could have done better with better economic planning, yes - but that does not change the fact that Japan is ahead, primarily because it always was ahead... as we shall see in detail in this series, as I move into the Mieji Restoration in the next part...

We can be justifiably proud of our achievements, even while acknowledging our mistakes. Our mistakes harmed only us, not anyone else – unlike The West, whose mistakes destroyed civilizations and resulted – and still do result – in untold and incalculable misery across the planet. We have developed ourselves, fought our own battles, made and learnt from our own mistakes, paying for them ourselves. And in the light of the status we were in at Independence, our achievements are tremendous and a matter of intense, and thoroughly justifiable pride and celebration! Be confident of this lovely miracle called India, of this lovely, mesmerising and stunningly beautiful nation we call Bhaarat!


Jai Hind!  

{In the next part of the article, I shall look at the Japanese Mieji Restoration, and try and draw learnings for Modern India}