Downloading in Delhi – the app of the season!!!

On the same Sunday two weeks ago, Indians in general and Dilliwallahs in particular were waiting in bated breath as the counting for the state elections was in progress to know who will be the next Chief Minister(CM).  2 weeks hence one is still waiting to know who will be Delhi’s next CM as another counting is underway and announcement of result is awaited tomorrow.  Few years back (2008 I think), IDEA cellular ran a TVC for their mobile service in which politicians were seeking opinion from people on an issue related to governance thro SMS polls. That time the idea of seeking referendum using technology streams like mobile/internet seemed like an extreme fantasy of a creative brain.   However the Aam Admi Party (AAP) the new kid on the block in India’s politics has been in the forefront of re-writing the rules of the game and what seemed like fictional has indeed become a reality. As I type these words, in a reality show type SMS poll, AAP is conducting a referendum exercise in Delhi on whether to form the Government or not.

Everyone is in unison when they say that this Delhi Election has seen a new coming of age of Indian democracy. And this has been mainly engineered by the presence of AAP in the election ring. Can you imagine of a situation few years ago where the single largest party with few seats short of majority soberly declaring that they will sit in the opposition and serve the people without making an attempt to form the Government??  To borrow from Vinod Mehta’s piece one feels that suddenly India these days has become “the Republic of Utopia – St. Thomas More’s imaginary state in which laws, government and social conditions are perfect”!!! From the days of “Aaya ram, Gaya ram” to “Hamare pass numbers hai” and the usual scenes of MLAs being holed up in some remote resort to prevent horse trading to today’s “Pehle aap, Pehle aap”, I think this is a fantastic and refreshing change.  In that sense, AAP has already won the battle if not the war.

Once the single largest party-the BJP showed no inclination to form the Government, there has been a huge clamour on AAP to stake claim for forming the Government with support from the Congress or BJP.  The conundrum which ensued on AAP was understandable. “How can we take support even if  its outside from any of the 2 parties whom we opposed tooth and nail during the campaign???” “How can we form the Government somehow by striking a deal with the Congress or BJP when we were exactly against their wheeling dealing type of politics???” So when this conflict played out, the AAP leadership took the stance of not staking claim and as per me rightly so. But they were reviled by the opposition first and then the press.

 “AAP is shirking its responsibility by not forming the Government” was one refrain. How can they, when they didn’t have the numbers or the mandate to govern on their own terms?

Politics is the art of the possible. So AAP should take the support from Congress and form the Government with a Common Minimum programme (CMP)“ was another theory. As per me this whole Common Minimum Programme is nothing but a recipe for “Common Minimum Governance”!!! We saw this during the UPA-1 regime when Congress formed the Government with “Outside” support from the Left under the premise of a CMP. What followed was nothing but a Left rule by proxy. While the CMP ensured that the agenda of the Left was followed, the growth agenda of the country got left behind 😦 😦

“How will the people know what AAP is capable of if you don’t govern? Since Congress is providing “unconditional” support, AAP should stop posturing and take their support and change Delhi as you promised” – this is another missive.  India’s political history shows “Unconditional support” means “And Conditions apply for support”!  So I’m not sure if Congress will play ball on all initiatives and changes AAP wishes to usher in Delhi. Maybe they will. May be times are changing.

So all this egging of AAP to somehow form the Government is as per me a well thought of strategy by the parties to make AAP govern and then flounder. After all how has AAP managed to capture the imagination of people in a short time? Not just by promising to root out corruption but also to govern with Aam Admi’s interest in mind on every issue. If AAP comes to power and makes mistakes, it will be good news for BJP and also Congress when they face the same public in 2014 for the Lok Sabha polls. But if AAP does really govern well, still 6 months is a short period to make any impact which will affect 2014 elections.  So the National parties with their sights firmly on 2014 Lok Sabha polls want AAP to rule and probably fail.

On the other hand, if AAP had stuck to the original stand of not forming the Government under any circumstances, may be Delhi would be subjected to President’s rule and re-poll held along with Lok Sabha polls.  That would have been a win-win situation for AAP.

  • If they win with a majority then, they get full undisputed mandate of Delhi and they can rule without anybody looking over their shoulders and give the Governance they promised.
  • If they lose and BJP gets a majority, they can sit in opposition. It allows for some time for the young first time legislators to learn and prepare for the long haul in the future. At the same time they can continue to put pressure on the Government like they are doing today and bring in paradigm changes. Somehow my take is AAP is best suited to be in opposition and bring in changes rather than govern. While everything else of AAP is inspiring hope, somehow their economic agenda is not. It smacks of more socialism, Anti-business and hence worrisome.  Hopefully they will change their thinking when they understand what matters most to Aam Admi.  It is not doles but jobs and hence empowerment.
  • The only issue is what will happen if it’s a hung assembly again with no clear majority. I feel that there is lesser chance for the same as constituencies where either AAP or BJP won with smaller margins will vote more decisively the next time over.

Somehow in the last few days, coming under pressure from media and commentators, AAP leaders decided to dilute their stand from “Not forming the Government” to “Will form if people say so”. Hence that “What an idea, Sirji” was put to use.

As I come to the close of this piece it is clear that AAP has been the “app of the season” in India. It looks very possible that this is App is “downloading” itself in Delhi and we may have Arvind Kejriwal as the new Chief Santa this X-mas and Aam Admi Party governing Delhi in the New year.  Here’s wishing AAP an error free run and more downloads in the future!!! Jingle Bells, jingle bells,…,…


Women Vs. We Men in India !!!

“We attain the real freedom only when a lonely woman can walk freely anywhere in our country during midnightMohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The Father of the Nation must have said this in the 40’s not with animals or aliens in mind.  He clearly alluded to the lurking threat from ‘we men’ to the women community.  Sadly, going by this definition, we as a country might have achieved political freedom, the economic freedom may be just in sight but the “Real freedom” may be light years away. The recent ghastly incident which took place in our country’s capital, Delhi beat the daylights out of me as most of my fellow citizens.  It will be naïve to assume that Delhi is an exception as a city in India and other cities are quite safe.

There is a heated debate today in India on ways to stop this – ranging from Speedy justice, Capital punishment for the accused, fast trial courts for women related crimes,…,..  The lady victim/fighter or whatever one wants to call her has to live through the trauma almost every day of her life. Even if she wants to forget, the society will keep reminding her of the same.  So by hanging the culprit and taking his life, you are giving him the freedom which the victim does not have.  According to me, he must live and live to repent his shameful act every day/ every hour / every minute / every second for the rest of his life.  At the same time the punishment must be delivered in such a way that makes other men think 1000 times before they unzip before an unwilling woman in a moving bus or elsewhere.

That could be

  • Fast track courts exclusively for women related crimes with women as judges
  • The victims compliant corroborated with circumstantial evidence to be treated as final evidence and the accused charged
  • Laws amended to make “Castration” as the punishment for Rape against women
  • Judgment to be delivered within 1 week of any such incident
  • Punishment executed within 1 week from judgement

As a liberal, I’m in general against capital punishment and other such primitive punishments and agree with the view that these kind of aboriginal retributions have no place in a civilised society. However I’ve come to the conclusion that laws and punishments must be in tune with the civility and morality index of the country.  A country where a woman is raped every 2 hours (as I hear) cannot certainly be in the august group of Civilised nations.

Let us hold those grandiose pretensions for a while till as a country we learn to behave and demonstrate civility in general.

  • It’s time to think less about economic recession and worry about morality recession.
  • We face sleepless nights about currency depreciation but don’t bat our eyelid seeing the depreciation of values in front of us.
  • While being delighted watching the bullish trends in the stock market, let’s get concerned about dousing the raging bullish attitude of ‘we men’ towards women.
  • Time to have targets for Gross Discipline instead of just for GDP growth.

May be it’s time to deliver justice the primordial way which may eventually act as the much-needed deterrent for such heinous acts.  Somebody passed me this link from a Tamil movie – though this is a bit crude and violent way of delivering justice, I’m certain a variant of this form of punishment may prove to be the final deterrent for crime towards women!

While this could be a short-term solution, we must pause to pose the larger question. What is with Indian men that make them treat women with contempt, as an object of desire, as an item, ..,…?  As part of the oppressing gender in India today, I cringe with smallness.

To me, it looks like that’s the way we have been brought up in the society.  Till the time I started travelling out of our country in my 20’s I didn’t realise the “Women Vs. We Men” battle being staged in our country day in day out.  I would like to enumerate some of the scenes most of us I’m certain will be witness to :

  • The office elevator reaches the ground floor with men and women in it. As soon as the door opens, the men just rush out without having the basic courtesy of waiting for the women to step out first
  • At the same elevator, as the women try to get out, you will find men charging in to get into the lift – as if the lift is a local train.  In Mumbai where I live now, I see this “Suburban train” approach (which is basically barging in before people get out or without giving space for others before the train leaves) in everything. Even if it’s boarding a plane, getting into a theatre, driving a car on the road,..,..
  • In the airport coach at the departure or arrival gate – you will find very few iPhone/Blackberry wielding alpha males yielding their seats to females even if they are with infants or of the elderly type.
  • The driver of the car keeps honking as a pedestrian who happens to be a woman tries to cross the road and makes sure she halts so that he can breeze away. The short stint I lived in Dubai taught me that as a driver the 1st priority is for the pedestrian.
  • A group of office colleagues (male and female) get out of the company bus and walk together towards the office door to make an entry. Seldom will you find the male members allowing the ladies first and awaiting their turn later.

You may feel that I’ve spiced up some of the incidents for better effect, but actually not. These are what you get to see in the ‘Maximum(bai)’ city every other day! So I was not at all surprised when Mumbai was voted as a ‘Rudest City’ in a worldwide survey of 35 cities by Readers Digest.  That it was Mumbai was just incidental. It could well apply for most of the big cities of India.  I’m not claiming that Readers Digest is the ultimate authority in judging morality or civility, just thought not out of context to quote that to drive home my point.

As a long-term solution, the need of the hour is to coach our children on the basic courtesies in general and towards women in particular and not to view them as just an object of desire. We owe this to our nation. So, tomorrow when I leave my house with my family in the car, let me start by opening the door for the 2 ladies at home!


Nehru Place and all that Jazz!

For all those even passively associated with IT in India, I don’t have to take the trouble of explaining what “Nehru Place” is.   For the uninitiated, Nehru Place located at the south of Delhi is at the heart of IT Hardware trading activity in Delhi.  This is the IT Hardware hub where Jawaharlal Nehru the 1st Prime Minister of India has been immortalized amidst buying and selling of IT Hardware products worth crores of Rupees or millions of dollars every day. For a Delhi’ite looking for anything ‘remotely connected with a computing device’ this is the place to take his Metro ride.   They say it is the Asia’s biggest IT market – whether it is in terms of area size or volumes transacted, I do not know.  As a market, to the consumer it provides all that she wants as far as her IT needs are concerned in one place and at prices cheaper than anywhere else.  For any brand worth its salt, no presence in Nehru place means no presence at all.  What happens in Nehru Place is an indication of what happens in Delhi or for that matter in North India.  So it is not surprising for many involved in the IT sales in Delhi to start and end their day at Nehru Place.  For visitors from IT MNCs, the Raison d’être of their business trips to Delhi is not complete without a visit to Nehru Place.  For, in the alleys, by lanes, shops and the open streets of the so-called IT market they get an opportunity to read the Indian consumer’s mind – whether they read it correctly or not is a different question.

The Nehru Place IT Market, Delhi

Lamington Road for Mumbai is Nehru Place to Delhi.   Lord Lamington after whom this area is named would not have imagined when he was the Governor of Mumbai century and few years ago, that his name will be in the lips and heart of so many IT sales professionals in India.  Though Lamington Road was decolonized and named officially as Dr.Dadasaheb Bhadkamkar  Marg,  I wonder if anybody can relate to this!!! Bhadkamkar Marg, anyone ?

A View of Lamington Road, Mumbai

Similarly Chennai has the Ritchie Street and Bengaluru has got its own SP Road and Kolkata – a G.C Avenue.  Not to forget Hyderabad’s very own CTC. Since one can confidently find the part or the component or the product in SP Road it is also called the “Spare Parts” road!!! In Chennai and Bengaluru when an IT sales person says “market is down today” don’t get it wrong.  He is not referring to the Stock market or the bullion market but he is talking about the vagaries of the IT market!  For people outside the IT hardware trade it will be interesting to note that resellers in the market are competitors among themselves as well as collaborators.  In the sense, while they are wholesalers for some products and distribute through other resellers, they are resellers for other products which they buy from next door wholesalers.  There is a healthy “give and take” and “co-operation in competition”.  All the resellers in these markets are organised under an umbrella association which takes care of their common issues. They are all connected through local telephone exchanges and in short well networked.

While respective IT markets in all the cities are embodiment of entrepreneurial enterprise, what is strikingly common is also the pitiable condition of the so-called IT hubs which hawk sophisticated, Hi tech equipment day in and day out!  The apathy starts from the parking lots where the only option you have is to leave your vehicle and then the keys at the mercy of boys who are wannabe FI car racers!  And then to reach the shops which are called retail outlets, you have to pass through alleys which are nothing but makeshift warehouses by the day with products being stacked in the stair cases, alleys and wherever.   The so-called outlets barring a recent few which have come up of late are antonyms of retail experience.  Retail experience which is all about displays, touch, feel and experience will have to redefine itself in our IT markets. As a consumer you are expected to see, touch and feel the product somewhere else or over the internet and come to these markets for just getting the lowest price and complete the transaction. In these dingy markets, red is the house colour.  Paan stained walls, corners, lifts, toilet commodes, urinals, wash basins and floors make you wonder if this is a “Paan” India phenomenon!     I personally had the experience in Lamington Road of sitting through one full meeting under nauseating circumstances thanks to a toilet around the corner.  I couldn’t help pitying the people who were spending time day in day out working there.  These days “foot fall” is a very popular term which you can hear in these markets.  When the foot fall is low in the market, the mood in the market is down completely and that is the good day for having constructive meetings with the resellers.  Road Shows here are actually shows on the road side!  In these IT markets you can see the sight of road side vendors doing refilling of Ink cartridges, toners,.. and I’m told that this is a sight only few countries can showcase today.    The sight of young boys carrying out this Toner refilling activity on the road side without proper masks, protective gear and without a setup is appalling.   That this toner powder is carcinogenic and can spread cancer is a fact few shop keepers or the boys or for that matter consumers who come there for refilling know and care about.

For long it has been my urge to see the IT markets in Indian cities organised like a Sim Lim Square or a Funan mall in Singapore or atleast a Low Yat Plaza in KL.  The attempts in the past by some to develop such markets in Mumbai and Delhi have been nonstarters.   The reason is the possible escalation of costs for the resellers which in turn will make them lose their competitive edge in terms of price which is their sole weapon to sell today.  The moot question is as consumers are we ready to pay a few bucks higher for a better shopping experience?

P.S : One interesting tit-bit –

This Nehru Place market has now the dubious distinction of receiving a new certificate of commemoration.  A US Government department known as U.S Trade Representative (USTR) has recently published a world wide list of markets that have been blacklisted for trading in highest number of pirated goods. This list is being called as ‘ Out-of-Cycle Review of Notorious Markets,December 20, 2011′. This list includes, along with 14 other famous markets, Nehru Place IT market also!!!