Sunday, December 25, 2005


What a coincidence! Only last night I finished a posting on what I was reading in a book that I had bought at Santa Cruz airport. And this morning when I opened the ET there was a full page on India-China economy,and the 'Made in China' and 'Made in India' brands.It headlined 'Are you ready for the edge' and 'Go to the next level'. It talked about the growth of the Chinese economy,their products pervading Indian homes though it did not mention about Chinese
'Ganpatis' and Chinese Diwali sweets flooding the market. Selfrespect was the reason,I presume. And the writer questioned the state of 'Made in India' brands.

The companies that Donald Sull case studies in his book 'Made in China' are:Lenovo and Sina Corp in the IT sector,UTStarcom and AsiaInfo in the telecom sector,Haier and Galanz in the white good segment and Wahaha and Ting Hsin in the food and beverages.These are outstanding companies but their past performance is no gurantee for the future says the author.They could stumble if they let their guard down.

ET has made a quick comparitive statement of ten top companies by market capitalisation.China Petro and Chem,Petro China,China Mobile,China Telecom,ChinaLife Insurance,China Unicom,PICC Property and Casualty,Minimetals Development,Baoshan Iron and Steel and CNOOC. On the Indian side the companies featured are ONGC,RIL,TCS,IOC,Infosys,Wipro,Bharati Telecom, HLL,ITC and SBI.While ONGC market cap is about 50% of China Petro,SBI is a third of CNOOC. We have a long way to go.

The ET supplement carries an article by John Talbott, ex Goldman Sachs ,who says countries can't have effective market economies until their people chose really capable governments.Bad roads,poor infrastructure,bribery and corruption,too much regulation,fiscal deficits are the main problems that India is facing.Importantly he feels that real growth will happen only if the economy benefits all.

An inteersting point made by ET is that China's median age is moving up from 32 today to at least 44 by 2040.China will perhaps get old faster than it gets rich.Sure everyhting isn't peachy all the way.For India it is a wakeup call.Forge ahead or miss the bus.

Saturday, December 24, 2005


Due to heavy fog at Delhi airport this morning, many flights did not take off from Mumbai and most of those that did take off left after a delay of a few hours.I was taking a 10.20 Jet Airways flight to Bangalore and rather unusually I had reached the airport one hour before departure time which meant that I had extra time with me. I decided to visit the bookshop and see whether any book attracted my attention.I asked for "Patna Uncut" and the coffee table book on Pushkar about which I had read some favourable reviews. Surprisingly,both these books were not available.When I was about to leave for boarding the flight, my eyes fell on "Made In China" by Donald Sull with Yong Wang. I quickly scanned the book and realised it was worth reading.The author who teaches at London Business School earlier taught at Harvard and was also a consultant with Mckinsey & Co.Here is a book which was saying what Western managers could learn from successful Chinese entrepreneurs.

In my young days, I had seen products with the marking "Made in USA" or "Made in Sheffield" or "Made in Germany". That was enough to gurantee the quality of the product. Later,cheap products started flooding the market from Japan. The quality was poor and presentation sloppy. Japanese products earned a bad name and their products were shunned by the discerning buyers. Then a transformation of sorts took place in Japan on the quality front.They invited Deming and other quality specialists from USA and seriously pursued the improvement in quality of their products. The results started to show and soon Japan became a quality leader relegating USA,UK and Germany to the background. Japanese cars earned a reputation for quality which GM and Ford had not achieved.Officials of GM,Chrysler and Ford visited factories of Toyota,Nissan,Honda and Mazda to learn the quality improvements that the Japanese had made, the techniques followed by them to achieve such spectacular success.Be it quality improvement or product innovation,Japanese had clearly established their superiority.

China is doing today what Japan did many years ago.Some Chinese companies are being led by trailblazing entrepreneurs who are transforming their organisations and leading them with vision."Made in China" is no more a dirty tag in consumer markets for the poor quality products.The world's second largest economy has achieved a high degree of success in quality improvement and product innovation.

What happens to the "Made in India" brand? That would be a natural question. While many companies have excelled,there are many others who have sullied the country's image. Every organisation has to bring about a major transformation by an attitudinal change and it has to happen from the top to the bottom.We have achieved great success in the IT industry.With our brains,talent and hard work we can replicate the success in other industries as well.And we must do it fast so that we are not left behind.

"Made in China" is a good read for those who want to create successful organizations .It gives an excellent roadmap for the entrepreneur to charter his company in a challenging and uncertain market environment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My Ten Favourite Foods

rums has put me in a tight spot.i have many favourite select 10 of them becomes a wee bit has taken me some time to put down my favourites.because I have been asking myself, "do i really like this more than that" and so on and so forth.

almost 25% of my life was spent in kolkata.15% in bangalore and the balance 60% in mumbai.logically,gujju and maharashtrian food should be on top of the list.but it isn' does feature,no doubt.

the top ten are:

1)luchi and aalu dum:-staple breakfast of most bengalis.luchi is puri made out of maida.aalu dum is big chunks of potatoes in thick gravy with terrific spices that gives you a good morning kick.
2)begun bhaja:now excuse me for my bong leanings.but,i just love the way nicely sliccd brinjals are fried and served.i had the temerity to ask for it in a turkey restaurant in dusseldorf and even got it.that is their version.
3)methi parantha: normally served at home during dinner time and our cook gb does a great job of it.i love the aroma of methi when it is being cooked even more than the parantha.
4)makki di roti,sarson da sag: when we lived in hill park most of our neighbours were sardars coincidentally.bindi and mikki and dilli.that is when i got introduced to this terrific get moth makki and sarson in koliwada,a sardar dominated area,but then the taste is never as good as when you eat in the house of my terrorist friends.
4)chana bathura: i simply love the earlier days it used to be kailash parbat from where we used to get it,then s started making it at home and when i worked for shri kkb,i used to visit delhi very often and our resident director would take me for lunch to the delhi gym where i would order for chana bathura.
5)samosas: i can live on them.i can have them for b'fast,lunch and dinner and i don't tire out.i used to be very fond of fact i still am but good punjabi samosa which you get in kailash parbat takes the cake.
6)paavbhaaji:bal thackeray would throw me out of mumbai if i do not add paavbhaji or vadapav to my list.between the two paavbhaji any taj you get excellent has become an expert of sorts as s also likes it and atleast once a week it pops up on the breakfast table.
7)adai: now that is a toughie and a surprise.joker among the pack of is hard to make.the taste is also like a few others which i am going to list a bit acquired.a combination of tuvar,udad and chana dals soaked overnight in water and with boiled rice like for idli or dosa,allowed to ferment for 48 hours and then the dough to be put on a pan and fried like dosa.eaten with jaggery it is a very filling b'fast.if you want to skip lunch,two of these will see you through the day comfortably.
8)morkali: now this is an unusual tamil nadu rural breakfast.rice flour with buttermilk made into a dough and heated over a small flame like you prepare upma.add salt,asfoetida,red mirchi and udaddal kadka.
9)pongal: most of the days in the month of margazhi(mid dec-mid jan),i prepare it myself and offer it for worship before partaking of it.andal's thirty verses,thiruppavai,are chante every day during this month.if cooked well,with the right constituents,it is heavenly.
10)rajbhog/sandesh: i began with a bong item and i have ended with one.i truly love rajbhog.not rosagolla but rajbhog.and sandesh too.rosagolla is supposed to be for the masses and sandesh for the classy.rajbhog is at a higher plane.rums,correct me if i am wrong.

i have left out busi bhele hulianna, dhoklas,undhiyu,kadi,panipuri,bhel,jhalmuri etc.i like them too.for instance,when iam in kolkatta every evening around 6 in my office,my peon will get me jhalmuri without my asking for it.he knows my weakness for muri.and the same applies in mumbai when bhel will arrive on my table automatically! . no chinese or italian or greek food for me. hum hain asli desi.

do we eat to live or live to eat? if one reads this blog one would think here is a gourmand!

Monday, December 12, 2005


There is good news for connoisseurs of red wine.Recent studies done in Harvard,Switzerland and Milan have suggested that a compound found in red wine,peanuts and grapes can slow down the aging process and help in increasing lifespan.

The compound is a natural antioxidant called resveratrol.The latest discovery could result in development of drugs that extend life or treat patients for Alzheimer's,Parkinson's,cancer,atheroscelorosis and brain disorders.A team of researchers at the London School of Medicine and Queen Mary University found that a group of chemicals called polyphenols decreased manufacture of endothelin-1 in the walls of the arteries which is the likely cause of buildup of fatty substances that lead to heart attacks.

A glass or two of red wine a day improves vital body functions.It has a protective effect on our health even at the level of the common cold.And 'Cabernet Savignon' topped the list of red wines having the most positive impact on health.

The best thing of course is not to go overboard after reading these reports.Alcohol in red wine is a known toxic and therefore the consumption must be kept low. And to reap the benefit, consumption must be consistent.We have to keep things in perspective.What is the message?

1) Stick to a balanced diet.
2) Do regular exercises.
3) Have a non-excessive lifestyle.
4) And wash it down with 2 glasses of Cabernet Savignon!.

Cheers! Red wine is sublime.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Khushboo,Suhasini and Sania.What do these three women have in common? The first two are superstars from Tamil Nadu filmdom.And Sania is the tennis sensation from Hyderabad who recently appeared in the cover page of the Time magazine.

And what did they say or do that created so much of hungama? They had a different view on premarital sex from many others.And they dared to express it.Overnight,Khusboo's popularity crashed and Suhasini who came to her rescue found out that she too was in the doghouse.Sania very quickly retracted her statement.

Khushboo,39 years old,and mother of two said that men should not expect their brides to be virgins anymore.There is nothing wrong with premarital sex as long as it was protected sex.She also wondered whether all Tamils were chaste.

All hell broke loose;she was pelted with stones,chappals and rotten eggs,her house attacked and hundreds of court cases slapped on her.She went on the air and TV and apologised.Her detractors would not bite it.The sense and sensibility of the Tamils had been severely hurt.

Some came to her rescue.Many did not.It was too volatile a subject and no one wanted to burn their fingers.

A few days later,on HIV-AIDS Day,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about a change in attitudes that was required and suggested that one ought to be careful in sex as the danger of AIDS was lurking otherwise.Many said that Khushboo stood vindicated.

Many issues came up for discussion and debate. Freedom of expression,north and south,English media and Tamil media.By advocating safe pre-marital sex,Khushboo has attacked family values.It is an assault on family values and Tamil culture said the Dravidian protogonists.

Khushboo who runs a very successful programme for Jaya TV,was not spared by Jayalalitha either.Though initially there was no major reaction after her statements,Sun TV raked it up and raised the frenzy to embarass threir arch-rival JJ.Khushboo, in whose honour temples have been built by her fans, also appeared in the cover page of a film magazine kissing another woman.

In Tamil films there is more vulgarity and cheap sexual thrills than in Hindi movies.And the fans like it and lap it up.Why then this hypocricy? Doublestandards?

Khushboo has lost her khushboo.It is now Badboo.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


The seasonal fruits have arrived and that too in plenty.All roads in Mumbai now lead to Crawford Market,where you get the best of fruits.It is a joyous development.

Built in 1871 and named after Mumbai's first Municipal Commissioner Arthur Crawford,the fruit cum vegetable market was renamed after the local patriot Jyotiba Phule.Built in part Norman and part Flennish architectural styles,the structure has a 50ft high skylit awning allowing natural sunlight everywhere.It has a Clock Tower and steeple.Just above the main entrance,the building has a bas relief work depicting Indian peasants in wheat fields.The friez was designed by Lockyard Kipling,at the School of Art(now JJ School of Art) father of the famous Rudyard Kipling.The whole building was donated by Cowasji Jehangir in 1869.Located at the junction of D N Road and Cama Road,it is just a 2 minutes drive from the VT station.

The beautiful architecture seems wasted as the maintenance of the Market is very poor as it is now under the BMC umbrella.Inspite of this negative,the attraction still remains strong because it has a strong reputation for having under one roof the best quality fruits and vegetables.Everyday huge truckloads of fruits-oranges,apples,cherries,big custardapples, pomegranate,chikoo,etc arrive from inland and from the seaport.Besides you get meat and poultry products as well.And don't forget imported chocolates and cheese!.There are flower shops and provisions stores as well.It is a huge onestop market but urgently needing a makeover.Crawford Market lost some of its sheen when in 1996,the wholesale market was moved to Navi Mumbai.The beautiful architecture can still attract tourists if properly renovated and maintained.Like in Singapore.

This season there is an embarrassment of riches on the apple front.Apples from Kashmir and Simla,and even from Australia and USA.Dasharath G Kale of Datta Krupa Fruit and Company,fresh fruits merchant as his visiting card indicates,was exuberant when i met him.I bought all my requirement of fruits from him as soon as he finished giving me a quick rundown.The red plump apples from Kashmir are in great demand.Also the golden variety from Simla and the green golden apples from USA.And Dasharath Kale said proudly that domestic fruits are in greater demand than the 'phoren' variety.This year the orange crop has been very successful and they taste delicious.They are mostly from Nagpur.It was a treat to see his stall.He had neatly stacked his inventory of fruits which gave an aesthetically pleasing display.He is courteous,friendly and honest.He sells competitively and for laymen who do not understand how to differentiate and discrimnate among fruits his help in selection was invaluable.You come out with a pleasant feeling of having bought wholesome fruits at reasonable prics and not having been taken for a ride.

It is the time to detoxify.After all, the sweets consumed in the Divali season must have had a heavy toll on one's digestive system.A well balanced intake of solid fruits and fruitjuices throughout the day will greatly help in getting rid of toxic matter and will leave you looking fresh and with more energy.

And when you take inseason fruits it doesn't make a big hole in your pocket.For example,apples from Simla at Rs 80 per kg,custard apples in the range of Rs 50 to Rs 100 for a kg,oranges from Nagpur at Rs 60 to Rs 70 a dozen,kiwis from New Zealand at Rs 25 a kilo,plums from USA for Rs 120 per kg and green golden apples from USA for Rs 100 per kg.Rs 160 for a box of 40 pieces of figs from Loni,Maharashtra,strawberry from Mahabaleshwar at Rs120 for 1/2 kg and sweet tamarind from Thailand for Rs 100 per packet.

Eat an apple before going to bed and make the doctor beg for his bread!

Saturday, December 03, 2005


When I was in New York last month, the ad guru,61 year old Niki French made headlines for all the wrong reasons.The best advertising copywriter had met his Waterloo.The Global Creative Director of WPP put his foot in his mouth when asked why the women in his agency didn't make it to the top.He responded with the title of this post.There was hell let loose after that and the cigarsmoking adguru had to put in his papers.The bloggers who got him out raised their glasses for the victim whom they had felled.

Someone said,he is rude,insensitive and offensive. At work he is nasty but an absolutely superb creative man. When he was quizzed by the press,Niki reacted by saying that he never said that all female creative directors are crap."There has to be total commitment which women don't have because the industry is very demanding."

Few bought that line and there were no tears when he had to make a dramatic exit. What a sad end to a glorious career.
His insensitivity and indiscretion brought about his downfall.

Some say he has a point. And that there are figures to support him. And that men make better lateral thinkers.That, in my opinion,is very debatable.

One Packs A Punch,The Other Flys High

Who are these two you see in the pictures? Is there anything common between them? Yes,both are priests. Also they are practitioners of martial art. A necessary survival kit these days. One is a karate specialist. The other is a kung fu exponent.

Seshadri is his name. The third dan black belt karate expert. He is a vadagalai iyengar priest at the Ashtalakshmi Temple in Besant Nagar,Chennai. He is an early morning riser and does 'kata' practice with the help of wooden and steel weapons. 'Torfa','sai' and 'nin-chuk'. He is coached under the watchful eyes of Dayalan and his ambition is to win tournaments. He secured 1st rank in the All-India Karate Open Tournament-2004. His son Sriram and daughter Aishwarya are following in their father's footsteps. A punch,a side-chop and an elbow-thump sent a drunken trio reeling on the streets some time ago. The people who were witnesses to this blizkreig were struck with awe and wonder at a 'vadhyar' going hammer and tongs at the law-breakers and eveteasers.

The man in yellow robes and a Buddha-like smile is a Shaolin monk. He is a pastmaster in kung-fu craft. He is a member of a 20 strong team of Buddhist monks who perform some awesome jaw dropping feats. They run at spears and break iron bars on their heads. The Shaolin monk is a high flyer in the ancient kung-fu art and a wellknown priest in China.

Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan are household names the world over for their tiger and monkey moves. And they are rolemodels for the youth who want to master the art of kungfu and karate.

A welloiled mind and a flexible body are passports to success. Seshadri and the Shaolin monk plan to train youngsters in their respective countries through shlokas,yoga,kungfu,karate and judo.That would make our youth winners all the way.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


The subject of brands always fascinates me.When I was young and I am referring to the late 40s, we were familiar with some consumer brands which have still survived.I thought that was something amazing. For instance,it was Margo soap of Bengal Chemicals or Colgate toothpaste,which were de riguer at home. And these are still household names. A family friend working in the Navy would get us our requirement of Ovaltine every month which was then our morning cuppa tea. And to improve body resistance,we were given the famous Waterbury Compound. When we suffered from some minor burns it was always Burnol and it was used for cuts as well(it was their adline,not only for burns but cuts also) .And my father used a 7 o'clock shaving blade followed by the Aqua Velva aftershave. I recall how he was aghast when I stealthily removed this bottle from his suitcase when he had returned from one of his business tours only to allow it to slip out of my hands. It broke into smithereens and spread the fragrance for some days in the room. And when it came to groomimg one's hair it would be Brylcream for the elder gents. For us it used to be pure coconut oil!

I still remember the first cigarette that I smoked. It was a friend who gave me a 'Scissors' cigarette,'kainchi', as it was referred to.I used to envy those who used to flash "Capstan'packets and 'Goldflake' cigarette tins and make a fashion statement. For some it was Pond's cream for the face and for others Cuticura powder. Almost all these brands are still alive and kicking. Many years later we made a slight shift in brand loyalty(not all of us though) by moving over from Cuticura to Yardley.

When I read recently that Lornamead of UK had bought over the Yardley brand for 60 million pounds, I realised that some products could also enjoy immortality. First produced and sold in 1770,Yardley of London,the essence of Englishness,has changed hands.The buyers are Jatanias,a Gujju family who migrated from Uganda during Idi Amin's pogrom about 40 years ago.They are four brothers,the youngest is Mike and the brains and face of the family business.They are together and their philosophy is 'let dynasty not become dallas'.Something our Ambanis and Birlas and Piramals and Bajajs can learn. Jatanias have been snapping up 'orphan consumer products' at a rapid pace.30 brands in last 5 years for 100 million pounds.With a 650 million pound empire they are no 3 in Asia's Rich List.They are exuding wealth and also exuding the unforgettable fragrance of English Rose Yardley.Who knows they may give it a twist by giving Yardley a Gujju sugandh.