Random Musings

Every once in a while, I do not know what to blog. Today is one which day. I have a few topics that I’d like to write about but they require some thought and time, and I haven’t been able to do either of them lately! So, think of this as a placeholder where you can give some suggestions. A few topics I plan to write about sometime soon:

  • Good Books that I have read/ am reading
  • Digital real-time communications
  • Personal Portals, Microblogs, Mobile Social Networking
  • More Entrepreneurship Experience Learnings
  • A Letter to our PM
  • A Centre-right vision for India

Any suggestions from you?

    Atanu Dey’s book “Transforming India” now available on Flipkart

    “Transforming India: Big Ideas for a Developed Nation” by Atanu Dey is now available for sale on Flipkart for Rs 200.

    If you care about India’s future, then this is a must-read book. Here is more about the book and Atanu:

    Book Summary of Transforming India

    Have you ever wondered-

    • Why is India so poor?
    • Is India a free country really or is it under “British Raj 2.0” post 1947?
    • How can it become a rich nation?
    • How will India meet the challenges it faces in energy, urbanization, transportation and infrastructure?
    • What will it take to fix India’s dysfunctional education system?
    • Where should the focus of rural development be – rural people or rural areas?
    • Why does the “license permit quota control raj” inevitably lead to rampant public corruption?
    • Should government run businesses at massive public losses?
    • What can you do to make a difference and bring about positive change?

    If you have, then this book is for you.

    It is about India’s possible transformation from a very poor, impoverished, “Third-world” nation to a rich, developed, dynamic country by 2040. For us to make that happen, we must intelligently ask and honestly answer questions such as those. This book is an attempt at addressing them and outlining a course of action. We must act but awareness and understanding have to precede action. We have to understand precisely what has impeded India’s progress to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. We have to rescue and transform India – we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our children’s children.

    Atanu Dey received his PhD in economics from University of California at Berkeley. He is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and Rutgers University (computer science), and of Nagpur University (mechanical engineering.) As a Reuters Fellow at Stanford University, he developed a model for catalyzing rural economic development called RISC. On his blog “On India’s Development” at www.deeshaa.org, he writes on a wide range of topics such as education, technology, economics and politics. Atanu lives in the San Francisco Bay area and works as the chief economist at NetCore Solutions in Mumbai.

    Daily News Cycle

    It is easy to miss the forest for the trees. Reading the newspapers daily is a bit like that. So much noise, so little signal. Especially in the past few days with the political events that have been taking place.

    The focus has to be on India’s development. Very little of what we are seeing nowadays is taking us in that direction. That is the unfortunate part. And many of us get caught in the maelstorm of the news that comes through and the instant discussion that takes place on who is right and who is wrong, and the implications.

    The reality is that public memory is very short – 90 days, as someone once put it. Street protests and satyagraha did not get India’s freedom (contrary to the history we learn), and neither will it get black money back, a Jan Lok Pal Bill or end corruption. As a friend puts it, all it will do is increase sales of candles.

    Mumbai Monsoons

    It is that time of the year again! Having lived through yet another summer in an air-conditioned office and car (thankfully, at home, we still prefer the fan most of the time) and not noticed much of it, the rains will definitely make their presence felt. The rains started somewhat early last week and continued through for most of the weekend.

    Rains bring out many memories – and most of them relate to my school and college days. That is because one actually noticed and felt the rains so much more then. Now, the office cocoon has distanced me from the rains except seeing them beyond the water-proof glass partition. Getting drenched in the rains was so much fun – it is time to do it again perhaps!

    I also wish we would take water-harvesting much more seriously, like they do in Chennai and some other parts of India. It is tragic to see so much rainwater just get wasted away.

    July Vacation Plan

    Thanks very much for the suggestions.

    We have decided to go to two destinations for five days each for the vacation – Bali and Binsar. I guess Bali doesn’t need much explanation. Binsar (Uttarakhand) came up because of two reasons: I had some Club Mahindra days that were expiring, and I also wanted Abhishek to experience an India vacation. Binsar was one of the few ClubM properties that I could get a booking at, so decided to go there.

    So, quite a change. Just a few weeks ago, we were planning a 10-day visit to California, and now this. It will be different because much of this will be a “do-nothing” vacation – just relax. That is something which is a rarity on my busy vacations!

    Blog Past: Pretty Good Principles

    From a post a year ago:

    Middle India needs to agree on a set of principles that it believes in and which lie at the foundation of good governance. Think of these as “Pretty Good Principles.” (Thanks to my colleague, Atanu Dey, for this phrase.)

    So, what can these “Pretty Good Principles” be? Here is a starting recommendation.

    • Equality and non-discrimination: All citizens have equal rights and the government must treat all citizens equally.
    • Minimal government: Government must be restricted to matters related to judiciary, central monetary authority, law and order, external affairs, and defence.
    • Market economy: Government must not be in any business producing goods or services which the private sector can produce.
    • The Funding of Public Goods: Where justified, public goods may be subsidized through public funding. This includes some public utilities, education up to the high school level, and some science and technology related R&D.
    • An efficient and incorruptible justice system

    Weekend Reading

    This week’s links:

    • 5 Technologies that will shape the Web: from IEEE Spectrum. “We asked two dozen analysts, engineers, and executives to describe what technologies they think will shape our online experiences in the next several years.”
    • Big Data: from The Economist. ” Companies that can harness big data will trample data-incompetents. Data equity, to coin a phrase, will become as important as brand equity.”
    • Social Web beyond Facebook: by Liz Gannes. “What are other models of “social” besides Facebook’s current product? Could someone who does social better than Facebook mount a significant competitor to the site? And, most importantly, could they succeed?”
    • Playing Fast and Loose: by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. “A morally insidious vacuum in government. A self-proclaimed civil society displaying its own will to power. A media age where being off-balance gets you visibility. A public whose mood is punitive. An intellectual climate that peddles the politics of illusion. And all this in a context where government paralysis is enhancing the two biggest risks to the well-being of the poor — entrenched inflation and slowdown in growth. Instead of clamouring for visibility, we should follow old Baba Ramdev’s advice: take a deep breath.”
    • 12 Debates that define our Times: from Forbes India. “Complex debates that define our society analysed and resloved by the keenest thought leaders of our time.”

    BJP’s Project 275 for 2014 – Part 3

    Summarising:

    1.     For the BJP to form a govt at the Centre, it needs to focus winning not just 175 but 275 seats (or 225 + 45 with the three current NDA llies). Winning 275 needs a dramatically different strategy from trying to win 175. To get to 275 seats out of 350-odd seats, the BJP needs to ensure a “wave” election with a 75% hit rate. That needs to be focus of future efforts. A summation of state elections will only get us to 175-odd, and if the Congress manages 150, BJP will not be able to form the government.

    2.     A wave election last happened in India in 1984. BJP’s approach needs to be to work towards creating a wave in 2014 – across the country, and especially in the 330-350 seats where the BJP is competitive. No one, as far as I can tell, is thinking of what it takes to create a wave. 2014 may still be three years ago, but a lot of groundwork will need to be done to make this happen.

    3.     Switch focus from maximising allies to maximising seats for 2014. All strategy needs to be focused on this.

    I think various factors are coming together to create the foundation of a possible wave election in 2014. For one, look at the 90% hit rates that have happened in places in Bihar, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. (Assam came quite close.) The same concerns and issues have resonated across a state. I believe that something similar can happen nationally in 2014.

    Based on the above, the BJP’s focus needs to be to maximise seats and hit rate, and not maximise pre-poll allies.

    BJP’s Project 275 for 2014 – Part 2

    If we take the argument further, we need to look at two facts.

    • First, if one actually analyses the BJP’s Lok Sabha performance through the years (and a similar analysis can be done for the Congress), it will be seen that the party has won at least once in about 300 of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies.
    • Second, the BJP is in power directly or with an ally in 9 states which account for 170 seats. The party is competitive in states with 219 seats, and almost absent in states with 154 seats. Thus, for the BJP, the pool of seats where it has any chance of winning is about 389 (170+219), with about 55-60 seats going to its three current allies (JD-U in Bihar, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and Akali Dal in Punjab). That leaves the BJP competing to win in about 330 seats.

    States in which the BJP can get allies are states where the BJP has little or no presence. Thus, there is little benefit for a party to ally with the BJP prior to the election. In fact, the perception has been created that an alliance with the BJP may cost the ally votes from specific communities.

    The BJP’s best bet is to focus on these 330 seats and aim to win 225-250-275 of them. With the three present allies (JD-U in Bihar, Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, Akali Dal in Punjab, they must aim to reach the half-way mark of 272 on their own. Only then can they deliver the governance and development to the country that they have been doing at the states. The BJP needs to stop worrying about trying to get new allies because none will come, and even if they do, there is no guarantee they will stay after the elections. These fair weather allies will partner only with that party which helps them get power.

    Continued tomorrow.

    BJP’s Project 275 for 2014 – Part 1

    I wrote last week briefly about the need for BJP to change its focus from trying to get 175 seats in the next election in order to forma  government to aim for 275. Many of you wrote to me asking me to elaborate on the line of thinking. I will do so in a 3-part series.

    Congress has a natural advantage in government formation at the Centre even if BJP is the largest party. As long as Cong gets around 150 and BJP doesn’t get more than 175-180 (and of course Cong + BJP is greater than 272 so no Third alternative comes in), it will be a Cong govt. I think the Cong realises this, and that is what explains their actions, smugness and confidence. The BJP leadership focus only seems to be on 175 (as it was even in 2009).

    The goal for the BJP needs to change from trying to win 175 to winning 250-275. This point needs to be understood and agreed on. 175 seats will not get a BJP government in 2014. (This is because Congress has a greater pool of allies to choose from, and even if they win 150, they will be in a position to form a government with support from allies.) For 275, the focus needs to be either increasing geographical footprint in places it doesn’t exist, or increasing hit rate in seats the BJP contests. The former is a 10-year exercise, and the BJP should have started on that aggressively in 1998-99. It didn’t, and now the best it can hope for on that front is some results in 2024.

    So, the focus on increasing hit rate in seats. This is about creating a “sweep” or a wave. The question and focus needs to be on how that can be orchestrated that in the next elections in 2014.

    Continued tomorrow.