Archive for the 'China' Category

Too small an order…

…a refrain I’ve heard so often that I’m beginning to wonder whether I’m thinking too small or it is just a sales gimmick in India? It seems to be everywhere if you are the one trying to manufacture or make something- electronic toys, wooden toys, cardboard boxes, plastic games or toys. No one seems to be interested in creating a proof with you to move you to the next level, everyone wants the straight cut 10k piece order. The ones who are willing to do cut lots of corners on quality!

Is our manufacturing sector so bottom line stingy that it does not take ANY risks? How will we create a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship on such an ecosystem and mindset?

May you live in interesting times…

That is what a very popular Chinese quote says. I was literally at the end of my wits a couple of days ago. There was an unscheduled power cut of nearly 4 hours starting in the night where I live in Bangalore. (And no, I don’t have power backup installed because we thought and still think it is a luxury!).

Ok, coming back to my point of the Chinese quote. I fired up the Google reader from my mobile and started reading all the different blogs that I had not had time for in the past couple of days. As time went by and I didn’t feel bored in a “powerless” state, I realized how important it was that despite the challenges somethings did work. I was thankful for living in interesting times where I had the wisdom of the world’s best at my fingertips even if the “power” situation was out of my control.

Would you like to share any incident where you felt the same – that “you are living in interesting times”?

Stereotypes galore – The danger of a single story, Chimamanda Adichie

For those of who haven’t heard this ted talk – please do so here. A shoutout to Nandini, for pointing this one out!!! The talk is about how we stereotype people based on a the different versions of the single story that we hear about them, over our lifetime. Chimamanda walks the fine line between incisive comments and skepticism, very well. Her observations shine a light on your own personal experiences, without making you feel angry towards those involved.

1. The India story in the US – The story of a unique “Indian Identity”. Questions range from – “What do you Indians eat for breakfast?”, “What is your traditional dress?”, “What are the traditional festivals?” and were surprised to know that the answers varied depending on the region that a person belonged to in India. Of all things, we Indians can identify with her irritation at Africa being identified as a “country” ( in her case, it is even factually wrong). In India, except that, in spite of being one country, we could be as well different countries for all we care. Our identity is so rooted by where (or where all :)) we grew up in India that it is hard to capture in generalizations . However, are the others aware of it? Are the stories we tell as multi-faceted or as representative of our diversity, as we are? Is there an opportunity to better spread this awareness around?

2. The US story in India – I was equally guilty of falling into this “one story” trap. Of assuming that, all the people in the US were “experts” in their fields and was in for a shock to find that they were all as human as we are and as prone to “not knowing” something despite years of experience in a field. To their credit, my experience, so far has been that they acknowledged it and figured out what to do about it!

3. The Indian story in China – Now, this was a complete shock to me. Beyond the huge media barricade and censorship, the only “real” connection that the Chinese have of India is through “Bollywood” . This innocent question of theirs proves the point, “Where is that round thing you put on your forehead?, Are all Indian women as beautiful as Ayshwarya Rai?, Do you all dress so elegantly and richly, all the time?” I cannot help but acknowledge that the questions mildly amused me and also that, I never figured how to answer that question without feeling like I was both the winner and the loser!

3. The “Regions” Story in India – My growing years were spent travelling across the country, from school to school, across regions and I cannot for my good heavens understand, how a punjabi can be different from a delhite but all south-indians be “madrassis”? Have we thought of what stories we can tell our fellow countrymen that they learn to better appreciate the differences, while not differentiating?

4. The story of how “only” regional languages preseve the culture in India – There are several “save the regional language” campaigns running across the country, in India, at any given point in time. Again, having grown up in different parts of India and used to speaking a medley of 4 different languages, I could never appreciate this. However, something dawned on me as I was listening to Chimamanda. It was a fact that we are impressionable by the kind of literature we read, we think in the language we read, we want to write what we read and more often that not, we desire (romanticize?) what we read. So, in the heads of those running this campaign, people reading English books are thinking “like” a foreigner or to be even more precise, thinking in “English”, which hits at the core of “alien-ness”. They want people to be more “regional”, instead.

All I can say is that, they are getting it all wrong. The regional languages are playing catch up here, at best. English has become the global language of choice (if Chinese does not displace it that is!) for the coming decades. The sheer volume of books available is so large that they are ubiquitious. One, there is nothing wrong in thinking in “english”, if the stories of the local culture are also being trasmitted and made available in that language and second, there is no one single entity that defines any given culture/region in India, hence being open to your story being trasmitted through other mediums might preserve its multi-faceted nature, while reaching out as an entity in itself at the same time. In short, acknowledging that it might be high time to decouple culture and language, might help us crusade for causes that can make an impact – money laundering, poverty, illiteracy, pollution, waste management, for starters?

Moral of the story, a single view, a single version, a single meeting, a single experience point to judge people, state, country – creates stereotypes that can be dangerous and prevent us from exploring the true beauty of what life is all about and understanding how connected we are, in as many ways as we are different!

PS: This ran longer than I had anticipated and I have attempted to keep it coherent. Do feel free to comment/ping me if it resonates at some level with you too!

China’s U-Turn On The One Child Policy

On July 24th, China announced a “partial-lift” on it’s one child policy, which means that urban couples who were each only single children will be allowed to have two children. In the past, urban couples were only allowed one child, rural couples, who had a girl as their first child were always allowed to have a second child and ethnic minorities were exempted from the one-child policy completely.

What has it done for China, so far?

People over 60 make up 22 per cent of the city’s total population, a number that is expected to grow to 34 per cent in 2020. China’s “one-child” policy, first implemented in 1979, has resulted in 400 million fewer births, according to the government, based on the source here, and this could potentially have inverted the demographics in favor of younger generation (85:15) at the cost of a larger population, overall.

To begin with there are speculations abound that, the one-child policy did not achieve much. Birth rate fell from 2.9 (1979) gradually over 25 years and stablized at 1.7 (2004). However, for a short 10 year period preceding the policy the birth rate fell from 5.9 to 2.9. Also, East-Asian neighbors have achieved much lower birth rates during the same time period – Hongkong (0.91), Singapore (1.04), Japan (1.38), according to the source – here.

How Will China React?

Many people used to the concept of a single child, as they grew up, may not want to go for the option For quite a few of the rest, the need to spend a hefty amount on child rearing, limitation on personal time and probably even hindrance with their professional careers might be reason enough not to opt for it. So, what does that leave us with? A probable option of willing, ageing grand parents raising the second child! Whatever it is, it is going to be another radical shift that the population will endure and cope with, in less than a generation, as the world watches on.

For me, personally, this is a quiet moment of reflection on the long term, voluntary, 2-child policy adopted by India which was a balanced approach towards handling demographics while reining in the population.

My Chinese Impressions – Part 8

Me n’ Entertainment in China…

Online and TV Entertainment

The interesting blogs I found ranged from China bashing to ones that helped me learn some Chinese to ones that very passionately went along in the Mandarin script – depriving me of the valuable insights that they were offering.

In my TV entertainment section if I don’t mention Bloomberg, I would be missing out on something important. Most of the nights when I returned to my hotel room from work and switched on the TV, there was Bloomberg had a fumbling Maithreyi Raman who gave me company. She generally analyzed hi-tech stocks on Bloomberg and had me all amused when she fumbled her way merrily along for many weeks on just basic number reporting off the charts. Left me thinking who gave her the job, anyway?

The fake DVD cartel

Outside of all major malls and shopping areas in Shanghai, there runs a very organized and low cost and surprisingly, fixed price fake DVD Cartel. It is so organized and the price is so well-known that you don’t have to interact with the person who is standing with the DVDs. All you need to do is browse through their collection, chose the ones you want, give him the fixed price/DVD and walk away. These provided entertainment for several days…

Around Shanghai in less than 2 days 🙂

My first few weeks in Shanghai, I was looking to go explore something unique. There was an acrobatic show at a cultural center and I dragged my colleague to see the show. The show was a disaster – with the acrobats falling down a couple of times and overall nothing spectacular. What was more, it was less of a “ethnic cultural” thing and more of an “china culture showcase for expats/foriengers” thing, but we did have some good food at the restaurant attached to the cultural center!

Later, towards the end of my stay in Shanghai, we went on a whirlwind tour of Shanghai – ranging from some cultural landmarks to pub hopping (believe me, pubs in Shanghai are extremely cosmopolitan with respect to the crowd as well as music played). There is a club called “M on the Bund” very close to the Bund in Shanghai where the DJ even plays Hindi music and I noticed names like “Arundhati Roy” in invitee list for some event at the pub!

Anyhow, spicy food at a side alley near a Buddhist temple in Shanghai, random pub hopping where a few girls almost jumped on top of my one colleagues, locating the Arabian Nights restaurant with belly dancers (we reached their way past the dance time, though!) and finally eating Greek food on the same street…are a few experiences I will never forget!

Hangzhou – Venice of the East

Picture of West Lake with the Pagoda in the background at Hangzhou (also known as Venice of the East)

My Chinese Impressions – Part 7

Democracy, Communism, what the heck!

If you ever thought about India and China – democracy, communism and the impact on people would have crossed your mind. Well, me being me and having the tendency to ignore the over-hyped stuff – I ignored all the ruckus around me on restrictive information access in China. I thought, how tough can it really be if I don’t know what I’m missing – I’m not really going to be affected – right? Right in a way, but that is where the catch was, to begin with.

As I was browsing in my hotel room in Shanghai, the shocking revelation of dawned on me. A lot of websites were blocked, news was filtered, some of my favorite blogs were blocked (heck, some entire blog platforms were blocked) and I was squirming at the message on the browser like a child who had set its heart on something and couldn’t get it…knowing very well that it was within reach and maybe, (the well-intentioned) parents had hidden it from view.

Well, I did think about this a lot later and it was a good opportunity to discuss with colleagues and friends off-hand while I was in China. Some of our longer taxi conversations evolved into long winded politically loaded discussions with people taking strong sides…on are people genuinely happier in a democracy? Has democracy really delivered, what is this hype about? What about the monarchies we used to have 400-500 years ago – were they happier times? What does a communist state imply? Are our bureaucracy and judiciary systems running communist states of their own? Who is responsible for welfare in a federal, democratic state in which people still identify themselves by the factional caste they belong to rather than the nation? If there is growth and progress around and people around you also had similar lack of rights to own property or have more than one child – would it really bite you that you didn’t have those rights?


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