Posts Tagged 'Better India'

Tie-ISB Connect 2009 – Part 3: Taking India Forward and The Next 800 Million

I apologize for delaying this part of the post. This will be my last post in this series and I shall cover two panel discussions. Taking India Forward and the Next 800 Million Opportunity. I chose to club the two for the simple reason that they are, in my mind, related. You cannot take India forward without moving the next 800Million through opportunities and choices.

The panel consisted of Jayaprakash Narayan (Thought Leader, Speaker Par Excellence and Politician), Reuben Abraham (Exec Director and Asst Prof, Centre for Emerging Markets, ISB), Madhukar CV (Director PRS Legislative Services) and Siddharth (Actor, Rang De Basanti-fame). It was moderated by Karuna Gopal (President Foundation of Futuristic Cities). All of them you can check up at their respective LinkedIn profiles that I’ve added to their names :). There was an interesting discussion around “urbanisation” and the sheer obliviousness to the fact that, at the current rate of urbanization, if we are not careful we will need 300-400 more cities in the next 10 years. Are we prepared?

Siddharth was the surprise package (and I’m adding a paragraph on his talk here by popular demand on my blog for his speech summary). He was not only a fluent speaker but also displayed great passion and lucid thinking along with a no nonsense approach to the subject. He vociferously vouched against three things in India – our “rodent-like” memory to quickly forget the atrocities met to us, the habit of our media to sensationalize and the inability of a small fry in the system to stand up and make a difference due to the system. He cited personal examples of his visit to a CM to offer help for relief work and how he was shown the door without being allowed to utter so much as a word. His stance of, “If I as a celebrity could not make things happen, what can a small fry do to help even if he wants to. Moreover, why would he want to?”, had quite a few feathers ruffled.

In the Next 800 Million opportunity, the discussion was mainly around the issues and challenges faced by the markets and marketeers alike. Panel consisted of Sarath Naru (Venture East), Dr. Ashwin Naik (Vaatsalya Healthcare), Sandeep Farias (Elevar Equity), Manish Khera (Fino), PN Vasudevan (Finance India Ltd), Harish Moily (MYA) and MR Rao (SKS Microfinance). The panel was co-chaired by Vishal Vasishth (SONG Advisors) and S Sivakumar (ITC Agro). The best part was when the discussion centred around the fact that the rural people paid much more for a poorer quality of service they received across board! And, I couldn’t help compare the “so-called” Indian upper middle-class or “wealthy” section and the service they received vs what is available outside India. I think there is a huge value and quality gap there and I can’t even begin to imagine the negative percolation that seeps across sectors in the different parts of India and what poor quality of service and product offerings are given for the same/higher value to the “have-nots”. Talk about the system being unfair and the playfield being levelled? I think we should stop reading books written (with sponsorships, of course!) by foriegners and start looking at our own backyard. We will be shocked at what we find or, rather, do not find!

As next steps, so that the discussion does not end here. I would like to help create channels online and offline so that these thoughts can be crystallized into tangible actions. Anyone game for it? Thoughts on what we can do? How we can take the ideas forward and make a concentrated effort to drive action? Pls reach out to me.

What is right in India?

My good friend, Vinod Jain, and I were having a discussion on the kind of things that don’t work in India and the list goes on…you know, I know, we all know!

But, that is when I got thinking, there are certain things that do work and have been working reasonably well. Given the size of the population, the scaling and execution challenges they have and given the low margins they work on, they are doing a pretty good job. Here goes my list:

1. Online Travel Agencies (OTA) – Man, this works! I can get a ticket booked without ever having to stand in a line and not having to pay a huge premium for the service. Cleartrip, Makemytrip, IRCTC, Redbus and the list goes on….a big shout out, thank you guys! One knows the system works, when you need to do things beyond the plain vanilla bookings, like multi-leg flights, cancellations, postponements, changing portions of the journey and trust me, all of this works and works well.

2. Online Banking – Again, I can do most of my banking work online without having to visit the branch (if I chose to do so). Again, the system works, I can do everything ranging from pay my mobile bill, electricity bill to deliver a demand draft to a requested address, all without going anywhere or standing in a line, anywhere!

3. Enable India – This is an NGO that works to empower differently abled people in India and not only does it cater to skill improvement, it helps them find a job as well as does work place evaluation on a regular basis to ensure fitment. I personally met up with a friend who has used their services and it changed his life for the better, so again kudos to you!

I’m sure one can say that most of these services, especially the two of the first ones is limited by the access to internet and that is changing too. With a heavy push from the Government to connect semi-urban and rural areas, we are well on our way to addressing the bottom of the pyramid. There are a lot of initiatives underway to cater to financial, infrastructure and health needs in these areas and private players are taking active interest to provide low cost, effective solutions for the same. More about some of these initiatives in an upcoming post.

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