Sunday, 28 August 2011

How to look ridiculous

This blogger freely admits to being severely sartorially challenged. The words fashion, smartly dressed, even, nice shirt, are outside his lexicon. It is therefore entirely appropriate that a learned treatise on the recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week features as this Sunday post. For those unacquainted with this earth shattering event, it is the premier event in India where impossibly thin human beings (mostly female) walk with a funny walk, looking like having descended from outer space and get ogled at by a horde of notebook clutching "experts".

This is India. This blogger has eloquently expressed his opinion on the clothing tendencies of the Indian female here.  Now, compare that with the presumably "hot" outfits on full display at the aforementioned fashion event.

Have you ever seen anybody dressed like this ?

Or like this ?

Can you imagine Rajalakshmi like this

Or even like this ?

Alas, this is no longer a feminine preserve. There seem to be metrosexuals who want to look like this

Not even for fun can I picture Gils like this


Or Zeno like this

I mean, who wears such stuff ??  Have you seen a single human being attired like this ? OK OK - I don't frequent the crowd that features on Page 3 (for non Indians - Page 3 in Indian papers is not topless females; its photos of the so called party goers - apparently there are a breed who want their mug shots looking silly to feature in the papers). I am told reliably that such monstrosities may feature there.

Judging by the buhaha (word courtesy Reflections) over this event, there are presumably lots of people interested in such stuff. Corporate sponsors fall over themselves to be seen there. Now corporate sponsors are not exactly known for their wisdom when it comes to throwing away somebody else's money.  So everybody has a ball - the slightly weird lot who make this stuff, the anorexia addicted lot who wear this and walk that funny walk and the notebook clutching lot, who love a free drink and like to think that their opinion matters.

Well, to each his own. However, chances are that most people, if they see an apparition like this .......

.... are likely to run a few miles.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Tepid Beer

Here is an example of how corruption starts. Anti corruption sentiments are high in India these days , as any Indian reader would know.  This blogger, trying to be apolitical, steers clear of any comment on the movement launched by Anna Hazare. But an instance of how a warped economic policy breeds corruption would be entirely appropriate for this blog.

The state of Andhra Pradesh is the largest beer market in India.This would not be surprising to readers with some knowledge of the state. Its is a large state with lots of people. It is also "blessed" with one of the hottest climes in the country. Naturally a cold beer would be very welcomed by many.

Unfortunately the neta babu raj is very much alive and kicking in the beer industry in Andhra Pradesh. The government decides what brands of beer you can buy, from whom and at what price. A very worthy organisation called the Andhra Pradesh Beverages Corporation Ltd  exists staffed by Ramamrithams of all shapes and hues. They tender for all the beer to be sold in the state and decide how much is to be bought from each company.

Some years back United Breweries (Vijay Mallya's company) and SAB Miller (a global giant) virtually sold all of the beer in the state. A year back government policy changed stating that they would buy beer from companies in the proportion of their national market share (only a Ramamritham can think like this). This massacred SAB Miller and benefited UB hugely - ( for sake of absolute clarity let me categorically state that I am not implying that UB had any say in this decision). Recently, the policy got reversed, benefiting SAB Miller (ditto clarification regarding any influence of SAB Miller in this decision)

What is the government doing deciding whose beer you should drink. Its none of its business. Hasn't it heard of consumer preference, supply and demand, etc etc. Why is beer any different from the hundreds of products that are bought and sold daily. There is some mistaken belief that the government should protect its citizens from the harmful effects of liquor consumption (??) and that is best achieved by controlling it. Quite apart from it being nonsensical thinking, government control is the surest way to drive bootlegging underground and spark the all too frequent illicit liquor tragedy. 

There is every temptation in an environment like this for normal commercial decisions to be taken on criteria other than economic. Why leave this window for corruption? The state of Andhra Pradesh has many issues confronting it. It needs to address so many problems. Production, distribution and pricing of beer is not one of them. Governments should get out of normal commercial activity. Let the market decide.

Corruption is a many headed hydra. Effective policing is one aspect of the solution and can be a good deterrent. Eliminating an environment that breeds corruption is also equally important.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Never mind chaps, let's move on

The true test of character is in times of adversity. For an Indian sports fan, it has been adversity with a capital A, the past two weeks. India has suffered a heavy defeat , actually a pasting, against England. A series , that was billed as the clash between the top two teams in the world, turned out embarrassingly one sided. We can take defeat, but its rather hard to swallow being thumped.

These things happen in sport. India is not as bad a team as it appears. And England is not as good a team as it would like to believe.Nothing went right for India and everything went right for England. England were certainly the better team and deserved to win. But the crushing nature of victory was unexpected, to say the least.

It is in the natural order of things that sportsmen are defied when they win and are torn apart when they lose. The Indian team has already started to take a hiding and will no doubt be insulted with every possible epithet.  Somebody's house will, no doubt, be stoned. Pundits, and there are many, will decry the mercenary attitude of the players. IPL has spoilt them. They don't care for their country anymore. The team is ageing and everybody above 30 must be sacked. Blah Blah Blah.

It's in times of adversity that character shows. Character of all the people concerned. The fan, to take it philosophically and to stand behind the team. Resist the temptation to kick the guy who has fallen, for that is all too easy. It takes character to look for flaws to patch up and further improve when you are winning handsomely. And to put an arm around the shoulder and say better luck next time, when the chips are down. 

The character of the players as well. To them this has been a ruder shock, they themselves would have never expected. After all they won the World Cup just a few months ago. And these are roughly the same lot who have performed heroics after heroics for many a year. This must be the most depressing moment of all. But this is the time to let true character show. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps. There is one more test to go. At the Oval, where India has traditionally performed well. Put the past three tests behind you. You have nothing to lose now. Stand up tall and be counted.  Play freely without the burden of the crushing defeat. And exit the disastrous series on a  more positive note.

Its also in moments of great victory that the character of the victors are shown too. To be graceful in victory.  They have won a resounding and thoroughly deserved victory. They have been on a roll in test cricket at least over the past 2 years. They are entitled to gloat. But they will stand even taller if they showed some of that noble British quality of restraint and understatement..English cricketers, and sports writers, have not exactly distinguished themselves with grace in the past. Let us see if this time it will be different.

As in cricket, so in life. If it's a moment of great victory for you, you deserve every cheer. But if it's a moment when life has dealt you a rough hand, you deserve a warm hug.

And so to the Indian team. Never mind old chaps. Let's move on. You guys are still our heroes. Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Stop watching the stock market ticker

As stock markets fell on Monday there was the predictable response from governments. Take for example the Indian Finance Minister. He says "we are prepared to address any concern that may arise on account of the present situation".  He should do no such thing. Stock markets should not drive government policy.

Have you noticed that the bleating and braying is all one sided. When markets are rising, nobody wants the government within one million miles of their trying to fill their pockets as fast as possible. When markets are falling , governments should come and "help them". Nonsense. Just as stock markets fell, you see the price of gold skyrocketing. I am yet to hear anybody express concern on where that market is heading.

For that matter, why be only concerned about stock markets ? Why not debt markets. Or, as above, gold markets. Or platinum markets. Or whatever.

Governments should simply adopt the right economic policy for the long term. Of course, they have to react to economic events, but that would be in the form of reacting to say a recession or overheating. Not to stock markets falling.  Stock markets, in the short term, are largely in the hands of speculators. More than 95% of transactions are speculative in nature. They perform a useful economic function - that of providing liquidity. But they need no support and certainly not an ounce of the time of the Finance Minister. If they mint money gambling, good luck to them. If they lose their shirts, well tough luck.

India is not in a bad position in the current situation. Unlike China, its not so dependant on exports and therefore the impact of a possible global recession will be lesser. India's growth will continue to be strong. The falling oil prices is a huge boon ; this can be the solution to controlling inflation, the most serious problem facing the nation today. Speculative inflows may dry up, but investment is not a problem - the country remains one of the most attractive markets in the world. The demographic dividend continues - India has a young population and not a dwindling supply of productive individuals. The Finance Minister has many things on his plate. Controlling corruption. Eliminating wastes and handouts. Restraining the burgeoning national debt. Continuing with reform and remove the current malaise of masterly inactivity. He doesn't need to watch the Sensex. When the shrill, loud, breathless "journalist" from CNBC asks him about it, the correct response should be - Sensex ? What Sensex ?

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Watch out Bollywood

Which country produces the largest number of films every year ? The answer is easy - India, some 1300 films in all. Which country is the second largest producer of films ? You might scratch your head or have guessed Hollywood. Wrong. The reality is Nigeria. Watch out Bollywood; Nollywood is all set to overtake you.

The Nigerian film industry is apparently thriving and booming. Its the film capital for all of Africa. Some 1000 films are apparently made each year. Unlike the more traditional format of movie halls, Nigerian films are mostly released on videos - there's hardly much of the theatre format in Nigeria and almost all of Africa. Each video costs some US$ 2 or so - cheap enough to be affordable and not worth counterfeiting. The distribution channel is therefore by retail stores for home viewing. No doubt, cheap video parlours would have sprung up for those unable to own a video player.

The industry is still small - Only some $250m or so. But with enormous potential. Africa is under served by entertainment. Movies are a great way to bring some cheer to  people - as India has so amply demonstrated. A peculiarly African solution has emerged. A distribution system and a pricing methodology that suits the market. Videos rather than hall screenings. 

India is virtually saturated by movies. I read that an astounding 3.2 bn cinema admissions happen in a year in India. That's an average viewing of 3 films per year per person. Amazing. I know that such a number is laughably low for movie buffs such as  Zeno, but you must also count that there are worthies like me with a viewing habit of precisely zero. How much more can India grow - not much. Whereas in Africa, the market is still virgin.

Gils has some competition here. At this site you can read reviews of Nollywood movies. At this site you can even watch them. They seem to have a tendency to raunchiness in their titles - "Obama Babes" goes a movie title. "Ladies Gang" goes another. Before you get any ideas, these are not that sort of a movie - they seem to be more of the serials type of stuff that are inflicted on the unsuspecting public world over.

I might be even tempted to watch one of them and write a review !!!!!

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