Monday, June 25, 2018

Rethinking India’s SAARC Outreach – A Legacy of Fractured Engagement

SAARC + ASEAN is emerging as an important strategic region in the world, and India should not only engage meaningfully with the region but also protect her interests. I wish to restrict my perspective in this article to SAARC, and wish to outline my views about rethinking India’s SAARC Outreach. With Pakistan’s bitter struggle at various global platforms marked by calumny, to paint India negatively - SAARC was an institution which never made any progress beyond the usual.

However, considering two of the major countries in the Group have nuclear capabilities, and almost all countries in the Group suffered from extremism and terrorism, prevalence of poverty, governance issues, underdevelopment and deep seated socio-political divisions and occasional territorial disputes in countries and between countries in the region – SAARC is successful in loosely holding the region together through such turbulences, without having major spill-overs. More so than in the past, SAARC region – given its geo-political and geo strategic location with absolutely essential maritime trade lanes in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea – is a region which India cannot ignore.

Though India has had a dominant role in the Grouping, no serious attempts were made, to address the trust deficit among the countries in the Group. Other such efforts such as EU, which took shape during the same time as SAARC inception - graduated from the Coal Community to Customs Union to Common Market, EC, Single Currency, Schengen visa regime and finally the EU.  With protectionist measures – such as by the present US Administration or the Brexit – there are strong headwinds   indicating a possibility for how SAARC might end up. This is not in India’s interest given the geo-political ramifications, with a cash-rich China in the neighbourhood, willing to dole out countries for better access to their domestic markets. 

India, given its size, population, economy and central location is indeed the pivot of SAARC. With Prime Minister Sri. Narendra Modi, inviting SAARC Leaders for his government’s inauguration in May 2014 – greater impetus was given to – neglected till then – participatory diplomacy in regional cooperation under SAARC. Though over the course of last four years, India has taken several initiatives to improve trade relations with all member countries – there are differences in perception of citizenry of member countries, which remain largely unaddressed thus far.

When we examine India’s relations with the region across three important spheres – economic, political and national security – there is enough reason to highlight the hesitant and a bit apathetic approach of the Indian Government towards better outlook/ties in the political sphere, which is adversely impacting our national security compass. It can be argued that India should adopt a synergistic approach which will intertwine all the three spheres into one – and such measures would have an inevitable effect of simultaneously enhancing regional cooperation with member countries as well as address national security concerns.

Recent overtures by China with at least 5 out of 7 member countries in SAARC region – have had a cascading effect on India – SAARC relations. Furthermore, India has not sought to project itself effectively in the recent times, and has adopted a less than proactive approach towards fostering regional ties and economic engagement. There is growing discomfort in the political circles of member countries to assess India’s enthusiasm for their concerns – and it may have implications on the future of India ties with member countries and also the relevance of SAARC as a group.

An independent India in 1947, emerging out of abject poverty due to odious British Rule, pursued a Non-Aligned Path as one of the key features/objectives of her Foreign Policy. This approach helped us achieve scale, and not succumb to political pressures of bi-polar world. Today, India is a newly industrialized country, an emerging power now – and it warrants a rethink on our passive diplomatic approaches thus far. We as a Nation, should actively engage – in all the three spheres – economic, political and national security, to positively contribute towards economic growth of our neighbours, engage with political leadership of member countries and protect our national security interests in the region and beyond.

        - Abhijith Jayanthi 
           June 24, 2018    

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Iran – A Rising Opportunity

Ever heard of a country with too many highly educated people? More than two-thirds of the 80 million population are under the age of 35, with literacy rate stands above 93% and 0.1% of the population living below the poverty line of 1.9$ per day. Rightfully so, when the country was cut-off from the World – it made the right choice, to invest in education: 20% of government spending and 5% of GDP goes to education. It bears a striking similarity to Lee Kuan Yew Master Plan of investing in education, one of his conscious decisions that engineered Singapore’s economic miracle.

With 10 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and 15 percent of its gas reserves, Iran remains a dormant energy superpower, largely due to isolation from global markets. With the lifting of trade sanctions in January 2016, few financial institutions are extending lines of credit, and FDI inflow has been timid, but not great as expected.

Since the mid-1990s, Iran has increased its economic cooperation with other developing countries in "south-south integration" including Syria, India, China, South Africa, Cuba and Venezuela. Iran's trade with India passed $13 billion in 2007, an 80% increase within a year – but there is a significant trade imbalance, with India accounting for 9.9% of Iranian exports but with little to negligible imports into Iran. China on the other hand, maintains a healthy trade balance, with significant imports and exports between the two countries. 

With aviation and transportation sectors badly needing rejig and many other sectors remaining outdated in terms of technology or capabilities – Iran presents a rising opportunity. China has been quick to realize the potential, and has connected Iran by Train link last year – starting in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, the train link passes through Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, into Iran. This will see the exchange of goods and services potentially reaching the threshold of 600$ Billion. 

India, is not far behind – helping Iran develop the strategic port of Chabahar. The location plays a vital role and is of great significance, merely 72 KM away from Pakistan’s Chinese funded deep sea port at Gwadar, Chabahar port not only provides access to Central Asia (with a marine distance of 353 nautical miles to Dubai and 843 nautical miles to Mumbai) but also is the only Iranian port with direct access to the Indian Ocean. The highly congested Bandar Abbas port is not a deep water port and cannot handle the 250,000 ton ocean-going cargo ships. At present, such ships dock in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the cargo is transferred to smaller 100,000 ton ships for onward shipment to Iran. This makes Iran dependent on the UAE for shipments and represents a loss of revenue, not to mention making UAE the biggest trading partner of Iran by volumes. Unlike Bandar Abbas, Chabahar has the ability to handle standard cargo ships.

Indian Government and Indian businesses can do much more – the majority of discourse around Indo-Iran relations revolves around Chabahar, and does not indicate the true economic potential. Iran has encouraging business opportunities in energy, infrastructure, healthcare, retail, airports and aviation, mining and water sectors. A program similar to UK’s trade department – which offers financial cover to companies interested to do business in Iran, would help Indian businesses set up shop in Iran. In July, French oil giant Total committed $1 billion for developing the country’s largest oil field, and car manufacturer Peugeot is stepping up its local presence, and produce over 200,000 cars in Iran. India should encourage automotive industries to explore marketing tie-ups with local entities to expand their market footprint.

There are challenges too, corruption is still a major hurdle, with Transparency International ranking Iran at 131 out of 175. After Modi’s visit, it did not take Tehran long to dissociate from the idea of exclusive Indian engagement in Chabahar Port, and voice out invitations to Pakistan and China to participate. Iranians are thorough when it comes to negotiations and in striking the right balance – one of the main reasons, they are able to hold onto their own, despite adverse international relations. While the moderate Rouhani and his government, though powerful, seem eager to open up to the world, internal political challenges exist. Khamanei and the very powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that he controls, also have large interests in the country’s economy. 

There are reasons India should look beyond Oil, Saffron or Carpets from Iran and see the true potential. At present, India is not fully cognizant of Iran’s strategic importance. From the last decades of the 19th century to the mid-20th century, India and Iran have a shared history, from Parsis long standing contributions to Indian Economy and Culture; to one of three Kendriya Vidyalaya Schools outside India, in Tehran, running since 1930s – there is enough cultural understanding and people-to-people contact since ages. It is time India should change from remaining marginally engaged based on needs to an evolved partnership with Iran – India needs to rethink about its approach with Iran

-  Abhijith Jayanthi 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Delhi Durbar: Hegemony of Suitable Truth & Convenient Praise

Greatness is not what reason promises – it is achieved by wandering into the unknown to discover; sometimes with no one left to clap by our side, only for others to realize value of the discovery much later – sometimes after discoverer sinks into the oblivion. 

During the summer of 1990, PV Rao, an under-celebrated veteran of Indian polity, was preparing to retire – when he had to step into the top job in the country. Consequences of terrible economic management by Rajiv Gandhi, meant Rao had the ugly job to tackle the balance of payments crisis. Gulf war and low credibility of Indian leadership then, gave little support to Mr. Rao. 

With amazing tact – PV Rao not only completed a full term but also ushered in a new era for Indian economy. Yet, pseudo liberal brigade of Indian polity chose to highlight Dr. M Singh, the then union finance minister for the turnaround. It is a sad but just indictment, of our pseudo liberal Indian polity for robbing the real victor and celebrating their convenient choice.

Today, we see a reverse thematic criticism: Prime Minister Modi alone, with limited to no role of others within the government or otherwise, is responsible to celebrate their nervous glee. Modi’s leadership meant hard but necessary choices – what India needs to do to be a thriving economy.

Delhi Durbar wants to sing the tune of suitable truth and convenient praise. Reforms will see costs borne upfront, with rewards coming in later. With more than necessary intervention of government through the decades of mis-rule, Indian economy remains inchoate. It is like an overgrown start-up – not willing to learn about its weaknesses. We as a nation, have too many grey haired (wo)men advising us. It is time, we stop listening to the noise, and act. To lessen the dependency of economy on government – in PM Modi’s own words: Government has no business to be in business; the fragility of our economy to government interventions should be arrested. Dependencies on external stimulus from the government or otherwise, is a clear sign of bad governance, where politics trumps economics. Government’s role should be regulatory, to facilitate necessary checks and balances – GST is one step in that direction. 

We as a nation survived centuries of loot and plunder with patience – which continued for decades well after gaining independence; it is but important we begin to see the bigger picture, and not let go our perseverance. Quoting Muhammad Ali, “It isn't the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it's the pebble in your shoe.” – Prime Minister Modi will have to consider, necessary interventions to address the short run spill-over effects on SMEs and creation of jobs due to GST implementation.

To quote from the famous Apple Ad: To ones who see things differently, while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because, people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do – Prime Minister Modi, is the first politician in our history, to undertake reforms by choice, and not because of compulsion. It is time we let go our fancy to celebrate ancestry, and start celebrating the genius of passionate wo(men). They are invariably pushing us forward, and are changing our world for good. 

- Abhijith Jayanthi

Friday, February 17, 2017

Renascence: Concept of Credit Society

In the World of today, many a Credit Society pays lip service to innovation, but to truly unlock the power of being a Credit Society, there is a greater need to influence the status quo, of yesterday – be a disruptive first. I believe this notion should be deeply embedded in our operations, and our strategies to grow.

Rethinking the concept of Credit Society, should go beyond imagining what a Credit Society should be and how it should work. Our method should not be to impose change or dream up new gimmicks.  Rather, it is to get ourselves to rethink what we are expected to do, by applying processes more akin to starting up, every single day. It is not just about new products, but rethinking how old products work and redesigning them with members’ aspirations-to-be-met approach.

The impetus for innovation does not come from a desire to jump start, what other Credit Societies are pursuing, but rather springs from a fear that what we know today, as traditional functions of a Credit Society, could be disrupted as fundamentally as other industries – and we ought to be the disrupter. It is not about inventing the latest product offering – although there is a role for that. It is about relevance and application; agility and losing the fear of failure; and, ultimately, changing our culture.

I see Credit Societies having an extended value rather than just being providers of basic credit facilities or running a traditional product. We need to broaden our reach, from leveraging our strengths: It is a drastically different way of viewing the world from a traditional mentality that demands everything be done in-house. When we earn a rupee, we have to drive co-operative growth, of our partners and our members. Thus, we become an ecosystem and a platform, to create and innovate, where we have lots of people from both within and outside our system, trying to make our Credit Society successful.

Together, we innovate and thrive, thus influence productive disruption.

- Abhijith Jayanthi CEO @ ABC-CS

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What are the real drivers of Micro-Credit? Why Micro-Credit is here to stay?

The focus of micro-credit for the bottom of the pyramid segment in rural areas is increasingly becoming an area of focus as development policy-makers work towards improving the lifestyles of rural poor. Previous research has had a keen focus on the impacts of financial services to business outcomes, leaving behind other equally vital aspects of development. In addition, very little of this research has focused on socio-economic and sustainability outcomes in rural areas.

It is clearly evident that the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) segment lack financial access which limits their abilities to invest and increase their income. Research done on access to financial services by the poor has shown that access to financial services by this segment can be an instrument towards poverty alleviation. This is because, access to financial services increases people’s choices which play an important role in empowering the poor. Micro-lending services allow poor people to move into a more proactive mode that enables them to get protection against risks ahead of time and opens up new opportunities. The benefits of micro-credit investments revolve around empowerment of the poor as it provides economic freedom and the ability to make choices.

At ABC-CS, we have carried out a study, using non-randomized controlled trials, to investigate and evaluate the impacts of access to financial services on income and poverty levels by those people in the BOP segment especially in the rural areas. Although our focus was on the impacts of financial access, we also investigated other aspects like prior business experience, gender and group investment impacts.

Our results have shown that access to micro-credit does not really lead to an increase in per capita after deducting costs especially operational ones. In reality, few of the ventures, if adjusted for costs, will show economic losses. We find considerable heterogeneity, with many groups earning negative returns to capital. This research compares per capita income, savings and other micro-credit outcomes between participants and non-participants using data from both the treatment and control groups.
However, digging a little deeper, the comparative analysis comes with the challenge of selection bias. We have realised, it is easy to control selection biases at household level but very difficult to address biases stemming from market access and purchasing power of the community at large, where these ventures seek to market their produce.

This problem can be solved, by following a feeder chain principle, in terms of selection of ventures. Micro-entrepreneurs, should be encouraged, to explore possibilities of backward/forward linkages with other existing ventures – to feed on, or to feed another group. While, we channelize the marketing linkages, we are also enhancing the purchasing power of the immediate customer/user of produce for every micro-venture, with majority of micro-ventures aligning in a value-chain. However, this will lead to concentration of risk, which can be addressed, by selection of focus areas, where market access and tie-ups can be put in place by the Micro-lending Institution.

We see Market Access, Purchasing Power of Community and Feeder Chain as our driving principles for extending Micro-Credit. We wish to develop our micro-lending ethos, in a structured manner, taking into consideration the aforementioned areas.
High interest rates and exclusive approaches and conditions effectively preclude the rural poor from accessing credit to improve on their housing, water, sanitation, infrastructure, waste management and livelihoods. We have set out to support socio-economic activities through financially empowering the poor from the community, in an attempt to alleviate poverty and improve people’s living standards. The objective of providing financial services to the poor is to empower the poor, support small businesses, improve micro-credit institutional performance, and to support rural sustainability.

Our approach of lower interest rates, coupled with repayment linked incentives; working with Market Players toprovide market access and improving the purchasing power of the next immediate user will present an unique opportunity – Controlled Markets: The first in the chain will need limited access to capital for fuelling his/her venture, while the last user in the chain will be mature enough to cater to open market.
It is our responsibility to engage judiciously, while at it, we see significant opportunity in the large unbanked bottom-of-the-pyramid space, which creates a lot of space for growth for micro-credit. We see Micro-Credit, to be in a sweet spot with better growth prospects, considering this segment is better placed in terms of distributing credit and do not have the overhang of bad assets compared with the private as well as public sector banks.

- Abhijith Jayanthi CEO @ ABC-CS

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ABC-CS: Humble Beginning

Re-inventing our Glorious Legacy, Preserving our Culture and Igniting the Intellect within

Contributing and giving back to the societies which we are privileged to be part of, is an integral part of every Brahmin household’s ethos. This complements the role that we play at work, every day, as the intellect behind actions, as an enabler of things amongst others.
Brahmins, in Andhra Pradesh and beyond, as we all know have an extraordinarily rich and varied cultural heritage. Over the last few months, it has been our aspiration to create an institution, to play a role in nurturing, preserving and promoting needy men and women from the Brahmin Community in Andhra Pradesh. And we have been extremely fortunate to have had been given this opportunity by Chief Minister, Government of Andhra Pradesh Sri. N. Chandrababu Naidu Garu, to engage with the community, partner with selfless torch-bearers and world class institutions for greater good of the community.
Our journey began on October 31, 2015, when Andhra Pradesh Brahmin Co-operative Credit Society Limited was registered as a Government of Andhra Pradesh Undertaking to offer credit and saving options to Brahmins from within the State of Andhra Pradesh and beyond. Our engagement with the community, had a humble beginning, with a membership of 1800+ members, and growing with every passing day.
 On March 8, 2016, we initiated the Sthree Shakti Groups Micro-credit Programme, through which multiple JLGs will be extended micro-credit, as an enabler of micro-entrepreneurs, Small Scale Self-Help Groups. We are in the process of rolling out schemes to support youth from within the community, to encourage entrepreneurship and up-skilling.
We have started our retail-credit operations, and are now accepting applications to open saving accounts with us.
As our engagement with the community continues to deepen and evolve, we are extremely excited to be playing a small role. We hope that you too are able to join us in this journey. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please do feel free to let us know.
- Abhijith Jayanthi, CEO @ ABC-CS

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Great Indian Lethargy: Smart Cities & Erstwhile Regulations

With Prime Minister Mr. Modi laying out an ambitious plan for India, urbanization in India has seen an upward trajectory. We have a lot of investment being pumped into urban development programs. Modi’s Smart Cities Initiative and AMRUT urban missions will see investments exceeding 50,000 crore rupees going into India’s cities. Meanwhile, with a lot of buzz being created about urbanization and smart cities – some companies have created dedicated business units to tap the market. Each one of them, trying to market their product as the backbone of any smart city.

With so much money going into urban development, before anything else, it becomes essential to review our attitude as a nation first, to truly built a smart city and remain true to the definition thereof. We are a nation, with most of our leaders bred upon wrong dynamics of leadership. With little to no regard, about demographics of state/population they represent or natural/industrial resources they are to work with, every leader seems to think they hold a hammer of the same size, and unfortunately everything looks like a nail!

Such are the concerns related to tackling urban planning, that every plan will quickly turn into a potential candidate for reforms. There is a more basic need to reform our attitude towards urban planning and community - possibility of which has proved to be a Sisyphean Construct that governments across the globe, including India, are rolling up the hill.

In the Indian context, the landscape of regulatory environment is primarily an outcome of the division of subjects, where the Union and the State governments could frame laws, as provided in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution of India. The problem of ‘stock’ and ‘flow’ of the regulations, is such a complex maze – and it is further thickened by the plethora of laws and regulation therein, which have simply failed to keep pace with time. We are trying to build smart cities – but are working with erstwhile regulations, the basic construct of this approach is appalling.

Another major issue emanates from the way the appointments in the regulatory agencies, and also the organizational structure, are made and held. On this count infusing professionalism through right selection and capacity building are the key issues – this will revitalize the waiting and decision time, and also the payment flow to vendors or stakeholders involved.  There is huge information asymmetry that adversely impacts the regulatory environment. While enterprises above a threshold may have the wherewithal to deal with the complex regulatory environment, to build smart cities, small and medium enterprises will play a much greater role – and greater coordination amongst ministries and the policy makers is the need of the hour.

With heavier regulation, chances are higher for corruption and sprouting of larger unofficial routines to get work done, but no better quality of public or private goods. One essential step forward for better urban planning is more democratic and limited governments - both at the Central and State level, with lighter and streamlined regulations to comply with.

If these fractures are not corrected, urbanization and development of smart cities will reduce to an obstacle race with one principal worry - uncertainties about the number of obstacles, the nature of obstacles and the location of the obstacles. This uncomfortable realisation will drive away investments and stakeholders. Functional autonomy with necessary accountability is a better recipe for urbanization and development of Smart Cities – to tackle the lethargy in the system and adapt to present day realities, for achieving desired objectives.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Are you having a nutritious conversation – essentials and why?

As Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind argue in this piece; leadership in the 21st century is like a conversation - they refer to it as “organizational conversation” leadership model.

Most of us have started to realize the necessity to drive our engagement with our employees and other stakeholders in a conversational manner. But I wish to go a step further – how many leaders of today have started to check if they are having a nutritious conversation?

Do you ever think about why we have a conversation? The easy answers are because we want something and need to communicate, to express our opinion, get to know the other person or when we really have nothing else to do or without any productive reason i.e. sometimes you might engage in a conversation because you are bored, sad or happy, just because it's lunchtime, or because that the other person looks so good.

Those are some of the emotional and physical reasons why we engage in a conversation but do we ever put much thought into what makes a good conversation – to meet our expectations from it. Why nutrition value of a conversation forms an important quality that we should not ignore?

Having a Nutritious Conversation helps us in meeting our goals and meet/exceed expectations others have from us. The conversations we engage in, should be filled with necessary elements to provide the needed energy, excite and encourage the other person to function, with needed caution and a gentle reminder of possible ramifications if the ball does not roll at the right pace and in the right direction – thus meeting or exceeding our expectations.

Just like we need to put fuel in our car or recharge your cell phone battery, everybody needs to be fed with right conversation every day. In any organization, as I mentioned in my previous piece - leadership should come from within each of us and at every level. When each of us will truly appreciate the need for having a nutritious conversation,  each piece in the organizational jigsaw not only completes the void it is expected to fill, but also engages with other pieces in a nutritious way thus contributing to the overall organizational conversation.

Let’s have a healthy and a nutritious conversation!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

When you Start-up, be innocent – it helps

As we grow up, life puts us through varied experiences – we happen to grow up thinking innocence is not cool. In order to be cool, boundaries had to be stretched and broken, one needs to hold information well beyond his reach to be able to succeed in life, and that this approach was rewarded through popularity and possibly success – always prepared more than your peers. There is this false belief that this lack of innocence after all is life – living a life of compromise.

But this burden pushes us to expect a lot from ourselves, and everyone around us – and we shall slip into living a life of regret, harbouring moments of failures than being happy about what life benevolently bestows upon us. With time, one shall come to see losing our innocence as a major regret – a sort of slow, downward spiral; not able to enjoy the precious little moments in life. In our intertwined set of expectations from ourselves, somewhere deep down we hold a lot of expectations from others in our life – for us to fulfil our expectations, we start to hold them against it. This will only lead to barriers and we give up a lot in this process. We will lose our most important ability – motivation to try.

It would not be right to think if it is good to keep this attitude of innocence when going out into the "real world” – please be convinced that hiding our innocence is much easier, but not necessarily the right step forward when we start-up and also remain happy in life. Once we start building the walls to protect ourselves, our innocence is lost and it would be hard to try again – happily.

It is important we realize happiness is in our ability to try – and it is a beautiful thing. Give it a try, be innocent and start-up.

Monday, September 15, 2014


శ్వాసను  ఆగిపోని 
కట్టను  కాలిపోని  
కానీ మిగిలేది 
నువ్వు అన్న అనుభూతే మిత్రమ ||

వికసించిన పువ్వును  రాలిపోని
దాని వద్ద వాలిన తుమ్మెద జారిపోని 
కానీ మిగిలేది
కొన్ని క్షణాల పరిమలమే మిత్రమ ||

నదులను  సముద్రంలో కలిసిపోని
సముద్రపు అలలని తీరాలు దాటిపోని
కానీ మిగిలేది
చివరికి అది నీరేకదా మిత్రమ ||

వేసే దుస్తులు వాడిపోని
సేవించే ఆహరం మారిపోని
కానీ మిగిలేది
నిరాకకై ఎదురుచూసే నేనే మిత్రమ ||

                                                                              -         అభిజిత్ జయంతి

Friday, July 04, 2014

Kafkaesque Fantasies of Starting-up

Among the macro-social variables that fuel the fantasies of empirical growth in an entrepreneur’s mind, usually identified as being highly correlated with his/her prior growth trajectory, two important anomalies stand out – finances and the ability to milk his/her “network”. Did you ever wonder why few slacking kids of rich celebrities make it with their boorish ideas while you are stuck, where you are – even with a brilliant idea?
There are a lot of start-up accelerators, advisories who give you the carrot – to help mould/nurture your business plans, but rarely tell you the bitter truth. Allow me to let the rabbit out of the bag – you will find limited to no literature that studies the issue of causality and the channels through which both one’s financial standing and his/her network play a crucial role. I wish to explore this link and its influence on the balance of flight, as a start-up takes off.
Although, it might seem obvious – I wish to look at it more logically. Specifically, I wish to take a theoretical route to analyse the relation. Exploring the link between financial standing and ease of flight is interesting for several reasons. First, if we find that the level of financial standing does have an effect on relative ease of flight – it shall underline an important start-point for entrepreneurship, i.e. it is not just about having a brilliant idea or clocking in hours of enterprising efforts with enthusiasm, but there is a need for monetary support to begin with, and therefore increases the priority someone might enjoy, in making it happen while others find it hard to cross the start-point. Second, exploring this link, we will be able to appreciate the fact – one’s financial standing will have implications on his/her influence over milking the “network”. Well, in short – let us reason out the roots for ‘Fake it till you make it’ mantra for entrepreneurship.
Let us frame a simple model for an entrepreneurial sale using the theory of Negotiation. With limited capacity to fuel the engines for the flight, an entrepreneur always finds himself with a poor BATNA. For the uninitiated, in negotiation theory, the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. In the case of an entrepreneur, with limited resources – with limited negotiating power, the alternatives are poor – in extreme cases, there is no alternative at all. Likewise, if an entrepreneur is not in a position to milkhis/her “network” – there are no good alternatives.
Opportunities and associated BATNAs form the vicious cycle of survival for an entrepreneur. As a result, one finds himself/herself stuck in the cycle of survival but never scale up. Drawing an analogy to the conventional Ricardian model of technological differences across countries explaining international trade flows - theoretically and empirically, cross-entrepreneur variance in the level of financial standing and his/her “network” explains the relative ease of negotiating a deal to begin with and thus his/her start-up taking flight.
On the one hand, reforming the financial standing of an entrepreneur might have implications for balance of flight – it is next to impossible to target this aspect of the problem, because the inherit comparative in financial standing fuels the entrepreneurial spirit.
On the other hand, the effect of providing “network” on the level and structure for balance of flight plays a positive role – but it again depends on the level of financial standing. If there are efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in all sincerity – the focus should be on providing an equal playing field for making the right connections and enabling entrepreneurs to milk the “network”.
If any Government or an agency seeks to generate entrepreneurial spirit, focus should rest on overpowering the dependency of social attitudes on financial standing, and provide a singular platform for networking. Such efforts shall tackle the distortionary framework of the society, which impedes the entrepreneurial spirit with classification into various monetary classes.
So, the next time you consider incubators and accelerators – the question to ask, is not what they provide for in cash or kind, but do they bring/give access to the “network”?
- Abhijith 
Place: Abu Dhabi
P.S.: While my theoretical model explores a singular channel of how financial standing affects the balance of flight, sometimes, the empirical evidence (real life experiences) presents natural mechanisms for possible reverse causality and simultaneity bias.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Unfounded Meaning of Secularism in India

I wish to begin this post by exploring the basic meaning of Secularism. Secularism is the principle of the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. One manifestation of Secularism is asserting the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, or, in a state declared to be neutral on matters of belief, from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon its people. Another manifestation of Secularism is the view that public activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be uninfluenced by religious beliefs and/or practices. Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus; from Enlightenment thinkers such as Denis Diderot, Voltaire, Baruch Spinoza, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine; and from more recent freethinkers and atheists such as Robert Ingersoll and Bertrand Russell.
The purposes and arguments in support of Secularism vary widely. In European laicism, it has been argued that Secularism is a movement toward modernization, and away from traditional religious values (also known as secularization). This type of Secularism, on a social or philosophical level, has often occurred while maintaining an official state church or other state support of religion. In the United States, some argue that state Secularism has served to a greater extent to protect religion and the religious from governmental interference, while Secularism on a social level is less prevalent. Within countries as well, differing political movements support Secularism for varying reasons.
The term Secularism stands conveniently abused by many a learnt member of the Indian Polity. Although the term was new, the general notion of free thought on which it was based had existed throughout history. While in India, the term assumed a rather sorry state of use. Anything and everything related to a specific religion i.e. Hinduism and thoughts related thereof were propagated to be non-secular while holding thoughts in line with other religions were not included in such a definition – absurd abuse of position by political masters and intellectual retards, to say the least.
The term Secularism should have been used to describe a class of political views that promote a social order separate from religion, without actively dismissing or criticizing religious belief. While at it, if we were to look at the Indian Political Landscape, most of the Political Parties which profess religious views and seek to represent a certain section of the society will have to be termed Non-Secular. It is important that we understand that Secularism is not an argument against any religion, it is one independent of it. It does not question the pretensions of any religion or faith; rather it helps separate the State from Religion, thus fostering general wellbeing. Secularism does not say there is no light or guidance elsewhere, but maintains that there is light and guidance in secular truth, whose conditions and sanctions exist independently, and act forever.
Few confused hard-line Secularists seek to advocate religious propositions related to particular faith/religion to be epistemologically illegitimate, warranted by neither reason nor experience, thus fostering support for other religions. It is imperative to understand that movement away/towards a particular religion does not necessarily constitute Secularism. I hope to see the new breed of Politicians in India are well-educated and understand the true essence of what Secularism stands for.
                                                                                                            -          Abhijith Jayanthi
Place: Hong Kong

Date: 16th May 2014

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Successful Entrepreneur: Scuttling Through Life

I begin this article as a critic of entrepreneurship – I am concerned about the implications that historiography has for reading into an entrepreneur's journey who lived through the events of growth. The enormity of the intellectual displacement which one experiences during the journey is difficult to comprehend. The constant sense of thought transitions and urgency to conquer related to the possibility of tasting success continue to occur every single day.

By the time the transitions are finally over, possibly zillion of ideas and methods have had crossed the newly created boundaries of growth trajectory – that everyone willfully define in their Business Plans, carrying with them memories of a kind of internal conflict that one fights with his/her own immediate surroundings, people in his/her life. The journey appears to be frighteningly commonplace with repeated occurrences and the displaced individual   called entrepreneur will respond to calls of his/her journey and also that of his /her community – sometimes involving violence, threat to their survival, security for the future, and cultural continuity including finding a companion in life. 

During this conflux of emotional servitude, most of the entrepreneurs succumb, thousands of them separated from their families and communities – resigning to the fate of failure, not able to handle the pressures of negative recognition. What qualifies as the 'rightful' success story is for this world to decide and sing praises about, but seldom do we celebrate failure. Something is fundamentally wrong with the particular construction of an entrepreneur’s identity in our country – one that shall not honor their experiences and I implore everyone to appreciate, for there are multitude of examples showcasing the concept of rejection agency in and through literary and historical narratives of the 'everyday' stories of entrepreneurship.

I am reminded of a Haryanvi Couplet which aptly showcases the struggle that an entrepreneur needs to go through – for a sense of identity and accomplishment:

Aur yeh beti jise tum saath
mere kankthiyon se dekhte ho
Beshumar haathon ne loota hai ise.

(And this daughter, whom you observe out of the corner of your eyes, sitting by my side - how many have looted her?)

The narrator of the poem represents the identity of his daughter as a possession to be looted. His rhetorical question, "How many have looted her" is embedded with a societal ideology that marks an entrepreneur's identities and their efforts as symbols of community honor and 'tradition' and makes them a subject of everyone’s judgment. Seldom does one see beyond the obvious – and understand there is a huge struggle to get to this stage – where one is at present. It takes more than learning about an entrepreneur’s journey, to truly appreciate their efforts.
- Abhijith Jayanthi                                         

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Final Frontier

The question that is vexing policy makers and analysts alike worldwide is climate change — is sending jitters across the World. One of the ripple effects, is food security, crisis thereof. India has not yet experienced riots over rising food prices linked to inflation that have hit other countries like Zimbabwe or Argentina – if an added effect of climate change is added to this, it is  a worrying signal. In the capital, Delhi, milk costs 11% more than last year. Edible oil prices have climbed by a whopping 40% over the same period. More crucially, rice prices have risen by 20% and prices of certain lentils by 18%. Rice and lentils comprise the staple diet for many Indians.

With a rapidly deteriorating climate condition and lack of consensus with regard to way forward, food security situation in India – a country with over billion people is a definite cause for concern, not only for Indian policy-makers but also other economies, considering earning/spending capacities impact global consumption in general. We are dangerously close to the final frontier and we will need to appreciate the fact that with the changing world, the chances that we will see a shift in terms of climate and environment around us is immense while at the same time, whether such a change is for the better is in doubt.

-          -  Abhijith

P.S.: The image displayed here is an award winning poster on Global Warming 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Indian Democratic Experiment: On the Brink of Failure

In the recent years, let’s face it – Dr. Manmohan Singh has pulled down the standards.  As a result of which scores of people, both ordinary citizenry with extraordinary belief in self, and extraordinary members of industry with ordinary acumen otherwise have begun their evening stroll in the garden of Indian democracy. This is a dangerous signal for the health of democracy, and I intend to discuss the pros and cons of it in this article.

Firstly, it is remarkable to appreciate the active involvement of the citizenry – given their will and necessity, stemming from ever increasing inflation, and lack of employment opportunities. They represent the ill-informed, but passionate countrymen, filled with energy and are seeking a change, to sell their faith and loyalties to. On the other side, we have (wo)men of repute in their particular industries/lines of work – with stagnant career progression curves and negligible connect with ground realities otherwise sensing an opportunity to take the plunge, as a natural next step. There is an eminent danger that the former set of population fall prey to the latter set because of their overt packaging of selves. Ultimately, due to lack of innovation in terms of governance – considering the latter set is devoid of such intellectual faculties, except for transitioning into a new role on their career progression graphs; old set of policy measures and governance methods are bound to continue.

Given the limited acumen but bloated egos of the latter, national development that has sustained considerable damage in the recent past, will broaden creating a great divide – pushing the country towards civil war. International funds and investors (referred to in this articles as funders) will re-align their priorities to tackle this broader divide, as reflected in the 2008 - 2012 FDI Drain, pushing the economy further down.

It must be remembered in that connection that equality and democracy are not synonymous in spite of the fact that these two terms are frequently confounded in "democracies" with an aristocratic-liberal historical background. Numerical majorities are not necessarily keen to preserve equality in a democracy; considering the demand for equality (and related privileges in terms of treatment and subsidies) always arose from select minorities – leading to appeasement schemes.  Genuinely "democratic" societies can be brutally cruel to those who dare to be "different" in an unconventional way.

Our evaluation and adaptation methodology needs to be updated to reflect more systematically the broader inclusion, rather than pursuing a change of leadership – at least without adequate political training.  Enterprising in Public life has become the new trend, and is exceeding enterprising innovation in private sector. This will create continued pressure on treasury, with ill-informed choices and decisions – putting the economy at further risk. This will culminate in failure of the Indian democracy experiment.

- Abhijith Jayanthi

Friday, December 27, 2013

Attitude Change: New Indian Democracy

Attitude Change is undoubtedly an impending reality for political landscape in India. Though primarily perceived as a short-term game plan during election seasons, addressing expectations is also a developmental economics issue involving enormous costs. In this context, addressing attitude change is a common challenge for traditional political parties, which so far, were operating without openness in policy framework. Its impact is already being seen in different forms: be it unprecedented electoral response in State Government Elections of Delhi, effects on how the business is conducted – be it agriculture, fisheries and health, and already scarce forest, land, and water resources. With changes in key variables, namely average age of population, earning capacity, exposure to and aspirations for better standard of living, it is in our collective interest that our country moves towards an attitude resilient development path.

The important question here is how to grow fast while keeping in mind the need for poverty eradication, managing urbanization, and improving public health, education and development. As a developing country, India strongly believes that it requires adequate development space for its people.

I am only reiterating the fact that attitude change is a real issue and like every serious concern it also entails some inevitable trade-offs and choices that are to be made as a part of the planning exercise when malicious agencies will want to get involved in the name of change within the competing demands of a vibrant political franchise. Lately with the growing concerns about attitude change, the set of trade-offs faced by traditional policy makers and dependent lobby agencies has expanded, with critical decisions to be made regarding meeting expectations.

On the flip side, poorer sections of the society are demanding more space, in order to achieve the same level of per capita income and welfare as enjoyed by the rich in the country. There is a huge lacuna in terms of bringing their attitude and aspirations’ divide amongst these sections - can also be perceived as developmental divide. For India in the short and medium run dependence on bringing this gap will continue to be a necessary part of enabling growth.  

The choice between focussing on purely growth centric processes or adopting an ambitious attitude correction trajectory were never easy to make and are going to be even more difficult in the coming years. As growth weakens, growth becomes more of priority; it will become difficult for attitude change to sustain itself.

The central question then will remain: How do we finance all of our needs, while staying within a prudent attitude envelope? The answer has to be more efficient spending and policies to generate equitable and inclusive growth, along with additional efforts to constantly monitor the definition of the same as we move forward.  

The need of the hour is also to create strong incentives to encourage civil society participation in democracy. The political market will need to be transformed to attract for more participation and reduce nepotistic despondency.

Given the constraint on resources, ultimately the entire task boils down to optimal resource allocation and mobilization and also the creation of an incentive structure that motivates citizenry appropriately. The role that markets and development/ non-government organizations can play in this task is significant. New and additional resources through the participatory mechanism of our vibrant democracy will play a crucial role in handling this attitude change.