Monday, January 28, 2013

Indian Market and Fear of Foreign Competition

Fear of India being invaded by foreigners looms large in the mind of all Indians. Darius from Persia came to India probably in 518 BC, since then we have been invaded by various countries, Greece, Scythia, Central Asia, Mongolia, Iran, Japan, British, China and hopefully no one else. In the last 65 years we have been content with a few wars with our neighbors. All this conquest, change of rulers and the constant fear of invasion has left an indelible mark on the Indian psyche. We do not trust foreigners and more importantly we do not trust foreigners bringing their goods and selling them in India. It is perfectly alright for us to go abroad and bring hordes of foreign goods and walk through the ‘Green Channel’.

India behaves abnormally whenever the government opens our market to foreigners – especially with food. Fear of foreigners taking away our jobs and livelihood looms large in the Indian psyche. Logic is thrown out and quickly replaced by high pitched emotions. Coca cola is one great example – all debates in and out of parliament around the seventies revolved around how to throw out Coca Cola – instead of one it became two four letter words – a symbol of tyranny by USA. People cried hoarse, coca cola is actually CIA in a bottle and so on. Years later, all the rhetoric one observed, looks foolish and outdated. Then came the flood of fast food chains in the late eighties – KFC, MacDonald’s, Pizza Hut. The whole nation once again went on an overdrive and cried wolf. What will happen to our eateries – the local samosa(fried pastry with a savory filling) will die - cried the North – South refusing to be sidelined said aiaiyyyoooo – what about our idly dosa. Bangalore too went ballistic and joined the fray and lamented about what would happen to ‘Vidyarthi Bhavan and MTR Dosa’ – Brahmin café Idly’ and so on. It’s now over twenty years and nothing has changed – all are co existing peacefully. I distinctly remember Mr Vithal Kamath the founder of ‘Kamath’ chain of hotels rubbishing the threat and saying, “What are you talking about fast food invasion – we are the original fast food people – you order a thali (A South Indian combo meal served in a plate) and it will be delivered to you in a jiffy with twelve items in it.  Only the public have benefited with the variety available today.

Almost for forty years the ‘Bangalore Mysore ‘highway had only one food outlet - ‘Maddur Tiffany’. With the entry of KFC, MacDonald’s and our own ‘Café Coffee Day’ - the driving public have been spoilt for choice. Cleanliness and efficiency have improved due to competition. All the restaurants stand up and take notice of the customer. I am scared to recall the chaotic conditions that existed when Maddur Tiffany was the lone outlet. Today we have Two Kamaths, MTR, Adiga, Barista, Café Coffee Day, Mac, Pizza Hut and others. Somewhere in our psyche it has been etched that we are good people and the rest of the world is not. It is perfectly all right for Café Coffee Day to venture abroad. Cafe Coffee Day has started mare than 20 outlets in Karachi, Vienna, Dubai, Cairo and Prague.

Now it is our turn to cry all over again. This time it is about ‘Wal-Mart’. In 2004 my son joined ‘Fabmart” probably the first on line store in India – we ordered vegetables, provisions and everything else on line from Fabmart out of sheer loyalty to our dear son. This lasted for a few months and we were back to good old Venu Stores across the road. Venu stores include instant home delivery, payment at the end of the month, personalized service, free return policy and finally a bit of chit chat with Johnny, the delivery man. In the long run, Wal- Mart will survive alongside all the Kirana shops. Both will survive the competition as they service different clientele. In spite of Reliance Fresh, Namdhari, Hopcoms and the like, the local vegetable vendor who comes home every morning with his cart is still alive and kicking. Similarly there are a number of vendors who will continue to sell their wares at the door step. When we were kids, vegetables, fruits, the exchange of utensils, the sale of old news papers, old clothes and many more things were carried out at the door step. In Bangalore, even today this practice is still in vogue. So relax and take a deep breath – Wal – Mart will not upset your apple cart.

Figure 5 - Do not worry about melting

Figure 6 - At your door step

Figure 7 - Fresh Vegetables

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Goodbye 2012

2012 was a very sad year. We lost a very good friend KSK Prasad and my very dear brother Sudheer passed away. At school we lost Rajesh Gundu Rao, a beloved Trustee. These events once again remind all of us of the uncertainty of life. Loss of one’s near and dear ones is hard to explain and best left to the passage of time to heal. Life makes each one of us look inward and contemplate for a while and seek answers to many questions for which there are no ready answers. May their souls rest in peace.

At home, December always brings a load of activities, fun and frolic. This year was no exception – the twins, daughter dear and S in L landed up in Bangalore on 14 Dec. Ayaan had to wait till his school finished to come home for the holidays. Samara joined the clan from the very first day. Agastya and Aarin are in their terrible 2’s.Its the most difficult period for any mother to handle and for Akhila it’s ‘Double Trouble’. They are sweet, naughty, loving, cranky, cry babies all in one delightful package. They have learnt to walk and run. Watch and ward has to be extremely alert and in place all the time. It is a 24/7 job. They are very inquisitive and want to know everything about anything that is around them. The maid kept complaining that all was not well with the washing machine, only to find that Aarin regularly had a field day with the control buttons, whenever it was on. Agastya has to pull the flush himself every time or else the sky will fall on your head. The TV remotes disappear, very often into the toy box or down the sides of an innocent ‘Lazy Boy’. In the mean time, mother and GM are at their wits end – ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ or ‘Rafters’ is about to start. The whole household gets into a Search and Rescue mission (SAR). The remotes later surface inside the Fridge, Oven, Shoe rack, flower pots or such other newly found hiding places. Cell phones and car keys also have a knack of disappearing. There is never a dull moment in the house. Breakfast is yet another complicated ‘Seamanship’ evolution. What will you have - is it going to be Cheese dosa, idly, pan cakes, French toast, puris or corn flakes with milk? With four kids in the house, it’s a daunting task. Thereafter the ants and cats have to be fed – that’s a different ball game. Bath time and later dressing up just about depletes all your energy for the day. That is exactly when the twins from next door decide to join the jamboree. The scene is complete. The decibel levels reach a crescendo – it’s time for solid action. It’s really fascinating to watch the twins engaging each other. They are complete by themselves. They sit and talk endlessly between themselves. I heard one telling the other that he lives in Mumbai. They play together and require nobody else to amuse them. This is their ‘Prime Time’. Ayaan and Samara have grown up into a different phase of childhood. Ayaan has taken up Swimming, Football, and music, where as Samara has started Ballet and Golf.

Figure 1 - Samara striking a ballet pose

Figure 2 - Ayaan at the goal post

Tryst with Santa, Christmas, Barbeque and New Year add more revelry to the children’s holiday.  

Figure 3 - Twins as Shepherds in nativity scene

Figure 4 - Santa handing over presents

Figure 5- Mamma handing over presents, morning after Santa’s visit

Figure 6 - Day out with grand father

2012 was eventful. Jayanti worked overtime to prepare for the introduction of RTE into the school. The school has grown in strength and has nearly a thousand students on its roll. In the mean time Anirban and his team at KWAN , one of the top talent agencies in India, worked hard to create a joint venture with Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the world’s leading entertainment and sports agency. Akhila continues to be a super mum - managing three boys.She has tons of patience.It is  simply amazing to see how she copes up with the never ending duties of motherhood.In between all this she finds time to help children schools develop their curriculum,lesson plans and so on. Vivek and Shubhra toiled through 2012 and now they are poised to take off. They operate from 16 cities in Indian and Japan. Vivek was one of the nine guest speakers at the first ever TED X - IIM B talks. His talk was very well received.

 Figure 7 - On her way back to Mumbai

I am about to complete two years of glorious golf.I have improved a lot and I play a decent game.In the mean time I have also become an addict and suffer from deep depression whenever I skip golf.I have also started going on golfing holidays - I went to Belgaum with Shyam and played at the Army and BGA course.With the addition of golf,life is looking better and certainly more interesting. 

My blog continues to interest readers across the globe. Frequency of blogging however reduced during 2012 due to my pre occupation with the work involved as Secretary of Jalvayu Vihar. My tenure is ending in June 2013 and I plan to write more often. Until then, I and my family  wish all the readers of ‘Samundarbaba’ a very happy 2013 – may god bless you and your family with good health and cheer.

 Figure 8 - The Clan