Saturday, December 18, 2010
It was a trade fair in Moscow wherein yours truly was representing the electronics industrial products of the state such as push button phones, televisions, hand held wireless equipment and other such items which were considered hi tech.
The other Indian exhibitors were manufacturers of foundry & furnace equipment, surgical instruments, textile equipment etc,. Language was a major issue as most of the Russian visitors could not speak English and hence we were dependent on the Indian student community who acted as our interpreters for a small fee. Surprisingly the most common language was Malayalam.
I came to understand that many of the communist party politburo members' children received free higher education in Russia. Many of them turned entrepreneurs indulging in selling contraband items like personal computers, walk mans and other electronic items smuggled into Russia. It was lucrative business as I was told that a personal computer bought in India for about Rs 40,000 sold at about 60,000 Roubles!!! at a time when one Rouble was officially pegged at Rs 30. Make your own calculations...
One frequent visitor was a dapper little fellow, smartly turned out in a dark suit with a dark overcoat, a rakishly angled fedora and black gloves. He was multi lingual and spoke to us in a plethora of Indian languages like Hindi, Bengali, Gujurati, Punjabi etc (no Southi lingo though).
He was not part of the Indian delegation or exhibitors, nor was he formally introduced to us.
Though uninvited he was a welcome visitor as he was fluent in Russian and very often translated for us when we had some Russian visitors.
This guy introduced himself as something like "Captain Sharma". His business card was very simple, it simply said "Resident Director" with a local address and phone number.
I was a little curious and asked him as to which company he was the director of. He dismissed my query nonchalantly with a simple response as "Oh! several of them".
I was not one to be dismissed so easily, however discretion being one of the quivers in my armoury decided to let it wait. The opportunity came a few days later.
It was about 10 PM when I had returned to the hotel after having taken my Indian student interpreters to an Indian Restaurant called "New Delhi". A fairly expensive meal but I think the youngsters thoroughly deserved it after a hard day of interpreting to some thick headed delegates from a rural agrarian factory who were probably being rewarded by a trip to Moscow to visit the exposition.
The ubiquitous Captain Sharma chanced to bump into me at the lobby and after some pleasantries we decided to retire to the watering hole. Soon the tinkle of the little bell announced the last drinks order and hence closing time. I invited him to my hotel room and soon the scotch had done its duty and we were fairly well lubricated.
He then let me know his background. It appeared that he had done a bachelor of Arts degree from a vernacular college in Delhi and then joined the army. He rose to become a captain, however due to a leg injury he was discharged. He then commenced his career in the commercial sector and hence he was currently a director in several companies.
I was quite dumb founded. Here I was a post graduate with a premier B School MBA struggling like a flunkey and here is this smart aleck...
Something snapped and I blurted out "Sala thu spy hai! are you a RAW agent?"
(Some info for the uninitiated...RAW innocuously stands for Research and Analysis Wing the undercover agency of the Indian Government.)
Captain Sharma was visibly shaken...he didn't say "How do you know?"
He said "What makes you think so?"
"Look, I said, this is a typical 'Le Carre' scenario."
"I have read many spy books and know the standard operating procedure working. Here you are a typically unimpressive individual, you wouldn't stand out in a crowd. An Armed forces background, been given the cover of a business director. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't be employed by an Indian MNC as you do not have the qualifications, experience or family connections."
I then continued "I do not know why you have taken the trouble of tailing me, and the way you casually bumped into me was far too studied for me to think that it was accidental."
I started to laugh.
He was not amused. He left his drink unfinished, picked up his overcoat, gloves and hat and disappeared. Needless to say I never saw him again at the exhibition.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the Volkswagen Ad. The media including the advertising fraternity seems to think it has created a lot of attention and considers it a creative landmark.
There have been other reactions as well that as such it is a nuisance, creating pollution (noise, safe disposal etc).
But my issue is that does Volkswagen need to advertise in this fashion. Does the media & content match the product profile?
We all know that Volkswagen is a world class German engineered car. It is quite expensive and positioned at the upper echelon of society. Has the ad campaign not disparaged the sensibilities of this clientele?
Let me tell you of my experience in a similar situation. Quite some back I was a manager in a two wheeler company whose flagship bike was and continues to be a legend by itself. Powers that be in the marketing department decided to do some rural marketing and hired an event management company to do what they called rural marketing.
I went for one such campaign conducted in a rural town close to a pilgrimage centre deep in Tamil Nadu. The propaganda van was parked in a central place and a television set was blaring cinema songs with the dark glasses hero romancing a plump heroine around the proverbial bushes. Then after the song & dance sequence an ad for the product was aired.
With much amusement I was observing the spectators; there were urchins, bored village belles and a motley lot of the great unwashed.
Everyone was happy. The hoi polloi enjoyed the free show, the event managers for the billing and the marketing department of the company for having taken some initiative and undertaking some activity.
However there was a serious dissension from the dealers. They were livid. They were unhappy that this campaign belittled the product. Their contention was that the product is a status symbol in those regions and the owners are a proud lot. This campaign was undermining the product and more important the image.
The same applies for the Volkswagen ad.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Why bring reality into my bedroom. I preferred watching light hearted comedies, sitcoms, sports etc. I didn't wanna shed tears and remember my own financial woes.
Thankfully I was pleasantly surprised. Aamir did a "Aamir" on us. It was a spoof on all present day movers and shakers. He spoofed the media, politicians, bureaucrats and all the holy cows of the Indian ethos. There were no scenes of heart rending grinding poverty, instead it was a delightful comedy on the rabid media, crass politicians and indifferent bureaucrats. And oh yes the farmers were mere bystanders as the manipulative and conniving milked the situation for all it was worth.
I will not go into the storyline, theme or any philosophical review, I would just like to say that Aamir must be laughing all the way to the bank.
I also read in the newspapers that our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was shown the movie at a special preview privately for him, his family and some special invitees. I suppose they too were worried as how their kin would be portrayed albeit as heartless manipulative Machiavellian politicians, leaving helpless farmers to their unfortunate and inevitable dishonorable hara kiri.
After seeing the movie Iam sure they must be secretly laughing to themselves and the PM thankful that the movie is not going to create any social upheavals.
However my dissenting note is that it has trivialized the tragedy of farmers suicide by making it a farce and finally the story line is a plagarizaton being a clean lift from Frank Capra's 1941 movie called "Meet John Doe". (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033891/).
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The daughter of an Indian Maharaja celebrates her Panther Shoot
******** My Comments*************
After the break up of the Moghul empire there were several small chieftens and India did not exist politically but as a loose conglomeration of local Rajahs and a common thread of Hinduism.
It wa the British through the East India Company which annexed territory by waging modern wars against aristocratic and under prepared Rajahs and their armies. The British also signed treaties with pliable Rahas and created a political India. There were Rajas at every nook and cranny, for example there was and still is a Raja of Venkatgiri (200 Kms from Madras) the palace is rundown and a shame to preservtion of heritage buildings ( I have a photograph which I can share to those interested, A Raja of Cuddapah (150 KMs from Madras), one at Mylavaram (400 KMs) and so on so forth. They were given rights to ownership of the lands and to collect taxes on behalf of the British.
It is surprising that most of them have not been able to develop their properties and the second/third generation are howering around poverty levels. A case in point is the Raja of Venkatgiri. They owned large tracts of property in Mount Road, Saidapet etc. The Satyam Multiplex complex property belonged to them and they started the group of theatres. Today the family does not know how they lost the (Satyam) property as well as other prime locations in Madras. If you go to Gymkhana Club you will see a large portrait of the Maharajah of Venkatgiri in the lobby stating that he donated the land to the club. Today let me assure you with authority none of the original family are members of the club or even if any one of them them have stepped into its domain in the few decades.
I have some more information about the aristocratic lifestyle and if anyone is interested I can share it
Friday, February 12, 2010
Recently there was a mail forward from the group about happiness and Kushwant Singh's prescription for being happy. Iam reproducing below the mail forward and my response to it. Please read on.
EIGHT CLUES TO HAPPINESSBy- KHUSHWANT SINGHHaving lived a
reasonably contented life, I was musing over what a person should strive for to
achieve happiness. I drew up a list of a few essentials which I put forward for
the readers' appraisal.
1. First and foremost is GOOD HEALTH. If you do
not enjoy good health you can never be happy. Any ailment, however trivial, will
deduct from your happiness.
2. Second, a HEALTHY BANK BALANCE. It need
not run into crores but should be enough to provide for creature comforts and
something to spare for recreation, like eating out, going to the pictures,
travelling or going on holidays on the hills or by the sea. Shortage of money
can be only demoralizing. Living on credit or borrowing is demeaning and lowers
one in one's own eyes.
3. Third, a HOME OF YOUR OWN. Rented premises can
never give you the snug feeling of a nest which is yours for keeps that a home
provides: if it has a garden space, all the better. Plant your own trees and
flowers, see them grow and blossom, cultivate a sense of kinship with
4. Fourth, an UNDERSTANDING COMPANION, be it your spouse or a
friend. If there are too many misunderstandings, they will rob you of your peace
of mind. It is better to be divorced than to bicker all the time.
5. Fifth, LACK OF ENVY towards those who have done better than you in life; risen
higher, made more money, or earned more fame. Envy can be very corroding; avoid
comparing yourself with others.
6. Sixth, DO NOT ALLOW OTHER PEOPLE to
descend on you for gup-shup. By the time you get rid of them, you will feel
exhausted and poisoned by their gossip-mongering.
7. Seventh, CULTIVATE SOME HOBBIES which can bring you a sense of fulfilment, such as gardening, reading, writing, painting, playing or listening to music. Going to clubs or parties to get free drinks or to meet celebrities is criminal waste of
8. Eighth, every morning and evening, devote 15 minutes to INTROSPECTION.
In the morning, 10 minutes should be spent on stilling the mind
and then five in listing things you have to do that day. In the evening, five
minutes to still the mind again, and ten to go over what you had undertaken to
I have a simpler philosophy. Its actually an equation.
"Happiness is when Reality meets Expectations"
Kushwant Singh has given his list. Obviously all his expectations have been met. He is happy.
If one is able to list and quantify one's expectations be it wealth, fame, partner, hobby etc and if it has been achieved one will be very happy. The real problem happens when one is not sure of one's expectations and keeps chasing moving targets/goals.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Were we happy earlier or will we be happy in the future?
I dont know.
It reminds me of a Woody Allen Cartoon.
Woody on the couch and the shrink (goatee, prinz nez and all)
Shrink: "My notes say that you you were experiencing the most unhappy period of your life last week."
Woody: ' Oh no, I was much happier then, its just that I didn't know it."