To Hell with China- the confused us!

OUR CHINA BEATERS!

Corona, Ladakh and other things got every Indians’ muscles flexing! Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian! The slogans are seen everywhere in discussions, social media and wherever we look. Great idea! But there is a cynical joke. A lot of posters, Ban Chinese goods, buy Indian and be Indian are seen everywhere- the only problem is they were printed and imported from China because these were good quality and inexpensive.

Import and export between nations is not an emotional decision, but such decisions are based on hard bargaining to try and see that both the sides are benefitted- and it needs to be a win-win situation. Import and export values between any two countries are never the same. In the case of China, the import from China is always higher than the export to China for most countries. Why has this happened? China has ensured that the industry grew phenomenally. They maintained quality and lower price than most of the nations in the world. They found efficient ways of sending goods to Europe by using the rail network of Russia. That reduced the transit time by almost 30 days.

Can any nation beat China in their own game? No, it is not easy, and there are other reasons like a dictatorship, lax labour laws and so on. In China, businesses rarely have to face legal hurdles. In democracies, legal issues can really strangle the industry. But is it doable at all to beat China in their own game? Yes, it is feasible, and this “miracle” has been performed by a sector in India. But before this, let me share thoughts of my friend Arvind on the subject.

Nobody, citizens, government, companies or anyone else can stop using, buying Chinese products overnight. The government, unless it officially declares war, can not stop or cancel orders or participation in tenders. It takes time for companies to develop alternative sources. The alternative sources will be costlier since China uses a dumping strategy. Being a totalitarian government, it has many advantages as for labour, company and other laws are concerned.

Atmnirbhar Bharat will be successful only if we as citizens of this country are ready to pay more for some products, initially. Businesses should put the nation first policy too, and the government, bureaucracy and politicians should not manipulate things for pushing their individual interests. Only competent leadership can change the future of the nation.

The link below are views of Rajeev Bajaj, MD of Bajaj Auto and Suzuki India, Chairman Mr. Bhargava. They have spoken pragmatically about China.

https://www.news18.com/news/auto/maruti-suzuki-bajaj-resist-boycott-china-movement-says-chinese-parts-necessary-for-production-2670601.html

I am talking about the Motorcycle industry in India. Motorcycle industry jointly has reached the top position in the world in numbers. In the early part of this century, Chinese companies started pushing their motorcycles in India. The “experts” began writing epitaphs of Indian Motorcycle companies Hero, Bajaj and TVS. But these companies were made of sterner stuff. They got their act together, pulled up their socks. And lo! Within a couple of years, the Chinese bikes were thrown out from Indian markets by customers and not by tariffs and jingoism by Deshbhakts. What did they do? They did the right things.

Those were days when IT companies were on a high, after the success of Y2K in the global market. They started hiring engineering talent from IIT’s, NIT’s and all good institutes. The kids wanted to do only coding in life, engineering career was a no-no. Here was what Bajaj tried. They used to get an opportunity for campus interviews on 7th or 8th day. One year they decided to hire people on zero-day. They told the institutes that they would pay three times the salary that IT companies paid. They got the zero-day slot, but to their surprise, very very few students wanted to join even at such a high salary. All wanted to jump the IT bandwagon. Bajaj reversed their strategy and went to the next level of schools. Changed interview language to Hindi, Marathi, Telugu and Tamil when needed. They got the hidden gems as these kids were good but had a language issue. Rest as they say is history.

Another example of Bajaj. Today they export about 1.8 million bikes a year, their primary market being Africa. In Africa, bikes are used as a taxi or a tempo. Bajaj has earned a name there. Before Bajaj, there were Japanese bikes which were superb but expensive. They had a limited market. The Chinese bikes were sent to Africa in an individual box, and they were assembled by local mechanics and sold. Bajaj made better bikes and despatched them in assembled condition, ready to use. They priced them between the Chinese and Japanese bikes. They have ultimately captured the market and running a highly profitable operation.

So, friends, it is doable. What you need is the will to fight, gauge the market correctly. Besides this, the Motor Cycle industry had the advantage of a large Indian market for Motorcycles. The local market helped them volume, which has proved beneficial.

Coming back to the slogan to hell with the Chinese products. If you look at Chinese cars, they are not so competitive in the world market, yet. But since many global multinationals went to China- Volkswagen, Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota- all the named companies and others have a significant presence in China. Chinese manufacture seven to eight times the cars that we manufacture in India. In India, we simply do not have a market for more cars. Plus we do not have the infrastructure of roads and pollution control. With smaller numbers, we cannot compete with Chinese in four-wheelers. Mind you, China is still not able to sell “Chinese Branded” cars in the global market. But these vast volumes helped China to create a reliable components industry; the Indian industrial buyers have fallen into China trap due to low price. Many international component companies like Aisin, Denso, Conti, Valeo started China operations in a big way. Corona pandemic exposed the errors made by Industrial buyers. I have discussed this with many senior friends in the industry. The corrective measures have already begun, and over a period, China dependence will come down. It takes time to develop components suitable for your use.

It is impossible to boycott China immediately. It will take at least five years of focused efforts. In automotive products, direct import from China is about 10%. However, many tier two suppliers of the vendors from ASEAN countries import quite a lot from China. It will take time to develop ‘non-Chinese’ tier-two suppliers.

The government can discretely ensure that items like Ganesh Idols, Agarbatti, Patang Manja and such stuff does not get imported from China. These items can not be put on the banned list. So the government can talk to the business community and trade groups to make sure that “Indian” items are not imported. For such things, how do you know that they are cheaper? These are imported simply because trade margins are high. There could be hundreds of such items which can be easily “banned.” This is also doable. When Malaysia started behaving strangely with India, Indian government discretely talked to import organising bodies. Within three months the majority purchase of palm oil was switched over to Indonesia.

The main thrust of India should be to push local manufacture of good quality cell phones, tvs and such things in India. Special efforts will have to be taken. Years back, there was a story of the US pushing the Japanese to allow them to sell the US-made cars in Japan. It was declared during the visit of the US president to Japan, that the market is now open. When the delegation went back to the US and talked to car manufacturers, they realised that the manufacturers would take at least three to four years to manufacture Japan-specific, right-hand drive cars.

So it is good to let out steam, but there is no point in shooting the bullet in your foot! Another point is to find out if banning Chinese goods going to damage Chinese trade more or hit the Indian manufacturing capability? The right way would be do it over a period!

Game Changer II!


GameChanger is an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current way of doing or thinking about something. I need not explain the title- the first game-changer was COVID 19 and the second is the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in the US. Two game-changers in six months is something unprecedented. The world would have been happy if the first event, the COVID 19 pandemic, had not happened, or it was just a bad dream. But the second event was long overdue, but it took the death of a person to start the chain reactions.

George Perry Floyd Jr. (October 14, 1973 – May 25, 2020) was an African-American man who was killed by police during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Protests in response to both Floyd’s death, and more broadly to police violence against black people, quickly spread across the United States and internationally.


On May 25, 2020, Floyd was arrested on a charge of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store in the Powderhorn Park neighbourhood of Minneapolis. According to the store clerk, the note was an obvious fake and Floyd had refused to return the purchased cigarettes when challenged.

He died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds during the arrest. Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street, while two other officers further restrained Floyd and a fourth prevented onlookers from intervening. For the last three of those minutes Floyd was motionless and had no pulse, but officers made no attempt to revive him. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck as arriving emergency medical technicians attempted to treat him.

The blog would not be complete without the comprehensive video about the event. It is a nine-minute long video and contains violent, disturbing scenes. I had to watch it to understand the facts. The nonchalant way in which the white Police Officer acts is to be seen to be believed. From the information that came out, Floyd never resisted the arrest. So, why was he thrown on the ground? White superiority complex? After Floyd was cuffed, Chauvin the officer, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. It resulted in to choking and finally the death. Floyd all the time was saying, “I am facing breathing difficulty.” But Chauvin simply ignored him

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vksEJR9EPQ8&has_verified=1&bpctr=1592085699

The video was taken by a 17-year-old girl, a passerby. She never knew that she was filming a game-changer event! The trauma she must be going through is unimaginable. I hope she can overcome the shock over a period.

Southern States in the US had been the strong proponents of using African Americans as slaves for more than 100 years. In fact, the American civil war took place as the Northern States in the US were against slavery.

What does all this really mean, and why does this event look a game-changer? What is the background?

Discrimination due to caste, creed and colour is not new to this world. It has been happening all through the history of mankind. In our mythological stories, God- the good always has a fair colour, and the demons are still dark in any depiction. The Indian language word for this fair colour is GORA!

Disclaimer- I am going to mention a few things from human history, a subject in which my knowledge is minimal. I am using this knowledge to understand the basics of how the dark colour was looked in a bad light.

The society from olden times is depicted below in terms of four Varnas- they were Savarnas. Those who did not conform to these four Varnas were Avarna.

  • Shudras: labourers and service providers.
  • Vaishyas: agriculturalists and merchants.
  • Kshatriyas: rulers, warriors and administrators.
  • Brahmins: priests, scholars and teachers.

Then there was the concept of purity and impurity. The society changed the meaning of the idea of purity and impurity to suit its acts. The thought process initially discussed moral issues. Those who followed the then correct ethical issues were pure, and others were impure. But over a period, those with fair skins were described as pure and superior; people with dark skins were considered impure and inferior.

The colour of our skin is dependent on melanin produced by skin cells when we are exposed to the Sun. The more the sun exposure, the more melanin is produced. It is a clear scientific explanation, but humans chose to ignore this information.

It is too simplistic an explanation to explain why Goras are considered a superior race. But this happens all over the world.

In Hinduism Lord Ram and Lord Krishna are shown in blue colour along with Lord Shiva. How do you explain this? The blue colour indicates HIS all-pervasive nature, blue being the colour of the infinite sky as well as the endless ocean on which he resides. The colour blue, therefore, symbolises the infinite and Vishnu is represented as an immense force. It is also symbolising his vastness as deep as the heavens.

If we consider human history, the explorer Christopher Columbus made four trips across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain: in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. Instead, Columbus stumbled upon the Americas. He and his team were European Goras. The Europeans were excellent seafarers and were not afraid to take risks. Since they were always involved in wars, they had better weapons than others. After they reached the Americas, the sequence was simple. They overcame the physical resistance by better weapons. Natives of the lands where they reached would always think that they were Gods, due to their skin colour. The Europeans developed the lighter skin colour due to cold weather which restricted their outdoor activity in the Sun. The exposure to the Sun was less due to geography. These European were “Gods” all the dark natives were treated as demons. For centuries, the thought process was embedded in the human mind. The dark-skinned people, who were conquered, were used as manual bonded labour. Goras were treated as owners of the dark labour force.

But mind you, very similar thought process had developed in India too, and the concept of land-owners or Zamindars has been prevalent for a long time.

Is Floyd event going to try and reverse the history for last thousand years? There is no question that the dark-skinned humans have been treated shabbily all through the past. But a trend to take down statues of various people including that of Columbus in Boston and many other cities looks a bit far fetched. Was Columbus famous for capturing of bonded labour or he was the person who discovered the Americas? A statue of a person in Bristol was also dumped in the sea. The person was a slave trader, more than one thousand years back. He used to bring slaves from Africa. The statue from day one was controversial. The person was directly involved in the slave trade.

Those persons like Columbus who “found” the new landmasses (they existed, but we did not know about them.) People like him and then the Britishers, Dutch became colonisers. There was Chengis Khan who wanted to expand his empire! These people “overcame” the “natives”! The act was about expanding the horizons of the realms. They conquered the land. Even if the people in those wars had been Goras, they would have expanded; so it was not about the colour of the skin. (Second world war- Germany vs France and Britain was not about slaves.)

I feel that we should be looking after the interest of people, the freedom for people and respect for people should be given irrespective of the skin colour. When the dark people are smart, they overcome these hurdles easily. But when one “Gora” and the other dark-skinned average persons are pitted against each other, people go into a stereotyping mode. The Gora is assumed to be smarter, but that is not the case. Unless such thinking changes, the clashes of civilisation will continue!

 

Nurture!

Nurture

The other day my friend Sudhakar had come for a chat and we spent some quality time together. In our home, we have a plaque given by the organization called “Nurture” to Jaya.  Sudhakar saw this plaque and asked about the same. Jaya helps through this organization, startups in Pune, nurtures them, hand holds them. Like the child is let go while learning to ride a bike, at some stage she lets them go. Some organizations sore high in the sky, some fall and try to rise again. It is the nurturing done that is important.  

The word just lingered in my mind and I kept on thinking about it, its meaning, its origin and got a feeling how appropriate this word is! English is an interesting language, sometimes the English words, define or explain the meaning perfectly whereas sometimes they are vague.     

The origin of this word Nurture is from old French noureture, “nourishment”; based on Latin nutrire “feed or cherish”.  

As a verb it means to take care of, feed, and protect someone or something, especially young children or plants, and help him, her, or it to develop,  to help a plan to be successful. Modern dictionary may add the new meaning about helping of modern day startups, to grow from their babyhood to a successful organization. As a noun, it means the way in which children are treated as they are growing, especially as compared with the characteristics they are born with. This can apply equally to young startups to young professional.   

Jaya has helped many startups,  as technical social work;  there is success story  about a person with PhD in Chemical engineering. He had developed many products to improve agriculture productivity. As normally happens, he was very proud of the products he had developed. When he met Jaya, he was struggling with business. When Jaya told him to concentrate initially, on one product, he was not very happy; he wanted to dabble in all the products together, those were his creations. But after sometime, he realized the meaning of what Jaya told him. He came up with his best product and started concentrating on the same. He was a brilliant scientist and a hard worker. He needed nurturing, he needed hand holding. Rest as they say is history. Recently UNESCO has given him a large grant to spread the use of his products in technologically extremely backward African countries. I think his role will also be to nurture their farmers! The baton has passed on!  

This keeps on happening in the world. The goodness keeps on spreading. The baton keeps on passing. This also keeps on happening about good deeds that everybody keeps on doing. When you help someone, you should never expect anything in return. The good Samaritans of this world never do it. What I have seen is that the good deeds pass around in an open circle. The person who has been helped, always remembers the good deed, he may not return the gesture to the same person who helped him but he will do it to the next person, as soon as he gets the opportunity. 

I am sure the same is true with Nurture. I am now talking about the verb. If a person is nurtured, in later stage of the career he or she will nurture some persons and the chain will continue. We humans have been nurturing our children, our trees since long. It is natural for a person to nurture someone who needs it. In humans, the need for nurturing is much more compared to animals or trees. Babies in humans need nurturing for maybe up to 20 years. But in case of other species or fauna, this period is much smaller. Is this because we humans think, talk and have a much smarter brain? It is also because other species need to develop skills only to gather food and survive in the world. Many skill sets that humans learn, are not needed by them.  

There is always a debate going on about nature versus nurture. How a plant looks or how a human behaves, how the human develops, depends on the genes. A rose plant and its flowers are beautiful as per genes but they really bloom when they are nurtured. An Alphonso Mango is the king of fruits but to develop and grow Mango orchards is the long process of many years. We see the result of the long efforts taken by someone. That person has nurtured them, has given them water at the right time, has taken care their health. In some cases, business may be involved and, in some cases, it may be personal. Similarly, when we nurture humans it could be sometimes at a fee but then I would not call it nurture, I would call it consulting fees!  

At the end of the day, what do you expect when you nurture something. You want to see beautiful flowers blooming, lovely fruits hanging on the trees, a confident, smart and successful person handling his or her profession smartly. When we are happy with well nurtured plants, we say, “Hey why not come and see my Roses? Why not see my Bonsai?” Similarly, you feel happy, elated when the person nurtured by you looks good, successful, competent and confident. That is time when you know that time has come to let go and enjoy  them shout, “Mumma, see no hands!” The person you have nurtured is now riding the bicycle or the destiny,  on own!