Recession or Cyclic downturn?

The automotive sector in India is under significant stress. Sales are going down drastically in unprecedented numbers. It is a vast sector and has already started giving layoffs, having non-production days- a euphemism for plant closures. A large number of dealerships have cancelled their tie-ups as the business does not appear to be lucrative. On top of this, BS-VI norms will be starting from 1/4/2020, which will cause further stress as no BS-IV vehicle will be even registered from 1/4/2020.

More difficulties will come up during this year and maybe even next year. The reasons for this is that CAFÉ norms will come into the picture from 2022. There is already a discussion of auto companies going slow on investments, but statutory requirements are mandatory, and these companies cannot avoid them. BS-VI norms and CAFÉ norms will increase the prices of cars. One thing that never comes into the discussion is the sale of old vehicles. It is not that people are not buying cars. People suddenly don’t change their habits. But people become practical and smarter.

George Mathew

I will tell you what I mean. I read an article from Indian Express which was discussing the sales pattern in the industry in general. The data in the table is for two thousand plus companies. The table above shows the business figures for April-June quarter comparison of 2018 and 2019. Sales of AC’s are generally seasonal. But other items like TV’s, Microwaves have not shown any decline. Sales are almost normal and have only shown seasonal changes.

I want to write a disclaimer. I cannot “read” the financial data, and hence, I cannot analyse it too! But as a layman, I thought there is not much difference for these two years. The sales have gone up in 2019.  Operating margins have reduced slightly. Depreciation is quite high in 2019, indicating the investments done in the that year. Hence interest paid has gone up maybe due to investments in plant and machinery. Proportionately tax paid has gone down, and profit has gone down. These figures do not show any drastic changes happening in the market. Companies considered in this table exclude banking and finance companies.

Then why is the auto sector in distress? I have mentioned that people have become smarter and practical. In the last financial year, the total number of vehicles sold was large. But the sales of new cars have come down. There is a secondary market where people buy used cars. The total number of old vehicles sold was four lacs more than new cars. Why is this happening? Small cars like Alto are now sold more in three-tier towns. Young people in big cities want to buy bigger vehicles. I understand that a 3 to the 4-year-old big sedan is now available for the price of an Alto. The trend of buying used fancy cars is affecting the sale of new cars.

I am not arguing that there is no recession in the auto sector. But we should not forget that it is one of the most protected sectors in India. Customs duty on cars below US $ 40000/ is 60 % and above this value 100%. The used cars have a customs duty of 125%.  For various reasons, this sector has remained inefficient. After many international companies started coming to India and opened their factories in India, the auto sector had a tough time. Some Indian companies took 15 years to reach the quality levels of global companies. One company that followed a correct way of doing business is Bajaj Auto. They currently export 1.8 million motorcycles every year. It gives them a buffer when the local market sales dip!

Some of the reasons for the downturn could be that main barrier for transport vehicles like octroi has been removed. The action has speeded up the turnaround time of vehicles  substantially. The effect would be that the number of trucks needed to transport material would be less than those previously required. Another reason that is making rounds is that demonetisation effect causing the sales to drop. Is such a large industry dependent on cash? In the rural areas cash was being used to buy vehicles; even large SUV’s were bought using cash. If people had so much cash with them why did they not use bank instruments to pay? The answer is obvious. Not paying taxes honestly is a habit that does go away quickly.

What was the auto industry turnover 20 years back? How much has this industry grown? The auto industry has made decent profits all these years, so I am sure they have reserves. Pollution norms have been known to everybody, so no point in raising hue and cry about investments needed.

Any sector that is in stress always talks of alarming results of the recessionary trends in their business. Should the government give selective help to the stressed industry? Is such action fair to other sectors which are doing okay in their business? The financial stimulus can be a solution, but such money gets diverted from equally essential areas. We should not forget that high tariff on imported vehicles has helped the industry for a long time.

All the companies in the automotive sector are large organisations, and they have the wherewithal to overcome current tough times. Asking for a reduction in GST is a short-term major and is taking a myopic view of the situation. In the last couple of years, the government has been receiving feedback from business about GST. Government has already made changes for the benefit of both industry and the government. Making changes for a specific industry for a short duration is an incorrect way. The auto industry has been generating decent profit for the last few years. Some things have changed; some new variables have come into play. There are who experts can find a solution and suggest corrective actions. I am sure the industry will come out of it.

Raising the alarm, making statements like “It is the wake-up call for the Government of the day” does not solve issues. But the government help should be an exception but not a rule. There is an interesting story about General Motors and Chrysler. When they were in serious financial trouble, a decade ago, the senior executives of both companies were called to Washington DC for discussions. In the initial informal chat, they were asked if they reached Washington the previous night. The surprised executives said, “Oh, we landed only about 45 minutes back. We chartered a plane to come here.” The government official was aghast!

So where is the vendor conference this year? Italy, Las Vegas, Macau? How can you have the conference inside your factory? Cost cutting is for others. I have attended General Motors vendor conference once in Pune. It was at the Oxford club and there were at least six helicopters used by GM bosses to arrive at the venue! It is not a surprise that GM closed their shop in India.

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Bappa’s Constitution!

Yesterday when we were going out, in the car Rhea asked a question to my daughter Priya.  She said, “Is it our flags birthday today?” It was not a simple question. Priya said, “No, it is our constitution’ s birthday!” For a five-year-old, the next inevitable question was what the constitution is? Priya said, “It is a rule book for all of us.” Rhea then asked, “Did Bappa write the rule book?” Bappa is the Marathi word for God.

In childhood everything is very straightforward, that includes life. Good things in life happen because of God, and the bad things occur because of the demons. They define everything as  0 & 1; things are either black or white. There are no shades of grey. Childhood naivety is responsible for an easy life. For kids, there are no complexities. When life is good, they laugh when it is sad, they cry.

But adult life is tricky and where everything is in shades of grey. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a book representing today’s times. For the benefit of those who are not aware of this book here is the link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

This book is about sex, control, wealth and combination thereof. Wealth is about ownership. The concept of ownership started ten thousand years back when humans started organised farming.  With farming, the nomadic tribes began to settle into areas near the water, rivers or lakes. Many settlements also started near the sea, but the drinking water was a problem initially.

With the ownership started the issues of controls. In other species like monkeys, controls were mainly about leadership and females. There were no other assets hence things were and still are simple. But today humans need to control the area, then the city, state and nation. Further people want to control other countries. Controls are taken to get natural assets.

I was just trying to imagine a naïve world as seen through the child’s eyes. Life would be simple. Children can play, chat with each other. There are no language barriers; they don’t have territory issues. We should use Google Earth, metaphorically. When we open  Google Earth and see our home,  we can get to know the house distinctly when we zoom in. Start zooming out.  First, we see our colony, then the area, then the city.

Further zooming shows us the state where we live, then the nation. As we zoom further, we see our continent — finally the whole earth. What is the meaning of this change? These images take us away from the barriers we have created, the barriers crash. We go away from our small abode; we are taken far away from the language spoken and finally from the geography of our nation and the continent. We need to rewrite the Bappa’s Rules, as seen from Google earth as there are unnecessary barriers. We need to think out of box. We should become naïve like small kids.

If you think that Pramod is trying to visualise utopia because I am trying to say something that is impossible; no sir! It has already happened to some extent in our world. What is the European Union (EU) after all? EU was born in 1993. Most of the European nations joined the EU or agreed to be part of EU and share the same rules, currency, visa and so on. They have managed to remove the unnatural barriers. A couple of years back when we took an Alpine tour, we started in Germany, went to Austria, then to Italy.

Further, we travelled to Switzerland, again to Italy and back to Switzerland. Finally, we took our flight back home from Frankfurt in Germany. No border checks, no customs inspection, we could use the same currency Euro in most of the places.

When a big continent like Europe can survive using naïve rules where they tried to remove many unnatural barriers, I am sure other nations can also work to remove the obstacles. There are problems in EU, but questions had been worse when there were more barriers. Imagine a world free of passports, visas, x-ray machines and so on! There are problems galore like terrorism, refugees who made it necessary to create such complex systems.

When she was younger, Rhea had asked me one question in a Mandir. “How does the Bappa know when I ask him to make me wise, in Marathi? Does he understand all languages?” Bappa or God is our creation. He does not bother about barriers; he understands every language in the world. We know him as God, Jesus, Mohamad. The different species look different; some fly, some are underwater. Some are two-legged, most are four-legged. Except for humans, all other species follow nature’s rules. They die when they die. Nobody takes them to hospitals. Birth and death are natural processes and should be accepted as they come. I am sure some of the species must be feeling sad when one of them dies.

In many cases, when their time has come to go, they only go away from the clan and die.

Which constitution or the rules are the correct rules or better rules? Bappa’s Constitution or the nations’ constitution? A good idea will be to have a mix of the two the way EU manages their affairs. The nation should follow local rules for running the nation and God’s rule for international relations. Writing these two lines is quite simple and bringing them into practice will be tough.

Coming to the naivety of 50 years back, what has changed in the social fabric? In India, there used to regular riots between people of different religions, the number of riots have come down. But the social atmosphere, these days, is always either tense or very tense! In the United States, African Americans were not allowed to take part in beauty pageants. There used to be open discrimination till late ’60 s of the last centuries. Discrimination has reduced somewhat, but I feel that people have become subtle, they have not changed. The coarseness in the Americas is on the rise for the last few years. The stressed social fabric of current times is due to jingoistic social media and political atmosphere both in India and the USA.

Galloping technology is supposed to bring ease of living, but it also brings in a big gap in rich and poor! Besides the usual reasons for a socially tense atmosphere, this divide of haves and have nots is going to add to the stress — all the more reason why Bappa’s Constitution will make more sense.

Let us all pray to him in any language (he will understand) to bring naivety back to our society. Pray to Him to teach us to improve ourselves so we can remove disparity, hate and barriers!

Rhea, to me Bappa’s rules are always good!

Pramod the Feng Shui Guru!

Feng Shui (simplified Chinese: 风水; traditional Chinese: 風水, pronounced [fə́ŋ.ʂwèi]), also known as Chinese geomancy, is a pseudoscience originating from China, which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. The term Feng Shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English.  Feng Shui is one of the Five Arts of Chinese Metaphysics, classified as physiognomy (observation of appearances through formulas and calculations). The Feng Shui practice discusses architecture in terms of “invisible forces” that bind the universe, earth, and humanity together, known as qi.  

The title of the blog is sensational and I am sure none of you will believe it. But you will understand the real meaning of this title, soon. To me, getting advised by Feng Shui or Vastu Shastra are means to achieve what everybody is looking for as ultimate joy and peace in this world! Enjoy the lovely monsoon drizzle, be excited to see the group of children screaming and running, get blessed with a hot Cuppa on a winter morning, get drunk on meeting friends without alcohol, be contented with boiled and salted corn, get lost looking at an old Madhubala song, all smiles! Burp on a stomach full of home food, feel the ultimate joy of gazing at snow clad Himalayan peaks, feel eager to reach sweet home at the end of a tour of Italy or whatever is your dream destination, feel lucky that maestros like Sachin Tendulkar and A R Rehman were around in your lifetime. Feel eager to go to work every day, buy fresh palak subji on way back from office because the better half loves it, feel lucky that you are born in a lovely family and living in a great city, enjoy the feeling that you married the bestest person in the world. If you already have this feeling about your life, without “experts” prodding you to do them if you are always contented with the life as you have it, you have a house which is your sweet home, you are already there! Have you now understood the meaning of the title “Pramod the Feng Shui Guru!” 

This subject came to my mind not because I am a believer in these things, in fact, I am very much against such thought processes. I read a story written by anonymous using Feng Shui as a subject. A person, who was a non-believer had decided to buy and decorate his dream home; in its compound was a beautiful fruit-bearing tree. Naturally, some branches were protruding outside the premises and some fruits were always  “borrowed” by kids outside. His friends suggested that he invite a Feng Shui expert from Hongkong, though he was a non- believer.  The Guru agreed to come; he was picked up from the airport and our friend went to pick him up personally. While driving the car he would always allow other vehicles to overtake, when they looked in a hurry! Later in a small lane, a child came running on the road, suddenly. Our friend stopped, he did not start the car immediately. The Guru asked him, why are you not moving. Our friend said, “Children always run in pairs when excited. I am waiting for the other child.” In came the other child. The Guru was astonished. After reaching home, they had lunch in the garden under the fruit tree. The Guru heard some commotion. Our friend said, “Some children are “borrowing” the fruits, my security is still getting used to NOT reacting.”  

After lunch and some rest, they started the discussion. Guru said, “You don’t need Feng Shui for your home. When our minds prioritize others’ peace and happiness, the one who benefits is not just others, but ourselves too. When a person is considerate of others at all times, then this person has unconsciously accomplished sainthood. The saint is, in fact, a person who through benefiting others becomes enlightened. You are a person who has already reached the level above what Feng Shui can achieve. I am flying back tomorrow and of course, No fees. I have already earned my fees by meeting you” 

This my friends is Feng Shui or Vastu Shastra or whatever you want to call it. People do many things to achieve peace, comfort and joy in their lives; they feel that the Gurus will tell them how to do it. Do we really need to be told by someone to be considerate of others? Why should somebody guide us to do these things? We read many books, we go to Mandirs and Masjids and Churches to achieve inner peace. Do we really need to go there? Being considerate, being polite, being nice and finally being content is something that should come from within, it is like going to the prayers. 

As a curiosity, I read something more about Feng Shui. It says remove clutter for good Feng Shui. Really? Do we need an expert to say this? Will you like to live in a home where there is clutter? We have a rule in our home. If we buy something as a replacement, we make sure that the old stuff is given away before the new thing arrives. It is common sense. I saw in someone’s house, two microwave ovens on top of each other. I was told that the old one was damaged, 3 years back and they would get it repaired!

Get good quality air and light in homes! Is it not obvious? Try staying in cold countries in winter, windows are always sealed and shut and sunlight availability is very poor during those months. Then it talks of Kua number, positive energy. Find your Feng Shui birth element; are we talking to a palmist? It talks about keeping wooden furniture in certain directions of the home. Vastu Shastra talks of positions and directions. What does this achieve?

Assume that there is a square building with four flats on each floor. The direction of Sunlight is fixed. So how can the same Shastra be applied to diagonally opposite flats? I live on the seventh floor, our flat is facing west. How can any Shastra tell me that the position of something should be such that I will get morning Sun? I never get morning Sunlight in my home, ever. From my floor upwards, the winds from the west are lovely and sometimes very strong. How can the same wind and second half sunlight be available on the first floor flat?  

Are Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra and their variants sciences? If you try to analyze scientifically, you may find many issues yourself. Of course, in homes, while constructing there can be some scientific errors. The experts will give the advice to break walls and windows based on their Shastra. One may do the same corrections under the guidance of architects or civil engineers. My friend had an office in a big square hall.  Along the walls, there were a few cabins for seniors. Once I went to meet him for a cup of coffee. The whole office looked like a war zone. Everything was broken and right in the centre of the office, a circular cabin was being created. The boss’s office! Vastu Shastra was in full swing! I, of course, did not ask him any questions about the activity, just had my coffee which was lovely!  

Why do people follow things blindly? What is the meaning of faith? In such situations, the cliché fits perfectly. Common sense is so uncommon! I have seen normally smart people following such advice. To me, it is a sophisticated way of following superstitions!  

By the way, I am starting a website www.pramodguruFengShui.com . I am giving below photos of stuff that we will sell online. 20% discount on pre-booking. 😊😊

 

 

 

Shashi Kapoor! The British Punjabi!

 

 

 

Shashi3

Balbir Prithviraj Kapoor aka Shashi Kapoor was born in THE Kapoor clan which had greats like his father Prithviraj, brothers Raj and Shammi. The father had a towering personality both physically and by reputation! Raj Kapoor proved to be the showman par excellence and proved his mettle through his career. Shammi was Shammi who was years ahead of time; his flamboyance was ahead of many international stars! To shine amongst such personalities in the family is what shows how Shashi Kapoor was different! Shashi Kapoor was the debonair, handsome person with a personality not matching the film industry. In those days the filmy guys hardly completed school, but Shashi had picked elegance, sophistication and elan to match the international stars.

Since Shashi Kapoor was a film personality, I am sharing videos of a couple of songs from his movies, though they are irrelevant, as is done in any film!

Here is one song from the movie Jab Jab Phool Khile!

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwKgAdAmSfo&w=854&h=480

Shashi as a human being was people’s person. I had an opportunity to see him from about 10 feet distance a couple of times; once during the shooting of the film Chor Machaye Shor and another time when he was the chief guest for musical competition in Pune while I was in college. Both the times he never appeared to have airs of the film hero that he was! He seemed to be easily chatting and doing gapshap with people around.

I have seen Devanand, Waheeda Rehman, Anil Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit, Sanjay Dutt and Rakesh Roshan from close quarters. But the smartness and elegance Shashi displayed probably only Waheeda came near to him! My friend and actor Dr Mohan Agashe said, “The films did not and could not capture the real handsome that Shashi Kapoor was!” I am sure that when you see or meet someone in person energy oozes out of some persons. If a person is a good person, there is some aura created; especially in case Shashi this happened as he was very good looking too! The slightly crooked teeth he had added to his personality!

In the decade of ’40s and ’50s the film actors did not have much education nor did they get opportunities for learning. In spite of that Shashi had great sophistication and was a natural. Especially in a foreign locale, his savoir-faire (the ability to act or speak appropriately in social situations) was to be seen to be believed. According to his costar Simi Garewal, she was always astonished to see Shashi at great ease in foreign countries. She has shared one story. They were in Italy in a restaurant for dinner. One lady saw them; she just left her husband in his seat and ran towards Shashi. It was a very embarrassing situation as husband came and there was a big shouting match between husband and wife. Shashi somehow was all sophistication personified and resolved the issue very smoothly. Still, the wife gave him a flying kiss while going away! Shashi just chuckled!

One song from his movie Pyar Kiye Ja!

Shashi married Jennifer Kendal, and she became his life’s anchor! They had a great marriage and had three children. Jennifer’s father and Jennifer were from Shakespeare drama school, and Shashi could do things to his liking in their company. He did some of his semi-art movies 36 Chauranghi Lane, Siddharth, Junoon during that phase. None of them, of course, made much money. He started Prithvi theatre which he thought was his life’s greatest achievement.

To make money he worked in typical Hindi films. He had a great partnership and camaraderie with Amitabh Bachchan. They did so many movies together that it was jokingly said that Amitabh had Shashi’s power of attorney with him! मेरे पास मेरी  मा  है! This is the famous dialogue by Shashi from the movie Deewar! In commercial films this was during Shashi’s peak.  He did many films, danced and sang many songs but I am not sure that his heart was really in it! This is the commercial reality of his life. He looked a bit awkward while dancing and running around the trees.

Shashi also had a humane side which was not known to many. Journalist Khalid Mohmad has shared a few gems. He would go for breakfast to Shashi’s home, a typical British Breakfast courtesy Jennifer! Shashi made sure that guests preferences were correctly managed, and bacon was never included! Khalid in his initial phase would be short of funds like everyone else. Shashi brought him a box full of socks from Harrods on his next trip to London! Shashi’s driver’s daughter got married in Nashik; due to prior shooting commitments, Shashi could not attend it. Shashi arranged a reception for the married couple in Mumbai later at a suitable date!

With what will Shashi Kapoor be remembered? His handsome looks, his sophistication, his friendly nature? Or he will be remembered for his bright smile, fresh face? Or his persistence in running Prithvi theatre? Only time will tell!

Adios Shashi, my friend! (Somehow, I always felt that he was a friend) I know you lost the zeal to live life after Jennifer died; she was your anchor and maybe you felt rudderless! Now that you two are joined together again show HIM the Shakespeare walla! One question you never answered. Were your British or were you a Punjabi?

Let me say al vida to you with a heavy heart and moist eyes!

Shashi2

 

 

Age is just a number!

Every society has its way of handling age and old people. What does it depend on? Relationships, money, closeness in the family, decide many aspects in life. Of course age is not the only factor, along with age comes the factor of health! If these two combine badly, the situation becomes dicey! In the current scenario where migration is the name of the game, things can be even more difficult; it is not migration to another country but it can be migration to a city from village or to another city, for work! Old are of course left behind!

My observation is that in western society, health permitting, senior citizens do a lot of things independently, without giving too much thought about age. This is probably because many generations have had a large number of senior citizens and are used to handle their own things, financially and otherwise!

In the generation of my grandparents, there was hardly any migration and most of the family continued to live together, many a times in the same house. Household requirements and individual requirements were very low and people survived with low incomes. At a later stage in my grand parents case, I think my father and uncles used to give additional support to them. It was always discussed in those days and even today, that people from that generation were really strong! They had to be! During young age of my grandparents, the life expectancy was so low, that those who were really strong, survived. Large number of people would die of influenza, plague and so on. There were no modern medicines or diagnostics. You catch the dreaded illness and you are gone!

But in today’s times, with Modern medicines, general improved health awareness, you see a lot of senior citizens around, with reasonably good health and in some cases wealth too! That’s a great combination if used properly. You have everything and diminished family responsibilities. So why not use the situation fruitfully? This is right time to start using ones bucket list! It could be books, travel, watching sports events, music events or whatever you have not been able to do in younger age.

In India we consider the age around 70 as old. Old enough to be reading Scriptures, living a contented life, interacting with grandchildren if they are around, maybe go to Mandirs and so on, in short doing nothing! This thought process is changing albeit slowly. Many of my friends in this age group have  become globe trotters, travelling with spouses and certain cases alone. In Western countries thought process about old age is  pretty different, the oldies are quite independent. We as a society should try and emulate good aspects of western thought process.

In last two years on different excursions we met a lady who was 99, travelling alone! Recently we met a 87 year old person again travelling alone. He has travelled to 99 nations in the world. Mind you, the examples I am giving here are all westerners. We have seen people who needed wheel chairs, one young man needed 100% Oxygen support. Yes, in foreign countries the facilities for physically challenged people are superb. That helps but it is the will to do it, will to travel, to explore through the physical challenge. Our group in both cases was predominantly of westerners!

In India our thought process is not very open to such thinking because for the first time, in our history, a large number of fitter & willing senior citizens are around. There is no history of independent senior citizens wandering about. We met an Indian couple, in early fifties, from Mumbai, at Matterhorn in Switzerland; they were kind enough to help us with some photos. While parting, the gentleman made a remark, “Sir, it is creditable that you are doing this journey at your age!” He had a valid point, not many Indians of our age travel internationally in mountains, independently. In the group in which we travelled, we were in middle range of the age group, many were 75 plus!

In general we take our age very seriously and think in terms of “Vanaprasthashrama” (fourth and final stage of life cycle)! Of course we have to be careful that when we travel we do not have any health issues! When we were travelling my wife Jaya had a minor foot injury. Our tour manager suggested, in good faith, that we should avoid mountains so that there is no mishap. But we were careful, reasonably confident ( of course not over confident) and did most of the things that were possible on the tour. We enjoyed the ride on the open deck of double decker cable car at Stanserhorn in Switzerland! Was the weather cold!

DoubleDeckerCableCar

Another thing that happens with the age is that we become a little inflexible with our eating habits. But we always followed the dictum ” Be like Romans when in Rome”! So we did have Pizzas and Pastas and Salads when we were Italy and enjoyed them. Of course “Kartoffelsalat” while we were in Germany! Did we have lovely wines when were in wine country? Of course we did!

What we can do post retirement is dependent on our mind set and openness to try new untried things. Don’t forget that many westerners do come to India where systems, food, weather are quite different for them. They can do it because of the flexibility that they show. You must be wondering why I am giving examples of western world. This is just to explain how differently old age is treated by westerners and what are the joys of this different treatment.

While walking around in Lucern, we had 76 years old Jones from Montreal for company. We saw one Indian restaurant and she said, ” Since you and Jaya are with me, I would like to try Indian food!” We went there and enjoyed the really pleasant food, even by our standards! Only thing I did not manage is to make Jones eat raw onion, the way we eat it! I had also offered to show her how we eat with our fingers but at her request we passed it too! I am sure we also will become more adventurous and try different things! Happy globe trotting folks!