Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

Is Infy becoming Narayana Murthy’s property?

26 August 2013

For over a decade starting in the mid-1990s into the early 2000s, Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy enjoyed a well-earned, larger-than-life, holier-than-thou persona through his various public interventions.

As politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen (and everybody else down the food chain, including the media) ran adrift in post-liberalised India, Murthy struck the right note, saying the right thing in just the right sort of way and at the right place, which made him the darling of the urban, literate, English-speaking, TV-watching middle-classes.

While his capitalist-compatriots hogged all the profits, there was Murthy making millionaires out of his own employees by giving them stock options in the company. While everybody shamelessly latched on to power, there he was resigning from the Bangalore international airport project because of a spat with H.D. Deve Gowda.

While everybody was hailing India’s education system, there he was pointing out the problems in them. Why, he was even credited with contemplating to revive Rajaji‘s Swatantra Party, which opposed socialism and rigid controls, as a way out of the morass that mainstream political parties and politicians had pushed India into.

Narayana Murthy was even spoken of as a possible President.

But of all things that Murthy said in his strange, American twang, the one that struck a chord among “People Like Us” (PLUs) was his defence of merit as the lifeblood of a country on the ascendant. As politicians rolled out reservations left, right and centre to protect votebanks, Murthy (who idolised Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew) bravely batted for meritocracy.

Merit is the lifeline of any organisation, he said.

“Infosys is an absolute meritocracy. Even in a meritocracy, other things being equal, you have to give opportunity to the more experienced candidate. Whether it was Nandan Nilekani, Kris Gopalakrishnan or Shibulal, they are absolutely top class and they have been running this marathon longer than some others. Their is no question of (any discrimination) between founder, non-founder. I have no hesitation in saying we are the most professional company in the world,” he said in a 2011 interview.

Which is why the drama surrounding Narayana Murthy’s 30-year-old son Rohan Murthy shows NRN in poor light.

First the 30-year-old (who is married to the heiress of the TVS group) was brought in as an executive assistant to NRN following Murthy’s return to Infosys, which in itself was something NRN did not advocate in public. (Rohan Murthy, who is “on leave” from Harvard, was paid a farcical salary of one rupee a month, apparently at his request.)

Now, less than three months of the appointment, comes a move to elevate executive assistant Rohan Murthy as vice-president Rohan Murthy although NRN had said just three months ago that there would be no leadership role for his son. Obviously, questions of corporate governance, a phrase that repeatedly tripped out of NRN’s tongue have been raised.

Does Narayana Murthy’s hypocrisy stand exposed with the latest move? Should the ministry of corporate affairs allow Rohan Murthy’s elevation to go ahead? Can a publicly listed company be so susceptible to the pressures of a founding family? Does NRN’s move to elevate his son show that blood is thicker than water?

Is something rotten at the Sikkapatte Important Company of Karnataka?

Or is it all OK because dynasties are a way of life in India?


Also read: Come again, in spite of government or because of…?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Infosys a ‘body shop’?

‘Indian IT does not benefit its own people’

Girish Karnad: J.P. Nagar to China via Singapore

8 May 2012

Girish Karnad in the Daily Beast:

“Only 20 years ago, when my wife and I decided to move to Bangalore from Bombay, we could visit a new suburb, buy a site of our choice, and then sit down with an architect to design the house we wanted. No more.

“As the demand for housing overran the availability of land, the estate developers took control, eating into the villages surrounding the city, occupying farms and open spaces, razing houses to the ground, and installing multistory apartment buildings in their place, with little regard to the city’s existing infrastructure.

“The current joke is that the only buildings to remain unscathed by the onslaught may be Vidhana Soudha, the building that houses the legislature, and UB City, a complex that is a hideous combination of the Empire State Building and Internet kitsch, built by a liquor baron….

“Twenty years after we built our house in a residential zone, we have now been informed that the road in front of it needs to be widened to accommodate the traffic. Any day now an entire swath could be cleared from our front garden, and the wall of our living room knocked down.

“A city planner told me: ‘Every day 400 four-wheelers and 1,200 two- and three-wheelers are added to the roads of Bangalore. We have to compete with Beijing.’

“It was not so long ago that the city was competing only with Singapore.”

Read the full article: Karnad on Bangalore


BANGALORE‘A city whose soul has been clinically removed

C.N.R. RAO: If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT

PAUL THEROUX: Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

CHURUMURI POLL: Who killed Bangalore?

Bharat as seen from the City of Baked Beans

Has the IT boom quelled Bangalore’s tensions?

How China changed the face of Karnataka politics

6 questions Rahul Gandhi still hasn’t answered

7 January 2012

If you listen closely to the breeze blowing through the capital’s vineyards, the year of the lord two-thousand twelve is the year when a not-so-young man will become the “fifth generation custodian of one of the world’s longest serving political dynasties of the world“.

But Rahul Gandhi‘s personal life has not been the bed of roses that pathological Congress-haters with Subramanian Swamy on their Twitter timeline think it is: he was 10, when his uncle crashed to death; 13 when his grandmother lay soaked in blood in the family garden; 20 when the call came from Sriperumbudur.

His political life, though, is not as touching.

Seven years since he set foot in the cesspool, few know where he stands on any issue. He speaks for FDI in retail after the bill has been torpedoed. He speaks for Nandan Nilekani‘s Aadhar project after the parliament standing committee has torn into it. He looks ashen-faced when his suggestion to make Lok Pal a constitutional authority is noisily defeated.

If the Congress wins anything, bouquets are laid at his door; if it loses, partymen magnanimously bat the bricks. If he speaks in the Lok Sabha, he is cheered; if he remains silent, his critics are jeered. For a digital generation politician, he seems to loves playing a stuck LP on his strange two-nation theory of India.

Yes, has heroically (and admirably) made the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections a test of his prowess, unlike his presumed rival from the BJP—Narendra Damodardas Modi, to give him his full name—who cannot even step out of his Vibrant State, but what after that?

On India Real Time, the Wall Street Journal‘s superb India website, Ajit Mohan asks the one question reporters on the Congress beat are loathe to asking:

“The question that has never been sincerely posed is what will he have to do to earn the right to lead the nation or even the party? Even the scions of established political dynasties have had to earn their stripes in recent history.

“While it was always a guaranteed outcome that Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew’s first-born son would become the prime minister some day, Lee Hsein Loong was battle-tested in critical ministerial portfolios and successfully led the country’s monetary authority during the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s before he got anywhere near the leadership chair.

Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the Democratic party’s favorite president, John F. Kennedy, and descendant in a long line of family members who served in senior leadership positions in the government, failed to get the nod from her party for a US Senate nomination despite her legacy and support from a sitting president. North Korea may well be an exception to the rule, where the only criterion for the new supreme leader seems to have been that he happened to be the son who was not a full-blown lunatic.

“For Rahul Gandhi to earn the right to be the leader that he may be destined to be, he must prove his mettle on many fronts.

“Can he articulate a philosophy of political and social change that is compelling enough to chart the policies of the Congress for the next 20 years? Can he create a political strategy that is rooted not in the vote bank politics of the past — slicing and dicing communities and castes — but in appealing to the aspirations and energy of constituencies that have traditionally not even bothered to vote? Does he have the intent and the ability to reform the party’s governance structures? Can he win elections for the party? Can he build and sustain coalitions? Does he have the management ability to lead and govern a party as diverse as the Congress, or a country as complex as India?”

Photograph: courtesy The Associated Press via WSJ

Also readJesus, Mozart, Alexander aur apun ka Rahul Gandhi

What Amethi’s indices tell us about Rahul Gandhi

How different is Rahul Gandhi from MNS and KRV?

Rahul Gandhi‘s ascension: A foregone conclusion?

‘Politics is about solving problems, not evading them’

After Manmohan who? Chidu, Diggy or Rahul?

‘Most opaque politicians in the democratic world’

A functioning anarchy? Or a feudal democracy?

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part I

One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi—Part II

Only question anyone should ask Rahul Gandhi

To understand the 2G Scam, look into their eyes

3 May 2011

Modern politicians are master chefs, experts at serving bullshit on toast, to the pop of the flashbulbs. They talk vacuously of turning their capitals into Singapore, as if that city-state is heaven on earth. They parcel away assets of the people who elected them, into private hands by uttering the tragic buzzword, “PPP”.

Etcetera, while they line their pockets.

Pictures like these are proof of the scam 2G—“Good Governance”—has become in the age of image management.

Proof that, for all the high-sounding, high-falutin’ promises made by sundry leaders, ministers and bureaucrats, ordinary citizens are denied the basic dignities of life. Here, two wizened old Kannadigas await their turn at chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s home-office, Krishna, in Bangalore on Tuesday, to pour out their tale of woe.

Maybe, the CM will wave his magic wand but should they have trudged this far at their age?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

‘Everything’s fine till something happens to you’

25 February 2008

SWAROOP C.H. writes from Bangalore: I’ve been provoked and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Incident 1. It all started on Day 2 of my Singapore trip (Sunday, December 23) when a hotel owner was too friendly. Maybe he didn’t have much work, but anyway, he got pretty chatty with us and was asking about how we liked Singapore. All we wanted to do was eat noodles.

He started talking about his visit to India, and like most Singaporeans, he had been on a Buddhist pilgrimage to India. I can still remember the angst in his voice.

He said that the central government in India was good but the state governments were bad. Strike 1. I had to agree.

He said that it was not a safe place for businessmen to invest money. He said one of his close friends made huge investment, but when the government changed, the policies changed and the friend made a huge loss. Strike 2. I don’t know much about such things, but I can imagine that it is possible.

He said that India hadn’t advanced enough, there’s still too much poverty, there’s still so much chaos. He said ‘take a look at China’. For example, if the parents invest some amount with the government, they’ll give back 10 times the amount in 10 years, or something like that, and this is guaranteed by the government to safeguard the child’s future. I don’t remember the numbers he used but I was impressed with what he said. Strike 3.

I was beaten and didn’t know how to fight back.

I’m not a patriotic guy. I don’t go around burning boards written in non-state languages, nor do I go around speaking only in Hindi and refusing to speak in English. But I believe in the concept of India as a nation and I instinctively feel that I should defend my country when someone says something negative about my country.

But I was stumped. I was completely caught off-guard. I didn’t know what to say. I just nodded. I desperately looked for things to tell him. But I got nothing. Throughout the trip, I kept thinking of things to go back and tell that hotel guy that India is a great country, but what do we really have?

Specifically, the question is:

Post-independence, does India, as a nation, have achievements to be proud of?

I’m not talking about our ancient history or ‘culture’. I’m not talking about what some Indian did when he went to a foreign country, or even someone who went out of his way to achieve something within India (like the paeans being written about Tata Motors and their Nano car).

I’m talking specifically about: 1. the post-independence era, and 2. as a nation.

    A week after that incident, I was still trying to forget about it. But the same thing happened again on Day 9 (Sunday, December 30) with the store owner of a bookstore that Abishek and myself randomly walked into.

    We had a long conversation about Buddhism and our beliefs of God and how we pray. It’s surreal that we randomly started talking our intimate spiritual beliefs with a complete stranger. But such is life. And then she mentioned the same exact things that the hotel owner did. She specifically mentioned that she was appalled at the poverty when she went to Bodh Gaya.

    Yes, we are talking about poverty, not just about the beggars on the busy roads of Bangalore, but he fighting-for-food kind, the kind that we saw in Swades.

    Incident 2. After visiting the Kaala Chakra exhibition, I realized how influential India has really been, especially to most of South East Asia, from language to politics to trade, Indian-related stuff is everywhere in South East Asia. I used to wonder about why Tamil is such a common language here in Singapore, and only after I visited this exhibition, I realized that this goes back to the ages before christ!

    Notice the irony that I got to know more about Indian history and influence when I’m outside India. Probably because there is such importance given to history and culture in Singapore. But people in India have no time for such things, we are still fighting and struggling for our basic needs.

    This immediately reminded me of “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”:

    Maslow's hierarchy of needs

    We are still struggling in Levels 1-3, that’s why we are just touching Level 4, and we’re a long way from reaching Level 5 of Self Actualization. At least, my point of view.

    Incident 3. I know there will be lots of people that say that I’m wrong, and that everything’s fine in India. (It reminds me of Rahul Bose in Everybody Says I’m Fine.)

    The problem is that everything’s fine as long as nothing bad happens to you or you witness it, only then you realize how bad the situation is. God forbid, you end up in an accident, only then you realize the problems with the police, the hospital, the insurance, and so on. The situation is the same everywhere, irrespective of the aspect of life.

    I don’t know how better or worse we are compared to other countries, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be in a better situation. There is simply no reason to! We have the money, the people, the resources…

    Incident 4. I came to know recently that at a premier medical institution in Bangalore, teachers are openly telling students that if they don’t help the teachers (i.e. pay them money), they will make sure that 30% of the students will fail! I am not kidding you, this is for real. Where’s the sanctity of education? Where’s the concern for the students’ future? Where’s the concern for encouraging future doctors (especially because the number of doctors is already dwindling)? Where’s the concern about setting precedents for future of medical profession? Even if they don’t think long term, how will students afford this? I know many medical student friends who have struggled to pay the hefty fees, what about these students who simply cannot afford to pay bribes to teachers?

    Similarly, lecturers in PUC colleges have stopped teaching in college and they tell students that they are anyway going to tuitions. If not, they should join their own tuitions! What happens to all those students who can’t afford it?

    Incident 5. Abishek’s close friend and special effects friend Osmand is a third-generation Indian. When he was about to fly from India to China to visit his relatives, he was abused that he was a Chinese person, and this for a person who’s born and brought up in India his entire life!

    The difference in attitudes was telling when the Indian immigration officer made him wait for 3 hours to prove that he’s an Indian compared to when he explained, that he’s a third-generation Indian originally hailing from China, to the Chinese immigration officer, he said Welcome home.” Now, Osmand is as Indian as it gets, irrespective of how it looks. Tell me, who’s the racist here? Osmand is so fed up of this attitude that he wants to go back to China.

    Incident 6. Abishek and myself were sitting by the river in Clarke Quay in Singapore on new year’s eve waiting for the clock to strike midnight. The atmosphere was full of revelry with all the Singaporean youth spraying foam on each other or boozing away or chatting. What’s amazing is that women freely walk around without any fear. I’ve seen women in Singapore walk at 2 am freely with clothes that redefine what ‘mini skirt’ stands for.

    On the other hand, Abishek pointed out that in India, at new year’s eve, there were incidents of molestation in Bombay, eveteasing by Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s sons, Patna boys barge into a girls hostel, Cochin revelers molest a 15-year old Swedish girl and so on.

    Oh, and this is not just inside India. As churumuri put it recently, you can take the Indian out of India, but can you take India out of the Indian?

    Incident 7. When I was in PUC, I had many a time seriously considered politics as a career (all that “desh ke liye kuch karna hain” funda) but goondaism isn’t my cup of tea, so I dropped the whole idea. Seriously. If you want to survive in politics in India today, you have to know some rowdys or goondas to back you up, or you’re gonna end up in pieces in a ditch somewhere. We all know the familiar story of Manjunath Shanmugam who ratted out on how the Mittal petrol pump in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh are doing adulteration and he got shot by the owner’s son Monu Mittal and his goons.

    Politics in India is simply terrible.

    On the other hand, Singaporeans may have less press freedom and such, but I am okay with that compared to the circus that we have here.

    We are only harming the planet, it seems.

    Incident 8. Another incident I have to come know of is that there was some random old person who was suffering from a high BP attack and was going in an auto to his hospital where he was undergoing treatment. First, the auto guy literally dumps him on the pavement, takes the old man’s money and runs away. All this in broad daylight. IIRC, that too in Koramangala, one of the posh areas in Bangalore.

    Second, there are 10-20 people who surround and watch him and do nothing. Third, nothing happened until Vikram (Abishek’s friend) was passing by, shocked at all this, talked to the old man, who somehow was able to convey which hospital he was going to. Vikram took him to the hospital on bike. Fourth, the hospital said they can’t admit without some identification! Vikram said “He’s your patient, please look up your records and please treat him urgently.” They repeated the same statement. Fifth, Vikram who was fed up, says “Maybe Times of India would like to do a story on this.”

    Suddenly, the hospital staff spring into action and look up his records and take the old man in to the doctor. Sixth, Vikram comes out shaken and calls up Abishek and asks “What if this is my father tomorrow? What would happen to him? What kind of city do we live in?”

    Pop quiz : How many things are wrong/sad in this picture?

    These are real incidents, real stories. Seriously.

    Incident 9. What can we do in a place where people have to bribe to get death certificates? Aren’t the families mourning enough already?

    Again, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We are just struggling for the basics of life, maybe that’s why we can’t seem to go beyond that.

    Sportspersons are fighting for basic equipments, for basic facilities. No wonder they can’t move beyond to think of fighting against the competition. Cricket is an exception for exactly this reason – because the cricketers are so well-paid, they move to the next level in Maslow’s hierarchy and actually concentrate on the game. This becomes a virtuous cycle and hence the game is flourishing.

    Apply the same concepts to the other aspects such as political or economical, and you’ll notice that we’re still fighting the same everywhere.

    Let me repeat, post-independence, is there anything to be proud of India, the nation?

    I can’t think of anything. And what’s worse, I put this across to a few close friends, and they didn’t offer anything too. In a way, I was glad that it’s not just me, but many others feel the same way too. The sad part is that many others feel the same way too.

    Incident 10. The Press likes to make it a point to hail people of Indian origin like Lakshmi Mittal (Mittal Arcelor) or Indra Nooyi (Pepsi) or Vikram Pandit (Citigroup) and how they have risen to those powerful positions. But why is it that they were able to do it only when they’re out of India, not when they are here in India?

    Isn’t this a common refrain? I again trace it back to Maslow’s hierarchy. Most talented people I know all want to get out of India so that they can do serious work. Sad, but true. Including Abishek who’s now in Singapore making ads for China, Middle East, India, Pakistan, all in Singapore. He would’ve probably never got an opportunity like this in India. And yes, he’s the brains and technical person behind many ads in India you would see from Limca to Airtel to Pepsi.

    Again, I see people here in Singapore indulging in running, cycling, shopping and they’re seriously into arts, and so on. They are building a culture. Even partying till late into the night at Clarke Quay or shopping 24×7 at Mustafa and so on. And it’s completely safe for women as well. How do they do that!?

    Imagine that a 42×28 km country like Singapore (one of the 20 smallest countries in the world and at the same time the 2nd most densely populated country in the world) is hosting a Formula 1 race in 2008, is bidding for the 2010 Olympic Youth Games, etc.

    A country that is more than 4500 times bigger and has 250 times more population is still struggling for basic needs (numbers derived from Wikipedia’s estimates of population and size).

    Yes, our problems are bigger and more varied, but the politicians and the press talk about Bangalore becoming something like Singapore in 20 years or so! We are already comparing us vs them.

    We can’t even get basic water supply or road transit facilities to an upcoming world-class Bangalore International Airport? (And the only reason it’s world-class is because we outsourced it). Why are things so bad? It’s not the money, we have enough of it. Is it the people? But the capability is there. So what’s really wrong? Is it the leadership? I guess we do really need visionaries who execute like Lee Kuan Yew in India. Is it the attitude of the general population? Is it both? Or something else?

    I don’t know, I am disillusioned.

    I bought into the kool-aid and that whole India 8% growth story. I want my money back.

    Well, people can say that Singapore has no real freedoms, you’re just a puppet and so on. I have an analogy for that. We need a class teacher to maintain discipline (law and order) so that the classes can proceed and progress can be made, otherwise there will be just noise and only people who somehow learn to not get affected by the noise and study on their own (businessmen who succeed). It’s not like there is no freedom, you can always raise your hands and talk to the class teacher (citizens representation to the government) or at least approach the teacher after class hours (write to them)….

    Irrespective of the type of government (democracy or autocracy or whatever), maintaining discipline should be the primary responsibility of the government, which is what is lacking in India today. For example, why is it that the same Indians who go to places like Singapore suddenly start following the rules? Because they know they’ll be fined otherwise. And once people start respecting each other, keep the premises clean, and maintain civic behavior, things automatically start looking better.

    On the other hand, on Bangalore roads, I face road rage everyday. That’s why I prefer to listen to songs on my iPod, so that I can tune out all these unruly people.


    I really want to go back to that hotel and argue with the owner. But I have nothing. Nothing.

    India is No. 115 out of 157 in the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom. I have no idea what that means, but I’m sure it’s not a good thing.

    Even in a “forward” state like Karnataka, nearly three-fourths of rural eighth standard students cannot do basic subtraction, fewer than half of the schools have all teachers present, and only 7.4 per cent of students in standards 3 through 5 can read a sentence in English. The report is simply depressing.

    Even our IT boom is debatable.

    I hope someday I can go back to the hotel owner and defend India.