Thursday, February 28, 2008

Chuck de NDNC Registry

Rogue economy is anti-neocon phrase, which is yet to enter into the lexicons. But ask any Pakistani and he will start prattling. Rogue economy is something, which fuels a country’s growth even though most of the indices are defunct. In Pakistan the terrorists are contributors and India is also becoming a rogue economy albeit it’s the MNCs, which are major contributors of this economy. Now a sense of lugubriousness is fast setting in and this blame solely lies on you, the mobile user. The numbers getting registered at National Do No Call (NDNC) Registry is increasing at a gargantuan pace. Reason: telemarketers are making unsolicited calls. All I want to ask these people is: do they want their country to revert back to the days of “Hindu rate of growth”?
BPO is a cottage industry, which has generated close to six lakh jobs till date. BPO is an $ 8.4 billion gorilla and it has become an inextricable part of the “resurgent economy”. No other sector pays such obscene amount for what is clearly monkey work. People have stopped studying after 10th standard because they get paid 15 grand for reciting the FAQ’s verbatim. Coming back to telemarketing, the corporates do not leave any stone unturned to improve those quarterly results of theirs. And the “executives” (a glorified tag for a clerk job) are given ludicrous targets to meet.
Thus, they are ensconced in an ergonomic chair in a Siberian pigeonhole called a cubicle and they start reciting their parrot work. And anyway, since when did we Indians start taking care of our privacy when we always wash our dirty linen in public? Telemarketing is a very useful tool for those entire attention deficit people who can pretend talking or who want to show that they are the busiest persons on terra firma. The world is increasingly getting ‘flat’ and India is considered global only because of the exploits of its BPO employees. Western influence in India will get eroded if these BPOs are, god forbid, closed. These “executives” flush their toilets with cash and a pair of Diesel jeans is no more a prized possession.
If at all these BPO employees are to be rendered jobless then indirectly many will become unemployed in India. The condom manufacturers, satin couch producers, people who work in shopping malls, multiplex owners, and fast food outlets are some of the immediate casualties if you register your number with the NDNC registry. If you are a committed Indian citizen and if you think that our population will be our nemesis in the future then start supporting the proliferation of BPOs. Low sperm count and reduced fertility rate are byproducts of BPO. Hence, support our telemarketers, so what if you get a lifetime offer from a network provider when you are in a funeral?!

P.S: This headline was thought of much before than Economic Times.

Some recommendations:

Once: I reached my male menopause the moment the film ended because Glen Hansard does not know that Marketa Irglova indeed loves him. And I was glad that I knew that. This is surely the Before Sunrise of 2007. And do forgive that brogue of Hansard.

Eastern Promises: The violent brawl between the "Chechens" and Viggo Mortensen is the most spine chilling fight I have ever seen, even Ed Norton's in American History X notwithstanding.

Gone Baby Gone: A morality tale which never preaches but still drives home the point that parenting is not an easy job. I have never been much of a Ben Affleck fan but post this movie I respect his direction sensibilities.

The saddest part is none of these movies are releasing in India. Such is the "multiplex culture" here.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Deep Disconnect

A report by English economist Lord Meghnad Desai in November 2005 alerted the world to the possibility that large third world nations were “decoupling” from the key drivers of the world economy, the United States, Japan and Europe. He predicted that the fate of many Asian economies, particularly China and India, were becoming less dependent on the fortunes of developed nations. The report argued that if Gross Domestic Product was measured using purchasing power parity (or PPP) that represents the true value of a country’s output, India is the world’s fourth largest economy after the US, China and Japan. Moreover, China and India together accounted for roughly half of global GDP growth in 2005. According to IMF estimates, emerging markets and developing economies will grow at a rate of 8.1%, compared to the US’s 1.9% in 2008. But last week, to borrow a cliché, as soon as the US sneezed, India and most of Asia caught a cold.

The likely prospect of a recession in the US was enough to send the Bombay Stock Exchange’s 30-stock Sensitive Index (Sensex) tumbling. On January 21 and January 22, the market lost a quarter of its value (it recovered half that in the days that followed) due to a variety of external factors – the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US, oil at $100 a barrel, the Iraq war and turmoil in credit markets. Despite US President George Bush’s announcement of a $150 billion economic stimulus plan to revive the economy, global markets have remained gloomy. Credit card defaults are rising in the US, a logical corollary of the mortgage defaults. When real estate prices fall spending becomes a casualty. US consumer spending has kept the world economy booming for five years, and reduced US spending could mean a global downturn.

Indian stock markets are increasingly being driven by foreign portfolio investments. The Sensex scaled 21,000 points this January from just 15,000 in July 2007 on the back of investments by Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) of $20 billion last year. According to NASSCOM, India’s information technology and IT services industries contributed 7% of GDP in 2005. The IT industry is driven by demand for their services from the West, particularly the US. Thus, India cannot remain immune to what happens in the US, the Euro Zone and the UK and yet maintain high growth rates. India's commerce minister Kamal Nath conceded as much at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he said no economy in the world can be fully insulated from a US recession.

But the fact remains that India and China are less dependant on the US economy than almost all their neighbours. In a recent article, The Economist pointed out that thanks to their large domestic consumption, just 8% of China’s GDP was dependent on exports to the US while in India’s case the corresponding figure was a miniscule 2%. Rating agency Standard and Poor’s latest report on the risk posed by a US recession to Asia’s economies underscores the same point. S&P says that unlike South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, which are “vulnerable” to a US downturn, India and China are “not vulnerable”.

So what explains the apparent disconnect? Why are Indian and Chinese stock markets reacting so readily to bad news from the US when their economies barely register a blink? In India’s case, the latest dip in stock prices could be one of timing a much as that of sentiment: The Rs 11,700 crore Reliance Power IPO has sucked out a plenty of liquidity as investors have sold stock to invest in one of India’s most valuable companies.

But there is a deeper reason, in fact a real “decoupling” between capital markets and economies. Stock markets operate on sentiment. Only over the long term can we discern a relationship between the real worth of companies and the prices at which their shares are traded. Markets are fundamentally propelled by emotion while economies are driven by hard information that every individual and firm base their actions upon. It’s when we confuse the world of stock markets for the real world that we get into serious trouble.


Mithya: Two people in contemporary Hindi cinema never fail to amaze me- Vishal Bhardwaj and Rajat Kapoor. It is a Sisyphean task to encapsulate this movie in a few words but at some level this is "an existentialist gangster film". Monsieur Godard, forgive me if you have taken umhbrage to it.

Red Road: I absolutely loved the way this movie combined Bertoluccian obsession and style of taking of Michael Haneke. The raw sex scene obliterates the scene between Julianne Moore and Mark Wahlberg in "Boogie Nights".

Machuca: For all those find Dreamers a bit too hard to digest, this one is more like an adolescent version of the Bertolucci's much-talked film; albeit, the historical backdrop is much more spread out too.