Monday, February 27, 2006

A Positive First Impression

Normally, this blog is pretty much inward looking. I write about stuff that I find funny, sad or something that bothers me, related to my everyday life. Then I try to include something from memory or try and abstract and put out something extra.

I generally avoid talking about world issues, political problems, critique policies etc. Basically the attempt is to avoid giving off any gyan because basically I don’t think I deserve to.

But its 1.30 AM and I can't sleep. I have to get up tomorrow at 6 AM and I should be sleeping. But I can't and my mind keeps going back to an article that I read a few hours ago in the latest issue of India Today (Mar 6).

Mr. N R N Murthy, Chairman, Infosys writes about how we should go about creating a positive first impression on the US CEOs so that we can improve our trade with them. This is just a summary of the points he makes in the article.

1. Ensure full transparency in our policies. Abolish case by case approval schemes.
Fine, nice global statement, nothing wrong with that. But I, with less than four years of work experience know that its utopian. Even the best processes can't cover everything and you cannot avoid case by case approvals. Just imagine, would it be too difficult to select an Indian cricket team based only on statistics. I mean that would be transparent, everybody would know that to get in the team, one needs a particular average, strike rate, specific fitness levels etc. We won't need any selectors to go watch matches. But will that get us the best team?

2. Create inexpensive signs of our trade openness by allowing McDonald's, Pizza Huts and WalMarts to open more outlets.
Inexpensive signs?! Wow! I can't believe this. The whole country has been debating about FDI in retail for months now and Mr. Murthy doesn't seem to think it’s an important issue. Oh yeah, the IT industry is not in the business of retail. Real Estate, maybe, but not retail. Right!

3. Create separate arrival/departure lounges. Let there be a hundred nice sofas where these businessmen can sit and wait while their entry, exit and customs formalities are being progressed. Employ young men and women in smart uniforms to take care of the formalities of the guests.
This just gets better. I remember George Fernandes had mentioned about a ‘strip search’ that he had to undergo in a US airport when he was the Defence Minister. And a few days ago, a reputed Indian scientist with full credentials from the Indian government was denied a VISA because his Muslim name resembled with an Al Quaida terrorist! Everybody who has frequented the US knows that you just need to be brown skinned to get special treatment from the immigration out there if you know what I mean. But we don’t want these goras with money standing in an Indian line!

4. Provide Incentives to helicopter companies to start services between the airport and the hotel for these people. This will avoid their experiencing bad traffic congestion. Then since these CEOs are allergic to wait in Govt. Office corridors, let us convert a huge mansion like the Hyderabad House in to a Hi-Tech Center with 20 well furnished rooms and get our ministers and bureaucrats and come there and meet these guys.
I don't think Mr. NRN was serious here. I would like to think he is just taking a dig at the political establishment in Bangalore for the traffic conditions out there. But if he is, I have a better idea. Lets shift the seat of our govt. from Delhi to a Miami Hotel. That should solve the problem.

5. Bring a level of certainty to appointments. Don't cancel or postpone them.
I have no problem with this one. Obviously, if those guys turn up on time we should keep our commitments too.

6. Create a cadre of smart and well-educated tour guides so that the spouses of these CEOs can tour the city.
Yes. Now as part of the UPSC exams, there will a new service called IGS. Indian Guide Service. Please. Those guys can ask any of the Seven Star hotels in which they stay in to arrange a tour for their spouses/companions. And pay for it.

In the book, "Doing Business in China" James Mcgregor makes a few telling comments about how China deals with multinationals and he gives words of advice to these MNCs. Some are

1. If your boss wants to do a quick deal in China, lose his or her VISA.
2. China doesn't forgive, and it never forgets. China has a long memory and seeks retribution when foreign companies defy its desires.
3. If Chinese ill treatment of foreigners ever depresses you, take solace in the knowledge that the Chinese treat each other even worse.
4. The Chinese govt. uses competition from foreign businesses to reform its own system and companies.
5. Chinese negotiators are masters of making you feel you need them more than they need you.
6. The Chinese will ask you for anything because you just may be stupid enough to agree to it. Many are.

These are just a few nuggets. And everybody knows that China dwarfs India in terms of FDI. Let’s be clear on one thing. These US CEOs are not in India today to do us a favor. They are here to make money for their shareholders. I am not saying that we should make them lick our boots, but hey, at least lets not pander and lose our self-respect when we do business with them.

Bending over backwards is just going to get us worms in chocolates and pesticides in cola.

In the evenings, when I pass by the slums near my home, I see blacked out ramshackle huts, naked small kids playing in the sewage, men and women sitting around leading their terrible life.

Somebody tell me again how all this FDI is going to help them?


singlewheatfemale said...

moving post man.
You hit it this time, (and again, actually!).
I totally agree with your counter-points.
I read the article too few days back. Although was too lazy to post anything on that matter!! :D

See, I feel that India is gonna go under another colonisation. With all the supposed farce the middleclass is undergoing.

Have you read today's newspaper btw? The front page of TOI is devoted too Mr. Bush's Pvt. plane-air force one. All abt where the potty is, and the drink bar!!!

keep it on, dude. Lets khalabalise people!!!

dazedandconfused said...

Well, I am a bit more optimistic. I don't think we will be 'colonised' again. But how we act now will decide how long it will take to eradicate extreme poverty from our country. And thank god I don't read TOI. Its Deccan Chronicle for me out here!:)

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