Thursday, June 26, 2008

Agreement 123: Which way should India go?

Definitely, the way the Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh wants her to go. Why?

First of all, our Prime Minister is not a politician.

He is a statesman, a scholar, and an economist who became a politician by default. That being, it can be assumed safely that he has no vested interests in the agreement getting signed. Unlike the politicians, he himself has no intention or greed for remaining in power, and hence has the capability of thinking in terms of the best possible national interests of India.

Second, he is a man with foresight.

Remember the economic reforms of the 1990s? It is Dr. Singh who is still credited for the same. At the time the reforms were being carried out, there was fear all around that by allowing foreign companies to come into India, we are moving towards imperialism again, that we will not be able to stand up to the competition with international business houses and ultimately our companies will be taken over by them. Well, nothing of that sort has happened. On the other hand, today it is the Indian business houses, whether they be as well known as Tatas and Birlas or someone as little known as Maneesh Pharmaceuticals, that are on the shopping spree in the international market. Interestingly, India, today, is the third largest foreign investor in United Kingdom; thus turning the empire of yesteryears on its head.

Now, India of 1990s was obviously far less confident and shaky than what she is today. If this can be the miracle story of a courageous step of a far less confident and economically insecure India, just guess what the impact will be of giving the power-hungry India a completely new source of energy through 123 a few years down the line.

Third, let the nation not be high jacked by the communists.

Communists are a failure all over the world. There is not a single nation the world over that has succeeded under the rule of the communists. A country as powerful as USSR, incidentally also the birthplace of communism, was brought down to its knees due to the wrong policies of its government, and the biggest offshoot of its disintegration Russia is rapidly embracing capitalism today. True, there is China. But even there, capitalism has been embraced completely. They are in fact far more successful in attracting foreign capital to their country than what we have been. In the backdrop of their history the world over, how far will it be judicious to let the country be high jacked by the communists and let go of such an important agreement?

Fourth, we need to diversify our energy basket.

We import three fourth of the petroleum that we need in order to keep our economy moving. And most of it comes from the highly unstable Middle East. With Asia in the rapid growth trajectory, there has already been huge competition in the international petroleum market, which has resulted into the crude reaching never before prices. We need to explore potential alternative sources energy and start diversifying before it is too late. Agreement 123 is surely a step in that direction. With it not only will we be able to produce huge amounts of electricity, but will also be ready in time to embrace the new age transportation that is increasingly going to consist of vehicles running on alternative sources of energy, electricity being the most important of them all.

Fifth, global warming needs to be reversed. And fast.

This is something that needs little discussion.

The island nation of Kiribati is probably going to be the first sovereign victim of the rising sea levels, it being predicted that the whole country may be submerged by the middle of this century. Its government has already started negotiations with New Zealand and Australia to find asylums for its citizens when their nation has gone.

In the Indian context, Himalayan glaciers, on which whole of North India depends for its perennial supply of water, have already started vanishing. Besides, it is predicted that half of Bangladesh and major portions of coastal India, including Mumbai will be sub-merged due to the rising sea levels caused by global warming; leading to the kind of human displacements mankind has never seen before. If the damage to the global climate is not reversed fast, the future seems to be bleak for us as well.

Under such conditions it becomes hugely important for India to start shifting to some non-polluting source of energy for the sake of its own future; nuclear energy, no doubt, will be a smart move in that direction. Thus success of 123 is vital not only for our energy needs, but is also linked with our survival.

Sixth, we need the Americans and the Americans need us.

The matter, as it stands today, is that USA is worried of the rapid rise of communist China and needs a counter-balance in this region; and there is no other nation besides India that can fulfill that purpose. While we no doubt resemble the Chinese in our vastness, population and economic potential, we also cherish the ambitions of being a tough competitor to China, apart from being a global power someday in the future. Moreover, because of our being a democracy and having an almost completely peaceful past, USA will obviously be more comfortable with us as a major power rather than that position being occupied by China.

On our part, being a developing nation we need to be as close as possible to the nation that has contributed the most towards the development of the human race. Moreover, a visit to the post World War II era will make it amply clear that the nations that parted with the American block during that period are today far more successful than those that took side with the Soviet Union. The obvious comparisons can be between Western Europe and South Korea on the one hand and Eastern Europe and North Korea on the other.

Putting our seal of approval on the 123 agreement will not only open up a vast source of energy to us, but will also take us closer to the American nation, thus opening up a huge lot of potential opportunities for us in the future.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Have FIRE in the BELLY? Go! DARE!!

I came across a very good magazine a few days back. Itself a start up, it deals with the issue of entrepreneurship. The magazine is aptly named DARE, with 'R' in color Red, which interestingly refers to fire, Red in color, which burns in the belly of the entrepreneur.

A visit to their website (which is still dysfunctional, except the home page) proclaims out rather loudly “NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE WHO LIKE TO PLAY SAFE.” Rightly so, being an entrepreneur is a very risky thing, and although there is very different kind of excitement in creating something new, from the scratch, not many people risk to trade in this rather rarely traveled path.

However, I feel that the magazine is very rightly timed, and if you follow it over a period of few months, you come to know that it has already established its following, which continues to grow with each new issue of it.

With the opening up of the economy the urge to take risks has increased manifold, and there are Indians today who are not content with their nine to five job, and would love to soil their hands and make something new from the scratch. There are many who have brilliant ideas with huge potentials, but are not that well known as of now. And we find them going solo in fields as diverse as pharmaceuticals, auto parts, solar energy (SELCO is a rather new and innovative player in this field), microfinance and automobile services. So while suddenly there was this news a few days back of a rather unknown Maneesh Pharma acquiring 51% stake in US-based Synovics Pharmaceuticals for an undisclosed amount, the facts that close to 97% of the parts used in Nano have been made by Indian firms is not a secret anymore.

However, while there are opportunities all around for anyone who is innovative and original, there are problems aplenty as well. Starting from the unchartered territory of large number of confusing and probably unwanted laws, there are problems of procuring funds in order to grow one’s business and make it profitable as well. Besides, initial years can be very disappointing and lonely, and it is at such times that one would find the need to communicate with people who are either on the same path as themselves or have been through the same already.

DARE, I find, is a magazine handmade for these very circumstances. Not only does it provide highly needed exposure to start-ups, it also comes up every month with report about exiting opportunities in fields as diverse as waste management and urban mass transportation. Moreover, it provides information as to how and where to look for venture capitalists and angel investors who may be interested in investing in one’s business, apart from dedicating two sections “FEEDBACK” and "EXPRESSION" which act as platforms for readers to interact and share their problems and knowledge with each other.

Although employed as of now, I myself cherish ambitions of starting my own business a few years down the line. No doubt, I have become a regular reader of DARE myself, and recommend it sincerely to those who have that hot, red Fire burning in their belly.