G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Martin Amis: “Gogol is funny, Tolstoy in his merciless clarity is funny, and Dostoyevsky, funnily enough, is very funny indeed; moreover, the final generation of Russian literature, before it was destroyed by Lenin and Stalin, remained emphatically comic — Bunin, Bely, Bulgakov, Zamyatin. The novel is comic because life is comic (until the inevitable tragedy of the fifth act);...”

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Justin E.H. Smith: “One should of course take seriously serious efforts to improve society. But when these efforts fail, in whole or in part, it is only humor that offers redemption. So far, human expectations have always been strained, and have always come, give or take a bit, to nothing. In this respect reality itself has the form of a joke, and humor the force of truth.”

विलास सारंग: "… . . 1000 नंतर ज्या प्रकारची संस्कृती रुढ झाली , त्यामध्ये साधारणत्व विश्वात्मकता हे गुण प्राय: लुप्त झाले...आपली संस्कृती अकाली विश्वात्मक साधारणतेला मुकली आहे."

Sunday, November 20, 2016

ठणाणायन...A Cacophonic Hymn to Tata's


Amitav Ghosh, The Times of India, November 27 2016 when asked "Is the business biography then just a creation of a mythology?":
"It's completely the creation of mythology. The whole history of capitalism is the creation of mythology. The way it is written is like this heroic tale of great entrepreneurs. It's nonsense. Opium was produced in India under an East India monopoly. The only part that entrepreneurs played was taking it from here to China and selling it. It was essentially a smuggling trade.
The history of capitalism is sold to us as a great history of financial innovations. That too is nonsense...”

Jon Wilson, ‘India Conquered: Britain's Raj and the Chaos of Empire’, 2016: “...The most powerful and enduring business to benefit from the Swadeshi upsurge was the Tata Steel Company, the firm that dominated (and still dominates today) the Indian metals industry. The Tatas were Parsi priests from the small town of Navsari in Gujarat. They moved into business and made money from trading opium and then cotton in the middle of the nineteenth century. The names of the mills which Jamsetji Tata first built indicate his hope for imperial patronage: first Alexandra (after the Prince of Wales’s new bride) then Empress Mills. But by 1905, the Tatas had turned to other forms of capital...

... Small merchants and factory owners had supported Congress from the early 1920s, setting up a nationalist commercial organization, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, in 1927. But India’s growing cadre of large factory owners had been wary of publicly opposing British power. Tata Steel and the big Bombay mill-owners had been too worried about losing government orders to support Gandhi’s civil disobedience campaign, for example. But these were men who had done well out of India’s disconnection from the global economy during the depression. They were angry with Britain for financial policies which kept domestic demand low. As a result, they began to think of the economic possibilities of a nationalist government interested in expanding consumer spending. Despite his hostility to industrialization, Gandhi’s belief that the rich held their wealth as trustees of the community as a whole legitimized business involvement in Congress. Business leaders were a vital source of money for nationalist campaigns, but the price of their support was that the left’s anti-capitalist rhetoric needed to be toned down, and that Congress participate in the new constitution. Unlike Nehru, Congress’s pro-business right wing thought the organization should form ministries in India’s soon to be self-governing provinces...”

Yasmin Khan, ‘RAJ AT WAR: A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF INDIA'S SECOND WORLD WAR’, 2015: “… In Jamshedpur, the home of Tata Steel - India's iconic steel plant - towering chimneys smoked day and night. During the Battle of Britain, Tata Steel made a voluntary donation for the purchase of two Spitfires, so keen was the Indian-owned business to display its loyalty to the war effort…”

John Keay, ‘India: A History’, 2010: “…In accepting power in the provinces, Congress-men had soon found themselves having to compromise on some of their principles. Plans for agrarian reform were diluted and links with the trade unions were strained by loyalties to industrialists, like the Tata and Birla families, who had substantially funded Congress…”


William Dalrymple, ‘The East India Company: The original corporate raiders’, The Guardian, 2015: “…Multinationals still have villainous reputations in India, and with good reason; the many thousands of dead and injured in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 cannot be easily forgotten; the gas plant’s owner, the American multinational, Union Carbide, has managed to avoid prosecution or the payment of any meaningful compensation in the 30 years since. But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media…”


Gillian Tett, FT, Feb 3 2012:  “In today’s world Corporate Social Resposibility programmes have become a useful salve for a troubled corporate conscience.”

Arundhati Roy: “...RIL is one of a handful of corporations that run India. Some of the others are the Tatas, Jindals, Vedanta, Mittals, Infosys, Essar, and the other Reliance, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), owned by Mukesh’s brother Anil. Their race for growth has spilled across Europe, Central Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their nets are cast wide; they are visible and invisible, over ground as well as underground. The Tatas, for example, run more than one hundred companies in eighty countries. They are one of India’s oldest and largest private-sector power companies. They own mines, gas fields, steel plants, telephone, and cable TV and broadband networks, and run whole townships. They manufacture cars and trucks and own the Taj Hotel chain, Jaguar, Land Rover, Daewoo, Tetley Tea, a publishing company, a chain of bookstores, a major brand of iodized salt, and the cosmetics giant Lakme. Their advertising tagline could easily be You Can’t Live Without Us.

According to the rules of the Gush-Up Gospel, the more you have, the more you can have.

The era of the Privatization of Everything has made the Indian economy one of the fastest growing in the world. However, as with any good old-fashioned colony, one of its main exports is its minerals. India’s new megacorporations, Tatas, Jindals, Essar, Reliance, Sterlite, are those that have managed to muscle their way to the head of the spigot that is spewing money extracted from deep inside the earth. It’s a dream come true for businessmen—to be able to sell what they don’t have to buy...”
"...But which of us sinners was going to cast the first stone? Not me, who lives off royalties from corporate publishing houses. We all watch Tata Sky, we surf the Net with Tata Photon, we ride in Tata taxis, we stay in Tata Hotels, sip our Tata tea in Tata bone china, and stir it with teaspoons made of Tata Steel. We buy Tata books in Tata bookshops. Hum Tata ka namak khatey hain. We’re under siege..."

(‘Capitalism: A Ghost Story’, 2014)


Russ Juskalian, The New Yorker, Feb 9 2014: “Was Carnegie Right About Philanthropy?…the eighty-five richest people in the world together own more than a trillion dollars in wealth, according to Oxfam. Many of them use that wealth in ways that keep current power structures in place—for instance, by supporting political candidates who prefer lower taxes for the rich and smaller government spending on social programs—which ultimately hurt the poor.

The real way to address poverty, Reich said, is through a democratic system that keeps tabs on the excesses of capitalism yet harnesses the engine of the economy to help improve the lives of the least well off, pays attention to issues that are important to the poor and middle classes, and works to prevent the accumulation of power in the hands of the few. “As the great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said,” Reich told me, “we can have great wealth in the hands of a relative few or we can have a democracy—but we can’t have both.”...”

Amitav Ghosh: “The first opium war was a very Indian war. It was fought by Indian sepoys and largely funded by merchants from Bombay, using many weapons developed by Indian soldiers and kings such as Hyder Ali, fighting against the British army. Yet, the opium war is hardly talked about in India, unlike China, where the war is remembered and so is the Indian contribution…”
“We have forgotten the Opium Wars, if ever we remembered it. But China has not. They are a civilisation with great historical consciousness, it is something they pay great attention to. The war is extensively memorialised in China. And they are intensely aware that Indians participated in the war, and against them.”

Mr. Girish Kuber (गिरीश कुबेर) writes in Loksatta (लोकसत्ता) on November 6 2016:
“...सायरस यांचं जाणं आणि नंतरचे त्यांचे आरोप यांनी नाही म्हटलं तरी कटूपणा आलाच.
तो टळायला हवा होता.
याचं कारण भारतात मुळात उद्योगपती वर्गात एकही मानक.. आयकॉन.. नाही. अपवाद फक्त टाटा. एक टाटा वगळता भारतीय उद्योगविश्व हे बनियांनी भरलेलं आहे. सरकारदरबारी लांडय़ालबाडय़ा करून दुनिया मुठ्ठी में घ्यायची, ही आपली उद्योगसंस्कृती. ती बदलण्याचा आदरणीय प्रयत्न टाटांचा. सायरस मिस्त्री प्रकरणानं त्यात अडथळा आलाय, हे निश्चित. तो लवकरात लवकर दूर व्हायला हवा. कारण प्रश्न फक्त टाटा समूहाचा नाही. तो उद्योग क्षेत्रातील या नायकशून्य देशाचा आहे. या एकमेवाद्वितीय मानकाचा मानभंग देशाला परवडणारा नाही. तसे एरवी अन्य अनेक क्षेत्रांत सारेच दीप कसे मंदावले आता..’ ही अवस्था आपण अनुभवतो आहोतच. तेव्हा आहे तो दिवा तेवता राहावा यासाठी संबंधितांनी निदान जेआरडींचं वाक्य आठवावं.. ‘We don’t do that at Tatas.’...”

The conflict of interest that is not disclosed by the newspaper at the end of the article should read something like this: "Mr. Kuber has written a 'bestseller' in Marathi titled 'टाटायन', 2015." (I have put quotes around the word bestseller because I don't know how one defines bestseller, especially in Marathi.)

"टाटा,
भारतीयांसाठी ही केवळ दोन अक्षरं नाहीत.
त्यांच्यासाठी ते आहे लक्ष्मीचं दुसरं नाव.
सचोटीच्या, विश्वासाच्या भक्कम पायावर उभी राहिलेली,
सव्वाशे वर्षांची मूल्याधिष्ठित परंपरा लाभलेली,
पाच पिढ्यांनी परिश्रमपूर्वक जोपासलेली
भारताची निरलस उद्यमशीलता म्हणजे टाटासंस्कृती.
टाटांनी केलेली संपत्तिनिर्मिती म्हणजे
लक्ष्मी-सरस्वतीचा संगम.
सालंकृत तरीही सात्त्विक.
ऐश्वर्यवंत तशीच नीतिमंत.
जमशेटजी आणि दोराबजींपासून
जेआरडी आणि रतन टाटांपर्यंत
सा-यांच्या कर्तबगारीनं सतत चढतं राहिलेलं
उद्योगतोरण म्हणजेच
टाटायन!"

I don't how Indian Express group, to which Loksatta belongs, is run. Indeed, I know very little about the group because it's not a listed entity on Indian bourses but when I read a praise for any corporate like the way above, I often remember what 'The Economist' said on Dec 13th 2006: “But real life is messy and real people are complicated.”...what is true of people is even more true of businesses and corporates...

I also am not sure about the claim that: "एक टाटा वगळता भारतीय उद्योगविश्व हे बनियांनी भरलेलं आहे. सरकारदरबारी लांडय़ालबाडय़ा करून दुनिया मुठ्ठी में घ्यायची, ही आपली उद्योगसंस्कृती."

Widely tracked BSE Sensex has 30 companies in it.

Surely Sensex companies like Asian Paints, Hindustan Unilever, Infosys don't belong to the category of : "सरकारदरबारी लांडय़ालबाडय़ा करून दुनिया मुठ्ठी में घ्यायची, ही आपली उद्योगसंस्कृती." 

Every big corporate has an apparatus that lobbies the incumbent government to get a favorable policy and Tata's are NOT an exception to that. 

I have worked in corporate sector for 15 years and none of those years in, what Loksatta calls, 'trader' (बनिया) company and I can assure you that every corporate around the world behaves more or less the same when it comes to government policy, profit, employees, competition and self preservation. 

Some obviously are more dignified than the others, especially at the lower rungs of a corporate ladder but the difference at the top is best summed in a Marathi proverb : उडदामाजी काळे-गोरे...there may look as different as black and white among the blank lentil but they all taste the same!

"भारतात मुळात उद्योगपती वर्गात एकही मानक.. आयकॉन.. नाही...Many who idolize corporate honchos such as Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy or Mr. Nandan Nilekani or many others would not agree with this assessment. 

Review of the book in Loksatta on Nov 8 2015 and Mr. Kuber now claim: "सचोटीच्या, विश्वासाच्या भक्कम पायावर उभी राहिलेली, सव्वाशे वर्षांची मूल्याधिष्ठित परंपरा लाभलेली,..."सालंकृत तरीही सात्त्विक. ऐश्वर्यवंत तशीच नीतिमंत."...." एकमेवाद्वितीय मानक"...
"सरकारदरबारी लांडय़ालबाडय़ा करून दुनिया मुठ्ठी में घ्यायची, ही आपली उद्योगसंस्कृती. ती बदलण्याचा आदरणीय प्रयत्न टाटांचा"...etc....what a baloney!


Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in The Hindu on November 29 2010:
Welcome to the Matrix of the Indian state: The Radia tapes reveal the networks and routers, the source codes and malware that bind the corporate and political establishments in India.
As squeamish schoolchildren know only too well, dissection is a messy business. Some instinctively turn away, others become nauseous or scared. Not everyone can stomach first hand the inner workings of an organic system. Ten days ago, a scalpel — in the form of a set of 104 intercepted telephone conversations — cut through the tiniest cross-section of a rotting cadaver known as the Indian Establishment. What got exposed is so unpleasant that several major newspapers and television channels that normally scramble to bring “breaking” and “exclusive” stories have chosen to look the other way. Their silence, though understandable, is unfortunate. Even unforgivable.
After all, the tape recordings of Niira Radia's phone conversations have come to light against the backdrop of the recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report on the allocation of 2G spectrum, which demonstrated how the rules were arbitrarily bent by the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja, in order to favour a handful of private companies at government expense. Among the beneficiaries of Mr. Raja's raj were Anil Ambani. And also Ratan Tata...”

On the same subject, Mr. David Pilling wrote in FT dated February 9 2011:
...Dhirubhai Ambani, the legendary entrepreneur who built the Reliance empire now split between his sons, was notoriously good at “managing the environment”, in the euphemistic words of one commentator. So pervasive is alleged influence-peddling that even Ratan Tata, chairman of the Tata Group and considered an Indian businessman above reproach, has not been able to keep clear of controversy. In a tape of a 2009 conversation between Mr Tata and Niira Radia, a powerful corporate lobbyist, Ms Radia is heard explaining her efforts to persuade the then telecoms minister not to allocate spectrum to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications before dishing out some to Tata’s Teleservices. Mr Tata, who is trying to get the tapes suppressed by the Supreme Court, says the leaks are a character assassination...”

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar writes in The Times of India, October 25 2016:
“‘The Idea of Tata’ has long transcended mere corporate aims and aimed far higher. That idea has been eroding for some time, and has now received a body blow from the events leading to the ouster of Cyrus Mistry as chairman of Tata Sons."

And all Mr. Kuber is ready to concede, rather reluctantly, is : "सायरस यांचं जाणं आणि नंतरचे त्यांचे आरोप यांनी नाही म्हटलं तरी कटूपणा आलाच.तो टळायला हवा होता."

T. N. Ninan writes in Business Standard on November 5 2016:
...There are advantages in belonging to a group — a small group company would be able to command better financial terms, and hire better talent, than if it were a stand-alone venture. Even a large company like Tata Motors would enjoy group advantages when it acquires something like Jaguar-Land Rover. But this can be a mixed blessing; Tata Steel would have been saved from buying the much bigger Corus if it did not have the financial backing of the group, since most of the acquisition price was debt-financed.
On balance, how has it worked? Not very well, as made clear by an excellent report in the Economist (“Mistry’s elephant”, September 24, 2016). This said that seven of the nine largest listed companies in the group earn a return on capital that is less than the cost of capital — in other words, they are destroying economic value. This spectacular under-performance has been masked by the stellar performance of one company, TCS, whose sales revenue, profits and market value account for the bulk of group numbers. Jaguar-Land Rover contributes most of the rest.
Would individual companies, freed from group control, have done better? They would certainly have faced greater pressure to perform. Some would have responded well to pressure, others would have gone under or been sold — the creative destruction that is at the heart of capitalism. If you look around it is evident that conglomerates have not done as well in recent times as stand-alone enterprises. It is the old comparison, between the banyan tree that has multiple roots and gives cover to a wide area, and the sequoia which stands alone — with some sub-species usually taller than the Qutb Minar...” 

Seven of the nine largest listed companies in the group earn a return on capital that is less than the cost of capital — in other words, they are destroying economic value.

Artist: Alan Dunn, The New Yorker, September 7 1963

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