Archive for the ‘Globalization’ Category
In my childhood I never imagined about a concept called ‘Akhnd Bharat’, though I knew about India and the subcontinent. I first heard about it on the BJP agenda in late ninties and had sympathy on the brainwashed people to buy such crap material. The concept was quite clear – to bring the subcontinent countries into Indian sphere of influence. Now, this is when I use gentleman’s language. To be more straight forward, it means to expand India to include the whole subcontinent.
I thought most of the people would reject it, and that happened also. Now I think the policy was nothing but a legacy of RSS from their pre-partition days. As BJP matured as a party, this idea and propaganda changed from these childish thoughts to multi-wing economic, social and political causes – although traces of these are still present in their policies.
Let’s not debate about how the idea came, rather let me do a reality check. In general, a hundred years ago the idea used to be – bigger the nation, better it is. It was mostly argued that bigger countries generally have more resources and more influence over the world. But in last few centuries the history has actually proved the other theory. The smaller countries manage their resource in a better way and the citizens are typically more dedicated and motivated – hence they grow quicker. It started in Europe and spread quickly throughout the world – from South America to Africa. Even the so called larger countries also started to implement the idea of breaking up into states and promote the country as an union of the states. This genre of countries include India and the United States. And the third group of countries remain autocratic - sometimes it was an autocracy driven by a person or otherwise centralized rule driven by an idea – Communism. The third set of countries include former USSR, China, Yugoslavia and some Arab countries.
If we look back at post-world-war-II hisory, the countries those were classified as most successful, are still the category 1 countries. Be it Korea, Japan, Taiwan, South East Asian Nations – small countries did well regionally. That means, if the region does well, smaller countries also do well. And the reverse is true as well – take the example of Africa. The larger countries are proved to be the drivers of the region – be it US for North America, or USSR for East Europe, the countries of the same region are tagged along with the Big Brother of the region.
Coming to India and the subcontinent, one of the major reasons of the backwardness of the region is basically the backwardness and non-growth-facing policies of India. Had India been growing at 6-7% per annum for last 30 years, the whole subcontinent would have been different. It would have been through trade and business. The idea of Akhand Bharat would have been spawned at least with free trade and business.
But given the backwardness, all countries of Subcontinent are actually jostling for lower place in the ladder. A bigger country comprising these entities would be a disaster. And the bigger sufferer would be the same Indians, who are already paying price for poor Indian policies. Had India been undivided, most of Indian resources would have been utilized to resolve the frictions between different linguistic and religious communities. Akhand Bharat, thus would be an unrealistic dream. India, even as per today, is not a completely united country.
However, the idea is still in use by some of so-called political analysts of our neighbours. Among my favourites, there are a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi personal blog. The classical allegations start from History centric arguments of religious politics, Partition, Caste-war and Hindu fundamentalism. The historical allegations are often true if they are viewed from the one side of the story. The magic of these are to link these history with current Trade or Water disputes or even some internal unrests. While accusing neighbours is a card that India plays more often in case of militancy, the neighbours are not lagging behind in the race. And, the end comes a heavily funded well-organized daemon – RAW. I don’t know what India or RAW gets out of spying some poor neighbours – and trying to influence it [yawn]. RAW is mostly used to monitor Indian own integrity since that is the core of Indian concern.
The conspiracy theories are often childish in nature – as childish as their main opponent idea of ‘Akhand Bharat’ or the Indian hegemony. Most of the time direct reference or statistical evidences are avoided in these writings. For example, the Water dispute with India was a complete battle of self-interest. And the Indus treaty did not bar India from building upstream dams on the western rivers. This fact was clearly misrepresented in the blog. It also discusses sex life of Indira Gandhi and Nehru. I don’t know what purpose did they serve. The other set of writings from Mr Munshi and Mr Zainal Abedin focuses on some imaginary issues. They see India behind all secular causes (promoting Tagore and some Hindu-like cultural aspects in Bangladesh – if it is true I am proud of it) and also some extremist causes (such as JMB). !! Confused !!
I think it’s high time to stop blaming the neighbour and build a nation as most of the subcontinent is still poor. India has matured a lot and of late I have seen positives – at least the foreign policy has been delinked from all interests of Pakistan. To get a better deal from the rest of the world, we need to use any country that fits our interest and remove the bias those we carry as a post-partition baggage. China has already done that. Can India (or would have been ‘Akhand Bharat’) do it?
A Reference book by M B I Munsi – The India Doctrine.
How big is US economy today?
Let’s draw some comparisons.
1. Entire annual economic output of Iraq is less than one third of that of the Rhode Island.
2. Entire annual economic output of Afghanistan is less than that of the half of Vermont.
3. Entire annual economic output of Oil-rich Iran is less than that of the state of Maryland.
4. Entire annual economic output of Oil-rich Iran is less than that of the state of New Jersey, where most of Indians live.
5. The Entire combined economic output of all Middle-Eastern Oil-rich nations (Saudi, Iran, UAE, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Syria and Jordan) is 40% less than that of California.
6. Entire annual economic output of former super-power Russia is less than that of the state of New York.
7. Entire annual economic output of would-be super-power China is less than that of the state of California and Texas added.
8. US exceeds the number 2 largest economy Japan (in nominal value) by more than three times. And it surpasses the number 3, Germany, by more than 4 times. The gap between USA and Japan is 8.8 trillion USD, that is again the combined GDP of 161 nations.
9. Japan and Germany remodelled their ecomnomies to follow USA after their defeat in World war II. And that’s why they are number 2 and 3. The economic system in USA functions far better than most of the world. Together these three countries generate 42% of World production.
Now let’s look at a few facts about current state of US economy. How healthy is it today?
1. Cheap overproduction – the world is massively overproducing everything at competitive prices. China in manufacturing and India in services are leading the race. China can, in fact produce every single manufactured product that every single person in the world needs very soon. India can provide each service (banking to software) to the rest of the world once it is fully functioning. Just India and China. This is because the technology we have got in last few decades and the consumption hasn’t matched the speed of technology. It’s a fact that’s not going to change very soon.
2. Over 2bn low-wage workers has entered Global workforce (China, India, rest of Asia and East Europe). They work for wages 75% less than their US counterparts. Another fact that’s not going to change soon.
3. US factories must move overseas to compete and in the process must root out millions of jobs in USA. A Crysler factory was shifted out of USA and put to Mexico a decade ago. Now they have shifted the same factory to China. Even Mexico can’t compete with China, forget about USA.
4. The US middle-class is formally being eliminated, both blue collar and white collar jobs are going away and replaced by low paying jobs at McDonalds, Wall-Mart and Starbucks.
5. Profits are squeezed as cost of raw materials increase and prices fall due to competition. The other price controller is the Internet. Because everybody gets to know what the prices are all over the world through the internet, it’s difficult to fool customers with a huge price-tag.
6. Only US massive over-consumption has kept the Global (as well as the US) economy afloat in recent years. The consumers are now maxed out of debt and are seeing declining economy. How many TVs can you buy or how soon can you change your car model? Average Americans are drowned in their stuff. Govt has given them cheap loan to buy anything and they are into the debt.
7. To keep these consumptions growing, in last couple of decades we had two big bubbles – first the stock bubble in late 90s and then the Real Estate one until a year back. The first bubble already bursted and gave rise to the next. Only a third bubble can save the second one.
Between 2000 to 2002, the stock market lost 8 trillion dollars in total (the GDP gap between US and Japan). The stock prices are not yet back to that stage, and will probably never be. To make matters worse, US economy didn’t try to beef up the production, rather went onto reduce the interest rates. That led to real estate buying spree among consumers and created real estate bubble. Real estate prices gone overpriced by 2-3 times.
8. Foreign Dollar holders are getting nervous as the budget and trade deficits surpass 1 trillion. The countries holding dollar (Japan, China, India) are moving to other currencies. To neutralize the effects US is printing currency and that is what we see as inflation. Inflation is again asking dollar holders to sell their dollar assets and move to Euro. Net result – further inflation.
The picture is to gloomy? But it is true …
My travel plan was like this : Kolkata-Mumbai (Jet Airways), Mumbai-Seattle via Amsterdam (NorthWest/KLM). It started with a bad experience in the flight to Mumbai. The Jet Airways offerred me a raw deal – asked to have Vegeterian meal. I don’t like it. So, I decided to go for a Satyagraha – to reject the food. I am not yet aware of what caused the debacle but I know that it is a open secret now – Jet wants Indians to become Vegeterian. I had been offered a Vegeterian meal in Jet thrice in my last four journeys – those too within last three months. Is the Jet Airways going to become another budget airline?
Whatever the Jet plans, I was interested in having more food at Mumbai Airport. Once I gave my luggage to the Northwest officials, I was free to take a look at the city, since I had almost 4 hours of time. I went to a luxurious hotel nearby and had the buffet dinner at Rs. 900 (all inclusive). Then I realized the mistake that I should not have committed.
In Mumbai, the Domestic and International Terminals are 4kms away from each other. And I have to take an auto to travel to the International one. The domestic terminal doesn’t allow people to get in with an international ticket. So, I can’t use the inside shuttle service for transit. It’s a warning for all transit passengers in Mumbai airport – don’t come out of the Domestic/International airport before the transit. However, getting an auto was not that difficult in Mumbai and I at least unloaded my luggage beforehand.
I should write something about both these airport terminals. The domestic terminal looks gorgeous and as per my knowledge it’s been renovated by GVK. The international terminal was equally bad – and it’s under renovation. As expected, the good to better conversion first takes it to the worse state. The road beside the international terminal had also buses plying on it. And the international travelers had to make queues jostling with the commuters waiting in the bus stops. There are no electronic board showing the correct terminal one should choose. It’s pathetic – worse than an under-construction road. To make it worse, there were no signboards saying that it’s actually under construction (and offering a ray of hope at the end of the tunnel that we’ll show you better things next year) – wrongly putting permanent bad impression in foreigners’ mind.
I was on time and was able to board the flight to leave the country successfully. The first NorthWest flight journey was far from satisfying – the quality of food was not good and they offered breakfast twice in a nine hour journey. Come on, isn’t it a punishable offence to offer only BREAKFAST in such a long route to Amsterdam? I believe it is.
However, the Amsterdam Airport impressed me. There was a quiet book store – full of people who’re trying buy a journey assistant. I bought a book named “The State of Africa” since I have quite less knowledge about the entire continent and I believe it has a lot of things to offer to the rest of the world in near future. The problem stated with the coffee shop. All the pricing written in the shop were in Euro and I didn’t have it. For a item like a cup of coffee, I was not interested to use my card. Hence I asked the “May I Help You”-lady if the shops accept the US Dollar. She assured that they do. However, there was a fine print that she omitted from her sentence. Now I stepped up to a nearby shop and asked the shop person -
“Do you take United States Dollar”.
“What’ the problem with it, except that it’s value is getting lower day by day …” – he laughed and said.
“Well …”, I said “let me have a cup of hot coffee”. It was marked to cost 3 Euros, i.e. close to 4.5 dollars.
Now at the time of payment, I gave him a 10 dollar note and he returned a few coins. I saw those are Euro coins. That’s what they do – they “accept” dollars and pay the change in Euros. How can we say that they “accept”? Well, definition does matter … what else I can say. I only can blame myself for creating 4 Euro non-performing asset. I should have asked a few more questions.
I was planning to take a city tour but I had to abort it since I did not have any EU Visas. It was another hard reality – in Singapore we had no problem, but Europeans don’t trust us.
The last part of the journey was a better one – from the quality of the food to the level of comfort one should have in a 10 hour journey. I sat beside a 55 year old Estonian Woman, who was not at all comfortable in English. She was going to her son’s place after a break of three months in her own country. She has her daughter in Estonia and her son in USA. So, she is shuttling between and hoping to get her daughter in USA once she gets the citizenship. She started showing a lot of old styled photographs of her journey.
The thing that amazed me was her awareness about Indians – especially of Bollywood. Once I said that I was a Bengali, she started remembering that she actually knows a Bengali actor named Jimmy. Can anybody recognize this person? I could not. Madam herself was able to recollect the actual name – Mithun Chakraborty. It’s a pleasure to hear a Bengali getting recognized in different part of the globe. It was the film “Disco Dancer” – where Mithun was known as Jimmy (the famous song : Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy …). Madam later referred to that song also and remembered the days when she used to watch at least four to five bollywood movies in a year. She also knew that Mithun was engaged in some sort of social work and about her three sons. It was really an amazing experience.
In the flight, there was an option to watch movies. I took the opportunity to watch “No Country for Old Man”. The same time she asked me to find a Hindi film from the list and she was happy to watch “Om Shanti Om”. If you think I don’t have a good choice then let me tell you that I had only one more option – Sawariya and I was not keen to torture with the Hindi film with different taste. I followed her closely while she was watching “Om Shanti Om”. She was getting drowsy when the film was been screened in front, but got rejuvenated every time a song was there. The USP of Bollywood movies are the songs in between – something I personally feel good about. But there are customers all around the globe who are ready to grab those and Bollywood gives them a unique choice to enjoy it. That’s whereexactly Bollywood makes money.
Well, I have nothing more to add to this already lengthy blog entry, and also I did not face anything remarkable before I actually landed in United States. So, that’s it for the day and hopefully I’ll be able to update you on my experiences in US.
It’s evening time in Shanghai. The sky is cloudy and the air is misty. The environment is so hazy that I can’t see a high-rise a kilometer away. A few days back, I’ve reported that a heavy downpour has made the air hazy. I think that’s not only the downpour – it’s pollution too. The particle density in Shanghai is so high that the fog seems to be automatic in the dusk. To me, China developed too fast to ignore the environmental aspects.
Of late I’ve been writing on positives on shanghai. However, one turn-off I have in the streets in Shanghai is the presence of smokers. People do smoke everywhere and I am yet to come across any non-smoking zone. In India, things did improve a lot in last few years. Especially in Kolkata, it improved a lot (given the Bengali passion for intellectual cigarettes). Like Western countries, women do smoke at a high rate, so do the street-vendors. The worst is that they throw cigarette-butts everywhere. The city is kept clean by sweepers, who really work well to collect such huge garbage.
By the way, I think I have talked about a football ground near my apartment. It also has a synthetic athletics-track around it. Now the shocker is – it’s nothing but a high school!! I sometimes forget that I am living in a country that’s ranked second in the Olympics medals tally. Compare that to the situation in India. I can remember, before 1987 SAAF Games, West Bengal State Government literally ran out of money to build a synthetic track at Salt Lake Stadium. And, these people have synthetic running tracks in their schools. It’s no surprise that they are the second and we are fighting to avoid the last place.
Beggars are not that frequent visitors as they would have been in any Indian cities. The beggars here are more civilized also. Inside McDonalds I met a similar person (I should not call him a begger in Indian standards). He had a poster kind of thing, written in clear bold English, that he’s deaf and dumb and should be helped. While coming back home, I encounter a person who collects begging money in his hat. One good thing about the beggars is that they are all old. Also, they are better dressed up than any of their Indian counterparts. In India, I see young men and women, who could have added value in Indian economy, are begging at the streets. I hope that the section will soon dissapear in India also, and that would be an important step towards development.
Yesterday I had a frooty-like packaged cold drink. It tasted like ultra-dilute green mango juice. I was surprised to know that it was nothing but tea - cold green tea. It’s actually packaged as ‘Ice tea’ as it is cold. I am eager to have a ‘hot’ version of the same tea.
Today is the birthday of Tanya Chen, the girl who sits beside me. They arranged a small cake (delicious!!) to celebrate. The cake is cut but there are no candles to blow. Let me add an interesting spice to this trivial update. Steven (close colleague) told that in China, gifting clocks is culturally prohibited. The reason is somewhat amazing – the sentence “I gift you a clock” is similar sounding to another sentence “I wish your death”. So, it’s considered ‘ominous’. One can note the similarity with Indian culture at this point. Had the sentences been similar sounding in any of the Indian languages, it would have been probably considered a bad practice to gift a clock in India also. Both India and China, the old civilizations of the world, are yet to get rid of what we call social superstitions – an impediment towards real development.
Ultimately I’m back to blogging. I’ve just finished my first assignment. It’s raining outside. And I can’t just describe how heavy that downpour is. It’s completely dark outside, cars running with headlights on. From the 9th Floor, at 3:00PM, I can’t see the roads clearly. The Shanghai skyline has also been blurred completely.
I did my lunch with KFC burger once more. I’m now doing it for a couple of days, after the initial adventure with pure Chinese foods. I am yet to launch cooking operation at the apartment. This weekend I am planning to visit a few ‘Indian’ places nearby. We’ve got a restaurant at our target list – named Tandoor. Also, I’ve seen a restaurant named Salaam nearby, maybe I’ll also visit it. However, if the prices are exorbitant, I’ll refrain myself from having food at those. It’s foolish to run behind Indian foods where I have so many things to explore with such a little time in hand.
Yesterday, I went to a retail food store (similar to a Food Bazaar) and thought of buying some vegetables to cook. But, the prices prevented me to really buy anything. After taking the trolley, the first thing I was looking for was the chicken. I saw a semi-prepared chicken body (similar to Arambagh’s chicken), priced almost at 4 Rmb/100gm. I calculated it to be 220Rs and the idea of buying chicken was dropped instantly. Then I moved to other markets – to compare prices of beef and pork. But, they were no better. However, all these foods are a kind of ‘packet-preserved’ food; the prices for these kinds of foods are higher in India also. I thought that I should buy meat from a street-vendor, might I get a better deal from him. There were many different fish items kept at a place – all freeze. The point of surprise was the egg-section. There were so many kinds of eggs present there – off different sizes and colors. I am so habituated with seeing white eggs of a particular size (poultry and on a few lucky occasions – duck), I took time to adjust to the situation. Most of the eggs were dark yellow and faded red. Some of them were even ash-colored. Sizes range from 2 times a poultry egg to a normal egg-size. However, the biggest surprise was the absence of simple white eggs – can you believe it? I guess they are not at all popular in China. If you have so many options in eggs – do you think poultry-chicken industry can survive in China?
Next I moved to an electronics section of another retail shop. Looking at a tiny iron, I asked the price. It was marked in clear English – 218rmb. I was really stunned; I didn’t expect prices would be so high in Shanghai when we all know that it’s a low-cost country. I searched on the internet to get a view of the Chinese pricing structure. Actually the price is higher because of taxes. In India, prices are same at villages and cities. But the cities have the infrastructure. So, people flood into the cities. Here, in China, to prevent flooding of people from countryside, they have imposed high taxes on each item in cities. Of course they efficiently control the flow of goods. People, who live in cities, pay more tax to get better infrastructure, that’s why cities are cleaner and less-congested than Indian counterparts.
After the dinner (again with same burger), I went out to buy a headphone. It was an irritating absence since I was not been able to listen to the songs (Chinese songs yet to be explored and added to my favourites) and was not able to chat online. I started at around 8:30 PM and soon I discovered that a lot of stores are already closed. I crossed the busy crossing and entered a less posh area, to get a view of how Chinese items are priced at ‘real’ market – where from the local people buy things. Unfortunately, after walking for a kilometer, I could see only restaurants beside me!! There are so many restaurants in that area – from a small one to a big, decorated one, there were just too many variations. On the footpath, under a tree, a person was shouting with some black packets kept in front of him. It took a while to understand that he’s trying to sell those – and some people are coming to buy those. Do you know what they were? Octopus!! The buyers were probably the local restaurant owners. Indeed octopus and squid is popular food item in Shanghai.
After a crossing, I saw the market pattern got changed – now there are a variety of stores. The dominant one among them was the real estate. The prices were displayed outside and people go inside to see the model and the sample interiors. I saw prices generally ranging from 8000 Rmb to 15000 Rmb (per sq meter) for different places. A shop also had a map of Shanghai with different pins pointing at their different real estate locations. I heard that real estate price are not that high in Shanghai as in Indian cities, but I think it’s not the case. I have to ask a few people to get it confirmed.
There were a few cloth-shops as well. I entered one and quickly realized that it’s better to come with a Chinese colleague to help me. The shop was run by an old woman, who probably had no idea of English. When I was looking for the price tag, she took her calculator and typed in 1078 to let me know the price. She was intelligent enough to understand that I did not like the price (why should I? It comes to 5500Rs!!), hence she quickly multiplied the figure with 70 and divided by 10 (took 70%) and reduced the price to catch an attention. Yet, it didn’t come under my budget. So I left for the next shop. The next shop surprised me – it was written in clear English on top of shop-entrance that “Nicco(shop name) provides excellent post-sell services. Please don’t ask for abnormal discounts to bargain with our staff.” I understood their pain – the prices are indeed exorbitant. May be, they want to prevent entry of the poor by the message – who come inside and bargain.
I went into a darker ally beside the road, to see how the shops look like at that place. Most of them were wine-shops, selling beers and other drinks. One was a tailor-shop. And there were a few barbers’ shop as well. To the contrary of Indian experience, only the tailor-shop was run by a man – others were all women.
After another crossing, I decided to come back. So far I didn’t see any electronics shop – may be after a few crossings they are present in a series. I had no time to blindly look for those. Next I stumbled upon a small shop. It has everything – from pillows to knifes, from nail-cutters to nice pots and wooden racks. Nobody is inside; people are going in, picking up things and paying a woman while coming out. The woman is having a series of notes in between her fingers – in a fashion similar to bus conductors in Kolkata. I also gestured her whether she keeps headphones as well – the answer was negative.
Just after getting out of the shop, I had a head-on collision with a Chinese boy. In India, I could have avoided a similar one, but in China I couldn’t. I noticed him (and vice-versa) before the critical time one should take to avoid a collision. But, as a natural step, I took my left. Unfortunately, he took his right and we collided. I understand the difference of right-hand and left-hand driving system has lot more to do than we think of. May be in a crowd-less disciplined streets of USA one cannot feel it, but I bet, in Shanghai, one will. When our natural step would follow the left side of the footpath or to avoid close collision, the other party will move right. It’s not really my fault, but it is called diversity.
Once more, I have managed to write up a lot on my experiences, hopefully people will enjoy these episode also. Of course, I’ll keep everyone updated on my China visit. The rain has stopped, I need to go now. Bye, see you!!
I boarded in the Flight to Singapore on Friday night, at NSCB Airport, Kolkata. Most of the flight members were Indians and the queue to check in the Singapore Airlines Flight was longer than any Air Deccan Flight. I was really surprised to find so many Indians traveling overseas, may be due to my lack of knowledge of Indians in Singapore.
My next surprise came with Singapore Changi Airport. My father landed there in 1989 and told me beforehand that it’s going to be an experience. The airport proved him right. You never have to walk to reach the appropriate parking bay; the floor walks (something similar to escalator) itself. The size of the airport is huge – it takes at least 15 minutes for the flight to reach the terminal after landing, that too without any disruption. There are lanes for flights to reach the terminal. There are total 68 parking bays as per wiki. The other interesting aspects of the business-oriented country are the shopping malls inside the airport. Although I did not buy anything, I saw almost everything’s available there.
The next flight took off in the morning and I was quick to notice the change in demography. Almost all the passengers are Mongolians now; we are a tiny Indian minority out there. There are announcements and displays in Chinese, those I don’t understand at all. Also, a major shift in male-female ratio of the passengers – something that I hope to discuss about in details – is in favor of women.
The next major surprise was the city of Shanghai. I was expecting a city of High-rises with a brand-new airport and a broad highway. It is more than those. The high-rises are taller, the highways are cleaner and broader and the airport is bigger than that I expected. It may not be as hi-tech as Singapore, but certainly out of comparison with any Indian counterparts. In fact I am really proud of that India is indeed compared with China, and it is estimated that India will reach the current Chinese state within next 10-12 years. The striking thing at the first glance is that people are disciplined a lot – may be because they are citizens of a metro city.
I was lodged in a Service apartment – near a posh area in Shanghai. It’s not bad, but not at all well-furnished. I need more utensils to cook (may be the Chinese don’t). Otherwise, there are ACs, TVs (all Chinese channels), five-star like bathrooms and first-class furniture. I tried to browse the TV channels and interestingly found Indian serials been telecast. Soon, I discovered that they are dubbed in Chinese and the particular channel is dedicated to Indian Soap serials only. I am still looking for information on how popular these channels are. The channel has a green maple leaf as an icon. The serial I watched was “Koshish”. The owner of the apartment is a company named Orient Manhattan Ltd, who owns a lot of similar apartments in around the area. The COO, Susan, greeted us. She can really talk in English but often takes time to figure out the correct word to express. She has a small office at a nearby place where from I was able to make my first call back to India. I also came to know that in the same compound, there are more Indians, mostly from Infosys and ABN-Amro. She bought a couple of calling cards for us, which I actually got on the next day. ISD calls are cheap in China and possibly come with lower quality than that in India. The China Telecom calling cards cost 30RMB for 100mins (1 RMB = 5.5Rs roughly).
I was out for a walk in the evening around posh Hongqiao Road area. I was a little bit helpless without Chinese money; they call it Yuan, officially named as Renminbi. I walked around to find the huge twin-towers, where the Microsoft office is located. The area around is full of malls and wide roads. Most of the buildings are 15-20 floored, with a few classic exceptions. There’s a football ground nearby, alongside a few small shops also. The security guards are similar to Indian ones, except a small difference. I wanted to confirm whether the Microsoft office is actually located in that building, they did not understand at all. When they called their officer in charge, a suited person came up. He also did not recognize Microsoft, even after I showed back of my T-shirt – “Microsoft” written in English. He tried to pattern-match it with some of the existing sign-book entries, but unfortunately, none of the MS-employees visited the office on that Sunday. So, his efforts were all in vain. He said “sorry” (how did he know that!!) and I understood the situation. None knows English – not even the minimum to carry an informal conversation – except a few privileged ones.
The next morning I were straight to the office. Fortunately, due to the previous experience, the office security persons did recognize IDC entrants and there were no problems to follow. The office was another Microsoft office, with an exceptional view of Shanghai skyline.
The lunch was supposed to be the next interesting topic. There was a restaurant in the same Plaza. I went there, along with my Chinese colleagues. They were delighted to know that I was non-vegetarian and can have beef as well. Though they didn’t order beef, may be some secret instructions or experiences before, I was prepared to have beef. The ordered items were fish and pork. The pork items were really delicious and I want to have them more while in China. The fish were sea-fish mainly and nobody knew which fish it was!! All the preparations were in fact marinated and boiled. The gravy was delicious; some of them were in fact soup-like. The favorite one was the kebab like pork-pieces colored like beets. It was simply superb!!
Yesterday I went to a KFC and found out that HSBC credit-cards were not accepted there. Today, I saw my colleagues are paying by some special cards, meant to pay restaurant bills only. Some of the restaurants accept these cards and one need to ask the acceptability before they enter a restaurant. The system is still mostly cash-based with a few sporadic efforts of cashless transactions. In India, most of the class one restaurants do accept credit cards and also the overall banking is mostly cashless. In the evening, I had some food where we used the Chinese currency – 754 for $100. I went to McDonalds and the serviceman was clever enough to help me with pictured menu-card. I had a McChicken combo at 18.5Yuan. Similar food would cost around 150Rs in India – Rs50 more. In general, food costs more in Shanghai than in any Indian cities.
While coming back, I used a Metro Railway station to cross a road. Although there are flyovers, they are less in number and pedestrians do depend on Zebras to cross the dangerous roads. The Metro Railway appears to be similar one like one in Kolkata. It’s not as clean as one would have expected it to be. The station I visited was Xujiahui (District – Xuhui, famous for the Cathedral), clearly written in English at the entry. Later from the Wikipedia I came to know that the station could be the best landmark for our place. Also, the Shanghai Metro, is much bigger railways service than single-route Kolkata Metro. Shanghai has five key metro routes compared to just one each in Kolkata and Delhi.
The similarity with India was also visible in the attitude of the people. The bus drivers are shouting at the passengers at the stops, although the buses are better ones. The hawkers and roadside beggars are present at footpath, although they are better dressed up. Streets are full of people, although they look different from Indians. They are Chinese, out to add themselves in the world order. The weather was similar to that of Kolkata – hot and humid outside, cloudy sky with occassional drizzles.
The topic I wanted to really talk about was the women in China. They are dressed scantily in Indian definition of dressing, yet they are comfortable with that. It created an impression that dressing should be different for different ethnicity – because the shape and the structure of the body are different. Mini-est skirts and string-tops do fit them. The variety of skirts and tops are really Moreover, women do heavily participate in jobs, both in formal and informal sectors. The ratio should be much higher than India. One step towards joining the big-league of nations is to employ more and more women to increase the work-force and to build a society based on equality. The employment of women in all sectors is a must. In China, there are women bus-conductors, restaurant-“boy”s, salesgirls, bank-officials and hawkers – a majority of them. Emancipation and empowerment of women should be the next Indian goal – if India at all wants to become a China in future.
As I explore more and more of China, I will keep everybody updated. It’s only tiny part of Shanghai I have travelled across; let me wait for getting a chance to draw a better picture soon.
A series of US presidents ignored the implications of corporations relocating jobs and factories to developing nations with low labor costs. Such off-shoring has enriched a small and select group while gradually destroying US industries, occupations and communities.
“No country benefits from trading its professional jobs, such as engineering, for domestic service jobs,” claims journalist Paul Craig Roberts. He points out that scientific and technological research, design and innovation flourish inside manufacturing facilities, but US corporations steadily relocate factories and manufacturing jobs overseas.
Economists speculate that education and retraining could lead to higher-paying alternative jobs in the developed nations, but increasing population and outsourcing outpace any new jobs available. Asia takes on more design and engineering work, and US workers sell the finished products to a public that accumulates dangerous debt. “American employees have been abandoned by American corporations and by their representatives in Congress,” the author argues. The US public has less confidence in an economy based on so little manufacturing substance. The result of such trends includes widening polarization between rich and poor, contributing to social strife and less opportunity for all in the US.
The following is the article published in BBC site. The article deals about Indian potential to become R&D hub for the world. The US companies, known for their advanced technologies, are ensuring Indians to be on the right track. The world can see a huge change in hi-tech but cheap technologies, if the effort succeeds.
President Bush meets Indian business leaders in the south of the country on Friday. There is plenty to talk about.
In a quiet suburb of the southern Indian city of Bangalore, some 2,500 Indians are working in a multi-million dollar facility using some of the most advanced technology in the world.
Spread over 50 acres, the John F Welch Technology Centre is one of only four such research and development (R&D) centres in the world, and was set up in 2000 by American giant General Electric (GE). Its laboratories employ highly-skilled Indian engineers, scientists and researchers who work on developing applications for GE’s businesses worldwide.
In 2000, when the then US President Bill Clinton visited India, many US companies were cashing in on India’s fast growing IT sector. But most of them were using low-skilled workers, mainly fresh college graduates, for a variety of basic call centre and back office processing work.
Six years later, as Mr Clinton’s Republican successor George W Bush comes calling, American business interests in India have taken a quantum leap.
India has a strong foundation in its technology and engineering schools and, as a result, is an excellent source for scientific talent
Guillermo WilleDirector, GE R&D centre”Earlier US companies basically outsourced data processing, back office work etc.,” says Ramesh C Bajpai, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in India.
“Now basic research work is being carried out in this country. That’s what’s been happening for the past two to three years.”
With India registering a growth rate of 8% a year, it is beginning to attract significant amounts of high technology investment.
Another American company, Cisco Systems, is investing $1.2bn in a new R&D centre in Bangalore which will employ 3,000 people – it’s single largest investment outside the US.
Microsoft has announced plans to invest $1.7bn in its own research facility and Intel another billion.
“What American companies have now realised is that the talent pool in India is now on par with the United States,” says Mr Bajpai.
Now Indian skills are being used for innovation and design.
Guillermo Wille, Managing Director of the John F Welch centre believes India is becoming the preferred destination for global companies to set up their R&D centres.
“India has a strong foundation in its technology and engineering schools and, as a result, is an excellent source for scientific talent,” he says.
The increased opportunities for highly-skilled work is also attracting many Indians who are based in the United States but are returning home to work on similar projects in surroundings that are a bit more familiar.
Rangu Salgame worked in the US for 20 years, mainly in telecom companies. In 2003, he returned to the country of his birth to head Cisco’s India operations. “India as a market is very attractive,” he says. “Cisco in India is replicating all the functions that it does in the United States – R&D, infrastructure and venture capital. “This is just the beginning of the telecom revolution in India.”
With the political relationship between the two countries, once ranged on opposite sides of the Cold War fence, improving substantially, American companies are getting comfortable with the idea of doing business with India – a lot of business. Last year US exports to India jumped by 30% but, at $7.96bn, were substantially lower than its imports from India – which amounted to $18.8bn.
Appetite for more
But that could slowly change. Along with technology and fuel to feed India’s growing energy appetite, American companies are also targeting Indian consumers. It’s something that’s not lost on the American chief executive. “Young Indians are acquiring a taste for pizza from Domino’s and Pizza Hut,” President Bush said in a recent speech.
A visit to Gurgaon, a wealthy suburb of Delhi, appears to confirm the optimism. Nestled between high-rise apartment blocks and shiny office complexes, housing leading American companies like Gillette and American Express, are a series of shopping malls that would not be out of place in Texas. Inside, young Indians browse through shops selling Nike footwear and Levis jeans, gawk at the latest Ford SUV on display and then head off to the food-court to choose between McDonalds, Dominos or Subway.
Satish Reddy used to work in a software company in California’s famed Silicon Valley.
Two years later he returned to work for a leading American company based in Gurgaon.
“My wife and I were apprehensive at first. After all, we’d lived in the States for eight years,” he says, speaking in a strong Californian drawl.
“But our life here is almost uncannily similar to life back there.
“Our apartment is centrally air-conditioned, is well-equipped. We work out at a gym nearby, catch a movie at the mall on weekends, grab a pizza afterwards.
“And the best part of it all is that if you are homesick, you just need to step outside.”
Some more similar news : Reuters Summit – The world makes a beeline to growing India