Tuesday, March 26, 2019

NaMo - Wrong person in the wrong party

India would be performing socially, politically, economically and humanely far better without the current set of rulers.

Generally in the recent years, India as a country is so divided. The credit goes to the current government of India. In this fast changing world of Social media, sensation is the new child on the block. A person who can sensationalize certain political happenings grab attention of the people. They gain publicity out of the act. In the ever competitive world of political leaders - every one is trying weird things which they might not do at the personal front.

Mahatma Gandhi very famously told - India lives in its villages. Even seventy years after Independence, it is very toweringly true. Instead of making a difference on the ground in villages - the ruling establishments are taming the people through the media. With every passing day - there is huge one-page Ads on every newspaper highlighting the so called achievements of Narendra Modi. On the ground here - nothing has changed. The political class has only become more crooked and selfish. Publicity as a policy strategy is bad. Ideal way - the schemes and programs of the government percolate enough into the lives of people and there is a natural inclination of masses. This appreciation leads to accumulation of votes during elections. It has reached a point where controlling all sections of the media and constantly propagating a narrative will get them votes. Whether to see if it works remains to be seen in this election.

The political topics that are being discussed in the so called mainstream media is mostly about trivial items. Real issues like lack of infrastructure (electricity, water, roads) and corruption still being daily problems for common man., they do not get prominently debated and solutions sought.  In fact lynching a man for beef-eating or attacking a Kashmiri shop owner in streets of UP is the news of the day. It is a law and order issue. Both the state and the central government are responsible to save the lives of all its citizens. No one can disagree with it. But the twist is - the people who are responsible to deal with this - would comply with the crime. First they speak for it or tacitly support it. A prominent person from the ruling party would pass unjustifiable (often not legal) opinions on them. This creates a sensation and division of the society. There is this new set of population that rebels against the mainstream thought and take a relative radical stand. This fuels discussion on social media and in live television for the day. The rulers get some publicity for their deviance from established norm. New comers to politics tend to navigate this way to make an accent on the political ladder in their party. Ideally people in saffron dresses need to be liked upon and trustable by every other living life. But nowadays, you see people in saffron behaving violently and having a sharp tongue particularly against people of other faith and vulnerable sections of the society.

Not a single day goes by, with the PM Narendra Modi blaming the previous Congress governments for everything that is bad in the country. He even blames Nehru. It is ok, if you do that for a year or two when you have a full majority government. If you do it in your 5th year - you are just being non-performing.The performance of the government is not up to the mark in general. The publicity is to cover them all. If there is real performance - there wouldn't be a real need for publicity. The ruling establishment believes they could manipulate the signals and get away, without underlying actions.

Narendra Modi as PM will be remembered for a long time for demonetization - making 85% of high denomination currency notes invalid overnight. The justification provided for that was to eliminate black money and punish the corrupt hoarders. At that time - it sounded logical and timely. Later on - it would turn out that most of the printed money where returned back to the RBI and it didn't make a big impact. To be clear - it was a bold step and the intention cannot be questioned. I believe it was done with right intentions. Where it miserably failed was - not being able to capitalize on that. The PM should have stick to lower denominations only. Now we have more 2000 rupee note in the market which didn't exist before the demonetization. There is more currency in circulation now than prior to demonetization. It would have been awesome chance to restrict the ATM withdrawal to 10K only. (No one stops you from going to a bank and withdrawing anything more than that). This would have put severe restrictions on cash operations. The big failure of demonetization by the BJP government - was not allowing that "crisis" to benefit the people in the "subsequent years".

The current government prides itself in calling Narendra Modi, a powerful Prime minister. If this was really the case - the GST would have been just a one tier structure say 8-10%, leaving all complexities out. A right move would have been to have a "NO GST" and "With GST of 10%" - that's it. Trying to have multiple tiers and adding few/removing few over these years was a reflection of poor implementations. A clean, simple procedure would have definitely helped in the roll out, and the PM could not even enforce that. With global oil prices being down for almost all the five years, the government coffers were very lavish to take bold financial measures. The public perception has changed from the "Government has no money" to "Government has all the money" and just couldn't do anything meaningful.

The PM should also be pinned down for the failure to change the system significantly on any domain that relates to common man. That is why they are not able to say - the next five years would be as glorious as the last five years. None of what they did has not affected the common man positively and more importantly significantly. A bold PM would have automated the grievance address system on Law and Order in the country by now. India would have a 911-equivalent phone number to call anything that is related to Law and Order / Police calls. Those would have made enormous difference to ordinary people's life. With almost everyone having access to a cell phone, all would have felt - they are just one phone call away to safety in case of a threat or an emergency.

The current government has been seriously undermining various institutions in the country like the RBI, Judiciary, CBI - the investigative agency and Election commission. The RBI governor resigned before his term could end because of too much political pressure from the PMO and its appointment of its own people as members of the board. The recent fight between the top brass of the CBI was pretty wide open. It is obvious the PMO put their people in the investigative agency and used them to target political opponents. There is always a CBI raid on the opposition, and some sensation news related to it. CBI raids on relatives of EPS, the Tamil Nadu CM was done just before the no confidence motion in parliament against the Central Government. They also clearly manipulate the Judiciary and how the cases come for hearing. When Jayalalitha was the Chief Minister of the state, the pending case against her in Supreme Court, for which she was initially convicted by a lower court and exonerated in high court (with some mathematical mistakes in calculation) did not see the light when she was in power or when she was seriously ill in the Apollo hospital. After her Death, O.Paneerselvam was made the CM and when he revolted against the inner circles of the party - Sasikala and her family. Sasikala was projected to be the CM herself and MLAs were moved to Koovathur resort for them to get the numbers in the floor of the assembly. The Central government then from nowhere woke up, took the case for hearing right away and convicted her before she could prove her number in the assembly. Their puppet state Governor was involved in delaying the process and played obediently in favor of the central government and against democratic rules of the state. It was pretty evident they control when the judicial case against the opponents are brought and used as political tool. Unfortunately the way judiciary operates in this country is like that.

The BJP government has been tacitly controlling the election commission to suit their agenda. When in school, we were all taught the by-election to constituencies happen within 6 months of either the MLA/MP is dead or suspended from operating as a representative of the people. In our state in Tamil Nadu,  in the last 3 years, we have seen multiple seats that are lying vacant without a elected member for more than 6 months. Just imagine about the people who are in those constituencies. Without a member representing them, it creates lot of ground difficulties. Election Commission not ordering by-elections in vacant constituency is a big crime because it is their only job. The only reason they do that was in favor of the state and central governments. The people of Tamil Nadu should have realized this already.

These kind of institutional management for political gains are always done by ruling parties. But never in the history of our country it has been done to this scale.

One thing that is both funny and makes me angry is - The court this week pronounced a verdict on a by-election in Tirupurankundram assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu. The verdict was - the election of the ruling MLA from that constituency has been declared invalid. This is because of Jayalalithaa's thumb impression was used instead of her signature in approving the party candidate who eventually won. And that thumb  impression was found to be not valid. The sad truth is - Jayalalithaa is dead already and the MLA is also dead. Its basically a classic case of "Operation Success but Patient Dead". It is sadly Judiciary succeeded and Democracy failed. What Angers me about this joke is - The Joke is on us, the people.

Making the institutions play for their tune has gone one step further. Now the BJP wants everyone to think they alone are synonymous with the military - if you are against them, then you are against the military. This is wicked thing. This is what happens when crooks are running the country.
The recent Pulwama attack - where an Indian Citizen became a suicide bomber to kill our own military personal is something really everyone in our country should think about. Blaming it 100% on Pakistan is propaganda and not intelligence. This is unlike the Mumbai attacks where everyone came from Pakistan. It was imported terror. We don't have control over it. But in this case, if one of our own citizen gets radicalized and bombs our army men - we need to find our why would this happen and make steps so that its not repeated. If training and explosives came from across the border in Pakistan - it really means - our border is porous. Make steps to tighten that. We have enough home work on our side to do on top of blaming Pakistan. The ruling party conveniently capitalized on the tragedy and it made it worse by surgical strike misadventure to convey to the people of India, their strong character. In the end, gave an opportunity to the Pakistan PM to become a noble statesman.

What is upsetting, lately the military is being used as a propaganda tool for their own political agenda.

The armed forces of India belong to the country. They represent the people of the country and not its current rulers. The democratic government merely have an impact on them when in power. They tend to give a perception that if you support the Army, then you support the ruling party is absurd. What is amazing is the current BJP government is pretty successful in propagating this idea so far. When emotions run high, the ploy may work. When reality catches up, people will figure out the difference. In the US, when the Iraq war happened and George Bush was President - They tried to do a similar propaganda where, if you hated the war, then you are against the troops. This made a big impact in mobilization of the people in support of the war for multiple years and also played a bigger role in his re-election to his second term as President. Only after the endless war effort and losing multiple US military personal, did the people of the country realize - war and support for military are unrelated. When the common good is lost - the trust is lost as well. Never before in our country was this kind of campaign done. The military was and is supreme entity in India - people valued it. It is just a armed group to save this country for people's common good - mostly dominated by poor sons of our soil.  Using them as political weapon to segregate society and impose political ideological is mischievous. It is possible - they might go to war to prolong their political ideology and continue with their ruling power. 

The way they have been operating so far, giving another five years to Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and its gang - is very scary. They don't even seem to be "Good People". 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The E- Commerce CRAP

The Indian government has stepped in more to regulate the ecommerce Industry. They are formulating procedures that would trim the ecommerce business. The intention they say is to protect the brick and mortar stores spread all over the country. However the whole thing is absurd.

This is one classic example of how the government usually behaves with complete lack of common sense. First they allowed foreign companies to run ecommerce ventures in the country. With more than a billion consumers and a improving middle-class, foreign and local investors have poured in tonnes of money as investment. With a high-inbound of cash into the business, the firm just doesn't know where to spend the money on. Because its all online - there is not even stores/parking expenses. All they need is warehouses and shipment centers. With competition also increasingly growing and with the intention of market dominance, these ecommerce firms use investor's money to offer irrational discounts on the products they sell in their platforms. So a product that has a cost price of Rs. 70/- and a selling price of Rs. 80/- in a outside shop, is being sold for say Rs. 50/- Who pays for the difference - its the investors money.

Every ecommerce firm tries to replicate Amazon.

Amazon has been a leader in the ecommerce space globally. With unlimited investor money looking for returns, mainly sourced from low-cost borrowing rates in developed countries - it became a ideal target. Business of Amazon has been expanding for a decade now exponentially and it is always considered the phoenix bird of the dotcom boom-bust era. The way the business model works - Amazon has reported loses every quarter for most of its lifetime. The shareholders did not gain much from their investment because of the lack of profit. All earnings were re-invested to grow the business. Jeff Bezos mindset is that, grow the business wide and high, the company will eventually be profitable. In late 2015/2016 is where Amazon reported a significant quarterly profit in a quarter since their inception. As soon this happened, investors started piling into the stocks and the share has risen from low double-digits to over $2000/- since then. Recently it has corrected to somewhere around 1500 bugs. On the business side, their ecommerce business has never yielded a significant profit in spite of their long life-span in the business. The reason is this - they do not sell the products for a "profit" in their platform. They sell a lot for a loss. The loss is compensated by the new investor money.

Internally within Amazon, these products are called C.R.A.P - acronym for "Cannot Realize A Profit".

To maintain the market dominance and rival the competitors in number of purchases/revenue, not a single day goes by without a strikingly discount-sale, that no other for-profit business would do. They would ship a 30-40 pound heavy dog-food bag to your house every week that costs $40. They would sell TVs to your house, the price would be lot less than what you would find in the nearest store and on top of that, they offer the shipping to be free. On top of that, if the TV is broken en-route, they would send a replacement. The cost the consumer pays is way less than all these that make it happen.

Consumer is god damn-happy he is getting the best deal and also it is all being door delivered. He saves on the effort and cost that takes him to go to the nearest store and do a pick-up himself. They deliver to the remotest of remote part of the country. All the consumer has to do - is stand-up from his sofa and open the door when Amazon delivery guy knocks in your door. This is absolutely good thing for the consumer. No question about that.

However for Amazon and its investors its a horrible deal.

What is amazing and mind-blowing, is the ecommerce firms are able to do this for so long and making Amazon's Jeff Bezos the richest person in the world.

One sad truth - Amazon has amazingly proved that such an illogical business model can work and prosper. Any company that does this will fail. Amazon will definitely fail as well.

The latest entry to this kind of business model is swiggy and Zomato. It is very hard to miss them on the Indian city streets these days. They have hired thousands of people who deliver food to customers who order using their mobile app. The prices are significantly low - sometimes its obvious it doesn't even add up for the expense on the food and the cost it takes to deliver it to the customer. Rs. 15/- breakfast for early users is common. For comparison - this same breakfast would cost at least Rs 50/- on the floor of the restaurant. These companies also lavishly shower money on their delivery boys. Apparently they earn more than Rs. 25,000/- a month. They operate like Amazon actually - first they offer unrealistic discount to get more people on the platform, buyout the competition, take a leader role in the industry - and it so turns up - they end up never raising prices to actual cost prices. They very well know as well its customers that customers will only be in the platform only until the discounts last. In a real-price structure the business would cease to exist. Once the prices are nominal or above nominal, the customers have no incentive to stick to the platform - either they would walk to restaurants themselves or would start cooking at home, which is lot cheaper. The biggest loser in this game when it gets over finally, is unfortunately the delivery boys. They have been delivering food for years. There is nothing to show for. They didn't acquire any skills or knowledge. Finally they don't have the lavish income too.

What is very amazing about Amazon, Swiggy, Zomato kind of companies is how long they survive? A early failure is good thing. They can be good ordinary companies that are serving customers well. They can't be these extra-ordinary companies which drives competition out.