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Saturday, October 17, 2015

Achchey Din for India and its markets

It is about eighteen months that the new government took over the charge. The manifesto which the present government prepared and presented had a huge promise through the catchline of Achchey Din (good days). Month after month media kept writing about the gap between the promise, policies and practice. The government has been on toes for providing a boost to the economy and to send across a strong message that they are committed to bring Achchey Din. There were surging effects witnessed in the market and the steps so taken were being building positive business sentiments across different sectors of economy. Different agencies got interested in sharpening their eye towards economic growth that was projected. 

The World Bank recently has put forth positively a strong scenario for Indian economy, better as compared to our mighty neighbor China. It estimates that India is going to grow at 7.5 per cent in the current fiscal so far as its GDP is concerned. It is the result of the efforts that government has taken through required reforms towards encouraging FDI and developing platforms for the ease of doing business. The growth has been surrounding financing, insurance, real estate, hospitality, transportation, communication and other business services.

Through Make in India initiative the government expects that the manufacturing sector would form one fourth of GDP as against around one seventh where it is today. It has resulted in huge investments by multinational manufacturing giants to put forth their energy in India through choosing it as a destination of production as compared to that of availability of market. Sectors like telecom, medical (for devices), single-brand retail, railways (construction, operation and maintenance of specified activities) have been opened fully for FDI. Amar Babu, COO, Asia-Pacific & Chairman, Lenovo India says ‘The Indian government’s thrust on Make in India has opened up a plethora of opportunities for organizations looking to conduct business in India’. Lenovo and Motorola are going to be produced in India through the plant of Flextronics near Chennai. Flextronics is world’s second largest electronics contract manufacturer. 

A Taiwanese public firm Foxconn is the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer which produces on behalf of Blackberry (earlier known as Research in Motion-RIM), Apple, Sony, Amazon, Sharp, Toshiba, Nokia, Motorola, Huawei, Cisco to just name few. Now it is entering India with 5 billion USD investment in their manufacturing arm and it is estimated that it would provide job opportunity to more than fifty thousand youth. Further it plans to have more than ten units in India across states by 2020. Just to mention, it employs more than 1.2 million people in China. And if things go well in India I see a possibility of Foxconn becoming world’s largest employer in the years to come. Twenty One electronic clusters have been given approval. India is expected to become a manufacturing hub for all kinds of electronic gadgets.

General Motors is planning to invest one billion USD in the years to come to boost its production facility and capacity in its plant in Maharashtra which is going to further provide employment to sizeable youth. Ford Motor plans to manufacture EcoSport in India for exporting it to US. German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is putting efforts towards doubling its manufacturing capacity in India. These are few cursory announcements made by these companies in last few months.

At a time when about half of the world population is having access to the internet, Digital India initiative of the government of India is yet another intervention which shall propel the growth of service sector. The greater challenge shall be to develop requisite infrastructure to counter industry expectations and responses. There are going to be more technology driven startups in all parts of the country. Use of technology for logistic support and for delivery of services has provided boost to India in a big way which is attracting world players to enter this market. However employability of our graduates is still a major concern which is expected to be addressed through Skill India initiative. It is believed that once it is embedded in our education system, it would enthuse an exceptional level of confidence in youth to take up initiatives to stand on their own feet. It would also facilitate manufacturing and service sector where huge job opportunities are expected to grow. Demographic dividend has to be capitalized through empowering youth in developing their competence levels. Job portals report that there is going to be huge demand of jobs in the areas of Ecommerce, Banking & financial services, IT & ITeS and retail sector and some signs have already started in that direction. The challenge would be to make youth employable through imparting required skills. 

The end of this fiscal shall pave way for the next fiscals and I have reasons to believe that Achchey Din would be a reality for the economy of India and the unemployment rate shall go down below 4 per cent. Youth would have ample opportunities to explore possibility of making choices for their future career and it would really be a positive thing if India is able to drive back that talented workforce and entrepreneurs who migrated to other countries in search of better pastures.

The question as to whether we are able to enthuse a sense of entrepreneurship among the youth or not has to be seen from the perspective of their dependence on available job market. The youth has to start thinking differently as they have to play their role in providing employment rather than seeking one. The current year has witnessed many startups and the support from the venture capitalists is remarkable. This trend has to continue and has to further spread across the geography so that small sector grows at a better pace. 

All that I have mentioned so far is related to market, economy, opportunities and physical infrastructure. The sentiments are positive and the business opportunities are growing much faster than before. Corporates are competing to capture better share of the pie and the customer is flooded with choices. Perhaps things are going to improve a lot on this front and India is going to become a destination of attraction for foreign investment. The investor might feel safe in putting the money here. However it would be seen whether economic growth would really result in improving well-being or not. GDP is a strong measure of development accepted by economists and policy makers but much more than that is the indicator which shows reduction in the size of poor population, improvement in education levels and health parameters. Social infrastructure has to back economic growth otherwise the visible development of physical infrastructure shall create white elephants and it would utterly be a challenge to sustain it for the future.

We were taught lessons on mixed economy structure. We have a lot to do on social front and it requires an urgent attention of the government and policy makers. The economic growth led Achchey Din might not sustain long in the absence of good education and good health standards. And as witnessed putting health and education in the market shall do more harm than good for the cause of Achchey Din.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Discontinuance of Money Order Service by India Post

[this letter is written by me to my daughter, Ashi, which I thought I should share with all]

1.4.15/Guwahati Airport

Dear Ashi

Today while reading a newspaper at Guwahati airport I read a news item that the department of posts (India Post), Government of India is closing down more than 100 years old money order service from 1st April 2015. I just thought since you have never seen anybody using this service today or used this service anytime yourself, you may not know its importance in the life of an individual in the yester years. So I thought to let you know this whole story and our experience and how important it used to be in our lives of which you are an important part today.


Money Order was a service through which money could be sent to the addressee through hand. What was required was that you go to your nearby post office, fill up the form on both the sides on which you were suppose to put name and address of the person to whom you wanted money to be delivered, your own name and address and below there was slip space of around one and half inch for any message that you wanted to convey to the addressee and then hand over the money to the post master there for which he would issue you a receipt. The same form along with that slip would travel to the addressee like a letter and the postman shall reach to their address, deliver the money and get signature of the addressee as acknowledgement and would tear off that message slip and give that as well. So apart from money, a message also used to get conveyed. This service was used by individuals as well as organisations. When we wanted to subscribe to any magazine or service, money order was always an option available. I remember subscribing to some sundry periodicals using this service. When for any official transaction money was required to be sent MO was a handy option. Though the post office used to charge a modest fees for this service, it was quite popular a service which was reliable, relatively prompt, convenient and conventional. As in case of postage the fees charged had no relation to the distance as far as the money was moving from one place to another within the territorial boundaries of India with an extension of this service in Bhutan as well.

Till now I just mentioned the system and logistics involved in this great service of the past. But you know Ashi, when I looked at this news in the newspaper, my memory started narrating the whole experience of ours through flashback on the important role it played in our lives. Let me share that with you with full sincerity.

The first week of every month was a time when we would be looking out for dakia or postman. If we see someone coming on bicycle in khaki dress with a cap on the head, we would wait to have full glance of him (and not her in any case) till we see him fully. Sometime this wait use to frustrate us as the person would not be a postman or when we would ask him whether he had our money order, he would reply in negation. We would come and tell mummy 'aaj bhi nahi aaya' (not there even today). We would wait for the next day. Sometime he would knock and tell money arder and we would call mummy. After exchange of smiles we would run to him. Mummy would ask us to get pen and then she would take time to put her full name as signature on the acknowledgement slip (Since we observed her putting her signature so closely always almost every time on any document or MO acknowledgement, we learnt to copy her signatures very easily and confidently. Many times we withdrew money on her behalf from bank. I remember one interesting episode. Once I got her signature on withdrawal form, and went to bank to withdraw money. The person sitting at the counter in the bank looked at me checked her signature from bank records and commanded. 'Signature dubara karakar lao, match nahin kar rahe hain'. I went out, signed on the fresh withdrawal, waited outside for some time to pass and went to the counter. This time he said abhi thik hai, mummy se kehna aise hi sign kare. Ever since then I started confidently putting her signature as if I had the legal sanction of this effect). He would hand over cash, we would offer him water, mummy would give him some tips and he smilingly would accept it. 

Postman was an important part of our lives, he was offered sweets on festivals, sometime money as well, he was invited on weddings or pujas, if any. Sometime he would himself ask for water and throughout the month we would greet him and would exchange smiles. He would also use to ask our well being at times.

You might think from where my mom used to get money in the first week of the month. So let me tell you, your grandfather who worked in defense services had given a standing instruction to his office to send a major portion of his salary to us. No matter whether he was posted in Bhutan or Moron, Silchar or Sriganganagar, Akhnoor, Arunanchal, or Agartala, no matter whether he was in 99 APO zone or 56 APO zone, our share of his salary reached to us on time religiously every month and that through Money Order service. 

I do not know how money gets transferred for defense personnel today but I want to emphasize a point very vehemently that for all the defense employees guarding our fences on different borders and other such employees Money Order service played a role of a Godsend men for their families and children.

Beta we use to get around 80/90 percent of his salary on monthly basis for family expenditure but you know if I tell you the amount that used to reach us for whole monthly expenditure, you would not believe. It was even less than one lecture honorarium that I get paid today. And our mother used to always make savings out of this money for use in case of contingencies. 

Times have changed and so is the value of money. The major reason is inflation. But for us all, times and things have changed primarily because of the investments that our mother made in looking after us. Times have really changed for all of us and so for the mode of sending money and so is the use of technology. Few months back Telegram service was taken off as mobiles and messages have become more vibrant and popular. I know money transfer has become much easier in today's tech-led world. Yet we shall miss that humane touch that we had earlier. As they say there is huge difference between human being and being humane. 

Times have gradually changed to so called better, faster and convenient transfer of money which is happening more in non-physical domain of currency. I wish with the closing down of MO service the value of human relation does not close down. Machines can replace humans but not humaneness. 

So you might have got bored by now, reading my long mail as you have not experienced all this but let me tell u a fact when I read this news the first person of whom I thought of who has not seen it and should know, it was you. So I chose you to get this known. 

History plays an important role in our lives, it keeps reminding us of our past and since present is build on the premise of past and present is sure to be history tomorrow it would be good for you if you keep knowing our past, rich or may not be so rich.

Good luck and love you as always. 

Vijay

[five steps to order money order]
[Hindu reports closing of Money Order service]