Kick starting ‘Start Up India’

October 10th, 2015

At this year’s Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi came up with a new call to action: ‘Start Up India, Stand Up India’. Just like Make in India, which he first announced at last year’s speech, this new slogan is laudable for both its intent and aspiration.

There are no two ways about the fact that an entrepreneurial India is an essential requirement for the country to achieve the benefits of the demographic dividend that it enjoys. There is a pressing need for the creation of sustainable, employment-generating enterprises at significantly higher rates than they are now.

While as a country we have been touting the size of our large and growing middle class, the truth is that economically, India is still quite poor. In fact a recent study by the Pew Research Centre shows that while India has made significant strides in moving people out of poverty, it has a very long way to go to move people into the true “middle class” (according to global standards). This article by Rohan Venkataramakrishnan debunks the myths around our ‘booming middle class’. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning, Re-learning & Unlearning – the pillars of Singapore’s education system

August 22nd, 2015

Meritocracy is a word that one hears in the Singapore context often, being one of the founding principles of the city-state. It is even referred to as a ‘national ideology’. Considerable effort continues to be expended in constant reinforcement of the fundamental premise of this principle that “opportunities are equalised, not outcomes”.

Education has been at the core of the push to create a meritocratic Singapore. Over the years, the emphasis of education has evolved in tune with the ever changing demands of a rapidly-evolving global and regional economy.

What has remained intact though is the sharp focus on creating an educated population and a highly-skilled workforce that can compete in an increasingly competitive world, the results of which are visible in the country’s standing for talent competitiveness. Read the rest of this entry »

Sustainability in Singapore: Holding up a mirror to the world

August 22nd, 2015

As Singapore celebrates the 50th anniversary of its independence, the country can take immense pride in its rapid transformation from a humble fishing village to the modern, first-world city it is today. What is particularly remarkable is that this amazing transformation has happened despite its inherent limitations of size and availability of natural resources. Not only has The Little Red Dot – an adoring and self-deprecating reference to the country’s physical size on the world map- overcome serious existential challenges in the early years following its breakaway from Malaysia but has also shown itself as a shining example of nation development.

The Singapore story- from third world to the first- is the tale of an unfinished journey from survival to sustainability, one that the city-state pursues relentlessly with unflinching commitment and great vigour. The first seeds to make Singapore the Garden City that it is today were sown by the country’s founding father, Mr.Lee Kuan Yew back in 1963, as he believed that “we need the greenery of nature to lift our spirits.”

Since its very inception as an independent country, densely-populated Singapore has been at the leading edge of promoting excellence in urban planning and management. When combined with a highly-evolved and efficient governance and a steady focus on continuous innovation in the use of both technology and commercial models, the result is a city that’s achieved enviable success.

Singapore has consistently fared very highly against the parameters that characterize great cities: liveability, vibrancy, sustainability and quality of life. The vast expanses of greenery that envelope high-rises all across Singapore is the outcome of a continuous effort from the outset to ‘go green’. Today, the city can boast of its water and energy capacity to meet industrial, commercial and residential needs. It’s public transport system is one of the smoothest in the world and its residents get to breathe clean air, surrounded by greenery and waterways. Not surprisingly, Singapore is the best-performing city in the Asian region when measured against a range of sustainability criteria, according to the Green City Index, a project conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by Siemens. Read the rest of this entry »

Positivity Diary: Reflections & Lessons – Day 4

August 21st, 2014

My positivity diary- entry 4: Observations/lessons I learnt since my last entry a couple of days ago:

a) Age is just a number and romance, a state of mind.

b) Being judged is inevitable. We can either experience and enjoy the emotional roller-coaster as a consequence of being affected by those judgements (real or perceived) or elevate ourselves to a state of indifference to them. The former is being human, the latter, spiritual. Read the rest of this entry »

Positivity Diary: Reflections & Lessons – Day 3

August 19th, 2014

I couldn’t keep up with the daily requirements of the challenge, but I’ve been making a mental note to put these down together. Looks like the time for the next episode is today and now. Here goes:

Client-teachers and symbiotic relationships

Sometimes our clients turn out to be excellent teachers. The best ones are those that trust you enough to give you a fairly free hand; respect you enough to duly consider your counsel, and push you enough to render yourself continually valuable. I had a series of productive and energising conversations at the end of which it felt like we’d both gained something useful and moved forward. Crave for more such! Read the rest of this entry »

Positivity Diary: Reflections & Lessons – Day 2

August 14th, 2014

1. Listening & talking
Today, I did what I don’t do often enough- taking a long walk along the waterway, listening to a few good talks (the TED ones, for example) and indulging in some self-talk. Listening to others was mentally stimulating; listening to myself, liberating. Either way, I enjoy the power of listening. Read the rest of this entry »

Positivity Diary: Reflections & Lessons – Day 1

August 12th, 2014

I’ve been seeing updates related to the #positivitychallenge recently and thought it is a simple yet powerful idea – so much so that I had my son Neel begin to list the 3 good things he experienced each day in a diary over the last couple of days. So, when I found myself ‘challenged’ late last night, I decided to take it on…

But guess how today begins. I wake up to read ‘RIP Robin Williams’… then, a burst pipe at home meant pushing back some critical daily activities until the enterprising plumber decided that he had solved enough problems for one day and was adequately compensated for his struggles with the sink and stink. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Indian Roadshow

March 9th, 2014

On a visit to Gurgaon recently, I was taken aback by the quality of roads in the relatively modern city. Pot-hole filled roads with little drainage greeted us as soon as we came off the highway. In just two years since I last visited the place, it seemed like this city was well along the the way of many of our older cities that are characterized by poor urban planning and management. The outcome of my visit was a missed meeting- the other party couldn’t make it due to a terrible 2-hour long traffic jam somewhere inside Gurgaon!
Nevertheless, this experience reminded me of a satirical piece I had written in The Sunday Observer in September 1997 (almost 17 years ago!). The piece is reproduced below.
Cartoon courtesy: Uttam Ghosh (I think). Read the rest of this entry »

Where are the Calypso Charmers?

May 23rd, 2013

I’d originally written this article more than 12-13 years ago on, which was subsequently re-published by a Trinidanian newspaper/ website called CaribVoice. I was reminded of this article and the glorious days of West Indian cricket when I recently watched the wonderful documentary ‘Fire in Babylon’.

If cricket was the religion in the Caribbean, the thread that strung together the scattered islands, then the malaise of conversions is gnawing away the thread rapidly. Call it disillusionment or betrayal of faith. When I heard of it from a friend who was on a software assignment in Jamaica, I was pained. “Do you get to play cricket there?” I had asked him enviously. “Cricket?” he had said. “People here are more interested in basketball, or they’d rather become athletes, the way they run on the beach.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sachin Tendulkar ‘rested’, Rahane debuts – wishful thinking?

March 21st, 2013

I write this on the eve of the fourth and final test between India and Australia in Delhi. With a 3-0 lead and an unbelievably vulnerable Australian side facing it, a 4-0 whitewash certainly seems possible. At the end of the 3rd test, captain Dhoni was asked about the approach to team selection for the 4th test and his response seemed to indicate that there was likely to be some changes (and not just those forced by injury, such as that to Shikhar Dhawan). It wasn’t an explicit statement as such, yet for some reason that’s how I interpreted it.

Here’s what I feel could happen – or may be should happen. The team management should give Sachin Tendulkar a rest and play Ajinkya Rahane in his place. They should also consider giving Ashok Dinda a go and leave out Suresh Raina who has been brought into the squad after Dhawan got injured and Gambhir was diagnosed with jaundice.

I am not in the ‘ask Sachin to retire’ camp– looking at his batting in the Australia series, he does seem hungry and good enough to play the South Africa series in about 8 months’ time; India could be well-served by his expeirince too. However, with the Australia series done and dusted, it is a great opportunity to give somebody like Rahane a well-deserved debut and see how he fares.

Personally, I feel doing something like this will be in the larger interest of the team. We’ll know whether the Indian team management can show the same adventurous spirit as the Australian ‘leadership group’ did by dropping 4 players for the 3rd test.