Category Archives: Commerce

Corruption & the Downfall of India & the United States

RupeesAny person who has spent even a single day in India comes to understand a hard and sinister truth about the country: it remains an ass-backward place because of, above all else, corruption.  On one of my trips, it took not even a day in India but less than an hour to learn this.  While trying to go through Bombay airport immigration at age 13 with my cousin of the same age, within minutes after landing from the United States, a uniformed and armed customs official detained us in a corner of the airport in order to shake us down for all our pocket money.  We were let go only once we had paid him the absurdly high “tax” of US $100 which we two frightened foreign youths gave up hastily.  This disgusting act of intimidation and theft 22 years ago produced a bad taste that never left my mouth and venomous thoughts about what I’d do to that man if I saw him again as an adult.

Corruption contributes to all manner of travesty throughout the country affecting so many parts of daily life: gang-rapes with impunity, dysfunctional infrastructure, poverty, pollution, medical fraud, police brutality, etc.  No Indian, rich or poor, or of any religious or ethnic background would dispute this, so basic is the acceptance of corruption at every level.

Americans would be stupid to gloat, or think that they are immune from the disease.  The United States is not spared from corruption by any means.  Throughout the history of man corruption has helped bring down empires, and I have come to believe it is causing the decline of the United States right in front of our very eyes.  Knowing a place like India where corruption has become a high art form, in America I acutely see the warning signs sprouting up even as we speak.  There is a saying among Indian-Americans.  Corruption occurs pervasively and openly at every level of Indian bureaucracy: low, medium, and high.  And in America, it is there but more hidden, nearly all of.it occurring at high levels of corporate and government life.  But it seems to be getting worse Stateside, even as there are small signs of improvement in India.

Today, we delve into the sweltering morass of corruption in both countries, and what trends to watch for in the future. Read the rest of this entry

FINALLY! The NBA now has an Indian Player

Sim2

Sim Bhullar, we’ve been waiting for you.  I have been quite certain for the last 20 years or so that there was an excellent chance I would die without seeing an Indian play an NBA game.  I have been proven wrong, with hopefully some years in my life to spare.

The gargantuan Bhullar, a star high school and college basketball player originally from Toronto, has been signed to a 10 day contract with the Sacramento Kings- owned by Indian-American Vivek Ranadive.  This is huge for Indians, and not just because Sim is 7’5″ tall, and pretty wide too for our generally anemic and too often sadly malnourished race.  In fact Sim’s width exceeds the height of many fully grown Indian men.

There are players in the NBA from around 80 countries since the last decade or so, when international players became commonplace in the NBA.  Till now there have been none of Indian descent.  Sim was originally a late draft pick for the Kings last year, but was cut before the 2014-15 season began and thus did not truly complete a stint in the NBA yet.  He was sent to the developmental league where he did well enough to get called back up to play with the big boys.  Sim has been known to have issues regarding speed and conditioning.  Some work in the gym, especially with weights and cardio, should help him immensely.

While a 10 day contract is tenuous at best, like a girl who reluctantly decides to go on a date with you only because you are her BFF’s brother, Sim now has a chance to prove that he belongs in the NBA.

BhullarsThere is no question that interest in the NBA, and in basketball in general, will now explode all over India and the Indian diaspora.  Farmers in the countryside will start building hoops on their land for the first time, ever.  The NBA has been smart in marketing to Indians- and expanding globally in general, helping make it a truly global league unlike any other American sport.  In a few years we predict there will be more players of Indian origin joining the league.  Sim’s little brother (as in 7’3″ little) Tanveer just may be one of them.

Kill ’em, Sim.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

Obama Speaks Directly to the Indian People at Siri Fort

#ObamainIndia has provided a treasure trove of multimedia, and we will keep publishing videos and other content on this page from the three days.  The trip was a watershed moment in US-India relations, and in the days to come we’ll expound on why.

Many people around the world know that Barack Obama is a gifted public speaker.  His flowery oratory is admired around the world by fans, and resented by detractors, in both cases for its lilting power.

This week we witnessed something truly unique: a speech directed at the Indian people during his trip to New Delhi, and especially focused on India’s youth.  Without an ounce of exaggeration or condescension, I can state that Obama spoke to the Indian audience about the emerging nation’s strengths – and also weaknesses – better than any other American leader or even Indian leader is capable of doing.  Some highlights of this speech, which I highly recommend you should watch all the way through:

1) Obama said the United States can be India’s “best partner.”   He said when Indians and Americans look at each other, it’s like looking in a mirror.

2) At times it felt like he was speaking to citizens of his own country.

3) Without touching on India’s gang-rape epidemic or chauvinism directly, he spoke firmly about women’s rights.

4) He constantly self-deprecated, mouthed phrases in Hindi, or at times both to great applause.  He spoke of his age, and about the future long after he is gone in a way most American politicians abroad never do.

5) He reiterated the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons in all nations.

6) Most importantly of all, he spoke to Indians in an adult manner about sectarian discord while even acknowledging that his own country had problems in this regard, including against himself, and against Indian-Americans.

Obama’s ability to combine humor, empathy, gratitude, and deadly serious topics in the speech easily makes it among his best  speeches ever.

Want proof of its effectiveness?  India’s messy democracy, led by politicians and a free media immediately erupted into debate about many aspects of what Obama brought up.  There can be no better bellwether than that.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor 

Obama & Modi: Burgeoning Bromance or Business Ass Usual ?

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This winter season we witness a whirlwind of promising activity in US-India government to government contact. All evidence indicates that this phenomenon is being led personally by President Obama and Prime Minister Modi as countless of their underlings have publicly announced.  Is there a bromance blooming as Obama prepares for his second India trip this month, as the first sitting US president to smell the Indian stench twice?  I have long argued that the governments’ cooperation is just one prong in the bilateral relationship, and not even the most important one.  However, when this goes well it is usually an indication that the relationship is on the right track, and poor diplomacy can certainly derail all the progress. Read the rest of this entry

Weak Brew: Spare Me the Gandhi-Bot Beer Controversy

Gandhi-Bot-Wines-And-More

Some Indian-American folks, including the inimitable Rajan Zed of the Indo-American Leadership Confederation, berated the New England Brewing Company in the last few days for its naming of one of its beers as Gandhi-Bot.  An illustrated robotic version of Gandhiji is also on the can.  While the demands to rename the India Pale Ale beer have so far not been met, the brewery was forced to apologize for hurting anyone’s feelings.

The ridiculousness continues.  Some morons in India are trying to sue the company even though the brewery does not even sell the product in India. Perhaps the name of the beer is insensitive, but this is going too far.  We’ve seen this movie before, unfortunately a hundred times, such as the recent attacks of Selena Gomez.

Read the rest of this entry

You Will LOL: Cheesy Pickup Lines in India

One of the stunning demographic statistics of today is this: 65% of India’s massive population is 35 (my age) or younger.  This has some profound ramifications for the rest of the world, especially aging Western nations and their companies.  Having an India strategy will be increasingly critical for fast food chains, the fashion sector, Hollywood, candy companies, toiletry makers, and so much more.  We are not far from the day where India will be the #1 market in the world by volume for Facebook, Pepsi, Domino’s Pizza, Marlboro, Apple, Xbox, Unilever, etc. Once this happens the phenomenon would probably last for decades considering China is more populated but also more closed, with an older population.

Beyond that, we may start to see India retain its position as the #1 market for entire industries for decades on end.  As a result of the demographic and cultural trends, we may even one day get to the point where India is where “cool” comes from, exported to the rest of the world.  India’s rich youth culture may end up starting trends for youth in other parts of the world.  Social media and the Internet will help make this happen.

That being said, we are still a ways from that day.  Till then, we will have to settle for laughing at Indian youth, such as in this hilarious video of pickup lines captured on camera in India by Awkwardness Unlimited. What made me laugh out loud was, sadly, the accents and mannerisms.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor

VIDEO: Mickey Mouse in Mumbai

I have thought for some years that it was only a matter of time before Disney would gain a larger foothold in India.  Finally, we can now watch the iconic Mickey Mouse himself speak in Hindi and travel around India – facing unmistakably Indian features in the new Disney India shorts such as the one above.

The Indian cartoon production market is still in its nascent stage, but I would expect this to change very soon considering that the Indian youth population is burgeoning and the amount of rich material in India’s history and culture that could be depicted.  There is right now a great deal of opportunity for Disney, Pixar, and other animation companies to create profitable cartoon series and movies for Indian kids.

VIDEO: Interview with Priya Pandya, CEO of Doonya Dance

Last week, usindiamonitor conducted its first-ever video interview with Priya Pandya, co-founder and CEO of Doonya, a fitness company flavored by Bollywood music and dance movements at its core.  Doonya just opened its first studio in Manhattan for teaching fitness classes, so this was a great time for a visit and a chat.

In college Priya and I both participated in Georgetown South Asian Society’s Rangila cultural show, a tradition of song, dance, and acting variety that began in the mid-90’s and continues to this day.  Priya’s Doonya bio describes her as “the cutest, kindest hulk there is!”  Not sure I saw the hulk part emerge, but judge for yourself.  Her screen presence, both in the interview and while teaching dance moves, is indeed commanding and self-assured.  And yes, she convinced me to do some dance moves, so if you’re looking for comic relief that’s in there, too.  The workouts are both rigorous and fun, that rarest of combinations.  Small wonder that Doonya has appeared on Oprah and Good Morning America, or made the Desiclub 50 Coolest Desis list.

Doonya was co-founded by Priya and Kajal Desai.  Besides the classes, Doonya offers fitness DVDs, nutritional advice, and training to become a Doonya dance instructor.  Priya and Kajal are also Reebok Global Ambassadors, giving them additional reach internationally.

Connect with Doonya:

Website  /  Facebook  /  Twitter  /  Youtube  /  Pinterest  /  Google+

Special thanks to Jason K. Wang for filming this interview.

Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor.

Sunday Masala 9/14/14: This Week in US-India Relations

Photo Courtesy India Defense Research Wing

Courtesy India Defense Research Wing

Sunday Masala is a unique resource, and the only one you will need to stay well-informed of the fast moving, always interesting action in US-India relations.  We added a traffic light image to show if developments are positive (green), negative (red), or yellow (unknown) for the relationship.  So what is going on right now?  Turns out, there is plenty going on, much of it involving third parties such as Al-Qaeda (pictured, left). Read the rest of this entry

This Week in US-India Relations: Sunday Masala 8/10/14

This week usindiamonitor is excited to launch a brand new feature called “Sunday Masala,” a weekly digest of the most important developments taking place now in the US-India bilateral relationship.  Besides quick and unbiased analysis of each issue, Sunday Masala will also present a section called “Trend Spotting” if warranted, to inform readers of critical short or long term trajectories to watch out for in this sphere.  Those of you from the Indian side already know how a masala, or melange of spices, makes South Asian food so special.  We hope the spice on this page has a kick, too.

Sunday Masala is a unique resource, and the only one you will need to stay well-informed of the fast moving, always interesting action in US-India relations week by week. Coupled with vast original content on our website and daily news updates on our Twitter feed, today we also welcome you to the very first installment of Sunday Masala.

Hagel1) DEFENSE COOPERATION- REAL DEAL? U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was in India over the weekend to visit Defense/Finance Combo Minister Arun Jaitley, and a juicy tidbit squeezed through the usual chatter about increasing low-level joint military exercises or selling U.S. weaponry to India: Hagel publicly proposed joint weapons development with India, a step that has surprisingly never been implemented before.

The U.S. defense sector is still light years ahead of all others, and India’s industry has a long ways to go, like its military at large.  A proposal appears to be on the table to co-produce and co-develop weapons systems such as the Javelin anti-tank missile, a weapon that has been in a multi-year heated battle with Israel’s Spike missile for the Indian Army’s affections.  Also on the radar for join development is a “big data” cybersecurity system to go after terrorists, amongst other things.

What will the two governments do? Mutual suspicions have led to them never cooperating on badly needed military ventures.  Will the U.S. and India make an unprecedented military deal that may finally create the beginnings of a real security alliance?

Allstate2) FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT (FDI)  The above came fast on the heels of India’s cabinet vote last week to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in the defense sector to rise to 49% from its current 26%.  This would be major news for U.S. companies and would make joint ventures far easier to set up.  Meanwhile, a proposal to do the same in India’s insurance industry seems to be lagging largely due to the machinations of India’s Congress party.

India’s insurance industry is even more untapped than its defense industry.  Indians just don’t buy much of any type of insurance, even for homes, autos, businesses, or life.  95% of the population does not have any insurance as per the Hindustan Times newspaper, much of that due to cultural norms.  Most can now afford some insurance and would benefit- as would the industry and the country.  We shall see.

IRAQI FREEDOM*** TRENDSPOTTING:  The United States recently overtook Israel as India’s #2 weapons supplier.  Russia still remains #1.  On a related note, Russia also has a far more robust military partnership with India than the United States does, including joint development of weapons.  An announcement on the Javelin or a package including the Javelin would set in motion two trends: the United States solidifying its #2 position, and potential for Russia’s pole position to be in jeopardy in the years to come.  Modi’s swearing in as Prime Minister as these trends gain traction is only part coincidence.

But first, one thing at a time.

Mahanth S. Joishy is editor of usindiamonitor

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