Capitalism: A Ghost Story

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Capitalism: A Ghost Story

Roy, Arundhati

London and New York, NY: Verso, 2014

ISBN: 9-781784-780319

127 pp.

In her latest collection of political writings, Arundhati Roy (whom it is obligatory to refer to as the Booker prize-winning author of The God of Small Things) describes the impact of the great transformation on Indian society. People and communities move from a situation in which many institutions play a role in their lives, including religion, social relations, recreation, work and the market, to one in which the market is the predominant institution in which they take the roles of producers and consumers. Capitalism brings all the joys of creative destruction, which many of course are unable to deal with and suffer as a result. Not the least of these is those who are displaced by the creation of the new geography of the emerging nation:

“The Dholera SIR [special investment region] is only one of the smaller Matryoshka dolls, one of the inner ones in the dystopia that is being planned. He will be connected to the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), a 1,500-km-long and 300-km-wide corridor with nine megaindustrial zones, a high-speed freight line, three seaports, six airports, a six-lane intersection-free expressway, and a 4,000-mw power plant (pp.16-7).”

I am aware of this from my own experience of visiting the Greater Noida region every year for the BIMTECH case study conference. Greater Noida incorporates a very extensive area of urbanization, in which industrial estates, residential areas, roads and educational institutions (but precious little functioning retail space) have been built on land once farmed by villagers. Those farmers were evicted and have subsequently launched a campaign of obstruction and stone-throwing that has disrupted construction over the past few years. If they have suffered from capitalism, then their situation under pre-capitalism – or feudalism – was hardly desirable either:

“In India the 300 million of us who belong to the new, post-International Monetary Fund (IMF) ‘reforms’ middle-class – the market – live side by side with spirits of the netherworld, the poltergeists of dead rivers, dry wells, bald mountains, and denuded forests; the ghosts of 250,000 debt-ridden farmers who have killed themselves, and of the 800 million who have been impoverished and dispossessed to make way for us. And who survive on less than twenty Indian rupees a da (p.8).”

Roy considers a wide range of issues in this slender volume, moving from the undermining of progressive institutions by right wing money to the reasons why Afzal Guru was put to death by the state at the time he was for his supposed involvement in the Parliament Attack of 2001. He of course was from Kashmir and it is that region, which Roy describes as the most heavily militarized in the world, that stands at the centre of the book. The abuses of the state, which are well-documented, are symbolic of the relationship between it and the poor and working-class Indian people. They are treated as expendable and demonized as terrorists if they resist depredation (there is a lot of this sort of stuff about). The author is known as an activist and suffered from ill-treatment by organized mobs for protesting against abuses of power and from pointing out inconvenient truths: “India hopes to manage [Kashmir] with the usual combination of force and poisonous Machiavellian manipulation designed to pit people against one another. The war in Kashmir is presented as a battle between an inclusive secular democracy and radical Islamists (pp.90-1).” Yet, she argues, it is Saudi money going in to the madrassas and there is precious little evidence that external interventions in the Kashmir-Pakistan-Afghanistan region have resulted in positive outcomes.

The book ends with a brief speech given to the Occupy movement in the USA. As with that movement and many other progressive movements, Roy is sharp and clinical in identifying what is wrong but less forthcoming when it comes to providing a practical manifesto of actions to improve the situation. She is far from the only worker to display this lack of practicality and, in fairness, this is not a book that promises political solutions. However, while contributing to the pessimism of the intellect for which Gramsci called, it does not help much with the optimism of the spirit for which he hoped.

John Walsh, Shinawatra University

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Seasonal Labour Migration from a Rural Nepalese Village

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Dilip Kumar Jha and John Walsh, “Seasonal Labour Migration from a Rural Nepalese Village,” International Journal of Migration and Residential Mobility,” forthcoming article: http://www.inderscience.com/info/ingeneral/forthcoming.php?jcode=ijmrm.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature and extent of seasonal labour migration among a sample of villagers in Janakpur province of Nepal. Personal interviewing was combined with ethnographic observation with content analysis of the database of findings subsequently conducted. The system of migration is persistent rather than stable; work is available in natural resource extraction or processing facilities and urban environments. The former is easier to plan for than the latter, which can be risky and some migrants are unable to support themselves. The research is limited in both space and time and, owing to the lack of knowledge about the working practices of people in this area, can be considered to be exploratory in nature Better networking and information provision would help migrants find regular jobs and to avoid wasting time and money. The system as it currently exists does little if anything to improve the lives of the migrants and their families overall other than to try to meet sudden unexpected expenses. Otherwise, it seems to provide very little benefit to any stakeholder. Few studies exist that help to indicate how rural Nepal is becoming linked with international markets and what the impacts of such links might be. It is shown that, under current circumstances, few benefits are yet flowing to the Nepalese village studied.
Keywords: migration; Nepal; India; seasonal work; rural

 

Trade Facilitation and Trading across Borders: A Case Study of India

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Announcing: Surendar Singh and R.C Mishra, “Trade Facilitation and Trading across Borders: A Case Study of India,” SIU Journal of Management, Vol.3, No.2 (December, 2013).

Abstract:

Trade facilitation has been a matter of great interest among policymakers around the globe and particularly in India. Trade facilitation is broadly defined as a set of policies aiming to reduce the cost of exports and imports. It has been used as the key instrument for promoting the exports of a country. India has also taken various steps through trade facilitation programmes to promote its exports. In the light of the above, the first part of the paper reviews trade facilitation programmes initiated by India; the second part analyzes India’s performance in terms of trade facilitation vis-à-vis China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia. It further explores trading across borders at selected ports of India. The final section of the paper highlights the recent measures by various trade facilitating institutions to improve trade facilitation in India.

Keywords: export performance, trade expansion, trade facilitation, trade logistics, trade regulatory measures

Download the full paper here.

The Impact of Technology on Entrepreneurs in the Auto Components Sector

The latest abstract to be accepted for publication in my forthcoming collection on technological change and organizational development is:

The Impact of Technology on Entrepreneurs in the Auto Components Sector

Mukund Deshpande, Professor & Research Scholar at HNIMRW, Pune- India and Dr. Neeta Baporikar, Doctoral Guide, University of Pune, India

Abstract

Organizational excellence has at all times aroused curiosity and been a favourite area of dialogue for entrepreneurs. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been recognized world over as important drivers of the national economy. Nevertheless, running such an enterprise amidst global challenges can require extraordinary skills at both managerial and entrepreneurial levels, if the enterprise is to survive and grow. Whilst technology endeavours to introduce useful techniques based on functional logic for proactively conducting business, excellence is only attainable in the course of innovative practices. Good business policy-making requires effective entrepreneurship and proper engagement with all key stakeholders throughout the process. Enterprise leaders believe that the ability to innovate and change is crucial to the success of business. Given this situation, a built-in innovative mechanism has become a critical ingredient of the current business model.

The business approach of SMEs in particular has been a key area of research as these firms, generally lacking human, financial and other tangible and scarce resources, need to be configured accurately to match the new business surroundings. Consequently, a major challenge has been the articulation of resources so as to enable them to achieve success for the enterprise overall. The globe itself seems to be shrinking as a result of information exchange through the internet. For that reason, organization of resources has regularly posed a challenge for SMEs to manufacture products with competitive prices, timely delivery and appropriate quality. The traditional business approaches fail to gratify the general needs of business, owing to the complex environment and, as a result, businesspeople are always alert for approaches. The overall objective of good business strategy is to ensure that it is fit for the purpose, resource efficient, sustainable, resilient, adaptable and attractive.

This case study explores and elaborates such approaches in the Pune Auto-Component industry in India as an illustration of excellence that is setting new trends in modernizing the industry. The auto components industry is a major sub-sector of the automobile manufacturing sector. In effect, it is a large feeder industry that has put India on the global map for excellence and innovation and it has been categorized in the SME class by the Indian Government. Whilst the auto-component industry has been exponentially growing in India at three different locations, the Pune region has been particularly vibrant due to the support from the Automotive Research Institute and the IT industry, coupled with the availability of technological talent. To take advantage of this market opportunity, prospective entrepreneurs must remain inquisitive about new initiatives in this area.

The mainstream auto-component industries are mostly run by family-owned enterprises at Pune, with interest in diverse product ranges that operate around the world. Industry specific challenges ensue due to global competition and continually changing customer demands. They pose further challenges concerning the dearth of in-house resources, as well as the recurrent fresh demands posed by intensification of information exchanges. The case focuses on implementing the “Strategy for the SME” approach that is, in effect, accountable and well judged for the start up, survival and growth of such enterprises. The research methodology designed for the study consists of in-depth study of diverse sources describing the success of the business. A diverse range of entrepreneurs was approached for interviewing and a questionnaire utilising five-point Likert scale questions used to collect data. Emphasis was placed on issues of Face, Construct and Criteria validity. Data collected, based on personal interviews with owners, managers and supervisors of SMEs, were collated into a database. Seven such SMEs agreed to share confidential information and they represent the primary sources of data. In-depth analysis of the data, employing a deductive approach, was undertaken to identify and understand the effective instruments used by SMEs in their businesses. The statistical analysis, in terms of consistency of the approaches, has uncovered very constructive, reliable and sustainable approaches and techniques employed in these industries. The purpose of this research study was to reveal the tools, techniques and behaviour of the Pune businesspeople, at their workplaces, as they addressed the multiplicity of challenges they faced.

The study has revealed that Pune entrepreneurs require an analytical mind and belief to enter the business successfully, which should be undertaken after thorough investigation of facts and figures as well as government policies, while also taking account of the need for information technology back-up for continuity of market knowledge, information on innovation in technology and to link with prospective collaborators. Placing emphasis on customers’ requirements is considered an important policy in manufacturing. A strong belief in the importance of technology is evident, as well as the need for world class amenities that facilitate auto-components manufacture with diverse designs resulting in sustainable policy options. This policy effectively leverages manufacturing competence into access into multiple markets.

Their survival strategy has also been determined and it is to to obtain repeat business from existing customers by providing good quality products, with timely delivery and competitive prices. They are also cautious in maintaining a sound cash flow that is coupled with restricnig the number of debtors and creditors to a minimum and ensuring the prompt recovery of receivables. Keeping borrowings to the minimum and making financial collaborations has also been used to gain access to low or zero interest funds for the business. Survival is also accomplished through supply chain management by way of cooperating with partners. Strengthening survival likelihood is achieved through low rejection of products and eliminating waste materials through effective means that are also consistent with government.

The growth policy of firms involves making smart investments in projects through innovation, adding multiple sources of income and controlling spending to generate surpluses for reinvestment to promote enterprise growth and, where appropriate, collaborating with prospective partners. The Pune auto-component industry has been utilizing a trilateral instrument for designing policies for business that includes the phases of conceptualization, formulation and analytical. They further believe that this approach to business is formulated on its utility, flexibility, viability and competitiveness to match the type, size and value of resources of the enterprise for its prolonged subsistence. These firms prepare business plans and intentionally sketch out process flow charts to generate operational Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Sector specific indicators allow an entrepreneur to quickly ascertain whether assumptions are out of line with industry benchmarks.

A further finding of the study is that Pune industries use a bilateral approach to link up the internal and external environments through what are termed ‘core’ and ‘complementary’ approaches. The core approach has emerged to relate the external environment to the internal, whilst the complementary approach represents support for the core approach to the business. Findings further indicate that these are practical instruments and reliably improve operating economics, maintain environmental equilibrium and intensify harmonious social dealings. The modus operandi of growth is to have an innovative model with repeated iteration which has the ability to surmount sometimes dreadful challenges.

Key words: Auto Components, Entrepreneurs, India, Technology

Turning Customers Complaints into Compliments: A Case Study of Indian Railways

The latest abstract accepted for my collection of case studies is:

Turning Customers Complaints into Compliments: A Case Study of Indian Railways

by Dr. Harjit Singh (Faculty Member, School of Business, Galgotias University, Greater Noida, India) and Manoj Kumar Pachariya (Faculty, School of Computer & Information Sciences, Galgotias University, Greater Noida, India).

Abstract

An organization may have hundreds of branches, thousands of employees and millions of customers but from a customer’s point of view, you are just one organizaton. They perceive your organization as a complete network, funnelled directly through you, dedicated to meeting their requirements, listening to them and not as competing sections preoccupied with their own personal issues, rules and politics. In short, in the business world, it is expected that if you are in competition, you cannot say ‘No’ or ‘sorry it’s not my fault’, or “I’m helpless, I’m not getting support from my colleagues” or ‘Sorry, today our network is not working’ to your customers. The customer is little bothered about what is happening in the organisation and wants the service which is being paid for. In other words, you cannot assign blame to another employee or department. This case study is about Indian Railways (IR) which, before going online, used to have same reaction. The system was overwhelmed with manpower and human resource development had not kept pace with the latest technological inventions.

Consequently, IR found itself in a critical situation. There was a lack of modern management as Indian railway failed to attract high quality human resources and to provide appropriate incentives. This made railways incompetent when coping with increasing number of passengers and reservations. Consumer complaints were on the rise. The number of complaints/cases for refund of tariffs and loss for ‘delay’ were increasing at unprecedented rates. The railway booking system was totally in the hands of private agents. Further, railway employees’ negative attitudes, the sheer volume of passengers and the accompanying chaos at the booking centres made the prospect of booking railway tickets an unlikeable thought. The position became more worsened with the entry of low cost airlines which were offering slightly higher or even the same fares than railways for most commercial destinations. Consequently, IR was not only confronted on the passenger front but also saw a steep downfall in the transport sector too. The case begins with the growth of IR and studies the operations of a large Indian organisation that played a vital role in the social, political and economic development of the country. The case highlights the disparity between the organization’s social and economic objectives and the strategies adopted to attain them. What circumstances forced Indian railways to introduce ‘Online Passenger Reservation System’ and its progress in recent years to become one of the most passenger-friendly railway systems in the world. The case emphasizes IR’s efforts to develop consumer perception as the most reliable travel system.

Key Words: Indian Railways, Consumer Complaints, Online reservation.