Thursday

Big brands on sale



Given the global financial crisis, 2009 shows every sign of being a slow year for retail sales. To lure upscale customers, who have tightened their alligator-skin belts and cut down on discretionary spending as a reaction to economic volatility, some of the globe’s biggest brands are coming up with attractive price cuts. Even in India, where nobody is voicing the dreaded ‘R’ word, the finance minister has asked the consumer goods industry to cut prices to boost demand. The result is that this is perhaps the best time for aspirational customers to stock up on brands, both top-end and budget classes. Here is a selection of bargains on offer:

DISCOUNTS ON HOTEL STAYS
As hotels lose corporate bookings in the face of the global downturn, they are fighting back with freebies. One of the hottest deals currently on offer comes from the Marriott group. Stay for two nights at any of their Indian properties till 11 January 2009 and get credit worth Rs 3,000. This can be redeemed either at the spa, for a room upgrade or for dining out. The newly opened Park Plaza hotel in Noida is quoting Rs 8,999 a night for a double room till December 31. The rack rate is Rs 13,000. If you are heading to the US, Europe or Southeast Asia, check into a Ritz Carlton hotel to avail of the Reconnect package, featuring stay, breakfast and up to a $200 resort credit.

HOT DEALS ON WHEELS

In the face of plunging stock markets and rising pink slips, car manufacturers are finding it hard to sell premium vehicles. Porsche India’s managing director, Rod Wallace, has admitted that slow sales are expected in the last quarter of this financial year. In an attempt to boost sales, the brand has tied up with Reliance Capital to offer takers easy financing. Porsche has also introduced a pre-owned car programme in India, which would involve refurbishing a pre-owned car and re-selling it with company warranty for up to 24 months. Given that luxury car patrons change their wheels every three years, you get a practically new car at a much lower price (up to 60% cheaper), but with guaranteed after-sales service. If you want something cheaper, there is the Honda Civic Hybrid version that now costs Rs 13.36 lakh—Rs 8 lakh cheaper than in October 2008. This is the biggest price cut in Indian automobile history, so make the best of it.

LUXE APARTMENTS FOR LESS

Much like the other sectors, real estate is facing turmoil. But developers’ woes have translated to home buyers’ joy, particularly in the luxury space. With the number of clients falling faster than snowflakes, realty giants are vying with each other to roll out unique selling propositions. So Assotech is offering its clients a hot air balloon ride to enjoy the 360 degree view that each condominium at its upcoming project, Celeste Towers, Noida, will provide. Other players are taking things a step further by way of easy financing and price cuts. Orbit Corporation has cut its rates by about 15% from Rs 70, 000 per sq ft to Rs 60,000 per sq ft for apartments at the luxurious Orbit Haven on Napean Sea Road, Mumbai, one of India’s most expensive streets. The company had planned apartments of 4,300 sq ft each (Rs 30 crore @ Rs 70,000 a sq ft) but has now reduced the size to 2,800 sq ft per flat (Rs 16.8 crore @ Rs 60,000 a sq ft). Similarly, Unitech Grande in Noida has a 15% discount on upfront payments for flats costing Rs 2-3 crore. At the Golden Grand Project by Bangalore-based Golden Gate Properties, where prices start at Rs 64 lakh, you can buy a condo by paying 75% of the property value in pre-set instalments and the remaining 25% after five years.

BARGAINS ON BLING
If you’ve lusted after a carat, there is no time like the present to acquire it. The global meltdown has adversely affected the diamond trade, and compared with last year’s figures, the demand has witnessed a 5-10% decline, admits Manoj Khanna, CEO of Amaris Regalia, an indigenous luxury jewellery brand. Due to this slump in demand, the prices have been cut by at least 5%. Besides, Lister Technologies has recently launched a Website called Caratlane.com, which is dedicated solely to the sale of diamonds by directly linking the customers and the manufacturers. “We have seen a price reduction of up to 15%,” says Srinivasa Gopalan, CEO of Lister Technologies. “The reduced prices will drive increased sales over the next several months, making diamonds that much more affordable for people,” he adds. Time to bling it on.

PROMOTIONS ON APPAREL, ETCETERA

When you don’t know if you will have a job next week, designer label buys may seem like a bad idea. But, then again, with brands like Chanel, Versace, Christian Louboutin, Dolce & Gabbana and Chloé cutting prices on their products by 8-10%—for the first time in memory, perhaps—it’s an opportunity like never before. Back home, for those on a tight budget, Pantaloons has recently announced price cuts, ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 500, depending on the product category.

Wine connoisseurs too have something to cheer about—top wine brand Chateau Lafite has slashed prices by about 25%. A case of 12 of the 2005 vintage that used to cost £10,000 four months ago (Rs 7.7 lakh) now comes for £7,500 (Rs 5.7 lakh).

Watches Galore !



Why does this watch cost Rs 125,00,000?

The world of luxury watches is a rarified place. When faced with one, it is considered impolite to raise an eyebrow at the price, let alone gasp. Keeping a sense of perspective is crucial, especially when it is a watch partly made with steel from the hull of the Titanic, and costs $250,000 (approx.). Prince Albert of Monaco sure kept his composure when he got one.
A limited collection of 2,012 watches, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the disaster, Romaine Jerome’s Titanic DNA series is a sight to behold. The first of the lot, the Day & Night, a limited edition of nine pieces, was sold out within days of being unveiled. The Titanic DNA T-oxy III Tourbillon featured here is a limited series of nine as well.

The good news is that there are still a few of them left. If you want to own a work of art that’s stunning, justifications are not necessary, but it helps to know that you’ll be a part of history. Coming soon from the DNA series, is a watch that can store information for 2 million years! And you thought cockroaches were resilient.

• The rusted steel bezel is a mix of actual steel from the shipwreck some 3,900 m under the sea and steel supplied by the makers of Titanic— Harland and Wolff shipyards in Belfast

• Movement: The unique RJ Tourbillon movement counters the effects of gravity by placing the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage.

You can see the Tourbillon at work through the open window at ‘6’. The watch also has a 120-hour power reserve

• Hands inspired by the anchor of the Titanic

• Sapphire crystal with double antireflecting treatment

• Deep black dial made of coal collected from the wreck

• Crocodile skin strap

Watches to watch out for


Come spring 2009 and these beauties from some of the world’s best-known fashion brands will be in stores. choose which label you want to sport.

Emporio Armani
1. Model: Ar0185
Price: Rs 20,995 The embossed leather gives an extra kick to the classic feel of this Emporio Armani watch. It has a dark brown leather strap with a stainless steel square case. The brown dial with silvertone Roman numeral, logo, and three subdials make it not just a funky-looking timepiece but a great one to have when crossing time zones. This quartz watch is waterresistant up to 30 m and comes with a two-year warranty.

2. Model: AR3163
Price: Rs 36,990 Imagine a watch that comes with diamonds and is still priced under Rs 40K! The stainless steel case with genuine diamonds at the 6 and 12 hours makes it a special watch. The warm grey dial with silver indexes and the pewter leather embossed croc strap are great pluses. This watch comes in a special Emporio Armani box.

3. Model: AR4222
Price: Rs 25,495 Based on the limited edition commemorative Meccanico watch launched in 2007, this new model is in a stainless steel version with a black calf-leather strap embossed to resemble crocodile skin. The black dial has a special feature referred to as “open heart”, which reveals the mechanical functioning of the watch movement, making the inner workings visible to the wearer.

Diesel
4. MODEL: DZ1199
Price: Rs 7,795 The DZ1199 has all of the Diesel charm that you would expect with the large oversized dial. The use of small screw heads at the four corners makes it look like a piece of art rather than a watch and it is this unique style that will make it a real winner this season. It has a square shape black dial with a leather strap and a quartz analogue movement. It’s water-resistant up to 50 metres.

5. Model: DZ1196
Price: Rs 9,795 The powerful yellow crystal stands out brilliantly with a three-link bracelet fitting against the case. It has a silver dial with yellow mineral crystal and a silver second hand.

Fossil
6. Model: ME1048
Price: Rs 8,795 With this stainless steel men’s watch, precision quartz timing is merged with a patented mechanical dial to create a not only functional, but stunning timepiece. It has a steel bracelet with folding clasp closure and is water-resistant up to 50 metres.

Women’s watches

Emporio Armani
1. Model: AR5727
Price: Rs 25,290 This elegant ladies watch from the Armani Ladies’ Classic line will never go out of style. Slim watches in stainless steel, silver and gold will give any woman an air of sophistication. It comes in a stainless steel curved rectangular case with a cream dial. There is a stainless steel adjustable-link bracelet with a deploying buckle. It is waterresistant up to 53 (approx.) metres.

2. Model: AR5738
Price: Rs 17,995
This chic Emporio Armani ladies watch has a lucid steel bracelet, featuring the brand’s logo in crystals. The discreet clasp closes with pressure. The rectangular steel case features a grey anthracite quadrant and mineral crystal glass that is scratch-resistant. The band is gold-plated. The watch is water-resistant up to 30 metres.

Fossil
3. Model: AM4131
Price: Rs 6,495 This is a sparkling ladies watch with crystals round the bezel and a mother of pearl face on the bracelet. This watch comes with a shiny silver bracelet and a silver dial three-hand movement.

Burberry
4. Model: The Shackle Cuff
Price: Rs 34,495 This jewellery inspired bracelet cuff consists of diamond-encrusted stainless steel. The padlock-shaped case features a tonal dial, indices and the Burberry logo. It’s also available in stainless steel, 18 carat gold-plating or dark nickel colour-plating.

5. Model: Gauntlet
Price: Rs 54,995 This watch comes in a stainless steel case and is held together by a four-strand pyramid stud bracelet. The case features a tonal dial, with diamond indices and the Burberry logo. It’s also available in dark nickel colour and 18-carat gold-plating.

Dkny
6. Model: NY4414
Price: Rs 8,995 This DKNY crossover ladies watch features crystal stones all around the dial, case and bracelet. The bracelet strap has selfremovable links so you can adjust the length of the bracelet yourself.

ole!


Millers 46 Steak House Bangalore
Where: Millers 46, Millers Road, Vasanthnagar
Contact: 080-41131746
Open: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 7 p.m.11 p.m.
Meal for two: Rs 1,000 (with alcohol)
Must try: Twice Marinated Steak

This restaurant surprises you even before you enter. Cartwheels, horseshoes, a shovel in the window, and a neon arrow, all guide you to the entrance. Situated on the first floor of a commercial building overlooking the busy Millers street is Millers 46—Bangalore’s only Mexican Steakhouse. Running for over five-anda-half years, this 60-seater saloon is one of the busiest places in town, so book early, especially on weekends. Strains of jazz shut out the noise of the high street. Barn-oak finish tables and clay brick surface give the place the feel of a Mexican ranch. The spirits menu is made out of a crushed-up toy Stetson hat. Both Indian and international wines are on offer here. This is the place for steak lovers. We loved the Twice Marinated Steak, Cheese Jalapenos and the Mexican Chimichanga. That and a glass of Long Island Iced Tea—the most popular poison here.

Tuesday

The Geopolitics of India



The geopolitics of India must be considered in the geographical context of the Indian subcontinent — a self-contained region that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and, depending how one defines it, Nepal and Bhutan. We call the subcontinent “self-contained” because it is a region that is isolated on all sides by difficult terrain or by ocean. In geopolitical terms it is, in effect, an island.

This “island” is surrounded on the southeast, south and southwest by the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. To the west, it is isolated by mountains that rise from the Arabian Sea and run through Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, stretching northward and rising higher and higher to the northwestern corner of Pakistan. There, at the Hindu Kush, the mountain chain swings east, connecting with the Pamir and Karakoram ranges. These finally become the Himalayas, which sweep southeast some 2,000 miles to the border of Myanmar, where the Rakhine Mountains emerge, and from there south to India’s border with Bangladesh and to the Bay of Bengal. The Rakhine are difficult terrain not because they are high but because, particularly in the south, they are covered with dense jungle.

The Geography of the Subcontinent

The subcontinent physically divides into four parts:

* the mountainous frame that stretches in an arc from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal;
* the North Indian Plain, stretching from Delhi southeast through the Ganges River delta to the Myanmar border, and from the Himalayas in the north to the southern hills;
* the Indian Peninsula, which juts southward into the Indian Ocean, consisting of a variety of terrain but primarily hilly;
* the deserts in the west between the North Indian Plain and Pakistan’s Indus River Valley.

Pakistan occupies the western region of the subcontinent and is based around the Indus Valley. It is separated from India proper by fairly impassable desert and by swamps in the south, leaving only Punjab, in the central part of the country, as a point of contact. Pakistan is the major modern-day remnant of Muslim rule over medieval India, and the country’s southwest is the region first occupied by Arab Muslims invading from what is today southwestern Iran and southern Afghanistan.

The third major state in the subcontinent is the Muslim-majority Ganges delta state of Bangladesh, which occupies the area southeast of Nepal. Situated mainly at sea level, Bangladesh is constantly vulnerable to inundations from the Bay of Bengal. The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan rest on the heights of the Himalayas themselves, and therefore on the edge of the subcontinent. There is also a small east-west corridor between Nepal and Bangladesh connecting the bulk of India to its restive northeastern states and its eastern border with Myanmar. In this region is India’s easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh, whose territory is also claimed by China.

The bulk of India’s population lives on the northern plain. This area of highest population density is the Indian heartland. It runs through the area around Lahore, spreading northwest into Pakistan and intermittently to Kabul in Afghanistan, and also stretching east into Bangladesh and to the Myanmar border. It is not, however, the only population center. Peninsular India also has an irregular pattern of intense population, with lightly settled areas intermingling with heavily settled areas. This pattern primarily has to do with the availability of water and the quality of soil. Wherever both are available in sufficient quantity, India’s population accumulates and grows.

India is frequently compared geographically to non-Russian Europe because both are peninsulas jutting out of the Eurasian land mass. They have had radically different patterns of development, however.

The Europeans developed long-standing and highly differentiated populations and cultures, which evolved into separate nation-states such as Spain, France, Germany and Poland. Their precise frontiers and even independence have varied over time, but the distinctions have been present for centuries — in many cases predating the Roman Empire. The Indian subcontinent, on the other hand, historically has been highly fragmented but also fluid (except when conquered from the outside). Over fairly short periods of time, the internal political boundaries have been known to shift dramatically.

The reason for the difference is fairly simple. Europe is filled with internal geographic barriers: The Alps and Pyrenees and Carpathians present natural boundaries and defensive lines, and numerous rivers and forests supplement these. These give Europe a number of permanent, built-in divisions, with defined political entities and clear areas of conflict. India lacks such definitive features. There are no internal fortresses in the Indian subcontinent, except perhaps for the Thar Desert.

Instead, India’s internal divisions are defined by its river systems: the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Narmada and so on. All of India’s major cities are centered around one of these river systems, a fact that has been instrumental in the rise of so many distinct cultures in India — Punjabis, Gujaratis, Marathis, Tamils and others — which have manifested in modern times as states within India. That said, Indian nationalism is very strong and counters the separatist tendencies. There is a balance between a strong central governance and substantial regional autonomy.

What is permanent in the subcontinent is the frame, the mountains, and beyond these the wastelands. We can see this most clearly when looking at the population distribution of the surrounding regions. The subcontinent is isolated as a population center, surrounded by comparatively empty regions. It is not only a question of the mountains around it, although those are substantial barriers; the terrain beyond the mountains in every direction is sparsely populated, and in many ways its resources are insufficient to support a sizable, sedentary civilization. As a result, India has rarely demonstrated an appetite for adventurism beyond the subcontinent. If India can find a way to manage Pakistan and Bangladesh, there is little pressure to do anything more.

The Geopolitics of Israel


The founding principle of geopolitics is that place — geography — plays a significant role in determining how nations will behave. If that theory is true, then there ought to be a deep continuity in a nation’s foreign policy. Israel is a laboratory for this theory, since it has existed in three different manifestations in roughly the same place, twice in antiquity and once in modernity. If geopolitics is correct, then Israeli foreign policy, independent of policymakers, technology or the identity of neighbors, ought to have important common features.

Israel is well-buffered in three directions. The Sinai Desert protects it against the Egyptians. In general, the Sinai has held little attraction for the Egyptians. The difficulty of deploying forces in the eastern Sinai poses severe logistical problems for them, particularly during a prolonged presence. Unless Egypt can rapidly move through the Sinai north into the coastal plain, where it can sustain its forces more readily, deploying in the Sinai is difficult and unrewarding. Therefore, so long as Israel is not so weak as to make an attack on the coastal plain a viable option, or unless Egypt is motivated by an outside imperial power, Israel does not face a threat from the southwest.

Israel is similarly protected from the southeast. The deserts southeast of Eilat-Aqaba are virtually impassable. No large force could approach from that direction, although smaller raiding parties could. The tribes of the Arabian Peninsula lack the reach or the size to pose a threat to Israel, unless massed and aligned with other forces. Even then, the approach from the southeast is not one that they are likely to take. The Negev is secure from that direction.

The eastern approaches are similarly secured by desert, which begins about 20 to 30 miles east of the Jordan River. While indigenous forces exist in the borderland east of the Jordan, they lack the numbers to be able to penetrate decisively west of the Jordan. Indeed, the normal model is that, so long as Israel controls Judea and Samaria (the modern-day West Bank), then the East Bank of the Jordan River is under the political and sometimes military domination of Israel — sometimes directly through settlement, sometimes indirectly through political influence, or economic or security leverage.

Israel’s vulnerability is in the north. There is no natural buffer between Phoenicia and its successor entities (today’s Lebanon) to the direct north. The best defense line for Israel in the north is the Litani River, but this is not an insurmountable boundary under any circumstance. However, the area along the coast north of Israel does not present a serious threat. The coastal area prospers through trade in the Mediterranean basin. It is oriented toward the sea and to the trade routes to the east, not to the south. If it does anything, this area protects those trade routes and has no appetite for a conflict that might disrupt trade. It stays out of Israel’s way, for the most part.

Moreover, as a commercial area, this region is generally wealthy, a factor that increases predators around it and social conflict within. It is an area prone to instability. Israel frequently tries to extend its influence northward for commercial reasons, as one of the predators, and this can entangle Israel in its regional politics. But barring this self-induced problem, the threat to Israel from the north is minimal, despite the absence of natural boundaries and the large population. On occasion, there is spillover of conflicts from the north, but not to a degree that might threaten regime survival in Israel.

The neighbor that is always a threat lies to the northeast. Syria — or, more precisely, the area governed by Damascus at any time — is populous and frequently has no direct outlet to the sea. It is, therefore, generally poor. The area to its north, Asia Minor, is heavily mountainous. Syria cannot project power to the north except with great difficulty, but powers in Asia Minor can move south. Syria’s eastern flank is buffered by a desert that stretches to the Euphrates. Therefore, when there is no threat from the north, Syria’s interest — after securing itself internally — is to gain access to the coast. Its primary channel is directly westward, toward the rich cities of the northern Levantine coast, with which it trades heavily. An alternative interest is southwestward, toward the southern Levantine coast controlled by Israel.

As can be seen, Syria can be interested in Israel only selectively. When it is interested, it has a serious battle problem. To attack Israel, it would have to strike between Mount Hermon and the Sea of Galilee, an area about 25 miles wide. The Syrians potentially can attack south of the sea, but only if they are prepared to fight through this region and then attack on extended supply lines. If an attack is mounted along the main route, Syrian forces must descend the Golan Heights and then fight through the hilly Galilee before reaching the coastal plain — sometimes with guerrillas holding out in the Galilean hills. The Galilee is an area that is relatively easy to defend and difficult to attack. Therefore, it is only once Syria takes the Galilee, and can control its lines of supply against guerrilla attack, that its real battle begins.

To reach the coast or move toward Jerusalem, Syria must fight through a plain in front of a line of low hills. This is the decisive battleground where massed Israeli forces, close to lines of supply, can defend against dispersed Syrian forces on extended lines of supply. It is no accident that Megiddo — or Armageddon, as the plain is sometimes referred to — has apocalyptic meaning. This is the point at which any move from Syria would be decided. But a Syrian offensive would have a tough fight to reach Megiddo, and a tougher one as it deploys on the plain.

On the surface, Israel lacks strategic depth, but this is true only on the surface. It faces limited threats from southern neighbors. To its east, it faces only a narrow strip of populated area east of the Jordan. To the north, there is a maritime commercial entity. Syria operating alone, forced through the narrow gap of the Mount Hermon-Galilee line and operating on extended supply lines, can be dealt with readily.

The Geopolitics of China



Contemporary China is an island. Although it is not surrounded by water (which borders only its eastern flank), China is bordered by terrain that is difficult to traverse in virtually any direction. There are some areas that can be traversed, but to understand China we must begin by visualizing the mountains, jungles and wastelands that enclose it. This outer shell both contains and protects China.

Internally, China must be divided into two parts: the Chinese heartland and the non-Chinese buffer regions surrounding it. There is a line in China called the 15-inch isohyet, east of which more than 15 inches of rain fall each year and west of which the annual rainfall is less. The vast majority of Chinese live east and south of this line, in the region known as Han China — the Chinese heartland. The region is home to the ethnic Han, whom the world regards as the Chinese. It is important to understand that more than a billion people live in this area, which is about half the size of the United States.

The Chinese heartland is divided into two parts, northern and southern, which in turn is represented by two main dialects, Mandarin in the north and Cantonese in the south. These dialects share a writing system but are almost mutually incomprehensible when spoken. The Chinese heartland is defined by two major rivers — the Yellow River in the north and the Yangtze in the South, along with a third lesser river in the south, the Pearl. The heartland is China’s agricultural region. However — and this is the single most important fact about China — it has about one-third the arable land per person as the rest of the world. This pressure has defined modern Chinese history — both in terms of living with it and trying to move beyond it.


A ring of non-Han regions surround this heartland — Tibet, Xinjiang province (home of the Muslim Uighurs), Inner Mongolia and Manchuria (a historical name given to the region north of North Korea that now consists of the Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning).

These are the buffer regions that historically have been under Chinese rule when China was strong and have broken away when China was weak. Today, there is a great deal of Han settlement in these regions, a cause of friction, but today Han China is strong.


These are also the regions where the historical threat to China originated. Han China is a region full of rivers and rain. It is therefore a land of farmers and merchants. The surrounding areas are the land of nomads and horsemen. In the 13th century, the Mongols under Ghenghis Khan invaded and occupied parts of Han China until the 15th century, when the Han reasserted their authority. Following this period, Chinese strategy remained constant: the slow and systematic assertion of control over these outer regions in order to protect the Han from incursions by nomadic cavalry. This imperative drove Chinese foreign policy. In spite of the imbalance of population, or perhaps because of it, China saw itself as extremely vulnerable to military forces moving from the north and west. Defending a massed population of farmers against these forces was difficult. The easiest solution, the one the Chinese chose, was to reverse the order and impose themselves on their potential conquerors.

There was another reason. Aside from providing buffers, these possessions provided defensible borders. With borderlands under their control, China was strongly anchored. Let’s consider the nature of China’s border sequentially, starting in the east along the southern border with Vietnam and Myanmar. The border with Vietnam is the only border readily traversable by large armies or mass commerce. In fact, as recently as 1979, China and Vietnam fought a short border war, and there have been points in history when China has dominated Vietnam. However, the rest of the southern border where Yunnan province meets Laos and Myanmar is hilly jungle, difficult to traverse, with almost no major roads. Significant movement across this border is almost impossible. During World War II, the United States struggled to build the Burma Road to reach Yunnan and supply Chiang Kai-shek’s forces. The effort was so difficult it became legendary. China is secure in this region.


Hkakabo Razi, almost 19,000 feet high, marks the border between China, Myanmar and India. At this point, China’s southwestern frontier begins, anchored in the Himalayas. More precisely, it is where Tibet, controlled by China, borders India and the two Himalayan states, Nepal and Bhutan. This border runs in a long arc past Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, ending at Pik Pobedy, a 25,000-foot mountain marking the border with China, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. It is possible to pass through this border region with difficulty; historically, parts of it have been accessible as a merchant route. On the whole, however, the Himalayas are a barrier to substantial trade and certainly to military forces. India and China — and China and much of Central Asia — are sealed off from each other.

The one exception is the next section of the border, with Kazakhstan. This area is passable but has relatively little transport. As the transport expands, this will be the main route between China and the rest of Eurasia. It is the one land bridge from the Chinese island that can be used. The problem is distance. The border with Kazakhstan is almost a thousand miles from the first tier of Han Chinese provinces, and the route passes through sparsely populated Muslim territory, a region that has posed significant challenges to China. Importantly, the Silk Road from China ran through Xinjiang and Kazakhstan on its way west. It was the only way to go.

There is, finally, the long northern border first with Mongolia and then with Russia, running to the Pacific. This border is certainly passable. Indeed, the only successful invasion of China took place when Mongol horsemen attacked from Mongolia, occupying a good deal of Han China. China’s buffers — Inner Mongolia and Manchuria — have protected Han China from other attacks. The Chinese have not attacked northward for two reasons. First, there has historically not been much there worth taking. Second, north-south access is difficult. Russia has two rail lines running from the west to the Pacific — the famous Trans-Siberian Railroad (TSR) and the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM), which connects those two cities and ties into the TSR. Aside from that, there is no east-west ground transportation linking Russia. There is also no north-south transportation. What appears accessible really is not.

The area in Russia that is most accessible from China is the region bordering the Pacific, the area from Russia’s Vladivostok to Blagoveschensk. This region has reasonable transport, population and advantages for both sides. If there were ever a conflict between China and Russia, this is the area that would be at the center of it. It is also the area, as you move southward and away from the Pacific, that borders on the Korean Peninsula, the area of China’s last major military conflict.

Then there is the Pacific coast, which has numerous harbors and has historically had substantial coastal trade. It is interesting to note that, apart from the attempt by the Mongols to invade Japan, and a single major maritime thrust by China into the Indian Ocean — primarily for trade and abandoned fairly quickly — China has never been a maritime power. Prior to the 19th century, it had not faced enemies capable of posing a naval threat and, as a result, it had little interest in spending large sums of money on building a navy.

China, when it controls Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria, is an insulated state. Han China has only one point of potential friction, in the southeast with Vietnam. Other than that it is surrounded by non-Han buffer regions that it has politically integrated into China. There is a second friction point in eastern Manchuria, touching on Siberia and Korea. There is, finally, a single opening into the rest of Eurasia on the Xinjiang-Kazakh border.

China’s most vulnerable point, since the arrival of Europeans in the western Pacific in the mid-19th century, has been its coast. Apart from European encroachments in which commercial interests were backed up by limited force, China suffered its most significant military encounter — and long and miserable war — after the Japanese invaded and occupied large parts of eastern China along with Manchuria in the 1930s. Despite the mismatch in military power and more than a dozen years of war, Japan still could not force the Chinese government to capitulate. The simple fact was that Han China, given its size and population density, could not be subdued. No matter how many victories the Japanese won, they could not decisively defeat the Chinese.

China is hard to invade; given its size and population, it is even harder to occupy. This also makes it hard for the Chinese to invade others — not utterly impossible, but quite difficult. Containing a fifth of the world’s population, China can wall itself off from the world, as it did prior to the United Kingdom’s forced entry in the 19th century and as it did under Mao Zedong. All of this means China is a great power, but one that has to behave very differently from other great powers.

Sunday

Assortment of Human Resource Websites

www.performance-appraisal.com
www.managementhelp.org
www.leadersdirect.com
www.HRprofessor.com
www.KnowledgeStorm.com
http://www.state.sc.us/ohr/epms/Introduction19.htm
www.humanlinks.com
www.businessballs.com
www.hrimmall.com
www.hr-guide.com
www.worldofhr.com
www.hr.com
www.shrm.org
http://www.wageweb.com/
http://www.hradvice.com/links.html
http://www.hr-software.net/pages/199.html
http://www.safehr.com/links.html
http://www.hr2u.com/
http://www.hrzone.com
http://www.hrvillage.com
http://www.hrimmall.com
http://www.hr.com
http://www.tcihrim.org/links.htm
http://www.human-resources.org
http://www.hrmguide.net
http://www.hronline.com
http://humanresources.about.com
www.hr2hr.us.tt
http://www.citehr.com

India’s best marketers


Aamir Khan is known to be a method actor—and a perfectionist. He studies his roles, however small, in great detail and always gets into the skin of his characters. So, it came as little surprise when he dazzled the nation in 2002-03 in his avatar as Coca-Cola’s brand ambassador. As a paan-chewing rustic with kohl-lined eyes, he spouted “Paanch Matlab Chhotta Coke” in immaculate Uttar Pradesh idiolect. It was a killer dialogue.

The company had just launched a 200 ml “small” bottle of its iconic beverage for Rs 5 in an attempt to penetrate deeper into the market and attract new consumers on the affordability plank and also to get existing ones to, perhaps, consume more.

The killer line succeeded beyond its creators’ wildest dreams—the ad bagged an EFFIE Gold in 2004, an award instituted by The Advertising Club Bombay in partnership with the New York American Marketing Association, to measure effectiveness of campaigns—but almost killed Coke’s India dreams as well. “We simply couldn’t afford to keep selling Coke at Rs 5 and were soon awash in red. It could have worked as a one-time ‘burst’ activity, or something that could open up a key market area for consumption. But it just went on for too long and we had to pull it back,” says Atul Singh, President & CEO, Coca-Cola India—a classic case of a marketing campaign getting ahead of itself. The point to be noted here is that “marketing is not only about advertising but about its four Ps,” says Amitava Chattopadhyay, L’Oreal Chaired Professor of Marketing Innovation and Creativity, INSEAD.

That’s a point that companies such as Coca-Cola India realise now and are being widely acknowledged for. That’s also something that others, who do not learn, will, willy-nilly, be forced to do the hard way.The Coke campaign may have attracted new consumers, but the implementation of the strategy was a failure as, Singh admits, it was not executed with the care it deserved. And herein lies the critical difference: is the marketer conscious of the end that the strategy seeks to achieve? If market expansion leads to losses, is that a conscious decision?

The annual listing of India’s Best Marketers features some players who did not have healthy bottom lines to report, but had still managed to expand their markets. Examples: Kingfisher Airlines in 2006 and Tata Sky in 2007. The intent here is to measure marketing success to the exclusion of all other parameters.We seek to not just acknowledge the success of individuals, institutions and corporations, but also present a sampling of players that have opted for different routes to prise open their key constituencies.

This time, we have an assorted list of marketers— some of whom have taken a detour from the brazen, advertising-led approach (nothing wrong with that, if it works)—who have, in several canny ways, successfully wooed their stakeholders and audiences into buying into their propositions.

India's best marketers (List in alphabetical order)

* Airtel

* Axis Bank

* Cafe Coffee Day

* Coca-Cola India

* Fabindia

* Idea Cellular

* Indian School of Business

* Lalit Modi

* Moser Baer

* Narendra Modi

* Titan


This year’s list of Best Marketers in India has been short-listed from suggestions given by an eminent panel comprising Arvind K. Singhal, Chairman, Technopak Advisors; Rahul Bhasin, Managing Partner, Baring Private Equity Partners (India); Harish Bijoor, Brand Specialist & CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults; Amitava Chattopadhyay, The L’Oreal Chaired Professor of Marketing-Innovation and Creativity, INSEAD; Shripad Nadkarni, former Marketing Head of Coca-Cola India and now Director, MarketGate Consulting; and Sukanya Kripalu, former CEO of Quadra Advisory, former Head of Marketing at Kellogg India and now an independent marketing consultant.

Significantly, these marketers are being profiled at a time when there is a very real fear of the global slowdown rubbing off on the Indian economy and many experts are questioning the very relevance of marketing as a function. With mounting global pressure on growth, media heads across across different countries admit that companies are becoming cautious in their approach and many are cutting marketing spends as a knee-jerk reaction to the slowdown. So, how relevant is this function? And what should companies do to protect their turfs?

Seth Godin, marketing theorist and best-selling author of many books, including All Marketers Are Liars and Permission Marketing, has a relevant post on his blog: “When times are good, buying things is a sport. It’s a reward. The story we tell ourselves is that we deserve it, that we want it and why not? When the mass psychology changes and times are seen as not so good, the story we tell ourselves changes as well. Now, we buy out of defence, to avoid trouble. Or we buy because something will never be as cheap again. Or we buy smaller items for the same sense of reward. Of course, the two different extremes can lead you to buy the very same thing. It’s not the thing so much as the story. Starbucks was the indulgence of a confident person happy to blow $4 on a cup of coffee. Starbucks can also become the small indulgence for the person who just traded down to a small rented apartment. The challenge for marketers is to figure out how to change the story they are living so that their customers can change the story they tell themselves. What you make, where you make it, who makes it, how it’s priced and sold... they all add up to a perception. If you change these elements, the story will change, too.”
Marketing experts are the first to admit that marketing works only in tandem with several other inputs. And after having gone through the gamut of experiences and economic scenarios, they are acknowledging a return to the basics—the four Ps of marketing: product, price, positioning and placement (or distribution). “Of course, the books tell you that the 4Ps are for products. For services, we need to add three more Ps (Process, People and Physical evidence),” says Y.L.R. Moorthi, Professor of Marketing, IIM Bangalore. According to him, process is the key to the success of dabbawallahs in Mumbai. People are key to Disney’s success, just as physical evidence is the key in experiential services like Choki Dhani (a restaurant that serves ethnic Marwari food in Jaipur). “With camel rides, ethnic dresses, photographs, somebody to wash your hands, somebody who serves with the love of a mother... Choki Dhani has converted eating into a treat of physical evidence. In services, the last three Ps are crucial,” says Moorthi. He adds that in recent times, yet another P—pace—has become important. “BPL took 25 years to reach sales of Rs 1,500 crore; LG did it in three years,” he explains.
The economic boom of the last several years had allowed companies to experiment with marketing virtually on a blank slate. That party seems to be winding down to a close now. “It’s a tough market; the media is far more complex today and it’s difficult to catch certain target consumers… but in many ways, the challenge is no different today than what it was earlier,” says Kripalu.

There was never a time when customers were not price sensitive. There was also never a time when customers were only price sensitive. “If all customers are price sensitive please tell me why multiplexes are so crowded? The point is value. Do you think people will really buy a Mercedes Benz if it were to sell at half its price? It will very likely be mistaken for a fake. People moved from Surf to Nirma for a price advantage in the ’70s. But people also moved from HMT to Titan in the ’80s and ’90s. If you give the right value, people will pay the price for it. Bad times should not be used as an excuse for bad marketing,” says Moorthi.
Indeed, on a more grim note, Anand Halve, Co-founder of Chlorophyll, a brand & communications consultancy, warns that the biggest challenge is not a marketing one, but a business challenge. “If the financial and investment community is going to ask for relentless growth, companies (especially publicly-held ones), are going to find themselves forced to launch products that don’t work,” he says. In fact, he adds that companies will be forced to stretch brands “so that a brand like Pierre Cardin, which was a premium brand at one time, is a mass, cheap, brand today. Or, a brand like Louis Vuitton is going to create lower price products in search of top line growth, and risk destroying its brand equity”.

Point taken! Marketing is dead. Long live marketing.

Idea stretch: Marketers have to think of ideas and strategies that have themes around which stories can be built, to allow for continuity across media platforms and to sustain the interest of viewers

Social consciousness in branding: There’s growing awareness and sensitivity towards responsible living and respect for resources and the environment

Humour: Nothing succeeds like humour and everyone remembers a good laugh. but it’s a recourse that needs strategic thought; else, it can go horribly wrong

Peer-to-peer networking via online and mobile media: The challenge is to be of relevance to tribes of like-minded connections and not be treated as spam

Recognition of the individual: There are many shades to defining this identity; there is growing confidence in the nation, the individual (comfortable in the way one is) and regional individuality

Space business & India

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) deserves much credit for elevating the public’s interest in space research to a level comparable to that in cricket and the economy.

The space business is dominated by the US, Russia and Europe, and India, like China, hopes to get a piece of the launch business. The supply of high resolution images in various bands (remote sensing) is another traditional commercial expectation. In both areas, ISRO has a solid record and the successful launch of Chandrayaan-I has lifted ISRO’s brand image to a higher level.

Competition for launches as well as remote sensing is heating up. Private entities with respectable launch capabilities have sprung up in Russia and the US. SpaceX, a California-based company, offers simple pricing and even a user’s manual. Apparently, a rocket launch can become as simple as buying, say, an oscilloscope.

What may be lost in the glare of the launches and the rich and fine tapestry of remote sensing is the holistic accomplishment of ISRO and related agencies in the use of space technology for societal needs. Remote sensing has doubled the precision of pin-pointing groundwater tables (wells), enabled monitoring of farm and natural resources and increased yields for fishermen. Communications satellites have linked doctors, consulting rooms and operating theatres across the country and have provided bandwidth for education, research and farmers.

It is this integrated package (including the construction of inexpensive radio telescopes) that may constitute a new market for which India is well positioned. Creating this integrated market for remote sensing and inexpensive satellitebased communications will necessarily involve a determination and major effort on the part of the Indian government.

The space business can not only be good business but also help India project its “soft power”. In a world racked by climate change (and associated bouts of food shortages and fuel deficits), this sort of soft power will be far more attractive than projections of military power or even simple-minded economic power.

In contrast, the West’s scientific satellites have become increasingly large and prohibitively expensive. The satellites frequently take a decade to build and run the danger of becoming obsolete in terms of technology by the time they are launched! An opportunity exists for India to promote space-based research based on frequent access to the heavens and the use of small satellites.

Again, India can simultaneously promote global science as well as project its soft power by designating itself as the centre for small satellites. I do not think it is essential for India to pay for these projects. Merely signalling its readiness to become a leader will elicit strong responses from smaller countries. Indeed, Chandrayaan-I is an example of this approach: six of the 11 instruments were built by other countries (including Bulgaria and Sweden).

The future for India in the space business and space science is quite bright. India can blaze a successful and a distinct trail by building on her strengths and being aware of her financial limitations.

Moon dust & hard business


It was up and away in a plume of fire almost before the human eye could capture it.
When Chandrayaan-1 sends a probe crashing into the moon’s surface at 1 km per second, it will raise not only a cloud of dust for scientific study but also the pride of Indians (the tricolour has been painted on the probe). Critics say that satisfying the Indian pride is the mission’s main objective and consider the Rs 386-crore bill a waste since the moon has been well researched by the major powers and has not thrown up anything interesting.

ISRO disagrees, and says the missions of the US and Russia (then the USSR) focussed on the moon’s equatorial region while its own payload is equipped for a total mapping. “Our payload is unique… It is more comprehensive for the total mapping of the moon,’’ says G. Madhavan Nair, chairman, ISRO, adding: “ISRO is the only space agency in the world, which has made use of technology to improve the life of the common man.”

He cites a study that quantified the benefits of the space programme as 1.5 times the spending of $2 billion so far. “In our budget of less than $1 billion (ISRO’s budget for 2008-09 is Rs 4,074 crore; NASA’s budget is $20 billion or Rs 98,000 crore), 80 per cent is being used to benefit the common man,’’ he says, referring to remote sensing, telemedicine and tele-education.

So, was Chandrayaan-1 about expanding scientific knowledge of the moon or upgrading ISRO’s technological capabilities? Both; while the first is a shot in the unknown, the second has concrete benefits—as seen from the steep trajectory of income and profits reported by ISRO’s business arm, Antrix Corporation. Nair is Chairman of Antrix, too.

Even before Chandrayaan’s launch, while India and the world were worrying over the global financial meltdown, Antrix had crossed a milestone unnoticed and unheralded. It delivered a communications satellite, the W2M, to the Paris-based Eutelstat, a leading telecom operator, on October 18.

Although the W2M satellite—unlike the home-grown Chandrayaan-1—was conceived and built in association with EADS Astrium, the European satellite major, it was the first complete commercial satellite built by ISRO for a foreign client. Antrix is tight-lipped about the size of the deal or its share, but insiders said the contract was worth about Rs 350 crore, or close to Chandrayaan’s cost.

As the W2M was shipped, K.R. Sridhara Murthi, Antrix’s Managing Director, had told Business Today: “Today is a great day for us. For the first time, India has shipped a commercial satellite for export.”

The outside world had little clue about W2M, but Antrix does not mind. It is now putting together another satellite, Hylas, for a UKbased client, even as ISRO works on Chandrayaan-2. “Work on Chandrayaan-2 will start soon… It will contain an orbiter, a lander to soft-land in the moon and a rover to pick up samples and analyse them,” says Nair, adding: “Mars is our next challenge.”

On the edge
ISRO’s edge so far has been its ability to offer the cheapest platform for launching “light” satellites, even as it faces tough competition from global players in all its segments—satellite building and launching, and offering transponders on its satellites.

“We are not operating in isolation. We have adopted the cooperate-and-compete approach... that is how we have to do business and survive,’’ says Murthi. Antrix is not ready to spell out its rates vis-a-vis those of the competition, but Murthi says: “We can be 30 per cent cheaper if we can have an end-to-end value addition—from design to delivery of service.” And that has not happened yet.

Antrix is not the only one reaping gains. India’s private sector has latched on to the subcontracts from the space programme. The domestic industry, apart from meeting 30-35 per cent of ISRO’s orders for components and services, also gets orders from Antrix worth 20-30 per cent of its annual revenue, which is expected to be Rs 940crore in 2008-09. For example, the Rs 100-crore deep-space network built by the public sector Electronics Corporation of India (ECIL) on Bangalore’s outskirts, had components built by many others, including private sector Indian companies.

Apart from majors like ECIL or Godrej, ISRO’s activities have helped scores of medium-scale industries like Avasarala Technologies in Bangalore and Astra Microwave Products and MTAR, both in Hyderabad. “Over the last two years, we have got orders worth Rs 25 crore each from ISRO, and I think the orders are only going to rise in the coming years,” says B. Malla Reddy, MD & CEO of the listed Astra, which supplies transmit/ receive (TR) modules for remote sensing satellites, automatic weather stations and C-band and Ku-band receivers.

Avasarala, which supplies heat pipes for payload structural panels, is moving up the value chain. “We are thinking of migrating into total assembly of structural panels,” says T.T. Mani, MD & CEO of Avasarala, which hopes to end the year with revenues of Rs 200 crore, up Rs 48 crore over last year’s figure.

Growth trajectory
Antrix reported revenues of Rs 940 crore and a profit after tax of Rs 168 crore in 2007-08, an increase of 41 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively, on the corresponding figures for the previous year. “Antrix is an amazing success story. It was started with equity of just Rs 1 crore in 1994, and you can see where it is now,” says S.V. Ranganath, Special Secretary (Finance), in the Department of Space.

U. Sankar, author of The Economics of India’s Space Programme, notes that ISRO’s market opportunities lie in, among others, the launch of small satellites in polar orbits. “Its unit launch cost is lower because of its learning-bydoing approach, lower cost of technical manpower and lower risk,” says the honorary professor at the Madras School of Economics.

S.R. Kulkarni, Professor of Astronomy & Planetary Sciences at Caltech, says the future of the space business and space science is quite bright. “India need not travel the same path as the pioneers or the new entrants, but can blaze a distinct trail by building on her strengths,”’ he says.As for Chandrayaan itself, the possibilities for commercial gains are quite distant. “Right now, it will be premature to talk of the commercial spin-offs from Chandrayaan-1. But at a later stage we will think of possible launch opportunities for any private initiatives for moon probes and lunar missions. Like, for instance, small satellites, which will be launched either through private enterprises or through space agencies,’’ says Murthi.

Escape velocity
ISRO has more immediate challenges on hand than a manned space mission or a Mars landing. It is in establishing itself as a significant player in the multi-billion dollar commercial satellite launch business. With the PSLV, ISRO has become a reliable low-cost player and can launch 1,600 kg satellites into their intended orbits. Chandrayaan-1 was the 13th consecutive successful launch of a PSLV—the workhorse has so far carried aloft 30 satellites, including 16 foreign ones.

But the same cannot be said about the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle, which can carry heavier and costlier telecommunications satellites. The GSLV’s record has been patchy, because India is yet to develop the required expertise in cryogenic rocket engines.

“We are not ready for that yet. We have the capability to launch I2K-class spacecraft (weighing about 2,000 kg) only. When we develop GSLV Mark 3, we can offer (launch) services for satellites weighing around 4,000 kg,” explains Murthi of Antrix.

ISRO hopes to perfect the GSLV by 2010, as it has made some advances with the cryogenic rocket engine technology. The cryogenic engine in a GSLV’s upper (third) stage gives it the required injection velocity. The GSLV launches so far have used the seven engines supplied by Russia since 1996. But Russia stopped supplies following US pressure over the supply of this dual-use technology. Cryogenic enbtgines are hard to build, and India has just started making some progress after its initial failures.

“The cryogenic engine is fully qualified. We have completed long duration tests on the ground... A GSLV with indigenous cryogenic engine will blast off some time next year,’’ says Nair.

The GSLV will give ISRO the escape velocity needed to enter the business of launching heavy satellites with its clear cost advantage (some say as much as 25 per cent).

“ISRO has multiplied its launches over the years. Earlier, we did one launch a year. Now we do four. Next year, it is likely to be six. Priority was given for PSLV and Chandrayaan-1. But we have kept GSLV’s sub-systems ready,’’ Nair admits.

As for the GSLV Mark III, ISRO officials say that three important ground tests will be conducted some time next year and the first launch will happen by 2010 end or early 2011.

ISRO is also working on a re-usable launch vehicle. Re-use of the various stages of PSLV and GSLV will reduce launch costs dramatically. “The re-usable launch vehicle is still in a concept stage. Over the next two years, we will need to do demonstration projects… and expect one to be ready to use in 2020 or so,” Nair says.

The blue waters beckon





Get enchanted by the blue waters this winter and experience the luxury that comes with an old-world voyage. Take your pick from some of the most exclusive cruises from across the world.

Call of the Nile: Take in history and great views as you cruise down the river

THE NILE CRUISE
The longest river in the world, the Nile gets its name from the Greek word nelios, meaning river valley. Major cities located on the banks of the Nile are Cairo, Khartoum, Aswan, and Luxor. One thing’s for sure: every stage of the Nile cruise will bring history alive for you as you sail the blue waters of this enchanting river.

Ports of call: Cruises embark from both Luxor and Aswan, and the ports of call include the West Bank, Essna and Komombo.

What to do: The temple of Karnak in Luxor is a must-see as is the Valley of the Kings where the secretive tombs of the Pharaohs were built.

Onboard activities: You can swim in the pool or check out the shops selling souvenirs. Most bars have dance floors that give you the ideal opportunity to mingle with co-passengers. Games are organised by crew members and include dressing up in galabeyas (Egyptian dress). You can also enjoy performances by Egyptian dancers on board.

Tariffs: An idyllic way to discover the Nile is through the Oberoi Philae, Nile cruiser, where a four-night cruise will cost you around m600 (Rs 33,000) per person. An eight-night cruise from Thomas Cook will cost approximately Rs 29,800.

Website: www.oberoihotels.com, www.thomascook.com

THE DOWN UNDER CRUISE

A whole new world: There’s more to Australia and New Zealand than kangaroos and koalas

The land of kangaroos, koalas and kiwis offers some of the most exciting and enchanting destinations in the South Pacific. Make your dreams come true this winter in these exotic picture-perfect destinations.

Ports of call: Sydney and Hobart (Australia), Wellington and Christchurch (New Zealand)

What to do: A visit to Sydney is incomplete without visiting the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Nestled at the foot of the majestic Mt Wellington, Hobart is truly a picture perfect city and is also home to Australia’s oldest bridge—the Richmond Bridge. Christchurch in New Zealand is a vibrant arts capital.

Onboard activities: Enjoy the warm atmosphere of nautical-themed schooner bars, or savour champagne, fine wines and canapés in a champagne bar. Better still, visit the theme lounges for live music, entertainment and panoramic views of the sea.

Tariffs: A seven-day cruise on the Royal Caribbean would cost $899 (Rs 35,960). A 12-night cruise onboard Princess Cruises will cost around Rs 1,22,000

Website: www.royalcaribbean.com, www.pocruises.com


THE CARIBBEAN CRUISE

All aboard: Music, beaches, rainforests... there’s a lot to enjoy

Colourful, exuberant, and spectacular is how one can sum up the breathtakingly beautiful Caribbean islands. Anyone who’s ever been to this land of reggae and calypso cocktails will agree that the Caribbean is about all these and much more. The islands in the western Caribbean have a fascinatingly rich culture and history. You can explore archaic ruins, beaches, rainforests and waterfalls.

Ports of call: Port Canaveral in Florida, Coco Cay in Bahamas and Cozumel in Mexico.

What to do: Port Canaveral provides access to the wonderful theme parks and entertainment complexes of Orlando, and the spectacular Kennedy Space Center. Coco Cay in the Bahamas is a wonderland for adventure freaks. While in Mexico, explore the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Tulúm.

Onboard activities: Try the rock-climbing wall, or work out with one of the fitness trainers. You can also try your luck at Caribbean stud poker, attend an art auction or enjoy live productions featuring Caribbean singers and dancers. There are even supervised activities for kids.

Tariffs: A Royal Caribbean Standard ocean view stateroom with window: $100-150 (Rs 4,000-6,000) per person, per day. A 14-night cruise from Costa Cruises costs about £684 (Rs 56,088).

Website: www.royalcaribbean.com, www.costacruises.com

Yours for Rs 10 Lakh



A million bucks goes a long way. It can buy you, among other things, a suite on the new Airbus A380 or a brand new watch. Read on to find out what else it can get you.

FLYING HIGH

What is it: The luxury suite on the Airbus A380
Why it’s hot: It’s a suite with a double bed that you can stay in while you are 30,000 feet above sea level. Singapore Airlines’ new Airbus A380 flying on the Delhi-Singapore-Sydney route boasts of this luxurious suite that will make first class seats look pedestrian in comparison. Designer bedsheets, an LCD screen, a choice of over 100 films and TV channels, amazing food and complimentary wine are just some of the features in the fully enclosed cabins. They have been designed by Jean-Jacques Coste, a famous French yacht designer.

How much: Rs 3,86,000 per person for a round trip


STAY IN SHAPE
What is it: Personal Kinesis
Why it’s hot: Technogym has always been known for exceptional quality of exercising equipment, which looks really good as well. This is best demonstrated by the new Personal Kinesis. Kinesiology is a study of body in movement. Personal kinesis works somewhat on the same principles, by allowing us to explore and move in any desired way with cables following our movement without any restrictions. This gives you an opportunity to workout any body part at will. The weight stacks are concealed behind the wall and the only thing you need to do in order to adjust resistance is to lightly turn a sensor dial and the display will tell you what resistance you are working on.

How much: Rs 9,00,000
Look it up at: www.geospafitness.com

SOUND OF MUSIC

What is it: Sooloos, the ultimate digital home audio system
Why it’s hot: It is a customised, high-end digital audio system. There are no moving parts, just a 17-inch touch screen. It does not have any album text. You scroll through albums by flicking them a la the new iPod.

How much: If you throw in shipping costs, it’ll cost you $15,000 (Rs 6 lakh approx.).
Look it up at: http://sooloos.com/www/the-system.html

Cool sound

What is it: B&O’s BeoLab 5
Why it’s hot: By far one of the most radical, complex, and elaborate loudspeakers ever made. Weighing 61 kg, it is an ‘active’ loudspeaker that performs the required crossover and equalisation functions using flexible low-power electronics that effectively sit between the preamp and the multiple power amps. These amps have a total power output of a massive 2500W.

How much: $16,000 (Rs 6.4 lakh)
Look it up at: http://sooloos.com/www/the-system.html


FUNKY GADGET

What is it: The Wood Phone
Why it’s hot: Designed by Mobiado, this is the world’s first 3G luxury phone. Built using ebony, it sports ultra-light titanium buttons and hard anodised aluminium. Some of its features include: video streaming with sound, 32 MB internal memory and stereo music player.

How much: Over £1,000 (Rs 81,300)
Look it up at: www.philips.com

DRESS IT UP

What is it: Tom Ford suits
Why it’s hot: Tom Ford is right up there with the greats. The former Gucci and Yves St Laurent creative director has consistently come up with exquisitely tailored suits. Ford’s suits are classic, but they’re also break-the-bank expensive. His new store has just opened in Manhattan.

How much: $5,000 (Rs 2,00,000 approx.)

TIMELESS BEAUTIES

What is it: The AMVOX2 Chronograph DBS from Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Why it’s hot: Extremely user-friendly, the vertical-trigger chronograph makes it possible to start, stop and reset the chronograph functions by pressing on the sapphire crystal surface of the watch.

How much: Rs 7,11,100
Look it up at: At the Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique, The Oberoi, New Delhi

What is it: Diamond Dial Edition from Oakley Minute Machine.
Why it’s hot: The design surrounds a centre pavé with a diamond at each hour position, and a pure sapphire crystal protects the unrivalled display. The precision technology allows you to measure cumulative time, intermediate time and split time. The aggressive styling meets refined sophistication in a bracelet of durable titanium, and the same lightweight metal forms the sculptural case. This special edition is for those who refuse to let the world define them.

How much: $3,500 (Rs 1.4 lakh)
Look it up at: www.oakley.com

SEDUCTIVE SCENTS
Expensive Perfume
Soothing effect

What is it: Clive Christian’s No.1 From the stables of the luxury British brand Clive Christian, which has officially been recognised by the Guinness World Records for creating the world’s most expensive perfume.
Why it’s hot: These perfumes are made of the highest quality and concentration possible, which means they can only be produced in very small quantities. Only 1,000 bottles of the No.1 perfume for men and 1,000 bottles for women are released worldwide every year. They are made from rare and precious natural ingredients such as Tahitian Vanilla and Indian sandalwood.

How much: Rs 94,966
Look it up at: www.clive.com

HEALTHWISE

What is it: The Power Plate
Why it’s hot: If you never have time to exercise, then Power Plate is ideal for you. Using vibration technology, the Power Plate will give you a very challenging full body workout in just 10 to 20 minutes every alternate day. It also speeds up your metabolism, improves bone density as well as circulation. Power Plate is now available in India. Hero Motors is the Indian partner of Power Plate International, and the entire product range of four machines is available.

How much: Between Rs 1.5 lakh and Rs 5.75 lakh depending on the model.
Look it up at: www.in.powerplate.com

Designers to watch in 2009

FASHION DESIGNERS

KAUSHIE ADISESHAN

The designer behind the label “Pink Elf” revels in her multicultural frame of reference. Born in Mumbai and based in San Francisco, she debuted on the fashion scene at the San Francisco Fashion Week last year with her Fall/Winter collections. Rave reviews led her to make her Indian debut this year at the Lakme Fashion Week with her Spring/Summer 2008 collection. Working with the three inspirations of euphoria, rapture and bliss, her’s was a ready-to-wear collection in satin and silk. Her style can be clearly said to be classic, fluid and inventive in her use of muted colours to suggest emotion. The confidence with which she carried off her debut offers a tantalising glimpse at her future.

SOUMITRA MONDAL
This young designer from Kolkata created a splash at the Lakme Fashion Week this year with his khadi ready-to-wear lineHis collection, “Chowraha”, put a contemporary spin on this classic cloth by mixing different kinds of khadi with fabrics like georgette, chiffon and satin. Viewed by veterans and peers as a breath of fresh air, his designs cut through the clutter quite well. He set up his own label, Marg, a few years ago. Definitely one to watch.

SHAHZAD KALIM

The rising star of the Indian fashion fraternity first shot to prominence in 2005 when he won the Lakme Fashion House reality TV show, wowing judges and viewers alike with his simply crafted designs. Garnering the admiration of the likes of Donatella Versace, he then went off to Milan to study at the House of Versace. Avant garde, though not quite enfant terrible, great things are expected from him in the future.

The hunt for value






Cricket and the stock market are hogging the headlines these days, the former for its highs and the latter for its lows. And both hold the promise of greater exhilaration for the average Indian. So, while the Indian cricket team looks like recording its biggest ever Test series win against the Aussies, the incessantly falling stock market is creating excellent buying opportunities for investors despite the gut-wrenching uncertainty.

Indeed, the carnage on Dalal Street has been unprecedented. Large-cap stocks have lost 57 per cent, mid-caps 69 per cent and small caps 73 per cent from their peak levels in January. Investors who took the plunge in the stock markets either directly or through mutual funds two years ago feel cheated as stock values are down to their two year-lows. The wealth created over the last two years has gone up in smoke. People are running for cover and taking shelter in other asset classes such as gold and fixed deposits. Nobody knows when all this will end.

But ironically, it’s the severity of the fall that has made stocks that much more alluring. They are nearly as cheap now as they were five years ago when markets were just entering the longest bull-run in the India stock market history. The price to book value—the basic valuation parameter that is obtained by dividing the book value of a company by its stock price—of the largecap stocks that make up the Sensex and the Nifty, has now fallen to its May 2003 levels. The mid-cap stocks and the Top-100 companies by market capitalisation are also trading at price to book values that are closer to their 2003 levels.

India’s top value investors see enormous opportunities at present for picking stocks at a huge discount. “It’s the uncertainty and panic that causes good prices to emerge as investors tend to overreact to every news flow. My sense is that unless there is a complete breakdown of the financial system, markets will soon bottom out,” says Chetan Parikh, Director of Jeetay Investments and an ardent follower of Warren Buffett and his investment principles. He believes that the prices at which stocks are available today are as good as buying a risky bond with a high but uncertain income stream. He has a word of caution, though: “Price by itself has no meaning. You have to look at the underlying value in the company vis-à-vis its market price.”

Bharat Shah, CEO & Managing Partner at ASK Investment Managers and a former mutual fund manager, echoes Parikh. He says: “It isn’t as if the fundamentals of companies have deteriorated. But when irrationality takes over, then finding the bottom becomes mere guess work.” It’s bizarre to see reasonable businesses of decent sizes, profits and reasonable track record being available at earnings multiple of two to four times, he adds.

But not all value investors are gung-ho about valuations. “I am staying away from this market. I have stayed away from it since 2004. I am keeping 70 per cent of my assets in cash and the balance in stocks. There is going to be a big change of the regime. Capitalism will not be the same again. The notion of having free markets may cease to exist,” says octogenarian Chandrakant Sampat, a well-known investor with a sizeable following in the investment fraternity. He believes that value can only emerge if there is capital formation across economies and they are able to earn more than the current cost of capital.

The value hunter’s guide
Five reasons why you should do a value check before jumping in.

• A depressed stock price doesn’t guarantee value. Price is what you pay and value is what you get

• A low price to earnings or price to book value ratio is just one of the indicators of hidden value

• Special situations or events can lead to one-time value unlocking, but financials of the company will tell you if there is a long-term value in store

• Historically, stock prices tend to hover nearer to the mean. At present, the market P/E is at undervalued levels


Look for true value
Value picking doesn’t mean buying stocks that have seen the steepest falls. Many stocks have suffered because foreign institutional investors, which held large stakes in them, resorted to distress selling that has pulled down their stock prices, but that doesn’t mean that their business prospects have worsened. However, many other stocks have fallen simply because they were genuinely overvalued.

According to Jeetay’s Parikh, 350 stocks are quoting below their book values, or at a price to book value ratio of less than one. The price to book value is a key parameter for identifying a stock’s inherent value. Value can also be determined by looking at whether the company is generating sufficient cash to help it sustain the downturn; whether its sales and profits are showing a consistent growth and whether it has a high dividend yield and a track record of paying regular dividends.

A company may have inherent value if it holds a significant investment in another unlisted company that may go public anytime and that could unlock value for the former; or if it owns large tracts of land whose market value is not reflected in the balance sheet. An indication of a possible exit by a large institutional investor who came in during the initial phase of growth could possibly increase the valuations for minority investors; or an indication of demerger of unprofitable business units could bring out the hidden value.

ASK’s Shah says he also looks at a company’s corporate governance norms and the ability of its management to allocate capital efficiently. “There have been instances when a company’s management has displayed poor capital allocation skills. It didn’t have an understanding of how to allocate across various businesses in an efficient way. As money was easily available, people became footloose about the way they allocated it,” he says. While screening stocks, he looks at a company’s sources of income rather than its assets, its earnings visibility, ability to sustain growth, and the size of its bottom line (it should be Rs 75 crore or above to qualify as a longterm contender in his portfolio). Jeetay’s Parikh says that in a tough market such as the current one, he also checks out the actions of the promoters—any dumping of their stakes in a bad market may not be a good sign.

Parag Parikh, Chairman of Parag Parikh Financial Services, a Mumbai-based broking and portfolio management firm, believes that cash-rich companies and those that are consumers of commodities will be favoured in this market. He also recommends stocks with high dividend yield. “It helps in overcoming investors’ bias towards a fixed deposit as they can substitute the high fixed deposit rates with the high dividend yields,” he says.

Brokerage firms, too, are recommending stocks based on their “value proposition”, instead of their earnings estimates as they did earlier. On October 15, ICICI Securities released a report titled The Sale Is On, which recommends seven deep value stocks across media, pharma, cement, oil and gas, real estate, banking and metals sectors. A CLSA report of October 6 talked about “bedrock analysis”, which considers the worst-case scenario for earnings and stock valuations and arrives at a bedrock value of top stocks under its coverage.

Guru speak Key takeaways from legendary investors.

Warren Buffett
CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

• A sound management
• The incentives of the promoters
• Focus on earnings capability
• Know the businesses you are investing in

Benjamin Graham
Buffett’s late mentor and author of Security Analysis and The Intelligent Investor

• Focus on today’s asset values and not unreliable earnings forecasts

• Think like a business owner and don’t overpay

• Special situation investing is not correlated with the market

Charlie Munger
Vice Chairman, Berkshire Hathaway

• Keep a checklist of what you are looking for in the company— for example, does it have a competitive advantage, and so on

• Use mental model to understand businesses and the price

Phil Fisher
Late author and stock investor

Scuttlebutt approach:
Listen to the business grapevine and get hooked into the company’s ecosystem to get an idea about its strengths. Check with suppliers, end-users of the company

Time to buy India’s top value investors evaluate the market and investing strategy.

Chetan Parikh
Director, Jeetay Investments
“Prices won’t collapse or touch ground zero except in the unlikely situation of financial system collapsing”

On the markets: Stocks are trading at a price that is like buying a risky bond at a high and uncertain income stream. But this price discount isn’t in isolation. It’s the price you pay for the underlying fundamental value of the company.

What now?
If you don’t buy stocks now, then it may be difficult to jump on the bandwagon when the sentiment changes for the better. If you can get a better value elsewhere, then why not sell at a loss and get into something which offers better potential?

Chandrakant Sampat
Investor
“Value can emerge only if there’s capital formation across the economies”

On the markets: I am staying away from this market. I have stayed away from it since 2004. I am keeping 70 per cent of my assets in cash and the balance in stocks. There is going to be a big change of regime. Capitalism will not be the same again. The notion of having free markets may cease to exist.

What now?
Value can emerge if economies are able to earn more than the current cost of capital, which is not happening now. Today, we are only seeing capital being transferred from one hand to another hand

Parag Parikh
Chairman, Parag Parikh Financial Advisory Services
“Opportunities don’t come everyday. But people are nursing their wounds”

On the markets: The markets were in (such) a state of frenzy that (they) couldn’t carry on for long. We did not allow clients to take risks that would wipe out their capital. This has a lot to do with behavioural finance.

What now?
The current market situation does offer better value. But the human mind only sees the present and goes with the herd, and tends to ignore the value on offer. The loss aversion in the market is huge simply because everybody else is doing the same.

Bharat Shah
CEO & Managing Partner, ASK Investment Managers
“Those who can see value aren’t participating because they cannot stomach a temporary downturn”

On the markets: The current state of the markets is much like what Warren Buffett described the US stock markets as in 1974—“Like an oversexed guy in a harem.” I can see value all around. It’s bizarre to see reasonable businesses now trading at P/E multiples of merely 2-4. Also, I can’t recollect the last time we saw a market-cap to GDP ratio of about 0.55 times.

What now?
Prices can still go down further because of a sentimental backlash. But look at it this way. In a situation where credit and asset markets were squeezed, only the equity markets provided liquidity. There is a real value lying around and if you don’t buy in these times, it means you don’t want to invest.

Saturday

A Look in the Mirror Can Help Leaders Develop

Some forty years ago in a classic Harvard Business Review article entitled The Power To See Ourselves, Paul J. Brower wrote that the difference between a great and not so great leader is often not a difference in ability, rather “the difference lies in self-concept.”
Similarly, Peter Drucker declared in his soon-to-be classic HBR article entitled Managing Oneself, “Success comes to those who know themselves—their strengths, their values, and how they best perform.”
The message of both authors is simple yet profound—leadership effectiveness is directly related to how well leaders know themselves, how confident they are in being who they are, and how able they are to engage others in the pursuit of their goals.
The fact is, the more aware you are of your strengths and limitations as a leader, the clearer you are with regard to your goals and aspirations. The better able you are to integrate those insights into a leadership style and philosophy, the more effective you will be in a leadership position.
This notion doesn’t preclude the fact that other capabilities contribute to effective leadership. Intelligence plays a role, as does intensity, drive, intellectual agility and many other factors. Yet, a genuine comfort with yourself and your aspirations has a great deal to do with your ability to influence those around you.
But it is not easy to develop that level of comfort. Dr. David Astorino of RHR International, a leading firm in leadership assessment and coaching, believes that self-awareness and insight are the most challenging yet the most critical aspects of leadership development.
Says Astorino, “First, human beings aren’t wired for self-insight. Second, our culture doesn’t celebrate self-awareness and introspection. It celebrates action and individual achievement.”
As a result, too many leaders are so narrowly focused on their own achievements that they push those around them aside and leave their organization behind.
That’s a problem, says Astorino, “because given the extreme complexity of today’s business environment, the jobs of direction setting and decision making are way too big for one person to handle.”
Some leaders and their organizations have found ways to take on this challenge.
At HomeBanc Corporation, an Atlanta-based financial services firm, Chairman and CEO Patrick S. Flood recognized that the ability of the company to sustain its impressive record of success was directly related to developing his own and his leadership team’s ability to forge ahead in a challenging business environment.
Flood enlisted the support of consulting firm Generative Leadership to help address the challenge. Flood says the firm, "didn't just give us leadership tips of the day. They went deeper with me and the executive team to really get at the early experiences that shaped our leadership styles, how those experiences influenced our goals, and how we communicate and react to things as a result.”
What did Flood learn from these insights? "Leadership styles and behaviors are based on your experiences. If you want to evolve as a leader, you need to understand the experiences that brought you to where you are and the forces that shaped who you are. Only then can you effectively evolve as a leader to face new situations.”
And did it help his team? “Without question,” says Flood. "Now, when facing a leadership challenge, we all do a better job stepping back to examine alternatives, consider with whom we’re interacting, and communicate in a way that is best for everyone and the organization.”
But let’s not make it sound too easy. Initiatives like HomeBanc’s provide a great start by creating focus and awareness and providing guidance. But real improvement requires an ongoing commitment.
Once you define your leadership strengths and challenges, you have to be willing to deal with the insights and implications. And that means looking into the mirror and making a commitment to do what you need to do, each and every day, to be a more open, engaging, inspiring leader.

7 secrets to leadership success

Here are 7 secrets to leadership success:

1. Leadership is about making things happen

If you want to make something happen with your life – in school, in your profession or in your community, do it. Perceived obstacles crumble against persistent desire. John Baldoni, Author, Leadership Communication Consultant and Founder of Baldoni Consulting LLC, shared this advice that had come from his father, a physician. He taught him the value of persistence. At the same time, his mother taught him compassion for others. Therefore, persistence for your cause should not be gained at the expense of others. Another bit of leadership wisdom!

2. Listen and understand the issue, then lead

Time and time again we have all been told, "God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason"...or as Stephen Covey said..."Seek to understand, rather than be understood." As a leader, listening first to the issue, then trying to coach, has been the most valuable advice that Cordia Harrington, President and CEO of Tennessee Bun Company has been given.

3. Answer the three questions everyone within your organization wants answers to

What the people of an organization want from their leader are answers to the following: Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What is my role? Kevin Nolan, President & Chief Executive Officer of Affinity Health Systems, Inc. believes the more clarity that can be added to each of the three questions, the better the result.

4. Master the goals that will allow you to work anywhere in today’s dynamic business world

Debbe Kennedy, President, CEO and Founder of Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies, and author of Action Dialogues and Breakthrough once shared this piece of advice that was instrumental in shaping her direction, future and achievements. She was a young manager at IBM just promoted to her first staff assignment in a regional marketing office. For reasons she can’t explain, one of her colleagues named Bookie called her into his office while she was visiting his location. He then began to offer unsolicited advice, but advice that now stays fresh in her mind. He mentioned that jobs, missions, titles and organizations would come and go as business is dynamic-- meaning it is always changing. He advised her not to focus your goals toward any of these, but instead learn to master the skills that will allow you to work anywhere.

He was talking about four skills:
The ability to develop an idea
Effectively plan for its implementation
Execute second-to-none
Achieve superior results time after time.
With this in mind, Kennedy advises readers to seek jobs and opportunities with this in mind. Forget what others do. Work to be known for delivering excellence. It speaks for itself and it opens doors.

5. Be curious

Curiosity is a prerequisite to continuous improvement and even excellence. The person who gave Mary Jean Thornton, Former Executive Vice President & CIO, The Travelers this advice urged her to study people, processes, and structures. He inspired her to be intellectually curious. He often reminded Thornton that making progress, in part, was based upon thinking. She has learned to apply this notion of intellectual curiosity by thinking about her organization’s future, understanding the present, and knowing and challenging herself to creatively move the people and the organization closer to its vision.

6. Listen to both sides of the argument

The most valuable advice Brian P. Lees, Massachusetts State Senator and Senate Minority Leader ever received came from his mentor, United States Senator Edward W. Brooke III. He told him to listen to all different kinds of people and ideas. Listening only to those who share your background and opinions can be imprudent. It is important to respect your neighbors’ rights to their own views. Listening to and talking with a variety of people, from professors to police officers, from senior citizens to schoolchildren, is essential not only to be a good leader in business, but to also be a valuable member within your community.

7. Prepare, prepare, prepare

If you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. If one has truly prepared and something goes wrong the strength of the rest of what you've prepared for usually makes this something easier to handle without crisis and panic. One of the best pieces of advice Dave Hixson, Men’s Varsity Basketball Coach at Amherst College has ever received and continues to use and pass on is this anonymous quote—“Preparation is the science of winning."

Along with this are two expressions from Rick Pitino's book Success is a Choice, which speaks to preparation. Hixson asks his teams every year: "Do you deserve to win?" and "Have you done the work?" This speaks to the importance of preparation toward achieving your final goal. If you haven't done the work (preparation) the answer to the second question is an easy "no!"

Great advice comes from many sources – parents, other relatives, consultants, bosses, co-workers, mentors, teachers, coaches, and friends. The important point to remember is to stay open, listen to everyone, but also develop your own leadership style.

The Trouble With Azaadi

Towards the end of her impassioned appeal calling for azaadi for Kashmir, Arundhati Roy, pauses to reflect on what might follow azadi in Kashmir, wondering what an independent Kashmir might mean, including what the independence demanded by the state's Muslim majority might mean for the state's religious or other minorities. She does well not to linger, because the thought experiment illustrates precisely what is most problematic about "national movements", namely that they are unable to think the political except through the prism of nation-states. National movements, that is to say, see themselves as nation-states-in-waiting, and do not see any political horizon beyond that of the nation-state. So was it with the Indian national movement, and its inability to think the difference that might have been capacious enough to house the country's Muslim-majority regions; so it definitely was with the Muslim League and its two-nation theory, even more wedded to the siren song of European-style nationalism transplanted to a colonial setting; and so it is with the "copycat" nationalisms that have followed, be it Kashmir, or Punjab, or Nagaland. The failure to imagine a nation-state different from the traditional European model, the shoe-horning of Indian communitarian identities, into models conceived with the likes of Germany and England in mind, paved the way for the catastrophes of partition. The "belated" nationalisms of the post-partition sub-continent demonstrate the truth of Marx's depressing observation, namely that we learn from history that we do not learn from history.

The point is worth making given Roy's trenchant critiques of the Indian state (in the context of Kashmir, but not only of Kashmir; her essay on the Indian state and dams, The Greater Common Good, is astonishingly powerful). That is, much of Roy's critique -- of the Indian state's indifference, its callousness, its inhumanity, its cruelty -- is (or certainly ought to be) animated not by her target's Indianness, but by the fact that it is a nation-state, and as such, does what nation-states do: in the final analysis, sacrifice humanity in the service of a larger political project. The distinction is an important one, because nothing in the Kashmiri independence movement suggests that it will throw up anything different; indeed given that the movement aims at a traditional nation-state just like all the others, I submit that it cannot yield a different result. Minority rights? Justice for different communities, and between genders? The outcomes will be better than they are now, we are told by the movement, not because the aims are different from those of the existing Indian state, but because the movement will simply do a better job.

I am skeptical, and not because of the identity (religious or otherwise) of those who comprise the Kashmiri independence movement; I am skeptical because the aim of that movement is congenitally incapable of producing a result that is "better" in some cosmic sense -- at most the identities of those disadvantaged will shift, as new disfavoured minorities, new "outsiders", new "insiders", and new identity policemen are created. Roy is too sophisticated not to see this, but doesn't bother to delve into it, pretending that this is merely a question of the Kashmiri separatists not having spelled out their agenda in greater detail as yet.

It is not: over half a century ago, Hannah Arendt wrote (in The Origins of Totalitarianism) of the masses of refugees and victims that seemed to accompany the birth of every new nation-state, and nothing has changed, not in the age of South Ossetia, Kosovo, Rwanda, ad nauseum. Certainly, those of us from the sub-continent should be especially wary of political projects that promise us clean solutions to intractable political problems: we live with the legacies of the bloodbaths of the 1940s, not to mention innumerable later, "lesser" massacres. By all accounts, the leaders of the new nation-states of India and Pakistan were caught by surprise by the scale of the violence in 1947; they had evidently internalized the logic of colonialism, pursuant to which communitarian difference presents a political "problem" that may be solved by means of creative cartography and judicious population transfers. Conceptual neatness is one of the hallmarks of the colonial mindset (thinking of Cyril Radcliffe, who could doubt it?).

Unfortunately, reality is anything but, and the sub-continent's leaders -- and, even more importantly, its people -- should have learned long ago that partitions are not the solution to people's inability to live together; rather, the mindset that vests its faith in drawing easily-policed borders is a mindset that demands enemies. It is a mindset that, in the final analysis, demands that facts on the ground correspond to the political project of the nation-state (and not the other way around). A nation-state for Muslims thus becomes a state virtually free of non-Muslims; a sub-national state where Hindu pride is honoured above all else becomes a state where non-Hindus must know their place.

Why would one ever hope for anything different from a nation-state for Kashmiris, as far as those who don't fit the bill are concerned? Certainly the region is not short of candidates for stigmatisation (some of this is because India is fantastically diverse; some of it is because nation-states are rather gifted at manufacturing "problematic" identities): Buddhists; Shiites; Gujjars; perhaps even Sunni Muslims who will be deemed insufficiently supportive of the independence movement (the last is hardly far-fetched, as even a casual glance at the history of Algeria or the Khalistan movement, or Kashmir itself during the 1990s, makes clear). Indeed, several hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits have already been driven off, and it is hard not to see in them a harbinger of more to come.

The above might seem like an odd place from which to maintain a defense of India vis-à-vis Kashmir. It is, on the contrary, a natural vantage point: the idea of an independent Kashmir for Kashmiris must be resisted precisely because, as the experience of the once-colonised has amply illustrated, nation-states are appallingly inhuman. Equally, however, they are not all inhuman in precisely the same way; nor are they all equally inhuman, by which I simply mean that they are not all equally incapable of accommodating human difference, whether communitarian or otherwise. The Germany of 2008 is manifestly not the Germany of 1938; but nor does the Germany of 2008 accommodate ethnic minorities as comfortably as the United States does.

None of this relieves any state of moral responsibility for the horrors it perpetrates; but in order to agitate against horrors, one must first understand what they are. And within the range of nation-states on offer -- all of them problematic, all of them complicit in cruelty -- it is apparent to me that those premised on explicit notions of religion, language, ethnicity, blood in some sense, are more problematic, more complicit, than those with far more modest litmus tests. The contemporary United States, Brazil, South Africa, and, yes, India, are among the latter group of nation-states; Germany, Italy, Pakistan, and, based on the logic of the movements, the would-be nation-states of Kashmir or Khalistan, are not. Theoretically, one does not need to be other than "wholly Bengali", "wholly Tamil", or "wholly Muslim" in order to be utterly Indian; one cannot say the same of Pakistan and its Hindus citizens, and the religious colour of the Kashmiri movement means it is almost inconceivable that this won't be true of an independent Kashmir as well (even leaving aside the obvious ethnic dimension).

Indeed, even if one were to take the likes of Yasin Malik at their word, they promise no more than Jawaharlal Nehru did, that is to say a secular state where all who live in Kashmir, of whatever ethnicity or religious persuasion, will be equal in the eyes of the state; but why and how could such a project -- essentially the same Nehruvian show on a smaller stage -- yield a better result? On the contrary, all the signs are that an independent Kashmir would be more like Pakistan than India: not because both are Muslim majority (that is irrelevant to the point I am making), but because both movements are explicitly predicated on a favoured community that is less than everyone who lives within the state's borders.

Why does any of this matter? Because nation-states where "second-class" citizenship is merely implicit -- think the United States prior to de-segregation; I assume Roy would include India; but really one could argue some are always more equal than others in all nation-states -- can be called out on their failures. Such nation-states are guilty of hypocrisy, but hypocrisy is not the worst sin; indeed hypocrisy, by opening up a gap between theory and practice, between promise and reality, makes it possible to hold a mirror up to the state, to try and compel it to honour its own promise to itself; and enables us to argue that the nation-state is only imperfectly itself until it takes a good long look in that mirror.
The same does not hold true of nation-states where “second-class” citizenship is explicit, where it is part of the very logic of the state. The distinction may be illustrated by the point that while the Jim Crow South is unforgiveable, the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" moment are possible in a USA where actual practice had made a mockery of the nation-state's constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the laws; they would not be possible in the face of apartheid South Africa, which could not be reformed, simply destroyed. That is, it is far more difficult, perhaps insurmountably so, to call the nation-state to task where it has promised and can promise nothing different than what it offers (one can rebel and try and dismantle the state, but one can't make it see the problem): beyond a point, a "Pakistan for Pakistanis", that is to say for Pakistanis of all religious persuasions, would make no sense, and would undermine the national idea (substitute "ethnicities" for "religious communities" and the idea of Pakistan becomes more flexible; it should come as no surprise that the movement for ethnic justice, greater federalism, and rights for smaller provinces, has far more legs in Pakistan than any movement for the rights of religious minorities; ethnicity illustrates the potential flexibility, but also the limits, of the idea of Pakistan; and even with respect to ethnicity, the difference of even a Bengali Muslim identity that was deemed "too Hindu" by the Pakistani establishment could not be accommodated within the state).

A "Kashmir for Kashmiris" is far closer to the idea of Pakistan than to the Nehru's India, and perhaps closest of all to Bangladesh, seeking to compress both 1947 and 1971 in one secessionist moment. Roy would do well to remember the "Biharis" stranded in refugee camps in Bangladesh since 1971, in the final analysis Muslim but not Bangladeshi enough; not Bengali enough for their own purposes; and not the right kind of Muslim for Pakistan’s purposes. And Roy herself mentions the 1971 genocide of Bengalis by the Pakistani army. The promise of the Kashmiri movement combines both of these nightmares.

None of this is about the decency or lack thereof of Mirwaiz Farooq, or Yasin Malik, or anyone else. The question isn't whether these are or are not upstanding politicians who genuinely believe that Kashmir belongs to all Kashmiris, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or Sikh, or not; the more important question concerns the logic of what they let loose in the world (more accurately, the logic that they and would-be nationalists of all stripes have attempted to replicate for decades). The azadi demanded by the Kashmiri movement, and used by Roy as a rallying cry, is not the answer to that question; the freedom we need is azadi from the mindset that thinks of peoples and communities only in terms of nation-states; and equally, an azadi that demands that the Indian state honour its promise, to itself and to us.
The nation-state as political Alpha and Omega was problematic in its European birthplaces to begin with; to continue to cling to it as the last best hope of ethnic or religious minorities in milieus like India's (or Africa's, or the Balkans'; pick your poison), in the wake of the man-made disasters that have befallen us over the last century, is nothing short of bankrupt.