Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Developing the “Mobility Friendly” attitude

A few things I have learnt in the recently since I entered the field of Enterprise Mobility is how excited clients are when they hear the word “It’s Possible”.  If anything the smart phone revolution in India has done is initiate the next stage of change in terms of enterprise hardware. And yes, not to be mistaken is the idea of saving on cost that is driving the wave.

Computers on the go: Changing from a desktop to laptop devices brought in a change for people to access systems from anywhere. The penetration of internet dongles meant “all time accessible” even though it was sometimes linked to greater productivity or work from home benefits. Mobility is now looking to take this a step further and leave people with no space to say, “I do not have access, need some time to revert” or “I’m sorry, I’m away from my desk and I don’t have the data”.

We are improving efficiency: Most people who are migrating their systems from laptops to tablets/ mobiles have efficiency as their biggest claim - efficiency of space, time, device costs and operating costs. The commonly expressed views: a tablet costs less than a laptop and most people never need all the features a laptop/ desktop computer offers. For some employees who need limited data access, a mobile phone app costs less than having them a workstation to access.  Offices have WiFi connections and that eliminates the need for workstation space for people who are on the move. Tablets cost much less than a laptop and are lighter to carry; also, you don’t have to pay license fees for tablet OS. And of course, since most employees are reimbursed for mobile phone calls, the mobile data package is now a part of the same.

What about the gaps:  The above is not totally untrue... well most of it is actually a great way to save on establishment costs and trim down operating expenses. The gaps as we experience are not on the device level but more of an attitude or understanding level. Tablets and Mobile devices can access the internet via browsers like a computer, but the interface most suited for mobility is Apps. Unlike a browser, Apps are a completely different interface and functions much differently in comparison.
The biggest difference is flexibility. Apps have some areas that are set and data fields which are flexible. This is different from a browser as the entire page is pulled in on to a browser on to a server. So a change on a server can easily reflect on the browser. For an App, a change can be a new version.
The transition from a browser based system to an application based approach has its own challenges for a user perspective. For instance, the keyboard is a part of the screen and hence the screen size reduces by half. While scrolling is a no-no on a browser; it is preferred than a click on a mobile screen.
Yes, tablet is a complete device by itself, but you cannot change its configuration (processor, RAM, HDD) at will like on a computer. So if you go for the cheapest, you are also closer to being obsolete that much sooner.

The Mobility Friendly Attitude: Mobility is the way the world is fast moving and will go in the days to come.  It is soon going to be the way organization are going to get closer to their customers and internal stake holders by extending the power into their hands. But when it is the question of enterprise solutions, it is essential to understand how far and how much to expose the existing systems on a new platform. Most importantly; realize that this is a major change and will require a fresh perspective to look at things and appreciate changes rather than pull down possibilities. And yes; be judicious in what you wish for and think long term. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Being niche is not the same as being innovative

I have met a fair number of start-up organizations over the last year with an aim to associate as a consultant. While start-up seems to be the way every person believes is the path to achieve their dreams, most people find that the most obvious ideas are usually taken. But dreams are difficult to give up on; and the urge to not let go drives people into a corner which makes them believe there is still a space they can build up on. 
Food and Travel seem to be what most people are looking to focus on. Yes, while both are most definitely booming areas, Start-up enthusiasts build an entire idea based on what they want to do rather than what the market needs. The minds are more focused on realizing the dream than building a successful business model. Most often, ideas begin with statements like, "I want to the Uber of this space..." and that is the point where I lose interest. On most occasions, that is where the idea has died and loose talk has started. Not uncommon that that was the last you ever heard of the project and it just never took off in reality. 
"I have an innovative idea; pure vegetarian hot food service with a homely taste delivered to your desk, if you book by 7 pm the day prior" - apart from people who occasionally like to order, this one statement has narrowed your universe leaving every person who occasionally likes to have meat, a bit more spice than home and isn't really sure how long he might be in office tomorrow out of the equation. In most offices have a microwave to re-heat food, so you lost on the other USP. There are services which can deliver home cooked food on demand; you lost out again. "But I want to do this and I want to have an app made for this with e-wallets and card payment facilities".   
Sadly, technology is a facilitator, unless technology is your business. Having a web-based travel website exclusively for high-end international Honeymoon couples needs an enormously strong digital marketing team to create the pull. Yes, weddings are a big market, but are honeymoons the space people like to spend the most on? How many of them go abroad and spend on a 5 Star? And if they do exist; how many choose an option off the internet to spend upwards of INR 3 lacs? 
A niche is like a happy place to separate out from the crowd, but a corner is always lonely for people to notice you. Yes, David can  be brought down by Goliath, but it will call for an agile idea which David cannot replicate with the same speed or effectiveness.  More so, ideas have to be functional as a business model and implementable within a short span of time before the others in the market can react. 
I am reminded of a case shared by Jack Welch upon his need for a business to be among the top 3 in its category or be eliminated when he undertook the consolidation of all GE businesses. While people created filters based on colour, capacity etc to prove their worth, the bigger picture is what matters.
Yes, believe in the ideas and work hard to turn dreams to realities; but also evaluate the business worthiness and the market before you take the lunge. The approach needed is to understand that success is how many people you can build into your idea rather than how many you choose to ignore to make it seem an attractive prospect.  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Breathing Life into a Brand

Listening to the radio and hear Amitabh Bachchan rap to sell a hill station in Gujarat – the discussion initiated next was like a college assignment being presented and debated in class. So may be so far he has endorsed electronics, hair oil, chawanprash, Gujarat tourism, polio campaign, cars, chocolates, cola and more lately, even baby products e-retail website. In our MBA class, we had him endorse condoms, sanitary pads and fairness cream as well. Though the very active debate was around two very similar sounding terms – brand

At one point, say brand ambassador and viable options in mind were Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar. These two men are like an asset a brand could buy and the halo of dependability and trust to hover above. When controversies involving pesticides in cola and worms in chocolates were boiling and these gentlemen were the ones to bring in an assurance by virtue of their self-image. That is what the biggest difference between a Brand Endorser and Brand Ambassador – they are not just the face for the product but build the whole personality of the product around it. They are people who bring the brand in a flesh and blood to interact with its audience. 

Getting a brand ambassador in today’s time is an expensive affair. Using the ambassador in the right way involves the marketing team to build a whole strategy to present a human face (or human manifestation) of a company that interacts with its audience and take the brand far more than what advertising can achieve. But in my opinion, in a socially interconnected world, an interaction of the consumers with a brand ambassador is usually only limited to shaking hands, clicking selfies and letting the world know that ‘I was there’. The brand, the brand values and what the event was about is somewhere lost. While they still are crowd pullers, I often wonder if the brand actually is deriving benefits.

Which brings be to a question – while we know that in most cases, the celebrity is paid and is acting more as an endorser than a brand ambassador, should we be actually limiting the term brand ambassador in a select few instances.

Interestingly, I see brands interacting with its audiences in so many ways before and after a purchase. There are so many people in an organization that interact with hundreds of business associates every day. It might be selling or buying a product or service, managing vendors and clients, building new business prospects or maintaining relations with existing and lastly – looking after existing, past and future employees. What amazes me at times is considering the amount of word-of-mouth that propagates from these avenues, these sides of brand building are not given prime attention.

For instance, take the case of Google and there is just nothing negative one can identify with the company. People are mostly happy with their products in every way. Call them for a query and they are genuine to revert. As for the business side, no one coming out with woes in terms of unfair practices, non-payment of dues or social injustice. The employees are happy and often talking about their superb environment at work. There are times when even they are working long hours but overall, it is one of the most desired places to work. Apply to Google and even when you don’t qualify, they appreciate your efforts on mail. And all this with no brand endorser or ambassador.

Having started my career in a customer facing role, among the first lessons taught by my manager in those days was to realise that bigger than the name of a company was how every person who had a card with its name behaved in every aspect. How soon people respond, how they respond and what impression they manage to leave on the client. A large part of business is the invisible relation with customers and the approach that people involved followed. Stand up and accept responsibility, be honest and face the music were some of the lessons I had to learn; keeping aside the rush of blood nature I had then.

Counter to this are something I observe and find appalling. As more and more avenues of communication have developed, if anything that seems to have gone down the drain is responsibility and responsiveness. While walls of every big organization are plastered with messages talking customer centricity, responsibility, ownership, open-doors etc., the degree to which these are actually practiced in reality can be an eye opener at times.

Yes, one cannot attend to calls while in a meeting or between something, But it baffles me as to how often people feel no urge to call back to people they could not attend to. The same goes towards replying to emails. A reply saying “no new update” is much appreciated that no revert. Can a brand be connecting to its audience as a human through a brand ambassador when the integral human representatives cannot live and function each day with simple human courtesy?  

I feel there is an inherent and integral need for brands to focus on building brands inside-out. Let every person who is a part of the company, live and breathe its culture on a daily basis. Let every contact point experience the brand in every way and build its equity and preference for real. If that can happen, may be brands can cut down on spends of a brand ambassador and be a living brand in the true sense.

Monday, August 3, 2015

WhatsApp – The King of Apps?

Talk business or technology, the quintessential question always remains – what next and where do we go from here? Develop an idea enabled by technology, build a viable business plan and get investors to fund the project is fast becoming the way to become an entrepreneur. In most cases, we have now become an app driven community and every person who aspires to come in with a billion dollar idea that can change the world look at apps. What is also means is one has to look back at the millions of apps and programs that already exist in the market to even identify an untapped need. The gap between a concept and an innovative concept is now just growing by the day.

Yes, the advent of a smart phone has actually expanded the horizons of consumer targeted technology and there might be almost every possible need of a common man that the entrepreneurs have been investing for through an app. Even a super niche function like identify the quality of printing on paper (which was something reserved for specialized equipment) is already present in the market and available for free on an app. Most phone applications have evolved from an internet based websites and services. While a few are specially created for the mobile space, there is one undisputed king which only resides on the mobile- WhatsApp.

Now to be fair, WhatsApp is not a complete innovation of sorts. Messaging and media capabilities existed via SMS and MMS for quite some time. The Blackberry Messenger was one thing that made the biggest buzz for buyers outside the corporate domain. The success of WhatsApp possibly came from being amongst the first and versatile data based messaging app that was not limited to any particular mobile operating system.  Its capabilities of sharing photos, videos and forming groups was something that gave rise to social communities through mobiles. In terms of convenience: a voice note just in case you are bored to type or have just one small thing to talk.

It might have taken people a fair amount of time to accept an email or an SMS as a formal form of communication. It has hardly much time to be taken WhatsApp to be taken serious.  To my experience, it has become a means to be at two places without actually being there. A film set is being erected, an event stall is being constructed or anything remote that might take for a person to travel to; it has now become a common practice to send across images or videos over WhatsApp to the approving authority and seek feedback instantly.

Another common practice, form a group on WhatsApp with people work
ing on a project and you have everyone on the same page as if an email update. Groups are a great way to spread information rapidly. The last I know is a short film being released exclusive content on WhatsApp. WhatsApp has also put up a strong fight to voice calling apps like Viber with its calling capabilities. So in a way, WhatsApp has so far had most bases covered in terms of voice based communication and file sharing abilities. So where does it go now?

I guess it might just take a few dips in the near past to believe that social platforms tend to die out the moment they stop evolving. The example of Orkut, Hotmail, Chat Messengers are all examples where they got beaten or replaced by others that had better functionality or enough excitement happening to keep people hooked on all day.  The areas where WhatApp still might lack is Video Calling facilities against, say Facetime. Or the fact that you can connect only by exchanging numbers and not a onetime connect that’s possible via Skype.

One thing that WhatsApp has achieved so far is forming communities within users. Ranging from friends, business circles or even a virtual classroom notice board, it has been adapted in many ways. But if WhatsApp could form communities for a social or a professional outfit, it can be the next stage of brand campaigns or even online PR initiatives. The way news and information (much of the times even improper information) travels via groups has an overwhelming viral effect.  

Having already seen how politicians used WhatsApp during the state elections in Maharashtra, it is already become a mass broadcast medium. If marketing via WhatsApp was an idea so far, what is interesting though is that women with their ever expanding social circles and gossip groups are one strong way that Tupperware ladies have already started taking advantage of. All Tupperware does is create short videos of their products and information previously that required demo is now going across through demo videos.

The final word from me, WhatsApp needs to make a good use of its penetration and evolve into different forms for people and their needs. It has already achieved success over smart phone users which might be at par if not above what Facebook has with the same group – but it is how it will grow and endear itself to the future users that will decide the way ahead. For now, I guess there will be little debate that possibly the most subscribes app makes WhatsApp the king of its domain for now. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Picking up the tabs for Europe

Read a joke on the internet yesterday; “A Greek, an Irish, a Spaniard and a German go to a pub and have a fun time… at the end of the party, the Greek, Irish and the Spaniard put up their hands for not having money and finally it was up to the German to clear up the mess”. Doesn’t sound funny right? The joke in fact is that this is the scenario that is currently running across most of Europe as it looks down the barrel of the financial crisis that has the potential to threaten every single country.

It is funny in a lot of ways that the most powerful and resilient economy in Europe today is one which has actually experienced some serious political turmoil, change of guard, partition and unification all over the last century. Germany has been subject to paying up for the wars in Europe and has seen inflation that has been just mind boggling during the Depression. In the recent past, Germany has faced the difficult balancing act of offsetting debts of a low industrialized East German economy in the 90’s. Yet again, it is Germany which is having to so a salvage – this time it is most of Europe.

So where did Europe go wrong?

Through the ages, Europe has always been a restless baby. They have fought for power and control within the bounds of the continent or its colonies. It is not uncommon that while Europe made the best out of the Industrial Revolution, the monarchies never really allowed any country to have the relations that kept trading easy to do. It was the post-war Europe where countries finally allied for better relations in trade and removal of tariffs at many levels that got them back on track.

The end of the cold war and the unification of Germany in 1989 gave the idea of a unified free trading and economic zone of Europe as a whole a firm rooting. A common currency, the Euro gave a lot of member nations a tough time marking their own currencies at parity. But this was just a hiccup as in the long run, it ensured that now every member nation had easier access to resources and facilities in better developed nations and also borrow finances to fuel their economic development.

Sadly, this was the space where most countries have got it wrong. When taking a bank loan, we are always asked to issue a collateral or bring in a guarantor to support.  It is a further must for the two to be presented if your own credit rating is weak. The smaller countries like Greece were never in a shape to manage their global debts against their own incomes (usually taxes). But with easy access to global finance and backed by the fact that they are a part of Euro, borrowings increased beyond manageable levels. Public spending on government funded projects, pensions, tax waiver and all kind of populist policies have meant the money borrowed is never coming back.

It wasn’t surprising that when the slow down hit the world in 2008, it was the smaller economies in Europe that had money either invested or borrowed from the US went down. With United Kingdom not a part of Euro and France playing a second fiddle; it was up to Germany to assume the role of big brother and pull up the debt of all these failed economies. But not without conditions towards imposing austerity measures to be implemented by the countries failing to bear its own debt.

But this is easier said than done. When Government implements measures to cut down spends, it means that people are likely to lose jobs, spend less and in turn end up paying lesser taxes. Less tax means the government earns less and cannot repay its debt. What this means is that even with stronger economies in the Euro picking up the tabs and bad debts, this cycle might not end. This is a space where today we have 17 countries linked by a common currency and trade agreements – but the political will, tax structure and the ways to earn an income and spend are vastly different among the member countries.

The Utopian plan would be a uniform currency, tax policy and governance style across the member nations – which is definitely unpopular on a political front. But one thing for sure, the vicious cycle of debt ridden economies has begun. People are going to have a tough time and recoveries are going to be slow and harsh. As for the immediate, someone is going to have to step in and pick up the tab for all of Europe.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Start Ups and Hiccups

We always like to idolize people who stand apart from the ordinary and make themselves noticed in a crowd. So while most people around me in college looked up to Edison, Einstein and Hawking as gods, the business minds admired the Tata, Birla and Ambani clan as inspiration. Deviation from the regular job to entrepreneurship might have clicked in the mid-80’s and the era of economic liberalization had started to build the foundation of entrepreneurship.  People who had a sufficient understanding and experience of how to do business in their domain floated on their own. This was what I shall term as the conventional approach: Learn the rules – master the rules – break the rules.

But this chain of order has now been smashed and a new order on the path of entrepreneurship has been established in recent times. It’s the culture of friends and roommates from some of the much revered technical and business schools hatching an idea, finding investors and taking on the world to break the established business practices. It is this radical and rebellion of sorts that makes people like Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal (Flipkart), Rahul Yadav (, Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal (Snapdeal) the new age business idols for the current generation.

Every single start up story has almost a similar beginning – the feeling that there is so much we can do to make things better and establish a new order. While some start up entrepreneurs have worked before they went on their own, most these days have an idea developed and launched from their hostel rooms and possibly find an investor in the idea even before they graduate. Not to mention symposiums from established giants like Microsoft Ventures have become like a breeding ground for start-ups and investors to come together and find mutually beneficial interactions – even leave the place with a deal in hand.

There is nothing to deny the fact that the entrepreneur culture is redefining the way business is done and services are provide. Technology and internet is changing the face of what we believed was the only way to do things. I’s sure we all have seen the infographic about Airbnb, Uber, Alibaba, Facebook and YouTube changing the face of various industry verticals and the perception that business can be done only in a defined manner.

While all of might be aware of the success stories, what is the success rate and why do the start-up acts fail? An idea at most times is like the USP or the competitive advantage that gives a start-up an edge and immediate traction. But this can only be in existence as long as the other either don’t catch up or innovate beyond to surge ahead. This is the space where things get a little dicey. Not to mention, investors are in for a long haul and look at break even and profits – not able to deliver is not an option at this stage.

Rahul Yadav has been in the news across for the last two weeks after being sacked as the CEO by the investors. It is not that his venture is not able to deliver; but the fact that every growth phase also needs to be made robust with consolidation and firm rooting before the next level was greatly overlooked. This is the space where great ideas need to be going together with great managers. The people who are needed to hold the company together and possibly also pull off a few decisions that keep the creative minds at rest for a while. It is the evolution of an entrepreneur from a rebel or maverick into a leader that counts at this point.

Three things I have cited recently amongst start-ups as I hunt for job opportunities:

Firstly, the scores of start-up companies which have come up and are looking for people to work with them because they have lost their way. From a number of interactions with such people, I have been able to discover a few startling facts. Yes, most start-ups begin operation with angel capital which is usually the pocket savings of the people involved. With expenses and investment in technology and infrastructure, the ideal turnaround time from the idea to implementation and acceptance needs to be under a year.

It baffles me when there are start-ups with having invested close to two years don’t even reach a beta stage. In one case, the marketing function was required to deliver results in 8 months where a target market was yet to be defined. Not to mention, the idea was already finding feet with established players like Evernote and Google to make the app redundant even before release. In another, a start-up with no clients or established service offering was looking for funding and needed media presence (castles in the air) to achieve this. I feel this is a case of tunnel vision and people often lose touch with reality having invested too much time and effort into their own obsessions.

The second being the fact that people are looking for like – minded people over more than anything else. So an IIT/IIM start up is more skewed for people from IITs and IIMs. It is not surprising that job portals can now have posts asking for a start-up partner, tech partner etc. from the premier institutes only to join the ones with ideas.

On the first level, it sounds good; like minds will gel and people will deliver. But how about another line of thought – an idea is no one’s domain and every IIT/ IIM is groomed to believe they are an invincible lot designed to rule the lesser minds. So how can one accept orders from another equal or not move out to pursue his/her own dream during the formative days? May be I’m wrong, but this seems like a complete recipe for a power struggle in the making.

The third and the one I believe is the breaking point – rapid expansions with no control on costs or break even periods. Most start-ups are technology driven and technology obsolesce cycles are shorter than even what Moore’s Law would have defined. Who could have thought that Orkut could have died and Whatsapp could have almost wiped Blackberry messenger. Not to forget, we are still debating if Amazon has ever reached a break-even point to date. Amidst such confusion, investors are pumping in billions in anticipation of backing the next big idea. These billions are being spent on expansions and hiring people at amazing pay scales. Offices are like party zones and massive monies are spent under employee welfare. So the big question is will there be a pay back to the investor at some point in the recent future and how long will the party last?

It was funny at times where I came across start-ups that were over 5 years old and were yet to make a big impact. Having spent their initial investor monies, they had now taken over a few other smaller players in a bid to attract more funding. Open fissures amongst the founding team, power struggles and crumbling client and revenues were just too evident.

I’ll like to end with a lighter note, a series by TVF called Pitchers which revolves around a bunch of guys preparing to build a start-up. The manager accepts the resignation of this employee, but runs him across a list of names – all his classmates but only a few who made it big. It is easy to think of a start-up, it is much tougher to manage the hiccups. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

India’s darkest hour

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely; Great men are almost always bad men.”… The words of Sir John Dalberg-Acton, 8th- an English politician talking about the monarchies in Europe attaining status of demi gods.

Time and again it has come across in history that great leaders went on to reach a status of total power over their subjects. They were good as leaders, decisive and ruthless against external threats and also with a sense of care and concern for their people. But at some point, the power and sense of judgement turned foes and leaders turn into demons.

Exactly 40 years ago - 25th June 1975 is one such date in the history of unified India- when a democracy went through a phase of Political Emergency with everything and everyone coming under the direct rule of one person- the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A period that might have been the darkest hour of unified India till date.

So why is this even relevant today? Its past, history, dead and buried…. Yes, it is. But what remains to be recalled is how a country can drive itself into doom without realizing the effects till very late. I openly say that I am not a fan of Mrs Gandhi (I’m not Nixon as well) but I do feel that as the 2nd longest serving Prime Minister of India, there are actions of hers (especially post 1971) which continue to affect us even to date. 

Though I was not around when it happened (if I was, I’m sure I’d have been in jail for writing something like this), I have read a lot of accounts from journalists, historians and other who witnessed the drama unfold to help me find understand the times. Not to mention, my journalism classes and “India after Gandhi” by Ramchandra Guha (I regard this as the most in-depth account of India post- independence) to be the basis of my writing.

Mrs Gandhi was not a politician, not even someone who might have has anything to do with the freedom struggle or a nationalist. An estranged daughter of Nehru; she was more like a personal assistant who was not even a member of the Congress party. But the unofficial influence got her to be the Party president in 1959 and a cabinet minister for I&B in the cabinet led by Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964. All this while, her party leadership was more of a coy to keep away an ambitious Morarji Desai; the infamous Kamraj Plan. Even on her appointment as the Prime Minister in 1966, the tag of “Moom ki gudiya” did reflect the fact that no one had faith in her abilities to lead India.

The concentration of power started to happen when Mrs Gandhi on being expelled from the Congress due to fall out from the senior leaders, formed Congress (I) and pulling along the entire but 65 members of the existing people in power. Nehru was a Socialist, but his ideology of keeping government away from business was well defined. Indira broke this line and prior to the 1971 elections, 14 banks were nationalized and the allowance to the princely state heads was abolished. This naturally led to a lot of dissent amongst the people, but opportunity presented Mrs Gandhi very soon.

December 1971 and the Bangladesh War saw Mrs Gandhi take the ruthless path against Pakistan and paid no heed to the fact that the US Navy was on alert during the conflict. The fact that even an opposition leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee deemed her as “Goddess Durga” was a testimony to the way she handled the situation. The populist slogans like Garibi Hatao won hearts of the people and the whole country stood behind the lady. With a lot of support, Congress (I) swept the state elections in 1972 without anything given away to the opposition. It had become a scenario where “Indira is India” was actually happening.  But this was possibly where things went wrong and the power structure turned amorphous. Indira Gandhi self- conferred upon herself a Bharat Ratna – much like Nehru.

Failed monsoon, rise in unemployment, rising inflation, the pending expenses of a jubilant but costly war with Pakistan and the state resting with all the powers for finance and wealth; it was just an explosive situation. With her son Sanjay Gandhi acting as an advisor, draconian powers were unleashed on the people. While students and youth came out on the streets following an able socialist like J P Narayan, new leaders like George Fernandes crippled the railways with a strike. Former royalty stripped of their privy purse used all their might against Mrs Gandhi. Adding fuel to the fire was the Allahabad Court verdict regarding election malpractices which dismissed Mrs Gandhi’s membership to parliament.

Was it the romance with power or the fact that you have people’s support behind- not prepared to step down and the social uprising at hand; a Political Emergency was imposed. It was now a crazy circus that was controlled by Indira and Sanjay Gandhi for the next 21 months. What followed was definitely something that I feel was short of the Simon Commission Report.

Ordinances were passed and constitution amended in a manner by which all political opposition was crushed with people suspected of anti-government activity being imprisoned. The press was gagged and power to newspaper offices and presses was shut off. How can one not talk about the courageous R P Goenka printing blank spaces in Indian Express as a mark of protest against the government imposed censorship?

Ruling with an iron fist got a whole new meaning and fear became the currency of the government machinery. Civil liberties were curtailed and with brutal activities like forced population control programmes and dismissal of any state government not in tune with the central power was the biggest blow to democracy. Certainly the darkest hour – and a trauma for all those who saw the worst of it.

I’m happy that such things might never happen again in India. Changes in the constitutional framework have now eliminated the possibilities of an Emergency being imposed unless absolutely critical and agreed upon by 2/3rd of the parliament. Media today is much more deep rooted and India is no longer in a space to be isolated from the rest of the world. The biggest difference – people now have access to ways and means where they cannot be dominated by a force that is suppressing them and anything that is against national interest meets stiff opposition.

But the impact from the days of the Emergency is still around. Dynasty politics is now deeply entrenched in our system. The son-daughter distant relative of a politician becoming a successor is a common thing for today. Also, the feeling that an MP’s relative is above the law is somehow still a law. Going back to privatization of the financial system is still work in progress. There are some other misdoings from the tyrant leadership in those days which led to a lot more complications – but 1975 to 1977 was by far the worst we saw as a nation in terms of a democratic state turn into a pseudo dictatorship.