NOV. 10, 2002
 Cover Story
 From The Editor
 Ranbaxy Inc.
 BT 500
 ONGC Uncapped
 BT Billboard

Q&A: Anshu Jain
The London-based Anshu Jain, Head of Deutsche Bank's Global Markets division and member of the bank's Group Executive Committee, was in Mumbai for a day recently. He spoke to BT about trends in global debt markets, banks' appetite for coprorate risk, derivatives and the implications for India.

Travel Agent Blues
India's big travel agents are feeling the heat. Commissions are getting squeezed, even as big-ticket travel-overseas particularly-is suffering. So, how are the travel biggies coping? Innovations. Ever paid a consultancy fee for your holiday advice? Better get used to it.

More Net Specials
Business Today,  October 27, 2002
Maid In India
Half of India's potential lies untapped: our women.

A friend was telling me she'd just been offered a great job at a significantly higher salary and everything was perfect about it. I was thrilled- and asked when she was joining. "Oh," she said, "I don't think it'll work out." I was dumbfounded. "You see, it might require me to work late-and I have to be home by 6.30. Have a teenage daughter, you see," she added.

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. So tell me, I asked her, isn't the salary higher by at least Rs 2,000? Of course, she said. So why can't you use that to pay for a live-in who can be around your daughter if you're an hour or two late? Well, that's not the point, I was told-my husband works late too, and I think my daughter needs me. My question on why her husband couldn't come back early to look after the girl was met with a "you don't understand".

Going By The Book
Leading By Example

I don't understand, all right. All I understand is that another promising career is being sacrificed on the altar of "being an Indian woman". I was thinking on similar lines when speaking to a mixed college audience the other day.

The guys seemed intent on getting high-paying jobs-and the girls-well, I don't mean to sound sexist, but I'm not sure they seemed to be interested in very much. I was taken aback when a few of the young ladies told me: our parents will marry us off to somebody rich anyway-so all this career and entrepreneur stuff doesn't matter.

So have we sunk down to this as a society now? Earlier, the chauvinists in us kept women down by force-and now are we programming the very initiative and drive out of them? Where are the budding Shahnaz Hussains, the Kiran Bedis, the Ravina Raj Kohlis?

In China, I could see that one big difference between their industry and ours was that there was no social stigma attached to women working. Quite the opposite-your worth was judged by what you made of yourself.

Even in my travels today I come across Chinese ladies pulling off incredible careers. In one case, a pharma sales manager handles all of East Africa while based with her kids and husband in Xi'an, Central China; in another, a 20-something girl runs a mid-sized travel agency in Hong Kong with her hubby and daughters on the mainland. Their spouses, parents and in-laws help look after the kids when they're away.

Ironically, it seems easier for Indian women to become entrepreneurs. There isn't that pressure to get into safe careers or support families. And unlike the West, and like China, we too have parents and in-laws willing to be support systems for the kids. There is every safety net and security that can allow you to take a risk.

Among the hundreds of business plans that have come in over the last few months, barely a handful are from women. Is it because all these safety nets and low expectations actually keep you lazy-and not fired up to do anything? If so, I can't think of a more terrible waste.

I smile at the pm's notion that our economy should grow at 8 per cent. We'll probably have to grow at twice that rate, because our women are not expected to contribute very much. I know I'll get militaristic mail from people who'll tell me that raising kids and doing the housework has economic value. I've heard that argument before, but I'm still reluctant to accept that the only gross domestic product one can expect from educated, intelligent women are mollycoddled babies.

One partially workable answer is in the expectations we instill in our daughters and sisters. Why should we expect any less from them at work or in business? What is the bloody hurry to get married and have babies anyway? And even if you've gotten married and produced the requisite kids, what keeps you at home? And even if you, for some inexplicable reason, have to be stuck at home, what stops you from participating in the global economy from your computer and telephone?

Somewhere in this tangle of perceptions is the key that can unlock half our population. Here's hoping more of us find it soon.

Mahesh Murthy, consultant and investor, heads Passionfund. He ran Channel [V] and earlier helped launch Yahoo! and Amazon at a Silicon Valley interactive marketing firm. Reach him at