f o r    m a n a g i n g    t o m o r r o w
DEC. 4, 2005
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Interview With Giovanni Bisignani
After taking over the reigns at IATA, Giovanni Bisignani is in the cockpit directing many changes. His experience in handling the crisis after 9/11 crisis is invaluable. During his recent visit to India, Bisignani met BT's Amanpreet Singh and spoke about the challenges facing the aviation industry and how to fly safe. Excerpts.

"We Try To Create
A Joyful Work"
K Subrahmaniam, Covansys President and CEO, spoke to BT's Nitya Varadarajan.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  November 20, 2005
Promise And Performance


Sales or market capitalisation? The debate on which is a better metric for listings such as the one featured in this issue of the magazine will continue. One, sales, represents performance; the other, market capitalisation, represents promise. When defined thus, it becomes evident that there is a stage in a country's development when sales will be a better metric for corporate listings, and there is one when market capitalisation will be. In the US, for instance, most companies (barring a minority in really bleeding edge areas such as nanotechnology or biotechnology, and a few more in traditional technology domains) are in what can be described as a mature stage. Auto definitely is (in a mature stage in the us). As are retail (despite Wal-Mart's staggering gains year-on-year), financial services, energy, and several other businesses. That isn't the case in India, where most businesses are still in a nascent stage or have just hit their growth stride. In developed economies like the us, their here-and-now is itself attractive enough; in developing ones like India, the future will always look far better than the present. Ten years from now, then, a BT 500 based on sales may be a better reflection of India's Inc's pecking order. Today, only market capitalisation can serve that purpose.

Will The Wealth Trickle Down Your Guts?

A street urchin: No sign of trickle-down

If something goes wrong with the great Indian Dream of becoming the world's second largest economy, it won't be because corporate earnings have eventually dried up, or because the foreign institutional investors have stopped pumping in the greenbacks, or because the government hasn't reformed enough (and fast enough), or because the West has suddenly gotten sick of being spoonfed by pseudo-accented jocks sweating it out in a tele-shop in Thiruvananthapuram. To put it another way, If the India story turns sour, it won't be because readers of Business Today-and, what the heck, those who publish it too-didn't become filthily richer over the year.

Enjoy it. Until they come to get you.

The "they" in question are of course the three quarters of the nation's population who probably don't even make it to the perimeter of your brand-infested universe-yes, those 'village folks,' those poor sods who still can't muster up a (disposable? Ha!) income to buy a bicycle. Now this ain't no bleeding heart story but rather a red flag being waved frantically, albeit in no particular direction: What happens if all that wealth created by your copious consumption refuses to trickle down-as per one of the most compelling premises of capitalism-but prefers to just weld itself to your ever-expanding waistline?

Sections of that 75 per cent of Unwashed India might then just come to get you. If this sounds suspiciously like Leftist rabble-rousing, consider what's happening in Russia. According to a state report earlier in the year on social and economic development, the gap between the rich and poor is widening, despite record-high oil prices (which has resulted in Russia having more millionaires than Japan, according to Forbes magazine) and sky-rocketing salaries. The report figures out that the richest 10 per cent of Russia's population makes close to 15 times more than the poorest 10 per cent-and that figure has been steadily rising; in 2001, Russia's filthiest rich were just 10 times richer than the most deprived. Result? Social unrest which makes itself visible on the streets.

Sounds alarmist? Rewind a bit back to the Hurricane Katrina, where the biggest disaster from the point of view of the American Dream wasn't the deaths caused by the tempest, but the rape, pillage and plunder that followed. The hurricane succeeded in squeezing out some of the basest instincts in New Orleans simply because that's the way people without food, money and care (just a prayer is never enough) react in a crisis-they turn into animals. Creatures of a similar pedigree are walking the streets of Parisian suburbs, torching vehicles, warehouses and even schools. Most of these elements would typically be young unemployed (or unstably employed) immigrants, or semi-skilled blue collar workers in dying industries.

Will they come to get you?

Dangerous Business

Tariq Ahmed Dar: Salesman-turned-terrorist

Terrorists can lurk anywhere as Delhi police's arrest of Tariq Ahmed Dar, a 32-year-old salesman at Johnson & Johnson demonstrates. They can have perfectly legitimate day jobs at respectable companies and normal lives with wives, children, relatives, bank accounts. Dar, who allegedly masterminded the recent serial bomb blasts in Delhi that killed 55 has an infant child and his wife is reportedly expecting their second; he has been photographed receiving an award from his company, ostensibly for achievements in his field of work-he sold products for a respected multinational corporation that is primarily known in India for its babycare products; and he used a debit card made out in his own name, like millions of middle-class Indians do, to pay for his stay at a Delhi guest house.

Terrorists can and have easily permeated mainstream life. Terrorism is now no longer only about shadowy militant groups infiltrating the borders of the country and carrying out their dastardly deeds undercover. As terrorism can happen anywhere, terrorists too can exist anywhere. A potential terrorist could be your next-door neighbour, your colleague at work, the amiable guy at your bank or the nodding acquaintance you bump into on your morning walk every day.

We're not being unduly alarmist, only realistic. On the flipside of the spread of terrorism into mainstream life is the backlash it is bound to have on companies and the business community. Tariq Dar is a Kashmiri Muslim. Will his arrest for allegedly hatching the Delhi bomb blast conspiracy affect the hiring policies of his and other companies when it comes to candidates from the same community? Will companies resort to stringent profiling of some candidates in their recruitment processes? Will it have a negative impact on the already quite low employment potential of educated youth in Kashmir?

For obvious reasons, since the beginning of terrorism in Kashmir in 1989, industry has tread carefully in the state, with some businesses shunning the region altogether. Many marketers of consumer goods accord low priority to the region simply because the high risks faced by their personnel operating there and those faced by their offices and establishments are not worth the business that may be generated. That, coupled with intensified militancy, has shrunk the opportunities for Kashmiri youth. Lack of opportunities mean less jobs for young people of the region and, well, less jobs translate into frustration for the already alienated people there.

The backlash of the Dar affair could make things worse, particularly if business decides to tread carefully. One salesman who turned out to be a terrorist should not tar an entire community but if companies choose the safer option and turn hesitant or unwilling to hire people from the region, the outcome will be adverse on the potential job-seekers there as well as business in general.




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