K.V. Kamath’s comments in “Indian Century”, Mint, 30 March, give one confidence that the Indian growth story may be sustained for another one or two decades in line with the wishes of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We should not hesitate to say that India’s growth story is the story of Infosys, TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) and Wipro. It is evident that the Tata group’s Telco or Tisco could not give an international face to India whereas TCS has written an Indian story of knowledge-based growth. Today, the outside world knows us as the country that Infosys or TCS come from. The need is to replicate such successes and give guidance to the talent pool available in India. We need to understand that the strength of India lies in knowledge-based industry.
It’s true that for small stockholders “It’s (un)happy new year”—Mint, 3 April. For small investors like me who are above 60 years and who depend on these investments, the downfall naturally created a panic rush for selling. Why are both RBI and the government now so aggressive in controlling inflation—to save the government in the coming UP elections? Why were they quiet for a long time? Won’t RBI’s order have a far-reaching impact not only on the equity market but also on all markets, ranging from commodities to housing and realty as well as the overall profitability of banks? We are unable to understand why the Prime Minister and the finance minister (both famed economists) failed to arrest inflation in time.
–Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee
This line in ‘What is the number’, Möbius Strip, Mint, 26 March, caught my attention: “From a time not too long ago when overt financial aspiration was frowned upon...middle-class India is trying to make up for lost time.”
In his book, India Unbound, Gurcharan Das offers an interesting explanation for this strange loathing for money that gripped the Indian middle class previously. He attributes this quirk to the caste system where Vaishyas, the traditional bankers and traders in Hindu society, came below the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas in the hierarchy. Since the latter two didn’t understand money matters well, they viewed Vaishyas as cunning crooks. “As a child, I remember that my grandmother used to admonish our grocer for manipulating his weighing scale. It was the same with our family jeweller, but with him she did it with more finesse... It was always a case of us—educated, honest, taxpaying citizens vs. them—tax-dodging, street-smart traders.”
The second chapter narrates how this mistrust of the trading class found its way into India’s economic policy soon after independence. The socialist wave worsened the bias. Nehru’s economic policy was deeply suspicious of private enterprise. Business houses such as the Birlas and the Lalbhai (Arvind Mills) group, that had shown remarkable entrepreneurial spirit in pre-independence India, found their freedom restricted and focused on ingratiating the ‘babudom’ to thrive in the licence raj.
Reverting to the article’s point about the changing attitudes of Indians towards money, my own experience reflects this, too. Apart from being Brahmins, we are also a family of academics! Money was no taboo, but was treated like an abstract science best left to experts. This is changing. My dad, never much of an investor before, is today quite enthusiastic about the returns he gets from the equity-linked insurance policies he bought from a private company. My mother, who used to equate stock markets with the lottery, is prepared to give mutual fund managers a shot at her retirement savings. I, an engineer who had dreams of doing a doctorate, have just completed my MBA and am now busy calculating THE NUMBER!