The article “Power of unreasonable people”, by Rajni Bakshi in Mint, 13 February, echoed my thoughts about the mega charities of a mega capitalist like Bill Gates. I have thought of this as the dawn of a new business model—of the kind in which the profits are not shared by just the shareholders, but also by third parties having no direct and apparent stakes in a company. The question that arises is how many CEOs would be interested in this kind of profit sharing? Another question: Wouldn’t Gates be doing bigger social service just by throwing open the source code?
In “Terrorism may become a salient issue in polls”, Mint, 11 February, G.V.L. Narasimha Rao’s comment, that with L.K. Advani’s image as a hardliner and strong leader, “his prime ministerial bid will get a boost if terrorism and internal security become key issues in next year’s Lok Sabha elections”, won’t cut ice in the BJP’s favour. Advani has the temerity to speak of a tough response to the terror threat when he should be facing trial for dereliction of duty. It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Advani’s failure that led to then foreign minister Jaswant Singh escorting three terrorists from Indian jails to Kandahar, where the hijacked Indian Airlines plane was parked in December 1999. These terrorists then went on to conduct high-profile attacks and fan insurgency in India, and one was involved in the kidnapping and killing of Daniel Pearl.
Rao’s comment that during the NDA regime “the attacks were largely... in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir, in recent years the terrorists have struck at will all over the country and particularly in the metropolitan cities” is totally vague. Public memory is not so short—it was the NDA regime which saw the attack on Parliament, the 2002 Mumbai blast, attacks at the Akshardham temple in Gujarat, Lal Qila, and many more. There are many flaws in the UPA, which it has miserably failed to check, but the previous (NDA) government was unable to tackle issues as well. The fact is that if one government is weak, the next one can’t be significantly stronger—and thus it continues.
—Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee
Coming soon after the launch of the Tata Nano and its plans to export to Europe, the news that Chrysler wants to “be the best little car company in America”, (“Small is big: Chrysler lays out radical turnaround plan”) Mint, 11 February, made interesting reading. Are we finally realizing the huge potential of producing for the masses?
Take, for example, how used-car prices have crashed in recent months, in India. Car rentals are sill a costly proposition for the common man—starting at say, Rs1,000 per day, or Rs12 per km. Imagine if one could hire a Maruti or a Santro for Rs1,500 a month! Or, if one wanted to go to the Mumbai airport some 30km away, one could pick a car at Colaba and leave it at the airport—all for Rs50 plus fuel. There could be more exciting options for inter-city travel. If one could drive to Pune, use the car there, and leave it there to return by train. The possibilities are endless; we just need an innovative mind.
As C.K. Prahalad would say, there’s a fortune to be made at the bottom of the pyramid if we get the costing and scale right. What India has done in mobile phones can now be done in used-car rentals. In other words, small is not only big, it is big business.