Monday, August 28, 2006

A meeting of fears

I’M sure the final number will be a multiple of this number, but at this minute I’m aware of 619 kinds of fear. From theophobia (fear of God) to satanophobia (of Satan), it seems for every thing and thought that exists, there’s a fear someone harbours. Often one man’s phobia is another man’s mania — caligynephobia (of beautiful women) or chrematophobia (of money), for instance. Show me a man who’s completely fearless and I’ll show you the face of God.

Opinion in The Indian Express, August 28, 2006

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The best always retire

One of my long-time colleagues never watches business channels, is unconcerned about which companies create wealth, is least interested in business personalities — they’re so boring, he says. So, when he tells me that he enjoyed watching the silver jubilee celebrations of Infosys, and in particular found its executives, notably chairman and chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy, “interesting people”, I wondered whether he has finally crossed the line dividing big business from the rest of us. “Not at all,” he says, “they speak a language that is not self-aggrandising, self-promoting. They’re humble and talk about the very big picture and the place of Infosys in it, rather than the other way round.”

Opinion in The Indian Express, August 22, 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Spiritual shorthand

Prophets, messiahs and souls we call ‘realised’ have had a few common mantras — ideas that have transcended civilisations, geographies, histories. These spiritual LCMs (lowest common denominators), while seemingly simple to read and understand, are exceedingly complex to execute. I’ll take just three: ‘Have faith’, ‘Everything happens for the best (EHFTB)’, and ‘Surrender to God’s will (STGW)’. So many generations of Indians have passed on these homilies as truth, without going through the rigour of assimilating them, questioning them. Perhaps that’s why we are such a contented nation, active to a point, inert beyond. Many wear these badges almost as stars and stripes on their shoulders.

Opinion in The Indian Express, August 20, 2006

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Premium league needs a level playing field

The underreported July 7, 2006 circular by The Oriental Insurance Company (OIC) on zero commissions for its Mediclaim policy for individuals over 55 is the result of a typical half-way reforms trap, a three-sided prism that takes the clean white concept of market and colours it in hues of morality, subsidies, social justice. Side 1: reversal of the level playing field argument, being made by an incumbent, state-owned company. Side 2: 40,000 incumbent agents and brokers seeking to revoke their money trails. Side 3: 350,000 policyholders, who need health insurance the most and at the cheapest price. This circular has everything that helps turn reforms into a four letter word. It has more to do with the process of opening up a sector, with the way PSUs are transformed into delivering social justice than with servicing policyholders and investors.
Read beyond the order and you see three questions underlying it:
• Should public sector companies subsidise private sector ones?
• Should the young subsidise the old, the healthy subsidise the unhealthy?
• Should fire or marine insurance subsidise health and motor third party insurance?

Opinion in The Indian Express, August 10, 2006