Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Politics in India is seldom about real people issues . Most of the political parties seem to have an auto response to oppose most issues that have not been initiated by them . In the rhetoric it is the people and businesses who suffer and pay the cost .

Ratan Tata's statement that Tata will move out of West Bengal if the situation does not change is noteworthy in many ways . It signals courage , a willingness to make changes even in the face of significant costs . The way in which is a business is done and run is as important as the business itself . 

Should Tata actually decide to move the Nano out of West Bengal it will set a powerful precedent - for businesses and politicians across India. Articulating the possibility has already set an example .

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Exploring India's textile heritage

At SoulQuest we are committed to bringing Indian techniques and materials to the fashion world .As part of this journey we explore various regions of India to understand better it's textile heritage and find innovative ways to weave it into contemporary fashion. It's inspiring and heartening to see the work of committed individuals and groups across India who have persevered diligently to nurture craft traditions and make them accessible. 

As we see more of the textile heritage of India it's clear that very little of it gets presented internationally . The surprising bit is that it is inadequately presented within India too . Delhi probably has the sole distinction of the metro that has many regional products available in retail through stores or exhibitions . In most other cities products with the textile heritage of various regions are available in a fragmented way . Or when available it is often too highly priced or represents a certain(limited) aspect at best of the technique or craft . The look is predictable. This is unfortunate because it creates a vicious cycle that affects the craftspersons the most and ultimately the craft . Viewed in this context - the contribution of various individuals and groups in different regions working to nurture and revive the craft traditions of the region - is invaluable.

When crafts and traditional skills decline it naturally affects the artisans the most . The loss however is not only that of the artisans . Consumers lose too. Hand made products have a beauty that cannot be created by machine .

Exploring India's textile heritage and seeking to find unusual ways to share it with the world is an exhilarating journey .

What next ? Green cigarettes ?

A British arms and ammunition manufacturer BAE systems had announced that it will make 'green' weapons . Lead free bullets , grenades which emit less smoke , tanks with hybrid engines, as well as explosives , which , if unused can be turned into compost .

Victims of war would breathe a little easier knowing that they will be attacked by eco friendly ammunition ?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What can one person do ?

As part of a larger society there is a strong tendency on part of individuals to cede power to a nameless , amorphous collective . Whether the subject is the infrastructure of the city one resides in , global climate change , rising consumerism , values in the work place or any other matter ."What can one person do ?" Such fatalism quickly becomes self fulfilling prophesy and serves to perpetuate status quo (if not make matters worse ). In an era where promises of instant gratification jump out of every advertisement somewhere it probably has the unforeseen consequence making a person feel that changes must also come forth rapidly (if not instantly) and if not - the issue is not worth persevering with or I can't /won't persevere with this.
* issue refers to matters that extend beyond the individual

In an interconnected universe ( no reference to globalization or the internet ) every action and non-action makes a difference . 

In every quarter of the planet progress on any matter has been enabled / catalyzed by one individual who enrolled another and eventually a group whose collective action was seen as change/revolution/progress. The contribution may vary from outlining a vision , reaching out in support , inspiring through action , bringing hope , joy , love...... Like the innumerable ripples in water created by a stone an individual's action makes a difference beyond the span of individual vision ( and sometimes lifetime).

Millions in our world don't have access to education , health care , opportunities . People who do have the responsibility to look beyond the borders of their individual life and make a (positive) difference.

Coming back to the question "What can one person do ? " 

A lot .

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Book store

There's a small bookstore which I (used to ) frequent . Went there recently to look for books on specific subjects . While in the store I remembered that I needed a particular issue of a magazine . Turned out that it was the last week's issue and no longer in stock . Asked the store manager if he could get me a copy . He readily declined . No "sorry, I don't think we would be able to organize it". Just "It's not possible. It's already 4 days since that issue was returned ". I tried to reason with him that it would be easier for him as a store to get a copy than for me as a consumer . His response was that he had tried it once earlier and it was not possible.

In retrospect I realized that the store had another person running it until few months ago . That individual was service oriented and had managed to get me several books based on my request . During visits to the store he would recommend books based on his understanding of my preference. 

Book retailing (like most other businesses ) is extremely competitive . Large stores draw customers with the depth and breadth of offerings , loyalty programs . Books can be easily purchased on-line .Magazines can be purchased from magazine stalls across the city or through subscriptions. For a small book store to thrive their best bet is to develop a strong understanding of the customers , provide personalized service on a consistent basis .
Not everyone seeks the impersonal service of a large retailer. A lot of consumers would prefer patronizing a store that offers them recognition and personalized service . 

The new store in-charge seems to have no connect with the product or the customers . He could well be selling chips or cement.

People with strong service orientation and product knowledge are invaluable assets in the retail business . Without them a business has to work harder on all other aspects (product range , price , non-price benefits ) to offer compelling reasons for customers to walk in and share their time and money.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

It's in your head

I agree with the view that growth and progress is strongly and primarily influenced by the state of mind and attitude . Traditional analysis places way too much emphasis on 'external' factors . History provides ample evidence of individuals , groups , companies , regions and countries who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to create meaningful success .

Perhaps one way when corporates have their review meetings their powerpoint slides will have a section on 'our state of mind' in addition to the sections on economy , markets , currency , inflation , competition.....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Unusual store

The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York has opened retail stores at locations other than the Museum . The stores offer merchandise which are inspired by the objects / art forms in the museum . The inspiration for each piece in the store is explained in a note that accompanies it.

A wonderful idea to bring these museum object inspired products to consumers . One may go to the museum rarely (perhaps never ) . But a beautiful product inspired by an ancient art form can be purchased and be appreciated .

Seldom do museums venture beyond the confines of their physical premises .

The website is comprehensive , detailed and easy to navigate . Making the art more accessible to folks across the world .

The initiative by the Met Museum is innovative and enterprising .