Tuesday, October 21, 2008

an entirely avoidable drama

Today there was uncertainity in Mumbai , violence in several locations - all courtesy the arrest of Raj Thakerey .
Roads had a deserted look, vehicle and pedestrian traffic was a fraction of the daily levels , several shops , restaurants were closed .By late afternoon there were calls from friends and associates suggesting to close office early and leave for home . While I did not like the idea of doing so as it would cede that much more power to communal forces like the MNS , I felt obliged to offer the option of leaving early to my colleagues . Interestingly they rejected the idea spontaneously . Overall we had a productive day. This unfortunately was not the experience of thousands of citizens and businesses across Mumbai today. 

In a day and age when we need to be thinking not just in nationalistic terms but as citizens of the planet it is unfortunate to see forces like the MNS take a regressive stand on communal grounds . And dissipate the time , energy and resources of the citizens of this country. If the world is some reflection of the collective self then this is one scary image .One that should jolt us into firm action to create Mumbai into a city that the citizens of the world look to for inspiration .

Monday, October 20, 2008

an avoidable drama

The recent episode of Jet Airways making an announcement to retrench 1100 employees and the reversal with the chairman stating that “The management will have to understand sometimes in a family there are disagreements but the father of the family decides.” had the weirdness one would normally associate with Ekta Kapoor serials . The drama was entirely avoidable .

Jet did not reach it's current employee numbers overnight . Neither were the recruitments done without the knowledge of Jet . When an organization faces challenging times(due to external factors or a crisis of it's own making) it's necessary to look at all aspects of the business to save costs . And not put people on the chopping block as the first measure . Even if retrenchment / retrenchment on this scale was the only way out there were far more humane ways to go about it .

After this episode Jet can probably add ' rebuild employee trust and morale' to it's to-do list.

One hopes that the Jet episode will be instructive for other companies who may be contemplating similar measures as the first course of action .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nurture the craft

Visited an exhibition in Mumbai recently by SEWA Lucknow . Extensive range of hand embroidered dupattas , kurtas , sarees . Most of it very average in design and quality . It was disheartening to see an institution that was once responsible for the revival and popularization of Lucknowi embroidery bring mediocre products in all categories to an exhibition.

While SEWA Lucknow's ranges at the Mumbai exhibitions have never come anywhere close to the pinnacle of the Lucknowi embroidery - the range at this exhibition was a new low compared even to their earlier ranges . It is possible that they endeavored to make products to fit into some price points . There was a limited range of heavily embroidered products . Those too were disappointing in terms of quality.
(it is possible that my assessment stems from the quality of hand embroidered products we develop and source as SoulQuest . And that lay consumers may have found the range worth trying especially considering the price ranges )

It takes a lot to nurture traditional craft forms . There are no formal schools that impart training . It is knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation . Unlike factory produced goods there aren't any objective standards to assess quality in hand made . The 'quality' in hand made ranges from impeccable , exquisite work to average to shoddy . Passion , rigor and discipline are crucial to ensure that the creations consistently do justice to the craft and the artisan.

Here's hoping that the next range from SEWA Lucknow will delight - for design and quality.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sari for a hammock...

Insightful article by Shoba Narayan in the MINT LOUNGE. She spans various aspects of design and style in an insightful way . The examples of the Indian context are worth pondering .

As a people, I believe that we Indians are stylish. I don’t mean the Page 3 socialites who have fallen prey to Western dictates (and brand names) of what constitutes style. I mean that rural India has a style that is entirely and uniquely our own. It is in the upturned jootis and the dignified walk of a turban-clad farmer in Rajasthan; in the crisp folds of a Bengal cotton sari, especially when worn by pretty much any woman in Kolkata; in the green bangles of a koli fisherwoman who goes to Crawford Market; in the pristine white “mundu” dhoti of Kerala politicians including defence minister A.K. Antony; in the graceful walk of any woman who balances a pot of water on her head. Wherever you look in India, we have a style and grace that is a mixture of Bauhaus functionality and Baroquean exuberance. It follows Mies van der Rohe’s dictate that form must follow function and then adds a fillip of colour and je ne sais quoi to it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Women's magazines

While going through women's magazines (the English publications ) in India recently I noticed that the women featured in the articles are mostly dressed in western attire # . Very few articles or even photographs of celebrities show Indian attire * . Most of the dressing tips too tend to almost exclusively focus on western wear ( this sometimes doubles as humor e.g every city girl needs a Birkin bag . Really ? most city girls in India would draw a blank at the phrase 'Birkin Bag') . 
* exceptions being coverage of the Lakme Fashion week :)
# while writing this post I reviewed a recent issue of Femina . The 190 page issue had totally 6-7 photographs of women in kurtas / sarees. This included some PR type photos of some events ( excluding ads in which there was hardly any Indian wear anyway . Maybe brands are missing an opportunity here )

While I love my western attire I'm not certain that magazines turning geography and culture neutral is doing the readers any good . There's a treasure trove of elegant and exquisite Indian attire that deserves the spot light .A wide range of traditional , hand woven fabrics that are timeless and stunning . Silhouettes that are kind on the wearer .The sheer diversity and richness of India's textile heritage is breath taking . Many of the hand woven fabrics are visual poetry. This richness and diversity is not limited to clothing . Accessories like bags , jewelry inspired by India's textile heritage / which complement Indian attire can be showcased effectively in women's magazines . Showcased not as a flavor of the season or only around the festive season . Showcased in an ongoing way that acknowledges the cultural context and the textile heritage of the portion of the pale blue dot we are privileged to inhabit .

Monday, October 13, 2008

Say no to plastic

Visited a supermarket recently . Behind the cash counters there are signs which say "say NO to plastic , plastic is harmful"with rather gory pictures of a landfill filled with plastic bags . Logically one would think that the store offers alternative material as packaging . No . Every purchase is packed in a plastic bag . There is no cloth bag or paper bag in sight . No alternatives to plastic bags that a consumer could even buy (since the store wasn't giving it anyway ).

While waiting for the bill to be prepared I asked to speak with the Manager. Showed him the posters and asked why they continue to pack in plastic bags and offer no alternative. By his reaction it seemed that this was the first time he was contemplating the contradiction . He tried saying that they had kept some bags but consumers were not willing to pay Rs 50 (approx 1-1.20 $ depending on currency movements )for the bag.  Very few consumers would agree to pay Rs 50 every time they popped into the store for a purchase . If this was the only initiative by the store then it seems more like a business proposition ( to earn margins on the cloth bags ) rather than action driven by ideology and a genuine concern for the environment .

Coming back to the store manager . He tried to blame the consumers for the fact that they continue to use plastic bags . Yours truly has taken to carrying a folding bag around on a daily basis . This one choice alone helps to reduce the personal consumption of plastic bags significantly ( staff at some fashion clothing stores look at me in dismay when I decline their bags ). I had a folding bag with me and fished it out to accommodate  nearly 50% of the items purchased . Showed it to the store manager and suggested that they could offer some kind of incentive to consumers who bring their own bags . The amount itself may not be much . But it would be recognition for planet friendly efforts . They could even weave it into the loyalty program e.g 5 consecutive purchases done without plastic bags qualify for extra points . 

Plastic bag is among other things a habit . Once consumers get used to carrying a bag around to this store they are likely to carry it for other purchases as well .

Problems don't always have simple solutions . But that does not mean that the search for solutions should be abandoned (in so many situations the seeming complexity of the problem deters from even attempting a solution ) .

Do write in with suggestions for alternatives to plastic bags .

Say no to plastic .

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's in a bottle ?

Roberto Cavalli has designed bottles for Coke Light. A limited run of 300,000 bottles will be distributed in Italy.

"In every woman there’s a special spark that makes her unique and comes out unexpectedly every time she follows her instincts. It bowls over anyone who is watching her," addsCristina Santucci, Marketing Director of Coca-Cola Italia. "This joint project with Roberto Cavalli aims to offer a collector’s version of the Coca-Cola light bottle, to appeal to women with a strong personality, who are extrovert, modern and like to experiment; women who love beauty, design, art and culture. We want to remind them to bring out the unique, authentic side to their character. Either through a Roberto Cavalli dress or by collecting a limited edition Coca-Cola light bottle designed by Roberto Cavalli."

For those who (like me ) thought that a coke was a coke....

The next frontier would be designer bottles for tap water ?

Cheers !

Thursday, October 2, 2008