President Obama’s Visit To India

President Barrack Obama became the first American President to visit India twice, and the first to attend India’s Republic Day parade. He spent 3 days in New Delhi meeting with politicians, entrepreneurs and other policy makers.

There was lot of talk about the “bromance” between Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. It is the “Bromance of the year.” writes Bloomberg. Then there was that famous tea or “chai” break where Obama and Modi sat down to sip a cup of tea and talk. After the bromance and the chai-break on the first day, the second day was time for saw President Obama and Michelle Obama attending India’s  Republic Day Parade.

Was President Obama’s visit to India a success? It depends on how you look at it and which media coverage you read. The expectations were not too high from this visit points out The Economist.

What about the breakthrough in the nuclear deal between US and India? Was there a breakthrough or was this a hastily clobbered deal. Again, it depends what you read. “The announcement contained few specific details, and some are skeptical,” writes The Washington Post about a breakthrough in the nuclear deal.

Did President Obama’s presence at India’s Republic Day Parade send a signal to China asks The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Was that a signal that the Asian pivot towards India could happen asks WSJ.

And on the final day of his visit President Obama made his parting shot about religious freedom in India points out Reuters. That message on religious freedom is a politically sensitive message points out The Indian Express.

Anti-Americanism is Dead writes Dhruva Jaishankar, who steps back and provides a comprehensive picture of the visit  from three different lens – symbolic, political and practical. He makes a persuasive argument when he writes “(this visit is the) closest thing to a strategic partnership that is possible in an increasingly tactical world.”

And if you need a backgrounder on why President Obama went to India then Tanvi Madan of Brookings Institute has you covered in this article.

If you want to look at visuals from President Obama’s visit check out The White House Blog and Politico.

Podcast: Dr. Amin Jaffer On The Splendors of Indian Maharajas

LISTEN: Dr. Amin Jaffer on The Splendors of Indian Maharajas

Made For Maharajas by Dr. Amin Jaffer

Made For Maharajas by Dr. Amin Jaffer

The splendors of an Indian Maharaja’s court is the stuff of legend that you may have heard or read in books. Ever wondered how they lead their lives? What jewels or clothes they bought? Or, who designed their clothes and jewels? Or, what artwork they collected? There is a book that takes you behind the scenes and opens up the treasure chests of the various maharajas and maharanis of  pre-Independent India. India became independent on August 15, 1947.

Dr. Amin Jaffer‘s book  Made For Maharajas A Design Diary of Princely India (Vendome Press, 2006)  takes us on a splendid journey of the lifestyle of the rich and famous Indian maharajas and maharanis  from 1857 till 1947. And what a treasure trove these kings and queens amassed over the  years.

Europe was their preferred shopping destination. The well-heeled Indian elite rank among the early patrons of famous designer houses like  CartierBoucheronVan Cleef & ArpelsLouis Vuitton, Ferragamo, and others. And now more than 160 years later the same clutch of European design houses are back in India courting the rich and famous with their dazzling array of jewels, watches, bags, clothes and shoes.

What makes Dr. Jaffer’s  book interesting is the reproduction of receipts, and the stories of how the representative of the various design houses courted their Indian clients. Did you know that to date Cartier’s highest commission came from a sales transaction to the Maharaja of Patiala points out Dr. Jaffer. The design book is filled with stories about the lifestyle of Rani Molly of PudukkotaiYashwant Rao Holkar-II of IndoreMaharaja of Kapurthala; Maharaja of Patiala and numerous other Indian princes and princesses.

Dr. Jaffer is International Director of Asian Art at Christies.

This interview was originally recorded in 2006 when Dr. Jaffer was visiting Manhattan, New York.

President Obama’s Visit to India by Kal Penn

President Obama just wrapped up a 3-day visit to India. While the President’s visit to India may not have received extensive coverage in the US,  the Indian media scrutinized every move and gesture of the President. This is President Obama’s  second visit to India.

At a symbolic level President Obama’s meeting had a couple of firsts. This is also the first time  an American President has visited India twice. He is the the first American President to attend India’s Republic Day in New Delhi, India.

Traveling with President’s entourage were a handful of high-powered executive like Indira Nooyi of Pepsi, Ajay Bhanga of Mastercard, Vivek Ranadive of Tibco along with Nisha Biswal Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, U.S. Department of State, Ami Bera, California Congressman  and actor Kal Penn.

Kal Penn breaks down the importance of President Obama’s visit in this short little video that is worth watching. It comes complete with an Indian flavor – the ubiquitous autorickshaw, rick or scootie.  Take a dekho.

Podcast: Atul Chitnis on India’s Telecom Boom Part-I

LISTEN: Atul Chitnis on India’s Telecom Boom

Atule Chitnis

Atul Chitnis

In 2006 I did a series of interviews with technologists and entrepreneurs in India to understand the booming telecom (mobile) boom in India. One of the people I spoke to was the late Atul Chitnis, who described himself as a disruptive technologist. He is the person to talk in Bangalore was a common refrain I heard from other technologists. An incredibly accessible person Chitnis spent quite a bit of time then and later on talking about one of  his favorite subjects – technology.

In 2006 if you visited India, you would have seen an incredibly new phenomenon – mobile phones. Everyone seemed to have a Nokia mobile phone, and you had an incredible array of ring tones. People were either talking, sending missed calls or SMS (text). And it was uncommon to see folks with 2 or 3 phones. Back in the US, we were barely using our phones to text or SMS  and missed calls was a totally alien concept. Of course, things have changed now in 2014 both in India and US on how we use our mobile phones.

So, we turned to Chitnis to find out about the mobile phone and broadband boom in India. Internet has been available in India since 1996, but the whole concept of broadband is only a year old says Chitnis. However the lack of broadband does not preclude people from accessing the Internet.

An interesting profile of the Indian cell phone users is that they use their phones largely for non-voice traffic like SMS and accessing the Internet. Cell cell phones and mobile devices are increasingly being used to access the Internet. In fact Chitnis pays Rs. 600 (about $12-14) to use his GPRS phone to access the Internet 24/7.

One of the fascinating facets of the conversation was Chitnis’s  picture of  two Indias: one India  consists of a small minority of power users of technology and mobile device, and in the second India cell phones have become the main point of communication. While cell phones have become a basic necessity to both these groups the difference lies in the way they use these devices.

India is an unique position argues Chitnis. India does not have a baggage and history of using old technology and that puts the country in a unique position to implement the latest technology in the telecom space. For instance, the Indian government is actively involved in promoting open and free software, and IPV6 the next generation Internet protocol. The Indian government has put Internet technology on a fast track says Atul.

Internet is available, cell phones and mobile devices are available, but what is not available is a lack of awareness about mobile computing he argued. Chitnis is on a crusade to promote the use of mobile device as an alternative to the PC to access the Internet. He points out the mobile device goes with you, and you can use when you need, and wherever you need it.

Chitnis was born and brought up in Berlin, Germany and speaks fluent German. He relocated to India in the 1970s. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Gogte Institute of Technology.

Chitnis passed away on June 3, 2013 in Bangalore.

Photo credit: Atul Chitnis’s Facebook page

Podcast: Atul Chitnis on Telecom Boom in India Part-2

LISTEN: Atul Chitnis on Telecom Boom in India Part-2

Atule Chitnis

Atul Chitnis

We continue our series on the Indian Telecom boom. This interview was recorded in 2006.

In Part-II of our conversation with the late Atul Chitnis talks about the two competing technologies in India: CDMA and GSM, and how they are duking it out and finding their own levels in the Indian  market.

It was only four years ago (2002) that CDMA was introduced in India. Today, CDMA handsets have about 50% of the market share in India.

Chitnis points out the challenges in collecting statistics about cell phone users in India.  He feels that the number of cell phone users is higher than what is currently reported: about 90 million cell phone users. India is a unique market in many ways he points out.

India has been able to convert its late entry into the cell phone market by tapping into the latest telecom technology and fiber optics. As a result India’s phone lines are predominantly fiber optic and not copper wires says Chitnis.

Indian consumers are quick to adopt to this new technology, and cell phones have empowered a whole new section of the population. Possession of a cell phone was considered as a criteria to pay income tax in India. Atul points out this criteria can no longer be applied because of the changing profile of the Indian cell phone users. The whole notion of how to define Indian middle class in this new India has to be rethought says Atul.

Chitnis was born and brought up in Berlin, Germany, and speaks fluent German. He relocated to India in the 1970s. He has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Gogte Institute of Technology.

Chitnis  passed away in January 2013.

Photo credit: Atul Chitnis’s Facebook page


Podcast: Kevin Macdonald on the Making of Black Sea

LISTEN: Kevin Macdonald on the Making of Black Sea

Academy Award Winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald’s Black Sea” releases today in San Francisco bay area. We spoke to Macdonald about the making of “Black Sea,” and what drew him to this particular story about a group of ragged submariners, who want to salvage gold from a sunken World War Two submarine.

What was the real life event that got him thinking about a film on submarines? How did Macdonald work with a cast that consisted of international actors, where  half of them spoke English, while the other half spoke only Russian? What was the films he and his crew watched during the making of the film? Was there a political philosophical underpinning to the narrative, or was I reading too much into it?  We also spoke about his earlier films and about his grandfather, the legendary filmmaker Emmeric Pressburger. In the 1940s and 1950s  Michael Powell and Pressburger made films like  “The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp  and “The Red Shoes”  and influenced a lot of young filmmakers including Martin Scorsese. 

Black Sea directed by Kevin MacDonald. Photo courtesy - Focus Features

Black Sea

Black Sea” is written by Dennis Kelly and is a desperate tale about a group of submariners, who want to salvage gold from a sunken World War Two submarine in the Black Sea. Heading this ragtag group of British and Russian submariners is Captain Jude Robinson (Jude Law). This illicit expedition is backed by a rich financier, who wants a share of this gold. Now, when you are cooped up in a submarine with communication problems (since half the crew speaks English, and the other half speaks Russian), you are bound to encounter problems – a sort of Hobbesian world of nasty and brutish behavior. How does that in turn impact the success of the expedition? Does the group succeed in its mission?  You will have to see the film to find out how it ends.

“Black Sea” stars Jude Law, Scott McNair, Ben Mendelsohn, David ThrelfallKonstantin Khabensky,  and Grigoriy Eduardovich Dobrygin. Cinematography by Christopher Ross.

Photo Courtesy: Focus Features

Podcast: Gurcharan Das on The Difficulty of Being Good Part-2

LISTEN: Gurcharan Das on The Difficulty of Being Good Part-2

Gurcharan Das Podcast The Kamla Show

Gurcharan Das

In Part-2 of our conversation Gurcharan Das we continue our conversation about his new book “The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma.” Das  turned to the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata to study the concepts of dharma or doing the right thing.  He writes that the Mahabharata “is unique in engaging with the world of politics.” He writes, “The Mahabharata is about our incomplete lives, about good people acting badly, about how difficult it is to be good in this world.”

Can the ancient Indian epic help us understand the moral failure of governance and financial disasters of the 21st century? Tune in to find out.

Before turning a writer Das spent his life in the corporate world. After finishing his undergraduate studies at Harvard University, he turned to India, where he helped spearhead and make Vicks Vaporub, a household name.He was the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, India and later became the Managing Director, Procter & Gamble Worldwide.

In case, you missed you can listen to Part-1 of our interview with Gurcharan Das.

This interview was recorded in Silicon Valley in October 2010.

Photo credit:


Podcast: Gurcharan Das on The Difficulty of Being Good Part-1

LISTEN: Gurcharan Das on The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma Part-1

Gurcharan Das Podcast The Kamla Show

Gurcharan Das

When Gurcharan Das took an early retirement from his corporate job he decided to pursue a “full-time career as a writer.” And that change in direction from a corporate life to a scholarly pursuit was greeted with a fair amount of surprise. How could this be? He was a “box-wallah“  or a corporate executive. Mr.Das was the CEO of Proctor and Gamble, India who later became the Managing Director, Procter & Gamble Worldwide.

That was in 2002 and since then he has published India Unbound,” and writes regular columns for a handful of Indian newspaper. The Satyam Scandal, dubbed as the largest corporate scandal in India prompted Das to ask how could this be? What induced this moral failure on the part of a well-known Indian entrepreneur? How do you maintain your moral compass under difficult and trying circumstances?

He turned to the Mahabharata, the old Indian epic and wondered if this “dark and epic” tale could provide answers to his question about moral failure in business, government and human beings? He spent time at the University of Chicago learning Sanskrit and reading the Mahabharata.

The result of his reflection and studying the Mahabharata resulted in is his latest book “The Difficulty of Being Good: On The Subtle Art of Dharma.” In it Das writes that the Indian epic “is unique in engaging with the world of politics.” What is more he points out the epic is “suspicious of ideology.”

“The Mahabharata is about our incomplete lives, about good people acting badly, about how difficult it is to be good in this world,” writes Das.

Das studied at Harvard University and wrote his undergraduate thesis under the supervision of John Rawls, a well-known American philosopher.

This interview was recorded in Silicon Valley in October 2010.

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Podcast: Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn and Entrepreneurship Part-1

LISTEN: Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn Part-1

Reid Hoffman on The Kamla Show

Reid Hoffman

This interview was recorded in late 2008 at LinkedIn’s Mountain View office.

Reid Hoffman co-founded LinkedIn in his living room in Silicon Valley in 2002. The company went IPO in 2011. This was the first time an American social network company is going public to raise money. Hoffman owned about 20 percent of LinkedIn shares before it went IPO.

Hoffman worked at PayPal and eBay before co-founding LinkedIn. He is currently executive chairman of LinkedIn, and is a partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm.

Is LinkedIn a clone of Hoffman’s brain as an article in LA Times put it? We wanted to find out when we spoke to him in this long-ranging 2-part interview with him.

In Part-1 of the interview Hoffman talks about the general philosophy behind LinkedIn, how he started it and their plans to expand in India.He also talks about other social network and where LinkedIn fits into the social network landscape. Here is how Hoffman put it: “Now the metaphor that I frequently use when we are talking about the three current giants’ is: MySpace is the bar, Facebook is home and LinkedIn is the office.”

A lot has changed since we did this interview in 2008. MySpace is not a dominant player it once was. In 2011 MySpace was purchased by Specific Media Group and Justin Timberlake. There are lots of new social media players today and Twitter leads the pack. The social media world today is vastly different from what it was in 2008.

This interview was originally published by LiveMint, a leading Indian business newspaper.

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Podcast: Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn, Entrepreneurship and Small Good Part-2

LISTEN: Reid Hoffman on LinkedIn, Entrepreneurship and Small Good Part-2

Reid Hoffman on The Kamla Show

Reid Hoffman

This interview was recorded in 2008 at LinkedIn’s office in Mountain View.

LinkedIn was co-founded by Reid Hoffman in 2002 and was officially launced in 2003. Hoffman is often described as the most connected person in Silicon Valley. He is the executive chairman of LinkedIn and a partner at Greylock Partners, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley.

In Part-2 of the interview Hoffman talks about his journey as an entrepreneur. After he graduated from Stanford, he went to Oxford from where he received his Master’s and came back to Silicon Valley to start a company. But, he had to wait a few  years before he realized that dream. In the interim he worked at PayPal and eBay and then went to realize his dream, which became the successful company LinkedIn.

In this episode we find out from Hoffman about his famous notion of a small good. What is small good and how it help people? What advice Hoffman have to offer young entrepreneurs? What does technology mean to him? What have the seven deadly sins got to do with entrepreneurship? What keeps him awake at nights? Can I get out all the features out in time is Hoffman’s prompt answer. And the one word that he would use to describe himself? What about LinkedIn’s plans in India? How does LinkedIn plan to stay relevant in the mobile world? Tune in to find out what Reid has to say about all these questions.

In case you missed, you might want to listen to Part-1 of the interview with Hoffman.

This interview was recorded in LinkedIn’s Mountain View office in 2008 and originally published by LiveMint.

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