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Review : The Great Indian Middle Class by Pavan K.Varma

The book " The Great Indian Middle Class"  looks at the evolution of the  Indian middle class from the  pre Independence era till date.  The author notes that Jawaharlal Nehru , the first prime minister of  India was  modern,  had a scientific and rationalist outlook and did not care much for religious rituals.  

However, in recent years as people have become  wealthier and acquired more materialistic goods like consumer gadgets,  many of  them have also become less modern in some ways, blindly spending time and money on irrational activities.  He notes that an educated middle class person will publicly denounce some of the harmful traditions like dowry , but will privately do exactly the opposite.  In the chapter " Inner Landscape" , he notes that  "The young in the middle class are even more susceptible to blindly imitating the West than their parents were", which is very true.

He concludes by noting that a nation will not be considered great or a superpower  if  only a small section of  its society is wealthy, but when it also treats its poor and vulnerable with care and concern.  This book  gives a very realistic glimpse of  Indian society society, shorn of all the hype and gloss.

The Great Indian Middle Class by Pavan K.Varma

Pages : 243

Publisher : Penguin India

Review : Wise & Otherwise by Sudha Murty

This is a collection of 50  short stories which reflect the good, bad and ugly facets of human nature. Most of the stories are 2 to 3 pages long,  but  provide glimpses of society today.

One thought provoking story is "The truth about women"  , Page 144 , where she reflects that though women have equal rights on paper, in reality their status is different in India and harassment from narrow minded men is common.  She also notes that in countries where women are truly treated fairly and with respect are those which also enjoy the high per capita income.   

Wise & Otherwise by Sudha Murty

Pages : 224

Publisher : Penguin books

Review : Connect the Dots by Rashmi Bansal

If  you read the news and reports in the mainstream media,  being an entrepreneur in India is simple - have a good product or service  at a competitive price, do some marketing.  But  the ground realities are very different, there  is no shortage of  companies (especially the bigger ones) who will try to  destroy your business by spreading false rumours and using every dirty trick in their book to harm you.

"Connect the Dots"   has stories of  20  Indian entrepeneurs who have built their business . While she covers the usual things like the finances, branding, product, marketing, the best part of  the book are the underhand methods companies use to damage / destroy their competitors.  Dirty tactics may work for  commodity products , but unhappy people are unlikely to produce results  if it involves innovation or research.   A good read for any one who is planning to or has become an entrepreneur after a corporate job and has no family business background or support.

Connect the Dots by Rashmi Bansal

Pages : 305 (excluding photographs)

Publisher : Eklavya Education Foundation

Review : Mistaken Modernity by Dipankar Gupta

Though I dress very traditionally (salwar kameez , plaited hair , oil in hair - my choice),  my business as an online publisher is related to domain names and web hosting which is "high tech" by Indian standards and I often wonder why my way of thinking is so different from others. I grew up in Goa in the 70's and 80's when it still had a strong Portuguese influence (it was liberated from portugal in 1961), admission to IIT Bombay was based on merit and  Larsen & Toubro where I worked in the 1990's had a European / professional work culture. In last decade I have devoted almost all my time to my business and have had a very limited interaction with typical / traditional Indian families.

Reading "Mistaken Modernity" by Dipankar Gupta was a revelation, it shows that though people may be outwardly modern in the clothes and their material possessions, many of them are not modern in their thinking , they lack the ability to appreciate merit or innovate.
The section on the status of women in the chapter "Tenacious Traditions", explains why I am almost always incorrectly addressed as "Sir" instead "Miss" especially when I enquire about technical stuff like USB to SATA / IDE cables  . It also touches on why rumours (which are often baseless and not supported by facts)  flourish in India and why so many people believe them.

If you are planning an ecommerce (or related) business then Chapter 3, It Just Isn't Cricket is a must read. The author has described  a modern society as one in which the achievements and hard work of the individual are recognised and laws are the same for everyone. However changing the mindset of people takes time.

Mistaken Modernity, India between worlds by Dipankar Gupta

Pages: 235

Publishers : HarperCollins India with The India Today Group, Fourth Impression : 2007

Review: Mahashweta by Sudha Murty

The story  of  Anupama  who is afflicted by leukoderma but rebuilds her shattered life, importance of  "status" and lack of scientific temper in India today.  Also on how some doctors in India , who despite having  a formal science education  do not overcome the superstitions, meaningless rituals and blind faith in dealing with people in their personal life. They sometimes lack sympathy while treating their patients.

Mahashweta by Sudha Murty

Pages : 154

Publisher: Penguin India

Review: Being Indian by Pavan K Varma

One of the best books I have read about real Indian culture, society and morals.   Reading this book helps me understand why

  •  it is so difficult for a entrepreneur with only professional qualifications and experience but no family background or community support to establish himself or herself
  •  ecommerce has not taken off

Being Indian by Pavan K Varma

Pages : 238

Publisher : Penguin Books India

Review : Ambani & Sons By Hamish McDonald

Ambani & Sons By Hamish McDonald is an updated /revised version of the author's earlier book,  The Polyester Prince - the rise of Dhirubhai Ambani.  The  Polyester Prince was never published in India , and  today 2  used copies are available online at Amazon for $909.90 and $999 + shipping (the list price of the book was $15.95) .

The book provides information on the family background of  the Ambanis, their Modh Bania  community , the financial network, political connections and affiliations and their rise to become the richest Indians in the country. The most interesting part of this book for me was the intelligence network developed by Indian family owned businesses to keep track of current and potential allies and rivals, something they don't teach you in college and a job in conventional big companies. 

 Ambani & Sons By Hamish McDonald

Pages : 396

Publisher : Roli Books - The Lotus Collection

Books and magazines

In recent months , I have greatly increased reading of books and magazines because

  • The quality of the online content available is poor
  • the same advertising is shown repeatedly

It is also much more simpler to order books online.