Globe-trotting PM cements India’s Political Relations and Gets Investors
Long ago there were two countries whose destinies were intertwined by history, now years later, they have come together to seal £9bn worth of commercial deals in the retail, logistics, energy, finance, IT, education and health sectors. Britain’s rule helped make India into a modern nation and India’s wealth and military manpower sustained Britain as a superpower. Burying the issues of racialism and slavery, under a new dawn, David Cameron and Narendra Modi have joined hands to build two powerful nations which would be sharing their resources to start an enlightening period.
Before being received at Buckingham Palace, Modi took part in a round table of British and Indian business leaders in Downing Street
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the United Kingdom from November 12 to 14 to burnish India’s resources in international eyes and to further enhance India’s branding. Highlighting India’s continued high economic growth trajectory, improving ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index and the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Report, Modi managed to emphasize on India’s growing leadership and its emergence into the global form. India’s rapidly growing middle-class consumer market and burgeoning investments in the UK gave David Cameron plenty to gain by giving Modi a grand welcome and ensuring that ongoing radical situation in India does not hamper, on what both the nations are to gain from the partnership.
One of the highlights of Modi’s UK trip was the much-touted rupeedenominated ‘masala bonds’ that will raise capital in London for India’s modernization of railways, housing, green energy etc. They illustrate the PM’s assertion that his foreign policy benefits the poorest of Indians by upping their quality of life. For denouncers who alleged that Modi does more foreign policy and less domestic policy, they were reminded that global and local are connected and may help to leverage the links in a great manner. As per Cameron, the partnership between the nations is of great strategical significance and that both are united by the ambition of boosting the respective countries.
Before being received at Buckingham Palace, Modi took part in a round table of British and Indian business leaders in Downing Street, thus attempting to lay the legacy of British imperialism to rest, by clubbing the resources on terror,
The two Prime Ministers also agreed that their governments would work together to support ‘Make in India’ on indigenous defense projects
defense and cyber security. From technology transfer in defense to going after the Lashkar-e-Toiba, from cyber security to tackling online child pornography, a new joint statement on defense and security has emerged as a major takeaway from the meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart David Cameron on Thursday and Friday. The two spent a considerable amount of time talking about terrorism at the Chequers, Cameron’s country residence where Modi spent the night. This is the first time a joint statement of this nature has been signed between the two countries. It explicitly mentions the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Hizbul- Mujahideen, the Haqqanis and concluded that the two countries will work together to disrupt “all financial and tactical support for terrorist networks”, including Islamic State and al-Qaeda. India and the UK stand united .against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and support the early finalization of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
On defense cooperation, the joint statement said that UK and India will “elevate” their defense relationship by establishing capability partnerships in strategic areas, through which they will work together across the spectrum of doctrine, training and other elements upon which military effectiveness depends.
The two PMs also agreed that their governments would work together to support ‘Make in India’ on indigenous defense projects. Cyber security also emerged as a priority during the visit. According to the joint statement, the two countries will work together to provide world-class expertise, education and training to their nations’ cyber security professionals. The two countries agreed to expand the UK’s Chevening Cyber Scholarships programme for India and establish a Cyber Security Training Centre of Excellence. On online child pornography, they said the two sides will work together, in partnership with their nations’ technology industries, on the global ‘We PROTECT’ initiative to combat “online child sexual exploitation”.
In this regard, they said the UK will provide advice on the setting up of the new Indian Cyber Crime. Cameron, claimed that 2017 will be a UK-India Year of Culture, bringing into the prospect the mundane truth that this trip is about seeking advantage in the day-to-day politics of both countries. Modi has been whirling around the world in the 18 months since he took office seeking to woo the 35 million-strong Indian diaspora, wanting their support, and also to attract more of their investment and skills back to India. The trip is more of an appeal to further enhance the growth of the country. The reason for a grand welcome of Modi by Cameron cannot just be credited to enhance the Cameron political arena does want to erode Labour’s command of the Indian electorate and pull in more support for the Conservatives, particularly as British Indians become more prosperous and potentially inclined for class reasons to move to the right. Also, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), part of the Indian corporate group which is already the largest private sector employer in Britain, will train 1,000 British university graduates in business and commercial skills, making it a winwin situation for both the nations.
Modi’s UK visit can be stated as a huge moment for both countries, that aims to build up both the nations
There are also the usual trade and investment objectives that British governments have pursued with very limited success for many years, setting target after target and leading delegation after delegation in the hope of an improvement that stubbornly fails to materialize. Subtly, Prime minister Cameron led an array of British politicians and business figures in lavishing unqualified praise for what India has achieved in the past one-and-a-half years and what lies ahead, Thus this trip of Modi to UK was carefully gift wrapped, hiding the deep atrocities and desperation both the countries are facing at the moment.
Global corporations operating out of London announce a slew of investments in India worth $15 billion in sectors like retail, telecommunications, alternative energy, healthcare, logistics, education, among others, and providing a favorable position to India globally. However, India under the leadership of Modi, India has been witnessing a lot of problems on ethnic front which includes his lukewarm response to the recent murder of a Muslim accused of eating beef. Highlighting the ethnic diversity of India as a strength globally, sounds a bit ironical to the people back at home. However, not explaining the events of racial upsurges in the country, Modi continues to highlight the economic development that has been achieved under his realm. Taking his ideology of “ache din”, he has been able to captivate the world by India’s strength and has strengthened ties all around.
Modi’s UK visit from November 12 to 14, can be stated as a huge moment for both the countries, that aims to build up both the nations by sharing over the resources and building technological innovations that would further enunciate their power within and across borders. The criticisms regarding racial events had mellowed down after watching the Modi road show in the haloed portals of the British Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Wembley Stadium. India is being lauded as, one of the most influential nations in the world, as to which Cameron remarked that Modi’s trademark “good days” are definitely coming as they were focused on the great hope that India represents to the world. Cameron and Modi have extracted the maximum benefits from the complementing relationship between a servicesdominated British economy and a consumption-oriented and manufacturing-embarked Indian economy.
This is an age-old irritatingly pertinent quandary, forever triggering endless debates with no conclusive results! Films that floor critics leave the masses cold. Films that blow the crowd are usually detested by the critics. Critics feel that the mass audience should rise and shine from the cinematic hell that they reside in (and enjoy), awaken to good taste and embrace a cinema that goes beyond the usual, predictable, clichéd cornball, populist entertainment forever catering to the lowest common denominator. The howling mobs – Public – for their turn feel (like Vidya Balan’s deathless words in Dirty Picture) that movies are first and last about: entertainment, entertainment and entertainment! Anything deep, meaningful, grim, slow, attempting to realistically depict the human condition is rubbish!
Theatre and film director Feroz Abbas Khan finds this debate fascinating enough to take first strike and offers his educated opinion. “There are two aspects to this discourse and they deal with time past and time present. Earlier on – across the sixties to the early eighties – mainstream commercial cinema coming out of B-town were consistently ridiculed by critics of hugely-circulated, English language publications. Middle of the road and art house cinema was praised to the skies. Interestingly, the readers of these critiques may not have necessarily been influenced enough to avoid the films under fire, but they enjoyed the witty sarcasm and patronising put-downers because somewhere, they seem to have felt as privileged peoples co-opted into that arty space, making them (at least momentarily) cultured, intellectual and superior.” All this changed, Khan believes, around the mid-eighties when marketing, selling and moolah took precedence over editorial clout, savagely marginalising, even eliminating, any cultural aspect to the newspaper business. Overnight, equations too changed between publications and showbiz when opportunities for mutual benefits were identified and explored in full measure. That marked the end of the snooty, hoity-toity critic of yesteryears and the beginning of a new era, where – in keeping with consumerist times – strategic alliance was the name of the game. Give n’ take. The Art and Culture space, due to this shift, obviously took a huge hit, because it completely slung to the back-burner (along with the smart Alecs) some genuinely great, evolved critics whose commentary and insights entertained and informed as much as they enriched. Now, Khan adds that space has mostly been trivialised with uninformed hacks, flashing trendy language and weird perspectives, desperately anxious to impress new-age readers seeking instant gratification. Also, promotion, marketing, PR and networking has become critical with serious funds and professional services allocated to it. “At the end of the day, it’s true that each film is destined to find its own audience,
‘The critics’ space has mostly been trivialised with uninformed hacks, fl ashing trendy language and weird perspectives, desperately anxious to impress new-age readers seeking instant gratifi cation’ but with the system being what it is, the worth of a film can only come from the audience once it reaches them. Right now, it seems that for people like us (small-budget) filmmakers, the journey to our audience is a nightmare.” Eminent danceractress Mamata Shankar – daughter of the legendary dancer Uday Shankar – is very clear that “It’s the audience that counts, not the critics!” The gifted actress who has worked with most top film-makers of Bengal (Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghosh, Rituparno Ghosh) is categorical about the fact that movies are meant for the audience – not critics, film festivals or awards. They are by-products. “For me, if a film touches my heart, reaches out and makes a difference, it’s a good film. It may not necessarily be deep, complex, nuanced and subtle but simply an engaging narrative that provides great viewing.” While the veteran actress admits that critics indeed do have a role, she laments that there are so few in numbers.
“I find it alarming that critics today are either into an arrangement, sold out or too preoccupied in exhibiting their academic and scholastic gyan while reviewing a simple, sweet film. Not required! Isn’t it their job to show us what we haven’t seen – and they have with their greater insightful knowledge of cinema – and thus leave us more educated and fulfilled? How many do that? For me, unfashionable and pleb as it may sound, people’s verdict is almost always what matters most.”
Eminent critic Ayesha Sen begs to differ. She feels it depends on which audience, critics and films one is talking about. “It cannot be a one-size-fits-all situation, because today there are films and films and films, a diverse audience and different kinds of critics. Any zombie knows that films are made for an audience – its not a private secret calling to be shared with your granny and dog! – but an Udaan,
Japanese Wife or Raincoat hardly has the same audience as Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewani, Dabangg or Race 2! Nor is it conceived, executed, pitched and promoted the same way, by the film makers, critics or trade. Different strokes for different folks … so are they/should they be ignored, side-tracked or dismissed because they didn’t hit the Rs 100 crore club? Many of the classics – Kaagaz ke phool – for example – didn’t resonate with the public of that era (but later were declared classics). Should they be rubbished? Popular acclaim and Box office response are hardly any indication of a film’s true worth except in commercial terms. Ray’s classics, put together, don’t make a tenth of any Karan Johar potboilers, so should they be forgotten and Kabhi Khushi or Kabhi Alvida celebrated? As for critics, they have truly become an endangered species, but the really (rare) good ones can – and do – provide soul-uplifting experiences that are cathartic eye-openers for the ignorant everyday viewer unfamiliar with sub-text, shadings or nuance.
So at the end of the day, might is not right, a show of hands doesn’t prove excellence and masses mostly are a***s, totally tunnel-viewed – due to conditioning – into cheap, populist entertainment!”
I remember having a conversation with actor Rahul Bose a few years ago, where I asked him which he coveted more – critical appreciation from the evolved and knowledgeable or Box office acclaim and he, point blank, admitted he rooted for the first! Sniggered a star, “No wonder he is where he is and his films, where they are: niche films seen by niche audience comprising Festivalwalas, critics and audience suffering from delusions of intellectual grandeur! Boss, films are made and meant for audience.” Sure, every film can’t invite mega-footfalls but they can at least attract ‘their’ kind of audience ensuring both appreciation and ROI. To look down on popular acclaim and mass approval and immediately brand them sadak chhaap and lousy is unfair, indicating complex, envy and lack of knowledge about how the system works. Also, critical acclaim, (while a great ego-massager and raising stakes in one’s private intellectual circles, like awards at film festivals) does nothing for popular connect. So one continues splashing around in that small pond, happy with niche shabashis, totally ignored by the world. Is that good? Doesn’t the actor want to move out into a bigger space?
Actor Sonam Kapoor recently went on record stating any actor denying that is ‘lying!’ Brash, sweeping and irresponsible as it may sound – especially coming from a person renowned mostly for grinning and posing as a L’Oreal model on the Cannes Red Carpet – the young lady however seems to have a point.
Be it the ultimate Actor’s Actor Naseer Shah or even today’s Irfaan Khan, both have acknowledged that the desire to be known and popular comes with the territory. While critical appreciation is intellectually satisfying and creatively fulfilling, being mobbed is a feeling that is overwhelming and few can deny that … and that comes from the masses! Ultimately to each his own, but the last words must come from a telling piece of dialogue in the Oscarwinner,
My week with Marylyn, where one of the performers says to the actor playing Lord Olivier, the problem is that stars forever want to be actors … and actors, stars. There is always that small, sneaking feeling of inadequacy that they haven’t really gone the distance, been truly challenged, explored and exploited to demonstrate their hidden reservoirs of talent. Don’t believe it? Check out Disco-dancer Mithun Chakravarty doing art and off-beat films and getting National Awards, Naseer Shah doing Oye- Oye in the pot-boiler Tridev and getting [startled] shabashis, SRK doing Swadesh and Chak De, Om Puri doing all those corny comic capers in endless masala movies, Bipasha doing films with Rituparno Ghosh and Prakash Jha, a planet away from her jism-shows, Kareena doing Omkara, Priyanka doing Saat Khoon Maaf … the list is endless. So, it’s really a tough one to crack and best left to where it came from … the critics and the audience. Your take is, as always, welcome! By Monojit Lahiri
Kolkata’s Kumartuli is a very special place, for it is here where Gods are made By Archisman Dinda
The fragrance of wet clay from the Ganges, the shifting sound of dry straw beneath one’s feet, the criss-cross patterns of bamboo spread out within the narrow confines of ramshackle studios…Step gently, for godbuilding is in the process. The dimly-lit workshops full of idols at various stages of completion set in the labyrinthine alleys and lanes have been home to generations of artisans. Like their forefathers, it is here they bring Gods and Goddesses to life. Welcome to ‘Kumartuli’ in Kolkata.
Kumartuli is more than 300 years old and was featured in The Bengal Consultations, a journal published in 1707 AD. The journal gives an account of the presence of Kumartuli’s artisans who occupied 75 acres of land at the village of Sutanuti, which is a part of present-day north Kolkata. ‘Kumortuli’ derived its name from the Bengali word ‘kumore’, derived from the purer word ‘kumbhakaar’, meaning artisans who work with clay to make pots and vessels. With the passage of time, it has come to be known as ‘Kumartuli’. ‘Tuli’ in Bengali means ‘a small space’. Thus, the name ‘Kumartuli’ actually means the locality of the artisans.
There are many claimants to the treasured history of Kumartuli, but for the average Calcuttan, settled anywhere in the world, Kumartuli is a comforting continuum equally associated with animated adolescence and the whole span of adulthood, claims historian Runa Sen.
“Durga Puja is not just a religious festival of Bengal, but in itself a religion that is celebrated by all sections of the society. The five-day festival means many things at various stages of your life; each comes with its own colour and flavour. I distinctly remember holding my parents’ hand and visiting the various pandals. Later, I used to hang around with friends and admirers, and now as a mother, I take my son pandal hopping. And all this starts and ends with ‘Kumartuli’, thus completing the cycle,” adds a nostalgic Sen.
Ramesh Chandra Pal, one of the most talented artisans of Kumartuli known for his lifelike creations of the goddesses, can’t agree more. “Kumartuli symbolises life, where the frame on which we build the goddess comes back to us after the idol is immersed at the end of the puja, thus symbolising a new beginning where we start to prepare for the next year.”
Today, more than anything, Durga Puja celebrates the cultural and religious harmony that symbolises Bengal. “Though it is a Hindu religious festival, there are Pujas which are organised by Muslims and Christians along with Hindus. There is hardly any religious or social divide. When it comes to the Pujas, the entire state comes together to foster the feeling of festivity,” says sociologist Tarun Goswami.
The Pujas hold a very special place for every Bengali no matter where they live, where they were born. Once in his life, even the most stubbornly westernised Bong will return to relive his roots and experience the Pujas. And there can be no celebrations without the idol.
Cut the romanticism out, Kumartuli is the place that provides employment to thousands of people and is the sole source of their livelihood. For the hundreds of shopkeepers, painters, labourers, suppliers of various raw materials and, of course, artisans, it’s a place for sustenance. “Today, there are around 400 workshops in Kumartuli which provide direct employment to at least 4000 people and indirect employment to another 10,000,” says Mintu Pal, general secretary of the Kumartuli Potters Association.
Though over the years the city has undergone tremendous metamorphosis, nothing much has changed for the artisans of this fabled place. Faced with financial hardship, these artisans barely manage to make both ends meet. The rising price and declining supply of raw materials, frequent power cuts, lack of space, working capital and labour problems are just a few bottlenecks they have to confront. An average studio in Kumartuli is merely a space whose earthen floor is not even paved. The walls are in reality a fencing of two wooden boards held together by a rope or something else. Tin and straw mats are some of the materials used in constructing the roof. Electric lighting is minimal and the artisans squat on the floor to work.
The West Bengal government has promised a ‘modern’ Kumartuli through ‘The Kumartuli Rehabilitation Plan’. Spread across an area of five acres, the complex will house a sophisticated auditorium that will serve as a studio for the artisans and their assistants. Promises have been made about offering housing to the workers and an art gallery where their works can be preserved and showcased. A miniature model of the projected INR 2600 million plan was also constructed. The entire work is expected to take one and a half years to be completed once started. “If fulfilled, it will be a dream come true for the artisans of Kumartuli,” said the general secretary who, however, does not seem too optimistic as work is yet to begin.
“The project got delayed because of some administrative procedures. Earlier, we identified a piece of land further north of the city to rehabilitate the artisans but there were some litigations pending for that ground,” said an official of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority, the nodal body in charge of implementing the project.
However, the artisans are not only aggrieved with the government for delayed implementation of the rehabilitation project. “There are Durga Puja organisers who spend millions in organising the festival but when it comes to paying for the idols, they behave so miserly,” complains Shibani Pal, one of the few practising women in this male-dominated trade.
“It’s human to look for financial security, especially when you are old. But for artists like us, there is none and every year we are left with lesser money to sustain with,” she adds.
Gouranga Pal, another wellknown sculptor, is unwilling to let his grandsons join him in this trade unlike his three sons. “The future of this trade looks bleak as with every passing year, it is getting more and more difficult to sustain. There is little help either from the government or from the society in general,” said the octogenarian artist.
However, his grandson Gaurav is optimistic and wants to carry on with this trade. “For us, making idols is not only a way of life but the way through which we contribute to the well-being of the society. It’s important that the tradition lives on,” he says, before disappearing into one of the locale’s dark bylanes.
Monojit Lahiri wonders whether it’s a timely new-age challenge or a dangerous and desperate misadventure.
Love, loss, longing, heartbreak reflect Shelley’s immortal lines: “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thoughts.” The Ghazal remains achingly committed to bringing a magical solace to the distraught lover, luxuriating in sublime sorrow – real or imagined – living the pain and pathos that intrinsically colours this genre. The iconic exponents of this enchanting form of music include Begum Akhtar, Farida Khanum, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh & Ghulam Ali among other stalwarts. The poetry quotient is as critical as the rendition, making it, almost, a spiritual voyage to the soul of all who have hearts that beat to the pangs of unrequited love…or are blessed to embrace heavenly bliss without boundaries. It can be best described as the art of public solitude where each listener believes that the Ghazal has penetrated his/her innermost being, laying bare his/ her most private thoughts and feelings…
Now comes news that – courtesy DD Urdu – a national reality show on Ghazal singing, entitled “Jashn-e-Begum Akhtar Talaash – Ghazal Mein Nayi Aawaz” will come to the Indian audiences soon. Ghazal entering the Reality Show domain! Sceptics are shocked. They believe that this genre is precious, private and gentle. It does not cater but speaks to our souls in rich and poetic language that caresses the heart while it soothes the mind. Reality shows, by and large – in contrast – are glamorous, over-the-top events dedicated mostly to celebrate Bollywood fare, mandated to convert the occasion to a superbly orchestrated and marketed circus catering to the vast, (uninformed), masalacrazed entertainment-driven masses. In this kind of a setting, where do Ghazals [a dying music form?] fit in? The late Jagjit Singh has gone down on record categorically stating that “Music reality shows don’t really nurture talent. They just provide fifteen minutes of fame. It is just another commercial product for the channels. Music, after all, is for inspiration, not competition. The moment competition comes in, the soul is lost. There are very few new, talented Ghazal singers because it is not a part of popular culture. Where are the opportunities, training modules or exposure?” Interestingly, another popular Ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas, has differing views. Forget the past. The focus has shifted and the young generation is attracted by these talent-hunt shows because of the platform it offers to reach their desired destination. Electronic channels and the media play a huge part in promoting Ghazals and reality shows are a great step in that direction because of its pre-sold-format with the masses.” So, what gives?
The person who has singlehandedly endeavoured to take ‘ammi’s’ spirit ahead by celebrating Begum Akhtar’s birthday with a ‘jashn’ for the last three decades and remains the moving spirit behind this reality show (along with Shri Tripurari Sharan, DGDD) is none other than one of the Begum’s most devoted & gifted protégés, Rita Ganguly. An artiste of repute, Ganguly believes that this move is a giant step in the right direction. “Ghazal is a dying musical form, largely because of the Bollywood-isation of music across the land. While their popularity is undeniable – across the globe – the Ghazal too remains a very popular genre for a large section of discerning listeners everywhere. Sure Lata, Asha, Rafi, Kishore and Mukesh are loved everywhere as are the new bunch of talented Bollywood singers but Begum Akhtar, Mehdi Hassan, Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali, Hariharan and Bhupinder are not exactly forgotten. If they are not as popular, it’s because of market forces and commercialisation by the media that gives ratings and stars to best-selling products and promotes them with big budget marketing campaigns designed to rocket their brand equity to a different stratosphere. Comparatively, the gifted Ghazal singers are shrouded in obscurity, very high on talent but alas, very low on opportunities and exposure.” Ganguly insists that there is enough proof to indicate that Ghazals remain cherished by tons of talented young singers across the country. “The amount of CD’s we continue to receive for the initial screening is frightening in its quantity, totally slinging out the notion that Ghazals are dead and have no market. They may not be as popular as Agal Bagal or Gandi Baat but millions of people welcome them. This show is to take the Ghazal movement forward by placing it in the public domain through a channel that is not completely sold on TRPs and eyeballs but believes it has a responsibility because of India’s rich legacy, which is under threat from frivolous, populist and time-pass popcorn for the eyes and ears!” The super popular anchor of the Bengali general entertainment channel Akash Aath, Sharmishta Goswami Chatterjee, agrees. “It is a myth that our audiences only want and love commercial/ Bollywood music. My morning shows – 7 AM – 9 AM – are varied and encompasses several genres and each one of them attracts huge phone-ins, all the time!” Chatterjee laments that more channels don’t take the other genres seriously enough despite having a platform. “It is, I guess, both a pre-conceived notion and a non-risk move. Pity, because genres like Ghazals, classical and folk need to be nurtured to stay alive in the hearts of the listeners. I think DD’s move is fantastic and have no doubt that it will go a long way in saluting a musical form that is magical.”
Vipin Handa, however, dismisses both Ganguly & Chatterjee’s views with all the arrogance of a 25-year-old Bollywood diwana. “Hey guys, this is 2014, remember? Ya, sure Jagjit Singh and gang did their soulful numbers in the 80’s and 90’s but tell me something honestly: Did they ever gain even a fraction of what the RD-Kishore or Rafi, Asha, Lata numbers did? Boss, it was popular only among one kind of audience. Another thing. At least half of the guys who went for these concerts or professed love for these Ghazals were faking it! They didn’t understand nothing! They went because of the snob value. It made them feel culturally superior. Peer pressure. Their wah-wahs were invariably at the wrong places! The Ghazal is history and belonged to a time and place long vanished. No wonder DD – (which no one ever watches) with its sarkari sensibilities has taken it upon itself to try and revive the corpse. Take it from me, it will be watched only by a section of audiences who remain determined to hit the rewind button. Heavy duty Urdu, soulful renditions with instruments that are scary … boy, give me Yo Yo Honey Singh and Mika any day!” Celebrated dancer actress Mamata Shankar – daughter of the legendary Uday Shankar – concludes this discourse in style. She straightaway begins by stating that “Today’s reality shows are totally unreal! Everything – mostly – is fake or got-up. Several times, the winners are decided way before the final results are out. In many instances, the selection of judges are suspect because they seem to be there more for their glamour, less for their knowledge. Also their irritating parroting of stereotypical words – Mind-blowing, cool, great energy and body language, looks so cute – instead of genuine criticism/tips that will allow them to improve, does not help the show. I’ve participated in some of these shows but decided to opt out because it wasn’t really my cup of tea.” However, Shankar admits that with DD coming into the picture and stalwarts like Rita Ganguly and the present DG at the helm, good things could well happen because “they have a record of being passionate about their calling with impeccable integrity attached. Their vision is not touched by TRP or commercial considerations, but committed to take this magnificent cause forward. This reality show, finally, could be the Real thing. Good luck to them …” We say Amen … or is it Ameen … to it!
Consumers are lapping up feature-laden phones from Indian manufacturers which come at a fraction of the price of an Apple or a Samsung product By Srishti Taneja
They say that you ultimately get back to where it all began. When mobile phones were first invented, they were really big in size. Then companies devoted the best of research and technology to miniaturising them. But with the advent of the smartphone, one sees chunkier phablets with big screens trending once again.
India’s mobile telephone users are switching over to smarter phones, leading to a 186 per cent growth in the smartphone market in just the first quarter of 2014. Tonnes of phones are being sold in a really short time span, thanks to the mushrooming Indian brands and the numerous online selling platforms.
Smartphones in India have become a game changing consumer product not only for the user but also for the indigenous phone manufacturers. Offering a smartphone experience at a fraction of the price of an Apple, Samsung or Nokia product has worked out for Indian manufacturers.
LAVA mobiles marketing head Tarun Verma says, “This product category has grown and widened over the past decade than any other product category. A smartphone is soon becoming a ubiquitous accessory. So much so that one may think that smartphones had been here from time immemorial.” According to a research report, local brands have also raised their share in the smartphone market in urban India, from 4.2 per cent in July 2012 to 14.1 per cent in October 2013.
Indian markets are filled with a variety of phones and enough number of buyers from various classes and segments. But still, nearly half of the entire smartphone and tablet market is in the country’s Tier 1 cities. And there is an intense battle for the control of the market between the international biggies and the smaller Indian counterparts. As soon as players like Samsung or Apple come up with a new product, domestic Indian manufacturers come out with phones with similar features at a third of the former’s price. Owing to their price advantage, these phones fly off the shelf as soon as they land.
Mozilla has been successful in breaching even the $40 barrier in India, launching a smartphone jointly with Indian manufacturer Intex. The newly launched handset will be a really handy option for a lot of people, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. And the price tag is absolutely enviable at just 1999 Indian Rupees or $33. Companies like Micromax, LAVA, Karbonn, Oplus, XOLO, Spice, etc. are also not lagging ar behind. Together, these brands are redefining buyer’s preferences in a competitive market.
According to independent market research and consulting firm, Counterpoint Research, Micromax overtook Samsung to become the largest mobile handset supplier in India in the second quarter of 2014. Other Indian brands like Karbonn and LAVA have also shown appreciable increase.
Smartphones are in such scorching demand that buyer’s preferences are changing too. Sumit Taneja, store owner of KONNECT stores in Gurgaon, says, “Two years back, people were not really confident about small label phones. In most cases, they would prefer Samsung over Micromax or be it any other Indian brand. A few brave ones tried out the Q55 Bling by Micromax but were not satisfied with it. But the situation has totally changed now. Customers come to the store with their own preferred models of various upcoming brands.”
The Indian smartphone brands seem to have invested really high amounts in Research and Development. This not just ensures superior features but also guarantees lower prices. Although one sees new expensive smartphones being launched with alarming frequency, less than five per cent of Indians indulge in buying them. A recent online selling pattern survey has shown that eight out of 10 phones sold in India are priced at less than 5000 Indian Rupees. And this is where the new Indian mobile brands are gaining the advantage as Soumitra Gupta, managing director and CEO of Oplus India, says that “drop in prices opens up the market for lower income groups, making it easier for them to procure a smartphone with good specifications.” He adds, “the geography of the market itself increases as products become more economical and therefore demand also increases.”
This increase in demand for these small brands has had a cascading effect on the shipment of phones from China. China’s smartphone manufacturing has slowed for the first time in more than two years. Smartphone shipments from China fell 4.3 per cent quarteron- quarter to 90.8 million from 94.8 million in the last quarter of 2013, according to IDC’s Asia/Pacific Quarterly Mobile
A big factor behind the jump in the sale of these indigenous phones has been youngsters and teenagers. According to a new study, there are 51 million smartphone users in urban India today, an 89 per cent increase
from 2012 when there were just 27 million users. The study also reveals that the biggest spike is in the youngest age group of between 16 and 18 years. Only five per cent of them used a smartphone in 2012. In 2014, 22
per cent of them do. Also, mobile phones have emerged as a strong alternative to traditional entertainment media like television. In metro areas, youngsters used smartphones mostly to watch movies and listen to music, though in non-metro areas, TV shows and lifestyle entertainment videos rule the roost. It’s noticable that there is a growing appetite for longer videos on mobile, with most metro users (59 per cent) opting for videos over five minutes in length. Customers now see camera as an integral part of mobile phones. Camera phone sales grew by over 100 per cent, while sales in mobile phones without camera dropped by 32 per cent. Features like touchscreen functionality,Wi-Fi, dual SIM card and location-based services also remain in constant demand.
While the smartphone market suffers from saturation in western countries, the growing economies seem to have a different tale to offer.
Whether Indian brands will dare to break through into other markets is something only a soothsayer can spell. But given its low price advantage, it should not be an easy pushover, once the quality control mechanism gets firmly in place. If the LG-Google tie-up on the Nexus series is any pointer, there is no reason why a Mozilla-Intex joint operation should not give it a good shot.