24 Oct 2014

Which Will Be the Fastest Growing Country in the Coming Decade?

“The old forecasting rule was to make as many forecasts as possible and publicize the ones you got right. The new rule is to forecast so far into the future that no one will know if you got it wrong.” - Ruchir Sharma.

Which is the world’s fastest growing economy currently? Without doubt, it’s China. But will China continue on the path of 9-10% growth for the next few years? Most economists think it will, but China is slowing down due to multiple reasons. It may soon witness a recession, which won’t be anywhere close to what the rest of the world encountered in 2008. China’s recession is more like a slowdown to 6% growth.

So which country will bag the gold medal for growth in the coming decade? Ruchir Sharma attempts to answer this question through his masterpiece ‘Breakout Nations’. He has analyzed the history, political scenario and sentiment of a lot of emerging markets and correlated them to the countries’ economic conditions. In this book, renowned economist Ruchir Sharma meticulously dissects countries like India, Russia, Brazil, China, South Africa, South Korea, Mexico, Turkey and others. He offers valid insights, backed up with sound stats, into the strengths, weaknesses and areas of opportunities for these emerging nations.  

'Breakout Nations' - Ruchir Sharma

Every nation has its fair share of obstacles. Whether it’s infrastructure, government overspending, policy paralysis, the refusal of political figures to give up power, stagnation or something else, each country is battling problems which have occurred due to decades of following the same patterns. Some countries like Russia, Brazil, Nigeria and South Korea have used difficult times to revamp the way they functioned, and have been rewarded handsomely. Others have chosen to stick to tried and tested (and purely functional) models which have restricted their opportunities for growth.

Ruchir Sharma isn’t just shooting from the hip like many so-called economists do.  He has toured each country extensively. He brings out astonishing details of day-to-day functioning the emerging nations. For instance, the strategy being adopted by companies in China to woo workers back from their villages after Christmas vacations. Or corporate head honchos in Brazil using helicopters to travel from one office to another within the city because of excessive traffic. Or that Russia is heavily dependent on oil prices to secure its future. Each problem (and more) has stemmed from conditions which have been building over long, and continue develop. Since this book was written in 2011, scenarios have changed a little. But most of his predictions seem on track for the coming decade.

This book is a pleasant and entertaining read for anyone who is remotely interested in economics. The language is simple yet elegant. Facts are made interesting with the help of short stories and anecdotes. It reminds me so much of Gurcharan Das’ ‘India Unbound’, another gem. Of course, after having spent years interacting with the world’s most powerful politicians and writing umpteen research papers, nothing less is expected of Ruchir Sharma. I couldn’t find a single shortcoming in the book. Partly because of my love for macro economics and also because I don’t have even 0.1% of the knowledge which the author has. Read the book to find out which are the ‘Breakout Nations’ according to the author. You will be surprised to know that they’re from among the usual suspects.

19 Oct 2014

Honda Amaze Aims to Set A New Record for The Longest Drive

As I write this post, Honda has almost set the record of driving the Amaze for a grueling 23,000 kilometers. The car has completed 15,000 kilometers with 21 days to go to set the record and being driven by Bunny Punia, Shantonil Nag and team.

I had driven the Honda Amaze from Navi Mumbai to Aamby Valley and back (read the blog post here) and had an amazing time. The lavish space in the car, refinement of the engine & gearbox and drive quality had impressed me. So when the team which is aiming to achieve this record was in Mumbai, I had to pay them a visit.

The event was held at International The Lalit and started early. I got a chance to catch up with a few people whom I had met at the previous event. After breakfast (lovely chicken sandwiches, coffee and cookies), we settled down to hear from the marketing team about the engineering innovations which the Amaze boasts of. Some include offering loads of space in a car which is about 4 meters in length, a windshield which keeps the car 6 degrees cooler than competition and an engine with a good boost while being fuel efficient at the same time.

Bunny Punia walked up to the podium next, showcasing a lovely video and a series of photos narrating his experience with the Amaze since he had started driving it. We then went out for a photograph with the car, which is when I got to speak to him.

Manufacturers will always speak about their car in glowing terms. But when an independent ex-auto journalist, whom you have been following since about 10 years, praises the car, you know you have a winner. Bunny said that the car was quite comfortable and they had done more than 12,000 kilometers in it without a glitch. He said that he wasn’t carrying any tools except an emergency tire inflator. He hadn’t felt the need for any. The car was reliable on rough patches as it was on the highway and was munching miles with ease.

I then got the opportunity to speak to Shakeel san, the marketing head of Honda Cars India (at Honda India, they term each other ‘san’ like in Japan, as a mark of respect). We had a long discussion where he informed me about the Mobilio doing very well in sales and that they were soon setting up a manufacturing plant in Gujarat (both these news were later reported in newspapers). It was quite an enlightening decision, where I got to leant more about Honda’s marketing and product development strategies. Add to that a delicious lunch (I ate so much that I skipped dinner) and you can be assured that it was a memorable event.

I have spoken to some Honda Amaze owners since the ‘Hang Out with Honda’ event. I wanted to know whether the car continues to impress over a period of time. And most of them have echoed the sentiments of Bunny. They say the car is reliable and doesn’t need maintenance. The car lives up to the Honda brand’s reputation by offering reliability, refinement and a ‘feel-good’ factor to drivers. For anyone who is looking to own a comfortable sedan in the sub 10 lakh price range, the Honda Amaze is definitely recommended.
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