Sunday, November 24, 2013

How large is the middle class in India?

Today's issue of the Times of India features an interesting op-ed piece India's middle class awakes by Pavan K. Varma. He states
If we take a strictly economic criterion of defining a middle class person as anybody who belongs to a household which has a monthly income of between Rs 20,000 and Rs 100,000 a month, the middle class starts to look very substantial. Estimates reveal that as per this criterion the size of the middle class in 1996 was a paltry 25 million. Today, it is in excess of 160 million. And, by 2015, its numbers are expected to go up to 267 million.
A few comments.
First, this means that in 2 years the Indian middle class will be comparable to that of the USA!
and 13 times the whole population of Australia!

Second, the income amounts [20 to 100 thousand Rupees per month] convert to US$4,000 to $20,000 per year. This may seem strange. [It took me a couple of trips to India to understand this.] In the USA such a household income would define poverty. However, this illustrates how economics works. Broadly speaking, living costs scale with salaries. Salaries are roughly ten times lower than the USA, but so is food, housing, education, health care, and transportation. On the other hand some things don't scale. An iPhone costs as much in India as in the USA. Thus, the insatiable demand for them is puzzling!

Third, it should be obvious why Western companies find out-sourcing to India so attractive. IBM now has more employees in India than in the USA. Unless, Western workers lower their upper middle class expectations and associated wage demands it is hard for me to see how they are going to remain competitive.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

C.S. Lewis - the humble apologist

Vinoth Ramachandra has an interesting post, Which C.S. Lewis?
He mentions that his favourite piece of C.S. Lewis is “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer”.
Vinoth says, "I carry it in my Bible. I think it should be enshrined on the doors of all those churches and institutions that place too much emphasis on apologetics and preaching “techniques”."
Here is the prayer.
“From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.
Thoughts are but coins, let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O Thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.”

Friday, November 22, 2013

Church in Bangalore

This past four weeks in Bangalore my wife and I have really enjoyed being part of Radiant Life Church located near SAIACS, where we have been staying. The church is very integrated into the local community, running the Shema school and a childrens home through the Radiant Life charitable trust.

Last sunday I was asked to give the sermon and spoke on "Seeing the faithfulness of God in creation", based on Jeremiah 31:31-37

Sunday, November 10, 2013

India: forward or backward?

I am in the middle of a five week trip to India. This is my fifth trip in the last four years. Two things that
are really clear about India today.
First, it is rapidly changing.
Second, it is struggling to cope with change.
Rapid economic growth and restructuring is being accompanied by rapid technological and social change. Institutions, all the way from the family to the national government are struggling to adapt. On this trip I am reading the newspaper, The Times of India, everyday. It accentuates the above observations.
In the Western world, dramatic changes associated with globalisation, economic restructuring, and technology are also happening. However, I feel that the change is happening at about one-tenth of the pace in India.

Is all this change positive or negative?
It depends on your perspective.
I thought the following quote from the book India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking
was particularly interesting. It compares the problems of the old India, where life in villages was dominated by caste, to the new India, where life in the cities is dominated by capitalism.
this narrowing of tasks, while making things more efficient, also made it harder to find meaning in work. ... what caste did flagrantly, putting humans into their different boxes, globalization was doing more artfully: giving every worker a sliver of a specialized role, making him work harder and harder, depriving him over time of a sense of the whole, and eroding his connections with other humans. ... cousins in deprivation [are] the labourer driven from his land for the software company and the software coder who writes his narrow code, slogs for people he has never met, and suffers the fate of the new-economy worker bee: fifteen-hour days, bumper-to-bumper traffic, sexual and marital frustration, children who ask, `How come Papa never comes home?'
When caste wanted to separate man from man, it used the concept of dharma.. When capitalism wanted to separate man form man, it used the concept of production, of higher consumption, of better livelihood - whatever. The end result was separating human being from human being and erasing the socialness, the human essence, from the human being.
This is not the author, but someone he interviewed. You will have to look at the book to see who said it. That makes it of even greater interest and challenge.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Slavery in Australia

Nicholas Kristof has a fascinating and challenging op-ed Slavery Isn't a Thing of the Past in the New York Times [I read it in a hard copy of the Times of India. Such is globalisation!].

There is an interesting twist in the article that involves Australia and shows that some short term- "mission/social service" trips involving teenagers can have big impact!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The ugly side of commercial sport

How did cricket become so commercial?
When did exclusive TV rights for cricket and football/soccer begin?
How did Kerry Packer become one of Australia's most wealthy and powerful men?

I enjoyed watching Howzat? Kerry Packer's war. It retells the fascinating story of how Packer took on the world cricket establishment in the late 1970s in order to gain exclusive television rights for Australian test cricket.

One thing I did not like is that it does a good job building sympathy for his cause. This is in spite of the fact that it clearly shows that he was a ruthless businessman, who was crude, abused his staff, and had an insatiable thirst for money and power.