Two posts here in the last few months were excerpts, followed by questions.
One was Fast growth. I asked, when were those lines written?
Answer: 1982. They are from an article in a magazine called "Director Digest". They are about a steel company called Mettaco.
The reason I quoted those lines was to make a simple point. There are people who like to imagine that India before the 1991 liberalization was a wasteland stuck in some impossibly dark age, especially for business. One illustrious columnist claimed that in those days, India "forced" its citizens to be dishonest if they wanted to prosper. Another claimed that it was India's "dark side" that we saw pre-1991; the "bright side" has flowered only now.
Yet the truth is, as always, considerably more complex than that. For companies and entrepreneurs that were willing to work at it, there was opportunity in plenty, and money to be made, well before liberalization too. Mettaco clearly is one example.
The other post was Don't want higher fares. This is about BEST in the 1960s, trying to raise bus fares because of its precarious financial condition. There's a mention of a political party that, with one eye on upcoming elections, went to Court to stop the fare rise. I asked, which do you think that political party is?
Answer: the Swatantra Party.
The reason I quoted those lines was to make another simple point. You'd think the Swatantra Party, of all parties, would support a fare increase like this, designed to bring a financially bleeding corporation to profitability. Yet even an apparently "rightist" party, apparently committed to economic dictates, sometimes finds it convenient to ignore such commitment.
Politics is rarely as ideologically sharp as the rest of us like to imagine it is. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, you can decide for yourself.
The lines quoted are from my father's memoir, No Trumpets or Bugles. He was BEST's General Manager, 1966-69.
September 18, 2007
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Dilip, thanks for the answers. I was looking forward to this post :-)
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