Tuesday, December 09, 2014

‘Startup Capitals’ now available for pre-order!

Startup Capitals : Discovering the Global Hotspots of Innovation (English)

Product Details

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Random House India (31 December 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8184005946
ISBN-13: 978-8184005943
Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14 cm

As the Internet has matured in technology and reach, we have seen an explosion in tech startups all over the world. Not only are some of these startups changing the world and how we live in it, they are also proving to be the engines of job creation – an aspect that will be critical in the future. To support these startups, new ecosystems are popping up all over the globe to help grow these companies, aided by governments, successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

In Startup Capitals, Zafar Anjum brings you a ringside view from the worlds top ten startup cities of the world. Well-researched and highly insightful, this book lays bare the engines of innovation and the lessons that can be learnt from these burgeoning startup capitals.

Advance praise

  • "As we enter a new phase in human history – a phrase Ive referred to as Civilization 3.0-creativity and entrepreneurial spirit are achieving new milestones for humanity. How and where this creativity is flourishing today is the subject of Anjums book. It is a timely account of some of the most innovative entrepreneurial places on earth and should prove to be a very compelling read." – Vivek Ranadive, Founder and CEO, TIBCO Software, Inc. Owner, Sacramento Kings
  • "Startup Capitals takes us on an enthralling and stimulating tour of some of the most innovative cities on the globe. It is a timely and illuminating account of people and places that are shaping the human future." – Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems
  • "Creativity and invention do not occur in isolation. Environment and community fuel it. Mr. Anjum gives us a journey through those landscapes where the future is being created and inspires us to join those cities of innovation that define our time." – Matthew Putman PhD, CEO, Nanotronics Imaging, New York
  • "Silicon Valley is more than the sum of its parts. And as the world looks at the ‘sum’, this new book zooms in on the parts-the history, events, people and unique occurrences that add up to make the Valley what it is. As a tech strategist and business partner with more than 30 years of experience with Silicon Valley, I value the insight and specific recommendations Zafar Anjum has gathered in this important book." – Barbara Bates, Founder and CEO, Eastwick, Silicon Valley
  • "Many of the world want to emulate Silicon Valley, yet few have brought context to the incredible story thats taken shape here. Looking deeply at the Valleys history and how our unique ecosystem took shape, Zafar Anjum offers new perspectives that global innovators can use as they envision the communities-and the companies-that build economic success." – Ellen Petry Leanse, Tech Pioneer and Advisor, San Francisco
  • "Zafar does a brilliant job identifying the key factors that make a city a startup city. – Daniel T. Cohen, Cybersecurity Professional and Strategist at RSA, The Security Division of EMC, Israel
  • Where will be the next centre of innovation? What are the ingredients for a successful startup ecosystem? These are significant questions for which the jury is still out. Through this book, Zafar Anjum offers insights into the intriguing and exciting world of startups that are shaping our future." – Manish Goel, co-founder and CEO, TrustSphere, New York
  • "Over the years, Zafar has created a highly respected body of work in journalism. He tackles his subject matter with the tenacity and thoroughness of a good investigative reporter. His previous books have not only been great pieces of journalistic work but also, most importantly, good reads. Startup Capitals promises to be an informative and engrossing piece of work which will add to the understanding of why some cities are more successful than others in nurturing innovation and a risk-taking culture." – Amit Roy Choudhury, Technology Editor, The Business Times (Singapore)

About the Author

Zafar Anjum is a Singapore-based journalist, writer and filmmaker. He currently works as the Asia Online Editor of Computerworld Singapore, CIO Asia and MIS Asia. His most recent works include Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician (2014), The Resurgence of Satyam (2012) and The Singapore Decalogue – Episodes in the Life of a Foreign Talent (2012). He edits a literary website, Kitaab.org.

Pre-order the book at Amazon and Flipkart now.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Narendra Modi and the Death of the Idea of India

For a long time now I have contained my rage which has been provoked by what is happening in India today, and it concerns the future of India as a nation and as a country.

Indians are offering a man the coveted and powerful chair of the country’s Prime Minister under whose watch a state-sponsored pogrom resulted in the murder of several thousand innocent citizens. At the same time, they are branding an honest citizen activist a ‘fugitive’ who abandoned a state’s chief ministerial post simply because the establishment did not allow him to pass a tough anti-corruption law.

The one accused of ‘mass murder’ is a hero, worthy of being crowned a king. The man of principles, an anti-corruption crusader, is a laughing stock. The sitting Oxbridge-educated Prime Minister is a dummy head, a man stoically blind to the corrupt in his own ranks, clinging to his post at the cost of his dwindling reputation.

Is this the state of the nation that nationalist Indian leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Abul Kalam Azad had envisaged when they laid down the foundations of a free India in 1947?

Today, the country is divided on the lines of caste and religion and on top of that, no opportunity is lost in abusing the sane and the secular, online or offline. How did India arrive at this shameful juncture of history? (See this open letter by Indian intellectuals in The Guardian: If Modi is elected, it will bode ill for India's future.)

At stake—The idea of India

While the nation is presently going through its most decisive elections in its 70 year old democratic history, what is at stake is the very idea of India: the idea that fueled the struggle for India’s Independence, culminating in the establishment of a free, democratic, socialist and secular Republic of India.

This idea of India was based on the principles of equality and inclusiveness, on the ideals of secularism and equal respect to all religions and creeds. It was, what Mohammad Iqbal once called, a poetic idea, sophisticated beyond its time and place.

As Indian historian Ramchandra Guha has noted in his book, The Makers of Modern India, Indian democracy is unique in the sense that India became a nation and a democracy at the same time, and five different types of revolutions are going on in India simultaneously. What’s been happening in India since Independence is what took Europe a couple of centuries and the United States nearly 200 years to achieve. There, it happened in stages. Here, it is happening all at once, and hence, the seeming chaos of India, which often makes us despondent and hopeless about India’s future.

The poetic idea of India had emerged a winner after defeating a couple of other competing ideas—ideas of a communist state (class-based politics), of a federation of states based on religion (Iqbal and Jinnah’s religious and cultural identity-based politics), and of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ propagated by right wing Hindu groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Hindu Mahasabha.

If Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wins the parliamentary elections this year, it is the last idea, the idea of India being a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ envisioned by far right Hindu nationalists that will come to prevail. This once-defeated idea of India will be revived with a Naipaulian revenge.

The Rise of Narendra Modi

In this battle to rule India, according to the opinion polls and ground reports, Narendra Modi, BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, seems to have an edge over all other contenders. Why is he is so popular, both inside and outside India among the Hindus?

A lot has been written about this charismatic Hindu rightwing leader from Gujarat—about his humble rise from his tea-selling days to his political stranglehold over Gujarat as a Chief Minister, his powers of oratory, his no-nonsense decision-making, his sex appeal, and so on. The list is countless if you hear to Modi’s acolytes and fan boys.

How did a mediocre man like Modi become the darling of the Indian masses (or that is what we are being led to believe at this point of time)? Is it because contemporary Indians love mediocrity?

Interestingly, Modi is not foreign-educated or highly educated like most of India’s Prime Ministers have been. He is a son of the same soil which gave birth to Mahatma Gandhi, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan. It is quite possible that millions of Indians love him because of his image of a self-made man who can bring change and economic development and ride roughshod over minority rights (which hardly matters in their consciousness). The last point is important because whenever anything is done to favour the Muslims or to ameliorate their condition, BJP brands it as Muslim appeasement, and not secularism. Modi’s hardliner, ‘popular’ image has been created with the help of the media, by spending millions of rupees (Rs. 5,000 crores, according to Aam Aadmi Party) on advertisements and public relations.

BJP’s secularism

I was raised as a secular kid in India, and for a long time, I could not understand how a political party like BJP was allowed to exist in India. BJP is the political offshoot of the RSS, the Hindu right wing outfit whose ideologies had inspired Nathuram Godse to kill Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Godse was a member of the RSS.

In that sense, BJP’s inherent ideology should be seen as against the Constitution of India. How could the Election Commission of India look the other way and not ban the party? I could not understand this and later on I put it to the strong traditions of India’s political pluralism.

Meanwhile, very methodically, whatever remained of the Muslim leadership was wiped out of India. Muslim leaders were discouraged (and even discredited) by all political parties. Muslims were left to be led by Non-Muslim leaders who had to strike a balance between their Hindu supporters and their Muslim voters. This led to the persistent and pernicious growth of the vote bank politics. Both the Indian National Congress (INC) and the BJP stand accused of perpetuating this malpractice. Something similar has happened on the lines of caste too, but a generation of successful caste-based leaders has emerged. This has largely benefitted the low-caste Hindus.

As far as the meaningful participation of minorities in Indian politics is concerned, the answer does not lie in stoking the fires of communal politics but of deepening secularism in the political space. 

How is this possible?

India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was an atheist. In the Nehruvian model of secularism, scientific temper was meant to play a great role, which was further predicated on the spread of mass literacy and education. When the state’s effort to educate the Indian masses failed to a large extent, right wing forces established their Saraswati Shishu Mandirs throughout India (As on 2010, about 17,000 such schools existed across India). Many liberal private schools were also established (I was fortunate enough to study in one such private school in India, where we were taught co-existence, and respect for other faiths. Our school uniform was saffron, symbolising sacrifice).

At the same time, as the state’s television stations that preached religious tolerance and social unity became irrelevant, heavily Hinduised television programmes created a generation of Indians whose spiritual ethos find an echo in Modi’s image of a Hindu Samrat. For example, it is not surprising that Smriti Irani, a popular TV actress who played the role of a Hindu housewife in an extremely popular TV serial (Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi) and the role of Sita (in Zee TV’s Ramayan) is now a senior leader of the right-wing BJP.

BJP has been very active in making Indians believe in their idea of India. Slowly but surely they have chipped away at the idea of Indian secularism with a sustained effort. They believe in overt expression of religion on politics and now Modi talks about ‘Indianness’ before anything else. Whenever he is questioned about secularism, he invokes ‘Indianness’. This is nothing but hollow demagoguery.

Even this could be fine but there is a hitch and that is the Indian Constitution. If BJP can take out the word ‘secular’ from the Indian Constitution, it can do whatever it wants. No one will ask any questions on secularism then.

Meanwhile, Narendra Modi’s electoral promise is growth and economic progress. One wonders how this will be possible when the incumbent Indian Prime Minister, an economist by training and a former World Bank official, has overseen the faltering of the once-strong Indian economy (See this Forbes story: Even Narendra Modi May Not Be Able To Help The Indian Economy). Moreover, BJP’s economic policies are no different from Congress’ (See this Forbes story: BJP Will Ban FDI In Retail But Offers Other Goodies To Business). They are the votaries of the same neoliberal policies that have led to India’s development, and inter alia the problems of inflation, price rise, and crony capitalism. Revealingly, if only economic development is the BJP’s election mantra, why has the party put rebuilding of the Ram Temple at the controversial site in Ayodhya on its manifesto? Won’t it alienate the Muslims of India?

But how do you explain all this to the 800 million Indians who might see this complex situation in very simple terms: Congress and its allies have ruled for ten years. It is time to give the other party a chance.

This proves only one thing. That democracy is still in its infancy in India. If you don’t believe me, just go to any constituency. In most places, you will see electoral candidates, often from rich and political families, touring the area like a price visiting the hoi polloi. If politics is a business in India, what does it make Indian democracy? A marketplace?

My fear is that because of India’s size, India will remain ungovernable (Indian population being three times the population of United States). Confusion of multiparty democracy, communalism and casteism, poverty and illiteracy make the situation even worse. I don’t think even a Lee Kwan Yew could set India right. Only time will show us the true path. Until then, we will keep making mistakes.

My fear is that minority politics will survive in India as long as minorities maintain their unique identity. Once they start merging their identities with the majority community, politics of caste and religion will melt away. “Poverty makes people create differences,” India’s former President APJ Abdul Kalam said in a recent interview. “Sometimes poverty drives these differences. But economic prosperity and higher literacy will make us forget our differences. Economic prosperity is fine but will Muslims accept it at the cost of their religious identity?

As far as those who believe in Gandhi’s and Nehru’s idea of a secular India, they should not lose hope. They should do whatever they can to strengthen their idea of India, just as the right wing works tirelessly to strengthen their idea of India.

It should not surprise anyone if Modi wins the elections. If a George Bush could win the Presidential elections in the United States for two terms, why can’t a Modi win in India? America has survived Bush. India is a 5,000 year old civilization. She will survive Modi.

Clearly, a Hindu nationalist party’s interests lie in keeping the nation divided. Thankfully, a good sign for India’s future is the twin rise of the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party like a DNA’s double helix. One will neutralize the other. That’s where my hope lies. And like Tagore said, in the end, India does not belong to Hindus or Muslims.  India belongs to humanity and when the dust of history settles, and when we are rid of our vanity, India will be claimed by humanity.