Taking a break from my weepy posts, here’s some gossip.
The University of Melbourne’s Australia India Institute seems slush with funds at a time when there is global shrinkage on spending. I have no reasons to complain. Attending a two-day seminar, I got free lunch, a notebook, a pen drive, water bottle, bag, mint in a nice case with the AII emblem on it, and endless rounds to tea and good coffee. I also met a familiar face - Siddarth Vadarajan, who was at the Times of India way back in 2001. Today, as editor of the Hindu, he has been feted and put up at the Langham along with all the other invitee speakers for the three-day Argumentative Indian seminar. Meeting him was good, brought back memories of ITO.
I keep attending seminars after seminars and come back home with information overload as people come with tomes of paper to be read by the audience at least. I am a no different person after the seminar, the knowledge does not inspire me to change the world but what overstays in the memory are good orators. Take Deepak Saxena, managing director, Riverina Oils & Bio Energy (ROBE). At a session on economics, resources and trade relationship, he spoke in a way that layman like me could understand. Of course, I happened to attend that session by chance as I was waiting for the special address by India’s provocative cop Kiran Bedi.
Saxena made me realise what a good speaker can do especially in contrast to the other three supposedly big corporate guys who had their laptops for data and figures and piece of prose from which they never left their eyes. Everything I hated in a class at school – maths and teachers who read out from textbooks. Saxena dwelt on resources and he began his speech by saying he did his own research on the subject by talking to the man on the street, business people, family and friends. He asked what resources meant to them. They said minerals or mining. Of course, this is Australia so nobody said ‘food or agriculture’. But Saxena had a revelation. In the next twenty years, Australia’s big issue is going to be food. For a moment, I thought he had his info mixed up with Sudan or Ethopia.
His argument was that: Australia is not making good use of its resources for the long term. We import most of our stuff here including soya milk. A small country like Switzerland has promoted brand Nestle worldwide. Even New Zealand, smaller than Australia, has built its trademark in the white wine Sauvignon Blanc. It is not that Australian does not have the wherewithal. It is because business in this country is process driven, system driven but not outcome driven, said Saxena. It takes five years to set up a project and get it running in Australia but it takes one year in India or China. In other words, it does not have an investment friendly climate, hence few foreign direct investments. And that is case of worry in the agriculture sector because farms in Australia are spread far out, the average age of a farmer is 56 and there is very little human resources. I was enlightened. God forbid I live that long but I don’t want to be drinking genetically modified soya milk after 20-30 years.
I liked Saxena’s talk. It was simple and relevant. The other three speakers spoke and spoke on Indian businesses - pharma, IT, jems & jewellery etc etc, from probably papers that are lying in the dust of FICCI (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry) office in Delhi. Wonder why speakers do not stick to a topic and air their original views when invited at a forum attended mostly by university students who have read all that shit or will probably read it soon.
Kiran Bedi came on stage next and was busy promoting her book too. Will blog on her tomorrow as I have to go for another session today on Media Revolution – Myths and Realities. I am a little sad they did not invite Barkha Dutt as a speaker because in this cold weather I would have loved some theatricals from her.