Saturday, June 28, 2008

Entrepreneurs get it!!

Yesterday, I was part of an informal session with some very successful entrepreneurs who graduated from IIM-A, the premier business school in India. Among the panel were the guys who have made and (by the way, I always book my Indian trips with makemytrip) successful. My question to them was how they got around government regulation and procedures and if as a start up they needed to invest heavily in a person or a team that deals exclusively with government agencies. The answer from several entrepreneurs in the crowd was that they avoided dealing with the government as much as possible. Traditional manufacturing requires a lot of interaction with the government. There is not so much involvement in the services sector. If there was a requirement for long term presence in the market such as would require government agencies, then they would plan to invest in such capital. A young entrepreneur who graduated last year mentioned that when it comes to start ups it is better to handle all accounts yourself or give it to a partner who you trust. It does not help to delegate in this area. Seems like these successes are in-spite of the government and entrepreneurs find a way. 
The other idea that kept coming up was spontaneous order, and that entrepreneurship follows a spontaneous order system. Well! They did not exactly use this term, but they did say it evolves and goes in different directions. Spurious discoveries are also something that seem to be very common. All of this goes to say that the Kirznerian entrepreneur is very much relevant to today's discussion, and Hayek's ideas are very much alive with the entrepreneurial community, even if they do not know these names and the theories these academics expounded. 
I had a chance to talk to a couple of entrepreneurs who were seated next to me. These were seasoned guys and they got the incentives idea right. One of the gentlemen told me, "there is no such thing as an honest or a dishonest man. People react and respond to situations. If the rules are such that you will not get your work done without a bribe, people bribe, otherwise they won't". He knew economics and this was a guy who had never been to a B school or done any professional course. He understood the power and relevance of incentives. All of the entrepreneurs I talked to yesterday had sound economic principles and knew public choice, even if they had not heard of public choice or Buchanan or Tullock. They had the ideas right!!
Hats off to you guys! Indian Entrepreneurs Rock!!!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wake up and smell the Drains!!

In the three weeks or so that I have been in India I have been seeing one ridiculous news report after another and even more ridiculous responses from public officials and local groups. Take the example of this poor newsman. All he did was point out that the government had better things to do, such as concentrate on infrastructure development, than spend money on million dollar projects to erect a statue to a long dead 17th century King. The editor's house was ransacked by local activists who accused him of tarnishing the image of a hero. Whatever happened to press freedom, and where are all the reporters covering this infringement of individual freedoms guaranteed by the constitution? They are all busy fanning the flames of this case, which is equally ridiculous in how politicized it has become. 

Another self-styled group has filed a case against a South Indian actress, because she apparently showed disrespect to a Hindu Goddess. A couple of years back there was case filed against her because she openly talked about pre-marital sex and suggested contraceptive use to prevent AIDS and other diseases. The ridiculousness of the priorities of the citizens (both political and otherwise) is simply staggering. 

Even more ridiculous is the reaction of Mumbai government to this recent monsoon season advisory for US citizens in India. This notice has been used to bash the US some more by people who are even more ridiculous than politicians

While the country is gearing up for the monsoon season, overflowing drains and everything the US Embassy advisory states, politicians would want us to believe that they smell of roses and others are tarnishing their image. Isn't it time at least for the educated to take media and political reports with a pinch of salt if not a pillar!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We are one of the top Econ programs

I am proud to be a student at GMU. I have always been proud of our Econ department, now more than ever. We are ranked above Texas A&M and UC-Irvine which is an amazing achievement. Overall we stand at #41 in the US and 3rd in Methodology and History of Economic Thought, the latter is my favourite hobby as a Grad student. The link to Don Boudreaux's e-mail is here. I have constantly defended the merits of a GMU Econ degree, and have been challenged to show proof that we are good. Here is the proof as others require it, in terms of a ranking. However, I must say that we have a very good placement, research and publishing record even without a ranking and even for us Austrians who are constantly asked to prove ourselves. I am proud to be a GMU Econ grad with Austrian leanings. 

RIP Sudha Shenoy

Our dear Sudha passed away last week. I just heard about it and it really saddens me. I had the wonderful opportunity to not only meet her and talk to her, but have dinner with her on two occasions where she regaled me and my friend with lovely stories about her experiences growing up in India with her father Dr.B.R.Shenoy and as a young student in UK. I had no clue she was sick. Sick or old, her mind was as sharp as any young student's. One of the funniest stories she told us was her experience at a Mont Pelerin Society meeting. One evening after the meeting the group decided to watch a play in the local theatre. In one scene, the actor on stage spouted some dialogue about the 'invisible hand working', and our group of scholars roared into applause and a standing ovation. The poor actor apparently had no clue what was brilliant about that part of the play, and would have been disappointed the next day when he did not receive the same reception to his rendition of the invisible hand. I learned from her about her father's battle with Indian Planners, and how his ideas and experiences shaped her own. She was a wonderful woman, who has taught me to me tenacious even in the face of criticism and non-acceptance from everyone around you. She remains a role model to me. The libertarian and Austrian movement will sorely miss you Sudha.