Friday, 26 October 2012

Caro Ferrari,

In India, we love many things Italiane. We scarf down pizzas by the truckload (of course we like some of our own toppings, like tandoori chicken and paneer, more, but we’re sure you won’t mind), and all kinds of pasta too, with a little mirchi thrown in. When we’re feeling all posh, we slurp granitas and gelatos and forget we already had golas and kulfis. We like our cappuccinos and americanos. We adore olives on toothpicks with our daaru, and we’re fond of olive oil. And lest you think this is all about food, we’re also partial to visiting Italy, to take in your beautiful architecture, your art, your music, your scenic countryside. We think highly of your apparel designers (some take the adoration to the most sincere form of flattery), and one way to get Indians to look twice at a new brand of Indian attire (and other things too) is to give it an Italian-sounding name. Which also applies to real estate; you’ll notice a lot of piazzas and casas in the names of new projects, and Italian marble is very hot for interiors.

And yes, you may have heard that the most powerful person in India was born in your country.

So, Ferrari, basically we kind of like your country.

And, truth be told, your racing team has a huge number of fans in India too, going by the all the Ferrari merchandise we see here, not to speak of the fervent Facebook and Twitter posts about you.

Which is why it’s rather strange to see that in our grand prix, you plan to adorn your vehicles with Italian navy flags. “In doing so,” your web page says, “Ferrari pays tribute to one of the outstanding entities of our country.” Strange, you haven’t done that in all the years you’ve been racing, have you? No, wait, there’s a clue! You go on: “also in the hope that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy.”

Could you be referring to the sailors who are currently enjoying the hospitality of the Indian government because they killed are accused of killing two Indian fisherman in Indian territorial waters? [Edit note: The text initially said "killed," but since the matter awaits a court verdict, that has been changed. ~PG] The ones who your government wants released to be tried in Italy instead, because, perhaps, they don’t trust the third world Indian legal system to give the poor trigger-happy marines a fair trial?

Strange then that you choose to bring your high-tech cars and massive racing team to compete in an Indian event.

Why not just boycott the event in protest, if you think so poorly of India in general and Indian justice in particular?

I mean aren’t you worried that India’s timers and racing officials will be not be fair? That we will puncture your tires and put sugar in your gasoline? That Indian audiences might somehow hamper your race? That a win in India might be, I don’t know, somehow less valuable?

No.

Wait.

Money.

Ah.

Scusi. Pardon us. We get it now. You need the points. You've poured a lot of money into the team, and you want to see some return on the cash. After all, you’re still in the running for both the constructors’ and the drivers’ championships. That’s business. Nothing personal.

Right.

We, on the other hand, can be emotional. Sometimes too emotional, I concede, but hey, we’re like that.

So, pardon us for this.

Ferrari, go home! Ferrari, vai a casa!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Helping the police with the enquiries

Our Supreme Court has agreed with our police force that sun film on our cars should be removed. Never mind that that film that we were permitted thus far gives us a wee bit of protection from the tropical sun, that it keeps the insides of our vehicles fractionally cooler, thereby making our car ACs a teensy bit more efficient and gives us fractionally more fuel efficiency, making a minuscule difference to the environment. In what is this wise decision rooted? In the fact that our police feel that our sun film obstructs them in the performance of their duties by making it harder for them to look into our cars to determine that we are not terrorists.

A short while ago, the media carried reports that we would all have to get new license plates soon. These new plates would come, if memory serves, with a special kind of locking mechanism that would not permit us to swap the plates without breaking the lock, thereby preventing us from concealing our cars’ real identities when we robbed banks and suchlike. And more: the plates would have some sort of sticker on them, which could be read by special scanners carried by our noble guardians of the law, even at distances of 2o feet and more. One more way to keep tabs on our childlike and immature citizenry who all have criminal tendencies and must be tracked everywhere they go so that the police can find them when they want them.

Privacy? We don’t deserve it. We must all pay for the privilege of helping our law enforcement institutions protect us. After all, we hear, if we’ve done nothing wrong, what have we got to fear?

One wondered what will come next. One came up with some theories.

• All cars must remove their window glass altogether. Window glass can, in bright sunlight, be reflective. This will not do.

• All cars must remove their roofs. Completely. There. Much better. During the monsoon, you people in cars will be permitted to hold an umbrella over your head. Said umbrellas must be transparent.

• Why just cars? Two-wheeler riders will not be permitted to wear full face helmets and/or helmets with visors. What about the safety angle, the protection in case of accidents? Well, they should ride more slowly then they wouldn’t have accidents. We suggest 20kmph.

• Let’s not stop at vehicles. All curtains / Venetian blinds / straw mats etc. in homes and offices are now banned. All windows must be at least 20 feet wide and must not have panes. Better still, only support beams will be permitted; no other walls.

• Caps, hats, topis, turbans, and other forms of headgear will not be permitted any longer. No chunnis or scarves over you heads, ladies, and you can’t have your sari pallus over your head either. What? Against Indian culture. Okay, we’ll get back to you.

• Oh yes. No dark glasses either. They conceal facial features. We’re thinking about spectacles. Hmm, yes, no beards or moustaches. And those of you who wear your hair long must pull it back into a plait or ponytail so that your hair may at no times fall over your face and obscure your features from the Law.

Of course all government servants, the judiciary, and legislators will be exempted from all these restrictions. They are superior beings.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

10 lessons on #journalism from Twitter

Being a late convert from advertising, I'm probably the least experienced journalist in the Forbes India team aside from our interns. So I'm always grateful for the lessons the world can teach me. Like last week's brouhaha about our Flipkart cover story.

• It is possible to pronounce judgement on an article based purely on a headline and/or tweets about it.

• A critical cover story must be a marketing gimmick by the subject of the article in collusion with its “critics,” because, after all, as Mr Barnum said, bad publicity is still publicity.

• If you work for a large media group that also owns non-media properties, any article that is critical of competitors of your group companies is biased, track record be damned.

• Great customer service = great company, and any attempt to say anything critical about other aspects of the company can be negated by vociferously mentioning this great customer service, even if one of the premises of an article is that that great customer service is one of the things that is weakening said company.

• A business publication is not entitled to question the business models of its subjects.

• The media must not criticise darlings, period. They can only offer advice on how said darlings must get better.

• An article that defies the previous stricture and criticises a darling must be rooted in (a) spite (b) envy (c) irresponsibility (d) sensationalism (e) all of the above.

• (This needs a place of its own.) If the media criticises an Indian start-up, the media are being anti-national.

• It is terribly unethical to seek to sell more copies of your media product.

That's nine. In the best traditions of social media, I'm crowd-sourcing the tenth. Leave your nominations in the comments. Or on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.