Sunday, May 31, 2009

Citizenship, Dual Citizenship and Indian-Americans

Foreign Citizenship and Naturalization is a complicated issue, even at best of times and stirs heated debate, especially when there is a crisis. An example is that of Roxana Saberi, a naturalized Iranian American who shot to fame after she was arrested by Iranian government on charges of espionage. (NYT Blog) Roxana’s story has many dimensions, including questions on allegiance of those who hold dual-citizenship. For example, Federale blogs "It is clear from her behavior however, that her loyalties remain with Iran, and her American passport is just for convenience and protection. She, like many other immigrants, use their American citizenship and passport as protection, while their true loyalties lie in their nation of origin and not with the U.S."

Last week I caught up with an old friend and classmate of mine, Ajay, who is now settled in Phoenix, Arizona. The topics wandered to residency and Ajay mentioned that he naturalized as an American citizen last year. By naturalizing, Ajay joined the new wave of Indian Americans: Indian Techies, programmers and hi-tech workers who moved to the US on H1 visas during the late nineties and early part of this century, waited in line to get their Green Card and five years after that were eligible to apply to become US Citizen, moving them the permanent ranks of Indian Americans, at least at a level to the likes of Indra Nooyi, , Vinod Khosla , Noureen Dewulf , Fareed Zakaria , Norah Jones , Kal Penn , Kalpana Chawla , M. Night Shyamalan.

During our conversation, it was evident that my friend found himself becoming an “American” purely for administrative convenience: he still had his strong Indian accent; and though he spoke fluent English, he was more comfortable switching to Tamil or Hindi when convenient. And like many middle-class Indians, he continued to be fiscally prudent. Ajay wasn’t hit hard by the current downturn since he could roll up his sleeves and do what he was skilled at: write software programs. He hadn’t invested a lot on stocks and most interestingly, hadn’t bought a house during the recent boom. He still rented an apartment in a nice neighborhood.

While many of people of Indian origin were earlier hesitant to acquire citizenship of their adopted homelands, Indian government’s move a few years ago introducing the concept of Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards eased that transition.

The vast majority of people who migrate to foreign lands manage to find they around the maze of laws, bylaws and regulations to ensure they have the right paperwork.

Even acquiring a foreign citizenship is not really the end of the road for most newer immigrants. Case in point is the reverse brain drain, or Return to India wave that the media is talking about, a topic that warrants a blog entry in itself. In the meantime, check out Shobha Narayanan’s fascinating essay on the topic.
If this blog entry has a confusing message, it is perhaps intentional: the new generation of dual citizen and immigrants is equally confused about their allegiance shifting loyalties; made more nebulous by the meltdown in the globalized economy.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Links and Views on Globalization: A Week in May 2009

I have been tied up in my new engagement in my “day job” of a consulting Enterprise Architect and got around to reviewing my RSS reader over the weekend. A few interesting but divergent perspectives on globalization stood out:
Cultural Perspectives:

Picture: NYT Blogs about the Curious Case of the Globalized Non-Barbies. In another corner of the globe, Indonesia is struggling with identifying the National Identity in a Globalized World
  • Political Perspective: YaleGlobal had an interesting view on India’s Election Shows Equitable Globalization Can Succeed. Democracy and development are winners in the election. Sadanand Dhume’s analysis sheds light on "The victory for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the mild- mannered economist credited with pioneering India's rejection of autarky and embrace of globalization nearly two decades ago, also feeds two other enduring debates: Do democracy and development go hand-in-hand? And can poor countries embrace the same bedrock democratic values-including religious pluralism and freedom of speech-as their richer counterparts? India's experience-unlike that of globalization's other poster child, China-suggests an affirmative answer to both questions. Despite the global downturn, the International Monetary Fund expects India's economy to grow by 5.1 % this year, and 6.5% next year, making it an engine of global economic recovery. Its conservatively regulated banks have escaped the Wall Street contagion. As for values, the second straight defeat of the Hindu nationalist BJP by the ardently multireligious Congress shows that pluralism, if properly nurtured, is a universal value and not merely a Western one."
  • Rethinking of Political perspectives: Global sourcing in a world less flat (What Matters, McKinsey), blogs “politics will matter—a lot—to the future of global sourcing. They always have, of course, but the relative stability of the late 1990s and early 2000s masked this reality. Looking to the future, public policies will influence the trajectory and pace of change across many variables commonly viewed as simply “economic.” On similar lines, Fairer Globalization: blogs Alas, We Are Not All Keynesians Now: "However, as the world confronts the worst downturn since the Great Depression, the idea that expanded trade will create and maintain jobs is losing support. The World Bank has forecast that in 2009 global industrial production could decline by 15 percent and world trade may record its largest decline in 80 years. Policymakers have not yet devised effective multilateral responses. Most countries have adopted a wide range of domestic strategies including domestic stimuli; make-work programs; buy-local policies; and sector-specific subsidies. . . However, while such strategies may not be protectionist in intent, they are not internationalist in their ends. Few policymakers appear to have considered how these strategies designed to restore domestic employment and growth might affect conditions abroad. Because they have eschewed collaboration, the fabric between global trade and national employment is increasingly frayed."
  • Footnote: Given these diverging perspectives and viewpoints, it is not surprising that the traditional globalization gurus are finding it hard to prophesize on what globalisation is going to mean to me and you, especially in the longer term. While that happens, the engines of globalization: business has not stopped idling. Supertankers in Singapore continue Waiting for work

    Friday, May 15, 2009

    Travel Diary: A week in Brooklyn, New York

    This week I find myself in Broolkyn, New York, a borough of NYC that I had mostly heard of and seen in movies and TV serials and sitcoms. I chose Brooklyn because I had some business work and meetings to attend in mid-town Manhattan but didn’t want to spend my limited expense account on a pricy hotel downtown, especially in this economy. Brooklyn hotels relatively less expensive and the commute to NYC is not bad. The accessibility of subways, busses and ubiquitous yellow-cabs also means that I didn’t have to rent a car unlike what I do in other cities while traveling on business.

    I flew in from Europe on Saturday, cleared customs and immigration and took a yellow-cab to the Holiday Inn Express in Brooklyn. The cab (not surprisingly?) was driven by an elderly Sardar, immigrant from Punjab. He did his bit to draw me out of my jetlagged stupor, especially after he realized that I could understand Hindi. He kept the conversation flowing with his mix of Pujnabi and Hindi, talking about the economy (has had little impact on yellow-cabs in NYC), elections in India and his religious guru back in India who supports people trying to overcome life's adversities. Thankful for the small tip I gave him, he helped me unload my luggage and gave a friendly piece of advice: always hail a yellow-cab in NYC since they are licensed, and charge less.

    I have spent the past few years living in large multicultural cities in the west – London, Toronto, Mississauga and Basel in Switzerland – so NYC and Brooklyn wasn't as overwhelming to me as it may have been to someone just in from a small town. I could feel a distinct slimily between life in Brooklyn and other large cities, especially with Toronto, which is equally multi-cultural and lively.

    To really get a feel for a place, one has to spend over a week, walk around the streets of downtown, and observe the day-to-day lives of "locals" and reflect. I decided to walk around the streets of Brooklyn during the evenings I spent there though my first outing was more focused: I needed an electric converter plug to enable my European plug for my laptop to be used in the American socket in the hotel. Too bad the hotel didn't have a spare plug: the receptionist pointed me to a shopping mall a few blocks from the hotel. The Travel section of Target, located in a mall nearby had what I needed (and more) The converter kit costing $30 can be used for travelers to and from any place in the world: more than what I needed for now.

    In many of my travels, especially if I am going to spend a few days or more in a place, I make it a point to check out the local library. I googled and found that the central branch of Brooklyn Public library was about a mile from my hotel. It is nice walk on a bright spring day so I made the trek one evening before dinner. What stuck me was the fact that the library was busy; I have been to crowded public libraries in India while growing up but most of the city and public libraries in western cities I have been to haven't been as crowded as the one I saw in Brooklyn. A measure of how busy it is? The library has dozens of internet enabled computers but there is still an average wait time of 5-10 minutes. At any point in time are at least half-dozen people registered and waiting for their turn, though many more bring in their own laptops and use the wi-fi.

    The streets of Brooklyn, especially between 4th Avenue and Prospect park (where the Central library is) are busy and lively. On a typical May afternoon, a lot of people are out and about, making for a lively atmosphere. The 5th, 7th and other streets are especially busy with shops and apartments and old houses lining the cross roads.

    I am vegetarian by upbringing and have remained so by choice. Though to some, this can be a bit of hindrance while experiencing local cuisines while traveling, it has not been a showstopper for me. The main streets of Brooklyn are lined with pizza shops, New York style deli’s and a sprinkling of chains: McDonalds, subways etc. I got a flyer for Tomato N Basil, a local pizza place at the hotel’s reception and decided to try it out and was hooked. For the next few nights, I had a choice of New York Style veggie pizzas for dinner: cheese, mushroom and olives, Veggie topping (light crust with heavy veggie toppings). And a walk back for a few blocks perhaps helped digest my dinner.

    My flight out of JFK is at 5 PM so I have requested a late checkout and will logoff from my room by about 2 PM and take a cab to the airport. Goodbye for now Brooklyn.

    Brooklyn blogs and local bloggers: onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn, Brooklyn's 5th Avenue,, amNewYork

    Thursday, May 14, 2009

    Supertankers and Global economy binds us all: Waiting for work

    What is common to Super-tankers in Singapore’s coast, Super-workers in Los Angeles and super-coders in Bangalore? A hint: the the prefix super, their lives are super-slow now. Thanks in to the fact that are all a part of the global village and the global slowdown has hit them all equally.
    Image: NYT

    New York Times had an interesting story yesterday (Cargo Ships Treading Water Off Singapore, Waiting for Work) that starts off “To go out in a small boat along Singapore’s coast now is to feel like a mouse tiptoeing through an endless herd of slumbering elephants.”

    Reading the article, I could not help but reflect that the image of hundreds of supertankers idling away must be breathtaking. Sure, Supertankers idling away is a lot of money idling for investors. By the same token, others including techies in Bangalore and day-workers in Anytown USA waiting for a day’s wage are also perhaps in the same boat as the Supertankers.

    Other blog reactions on the article mozztrader, Socio-Economics History Blog, The daily digest

    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Links and Books: India's Global Powerhouses How They Are Taking On the World

    Books on India’s emerging role in the new world order seem to be appearing at regular frequency. Not surprising, given the continual interest in China-India, BRIC and other economic power blocks where India Inc. is generally included. The recent book -India's Global Powerhouses: How They Are Taking on the World- seem to be generating its share of buzz. Not surprising, given the pedigree of the authors: Nirmalya Kumar is a professor of marketing at the London Business School.
    A few recent reviews, blogs and links
    • Book promo website: a community forum for people interested in India Inc going global
    • Passage from India (FT): Kumar devotes his attention to conspicuous successes. They are the handful of Indian companies that have taken their businesses global.
    • For Indian Companies, It’s Globalization as Usual (Interview with Strategy and Business): Kumar believes that many of India’s largest companies are poised to expand into international markets and become true multinationals. Concerns have been raised about India’s accounting standards following the scandal at Satyam Computer Services Limited, a well-respected outsourcing outfit whose founder admitted to inflating the company’s financial statements by upward of US$1 billion. Yet even that blemish, says Kumar, will ultimately benefit ambitious Indian companies as they seek to improve corporate governance.
    • Imagining India's global powerhouses (LBS): Professor Kumar, co-director of the India Centre, explained that his book's inception began with a phone call from an unknown manufacturing company in India, and a request that he lead a session for the company's employees.
    • Nirmalya Kumar - Videos
    • Stephen’s Posterous Book Review of India’s Global Powerhouses: The book cannot help but suffer from pre-global financial crisis optimism. The pulsating momentum the author outlines has been checked. For instance, the breathtaking acquisitions by Tata Group of Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus and British car marques Land Rover and Jaguar now look expensive and daunting.
    Note to self: add the book to my summer reading list. I`ve got to check out if Welspun-Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd that I blogged about got a mention in the book.

    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Global blogsphere buzz: April-May 2009

    Creating buzz around the globe using emerging technologies, websites, blogs, wikis and other web 2.0 tools is a dream for most marketers and digirati. Even with the pervasiveness of blogs and ideas in the cyber world, a rare few ideas manage to stand out and create buzz. And some of them manage to translate it to real money. For instance, a few years ago it was a “kid” in UK who came up with the idea of a million dollar homepage. The idea was rather simple and prosaic: Selling pixels on the homepage. The twist was he sold one pixel (or sets) at a time for a dollar each. This created instant buzz, fame and a million dollars for Alex Tew, 21, who supposedly is using the money to pay for his college tuition. Of course, this is really-really old news by cyber standards. In the past month or so, a quirky and innovative few ideas have caught the fancy of the digirati:

    • The Best Job In The World: Tourism Queensland had a promotional coup with its The Best Job In The World campaign, supposedly to appoint a caretaker for a small island paradise. The contest created instant buzz. After much hoopla, Briton Ben of Southall was judged the winner. For four to five months, the Australian promotion was a part of the online folklore around the globe. BusinessPundit and others lead with the posts on the Australian government offer. As expected, individuals and contestants got to the cyberspace to seek votes (Vote for Erik: one step from paradise, Voting for the Wild Card's Best Job). Of course, the success of this campaign will be studied be media analysts, pundits and debated endlessly as a part of B-schools case-studies. This may also lead to lots more copy-cats by other government tourism boards. (any takers for “Worst Job in the World?”)
    • Fake IPL Player: Move to another part of the world, south Asia, a land of billion cricket-fanatic people. The Indian Premier League (IPL) was a new cricket formula launched last year modelled after British Soccer and American Football leagues, complete with scantily clad cheerleaders and who`s who from Indian business and bollywood competing to own leagues and teams. Thanks to the Indian Election Saga, the Indian league was moved to South Africa this year (globalization at work, if you will). Besides scores of websites streaming the scores, the additional cyber buzz, is being generated by an anonymous blogger, purportedly a player for Kolkata Knight Riders, who has begun writing an insider’s account at one of the Indian Premier League teams. In just a couple of weeks, the blog has generated tremendous buzz among South Asians, especially Indians. Sanjoy Narayan blogs about the kind stickiness bloggers would die for.
      "Or as my colleagues in marketing will doubtless like to call it, in "monetising"the blog. In fact, I am a bit surprised the blogger hasn’t signed on to Google AdSense. He’d have likely made more than just beer money. I mean just consider that Huffington Post, which calls itself an internet newspaper that tracks and aggregates news from multiple sources and is adjudged to be one of the world’s most popular blogs (at least by Technorati), rarely has a post that garners more than 100 comments. With the fake IPL blogger, we’re talking about 10 to 15 times that." The Guardian of UK adds "Fake IPL player spins web of intrigueAn anonymous blogger's revelations are causing the biggest stir at the Indian Premier League." Others seem to be fanning the rumor mill "Rumor: The Fake IPL Player is Caught Finally." Some bloggers like cricketwithballs, have begun to add the byline that they are NOT the fake IPL Player. Not sure who is flattering whom. . . but there surely some fizz here.

    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Balls of Steel in a Global Recession : Indian Steel Forges in U.S.

    There is certainly a lot of doom and gloom over the impact of global recession; just yesterday I blogged on A Downer on Globalization, the talk by Josef Ackermann Chairman and CEO of Deutsche Bank AG. Given this landscape, it is heartening to see a few pockets holding steady to weather the storm. One such interesting example is perhaps that of India's Welspun-Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd. that is holding steady in its strategy of investing in the US. Per the Wall Street Journal story, - Indian Steel Forges in U.S. - the company is not just sitting still but forging ahead with its globalization plans set in motion beform the slowdown. A case in point for globalization, and walking-the-talk.

    The article quotes how the new plant forged ahead despite the looming recession
    "Then an encouraging email arrived from his boss in Mumbai. B.K. Goenka, chairman and managing director of Welspun-Gujarat, told Mr. Chokhani that layoffs elsewhere made it a good time to find talented workers. . . . Rather than mothball the new plant and conserve cash, Mr. Goenka decided to establish a U.S. beachhead for the Indian company and at least generate some revenue. "Everyone was talking negative," but the economy is bound to get better, he says. With about $810 million in revenue for its latest fiscal year, Welspun-Gujarat, a textile and manufacturing company, figured it could ride out the downturn. "

    A real case of having Balls of Steel, if you will.

    Blogs on the topic:

    Monday, May 4, 2009

    A Downer on Globalization

    I came across the blog entry on WSJ, A Downer on Globalization, focused on the talk by Josef Ackermann Chairman and CEO of Deutsche Bank AG on "future of of Globalization" at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. recently. The summary seems to be that "We are running a risk of the disintegration" of the global economic order because "The Great Recession" is making everyone risk averse. Mr. Ackermann was quoted saying "Globalization isn’t a natural force. It is a man-made and can be destroyed by our own hands."

    Atlantic Council blog summarizes "Ackermann closed by predicting that although discussions about alternatives to the Western capitalist model may intensify as a result of the present crisis, a truly new model is unlikely to emerge. He also cautioned that the EU must keep Eastern Europe, especially hard hit by the crisis, connected with Western Europe no matter what the cost. Finally, Ackermann urged for more transatlantic economic cooperation, stating that the EU and the U.S. should use strengths from each of their economic models to create new and better regulations for addressing the crisis."

    Note to self: Is it because the forum was Atlantic Council that Mr. Ackermann focused his talk on EU, the U.S and Eastern Europe alone? What about rest of the world that are also reeling under the weight of slowdown? (Mr. Ackermann`s Deutsche Bank is a multinational, and claims "Unparalleled financial services worldwide 1,984 branches in total)

    Friday, May 1, 2009

    May day reflections: Rethinking Socialism?

    It’s first of May, traditionally celebrated as May Day* in many parts of the world, with a notable exception of North America where it is more subdued and not even a statutory holiday.
    As a beneficiary of globalization and capitalism – I have spent most of my working life globetrotting, selling my skills in technology to employers and clients – I can’t really claim to have much affinity for socialism. However, growing up in India, I was exposed to the democratic, semi-capitalistic version of socialism (re WSJ article: India's Socialist Constitution). Growing up, May day was yet another holiday though coming during the peak of summer, schools were already enjoying summer break.

    On may day, one couldn’t escape the ubiquitous rendering of “We shall over come” over and over in English, Hindi and even in other regional languages, played on All India Radio, TV channels and even blaring from the odd street corners, especially if one happened to live near industrial areas.
    May day this year is perhaps a bit different from the ones in the recent past: the world is going through the most severe recession since the great depression. This is perhaps making the thought leaders, intelligentsia, economists and political leaders rethink their unquestioning support for capitalism. What this means to free-trade and globalization as we know it and where this will lead us is anyone’s guess.

    *May Day: Not to be confused with distresss codeword Mayday

    Interesting Posts Links on May Day