This month, the FT interviewed a senior executive at Uber in India about the US taxi-hailing company’s plans for rapid expansion in the country. But later that week, a 25 year-old woman said she had been raped by her Uber driver in New Delhi. The government banned the service from operating in the capital and asked state governments to ban all unregistered web-based taxi services.
Swept away by its bold ambitions, it seems Uber has fallen foul of local circumstances in its rush to recruit new drivers. The company declined to discuss this and related issues followed the alleged rape. But are Indian taxi services any more cautious in selecting their drivers? And assuming Uber gets past the rape case, can it go on to succeed in India? Read more
When Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi (pictured) won the Nobel Peace Prize last month it was a moment of great pride for civil society in India, not least because of a recent face-off between the new government and NGOs, especially the environmental group Greenpeace.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power this year on a pledge to cut red tape and speed up decision making, winning favour with industrialists across the country. But many campaigners are more sceptical of the new pro-business administration. Read more
A jeweller in Surat, Gujarat, has been the talk of the town – and the whole nation – after giving cars and apartments to hundreds of employees.
Savjibhai Dholakia, chairman of Hari Krishna Exports, handed out 500 Fiat Puntos, 207 apartments and 570 pieces of jewellery, according to the Guardian newspaper, which said that he would pay for his mysterious beneficence in installments “over the next few years.”
The scale of Dholakia’s generosity is unusual, but it is somewhat in keeping with Indian tradition. Throughout the country, offices are piled high with hampers of dried fruit and chocolates, gifts from companies to employees and clients, as India celebrates its festival of lights on October 23. Read more
India has stepped up efforts to curb nearly 1m tobacco-related deaths a year by issuing new rules to embolden the health warnings on tobacco packets and make the country one of the world’s strictest in terms of tobacco labelling.
But while regulators try to crack down on branded cigarettes and similar products, there is still a vast unregulated market for tobacco in India. And it’s far from clear that slapping warnings on cigarette packs will have much impact on health.
For one thing, many more Indians smoke traditional bidis than branded cigarettes. In addition, a lot of people get their nicotine fix from chewing tobacco and other products often produced in the informal sector. Read more
There you are, taking it easy on your summer holiday in Istanbul or Dubai, searching online for the next restaurant to sample. You may not know it, but the information you seek could be coming to you courtesy of a small company based in Gurgaon, near New Delhi.
Zomato, an online restaurant directory, has become a household name in India. That could soon be true in many other markets. Over the past year the website has expanded quickly overseas – from Poland to New Zealand – through a mixture of acquisitions and organic growth. Read more
The Indian Super League, the country’s new professional football league, kicked off last weekend. Sceptics who doubted its pulling power were proved wrong as Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium packed out for the first game.
In a nation where cricket is tantamount to a religion, few expected football to have much appeal. But the ISL – backed by media group Star India and IMG-Reliance, a partnership between the sports management group and Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man – has captured the attention of the public, the players and the sponsors. Will it last? Read more
Import restrictions and the rival appeal of equities have put a damper on India’s gold market, traditionally the world’s biggest. As festival season gets under way and Indians indulge their craving for the yellow metal, many are wondering when New Delhi and the Reserve Bank of India will begin rolling back their efforts to keep the market in check.
Officials are particularly concerned about the effect of gold imports on India’s troublesome current account deficit. One way round that problem would be to encourage more recycling of gold already in India. It could also be an enticing business proposition. Read more
Remember that story back in June, when the Indian government blocked a couple of foreign sources of funding for Greenpeace India?
It looks like the courts may not let New Delhi withhold the international transfers. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court ordered that the blocked funds should be shifted from accounts with the central bank to Greenpeace’s accounts and placed in a fixed deposit until October 10, when a final verdict will be announced. Read more
Mumbai is in the midst of one of the nation’s noisiest and most fun-filled festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi.
During the 10-day festival, statues of the elephant-headed God are set up at mandals (temporary shrines) around the city and worshipped before being immersed in water – usually on the seafront.
But who foots the bill for this vast celebration with its enormous sculptures, temporary altars and elephantine decorations? Read more
Yoga guru BKS Iyengar passed away last week. As the tributes poured in, Iyengar was credited with spreading awareness of Indian culture around the world.
The yoga master was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award in India, earlier this year – and his style of teaching has become big business in the western world.
The New Yorker provides a glimpse into the master’s childhood and his own education in yoga as a young man in the 1930s, when ‘physical culture’ was taking off around the world: Read more
Just three months ago, this blog reflected the widespread public interest in Narendra Modi, now India’s prime minister. His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power in May’s general election with a majority that India hasn’t seen in three decades. It was seen as a presidential campaign, with the charismatic and controversial leader at the forefront of public debate.
Back then zealous optimism had commentators suggesting the former chief minister of Gujarat would do for the country what he did for the state and quickly turn around the beleaguered economy. Perhaps disappointment was inevitable – but is it fair? Read more
Two out of the four BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China face severe labour shortages as soon as 2020.
“Many emerging markets are reaching the final phase of their demographic peak,” say the authors of a report by Boston Consulting Group which quantifies the extent of potential labour shortages and surpluses globally over the next 16 years.
The danger of a declining work force is well recognised in China, which is already suffering the impact of the one-child-per-family policy, in effect since 1979. BCG estimates that China’s surplus of about 65m workers in 2020 could turn into a shortage of up to 24.5m people by 2030. Recent proposals to ease the one-child policy, if implemented, would have only a limited impact, since children born now would not enter the workforce until after 2030. Read more
With votes counted next week, we’re looking forward at what lies ahead of the general election.
James Crabtree ponders whether India can actually overhaul its restrictive labour laws and kick off a manufacturing revolution. While Ravi Venkatesan, former head of Microsoft India, writes on what the next government will need to do to revive growth and investment. Read more
Most voters have now cast their ballots as the world’s largest exercise in democracy – otherwise known as the Indian general election – draws to a close, and Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are still favourites to win when the votes are counted on May 16.
But even if the opinion polls are right and the party wins more seats than any other, the BJP and its controversial leader face innumerable dangers before they can say their positions are secure. Here are four of the biggest: Read more
By Deepak Lal
In the midst of an interminable election, all the opinion polls are predicting an absolute majority for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance. If the polls are right – which they were not in 2004 and 2009 – Narendra Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, will be at the helm of the world’s largest democracy in about two weeks.
So, it is important to assess Modi’s character and what he stands for. Given the starkness of the divergent images being projected by those for and against Modi, the question arises: will he be a Margaret Thatcher who restores economic growth and India’s standing in the world, or an autocrat who kicks away the democratic ladder which has led him to power, like Hitler, promoting an ideological pogrom against a religious minority? Read more