Indian PM Modi picks up rubbish on the beach – how many PM’s and Presidents would do that?

Into India has always said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is different – in a very good way! News this week gives another example.

As part of his cleanliness drive, PM Modi picked up trash Saturday (pictured above) from a beach in the southern temple town where he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Modi released a short video on Twitter showing him walking barefoot in the sand, collecting the trash in a bag on Saturday morning in Mamallapuram in Tamil Nadu state (pictured below).

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He tweeted, “Let us ensure our public places are clean and tidy.”

Modi launched a “Clean India” campaign after he became prime minister in 2014.

In a radio talk last month, Modi lauded the efforts of an Indian “plogger,” Ripudaman Belvi, who launched a campaign to pick up litter while jogging.

Modi said that “plogging” is popular in foreign countries, and praised Belvi for promoting it in India.

We told you he was different! Let’s have more like him.

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China, Japan and India – the new startup triangle

China is a major provider of funding and control of many Indian startups. In 2015, Alibaba invested in Paytm through its affiliate Ant Financial. In 2017, Tencent took major stakes in Flipkart and Ola.

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Japan is also a serious provider of funding in India. Japanese giant Softbank has invested over US$8B in startups in the country, with a goal of $10B by 2024 that now looks surprisingly conservative.

As a result of this “triangle”, India is currently home to 26 startups valued over US$1B.

Oyo Hotels and Homes is raising US$1.5 billion from founder Ritesh Agarwal, SoftBank Group Corp., and other investors as it expands into foreign markets such as the U.S. and Europe.

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Agarwal, 25, will spend $700 million to buy new shares in the company.

Indian edtech startup CollegeDekho, which helps students connect with prospective colleges and keep track of exams, has raised US$8 million in a Series B round.

Last October, Indian e-commerce startup Snapdeal raised US$627 million at a valuation of over $2 billion. In the same month, India’s Uber-style taxi service, Olaraised $210 million, while being valued at over $1 billion in under three years.

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India’s largest online retailer and version of Amazon is Flipkart which recently raised another US$700 million at over a $11 billion valuation.

India’s online restaurant guide, Zomato, recently bought US-based Urbanspoon for over $50 million—one of the largest acquisitions by an Indian startup.

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India’s Silicon Valley – Both Koramangala in Bangalore and Hiranandani Powai (pictured below) in Mumbai – are becoming thriving ecosystems to nurture startups in India.

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Things are changing in modern India – and the “triangle” of India, China and Japan is playing a big role in the change.

 Time to look again?

India’s diversity means agreement can be a rare thing, even on the Vada Pav

A recent discussion with a group of young Indians was a great insight into the diversity of India.

I had asked the group what is in a Vada Pav (Mumbai’s favourite street food)?  Generally Vada Pav contains spicy potato filling, in a cut bun with layers of spicy garlic and green chutney. By the way, it is delicious!

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One in the group did not think it had potato, Another member thought is was based on chick peas. Then the discussion went on. Finally, there was a happy confusion about Vada Pav.

This is India. Often you find there is no common understanding on what seem fairly simple things. Ask a group to tell you what a “crore” or a “lakh” is and pretty soon your head will be spinning.

Why does this happen?

It is not India, but many Indias. This is not one country – this is a country of countries. There are so many Indias and common understandings across the whole country are rare.

Major festivals often have different names or slightly different spelling of names, depending on where you are.

This is diversity and needs to be understood if you are to succeed there. India manages to stay together but it really is an amalgamation of ethnicity, culture and over 26 major languages.

Investigating culture pays off. Underestimating cultural difference can be the beginning of the end for your project.

Ready?

I hope Australian PM Morrison will speak in January at India’s Raisina Dialogue

Good news – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is to visit India next year.

There is a hint that the timing is January.

I hope he chooses to become a keynote speaker at the Raisina Dialogue – January 14-16.

Raisina Dialogue is a multilateral conference committed to addressing the most challenging issues facing the global community. Every year, global leaders in policy, business, media and civil society are hosted in New Delhi to discuss cooperation on a wide range of pertinent international policy matters.

The Dialogue is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral discussion, involving heads of state, cabinet ministers and local government officials, as well as major private sector executives, members of the media and academics.

The conference is hosted by the Observer Research Foundation in collaboration with the Government of India, Ministry of External Affairs.

The visit is also a great opportunity to further develop the positive relationship PM Morrison has with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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The world has been changed by Gandhi – celebrating 150 years since his birth

History recognizes Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) as India’s “Father of the Nation”.

But he has been the “Father of Change” throughout the world.

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Peaceful freedom campaigners such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Tibet’s Dalai Lama owe much to this great man.

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I am pictured visiting the Gandhi Ashram in Gujarat

In my own generation it was our opposition to the Vietnam War that led us to study Gandhi and his methods of non-violent protest. In this way he inspired young people in the 1960’s in Australia, USA, Canada and more.

I especially love his message encouraging tolerance: “As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it”. He said: “The golden rule is to test everything in the light of reason and experience, no matter from where it comes.”

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Some more Gandhi messages for specific sectors:

Communities: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong”.

Leadership: “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

Careers: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Business: “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

Innovation: “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”

Education: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

In our ever-busy lives, Gandhi is a role model in taking time out for the simple things. I saw this in bustling Mumbai at Mani Bhavan (Gandhi House), a three storey home with shuttered windows, a residence that Mahatma Gandhi was able to use. His room is simply furnished, austere. He would sit and read, spin cotton or talk to friends. It was his quiet time.

This was indeed the man who said there was enough in the world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.

No surprise then that Gandhi’s core approach to life was “You must be the change you want to see in the world”, a message very alive today as we seek to enhance our tolerant, multicultural communities.

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Indian middle-class consumers are spending big this festive season and online shopping is booming

India’s e-Commerce major Flipkart set record sales in the “Big Billion Days” launch of festival season online sales (Navrati and Diwali are in October).

Both e-commerce majors Flipkart and Amazon India had record transactions on their platforms on the first day of their annual festive sale, which started early on Sunday.

Flipkart is now owned by American retail major Walmart.

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Flipkart had demand in all major categories, including beauty, women’s ethnic wear, kidswear, sports, fast-moving consumer goods, baby care, private labels, and furniture on the first day of the sale.

High end phones are in demand – Amazon had big sales in premium smartphone brands OnePlus (pictured), Samsung, and Apple. Large appliances and televisions showed growth.

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The company said the largest number of new customers shopped for fashion, daily essentials, and consumables.

For Flipkart, travel was also the fastest-growing category which saw 12X growth over last year.

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Also, over 2.3 million consumers engaged with games on the platform. There were close to 10 million new app downloads in less than a month in the run-up to BBD 2019.

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Candles of the Diwali celebrations coming up on 27 October – a time of gift giving and family gatherings similar in scale to Christmas

Navrati festival now and Diwali to follow – “don’t be scared, be blessed”

On my second visit to India, staying in a hotel in New Delhi, I was alarmed at two or three in the morning by a series of explosions – in this post 9/11 era we are all a little on edge. I spent a nervous night and next morning anxiously asked the concierge had he heard the massive explosions?

With a beaming smile on his face, he said “This is Diwali and people always fire off crackers – don’t be scared, be blessed”.

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Pictured are dancers during Navrati Festival

This year, Navratri (Durga Puja) is being observed from September 29 to October 7 and Diwali on 27 October – which is my birthday, so it will be very special for me this year.

Navratri in Sanskrit means nine nights in which nine forms of Goddess Durga are worshipped in a particular order. Alongside observing fast and performing various rituals, preparing a special offering for each day holds symbolic significance.

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Aarti was also performed and people were seen offering prayers at Mumba Devi temple in Mumbai (pictured above) on the first day of Navratri. Mumba Devi is an amazing temple and I recommend it be on your “must visit” list if in Mumbai.

Kalkaji temple and Jhandewalan temple in New Delhi were all decked up with flowers as people stood in long queues to attend the first aarti of the nine-day-long festival.

In India festivals are generally about great optimism – in one way or another, about the triumph of good over evil.

So, from me – “all best wishes of Navrati to you!”

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