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BW Businessworld

How Virat Kohli & Indian Entrepreneurs Are Betrayed By 'Old India'

Sutanu Guru on how the old Nehruvian mindset is damaging new India and the economy

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On the face of it, there is nothing common between Virat Kohli, captain of the Indian cricket team and Yogendra Vasupal, co founder of Stayzilla. Perhaps the only thing they might have in common is sharing aspirational traits of a new India: bold, willing to take risks and in your face. And yet, both have been disgracefully betrayed by an "old India" which prefers to be meek, submissive and prone to platitudes. And it's not just about Kohli and Vasupal alone. This old Nehruvian mindset is inflicting immense damage on the future prospects of the Indian economy.

What happened to Virat Kohli? In the Bengaluru test match, Australian captain Steve Smith brazenly violated both ethics and rules by seeking help from his team members sitting in the pavilion. The evidence was glaringly visible to all who saw the visuals on TV. Virat Kohli belongs to a new India which doesn't mince words. He de facto called Steve Smith a cheat. The BCCI filed a formal complaint against Smith with the ICC. But mysteriously, it subsequently patched up and withdrew the complaint, leaving Kohli high and dry. And now the Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland who "persuaded" BCCI to back off is now publicly abusing Kohli. How will that affect the morale of Kohli and the Indian team when they see rivals get away with blatant cheating ? Then again, is it a surprise that a key top official of BCCI is "eminent historian" Ramchandra Guha, an unabashed admirer of Nehru?

What happened with Yogendra Vasupal is worse and will cause more long term damage. Stayzilla is one of the thousands of start ups dreaming of their place under the sun in a new India that prime minister Narendra Modi keeps promising. Most start ups will fail. That's how business works. Stayzilla too is going through a crisis. But shockingly, Vasupal has been arrested in Chennai since March 14 and is yet to get bail. His crime: Stayzilla has failed to clear dues owed to some vendors. Fat cat industrialists and "connected" corporate families have failed to repay more than Rs 6 lakh crores owed to banks. Many have deliberately siphoned off the funds. And yet, it is a start up entrepreneur like Vasupal who is arrested and locked up over small sums of money. What message is "old India" sending to hundreds of thousands of young Indians nurturing start up dreams?

It is this mindset that has allowed "foreign" companies to ride roughshod over Indian rivals. Every other major economy in the world strategically protects and promotes local home grown entrepreneurs. Every economy except India. That's how Japan nurtured Toyota,Honda, Sony and dozens of others. That's how South Korea nurtured the likes of Samsung, Posco and LG, among others. China leveraged its massive consumer base to nurture the likes of Haier, Alibaba, Baidu, Oppo and many others. Look at America under Donald Trump. The policy to bar passengers flying "non- American" carriers from the Middle East from taking laptops and tablets as hand baggage is plain old protectionism.

And what about India? Well the Nehruvian mindset advices Indian entrepreneurs to grin and bear the onslaught of foreign competition. In any case, Nehruvian India still considers Indian entrepreneurs to be class enemies. Is it any wonder that four of the top five mobile handset brands in India are Chinese while Indian brands are struggling to survive? Uber, Amazon, Google, Facebook et al have virtually no presence in China. But look at how they dominate the Indian market! Quite soon, Chinese company Alibaba could take over Snapdeal. Will Indian entrepreneurs will then be left with crumbs and leftovers in the new India that Modi is promising? The arrival of Modi has demolished Nehruvian mindsets when it comes to politics, and perhaps even in foreign policy. But when it comes to economics and business, the old India continues to throttle aspirational India. Kohli and Vasupal are just two examples of this deep rooted and suicidal mindset.