Risk Latte - The “I” in IBM and the “F” in the FT

The “I” in IBM and the “F” in the FT

Rahul Bhattacharya
June 07,2006

I normally don't read the Financial Times, also called FT by savvy finance and banking professionals, but today I happened to read it.( It is a bit of shame that living in Hong Kong and interacting with the Masters of the Universe in my normal course of work here I am so financially illiterate and don't read the FT. But anyway, I have survived so far.) I had been waiting for a taxi for almost half an hour this evening and the corner kiosk happened to carry a lone copy of the FT. And as is the case with any financially illiterate person, I flipped from the first page to the last page (the Lex column) hoping a taxi will materialize and what do I notice, lo and behold, there is an article about "Indian Business Machines"

Well, the newspaper was referring to IBM's $6 billion investment plans in India and the columnist or the editor thought that by changing the "I" from whatever it stood for to "Indian" will perhaps drive home the point for its readers in the City. IBM was making a huge investment in India and in the process was going to give a boost to the already turbo charged Indian software industry.

Many a times my Indian compatriots in Asia and even in the City have complained that the FT is extremely negative on India and its pessimism about Indian business ethics, standards and the general business environment in India is actually quite provocative, given the current rage about the state of Indian economy, not just the software and services sector in that country. I am told FT makes fun of India , and its commentary about anything Indian is laced with deep sarcasm. Well, I wouldn't know and I still don't believe that a newspaper of FT's stature can have a jaundiced view of about men and things

When I say to them, hey, the times have changed. As I stand on the peak - the highest point on the Hong Kong island - and I look North, South, East and West, I see India Everywhere ; that is, metaphorically speaking of course. Actually, from the Peak in Hong Kong one sees China everywhere. One guy, an Indian and who, like many of my friends in the City, is a brilliant engineer and a failed banker recently got so annoyed at my comments that he spewed out: "Rahul, you are a fool.....an A-hole, can't you see, sixty years ago Winston Churchill and his believers had problems with a half-naked fakir who wanted to bring peace on earth and today the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Winston Churchill has problems with a guy in pin striped suit who wants to reform and liberate the global steel industry from the clutches of inefficiency...do you get it, man?" Do I get it? No, I don't get it, but then my knowledge of history is almost zero, far worse than my knowledge of finance.

They keep telling me that the "F" in the Financial Times should be "F...ed"; I think what they mean is "Failed". The other day I was visiting a financial training company and there one guru, holding a copy of the latest issue of the Economist, was saying to another "Can India Fly?" "It has tried and failed! Ha!" So perhaps the gloomy commentary and presentiment about India in the FT should be called "Failed Times"

That makes me wonder: are these failed times for India? Why, because the Bombay stock market (Sensex) has lost 19% in the last few weeks? or because some greedy, stupid and so-far lucky fund manger lost 10% in Indian equities? Or is it failed times for India because a man in pin striped suit has the balls and the brains to make the global steel industry stand on its head? Or is it failed times because IBM is investing $6 billion in India or because FT itself chooses to highlight the minutest details of the Ambani family fight? Failed times, but India sells! Right, Mr. Editor, Mr. Lex?

But despite the fact that I don't read FT often, and despite the fact that my friends speak out against the newspaper I have a great respect for this newspaper, like I have respect for all the great institutions that Great Britain has helped India to build, many years ago. I mean it. Moreover, Parliamentary Democracy, Westminster , Isaac Newton, Thomas Hardy and Paul Dirac have had deep impact on my own life, and my philosophy (whatever is there to speak about). I think the FT has run many stellar commentaries and brilliant and incisive editorial pieces over the years and I have kept these clippings in my file. I also think IBM is a great company that has made a wise decision to invest in India .

Let us then leave the "I" in IBM as it is and let us call FT the Financial Times.

© Rahul Bhattacharya
This column is written by Rahul Bhattacharya and reflects his own views about life and business. It does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other members of Risk Latte Americas Inc., Hong Kong (“the Company”) and the Company accepts no responsibility for any factual errors contained in the column and strongly advises readers not to pay much attention to it.

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