Making (Fab)India work

I am currently reading ” Making India work” by William Bissell( MD of Fab India). I have always been a big fan of the FAB India concept and have patronised the store for a long time.In the late nineties when there were just a few stores (first one being in the GK Market) I used to take foreign buyers there and they just loved the stuff – I wondered why ? After all it was just cotton and that too kind of very plain and simple.I guess somewhere down the line I got hooked to the casual comfort and comfortable pricing.It also made me look more intelligent than I actually am.

And then whenever I visited Lucknow and went to buy stuff for my parents from the Khadi Gram Udyog outelt I found the concept very similiar to that of Fab India.Khadi Shirts,Home made Pickles,Shampoos,Kutir Neem Soap, Herbal Medicines,Home linen etc…The only big difference I found was that of customers who frequented these two places promoting Gandhian Way of life and Community based enterprises.While Fab India was thronged by the Firangis and the Elitist intellectual types the visitors at Khadi Gram Udyog were more rustic in appearance and represented people with limited means, at best the middle class.

Over a period of time Fab India has grown to be a profitable chain of stores across the country, the Khadi Gram Udyog is languishing in its semi comatose state  surviving on life support provided by the government.Well the reasons for its failure are multiple but the most prominent ones :

Lack of Focus on Bottomline

Positioning and value preposition

And Of course the midas touch of Babus who literally mess up with anything that they ever lay their hands on.They should be actually prohibited to bless children else they would stop growing.

Anyways , what pains is that while Gandhi has caught the fancy of the world in a big way as more and more have realized the non sustainable nature of the material pursuits , his ideas are still being promoted in his own country by an American who has made India his home.Even the Organic line of products at Fab India comes from a company promoted by Bharat Mitra who is an Israeli settled in Lucknow.

In a way it epitomizes how we are.Years of colonial baggage has ensured that the Indian Psyche keeps looking for affirmation from the white skin.Unless reaffirmed our faith in our own self  and our own knowledge keeps flickering. I do believe in Globalization and have tremendous respect for both gentlemen but this attitude needs to go.

Coming back to the book.The central idea is how India can grow and join the league of developed nations without putting pressure on an already bursting at the seams and fragile planet.The book argues that we must put a value to all natural resources and the communities that live in these habitats must be able to command a price for the clean air and fresh water.

While I agree that a self sustaining community might be an answer to a happier and more content world around us I found the ideas presented in the book simplistic in their approach.

For Example – If Reebok starts pricing its shoes at the product cost + distribution + profit + the cost of getting rid of the pair in an environmently friendly way it can then be called the real cost of the pair.But I understand that Reebok already prices its products at 6 times the cost of production so how come ? and then would not the same logic be applied to a Paragon chappal ? So what do our villagers with fresh water and air do ? The chappal is already beyond their reach as it is now a sustainable chappal.

There is lots of bibliography and Mr. Bissell goes on to propose a new system of Taxation ,Politics,  Govenment. To me the ideas will never go beyond the drawing board even though they are simple to understand and execute.India is much more complex a nation and what makes it even more so is the fact that for 70% someone else needs to tell them what’s good or bad for them.How else do you explain Mayawati becoming chief minister the third time.Politics and Government in India is a 2nd class game played by third class people for those who belong to the 4th class.And unless my vested interest of building a nation is same as your vested interest of providing for next 3 generations things will never change.

In all this I see a ray of hope for me – with everyone imagining their own India may be its time for me for think of my own version and publish it.As it is my poems and short stories are not going anywhere…

Let me start :

Aisa hoga sab log Ice cream khaa rahe honge …samjhe.Itte mein mercedes se bhikhari utarenge aur golden bowls mein bheekh maangne lagenge.Aur tab main ek dialogue boloonga ‘ saala nagar basa nahin kangal aagaye.Goli maar do sabko.’

Chote chote bachche apni guns nikalkar chalayenge.Usme se Gems choclate nikaleingee goliyaan nahin aur sab log khushee khushee apne ghar jaane lagenge ye gaate hue ki saare jahan se achchaa hindostaan hamaara ….

Not bad. hai na ?

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12 comments on “Making (Fab)India work

  1. Rangoli says:

    Great thoughts…………it was really informative +total hindustani discussion!!

  2. avinash says:

    dear sir

    i m a textile cum fashion designer.now i m working a textile & garment company in delhi. i what to join dhadi gramudog.

    pls suggest me.

    thanks

  3. Anna says:

    Am planning to visit Lucknow soon. Heard that SEWA (self employed womens womens association) has some outlets for chikankari work? Would u b able to clue me in pl? Am interested also in the most exclusive chikankari work with intricate, sophisticated designs. Where in Lucknow do I buy from?
    Thanks
    Anna

    • aahang says:

      Came to know from Mr Atul that you called up.He will surely be able to help out.We are based out of Bangalore so if you are coming this way just drop a line or call at 22981944.thanks

  4. aahang says:

    The last para of me imagining INDIA qualifies for jibberish a writing art form promoted by none other than Jim Morrison…….don’t try and find meaning – there’s none.

  5. hahaha – very interesting point – mercedes se bhikari uterega – toh baaki sab ferrari mein honge kya?

    • aahang says:

      saare taare door ke taare, sab ke chhote haath. mercedes ho ya ferari sab hamaari soch tak hi seemit hai.

  6. Ayan says:

    Dat would be a scene from El Dorado but Sir u hv to hold on to ur thought for a few more decades as things r not anywhere near where u imagine them to be. But as u urself said it through the last few lines….the gap between the haves and the have nots would never diminish…a Bhikari would still be seen as a Bhikari(n not another human being) so what if he drives a Mercedes.The stamp that we put on people through our perception can never be erased!!!

  7. Ravi Sharan says:

    Rajnish Ji,

    Actually the whole debate centres arounr the prioriteis , motivation , compulsion , needs and competence that a Quasi Government enterprise has vs. a private enterprise in interpreting and doggedly pursuing a theme.
    While Khadi is still sluggish , the soap range marketed by them has just been lifted as it is by FabIndia and I believe it is a roaring success.

    We also have a redeeming and a reassuring example of the Cottage Emporium at Janpath and the handicrafts village near Pragati maidan and even the Delhi haats to a large extent where the psuedo and real intellectuals have collectively made it a forum for Brand India.
    Even the Incredible India! campaign has been intensely successful (to a casual observer’s eye)

    So let us enjoy the dirty Four Lettered word called HOPE

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