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“We Do not Want to Vending

be Elitist in India” it Out

Andreas Sennheiser,
CEO, Sennheiser Electronic

The Cannes
Jumbo Mania Question: Why
p.14 Can’t We? p.20 | New Delhi | 24 pages | `10

May 19-25, 2019

Subtle but important changes

are reshaping India’s startup
financing industry, as action
returns to a critical sector
02 what’s news
MAY 19-25, 2019

CEC Calls Lavasa Letter Controversy ‘Unsavoury’

New Delhi: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) spect to the handling of the Model Code of Con- largely remained within the confines of ECI till sies,” he said.
Sunil Arora Saturday termed as “unsavoury and duct. This has come at a time when all the CEOs demission of office. Unless appearing much later In his letter to Arora, Lavasa recused himself
avoidable” the controversy on the recording of (Chief Electoral Officers) and their teams across in a book written by the concerned ECs (Election from attending full commission meetings held to
minority decisions on the Model Code of Con- the country are geared towards the Commissioners) or CECs,” he said. decide on MCC violations, after his dissent on the
duct and Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa’s seventh and last phase of polling to- Arora says Arora said he had personally never clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra
matter will be
letter to him in this regard. He said an Election morrow followed by the gigantic task shied away from a public debate Modi and BJP President Amit Shah on their re-
discussed at
Commission (EC) meeting was scheduled on of counting on May 23.” whenever required “but there is time spective speeches, went unrecorded.
Tuesday to “discuss this and related matters”. The CEC insisted that Lavasa’s letter for everything”. “There was a reason I Lavasa, in his letter, insisted that he would
In a statement, Arora said: “There has been an on the MCC was an internal matter of told a leading daily a few days back, attend the EC meetings if his minority deci-
unsavoury and avoidable controversy reported the poll panel. that eloquence of silence is always difficult but sions were also included in the orders of the
in sections of the media today about the internal Arora said there had been differences be- far more desirable to see the election process Commission.
functioning of Election Commission with re- tween the EC members in the past.“But the same through, instead of creating ill-timed controver- —IANS

Varanasi, 58 I Will be Killed

Constituencies Like Indira:
to Vote Today Kejriwal
New Delhi: The seven-phase New Delhi: Alleging that the
Lok Sabha elections, one of the BJP was after his life, Delhi
most bitterly fought in recent Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi
memory, will come to a close Party chief Arvind Kejriwal
Sunday when polling will be Saturday claimed that he will
held in 59 constituencies, in- be assassinated like former
cluding in Varanasi, where prime minister Indira Gandhi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his personal security offic-
is seeking to retain the seat. er.
Polling will be held in all 13 “The BJP would get me mur-
seats in Punjab and an equal dered by my own PSO (person-
number of seats in Uttar Prime Minister al security officer) one day like
Pradesh, nine in West Bengal, Indira Gandhi. My own securi-
Narendra Modi at
eight seats each in Bihar and ty officers report to BJP,” Kejri-
Kedarnath shrine in
Madhya Pradesh, four in wal told a news channel in
Himachal Pradesh, three in
Uttarakhand on Punjab. “The BJP is after my
Jharkhand and Chandigarh.
Saturday life, they will murder me one
— PTI day.” — PTI

Naidu Meets
Rahul, Akhilesh, PM on Meditation Break Australian PM
Hails ‘Miracle’
New Delhi: TDP chief N Chan-
After Marathon Campaign Poll Victory
Sydney: Australia’s conserva-

drababu Naidu Saturday met rime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday of- tary Utpal Kumar Singh briefed him about the tive Prime Minister Scott Mor-
Samajwadi Party president fered prayers at the Himalayan shrine of restoration work. rison praised “quiet Australi-
Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Kedarnath, a day after campaigning for Later in the afternoon, Modi trekked to a cave ans” for delivering his party a
Samajwadi Party chief Mayawa- the general election came to a close. called Dhyan Kutia to meditate. The prime min- “miracle” election victory
ti in Lucknow, continuing his On Sunday, he is expected to be in Badrinath. ister will spend the night at the cave. He is ex- Saturday after his Labour
efforts to put together a coali- Modi arrived at Dehradun’s Jolly Grant airport pected to return to New Delhi later on Sunday. challenger conceded defeat.
tion to form the next govern- and took a helicopter to Kedarnath. Wearing a This is Modi’s fourth visit to the temple in the Morrison had entered the
ment at the Centre. grey attire with a pahari cap and a saffron gam- last two years. election as an underdog, but
He reached the state capital chha around his waist, he alighted from the chop- BJP Uttarakhand president Ajay Bhatt said after a hard-fought campaign
after meetings in New Delhi per and headed straight to the shrine, where he Modi’s trip was “just a spiritual visit”. defied the odds to extend the
with Congress president Rahul offered special prayers. Other devotees were not The Election Commission had given its nod to Liberal-National coalition’s
Gandhi, CPI leaders G Sudha- allowed to enter the temple during this time. the visit while “reminding” the Prime Minister’s six-year rule. The develop-
kar Reddy and D Raja, NCP Then he took an all-terrain vehicle to go Office that the Model Code of Conduct was still ment of an Adani-owned coal
chief Sharad Pawar and LJD around and review the reconstruction work in in force. Polling for the seventh and last phase of mine was a flashpoint in the
leader Sharad Yadav. Kedarnath, which was extensively damaged in the general elections will be held Sunday. elections.
— Agencies the June 2013 deluge. Uttarakhand Chief Secre- —Agencies/Kedarnath — AFP

China Asks US to Show ‘Sincerity’ in Trade Talks

Washington/Beijing: China struck a more ag- accuse China of backtracking on promises aged resolving disputes with the US through discussions was “in flux.” The US Commerce
gressive tone in its trade war with the United made during months of talks and the Trump dialogue and consultations. “But because of Department may soon scale back restrictions
States on Friday, suggesting a resumption of administration level a potentially crippling certain things the US side has done during the on Huawei by issuing a temporary general li-
talks between the world’s two largest econo- blow against one of China’s biggest and most previous China-US trade consultations, we be- cence to allow time for companies and people
mies would be meaningless unless Washington successful companies. Chinese foreign minis- lieve if there is meaning for these talks, there who have Huawei equipment to maintain reli-
changed course. try spokesman Lu Kang, asked about state me- must be a show of sincerity,” he told a daily ability of their communications networks and
The tough talk capped a week that saw Bei- dia reports suggesting there would be no more news briefing. CNBC, citing sources, said the equipment, a department spokeswoman said.
jing unveil fresh retaliatory tariffs, US officials trade negotiations, said China always encour- trade talks had stalled and the next round of —Reuters
perspective 03
MAY 19-25, 2019

tion could take place in Taiwan or Singapore is heel-to-toe with the US in artificial intelli-
and its integration into a gadget in China, along gence and racing ahead in digital technologies,
with other parts that are built in the elaborate unhindered by privacy concerns.
supply chain nicknamed Factory Asia, in The US’s denial of technology will acceler-
which bits and parts shuffle around East and ate, not stifle, this process. Denial of Qual-
Southeast Asia, adding value along the way, be- comm chips brought ZTE to its knees. This will

fore ending up in China for final assembly. spur the Chinese to build their own Qual-
This has raised living standards in Asia and comm. China’s rise as an economic and mili-
fattened the profits of western multination- tary power is unstoppable. Western capital
als. But it has also taken jobs away from the gains from this process more than western la-
US and Europe. Domestic bour loses out. Trump’s
politics has failed to address campaign to contain China
the scarcity of blue-collar The pre-eminent will fail even if turbulence
There will be opportunities as well jobs and their diminished condition for China’s in the capital markets does
abilit y to let low-skilled rise to stay peaceful not halt the project before
as threats for India as superpowers workers join the ranks of the long.
is the rise of India as a
America and China joust middle class. The resultant
disquiet has been exploited
However, the pre-emi-
countervailing power. nent condition for China’s
by populists like Trump to The Indo-US nuclear rise to stay peaceful is the
come to power and be seen rise of India as a counter-
to be doing something to deal signalled vailing power. The Indo-
bring the glory days of flour- western enthusiasm US nuclear deal signalled
ishing manufacturing back for this project western enthusiasm for
to their economies, where this project. The myopia
the high-skilled and the en- of India’s political and
trepreneurial see a huge rise in their in- economic elite is the biggest stumbling block.
comes, widening income inequalities and The BJP opposed the deal. The Congress
fuelling popular anger that facilitates yet staked its government for the deal, but dith-
more populist politics, be it Brexit or anti- ered on the integrity of institutional function-
immigrant anger in parts of Europe. ing, without which lasting power cannot be
China’s R&D ecosystem has evolved to a level built. The BJP, with its Hindutva project, is
where it no longer needs to steal technology — creating political instability, instilling insecu-
China even imports Wedgwood pottery from rity among India’s minorities.
England, whose roots lie in ceramics technol- If India puts its house in order, it will ad-
ogy stolen from China centuries ago. China vance, as the US and China joust. �
leads the world in quantum communications,
:: TK Arun

merican imperialism is back, stalled talks. China’s internal power
the old, Vietnam-war-era ver- equations will not allow a public percep-
sion, wielding its might in the tion of the government taking American
pursuit of self-interest, re- bullying lying down. China is preparing a
gardless of norms and what fiscal package to counter the negative im-
damage it does to friend, foe or those not pact on its economy of curtailed exports
aligned as either. However, the context is to the US, amidst calls for a people’s war
vastly different, that of a more integrated, against US aggression.
globalised world, and superiority in ord- Chinese countermeasures, such as di-
nance is even less likely to prevail than it verting imports of soya and whiskey away
did in Vietnam. from the US, will hurt small but influential
Make no mistake, US President Donald segments of the American society. More
Trump’s trade war with China is about a expensive consumer goods, which would
whole lot more than result from the US pro-
trade. It is an attempt to ceeding with its threat
contain China’s rise and
US President Donald to raise tariffs on im-
retain US pre-eminence Trump’s trade war with p o r t s f ro m C h i n a
in not just Asia and the China is about a whole ac ross the board,
Pacific but in the world. would erode the living
China has replaced the
lot more than trade. It is standards of less afflu-
erstwhile Soviet Union an attempt to contain ent Americans, raise
as the rival superpower China’s rise and retain the cost of phones, lap-
to the US. tops, gaming consoles
The American at-
US pre-eminence in not and other tech stuff, ir-
tempt to strip Iran of the just Asia and the Pacific ritating the youth.
capability to stay an au- but in the world At the same time,
tonomous re gional American multination-
power has more ambig- als will be hit. If the
uous motivation, in which strains of the trade war with China persists, they will
ancient animosity that propelled the Cru- have to rebuild their global supply chains,
sades mingle with considerations of rein- large parts of which are located in China.
forcing the West’s current dominance in Their sales to Chinese companies and con-
the region, by further increasing the power sumers would hurt. While global capital
differential between its regional proxy, Is- would cheer an end to the Chinese practice
rael, and its challengers. Iran, home to the of insisting on technology transfer as a pre-
Levant’s second largest population of Jews, condition for access to the vast Chinese
is too evolved and complex a civilisation to market, they have little sympathy for the
be subjugated by bullying. Trumpian vision of shifting manufacturing
The US raised tariffs from 10% to 25% back to the US.
on imports worth $200 billion from Chi- Global production takes placed in en-
na in the midst of trade talks, accusing meshed networks, in which development
China of going back on agreed provisions. of intellectual property, say, for a new gen-
Then it banned US companies from trade eration of chips, could be taking place in
with Huawei and its affiliates. This has the US and India, while the chip’s fabrica-
04 big story
MAY 19-25, 2019

Gokaldas Exports was once
a cautionary tale — of a high
profile private equity
buyout gone wrong. By
sticking to its knitting, it now
appears to have turned a
corner under a new owner
:: Suman Layak

n December 2017, Sivaramakrishnan Ga-
napathi was in Dubai for a short Christ-
mas holiday with his family. It had been
planned months ago. Else he would have
avoided taking a break just two months
after taking a job as managing director at
Gokaldas Exports. But this was in some
ways worse — now he was on vacation,
and yet his mind was
TL;DR preoccupied.
After two decades at
Blackstone PE the Aditya Birla Group,
acquired Gokaldas it took a lot of delibera-
Exports in 2007 at tion to quit as chief op-
a premium erating officer at Idea
Cellular and move to
But the exporter’s
lead Gokaldas, heed-
growth stagnated DEEPAK G PAWAR
ing the call of his friend
after that and the PE
company finally sold
and IIM-Bangalore
Gokaldas at a classmate Mathew Cyr- ladesh — but also its own chequered past. fer. Over the next decade, however, the
massive discount iac, a one-time PE ex- The company was among the earliest company stagnated, its dollar revenues
ecutive who now India targets for Blackstone, one of the halved, and its share price was hammered
Today, the new owned a significant world’s largest investment firms, led by the “I met all the customers down to double digits. Blackstone tried to
management has
managed to raise
chunk of the publicly influential American executive Stephen A one by one, explained to sell the company, and slowly offloaded its

funds, reach out to

traded garment ex-
Schwarzman. By virtue of its scale, Black-
stone’s investments and their perfor-
them that we were stake.
In early 2017, after having spent a dec-
customers and up
Gokaldas was mance are closely watched for signals seriously committed to ade at Blackstone, Mathew Cyriac quit as
weighed down not just about sectors and countries. the relationship and we co-head of the firm’s private equity busi-
by the structural chal-
lenges in India’s apparel export industry
In 2007, the bulge bracket investor put
in `482.50 crore for a 50.1% stake, which at
would expand capacities” ness in India to start his own fund. It was
when he went to the company’s New York
— low margins, a fluctuating rupee and `275 a share represented a 20% premium Sivaramakrishnan Ganapathi, offices to say his goodbyes that the firm of-
competition from countries such as Viet- to the prevailing share price. It then ac- MD of Gokaldas Exports fered Gokaldas to Cyriac. When his Florin-
nam, the Philippines, Pakistan and Bang- quired another 20% through an open of- tree Capital bought Blackstone’s stake at


Gross Sales (standalone annual) Profit After Tax (standalone annual) Profit After Tax (standalone quarterly)
Mar ’16





Mar ’07


70.28 Mar ’16

Mar ’08 60.67
47.61 Dec ’15
Mar ’17

Mar ’19
13.82 MAR ’19

Mar ’15
25.62 25.92 11.32
Mar ’09 34.36 Mar ’18 DEC ’18

6.57 Jun ’18 8.13

3.36 4.05

Mar ’10
Mar ’14
-1.93 -7.21
Sep ’18
Mar ’18 1.52
-28.75 Jun ’16
Jun ’17
Mar ’17 -8.51 Sep ’17
Mar ’11 -46.21 -11.62 -9.27
-88.08 DEC ’17
DEC ’16 -16.79
Sep ’16
Mar ’13
-26.88 -21.37
Quarterly and annual standalone numbers for FY19 and Jan-March quarter
Mar ’07

Mar ’08

Mar ’09

Mar ’10

Mar ’11

Mar ’12

Mar ’13

Mar ’14

Mar ’15

Mar ’16

Mar ’17

Mar ’18

Mar ’19

Mar ’12
FY19 are from company release. The sales number for FY19 includes excise tax.
-132.76 The rest have been compiled by ETIG Database
big story 05
MAY 19-25, 2019


2 0 0 8 2 0 1 1 2 0 0 8 - 2 0 1 6 2 0 1 7 2 0 1 7 2 0 1 8 - 1 9
Blackstone buys a Erstwhile Over the years, as the Blackstone sells its 39.9% Sivaramakrishnan Gokladas
majority stake in promoters, rupee fell against the stake to Florintree Ganapathy is made Exports marks
Gokaldas from the the Hinduja dollar, revenues Capital’s Clear Wealth MD; the company a turnaround
promoters and brothers, dropped, even as the Consultancy Services LLP, raises `70 cr as by reporting
through an open resign from company’s rupee owned by Mathew Cyriac, qualified institu- profits in
offer, spending `670 the company revenues remained at former co-head of Black- tional placement all the four
cr at `275 a share management the same level stone), at `42 a share in early 2018 quarters

based Hinduja group). equity had flowed into the company, as the
TOP APPAREL EXPORTERS IN INDIA It was unusual for a private eq- buyout deals were between promoters.
Export turnover in 2017-18 (` cr) uity investor to let the erstwhile Cyriac says he sees a “big opportunity” in
promoters run the business for the industry. “We see a chance to treble the
Shahi Exports 6,380 three years after a buyout. After company’s turnover in double quick-time
the trio left, the company saw two and opportunities to acquire many dis-
Orient Craft Ltd 2,046 more CEOs — Gautam Chakraborty tressed assets,” says Cyriac. He also sees an
and P Ramababu — come and go. opportunity to build an apparel-making
Pearl Global 1,650 took a break from his Dubai vacation and got But sustainable performance eluded it. platform around Gokaldas Exports.
Eastman Exports 1,600 into a video-conference, while the rest of the Meanwhile, the rupee to dollar rate that was Independent analysts are not quite as op-
Gokaldas board joined from Bengaluru. His around `39 in 2007-08 was flirting with `70 timistic. “India’s apparel exports are esti-
Arvind Lifestyle 1,293 primary focus was to get ap- in 2017. mated to de-grow by 4-5% in FY2019, follow-
proval to raise around `125 Earlier, says Saldanha, Gokal- ing a similar de-growth of 4% in FY2018,”
Shivalik Prints 1,200 crore. That was the easy part. It das would go to customers only credit rating agency ICRA said in a February
Gokaldas Exports 1,079 would take five more months to take orders. One of the first report. The report added a bottom was near
for the company to raise `70 things Ganapathi did after tak- and it expected a positive movement soon.
Quantum Knits 1,000 crore through qualified institu- ing over as CEO was to visit all However, it also pointed out that Indian
tional placements. The money his major customers across the players have not been able to make anything
Pratibha Syntex 818 came from L&T Mutual Fund world — the list includes the out of overall growth in the global trade in
Source: and HSF Mauritius, an overseas likes of Nike, Adidas, GAP and apparel. China has been continuously losing
fund. Marks & Spencer. Ganapathi market share, which has been pocketed by
`42 a share — through special purpose vehi- With the money in the says: “I met all the customers Bangladesh and Vietnam. The report point-
cle Clear Wealth Consultancy Services LLP bag, Ganapathi turned his one by one, explained to ed out the new emerging free-trade agree-
— the deal represented an 84% write-down focus on customers and effi- “We are in the them that we are seriously ments such as the 11-nation trans-Pacific
on the latter’s original investment. ciency. Around a year later, committed to the relation- partnership and the proposed European
First order of business was hiring a CEO, his plan seems to be work-
business of trust, ship and we will expand our Union-Vietnam foreign trade agreement
and the second, backing them up with nec- ing. After recording losses of winning the trust capacities.” would be detrimental for Indian exporters.
essary capital. “When I looked around, `46 crore in 2016-17 and `28 Next, Ganapathi focused These would give exporters from nations
most apparel exports companies were led crore in 2017-18, Gokaldas
of global apparel on increasing capacity. “The with zero or very low tariffs access to the In-
by their owners. I decided I needed to find has recorded a net profit of brands is the key” company has been shrinking dian market.
a CEO who would think like an owner,” `25.58 crore for 2018-19. All Richard Saldanha, chairman, and giving up on capacity. I There are domestic challenges, too, says
Cyriac says. the four quarters were in the Gokaldas Exports thought let me push it.” He Ganapathi. Despite all the homework he
Ganapathi’s mandate was to turn around black despite the apparel ex- found assembly lines lying did before joining, he was not ready for the
the company, once India’s largest apparel ports industry facing steady idle in warehouses and de- sudden developments — for example, the
exporter. He visited the company’s Bengalu- headwinds. The shares of the company cided to revive them. This alone led to a 10% rupee strengthening in the last few months
ru factory four times before he signed on. He closed at `76 at the end of trading on Friday, increase in capacity. of 2017, the impact of the goods and ser-
also held discussions with the company’s May 17. The challenge now is to maintain the Another move was operational efficiency. vices tax regime on exports or the credit
chairman, Richard Saldanha, who told him gains and take the company higher up in the He pushed the same assembly line that squeeze on banks.
that the company was not in the business of exports league table. made 1,000 garments in a giv- Other structural changes can
apparel, but in the business of trust. So what did Ganapathi change? Richard en time to make 1,100, he says. help Gokaldas. Analysts at Prab-
Companies such as Gokaldas make their Saldanha, chairman of Gokaldas Exports “We tried to engineer the as- hudas Lilladher said in a Decem-
money by supplying garments to the and a former vice-chairman at Blackstone, sembly lines better.” Ganapa- ber 2018 report that as global
world’s leading fashion retailers. Think says the basic change has been “how the thi says a garment-making as- customers set up shop in India,
Gap, Tommy Hilfiger, Zara and so on. These company goes to market” — how it interacts sembly line is not a smoothly now 20% of Gokaldas’ revenues
brands are not just paranoid about quality, and sells its services to its clients. moving chain. A particular would come from the domestic
they need to be able to trust a supplier to Saldanha had joined the Gokaldas Ex- stitch may take 33 seconds market. The report, by Shailee
not deviate from specifications across tens ports board in 2011 after the exit of the while the next one may take 38 Parekh and Charmi Mehta, said:
of thousands of units. Nurturing relation- erstwhile promoters, the Bengaluru- seconds, and bottlenecks de- “We expect Gokaldas Exports
ships, calming frayed nerves, offering the based Hinduja brothers — Madanlal, Ra- velop at these points. “We re- to grow revenue at a com-
flexibility to quickly turn around unsched- jendra and Dinesh (unrelated to the UK- deployed the most efficient “When I looked pounded annual growth rate of
uled but urgent orders — these are all as workers to the parts of the around, most 18.3% in 2017-18 to 2020-21, tak-
much part of the business as producing assembly line that took more ing the overall turnover to over
apparel exports
high-quality garments. KEY NUMBERS time.” Automation was `1,700 crore in 2020-21.” It also
Cyriac says he also felt a “moral obliga- brought in to expedite work. companies were predicted a sharp growth in its
Market capitalisation*
tion” to set the story right, as someone who “We reduced the time taken led by their gross margin from 48% now to

` 329.5 cr
had been part of Blackstone’s India journey to make a shirt from 21 min- 53% by 2021.
right through. (He was not involved in man- utes to 19 minutes,” Ganapa- owners. I This would be music to the
aging Gokaldas while he worked at the in-
Turnover for 2018-19
thi adds. Margins soon im- decided I needed ears of investors such as L&T
vesting firm). There were 25,000 employees proved and working capital and HSF Mauritius who invest-
to find a CEO
who were counting on the company’s turna- needs dropped from 120 ed in Gokaldas last year, and
round. Big players such as Arvind Lifestyle days to 100 days. who would think can push the company up to
were entering the field. Gokaldas had The last and key part of the among the top three among In-
slipped to the seventh position on the export Net profit for 2018-19 turnaround process was to
like an owner” dian apparel exporters. The

turnover league table. The top player, Shahi inject funds and invest in Mathew Cyriac, market capitalisation of Gokal-
Exports, posted seven times as much reve- new, modernised processes. non-executive director, das Exports has been stagnant
nue as Gokaldas, whose top line had stag- The fund infusion happened Gokaldas Exports at `300-400 crore for over a
nated at about `1,000 crore for a decade.
Number of factories in May 2018. The company decade.
Things were not looking good.
Once he was in the driver’s seat, Ganapa- 21 invested `36 crore in improving its plants,
processes and information systems, and
By continuing to win the trust of custom-
ers, the company might eventually win the
thi lost no time in donning the battle gear. * As on May 17; consolidated numbers
also acquired seven new customers. Gana- trust of the stock markets, too. ��
On the morning of December 29, 2017, he Source: Gokaldas Exports, BSE pathi points out that for over a decade no
06 cover story
MAY 19-25, 2019

Subtle but important changes are reshaping
India’s startup financing industry, as the
action returns to a critical sector

:: Malini Goyal

ast month, startup India saw a crossover that it was delighted
with. Rajan Anandan, managing director of Google India, quit
to join Sequoia Capital and lead its early stage investment pro-
gram Surge. Anandan is among India’s most prolific angel in-
vestors with over 59 investments.
He got a star’s welcome.
“Rajan is a true angel,” says Amarpreet Kalkat, co-founder,
Frrole, an AI-powered social intelligence startup that offers
services to businesses. In an ecosystem where business-to-
consumer has been the flavour of the season and
TL;DR deep tech-based startups a rarity, Frrole has had its
share of rough times. So, when in 2017 Kalkat was
Coming out of a harsh desperately trying to raise a bridge round, Anandan
winter, VCs in India came to his rescue. “I met him at an event in Jaipur.
have learnt some He took 10 minutes to understand the need and write
tough lessons a cheque. Once he was in, obviously, everyone fol-
lowed,” says Kalkat.
From growth at any
That Rajan’s move represents a leg up for the eco-
cost, the focus is now
on basics like business system is a view that echoes far and wide in the start-
model, unit economics up world. “Indian VCs often have investment banker
and the team pedigree with little entrepreneurial experience. Ra-
jan Anandan joining, with his vast experience,
Asian money, Softbank knowledge and networks, will give it a big boost,”
play, early-stage bet says Saurabh Srivastava, chairman, Indian Angel
by firms like Sequoia Network.
are the other trends Anandan’s move is ultimately just one executive
movement in a large industry. But the timing as well
as his role in championing India’s internet economy
and its entrepreneurs makes it emblematic of larger shifts un-
derway in the ecosystem that funds India’s startups.
There are a number of other developments that are signal-
ing subtle but important shifts underway in this space.
“We are seeing both maturing and deepening of the investor
landscape, which will have significant implications,” says
Alok Goyal, partner, Stellaris Venture.

Muscle Power Grofers, Starting Early Easing
Japanese giant Softbank’s
$100-billion Vision Fund is
Biggies such as Sequoia are
entering early stage Growth Pangs
skewing the deal table, forcing FirstCry, Oyo and investing Few VC funds were
VCs to rethink their investment targeting growth stage
scale and strategy Google India ex-MD startups (Series B to C).
among recent Rajan Anandan is heading That is changing
investments Sequoia’s Surge fund
Softbank’s India Play and accelerator
New funds like
1,743 1,772 Flipkart 17 startups were Fundamentum,
only exit so part of the 16-week Iron Pillar, A91
Surge 01. It will and Mirae
far. Softbank invest $1.5 million
942 invested $2.5 Asset Global
935 in each venture (South Korea) have
Amount ($Mn) bn, realised entered the fray
215 336 $4 bn Other programmes
NA NA include Accel $3.1 bn invested
Launchpad, Kalaari across 157 Series B and
2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 Kstart and Chiratae’s C funding rounds in last
2 NA NA 4 7 5 4 5 3 Innovation and
Frontier Tech
four quarters*
No. of deals Source: Venture Intelligence *Source: Tracxn
cover story 07
MAY 19-25, 2019

Spring Follows Winter entering the fray betting on new business models—it gets
Sequoia India leads the pack of investors
The first wave of venture no equity until the startup achieves a pre-decided reve-
capital (VC) investors ar-
“From growth nue milestone.
based on number of deals

rived in India in the early at any cost, The source of capital in India, too, is diversifying. A Top six VC/PE investors
2000s with global giants investors are new breed of MNCs (Philips and Alibaba, for instance) No. of cos
such as Sequoia and Nor- now focusing are ploughing in funds. Multiple new funds from coun- Exits
west Partners. Homegrown
on basic values tries as diverse as Japan (Beenext), China (Shunwei), 155
companies such as SAIF South Korea (Mirae) and Abu Dhabi (ADIA) are deploy-
Partners and Helion Advi- like unit ing their capital. Finally, domestic capital, too, is betting 125
sors joined the fray, too. Of- economics and on startups. Indian corporations such as Reliance, Mahi- 67 120
ten led by investment bank- management ndra & Mahindra, Godrej and Hero Motorcorp are mak- 27 27
ers with deal-making in ing investments in startups.
their DNA, VCs in India be-
team” “Indian VC ecosystem has been nascent. Most inves- 81 78 78
haved herd-like and top- Sanjeev tors in their institutional capacities have never built 26 21
down demonstrating low startups,” says Jay Krishnan, ex-CEO, T-Hub. The play- 31
risk appetite.
Aggarwal book has mostly been about customer acquisition and
It was a good start. “Re- market growth, not profitable business. Exits have been
member, Silicon Valley is poor. The funding drought between 2016 and 2017 has
over a century old. It’s the taught some tough lessons. There are early signs of a re-
cycles of experiences that bring maturity. By that yard- set and a rethink in the investor landscape. Sequoia Accel Blume Nexus SAIF Kalaari
stick, Indian VCs have done a fantastic job in such a short India India Ventures Venture Capital
time,” says Murali Talasila, partner and innovation lead- New Government, New Hope Partners
er at consultancy PwC. The frothy boom days of 2014 may be a faint memory. But
In terms of fund availability, the harsh winter that set in exactly five years back, this was another world. NDA gov- 1,730 792 146 609 331 499
late 2015 appears to have thawed well, with VCs retooling ernment had just taken over the reins. ‘Achhe din’ held
for the next phase of growth. Successful tech entrepre- out new hopes. And India’s startup world was on an Investments ($m)
neurs such as Sachin Bansal (of Flipkart), Kunal Shah (of adrenaline high. Amid irrational exuberance and mostly
Freecharge) and Girish Mathrubootham (of Freshworks) copy-cat entrepreneurs, competitive funds-flush inves-
turning investors has provided both heft and depth to the tors chased deals and flavours of
funding scene. the season, driving up valuations.
The behemoth of the investing world, Softbank, de- Entrepreneurs big and small, in- EXIT WOES
cided to quit being a ‘tourist investor’, opening its India cluding the likes of Ratan Tata, set
office early this year. Temasek-backed Vertex, a global up family offices and turned angel Since 2006, over $38 bn is estimated to have been invested in
venture fund, has decided to drive India investment deci- investors. NDA government’s Start- India’s startup ecosystem of which $34 billion is foreign money
sions through a local office rather than out of Singapore. up India campaign in 2015 helped
Quitters are returning. Mohanjit Jolly, the erstwhile along with momentum and some
Money In Vs. Money Out
head of DFJ India, shut shop and relocated to the Silicon funds.
Valley in 2016. He is back. Last November, he set up Iron
Pillar, a growth-stage venture fund. Amid tough times,
The sobering reality hit
home shortly afterwards. PE-VC PE-VC exits
many funds shut down, imploded or saw partners exit-
“Indian VCs often Many VC funds such as investments
ing. Wiser, many of those partners have resurfaced, have investment DFJ, Sherpalo and Canaan
launching new funds like A91 Partners, with a more fo- banker pedigree Ventures closed shop or 34
cused investment strategy. with little exited India. Several start- Amount ($Bn)
Slowly, among a sea of generalists, more and more
entrepreneurial ups such as TinyOwl and 24.3 25.8
specialist funds with knowledge and expertise — for in- Stayzilla folded up. In 2016
stance the agri-tech focused Omnivore Partners—are experience. alone, more than 1,000
Amount ($Bn)

Rajan Anandan 15.6 14.5

mushrooming. startups reportedly shut
Global incubators and accelerators in India are seeing joining will give it down. 10.6 8.8
frenzied growth. While Y Combinator is increasing its Snapdeal is perhaps the
India intake, others such as Techstars and Entrepre-
a big boost” best example of the good 1.3
neur First have rolled out their India programmes. Saurabh and the bad times. In 2015, 2016 2017 2018 2019* 2016 2017 2018 2019*
“They will accelerate the maturity of the ecosystem,” it bought Kunal Shah’s
says Ashish Goel, co-founder, Urban Ladder. Specialist
chairman, Indian Angel
Freecharge for $150 mil- 802 746 797 173 288 320 241 41
ones such as the SaaS-based accelerator Uppekha are Network
lion. In 2017, starved of
Deals Deals

Source: Venture Intelligence

Founders’ Fuel Oriental Money Specialists Arrive

Successful startup Asian funds — from China, Japan
founders are turning and Singapore — are becoming VC firms like Omnivore
startup investors, with active in the Indian market, so focus on agritech and
Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal
as the cheerleader
far dominated by Western funds Siana invests in deep
science and tech startups
Chinese investors outpaced
Sachin Bansal:
Americans, investing
19+ investments $5.6 bn in 2018*
(including `650 cr in Ola)
They include Alibaba,
“We are
Binny Bansal (Flipkart): Tencent, Shunwei, Xiaomi, betting on
25+ investments Meituan, Didi-Chuxing agritech.
It will
Girish Mathrubootham Japanese funds like offer the
(Freshworks): Mistletoe, Beenext, Incubate, next wave
Rebright Partners &
20+ investments Softbank have invested
of opportunities”
$12 bn in 5 years Mark Kahn,
managing partner, Omnivore

*Source: Tracxn
08 cover story
MAY 19-25, 2019
Led by Ratan Tata, many Indian family offices became active
investors. Some are now routing their investments through
institutional funds. However, global family offices
funds, Snapdeal sold Freecharge for $60 million and later networth individuals) — from Ratan Tata to Mohandas Pai— like DST Global continue
laid off about 97% of its 10,000 workforce. The startup India got excited about investing directly in startups. Many of
story had begun to sour. them are now routing their funds through institutional ve- Family offices
Poor exits, declining valuations, troubled investments hicles,” says Arun Natarajan, founder, Venture Intelligence.
and funding squeeze became a recurring theme. Japanese
giant Softbank wrote down $550 million in its India invest-
Others are moving on to their next stage of evolution cycle
as the gen-next takes over. DOMESTIC FOREIGN
ments Ola and Snapdeal. Previous waves saw both Indian investors and startups Amount ($mn) Amount ($mn)
Here’s the macro picture: Since 2006, some $38 billion is inflicted by imitation syndrome with a venture factory
estimated to have been invested in India’s startup ecosys- strategy, a phenomenon that has played out in other mar-
441 442
tem, of which $34 billion is foreign money. Even if one takes kets like China as well. Now wiser, a grounds-up differenti-
a 2X return, this would mean at least $76 billion that ought ated approach with a focus on deep-tech, innovation-led 429
to return. The VC ecosystem has not even re- startups, is beginning to emerge. Not surpris-
turned $38 billion. “So, there is obvious pain in ingly, B-to-B startups are gaining both traction
the ecosystem,” says Sharad Sharma, co-found- and funding. With them, hybrid funds straddling
er, iSPIRT Foundation. multiple markets – especially the US and India –
2019 is looking like a replay of sorts for both are gaining currency. “We are seeing world-class
India and startups. A new government is set to Indian startups looking to build global business.
form next week amid hope and optimism. Green I am excited about investing in them,” says US-
shoots are visible in the startup world too. “Both based Sumant Mandal, managing director,
investors and entrepreneurs have learnt les- March Capital.
sons. India is maturing. The confidence in Investors have often misjudged the In- 113
the ecosystem is returning,” adds Sanjay dia market. In the 1990s, MNCs such as
Nath, managing partner, Blume Ventures. “When somebody Nike and Levis got their business calcula-
tion wrong by overestimating their target
like Softbank 36
A Higher Orbit segment and India’s middle class at 300
The reset is at multiple levels. The first comes with $100 million. That mistake “basically got repeat-
thing Krishnan notices is that the deal size billion fund, it ed by VCs chasing the internet middle class 2016 2017 2018 2019* 2016 2017 2018 2019*
is getting bigger ($1 million plus at seed does disturb the in the last decade,” says Sharma. As a re-
105 76 76 23 8 9 13 2
stage) and entrepreneurs older (often sult, VCs mostly funded undifferentiated
more than 40 years), and therefore, more
ecosystem” B2C startups, often copycats from the West Deals Deals
experienced. K Ganesh chasing urban online consumers, thus ig-
After chasing fancy targets like GMV co-founder, GrowthStory noring startups that solved real problems *Till April Source: Venture Intelligence

(gross merchandise value) and market of Bharat. Not surprisingly, amid bruising
share, there is a greater appreciation of competition and deep discounts, the path there is a rise of niche, specialised investors who are fo-
basic values such as favourable unit economics, strong to growth, profitability and exits was not easy. In fact, many cussed on specific sectors (Omnivore) or specific lifecycle
management team and great consumer experience. “VC investors missed some of the biggest waves such as digital stage. Fundamentum, focused on growth stage startups,
funding is a marathon, not sprint. Investors realise it now. payments. Humbled, many are course correcting. The stra- says it offers patient capital with a time horizon up to 10
From growth at any cost, they are now focusing on business tegic shift to Bharat is now discernible. Sateesh Andra, man- years.
foundation, customer experience and efficiency,” says San- aging director of Endiya Partners, says specialised niches Partly, Sequoia’s Pre-Series A bet is a natural progression.
jeev Aggarwal, who has co-founded Fundamentum, a tech- like cyber security and semiconductors have begun to get Globally, Sequoia is a full-stack investor. After a decade of
nology fund, with Nandan Nilekani. attention. existence in India, it is now feeling bolder to enter early-
Share of domestic capital is rising. Sudhir Sethi, founder Thanks to Reliance Jio, India’s digital consumer base has stage investment. Also, among the world’s top five startup
of Chiratae Ventures, says when they raised their second been surging (pegged at over 500 million), thus gaining a ecosystems, a bigger India play has become critical for most
fund, the contribution of domestic capital was just 20%. critical mass and opening up new possibilities. “What we global investors. “Since Sequoia came slightly later in start-
“Last October, India’s share crossed 50% in the fourth fund were dreaming about the internet economy now looks pos- up’s lifecycle, it missed a few good opportunities. Surge will
we raised. We learnt very early that rupee capital is stable sible,” says Sunil Goyal, managing director, YourNest Ven- help solve that problem,” says Mark Kahn, managing part-
and also brings a lot of knowledge and networks,” he says. ture. ner, Omnivore. But he also hopes that Surge will improve
Chiratae—with people like Ratan Tata, Infosys cofounder things for early-stage entrepreneurs. “Hopefully, deals will
Kris Gopalakrishnan, Asian Paints’ Manish Choksi on his Softbank Effect get fairer. Sometimes, especially the not-so-well connected
advisory board — aims to bring a lot more than just capital Two opposing but important trends are playing out. On the entrepreneurs, have to give away too much for too little,”
to startups. one hand, we are seeing the emergence of full-stack inves- But there is another factor that is pushing Sequoias of the
Partly linked to this is a slight recalibration of how entre- tors such as global giant Sequoia, who are expanding to world to rethink their strategy, in India as well as globally.
preneurs and their family offices are making investments. have funding continuum across a startup’s lifecycle from Talk about Softbank and their disruptive play with the $100
“In 2015, many Indian family offices and UHNIs (ultra high Pre-Series A to late stage. Simultaneously, billion Vision Fund.
“Think of it like this. Everybody is fighting, competing for
the deals. Suddenly, somebody gets a nuclear weapon. How
do you deal with that?” says a Bengaluru-based serial entre-
C H A N G I N G C O L O U R O F C A P I TA L preneur and investor, who has dealt with Softbank in a few
A mega $100-billion fund disturbs the ecosystem and
Going Beyond India Old Meets New skews the power structure is a unanimous view among
investors. “Imagine, you have 10% stake in a startup
Startups in India thinking global Corporate houses like and Softbank comes and takes 40%. Suddenly, your
has led to global hybrid funds that Reliance Jio, M&M, Hero ability to exit 10% is now at Softbank’s mercy.
straddle multiple countries, Motocorp are actively Well… god save you if you are in competition.
specially India and the US investing in startups There is no way you can compete with its muscle
power,” says another NCR-based entrepreneur-
Seasoned turned-investor. Getting into early-stage investing
“We, in the US, are businessmen are is more complex and logistically difficult but it
seeing world class deploying their does help investors like Sequoia have a good deal
Indian startups personal wealth flow and also gain entry at a lower valuation.
At the beginning of another growth curve, In-
looking to build through family dia’s startup world is brimming with new hope.
global business. I offices With funding drought fresh in investors’ memory,
am excited about Since 2018, many have
clear-headed rationale guide their investment
investing in them” changed track But in this volatile world of startup financing,
Sumant Mandal, routing where boom-and-bust cycles are part of the game,
managing director,
March Capital
investments through irrational exuberance will return some day. �
institutional funds
the interview 09
MAY 19-25, 2019

We Do Not T
ell us more about Sennheiser’s India story. same period last year.
Sennheiser has a tradition -- a legacy, if you will -- of being Sennheiser makes a microphone for virtual reality
in markets very early, usually when they are not yet fully (VR) applications, the Ambeo VR Mic. Why is this
developed, because we believe that a premium brand important and are there other companies making

Want to
needs to be present not only there when there is a lot of similar products?
money to be earned but also to develop the market by it- The Ambeo ecosystem starts from the recording side --
self. This is why we went to China 25 years ago and that is through processing, mixing and playback. Currently,
why we went to India 12 years ago (in 2007). there is no other company that covers this full chain. We

be Elitist
Even in India, we had two different journeys. First was also do training on how to record immersive audio and
our consumer journey, where headphones were per- provide the right software tools in the middle and the
ceived as just a giveaway accessory with a phone. We built playback devices that allow you to enjoy appropriate am-
that category from scratch. Being there from the begin- bient sound. The word Ambeo is a play on the word ambi-
ning is a strong reason why we have a premium position- ence (a 360-degree audio experience). We also see it as

in India
ing now. For the professional segment, Sennheiser prod- the next logical evolution after mono and stereo. Have
ucts were reaching the market even before we officially you ever wondered how we can hear 3D sound despite
set up shop. But it was the first time when we had our own having only two ears? It was only a matter of time till we
crew on the ground plus the service plus all the installa- found the sonic algorithms and knowhow to convert 3D
tion support. sound to a binary signal.
Unlike so many consumer brands What is the biggest advantage and disadvantage of Do you see augmented reality (AR) and VR as via-
today, the privately held and being a family-owned company? ble segments?
family-owned Sennheiser A big advantage is that because of our independence, we Absolutely. They are small right now but there is a big op-
are 100 per cent self-financed and that means we can re- portunity. We are seeing so many companies focused on
Electronic GmbH & Co is known ally focus on what customers need. A good example of visuals (getting the images and artificial worlds right). No
only for audio — primarily this is the first true wireless earbuds that we released in one has focused on the audio so far, which gives us a
microphones & headphones for 2008. The market was just not ready. But it [wireless ear- chance to chip in with our solution for every AR and VR
buds] was invented by us at the time and we kept refining company. Even with AR and VR, sound gives you the cue
professional and consumer use. the technology. We have now launched the Momentum about where to look. If something happens behind you in
Co-CEO Dr Andreas Sennheiser, True Wireless earbuds when the market is ready. About a a 3D world and you do not get the appropriate sound
grandson of founder disadvantage, from purely an investor’s point of view, from the appropriate direction, you might miss it. So
one could argue that new trends allow you to assimi- think about products like Magic Leap, VR goggles,
Fritz Sennheiser, spoke late quick money. But then again, grabbing some of Oculus and Microsoft HoloLens. They all have the
to Hitesh Raj Bhagat these trends can be unhealthy in the long run. need for perfect audio in order to make their experi-
about the German ence seamless.
You and your brother Daniel took over as
company’s new co-CEOs some years ago. Do you spar We have to How do you decide which products to
products, successes with your brother? integrate with launch in India and when?
and ambitions for We have different perspectives on the busi- and co-develop India is a market where we learned a lot about
India. Edited excerpts:
ness. I am an engineer; he is an industrial de- products with adopting new technologies. For instance, for
signer. So by nature, we were trained to look electronic news gathering and mobile jour-
at things with different eyes. At the same time,
other nalism, India was faster than most of the West-
we have a solid foundation of common beliefs: companies, ern or mature countries. Plus, users are smart
what we want, how to propel the company; which is and smartphone usage is on the rise. Our con-
how we want to serve our customers. probably our clusion is that when it comes to mobile appli-
task for the cations, India is a better market.
Does Sennheiser prefer contract manu- next decade
facturing or own factories? How big is the professional market for
We do have four of our own plants — in Ger- Sennheiser? How do you reach those
many, Ireland, Romania and the US. But we consumers?
also have manufacturing partners in China. We out- For professionals, we have two divisions. First is busi-
source certain steps to China. The effort is to use the ness communication. Our main partners are integra-
best supply chains to have a fair price point and main- tors, architects and system planners. We would like to
tain our centres of quality. showcase to end users how great it is to have a ceiling mi-
crophone installed in a boardroom and not bother about
Last year, there was there was some talk of Sen- a mess of cables on the table. Next, for pro audio, our
nheiser setting up an India manufacturing plant. customers are sound designers, engineers, movie pro-
Is that still on the cards? ducers, artists on stage and so on.
We are always looking at how mature a market is and
whether it makes sense to localise production. We do Is there higher interest for Sennheiser from tier 1
not feel like there is a short-term opportunity to manu- or from tier II and III cities?
facture here at the moment. That being said, we explore We started our efforts with tier I cities but we are also
this option every two years. So it is still a possibility. present and available in tier II & III thanks to the online
market. For the pro segment, there are a lot of smaller
Sennheiser’s India catalogue includes a wide range installations. But for those, we rely on system integrators.
of products, starting at `600-700 and going all the
way up to HE1 priced at `45 lakh. Does such a wide What is next for Sennheiser?
price range dilute the brand? My grandfather was the researcher and inventor. At the
This is something we extensively discussed. We are on a time, there was a market for everything he could think of
journey to premiumize our portfolio. The entry-level and build. When my father took over, he took charge of
products you see in India are not available in many other expanding the company. And now, since my brother and
countries. At the same time, because we are customer- I are in charge, we focus on collaborative aspects -- inte-
oriented, we do not want to be elitist. Our goal is to offer gration with other companies.
the Sennheiser experience at all price points. As the buy- By that I mean our headphones are connected to Goog-
ing power of a customer develops, he or she can upgrade le and Apple cloud services. Another example is Amazon.
to a higher quality and a higher price model. They have their own smart assistant now. We have to fully
integrate with and co-develop with such companies,
Which price bracket sees maximum sales in India? which is probably our task for the next decade.
We see the strongest growth in the upper categories, The next generations of products will have smarter ser-
especially on the wireless side. Our portfolio has vices built in. One example is simultaneous translation.
changed to include more wireless products -- about You speak your language and I speak mine. �
four times more wireless products this year than the
10 in focus
MAY 19-25, 2019

That Sinking Feeling

The memory foam, invented by NASA for its pilots, has
captured the fancy of Indian mattress buyers. But sellers How a NASA Project Landed on Your Bed
remain shy about addressing its safety concerns and Most Indians will buy any mattress as long as it looks thick, says
Karthik Srinivasan, a brand and communications expert based in
misleading health-benefit claims Bengaluru.
I fell into the same category till my body cried out against our
brick-like mattress earlier this year. After a long and confusing
search for a replacement, I chanced upon a pristine white “ortho-
paedic” mattress at furniture retailer Urban Ladder’s store in Noi-
da. It made me groan with pleasure. I was told that beneath the
mattress’s hospital-like brand name — “Theramedic” — lay a magi-
cal invention: memory foam.
This type of foam was born out of a 1970s NASA project to im-
prove seat cushioning and crash protection for airline pilots and

passengers. The material moulds itself under your body heat and
pressure and “remembers” your posture — hence memory foam.
In the past five years, the memory-foam bedding market has ex-
ploded in the United States. The country’s online mattress market
is said to be valued at nearly $30 billion. Casper, an online mattress
seller launched in 2014, has raised $340 million in funding and is
valued at over $1 billion.
Like in the US, in India too, a rash of online mattress startups has
sprung up. This segment is projected to be worth `300 crore by next
year. And all across, memory foam is touted as the cool new thing.
Body pain appears to be driving up the demand for memory foam.
According to pharma major GSK’s
2017 Global Pain Index, after Po-
land, India reported the highest “The sinking effect
average number of sick days due of the memory foam
to body pain. I am clearly not the may act as obstacle
only one waking up sore and look-
ing for a better mattress. [for babies] in the
“Lifestyle coupled with in- initial phase of
creased awareness that mattress muscle gain and
and health go hand-in-hand is roll-over learning”
aiding the growth of the market,”
says Ashutosh Vaidya, chief mar- Ashutosh Vaidya,
keting officer at Kurl-On, one of chief marketing officer, Kurl-on
India’s largest mattress sellers.
He estimates the Indian mattress
industry to reach `14,000 crore by 2021
at a compound annual growth rate of 9%.
These are exciting times for mattress
buyers like me. Siddiq, a former invest-
ment banker who founded Sleepy Cat in

:: Tanmoy Goswami MARKET STRETCH

imagine Kabir Siddiq rolling his eyes on the other side of the call.
“Honestly, I am telling you, this can’t happen,” the entrepreneur
behind Sleepy Cat, India’s “first-mattress-in-a-box” company, im-
`14,000 cr
plores over the phone from his Kolkata office. Projected size of Indian
“In America, they use 12-inch-, 14-inch-thick mattresses with 4-6 mattress market by
inches of soft foam or memory foam. There may be a fear that an 2021
infant can sink or get suffocated between two heavy people as those
mattresses are very soft. But I am telling you, it just can’t happen
with our mattresses.”
Twenty-first-century urban lifestyles have spawned many night-
mares. Welcome to the most terrifying of them all. Your infant sink-
`300 cr
ing — and slowly choking — in your soft and snuggly mattress.
Projected size of Indian
Wait — a killer mattress? What kind of dopey practical joke is this? online mattress market
Hold my pillow and let me tell you a story.
Source: Industry estimates

Wakefit � Sunday Mattresses � Wink & Nod � Sleepy Cat � Urban Ladder
in focus 11
MAY 19-25, 2019

2017 after a stint in his family’s traditional mattress busi- is why foam sometimes gets a bad rap for being ‘hot’ to
ness, says mattress shopping in India used to be a “night- sleep on. A retailer can give you discounts based on the
mare”. “There’s joy in buying a TV or a sofa but buying a filler content. Nobody has a clue. There are no standards.”
mattress is seen as a chore. We wanted to make this indus- Garg challenges every mattress brand to start disclos-
try desirable, fun and better,” he says. Indeed, the musty ing the adulteration level in their foam. “Let customers
old industry now has a sexy new name: “sleep solutions”. know what they are paying for.”

But what’s all this talk about ‘killer’ mattresses? Safe But Hard to Certify
While Googling memory foam, I find Dr Kathy Gromer of A few weeks after my email, Urban Ladder’s co-founder
Minnesota Sleep Institute. Speaking to, Rajiv Srivatsa texted me to say the company has finally
Gromer drops this bombshell: “Soft bedding traps [car- added a warning on memory foam.
bon dioxide] and increases the risk of sudden infant “Honestly, I don’t know why no one thought of this
death syndrome”. Bonkers! sooner. Maybe because the memory foam market is
There is also this from Amerisleep, a company in the slightly more premium, we have seen that a lot of infants
very business of selling memory foam mattresses: “The sleep in their own cribs,” he says. “The intent to do the
same body-contouring properties that have made mem- right thing is always there. But it’s just one of those things
ory foam products famous worldwide … can pose a dan- that don’t strike you unless someone really thoughtful
ger to infants…. primarily because kids of this age may A few weeks after my brings it up.”
not be able to turn themselves over at night which can Unlike Siddiq and Garg, Srivatsa is less antsy about the
become dangerous on a soft or contouring material.”
email, Urban Ladder’s traditional players. “They have been around for many
Kurl-on’s Vaidya cautions me as well, though not in cofounder Rajiv Srivatsa years and have a lot of customer feedback,” he says.
such dire words. “When placed flat on his belly, a baby
instinctively uses his arms to raise his head and shoulders
texted me to say the When I tell Siddiq about Urban Ladder’s move — which
could force the entire industry to change — he sounds
off the floor,” he says. “This move helps him strengthen company has finally added miffed. Memory foam mattresses in India pose no threat
the muscles he needs to flip. The sinking effect of the
memory foam may act as obstacle in the initial phase of
a warning on memory foam whatsoever because they are firmer and
have no sinking-in effect, he repeats.
muscle gain and roll-over learning.” So why not make this claim with scien-
Staring guiltily at my 15-month-old, I email Urban Lad- tific evidence and kill all doubts?
der. Please tell me all this is not true. this potentially deadly secret. Because, well, there is just no way to do
“We do not recommend the Memory Foam Mattress As my rant on Twitter gathers steam
“Just like food, that. Multiple industry players tell me the
for infants,” a customer-care agent replies. “Chemical (159 retweets at last count), the calls start foam too can be same thing: Our products are 99.99%
wise it is definitely safe for babies. However, when it to pour in. India’s mattress entrepre- adulterated — with safe. But we cannot claim that because
comes to the overall safety, the memory foam mattress neurs want to tell me I have got this all calcium carbonate there is no way to get that kind of certifi-
may cause risk for suffocation for infants … (sic).”
By now, I am gobsmacked. Why is there no outrage about
wrong. The real Pandora’s Box lies else-
where, and it hides much dirtier truths.
powder. A retailer cation in India.
“India is always slightly more back-
this? Why aren’t “murderous us mattress” memes a thing? can give you ward, even in things like fire licensing or
I turn to Twitter with theseese Calcium Carbonate & Other Secrets discounts based food safety,” Siddiq argues. “Customer
questions. I must know why hy First to call
c is IIT-Roorkee graduate An- on the filler education is very expensive. We are a
India’s fancy new mattress ss kit Garg, the
t founder of Wakefit. content. Nobody young company; we will definitely do
startups — Wakefit, Sleepy y Garg
Gar understands foam, more as we grow.”
Cat, Sunday Mattresses, s, having
ha worked with the has a clue. There The lack of scientific evidence also ex-
Wink & Nod — are hiding ng stuff
stu at the German multi- are no standards” poses the “orthopaedic” label that mat-
na Bayer Material Sci- tress brands flaunt as a mere marketing
en He decided to start Ankit Garg, spiel.
founder, Wakefit
W in 2016 after a retail- Ashish Phadnis, an orthopaedic spe-
er demanded
d a hefty sum for a cialist at Jupiter Hospital in Thane, says it
mattress. is just a way to signal authenticity. “Un-
“Since I knew
kn how much the raw material less you sleep with three pillows, with your
MEMORY FOAM: cost, I was shshocked,” Garg says. “The manu- arm under your head or some other awkward

THE ORIGIN facturer doesn’t make too much margin in

this industry. The distributor and retailer do.
posture, using a mattress or a pillow can’t
cause any structural changes in your body,” he
But the retailer brings no value addition. He says. “Use whatever makes you comfortable.”
In 1966, NASA tried to has no training. He can’t tell the customer Siddiq, meanwhile, is unrelenting in his
improve seat cushioning and what is good or bad is for his body type. And takedown of the old guard. “Traditional com-
the customer has no idea what he is buying. panies will call any product ‘orthopaedic’,” he
crash protection for airline It was clear to me that the industry was ripe says. “There is no way to verify the claim. It’s
pilots and passengers with a for disruption.” like saying: ‘This is a healthy drink’ or ‘a
Wakefit’s sales have jumped from under `2 healthy food’. It’s a huge market; consumers
temper foam that moulds crore in the first year (FY16) to `27.6 crore in lack knowledge. When a customer calls us, we
itself under body heat and FY18, with a profit of `2.23 crore. The startup is tell them clearly that our mattresses are not
backed by Sequoia Capital. meant to eliminate back pain completely, but
pressure and “remembers” “Walk into a showroom of any traditional help in pressure relief.”
the person’s posture mattress company and you will see blue ma- Branding expert Srinivasan says companies
roon and white,” Garg says. “And tonnes of per- must mind their messaging. “Aside from huge
mutations and combinations of foam, legal risks, misleading claims or con-
spring, latex, coir, bonded foam and cealing safety hazards could create
expanded polyethylene (EPE) foam. very big perception issues,” he says.
Every big brand out there has thou-
“Traditional companies Perception is everything. This busi-
sands of SKUs (stock keeping units). will call any product ness is really not about mattresses,
Either they do not know how to make ‘orthopaedic’. There is you see. It’s about selling you a dream:
the perfect mattress or they are good at no way to verify the that you too can wake up every morn-
deceiving the customer.”
He then adds a more damning
claim. It’s like saying, ing looking and feeling like those
beautiful, happy people in the glossy
charge. “Just like food, foam too can be ‘this is a healthy drink’ mattress ads. “This is 2019,” Siddiq
adulterated — with calcium carbonate or ‘a healthy food’” says. “People really want to spend on
powder. When calcium carbonate re- better sleep.” �
acts with your sweat, it emits heat. That Kabir Siddiq,
founder, Sleepy Cat
12 centrespread centrespread 13
MAY 19-25, 2019 MAY 19-25, 2019

Vending machines have changed the face of the retail industry, making it easier for
buyers and sellers to transact. Last week, Chinese tech major Xiaomi launched a vending
machine for smartphones in Bengaluru. Did you know there are vending machines that
sell cars and even gold? Check this out: PRESS FOR 1st Century AD:
WATER Holy water
:: Shephali Bhatt Nairobi recently
collaborated with Egyptian mathematician and
a Danish company engineer Heron ho Alexandreus,
SHOE IN KNICKERS, WITH to set up vending also known as the Hero of
A US-based startup Flat Out of A TWIST machines to Alexandria, invents the vending
Heels has set up vending machines Japan has vending dispense clean machine. His machine, placed at a
HIGH TIME? across the country and Canada to HAIR NOW machines for water across the
Kenyan capital.
temple in Alexandria, dispelled holy
The city of Seattle has a provide women flat shoes to deal Cosmetic company everything from
medical marijuana dispenser. with emergencies such as blisters Boundless Beauty cooked ramen
water upon inserting coins.
Colorado is the other state in and corns from wearing high heels. has vending noodles to women’s
CAR NO BAR the US that offers cannabis machines across undergarments. 19th century: Stamps
via vending machines. the city of The country is also
Singapore has a Philadelphia
The first patented vending machine
famous for vending
15-storey car vending to sell its hair machines for used
sold penny stamps. It was invented
machine set up by extensions. panties. by Englishman Simeon Denham of
Autobahn Motors. Sales Yorkshire in 1857.
happen through a touch- GO FOR GOLD
screen that offers 60
high-end cars — from
Set up in Dubai Mall in
UAE, Gold to Go is the 20th century: ATMs
Ferraris to Bentleys. world’s first gold vending Countries like Japan and the US have had
machine. On sale are
automated cash dispensing machines since
bars, coins and a few
jewellery items, too. the 1960s. India got its first ATM in 1987,
two decades after London got the first
cash machine, inaugurated by Barclays
Bank. India’s first ATM was launched by
HSBC Bank in Mumbai’s Andheri.

Size of global Raised by 19

vending machine startups across the JUNE 2016: Ajmer becomes the first
market US & China in this city to set up over 70 sanitary napkin
Europe & Central Asia space in 2017-18 vending machines across the city
JUNE 2018: The Coimbatore-Bengaluru
UDAY Express becomes first train to
Region-wise size of imports for year ended Dec 31, 2016 get a food vending machine
APRIL 2019: Big Basket announces
East Asia & Pacific
India has the plans to invest $100 mn to set up
North America highest volume vending machines to strengthen its
Latin America Emerging startups distribution network
& Caribbean of imports in the US & China in Estimated revenue
within South vending machines from unmanned MAY 2019: Xiaomi sets up India’s
business first smartphone vending machine in
Asia, at retail by 2020
$10 mn
Source:,,, RBI, and news agencies
14 spotlight
MAY 19-25, 2019

Mad About
Captive elephants
in India

In Kerala, temple elephants inspire 1,809

In private custody
the kind of fan following reserved (with individuals,
for movie stars elsewhere circuses, temples)

:: Indulekha Aravind | Thrissur

t was on May 15, 17 years ago, that Chandrashekharan drew his last
breath. Every year since then, we have been commemorating the Captive elephants
occasion,” says a sombre voice over the loudspeaker. A small in Kerala
crowd has gathered outside Kaustubham, an auditorium owned
by the Thiruvambady temple trust in Thrissur in Kerala, where a

solemn remembrance ceremony is under way. A lamp is lit in front
of a garlanded picture of the late Chandrashekharan while anoth-
er invitee extols his virtues, his contributions and the pain of his
passing. Ten of his former coworkers are standing quietly in a Elephants in
semi-circle at the back, lifting their tails occasionally to drop big Kerala kept by
pats of dung. Chandrashekharan was an elephant, as are his work- individuals
mates, who will soon be fed fruits and vegetables.
A ceremony on the death anniversary of an elephant, attended

by other tuskers, might sound odd to many, but in Thrissur no one
would bat an eyelid. Throw a stone in Thrissur or Palakkad district
and chances are you will hit an elephant devotee, who will be able
to reel off not just the names but trivia about various captive ele- Captive elephants
phants, dead and alive, discuss their merits and demerits and ex- in Thrissur district
press dissatisfaction if they haven’t been able to spend some time Source: Ministry of Environment
with an elephant for a few days. Mostly a male preserve, this obses-
sion has a Malayalam: aanakambam (“aana” is elephant in Malay-
alam, and “kambam” craze).
“Elephants in Kerala, especially central Kerala, are like dogs in
British society. No other society is as attached to elephants, prob- TUSK MASTER
ably anywhere in the world,” says writer NS Madhavan. It’s a bond

that has been fostered over the ages, by a number of factors. In erala’s captive ele-
Kerala, elephants were procured both for timber trade and temple phants hit the
festivals, the only Indian state where this has become a common headlines recent-
practice. While Kerala has always had a significant population of ly, thanks to a celebri-
wild elephants (currently the third highest in India, at over 3,000), ty: Thechikottukavu Ra- a- The tusker Thechikottukavu Ramachandran at Thrissur Pooram
they would be bought from as far as away as Sonepur in Bihar, es- machandran. At over 10 0
pecially once capture was banned in the country under the Wild- feet, Raman — as he is
life Protection Act of 1972. known among his large fan 20th century. It has biographies of elephants in the 18th and
It was the use of caparisoned elephants in temple festivals, base — is the tallest captive elephant in the 19th centuries. “These biographies crystallise the Malayali
which cultivated this passion in Malayalis. Each locality in Kerala state, and comes with an equally jaw-drop- idea of elephants which is mostly anthropomorphic —they
used to have a prominent temple, usually patronised by the up- ping reputation. The partially blind pachy- see elephants as people. So you have stories of elephants not
per-caste Hindus of that area. The temple elephants would be teth- derm, brought to Kerala from Bihar, is consid- eating after the master dies, elephants carrying thoughts of
ered in one of their homes, and families would take turns to feed ered to be responsible for the deaths of revenge — all kinds of human characteristics would be pro-
them. Old-timers claim the Aarattupuzha Pooram used elephants around 13 people. The last was as recent as in jected on to them,” says Madhavan. Elephants were kept
1,400 years ago. Though there is little historical evidence of it, one alive in the Malayali imagination through poetry, novels and,
February, when the 54-year-old animal tram-
of the earliest attempts to document the Malayali-elephant bond later, films, both about elephants and mahouts. Guruvayur
pled two people at a housewarming ceremo-
is in Aithihyamala, a collection of tales that were compiled in early Keshavan, the most famous elephant in the state, even had
ny, reportedly after he was startled by fire-
an eponymous film about it in 1977 — one of several elephant-
works. As a result, Thrissur’s district authori-
related films.
Elephants lined up at Thrissur Pooram ties banned him from public parades.
Kerala’s Agriculture Minister and Thrissur MLA VS Sunil
Incensed, his fans mounted a vociferous cam- Kumar recalls coming across a book about a legendary ele-
paign to have him at a temple ceremony asso- phant, Kavalappara Komban, at a temple fair during his
ciated with the Thrissur Pooram. childhood. “It was a tragic story of an elephant who killed his
One of the most prominent temple festivals mahout by tearing him apart. He was in turn stoned by the
in the state, the event attracts thousands of villagers,” says Kumar.
tourists. The elephant owners’ federation dug This elephant obsession usually reaches fever pitch dur-
in its heels and threatened not to let any of its ing the just concluded Thrissur Pooram, one of the most
elephants be used if Raman was banned. The prominent temple festivals in Kerala, which attracts lakhs of
authorities relented, allowing Raman to par- visitors every year and is considered the most prestigious
ticipate for an hour amid tight security. Over a platform for a temple elephant. This year, the Left govern-
lakh people are estimated to have gathered to ment found itself in a spot over a ban on the parading of The-
catch a glimpse of it as the elephant walked chikottukavu Ramachandran, currently the most popular
through the southern entrance to the Vadak- elephant in the state, at the festival (See box, “Tusk Master”).
kunnathan temple, the curtain-raiser for the The remembrance ceremony for Chandrashekharan took
next day’s festival. With no casualties or unto- place the day after the Pooram. Among those who had gath-
ward incidents, the authorities breathed a sigh ered was Vijayakumar Kaimal, who had come with his ele-
of relief. Until next time. phant, Parannur Nandan. Like with many others, Kaimal’s
spotlight 15
MAY 19-25, 2019

“aanakambam” is a family affair: his father and grandfather

were fond of the animal and had owned one. Nandan was
BLACK BEAUTY elephants in the state. And for today’s youth, the equivalent is
social media, with fan pages devoted to elephants and thou-
Do all elephants look the same to you? Here are the
given to his father, a popular veterinarian, by a family who sands of pictures and videos circulated through WhatsApp.
characteristics that fans look for in a tusker
could no longer look after it. “I developed aanakambam ac- At 8 pm on a Wednesday, Shobin Kooriyil’s phone beeps
companying my father when he went to treat various ele- The twin domes on the head should with new messages in one of the 10 elephant-centric What-
phants.” There is a wooden elephant at the entrance to his be big, raised and evenly separated sApp groups he is part of. The messages are part of a discus-
house and another in his living room, along with the picture of sion on Chengallur Dakshayini, a departed female elephant.
one on the wall. The late senior Kaimal’s devotion overcame “Not much is known about her. Let us begin with a pran-
occupational hazards, including a particularly memorable amam,” says the first voice message from one of the modera-
incident when an elephant whacked him with its trunk, tors. “She was between 80 and 90 years when she died. She
pinned him between its The ears had Guinness… no, not Guinness, some other world or Asian
must be record,” he adds. “She was 85,” another participant chips in.
tusks and nearly trampled
With the capture, him. “Luckily, the mahout “We have many such thematic discussions. Sometimes, a
sale and import of was on top and could take mahout or someone with specialised knowledge about a topic
is added temporarily. And we use voice messages so that it
elephants to the state himWhile away,” he recalls.
the sale of ele- feels like a discussion,” says Kooriyil. The 24-year-old gradu-
banned, and breeding phants is banned, the ani- ate, who works as a photographer in Malappuram district, is a
almost nonexistent mal can be “gifted”, and an fan of Thechikottukavu Ra-
this might well be the underhand sale of an adult machandran and has composed
last generation of elephant can fetch `1.5 a song about him, shot a video “People only
The eyes
Kerala’s temple
crore, say owners.
should be
and uploaded it on YouTube. “I see the
just uploaded it and shared it
elephants Beastly Tales the colour with a few WhatsApp groups.
Maintaining an elephant is of honey Now it’s got some 4.6 lakh elephant. They
not cheap, although supply views,” he says. don’t know what
constraints and increase in demand have meant that tuskers Kooriyil’s childhood, too, was goes on behind
earn handsomely from festivals. This is also a controversial steeped in elephant lore. “In the
topic, with many owners being accused of exploiting the ani- government school where I
the scenes,”
mals to maximise income. Kaimal, however, says he has till studied, we used to deposit a lit- says writer
date not calculated how much his elephant earns. “I don’t see The tusks should The trunk should be tle money in a piggy bank every NS Madhavan
it as a business,” he says. Over the years, Kaimal has received be long and must long enough to trail on week. I would tell everyone at
several offers for Nandan, but he says he does not entertain curve upwards the ground home that I was saving money to
such requests. “If someone asks me, I ask them if they would buy an elephant,” Kooriyil says, grinning. He has given up on
consider selling their son,” he says. That usually puts a stop to that plan, but still attends as many festivals as he can and dis-
such discussions. cusses threadbare with friends the elephants he encounters.
While he might not have an elephant of his own, C BIG EARNINGS “Sometimes, we just sit, staring at an elephant, for hours,” he
How much elephants are estimated to earn at temple festivals says, like a truly smitten fan. Kooriyil confesses that he has
even passed up an opportunity to go to “the Gulf” (West Asia),
JUMBO SPEND A celebrity A regular If it attends 70 partly so that he could be around elephants and festivals.
Sreelekha Satheesan, a BA second-year student, is one of
`1 lakh is the average monthly elephant can tusker can festivals over 6 the exceptions in the male-dominated world of elephant fans,
expense to maintain an elephant
`20,000 a earn up to earn around months, that’s though she demurs that she does not possess in-depth knowl-
month is the `2-3 lakh a day `30,000 a day `21 lakh edge. “It’s not that my family places restrictions. But how can
salary of we go, from festival to festival, following elephants, like the
mahout boys do?” asks Satheesan, who uploads elephant-related
posts on Facebook and videos on TikTok.
While social media might be helping in spreading the
“aanakambam,” many also allege that it has created “new-
An elephant gen” fans who care only about taking a selfie with an elephant
usually has and uploading it, in the hope of likes and shares. “I call it ‘self-
2 mahouts iesm’,” says Kaimal, drily. Heads are shaken over accidents
this can lead to, out of ignorance.“Earlier, we were taught to
respect elephants and learn about them. But now it’s like wars
between the fan clubs of film stars. I know elephant lovers
who have withdrawn from the field because of this,” says
Mahouts also Sreedhar Vijayakrishnan, a Thrissur resident and wildlife sci-
get additional entist studying the behavioural traits of elephants.
daily payments Source: Estimates by elephant owners and temple committees With the capture, sale and import of elephants to the state
while on banned, and breeding almost nonexistent, thanks to a gender
Mukundan, a 58-year-old businessman in Thrissur, is no less ratio heavily skewed towards tuskers, this might well be the
festival duty devoted. He, too, grew up hearing stories about and seeing last generation of Kerala’s temple elephants.
temple elephants, and soon, began accompanying temple While owners and fans might argue about this, it is hard to
committees on elephant purchase expeditions. Taking out a overlook the fact that captivity for a wild animal like an ele-
battered black diary dated 1989, he reveals the detailed notes phant is stressful, something which has attracted severe con-
he had made about each elephant he encountered. “I know demnation from wildlife activists across the world. “To be
150 kg: An their names, their vital statistics, when they are in musth, the frank, aanakambam does not really help elephant welfare,”
elephant’s symptoms they display,” says the bearded, mundu-clad says Vijayakrishnan. Writer Madhavan says he, too, had
daily food Mukundan. “aanakambam”, until he went to a camp where elephants
consumption Mukundan’s two sons share his obsession. “Most of our din- from north Indian states were being trained. The cruelty
ner table conversations would be there, he says, was unimaginable. “People only see the capar-
around elephants. And whenever my isoned elephant. They don’t know what goes on behind the
elder brother calls from Dubai, that’s scenes,” he says.
what we end up talking about mostly,” Unlike what many animal welfare activists argue, Vijay-
says 27-year-old Arun, who works in akrishnan says the solution is not to ban captive elephants
New Delhi and has come down for overnight, which would leave them in limbo, but in the gradu-
100-200 Thrissur Pooram, like he does every al phasing out of the practice and ensuring that the current
year. If Mukundan’s generation’s pas- crop of elephants are well looked after. As unimaginable as
litres: An sion for elephants was nurtured by dis- that might be for the elephant devotees of Kerala, there might
elephant’s cussions at festival grounds, Arun says well come a time when temple festivals have to be held with-
daily water his generation’s was through a televi- out elephants. But the elephant would continue to live on in
consumption sion series called E 4 Elephant which the state’s literature and the people’s imagination. �
aired in Kerala, on the various captive
Source: Estimates by elephant owners
16 trendspotting
MAY 19-25, 2019

Plush Pilgrimages
With improved connectivity and infrastructure leading to an uptick in spiritual
and religious tourism, luxury hotel chains are flocking to temple towns
:: Amin Ali

ith the cricket world cup sched- luxury tents, deluxe spa-resorts,
uled in June in England, one private helicopter tours and ex-
would expect hotelier Ankur clusive darshans and aartis, in-
Bhatia to be busy promoting his dulgent rejuvenation through
Roseate properties in London. Ayurveda, spa and yoga pack-
But his focus right now is the ages, fine dining and uber-luxe
luxury chain’s latest domestic experiences,” he says.
offering — The Roseate Ganges Dipak Haksar, chief execu-
— a plush retreat on the banks of tive, ITC Hotels and Welcom-
the Ganges in Rishikesh. He is hotels, elaborates that reli-
devoting special attention to the gious sites are extremely popu-
new property because its March lar in India and have created
launch was accompanied by the hubs of demand for luxury
opening of two other competing chains such as ITC. “With in-
properties in Rishikesh—the Taj creased inflow of celebrities,
Rishikesh Resort and Spa and businessmen, young profes-
the Modi Yoga Retreat by BK sionals and international tour-
Modi’s Spice Group. Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar ists to spiritual destinations,
Luxury resorts cropping up in the demand for branded hotels
pilgrimage towns—once associ- has gone up significantly. To-
ated with austerity and material and physical hardships—is not limited to Rishikesh. As day’s traveller expects quality accommodation along with full services at prices that
well-heeled travelers seek safety and comfort on their spiritual sojourns, luxury hotel are high on value,” he says.
chains have been quick to spot the demand.
Between 2019 and 2021, ITC Hotels plans on opening its WelcomHotel-branded Never a Lull
properties in Amritsar and Katra, and Fortune-branded hotels in Ajmer and Shirdi What hoteliers like about such destinations is also the lack of seasonality in demand.
and a WelcomHeritage Hotel in Prayagraj. Apart from existing properties in spiritual Spiritual destinations are in high demand almost around the year. “Demand is never a
towns, Radisson Hotel Group’s pipeline includes hotels in Amritsar, Katra and Nath- question in these cities. Political situations have minimal bearing on visitors at these
dwara, with plans to expand in cities such as Madurai and Rameswaram over the next places. There is never a lull,” says Ajay Bakaya, managing director, Sarovar Hotels and
five years in line with their growth strategy for religious destinations. Sarovar Hotels, Resorts. With land available at reasonably lower costs as compared to major cities or
which already has a presence in Badrinath, Haridwar, Vrindavan and Tirupati, plans tourist destinations and steady footfall, Bakaya reveals all the hotels needed to do was
to open Portico-branded properties in Katra and Bodh Gaya this year and in Ajmer provide a decent stay option and focus extensively on making it easier for visitors to
next year. approach places of worship by liaising with locals and authorities.
Indian Hotels Company (Taj Group), which has properties across its Taj, Vivanta, It was one such family darshan that compelled Ankur Bhatia to fast-track The Roseate
Gateway and Ginger brands in pilgrimage towns such as Varanasi, Amritsar, Madurai, Ganges property. On one of his many religious visits to Rishikesh and Shirdi, he was firm
Nashik, Ajmer and Katra, is opening a new property in Tirupati this financial year, and in his resolve that these destinations needed luxurious stay options as well. “Rishikesh
has also signed a property in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. is a big travel destination. It attracts Indian and international celebrities and luxury
The Lemon Tree Hotels group, a mid-priced segment player, has a property opening travellers as well. Our idea was to allow people to do yoga by the ganges, attend Ganga
in Rishikesh soon, and will start properties in Neelkanth and Tapovan in Uttarakhand aarti with a specialist, have a local curate the entire darshan for guests and then unwind
and Dwaraka in Gujarat and in 2020. over great food and spa offerings at a ‘5-star’ ashram,” he elaborates. And even before
With domestic religious tourism seeing a sharp uptick, towns such as Shirdi, Tiru- it opened, his resort was pre-booked till June.
pati, Varanasi, Mathura, Katra, Gaya, Amritsar and Ajmer are in the cross hairs of hotel
groups that are vying for the best possible Experiences Galore
locations and local alliances. Airbnb data for 2018 shows religious destina-
“Today’s traveller tions seeing a phenomenal growth with al-
High Spirits expects quality most 150% growth in guest arrivals in Tirupa-
The rise in the numbers of spiritual tourists accommodation ti, 90% in Amritsar and 79% in Haridwar over
have been a function of rising affluence as along with full last year.
well as massive recent strides in road, rail Amanpreet Bajaj, country manager,
and air connectivity. Fast trains such as Ra-
services at prices Airbnb, is also noticing an increased draw to-
jdhani and Shatabdi have been introduced that are high wards experiences on Airbnb in places like
to these destinations; many new airports on value” Varanasi where the host takes you through
have been opened and luxury bus services the lanes, bazaars and ghats or tours in Chen-
on these routes have also become aplenty. Dipak Haksar, nai showcasing the beautiful architecture of
Central and state governments have also chief executive, ITC Hotels southern temples.
improved the infrastructure in and around and Welcomhotels Packages that combine the majesty of envi-
religious sites. With religious trips being an ronment with the bliss of spirituality is also
integral part of the Indian family calendar, popular with premium travellers, says Thom-
once the connectivity and infrastructure as Cook’s Kale. Luxury packages in this cate-
improved, premium hospitality was al- gory are popular with corporate honchos,
ways going to be just one step behind. industrialists and celebrities. “There are
Rajeev Kale, president and country head unique programmes of spirituality and pri-
at Thomas Cook India, says that for India’s vate jeep safaris through wildlife sanctuaries.
new age travellers, spiritual tourism no Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain Omkareshwar com-
longer evokes images of hardship and pen- bined with Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Panna;
ance. “Our consumer data reiterate strong Gujarat’s Dwarka and Somnath/Nageshwar
and growing interest in luxury spiritual Jyotirling coupled with Gir/Rann of Kutch and
tourism—an increase of 15-20% year on Uttaranchal’s Chardham in tandem with Cor-
year. Well-heeled HNI-UHNI pilgrims are bett and Rajaji National Park,” he says. �
opting for spiritual locales with stays in
The Roseate Ganges in Rishikesh
global Indian 17
MAY 19-25, 2019

Power Play Down Under

Though Indians are among the largest immigrant
groups in Australia, they remain under-represented in MEET THE
the parliament. The May 18 polls were no exception
Liberal Party
of Australia
former diplomat
Seat: Wentworth,
New South Wales (NSW)
HEMANT DAVE, taxi operator
Seat: Makin, South Australia

Labour Party
residence visas authorised to be granted
per year.
Indian lawyer & actor
The fact likely to have impacted his
Seat: Deakin, Victoria chances of winning was that many of his
Aruna Chandrala, first supporters are Indians who are in Australia
generation immigrant on temporary resident or student visas and
thus cannot vote. “Whether I win or not, I
:: Ishani Duttagupta | Sydney Senate candidate from NSW
hope others too will take up the cause of im-

he Liberal Party, part of Australia’s ruling high-profile candidate of Indian origin was migration. It is a cause for our community
coalition, was left red-faced days before the the Liberal Party’s Devanand (Dave) Sharma United and our children,” he told ET Magazine.
May 18 federal elections when Gurpal Singh, from Wentworth in New South Wales. He Australia Party
its candidate from Scullin in Victoria, made has held top public positions, including a JATINDER SINGH, The Big Divide
homophobic and misogynistic comments. stint as Australia’s envoy to Israel. auto business owner Tim Soutphommasane, a professor at the
The party asked him to resign as candidate. Binoy Kampmark, who contested for a University of Sydney, says that when com-
Seat: Holt, Victoria
The episode also embarrassed the large senate seat from Victoria for Julian As- pared to the UK, Canada and the US, there
Indian-Australian community as very few sange’s WikiLeaks Party in 2013, says that SAHIL CHAWLA, are few politicians from Indian background
Indians run for elections or are visible in most major parties (Labor, Liberal and Na- Seat: Burt, Western Australia at the federal level in Australia because mi-
Australia’s public life. tional) fielded Indian-origin people in “un- norities fear their families may become ex-
“The number of Australians born in India winnable” seats, with the exception of the GANESH LOKE, IT training posed to racist attacks if they contest. “In
is growing rapidly,” says James Button, a for- United Australia Party. company owner this election campaign, there have been
mer journalist and speechwriter to former “While the parties are yet to embrace In- Seat: Parramatta, Sydney numerous incidents of candidates being
prime minister Kevin Rudd. “Indians are dian candidates in a significant way in this subjected to racist abuse and threats.”
now the largest migrant group coming to federal election, Clive Palmer’s pro-mining PRAKUL CHHABRA, banker Even those who are brave enough to have
Australia each year, and the fourth largest and nationalist United Australia Party field- Seat: Calwell, Victoria run campaigns have faced an uphill task.
group of overseas-born Australians. ed the largest number of Indians. Some Indi- Pallavi Sinha, a lawyer, who recently con-
But few Indians are running for the ans were also contesting from smaller par- tested in the NSW Legislative Council elec-
Parliament and the biggest reason ties,” says Kampmark, a lecturer at RMIT Seat: Eden-Monaro, NSW tions as a Liberal candidate, feels learning
is that most Indians have arrived University in Melbourne. RAJ SAMSON, doctor how to navigate the political system in Aus-
here recently. It is too early to ex- Ganesh Loke, who arrived in Australia 20 tralia and secure a candidacy with a major
Seat: Solomon, Northern
pect them in large numbers in the years ago as a student with only $500, con- party are big challenges for people like her.
Parliament, reflecting their grow- tested as a United Australia Party candidate “My parents and I had little or no political
ing numbers in the country.” from Parramatta in 2013. He contested again connections or experience with the politi-
Life as a student this time. “Life as a student in Australia was
Greens Party cal system in Australia. I did not consider
in Australia was Slow Start challenging and those experiences helped NAVDEEP SINGH, politics until later in life. So I had not formed
challenging and
those experi-
The Indian-Australians who did shape my election campaign,” entrepreneur political networks or connections.” Her
ences helped make it to the Parliament are few says the film producer, writ- Senate candidate from doctor parents immigrated from Uttar
shape my elec- and far between, but the num- er and actor, who is also an Queensland Pradesh to Australia four decades back.
tion campaign bers are slowly growing. active social worker in Par- While the profile of the average Indian
In March, Gurmesh Singh, a ramatta. HARKIRAT SINGH immigrant in Australia is that of a newbie
Ganesh Loke,
United Australia third-generation Indian immi- Another Indian, Sun- Seat: Gorton, Victoria who has been there for only a few decades,
Party candidate grant and farmer, was elected to ny Pratap Chandra, ran an unacknowledged racial divide and dis-
the New South Wales (NSW) Par- as an independent can- One Nation Party crimination also comes in the way of them
liament from Coffs Harbour. He represents didate for a senate seat becoming part of politics and public life.
the National Party of Australia. from Victoria this “But things are changing and in the fed-
Labor Party’s Nitin Daniel Mookhey, time. But the IIT Kan- Seat: Petrie, Queensland eral elections, we have have seen some fac-
whose parents immigrated to Australia from pur alumnus and an es from an Indian background making a
Punjab, has been a member of the NSW Leg- entrepreneur, says he Conservative difference and gaining high visibility,”
islative Council since 2015 and was the first was disappointed at National Party says Amarinder Bajwa, vice-presi-
parliamentarian in Australia to be sworn the lack of support for dent of National Sikh Council of
into office on the Bhagavad Gita. his campaign from the Australia and a Labour party
The current Labor senator from Tasma- Indian-Australian com- Seat: Hindmarsh, supporter from Sydney. �
nia, Lisa Singh, is of Indian-Fijian origin. munity. Having worked South Australia ishani.duttagupta@timesgroup.
Shireen Morris, who contested the latest as a migration agent, com
elections for the opposition Labor Party Chandra campaigned for Independent (The writer was in Syd-
from Deakin in Victoria, is also Indian-Fiji- more immigration and SUNNY PRATAP CHANDRA, ney for the 2019 Jefferson
an. An actor, singer, writer and lawyer, Mor- against the “ceiling” of entrepreneur Fellowships of the East-
ris was seen as a strong contender. The other 160,000 on permanent West Center, Honolulu)
Senate candidate from Victoria
18 biz watch
MAY 19-25, 2019

Brands for
the Ages
In a rapidly changing world, how has
Amul Butter
Company: Amul

Market share of Amul Butter:

Competitors: Heritage,
a handful of doughty FMCG brands Mother Dairy, Britannia
managed to achieve enduring market
leadership in their categories?
:: G Seetharaman

t is lunchtime on a weekday and there’s a hubbub of hun-
gry customers around the counter at Cannon food stall,
opposite south Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Ter-
minus railway station. Employees at the 46-year-old es-
tablishment are doing double-speed, rush-hour duty,
against the clang of steel plates and swirl of shouted or-
ders, to serve its most popular dish — pav bhaji.
It is definitely not for the calorie-conscious. The pav
(bread) glistens with golden butter and a generous slab of
butter, the size of a small soap bar, slowly melts into the
hot bhaji. That only seems to boost the demand for “Amul ity and the consistent nurturing of the brand itself, there
Pav Bhaji”, advertised prominently on the menu board is little that’s discernibly common among them. Each
for `100. Appa Dandekar, who runs Cannon, says the stall
has always used Amul and there is no question of using
product has had its own journey and challenges. So what
lessons in success and leadership can be gleaned from the
“There is a ice cream and chocolates.
GCMMF earned a revenue
any other butter brand. “People can tell the difference journey of these powerhouse brands? conscious of `33,150 crore in 2018-19.
between Amul and others.” effort to talk to “People have blind faith in
This kind of devotion to Amul Butter is what makes it Recall Value younger people the Amul Butter brand, like
the undisputed market leader, accounting for around
85% of the `3,500 crore butter market in India, accord-
For one, being a strong brand does not guarantee safety.
Amul, for example, has to fight for market share with
through Amul they have on their reli-
ing to industry sources. More than six decades after it Parag Milk Foods and Britannia in cheese, and Nestle and ads” Rahul da Cunha, one of
was launched, Amul Butter has managed to hold onto its Mother Dairy battle Amul in the packaged milk category. Rahul da Cunha, the brains behind the Amul
dominance. Amul’s market share in the cheese and milk segments are ad man behind Amul girl advertisements, says
In the hyper competitive world of fast-moving consum- pegged at 40-50% and 30%, respectively. Research firms Butter campaigns one of the reasons for the
er goods (FMCG) — a low-margin, distribution and mar- such as Nielsen and Euromonitor do not share market endurance of the brand is
keting-focused universe where customer loyalties tend to share figures with the media, and some market segments, its attempt to talk to young-
such as butter, are not extensively tracked. ET Magazine
be fickle — a handful of legacy brands such as Amul Butter er people. “We are commenting not just on topics of na-
has managed to retain their market leadership over dec- has relied on data from industry sources, including fig- tional importance but also on topics of internet impor-
ades, fending off rivals, rapidly changing tastes and shift-
ures from syndicated reports by market research firms. tance.”
ing market structures. In some cases, the dominance is But why do people invariably think of Amul while buy-
such that the category is defined by the brand. Instant ing butter? Shirish Upadhyay, a dairy industry veteran Riding on Nostalgia
noodles brand Maggi, Dabur Chyawanprash, Parle G, who has worked in the private sector and with the Gujarat Another popular brand that also used a little girl for
Rooh Afza and Diary Milk among food and drinks and Pi- Cooperative Milk Marketing branding is Parle-G biscuits. The packaging of the product
dilite’s Fevicol, an adhesive, are among these logic-defy- Federation (GCMMF), which launched in 1939 uses a picture of a little girl. Owned by
ing brands. All of them have been around for a owns the brand Amul, says Parle Products, the biscuit is a daily fixture in the lives of
while, making it clear that customer loyalty is Amul had a head start in but- many Indians who like dunking it in their tea. “You might
earned slowly, but surely. But apart from longev- ter. The dairy sector was de- try different biscuits. But when you want to have some-
licensed in 1991 but the thing every day, it is Parle-G,” says Mayank Shah, category
brand had been launched in head at Parle Products. The biscuit accounts for four-
the 1950s and its famous fifths of the `8,750 crore glucose biscuit market and oper-
“Utterly Butterly” slogan ates at staggering scale. Available at 10 different price
and the Amul girl created points from `2 (with eight biscuits) to `65 (with 160 bis-
in 1966. “And it is very cuits), Parle-G is sold through 6.5 million outlets. A billion
competitively priced so it packets are sold every month. In 2011, Nieslen called it the
doesn’t make sense for world’s largest-selling biscuit. The brand’s chief competi-
others to take on Amul.” tors are Britannia’s Tiger and ITC’s Sunfeast Glucose,
Another reason is the which account for a tenth of the market. To take on the
distinct salty taste that competition, Parle-G reinvented the brand and termed
Amul Butter had de- the “G” in the name “genius”. Shah says Tiger and Sun-
veloped to take on feast only ate into the market share of the smaller players.
Parle-G then-market leader, Pol- Parle-G’s share has grown from 68% to 80% in the past
son’s Butter, in the 1950s. two decades, he adds.
Butter, which helped Amul build a Britannia declined to comment for the story and ITC
Company: Parle Products
national distribution network, has the did not respond to queries. These two companies are no

highest cross-country penetration less aggressive when it comes to pricing and distribution,
Market share of Parle-G
among all its products, says RS Sodhi, but Tiger and Sunfeast Glucose, launched in 1997 and
in glucose biscuits:
managing director of GCMMF. The 2003, respectively, do not — at least not yet — have Parle-
company also sells ghee, buttermilk, G’s biggest selling point — a multi-generational connec-
Competitors: Tiger, Sunfeast Glucose
Chyawanprash biz watch 19
MAY 19-25, 2019
Company: Dabur

Market share of
Dabur Chyawanprash:
Competitors: Baidyananth,
(O&M), including “Asli swad zindagi ka (The real taste of
life)” and “Kuchh meetha ho jaaye (Let’s have something
Smart advertising, also by O&M, has also built Fevicol
PatanjaliGlucose and its associate brands like Fevikwik and M-Seal. Owned by
Pidilite Industries, the brands are said to control around
70% of the adhesives market. In a largely unorganised indus-
try, Fevicol has the stickiness its competitors would kill for.
A June 2017 research report by Credit Suisse on Pidilite says
“Nostalgia is a
the incentive for carpenters to switch to another brand was dangerous thing
low, as adhesives make up only 1-2% of the cost of making for brands. The
furniture. moment you are
One of the secrets to the brand’s success was that unlike
its competitors, it did not go just to distributors, but also
rooted in the past,
engaged the end-users, in this case carpenters, masons and there is only one
plumbers. In 2002, it even started a club for carpenters, direction you are
the first of its kind, through which it conducts training going to go”
programmes and cultural events for carpenters’ families.
This club, which now has 1 lakh members in 600 towns, Anil Viswanathan,
allows them to showcase new products to carpenters, a director of marketing
tion with the brand.
Nostalgia certainly helps a
luxury Pidilite’s competitors do not have.
Just like Fevicol is used to refer to adhesives in general,
(chocolates), Mondelez
Dairy Milk
brand, says Siddharth Shekhar rose-flavoured sherbets are in some quarters referred to
Singh, associate professor of as Rooh Afza. The Hamdard Laboratories’ brand, which Company: Mondelez

marketing at the Indian School reportedly accounts for nearly half of the `1,000 crore
of Business. “But if customers
syrup and concentrate market, was in the news recently Market share
don’t find value in it, then (fu- “While people because there was a shortage of the product during of Dairy Milk:
ture) generations may remem- associate Competitors: Nestle, Amul
ber the brand but not use it.”
Anil Viswanathan, director of
marketing (chocolates), Monde- with winters, we
lez India, concurs. “Nostalgia is are trying to get
a dangerous thing. The moment them to also buy
you are rooted in the past, there
is only one direction you are go-
it during other
ing to go.” seasons, like
Mondelez accounts for two- monsoons”
thirds of the `10,430 crore choc-
olate market in India, according Prashant Agarwal
marketing head, health Source: Companies, industry estimates
to Nielsen data shared by indus-
try insiders. Their flagship supplements, Dabur Dhoni and Bhojpuri film star Ravi Kishan, who is
brand Cadbury Dairy Milk,
launched in India in 1948, alone Maggi quite popular in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and
make chyawanprash more palatable to kids by
has a 41% market share. launching it in flavors like mango and chocolate.
There was a time most Indians did not have access to have Company: Nestle Unlike in chyawanprash, it was not competi-
tion that posed a threat to Nestle in instant noo-

premium chocolates and made do with whatever was avail-
able. But, Viswanathan says, that started changing around a Market share dles. Maggi was synonymous instant noodles.
decade ago when people realised there were no good pre- of Maggi: But the Food Safety and Standards Authority of
mium chocolates in India. That was when the company India’s decision in June 2015 to recall Maggi
launched Dairy Milk Silk, which starts at `70. The company’s Competitors: Wai noodles over the presence of lead beyond the
premium range of chocolates like Silk and Bournville neces- Wai, Top Ramen, permissible limit and due to misleading label-
sitated an increase in the number of coolers in stores. Sunfeast Yippee ling related to monosodium glutamate gave
Dairy Milk has also been helped in no small measure by the brand a severe beating. Six months later,
some of India’s most memorable Maggi was back on the shelves, though the
commercials and taglines since the Ramzan. A large section of market share had nearly halved from 80% in
1990s, created by Ogilvy & Mather people break their iftar fast 2014, according to Nestle data.
with Rooh Afza. However, the power of the brand and the
The market leader faces company’s outreach saw Maggi through those trying times.
no real competition in some product categories. The product’s market share is now almost 60%, according to
But there are also segments where newer play- Nestle. “It was quite telling who consumers were willing to
Fevicol ers have given the top brand a serious scare. One
such segment is chyawanprash. The product
trust, the government or Maggi,” says Alpana Parida, MD of
DY Works, a brand consultancy.
Company: Pidilite was long synonymous with Dabur, which has a
nearly 60% share in the `540 crore market. Brand Trap

Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali has within a few years Nestle India did not respond to ET Magazine’s specific ques-
Market share of Fevicol &
Associate Brands like Fevikwik: of its launch become the third largest player in the mar- tions, except to say Maggi has a strong resonance among con-
ket, after Dabur and Baidyanath. But the sheen has start- sumers. Maggi’s competitors include Sunfeast Yippee, Wai
ed wearing off Patanjali due to increasing competition Wai and Top Ramen. Yippee, launched in 2010, has become
Competitors: Jivanjor, Araldite
and distribution woes. the second largest brand, with a fifth of the market, riding
While Dabur and Baidyanath saw their market shares by ITC’s distribution muscle, but it still does not immediately
volume rise in 2018-19 from 2017-18, Patanjali’s declined. bring to mind noodles the way Maggi does.
Prashant Agarwal, marketing head-health supplements, Being a well-known brand of a big company can be a trap
Dabur, says Patanjali had a short-term impact and Dabur has in itself. “These companies are usually large-sized and due to
made up for the loss in market share. “While people associ- their sheer size, it is challenging for them to be agile and pro-
ate chyawanprash with winters, we are trying to get them to vide a quick response to innovations and changing consumer
also buy it during other seasons, like monsoons.” needs,” says Ina Dawer, research manager at Euromonitor
Dabur Chyawanprash, launched in 1949, for a long time International.
enjoyed the benefits of being India’s first branded chyawan- Staying relevant is a constant battle. The numerous once-
prash. But with increasing competition, the company has ubiquitous brands that have fallen by the wayside stand testi-
made a concerted attempt to reach out to a younger con- mony to this brutal market truth. �
sumer base through brand ambassadors like cricketer MS
20 wide angle
MAY 19-25, 2019

Why Can’t “Four Indian films were

India be at
considered until the final
discussions. But at the
end, you have to make

choices independently of
Christian Jeune, director of film
department, Cannes Festival
It has been 25 years since an
Indian film was chosen in the
Competition section at Cannes. Asia Ahead
In the last decade, Iran, South Korea,
While other Asian countries Philippines and Thailand had many films at
Cannes Competition
make their presence felt, why
IRAN: 6 films (1 by Jafar Panahi; 3 by
are Indian filmmakers no Asghar Farhadi and 2 by Abbas Kiarostami)
longer in contention for the SOUTH KOREA: 10 films (2 each by Park
Palme d’Or? Chan-wook, Lee Chang-dong, Im Sang-soo,
Hong Sang-soo, Bong Joon-ho)
PHILIPPINES: 2 films (both by Brillante

1,845 No. of feature films submitted to be

part of official selection in 2019 39 No. of nations represented as production or
co-production countries for features and shorts
THAILAND: 1 film (Apichatpong

:: Faizal Khan l Cannes

Among the films

n a hot April afternoon in 1994, filmmaker all his savings producing the film, in the world, in terms of the number of films
Shaji N Karun and his friend from the Film absence of any financial backers. Karun that were made, that is not good news. “Many In-
and Television Institute of India, stayed in a tiny room on the fifth floor of a considered by dian films were submitted. Four were
Sukhwant Singh Dadha, lugged a heavy budget hotel at Cannes for four days until Cannes this year considered until the final discussions.
steel box to the Mumbai customs office in the NFDC checked him into a bigger hotel. But at the end, you have to make choic-
Santa Cruz. The box contained eight reels He went to the red carpet in a white dhoti was Gurvinder es, independently of nationality, and
of Karun’s Malayalam film, Swaham, and a white shirt for the world premiere of Singh’s new other films were chosen,” says Christian
which had to be flown to Cannes where it Swaham. production, Jeune, director of film department and
was selected for the prestigious Competi- That was the year when a tall American deputy general delegate, Cannes Festi-
tion section of the film festival. came to Cannes: Quentin Tarantino with Khanaur val. “Let’s remember we have to select
“We took the film print from the Nation- his film noir, Pulp Fiction. “At the filmmak- around 40 films from over 1,700 submit-
al Film Development Corporation (NFDC) ers’ club in Cannes, I would sit and chat ted,” adds Jeune, a big believer in Indian
lab in Vashi to the customs office for clear- with (Iranian director) Abbas Kiarostami d’Or for Pulp Fiction, famously or infa- cinema, who discovered such films as
ance,” recalls Karun, who had won the and Mexican director Arturo Ripstein mously beating Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan and Gurvin-
Camera d’Or Mention (in Un Certain Re- who were with me in Competition. We all Three Colours Red. Twenty-five years lat- der Singh’s Chauthi Koot, both of which
gard) at Cannes five years earlier for his came from developing countries and er, Tarantino is in Cannes with his new were part of Un Certain Regard, which
debut feature film, Piravi. “My friend G bonded,” laughs Karun. “I was proud film, Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood. awards young talent and encourages
Rajamohan, who was the head of Hindu- when the Indian national anthem played But Karun’s Swaham was the last time an promising works.
stan Latex, paid for my flight ticket to before the screening of Swaham.” Three Indian film made it to Competition. Among the films that were considered
France,” says Karun, who had exhausted days after that, Tarantino won the Palme For the largest film industry in the by Cannes this year was Gurvinder Sin-

“All of Afghanistan is a Big Fan of Bollywood”

Shahrbanoo Sadat, a 29-year-old Afghan filmmaker, traces the history of her
country through the story of a boy who sells Hindi film tickets in the black market

hahrbanoo Sadat has a wish. One wood,” says Sadat. “Afghans know by ing the history of her country over the
day, very soon, Afghan filmmakers heart the lyrics of Hindi films from the past 40 years through memories, like the
will share their stories just the way 1960s to ’90s. They speak Urdu very well, unpublished diaries of her friend and
they want to tell them. Twenty-nine-year- having picked it up from watching Bolly- Bollywood fan Anwar Hashmi.
old Sadat, who saw her first film in a mov- wood movies.” A song from the 1982 film Sadat first came to Cannes in 2010 with
ie hall when she was 20, is part of Direc- Shakti, “Jane kaise kab kahan iqrar ho a project at the Cinefondation, a founda-
tors’ Fortnight, which runs parallel to the gaya (I don’t know how, when and where tion that supports young international
Competition section at Cannes Festival. we made a promise to each other)”, has a filmmakers. Her plan was to make five
Her sophomore film, The Orphanage, significant place in the film. films inspired by Hashmi’s diaries. The
tells the story of a 15-year-old boy in Ka- “In Kabul — whether you are walking first film, Wolf and Sheep, premiered at
bul in the 1980s — a Bollywood fan who around, eating at a restaurant or getting Directors’ Fortnight in 2016. The Orphan-
sells movie tickets in the black market. into a taxi — it’s impossible not to hear age is the second. She is now working on
“All of Afghanistan is a big fan of Bolly- Hindi film songs,” says Sadat, who is trac- the third and fourth films.
wide angle 21
MAY 19-25, 2019

None Since ’94 “It was after

the mid-1990s that
Emerging Powers
The disappearance of Indian cinema from
Indian films screened at
Asian cinema began to Cannes’ Competition coincides with the
Cannes’ Competition section
really blossom in the emergence of other movie power houses in
Asia. Says Jean-Michel Frodon, former edi-
1946: Neecha Nagar by Chetan Anand won main western festivals” tor-in-chief of the prestigious film magazine
the Grand Prix du Festival International du Jean-Michel Frodon, Cahiers du Cinema: “Actually, it was since the
Film (tied with 10 other films) former editor-in-chief, mid-1990s that Asian cinema began to really
Cahiers du Cinema blossom in the main western festivals, most-
ly thanks to the New Taiwanese Cinema
(Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-
liang), the Fifth Generation in Mainland
gh’s new production, Khanaur, a migra- China (Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Tian
tion story set in the hills of Himachal Zhuangzhuang), the discovery of Hong Kong
Pradesh. “It is difficult to say why our films elegancy in action movies and the graphic
were not selected in Cannes this year,” style of Wong Kar-wai, the rise of modern
says Gurvinder. Iranian cinema under the artistic leadership
This year Indian films are missing not just of Kiarostami, and the creativity of South Ko-
1952: Amar Bhoopali by V Shantaram
in the prestigious Competition section but in rean cinema, from Park Chan-wook to Hong
1953: Awaara by Raj Kapoor other important segments of the festival as Sang-soo and Kim Ki-duk.”
well — Un Certain Regard, Directors’ Fort- Almost 25 years later, the landscape
1954: Do Bigha Zamin by Bimal Roy; night and Critics’ Week. “It is true that this hasn’t changed much, except for the addi-
Mayur Pankh by Kishore Sahu year, there is no Indian film unlike in previ- tion of a few excellent filmmakers from the
ous years, but I don’t think it is a problem of “If during the making of Philippines (Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza)
1955: Biraj Bahu by Bimal Roy; quality at all. It is more a year ‘without’,” independent films, there is and the Thai master Apichatpong Weera-
Boot Polish by Prakash Arora says Jeune. “There is no Japanese film this
year, or Australian,” he adds.
no Indian support, why sethakul, he says. However, he cautions
about the term “Asian”. “It seems a bit too
1956: Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray The long wait for an Indian film to be in should we be ashamed vast. Only certain parts of Asia have made a
won the Best Human Document Prize contention for the Palme d’Or is in stark con- when results are announced consistent breakthrough on cinema-as-art
trast to the long list of Indian movies that
have competed before Swaham became an
that no Indian film is scene in the West. One should mention a
brief spring in several countries, like Ka-
undesirable landmark — 22 films between selected?” zakhstan, Tajikistan and Malaysia, but then
1946, the year Cannes Festival was founded, Deepti DCunha, part of programming followed by long winters, still going on.”
and 1994. Satyajit Ray’s films were in the team, Directors’ Fortnight The Asian films vying for the Palme d’Or
Competition section four times and Mrinal this year — along with those by Tarantino,
Sen’s thrice. Pedro Almodovar, Terrence Malick, the
rector of the London Film Festival and for- Dardenne brothers and Ken Loach — are
No Show mer film critic at The Guardian, Diao Yinan’s The Wild Goose Lake (China),
Karun says Indian cinema who has also been a mentor at the Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (South Korea) and
must assume responsibility NFDC Film Bazaar in Goa. “Indian Elia Suleiman’s It Must be Heaven (Palestine).
1956: Shevgyachya Shenga by for its failure to present a film films are too long and too diffused. In other sections, too, Asian films are
Shantaram Athawale Principally, there are not enough present in this edition. The Orphanage, part
good films and the good ones of- of Directors’ Fortnight, is directed by a
1957: Gotama the Buddha by ten don’t have professional back- young Afghan filmmaker, 29-year-old
Rajbhans Khanna ing from sales agents,” he says. Shahrbanoo Sada (See box,“All of Afghani-
1958: Parash Pathar by Satyajit Ray Deepti DCunha, part of the pro- stan is a Big Fan of Bollywood”). She is com-
gramming team of Directors’ Fort- peting with celebrated filmmakers like Ja-
1959: Lajwanti by Narendra Suri night, which has screened Indian pan’s Takashi Miike.
1960: Sujata by Bimal Roy films like Gangs of Wasseypur, Even the Cannes Festival’s Cinefonda-
agrees. Independent filmmakers tion Atelier programme, which invites
1962: Devi by Satyajit Ray are the ones who mainly send their films young filmmakers and gives them an op-
to Cannes and these filmmakers have no portunity to meet producers, has film pro-
1964: Mujhe Jeene Do by
support or funding during the process of jects from Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar.
Moni Bhattacharjee
making the film, which results in them hav- Wakhri (One of a Kind), a project by Paki-
1974: Garam Hawa by MS Sathyu ing to make many compromises,” says stani director Iram Parveen Bilal, is in-
Shaji N Karun at Cannes in 1994 DCunha. These compromises affect the spired by Qandeel Baloch, a social media
1976: Nishant by Shyam Benegal film when it has to compete with the best star who was murdered by her kid brother.
1980: Ek Din Pratidin by Mrinal Sen in the world, “where talent is nurtured, Incidentally, Kareena Kapoor’s character
at Cannes Competition in the past quarter encouraged and supported”. “If during in Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod was
1983: Kharij by Mrinal Sen century. “We have lost the soul of our cine- the making of independent films, there is named after Bilal. Kangling (Bone Trum-
won the Jury Prize ma after Sen and Ray. We need producers to no Indian support, why should we be pet) from Nepal is about climate change in
back our filmmakers like they supported Ray ashamed when results are announced the Himalayas threatening lives in the sub-
and Sen,” he says. Others locate it in the kind that no Indian film is selected?” continent. The project draws its strength
of cinema Cannes often demands and the she asks. from the extensive research of its di-
lack of contacts, information and infrastruc- rector, Fidel Devkota, who holds a
ture available to many indie filmmakers. PhD in environmental anthropology.
Pan Nalin, director of Angry Indian God- A Myanmar project, The Women, tells
desses and Faith Connections, which were “Cannes insists on the story of four young women workers
premiered at the Toronto International Film ‘auteur cinema’ sharing a dormitory in the big
Festival, says: “Cannes insists on ‘auteur cin- city of Yangon.
ema’ that makes it nearly impossible for any
that makes it As Tarantino searches for
Indian film to be selected because the com- nearly yet another Palme d’Or this
1984: Ghare Baire by Satyajit Ray petition is very tough. Auteur-stamped mov- impossible for year, India would do well to
ies are rare in India. Even our so-called new prepare for a better future.
1986: Genesis by Mrinal Sen wave or indie movies are ‘realistic’ or have
any Indian film As Cannes’ General Delegate
1994: Swaham by Shaji N Karun shades of Italian-style neorealism, but still to be selected Thierry Fremaux told me
they don’t earn an auteur-cinema status. It because the during the NFDC Film
seems, for Cannes, personalised cinematic Bazaar in 2013, “You have
(From 1939 to 1954, the highest prize at the
festival was the Grand Prix du Festival writing is a must.”
competition is to create your own
International du Film. It was replaced by the The missing sales agent is as much re- very tough” masters.” ��
Palme d’Or in 1955. In 1964, it was replaced by
the Grand Prix, and then reintroduced in 1975)
sponsible, says Derek Malcolm, former di- Pan Nalin, filmmaker The writer is a freelance journalist
22 travel guide
MAY 19-25, 2019

A pier at Pulau Gaya island

Sea of Green
Islands with pristine beaches, mountain ranges and a rich cultural
heritage make Kota Kinabalu in Borneo a perfect short gateway

The Crocker mountian range with
Mt Kinabalu hidden in the clouds

No trip to Kota Kinabalu is complete

without a pilgrimage to Mount Kina-
balu National Park, whose tower-
ing peak is the highest elevation
between the Himalayas and the
snow-capped mountains of New

Guinea. For committed climb-

ers, the eight km trek to the gran-
ite peak can be accomplished
within a matter of hours or over
The Kota Kinabalu seafront two days. For the less ambitious, the
Sergeant major fish park has many forest trails that stretch
at Pulau Sapi island from less than 200 metres (Mountain
:: Ateesh Tankha View Trail) in length to more than 5 km (Li-

orneo, Asia’s largest island, is also arguably feet of water and see the chance to use a blowpipe, wagu Trail).
the most politically, ethnographically and sergeant-major fish and HOW TO GET THERE: grind grain and sip coun- The trails allow unobstructed views of
ecologically diverse landmass in the world. swordfish swim within Fly from Bangkok, try liquor. The highlights, the forest wilderness and a chance to spot
The governments of Malaysia, Indonesia inches of your outstretched Singapore, Kuala Lumpur though, are the bobohizan a profusion of plants, including countless
and Brunei together preside over the is- hands. Snorkelling gear and & Jakarta (high priestess) costumes varieties of fungi and rhododendron,
land, administering a demographic spec- life jackets can be rented Fly or go by road from and the grisly House of pitcher plants and Rafflesia. If you are
trum of 16 million people, and protecting but if you can swim or if the Kuching (Sarawak) or Skulls, where 42 trophy lucky, you may chance upon pangolins,
thousands of species of flora and fauna, gently lapping shallows do Bandar Seri Begawan heads hang from the roof! orangutans, sunbirds and tree frogs. If you
many of which are either unique to Borneo not deter you, a pair of gog- (Brunei) For a more expansive are not, at least a myriad species of butter-
or are found hardly anywhere else. gles is enough to look un- WHERE TO STAY: introduction to the Bajau, flies, beetles and leeches will distract you.
Kota Kinabalu, capital of the Malaysian derwater and discover the Luxury: Le Meridien, Rungus and Murut tribes, Along the perimeter of the park, Poring
state of Sabah in Borneo’s northern ex- coruscating coral and the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru in addition to the Dusun, Hot Springs provides other diversions: sul-
treme, provides visitors a leisurely way to variegated clam shells that Resort and Spa, Sutera that allows you to sample phur baths, bat caves, waterfalls and a fun
savour local colour over a weekend. This spend their quiet lives on Harbour & Hyatt Regency food prepared on the spot, canopy walk. For a real treat to close the
includes pristine beaches with marine ac- the seabed before peace- Mid-range: Marriott, visit the Mari-Mari Cultural day, visit Desa Dairy Farm for delicious ice
tivities, mountain parks offering adventure fully surrendering their car- Novotel 1 Borneo & Village. cream and frozen yoghurt.
Jesselton Hotel
sports, museums and cultural pro- casses to the inevitable tide If this whets your appe- Kota Kinabalu is also famous for its Ka-
Budget: Hotel New
grammes. and the sun-baked shores. tite for more, the archaeol- dazan cuisine. Employing bamboo shoots
Sabah, Hotel Eden54 &
One of the city’s primary attractions is Along Kota Kinabalu’s ogy and ethnography ex- and palm sago, dishes such as Ayam Bam-
Borneo Backpackers
the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a marine southern fringe, two cul- hibits at the Sabah Muse- bangan (spicy baked chicken in lemon-
reserve of five islands surrounded by tur- tural centres offer a peak um are worth viewing as grass gravy) and Nasi Lemak Pandan (mar-
quoise-blue water that offers hours of out- into Borneo’s colourful and case studies of well-ordered cura- inated fried chicken, braised beef and sam-
door fun. Ferries will take you to the island somewhat violent past. tion and right-sized detail. And if bal anchovies) can be savoured at the local
of your choice or let you go island hopping Dedicated to the mem- you have a yen for local produce, food courts and at Le Meriden and Hyatt
for a small fee. ory of a fierce Dusun travel to Handicrafts Sri Pelan- Regency Hotels.
While Pulau Gaya, the largest island, has warrior, the epony- congan or the more upmarket The city is equally well-known for its sea-
the most luxurious beaches, Pulau Manu- mous Monsopiad Cul- Borneo Trading Post to purchase food: Grand Port View and Kamung Ne-
kan and Pulau Sapi offer access to some of tural Village provides items ranging from botanical layan Restaurant are famous for their cui-
the world’s most compact coral reefs. an immersive experi- soap bars to ghoulish masks. sine and sea-facing ambience. If you get a
The sea is so clear you can stand in three ence that includes a craving for Italian, try Gusto. The some-
Kadazan cuisine delicacies: what crusty Sicilian proprietor, Cristiano,
Sago Pudding & Nasi acts as chef or server depending on his
Lemak Pandan mood. But the food is delicious, fresh and
There is something here for everyone.
Nature lovers can spend all their time in
the parks that dot the Crocker mountain
range. Seafood gourmands can sup on
three-course meals for days and not eat the
same dish twice. Families can spend their
waking hours in the water and still find
something of interest on the next island.
All of which make Kota Kinabalu the per-
fect weekend getaway. �
The writer is a traveller who divides his time
A canopy bridge in Mt Kinabalu National Park between Singapore and India
al fresco 23
MAY 19-25, 2019

Venice & the World

May 19-25
May 19, 1935
TE Lawrence, better
The theme for the 58th Venice Biennale, which opened this month, is May You known as Lawrence
of Arabia, succumbs
Live in Interesting Times. Here are art installations from pavillions of five to injuries suffered
countries that mirror the theme, with subjects ranging from news on social in a motorcycle
accident six days
networks to beach boredom to the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi earlier. The
legendary war hero, author and
archaeological scholar was also a keen

May 20, 1498

Vasco de Gama
becomes the first
Iceland: European to reach India
Chromo via the Atlantic Ocean.
Sapiens The Portuguese
explorer arrives in
Calicut after setting sail
has created a
from Lisbon in July
cave of 1497.
synthetic hair. May 21, 1932
The labyrinth- Amelia Earhart
like artwork is completes the first
a fuzzy transatlantic solo
abstraction of flight by a woman.
India: Our Time for a Future Caring
nature The feat was achieved
The theme is the 150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi
Malaysia: five years to the day
and this wall installation by GR Iranna titled ‘We Together’
Holding Up shows hundreds of distinct paduka or wooden footwear as if Charles Lindbergh
A Mirror marching in unison. became the first pilot to accomplish a
Anurendra solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic
Jegadeva’s Ocean.
Yesterday In A
Padded Room
May 22, 1939
shows with
Italy’s Benito
posters and
thrones a desire Mussolini and
for garishness Germany’s Adolf Hitler
and pastiche and sign a military and
takes inspiration political alliance that
from a 18th gives birth to the
century work of grouping called Axis powers.
Malay literary Azerbaijan:
work. Virtual Reality
May 23, 1960
Titled The Slinky
Israel says Nazi war
Effect, Ulviyya
criminal Adolf Eichmann
Aliyeva and
Kanan Aliyev use has been captured by its
slinks to agents in Argentina and
represent the transported into the
constant flow of country for trial.
news people
receive from
social networks May 24, 1895
and how they Lithuania: Sun & Sea (Marina)
Star of English theatre
communicate Rugile Barzdziukaite, Vaiva Grainyte and Lina Lapelytee recreate the bustle, Henry Irving becomes
only through boredom and clichés of a beach – a strong sun, colorful beachwear, sunscreen-
the first actor to receive
these flows. dabbed limbs on bright towels, children playing amid the sound of crashing waves.
a knighthood.


Island Nations
Countries with most number of inhabited and uninhabited islands within their sovereign territories

221,800 188,000 55,000 52,455 17,508 8,222 7,107 6,853 6,289 ~6,000

Source: World Atlas

24 feel smart
MAY 19-25, 2019

Dumb Ways to Draw

Cow Kiss Challenge Get it for: Free, for iOS and Android


bout 6 or 7 years ago, an Aus-
tralian rail company had the
Why are we discussing cows kiss
kissing brilliant idea of encouraging
each other? It is their personal
rail safety by using a catchy song
and a free game. The original Dumb
Not if it involves humans kissing
cows. Ways to Die song and game were a
sensation, amassing millions of
Why would we kiss cows? views and downloads. They fol-

To raise money for charity. lowed it up with v2 and v3
which were also generally well
Whose brilliant idea is this? received. Now it is time for yet
A Swiss app called Castl. They have Really? Who are these people? to pay €490,000 as compensation to another instalment. You’re still
launched KuhKussChallenge, or the The Austrian government has called it the deceased woman’s husband. The playing with the funny bean-
Cow Kiss Challenge, to encourage a 'dangerous nuisance'. They are farmer has appealed against the ruling like characters (Hapless, Bone-
users in Switzerland and other discouraging online users from and he has the support of Austria’s head, Pillock, Dimwit, Mishap, Putz,
countries to kiss cows. accepting the challenge. farmer’s federation. Things are quite
sensitive at this point. Numskull and others) and they will
You lost me at app. still keep dying. Except this time, it
But why? Agreed it is a bit silly but
Well, the app introduces 'fun' Wow. That escalated quickly. is a physics puzzle. You have to use
sounds quite harmless to me.
challenges to its users, who Yeah, so the government has been a bit of wit and some drawing skills
Oh, but it isn’t. The government says
participate, post pictures and videos cows can get aggressive defending trying its best to keep common folk to keep your bean alive in different
as proof of participation. The posts their calves. It could have serious away from cattle in general. A scenarios. As before, the flat graph-
fetch stars (or likes) from the consequences. challenge like this creates new ics and bright colours make you feel
community. The most popular post problems for them. you’re watching a cartoon but there
wins and the winner donates a certain Oooh, I’m scared! Serious is still a message in there about how
amount to a cause. consequences, it seems. Makes sense. But why would you
challenge someone to kiss a cow to stay safe around trains. The game
People are buying into this inanity? It’s not funny. A woman was crushed is free but there are some in-game
to death by a herd of cows in Austria a extras you can purchase.
Not sure about buying. People are few years ago. Recently, a court That is a moo point, my friend.
certainly calling for a ban on it. — Hitesh Raj Bhagat
ordered the farmer raising the cattle
Text: Shephali Bhatt


Asics Metaride
Mi Men’s Sports Shoes 2 Get it for: `19,999

Sports shoes Get it for: `2,999 he Metaride is Asics top-of-the-line performance shoe
for runners and it comes loaded with every technology

ext time you are at a mall, take a look at the price day use. They don’t have very small sizes hence the men’s Asics has at its disposal. The first thing you will notice
tags on some of the sports shoes. Does it actually shoes tag. But they are unisex as long as you get them in (besides the striking red-black colourway) is the curved mid-
cost that much to make shoes, you might think. your size. sole. They call it the Guidesole. This unique shape helps im-
Not to worry, because Xiaomi is at it again — quality that Aside from the unnecessarily long name, the shoes prove your stride because it helps propel your foot forward
is unquestionable, an amazing design, super comfortable have the popular breathable mesh upper design, a 5-layer from heel to toe with minimal energy loss. You also get Asics’
and wafer-slim 5% margins that keeps the price down design with synthetic rubber outsole and a unique gel cushion for the heel and Flytefoam base for the toe box —
to `2,999. Some people were even lucky 10-fishbone structure that securely cradles the both of these add a little boost with each step. Like most per-
enough to snag the introductory offer of foot in the relatively loose confines of the mesh formance shoes, this one too has a knit upper for comfort and
`2,499. fabric. We think they look great too. Compared breathability. Keep in mind that the shoe is a tight fit due to the
Contrary to what you may think, to a pair of big brand shoes that cost thrice as unique design. You could consider buying a size larger than
there is no smart component in much, they feel just as secure and just as you normally do. The Metaride is priced on the higher side
these shoes — no activity tracker, comfortable. Plus, they are machine when compared with the competition. But if you want a shoe
Bluetooth or step counter. washable. Many people won’t that gives you some unorthodox running technologies, excel-
Those things are in the Mi bat an eyelid when spend- lent comfort and unique design, take a look at the Metaride.
Smart Shoes that might ing upwards of `10,000 — Karan Bajaj
be launched later. The on a pair of sports
Mi men’s Sports Shoes 2 shoes. Well, you could
sticks to being a really, buy all three colours of
really good value-for- this shoe (grey, blue
money product for and black) and still
walking, jogging, come out on top!
running and every- — Hitesh Raj Bhagat

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