India Tourism’s Differential Pricing

IMAG2227

Recently, on a coffee break with a colleague, she talked about a video she came across of a Moroccan traveler who was traveling to India and was outraged at high ticket prices for foreigners at some of the important historic sites in India. My colleague too was disgusted with that saying this kind of “discrimination” is bad. She was all the more shocked to see this approach/attitude coming from the government.

It’s true that many countries (or probably most) may not be having this kind of differential pricing but then, for me, that doesn’t necessarily make it a good reason.

While discussing this topic, one needs to understand two things properly:

  1. Differential Pricing
  2. Every Difference is Discrimination

1. Differential Pricing
Differential pricing, as a concept, isn’t new. For the same goods or service, often different charges are levied on different customers. Now, the basis may vary depending on the goods/service in question and many other factors. But everybody getting charged the same for a good/service may not happen every time. It is neither good for customers, nor for business. And screaming “discrimination” at the sight of two price points is really naive.

2. Not Every Difference is Discrimination
One of the principal argument in favor of the same pricing of tickets at all sites is that not all foreigners are rich. Many are average middle class who are on a budget and save the hard earned money for the trip, especially the backpackers. On the other hand, there are Indians who are rich but still pay subsidized rates. Very true.
Via Rail Canada charges discounted fares for senior citizens while regular adult fares for everyone above the age of 12. Will that be called discrimination? Aren’t there rich senior citizens who can actually afford to pay full adult fare? And aren’t there poor or middle-class adults who may not be able to pay the full adult fare? What about the children of rich adults who might be charged the same fare as children from poor or middle-class families.
Also, by that logic, when Indians travel to western countries, they should get subsidized rates at tourist sites. But that doesn’t happen. I’m not even saying that should happen. But this is just the example of the extent to which the logic can be extended.
There will always be exceptions who might be getting an unfair advantage of certain policies and some who might be getting penalized unnecessarily. It is always improvisation.

Also, if this pricing was hurting India, it would have been reflected in India’s tourism figures which say otherwise with an increase of 52% in the last five years.

Many people have compared the ticket prices at historical monuments and heritage sites in India vs the world, citing that even with the so-called extraordinary prices, India is still the cheapest place in USD terms. While that may be true, it is still a bad argument since pricing isn’t to make Indian heritage sites entrance prices at par with the global level. That is not what dictates pricing.

Lastly, we often miss the complete picture or the larger context when trying to analyze things. We need to keep that in mind.

Advertisements

Say No to #SayNoToWar

Okay, the objective of this article is not to advocate for nor it is to say that war is good. Of course, war has always had a devastating effect on any country irrespective of whether it loses or wins. But still, it is to be fought nevertheless, when imposed.
I saw in the days following the air strikes by India on Pakistan’s terrorist groups, that the #SayNoToWar was trending in India. Now, I find it ironic that people tell India to say no to war. It is like telling Sachin Tendulkar, not to sledge.

If people know India’s history, India has never been at war by itself. It has always been imposed by other nations, mostly Pakistan. And if people know the world history, even the most peaceful nations of today’s times like Japan and the Netherlands have a history of territorial expansion and colonization. India has never ventured into those areas. So, when India should be the one teaching peace across the world, it is truly ironic that the country, having a bloodiest possible past and present, is trying to sermon India about peace. And it is unfortunate that some misguided people in India are falling for that.

Another point often made when asking India to be peaceful and tolerant of the things one should not be, is that India is the nation of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted to alleviate any kind of aggressive defense India shows when its integrity and sovereignty is threatened by external forces. History, designed by Nehru-Gandhi (not Mahatma Gandhi) family kept Gandhiji at the center stage of everything, especially education. It was often shown that India is Gandhi and Gandhi is India and that nobody else mattered. But, as much as this country belongs to Mahatma Gandhi, it also belongs to Chandragupta Maurya, Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji, Bhagat Singh, Rani Lakshmi Bai, Mangal Pandey and Netaji Subash Chandra Bose (and numerous others).

Our education system also changed the definition of violence and non-violence based on Gandhi’s perspective. Self-defense and taking up arms to protect its citizens is not violence. People who think India has been traditionally non-violent in absolute terms, as always been tried to project, do not know about the history of India.

This is the country that has never hesitated in taking up arms to prevent wrongdoing. This is the country whose history teaches us to not even hesitate to fight against your own brothers for the protection of dharma. And when I say dharma, I do not mean religion. That is not the interpretation of dharma in this part of the world. In Hinduism, Dharma is righteousness. It is not religion. Dharma is essentially doing the right thing. It asks us to keep aside our biases and look at what is necessary for terms of action, which we call karma.
The post-independence education and policies of India essentially developed a misguided concept that nonviolence is absolute – a principal difference between Gandhiji and other freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh. That was precisely the reason why, after the initial years of Independence, Indian polity never really focused to build a strong army and instead just assumed that because we are a peaceful nation, nobody will attack us. That myth was broken by China within 15 years of Independence. Unfortunately, it came at a great cost of the precious lives of our brave soldiers who gave the supreme sacrifice in the war of 1962. India learned it a hard way that strength respects only strength.

People who know India’s history know very well that nonviolence can never be absolute. Even the saints in ancient India had knowledge of weapons and used them skillfully. They very well knew that as much as good exists in the world, evil does too. And it is up to the people, who do good, to eliminate the evil as well. And you cannot eliminate evil with non-violence. Lord Ram had to wage a war against Ravan. Even Lord Krishna had to wrestle Kans to kill him. The history of Hastinapur, today’s Delhi, would have been very different (in a negative sense), had the Pandavs not taking up arms against their own brothers in Kurukshetra.

Coming to today’s events, if we look at like what exactly happened, Indian Air Force specifically targeted the attack on the terrorist camps in Pakistan. Civilian areas and military establishments were carefully avoided. And even the attack on the terrorist camp was conducted because there was an apparent threat to India’s security. And even the rest of the countries of the world have acknowledged India’s right to protect itself from these terrorist organizations irrespective of where they are based. So, India essentially has waged a war on terrorism, not Pakistan.

And, instead of giving our opinion based on the minuscule amount of information we have compared to our armed forces, we should blindly trust, and I say it categorically that we should blindly trust, our armed forces to make a decision on whether to go on war or not. Just as advocating war is wrong, so is absolutely opposing it is.

Not Respecting People With Different Food Habits Makes You More Ancient Than Modern

A couple of days ago, one of my friends posted, on Facebook, her parents’ plight while traveling with Emirates from the US to India. Just as expected – the most common – they encountered an issue in food where the crew ran out of vegetarian food that her parents had pre-booked while purchasing the tickets. It was bad enough that in spite of prebooking their vegetarian meal, they were served lamb biryani and that too quite late after her parents checked multiple times with the crew. What disappointed me all the more was that the crew tried to pass off a chicken curry as vegetarian by replacing the label. I used to hear such a thing about long distance European and American carriers.
Over a period of time, based on my personal experiences and listening to others’ experiences, I’ve been more convinced that while the public, in general and at an individual level, has been quite sensitive to each other’s food habits, when it comes to bringing that sensitivity to corporate level, the same individuals fail. In my experience after working in US and Europe, I’m yet to find a vegetarian friendly cafeteria in any company. Most of them have hardly any vegetarian options and the ones that have, make ridiculously awful food when we talk non-salads (quantity may be economics but quality is intention).
And it’s not just food quality but also the conditions in which they are made raises more questions than the calorie value of the meal. Using the same utensils which were used for meat, not changing gloves and even worst – not wearing gloves, heating both kinds of food in the same oven – makes me think if we’re still in 19th century where people haven’t heard about vegetarian or vegan food habits.
When it comes to airlines, I’ve been lucky so far not to have faced any issue whatsoever. However, now I wonder if I should prepare meals myself while traveling instead of relying on the airline.
Corporates who may not be in the food business directly but have food services as one of the key part of their daily work environment, need to understand that not respecting people with food habits different than theirs make them look more ancient than modern.

Travel

Travel

I and my wife have a very different understanding and purpose of travel. It is very much inspired by the travelers (not tourists) around the world. After reading through so many blogs, watching so many vlogs, I’m glad that we have been able to cultivate this exploratory attitude to travel.
However, sometimes, especially when traveling in groups, we often end up compromising a little.
A couple of months ago, we went to Chicago. Chicago has this iconic tower called the Willis Tower which is a 103 story sky scraper providing an amazing view of the Chicago skyline through a Skydeck that they have developed.
Due to the Skydeck, there is often a huge rush. On weekends, there can be the queue which can take up hours to clear before you can get into an elevator. If you have the City Pass, you are at an advantage since there is a separate and a quicker queue. But still, it’s a good long wait – also because just before the elevator, the normal queue and the city pass queue merges.
As you reach on top, you see scores of people all around. There is one particular section where they have created a glass balcony which supposedly gives you a feeling of what it is like to be in the air as you look at the ground right beneath you. Dozens of people were lined up there to get their snaps (with a standard pose as if they’re falling) which they can upload on Facebook and Instagram. Get more likes and comments, which brushes up their self-esteem. More likes, more self-esteem, and self-worth.
The uniqueness of the entire experience was destroyed by the monotony of the process everybody followed.

  1. Stand in one of the queues and wait for your turn.
  2. At your turn, go to the glass balcony
  3. Take some snaps in about a minute
  4. Leave the balcony to let others behind you do exactly the same.

The entire experience left me with a lesson on the difference between visiting a place and traveling to a place.
So if you’re a tourist, definitely go!! If you’rea traveler, there is a high chance that it would not excite you.

Veterans

So I was into the US Social Security Administration office, waiting for my turn to apply for SSN.

As our token numbered approached, a 60-70 something man opened the door and shouted my token number. I raised my hand and proceeded towards the direction he pointed out.
“C’mon in, young man”, he said.
A pretty neat desk with only a computer, key board and a mouse on it. All the less essential items were on the table behind him. The partition wall at his desk had a number of things. But what caught my attention was the Veteran Creed that read out.
I am a VETERAN!
I have seen and done things that many will not understand.
I am a WARRIOR
A member of the team spanning the world
I have served my country proudly and now standby to serve my brothers and sisters in arms
I will never accept defeat
I will NEVER QUIT
I am a VETERAN!
As I was reading it, the veteran asked, “Am I reading this correctly? First Name, Last Name and Middle Name” – confirming the mother’s name in my passport.
“No, its like the First Name, Middle Name and the Last Name. And the middle name there is the first name above that – that’s my father’s name”, I clarified.
“Oh alright. I love Indian passports. You guys mention both of your parents names in passport. I like it. I don’t see that in other passports and it surprises me.”
It kind of drove me into two parallel thoughts. One was on how US manages to respect their heroes and instilling pride in them, something where India still struggles and has a dire need to correct it. And not just arms, but even critical services like firemen, policemen, traffic policemen etc. Perhaps the reason why people think these are some of the most thankless jobs in India. It is not the pay that hurts, but lack of general respect in the society which hurts these people who risk their lives to make our life safe.
On the other hand, the veteran was happy on a small gesture of mentioning parent’s names in passports. I am not completely sure but I guess the general perception is that Indians do well when it comes to respecting and treating parents well. Although, I don’t subscribe to the stereotyping by Indians that American kids are spoiled and they ill treat their parents, since I have seen American families and their bonding. But of course, if American kids might not be mentioning their parents in their passports, it may be because the parents leave their kids on their own once they are 18. And that’s where it is different from how it works in India.
Before I could say something on the Veteran Creed to make him feel a bit better, he stacked the papers and said,
“So, young man. You are good to go. You should receive your document in next two weeks. If you don’t, just let us know and we will help you out. You have a great day!!!”

It’s An Abbreviated World

wordle

At the lunch table today, I was having a conversation with one of my colleagues who looked a little relaxed after a long time. Her projects had drained her out off late and perhaps, after a long time, she has some relaxed time.

“How is your project going on?, I said.
“Finally its reaching completion. But there’s another one which is going on crazy. Although I’ve got a good practice of handling crazy projects in last couple of months, so this one is manageable”, she said.
“That’s cool”, I said.

” It looks like my professional life is all about three letter abbreviations. My projects, client names, divisions with which I interact. They all are abbreviated to three letters”, she said before enumerating them to me.

A few months back I read a facebook status of one of my friends where he tried to find reasons for why we use so many acronyms. To look cool? To save time? For marketing? There might be few others as well. However, we are rapidly moving to the world where abbreviations are penetrating very quickly into our lives.

The bus in our city is BEST or BRTS or DTC
The train ticket we book is having a URL that says IRCTC
The phone that we use is HTC (High Tech Corporation – how many of you knew that?? 😉 )
The laptop from which I am posting this is HP.
The milk that we consume everyday is AMUL.
That Ganesh idol that got immersed few days back in the sea was made up of POP
The watch that your father has cherished is HMT
That car that you dream about is BMW
Almost all the B-schools are known by acronyms – IIM, XLRI, MDI
People don’t go to Cafe Coffee Day these days. They go to CCD (pron: Sis-d)
The southern side of Bombay is proudly called SoBo.
Delhites enjoy shopping and hanging out at CP while they live in GK
The last play you watched was perhaps at NCPA
When was the last time you updated your FB status?
You probably forgot to RSVP that invitation your friend sent last week.
Youngsters remember classic movies through abbreviations like DCH, ZNMD, YJHD.
People express their condolences in RIP

And these are the things outside professional environment. The speed with which our world is getting abbreviated is a little scary.

Off late, I have seen people who abbreviate their names in their email signatures. Just the initials of their first and the last names. Sometimes just the initial of their first name. O yes, that’s how I should be recognizing them!!

Sometimes abbreviations backfire too. Nobody would be want to abbreviate Wisconsin Tourism Federation, South Lake Union Trolley, Semiconductor Equipment Communication Standard, National Union of Teachers, Short Term Disability, American Symphony Orchestra League or Tamilnadu Advanced Technical Training Institute,

No doubt that abbreviations makes things easy. But sometimes it takes the whole essence out of the terminology and trivializes the whole idea behind setting up that terminology itself. And in worst cases, it can embarrass you for life.

What Stops India from becoming a World Leader?

Photo Courtesy: Pixshark.com

Photo Courtesy: Pixshark.com

Last weekend, I watched our honorable PM Narendra Modi’s speech at Canada’s Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. While he spoke on many topics, there was one line I found very interesting regarding dignity of labor.

He said, “Hamare man mein labour ke prati jo dignity chahiye, uska abhav bhar gaya hai. Jab tak ek samaanya vyakti ki dignity, yeh hamara swabhaav nahi hoga; dignity of labor, ye hamari prakruti nahi hogi, to shaayad duniya jo humse maang rahi hai usko hum gaurav se nahi kar paayenge.” (We need to instill dignity of labor. Till it becomes our nature, we will not be able to do with pride what the world expects of us)

Ancient India’s civilization had an established division of labor through Varna system.

  • Brahmins – learned Vedas and became teachers and priests
  • Kshatriyas – warriors who protected the nation
  • Vaishyas – farmers, businessmen, artisans and merchants
  • Shudras – laborers

While the system was originally meant to establish an order by well defined responsibilities based on qualifications, it eventually evolved into a rigid system (around Middle Ages) based on birth and inheritance. At the same time, it created a psychological divide between the four groups based on sense of superiority with Vaishyas considering themselves superior to Shudras, Kshatriyas superior to Vaishyas and Shudras, and Brahmins superior to all the three. Primarily driven by access to knowledge, the divide kept increasing.

This philosophy of adopting karma by birth and not by choice drives, largely, India’s lack of respect for labor. With specific jobs considered (or taught to be) inferior to others, there was an inherent reluctance, to do them even when it was for own self. With this mentality carried across generations, the reluctance grew into dislike. And this dislike manifested in the form of disrespect for those who were doing it. Thus, the original purpose of the entire system was completely defeated over a period of time.

This is one of the reasons why, many times, we fail to thank our community helpers who make our life very easy by doing the work which we don’t want to do. If we think, right from the morning – domestic help, milkman, cook, newspaper guy, laundry guy, car cleaner, building security etc are the ones with whom we interact every day. In addition to that, there are occasional ones like electrician, plumber, mechanic, technician, carpenter, hairdresser, food delivery guys, taxi drivers, pest control folks and so on. Apart from that there are the ones with whom we don’t really interact like the gutter cleaners, cleaners at various public places like gardens, malls, movie theatres, roads, firefighters, ambulance drivers, nurses, policemen, traffic cop and so on. These folks are often taken for granted, without any realization of what will happen if they are not there around. Yes, we pay them for their work but then it’s not the money that does the work, it’s humans.

Often, one of the greatest motivators for any work is recognition. Recognition that they are helping in building this nation by doing their bit and little respect from the people for whom they are doing it can bring a lot of change. This makes me recall the hospital sweeper scene from Munnabhai MBBS. India needs such goodwill gestures in real life as well and in abundance.

This requires a beginning to treat each individual as equal. To do that, all types of work need to be treated as equal. And to do that, a break away from our traditional inheritance based occupation determination is required. A large part of the occupation related restriction also comes from the fact that the occupation of an individual is also a status symbol for a family and a price tag in the marriage market.  Indian families are very sensitive when it comes to the perceived dignity. I use the word “perceived” because of our obsession to the word “log kya kahenge?” (what will people say?).

Having said all this, the change has already started with youngsters slowly shedding inhibitions related to work. While, traditionally, Indian parents pamper their kids even when they are in their mid-20s, there are those who are also able to get out of it, either due to circumstances or more open minded parents, and take up various jobs that make them independent at the very early age. In addition, I believe there is more respect for community helpers and people have started shedding caste related stigmas and accept everyone as humans.

Sometimes, even taking a cue from the western world where people are not ashamed to do household chores, house cleaning, gardening etc all by themselves, helps. A part of the reason is also the upbringing that does not judge individuals by the type of work they are doing but by their conduct with others. We may not even want to go that far, if we are just able to take a look at what Mahatma Gandhi told to one of the youngster who wanted to contribute to nation building:

“As long as you don’t have the humility to do the humblest of jobs, you will not be able to recognize the real problems that beset our motherland. If you really want to make a difference you will have to first get rid of your ego, only then will you be able to understand that it is essential to recognize the importance of the seemingly insignificant, menial tasks and have the humility to perform them, if you learn to do them with dignity and honor, the bigger tasks will become easy.”

I think this says it all!

It is up to us on how quickly we are able to bridge this divide of superior vs. inferior and that will determine whether we become the world leaders or not, in terms of quality human resources in the globalized world.

Source: NDTV, Wikipedia, Hindu Wisdom, A Matter of Conviction: A History of Southern Baptist Engagement with the Culture, Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal & Gandhi Research Foundation,