Saturday, July 31, 2010

Infections Cause Low IQ in South Asia, Africa?

It has long been known that IQ scores vary by regions. The lowest average IQ scores in mid-60s have been measured in the African nations of Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Mozambique, Gabon, and highest scores of over 100 found in the nations of Singapore, South Korea, China, Japan, and Italy. South Asian and North African IQ scores are in mid 80s. However, the research surrounding intelligence assessment has been highly controversial and tainted by pseudosciences such as craniometry that was used by the Nazis to "prove" the white “race” as the most intelligent.

Here is some published data on average IQ scores of people from different races:

Richard Lynn, "Race Differences in Intelligence: An Evolutionary Analysis" 2006 Table 16.2 (indigenous populations) Estimated average IQ
Arctic Peoples 91
East Asians 105
Europeans 100
Native Americans (north & south) 86
Southern Asian & Northern Africans 84
Bushmen (southern Africa) 54
Africans (subsaharan) 67
Native Australians (aboriginals) 62
Southeast Asians 87
Pacific Islanders 85

Apparently, this is a compilation of data from "credible sources" and published in respected journals such as American Journal of Psychology. The neutrality and factual accuracy of these studies and data have been questioned by many researchers and scientists. The most common criticisms are that these studies and tests are developed in the European context and they measure mainly problem-solving capability and skills, not innate intelligence.

For those who are curious, Pakistanis are included along with Indians in Southern Asia with an average IQ of 84, about 16 points below Europeans' average and almost 21 points behind East Asians' average. East Asians include Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. However, a quick look at the overlapping distribution curves above shows that the differences in intelligence scores within each race are much greater than the difference between races.

Recent data, published by the University of New Mexico and reported by Newsweek, shows that there is a link between lower IQs and prevalence of infectious diseases. Comparing data on national “disease burdens” (life years lost due to infectious diseases) with average intelligence scores, the authors found a striking inverse correlation—around 67 percent. They also found that the cognitive ability is rising in some countries than in others, and IQ scores have risen as nations develop—a phenomenon known as the “Flynn effect.”

According to the UNM study's author Christopher Eppig and his colleagues, the human brain is the “most costly organ in the human body.” The Newsweek article adds that the "brainpower gobbles up close to 90 percent of a newborn’s energy. It stands to reason, then, that if something interferes with energy intake while the brain is growing, the impact could be serious and longlasting. And for vast swaths of the globe, the biggest threat to a child’s body—and hence brain—is parasitic infection. These illnesses threaten brain development in several ways. They can directly attack live tissue, which the body must then strain to replace. They can invade the digestive tract and block nutritional uptake. They can hijack the body’s cells for their own reproduction. And then there’s the energy diverted to the immune system to fight the infection. Out of all the parasites, the diarrheal ones may be the gravest threat—they can prevent the body from getting any nutrients at all".

On the question of nature versus nurture, here are some data points on minorities tested in North America and Europe:

In the detailed data for South Asians, there is a distinct smaller cluster between 90 and 100, and another bigger cluster between 80 and 90, closer to 90. But then there are a bunch of scores that go as low as 75 which bring down the average to 84.

There are some who argue that there is an inverse correlation between IQ scores and religiosity as shown in the above graph. The big exception to this argument is the United States where about 60% people say religion is important to them, and the average IQ is fairly high at 98. The IQ scores are lower in India and Pakistan where, according to a Pew survey on religion, 92% and 91% respondents respectively say religion is important to them.

The results of the UNM research study point to the need for fighting infectious diseases in the developing world with greater urgency. Reduction in infectious diseases like diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis can help improve the cognitive capabilities, and with it, the intelligence and the quality of life of billions in Africa and South Asia.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Mensa Pakistan

Are People of Color Less Intelligent?

Human Development Slipping in South Asia

IQ Challenge

Student Performance By Country and Race

India Shining and Bharat Drowning

South Asian IQs

IQ and Wealth of Nations by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen

IQ and Religion

Why Do IQ Scores Vary By Nation?

Flynn Effect

The Elementary DNA of Dr. Watson

Thursday, July 29, 2010

In Memory of Farooq Nadeem and Naseem Aftab

Truly! To Allâh we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.

My dear friend Farooq Nadeem died in the Airblue flight 202 air disaster in Islamabad yesterday...Inna Lillaha Wa Inna Elaihe Rajeoon!

The early morning call from Pakistan came as a big shock. Farooq was a dear friend of mine who I had known for over 30 years. He was a frequent business traveler on Airblue within and outside Pakistan. He is survived by his wife and his only son. After the first false reports of survivors among 152 passengers and crew, they both rushed from Karachi to Islamabad in the hope of finding him among the survivors. Now they are waiting to hear of the news of identification of Farooq's remains amidst the wreckage in Margala Hills. Let's hope and pray that they, along with 151 other bereaved families of victims of the worst air disaster in Pakistan's aviation history, can bear this tremendous loss.

Farooq and I graduated from NED University in Electrical Engineering, and he was the spirit behind a website and email list of our fellow graduates that has helped the NEDians' class of 1974 stay in touch with each other. Thanks to his efforts, I have reconnected and met with a number of fellow NED alums in various parts of the world.

My family and I had the good fortune of spending some time with Farooq and his wife and son during our Karachi visit last year. Since we had gone to attend my nephew's wedding and my sister's house was full with extended family members staying with her, we decided to book a hotel suite during our stay in Karachi. Farooq advised against it and made arrangements for us to stay in a nice suite at a private club near his home. We met several times for breakfast, lunch or dinner at common friends' homes, restaurants and private clubs, and his wife and son drove us around during our stay in Karachi. I still remember when one of my daughters fell ill and Farooq, Annie and Faraz accompanied us to the Agha Khan Hospital's emergency room and stayed for hours until she was treated and released.

Though I was lucky enough to be counted among Farooq's friends, I was not alone as a recipient of his sincere friendship and generosity. It was felt by all of his friends and acquaintances who came in contact with him over the years. The outpouring of deep emotions of sadness and sympathy upon his untimely death are a testimony to the the lasting impression he made on many people who knew him. His unique sense of humor and the jokes he shared via email will be missed by all of us.

The other gentleman, Naseem Aftab from California, was in Pakistan in connection with his daughter's engagement. Now his wife Samina, his newly-engaged daughter, and his son are devastated by their sudden tragic loss.

I did not know Naseem well, but we shared many common friends. Naseem worked for Vertical Systems Inc, a Silicon Valley hospitality IT services company founded and run by fellow NEDians Idris Kothari and Saeed Kazmi. Naseem was well liked and he and his wife Samina were often invited to many of the same parties as my wife and I. Naseem will definitely be missed by Silicon Valley's Pakistani-American community at large.

May the crash victims' souls rest in peace and may Allah's blessings be upon their bereaved families.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Farooq Nadeem's Page on PakAlumni

In Memory of Professor Nauman 1951-2009

Airblue Flight 202 Passenger List

Eleven Days in Karachi

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

South Asia's Declining Resources, Rising Consumption

India is ranked 33rd and Pakistan 39th among the most overcrowded nations of the world by Overpopulation Index published by the Optimum Population Trust based in the United Kingdom. The index measures overcrowding based on the size of the population and the resources available to sustain it.

India has a dependency percentage of 51.6 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.77. The index calculates that India is overpopulated by 594.32 million people. Pakistan has a dependency percentage of 49.9 per cent on other nations and an ecological footprint of 0.75. The index calculates that Pakistan is overpopulated by 80 million people. Pakistan is less crowded than China (ranked 29), India (ranked 33) and the US (ranked 35), according to the index. Singapore is the most overcrowded and Bukina Faso the least on a list of 77 nations assessed by the Optimum Population Trust.

The index examined data available from over 130 nations and found that 77 of them are overpopulated, including India, Pakistan and China. That means that these nations are consuming more resources than they are producing and are dependent on other countries, and the earth, to compensate for that.

"Dependency and self-sufficiency ratings are based on ratio of footprint to bio-capacity, showing the percentage of footprint not supported from bio-capacity. Sustainable population shows number that can be supported from bio-capacity at current

Concurring with the British report is another similar report prepared by the California-based Global Footprint Network (GFN) in 2008. With a per person footprint of 0.80 global hectares (0.60 for Pakistan) and per person bio-capacity deficit of 0.40 global hectares (0.3 for Pakistan), India is running an ecological deficit of 100 percent. The ecological footprint measures human demand on the biosphere in terms of the land and sea area required to provide the resources we use and to absorb the waste we generate. Bio-capacity refers to the capacity of a given biologically productive area to generate an on-going supply of renewable resources and to absorb its spill-over wastes.

Like per capita emission of green house gases, per capita ecological footprint of an average South Asian is much lower than the world average. The per person ecological footprint was 0.80 for an average Indian and 0.60 for average Pakistani in 2003 when the world average was 2.2 global hectare. At the same time, because of rising population South Asia's total national ecological footprint has doubled since 1961, contributing to the degradation of its natural capital. As a result, while South Asia's overall wealth as measured by GDP has risen for reasons of better exploitation of resources over the years, its per capita bio-capacity has shrunk reducing its per capita ecological footprint. More and more people are sharing a shrinking bio-capacity.

One of the key contributors to declining ecological capacity is the dwindling fresh water. After China and India, there are other relatively less populous countries with large water deficits — Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, and Pakistan. Four of these already import a large share of their grain. Only Pakistan remains self-sufficient. But with a population expanding by 4 million a year, it has begun to turn to the world market for grain.

As the need for development grows, the natural resources like forests come under threat, endangering the livelihood of the poor, especially the tribal poor in India, who sustain themselves on the forest resources. As most of the densely forested areas are rich in minerals, these have become conflict zones pitting Indian government and resource-hungry industries against the rising Maoist insurgency. What is more, these have become the reasons for conflicts between the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests and other ministries which relate to economic development. Though there is a huge and growing gap between India's haves and the have-nots, the catchy phrase “India now consumes two Indias”, therefore, sums up the Indian “resource overshoot”.

In addition to the dwindling natural resources, there is a serious threat posed by climate change in South Asia. At 8 feet below sea level, Pakistan's financial capital Karachi shows up on the list of world's mega-cities threatened by global warming. Other South Asian cities likely to come under rising sea water in the next 100 years include Mumbai, Kolkata and Dhaka.

However, it's not just the big cities in South Asia that will feel the brunt of the climate change. The rural folks in India are already seeing rising crop failures, increasing poverty and over 200,000 farmer suicides in the last ten years.

Here is how Ramachandra Guha talks about India's impending ecological disaster in his book "How Much Should A Person Consume?":

"Gandhi's arguments have been revived and elaborated by the present generation of Indian environmentalists. As explained in Chapter Two, India is in many ways an ecological disaster zone, marked by high rates of deforestation, species loss, land degradation, and air and water pollution. The consequences of this abuse of nature have been chiefly borne by the poor in the countryside-peasants, tribals, fisherfolk, and pastoralists who have seen their resources snatched away or depleted by powerful economic interests. For, over the last few decades, the men who rule India have attempted precisely to "make India like England and America." Without access to resources and markets enjoyed by those two nations when they began to industrialize, India has perforce had to rely on exploiting its own people and environment."

As Indians and Pakistanis aspire to higher standards of living enjoyed by the developed world, they will have to find ways to do so without destroying what sustains them. Instead of simply copying how the West industrialized in the 19th and the 20th centuries, the South Asians will have to do it in the 21st century in a sustainable manner by focusing on the development and use of renewable resources.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Environmental Degradation at Siachen

Climate Change Worsens Poverty in India

World's Biggest Polluters

Global Warming Impact on Pakistan

Indian Rural Poverty Worsens

Climate Change Impact on Karachi, South Asian Megacities

Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Syeda Hamida of Indian Planning Commission Says India Worse Than Pakistan and Bangladesh

Global Hunger Index Report 2009

Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Food, Clothing and Shelter For All

India's Family Health Survey

Hunger and Undernutrition Blog

Pakistan's Total Sanitation Campaign

Is India a Nutritional Weakling?

Asian Gains in World's Top Universities

India's Vulnerability to Climate Change

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

What Does Democracy Deliver in Pakistan

Do South Asian Slums Offer Hope?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pakistan Test Victory Over Australia At Last!

Pakistan finally defeated Australia in a test match after a string of 13 consecutive defeats over 15 years! The last Test cricket win Pakistan enjoyed was against New Zealand back in December 2009.

The three wickets win comes at a crucial time when the Pakistani nation really needs it to boost their sagging morale. Appropriately, the young Pakistani captain Salman Butt, who led the team for the first time after Shahid Afridi abruptly retired from test cricket, told the BBC that "we dedicate this win to the people of Pakistan who would have loved to have come and watched us playing at home.

"We remember them and hopefully we'll be back soon playing in Pakistan."

"It was really nerve-wracking towards the end and I think my young team did a great job," added 25-year-old Butt, who was grateful Australia captain Ricky Ponting chose to bat first in helpful bowling conditions on the opening day.

"He would bat on a river as well I think, he bats everywhere!

"It looked good to bat but Mikey [former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding] told me you look up at Headingley not at the pitch and I think he was right."

Prior to this test match, Pakistan won two consecutive T20 matches against Australia, and then lost the first test match mainly due to irresponsible bating by Pakistan's middle order. The first test loss came in spite of Pakistan's superior bowling attack led by Mohamad Aamer, Muhammad Asif and Umar Gul in both matches. And Pakistan's middle order batsmen appeared to be very tentative and lost their wickets in quick succession to score the last 40 runs to win the second test. commentator Andrew Miller captured the essence of the fourth day well with the following words:

"The margin of victory looked more comfortable than it felt, and that's putting it mildly. The eventual difference between the sides was the wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal, whose 13 from 26 balls was as close as Pakistan came to a composed fourth-day performance. That said, had Akmal been given out caught in the gully with five runs still required, who knows what miracles might have transpired. Mike Hussey's low scoop was turned down by the TV umpire, but after Mohammad Aamer had edged another four to balance the books, Akmal slammed another chance which Hussey this time plucked to his left.

After Akmal's fall, the winning run was scored by Umar Gul to make history by breaking the losing test spell for Pakistan against Australia.

Regardless of how Pakistan's win came, I expect it to have an extremely positive effect on Pakistanis' psyche under the circumstances. Let's hope that this Australia-Pakistan encounter is followed by wins in all three formats against England in England, a formidable challenge indeed given how well England have recently been playing.

Here's a video clip of Pakistan's celebration after win against Australia:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistanis Punish Aussies in T20 Series in England

Afridi's Leadership

Pakistan In, India Out of T20 Semis

Pakistan Beat India in South Africa

Kiwis Dash Pakistan's ICC Championship Hopes

Pakistan Crowned World T20 Champs

Pakistan's Aisamul Haq Beats Tennis Great Roger Federer

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hindutva Distortions Whitewash History in Indian Textbooks

Nations are relatively new and artificial constructs created by bringing disparate tribes, ethnicities and peoples together in the last two centuries.

History is used (or abused, depending on one's point of view) as one of the tools to justify such constructs, with each nation having its own narrative which it believes to be accurate. In fact, all these narratives embellish history to suit their needs. Pakistani history texts are not unique in this.

Here are a few obvious examples:

1. Israelis still do not acknowledge the violent and forced displacement and dispersal of Palestinians that created the state of Israel, instead relying on embellished accounts of Jewish persecution in Europe to justify the creation of state of Israel.

2. Indians still teach their kids that Aryans were locals, not foreign invaders who destroyed the Indus Valley Civilization and forced the horrible caste system and pervasive degradation of women on the natives.

3. Many American history textbooks still do not acknowledge the mass murder of native American population, nor are there any second thoughts or sense of remorse about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Instead, there is constant lecturing to others about human rights and democracy by Americans.

I have heard it said often that history isn't what happened, but a story of what happened. And there are always different versions, different stories, about the same events. One version might revolve mainly around a specific set of facts while another version might minimize them or not include them at all.

There is a concerted global effort by Hindutva groups to distort and whitewash Indian history to suit their false narrative which denies foreign origins of Aryans and evils of the caste system and misogyny that still characterize life in India.

Not only have the BJP led governments in India fundamentally altered India's history textbooks, the BJP allies around the world are attempting to the same in textbooks as far as California.


"The introduction of new textbooks by the NCERT (under BJP) was inspired by the political purpose of seeking rationale from history for constructing India as a Hindu nation. The textbooks were, therefore, recast as narratives of Hindu religious nationalism. Claimed as an effort to retrieve the true nationalist history from the motivated distortions of colonial historiography they attribute to Indian nation an exclusively Hindu character."

"During this period the political climate in the country turned in favour of the Hindu fundamentalist forces, which enabled them in 1998 to lead a coalition government in which the Ministry of Human Resource Development which dealt with education was headed by a long standing cadre of the Hindu fundamentalist organization, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh( RSS). Under his stewardship the government spared no effort to change the content and character of education, of which the introduction of new textbooks, was perhaps the most prominent and indeed controversial."

"The idea of India being a Hindu civilisational state runs through all the texts, either directly expressed or indirectly suggested. The question of the indigenous origin of Aryans and the identity of Harappan civilization with the Vedic society has some bearing on this issue. The former is quite central to the fundamentalist agenda of claiming the nation as Hindu, as the migration theory would deprive the Hindus of indigenous lineage. Therefore, against the widely held scholarly opinion Aryans are credited with indigenous origins, subscribing in the bargain to the colonial view of Aryan race. In the former case the textbooks put forward the view that the Aryans were indigenous to India and that the opinion widely held by scholars about their migration dismissed as inconsequential. In defense of indigenous origin no substantial evidence is adduced, except negative reasoning. It is asserted that the ‘the oldest surviving records of the Aryans, the Rig Veda, does not give even an inkling of any migration. It does not have any knowledge even of the geography beyond the known boundaries of Ancient India.’ It further says: ‘Many scholars think that the Aryans were originally inhabitants of India and did not come from outside. It has been argued by such scholars that there is no archeological or biological evidence, which could establish the arrival of any new people from outside between 5000 B.C and 800 B.C. This means that if at all there was any migration of Aryans or for that matter of any other people in India, it may have taken place at least eight or nine thousand years ago or after 800 B.C. to both of which there is no evidence. Further, the skeletal remains found from various Harappan sites resemble the skeletons of the modern population of the same geographical area.'"

The fanatic Hindu nationalists tried to do in California what their Indian counterparts have already done in India. They attempted to pollute California history textbooks in 2006, when they argued unsuccessfully to include lies like the indigenous origins of Aryans and tried to deny the terrible impact on hundreds of millions of Indians of the caste system and misogyny prevalent in Hindu texts and Aryan culture.

Hundreds of history scholars from US and South Asia helped defeat this reprehensible attempt by Hindu American Foundation (HAF) and its allies in the United States.

While the biggest victims of Hindu fundamentalists are the women and the D alits of India, non-Hindu minorities and the neighboring states have not been spared either.

They are cowards and they prey upon unarmed Muslim, Christian and Sikh minorities in organized pogroms in what American scholar Paul Brass calls "production of violence" in India with many Indian intellectuals and some in the Indian press justifying the actions of the murderers.

The big brothers of these fanatic Hindutva terrorists occupy high positions in the Indian security establishment, according to former Maharashtra police chief SM Mushrif. These Hindutva allies in Indian government conduct covert warfare via terrorist actions in neighboring states including Pakistan through RAW.

All these people are a product of Indian education that teaches hatred against Muslims and Pakistanis, as evident by the following excerpts from Gujarat textbooks:

*Gujarat is a border state. Its land and sea boundaries touch the boundaries of Pakistan which is like a den of terrorism. Under such circumstances, it is absolutely necessary for us to understand the effects of terrorism and the role of citizens in the fight against it

*If every countryman becomes an ideal citizen and develops patriotism, the National Population Policy can definitely be achieved

*When people used to meet earlier, they wished each other saying Ram Ram and by shaking hands. Today, people enjoy their meeting by speaking Namaste. Is it not a change?

*Making full use of Muslim fanaticism, Osama Bin Laden organized die-hard Muslims and founded the International Jihad Organization in the name of the Jehedi movement*
[Excerpted from Social Science textbooks, standard nine (2005) and standard eight (2004)]

The Hindu fundamentalists are as serious a threat to peace in South Asia as their Muslim militant counterparts.

Earlier this year, Indian Occupied Kashmir's People's Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the recent Srinagar hotel attack was an attempt by "some government agency" to sabotage the efforts to withdraw troops from the state. “Maybe some militant groups don’t want the troop withdrawal, maybe somebody in the agencies don’t want the troop withdrawal. So I think for their interests, they become one at this point of time. But I would say that the withdrawal of troops is the best compliment that you can pay to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who have voted in huge numbers,” she added.

Recently, India's Vice President Hamid Ansari has called for greater "oversight and accountability" of the operations of the nation's intelligence agencies by the Indian parliament. Ansari also said that, just like in other democracies like the US and the UK, the “concerned agencies should make public their mission statement, outlining periodically their strategic intent, vision, mission, core values and their goals”.

As India constantly highlights the terror of green variety, it must not ignore its own homegrown terror dressed in saffron. The terror of either hue has the potential to spark a deadly conflict in South Asia that can easily spin out of control, and completely devastate the region.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Who Killed Karkare?

Procrastinating on Hindutva Terror

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs
H indutva Government in Israeli Exile?

G rowing US-India Military Ties Worry Pakistan

Taliban or Rawliban?

The 21st Century Challenges For Resurgent India

What Irked Purohit?

Hindu Rashtra ideology was driving force for Malegaon conspirators

Hindutva Terror Strikes India
The Rise and Rise of Mangalore's Taliban

Malegaon Files
Hindu Nationalists Gang Up on Musharraf at Stanford

Can India "Do a Lebanon" in Pakistan?

Priest Survivor: Hindu Radicals are Terrorists

Dawn of Hindutva Terror in India

Ajmer Blasts: Revisiting Hindutva Terror

Hindu Militants Copying Jihadi Tactics

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Music Drives Coke Sales in Pakistan

Music is aiding Coke in its fight against Pepsi in the cola wars in Pakistan. By sponsoring "Coke Studio," a local version of "MTV Unplugged", Coke has gained significant market share at Pepsi's expense, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. While Coke now claims 35% of all cola sales in Pakistan, Pepsi's market share is now down to 65% from a high of 80% in 1990s which was achieved mainly through sponsorship of cricket in Pakistan.

Coke Studio, sponsored by Coca Cola Pakistan, is a one-hour show that features musicians playing a distinct blend of fusion music that mixes traditional and modern styles. Helped by the media boom in Pakistan, the show has had dramatic success since it was launched three years ago.

A Wall Street Journal story says that Coke Studio is now carried by 27 channels, including regional Sindhi- and Pushto-language channels, where entertainment tends to be more orthodox. The show’s Facebook page has about 200,000 fans and is adding about 10,000 a week. The song “Alif Allah Chambey Di Booty” by Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi that featured on Coke Studio in June has recorded 531,537 views in just over a month on YouTube. It is popular in both India and Pakistan where the netizens can’t seem to get enough of it.

Here is an except from the Wall Street Journal story on Coke Studio in Pakistan:

Coke and Pepsi's battle in Pakistan shows how some foreign companies remain committed and are expanding here even as others head for the exits because of concerns over terrorism and the country's struggling fiscal position.

Tetra Pak International SA, the Switzerland-based packaging company, is about to complete a €90 million ($116.5 million) factory in Lahore. Metro AG, the German retailer, has invested $175 million to open a string of outlets in the past two years. Adidas AG of Germany has recently ramped up orders of soccer balls from Pakistan, one of the world's largest suppliers.

Others, like U.S.-based Procter & Gamble Co. and Nestlé SA of Switzerland, continue to make healthy profits here. Nestlé, for instance, operates Asia's largest dairy-processing factory in Punjab, Pakistan's largest province.

An upsurge in terrorist suicide attacks and a balance of payments crisis, which led to an $11 billion International Monetary Fund bailout program in 2008, have scared off other businesses. Foreign direct investment in Pakistan fell 39% to $12 billion in the year to July, according to central bank figures. Still, countries like Pakistan continue to matter for consumer-goods companies because they have young populations and growing economies. The economy is set to grow over 4% this year and Pakistan regularly beats out nations in the region, including India, in the World Bank's study on ease of doing business.

Coke said sales volumes fell 2% in North America in the first quarter of 2010 but rose 11% in its Eurasia and Africa division, which includes Pakistan.

Pepsi remains bigger in some Middle East nations, where an Arab League boycott of Coke in the 1970s and 1980s—stemming from its investments in Israel—left the playing field open.

In other emerging markets like China, India and Russia, the two rivals are locked in a close race.

Nestle and Unilever, two of the leading food and drink companies in Pakistan have been reporting strong growth in headline sales, according to BMI. Both companies grew their topline sales revenue by more than 20% year-on-year in the year to December 31 2009. Their annual sales are now approaching US$500m.

Against the odds, demand for beer is strengthening off the back of strong growth posted by Murree Brewery. Despite Muslim's accounting for 97% of Pakistan population and extensive bans on the consumption of alcohol in place, Murree has been reporting strong financials. Q1 (three months to September 2009) after duty and tax sales climb by 16% to PKR539.4mn (US$6.5mn), while net profit after tax increased by 26% to PKR63.9mn (US$0.76mn).

As the sales of cola drinks and tobacco products decline in the West, US companies are targeting developing nations with heavy advertising to increase sales.

Bunge, the third biggest US agribusiness company after Archer-Daniel-Midland and Cargill, has bought Chicago-based Corn Products International Inc. for $4.2 billion in stock to add corn-based sweeteners as demand increases for soft drinks and processed foods in China, India and Pakistan, according to US media reports. This acquisition enlarged Bunge's international footprint in emerging economies to drive its growth.

Corn Products is the fourth-largest maker of high-fructose corn syrup in the U.S. and will give Bunge new customers in Pakistan, South Korea and Thailand, Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow said in a note on this deal. Corn sweeteners are used in soft drinks and processed foods instead of traditional cane or beet sugar because of their lower cost and higher concentration. A single 12-ounce can of soda has as much as 13 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup, according to San Francisco Chronicle. China, India and Pakistan have all seen double digit annual growth in consumption of soft drinks and processed foods for several years. Last year, the PepsiCo growth in US and Europe was less than 3% but PepsiCo International sales were up 22%, an impressive increase fueled by double-digit growth in China, Russia, Pakistan and the Middle East.

Processed foods and soft drink companies are often blamed in the United States for dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes, particularly among children. Some even accuse them of being merchants of death, not unlike the big tobacco companies. Many health experts argue that the issue is bigger than more calories. The theory goes like this: The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream leading to heart disease.

While the presence and growth of Bunge, Pepsi and other food giants are likely to create more jobs in emerging economies such as India and Pakistan, the price for this opportunity is likely to be the danger of greater health problems associated with fats and corn sweeteners in processed foods and soft drinks.

Similar or even greater health threats are coming from the major expansion of tobacco giant Philip Morris in emerging economies. As the smoking rates in developed countries have slowly declined, they have risen dramatically in some developing counties, where PMI is a major player. These include Pakistan (up 42% since 2001), Ukraine (up 36%) and Argentina (up 18%), according to the Wall Street Journal. Philip Morris is currently building a major new plant in Pakistan.

Globalization can potentially bring many benefits, including access to more jobs and improved living conditions in the emerging economies. However, globalization also brings with it all the ills that have been witnessed in the West, including environmental deterioration and life-style diseases such as diabetes, heart-disease, various forms of cancer etc. The challenge for Pakistan, and other countries like it, is to learn from the mistakes of the West. Instead of just repeating such mistakes, Pakistan, India and China must find ways to extract the benefits while minimizing the cost of modernization.

Growing health consciousness across Pakistan is strengthening demand for low calorie carbonate substitutes and bottled water. With concerns about the safety of tap water extensive, demand for bottled water is growing strongly off the back of modest gains in per capita incomes and more importantly, more widespread product investment by leading players.

Here's a video clip of Coke Studio with Arif Lohar and Meesha:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Media Boom

Pakistan's Murree Brewery in KSE-100 Index

Health Risks in Developing Nations Rise With Globalization

Pakistan's Choice: Globalization Versus Talibanization

Life Goes On in Pakistan

Pakistan Crowned T20 World Champion

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Exposing Hateful Lies on Google Searches in Pakistan

There are many hateful bigots in cyberspace and other biased media outlets that are constantly pushing various lies about Pakistanis. The latest in this malicious campaign are reports of "sexual perversion" and "obsession with sex" based on false reports about top Google searches in Pakistan. The fact is that such lies emanating from Fox News and picked up by Times of India have been denied by Google, according to Dawn. What is most unfortunate is that many misguided Pakistanis are quick to buy these lies. Some even start spreading these lies by self-righteously blogging about the salacious falsehoods without fact checking, which is relatively easy to do using Google Insights web page.

I just checked for the top 10 Google search terms in Pakistan since 2004 at Google Insights for Search site. Here they are:

1. Pakistan
2. Urdu
3. songs
4. games
5. Karachi
6. news
7. Youtube
8. Google
9. pictures
10. Yahoo

The "rising searches" include the following 10:

1. facebook
2. youtube
3. geo
4. google
5. videos
6. you
7. song
8. jang
9. news
10. games

Conspicuous by their absence are "sex" and related search terms in both of the above lists on Google Insights. While India and Indian cities show up near the top among the top ten lists for such searches, Pakistan and/or its cities are conspicuous by their absence in the top ten on Google Trends for "sex" and many related searches.

Related Links:

Google Insights for Search

Google Trends

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's Telecom Boom

Pakistan Tops Text Message Growth

WiMax Rollout in Pakistan

Mobile Internet in Pakistan

Low Literacy Threatens Pakistan's Future

Gender Gap in South Asia

Mobile Financial Services in Pakistan

ITU Internet Access Data by Countries

Financial Services in Pakistan

Distance Learning in Pakistan

Top 5 ICT4D Trends in 2010

ICT4D in Pakistani Hospital

ITCN Asia 2010 Conference in Karachi

State of Telecom Industry in Pakistan

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Index Finds Indians Poorer Than Africans and Pakistanis

A new multi-dimensional measure of poverty confirms that there is grinding poverty in resurgent India. It highlights the fact that just eight Indian states account for more poor people than the 26 poorest African countries combined, according to media reports. The Indian states, including Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh , Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, have 421 million "poor" people, compared to 410 million poor in the poorest African countries.

Developed at Oxford University, the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) goes beyond income poverty based on $1.25 or $2 a day income levels. It measures a range of "deprivations" at household levels, such as schooling, nutrition, and access to health, clean water, electricity and sanitation. According to Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) country briefings 2010, 55% of Indians and 51% of Pakistanis are poor.

OPHI 2010 country briefings on India and Pakistan contain the following comparisons of multi-dimensional (MPI) and income poverty figures:

MPI= 55%,Under$1.25=42%,Under$2=76%,India_BPL=29%


Lesotho MPI=48%,Under$1.25=43%,Under$2=62%,Lesotho_BPL=68%

Haiti MPI=57%,Under$1.25=55%,Under$2=72%,Haiti_BPL=NA


Among other South Asian nations, MPI index measures poverty in Bangladesh at 58 per cent and 65 per cent in Nepal.

Source:  Where Are the Poor and Where Are the Poorest?

While OPHI's MPI is a significant improvement over the simplistic income level criterion for assessing poverty, it appears that the MPI index gives nearly three quarters of the weight to child mortality and school enrollment, and just over a quarter of the weight to a combination of critical factors such as access to electricity, sanitation and clean drinking water which are essential for proper learning environment, increased human productivity and healthy living.

South Asians face a massive challenge in overcoming pervasive poverty that makes the region look worse than the poorest of the poor nations of sub-Saharan Africa.
Just think about the South Asian situation in terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Over 76% of Indians and 60% of Pakistanis living on less than $2 a day are busy struggling at the bottom of the pyramid to satisfy their basic physiological needs. They have no time or to think about freedom and democracy which belong near the top of Maslow's pyramid. It will take a lot more than the usual rhetoric of freedom, democracy and human rights to help them. It will take serious and focused effort to improve their situation through better governance and greater spending on human development. Real progress will not happen as long as South Asians hang the petty thieves and elect great ones to high offices.

Here is a video clip about grinding poverty in resurgent India:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Slipping in Human Development
OPHI Country Briefing: Pakistan

OPHI Country Briefing: India

Slumdog Inspires India's "Big Switch"

Mumbai's Slumdog Millionaire
Poverty Tours in India, Brazil and South Africa
South Asia's War on Hunger Takes Back Seat

British TV Accused of Making "Poverty Porn"

Orangi is Not Dharavi
Bollywood and Hollywood Mix Up Combos
Grinding Poverty in Resurgent India

Slumdog Is No Hit in India

Pakistani Children's Plight

UNESCO Education For All Report 2010

India's Arms Build-up: Guns Versus Bread

South Asia Slipping in Human Development

World Hunger Index 2009

Challenges of 2010-2020 in South Asia

India and Pakistan Contrasted 2010

Food, Clothing and Shelter in India and Pakistan

Introduction to Defense Economics

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Octavia Nasr Bites the Dust After Condoling Hezbollah Leader's Death

Octavia Nasr, a 20-year veteran at CNN, has been unceremoniously fired for speaking her mind via twitter. She was found "guilty" by CNN management of praising Lebanese Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah after his death in the following text message:

"Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah ... One of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot".

Just last month, veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas was forced to retire after criticizing Israel. Her "crime" was that she replied to a question about Israel as follows:

"Tell them to get the hell out of Palestine." She went on to say that the Palestinians are "occupied" and that the Jews should "Go home" — to Germany, Poland, America and "everywhere else."

These are just the latest examples of the absolute control exercised by the Israel lobby over the US media. Time Warner, Viacom, Disney, NBC, New York Times, Washington Post and the rest of the big corporate media companies with the largest megaphones are either directly owned or controlled by prominent pro-Israel, often pro-Lekud, Jewish-Americans or self-proclaimed Zionists like Rupert Murdoch of Newscorp. The one sore thump that stuck out until a few years ago was Ted Turner, but he was quickly removed soon after CNN's merger with Time Warner.

Given the overwhelming pro-Israel Jewish-American control of the mass media, the Israeli Lobby has reliable allies in the mainstream American media: the debate among Middle East pundits, the journalist Eric Alterman writes, is "dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel".

Here is how Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt describe the US media bias for Israel:

Alterman lists 61 "columnists and commentators who can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification". Conversely, he found just five pundits who consistently criticize Israeli actions or endorse Arab positions. Newspapers occasionally publish guest op-eds challenging Israeli policy, but the balance of opinion clearly favors the other side. It is hard to imagine any mainstream media outlet in the United States publishing a piece like this one.

"Shamir, Sharon, Bibi – whatever those guys want is pretty much fine by me," Robert Bartley once remarked. Not surprisingly, his newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, along with other prominent papers like the Chicago Sun-Times and the Washington Times, regularly runs editorials that strongly support Israel. Magazines like Commentary, the New Republic and the Weekly Standard defend Israel at every turn.

Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times, which occasionally criticizes Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but is not even-handed. In his memoirs the paper’s former executive editor Max Frankel acknowledges the impact his own attitude had on his editorial decisions: "I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert … Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective."

Following the recent deadly Israeli commando attack on the Gaza Flotilla, the world saw a powerful campaign by the pro-Israel US media to control the explanation of "violence" to suit the Israeli narrative of the massacre of unarmed peace activists by the Israeli military.

The firings of Helen Thomas and Octavia Nasr are yet another chilling message to all journalists to toe the pro-Israel line or else..

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pictorial Review of Young Gaza Victims

Israel's Gaza Attack is Criminal, Not Defensive

Is Obama True Friend of Israel?

Who Rules America?

The Nakba

Warsaw's Nazi Concentration Camp

Pakistani Media Revolution

Gaza Flotilla Massacre and US Media Coverage

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pakistan Punish Aussies 2-0 in T20 Series

Former T20 World Champ Pakistan have finally reclaimed some of their lost honor by beating Australia in two T20 matches on consecutive days at Edgbaston, England. These convincing 2020 match wins brought an end a long losing streak for Pakistan which was comprehensively beaten by the Aussies in all formats in 12 consecutive matches played in Australia and West Indies.

Although the T20 matches were played far away from home, they had the look and feel of a home series with a large number of boisterous Pakistani fans in attendance on both days. In the first match on July 5, Pakistan (167/7) beat Australia (144 all-out) by 23 runs. The second encounter the next day had Pakistan (162/9) defeated Australia (151 all-out) by 11 runs.

Pakistan's formidable talent was on full display under Captain Shahid Afridi's confident and able leadership. The team delivered good performance in all departments--batting, bowling and fielding. The biggest contributions came from the youngsters like batsman Umar Akmal and bowler Mohammad Aamer, well supported by Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Kamran Akmal, Umar Gul and Salman Butt. The only disappointment was the newcomer Shahzaib Hasan who opened the innings for Pakistan in both matches. Back after a long gap in international cricket, veteran paceman Shoiab Akhtar did not live up to his fans' expectations either.

Now Pakistanis are going into a test series with Australia with a lot of confidence from the two T20I wins. However, given the significant differences between the two formats, it will be a real test of Pakistanis to repeat their recent stellar performance of the T20 series. Australia are very powerful and disciplined test squad. It will be fascinating to see how Pakistanis deal with them in 5-day matches.

Here's a video clip of the T20 match on July 6, 2010:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Afridi's Leadership

Pakistan In, India Out of T20 Semis

Pakistan Beat India in South Africa

Kiwis Dash Pakistan's ICC Championship Hopes

Pakistan Crowned World T20 Champs

Pakistan's Aisamul Haq Beats Tennis Great Roger Federer

Monday, July 5, 2010

Social Entrepreneurship in America and Developing World

I am sharing the following HBR blog post in the spirit of lighting candles rather than cursing darkness.

In 2009, William Kamkwamba, a teenager from Malawi, made the rounds on American talk shows and coauthored a best-selling book. The source of his notoriety? A homemade windmill that provided power and running water for his family. Kamkwamba built it from trash, using an old textbook as his only guide.

In the United States, the idea of deploying small-scale windmills had been abandoned as too expensive and horribly inefficient. In Malawi, a teenager had built one spending less money than the average American eighth-grader's weekly allowance.

Kamkwamba's story points to an unrecognized truth of social entrepreneurship and innovation. The United States isn't a leader; it's a laggard.

Consider some of the most important social innovations of the past 20 years. The modern microfinance industry was pioneered in Bangladesh and has spread to virtually every country in the world. The business model that allowed the near-universal penetration of cellular phones into poor communities was born in Bangladesh, as well.

Meanwhile, two innovative ways to use cell phones' ubiquity in poor communities to change the world have emerged from Kenya: M-Pesa, a mobile-to-mobile money-transfer service, has become a model worldwide. And Ushahidi, a technology platform that relies on text messages to guide crisis response, became an important part of the rescue and recovery efforts in Haiti and Chile after the earthquakes there. It's currently being used to track the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

India is the home of world-class innovators like Aravind Eye Hospitals and the education-focused NGO Pratham. The latter has had such success that its teaching approach is being adopted in several African countries.

So how does the U.S. stack up? Compare the negligible impact of One Laptop Per Child to the pioneering role of GrameenPhone in the global mobile phone revolution and the attendant gains in real income. Meanwhile Voxiva, a U.S.-founded social entrepreneurial firm, offers a complex, proprietary system to gather information from the field — a system that can cost more than $1 million to operate. But Ushahidi boasts a simple, nearly free (I just contributed to the $600 fund needed to deploy Ushahidi in Kyrgyzstan) open-source platform that was up and running in Haiti in less than 48 hours after the earthquake there. Finally, a recent report has shown that the most profitable microfranchise operations all originated in the developing world

Sure, there are examples of impressive and effective American social entrepreneurship. But, as these comparisons make clear, most world-changing innovations aren't coming from the United States.

Why? Well, for one thing, we haven't figured out how to train entrepreneurs successfully. The rates of entrepreneurship (measured by self-employment and age of operating businesses) are lower in the United States than in most other countries (even OECD countries). Despite all the money poured into various entrepreneurship-training programs, the failure rate of U.S. entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, has held largely constant for decades.

There are obviously many, many reasons for the U.S. lag in social innovation. But I believe the most important one is evident in William Kamkwamba's story. Kamkwamba's innovations were born out of scarcity and an up-close and personal understanding of both the needs and the available resources. U.S. social entrepreneurs are simply too insulated from the daily lives and needs of people in the so-called "two-thirds world."

Don't get me wrong: Innovations for the two-thirds world, coming from the two-thirds world are a great thing. But it's time the U.S. social entrepreneurship community recognized that it's following, not leading. Spend less time and money training entrepreneurs and funding contests domestically; invest more in social entrepreneurs globally. The community should be more "venture capital firm" than "incubator." It should be bringing innovations from the two-thirds world back to the United States, rather than trying to export ideas.

The world doesn't need our ideas (or our idealists) as much as it needs our funding and our help in scaling.

Source: Harvar d Business Review

Here is a Skoll Foundation video on social entrepreneurship:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

TEDx Karachi

light Candles, Do Not Curse Darkness

Social Entrepreneurs Target India, Pakistan

Pakistani-American Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley

Is Pakistan Too Big to Fail?

Thorium Energy to Save Planet Earth?

Fighting Poverty Through Microfinance in Pakistan

Silicon Valley Summit of Pakistani Entrepreneurs 2008

Pakistan's Multi-Billion Dollar IT Industry

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Pakistan's Middle Class Growth in 1999-2009

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Who Is Behind Data Darbar Bombing in Pakistan?

The recent Data Darbar bombing in Lahore and other similar tragic attacks have most likely been carried out by religious militants of various stripes operating openly in Pakistan. But the actual frontline attackers appear to be mere proxies acting on behalf of other, more powerful forces with much bigger axes to grind. The real identities and the agendas of these powerful forces financing and patronizing such heinous attacks are not well understood. The list of such patrons appears to be long and diverse, extending from self-serving Pakistani politicians to elements within Pakistani and/or foreign intelligence agencies. Each of them have their own agenda to exploit the internal divisions and the availability of remote-controlled human drones willing to commit such acts for their own reasons and motivations.

I personally believe that India is at or near the top of the list of suspects in this unfolding tragedy. Here is why I have a strong suspicion that India is fishing in Pakistan's troubled waters:

In the wake of Mumbai attacks, there has been open public discussion in India about carrying out covert actions by Indian agents to destabilize and balkanize Pakistan. Several well-known security think tanks and influential analysts in India appear to have helped forge a consensus to carry out covert warfare in Pakistan by taking advantage of its current instability and multiple crises.

There are strong indications that the Indian security and intelligence establishment has finally launched the covert war in Pakistan that they have been planning for about a year. The Indian officials have been seething since last year because of their inability to "punish" Pakistan following the Mumbai terrorist attacks that they blamed on Pakistan. They shelved the idea of lightning air strikes strategy dubbed "Cold Start" against Pakistan for fear of sparking a major war. But they have continued to talk about covert actions by Indian agents to destabilize and balkanize Pakistan. Former RAW chief B. Raman has argued that India appoint a covert ops specialist as the new head of RAW. He said last December that “at this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”

Vikram Sood, another former top spy in India, has elaborated on Ind ia's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "Covert action can be of various kinds. One is the paramilitary option, which is what the Pakistanis have been using against us. It is meant to hurt, destabilize or retaliate. The second is the psychological war option, which is a very potent and unseen force. It is an all weather option and constitutes essentially changing perceptions of friends and foes alike. The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."

S.M. Mushrif, former Police Chief of Maharashtra and the author of "Who Killed Karkare?", believes that the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) is up to its neck in conspiring with the extreme Hindutva groups against Indian Muslims and creating trouble between India and Pakistan, and now it is ominous to see one of the former IB leaders K.C. Verma heading RAW as of last year.

The power establishment that really runs the affairs of India (Mushrif says it is not Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi) does not want to expose the rabidly anti-Muslim Hindutva terrorists.

Verma was appointed last year as the new head of RAW, regarded as one of the top intelligence agencies along with Mossad, ISI, SVR, MI6, and the CIA. This choice appears to have been made at the suggestion of intelligence hawks like B. Raman to appoint an outsider, in spite of significant resistance from within the agency. Mr. Verma has been tasked with rapidly building strong covert ops capabilities within RAW. It is not a coincidence that the terrorist attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Verma took the reins of RAW.

I am basing my opinion on the track record (RAW's extensive role in East Pakistan and Balochistan) and the strong desire (as expressed through multiple Op Eds and analyses carried by Indian media) of the Indian security establishment. It can also be seen in India's so-called "think tanks" and "analysts" which are the product of a revolving door in Delhi, a cheap copy from Washington similar to the Hindi-ized Bollywood knockoffs of Hollywood blockbusters.

Indian security establishment has demonstrated that it has the strong motives, oft-expressed intent, and the means to hurt Pakistan. They have established a powerful presence in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan and deployed significant resources to carry out a very violent covert war inside Pakistan, and they appear to have now found the opportunity among the willing allies in the Pakistani Taliban faction in Mehsud tribe, and their terrorist allies in Punjab.

Given the strong probability of Indian involvement in the current crisis, the Pakistani security and intelligence establishment can not rely on counterinsurgency operations alone to stop the civilian carnage on Pakistani streets. The counterinsurgency operations must be supplemented with serious efforts to cut off support and funding for the TTP and their allies in Punjab, and disrupt the Indian intelligence network operating out of Afghanistan. It will require superior intelligence and significant counter-intelligence operations, as well as an effective diplomatic offensive to put pressure on India to stop its covert war being waged on Pakistani soil.

Here are video clips of Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval talking about his 7 years undercover for RAW in Pakistan:

I lived in Pakistan for 7 Years as Spy - Ajit... by zemtv

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Taliban or RAW-liban?

India's Covert War in Pakistan

Who Killed Karkare?

CFR's View of the Taliban

World's Top Intelligence Agencies

Twin Bombings in Kabul, Peshawar

India's Israel Envy

India-Israel-US Axis
India's Covert War in Pakistan

India and Balochistan

Obama's New Regional Strategy

Webchat On Obama's New Regional Strategy

Obama's Afghan Exit Strategy

Pakistan: On the Edge of the Precipice
Obama's Interview with CBS 60 Minutes
Can India "Do a Lebanon in Pakistan?

20th Anniversary of Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan

Taming the ISI: Implications for Pakistan’s Stability and the War on Terrorism

Growing Insurgency in Swat

Afghan War and Collapse of the Soviet Union

US, NATO Fighting to Stalemate in Afghanistan?

FATA Faceoff Fears

FATA Raid Charades

Friday, July 2, 2010

Indian IT Sweatshops Exploiting Cyber Coolies?

India's IT sector business is essentially driven by low-cost call centers, first-line tech support, simple repetitive code writing, and execution of pre-defined test suites. A typical Indian IT worker is increasingly being called a "cyber coolie" or sometimes a "code coolie", the former term having been coined by an astute Indian columnist Praful Bidwai back in 2003.

India has become the world’s top provider of business-process-outsourcing (BPO) call centers, with revenues nearing $50 billion a year by selling cheap back-office services. The call center revenue constitutes the bulk of India's IT exports.

Harish Trivedi of Delhi University has characterized India's call centers as "brutally exploitative" and its employees as "cyber coolies of our global age, working not on sugar plantations but on flickering screens, and lashed into submission through vigilant and punitive monitoring, each slip in accent or lapse in pretence meaning a cut in wages."

An Indian blogger Siddarth Singh says that "one cannot dispute the fact that our IT industry is at best a glorified labor provider, and our feted “IT Giants” have failed to provide even a single proprietary product which could create waves in the global IT industry (perhaps except Finacle, a banking and finance solution by Infosys, and which is used by a number of MNC banks around the globe).

Siddarth asks the question, "So, what does Indian industry actually excel at?" Then he offers the following answer: "Well, we are the leaders in the so called IT Enabled Services, or ITES. These are basically services such as BPOs, call centers, KPOs etc, which extensively use IT to provide backend and customer services to primarily overseas customers. That our ITES industry is hugely dependent on foreign clients is also not a secret anymore, with hardly any Indian company enlisting the services of such companies".

A recent letter from a Bangalore based Indian IT worker addressed to the editors "The Hindu" newspaper read as follows:

This is how people in the West have started referring to people in developing nations. In the old days, of course, we Indians were referred to as "coolies" because we provided cheap labour. Nowadays, we are being called "cyber coolies".

Why? Because most software companies find it cheaper to get their job done in countries like India and other developing nations. There are many people in the U. S. and Britain who raise a hue and cry when jobs get exported to countries like India — especially jobs related to call centres and the software industry.

The fact that they refer to us as coolies shows that they haven't lost their imperialist outlook....

People and the media are often misled by "R&D" in the name of some of the western companies' locations in Bangalore.

In reality, Bangalore appears to be the code coolie capital of the's not about tech, it's about cheap labor performing low-level tasks at rock-bottom wages. It's just cost arbitrage in the service sector.

I have no doubt there are some smart techies in India doing leading edge high-technology work, but these are exceptions. The overwhelming majority of the so-called IT work in India is call centers or low-level routine software tech support, maintenance, testing, etc. which is widely described as code coolie work. It's mostly about cost arbitrage, not advanced tech.

The call center business in India is unregulated by government, exposing workers to working in small spaces for long hours, close monitoring, and harsh working conditions. This is of considerable concern to some of the call center workers in light of the Bhopal tragedy and its aftermath which are symptomatic of how little Indian democracy cares for its they industrial workers or cyber coolies in bondage who are exploited, held back and their lives totally controlled by foreigners under the "high-tech" and "IT" labels.

Even the identities of call center workers are changed in the same way as were those of the African slaves in the West. They are forced to take on western names and put on fake accents to please their customers in the West for a few bucks. The sad part is that, after over 60 years of independence from the British, some of the Indians still crave western approval and boast about the polls showing high approval ratings of India in the US. It shows that Indians' mental slavery after "globalization" is much more powerful than the physical slavery they endured for over a thousand years.

There are reports that some of the cyber coolies of India are beginning to revolt, according to the Times of London. They are creating “e-unions” and are planning to target British and American clients in a campaign to improve their working conditions.

Some of them are now protesting over low pay and aggressive management that will not negotiate with traditional trade unions, according to the Times story.

Instead of appealing to the deaf ears of Indian government or unresponsive managements of Indian-owned BPO firms, their strategy is to approach their British and American clients for support. Those who refuse may face a sabotage campaign by the same workers who have helped cut their costs.

Here is a pre-view of the upcoming NBC serial "Outsourced" about call centers in India selling to Americans:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan's IT Industry

Reality Check on Indian IT

ICT: Hope or Hype?

Truth About India's IT Revolution

Education in Pakistan

Musharraf' s Legacy

Quality of Higher Education in India, Pakistan

Pakistan's IT Industry Takes Off

Pakistan Launches UAV Production Line

Pakistan's Defense Industry Going High-Tech

Pakistan's Software Successes

Pakistan's Industrial Sector

Pakistan's Financial Services Sector

Auto Sector in India and Pakistan

Pakistan Textile Industry Woes

Pakistan Software Houses Association