Showing posts with label Soviet Union. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Soviet Union. Show all posts

Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Eye On Nepal

A tech startup launched partly or fully by Nepalis that might manage to raise 100K or 200K from among Nepalis in the first round, also called seed round, or friends and family round, if it does good work positions itself to raise north of a million dollars in its second round from professional investors. But it would be hard, probably impossible, to raise a million dollars from among Nepalis.

There is a flip side to that coin. Say that tech startup does well and ends up with a valuation in the 100 million dollar range in five years. Interested Nepalis either invested in the first round or did not invest at all. Because round two onwards you have to be a licensed investor to invest. You can’t come into rounds two, three or four.

Granted a tech startup is high risk behavior. Bottom line, it could fail. You could lose your money as an investor. But I can’t think of a better vehicle than a tech startup to start tapping into the robust capital markets in this city, the finance capital of the world. And unless you are a successful entrepreneur, you have no moral standing to make any meaningful contribution to economic growth in Nepal. Lecturing goes only so far, you have to be in a position to make meaningful investments. In this era of globalization and the Internet one can hope to make major contributions to Nepal’s economic growth, even if it might be 10,000 miles away.

Let’s say you invest 5K in a tech startup that goes on from a million dollar valuation in round 1 to a 100 million dollar valuation in about five years. Your 5K just grew to half a million dollars. It can be argued that is retirement money. A 500,000 dollar trust fund could generate 50K every year forever. It could be set up that way. As in, your half million stays intact. And you are netting 50K a year forever. 50K a year is not fancy, but it can be if you were to choose to spend all your money in a country like Nepal.

By that token a 10K investment would bring you a million dollars in that startup. A 20K investment would bring you two million dollars. A two million dollar trust fund would bring you 200K every year. That is rich!

What if you invested 5K each into 10 startups and only one of them hit it big? Your 50K still became half a million.

By one count there are 30 millionaire Nepalis in Russia. Shesh Ghale is in Australia. No matter which way you look, Nepalis in America look to be in a bad shape. America should have minted more Nepali millionaires than any place else. But that has not happened because not enough Nepalis in this country have gone into entrepreneurship. I happen to think that is a shame.

In Russia you could have bought factories for cheap when the Soviet Union collapsed. In Australia I guess real estate and education were key. But in the American economy high tech is the way to go. Old economy companies make money but not wild money. The beauty of software is it allows you to cash on your old economy expertise. I believe many software companies like Uber and AirBnB are yet to be born, companies that will target major inefficiencies in the old economy at large scales. Both are multi-billion dollar companies.

Clean energy is another way to get on the cutting edge. Finally Nepal might start making some big moves in a few years. I think there is room to build multinational corporations that do business globally, but also are deeply engaged in Nepal’s hydro sector.

The other day I was at a rooftop party in Manhattan and I came across this guy who had a biotech background who was doing Big Data for some big bank. He was not cashing in on his biotech background, not yet. But just like there are intersections between software and biotech, there necessarily are intersections between clean energy and software.

Risk taking is the top quality entrepreneurs share. Risk taking is more important than smarts, more important than a great work ethic. Sometimes you simply have to jump in and let the chips fall where they may. No risk, no gain.

But to the ablest of entrepreneurs, it probably does not feel like risk taking. To those watching, it might look like risk taking. But the best of entrepreneurs move with the assurance of a sleep walker. Just like I think of New York City as not part of America, but a whole different country altogether, I think entrepreneurs are a whole different species.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Why Federalism Bothers Ram Sharan Mahat (2)

Making Federalism Work: Ram Sharan Mahat: Republica (Part 1, Part 2)
Why Federalism Bothers Ram Sharan Mahat

If you were to believe in what Ram Sharan Mahat is saying then states like Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Gujrat were all bad ideas.
In the earlier restructuring model proposed by the Maoists, the population of the single Janajati did not match the combined population of a Brahman-Chhetri-Thakuri-Dasnami in any of the proposed autonomous regions in the hills. Therefore, the commission went a step further by making artificial divisions of the country to raise demographic profiles of ethnic groups in the proposed provinces, defying other considerations including administrative convenience, socio-economic complementarities, historical continuity and development potential. Identity as defined by the CA is related not just to ethnicity, language and culture, but also to geography and historical continuity as well. 
Limbus will account for only 27.4 percent of the population in Limbuwan. The population of Rais, Tamangs, Newars, Gurungs and Magars in Kirat, Tamsaling, Tamuwan, Newa, and Magarat provinces hover around 33 to 35 percent in their respective provinces. The presence of hill Bramin-Chhhetri-Thakuri-Dasnami will be almost equal or even higher in these provinces. ....... about half of Newars and Rais live outside Newa and Kirat Pradeshes; 66 percent of the Magars and 63 percent of Tharus live in areas other than the provinces named after them ....... the geographically scattered and migratory character of Nepali population, making the task of identifying a federal province with one particular ethnic group difficult. Even when we go to basic VDC level, not more than fifty percent of the units will have majority population of one ethnicity. ...... Newars, Magars, and Rais who reside largely outside the provinces named after them can live with communal identity in other regions also. The Dalit community, which represents the most discriminated community and is scattered through the nation, will also get recognition and empowerment in their respective localities.   
Ethnicity argument has been dominant in Nepal’s federalization debate, with practically no consideration for financial sustainability, interdependence and developmental potential. Federalism is economically an expensive proposition. Each province will have to maintain a separate civil service, police system, legislature, cabinet and all other trappings of a modern federal state. .... Numerous single ethnicity-based provinces without consideration of revenue capacity can be a financial nightmare. .... Multiplication will create mostly unviable deficit provinces. .... in the proposed model, a couple of surplus provinces will have to perform an impossible task of subsidizing a large number of deficit units. It will soon generate resentment in better-off provinces. .... While ethnicity and language consideration represents an important factor in provincial demarcation, it cannot be the sole consideration in a country which has more than 100 ethnic groups and a similar number of spoken languages. 
The federal form of government is a more efficient form of government and hence is less expensive. Only states will have police forces for the most part. Several federal ministries will have to be shut down. Those will bring major savings. The monarchy being eliminated alone could pay for the entire thing at all levels. The army will have to be substantially downsized. Let's face it. Nepal is not going to war with any country.
Interestingly, the protagonists of single ethnicity province want to confine this concept to hilly region, and accept only one or two provinces concept in the Madhes region........    it will have ramifications in regional power balance, as more provinces will naturally have larger representation and voices in decision making bodies. ....... The principle of single ethnicity province will not remain confined to the hilly region. This has already led to demand for at least five separate language-based provinces in the Tarai including Tharuwan, Abadh, Bhojpuri, Mithila and Birat regions. The demand may not stop even there, if the experience of other countries is any guide. Nigeria had initially three ethnic provinces; it has 36 at present. 
Whether there are one or two states in the Terai, it does not really matter. The Terai will have representation in the lower and the upper houses in direct proportion to its population, which is half. If the president is directly elected - my hope - everyone in the Terai will have one vote each just like people in the Hills. For Mahat to say if there are eight or nine states in the hills and only two in the Terai then the hills will have four times as much power is downright dishonest.

At the other end to Nigeria is the Soviet Union. An attempt at a unitary state led to it breaking up into 15 countries. Why look at Nigeria? Why not look at India where federalism works beautifully? Minus federalism India would have broken into pieces a long time ago.
The proposal for Tamuwan-Magarat, Newa-Tamsaling, Kirat-Limbuwan, Mithila-Bhojpura and Avadh-Tharuhat was proposed to ensure sustainability.......     rather than fighting over the nomenclature of the provinces at this stage, it would be far better to leave the issue to be decided by the popularly elected representatives at the provincial level. This is the recommendation of the minority view in the State Restructuring Commission. 
Minority view?  This is what is most offensive to me. Mahat and people like him do not believe in the democratic process. They want their views to have deciding power no matter if they are in the majority or the minority. That is the Bahun sense of entitlement that is driving the Janajatis to launch their own political party.
The nation took a decision on a federal state with amendment in the constitution, following the Madhes movement. Except for the Sadvabana party, federalization was not in the agenda of other political parties. The Maoist Party stood for autonomous regions with right to self rule, which is not the same thing as federal units. The nation cannot go back on its commitment on federalism. All major political parties have accepted it. 
Here Mahat is admitting that he and people like him have not really been for federalism. Not even the Maoists were for federalism. The Madhesi Movement forced their hands. And people like Mahat have been paying lip service to the concept of federalism ever since. But they find ever creative ways to put roadblocks on the way to that federalism. It is like Assad saying he is for free speech as long as people are respectful. Mahat is for federalism like Assad is for free speech.

What Ram Sharan Mahat is saying is this: It is not true we are against federalism even though we are the reason the constituent assembly saw its demise. It is not that we are against federalism, we just are opposed to the wrong kind of federalism. And only we know what that right kind of federalism is. The Madhesis and Janajatis inside the NC and the UML themselves don't know what's good for them. This is not about due process, or you already had a two thirds majority for your map in the last assembly. This is about you finally coming around to my way of thinking. Because I know best. I am a Bahun. Bahuns know best.

Besides, federalism is expensive, he says. Why are you even going for it in the first place? What's wrong with 75 districts, 14 zones and five development regions? 

Ram Sharan Mahat comes across as vastly patronizing. For me this is first and foremost about due process.

Personally I said back in April I would be okay with six plus one states - one non geographic state for the Dalits. (6 States: Possible)

Federalism is not a more expensive form of government. The opposite is true. (Does Federalism Lead To A Bigger Government?)

Ram Sharan Mahat is as big a federalist as Gyanendra Shah is a republican. That is the conclusion I draw. Ram Sharan Mahat represents anti federalist forces.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

ANTA Convention: Emotional Bath

Venue: World's Fair Marina (Wikipedia article)

The venue was gorgeous, and the convention lasted for long enough. I got to meet Madhesis I had not met in a while, I got to meet Madhesis I had heard of but had not met yet, number one on that list was Professor JP Sah from Florida, also a Janakpur person like me, one of his daughters is doing a PhD in "aerospace engineering" at Purdue - "I have been to the Purdue campus," I said - I got to meet Madhesis I had not heard of, had never met. It was a good gathering.

When the Chairperson of the convention, Dr. Sukhdev Shah - who worked at the IMF for three decades, was a few years back nominated Nepali ambassador to the US - said that after almost four decades in the US, half a century later seeing people in his homevillage still not having shoes to their feet, he felt like he was from "nowhere." That is when I knew we Madhesis have gone global. Rootlessness is a necessary accompaniment.

There were some surprise moments. The final panel on Saturday was really something. Mukesh Singh said he had only one leg, one leg lost to a motorbike accident - his second leg is prosthetic - and he came to America with 60 dollars in his pocket and now he lives in a million dollar home. Mukesh Singh is a-l-w-a-y-s in a good mood.

In a brief remark Saturday during the cultural program Binod Shah, the ANTA President, thanked his elder brother. He took me to school by my finger, and that is how I became a doctor, he said.

Aditya Jha stayed the entire time. He sold his company to Sun Microsystems for $100 million over a decade back. His homevillage is not far from mine in Nepal. Jha is based out of Toronto. He flew in.

About a dozen people, all of whom had climbed Mount Everest, many several times, had been invited and were felicitated. These were Sherpas, not Madhesis, but what the heck. At lunch on Saturday I found myself sitting next to Adityaji. We were having lunch with these Sherpas. And Adityaji said he was genuinely interested in climbing Mount Everest.

"Can someone like me do it with the help of four Sherpas?" he asked. "How many months of training will it take?"

Ends up Adityaji had raised money for a school one of the Sherpas had gone to high in the Himalayas in his homevillage.

Answer: it can be done. If you have four Sherpas with you, you will not have to worry about oxygen at any point, and that is the primary worry.

By the end of the day Nepal's Home Minister Bhim Rawal had showed up. Former UN Under Secretary General Kul Chandra Gautam - a Nepali - had showed up. He is now retired and lives in Nepal. Famous Nepali movie star/actress Gauri Malla performed.

The missing Madhesi was Upendra Mahato, the richest Nepali in the world. He had some event in London he could not skip. Otherwise.

Upendra Mahato showed up in the Soviet Union as a scholarship student right before it collapsed. The rest, as they say, is history. Mahato owns the building that houses the largest electronics shop in Moscow, for one.

Someone once gave me the simplistic version of how Mahato made it. He became good friends with locals at college who came to power after the Soviet Union collapsed. This was in Belorussia. Spelling? He used those contacts to borrow money from their banks to buy property for cheap. And that is how the vicious cycle began. But there had to have been more than that. He was named Russia's Manager Of The Year in 2008, the year of my Obama 08 personal mess.

"I heard you are rich," someone once said to him.

"You heard it wrong," he said. "I am not rich. I am very rich."

The guy's net worth is in the hundreds of millions. He is the founder of the NRN - Non Resident Nepali - movement. It is global. For the longest time the Nepalis in America resisted. Ends up resistance is futile.

The event was to start at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights Friday. My email said 7PM. I showed up at 7PM. True Nepalis don't show up on time. They know. They simply know. They know not to show on time. You don't have to be a VIP. You simply have to be a Nepali. Different cultures understand time differently. Nepalis who don't struggle with showing up for their American jobs on time switch back when it comes to Nepali events. It is a body clock thing.

People started showing up. Divita Mehta - author of the idea that I move to NYC from the Midwest where I was five years ago, Mt. Holyoke star student, a Goldman Sachs Director assistant fresh out of college, investment banker - showed up a little after.

Divita said people handed her Reshma Saujani flyers near her apartment on the Upper East Side.

And then people started percolating in. Jay Mandal - my "friend" within ANTA, San Diego guy - had flown in. Ratan Jha - founding president of ANTA, now NRN global General Secretary - had flown in from Texas. Lalit Jha - my hometown Jankapur guy, best friend to Ratan Jha - had flown in from Nebraska where he is at.

Jay said he also applied for Budhanilkantha but was rejected. I said they also took into account good looks. He gave me a high five on that one.

"You have matured much in four years, become much wiser," Lalitji told me when he first met me Friday evening and again Saturday evening when it was time to say goodbye.

I learned Saturday during a presentation by a Chicago Kharel - a Pahadi - that Ratanji had managed to get a whole bunch of Nepalis to invest in his construction company promising them an annual 12% return. I am like, heck, I was trying to raise money from Nepalis a few years back, I did raise some, but most of my round one came from a local NYC friend, business partner like Adityaji kept telling me needed to happen.

"The money you need you can raise right there in New York!"

Abhi to main Mr. No Green Card hoon. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

By the time the dinner winded down Friday, Binodji is like let's go to my place. The guy's house is in Scarsdale. I call that out of state. So Satendra Shah, Biplav Yadav and I hopped into his van. We - minus Biplav - were up until four in the morning, printing stuff, working on his speech.

The ANTA President is going to show up late for the first ever ANTA Convention, I thought to myself. There is a term for that: Nepali time. The event started late. People just knew not to show up on time. No one seemed to be complaining.

Saturday was panel after panel after panel after panel. What saved the day was food. There was a ton of food. When it was not lunch time yet, it was appetizer time. There was dessert time. Indian dessert is s-w-e-e-t. I don't got no sweet tooth, chocolate does not excite me, but Indian sweets are different. Soon enough it was appetizer time again. Then dinner time. Then dessert time.

Roshan Chaudhary had a name for the icecream served at dessert.

"They got kulfi," he said.

Jackson Heights is Jay Kishan Heights.

Panels are all good, and I attended all of them, listened to all speakers unfailingly. But these Madhesi panels were one way traffic. There were no Q&A sessions. They just were not there.

My brother-in-law Bisundev Mahato was in town for the day. He is in Boston, the first Madhesi ever at Harvard Medical School. He spoke on health care. He also was on the final panel of the day, the best one. Bisun spoke as frankly and boldly as Mukesh Singh. Divita Mehta was on that same panel.

By the time I got home it was Sunday two in the morning. I needed the sleep. I slept like a log. And I needed that shave and that shower when I finally got up.

The ANTA Convention had been an emotional bath.
New York Times: Nice Way To Shea: the new ferry service inaugurated earlier this month between Manhattan and Shea Stadium in Queens offers gentle river breezes and spectacular sunsets denied car or subway travelers. .... In all, the trip to the World's Fair Marina takes less than an hour. Then it's an easy five-minute walk to the stadium.
One nagging question ANTA has for me is as to why I will not become a member, why I will not become an office holder, why will I not possibly even lead the organization? Jay Mandal approached me all over again. He said he had a presentation that will convince me to finally sign up.

I launched ANTA in New York Metro, but never joined although I doubt I have missed any major ANTA event in the city over the years.

Becoming a member of ANTA would be like joining the NRN movement. Until the NRN movement achieves the goal of dual citizenship for the NRNs, it is a failure. The NRN movement is Upendra Mahato's thing. It is his space. I support the NRN movement wholeheartedly, but I can't join it any more than I can go work for one of Upendra Mahato's companies.

If I am going to be an entrepreneur, I am going to be a bigger entrepreneur than Upendra Mahato. That is why I can't join ANTA.

For me the question is as to why the Nepalis in New York City don't want voting rights in this city based on residency - not citizenship - like the Irish had in Boston 150 years ago? That entails coalition building with South Asians at large, the Hispanics in the city perhaps.

Internet access is the voting right for this 21st century. Every human being deserves to have big screen broadband. Gandhi and MLK might have been tech entrepreneurs today.

Also, it is not like Mahatma Gandhi needed a political office. I am no Gandhi, never will be, but I don't need an office to do the political work I do.

Rajesh Shah wanted to know why I was now putting some time into Iran's democracy movement.

"I am going to win the Nobel Peace Prize," I said to him. If I can do for Iran what I did for Nepal, that is a Nobel.

Rajesh Shah and Biplav Yadav are both in the Columbus, Ohio, area. Yadav is a doctor, Shah is what I call a tourist. He has a fancy degree in hotel management. Mukesh Singh is in Columbus.

Shah, Yadav, Bisundev Mahato and I, we all went to Budhanilkantha School, as did Sanju Mahato.

Biplav Yadav gave me $100 from a lost bet. In 2007 - "before the primaries," like he likes to say - I bet Barack Obama was going to become president. I am not a betting kind, but this was different.
New York Times: A Manhattan-to-Queens Ferry Is Planned for Mets Fans: New York Waterway, said the company was awaiting final approval to operate the ferry service between the South Street Seaport and the city-owned World's Fair Marina, a quarter of a mile from Shea Stadium..... ''But we think that two years from now, the Shea Stadium ferry will be just as successful as the Yankee Stadium ferry.''
"I am not a journalist, I am not a writer, and the word blogger does not even begin to describe me. I am a political activist who uses digital tools," I said in my eight minute presentation. "I was one of Barack Obama's top 20, top 30, perhaps top 10 volunteers in the city. When it was time for the British to finally leave, they said, okay, you can have your independence, but you are going to have to give us Subhash Chandra Bose, dead or alive. When the Mahabharata was over, the Pandavas won, Yudhistir went to see his uncle Dhritarashtra. Come near me, let me embrace you, the old man said. Krishna sensed something was wrong. He made a wax replica of Yudhistir. The blind, old man crushed that statue. Democratic primary khatam huwi 2008 mein aur ye log mere ko under kar diye. Barack Obama jita. Uske chaar deen baad mere ko phir se bahar kiya."

2007 mein Upendra Yadav ko Amrika aane ke liye visa nahin mil raha tha. Ratanji se meri gupp hui phone par. Wo kahe ki sab kism ka prayas kiya gaya, kuchh phi kaam nahin kiya. Aap kuchh kariye hai to. Main apne ek DC ke dost ko contact kiya. Wo State ke South Asia desk officer ko janta tha.
New York Times: Free Ferry to U.S. Open: The 35-minute ferry ride, which can accommodate up to 149 passengers, will connect the East 35th Street and the World’s Fair marinas. .... Just to be clear, the fastest way to get to the tournament site from Manhattan is still the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station to the Mets-Willets Point station.
Polarization Is Complete: Nepali Congress No Longer A Terai Party
ANTA Convention Program Details
1st ANTA Convention: September 24-25
Securing Federalism And Beyond For The Madhesi Cause

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