Posts tagged ‘India’


Optimism marks out the Indian decade

17.01.2012

Jack Yan at SIMCUG
Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication

I’ve had a wonderful time in Pune and Mumbai, two cities to which I had wanted to go for some years. Like some New Agers say: be careful what you put out into the universe. It can come true.
   My main reason for going was to address the Knowledge Globalization Conference at FLAME in Pune. FLAME’s campus is remarkable: 1,000 acres, near a fancy golf course, and completely teetotal (which actually suits a social-only drinker like me). The scenery in the valley is stunning, and the sound of the water trickling down the mountain during the winter was particularly relaxing.
   But as with any place one visits, it’s never the scenery that makes it: it’s the people. And in Pune I found a sense of optimism from all people from all walks of life, one which I hadn’t seen for quite some time.
   I also ran into Deo Sharma from Sweden, whom I first met in 2002 in København. When there are coincidences like that, you know you’re on to a good thing.
   Equally inspirational was addressing the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication. This talk, arranged through my friend Nishit Kumar—who learned I got a bigger buzz sharing knowledge than sitting on a beach relaxing—was attended by 600 students at different year levels. When you see a school like that, and students prepared to ask tough questions (both in person and later on Twitter), you feel encouraged that Pune has an incredible future ahead.
   And before I advance to my next point, Mumbai was just as fantastic, and I need to acknowledge my old friend Parmesh Shahani, who let me stay with him in a home that beats some of the art galleries I have seen.
   Everywhere you go in Pune, you see schools. A lot of tertiary institutions. Like so many Asian families, Indians place education highly. I had two parents who never seemed to go out on the town because we weren’t made of money, and everything they had went to my private schooling. I can well comprehend this mentality.
   Which, of course, begs the question: why isn’t our country doing more in this sector with India?
   I realize things are gradually changing as we incorporate more air routes directly to India and the government begins focusing on our fellow Commonwealth nation, but, as with capitalizing on the wave of Hong Kong emigration in the 1990s, I fear we might be too slow. Again.
   This is nothing new. I’ve been saying it since the mid-2000s, on this blog and elsewhere. Privately I’ve probably been uttering it for even longer, before we nominated Infosys of Bangalore as one of our Brands with a Conscience at the Medinge Group.
   And yet in the quest to get a free-trade deal with Beijing, we brushed aside India, a country with whom we have a shared heritage, a lingua franca, and a lot of games of cricket.
   When I first went to India in 2008, one Indore businessman asked me: why on earth did New Zealand pursue the Chinese deal ahead of the Indian deal?
   ‘Follow the money,’ I swiftly answered, a response to which I got a round of applause.
   I know the numbers may well have been in China’s favour, but sometimes, there is something to be said for understanding what is behind those numbers. And there is also something to be said for looking at old friendships and valuing them.
   We can’t turn the clock back, nor might we want to, but it seems greater tie-ups with Indian education could be a great way to expose the next generation to more cultural sharing.
   While in Pune, there was news of two Indian student murders in Manchester, which won’t have done the British national image a great deal of good. Australia already suffers from a tarnished image of racism toward Indian students, one which the Gillard government is hurriedly addressing with advertising campaigns featuring Indian Australians. It strikes me that there is an opportunity here in New Zealand, now that I have apologized for Paul Henry. Only kidding. I don’t think that I had much influence doing so unofficially, but I felt I had to get it off my chest, and I did apologize.
   I was frank about it. I was frank about Henry, and I don’t mean Benny Hawkins off Crossroads. I was frank about the Indian immigrant who had to change his Christian name to something sounding more occidental before he got job interviews—prior to that he did not get a single response. But, I also noted, none of this would be out in the open in the mainstream media if New Zealanders, deep down, were not caring, decent people. The incidents would have been covered up.
   Despite what we might think, most folks didn’t realize that we had a decent high-tech industry, that we are the home of Weta, and that Tintin, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong were local efforts. Although Players had only been out for three days by that point—and not to particularly good reviews, either—few realized a third of it was filmed in New Zealand.
   They still think of sheep.
   But there is a generation which, despite a huge domestic market and the optimism in their own country, wants an overseas experience, and the occident is still regarded as the place to do it in.
   When they heard there was the possibility of high-tech jobs in a beautiful land, ears pricked up.
   I realize the OECD stats say we’re average when it comes to innovation, but I know it’s there, under the radar, growing. People like Prof Sir Paul Callaghan reckon it’s the realistic way forward for our nation. Interestingly, this message sounds an awful lot like the one I communicated during my 2010 mayoral campaign.
   And if we are to grow it, then maybe working with our Indian brothers and sisters is the exactly the direction we need to follow.

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Posted in branding, business, China, culture, India, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Thoughts on Players, the Indian remake of The Italian Job

12.12.2010

It’s been known for some time that Players, the official, licensed Indian remake of The Italian Job, will film in New Zealand, but what surprised me is that Wellington is to take the place of Torino in the 21st-century version.
   At least they changed the name, because the American remake of The Italian Job was set in Los Angeles. I assume it is called Players because The Wellington Job doesn’t have the same ring to it.
   Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla are directing, which will mean plenty of style, and the cast includes Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Bobby Deol, Sikander Kher and Neil Nitin Mukesh. With the female names in there, this may be a remake of the remake of The Italian Job, because I cannot see either Sonam or Bipasha called Rozzer, Yellow or Camp Freddie. And the male names suggest that this film should do well among a decent part of the audience with four of India’s super-hunks in it.
   None are identifiable as the local equivalent of Prof Peach.
   A few things interest me at this stage.
   We’ll need an excuse for $4 million of gold bullion to be shipped to Wellington, and it won’t be for a Fiat car factory. Assuming that’s closer to $40 million today, there aren’t too many reasons someone would shift that much to us down here in gold.
   Possibilities include: (a) PM John Key decides to shift his personal fortune for safe-keeping at Bill English’s house in Wellington; (b) MGM’s payment for the Hobbit movie; or (c) a Chinese bribe for concessions on the free-trade deal to lock India out.
   We already know that you can race a Mini around the city quite happily thanks to Goodbye, Pork Pie:

so three should not be a problem.
   I’m not terribly sure where the Wellington traffic computer is, whether our women are, indeed, as large as Prof Peach would like them, and I wonder what shape our fictional Mafia (‘The Mafia? The Mafia’) will take. I have some suspicions, and it involves the local cast of The Apprentice throwing Filofaxes. One hears, however, Russian actor Vyacheslav Razbegaev is lined up to take a part.
   The only question remains is: what is Hindi for ‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ so I may add it to my ‘Favourite quotes’ section in Facebook?
   In all seriousness, I may well time my next visit to India when this premières. Time to email some enquiries through …

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Posted in business, cars, humour, India, interests, New Zealand, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


Johnny Foreigner might be better at running a car company in Shanghai

12.12.2010

As I made links for the last post, I noticed there were a lot of comments on AROnline about the replacement for the Roewe 750, the Chinese car that is based on the old Rover 75.
   The replacement will be on the Opel Insignia platform, owned by GM. It’s been followed by a lot of cries that are all too familiar to me.
   Most of them are saying that MG is dead, and has been for a long time, underpinned with the sentiment of ‘How dare the Chinese put this car on an American platform?’
   They ignore that some of the design is still done by a British firm and while the physical British input into the next generation of Roewe and MG cars’ production is much more limited than what we see at Jaguar and Land Rover—or, for that matter, Nissan, Toyota, Honda et al—unlike the Japanese brands, the MGs will, at least, continue to bear a brand steeped in British tradition.
   Many brands are not owned by a company incorporated in the country of their founders, and while I often make my choices based on the parent company, the majority of people do not care.
   The comments also seem rather unfair and steeped in some cry of Yellow Peril.
   I wrote on the site, in response to some of them:

   Brands have, for nearly as long as the motoring industry has been around, been acquired by different groups. Are current Vauxhalls “true” British Vauxhalls, because they really haven’t been since GM bought the place in 1925? From the 1930s, Bedfords went on to Chevrolet platforms, yet history does not seem to judge them as harshly as some of us are doing above. They are not the ‘American Bedfords’ or the ‘faux Bedfords’.
   As the world changes, it is only natural that some of these brands will be acquired by countries that do not share the same heritage as Great Britain. As far as I can see, Tata seems to escape the same level of hostility because India was once part of the mighty Empah. As India becomes more confident, and in, say, 2025 when all Jaguar platforms are exclusively engineered there with the help of a non-British car maker (platform-sharing is just as inevitable in the luxury sector), will they be met with the same criticism?
   This is the real world: globalized, with car manufacturers turning to low-cost options where possible. We are connected with internet and intranets. And SAIC is simply leading when it comes to taking an American-owned platform engineered in Germany and putting the ‘Made in China’ stamp on it. Occidental manufacturers have been doing it for years: as Climbsyke points out, Rover did it with Honda platforms …
   Yet we continue to be drawn to these models not because of their Japanese roots, but because they have some connection to the brand, which stirs our emotions. Some of them had the lion’s share of work done in Japan, not Britain, yet that, too, is conveniently overlooked. No one ever mentions the war (which I will now, and China was one of the Allies).
   While some Red Chinese manufacturers are turning out junk that would not get past injunctions waged around intellectual property issues, at least SAIC has some awareness of the history of MG and is willing to acknowledge it. With Roewe, never mind the pastiche-British marketing that it indulges in for the domestic market where these cars are mainly sold; I’m confident that the Shangaiese are more savvy than many of us are giving them credit. An MG is an MG, regardless of the ethnicity of the parent, and regardless of the shouts of the Yellow Peril, as long as its brand values are somehow incorporated.

   What may well happen is that SAIC, MG’s parent, will build up some cash by selling mass-market models, which are, incidentally, doing very well inside Red China.
   Then as the Chinese demand for them takes off (as it is beginning to), it will release a sports car.
   It should rightly concentrate on its domestic market first, and in recessionary times, working on a specialist sports car while the demand is not there just seems foolish.
   When such a sports car arrives, I wonder if the same critics will be there to shout how un-British it is—even if SAIC has to stick it on a Volkswagen platform.
   In my mind, these cars are no more and no less British than the Honda-based models that kept the MG and Rover brands going through the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s inevitable that more unlikely platform- and engine-sharing will happen. Now that the wave of consolidation has ended—Ford and Mazda have announced they are going their separate ways now—you may see very unlikely alliances indeed as the industry deals with supply and margin issues.
   There have already been rumblings about Mercedes-Benz cooperation with Aston Martin; Volvo must look somewhere for a large-car platform if Geely wants to turn it into an even more upscale brand within China; and all sorts of rumours about the platform for the forthcoming Saab 9-2 have been bandied about.
   Given Britain’s own failure in managing its car industry, cries that stick it to Johnny Foreigner have a sour grapes’ tinge to them, but, then, one sees it from the Foreign Office in fact or in fiction:

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Posted in branding, business, cars, China, culture, design, interests, marketing, Sweden, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Amazon begins charging dormant-account fee

25.11.2010

Here’s a new clause in the Amazon Associates’ contract that I never spotted before, which is available publicly for viewing. European countries have a similar one, with differences in the currency.

If you have not earned any advertising fees in the 3 years prior to any given calendar month, then on the first day of that calendar month we may charge you an account maintenance fee that will be deducted from your unpaid accrued advertising fees. That account maintenance fee will be the lesser of $10 or the amount of unpaid accrued advertising fees in your account. Further, any unpaid accrued advertising fees in your account may be subject to escheatment under state law.

At least they give you three years before deducting a maintenance fee, but one wonders just how troublesome it is for Amazon to keep one’s account open when you make zero sales. It could be worse: it could be Commission Junction, which starts charging after six months. Many people have cried foul over that one.
   However, we are cancelling our Amazon.fr account as a result because we don’t score many sales there. It makes us wary of Amazon, however, because this sort of clause is a real turn-off and brings a cloud over the service.
   I notice that while we received emails notifying us of the change for the UK, Germany and Europe, we never received one for the US. I was surprised to find, when writing this blog post, that the US agreement has changed, too.
   I think this only encourages us to look at alternatives, rather than make us push Amazon more. Certainly if I were starting a website today, I’d look for an affiliate programme that does not have such a clause. And who’s to say that the next big bookstore site isn’t in China or India, prepared to compete on this very thing?

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Posted in business, China, India, internet, marketing, publishing, USA | No Comments »


Paul Henry resigns

10.10.2010

I’ve had a long 54 weeks, so I will leave it to Paikea to say what needs to be said about Paul Henry’s decision to resign from Breakfast. She is a lot more succinct than me and her three bullet points largely reflect my own views.
   I noticed that she embedded the clip of Henry laughing and insulting Smt. Sheila Dikshit. For those who followed my earlier blog entries (such as this one), here it is.

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Posted in culture, India, media, New Zealand, TV | 2 Comments »


Paul Henry is only the tip of the redneck iceberg

08.10.2010

Yesterday, I began watching the Indian media get hold of the Paul Henry story. Indians are, rightly, up in arms with the TV host’s insult of Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s name—this, plus the incident questioning whether Governor-General HE Sir Anand Satyanand was a New Zealander, shows a pattern where Henry thinks poorly of people with Indian ethnicity.
   The Indian people might want to know that the insults to their people are not restricted to Mr Henry: his colleague Paul Holmes has been rubbishing New Delhi and India in the weeks leading up to the Commonwealth Games, using the fact that few New Zealanders have been there, and pushing unfair stereotypes about hygiene. Mr Henry is also not alone in making fun of Chief Minister Dikshit’s name, with sportscasters giggling about it like children.
   Henry has received the flak because he perhaps had more of a profile, and is already down after the comments about Sir Anand. Isolated incidents we can probably forgive. But, collectively, it shows our media still have plenty of representatives from the redneck sections of our society—and I am happy to tar those members with the same brush as the one I have used on Henry. Right now, I hope there are many broadcasters feeling at least a little shame for joking about the Chief Minister’s name.
   And we wonder why politics is under-represented in New Zealand by minorities, how Parliament—or even the local body elections that I contested—do not reflect our rich cultural mixture. This week, we did not have to look very far: one of our institutions, the fourth estate, is quite prepared to treat Chief Minister Dikshit with little respect; and one of its members is willing to imply that a Governor-General, who speaks with a New Zealand accent, does not sound ‘like a New Zealander’ because he has Indian roots.
   It’s not as though we begin on the best footing when we go to India. When I spoke in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, two years ago, one question asked of me by a member of the local business community was why New Zealand had cooperated with China over free trade prior to considering India as a trading partner. I answered him frankly, ‘Follow the money.’ To me, even being someone of Chinese ethnicity, I see benefits working with India, with its proficiency in English, its common law heritage, and its respect for intellectual property. Of course China is important—but not at the exclusion of a fellow Commonwealth country. The gentleman justifiably felt India had been sold out.
   The Indian Government has rightly summoned our High Commissioner asking for an explanation. Our nation has had to apologize to India for Paul Henry. Yet one thing remains very clear to the Indians: Paul Henry is a civil servant working for state television. Words are not going to mean an awful lot to Indians, if they are not backed up by action by our government. Read between the lines of the Ministry of External Affairs’ official protest: they want him fired. Their words:

It is hoped that the government of New Zealand would take immediate demonstrative action against the said individual to send out a clear signal that such behaviour is totally unacceptable.

They mean that a 14-day suspension isn’t going to cut it. And that was for the Sir Anand issue, not for the Sheila Dikshit humiliation.
   Having been to India, I know the industry of the Indian people—and I know that they can do whatever they put their minds to. If they begin crying boycott, we are in such trouble that even a smile from the Prime Minister cannot cover.
   Paul Henry has done one good thing: expose some of the unacceptable thinking that he and others harbour. But just as Sir Peter Jackson strengthened our national image, one man has now weakened our country’s image as a progressive, multicultural and embracing nation.
   TVNZ, which has flip-flopped between defending Henry and giving him a light slap on the wrist, needs to do more soul-searching than CEO Rick Ellis, or Henry sympathizer and spokeswoman Andi Brotherston, has done so far. Does the network truly condone this sort of behaviour? A mere suspension, and the use of the Dikshit clip for days after the Sir Anand affair, are saying that it does. And in such a case, Paul Henry is being unfairly targeted as the sole offender: the circumstantial evidence is that TVNZ has a far sicker culture than even I had imagined.
   To think: usually, I go abroad holding my head up high because I come from New Zealand. People are willing to help me out because they respect our nation. I’m going to brace myself for a much harder time when next working in India, because some of our country’s less palatable members have been able to get away with pushing their agenda for too long.
   I initially thought that the Facebook page demanding a TVNZ boycott was going too far, given that there are responsible TVNZ staff, too. However, I have not watched a single second of TVNZ programming this week, as an unconscious decision. (Commonwealth Games coverage on Prime has helped.) Maybe the supporters of that Facebook page have a point, because as the days pass, and there continues to be inaction from TVNZ, it is becoming apparent that more heads need to roll. My idea of getting Henry to meet with the New Zealand Indian Central Association is looking more meaningless by the day.

Image credit: Map of India by Umesh Rai.

PS.: TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston has tendered her resignation.JY

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Posted in business, culture, India, media, New Zealand, politics, TV | 5 Comments »


The other time Paul Henry had it in for someone with Indian heritage

06.10.2010

Paul Henry isn’t alone on this: a lot of New Zealand media have been making fun of Delhi Chief Minister Smt. Sheila Dikshit’s surname, purposely mispronouncing it as dick-shit and then giggling away. (For the record, the pronunciation is close to dixit.) Though after his comments about HE Sir Anand Satyanand earlier this week, it’s easy to draw a connection and ask: does Mr Henry have it in for anyone of Indian ethnicity?
   Apparently, before the quips about the Governor-General, Mr Henry stated on his Breakfast programme:

The dip shit woman. God, what’s her name? Dick-shit. Is it dick shit? … It looks like dick shit … It’s so appropriate, because she’s Indian, so she’d be dick-in-shit wouldn’t she, do you know what I mean? Walking along the street … it’s just so funny.

The Fairfax Press reports that TVNZ received relatively few complaints (four) about the mispronunciation of Dikshit, while the inappropriate comments about Sir Anand are in the 600s. Prime TV reports that the complaints have hit a ‘record number’.
   This is no surprise, given that the later comments related directly to how New Zealanders felt about ourselves.
   There’s apparently been fresh criticism as TVNZ has allowed Henry’s mispronunciation clip to remain on its website after the furore on Monday. From Fairfax:

New Zealand Indian Central Association president Paul Singh Bains said the fact TVNZ was still promoting the clip on its website showed it had “totally lost the plot” and was insensitive to the offence Henry had caused.

The segment is now gone, though the tiny 14-day suspension that TVNZ gave Paul Henry seems even weaker in this context.
   Making it worse was the TVNZ spokeswoman, who defended Henry on Monday and worsened the matter then. I think TVNZ needs a new spokesperson. Here’s how Fairfax reported her response:

TVNZ spokeswoman Andi Brotherston said the website was an independent news organisation.
   “[It] is part of TVNZ’s news and current affairs department, which has its editorial independence enshrined in legislation.”

Translation: we can’t do anything about how we promote the channel because of the law.
   Why, pray tell, was the clip then removed?
   It might be nice to get the context in which Ms Brotherston made her comment.
   I wrote to the network today suggesting that Mr Henry at least meet with the New Zealand Indian Central Association in his 14 days off. (I called it, wrongly, the Indian New Zealand Association, mixing it up with one in Wellington.) Let’s do something beyond the on-air apology and learn just why these “ethnic” associations are necessary in New Zealand. (One big reason: the Paul Henrys of this world.)

One thing has bugged me: this idea from Henry that Sir Anand Satyanand does not sound like a New Zealander. I have met the Governor-General on several occasions and I never remembered him having any accent but a Kiwi one. I even had to look for clips of Sir Anand just to make sure my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. I remember that his wife, Lady Satyanand, is very well spoken. So just how much like a New Zealander did Henry think the next Governor-General should sound like? Fred Dagg? Him?
   There’s nothing wrong with a Fred Dagg-sounding Governor-General, but it seems that Mr Henry believed that a Kiwi accent is not a Kiwi accent if its speaker has Indian heritage.

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Posted in culture, India, media, New Zealand, TV | 11 Comments »


Google’s rethink on Red China: you can’t stop the Chinese people

13.01.2010

If I were Google, would I have entered Red China with the censored version of Google.cn, hiding things from the Chinese people for the sake of money? In February 2006, I blogged about this very issue and concluded, ‘No.’
   Obeying the law is one thing. Providing the people with slanted views to prop up governmental propaganda is another.
   It seems Google has gained a conscience, to the point where it is talking about shutting its office inside the Middle Kingdom, after lifting the self-imposed censorship it instituted in the mid-2000s when it entered. It also cites various international hacking attempts in an effort to gain the contents of Gmail accounts of people who have been talking about Chinese human rights. These have, the company claims, originated from Red China.
   Global Voices Online has a great piece summarizing the reactions inside the People’s Republic, which are supportive of Google and critical of the Politburo.
   I’ve always believed that the Chinese people cannot be silenced. Nor are we stupid. With such strong economic growth (albeit with fudged figures) and a natural entrepreneurial spirit, what does Beijing have to be afraid of?
   It’s not as though the occidental technocratic experiment has worked particularly well for productivity and personal wealth over the last 30 years, and the Chinese people aren’t going to see western culture in as bright a light as it once had.
   The days of walking out of an impoverished Red China on to the streets of the west are long gone, given how quickly the nation has caught up (and in some cases overtaken) the rest of the world. There’s not as huge a gap between the two. Economically, Beijing has nothing to lose face over any more.
   The only question left these days is human rights, one which Beijing gets squirmy about.
   There is an easy way to fix this: become idealistic, then live it. Red China is big and powerful enough to see this through, and the backbone of deontological, Confucian ideals surely have shown how such a large country can be governed without dissent getting out of hand.
   The expense of monitoring and censorship might be better used on raising the more difficult areas of the country out of poverty.
   It’s with these principles that a united Chinese Commonwealth might be a reality, one where freedoms are enjoyed by all. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
   Take even the minutest step toward permitting freedoms, and I guarantee the opposition to Red Chinese trade and diplomatic relations will begin to fall. The fact this blog remains accessible inside the Bamboo Curtain is actually a positive sign: it means that some free thinking is allowed. Deals like Geely–Volvo might well become easier for the west to contemplate, once Beijing looks more like it wishes to be part of the international community.
   Such a community is not biased toward the west—and westerners themselves will argue that it is not. China’s influence—and I mean all of China and in countries where the Chinese diaspora is strong—is greater than Beijing will ever acknowledge.
   Until that attitude changes, Red Chinese industrial deals won’t have as easy a ride (relatively) as Ratan Tata and his acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover.

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Posted in business, cars, China, culture, India, internet, politics | 10 Comments »


A new book on nation branding

01.01.2010

I still need to get a few book reviews up, and here’s a good one to begin 2010 on. Nation Branding: Concepts and Country Perspectives, edited by Nishit Kumar and Anil Varma and published by ICFAI Press, is a very complete book giving a snapshot of the discipline’s practice in the late 2000s. There are over 20 chapters, with contributions from the authors, and from Simon Anholt, Melissa Aronczyk, myself and others.
   Unlike others that blend points of view from different authors, Nishit and Anil have tied this book together beautifully. It reads well as a single volume, the information is up to date, and readers should get a very strong overview of the subject area. There’s plenty of academic rigour in the research, but the book does not lose non-academics when it comes to the subject.
   Practitioners would be well advised to combine a reading of, say, Keith Dinnie’s Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, Simon Anholt’s Brand New Justice, and this latest volume.

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Posted in branding, India, marketing | 1 Comment »