Lesser-known Indian economic reformers

Lesser-known Indian economic reformers
5. General

Lesser-known Indian economic reformers

Welcome to the forty-eighth edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

🐦 3 Tweets of the week

An interesting perspective on listening: tune out the storytelling techniques used to make a message engaging and persuasive, and instead try to listen to the core underlying message.

This thread has some great responses on how folks are using ChatGPT – most are focused on research and writing applications.

I liked the one about rewriting for a different audience.

Fascinating. Great analogy.

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. Why hasn’t populism done more harm? By Janan Ganesh (FT)

Thought provoking piece on how authoritarian leaders are able to get away with some reduction in civil liberties, given the economc growth they preside over.

This part is ominous:

A bleaker view is that economic harm takes time to show. This month, Lawrence Summers warned US corporate bosses against embracing Trump. Citing Mussolini, the economist said such wild leadership can be of transient use to business but “ultimately brings a great deal crashing down”. The important word is “ultimately”. Populism’s drag on the economy is gradual and cumulative. It is there each time vilification of the “deep state” puts a talented graduate off a career as a regulator, or an unfunded tax cut swells public debt, or a tariff gums up world trade, or partisan manipulation of the law saps confidence in the sanctity of contract.

b. ‘Nikki, Nimarata, Nimbra – How whiteness is Trump card’ by Arnab Ray

Being an Indian-origin conservative in America is not easy. Ask Vivek Ramaswamy or Nikki Haley.

Well, I guess being a foreigner in any country could be difficult if you wish to rise to the senior-most leadership position. I mean could you imagine an Indian-origin Hindu becoming the Prime Minister of the UK or a Catholic woman from Italy leading our oldest political party and almost becoming Prime Minister of India?


Arnab Ray breaks down the challenges faced by Indian-Americans to rise to power in the US.

Despite all this, kudos to the US for being so open to immigrant leaders (despite all the rhetoric). I can’t think of too many countries where this can happen.

🎧 1 long-form listen of the week

a. ‘The Reformers’ Episode 28 of ‘Everything is Everything’ by Amit Varma and Ajay Shah

In this fascinating video conversation, podcasting God Amit Varma (who now has an arresting YouTube show called ‘Everthing is Everything‘ with economist Ajay Shah) does a deep-dive into stories of behind-the-scenes heroes (and some known famous personalities) who enabled massive transformations in India’s economic policies.

Think known folks like PV Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, to unknown names like KPS Krishnan and Balbir Singh.

India’s 1991 reform story was several years (decades) in the making – and this conversation reveals fascinating anecdotes about some of the people who made it happen.

This story about Mr KPS Krishnan (from a later time period) is a great one:

Amit Varma: When talking with Krishnan (there) was an anecdote he related about Pranab (Mukherjee, the then Finance Minister)… There was some important financial sector reform that Krishnan really wanted and Pranab’s instinctive socialist 1970s Indira self would have revolted at it. So Krishnan had to figure out how do I (present) this to him. So he took to him a presentation with two slides and the first slide was a picture of a postcard sent to Pranab Mukherjee from one of his constituents in Bengal and when the thing comes on screen Pranab says “wait what is that? Read it out”. Someone reads it out and this is a letter from a lady called Sharmishta Bandhopadhyay… I forget the details but essentially her life has been destroyed, her life savings gone, you know financially she’s been ruined etc etc and all of that, it’s a really sad story and then saying that it’s up to you to do something about it and Pranab is furious when the end of this letter comes and he says why are you reading this out for me what do you want and then Krishnan explains exactly what he wants. And what he wants is, what message he’s trying to give is that the current system the way it is harms the common people, you know. can turn poor people into completely destitute it harms housewives like Sharmishta who can’t make good decisions themselves. And then he proposes a reform that will change everything. And from this angle, from this lens Pranab says “Theek hai, karo” (Ok, do it). So some of the dramatic financial reforms… now you can’t talk about financial reforms to a large audience because it is so incredibly boring right? But they affect our lives deeply desperately we need to figure out ways to sort of tell that story and I love the way that Mr Krishnan with all these decades of experience… you know he was a side player in a sense in one of the Ministries during the 1991 reforms and you know after that not a main character but someone sort of looking on and I love the way in which uh he figures out a strategy to present this to the politicians.

Bonus: Read this lovely post by Amit on the difference between ‘Insiders and Outsiders’ when it comes to policy and systemic change.

That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash

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