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The art of restoring timeless architecture

With its foundation laid in 1348, and with various elements added over the next 700 years, the City
Palace of Karauli is an irreplaceable record of medieval history. It needs to be preserved for posterity.

Vivasvat Pal Karauli

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Historically important places like Karauli should be made accessible to a wider populace.

India’s reputation as a repository of ancient and medieval art and sculpture has achieved mythical proportions, eulogized in everything from the accounts of intrepid travelers such as Ibn Batuta and HieunTsang to the literary output of the East India Company whose critical accounts too betrayed certain uneasy awe at the sheer magnitude and extent of India’s architecture. (Even the normally irreverent Mark Twain was awestruck!) About a century and many changes later, the monuments that are in the finest condition are usually in the care of those with a personal and emotional investment.

Karauli reverberates with the legacy of my ancestors’ contributions, sacrifices, and, from the earliest foundations of the city in 1348 to the roads, bridges, dharamshalas, schools, and hospitals of the early 20th century. As an artist, I always felt a thrill upon seeing the magnificent forts and temples in Karauli, a sense of pride that the rulers were able to provide the environment for such timeless art and architecture to flourish, from (Rawal) the Karauli city palace which is the oldest city palace in Rajasthan to the intricate carvings of even more ancient forts such as Timangarhand Devgir.

 However I was disturbed to see a lacuna had developed in recent times as the youth in Karauli did not have the necessary tools to recognize the significance of the buildings around them, and the artisans and craftsmen, including the hereditary court artists or chateras, had begun to feel that there was nothing left in their art and no way to make a living. The first step was a formal restoration of the City Palace as the later residential palace, Bhanwar Vilas Palace, a charming Colonial building dating from 1938 had already been converted into a hotel and most of the wonderful Art Deco furniture and exquisite Indo-European portraits by Govind Sahai were largely intact. My parents had already undertaken a complete cleaning and conversion of the palace into a museum, but the actual restoration posed several challenges as it not only required training in techniques of Aaraish but also a constant reminder that the old paintings were beautiful in themselves and did not require re-painting in gleaming colours to be ‘restored’. Eight years later, I feel we have come a long way as we now have a dedicated team working at the palace. We have been fortunate to find restorers who focus on preservation and cleaning of the original paintings, and who have been able to re-train the descendants of the chateras in these techniques to ensure the continuity.

After our establishment of the Karauli chapter of INTACH, there is also a group of young people who conduct cleaning and repair-work sessions at our old forts and are sensitized to collecting information about our collective history.

It is with our unique culture in mind-a culture brought about by the geographical location of Karauli at the confluence of Rajputana, Madhya Pradesh, and Brajbhoomi, that I aim to bring it to the notice of more people in the country. Presently we have students coming from universities in the US to explore our social activities and study the restoration and conservation at the City Palace, and public policy groups coming from Europe to study our philanthropic projects, however, the same kind of interest is not visible in India. I want to make people in our own country recognize the relevance of places like this, I think the lessons that art and history that we have been fortunate to learn from Karauli should be accessible to more of our countrymen. A huge impetus certainly has come –designers and textile revivalists such as Sabyasachi Mukherjee and Anita Dongre find in such palaces the ideal setting for their collections, but the challenge is to invite more serious academia and to disseminate the necessary information as widely as possible. This is imperative as while Rajasthan is home to some of the most beautiful monuments–it needs a practiced eye to see beyond a mere conglomeration of forts, to enable one to appreciate the nuances of style, and the vast variations of military history and influence, and political alliance even within Rajasthan that have shaped each palace.

As caretakers of the invaluable artistic and historic legacy that is the Karauli City Palace, our primary concern is the ethics of restoration, and we hope to make the Karauli City Palace a research center for this philosophy.

 A difficult dialectic arises when we ask ourselves ‘What is the ultimate goal of restoration?’ (although this is problematic in itself as it assumes that conservation and restoration are an end rather than a process). Is the goal to make it look gleaming and new or is it to leave it in precisely the state in which you found it, with only minimal maintenance.

 The first-the urge to complete repaint is unfortunate and is undeniably tempting especially in popular tourist destinations where the traveler is practically spoiled for choice and visits with the ideal of a palace covered in bright frescoes and gilded wherever gilt is possible.

This can however be both historically and aesthetically catastrophic, as any repainting-no matter how skillfully done is an approximation at best-an effacing of the spirit of the artist is a tragic inevitability. The answer is a balance, while some repainting is necessary, in my opinion, it should be restricted to areas that require it, and not to recover every mildly faded patch.

 To leave it completely untouched is not viable either because it disregards the very nature of the palace as both catalysts and canvases of change. These magnificent buildings are not monolithslike Rome, they were not built in a day. Through seven hundred years, the City Palace itself, as the oldest of its kind in Rajasthan, has been a fortress, glittering court, a center of artistic patronage, home to a famed pilgrimage site, and an administrative and judicial headquarter besides being the seat of the heads of the Yaduvansh. The mark of the ages must remain visible even as the palace takes on its current avatar as a unique museum.

Karauli has a distinct, but less prolific school of miniature painting and its finest examples are on the walls of this vast palace. With its foundation laid in 1348, and with various elements added over the next 700 years, the palace is an irreplaceable record of medieval history. Indeed, the Mughal room at the palace is covered in a frieze of miniatures depicting the courts of the later Mughal emperors, and contemporaneous Rajput rulers, which are not to be found anywhere else.

As far as possible we practice conservation, cleaning, and revealing as much of the original paintwork and re-enforcing any loose plaster. Restoration and repainting are generally only done where the plaster has fallen, and we make sure to leave a significant portion of the original so visitors can see how the place has evolved organically, from the medieval administrative center to modern museum.

One of my favorite quotes is this very versatile one by F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,’ as it seems to be the aptest description for the fine balance that one needs to maintain to satisfy the exigencies of tourism along with the preservation of the invaluable visual proofs of our shared history.

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Is it impossible to stay together in a large multi-generational family firm?

Parampara Family Business Institute organises fifth session of online symposium looking for answers.

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Parampara Family Business Institute (PFBI), a non-profit research and educational institute under the charitable arm of GMR, GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF), organised fifth session titled ‘Togetherness in large multi-generational family firm: Is it impossible to stay together in the long run?’ in the online symposium, ‘Essential Mantras for Family Business’.  The session featured Antoine Mayaud, who is a 3rd generation member of the Mulliez family that owns the successful French retail company-Auchan Hypermarkets.

 The session was moderated by Peter Leach, founder and chairman, Peter Leach Associates Ltd. The Mulliez family has successfully managed to keep together over 800 family shareholders from the 3rd to 6th generation. Many members of the family have launched businesses such as Decathlon that have become part of the group contributing to the shareholders.

 They are one of the largest business groups in Europe. The session attracted around 400 registrations. The speaker and the moderator discussed various issues related to keeping all family members together in the business. Antonie Mayaud was instrumental in designing the governance and planned for the long-term sustainability in governance of the family as the head of the process for over 25 years. 

On why they would spread the capital over many family members rather than concentrating it into a few hands, they believe that the best way for sharing wealth is to share it with their large family instead of concentrating it into few hands. That there is more intelligence in many brains and hearts than in only 5 or 10 is also one of the beliefs. 

One of the topics discussed at the session was the difficulty in convincing and keeping the whole family together in business, including the spouses. Mayaud believes that it is very difficult, but in the long run it is beneficial to all concerned. Peter Leach pointed out that culture is a very important component of managing a family business -more so than structure or strategy. The culture of the Mulliez family is to work hard to keep the family together. 

They believe that alone, they can go far and together they can go further. During the period of their parents, sometime in the 1960s, they decided to share the company stocks with in-laws instead of giving out cash and this helped to keep the cash in the business and help it to grow. Ensuring that there is ownership with employees as well (in the 70s) has helped since they have one of the lowest labour strike rates in the country. 

With over 800+ shareholders, they appoint only 7 members into the family council. The family council is elected every 5 years. Its main mission is to nominate the boards of non-executive directors for each company. This means that decision making, at family level, is concentrated into 7 family members. On developing entrepreneurship in the family, Mayaud informed that they started an investment firm called Creadev in 2002, of which he was the first non-executive chairman. Creadev is an evergreen fund, with a “no selling the companies” perspective. It is now a success with 5 verticals. On why this was important to the family, Mayaud said firstly it keeps Risk taking Spirit alive within the younger generations. 

Secondly, instead of having the younger generations diverge from the family business, they are motivated to contribute, because their own businesses are part of the family businesses. 

Thirdly, in a natural, and organic way, the family builds a diverse portfolio of investments. Instead of having to hire consultants to tell you what are the good businesses for the future, you only have to invest in your young generation businesses: they know better than anyone else, what are the good businesses for the future.

  Fourthly, the younger generations do not have to prove that they are as good as the elder generation nor compete for senior executive roles, because they are growing their own companies.

 Fifth, by promoting entrepreneurship inside the family, they promote Confident Active Successors instead of having Fearful Passive Heirs, which is the main threat in all family businesses. Sharing his learning in the past 25 years, Mayaud said it needs constant efforts to regularly conduct individual interviews with all family members, etc. This “family caring” process is based on choices that are supposed to be impossible choices: Do business within a family, include spouses as shareholders, stay in a joint ownership, involve as many family members as possible as employees or board members, promote entrepreneurship inside the family, promote a diversified portfolio and no selling of businesses (but re-invent them).

 To these choices, he adds four key behaviours inside a family, which are also common sense but very difficult to follow: Speak openly, be friendly when the business goes through difficult times, plan when things go well, and help senior ones leave early rather than too late. In his closing remarks, Mayaud pointed out, “Plough is straight only if both the horses go at the same speed.” There can be no family cohesion without business performance. There can be no long-term performance without strong family cohesion and involvement.

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The big Indian publishing divide

In this era of becoming vocal for local, there is still a bias among writers and the media towards international
publishers in India. Why are indigenous and independent publishers in the country still being overlooked?

Lipika Bhushan

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Why should a distinguished publisher like Bloomsbury publish such a book when there is always some Garuda to publish it? This sentiment, which found resonance among a section of people when Bloomsbury India de-platformed the book Delhi Riots 2020 on the day of its launch event, raises pertinent questions on why, even with a rich Indian publishing history, there is a perceived difference between international publishers and Indian ones in the eyes of writers.

 This gap in brand perception is, in fact, equivalent to that of India and Bharat, between international publishing houses that have set up offices here and our own indigenous ones. When Penguin set up its offices in India in the 1980s, it was a joyous moment for writers in the country as they now had a multinational brand at their doorstep for their dream stories to take the shape of a book. Indie publishers had been there for centuries but they were either dedicated to Hindi and regional languages or the few that published in English could not provide an international platform to writers. 

There was also a big difference in the quality of production between books published by an international publisher and those by an Indian publisher. International publishers also brought in a large collection of some of the best international books they published at reasonable prices. In addition, they dedicated resources to scout for local writing talent and to build a list of indigenous writers, which further helped penetrate the Indian market. 

Penguin coming to India was perceived as an opportunity for Indian writers to get noticed and established in the US and the UK. With every passing decade, a new international publisher set up offices locally and entered the Indian market with its set of international writers. Simultaneously, it also built a list of local authors. Writers form the backbone of a publishing list and having some big names adds tremendous value to a publishing brand. Even after four decades of operating in the Indian markets alongside international publishers, indie publishers struggle to be given preference over international ones by writers.

 When asked why writers prefer international publishers over indie publishers, Niti Kumar, Senior Vice President, Penguin Random House India, said she feels that this isn’t a general rule per se. Thomas Abraham, Managing Director, Hachette, too isn’t sure they do, adding, “Because we do have strong local brands; and let’s not forget most internationally-owned publishers are completely Indian too. The days of the liaison office or expat-run companies or editorial departments are over.” Thomas further adds, “But, yes, the lure of longestablished imprints, where you join a stable of renowned authors or are part of a long chain of landmark writing, is understandable. When you are published by John Murray (the world’s oldest trade publisher), or Hachette or Hodder, you are following a tradition that published Charles Darwin or Madame Bovary or Jane Austen or, even on the commercial side, genre definers such as Love Story, The Saint, Enid Blyton, Ludlum, etc, so that might play a part. But strong imprints have been built here too. Kali for Women was definitely comparable to a Virago, for instance.”

 Kumar further says, “A well-researched writer will and should choose a publishing house that will best understand and represent his/her work and that could be an international publishing house or an indie publisher. In India, Penguin has a rich legacy of over 30 years. And this legacy, alongside the editorial, sales and marketing talent we have, makes us a compelling choice for authors.” Kumar also feels that the criteria to choose a publishing house should be beyond just its global presence or stature and more about its sensibilities which are best suited to bring the author’s vision to life. 

From the socio-economic point of view, international publishing houses setting up offices here in India should have led to local players improving the quality of their books to match the international ones, learning from the knowledge and insight gained out of operating in the same market. However, even after 40 years since the first international publishing house set up its India offices, we are yet to see a considerable and favourable shift in the publishing preference of writers towards indigenous publishers, especially the big names, unless it is for translations of their book.

 Why does this divide continue? 

In the world of branding and marketing, international publishers have definitely had an advantage with their brand image due to an international presence. But there are also these key factors that help build a brand image:

 Editorial Quality: For a publisher in any language, it is imperative that the books are error-free. This is not only about cleaning text of grammatical errors but also about engaging with writers to enhance the nuances of the language to add to the delight of the readers. Apart from having a command over language, the excellent quality of editors that are hired post standard language skill tests also ensure skills to identify and commission what would add to their publishing list in terms of content, quality of writing and profile of the writer. 

Production Quality: The perceived value of the price paid for a book, while measured by what the readers think of the author, also depends a lot on the quality of pages, the fonts, layouts and cover designs. There are well laid out standard practices followed internationally to ensure that the quality is not compromised upon. 

Distribution: There are primarily two aspects to distribution: first, that of sustaining long credit periods; and, second, being able to grab a bigger space on the shelves with more profitable and popular titles.

 Marketing and Publicity: Strong writing and great packaging backed by the right amount of publicity for their books ensures that publishers command better recall in the media. 

Deep pockets: Publishers need to have the ability and intent to offer big advances to writers and to sustain bigger teams and overhead costs. Indie publishers have been slow to up their game over the decades. They have largely remained disorganised and continue to be mostly family-owned, which limits their abilities to create clearly marked systems and processes, especially in the areas of editing, production and marketing. 

The cumulative effect of compromising on quality in the production and packaging of books has led to a contrary image in the eyes of the media, which is key for carrying forward word-of-mouth publicity. It has also widened the gap as the volume of books being published by the international publishers in India has increased considerably over time. Another very important factor that has played a vital role in a greater brand perception of international publishers is the perceived access to international availability and publication in the US, UK and Australia which comes with being published by their offices in India. 

On this matter, Thomas Abraham of Hachette says that there is a difference between ‘presence’ and being ‘made available’. He says, “So, we offer books to our group companies, but Hachette is known for a very federal approach and there is no tokenism of any sort or regional quotas. If the companies there want to pick a book, they do so because they like it and because they believe it will work for their market. Just like we offer our UK/US books here but will pick just a few here based on what we feel will work in this market. All of publishing runs on curation.” Niti Kumar of Penguin Random House shares, “Books do need to have a local relevance and cultural appeal.” She adds that publishing with a global company like PRH does open up opportunities for content to enter markets outside India; however, the decision is far from an automatic one. Kumar further says, “Each market and territory makes carefully considered choices about the books they will publish or distribute and these are in line with what audiences in that territory want to read.” Thomas, one of the doyens of Indian publishing, adds that any writer, who labours under the myth that being published by an international publisher automatically gets them international presence, is very much mistaken. He further adds, “Look back at the last 50 years and see how many books have travelled from a local international company to the West. Yes, there are export catalogues and books being ‘made available’, and today eBooks ensure that your book is visible, but there is no substitute to being locally published in a market. I’d say 99% of Indian books that are published abroad are from the Western route of agenting.”

 The Indian Resilience

 Despite tough competition from international publishers entering India with big monies, some indie publishers did foresee a need for change and have managed to compete well with international publishers. Publishers such as Rupa and Westland started by focusing on the above factors. With the passing of years, Rupa also launched a literary publishing arm called Aleph and Chiki Sarkar launched Juggernaut, and both have been able to capture the attention of some established writers and big names in the writing world. There are also indie publishers such as Vitasta, Srishti and Roli, which have been consistently working towards bringing out books that go on to become bestsellers. 

All these publishers have not only competed in quality but have also been able to establish some big-ticket writers and bestsellers from their publishing houses. Though they continue to lose some of the writers they established to big international publishers, again due to the perceived brand power. For example, Preeti Shenoy, Ravinder Singh, Durjoy Dutta, Novoneel Chakraborty and a few others were first published and established as a brand by Srishti, but the publisher lost Durjoy and Singh to bigger international publishers. Renu Kaul, Publisher, Vitasta, an indie publisher, shares, “It’s not been easy. As independents, we have to compete with the big publishers for everything, right from the manuscripts, to shelf space to media attention.” She adds that, because most authors still suffer from a colonial hangover, the indie publishers invariably lose them to big brands. 

Another challenge, she says, is: “Unlike the big ones, we cannot give hefty advances nor do we have budgets to market our books. Despite all these constraints, we give the bigger publishers a good fight.” Arup Bose, Marketing Head of Srishti Publishers, confirms, “International publishers have their strengths, like a bigger and international catalogue of books and authors, plus more resources.” Bose adds that they are a platform for debut authors and have published many titles which have become bestsellers soon after publication. These indie publishers also enjoy the freedom that apparently, and especially given the current Bloomsbury controversy, international publishers don’t. Kaul says that the joy of being in complete control of what and how you want to publish makes up for all the competition. 

She adds, “All these growing years, we have tried very hard to give the term ‘independent publisher’ a meaning, we have dared entrenched systems and succeeded in making a dent in the process of thinking; several of our books have influenced national policy changes.” She also says that since they are small, it is easier for them to resist pressure, recalling the time when Vitasta published a political biography of Rabri Devi when Lalu Prasad, who wielded a lot of power in those days, wanted some chapters removed. “Because I was small, I think I could resist the pressure. Big ones come with baggage and therefore have to be politically correct.” The representatives of both Vitasta and Srishti almost unanimously voice that smaller indie publishers score over big international publishers in their quicker turnaround time. Bose says, “Like most indie publishers, we have a comparatively smaller chain of command, and hence, decision making is faster. We remain more connected to not only the ground realities in our organisation, but within the industry as well.” Kaul adds, “Each of our authors and their books get an equal share of attention. So the authors feel much at ease with us. And I believe because we work closely with our authors, there is less trust deficit.” 

Another fact remains that, barring Penguin, very few readers identify writers with their publishing brands. What they do identify is a good story, told well, and a book with an author name that looks good on the shelf. But a publishing brand does matter to the writers, media, retailers and the festival and award organisers. Indie publishers are also able to provide books at competitive prices which are, at times, given the overhead costs of international publishers, difficult to achieve for them.

 Some indie publishers also have a better reach and market penetration with the ability to reach bookstores in the remotest parts of the country. And yet, we see only a few big names in the English writing world entrusting their books with indie publishers.

 The Way Forward 

Today, some part of this problem may have been answered through digital sales and social media and digital platforms to help spread the word and connect directly with end readers, where some of these indie publishers do much better than the international ones. But the media is important for adding credibility and building an image for a writer, and the media prefers books published by international brands over indie publishers for its books pages. But things are moving towards a change.

 If more indie publishers continue to put effort into investing in quality editors, production and marketing, this bias will change, and is beginning to already. In order to assure writers of an international presence, tying up with indigenous small publishers in the US, UK and Australia would help greatly.

 Brand building is a continuous and long term process and indie publishers need to focus on building a strong brand identity that’s global in its outlook and presentation. Given that the publishing industry plays an important role in shaping the past, present and future of any country through literature, it is imperative that it remains free of biases and encourages all kinds of opinions and voices. But to really break this divide over why choose a distinguished publisher over a Garuda, the need of the hour is for indie publishers to start working towards building the brand perception so that writers don’t shy away from going vocal for local.

 Founder of MarketMyBook, Lipika Bhushan has 15 years of experience in heading marketing in leading publishing houses. She also hosts a YouTube programme called ‘Between The Lines’.

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Twitter under fire for showing Jammu & Kashmir as part of China

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A major controversy has erupted after Twitter India showed Jammu and Kashmir as part of Peoples Republic of China in the timelines.

 The matter was raised Kanchan Gupta, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation (ORF) after tweets showed J&K as a part of China. “So @Twitter has decided to reconfigure geography and declare Jammu & Kashmir as part of People’s Republic of #China. If this is not a violation of #India laws, what is? Citizens of India have been punished for far less. But US Big Tech is above the law?,” Gupta wrote tagging Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. 

Several netizens also asked Prasad and the government to take action against Twitter India. “No @Twitter this is not a freak happenstance,” Gupta said in another tweet. “@Twitter @TwitterIndia so according to you Leh is a part of People’s Republic of China,” said a netizen. 

“Kindly look into this and take action appropriately. It’s high time that these social media giants be held accountable for their stupidity,” a netizen said asking Prasad to action.

 “Please take cognizance of this serious matter and take necessary action against @ TwitterIndia. They cannot take Indian sovereignty for granted. Don’t let them normalise this misadventure,” said another Twitterati. 

With IANS inputs

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United States has most firearms in civilian hands, India comes distant second

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As per a latest survey, the United States has most firearms in civilian hands, and it’s leading the next country, India, with much more population, by huge distance. So how many guns are in circulation in the US?

 The new Small Arms Survey put the number of civilian-held firearms worldwide at 857 million in 2017. There were a further 133 million guns in the hands of militaries that year as well as 22.7 million controlled by law enforcement. The survey noted that it is difficult to precisely gauge the number of civilianheld firearms worldwide and it uses a variety of available data sources including published official documents and research studies, official responses to questionnaires, public opinion surveys, news reports and correspondence with experts.

 The US has more guns than people and the survey estimates that it had 393,300,000 civilian-owned firearms in 2017—120.5 firearms for every 100 residents. Interestingly, in the last survey, the US had 88.8 guns for every 100 residents. So, the country has seen an upward trend, maybe a sign of tension and uneasiness in American society.

 India, with a population of 1.35 billion, comes distant second with an estimated 71.1 million weapons. China, the world’s most populous country, comes third with 49.7 million.

 Pakistan is in fourth place with 43.9 million civilian-owned guns while Russia rounds off the top-five with 17.6 million. The Small Arms Survey, a research project run by a Swiss university, publishes a ranking of estimated civilian gun ownership by country.

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How data is the new oil of business

PM Narendra Modi has described data as the ‘new oil’ and said that India has the potential to lead the world in
the industrial revolution, which relies on big data analytics and digital technology to improve manufacturing.

Captain Preeti Sidharth Singh

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According to Traci Gusher-Thomas, Innovation & Enterprise Solutions Principal, “Any given organisation has 80 percent or more of its data locked up as unstructured or ‘dark’ data,” making it difficult to analyse and gain insights. This is especially true when considering new business models that allow any company—regardless of size or industry—to be nimbler and scale infinitely faster. By accessing services rather than growing internal functions and infrastructure, and by capitalising on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, 21st century enterprises can generate insights from massive amounts of data to improve business operations and transform customer experience.

 When we think about the everything-as-a-service model, the huge dividend is how we use the output of data from the service for optimisation and new insights. In the Indian context, it relates to the huge markets, consumers, health requirements, and safety and security. Not only is it vital to encompass the resource to use it to our advantage and development, but also to guard against economic and social crises and any risks pertaining to the security and sovereignty of the nation. However, the May Day urgency and limitless opportunities are yet to be captured and scaled. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described data as the “new oil” and the “new gold” and said that India has the potential to lead the world in the industrial revolution, which relies on big data analytics and digital technology to improve manufacturing. Many data scientists with expertise in institutional research (especially outcomes, enrolment, issues of diversity, retention and finances), survey research, higher education, public policy, data analysis and analytics, statistics, research design, economics, econometrics, predictive modelling and analytics, strategic planning, policy analysis, program evaluation and assessment are needed as a part of Research and Development in every sphere of the economic, social and security domains. The main responsibilities to be assumed right now are gathering vast amounts of structured and unstructured data and converting them into actionable insights, identifying the data-analytics solutions that hold the most significant potential to drive the growth of organisations, using analytical techniques like text analytics, machine learning, and deep learning to analyse data, thereby, unravelling hidden patterns and trends, encouraging data-driven approach to solving complex business problems, cleansing and validating data to optimise data accuracy and efficacy, and communicating all the productive observations and findings to the company stakeholders via data visualisation. 

India is the second-highest country to recruit employees in the field of data science or data analytics with 50,000 positions available—second only to the United States. The demand for data experts is equally competitive, whether you look at the big companies, the e-commerce industry or even startups. We also need accomplished programmers who are freelancers and/ or absorbed in all companies, institutions and administrative bodies, for statistical and survey research software packages such as Qualtrics, Tableau, SPSS, SAS, Stata, R, data mining, and predictive analytics tools, working with large academic and administrative data sets, and who are excellent with MS Access and Excel and good with relational databases, end-user and query tools, SQL and Python. 

India has turned into a hotbed for cybersecurity experts too. According to a recent study by Indeed.com, the scope of cybersecurity has turned more competitive in India. There are more job post clicks in India as compared to the US and the UK. As per industry stats, hiring is at its most for the roles of Network Security Engineer, Cyber Security Analyst, Security Architect, Cyber Security Manager, and Chief Information Security Officer.

 Let us also take a brief look at the developmental changes and challenges in India, which has been a software provider so far but is now one of the biggest network players and digital usage population on social media. In 2020, India had nearly 700 million Internet users across the country. This figure was projected to grow to over 974 million users by 2025, indicating a big market potential in Internet services for the South Asian country. In fact, India was ranked as the second largest online market worldwide in 2019, second only to China. The number of Internet users was estimated to increase in both urban as well as rural regions, indicating a dynamic growth in access to the Internet.

 Of the total Internet users in the country, a majority accesses the Internet via their mobile phones. There is nearly the same amount of smartphone users as Internet users across the country. The cheap availability of mobile data, a growing smartphone user base in the country, along with the utility value of smartphones, as compared to desktops and tablets, are some of the factors contributing to the mobile-heavy Internet access in India. In terms of mobile connectivity, Jio has emerged as the biggest player in the shortest time.

 Growth is still on the cards. Mega data via mobile usage is a game changer. Data lineage is a straightforward use case for metadata. The goal of data lineage is to track data records over their entire life cycle to its original data source. This can increase trust and acceptance by making data transparent and comprehensible for business users. Moreover, data lineage is very helpful in tracking down error causes or complying with laws and regulations (e.g. in banking and finance). Complete data lineage is also necessary to track and store metadata for every step in the data life cycle. The need for holistic metadata management is thus essential.

 Data warehouse automation (DWA) is also a big topic nowadays. DWA automates DW lifecycles from source system analysis, testing, and documentation to reduce the effort required to build and run a DW. It is in need of metadata, especially technical metadata about data structures, data types or relations, and dependencies. DWA is very effective in cost savings, and when done correctly, can increase agility by accelerating development and change cycles. Moreover, automated tests can also increase the quality and solidity of systems. Similarly, it also helps to use automated extraction and transformation of metadata from data sources.

 Artificial Intelligence and Advance Analysis is also a part of the era of big data. A discussion on advanced analytics and innovative applications of artificial intelligence to get more out of data is being seen. However, with tons of unstructured data and concepts like data lakes, it becomes increasingly hard to stay on top of things. This is why metadata is necessary to ensure that big data does not just become a large collection of unusable trash data. Metadata is an essential tool that enables algorithms to automatically analyse and match data and thereby make big data manageable and provide valuable results. Metadata also helps data scientists explore data sets and extract insights. For example, it can be hard for data scientists to understand certain data without knowing where it comes from, how the data was calculated and its meaning in terms of business. Metadata is often a good candidate for open data and data monetization, since actual business data is usually too confidential or too business-critical to share with external parties. For instance, it is not very likely that a car manufacturer would share its customer data. However, metadata like abstracted GPS profiles or engine metadata are not that critical and can be valuable to external partners, for instance, to improve route guidance systems or provide more accurate insurance rates. Coming to the advisable application of it, with our own geosatellite GaGan, many possibilities for more discrete innovation and application is underway. There is also a trend to provide selected data through open APIs to enable external parties to explore and use all kinds of data for new applications. Data shared here is mostly rehashed metadata coming from various processes throughout an organisation. 

Despite the large number of Internet users in the country, Internet penetration levels have taken longer to catch up equally. At the same time, the number of women who have access to the internet is much lower than men in the country and the bias is even more evident in rural India. Similarly, internet usage is lower among older adults in the country due to lack of internet literacy and technological knowhow. By encouraging internet accessibility among marginalised groups including women, older people and rural inhabitants in the country, India’s digital footprint has significant headroom left to grow into. 

Personally, I also see a vast scope for reforms in cyber laws and regulations and the need for trained human resources for safeguarding against hackers and countering cyberattacks. Any company’s outreach should be legitimate and ethical. India must gear up before the business and security environments are secured by having its own servers, bilateral agreements and implementation of cyber policies and data taxations under company law. The rapid development of information technology is already posing new challenges before the law regarding such issues. These challenges are not confined to any single traditional legal category but arise in, for example, Criminal Law, Intellectual Property Law, Contract and Tort. One such challenge is the growing menace of data theft, which refers to when any information in the form of data is illegally copied or taken from a business or other individual without his knowledge or consent. 

Data is a valuable asset in this modern IT-driven era. It is an important raw material for call centres and IT companies, and an important tool and weapon for corporates wishing to capture larger market shares. Due to the importance of data in this new era, its security is also a major issue with the IT industry. Piracy of data is a threat faced by the IT players, who spend millions to compile or buy data from the market, and whose profits depend upon the security of the data. The ongoing case of Facebook and WhatsApp before the Supreme Court deals with the age-old debate of ‘national security vs privacy’, with the Court tasked yet again with balancing the two out. The case, which started with the issue of linking Aadhaar with social media accounts—now turning into a landmark case—could redefine intermediary liability law as well as bring in social media rules for the first time. Given the crucial role that intermediaries are playing with regard to protecting the individual from the prying eyes of the State, the case has particularly significant implications for privacy as well. One such issue that has come up for debate is on whether intermediaries are under an obligation to decrypt the information in their possession and, secondly, whether the government can set up its own decryption agency, and what the surveillance powers and capabilities of such an agency would be. 

I will sum up with this awakening thought by K.N. Govindacharya: “We have to think what should be the swadeshi framework of technology. Everything stemmed from the European vision of the globe and what was useful for their development: Free flow of capital and technology but not of humans. India was a nation of software exporters but hardly had a role in hardware, artificial intelligence, robotics, biotech or genetic engineering. In 1999-2000 (software engineers fixing Y2K), we were like computeriya mazdoors; like girmitiyas.” 

Captain Priti Sidharth Singh is a commercial pilot flying Boeing ‪737-700/800/900, logged seven thousand hours on JET serving as Senior Commander (Line Training Captain) at Air India Express, and is also active in Social and Development National Organisations. She is currently pursuing a PhD from IIT.

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‘Dream big and just follow your heart’: Dr Leena S, Founder, The Nail Artistry

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Dr Leena S

Dr Leena S, founder of The Nail Artistry sat with NewsX for an exclusive chat in its special segment called NewsX A-List.  Dr S was born and raised in Dubai, she’s a global citizen, a dentist from the Oxford dentist college who found a calling and a dream of founding ‘The Nail Artistry.’

The nail artistry offers predominantly luxurious nail services and other beauty services which have become popular. They have the best beauty products from brands like Balmain and Nashi Argan. They have the highest protocols when it comes to sterilization procedures. Leena has gone ahead and created this mega-brand by the name of The Nail Artistry, it is the most luxurious nail salon across the country.

Talking about how Dr Leena created this brand, she said, “Well, the entire credit of the nail artistry would go to my husband. Well, this story behind it. We were settled in Mumbai. And we have to, you know travel to Cochin for my treatment. And so when I came to Cochin there was no place where I could get my nail services done. And for me to get that done, I had to always travel to Mumbai because I was very regular to different nail salons in Mumbai. So finally, my husband came up with this idea that why don’t you start one salon in Cochin, but I was a little sceptical about it, considering the fact I was not very sure how the people would accept it. But I’m very, very happy today that I really started the nail salon and very elated about it because my husband was like it’s okay, if nobody comes to the salon, you can sit yourself and get yourself pampered. That gave me the confidence to go ahead and build the so called ‘The Nail Artistry.”

Dr S was studying dentistry, to going ahead and being a successful model and she is now running this highly successful chain, which is a lot of franchisees. She said, “Well, you know, I did my 12 grade in Dubai as I was born and brought up there and I came down to Bangalore to do my bachelor’s in dental surgery. So I had no experience in business whatsoever. I have always had an inclination towards the performing arts and classical dance and always influenced by the Bollywood and Malayalam cinema. So after a short stint in Malayalam movies and doing a couple of ads, I got married, but I guess so destiny got me to don the mantle of women entrepreneurs, today I’m totally enjoying it. And I guess I’m totally elated about The Nail Artistry and I’m very, very happy about it.”

When asked about the speciality of her brand, Dr Leena said, “In Cochin, when we started off we had very nail specific services. Like we have the extensions, the 3D nail art, gel polishes. Apart from eyelash extensions and also microblading, and also we provide world-class pedicure and manicure.”

Dr Leena further said, “But when we started in Chennai, we also have the hair-related services using the world’s best products like Balmain and Nashi and all that and so on. Apart from the microblading and everything. So our USP I would say is probably our sterilization process, which is called the autoclave sterilization, which is generally seen in hospitals and dental clinics, which is not generally used many of the nail fellows. And I would say that all our clients vouch on our services and hospitality because this is very, very safe with us. And apart from this, we have individual iPads and air pods given to each and every client who sits in our hair or nails or, and they enjoy currently, given the range of movies and Netflix and Amazon. Each client is treated like royalty at the nail artistry.”

When The Nail Artistry was first opened, it was very nail-specific, but now they were expanding in Cochin with hair and waxing services as well so that their clients in Cochin could enjoy the luxury. Dr Leena S dreams to build one salon in each major city of India in the next 5 years. “I’m hoping to accomplish this”,  she said.

Dr S says that it was his husband who stood by her in all her phases. According to her, “Its my husband who stood by me through all my failures and success, I would say, I mean, if it is not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am. And I’m eternally grateful for how he has always given me the confidence and always been optimistic at every failure of mine and on obviously not to mention my mother and sister who always stood by me through my failures.”

The Nail Artistry has registered many awards in its name. As Dr Leena S said, “Well, in a short span of time, we have received a lot of awards, you know, for the best luxurious new salon. I’m extremely honoured for this recognition. And I’m looking forward to getting a couple of more of them in the future.”

Addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Dr Leena said, “We are living in a very challenging time as of now and being a salon owner it is very imperative for me to maintain the best hygiene in the salon for the betterment of my staff as well as of the client. So, you know every day probably like every alternate day fumigation and disinfection is something which we strictly follow. And apart from that, as I mentioned before, autoclave sterilization is one thing our customers would vouch for and gives them the confidence they can come to the salon again and again because each instrument is being autoclave sterilized and packaged in individual pouches so that there is no reason for them to worry.

Dr S further said, “All our staff has been given disposable PPE kits and all the necessary precautions have been given. Apart from this every customer who walks in, obviously we take only by appointments every customer who walks in, we give them an individual mask a sanitizer and gloves so that they feel very, very safe with us. So that there’s no reason they need to worry.”

Dr Leena S shared a piece of advice for budding entrepreneurs, she said, “I would just say dream big, and just follow your heart and do not lose the grip and confidence. Because if you want to follow your heart and dream big and you have the persuasion, trust me your dreams can be achieved.”

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