But despite such heavy dose of bad news the UPA government has not lost its sense of humor. The PM never known for his witticism or machismo was the first to break ranks by suggesting that ministers should not travel abroad in order to tackle domestic inflation. Surely, this must be voodoo economics at its very best. But something far better was from reserved for the Minister for Panchyathi Raj – he was asked not to travel to Norway – ostensibly to cut costs. Never knew that Norway had Panchayaths in the first place!
Nevertheless all this has given some idea to the entire business community and especially corporates to deal with the emerging situation. After all someone even today respects the PM for his knowledge on economics. Naturally, cost cutting the mantra that was absent for the past decade or so in the Indian context suddenly seems to reappear with a vengeance. As I settled in the next row behind two young men in a wedding I notice both animatedly discussing plans to reduce costs for their company. “Tomorrow is Friday and we need to report to the Board,” said the first. The second one added remorsefully “and today is Thursday.” The first gave the second a dirty look. Their faces were a picture and they were indeed desperate. Obviously they were under a mandate from their Board to give some concrete ideas to cut costs. Suddenly the first one got excited. Surely something brilliant (or was it sinister?) must have crossed his mind. “Hey buddy, let us cut the travel plans of all our people. Let us propose cancellation any tour to Russia, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Finland and New Zealand.” Just as the second one blinked, the first one did some calculations using his mobile and announced aloud that the savings could possibly be Rs 1 crore per month. The second was unimpressed. Sheepishly he said people flew by business class in their company to foreign countries as a standard practice and added another 30% to that figure. Encouraged by this indulgence of the later, the first one quipped, “people from our company stay in five star hotels abroad, don’t they? So I revise it to Rs 2 crores per month that is approximately Rs 25 crores every year.” It was obvious even to me by then that they had a target to meet. They once again went back to their original list of countries. Scratching their heads, they added a few countries in the Frigid Zone to their list. “Japan” said the first. That was shot down by the second instantly. Impressed with their list and their own morality they recalculated their workings. This time it was not on their mobiles. They opened their laptop and the magic of excel was there for everyone to see. Oblivious to the fact that they were in a wedding they were working at break neck speed. The final figures - a whopping Rs 45 crores savings in the next twelve months! I was impressed by their speed, demeanor and of course the ability of the modern finance professionals to churn up solutions when seemingly none existed. It was my turn to get excited. I walked up to them and shook hands and got introduced to them. We exchanged cards. I noticed that they were from a refrigeration company! Yatha Praja – Thatha Raja. Or is it the other way around?