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To be or not to be

I spotted Narayanan at a distance at the Golf Club. His bright yellow T-shirt, his trademark, was clearly visible from a distance. Narayanan was a fourth-generation entrepreneur from a respected business family of Tamil Nadu. Their family had varied business interests in chemicals, consumable durables and sugar. Besides, they have recently entered the software business too. Despite such diverse business interests, it is textiles that remain their flagship business. He was a graduate from a business school in the US. Like many scions of business families in India, Narayanan was a progressive, yet a traditionalist. More importantly like Midas, whatever he touched turned into gold. It was no wonder that Narayanan was the family in-charge of this important business. But of late rumour mill has it that their textile business had hit the speed breaker. I walked upto Narayanan to find out the truth.

“Hello, good morning Narayanan,” I said. “Hello, Good Morning Narada, nice to see you,” replied Narayanan. “What’s news? How’s your textile business?” I enquired, coming straight to the point. “All’s well Narada. Waiting for January 2005 for the business to go up,” he replied as he played the stroke. “Astrological predictions eh?” I instantaneously remarked, knowing very well that people generally believe more in astrology than in their ability. “No Narada, not at all. Don’t you know that textiles trade would be fully integrated into the WTO regime by January 2005? This regime would replace the existing quota system. Once the quota system is disbanded, it is expected that China and India because of their natural competitiveness would dominate the global textile trade. In fact even the WTO in their latest report acknowledges this fact,” Narayanan explained. “I know. I am broadly aware of this opening up. But do you mean to say that once the quota system is abolished, automatically India would benefit,” I enquired, trying to suppress the mischief loaded in the question. “Logically yes Narada,” he said. I could see the diplomat in him. “Ideally the Uruguay Round Negotiations gave all the players – the developed and the developing countries 10 long years to prepare for this day,” he succinctly explained the rationale for the 10-year period provided by the WTO regime for the textile trade integration. “Our textile industry is eagerly awaiting this new regime,” he said and asked the caddy for the towel as we walked towards his car.

“But Narayanan, I read that some developing countries are trying to postpone this scheduled opening up from January 2005 by three years. Mexico, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are supposed to have jointly requested the WTO for an emergency meeting to address this issue,” I said trying to prove that I was abreast of all global trade developments. Narayanan’s eyes glowed instantaneously. “You mean to say.. that is .. will .. postponed,” he said excitedly. “Are you sure?” he enquired, trying to regain his composure. “This is what I read in some web sites,” I replied. He seemed to be lost in deep thought for a minute. “This is great, wonderful, magnificent, this would give more time for the Indian textile industry to prepare. We need more time take on the Chinese competition, more so my group,” he said contradicting what he just said a couple of minutes back. Then he made a few calls in his mobile phone, perhaps to crosscheck what I said. “No Narada, you are wrong. It is true that there was lobbying for a postponement, but the WTO has ruled otherwise very recently and the integration would be as scheduled,” he said hiding his emotions this time. “Is it bad news for you? Will it adversely affect you?” I asked worriedly. “On the contrary Narada, no, not at all. Indian textile industry is waiting for this precise moment,” he said contradicting himself yet again as he smiled mischievously and drove off in his car. Whether the Indian textile industry is prepared or not for the scheduled January 2005 integration, I wouldn’t know.

Last modified on Sunday, 07 July 2013 07:36