“No wonder you’re late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow” Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)
More than two days slow, Fortune's latest India special issue is also not a case for timely and incisive business journalism.
It takes effort to even begin reading a report on a billion strong country, with huge income disparities, that starts with "Vijay Mallya". Yet, surely the flamboyant Mr Mallya grabs the attention of Fortune’s typical reader. But then, who is Fortune’s typical reader ? American corporates and investors ? Most of them have been in India for a long time and already know what Fortune is talking about. Those coming new to India ? Please refer above comment of the Mad Hatter.
As for the rest of this India special, its full of Fortune's typical high-on-style and low-on-substance reporting. What's new? Certainly not this -
- India v/s China ? Yawn, Businessweek beat them to it.
- Strong growth rates, IT sector, foreign investment, modern Indian factories (note Bajaj "Automotive" not Bajaj Auto), call-centre operator, blah, blah. Yawn again.
- Mandatory mugs of shiny, happy, people, i.e. business families and their rich and wealthy next generation. I'm sure Clay Chandler and his team had a good time at their parties.
- Poverty alongside progress - check the dhoti-clad old man standing next to a section of a new highway. At least its better than their earlier photo of a sadhu with a mobile phone.
- Also don't miss an atrocious, full-page drawing of India with lotuses coming out of key places, for eg. Bombay (Bollywood, Ambanis), Chennai (call centre), etc. etc. Completely puerile, tasteless and pointless.
- The only good write-up is Suketu's Mehta piece on Bombay. After all, he's probably the only author in this report who knew his subject well.
At the end of the day, Fortune is a magazine and I’d assume its model revolves around getting more ads and more readers. This issue serves both purposes. Most well-heeled Indians (and they are large in number) would grab this issue which should be at almost all bookstores and newspaper stalls. And the issue has loads of ads from Indian companies – so that takes care of the business.
For those who want an alternative - and probably far more timelier - opinion on India and China, check out the Economist’s last survey on India and China and their earlier survey on India.
For those looking for eye-catching photos and catchy stories, this Fortune is a must have. After all, as Alice mused “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations”.