Bottle of Lies: A Short Book Review

Having finally finished Bottle of Lies, an investigative narration of the rot that runs within the Indian pharmaceutical industry by Katherine Eban, I am appalled. The extent of the subterfuge detailed in this book – one that paints India in a poor light and repeatedly references ‘jugaad’ and ‘chalta hai’ as reasons for poor drug manufacturing practices – is mind-boggling. Selling substandard drugs in markets with least regulation, falsifying and lying to regulators including the US FDA, criminal intimidation of plant inspectors… The list goes on… While the book focuses heavily on Ranbaxy and the whistleblower Dinesh Thakur, some of India’s biggest companies in this industry have been named and shamed. These are listed companies, where one would assume there would be enough scrutiny built in at multiple levels – exchanges, institutional investors, analysts, credit rating agencies, auditors, etc. forcing them to conduct themselves ethically.

While her criticism of the industry’s practices is appreciated, her general commentary on India’s lackadaisical attitude towards things such as manufacturing quality is painful to read, especially after it’s peppered with a healthy dose of pseudo racists rants about India’s brown-nosed corporate culture. Prone to prose, exaggeration and hyperbole, Katherine Eban nonetheless manages to deliver an important book. Keeping aside questions around efficacy and quality, when shards of glass and cancer-causing impurities can contaminate the pills you’ve been taking, this becomes an important conversation to have…

Hashtags and TV Shows

There’s an interesting case study on data-driven production decisions that companies like Amazon and Netflix make. It goes on to talk about how the two used data to produce TV shows on the same concept – US Senators. One worked (House of Cards, Netflix) the other didn’t (Alpha House, Prime). Continue reading

As Lady Gaga Said, Social Media Is the Toilet of the Internet!

Over the few days that followed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s capture by the Pakistani army, I was added to a WhatsApp group by a friend who promised me that I would enjoy the kind of political discussions taking place on that platform. It turned out to be an echo chamber of ring-wing propaganda, where conspiracy theories and pseudo nationalist agendas found a home. Apparently, the Congress was responsible for the Pulwama attack and Rahul Gandhi had himself drafted the plan to kill those 40 chaps. Oh, and there was someone on the group who thought that the name ‘India’ was ‘sickular.’ The fact that the terms India and Hindu both have a common genesis and share etymology was lost on this erudite crowd. Continue reading

Bleed Blue?

The promenade at Worli was swarming with people in blue waving the Indian tricolor. There was chanting and jeering as bikes and cars passed the sea-front, slowing down to partake in the revelry and boisterous merry-making. The vuvuzelas could barely be heard over the shouts and whistles of policemen trying to control the traffic. As the queues outside wine-shops and popular eating joints grew larger by the minute, the sky was set ablaze with fireworks by enthusiastic fans. One could be forgiven for thinking it was Independence Day. Continue reading