A story of debt. A story of opportunities

In this podcast economist Ajit Ranade talks about the larger picture behind the culture of debt among urban youth that Gayatri Jayaraman describes in her book. And the real story is very different from what you’d imagine at first glance

Charles Assisi

[Gayatri Jayaraman and Ajit Ranade. Photograph of Ranade by BMW Guggenheim Lab (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr (cropped from original)]

They are young, educated, and have good jobs. Yet they find themselves in the grip of debt and on the edge of poverty.

Gayatri Jayaraman narrated their stories in her book Who Me, Poor? (We carried as extract from the book—you can read it here.)

But are these just stories of misguided people making poor choices? Or is it a symptom of a changing India that policy makers ought to pay closer attention to? How do these stories fit into the larger India story? After all, this is an undocumented phenomenon—no data exists; just these real stories as anecdotal evidence.

To understand what might be going on here, we invited Ajit Ranade to be a part of this conversation with the author. Ranade, who is chief economist at the Aditya Birla Group, is an economist and political analyst of global consequence.

Listen in for a worm’s eye view and a bird’s eye view to get a more holistic picture of the India story:

  • Are the millennials an entitled generation? Or is this so-called sense of entitlement simply a sign of evolution and maturing markets?
  • With the community support structure for migrants vanishing, what role can a more enlightened urban planning policy play in providing certain public goods?
  • For that matter, how do policy makers look at issues?
  • Are there parallels from other parts of the world that indicate that this might be a wider phenomena—an anomaly between free migration for jobs and lack of resources like access to affordable housing near the place of work?
  • And why all this churn is actually a story of entrepreneurial opportunities.

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Aditya Biswas on Oct 16, 2017 12:52 p.m. said

A very interesting debate. The situation in the debate is similar to the current economic situation potrayed in the group. The veteran economist and the journalist subtly take on the author calling the content too emotionally charged. They put forth the weight of their age and experience to put forth the view of naivety of consumer behaviour behind these economic difficulties. Several key issues were not addressed here - role of the media pushing such consumer behaviour and the blind adoption of western system of regulations and industrial standards within a short period of time (which evolved over a century in the west). The veteran economist conveniently put himself in a position of a observer. However, the shortcoming in insight of the past generation (which might not be recognised by the industry) is equally if not more responsible for this uncertainty-filled society. It is relevant to take responsibility for one's own wellbeing nonetheless.

About the author

Charles Assisi
Charles Assisi

Co-founder and Director

Founding Fuel

Charles Assisi is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience to back him. He is co-founder and director at Founding Fuel, and co-author of the book The Aadhaar Effect. He is a columnist for Hindustan Times, one of India's most influential English newspaper. He is vocal in his views on journalism and what shape it ought to take in India. He speaks on the theme at various forums and is often invited by various organizations to teach their teams how to write.

In his last assignment, he wore two hats: That of Managing Editor at Forbes India and Editor at ForbesLife India. As part of the leadership team, his mandate was to create a distinctive business title in a market many thought was saturated. When Forbes India was finally launched after much brainstorming and thinking through, it broke through the ranks and got to be recognized as the most influential business magazine in the country. He did much the same thing with ForbesLife India where he broke from convention and launched the title to critical acclaim.

Before that, he was National Technology Editor and National Business Editor at the Times of India, during the great newspaper wars of 2005. He was part of the team that ensured Times of India maintained top dog status in Mumbai on the face of assaults by DNA and Hindustan Times.

His first big gig came in his late twenties when German media house Vogel Burda marked its India debut with CHIP a wildly popular technology magazine. He was appointed Editor and given a free run to create what he wanted. During this stint, he worked and interacted with all of Vogel Burda's various newsrooms across Europe and Asia.

Charles holds a Masters in Economics from Mumbai Universtity and an MBA in Finance. Along the way he earned the Madhu Valluri Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Polestar Award for Excellence in Business Journalism.

In his spare time, he reads voraciously across the board, but is biased towards psychology and the social sciences. He dabbles in various things that catch his fancy at various points. But as fancies go, many evaporate as often as they fall on him.

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