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How not to write for an intelligent audience ! July 22, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in media, rant.
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I am shocked by the poor quality of journalism coming out of so-called reputed magazines in India. This article from Business Standard reposted on rediff has several problems : its about “Why Indian IT pros don’t buy flashy cars”.

It starts off with:

Top-level people working in IT companies in India draw salaries that are at par with their global counterparts and even lead lives that can, at times, make globe-trotting executives envious.

Is that so ? Could you quote your source please ?

However, when in the country, our IT professionals tend not to use fast and flashy automobiles and stick to mid-segment cars. Why? They’re taking a cue from their bosses, that’s why.

Firstly, quite a bold statement to make. So give me empirical evidence – no anecdotal evidence please. Lets have numbers about how many executives were studied, from what parts of India (consumption patterns differ among metros too), over what period of time and split acorss income group. Did you ask them if they were taking a cue from their bosses or did they tell you so ? How you pose a question in a survey can alter survey results – our lessons from behavorial economics.

And then :

At times, Premji also travels in autorickshaws and public buses, while Murthy prefers an Ambassador to cruise around the Garden City.

Source please. What do you mean by “at times” – emergency, regularly, once a month or just once. What were his other choices ? Sit in his Toyota corolla and be stuck in the traffic ? These phrases are better avoided in serious matters are these and are often used to conceal ignorance. “Hand-waving” is the expression.

The article then goes anecdotal :

“Some of my senior colleagues who now work in India (after a stint in the US) are using modest cars like the Suzuki Swift or Ford Fiesta, taking a clue from senior executives in the company. However, when they were abroad, like in the US for instance, they drove around in BMWs and Mercs,” a senior Wipro official said on condition of anonymity.

Ofcourse quoting someone is okay – but what is the purpose of the above assertion. Is it to prove the author’s original assertion ? Or is it an effort to provide a balanced view – contrary evidence that often comes up.

It is starting to get amateurish here :

An official at Infosys agreed and shared a similar experience. ‘It is not that these executives cannot afford luxury saloons, but they feel it is not right to travel in these cars, especially when their bosses use simple cars.’

Is this official talking for himself ? Or is he a software engineer trainee who thinks that might be the reason ?

He now seems to come to the point :

Another factor why Indian top executives prefer modest cars is that “Indians generally tend to drive compact midsize cars due to poor infrastructure conditions in the country. Moreover, higher degree of taxes on foreign vehicles in India and stratospheric maintenance costs are deterrents”, another Infosysian said.

….but forgot that they are not infosysians, they are infoscions.

However, Aftek Infosys managing director Ranjit Dhuru had a different take on the subject.“A high-end car is an easily noticeable symbol of wealth and Indians generally don’t like to flaunt. They might be buying less noticeable things like expensive villas or real estate in many locales, they might be connoisseurs of other expensive items like art or they might be taking trips abroad… At the end of the day it his personal choice.”

Okay, you quote someone again. No problem. And then he adds :

Dhuru has an SUV and a Merc and uses them alternately.

“Uses them alternately ??” What is that supposed to mean ? Are they people who drive them together ? Alternately as in every other day ? occasion ? Is that even relevant ?

All in all, this article is poorer than high school quality. It could have been written over a cup of coffee in little over 30 minutes without moving from your desk by just talking to a couple of your friends/contacts in these companies and throwing in some arbitrary quotes and assertions. These serious studies are conducted over a period of atleast a month with people collecting data and quoting their sources – they are not meant to be this amateurish. So Mr. Prabodh Chandrasekhar & Rajesh S Kurup – find another job or go back to school.

I am not sure why this is happening or if this has always happened and its just that I was not well-exposed to other media to not make it out. In my understanding its a combination of several factors – poor writing skills from school, lack of exposure to serious media reports and scholarly articles, lack of background in economics/finance – often journalists tend to think they having an English honors degree suffices. Infact, quite the contrary – my understanding is that some background with good writing skills make a better business journalists than English graduates with half-baked knowledge of business/finance/economics. Alas ! I wish I had data to support this claim !

This, by the way, makes interesting reading.

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Comments»

1. Ramyahttp://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=10212350435763677663 - July 23, 2006

Sharath,

I’m dying out laughing here.

By the way, just so that my comment doesn’t get critiqued, in the above statement I was quoting myself and I do have evidence to back it up.

It was like they (Prabodh Chandrasekhar & Rajesh S Kurup) were typing down their thoughts, assumptions, whims and fantasies in keeping with India abroad’s theme – as it happens.

Or alternately, it is quite possible this was their encrypted resignation letter (pure speculation here).

[:)]

2. aquarianalien - July 23, 2006

Based on anecdotal evidence 🙂 … I think all of us Indians have good writing skills drilled in to us during school, then we join our degree programs in which there is no importance placed in English language studies at all, the concept of quoting and citing references just does not exist, can’t really blame a system where everyone is encouraged to rehash to the best of their ability to actually even consider that they might want to give credit for work that is in fact original.

3. aquarianalien - July 23, 2006

Thanks for the link.. makes for interesting reading…I had been wondering about the same as well..i guess you are generalist who specializes in his interests:)

4. Sharath Rao - July 23, 2006

I think all of us Indians have good writing skills drilled in to us during school,

I really am not sure about that one. Coming from the school I did, it was certainly not an ‘also-ran’ school – one of the biggest in the region and most reputed in the area – but writing skills were definitely poor.

Now who am I comparing it to ? Not to other schools ( as i fairly should ) in which case, it wud probably be higher but then there have been very few good writers. (<10 in a class of 150)


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