Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Sweets and the world


The Doha ministerial meet concluded when we Nepalis were busy celebrating Tihar. The way that meeting went, it became clear that developed nations will have their way in dictating the world trade order. If the initiatives through the WTO were to fail, they would force on other arrangements like regional trade blocs and new rules and agreements, and thus relentlessly pursue their agenda of charting out the future of global trade. After all, the WTO is more about politics than economy. For Nepal, where even normal diplomacy is a far cry, it is too much to expect that we would come out winners in international trade diplomacy.

Globalisation is a buzzword to stay. What is in store for Nepal in future can be witnessed by the surge in the consumption of "Indian sweets" in Kathmandu. A new shop has just opened on New Road, with millions invested in it, and others have also sprung up in the Valley. What these outlets are pushing is the concept of branded sweets. Despite a couple of business groups supporting the cause of indigenous lakhamari, the traditional Newari sweetmeat, by sending that out rather than Indian mithai, the jerris are in general are becoming passe. The crowds in the sweet shops are generally Nepali, but it is amusing at first and then a little disturbing to watch them place their orders in broken Hindi. People seem to think that like English to order burgers at McDonald's or Wimpys, Hindi is essential to deal with foreign sweets.

This Beed wonders where, precisely is the anti-Indian sentiment that causes Indian political thinkers and media so much heartburn? Perhaps it is simply wishful-or delusional-thinking on the part of some misguided souls. Or might it not simply be dead political rhetoric? Economic boundaries are certainly becoming more important than political ones.

One lesson that we need to learn from globalisation is the importance of branding a product and reinforcing that with relentless advertising to ensure continuous brand recall. The traditional sweetmeat shops in the lanes of Maru in Kathmandu or behind Patan's Darbar Square will succumb to the onslaught of these trans-regional companies if local sahujis do not innovate by automating and branding their production, and building economies of scale to support advertising expenses. The same goes for many other products. Think of how agricultural products are being packaged, branded and sold or the way in which instant noodles have changed dietary habits in Nepal.

The Beed would like to share some of his millenarian insights: there are in the world today large companies that have more economic powers than even the colonial superpowers of yore. The total business that a company like Coke or Citibank does is more than many larger economies of the world. No surprise, then that the future will be dictated by these companies and they will influence the economic policies of countries. Countries like Nepal will be silent spectators to this change if they do not react now.

The next step in the world economic order would probably be the linking of trade with investments. We will never be able to change the world order, but it would be a much wiser idea to predict it, be pro-active and think of how to regulate it. Foreign investment and management in media will come, so will foreign travel agencies and consulting companies. I'm right. Just consider the Tihar sweets this year.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)