DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bhopal Notes - 6: A new eatery and cheap Chinese electronics

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An offering at Chi Kitchen

It has been open for some time and seem to have become pretty popular. I am talking of Chi Kitchen – an outlet at the DB Mall for what they call Pan-Asian food. It is a full-fledged restaurant unlike the food stalls of the food court on the third floor and one can have sit-down lunches and dinners inside its pretty well done-up interiors.

Our entire family visited last Sunday and found some of the dishes pretty good. The South-East Asian prawn ensemble was pretty good as was the dish of fish crispies. On an earlier occasion I had found the Thai Yellow prawn curry eminentyly edible with rice. Like in Thailand, they have three colours in curries – red, yellow and green. The green is not supposed to be hot, the yellow one is mildly hot and the red one is like fire. For those who are not the fire eating type the yellow one with a little tempered heat should do and the green one perhaps will be more likeable for those who give a wide berth to chillies. The food on offer is generally good but not the kind about which one could write home.


 Chi Kitchen, nonetheless, fills a long-existent gap - the absence of authentic South-East Asian food. Randezvous, a good outfit on the first floor of the stores by the side of Ravi Shankar Nagar Post office was inexplicably wound up far too soon. We had very good  South-East Asian curries, especially prawn curries there on many an occasion. Though the Rice Bowl is also around, but Chi Kitchen is located in the very centrally located DB Mall that now is a haunt for most of young and old of the city.

                                                 *******

In the Hyper City, while browsing through the spread that was on offer in the electronic section, I came across a pair of head phones made by Intex at an incredibly low price of only Rs. 200/-. Some of the reputed brands sell their head phones for thousands of rupees. Of course, much depends on the degree of sophistication in the unit. This one was a simple, matter-of-fact headphone with the only sophistication of having a button for volume control. Intex is an up-‘n’-coming Indian electronic firm selling a wide range of electronic products that are far cheaper than those of the established brands. One guesses, it currently is competing with Micromax which has become pretty big – so much so that it even sponsored a whole international cricket matches series.

The only snag, however, is that the products of both, Intex and Micromax are manufactured in China and that is how these are remarkably cheap without compromising on quality. The product designing is done in India but, apparently, we do not have the wherewithal to manufacture them at low cost. This is precisely why China is now known as the “factory of the world”. Every firm desirous of finding a stable place in the world market gets its products manufactured in China, whether it is Japanese cameras or touristy ceramic curios for the US markets or electrical kitchen appliances of our own Bajaj Electricals. All this happens because of the incredibly depressed labour costs.


But, the Intex headphones set me wondering how they could sell them so cheap. There must have been some production cost, then the cost to move it after payment of local taxes, if any. There also would have been a handler for its export who would have incurred some shipment costs. At this end there had to be an importer who diverted the product to a dealer to be sent to a retailer. There must
Intex headphone
have been hordes of men and institutions involved who had their respective cuts and yet the product is so cheap. So how much would it cost in China? May be Rs.30 or Rs.40 ? Long ago (it now seems so) before the advent of smart phones we used to buy basic Nokia cell phones for Rs.1300 or 1400/-. An acquaintance who had been to China around that time told us that such phones were available there for Rs.80 to Rs. 100/-.

That is why one wonders whether Modi’s “Make in India” would ever be successful. Our products, with our kind of labour laws and tax regime would hardly be able to compete with Chinese products under the current dispensations of the World Trade Organisation. We could perhaps produce goods to meet the domestic demand but in international markets Chinese would hammer us out unless, of course, something extraordinary happens and China loses steam or Indian labour and tax laws are drastically changed.

 That, currently, seems like a pipe dream.

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