By Indranil Halder
Bloomberg calls him one of the world’s 50 most influential financial figures. He was at The Royal Oaks Hotel, Balmain to interview John Zubrzycki , author of The Shortest History of India. Organised by Roaring Stories Bookshop, Balmain. His name is Satyajit Das.
Who is Satyajit Das?
Satyajit is a Bengali millionaire who was a former banker and corporate treasurer. He is also a financial commentator and writer.
Born in Calcutta, India. His family emigrated to Australia. His dad was refugee from Bangladesh to the Indian city of Kolkata after partition of Bengal. Achieved bachelor’s degrees in Commerce and Law from the University of New South Wales. MBA from Australian Graduate School of Management. Worked for Common Wealth Bank and Merrill Lynch. Was Treasurer of the TNT Transport Group. Authored books such as Traders, Guns & Money and Extreme Money (was long-listed for the Financial Times/ Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award).
Balmain Book Launch, conversation & Satyajit Das:
During The Shortest History of India, book launched, Satyajit Das skilfully manoeuvre John Zubrzycki (author of Last Nizam of Hyderabad) through several layers of five thousand year old Indian history. History that touched Kamasutra, Taj Mahal , Indian railway system and modern techno savvy India.
A India, that has made its mark on the world from Buddhism to Bollywood, even after experiencing sever drainage of wealth with brutal invasions and starvations. India’s wealth was generated by provinces such as Bengal. According to author William Dalrymple (The Anarchy) the province of Bengal was one of the biggest contributors to ‘ India with a population of 150 million and accounted for one-fifth of the world’s total’ (great than China). Bengal became prosperous and wealthy from maritime trade as supplier of goods from Asia to Europe, agriculture and textile manufacturing. Bengal was described by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb as ‘the Paradise of Nations and François Bernier (French physician and traveller)compared Bengal’s ‘fertility, wealth and beauty’ as far greater than Egypt. Even today, history of world famous super luxurious yacht Nahlin (sold recently to James Dyson for £25 million pounds) revolved around the fertile soil of Bengal and its bountiful jute cultivation.
Author John Zubrzycki, stated in Chapter 6: Merchants and Mercenaries of his book, that Robert Clive netted £2.5 million for East India Company and £250,000 for himself from Bengal (making him one of the wealthiest men in United Kingdom)right after the battle of Plassey. According to a research, by economist Utsa Patnaik and published by Columbia University Press, United Kingdom drained approximately $45 trillion dollars from India (between 1765 to 1938). But again wealth creation in India continues. Today, with a population of 1.3 billion, India is moving forward. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, there is going to be 550 million middle class people in 2025 states by John Zubrzycki.
As part of the book launch conversation, Satyajit Das, focused on modern India which needs to create 60million jobs by 2030. Reason is it’s ever growing young population. When asked about India and it’s globally recognised IT sector, Satyajit Das feels at the moment, India is only leapfrogging with technology but much needed focus is required in manufacturing, education and health. India is falling behind Asia’s superpower China.
For India to accelerate, the country needs to look at multiple markets across the globe other than just United States, Russia and United Kingdom. Big or small, more markets can help with job creations and economic growth. Australia can certainly collaborations in education, setting up high tech manufacturing units and healthcare system. Can also be an indispensable partner with India in cyber security. Highly educated and skilled Indians can also migrate to compensate the vacancies for skilled man power requirements in Australia.
As an author Satyajit Das in his own book : Written Fortune’s Fool: Australia’s Choices, explains his view of Australia. He called Australian strategy of ‘ House and Hole’ unsustainable. And economy, environment and geopolitics are threatening Australia’s high living standards.
Satyajit Das highlighted Covid pandemic as a real eye opener. He points out that three million Australians had withdrawn $36billion of their retirement savings by Dec 2020. His concerns are visible with his book with statements such as, “And the adverse effects will be marked for disadvantaged socioeconomic groups, with their lower savings and less in the way of financial investments.” Satyajit Das characterises Australia as,” A retreat to plausible deniability. Cognitive dissonance is a religious, deflection is an art form. And quasi-religious belief in technology as a get-out-of-jail card.” And he also feels Australia is highly dependent on China while it’s own market is too small with narrow base economy. Paralysed by severe lack of competition.
His book made it very clear that, ‘Australians now expects generous entitlements, including education, healthcare, housing, transport, social safety nets and retirement benefits. The ability of the state to meet these growing commitments is now in doubt. The time of inexhaustible plentitude may be past.’
On the other hand, India is a huge market of 1.3 billion with potential to do business with Australia. With the current Sino-Australian geopolitical crisis, the $25 billion dollar trade deal with India is a great start for Australia. Australia gaining access to the vast Indian market is a bounty in itself. Like India, Australia should look for opportunities to do business with each and every country in three populous continents : Africa, Asia and South America (surrounded by them). To me, Australia is lucky to enjoy and leverage this impeccable location with a high standard of living. Satyajit Das is correct in stating, ‘’Australia can no longer rely on the continent’s extraordinary natural primarily mineral riches and good fortune.’ We need to increase Australia’s economic base.
As I was structuring this article, I learnt from media updates that New South Wales household like mine was put on high alert due to an estimated electricity supply shortage. Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen publicly stated that electricity supply system is “under pressure” and to accept electricity disruptions. I wonder, if Satyajit Das’s predictions of Australia losing it’s good fortune is becoming true. It is definitely time for all Australians to read Satyajit Das’s book, Fortune’s Fool: Australia’s Choices, understand current issues affect the country trillion dollar economy and work on making Australia great.