E-Pao! Opinion - Be Manipuri, Buy Manipuri - a rejoinder

Be Manipuri, Buy Manipuri - a rejoinder

By: Senjam Raj Sekhar *

My fellow Manipuri brother, KshetriMayum Imokanta Singh, has in his write-up passionately argued on the need to build an economically self sufficient Manipur. It is a nice thought. Unfortunately, many of his ideas in today's context is impractical and not desirable.

Imokanta is pained at the invasion of Manipur by goods from Moreh, traders from outside Manipur, shoes by Nike and Adidas, televisionsets by LG and Sony among others. I would like you walk you down a typical shopping list of an average American, citizen of the world's most powerful economy.

Lets start with the car. Every second car that an American buys is a foreign one. Toyota Camry is the best-selling car in the US, and Honda Accord ranks second. America imports about 1.5 million cars per year. The gas that an American fills up in his car is likely to be from outside the US (America imports about 60 percent of its oil). The laptop, PC and the PDA that he buys would most likely be made in China or Taiwan. Most of garments that are sold in upmarket outlets like Land's End, Sak's Fifth Avenue, Macy's will be from Mexico, China or India. The Nike or Reebok that he buys is most likely manufactured in China.

When an American calls up a customer care help line, he will most probably be directed to India or Philippines. Iconic American symbols like Columbia pictures, CBS records, the IBM building, Rockefeller Center Building in New York, Universal pictures are all owned by foreigners/foreign companies. Many of the food and beverage that he eats/drinks would be from outside the US. Without imports, the United States would not be able to supply the fruit and vegetable needs of the population, and consumers' health would be at risk.

Without imports, U.S. consumers would have no bananas, would eat grapes only in the summer and fall, and would have fewer than half the winter salads they enjoy now.

Does this all mean that all Americans should be pained or hang their heads in shame? Should American companies and government frantically start producing everything that is consumed by an average American. In an age of market economy, states and countries focus on their core competencies and areas of specialization. Thus Kerala that used to produce Keltron televisions (much like Manitron) now concentrates on tourism ( remember the famous God's own Country), Ayurveda and IT.

Imokanta admires Chandrababu Naidu. What is Naidu doing for his state? He is not throwing out entrepreneurs and traders from Andhra Pradesh. In fact, he is inviting all with open arms - Indian companies, multinationals to invest in Andhra Pradesh.

Manipur should learn lessons from other states and countries. You cannot be everything to everybody. Concentrate on your core competencies. Tourism, sports, theatre, dance - Manipur has already carved its niche in these areas. The effort now should be on concentrating on these areas and make further headway on each.

Entrepreneurship can come from within and also from outside. Remember the Jamshedpur (then in Bihar and now in Jharkhand) was made by a Parsee from Mumbai. Birlas, Bajaj and Goenkas built their business empires not in their native Rajasthan but in Kolkata and Mumbai.

Manipur will certainly arise and awake. What is needed is decisive leadership, broad outlook and a recognition of the realities of today's world. Manipur's place in the sun will soon arrive.

*Senjam Raj Sekhar is Managing Partner (North & East),
Genesis Public Relations which is India's largest Public Relations firm.
He is also a columnist with the Hindustan Times and The Asian Age.
He can be contacted at

Reply to the above article from Ksh. Imokanta

Dear e-pao team,

I want to respond to the article of Mr. Raj Shekhar in response to my own. I am thankful to him for giving me a chance to clarify my position. There should always be a space for dialogue which leads to a positive result. I do not want any dialogue for the sake of dialogue. I do not want to speak for the sake of speaking.

It is heart-warming to know that at least one person is moved by my article though oppositely. I appreciate the amount of knowledge you (Mr. Raj Sekhar) have on the world market and you certainly cited them to inform me. But the matter is that I also had these in mind when I talked of the globalisation and liberalisation.

You talk of America which is also dependent on other countries for the consumption of their people. You are right but you have to see the amount of productions and exports they have in the present world market. Apart from the material goods they export, you see the cultural industry they have. Why they are able to export Britney Spears and Micheal jacksons?

You misread me in the sense that I never opposed the import of technologies from outside. What I concentrated was the amount of productions the state has in comparison to the import. I am not opposed to investment from outside or any outsider establishing his factories here in the state also Iam not opposed to globalisation.

The crux of the matter is that the locals must benefit from them. We cannot afford the outsiders to snatch our share when we are starving or unemployed. When I talk of Chandrababu Naidu I talk about the enterprising effort he has and not throwing out of any outsiders. He cannot invite outsiders at the cost of his state. What I talked about was how we can encourage ourselves to equip us to face any challenge in this world without compromising our respect.

Certainly Americans are not selling their country’s dignity to others like the way we sell ours. We cannot sit idly and eat the things which others make for us at a heavy cost. We are not certainly globalising our enterprises but we are simply consuming the globalised products which rule our consciousness too.

My friend seems to be much in the wave of the present globalised trend but he seems to have forgotten the negligible role of our people in this process. Iam positive that we have both the physical and mental agility to make it. Otherwise the day is not far when we will be under the feet of these enterprising and hard working outsiders. When that moment comes I am sure my dear friend will be quite delighted that there is really a completely globalised world.

With Care,

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