Wow it is recession…time to buy a supercar then!

January 7th, 2009

The Audi R8 is an amazing piece of kit. Enough aluminium to make Boeings jealous, a potent
V8 engine that is giving severe headaches to Italians from the Bologna area and Quattro all-wheel drive that sucks terrain like a PR upstart who just landed a big account it cannot chew. When Audi officially launched the car in India there were a few who laughed out loud – after all it was a bad year for the stock market and the news was not looking good for 2009. Not exactly the year to launch, hold your breath, a Rs 1.17 crore (ex-showroom) supercar then, right? Or so thought you and me.

Audi India has managed to sell its quota of 15 R8s for 2008 and is now in the process of delivering the cars to supercar starved super rich Indians who certainly do not belong to the set who checks the price of socks they buy at a supermarket (heck, am sure they don’t collect their free mugs too!). And Audi did a wonderful year selling 1050 cars including 350 Q7s (yup, those machines that answer to the tag ‘mother of all SUVs’).

2008 will also go down in the history of Indian automobile industry where imported motorcycles made their mark. Following the launch of the Yamaha R1 and MT01 (Rs 14 lakh odd for each) it was Suzuki’s turn to launch the world’s fastest production motorcycle, the Hayabusa and the 1800 cc power cruiser called the Intruder.  Recession? Is it another name for the season when everything is up to 50 per cent off?

(We hear there are only 20 Audi R8s coming to India in the year 2009, so act fast before your shareholders come to know!)

 

 

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Economy and the bar-coded fish

January 6th, 2009

There was a time not so long ago when, as a single ‘not so large’ income family, we had to account for every penny that came our way. That meant we maintained a monthly budget card with ‘in’ and ‘out’ sections and a ‘balance’ column that normally read on the negative. Lion’s share of the money went to EMIs for the house in any case. But when we saved say, Rs 2000 a month, we ensured that the money was put to good use – no, no recurrent deposits for us, but we spent happily on a nice dinner or even a small party for friends from office.

Every month I stood in a queue to ‘take’ some money from the bank, which we would systematically spend over the month.

Malls were not a suburban phenomenon yet and that meant my wife shopped from a wholesale store and hauled stuff home. She used to buy vegetables for the week and never ordered stuff over the phone. Every Sunday I rode my motorcycle to the market and enjoyed buying fresh fish or visited the poultry shop to buy fresh chicken. And as a rule we never kept a ‘credit’ account with the local kirana store. And the maximum I would spend at a time at a fuel station was Rs 500 (Rs 200 if I was filling diesel).  And I drove carefully and braked well before the signal turned red to save fuel.

When we wanted to travel to our home town, I stood in a queue and booked a train ticket. Flights, you see, were meant for emergencies only. And we shopped for clothes twice a year – for festive occasions.  But then things got a bit relaxed.

It has been ages since I visited my bank to ‘take’ money. To begin with it was the convenience of ATMs which dispensed crisp notes and later the culprit was the debit card that was wielded with a vengeance. The economic downfall of the average Indian middleclass family and the beginning of the global meltdown was er…beginning.

Three, I repeat, three super stores around our house meant that we were not buying things for the month any more. We succumbed to temptation and paid Rs 120 for bar-coded chicken from the rather nice ‘chiller’ room at the mall. The said ‘chiller’ room also had fish ‘cleaned and cubed’ for double the money and we could do with that too. What the heck, we even bought bar-coded pumpkin slices and bananas too. While at it, the guilty parents that we are (who hardly found time to spend time with children) bought creamy, sinful pastries for them as well as us. Needless to say, we grew sideways and children learnt the primary steps of blackmailing.

 I drove into fuel stations and started spending Rs 1000 at a time, because with my debit card, I could, and I stopped keeping an account of fuel consumption in my car. And our children got so used to air travel (it was cheap in the interim, mind you), now they wonder why any other mode of transport exist. And we shopped as and when Pantaloons, Big Bazaar and Westside announced sales.  Mind you, ‘as and when’ as against ‘when we needed’.

Alright I woke up last Sunday determined to fight the meltdown – at least get ready for it before it struck us hard. I woke up my wife and daughter and we drove to the ‘big market’ next to the railway station. ‘Do they have a toy section?’, asked my seven year old which made me realise that she has seen one mall too many. There it was, in all its glory – Food land, Reliance Fresh, True Mart and D-Mart all combined to one. So what it was not air-conditioned. My wife screamed as she discovered that tomatoes were Rs 10 a Kilo and half while we were paying Rs 20 at Food land. Ditto ladies fingers and whole pumpkins. We bought a car load of veggies and headed for the fish market. Kingfish which retailed at Rs 250 per kg with a barcode was almost alive at half the price and in our bag. We ate local sweets and drove back and easily saved Rs 500 in the process. We would have saved more if we were not greedy at the sight of so much good stuff for so little money. Meltdown? What meltdown?

Next in the agenda is fighting the withdrawal symptoms – as in avoiding ATMs as if they don’t exist and not attending sales. And we are booking train tickets two months in advance for summer holidays – second class, where children can peep out of the windows and see the beautiful world out there. A world without malls, ATMs and bar-coded fish.

 

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