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Consequences of the Rise of Design

On Tynan

I was walking through the mall a couple days ago. My path took me past a bunch of stores and kiosks, including the Nike Store. I walked past it and looked at their window display. They had a really nicely photographed poster and some cool looking shoes in a bunch of different colors. The store was beautiful and looked like a fun place to be. At the same time, their shoes aren't particularly great, they aren't actually innovative, and they're made of cheap materials. There are many shoe companies that are way lower quality than Nike, but I don't know if there are any with such a disparity between their presentation and the actual product.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this isn't just nike or most of the clothes in the mall-- it's how our culture works now. Back in the day, if you wanted a pair of shoes you'd go to a cobbler. He would design a pair for you, or use one of his existing designs, pick out some nice leather, and make you a pair of shoes. His design work, his execution, and his materials could all be leveraged about equally, so I'd guess that you'd tend to have either poorly designed shoes that are poorly executed and made of poor materials, or well designed shoes that were well executed and used good materials.

These days, things have changed. Design can be leveraged almost infinitely, which has changed the whole equation. Mass manufacturing ensures decent execution, but supplying top quality materials is difficult. A cobbler who makes a hundred pairs of shoes a year can take the time to pick out the best hides to get the best leather. That doesn't scale to making thousands of shoes a day, so material quality drops. Execution has become more consistent, but the benefits of cutting corners is magnified. Saving a penny on making a pair of shoes didn't matter to the cobblers, but it matters to Nike.

So these days, most of what people buy is well designed, decently and consistently executed, and uses relatively poor quality materials. In the mall I walked past a kiosk of phone cases. There were some that were blinged out. Pretty good design in that they fit perfectly on the phone the're meant for, the rows of fake diamonds are all uniform, etc.. Each one looks the same and is okay quality. But the materials are crap-- cheap plastic painted to look like metal covered in lackluster plastic "gems".

Indian sport in 2015 and the decade ahead: Why we need cricket to fail, and fail big

On der Wille

I have engaged in this discussion more times than I care to remember - by most estimates at least thrice a week for the past seven years. So this is a topic close to heart but also very well debated and honed. A look at the Dutch disease and the fallacy of composition can help us understand why India needs her cricket team to fail spectacularly, and regularly, for Indian sport to truly flourish.

The cricket world cup is less than two months away and it could turn out to be one of the most important sporting events of this decade - even bigger than the triumph in the previous edition in 2011. But only if India fails. A victory, even though it will be much celebrated, will see (even) more money being poured into the sport and (even) more kids seeing cricket as the only viable professional sport option in this country. The popularity of the game itself has never been the chief concern - till it has reached the current scale. This popularity has led to investment, talent and a country's sporting vision being squandered on a game which holds limited appeal to most of the world, doesn't earn a single Olympic, Commonwealth or Asian games medal, a game which doesn't foster a "sporting culture", a game which doesn't require its players to be athletic or fit, and most importantly a sport which has grown so big that it dwarfs all others, much to the detriment of every other sport.

The Dutch disease is a curious economic phenomenon. A mineral rich country sees its manufacturing sector battered, because all the exported minerals make the country's currency stronger (because of higher demand for the country's currency), thereby facilitating cheaper imports (as the relative cost of local manufacturing has gone up). Adam Smith's invisible hand is at play here. What this also does is shrink investment in the manufacturing sector and sees more money being poured into the commodity unearthed and its ancillary industries - setting up transportation, refining/processing and marketing activities around that commodity.

The parallel with Indian cricket is there for all to see. Without even discussing the most brazen brainchild of the governing body of Indian cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the Indian Premier League which has sucked in large amounts of investment, the realization that a sporting Dutch disease has afflicted India is quite clear. Take the BCCI Corporate Trophy for example. This is an almost unheard of league, but serves as a traditional curtain raiser for the Indian season. The aim is to involve promising local players, discared players from an erstwhile rebel league (the ICL) and a few star players in order to showcase the "employability" of cricketers to corporates. The winning team bags INR10million. The runner up nets INR5million. That is 15 million rupees that have just been "awarded" to showcase "employability". A gargantuan waste of money in a country where the total amount of investable funds for sport doesn't grow much year on year. To help you put the plight of the nations "other sports" in perspective, the national football team earned INR28mn in sponsorship in 2013 - and sponsorship, along with broadcasting rights are two of the largest streams of income in sport.

A provincial cricket league which dwarfs all of Indian football

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