Sunday, April 17, 2011

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 7

Recently I’ve been having several debates about how clear an indicator of social impact purchase is. It is with these debates in mind that I read chapter 7 of Simply Fly. Although the debate is quite a nuanced one, I’m going to make it somewhat simplistic in order to bring the issues into focus.

At one end of the debate is the argument that regardless of our economic status, all of us frequently buy things that are not good for us. This makes purchase quite an unreliable indicator of social impact. At the other end is the position that almost everything we buy improves our lives in some way, and therefore purchase is quite a strong indicator of social impact. From those who hold the latter view, I have heard the argument made that even fairness creams increase the self-esteem of those who use them, and therefore improve their lives.

An extension to the argument that almost everything we buy improves our lives in some way is that all entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship. Yet in this post I am going to highlight two ways in which I believe social entrepreneurship should differ from other forms of entrepreneurship, using examples from chapter 7 of Simply Fly.

The first way in which I believe social entrepreneurship should differ from other forms of entrepreneurship is that it should prioritize improvements to peoples’ lives that are long-term, over short-term improvements. For example, while smokers may feel in the short-term that their lives are improved by being able to smoke, cigarettes are certainly detrimental to their health in the long-term.

In chapter 7 Gopinath secures all the licenses and clearances he needs and launches his helicopter business. He describes one of his customers as a small-time trader who moves between weekly village bazaars buying and selling chilies, who decides to spend all his savings on his sister’s wedding. He wants to rent the helicopter so that his sister can get married in it, reviving or reinventing the family tradition of getting married on elephant-back. Gopinath offers to do it at a 50 percent discount for Rs.75,000, and the man agrees. Gopinath describes it as, “a great human impact story,” and loses no time in alerting the media. However, in the process of gifting his sister a helicopter wedding, the small-time trader spent all his savings. If Gopinath were a social entrepreneur, would he still find this a story to celebrate, or would he see it as an ethical dilemma?

The second way in which I believe social entrepreneurship should differ from other forms of entrepreneurship is in the length of the chain from the enterprise to benefiting the disadvantaged. Gopinath’s customers range from the trader described above to visitors to India. For visitors he offers one or two day sightseeing packages by helicopter, and quotes travel writers Hugh and Colleen Gantzer describing him as having had the biggest impact on tourism in India. However, I could not help thinking that if Gopinath was not in the helicopter business, and had promoted eco-tourism instead, he could have benefited the people living near the river resorts and wildlife safaris he praises much more directly. Instead, as an entrepreneur, while generating employment, stimulating consumption, paying taxes and donating a portion of his profits are all ways to contribute to society, the length of the chain from these actions to benefiting the disadvantaged can often be quite long.

Nevertheless, as in other chapters, in chapter 7 too there are lessons from Gopinath’s experiences for social entrepreneurs. Gopinath devotes a considerable portion of this chapter to the issue of how to advertise effectively. He advises against expensive press conferences and instead suggests getting the media to write about your enterprise by offering them a good story. While his examples of good stories, like that of the small-time trader who rents a helicopter for his sister’s wedding, may be questionable, the general advice holds. In his attitude towards the media Gopinath expresses what I have come to recognize as his characteristic optimism, when he says that, “to a considerable degree we have an honest press,” as we have honest businessmen and politicians (barring exceptions). Another advertising strategy he describes is to offer to advertise the resorts he flies tourists to, in exchange for them advertising his helicopter service.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 6

In the last chapter, Gopinath obtained funding for a hangar, and had a company agree to lease him a helicopter. Yet he still has no funding for a helicopter. He goes to banks and VC firms but they won’t lend to him.

What is ironic is that it is also in this chapter that Gopinath is invited to join a highly prestigious MBA program. Despite this recognition he is not able to get funds. This made me think that funding is a problem for all enterprises in India, not just SMEs, or those serving the poor. In fact, Gopinath was able to get a bank loan for his farm, but not for his helicopter business.

Gopinath finally gets a loan/equity investment from a Sindhi (Gopinath describes them as some of the most astute businessmen in the country) and some others. The Sindhi “rate of interest” is usually quite high, although Gopinath says that this particular business charges less. He finds him through his financial advisor.

While loans from Sindhi businessmen may not be an appropriate source of finance for Villgro’s enterprises because of the high rates of interest they charge, it made me wonder whether Villgro should be giving greater emphasis to informal sources of finance in its mentoring of incubates. The Amazing Secrets of Millionaire Inventors talks about giving both debt and equity to your family and friends. However, I know that when I was at Villgro, the capacity building sessions for innovators seemed to downplay those sources of finance in favor of venture capital.

In this chapter Gopinath also sets a date for the launch of his helicopter business when he still has several licenses and clearances to secure. The date is particularly ambitious because he does not allow more than two to three days for the clearances from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), when normally these clearances take two to three months. Gopinath feels compelled to do it because he knows that as soon as the helicopter is transferred to his business, he will have to start paying interest and lease rental. Therefore, it will be suicidal for his business if he does not start earning money the moment the helicopter is transferred to them. The way in which Gopinath pursues this goal shows his ability to be strategic. He invites the chief minister and other ministers to join the civil aviation minister for the inaugural flight, assuming that the DGCA will do their bit and oblige with the necessary clearances because their bosses would be the chief guests.

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 5

This chapter furthered some of the impressions that I have gained of Gopinath in earlier chapters, namely that the way in which he chooses opportunities to pursue seems haphazard, and that there is a contradiction between his love of nature and the environment, and his venture into aviation.

Gopinath visits China in 1995-1996, and he emphasizes the importance of this visit in taking him, “on a course that would not have otherwise been taken”. Gopinath’s observations of China are that:

…Destroying the topsoil to create buildings would ultimately mean destroying the world. In China I could sense disaster waiting to unfold. The picture was the same everywhere: in the countryside, in district towns, in sleepy hamlets, and in busy cities. On the positive side, the frenetic, relentless pace of industrialization had taken China 20 years ahead of us.

While in China, Gopinath reads a newspaper article about a Vietnamese helicopter pilot who flies investors and aid workers to different parts of the country. Later on in the chapter, Gopinath quotes Peter Drucker saying that entrepreneurs, “…create something new, something different; they change and transmute values; and, on a size and scale that will impact society”. Gopinath emphasizes that entrepreneurs must impact society for the better, and suggests that the helicopter business he decides to start will do so.

Yet, the uses that Gopinath sees for the helicopter business are for VIP visits, industrial surveys, mapping, tourism, aerial photography and videography, film shoots and medical evacuation. This point seems important because it is often argued that, “all enterprises are social enterprises, and create social impact”. However, of all the uses that Gopinath envisions for the helicopter, it is only medical evacuation that I see as having the potential to create significant social impact. Gopinath is certainly an ethical entrepreneur, for example in his refusal to pay bribes. However, I would not consider him a social entrepreneur.

Nevertheless, this chapter contains useful insights on how the helicopter business was started. Gopinath emphasizes the importance of having a great team, and describes in detail his efforts to recruit his partner, Captain K.J. Samuel (Sam), a financial advisor, Mohan Kumar, a pilot, Col. Jayanth Poovaiah, a helicopter engineer, Vidya Babu, and the board. In the case of Sam, Gopinath is only willing to accept him once he is so taken with the idea of a helicopter business that he leaves his job, even though he has three children to support in Bengaluru on a pension of only Rs.7,000. Gopinath justifies this by saying that only if you are unable to sleep because your business may go bankrupt, will your business succeed. However, in this particular instance, Gopinath had his farm and agricultural consultancy to depend on, while Sam had nothing.

Gopinath and Sam incorporate the company as Deccan Aviation, but then spend two tormenting years obtaining a No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government. This episode is clearly an example of Gopinath’s persistence, as he visits the office of the joint secretary (the officer who deals with the initial stages of the application) fifteen times! Gopinath compares both his visits to the joint secretary’s office for the NOC, and to banks for a loan, with his experiences making similar visits as a farmer. After several rejections, the Karnataka State Industrial Investment Development Corporation gives them a loan of Rs.43,00,000 for spare parts and a hangar. They were then able to convince the Chief Minister of Karnataka state to give them land for the hangar.

Even as the company was getting established, they received free publicity through several newspaper articles. They hired Tata Consultancy Services to prepare a business plan. They prepared training and engineering manuals to comply with the requirements of the civil aviation ministry. Gopinath emphasizes the importance of having funding, people, and the government license before buying or leasing a helicopter.

However, obtaining the helicopter is not easy either. A leasing company, ITC Leasing, decides to offer Deccan a helicopter, then withdraws their offer because of India’s hung parliament in 1997, but then agrees once again when the political situation stabilizes.

This chapter also contains several digressions, such as generalizations made by the president of ITC Leasing, on the differences between Chinese and Western women. These could have been edited.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 4

In this chapter, Gopinath dabbles in politics by running for the position of MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly). This development is in some ways consistent with what the reader learns of Gopinath in previous chapters.

Firstly, in Chapter 3, Gopinath mentions that he is becoming increasingly well-known, both because of his silkworm and other businesses, and because he wins the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asks him to be the president of the party in Hassan.

Secondly, in my post on Chapter 3 I mentioned an incident when Gopinath offers help even to those who ransack his farm. In this incident, Gopinath displays an ability to stand up to people when he looks the marauders in the eye, raising his voice but nevertheless reasoning with them. In this chapter Gopinath both argues with Vajpayee at a dinner attended by leaders of the state BJP, and with Deve Gowda, a powerful politician. In the latter incident, Deve Gowda violates the election code of conduct by arriving to speak around 20 minutes early, with a procession and drums. Gopinath, incensed at Deve Gowda cutting into his time, refuses to call off or even temporarily stop his meeting. Gopinath eventually prevails.

As early as Chapter 2, Gopinath also displays his skill in fundraising. He starts farming on 30 acres of land, 20 of which belong to his uncles. He tells his uncles that he will pay them a much higher amount than they would get by selling the land, and higher interest than that offered by the banks, but from the sale of his crop (in the future). In this chapter, Gopinath faces a much larger fundraising challenge when he has to organize a rally for the visiting BJP leader, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He realizes that if he organizes the rally using his own funds he will become bankrupt, and decides instead to publicize the function through local artists, traders and contractors. Yet the reader can question the ethicality of this decision, as it is likely that many of the traders and contractors invested in Gopinath in the hope that if he came to power, he would “reward” them later with development contracts.

Gopinath says that he did not have time at that moment to consider the ethicality of his decision. However, another ethical decision that he struggles with in this chapter and resolves somewhat more satisfactorily, is over whether to represent a party with communal overtones. Gopinath joins the BJP only when he is assured by the party that they are a separate and independent identity from the communal RSS, and that there will be no interference in his functioning.

Gopinath’s strong sense of equality, instilled in him both by his father and his experience in the army, is evident in this chapter not only in his statement that, “…there is only one caste, one community, and one religion: of being an Indian,” but also in his decision to contest from the agrarian constituency of Gadsi, rather than from the cities of Bengaluru or Hassan where he would win votes on the basis of his caste. There is also an incident where party workers and leaders gather on his farm, and refuse to eat the food cooked by Raju because he belongs to the scheduled castes. Gopinath asks Raju to serve him first, and everyone else follows.

Nevertheless, at this point in the book, it is difficult to discern a clear progression in the opportunities that Gopinath chooses to pursue. Although he loses the election, it seems just as feasible that had he won, he would have become a politician as the founder of Air Deccan. This led me to think about entrepreneurship education, and the theories behind it. One theory could be that some people are “born entrepreneurs”, and that entrepreneurship education will uncover these “hidden” entrepreneurs. Another theory could be that entrepreneurship education exists to educate everyone on entrepreneurship as a possible career option. For people like Gopinath, who seem to be interested in several career paths, entrepreneurship education could steer them in the direction, or at least make them aware, of entrepreneurship as one amongst these options.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 3

In my blog post on Chapter 2, I mentioned that Gopinath attributes his decision to leave the army to a spiritual-emotional crisis, but gives few details on what this crisis is. In this chapter, what spirituality means for Gopinath becomes clearer.

Throughout the book so far, the reader is aware of Gopinath’s love of nature. In Chapter 2, he narrates being awestruck at the mountains of the Indo-Tibetan border, that he saw on his long range patrols when in the army. He says that, “I saw the most spectacular scenes, of gushing waterfalls, snow-capped mountain peaks, and winding rivers. I was immersed in Tagore’s poetry at the time and the entire experience was deeply spiritual”. In Chapter 1 Gopinath describes the Western Ghats, and his village, with love, including the agriculture (coconut groves, areca plantations, betel-leaf creepers, paddy fields, mango orchards and coffee estates), and the dense, pristine rainforests. Yet, the bulk of his descriptions are reserved for the Hemavathy and Yagachi rivers, and in Chapter 3 he confirms that for him, rivers are sacred.

While by Chapter 2 the reader already suspects that there is a close tie between spirituality and nature for Gopinath, this is elaborated upon in Chapter 3. He states:

…My struggle with farming lent my life a spiritual dimension. I sensed within me a
sense of oneness with the environment. In one breath I took in the mystic aura of the
early morning sunrise; the sweet fragrance rising from freshly churned earth as I
walked across the fields. I was in search of a natural method of understanding the
crops, the seasons, and the soil.

For example, coconuts are central to Gopinath’s farm. Again drawing from a religious reference, he says that, “in the scriptures, the coconut tree is called kalpavriksha, the tree that lives a long, long time and grants all wishes”. Gopinath believes that if he nurses the saplings for seven or eight years they will keep him going for a hundred years, and therefore the success or failure of his farm will be decided in the time that it takes the coconut palms to grow.

Initially, when termites attack the coconut trees, he uses benzene hexachloride to get rid of them. When it rains this spray washes down into the soil and nearby stream, carrying the residual chemicals with it, and polluting the soil, the stream, the ponds, and the groundwater. Gopinath quickly realizes that by removing all the twigs, branches and dead organisms from the soil, the termites are left with no nourishment, and therefore attack the coconut trees. Once Gopinath instructs the workers not to remove anything from the coconut grove, the termites stop attacking the trees.

While the farm is the focus of Gopinath’s activities in this chapter, he also begins a silkworm business, stock-brokerage, a hotel business, a motor-cycle dealership, and an agricultural consultancy. The silkworm business is particularly worth mentioning, as Gopinath replaces bamboo stems and branches with paddy straw as the cocooning sites for silk worms. He does this to, “save millions of bamboos from felling, and simultaneously eliminate the repeated use of disinfectant on the generally reused bamboo montages”. In addition, he experiments with integrating rain-water harvesting and impounding in ponds, managing weeds, moisture retention in the soil, discreet ploughing, and selective biological pest control. Gopinath’s silkworm business wins the Rolex Award for Enterprise, which he sees as helping to spread environmental awareness and eco-friendly ways of farming.

However, in this chapter Gopinath also seems to be developing an interest in entrepreneurship for its own sake, regardless of the social benefits it does or does not bring. Some examples serve to illustrate this. In the first, Gopinath says that from farming he learnt that:

…If something is not ecologically sound, it is not economically viable. This is a
simple law that I think applies to every aspect of life. For a business to be viable,
entrepreneurs need to create the right ecology for business and for the interactions it
entails. That seed of my future low-cost airline and other businesses was sowed here.

However, in this quote, Gopinath is modifying the meaning of the world “ecology” drastically from its environmental context. In fact there is a contradiction between Gopinath’s love of nature and the environment, and his decision to start an airline business. Another example is of his future helicopter business that Gopinath also refers to in this chapter. While Gopinath refuses to accept dowry at his own wedding, again in a seeming contradiction, he acknowledges that it is dowry that enables his customers to hire helicopters for wedding celebrations.

At his motor-cycle leadership Gopinath decides to hire children, but here the issue is more complicated. He reasons that by hiring boys as young as 8-10 years old, he can train them to become mechanics and open their own garages. Gopinath also displays sensitivity in trying to ensure that the boys are not ill-treated.

One lesson from this chapter for entrepreneurs is that help can often come from unexpected sources, and therefore it is important not to alienate anyone, as far as possible. Even when his farm is ransacked by the previous farmers of the land allotted by the government to Gopinath, he offers to help them to receive title to the land remaining. It is perhaps due to this attitude that Manje Gowda, a neighboring farmer and friend, offers to guarantee Gopinath’s bank loan when none of his other friends and relatives would. Of course, Gopinath is at an advantage over other farmers in the first place because he was previously an army officer, and this seems to interest one bank manager, after several failed attempts, in his loan application.

Chapter 3 begins with the quote, “All that matters is Love and Work”, and ends with Gopinath lamenting that, “People do not love what they do, but do it nonetheless for the money it brings”. While it is clear that Gopinath has a love for agriculture, and perhaps a budding love for his other business interests, the reader hears little of his personal life in this autobiography so far. In this chapter he gets married, and some sections describe the marriage and his subsequent life with his wife. Gopinath’s wife evokes interest because she insists on marrying him although at the time he is a farmer in debt. However, in other respects the marriage seems quite traditional. Gopinath is attracted to her because she can sing, is pretty, and will cook for him, and after marriage she seems to unequivocally support him without voicing any opinions of her own. Gopinath also has two daughters, but they receive only passing mention in this chapter.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Villgro Blog: The Bad and Good News About Evaluation

In an earlier post, I had critiqued the research methodologies of 2 surveys of social entrepreneurs, by Ashoka and Intellecap. Most of my suggestions for improvement were directed towards helping Ashoka and Intellecap better answer the question, “How representative are my results of a larger community (the universe) of social entrepreneurs?” However, at the end of the post I had also mentioned the concept of causation. Causation is important when trying to answer a different question, which is, “How likely is it that my results were caused by a particular intervention, rather than by something else?”

From the 25th to the 28th of October I attended the Evaluation Conclave 2010 in Delhi, where I had the chance to explore these issues further. In an evaluation context, it’s often the word attribution, rather than causation, that is used. Attribution is an issue at many levels. I’ll try to illustrate this using a hypothetical example of a social enterprise.

This social enterprise produces insecticide-treated bed nets. Orders for the bed nets are placed through a microfinance institution, and the bed nets are delivered to customers through kirana stores (corner shops). The social enterprise requires funds for its social marketing campaigns, to cover costs until it reaches break-even, and to develop talent within the organization. It is able to find donors to meet each of these needs.

An evaluation is conducted of the social enterprise, and it is found that incidences of malaria have decreased in the households in which customers have bought bed nets. The donor that funded the talent development program wants to know how its money contributed to the reduction in malaria. However, it is not possible to isolate talent development from the rest of the organization, as the people developed through this program contribute to social marketing, production and all other aspects of the enterprise.

What all three donors can agree on is that they want to know to what extent the reduction in malaria can be attributed to the bed nets. While it’s easy to assume that bed nets resulted in a reduction in malaria, this may not be the case. For example, the government could have embarked on a mosquito eradication program, and sprayed the villages in which the bed nets were also sold.

How do we find out the extent to which the reduction in malaria can be attributed to the bed nets? The strongest evaluation designs that answer this question should have two characteristics. The first is that they should include both the project group, and comparison (non-equivalent control) group. The second is that both groups should be “observed” at both the start and end of the project. If time and budget permit, both groups can also be “observed” during implementation of the project and after it has been operating for some time.

What is it about these evaluation designs that make them appropriate for the social enterprise in the example?
• The project group is “observed” both at the start and at the end of the project. In our example, the project group is households that have bought bed nets. A figure for the incidence of malaria at the end of the project is meaningless if we do not know what the incidence of malaria was at the beginning. The only exception is if the incidence of malaria is 0. However, since this would require all the bed nets sold to be in perfect condition, to be used all the time, and by all members of the family, this is highly unlikely to be the case.
• There is a comparison (non-equivalent control) group, which is also “observed” at the start and end of the project. Even if the incidence of malaria has reduced in our project group, how do we know that this was due to the bed nets and not other factors? The answer is by selecting a comparison (non-equivalent control) group. This group should comprise of households that did not buy the bed nets, but are as similar as possible to the households which bought bed nets. This will enable the evaluator to compare whether malaria declined at a similar rate in the project group and comparison group. If it did, then it is likely that malaria declined due to factors other than the bed nets.

The bad news about evaluation is that it can be quite complicated to successfully meet the criteria for a strong evaluation design. The good news is that between strong and weak evaluation designs, there are a range of options that are frequently adequate. These options are summarized in this overview of Real World Evaluation, a book by Michael Bamberger, Jim Rugh and Linda Mabry. I was lucky enough to attend a workshop that spanned two days, and was facilitated by Jim Rugh, at the Conclave. Based on what I learnt at the workshop, I’m going to propose my own design to evaluate the social enterprise in my example above.

If you remember, orders for the bed nets are placed through a microfinance institution (MFI). The social enterprise is still building its distribution network, and has only reached the kirana shops in one geographical area. However, it asks the MFI to aggregate orders from all of the geographical areas in which it has a presence. The customers who have ordered the bed nets, but whom the social enterprise’s distribution network has not reached as yet, will serve as the comparison group.

It is important for the evaluation design that the comparison group also comprises of clients of the MFI. This is because it is likely that MFI clients are more enterprising than other members of their communities. It is possible that even without bed nets, they have devised other solutions to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes. Therefore, in order to understand whether it is bed nets that have made the difference, the households where bed nets were bought must be compared to other enterprising households, and not to the average population.

The “observation” of the project and comparison groups at the start of the project can come in part from the MFI’s records, as they are likely to have already collected a lot of data on their clients. Any additional data that needs to be collected can be done at the time that orders for the bed nets are placed, before they have been bought and have had the chance to have an effect.

The Real World Evaluation book uses terms such as during, upon completion of, and after the project. In the case of a social enterprise, it is more likely that the evaluation will be of an ongoing business, than of a project that has a start, middle and end. However, as one of Paul Polak’s principles of Designing for the Other 90 Percent is that the design should pay for itself in the first year, one year may be a suitable duration to designate as the project period.

Of course, in this case I have chosen the business model of the social enterprise so that it lends itself to a strong evaluation design. Designing evaluations for actual social enterprises will be less easy. However, I hope my example demonstrates that while difficult, designing a strong, or at least adequate, evaluation is not impossible, and that practical solutions can be found to real world constraints.

Finally, there are some instances in which attribution may either not be possible or not necessary. As I discussed earlier, it may not be possible to attribute the effects of a talent development program within a social enterprise to a reduction in malaria. One example of where attribution may not be necessary is in the evaluation of a sector. Returning to our example, let us assume that an epidemic hits the Asian continent. The government is not prepared for this epidemic. Therefore, in the year the epidemic hits, while all of the government’s planned health programs are successful, the health of the population decreases overall.

In such an event, the overall trend in the health of the population may not be discovered through evaluations of individual interventions or organizations. In a sectoral review, positing an entire nation as a project group and another nation as a comparison group may not be meaningful.

While the example of the epidemic may seem dramatic and unlikely, at the Conclave there was an interesting exchange between a representative of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Asian Development Bank on whether donors should, in addition to evaluating the interventions that they fund, evaluate whole sectors as well. However, sectoral evaluations are likely to be quite expensive, complicated, and therefore rare. For the vast majority of evaluations, issues of attribution and comparison will remain important.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Villgro Blog: Simply Fly Chapter 2

In Chapter 2, Gopinath fights in the Bangladesh Liberation War, is posted on the Sino-Indian border and then in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, South India, and then leaves the army and decides to become a farmer. Gopinath says that he went through an emotional-spiritual crisis while on the Sino-Indian border, that triggered his desire to leave the army. However, the reader is given few details on what this emotional-spiritual crisis is.

For me, Gopinath’s decision to leave the army is related to his resentment and hatred of regimentation, which I mentioned in my last post on Simply Fly. In Chapter 1 Gopinath says that when he first enrolled in the Sainik School he lived in a tent, and that, “the tent became a recurring motif in my later life and I kept going back to tents”. The tent seems to be a symbol of the life free from regimentation that Gopinath desires. At the end of Chapter 2, he makes a decision to try to farm the largely barren land that his father receives from the government, in compensation for the farmland that they were going to lose for a dam. Gopinath says that:

…I unrolled a reed mat in front of the tent and then spread a cotton durree
(the thick, home-spun ethnic Indian mat) across it. I lay there in silence
that evening, observing the stars in the sky, satisfied that I had at last
found my true calling in life. I was exhausted from the travel and the toils
of the evening, but at peace with myself.

The second tension that I identified in the first chapter, between equality and hierarchy, is also present throughout Chapter 2. It is vividly described in an incident when a general attends an army dinner in Thiruvananthapuram. According to army tradition, the officers pay for the food and beverages bill of a general, even if they drink expensive liquor. However, Gopinath felt this practice was unfair and, in consultation with his Brigadier, decided that the general would be served Indian whisky and rum, rather than Scotch.

Once Gopinath decides to become a farmer, he again demonstrates his sensitivity to inequality. He makes an agreement with a Dalit boy, Raju, that they will take turns farming and cooking equally. Although Gopinath does not make this explicit, it seems that by doing so, he is freeing Raju from the bonded labor that he was trapped in, because his father had borrowed money from a few households in the village.