BUILDING A KNOWLEDGE CENTRE > What we are reading
Letter #20: What we’re reading at Nuclei

Ankur Joshi | Sat 1st Feb, 2020

Is India ambitious beyond its capabilities? Is India a flailing state?

A flailing state is what happens when the principal cannot control its agents

Indian state’s ambitions and its abilities are clearly some way apart. The Indian elites demand better policies, which to be honest are more appropriate for a developed country. Elites want to imitate the western world.

But when these ambitious policies crack their heads against the weak and rotten system, corruption is naturally born. Again.

If the fine for driving through a red light is Rs 10,000, there will be pervasive corruption. Jobs in the highway police will be sought after; large bribes will be paid to obtain these jobs. There will be an institutional collapse of the highway police. It is better to first start with a fine of Rs 100, and build state capacity.

This paper — “Premature imitation and India’s flailing state” — by Shruti Rajagopalan and Alex Tabarrok explores four key topics where this flailing behaviour is clearly visible,

  1. Maternity leaves
  2. Housing policy
  3. Open defecation
  4. Education policy

This is a must read for people interested in government policies and their implementation.


Building a company is like running a marathon. Doesn’t matter if you can run a 100m very fast, people who win in the end are those who can run at a steady pace for very long.

Stamina trumps Speed


Book recommendation: “Powerful” by Patty McCord

One of the most powerful (no pun) and most-highlighted books I have read. It is a must read for startup founders and People Ops heads, who are obsessed with building a good culture at their companies.


The luxury of having someone who pushes you to become better!

I was watching David Letterman’s new show with Shah Rukh Khan as guest. Somewhere in that show they spoke about how easy it is to give life-changing gyan to others, but very difficult to apply the same in their own lives.

But then that’s the idea. Humans are lazy. They lose focus over time. All of us need an external stimulus once in a while, who / which pushes us to become better. Doesn’t matter if the people providing the stimulus are not completely applying the same ideas to their own life. Their loss!

It is necessary to surround yourself with people, who have your good in their hearts, and push you to become a better version of yourself.


Building a rocket is hard. But building a parachute is even harder. Read here.

Parachutes were so precious to the Apollo program that only three people in the nation were qualified to hand-pack the parachutes for the Apollo 15 capsule: Norma Cretal, Jimmy Calunga and Buzz Corey, who in 1971 — the year of that mission — all lived in Ventura County. Their expertise was so vital, they were not allowed to ride in the same car together for fear that a single auto accident could cripple the space program.


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