Episode 377: Malini Goyal is the Curious One

As a journalist, she always went deep. As an author, she has peeled off layers of Bengaluru — and Indian society. Malini Goyal joins Amit Varma in episode 377 of The Seen and the Unseen to share her insights — and the values that shape her work.
Joint production with IVM Podcasts

Episode 56: Easy Money

The turbulence in the world economy today is enabled by the same phenomenon that caused the 2008 financial crisis, and was perversely also a response to that crisis: Easy Money. Vivek Kaul, author of the Easy Money trilogy, joins Amit Varma in episode 56 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain the damage irresponsible governments can do to the economy.

Buy the Easy Money trilogy: 1, 2, 3.

Episode 55: Defending the Indefensible

It is important to always question received wisdom. In episode 55 of The Seen and the Unseen, libertarian thinker Yazad Jal joins Amit Varma to challenge the commonly held view on five subjects. Listen in and see if you agree with him.

Read show notes

Episode 54: Budget 2018 Quick Takes

The Budget presented by the government of India is an annual ritual that millions of people tune in to. What was the 2018 budget like? Pavan Srinath and Pranay Kotasthane, staff writers of Pragati, join Amit Varma to offer their quick analysis, and to supplement the budget coverage at Pragati.

Episode 53: Pakodanomics

Narendra Modi famously invoked a pakoda seller last week when he spoke about job creation in India. How apt is that invocation? Columnist Vivek Kaul, who coined the term ‘Pakodanomics’, and economist Shruti Rajagopalan join Amit Varma in episode 53 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the prime minister, the pakoda seller and India’s job problem.

Read show notes

Episode 52: Caste in Modern India

Modern India’s greatest shame is that even after 70 years of Independence, we still haven’t solved the problem of caste. Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma in episode 52 of the Seen and the Unseen to shed light on some of the ways in which we have messed up at an institutional level.

Episode 51: Alpha Zero

The chess program Alpha Zero made waves recently when it taught itself chess in four hours — and then thrashed the strongest chess engine in the world, Stockfish. This illustrated a dramatic advance in Artificial Intelligence. Devangshu Datta joins host Amit Varma in episode 51 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about its impact for both chess and AI.

Read show notes

Episode 50: The State of Indian Politics

Indian politics is complex to the point of being almost unfathomable. JP Narayan, that rare public intellectual who also embraced electoral politics, joins Amit Varma in episode 50 of The Seen and the Unseen to share his learnings.

Episode 49: Political Discourse

Social media has enabled everyone to have a voice — but no one listens any more. In episode 49 of The Seen and the Unseen, Amit Varma examines why our political discourse is so polarised. One particular bugbear of his is the tendency to shift the focus from the argument to the person, and he outlines a few different ways in which people personalise arguments.

Read show notes

Episode 48: Reforming Urban Governance

 For almost two decades, V Ravichandar has been “a civic evangelist and a patron saint of lost causes” fighting to reform local government in our cities. He joins Amit Varma in episode 48 of The Seen and the Unseen to talk about the lessons he has learnt, and what keeps him going.

Episode 47: Poker and Stock Markets

Poker and stock markets are very similar — and both holds lessons for life. Ace investor Mohit Satyanand joins former poker pro Amit Varma in episode 47 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss how both disciplines reveal the flawed machinery of the human brain.

Read show notes

Episode 46: The State of the Media

 

We live in times when media is fragmented and there is no consensus on the truth any more. Journalism has become a race to give people what they want to believe. What are we to do? Prem Panicker joins Amit Varma in episode 46 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the State of the Media.

Episode 45: The BJP’s Magic Formula

Over the last few years, the BJP has built the most formidable election machine in human history. Prashant Jha, author of the book ‘How the BJP wins’, joins Amit Varma in episode 45 of The Seen and the Unseen to break down the elements behind their success.

Read show notes

Episode 44: The Delhi Smog

 It is well known that the key cause of Delhi’s smog is the ‘stubble’ burnt every year by Punjab’s farmers. Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma to discuss the bad incentives in play, how government sops might have caused this problem, and what can be done about it.

Episode 43: Parenthood

Natasha Badhwar, the author of a celebrated parenting column, recently released her moving book, ‘My Daughter’s Mum.’ In episode 43 of The Seen and the Unseen, she joins Amit Varma to discuss the process of parenting, writing about it, and the Seen and Unseen Effects of Parenthood.

Read show notes

Episode 42: Behavioral Economics

To celebrate Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize, behavioural econ geek Nidhi Gupta joins Amit Varma in episode 42 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss key concepts from the field — all of which explain many of the Unseen Effects of our actions, and the way we’re wired.

Episode 41: Money in Cricket

Cricket has been transformed in the last four decades, first because of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, and then recently by the IPL. Noted cricket writers Gideon Haigh and Prem Panicker join Amit Varma in episode 41 of The Seen and the Unseen to discuss the enormous impact of this commercialisation.

Episode 40.5: We’re on a break

The Seen and the Unseen takes a one-week break for Diwali. But we have one request for you: we want your feedback on the show. Click here to tell us what you feel about The Seen and the Unseen!

Episode 40: State of the Economy

Many of the things wrong with India’s economy today are Unseen Effects of Demonetisation and the botched design of GST. Vivek Kaul join joins Amit Varma in episode 40 of The Seen and the Unseen to take stock.

Read show notes

Episode 39: Eating Out

Why don’t Indians eat out as much as people in other countries do? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma in episode 39 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain how we landed up in an equilibrium in which our restaurants prefer ‘tasty’ to ‘healthy’.

Episode 38: Import/Export

The Foreign Trade Policy 2015-2020 is an example of a policy that harms those it is meant to help. Sudhanshu Neema joins Amit Varma in episode 38 of The Seen and the Unseen to explain why.

Episode 37: Obamacare

Obamacare is almost an article of faith for elite American liberals, but it has had devastating Unseen Effects. Economist Sudhanshu Neema, who joins host Amit Varma on episode 37 of The Seen and the Unseen, believes that it was responsible for Trump coming to power. Listen up!

Episode 36: SEZs (Special Economic Zones)

Special Economic Zones are usually set up with the best intentions: to attract businesses and create employment. But what are their Unseen Effects? Karthik Shashidhar joins host Amit Varma in episode 36 of The Seen and the Unseen.

Read show notes

Episode 34: Uber Surge Pricing

Isn’t surge pricing exploitative? Shouldn’t it be banned? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma to speak about the Unseen Effects of price caps. He also describes how Uber turned an illiquid market into a liquid one.

Read show notes

Episode 33: Football Transfers

How does the football transfer market work? Why do some players command insanely high transfer fees while others get nothing? Karthik Shashidhar joins Amit Varma to demystify this particular market.

Read show notes

Episode 32: Non-Performing Assets (NPAs)

Indian public sector banks have a notorious problem of non-performing assets, or NPAs. Vivek Kaul and Kumar Anand join Amit Varma to discuss the causes of this problem, and what can be done about it.

Read show notes

Episode 31: Urban Governance in India

Our cities are in a mess. They are not in such bad shape because of corrupt individuals or apathetic citizens, but because our structures of governance are all messed up. Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma to explain why.

Episode 30: Real Estate Prices

Why do real estate prices in India not fall when demand goes down and inventory stops moving? Vivek Kaul plays economic detective to help Amit Varma solve this mystery.

Episode 29: Drug Price Controls

The government of India often fixes the prices of medicine in India so that poor people can afford them. Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to discuss the Unseen Effects of this, and how they can be ameliorated.

Episode 28: GST Revisited

In Episode 3 of The Seen and the Unseen, we had discussed GST — the Goods and Services Tax. Now that it’s actually been implemented, Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma to discuss its Seen and Unseen Effects.

Episode 27: Television Price Controls

Indian television is appalling, and the reasons for that go beyond culture. Renowned journalist Ashok Malik joins Amit Varma in episode 27 of The Seen and the Unseen to describe how government regulation has played its part.

Read show notes

Episode 26: The Right to Property

The Right to Property is the underpinning of all our rights — and yet, the Indian constitution does not consider it a Fundamental Right, though it once did. Constitutional expert Shruti Rajagopalan joins Amit Varma to discuss why this right is important, and the consequences of its being weakened in India.

Read show notes

Episode 25: Farm Loan Waivers

In episode 25 of The Seen and the Unseen, Kumar Anand and Vivek Kaul join Amit Varma to talk about the part farm-loan waivers play in keeping farmers in PPP: Perpetually Planned Poverty.

Episode 24: Prostitution

For all practical purposes, prostitution is banned in India, and looked down upon by society. Manasa Venkataraman joins Amit Varma to discuss the legal, moral and economic aspects of criminalising sex work.

Read show notes

Episode 23: Public Sector Banks

In 1969, Indira Gandhi carried out a wave of bank nationalisations with some excellent stated intentions. But what were the Unseen Effects? Mumbai-based economist Kumar Anand joins Amit Varma to discuss the structural flaws in the very concept of public sector banks.

Read show notes

Episode 22: China’s Influence in South Asia

China has become an influential force in India’s neighbourhood recently. Is this something India should be worried about? Foreign policy expert Pranay Kotasthane joins Amit Varma to allay these fears.

Episode 21: Slums

Slums in India have been both demonized and deified. Some say they are an eyesore to the city; others say they are hotbeds of entrepreneurship. Pavan Srinath joins Amit Varma to take a deeper look at the role slums play in our society.

Episode 20: The Coming Jobs Crisis

Many of the terrible policies followed by our government over the decades have one common unseen effect: a lack of jobs. India is headed for a jobs crisis, and Vivek Kaul joins Amit Varma to discuss why it has come about and what we can do to stop the slide.

Episode 18: Restaurant Regulations

 If you want to see the many ways in which the government resembles a hafta-extorting mafia, look no further than restaurant regulations. They come about with a noble stated intent, but end up harming both consumers and restaurants. Madhu Menon joins Amit Varma to talk about the intended consequences of restaurant regulations.