Where Angels Prey

Where Angels Prey is a novel by Ramesh S Arunachalam. Please refer to www.whereangelsprey.com for more information

Friday, April 17, 2015

Light, engaging, entertaining fast reading, I Highly Recommend Where Angels Prey To All – Dr Smita Premchander

Light, engaging, entertaining fast reading, I Highly Recommend Where Angels Prey To All – Dr Smita Premchander

Summary Review: Where Angels Prey

“Microfinance started as a sector that helps people come out of poverty and empower women. Over time, NGOs discovered the profit potential, and as more and more changed to profit motive, the sector became an industry, the profit motive led to exploitation and extortion. This extreme deviation has been vividly captured in this intense and entertaining fictional novel, which is written in very easy style and is compelling from start to finish.” …..Dr. Smita Premchander, who has taught an elective in Microfinance management for the past four years at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and is an international development consultant, and Secretary of Sampark, an NGO that has facilitated formation of financial cooperatives

Full Book Review: Where Angels Prey

Microfinance started as a sector that helps people come out of poverty and empower women. Alongside, it also provided surpluses to NGOs. NGOs tasted freedom from donors. They began to expand their microfinance operations, and realised that as their profits grew, so did donor interest in them. Donor funds did not stop, they increased! The microfinance bread was buttered on both sides. The microfinance agency leaders were painted as angels, by the people to whom they provided easy cash, and by the donors to whom they provided large scale success stories. And then the profit motive led to excessive, expensive credit, at extortionary practices. Those who could not repay, started suffering, even committing suicides. The angels began to prey. With no remorse, even accolades.

An intense, entertaining and compelling plot! Eerily close to reality. A compelling way of narration, with details that sound so true, as if one could imagine these characters and events in real life. Arunachalam’s book is a gripping depiction of what has gone wrong in some cases in microfinance. As the first novel depicting the sector, Arunachalam does a great job, revealing a story layer by layer, with political, village and administration dynamics unfolding alongside an international journalistic story.

A work of fiction has the license to exaggerate, and I would warn readers of the book to read it as pure fiction. Those who know the sector should not look to put faces to characters, as they would be barking up the wrong tree. Read it as fiction, and enjoy it. Personally, although I found the book gripping till the end, I was startled by the end. Perhaps this was the intention of the book, and I caught myself falling into the same trap that I just warned you about: don’t read it as anything but fiction!

Arunachalam is a passionate writer, with regular columns on microfinance. His first book was a magnum opus on what has gone wrong with microfinance. His second book was a concise overview packed with his experience in the sector. His third, the novel Where Angels Prey, is not for the sector specialist at all, it is fiction, and enjoyable as a story. In the genre of light, engaging, fast reading. With that, I recommend the book highly to all, as a good two hour read while you wait at airports and take a flight out, you will not feel the time pass by!

Dr. Smita Premchander, who has taught an elective in Microfinance management for the past four years at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, is an international development consultant, and Secretary of Sampark, an NGO that has facilitated formation of financial cooperatives

Is Wall Street's interest in India's poor genuine? Is Microfinance like America's Sub-Prime?

Ramesh S Arunachalam 

Good morning Folks. Check this out - Is Wall Street's interest in India's poor genuine? Is Microfinance like America's Sub-Prime? 

See Latest review and kindly share if appropriate - http://www.whereangelsprey.com/blog/?p=132

Alternatively, other major global reseller links are available through - http://www.authorsupfront.com/angels-prey.htm

DONT MISS READING THIS ENTERTAINING NOVEL! See Reviews and Testimonials at website - http://www.whereangelsprey.com/testimonials.html

Review copies available and please contact rameshsa2009@gmail.com, facebook: www.facebook.com/whereangelsprey  and twitter: https://twitter.com/rameshsarun

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Learning and Teaching Corporate Governance: The Hard Way

Prof Venkat Parika (a Character in Where Angels Prey) and Wizard of Wisdom have a nice COOL conversation on the theory and practice of Corporate Governance. Enjoy your evening or day, where ever you are! This comic assumes greater importance as erstwhile Satyam computer's Ramalinga Raju was convicted of SERIOUS corporate fraud today...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Testimonial From A Person Whom I Admire And Respect Immensely

Dear Ramesh,

I have enjoyed reading your book, “Where Angels Prey”.

The language and the style adopted are smooth flowing, making it comfortable to read. The suspense created is so gripping that I finished reading it in one go!

I am particularly impressed with the meticulous care you have displayed in presenting the details of the complex world of micro finance in India, its sleaze, its nexus with the political economy of the State and the way the official system works. Though it is fiction, it is highly realistic and revealing.

Congratulations for coming out with such an educative novel!

E A S Sarma, I.A.S (1965)

Mr E A S Sarma served as:
  • Principal of Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad, India (2001-04)
  • Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of India (1999-00)
  • Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India (1997-98)
  • Principal Adviser, Planning Commission, Delhi (1996-97)
  • Adviser (Energy), Planning Commission, Delhi (1989-94)
He was member of the Indian Administrative Service (1965-2000)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tracing the Global ‘Microfinance’ Money Trail: Bob, Chandresh, Maarten, Tomas and Al Qaeda’s Hawala Transactions

“While Bob calls Maarten, Chandresh tries to tidy up.

Maarten greets Bob with great cheer.

“Bob, I was beginning to wonder if you had forgotten. Tomas here is a busy man!”

Bob apologizes and introduces Chandresh.

“Maarten, Chandresh and I go a long way back, just like you and me. And obviously, given that we’re on his home turf, you could say he is the boss on this one!”

Chandresh laughs.

“Maarten, Bob is just being polite. But let me tell you that I have followed some of your stories and it’s a pleasure connecting with you.”

“Likewise, Chandresh. Now, let me tell you more about Tomas, the star of the hour. Tomas Lindquivist, gentlemen, is something of an expert on the subject of money laundering and the international trafficking of money.”

Bob and Chandresh exchange glances. Where is this conversation going?

“We are in Tomas’s home in Brussels. I flew in this morning, and we have had a rather enlightening conversation.”

Bob is intrigued. If Maarten took time off his busy schedule at the BBC studios in London to fly to Brussels, there must be a very good reason.

Maarten continues, “Tomas used to be part of the European Union core group that framed the anti-money laundering legislations. He’s been retired for some time now, but he’s still the go-to guy for several agencies because of his well-known expertise in unearthing hawala transactions. What really made him famous, though, was when he managed to crack the Al Qaeda’s methods of transferring monies across continents and discovered how they shared information on such transfers. He was the first to reveal how they operated several email accounts but never sent a message about the money transfer. You see, the same account was accessed by various operatives across the globe and they would communicate with one another by typing messages and saving them in the Drafts folder. So no e-mail had to be sent. This simple but effective trick had kept the international investigators at bay for a long time before Tomas Lindvquist miraculously cracked it.”

Bob and Chandresh are, of course, suitably impressed by Lindvquist’s exploits but are also impatient to know how all that could be relevant to the Tejasvi Enterprises trail. Maarten, meanwhile, rambles on about another case that he has worked on closely alongside Tomas.” (pages 156 – 157, Where Angels Prey)

Praise for Where Angels Prey (Authrored by Ramesh S Arunachalam)

The endorsements expressed about this book are strictly opinions of the individuals concerned. They are not the views of the organizations/institutions that these individuals represent and/or positions that these individuals hold.

“The author has taken certain well-recognised features of India’s microfinance industry. He has then blended it with such creative licence as a writer is entitled to, to weave a compelling narrative that leaves the reader guessing where fact ends and fiction begins” – D. Sampathkumar Editorial Consultant- The hindu Business Line

“Wow, what an amazing, engaging, honest, searing tale! I absolutely adored this book. I started to read it and I was hooked. I could not put it down until I reached the end. A completely believable and mind boggling eyeopener of a tale of greed, corruption and altruism and its effect on the desperately poor. Beautifully written, with not one word out of place, it gives a very clear and scary picture of what could and does go wrong in India today. An amazing book which will stay with me,” - Renita D’Silva Author of ‘Monsoon Memories’, ‘The Forgotten Daughter’ and ‘The Stolen Girl’

“Where Angels Prey is an engaging and touching story of the collision of altruism and aspiration. Its narration of how the Indian rural poor suffer from this collision, in the context of the spectacular growth and equally spectacular crisis of the Andhra Pradesh microfinance industry, shocks and moves. I found it a most enjoyable, but also most disturbing, read!” – Matthew Gamser, CEO, SME Finance Forum, International Finance Corporation, Washington DC, USA

“During the very spectacular implosion of microfinance in Andhra Pradesh in 2010, Ramesh Arunachalam was merciless in his analysis. Combining field trips, secondary research and his experience in the rural development space, he stripped bare the malaise in the sector. It is excellent that he has now parsed all that know how into this racy entertaining novel.” – M Rajshekhar, Senior Journalist, Scroll.in and former Senior Assistant Editor (Rural India, Environment), The Economic Times

“This novel is a brilliant piece of work from a person who has seen at close quarters the microfinance industry’s rise and fall in Andhra Pradesh. The plot, fit for a movie, is beautifully woven into all the happenings that have plagued the sector. It makes for such a compelling read that it can’t be put down even once!” – Madhusudhan Lagisetty, Assistant Vice President, Tata AIG Life Insurance Co Ltd

“Money is trust encrypted; the story of how it can be used to destroy trust in the name of the poor is vividly portrayed in this highly entertaining book…the title says it all.” – Al Fernandez, Chairman NABFINS Ltd and Padmashree Awardee 2000

“Where Angels Prey is art imitating life … a great read the first and the second time around.” – Jami Solli, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Legal Aid (GALA), USA

“Really enjoyed the novel Where Angels Prey…. Its unique plot and fast pace make it a very entertaining and smooth read.” – Prof M S Sriram, formerly Professor at IIM (Ahmedabad) and currently Visiting Professor at IIM (Bangalore)

“Where Angels Prey is wonderfully written and captivating. I thought I’d read a chapter, but the narrative was so gripping I went through the whole book at one stretch.” – V Ramamurthy, I.A.S. (Retd), 1959 Batch

“Where Angels Prey pulls and absorbs you into its plot and holds you there from start to finish.” – Joy Deshmukh-Ranadive, Global Head, Corporate Social Responsibility, Tata Consultancy Services

“A Brilliant Read—Where Angels Prey blurs the line between fiction and truth. From a man who understands money as well as anyone I know, this book paints the two worlds that wrestle in India in the 21st century. Descriptive, taut, with well-etchedout characters, and most importantly entertaining. This book is crying out to be made into a film!” – Anshuman Jha, Actor

“Riveting…. Designed to be the ideal solution to meet the financial needs of the poor, somewhere the microfinance sector decided to change course to be in the commercial, profit-making zone, placing millions of lives at the risk of failure and complete bankruptcy. Many sector leaders became the same demons, if not worse, that they swore to slay. The book beautifully highlights the interconnectedness of issues and actors, helping the reader analyse the situation on the ground and questioning many of the so-called ‘accepted’ truths. Congratulations to Ramesh for having successfully converted his long-standing experience with the sector into a gripping narrative that will have readers asking for much more.” – Moutushi Sengupta, Director–India, MacArthur Foundation

“From rural Andhra Pradesh to the shiny lobbies of Wall Street, this financial thriller is a must read for everybody. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with microfinance because Ramesh Arunachalam breaks down the concepts and the scams associated with microfinance in this entertaining saga. This book boasts of Arunachalam’s sheer brilliance as a writer and as a financial expert. Smooth, fast and nail-biting! I wonder when the movie is going to be out!” – Anand Bhaskar, Musician

“Fantastic storyline, but startlingly realistic; written racily, yet in impeccable English. Interweaving fact and fiction, this novel is a creative and compelling read.” - G R Swaminathan, Assistant Solicitor General of India

“No one doubted the power of microfinance in pulling millions out of poverty. But, a spate of suicides by the borrowers in 2010 raised more questions than answers. For an inside story of what happened and why, you don’t need to go farther than this brilliant yet entertaining novel, which is so hard to put down. Ramesh’s idea to write the microfinance story as fiction is ingenious. The intrigue behind the rise and fall of the sector could be brought out no holds barred. It’s a must read. Like one of the characters in the book said, ‘We owe it to them—to each of those fifty plus people who have been robbed of their lives, and to the hundreds of thousands of others whose trust has been violated’.” – S Sivakumar, Architect, ITC e-Choupal

“Where Angels Prey is really an excellent read! This graphic exploration of the once universally-lauded microfinance industry is bang on target. It works not just as a great read but as something to make you think a little deeper along the way. Written with flair, verve and a superb eye for detail—which is not surprising as Arunachalam is India’s leading microfinance analyst—this gripping novel is a trip into the darker side of the poverty industry as it rampages and careens through the lives of the poor under cover of actually helping them. I look forward to the film in due course—it will be India’s very own ‘Wall Street’!” – Milford J. B. Bateman PhD, Freelance consultant on local economic development, Visiting Professor of Economics, Juraj Dobrila at Pula University, Croatia and Adjunct Professor of Development Studies, St Marys University, Halifax, Canada

“I read Where Angels Prey by Ramesh Arunachalam in one sitting. A tightly and well written plot. Yes, it’s true the poor lead doomed lives. There is an occasional break, a sliver of dawn but that proves elusive though not enough for a few determined reporters to find a story. Will their efforts end and end well or is there a sequel. Only time and Ramesh can tell if the crooks take it all” – R. Vijaykumar, PhD, IAS (1978), Secretary, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER), Govt of India, New Delhi

“Where Angels Prey – What a wonderful read! I loved the book and most especially the philosophical puzzle of how it ends. This MUST READ rip-roaring piece of fiction races the reader through the halls of the Mumbai and New York Stock exchanges and into the villages of Andhra Pradesh. Where Angels Prey exposes the worst of what can happen when commercial interests and desperation collide: a train wreck tragic in every way. At the heart of the story, as two journalists work unstoppably to interpret a rain of motives, they uncover why and how the angels prey.” – Kim Wilson, Faculty, The Fletcher School, Tufts University

Who is Prasad Kamenini?

Dear Friends

Good morning! I have been getting a lot of questions about my novel, Where Angels Prey, and I felt it important to write a blog to address these:

The first and most frequent question is: Is the book, Where Angels Prey, a work of fiction? Come on guys! Please give me a break my dear friends! Where Angels Prey, is indeed a work of FICTION loosely inspired by events that took place in the microfinance sector in India and also other parts of the world. Honestly, I have been so bored by my own previous TECHNICAL books on microfinance that I thought I would write something interesting and entertaining. And from the endorsements that have started to come in, I am beginning to believe that Where Angels Prey is indeed an interesting read. Please try it and hopefully, you should enjoy it!

A second frequent question is: Are any of the characters in the book’s plot real? The answer is simple NO! The names, characters, businesses, many places (other than big cities) and institutions are primarily the product of my own imagination. And I do not see any resemblances what-so-ever, to actual persons, living or dead, or actual institutions, in India or elsewhere in the world!

Let me give you an example. Prasad Kamenini is the founder and chairperson of SAMMAAN microfinance. His background, as stated in the novel, is as follows:

“Prasad thinks back to his younger years, spent on his paternal grandfather’s estate in their ancestral village. Thathaiyya had still been the overlord of several thousands of acres of agricultural land. They had lived regally in what was nothing short of a palace. They wore nothing but silk, used silver cutlery and had innumerable servants at their beck and call. His princely life had, however, been cut short in his early teens when he had to move to Delhi to live with his parents. Unlike his landlord grandfather, Prasad’s father was an academician. An Oxford graduate in History and Economics, he had taught in UK for many years before moving back to India and joining the Economics department at St Stephen’s College. It was because of this that Prasad had spent many of his formative years with his grandfather.

His life underwent a sea change after the move. No longer the spoilt prince, he had to get used to attending to his own chores, although they did have some household help. His father had turned socialist in UK and lived the life that he preached. He actively participated in protest marches to highlight social causes and was associated with an NGO that worked in rural development. In an effort to shape Prasad’s outlook, his father would take him along to several rural camps organized by the NGO. Although initially resentful about having to subsist on basics or less for even a few days, Prasad had slowly awakened to the reality that this was the life of the majority in this country. He often fancied himself akin to Prince Siddhartha, whose exposure to the harsh realities of life had made him renounce life and evolve into Gautama Buddha. His mindset went through even more of a change when he returned to his grandfather’s home for the holidays. The poverty, oppression and lack of access to opportunities and resources that the villagers suffered from moved him to a point where he started experiencing a deep guilt for the excesses that he and his family enjoyed. He started feeling that the only way to assuage that guilt, even to a small degree, was to give back to the people who had been denied so much by his family over generations.

After graduating with a master’s degree from Oxford University, Prasad briefly worked with an American investment firm. He had then surprised friends and family by giving it all up and moving back to India to work with an NGO called Madhya Bharath Vikas Sanstha. The SAMMAAN Microfinance programme assumed a new strategic direction in 1999, in the wake of the submission of his PhD dissertation on bottom of the pyramid strategies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.” (pages, 131-133, Where Angels Prey)

To be true, while I don’t hail from that affluent a background as Prasad Kamenini, I can relate to a lot of the above, except for the aspects that I did not complete my Ph. D (for personal reasons) and also that I did not go on to start an MFI – although I worked very much in the microfinance industry as a technical support person for many years. In fact, my own father chose to walk away from his reasonably well-to-do parental home as a humble freedom activist, much to the anguish of my paternal grand-father in the late 1930s. My mother, likewise, joined the Quit India Movement in early 1940s and later, became a social worker. With both of them, I have visited the grass-roots in every nook and corner of the country as a young boy/adult and participated in the activism that they (my parents) were involved with – in fact, that led to desire a socially oriented career. And for the record, I too gave up a decent life in the United States and came back to India as I wanted to work for people at the grass-roots. So, in many ways, Prasad Kamenini is someone whom I relate to very well and he is my very own little ‘creation’. That is the great thing about being an author – you can create a world that you desire and I have gone about just doing that in “Where Angels Prey”.

Likewise, a thorough and careful reading of Where Angels Prey will REVEAL that the names, characters, businesses and institutions mentioned therein are my own creation and have NO resemblances what-so-ever, to actual persons, living or dead, or actual institutions or businesses, in India or elsewhere in the world! And all of you will understand this as I continue to blog on the uniqueness and idiosyncrasies of the characters that I have created.

A third question is whether Where Angels Prey be construed as the direct representation and/or depiction of any particular individual/institution? As CLEARLY and EXPLICITLY noted above, as noted in the book (all versions), website disclaimer, Where Angels Prey is a work of FICTION loosely inspired by events that took place in the microfinance sector in India and also other parts of the world. It is NOT a direct representation and/or depiction of any particular individual/MFI/institution in India or elsewhere, existing or past.

That said, a very important point needs to be made here. My previous non-fiction books, The Journey of Indian Microfinance and An Idea Which Went Wrong: Commercial Microfinance in India Рboth of which, have received critical acclaim, are the ones which have any direct references to individuals, MFIs and institutions. These books served to provide an accurate account of the AP crisis. In fact, the major criticisms/expos̩s (with regard to related party lending and other aspects from the AP 2010 crisis including insurance frauds, corporate governance failures, material misstatement frauds on financial statements, documentation frauds etc) made in the above two books are NOT even a part of the novel, Where Angels Prey, which is plain simple fiction.

So, I would request everyone to sit back, relax and read the book and give me feedback on whether indeed I have been a half way decent story teller! Thank you very much in advance for the support and it is much appreciated!


Ramesh S Arunachalam