Monday, February 28, 2005

Bihar - Lantern of darkness

With the election results, theres hope in Bihar.
The extinguishing of the RJD lantern, as much a symbol of the states primitiveness, as the primitiveness of the symbol, gives new hope.
Horse trading may well light the lantern which may spell dark days once again; newer governments may not turn out to be too different, but at present, theres hope.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Generation gap and the 'kids'

It seems just the other day that the generation gap was happening at our house. There was a big argument over why my hair should be short (and not till my shoulder). 'Cable' would be installed only when I completed my studies and we couldnt agree on the colour of our walls.

How could one generation be so disconnected from another generation ( the very next in fact)? No, we wont be like that.

Walking on Brigade road here in Bangalore, the other day, I saw a couple of kids (kids - there goes the first salvo). They were dressed in diagonal print shirts ( we prefer straight stripes or checks) that were quite short (ours were longer). Their cellphones had the tiny blue things which sort of dazzle the phone when it catches a signal. Their ringtones were 'loud'.

Wow! All this when I haven't even fully passed into the next generation. The gang with me, including me, who are in the same "just past youth (marketing jargon for over 25) were commenting on the "way these kids dress these days". We were dressed to be "cool" by our definition, in jeans and t shirts.

Generation gaps appear to have been programmed into our genes or is it that we are resistant to change?

Monday, February 21, 2005

Welcome to Blog Mela linkers

Welcome to those who found my blog courtesy Bharteeya blog mela.
Thanks for dropping by and do keep checking in at other times too for interesting stuff on India, business, economy and fun!

Friday, February 18, 2005

"Post" haste

The Financial Express has an interesting story on Indian Post (Snail mail).

A snippet from the piece...

... the Bill is enacted, all courier companies would be barred from carrying letters, to be defined as packets below a certain weight. The draft Bill proposes to vest the government’s postal department with the exclusive privilege of carrying all letters...

...In fact, the draft Bill states, “Wherever posts or postal communications are established by the Central government, all persons, other than a person registered under this Act, are forbidden to collect, carry, tender or deliver letters, or to receive letters for the purpose of carrying or delivering them.” ...

Did you know that the existing act is called the Indian Postal act of 1898 (yes, 1898). The point that is missed here is that Indian Posts seriously needs an overhaul and the way for it to grow is some serious increase in efficiency. Legislation is not the Big fix as Seth Godin writes in an interesting post.

Lets see how this one plays out.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Donate via SMS

Continuing on accessibility, SMS and cellphones have made many things more accessible. Yesterday there was a "HELP" Tsunami relief concert telecast on various channels on TV. Below it was a number to SMS for donations.
Donations on impulse,why not? Vivek Oberoi's stirring speech might have prompted many a viewer to reach for their cells to SMS a donation right away.
Nice idea.

Mobile Marketing

Couple of days back I saw an Air Deccan ticketing counter at a local shopping complex in Bangalore. The ticketing counter was a van parked in the parking space with the Deccan logo all over it and operated by a couple of guys in the Deccan "uniform". This airline has simplif'l'ied flying for a whole new market, but this was a surprise. I think its a nice idea.
If you can't bring the Mohammed to mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed. For a lot of people, flying is elitist.
Once people find that an airline ticketing counter is commonplace, it may remove "the fear of flying". Sure, considering the cost of flying in India (even with Deccans reduced rates) is expensive, too many people may not flock to such counters and buy an airticket on impulse "I was shopping for potatoes, but bought an air ticket on my way back."
But each curious customer to the van means a possibility of him remembering Deccan while he plans his next trip.
I saw a neat Hutch mobile shop (and this shop looks good) alongwith the Nandini milk mobile at different places last week. But selling prepaid telephone cards, connections and milk on a mobile shop is different ( mostly in the amount and type of purchase) than buying an air ticket.

But then, Deccan has changed the rules of the game, so why not go the whole hog?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

One more remix

Remixes are the rage if one believes the slew of remixes that hit the music televisions and radio stations each day. Remix songs are usually old (but not forgotten) songs which have been super hits in their days.
Keeping aside issues of royalty and whether they deserve to be made, whats the idea behind a remix? Is it
"I can do better than a maestro?"
or is it
"Let me claim my spot in the sun by tweaking (add some beats, rapper lyrics or some unclad women or all three) a good song and try to make a name for myself and then later ride on that popularity to become a singer/composer/whatever."

I am not sure whats the market for a remix song. If I have a choice, would I buy the remixed version of an old timeless classic or buy a song that has been corrupted by some wannabe jockey who did not have the creativity to craft his own song? Do remixes trigger the purchase of the original? Havent heard of too many remixes top the chart consistently.
Would I remember that a particular song was an RD Burman original or a "somebody" remix?
One of the earliest remixes was nice to hear. The second and third wore the novelty off by a small margin (Does anybody even remember them?).

Now remixes are like potatoes; hardly distinguishable from one another. They serve no other purpose than bring back some old song from the attics of my memory to the front for recall.

BPO and opportunity II

BPO,besides, contributing to a slightly underprivileged section of society also gives opportunities to another semi underprivileged section. The not so educated gang.
Now, dont get me wrong. Not so educated in the Indian context means people who are not post graduates or engineers or doctors or chartered accountants and we have a ton of those ( ask the IT industry, medical tourism industry, Gulf industries).
The average graduate who passed out a few years back had no job. The options were to become a clerk (underpaid, overworked) or join an IT training institute (paying a fat amount as course fee).
Today these guys are absorbed by the BPO industry. I have read a lot on how the BPO industry is a McJob which does not help in the development of individuals and how it will cease to exist in a few years.
For such comments, I have only one thing to say. First, if BPO is a McJob, what isnt a McJob? A clerk who pushes files? Or a teacher who parrots routine stuff ? Or is it IT (it can get boring here too). Atleast they have a good job. They dont end up working as waiters and rag pickers. Second, its a golden rule in life, make hay while the sun shines. So, for all those out there who think a call center is bunkum, ask those who join one, make money and get out. Many graduates I know have been to USA and come back. Who would have give them such an oppurtunity otherwise? In terms of raising confidence and self esteem of our youth and industry the BPO/IT has done much better than years of empty sloganeering.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

BPO and the rise in opportunities 1

Bangaloreans would be familiar with the white Toyota Qualis(es) with yellow number plates and uniformed drivers. These vehicles have a sticker on the rear which says "Please call up xyz number if found driving rashly or in violation of rules". They are also known as "rash drivers" which is rather unfortunate.
The ones who gave them this nick are the usual rule breakers - two wheelers and private vehicles. Buses and trucks by virtue of their size are kings of the road anyway.
I was chatting with a cab driver a few days back. If it were not for BPO he says, he would be in his village fighting the poverty line. Ditto for the private security guard with his walkie talkie and smart uniform. Not to forget the caterers who supply food to these companies and the smaller "hawkers" who supply food to the drivers and guards.
Drivers, Security Guards, Caterers. I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. There are maids and cleaners, photocopy machine operators, window cleaners, gardeners.
The BPO industry has opened the doors of dreams to hundreds and thousands of "uneducated but not unskilled" persons like the cab driver, the cook and the gardeners. Put together the BPO industry ( and its larger cousin, IT) has done more in raising people above the poverty line than what years of socialism has done for India.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Budget time nears

The budget nears and the papers are all over town with speculations, conjectures, sneak peeks and surmises all disguised as analysis. The major reform expected this year according to these is in Tax.
TAX is a dirty three letter word in India.
Income tax is paid by a small portion of honest tax payers in India, with the rich and super rich usually protected. Like the proverbial spider web, it catches all the small flies with unfailing regularity while the big birds fly through it with impunity.
Last budget saw a neat footnote that "all taxpayers would have to disclose spending over 50,000 rupees". The mantra seems to be the communist "Milk the existing tax payers because the ones who pay tax are the rich and they should be taxed further". Reality is quite the pposite. The trader hardly pays any tax since he doesnt bill his entire purchases. The doctor hardly pays any tax since he barely issues a bill for any of his patients (Some Bangalore doctors charge you differently if you want a bill or if you dont).
Ditto for the medical shop owner.
Farmers (no, please get rid of the poor farmer image for this post) with crores of assets do not pay taxes. Industrialists, with their access to tax havens do not pay taxes. So who is left? The honest middle class tax payers. Yes, the honest tax payer is is ready to be sent through the juicer again. Squeeze the last drop (plus surcharge and cess) so that politicians can thrive on the "leakages" that "exist" in the system.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Snail Mail

The courier guys and email and the cellphone have put another relatively useful service out of business (almost). The utility of a red letter box to drop "snail mail" has dropped drastically over the last few years. Email and cell phones are instant and almost always are never opened by anyone except the recipient.
Courier guys offer guaranteed overnight or second day delivery. Despite their low cost and good reliability, snail mail seems to be doomed until someone reinvents and reorients them to reality. Being government owned (often equated to being lethargic and complacent in India) doesnt help either.
This has another fall out. Britain recently phased out its last mail train. India still has its classification of long distance trains as mails, express, superfast and so on. The distinct red of the sorting railway car in the mail trains may find its days numbered. Or maybe reinvent itself in its new avatar as the railway cyber car.

Internet or Cellphone

A recent list put the internet as the most important invention of the last decade or thereabouts. I was at a railway station today and subsequently in a bus and at a construction site. Has the internet touched these persons lives? Perhaps not.
But there has been something, often talked about, that has made a difference. The mobile phone and the telephony revolution in India. (Strictly not invented in the last decade, but it got moving only now) From the days of waiting for years to get a telephone connection, booking a trunk(inter state or a different country) call, waiting outside STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling, which means inter state) booths (kiosks) to get a line through to whipping a phone from ones pocket and getting in touch.
The (relatively) deserted STD booths outside the stations told their own story. Cellphones have overtaken them. If you have to receive someone at the station, take the phone out.
On the way back in the bus and later on at a constructio site, there were people who use cellphones to make their day to day tasks a lot easier.
Communities who need realtime information or whose superiority depended on information ( like brokers/agents) have found their lives transformed.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Indian sports - new horizons

Sania Mirza became the first Indian woman to reach the third round of any grand slam a few days back.
And now Narain Karthikeyan ("the fastest Indian in the world) is the first Indian to drive F1.
Hopefully this will rekindle interest in sports other than cricket in which India has an overrated, underperforming team. It will also create a new stars for advertisers (Narain appears in a few already) long focussed only on cricket and cricketers.