Thursday, July 31, 2008

From cars to mobility

I like the sound of this piece. Ford, if it gets it right can capture a goldmine of a market.

A crack team fleshing out Ford’s ‘blue ocean strategy’ describes the business that will take Ford to the next level as ‘New Mobility’. It is grounded in the tenets of sustainable mobility, where the accent is on access, equity, affordability, and the avoidance of disruptions in societal, environmental and economic well-being. New mobility rests on the edifice of public transportation or mass transit.

The Ford gameplan is to mutate into an ‘integrator’ of mobility hub networks; from being a product-centric to a service-oriented company; from being a purveyor of vehicles to a provider of mobility solutions to expanding cities across the world.

I wonder why Tatas is not on this, especially after the Indore city bus story.

Mass transit is the future. I also think walk to work and living in "walkable" and "bikeable" communities is another idea waiting to be exploited.

Gandhigiri didnt work here

Pakistan using ads to appeal to Taliban...

Pakistani authorities have launched an emotional advertisement campaign to persuade local Taliban to end their campaign of bombing girls' schools in Swat valley. ...

[...]However, days after the publication of the ad, Taliban in Swat blew up another girls' school on Wednesday.

Meanwhile the US is planning to give F-16s to Pak to fight terror. Perhaps newsprint is a better option considering the above...

Terror in India

The blasts have come and gone and there will be many more. Many more lives will be taken, until imaginary grievances are resolved. The government, will no doubt try to resolve imaginary grievances, since they are more pertinent than real ones, on the ground.

But the common man on the ground is helpless. Many think that their gods will take care of them. There are others who simply believe that it will not happen to them. There are others who hope that it will not happen to them. As I travelled in a bus, I saw a man carrying a bag and I looked into it. He saw me looking and smiled - he realized what I was thinking.

Is there something that we can do to protect ourselves? I think there are a few things.
  • CCTVs may be a while before they come, but with the proliferation of mobile cameras, we can take a picture of every suspicious object, person that we come across.
  • Shop owners could be asked to take a picture of every person who makes a suspicious purchase - either covertly or overtly.
  • When you travel, observe - observe very well.
What can the government do? Like it says in The Tipping Point, increase police vigilance overall. Get all new rentals to be approved by the police station. These chaps are bound to commit mistakes - like driving without a licence, forged documents, signal jumping, getting into altercations, talking in a foreign tongue. Once in a while, you will net a big fish. Get thorough in checking buses, trains, checkposts.

They are out there waiting for you to drop your guard...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Terror terror on the wall

Is there a terror problem at all? Close on the heels of blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, here you go:

Rajasthan: 3

Maybe it is the governments, I mean, state governments. They are all BJP, you see, which is forcing more and more converts to terror. In Congress rules states, it is heaven on earth. What about the Congress ruled country, then? Thats also heaven on earth for terrorists. Or did you mean ordinary citizens?

Wonder where are the terror human rights organizations?

Are the doctors taking good care of you?

The PM visited the blasts affected and offered a "healing touch", this report tells us:

But, the healing touch came when Singh stood beside Jyotish Dave, another victim who was injured when the car bomb exploded in the Civil Hospital, and put a hand on his head. "Are doctors taking good care of you?" he asked.

Err, umm, Is The Doctor taking good care of us?

Newtons third law in India

Every action has a pusillanimous, short and forgetful reaction. 

Action: Pak troops, cross LOC, kill a soldier and go back. 

Reaction: Nothing

Wonder when the gloves will be off?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Condemn terror template

Politicians style. Use it for the next incident, please. 

Words to be used on the incident: Strongly condemn, maintain peace and communal harmony, deep shock. (Deep shock? I am sure nobody misses a beat.), targeting the unity and integrity and the hoi polloi .

Next: Sympathy with victims (note to myself: double security when I visit the city and double my own security at home), wish a speedy recovery. Express grief over loss of lives, condolences to family of bereaved.

Throw some money: Ex-gratia payment

Retribution: Promise full cooperation, we will not be cowed down, arrest and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Update: Here is an excellent one studded with gems.

Please check the state, city, number of victims and date before publishing.

Bangalore blasts

The terror train stopped at Bangalore yesterday. Since only one person got killed and the blasts were low intensity, it is almost life as usual. But pray tell me, what if the same bombs had killed a hundred or a thousand and were high intensity? 

There would be no difference. Instead of the sigh of relief that the media, polity and the public is heaving today, we would thump our chests for our resilience to terror. But that resilience is nothing more than helplessness. As we have seen time and again.

The blasts have travelled, like a sinister caravan from city to city in India over the last few years. We saluted Mumbai for its spirit, then Hyderabad, then Delhi, then Varanasi and Jaipur and now it is Bangalores turn. Nothing else. Right now, the IT companies have tightened their security, as have the malls and many other establishments. But, not everybody can do so. Well, of course, they can, but the government needs to protect the lives of politicians and their children and dogs, you see. But yes, you are still in luck, if your company takes enough security measures to protect you (and itself). If you are a small business owner or anything else, well, you are just a statistic waiting to be counted, present or future.

And what would you do when the next attack happened? Nothing, you would check if your loved ones are safe, hope that they have been spared and continue with life as if nothing had happened. Yet, really, as a citizey, thats the only thing you can do. Believe it or not. 

Because, for you, the tax paying citizen, it is a matter of when terror will strike you, not if. And between you dear citizen and dear life, is a matter of probability. The next time you are in a mall, it might well be your last visit. The next cinema that you see might well be your last. The train ride you take could end in a ball of fire and depending on your luck, you could be fried or toasted or grilled or just mildly injured. No, you cannot chose the time or method. In any case, your life is cooked. Today it is seven degrees of separation from someone affected by terror, tomorrow it will be you. And me. But never the politicians. 

Templated assurances notwithstanding, there is only a paper and media war on terror. While the government worries about being politically correct and incorrect and wonder if the Kanchi seer should be arrested atleast so that the law appears equal to all, there is no war on terror. 

There is still no means, at all, to close the taps of those who fund terror. Also, there are still no means, no method to close the taps of hate on those who create these terror zombies. There is no real war. By pretending that it does not exist, like the proverbial ostrich, our heads are forcibly buried in sand. Nothing, absolutely nothing is being done to catch those who spread hate in our midst. Even those who hear it, do nothing. Organized rioting and mob power are scary, you see. The media mantra is see no terror, hear no terror, speak no terror. By pretending that it does not exist, we will solve the problem. 

So if you are a terror perpetrator, you are in luck. By virtue of the fact that you are important for votes, nobody will ever catch you. The only way you will die is of old age. The one law we had has been defanged into a toothless tiger. We also have the laughable spectacle of an accused in the Bombay blasts challenging the validity of a law to prosecute him. We have another accused firmly ensconced in jail enjoying the governments on taxpayers money while the government thinks if it is a good idea to execute him.

Do you see the supreme irony here? A convict, caught, proven guilty despite the many claims of well greased intentions cannot be sent to the gallows because the government thinks it will lose votes. 

But you, dear citizen, even as you await death with only probability separating you from it, does not give sleepless nights to the government even as you get cooked, maimed or disabled in yet another terror attack that could be in planning even as we speak. Cynical as it may sound, thats all there is to it. 

Friday, July 25, 2008

Pensioners paradise to ...

Terror hub? The terror train rolls into Bangalore. The last stop was in Jaipur, in case we forgot. In the meantime, IB has floated 3 theories as per this piece,

The IB says that the attack could be three pronged -- one to scare the IT sector in Bengaluru, two to warn the Karnataka police in the wake of the arrests of SIMI cadres in Karnataka which led to the arrests of 10 supremos of SIMI in Indore and lastly as a retaliatory measure since the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power for the first time in south India.

So everybody please be scared. B Raman has a title with a somewhat peculiar ending titled "Message from the blasts". To me there is only one message, Terror continues unabated with the governments in slumber.

Karnataka has been in the news for a while with the "surprise discovery" of being linked to a few terror plots, direct and indirect. So, for the IB to know this within minutes, surely they would have had an inkling that something of this nature was being planned? Perhaps they do not, which is worrisome.

So, politicians, can we hear the mandatory templated assurances terror war on paper - and add to the list of unknown wanted people. Keep watching this space. 

Even as I write there is a 9th blast in the city and the police has this to say

Gopal Hosur, joint commissioner, crime, said that there was nothing to worry. He said that the blasts were low intensity in nature. He assured the people that the situation was under control. 

I am well and truly worried.

Update: The paper war on terror has begun. Our home minister has condemned the blasts.

"I strongly condemn Friday's blasts in Bangalore. I convey my sympathies to the affected families and pray for speedy recovery of those injured in the blasts," he said in a statement. 

"The ministry is in close touch with the Karnataka government. Such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with anti-national elements in a resolute manner."

I suspect there is a template where only the date, government and places have to be changed when a blast happens.

Net users go up

Gasp, what is the world coming to - Internet users jumped 27% in May. Just 6 odd months back, there was a minor kerfuffle on how internet users in India were going down. Was it summer and people had time on their hands (esp the vacation population)? Was it too hot and hence people were at home? Dont bother.

Internet usage in India (and around the world) will keep going up for a long time to come. How the net is accessed may fundamentally change both from a purpose and device standpoint (and the two might be interdependent). So, you might access the net from a comp when you are working, surfing or at leisure. While the mobile might be the device you access the net (duh!) when you are on the move and require quick bytes of information related to where you are - the connect between the real and virtual world if you will.

Related, but not too much -crack down on cybercafes, but does that solve the problem? It would be better to use them well...

Shock and horror: Ramayan edition

Lord Rama, who very recently was announced as the Harry Potter of many millenia back, actually existed, according to government records. Not only did he exist, he also built and destroyed a bridge, according to the latest evidence from the Padma Purana.

Whats up doc?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Power, Diesel and domino effect

Bangalore (and Karnataka) are facing a grim power situation thanks to the lower than expected monsoon. But this does not faze most people here. Why? Most people have generators, inverters (Karnataka never had a very good power situation) and what not built into their homes and offices. But generators require diesel, right? So, the worsening power situation means that people have to use power from generators leading to a demand in diesel and a situation of diesel shortage.

Where from here? Most cabs here run on diesel, so companies have resorted to reducing the number of trips their cabs make. That means employees need to fend for themselves. Given the situation of public transport here, rickshaw drivers will make merry. Also, right now, petrol stocks look ok, but if the diesel powered tankers do not have diesel, what gives?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My blood is blood, yours is water

Poor translation of a perfect Hindi saying, Tera Khoon Khoon, Apna Khoon Pani?

Read this snake oil piece and you will know why.

Read this piece on the same blog on a different party and you will know why I titled the post the way I did.

Late news alert, Wipro university

Fast company discovers Wipro University...

Well, the bigger companies have huge training outlays including residential facilities, an full time educational staff and so on. They have been having it for the past many years.

It is one way to beat the talent shortage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

14 lakh for a 3 door

Car. Not plane. Fiat hopes that a 14 lakh, 3 door compact will revive its image in India. Revive its image yes. For better, no.

At 14 lakh, I can get one Innova and a Santro. Thats 10 doors. And I get 3? Bah. Try selling the car for 4-6 lakhs and then see the image revive for the better.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not responsible

"We are not responsible for wrong number calls, one way speech, low voice and meter jumping. Please cooperate with us." Says the customer repellant board. Seen at a railway station near Bangalore.

PS: The others I can understand, but meter jumping? 

Friday, July 18, 2008

Freeing Captives

No, this has nothing to do with prisoners, but ITES. Companies that opened captives in India are slowly selling them to third party providers, reports BW. Is there anything wrong? Nope. It is business as usual.

Arriving at a decision to run a captive in India is part of the "make or buy" decision that I am sure these companies must have undertaken at the outset when they set out to create captives in India. Chief among them would have been considerations of "how third party services are making money out of us" and "how we can beat them at their own game". Also would have included "we cannot let anyone access our sensitive data and proprietary algorithms" and "we can retain good employees rather than let them go from our account with the service providers" it would have given them a nice rosy picture. There is nothing wrong with this picture - it usually ends up deciding in favour of "making" your own captive when there is a critical mass.

Now, that the US economy is getting the jitters, the critical mass which companies dreamed of a few years back seems to have reduced, which is why the make or buy decision is now, closer to buy rather than make. Also, a lot of this will apply to those who have sent excess work out to India - using India to handle spillover and surge capacities - who suddenly find themselves with an excess work force. This is not so much of a trend, as much as it is part of a business cycle. Also, no captive can survive unless there is some sort of critical mass at any location that they are at. Who has the critical mass? Those service companies? The same ones you said would stagnate their way out of business? Yes.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lessons from two dhabas

Well, to call them dhabas would be a travesty to begin with, but between Kamath Lokaruchi (Bangalore-Mysore road) and Chokhi Dani (Jaipur) there is a long lesson. There are others like Dhola ri Dhani which I have not visited, where one could come up with similar lessons.

Describe yourself. If Lokaruchi is a rural house, Chokhi Dani is a village. No confusion. They are not five star places where there is a spa and a bowling alley and organic food. They attract tourists - they are touristy, by and large. In Chokhi Dani especially, they welcome you with a red tikka and a cheery Ram Ram Sa. CD showcases Rajasthan, truly and completely. CD gives you a small map of the place as you enter - so that you dont lose your way, and also see the entire place.

Whats your identity? They are Indian - completely and truly. In CD, we lost our way and wanted to find our way out and we asked a staffer. His first question, "Did you have dinner?", even before he showed us the way. Studied and trained that may be, but at that moment, it was natural. You want spoons? Salads? Juice? You dont get them at Chokhi Dani. Health conscious? Take 3 spoons of ghee and then we can talk. This is our way here.

Know your clientele. Lokaruchi is as much about the food as much the ambience, but the former attracts a lot of regulars too for whom the ambience is, well, done. The latter has a larger touristy populace, so the charm of it remains even if you visit it again - even if that is once in a few years.

Stay true to your roots. Food quality is superb in both these places, even as they have scaled up. But it may scale up only up to a point - which is where they need to stop.

Sure, there can be other me-toos nearby. But there arent? The ingredients are simple, arent they? Brilliant marketing and great service delivery. So why not? Simple, difficult to replicate.

The Afghan

I just finished reading this novel, The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth. Whatever be the merits of the plot - it is a thriller alright, however implausible, but the wide range of information provided in the book, like his other plots, is pretty neat. 

What caught my eye was the fact that two of his characters in the plot, pretty minor ones, who assist in the blowing up of a ship, are from "Kerala". Prescience?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Driving with two feet

The first time you drive an automatic car, especially if it is after you have driven any manual transmission car is a surprise for many. What do I do with my left foot? The answer is nothing (unless you want to put it in your mouth).

However, many first timers who do not invest in a driving class (and this happens to many of those misers who make their way to the US) find a need to use the feet somewhere and they do. One for the brake and one for the accelerator. Leading to many a disaster.

Sometimes things need not be complicated. They are meant to be simple. Are you simplifying or complicating things?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thoughts in the train

The ease with we can cancel and rebook railway tickets on the net, surely must have led to the railways raking in more moolah, right?

I am glad that the agents who used to practically run the railways have been put out of work thanks to the internet. This is one category that nobody is lobbying to fight for.

The railways still does not think that there is enough traffic to justify a double line between Bombay and Bangalore (and many other places). As our train slid into a sliding to wait for yet another train to pass - well atleast these days the wait is not more than a few minutes.

Railway food seems to get worse each passing year - pantry car or no pantry car. Puhlees, please dont write about the romance in railway food. If you do, you have not travelled recently. The watery tea, the vegetable that is mostly red chilli powder - yuck.

The Bombay Bangalore bus beats the train by a cool 6 hours - if only the railways woke up to offer overnight sleeper cars between major cities, it can chew up the airlines (who have already been chewed on by the fuel hike).

The railways truly were a social networking tool - the kind of diverse people we meet in a train - and in that sense it is the "old" internet.

For the speeds that the trains move (average 50kmph), I am not sure we need high tech locos - those steam fellas would have have done the job.

The Bombay-Bangalore train follows the exact route that the trains followed nearly 20 years ago. There is barely any change in speed (except that because of a generous buffer, trains pretty much reach on time).

How long before we have better (I mean, real) loos in the train - rather than use the tracks as a toilet?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Who killed the Golden Quadrilateral?

I recently did a Bangalore Bombay via road on a KSRTC Airavath service. The bus takes 18 odd hours to the trains 24 - both of which have become real options looking at the airfares. That the bus takes 18 hours is good, but it could be better. It can shave off another 3-4 hours, probably more. Why cant it?

The roads are not good enough; rather the highways project looks abandoned. Just off Tumkur you see the first sign. A half completed flyover. Today this flyover looks like Angkor Wat. Trees growing on the sides, near permanent diversion signs and nobody to be seen around - no construction vehicles. After that, near Chitradurga, same thing. It is almost as if someone has given up on it. I spoke to the bus driver who was doing a phenomenal job. "It has been like this for a while now." And from then, it is the same saga. Good roads for a while, then diversion and so on until some distance into Maharashtra (or is it some distance before Pune).

Just imagine what this could have been. You see signs of it all around on the completed sections. Fenced roads, underpasses for pedestrians and villagers. Village roads have access. There are overbridges - some with a provision to take a bike over. (The section that I saw in TN- Bangalore Chennai, did not seem to have all these - leading to people coming on the right lane of the road at great danger to themselves and oncoming vehicles. There are still idiots who violate rules, like a moped came in the opposite direction and so on.) The toll boths have an ambulance, a crane to take care of emergencies. The highway projects could have connected India like no other, but then the UPA has different priorities.

It is definitely not a quadrilateral. The golden part of it is now one of the golden achievements of the UPA. So what happened? The Indian Express had reported on it a little while ago. 2007 was the slowest year of highways. In 2006, there was some fudging of statistics. Heres another one from the Fortune correspondent here.

More on the GQ, here, here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Never forget the Mumbai blasts

True there have been many of them, but the 7/11 train bombings stands out as the most recent and perhaps most gruesome and sinister. As we reach the second anniversary, Offstumped puts out a wonderful post comparing 4 cities and how they responded to terror attacks. 187 hardworking innocent people died (1 more got added recently - 188).

Of course Mumbai stands out in the collective bungling and lack of progress. Of course there are vote bank considerations stupid. Of course, we hope that there will be no terrorist attack anywhere, even as the last one in Jaipur left the Prime Minister and others mouthing the same inanities.

2 years on, there is a plan ( yet another one) to create an intelligence cadre and what not, but no progress to make the commuters secure. On the trial itself:

Asked about the progress of the 7/11 trial, Roy said, “The case has been chargesheeted and the trial had begun. However, after some of the accused filed an application, the trial has been stayed by the Supreme Court. However, the matter is to come up for hearing very soon.”

Thirteen people have been arrested and charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in connection with the blasts.

But the Supreme Court stayed the trial in March as a Bench agreed to examine the constitutional validity of a specific part of MCOCA that refers to “insurgency” after it was raised by Zameer Ahmed Latifur Rehman, one of the 13 accused.

With progress like this and no anti-terror law, we can continue to count dead bodies and give templated assurances that we will continue to fight terror.

Never forget the Mumbai blasts...

Daggers drawn: IT

A ho-hum piece from BW in ET, accuses the IT industry of the usual things that get thrown at them.

As for those hundreds of millionaires and billionaires that the listing of these professionally founded and run IT companies has created? No replication of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here. No great institutes built. No institutions built - no school of IT, no business school, no major innovation labs. Some insignificant spending of a bit of those billions somewhere - but where is it visible? Maybe to a few insiders in Bangalore - but otherwise, invisible.

I do agree on the institutions, business schools, labs bit. 

Other Indians have, however, taken note of this lacuna. India’s IT industry, says one, ” is creating a gated community within India. They use their clout to influence national politics, and to keep their interests safe.” Like the rupee depreciation. He complains that though they have been awarded high civilian honours, they put little back into the community, indeed keep themselves insulated from it, in gated intellectual communities.

Hmm...I would like know who those other Indians are and how many jobs they created. Gated communities. Clout to influence national politics. Yeah right.

Remember that Microsoft, has a revenue of some 51 bn dollars. The IT industry in India by comparison, checks in at 36 bn dollars. (slightly dated). But then again, apples are oranges, oranges are apples.  Clearly for some, efforts like The Infosys Foundation or the Azim Premji foundation are invisible. Bookmark this for perhaps a longer post some other time. 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Partitions of the mind

Partitions of the mind: An excellent article by Pratap Bhanu Mehta. [Indian Express]

And one by Tarun Vijay.[TOI]

Read them. Every word.

Pavlovian response, nursery version

As the little one goes to Nursery, a thought from my own nursery (kindergarten) days comes to mind. During my nursery days, there was a curious phrase that the teacher used. Whenever it came, I knew we had to take every book in our bag and place it on the desk.

The phrase went something like this "tekotiyurbux". It was only some 3 years later in First grade that I realized that it was, really, Take out your books.

Perhaps thats how we learn language, as some sort of a Pavlovian response - atleast to begin with.

Update: After seeing Ushas comment, I remembered another one. Pin drop silence. When that was said the whole class went into an eerie uncomfortable silence. For a long time I thought it was a special type of silence where the teacher would drop a pin and it would drop silently.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The missing ingredient

Got this wonderful question from Marginal Revolution, in turn linked to Econlog.

I don't think we have a recipe that says, "Take a child of two non-college educated parents, add primary education ingredient X, bake, and out comes a college-capable high school graduate." The mystery ingredient X has yet to be discovered.

Tyler gets it almost right in his assessment.

The mystery ingredient X is a very simple thing, in my opinion. Peer pressure that works at multiple levels. Peer pressure to do well from a parents perspective - that is send children to school and invest in their education. Peer pressure from a kids perspective that puts "not going to school" as infra dig and results in not being considered as part of their group.

In many migrant communities whether the migration is from India to US or from within India - rural to urban, communities that are educated are quite simply that ones that focus on it like crazy from the start and that have this kind of peer pressure. It is an almost unwritten code. Not going to school or dropping out is never an option. A lot of success, for good or for bad is measured by how well you do in studies - and in an aspirational society like India, studies is directly linked to getting better jobs. Considering that there are tons of qualified people out there, education is the easiest way for companies to select aspirants. Today, even children of uneducated maids want to study - in a city like Bombay or a place like Krishnagiri. If it is not peer pressure, I cannot think of a reason.

In communities where this peer pressure is not such a big deal (or offers alternatives), kids drop out, parents cop out and the results are there for all to see.

Genetics etc., is an overrated factor - perhaps yes for toppers and high achievers yes, but for just completing a education or getting in and out of college, surely no big deal.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Ipods, mobile phones

Make that walkmans to mobile phones. Prior to the walkman, a radio or a cassette player was a social device - one that was owned by a family - in general. With the arrival of the walkman, ownership multiplied since it was, well, owned by one person. Ditto the phone. There was one phone per family. Once the mobile phone came along, it became a personal thing. So where if you had a phone in a family, now you have multiple phones - one per family member. (With mobile phones, the gaming market is also poised for a similar transformation though this argument can be stretched in many ways.)

The laptop versus desktop is also going in the same direction, as is Video viewing through the ipod. Ditto for the Kindle. Books which otherwise can be shared, will become device specific so you cant really share the device can you? 

Slowly, there are two sets of devices - one social and one personal. And interestingly with the oil price issue the car which was becoming personal will become more of a social device while others, like music devices increasingly take on personal meanings. 

Monday, July 07, 2008

Bangalore, on the ground

[ How not to repair a potholed road. 

Deepen and widen all potholes using a bulldozer to about half a foot deep and as wide as half the road. 

Fill it with stones/gravel and mud (local red soil) and lightly roll it.

Pretend road is repaired. Atleast, it looks better than what it was. 

Wait for one rain and one truck to go over it. Progressively, it will get even worse! Heres how the said road looked after one rain.  It got progressively worse, like cavities in teeth do. Once you drill, it only gets worse. ] This was a week before elections in Karnataka.

Now, in about a month after the new government has come on board, this road has been repaired. Before you think "expressway" - let me qualify. These above mentioned repairs have been done up with asphalt, rollers and looks pretty much a real road. Quite a few other internal but important roads have also been tarred. 

I read somewhere that the first 100 days in office are quite important for a government, so this government based entirely on the places I cover in Bangalore (quite limited) seems to have its heart and mind in the right place...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

How do you get inside?

The three year old has decided that his education is complete after his "graduation" from play school. Half asleep, half awake, his first sentence each day is "I dont want to go to school" or not so subtle variations of it. His fervent wish is that he be allowed to stay at home each day and play. "I dont want a one day chutti, I want every day chutti."

Given the above scenario, our marketing machine has been working overtime. On the importance of going to school, of learning to read, on how school is essential for him to become any of the things he loves (which changes perpetually - but for now it is a pilot or an aeroplane designer or a toy designer or a ship captain).

And today we visited a dentist - which is part of a clinic facility and happened to have a lab of some sort. So, as we walked past it, I told him, "Stand on your toes and see. This is a lab"

He looked through the glass window. As we walked away, he asked, "How can you go inside?"

The marketing machine antennae picked up the cue and started running. "Well, you complete school and college and you become a scientist/pathologist and then you can go in. Got it?"

Silence for a minute.

And I asked him "Yes?"

"But appa, where is the door?

On Marathi movies

There was a very good piece on rediff the other day on Marathi cinema (worth a read)

Now Marathi cinema as an entity was given up a few years back what with Mumbai being both the epicenter of film production and Bollywood. There was an odd release here and there but nothing that created anything more than a ripple. Being in Marathi cinemas position is unenvious. Bang in the middle of Bollywood - many of Bollywoods movers and shakers are Maharashtrian - and money being bigger in Hindi - there was no incentive to create or work in Marathi movies. The government has some subsidies and rules, but then who ever got anything done by a subsidy? 

And then comes the good news. With the multiplexes and some fine stories and themes coming up, Marathi cinema has made a comeback. It will obviously never become equal to Bollywood, but it can actually find its own niche audience - and more. Being in Mumbai is a great advantage since many non Marathi speaking people also understand Marathi and know most of the actors too - so a bilingual or a "Mumbai-sh" movie can also work well. 

Finally, good stories and good production values will help cinema find audiences - not a subsidy. There is so much out there to tap into. There is a lesson here for Kannada movies too and those trying to promote it. 

Classical music and leadership

A superb performance by Benjamin Zander. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

When the road gets tough

The tough get going on the footpath...


Two pictures taken a few minutes back...there were many others. I am sure if cars and trucks could go on the footpath they would (and they do that many a time in Bengaluru). 

"Ofcoursetheywerenottheonlyonesthereweremanyotherwhobroketheruleswhobreaktherulesona dailybasisyadayadayadaIonlybroketherulesoccassionallysowhatsthebigdeal." And an entire country goes to the dogs.

So, where is perfection

It will take a generation for us to be perfect. Perhaps more.

When Sundaram Fasteners won a quality award nearly 20 years ago, most of us were too busy to react or those who did, were stunned. How come an Indian company is producing perfect stuff? Then the story of the dabbawallas, though I doubt if many of us read too much into it. I doubt if the educated class really thought too much about it.

And ISO certification became the rage - then Infosys got a SEI CMM Level 5 (and so did many others). Leave aside the fact that certification processes rarely address perfection, but we all thought it was a great achievement. So, many companies are doing pretty well in the "quest for perfection". On the government side, there is a longish rope. We have development programs that continue for decades without visible progress while some others like the space program have given us predictable results.

On mobile phones and networks, we are getting better. Local courier and even post office services are nearly predictable. Trains running on time? Nope. Flights? Almost. Good, predictable roads? No way. So, all in all the culture that drives us towards perfection is missing. If you cannot predict what time you will reach office or what time your courier will reach you, then how will predict anything else?

Overall, it is simply tough to achieve "perfection" in this environment. When all the inputs are "adjusted", how can the output not be so? If that is the case, how have some of the above mentioned entities achieved it? When will our services get there?  Will they ever?

Continuing thought, here, here, here and here.