Friday, May 30, 2008

Hopping onto IPL

When you run out of ideas, use IPL. Heres a column in Mint. Nothing wrong with the column, except that it is a waste of paper. There is nothing that I (or similar average Ramus or Ramamurthys in office) would not know about. 

On the contrary, the big piece about Rajasthan which I liked, was here in the Indian Express. This tells you the backstory of a team that succeeded. Make a plan; then make a plan B. Use your strengths and weaknesses well. Prepare so well that you are ready when faced with an opportunity, you need not squander your resources etc. Works anywhere? Sure. Like a dream. 

(And when you run of ideas even after thinking of IPL, blog a post like this.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

If I throw some money

If I throw some money at it maybe I will do it, is a popular self perpetuated belief.

It works well for those who hawk one year or lifetime gym memberships.
It works well for vacation and time share service providers.
It works well for those who sell correspondence courses.

It doesnt necessarily have the same ending for all customers though. The common thing is that the customers pay upfront with the hope that if they throw some money, things will happen. Once you take the membership though, people forget that it is a sunk cost

The best part is that this is the business model - the service providers hope that people dont turn up. 

Here is a perfect example of a customer. In each of these you will see a familiar pattern. The first two packets of the correspondence course get opened, the rest are nearly sold as junk. The first couple of months the gym sees regular attendance and then it slips. The first two years the timeshare is used well and then, well, it is too tough to take a vacation. In fact I know of people who have done all three and not learnt from their mistakes. 

Exit polls and Amul

Exit polls or no exit polls, this Amul ad a few days before election results, got it entirely right. (via churumuri - this time though, the people disposed). 

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bajajs XCD ad

I have long been a fan of Bajajs ads. Here is another one of that genre.

The best part is the bikes features are explained as part of the situation or song , not as the mainstay. Great ad...

Please take a seat

Many of us would have experienced the abysmal customer service in the 80s. You stood at the fag end of an endless queue at the mercy of the teller/representative/whoever. Any customer service you got was a deliverance and you walked out with whatever you got since you did not expect anything anyway. If someone asked you to "take a seat", you fell at their feet thanking them for their help. (Note that all through this, many private businesses like jewellers, clothiers always offered their customers a seat and got good business.)

Cut to the 90s. "Take a seat" became the norm. Banks offered customers a seat. Railways put a seated queue system in place. It is rare to see a place that does not tell their customers, "take a seat, I will be with you in a minute."

Now, this "take a seat" essentially means, "an infinite amount of time ranging from 3 to 30 minutes. Or it means, "Now that you have a seat, please dont crib and let me take my own sweet time to come up with an answer to your question." In the last few weeks, I have seen this happen at automobile service centers, hospitals among things.

Heres the challenge. Get rid of the chairs in front of your reps and promise faster service - sure leave a few chairs so that those who want a seat can sit, but promise faster service. If your customers cannot sit, the reps have to get their job done faster. I really dont want to take a seat, I want to finish my job and get out faster...

Increase the price of petrol only

If you come up with a harebrained idea like this, the market will respond by producing more diesel vehicles. Or even a "change the engine in your bonnet with a brand new diesel engine" scheme.

Unless of course, the government proactively, retrospectively bans all diesel cars, jeeps and non public transport vehicles.

Of course, there are many other ideas they could come up with like, only trucks, tractors and buses in petrol pumps will get diesel at subsidised rates - not cars and jeeps. Or they could ration diesel to two litres a day or so and open up the black market like the good old days.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Dosa fattier than Cake/Pizza?

Got this from a TOI report on labelling on food. It basically lists the trans fats in food per 100 gm as got from CERCs Insight magazine.  In that list pictured here, Masala Dosa is listed as having more trans fatty acids than pizza and cake and even "desi sweets". 

Now firstly, trans fatty acids are not the only indicator of food being healthy or otherwise. Maida, sugar content etc. also come into play.

Having said that my elementary knowledge of this trans fat business says that you need to be using hygrogenated vegetable oils to create trans fats (by and large). 

My elementary knowledge of cooking also tells me that typically in most non moronic households, dosa is made with til oil - one of the best oils to be consumed.

Also, pizza and cake apart being made with maida (one of the main culprits of ill health) also contain more hydrogenated fat than dosas. Even bread has a fair amount of hydrogenated fat.  Not sure how this report got this value for dosa. Even in hotels, dosas are not made with so much fat, unless it is some butter paneer masala dosa. 

Funny aint it? Or am I getting something wrong?

When you think small

I began writing this post a while back. When I started writing this it was all about hope. On the eve of the poll results, it is more a satisfied feeling. I have always thought that Karnataka was unlucky in getting a good government - now atleast, there is some chance given that one party can get to a workable majority. 

The last 40 odd months have been Karnatakas worst -whether you see it sitting in Bangalore or anywhere else. All thanks to a few people which was more interested in self and family preservation above ethics and everything else. But today, they have been humbled - by the humble people (not sure why this adjective is never used for the common chap - it is always politicians who are humble). The just daddy and sons party - has been ground into the dust by the people - they still have some 30 odd seats - so that they can continue to call themselves a party. In any case without a tail to wag, they can go about tending their acres, crores, petrol pumps and then some joint development of (sites). 

In the last 40 months, Bangalore nearly got Bangalored. The airport nearly did not take off. The roads were left so that you could not distinguish if there potholes on roads or roads between potholes. Electricity gets switched off every now and then leading you to wonder if genset manufacturers support the government from outside. The water situation is quite bad but water tanker agencies never had it better. The NICE road was held to gunpoint, IT companies were called names (among other things). Encroachers had a field day, land grab and urban planning went for a toss and just about everything that could go wrong, went. 

To the people that I spoke to, the level of indignation among the people of Bangalore - rickshaw drivers to IT company honchos - was high against the JDS for having screwed the city and taken it back by quite a few years. I am glad that it has reflected in the verdict. 

A lesson for the JDS. When you think small - and I do not mean this as a virtue, you will never grow. When you think of serving your own selfish interests only, at some point it will catch up with you. The JDS was hoping to wag the dog once more with its itchy, dirty tail. The people thankfully have not given them that chance despite the Congress throwing them a few crumbs. With assets worth a few crores they should be able to bear the thaw over the next 5 winters and then some. 

When this post ends, the elections are over and hopefully we will have a stable government for the next 5 years. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Paneer Butter Masala and Masala Dosa

The two together summarize the food that is India. Add a bit of bhelpuri or puri or idli - thts it. Make no mistake - the food that India is known for. Even within India. Which is a little sad considering the range of food. 

Gaurav comes up a migration theory to why Maharashtrian food is not found easily anywhere. He also links to a Vikram Doctor piece that started off his chain of thought. Too much for me to not add my 25 paise. 

I have been frustrated by my inability to find Maharashtrian food anywhere on the planet -including Mumbai. It was a great discovery for me to find a restaurant that served such food, Ladoo Samrat at Parel very near to my place of work. But somehow Thali Peeth, Sabudana Vada are difficult to find outside this Parel-Girgaum-Dadar area even within Mumbai. People actually end up thinking Vada Pav is staple Maharashtrian food. Of all places, even in Pune. But here is where you realize why. Migration to a certain extent is the answer. In any new area in Pune, you will easily find Paneer butter masala and Masala Dosa - why? The South Indians and North Indians are the ones who both make and buy the food - hence their palate is satisfied. The Maharashtrian on the other hand is very happy where he is - and how many Maharashtrians would like to have Maharashtrian food outside their door? 

Now cut to Karnataka. Walk around Bangalore and you will find a slew of Andhra eateries - not one sign will guide you to Karnataka food. You would think Bangalore is in AP. Also, please dont mistake Masala Dosa and Udupi cuisine for Karnataka food - they have other stuff also. And stuff like North Karnataka food which is so good can be found in barely a few places in Bangalore. The Kamath near the railway station and Halli Mane near Malleshwaram are two good examples. Considering the number of North Indians and Keralites around there are quite a few eateries that cater to this crowd too. Why no Maharashtrian food here? Not enough customers or cooks, perhaps? Perhaps it is a latent market.

Now lets see it from another angle. How about ready to cook or ready to eat food? Even in these cases, it is tough to get some packaged Maharashtrian food here - unlike Mallu stuff which is there on the shelves. So, a putt podi is easy to get, but not thali peeth mix. And here in Bangalore there are enough Maharashtrians around - the Chitale bhakarwadi has now started making inroads - it is popular with all in any case. So, it is a simple case of market or a perceived lack of it.

And tourists, most of them, do not want to try local stuff.  If you go to any tourist destination in India, local food is very had to get. This is a generalization, but overall, to get local food, you would have to go to some length.

Like I had observed before, the average Ramu who goes to any tourist spot likes to have Chaat and Bhelpuri at any hotel, so the moment they land up and the waiter says, "No Bhelpuri, but we have Kadubu", Ramu instantly takes a dislike to the said hotel. So, every hotel goes to great lengths to ensure that Paneer butter masala, Masala Dosa are available. So, if you are a local food enthusiast and you want to taste it, they are almost lost. Even in a homestay in Coorg, we had to ask for local food - they had all the usual stuff, but local, they had not anticipated. 

But now that there are enough "other" people in Maharashtra and Karnataka, why is that not contributing to the popularity of local food? By when will good khakra be available in Bangalore at Mumbai rates?

Vada phone anybody?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Never pay the carpenter

before he completes all the work down to the last nail. Otherwise, chances are - that that pending work will never get done. That little bit of polish, that tiny bit of cleaning up will never happen.

What applies to the carpenter applies to almost everything in life. 

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kalyanamantapa to mall

Kalyanamantapas are a symbol of Bangalore as much as anything else that the city stands for. IT, Aerospace, traffic - anything. 

What is a Kalyanamantapa - simply a big piece of land with a space for conducting marriages. It usually has ostentatious staircases, space for customising your wedding, parking, loads of space - the works. 

In these mall-a-mall days, I spotted one of them is being converted to a Reliance Mart. Smart transition considering the space that they have. This one preserves the Kalyana mantapa look outside complete with the curvy staircases. 

What next? A mall where one can get married? 

What is tolerance a function of?

In his column, MJ Akbar praises Indian secularism. Yup, the fact that we have maintained communal harmony by and large is praiseworthy. But who should the credit go to? 

Tolerance and communal harmony is a function of the the majority or the minority? He might want to read up some dope on the Mughal rule in India on how secular India was then. 

Comparing with other parts of the subcontinent - Pakistan Bangladesh might give the answer. 

Science versus accountancy

Recently, I had this interesting conversation with someone who wanted to pursue a career in accountancy. Nothing wrong with that, except that the justification given was a pretty sad one. 

Science/Engineering has not invented/achieved anything - they have not done anything significant or something like that was the point. As if accountancy has - unless of course, you count the creation of double entry book keeping somewhere recently in the 1400s

So, whoever advised you has slept for the last many years while the cellphone made inroads, computers picked up, the internet created its web around the world. Enough said. Surely the Tata Nano was not invented by an accountant?

The difference between Science and Accountancy at a very simplistic level is that in one, you have a non conforming mindset while in another you have a conforming mindset. In one you can question and in one, there are no questions. In one, you have some basic laws and from then on it is a process of discovery - in the other, there is no discovery. What was the last discovery from accountants that advanced the world? Surely, my memory misses something.

Creativity in science leads to stuff like iphone or even micro hydel power . Creativity in accounting, leads to, well Enron. 

Choose any career by all means, but lets not argue that science has not progressed in the world for the last 100 years. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The terror train rolls on

The latest stop is Jaipur.

Previous stops, Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Hyderabad.

Coming soon to your city/state, while the government sleeps trying to get votes - oh no, they arent losing sleep anytime soon.

I was in Jaipur a few months ago and like every tourist, spent a while in the lanes of Johri Bazaar, Hawa Mahal et al. It is sad to see those lanes bloodied with terror and a government that does not care too much about lives of its citizens.

Monday, May 12, 2008

IPL and bench

This is the second time that Amit Varmas column, has triggered the thought that what is happening in IPL is the similar process that has happened across all liberalized sectors in India.

The first time the thought was triggered, blogger decided to eat my piece up and I lost the thoughts and patience to reconstruct it.

I wanted to draw a parallel between the columns and what happened in IT industry for the employees. What is happening in IPL may or not be replicated in the quota governed model of the national team, but in IPL there is no place for quotas. (Mayawati, heres your chance.) In the national team, it is still not easy to say goodbye to a non performer and until very recently, we thought there was no alternative to Kapil Dev and Gavaskar or even Parthiv Patel. But with IPL, the playing field, has become level. Dhoni and Gony play for Chennai. Yo Mahesh for Delhi and Robin for Mumbai. The war is clearly for talent and performance, not quotas, not politics not conspiracy theories. And we can see three layers deep into the Indian team. Who said we had no fast bowlers or batsmen or fielders?

Before the IT industry came about, India did not have any industry worth its name. Of course, we had SAIL and Telco and Tisco, but the IT industry was really a product of liberalization (1991, credit to which should entirely go to PV Narsimha Rao, especially after seeing Manmohan Singhs current pathetic solo performance). Prior to the IT industry, the only way to get a job was to have "influence" and then there were no real industries; it was all a function of licences and what not. Also, offices were bad smelly places with a mai-baap culture. The big selling point was "I cannot pay you much, but you can learn". The IT industry came along and very rightly, sucked employees of all underpaid industries - including ISRO, HAL and many other places. Many industrialists cried foul, but ultimately, everybody's pay got better. Offices improved, work conditions improved and people began to believe in merit - there are barely any tenure based promotions in the IT industry. If you dont perform you get to say good bye to your job which in a government scenario was next to impossible. Some airlines are still trying to figure out in the courts what is the ideal weight for an air hostess while Kingfisher and Jet seem to have no such problems.

What is happening in IPL is clearly, the liberalization in Indian cricket - (perhaps world cricket as well, but I will let that pass). The argument against IPL is a similar argument we have seen against IT, private banks and we will continue to hear against private agriculture (its not Ravi, he has linked to a piece), until someone breaks the locks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Save Bangalore

Came across this sight today. 

A man on a bullock cart talks on a mobile phone. 

Ironically, thats the situation Bangalore is in today. 

Go out and vote! Carpe Diem

Friday, May 09, 2008

Maratha, Kannada, culture and insecurity

In Uncle, nephew, people, there is a dissection of the MNS, Raj Thakeray phenomenon and how it relates to Marathi speaking people in Mumbai. In Churumuri, is an argument that essentially says, replace Marathi with Kannada and you have the same story

Why should people feel insecure about outsiders - dont they add to the diversity, culture? Take my example. Having spent half a lifetime in Mumbai, I love many things about Mumbai and Maharashtra - including the forts, Shivajis legacies, the plays, the local culture, festivals and the food. Why am I a fan of the state?Because of my cultural exposure. And having spent 8 years here in Bangalore, I am beginning to like Karnataka for a variety of reasons (I hate it for others, but that's mostly political). The history, the food, the culture. I see it as a collective culture.

Why the cultural insecurity of each language, state, heritage? Partly because we dont take pride in our collective Indian heritage, culture. We do not recognize the commonalities. There is nothing to be proud of, say many. One big factor to blame is our education system - the Macaulay education system if you will. As parents we need to ensure that children grow up believing that his culture is in no way inferior to any other culture. So, if people were secure that their culture will grow regardless of who comes in and goes out, this insecurity would not arise. Politicians, as usual, like to feed on insecurities.

Also, nobody - nobody in Mumbai or in Bangalore loses out because they speak a language. In the "new" age, all you need is the language of qualification - by and large. So, using language to blame it is one way - but it is really barking up the wrong tree.  The other thing, in both Mumbai and Bangalore is that outsiders have come in and there are examples of tons of locals, including politicians and businessmen who have made money (subject of a longish post for Bangalore atleast). Somehow, these narrow minded idiots miss that point.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

IPL is here to stay

IPL is a success and is here to stay; heres why I think so...
  • Everyday I return from work, I have 3 hrs of power packed intense cricket.
  • The wife doesnt' complain - infact she enjoys it too (or atleast pretends to). Already it has very good TRP's.
  • Whether the cheerleaders get the people to the ground or the stars or the cricket or just the easier availability of tickets - IPL will succeed.
  • For the cricketers - its the best learning ground, to have Ghoni rub shoulders with the Shaun Pollocks of the world is the best work experience one can call for.
  • These domestic cricketers can now claw their way into the Indian team thanks to some good visbility - and actually its performance that will call shots - quotas could take a backseat.
  • IPL success should be owed to ICL - seems like ICL started it off, but IPL has backing of big bucks. What about ICL, well, we will see.
  • Enjoy IPL, let the players make money (Outlook magazine has tried its best to say IPL is not working - but tough luck to Outlook)- I mean it is market forces that determine the pay - any excesses will always result in lower payouts.
  • What Ranji couldnt do, IPL has done it in such a short while - providing exposure to the lesser known cricket stars - and throwing up some real good ones. No more talk of talent shortage in Indian cricket. Finally we have a replacement for everybody!
  • The new formula for IPL success will be - just retired Australian bowlers and a local batting line up. (we will know for sure in the next few weeks)
  • Again, great exposure for International class cricket for our budding stars.
  • Shane Warne!
  • National integration - Dhoni/Goni for Chennai, Uthappa/Harbhajan for Mumbai - it doesnt get better than that. (Btw, wonder what Raj Thakeray thinks of Bhajji for Mumbai?)
More later, after all, theres a match on...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why Bangalore must vote?

And when I say Bangalore, I mean what Bangalore stands for (see this, from a survey in 1998). The so called Silicon valley, is a little more than a silly valley today. A rather neat article in todays TOI exhorts Bangalore to vote "Only if we vote will we get a better Bangalore". Couldnt find it online though.

The city must vote so that the efforts of some political parties to scuttle development in the city and focus the attention on self aggrandizement in the name of welfare comes to nought. It must vote so that these parties are left doing what they are best at, infighting. It must vote to throw out parties (whose leaders by the way are richer than the richest CEOs in the city and own tons of land in all parts of the city and state after "social justice and welfare" for many years now) who held the city to ransom over the last few years. It must vote because this is the chance that the delimitation exercise gives them to exercise their franchise and speak with their vote. It must vote with one voice and give the mandate to the party which promises development and development only.

It must vote, for every single road dug and left unfinished. It must vote for the road development work ignored over the past few years.

It must vote, for the sad state of electricity in the state. (Bangalore has power cuts nearly every day and each time it rains, the power is switched off. The city incidentally has most of its power delivered via overhead lines and not underground.)

It must vote, for the poor attention to infrastructure - the long pending BMIC project which has been held to ransom, by guess who? And that is just one example.

It must vote, for the sad state of public transport.
It must vote, for the acres of encroached spaces.
It must vote, if the city has to live up to the sobriquet of Silicon valley.

At the end there is no guarantee if anybody will deliver. But this much is clear. That if it is a coalition, some dirty tail will wag the dog, the poop of which is here to see for Bangalore. In the last 5 odd years, so much could have done, yet barely has any progress been made that directly impacts the population here.

So, all you people, go out and vote. Take your time out and speak out for the city, for its survival. Speak out, next Saturday, the 10th of May for the city...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Foreign hand

The foreign hand or the conspiracy theory was one of the big things that impeded our success, or we had ourselves believe. This was our pet theory that prevented our minds from seeing perfection. Ironically, the foreign hand, itself was foreign! As Tyler Cowens says in his book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist, (in a chapter on Self Deception), "In atleast life in the Soviet Union was remarkably simple. If something went wrong, the citizens always had something or somebody-other than themselves-to blame."

So, there we were, for everything that happened, including somebody getting 3 marks less in an inconsequential exam, we blamed politics, influence, foreign hand, conspiracy theory and what not. Most people will empathise when they talk to anybody for poor service, be it the cable chap, tailor or even your regular office goer - they were not responsible, you see. The failure happened to a thousand mysteries - which unfortunately got together to screw up your order (and often, they emphasize, only your order - all the others went through - who will know for sure). This was a favourite trick in India during those "socialist" years, started by politicians and very enthusiastically adopted by everybody. After all, who wants to take blame for anything. Even today, a lot of times, we encounter this, in our quest for a very simple request, "Do what you promised you would do". But no, there was a foreign hand which prevented us from doing so, otherwise we are excellent. 

In reality, there is no foreign hand. It is only deceiving yourself from trying to do better at one level. At another level, as a service provider, all it means is that you dont care enough to try better.

Continuing series on perfection, here, here, here and here

I Yam Yum Yes Dhoni

Superb Ad. Havent seen one like this in a while...

(Thanks to Vivvaid), heres another one! Almost as good...

Friday, May 02, 2008

Transferring credit

The retail revolution is supposed to be hurting the kirana, but the kirana is not your regular government organization. It wont roll over and die, it will try to make the best possible deal in the market. Like I had written before it is the Kiranas who take advantage of some of the newer retail stores bargain deals. Every time I am at Reliance, I see them buy a whole bunch of their requirements from Reliance - taking advantage of all the deals. 

Recently I noticed something else - which could be a reason for their using places like Reliance Fresh more than the prices. Their mode of payment is not cash, but Sodexho coupons. Why? It shortens their credit cycle. They use the Sodexho that they are paid in and use it to exchange for goods  that they buy from Reliance - so no more waiting for Sodexho reimbursement, they turn it around asap. Markets seek their own level, dont they?