is better press, not innovation as this column puts it.
But in recent years and certainly in recent months as the US economy has slipped and slumped, concern has been voiced over it losing its competitive edge, particularly when it comes to innovation.
Ask any company if their Indian units have contributed to Innovation and chances that you will hear a negative answer is close to zero. How do I know this? Because I work in company like that and I talk to others who do.
Now think about your favourite products in India? How many times have they been reinvented? How many times do we admit we misread the market or made a mistake?
I agree we have not in case of infrastructure - definitely not in the case of expressways and pretzels - the two amazing examples put forth in that piece. But we have innovated in pickles (Mothers has a superb sweet lime flavour - try it. Priya has a nice Ginger one.), chips (ever tried Bingo? Mad Angles?). Roads, we have never had and MMS is not interested in it, since he travels by air - so that is granted.
I agree 30 years is a long time. In 30 years, we have innovated - the IT industry is an Indian innovation, the Nano is a complete break in the way automobiles were thought about. Just in case you missed, the Reva is also from India.
Yes, the US is a great country - I think very highly of the nation, but innovation can happen when there are tons of money and it can happen in very subtle ways too. Have you seen that new sugarcane juice contraption at Forum? Or Arvinds eye hospital? Or Yeshasvini?
Mint, I can write that column for you...
Monday, June 30, 2008
is better press, not innovation as this column puts it.
The Amarnath land transfer row is a lot of politics, but it is well worth a read and a thought.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
...and there is gas (rhetoric - as MBA types will tell you) itself.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Hinduism would be Linux. If religion was the Web, Hinduism would be Web 2.0.
Richard Stallman would be pleased. You can debate what is Mac and Windows till the cows come home but that really is not the point of this post. Bear with me for this post, as I attempt to step into slightly uncharted waters. On Religion. On the religion we know as Hinduism. And my attempt to make a small comparison of the religion with open source and Web 2.0.
The last few years, for a variety of reasons, I have found myself at temples, ashrams and other pilgrimage centers all over India all the way from Puri to Tirukadavur and historical temple sites like Hampi. And if I count my family, we have been to quite a few temples around the world including the Kailas Mansarovar Yatra. Each one of it has been an amazing experience. Sabarimalai and some of the temples on its route perhaps among the most striking as far as experiences go. I have visited at various points of time in my life ISKCON, Raghavendra Swamis Ashram, Ramanasram, Sri Ravishankar ashram - which between them represent ashrams and groups old and new. By no means exhaustive, each of these groups have something common across them, yet may not have anything common across them.
And through these visits to temples, ashrams and related places - each slightly diverse, yet encompassing all others - I marvel at this religion. Hinduism seems to embody - notwithstanding new found guardians of the faith - open source to its truest extent. It encompasses just about all open source, web 2.0 principles. User level participation, creation of communities - look no further.
Pick an avatar for god - any one. You need not choose humans, past or present, though thats your choice. You could pick a lake, a mountain, a spring, a tree, a sand bridge, a river, an animal or a combination. How that for variety? Spore?
Write an epic. Come up with a zillion versions of it. No copyrights, no copylefts either. No paper? Pass down traditions orally. Create your own epic. Build history. Mathura or Madurai. Ayodhya or Ayutthaya. Create your user experience by building a website, I mean temple or city. Fan created content? If those temples were not created by fans of their gods, who did it?
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
The urban arm chair activist is someone who you will see here and there and everywhere. It is easy to recognize them, even though they come in many shapes and sizes. Some of the traits they exhibit are that they scorn big industrial projects, heap insults on the "capitalists" who are "ruling" the world and demonstrate their activism by boycotting "some" things and buying "alternate" things. Next time you might want to ask them if they grow electricity.
They could work in IT and oppose "corporations" while collecting their paycheck rather meekly from the "corporations" they work for. They oppose the control that big software corporations have on software while discreetly checking with their friendly neighbourhood pirate if he has a copy of Windows Vista.
They could be your friendly neighbourhoods rich activist or their spouse. They croon about pollution while traveling in a chaffeur driven Skoda fuelled by the poor mans fuel, diesel. Occassionally they crib about large power plants while installing a genset in their houses that can handle the 3 air conditioners that they newly purchased. They also crib about dams while using fresh water to wash their roofs, no less.
They could even be writers - usually residing in the US of A or other developed nations while arguing for the enslavement of the ignorant idiots they left behind. They are a little peeved that the society they left behind is progressing. They are also upset about the rupee going up since that shrinks their real estate plans. They argue for a more egalitarian society, a society that takes care of their hinterland, shuns progress and votes for commies; a society that needs to be less global while using Google adsense and hoping that they get a few writing contracts from atleast one
dollar euro paying magazine. They sometimes write about other halves and better halves while reducing their maids salary by half for missing half a day.
They could be journalists who write for a newspaper that prints reams upon reams of newsprint from vanishing forests. They could be eco e-activists who just purchased a new computer and threw the last one in their trash.
Truth be told, progress is unstoppable. If it were not for progress, most of us would not be alive much less kicking everybody else around us. If it were not for progress most of us would have been farmers or hunters, much less bloggers and activists. If it were not for progress, most of us would not be educated in schools, leave alone arguing in English.
If you are opposed to progress, there is one way to be an activist - give up progress and migrate to a village where you grow your own food, build your own house, stitch your own clothes from the cotton you grow and stay off the electricity grid - you get the picture. If you need more help, let me know - just dont ask me how since you cannot call me up, drive to my place or contact me on the net, right?
Monday, June 23, 2008
You can take it as career advice, but it is more a thought on how to use the time you are in college.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
It is 2008 and glass has not yet been discovered in some KSRTC (Kerala, not Karnataka) buses. They still use the rexin over metal frames for windows. How about some transparency? The windshields, thankfully are glass. This is common all over Kerala - in fact there are very few buses with glass panes. If it not this rexin thing, it is pretty basic brown tarpaulin.
Friday, June 20, 2008
A little late in the day, coming from my side, but if you have not read it, do so. A great book. For anybody in any IT company (or any industry) it is worth a read. Louis Gerstner touches upon almost all the elements in a company - people, culture, processes, technology, acquisition, herd mentality, empire building - the works.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
There is a system that lets you apply to Mumbais collegs online. Brilliant.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. But it also made you uncool. The (K)night riders had all the fun, despite all thats been written.
Monday, June 16, 2008
After oil being sold on the "healthy" platform, is "no cholesterol" food. There are many snacks, deep fried products which have a neat "No cholesterol" emblazoned on the sides.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Ten years experience is often, a years experience multiplied ten times.
I think Kevin Pietersen is on the money when he says this, "50 over cricket may end in two years"
Friday, June 13, 2008
By oil, I mean cooking oil and not any other oil. Almost every single ad we see on TV connects oil and health - I cannot think of a more stupid message that can be conveyed.
Another one is Saffola that touts different health features of oil and how switching to a healthier oil (with oryzanol) will be beneficial to your heart and life. This is to me, is a jumbled message.
Its annual report time once again and coincidentally I laid my hands on both the TCS and the Infy report at about the same time. Infy's report this time focuses on talent, while TCS is about 40 years (yes, it started operations when many of us werent even born) of leadership. (In any case, the Infy report is glossier while the TCS report by its very nature is frugal. Something to read into?)
Disclosure: I hold an inconsequential (barely double digit) number of shares in both Infy and TCS which is why their Annual reports made their way to my house. I am a fan of TCS in terms of their strategy as regular readers will know. If you think people will read this post and rig prices, you give me a lot more credit than is due. If you are one of those who reads this and buys (or sells) shares, my advice to you is to not believe people like me - my thoughts are interim - never permanent (see header).
Previously on annual reports, here, here, here and here.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Increasing fuel prices, spiraling inflation - what are we heading towards?
I believe we are moving towards a fundamentally different world than the one we are accustomed to - or rather, were getting accustomed to. In many ways, we may be moving back to many principles our parents and grandparents lived by. For many of us this is nothing new - except for the current generation - perhaps the largest of the "entitled" generations in India.
First. Increasing fuel prices means that endless upgrades of automobiles may be passe, unless the upgrade is for more fuel efficient versions of some vehicle. The emphasis will shift from big to fuel efficient. Petrol at 60 rupees a liter doesn't faze you? Think 100. But the good thing is that - dual fuel vehicles, electric vehicles will get a much needed boost. How about a subsidy on the Reva?
Second: Commutes and communities. There is a big opportunity here in most of India to get out of the stupid daily long commute mode and try to switch to bicycle or walk to work communities. Much neglected public transport will obviously get more focus and become a viable option, but otherwise a shift closer to your place of work or a job closer to where you live may be a reality. (Bangalore really has an advantage - most places where offices are located also have residences nearby - and really it is a small city as compared to Mumbai). Where are those industrial townships of the 70s and 80s?
On a slightly serious note, expect more work from home options, more decentralized offices, more closely networked virtual offices that let you work from pretty much anywhere. (And with some licence to dream, expect food to be grown pretty much everywhere - including apartment complexes, if not houses.) Expect people to slowly shun plastics. Also people could move to a more sustainable lifestyle. Architects, get your green designs out.
Third: The age of endless consumption - a very recent phenomenon in India - may shift. That means, a shift to our age old penchant, frugality and innovation. That means, well, reuse, recycle, repair will get a boost.
I believe that the sharp increase in fuel prices couldnt have come at a better time. Over time the sharp rise in fuel prices will help hasten the move towards environmentally sound policies. Of which I mean solar and other renewable forms of energy, which can only mean good for the world.
But thats the light at the end of the tunnel. For the moment, prepare to enter it.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
This is in response to a Nick Carr article, here where he asks is Google making us stupid?
I guess every time technology has advanced there are similar questions. Did phones make us stupid? Did electricity? Did transport? Perhaps even the printed word -I mean, India has had a glorious history of oral teaching for centuries prior to the invention of books - so why do we need books? I mean, we really were better off in caves with the occasional tiger to defend against, werent we?
Whenever somebody makes progress luddites like these fight for status quo.
In any case, to me having Google (and wikipedia) is the ultimate democratization of knowledge or atleast awareness. After all if it were not for google, I would not have found this stupid article either...
The marriage was in a temple complex. Other than that, it was, like any other South Indian marriage. A far off cousin getting married to somebody. But marriages were like that. As families spread apart like continental drift - and it has no geographical equivalent - a sudden spasm that gets them all together - only to continue to their drift, though, now with updated phone numbers and mail ids.
Dheeraj thought a while before deciding to drop down. Marriages, more than other similar social events - like upanayamams or engagements - were like five day cricket matches. Between the crescendo of the muhurtam or the melee at lunch, there are significant moments when the silk haired grandmothers take stock of their progeny across multiple family trees.
And that meant that discussions would veer from "Why your son is not in America" to "My sons house in Seattle" to "My daughter is studying in Illinois" to a "She is only looking at green card holders". Even Platinum card owners (by invitation only) - she was not interested.
But because this venue was closer to Raghavans house, it made sense. Atleast he could slip away to catch some TV or even a nap during the times when there was nothing to do. In any case with Raghavan around, it would not be boring.
They all trooped in, the uncles, the aunts and the cousins. Each generation tried its best to look better than the previous generation, but then cosmetics only worked so much. But in the meantime, as they had lunch - which was the usual feast - and scrambled to get into Raghavans place at the earliest, Dheeraj had a problem.
"I dont seem to be able to find my sandals"
"You must have left it at home"
"No, it was with me until now"
"May be you left at the temple in the morning"
"No, I am pretty sure I had it until we came in for lunch?"
"Where was the last time you wore it?"
"Dheeraj, we are moving man, you get your sandals and join us at Raghavans"
He did not let his conscience bother him too much- not when he was faced with the prospect of having to walk a kilometer on ashpalt barefoot at 1 pm in Chennai in April. Soon Dheeraj was back, having lost his favourite seat under the fan by about 5 minutes.
Some time later arrived all the uncles and aunties who were coming in to catch up on their siesta at Raghavans - who had helpfully arranged a spare room with their neighbours to cope with the wedding rush. As the discussion topics veered from stolen slippers to people losing their morals in temples there was a shriek.
"My slippers are here"
"You muttal, you were always like this. You forgetful oaf, Mani"
"But I cannot forget my slippers here"
"Because I did not come here in the morning"
"Oh, so you forgot that too?"
"I came with you, remember?"
"And we did not stop here."
"So who is forgetful? In any case, these are my slippers. Why? I can even see the sticker on it. God is great. I thought I had lost my slipper in the temple, only to find it here. It is a miracle."
"God has better things to do than take care of your slippers"
Just then Dheeraj woke up in the middle of a dream on footwear. "Hey, Mani mama lost his slippers at the temple and found them here."
"What? Which are they?"
"Why are you so interested?"
"This is your sandal?"
"Yes. It suits me does it not?" beamed Mani Mama "makes me look 20 years younger"
"What do you mean? It looks bad does it?"
"No. Someone stole my new sandals and I picked up the newest of those remaining. Now I have to buy another one..."
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Circa 1998. Kumar looked at the bulging telecom bill and proposed, "Email services will be introduced in an effort to reduce the communication costs. At a time when our company is seeking to cut costs, through STD calls or VSAT lines, communication costs are sky rocketing. With the factory and the main office in different places, it is a cost that has to be cut down and we see email as a tool that will help us in achieving that target."
After that, heres how a typical conversation went...
"I sent you an email"
"There is nothing in my inbox"
"But I sent it to you at 9"
"Ok, what is it about?"
"It is about order 3429"
"What about it?"
"It is a long story. Anyway, I will fax a print of the mail to you."
Next Stop: IT department
"My mail has not reached the factory"
"We had a problem with the server"
"Why did you not inform us?"
"We ourselves came to know of the problem only now"
"Sigh! Each day you have a server problem. God knows how we can resolve this"
"Technical issue sir, cant help"
15 minutes passed and a fax was sent - this was an STD. And promptly a telephonic discussion ensued.
"Did you get my fax"
"We will ship it soon, as you wanted it"
"Keep me posted on the status on an hourly basis and bother with the mail"
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
From the TOI today
Monday, June 02, 2008
While the minister in charge was busy getting the Prime Ministers office to write 8 letters of recommendation for his kith and kin to procure cheap gas in an era of costly oil, his departments incompetence is seen here. The highways project which were supposed to be the lifeline of a country which barely has good roads, is now put on ventilator.
And if Mr. Baalu were heading a project in an IT company that showed similar incompetence, the result would have been clear. But this is the government you see, and in this particular government, there is no accountability.
Previous examples of incompetence which have been rewarded, here and here. For a glowing list, go here.
The IPL fever has well and truly caught the country. At the Tiruvannamalai bus stand, there was a motley crowd of passengers, drivers, cops watching the Chennai team take on the Rajasthan team in the grand finale.