Friday, April 30, 2010

Bus buddies

This old article in BW link via 37 Signals, reminded me of Mumbais local train commutes. They too have train friends with whom they celebrate life, the commute and everything else.

Having lived that life for a few years and having spent time in various cities stuck in traffic jams, I think commuting is a pain and a waste of time. Perhaps 50 years down the line, commuting will be something we will look back on as a thing of the past. And perhaps you will go around only for leisure - (on you bicycle?).

More power to working from anywhere...This will soon be an incentive in workplaces.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


Or A case study on how to use an entire bus fleet as advertisement for the you know who's dynasty.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Registan Express

The Udyan Express would soon have to be named Registan Express if the desertification of the city continues. This article has the details.

I dont know the technicalities, but I have seen the city lose green cover over the last 10 years especially along the main roads. But before we blame the government for that, do take a look at Bangalore from the air. Most trees in Bangalore are in gardens or on roadsides - not in peoples house and apartment compounds. Actually some of the newer apartments have a few trees, but most apartment complexes have barely any trees - it affects frontage you see. And houses built on plots, well, they have no tree. Between the marble and granite and cemented courtyard, barely anything can grow. Yes, we have a few plants masquerading as greenery, but thats hardly any consolation. A large part of the green cover is thanks to the army in its area and some of the bigger gardens and institutions.

The city has to get its act together soon. Rainwater harvesting for one - which is now compulsory for most properties. Protect the existing lakes from encroachment so that the catchment area is not reduced. Rejuvenate the dead lakes for another - some of the lakes are sorry sights today. Create a good sewage treatment system. And a garbage collection system. The latter two are miles away from being anything optimal for a city thats continuously expanding. Is the newly elected city council listening? Public transport is significantly better than what it was, but more can be done here. The Metro is a great initiative that should be been here many years ago - but well, whenever it happens, it will be welcome. Cycling paths and walking paths can be built - a city with weather like Bangalore is ideal for cycling and walking and this potential can be tapped. Overall the cities friendliness towards pedestrians is reducing fast.

Right now it may seem like someone elses problem, but soon, it will arrive at your doorstep too...

We, the Indians

We, the Indians of India - the losers in India who never get to sing at an NBA game, must know that the breaking news today is that a Canada born Indian sang at an NBA game.

How exciting is that? Absolutely it is.

And then you when you read the piece, here theres more than meets the eye.

For news sites, it is their primary responsibility to track down the slightest of Indian connections to a non happening event and then tell us, how the said Indian (howsoever fractional) has succeeded in the first world. Such it goes it guess - since ostensibly, we the consumers of news sites, salivate at the prospect of hearing "Indian" connections around the world.

And I as lazy blogger salute their determination in digging out obscure Indian connections that would have otherwise gone unnoticed and unheralded thus reducing the success (!) of India in the eyes of Indians and fractional Indian citizens or citizen of other countries who were Indian citizens once upon a time around the world. People, please feel proud today for this news. I hope there are tears of joy in your eyes...

Monday, April 19, 2010

How the castle falls

A beautiful report on IPL here. It is an interesting read, but consider this...

It has all the ingredients of a potboiler...Action, Drama, Emotion, Fast cars, Yachts, Foreign Affairs and Women...

after a raging controversy over secret ownerships and sweetheart deals in the Indian Premier League, or IPL, stalled both houses of Parliament.

The alleged opaqueness with which he conducted the multi-billion dollar cricket tournament and the manner in which he took on home minister P Chidambaram in 2009 seem to have resulted in a detailed enquiry into his activities by the I-T department.

Read it all.

Now can someone tell me something about the other protagonist of this story? Are they squeaky clean or does that emperor also have no clothes?


The IPL saga brought tears to my eyes. It has shattered my belief system in the whole country. Today is a sad day for me. I love the media for exposing all of this and proving to me that the emperor has no clothes. How come they knew it all only now? Or were they still telling me the emperor has a fine suit?

All along I thought that the high and mighty went about doing their work in the name of the citizens who gave them votes and brought them into power. But now I have realized all along that it was just power and money that they were after. Sweat equity or no sweat equity. I sweat in the summer, they get equity. In crores.

I believed that that the ministers we bring to power serve the nation selflessly. But they are really in the business of self service. Perhaps boss service as well.

I believed a lot of other things too. I believed that fruit juice has fruit. Now I know there is no fruit juice or pulp. Everything has added flavour.

I also thought that all Sports bodies in India were really about sports. I now realized that the poorer ones are still about sports which nobody plays and therefore get milked only for Kurkure or an occassional railway ticket. The richer ones are still about sports - except your definition of sports may include yachts and fast cool cars.

I really believed that the government in its current form has been as squeaky clean as a floor swept by Lizol (no, nobody pays for product placements).

I believed that cellphone networks are congested only because of too many users. And then the "King" size telecom scam comes into view.

I believed all those Republic Day Parades where we parade our military might. And then I see 72 CRPF guys got slaughtered by "Maoists". And we still flying Mig 21s.

I wonder what other aspects of my belief system will be unravalled over the next few years. I know for sure which ones I would like to see thus, though they may not be the same...

IPL or no IPL - the reason why so many people are BPL is the same reason. People in office solve their own problem instead of solving problems of the people...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bangalore blasts

Yesterday Bangalores Chinnaswamy stadium was rocked by 2 low intensity blasts and a third bomb was defused. We can claim that the show went on, but what if the blasts were bigger and claimed some lives? That of course, can be dismissed as a hypothetical question.

But the bigger question lies - who managed the smuggle explosives into a potentially high security venue? And how? How did they evade security? Did they have to evade security at all? What if the blasts triggered a stampeded? And as with any lull in terrorism, is this some sort of a recce? Do we have a plan in place for any of these?

Bangalore has had a series of blasts recently and clearly, this is a city that is in the crosshairs of the terrorists. This show went on, but remember that the terrorism show is going on too...

Thursday, April 15, 2010


The newest match of the IPL is just being played- and it is not between any of the teams. The best match is being played outside between Tharoor, Modi and a few others. Follow Smoke Signals for a regular update on it...

But this is worth a thought. There is a spat between Modi and Tharoor among other people and all of a sudden, out of the blue, there is an Income Tax raid on IPL. Sounds so like the 80s eh? Anybody who takes on the powers that be is cut down to size by a raid that is just "coincidental by an independent department"? Interesting. The more things change, they more they remain the same...

(Ironically, I have to tag this as sports when it is not really about sports or perhaps it is...)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


After dithering for a while, I finally went ahead and picked up a Netbook - Samsung N210 to be precise. And after using it for a few weeks, I think netbooks are cool. People buy laptops thinking they will do this and that - including watch a movie and what not. But if you are not one of those and you would rather have something that lets you get on the web and be there (which is what I think most of us do anyway), a netbook is a neat option. Not as heavy as laptops - will fit cozily into a backpack - and you will actually take it where you go - rather than dump it as the first item for ballast when the luggage is a bit heavy. Their higher battery life is a plus too if you travel.

For me, I wanted something that allowed me to work (mostly write) anywhere in the house at anytime. With Google docs and offline mode, I can write whenver I want to write. Over the last few weeks, it has found great use for me. The kids also get the desktop when they want to do something.

So, if you are not into doing a million things with that laptop of yours - consider the netbook. They look pretty cool too :)

100 rupees

Conversation in the car between the grandmother and the little one...

"You will fall asleep before we reach..."
"No I wont..." says the defiant little voice.
"I bet you a hundred rupees that you will..."

Moments of silence. The little one lets out a yawn...Looks like the battle against sleep is a lost one...The adults in the car have forgotten the above conversation.

"Thathi, take hundred rupees...I am very sleepy"

They always remember what they are supposed to remember, dont they....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sun Block

"Whats this?" asked the little one as we prepare to go swimming
"This is Sun block?"
"To block the sun while you are in the pool. The sun can tan your skin..." I go about applying the sun block.

All of a sudden, "I am feeling cold" (Please note that this is summer 2010, when Bangalore is having one of its hottest summers)
"What? How?"
"Because this cream is blocking the sun..."

Friday, April 09, 2010

Twitter newspaper

As Prem says twitter can soon replace the newspaper and other aggregators. Honestly, I like that thought. I would rather follow my twitter list to give me the updates I want than a random set of editors who decide what I read in the morning.

Other than that, heres what works for me
  • No celebrities. None ever. Especially those who twitter a million a minute
  • Follow those who will distill above into one or two tweets a day that's all an intelligent brain can take.
  • There are many twitterers who can aggregate and RT the right stuff for you.
  • Stick to those who will provide you with a good reading list and some good thoughts.
More power to twitter...and follow me here...

Anti Torture bill

Dear Terrorist, your planners, supporters, financiers and the rest involved in similar evil activities to kill innocents:

I received your bmb. Thank you. It has exploded in the face of a few hundred people. A few people went to their afterlives. Hopefully, you have earned your medals that will guarantee you your goodies in your after life. I am glad you have taken care of your after life. I guarantee you that even if you are caught, we will not torture you to extract information from you in this life. I will give you a nice questionnaire that you will fill which we will use as evidence about you. Even if you kill a zillion people, we will not torture. We are nice people, you see. The same applies to all of your supporters.

But if any policeman or paramilitary guy tortures you, we will pulverize him, court martial him and do whatever it takes to ensure that justice is delivered - even make his life less worth living. Sorry for this distraction. Carry on with your work.

Torturers deserve to be tortured. Killers deserve to be killed.

Mumbai and J&K

J&K bans inter district recruitment. (Correct me if I am wrong, isnt outside state recruitment banned here in any case?) Pray, tell me, how is this different from a certain media favourite banning people from entering Mumbai? And if there is so much outrage against the latter, where is the outrage against the former? Why? Why? Why?

In my mind, Raj Thackeray is the best thing that can happen to India. By virtue of this one person, Vodafone in Mumbai now talks to you in Marathi if someone you call has a busy line. By virtue of this one person, there are boards in Marathi. My wish is that there are a hundred Raj Thackerays everywhere. That, hopefully will drive politicians to ensure that every state is governed by uniform laws. Otherwise, we are only a step away from Bombay banning recruitment from non domiciled Mumbaikars or Maharashtrians.

Somebody in Bangalore listening?

Dynasty vs government

This is one superb article in DNA. Kudos to DNA and Jagannathan for writing something like this. I have not seen any such piece that questions the government across MSM - yes, a few bloggers do write, but not MSM. Brave journalism this, if you ask me.

Read through the piece carefully and see the questions he asks - something that nobody has ever. He questions the will of the top rung of the pyramid - occupied by you know who. And wonders why has the top of the pyramid never come out with a definitive statement against those Maoist butchers? He also mentions the "M" word - on missionaries and questions their role. Run - is he a saffronite in disguise - which is the templated response for anybody who uses those words. And then again, recall the outrage against Salwa Judum.

Tis a strange web of connections that the eye cannot see, especially when blinded by non celebrity weddings. I leave it for you, the intelligent reader to figure this out.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Government Motto

Today I was trawling the websites of a few governments. US gov site has a motto - Government made easy. Singapore gov site has "Integrity, Service, Excellence" as its motto. The India government site, predictably, has no such motto.

What would it be, if they did? Apathy, indifference, ignorance? Coming in the light of the Naxal attack on soldiers, well, I don't know...

Never underestimate

Started off as a comment at Acorn...Maoists kill 75 soldiers inside the country

Lets run a simple checklist. Whoever has attacked India, internally or externally, have they had hell to pay? Ok. Where we did well was in 1965 and 71. Ditto against the Punjab terrorists. Other than that?

Dons who killed thousands roam free without any fear of retribution. Terrorist Bombers who killed many across Indias cities roam free. Entire countries grabbed territory and we still talk to them. Maoists, inside the country are doing the same.

Thou shalt not underestimate Indias pusillanimity and mistake brave words for real action on the ground.

Why is a 75 a strategic mistake? Why is even 1 not? Why do we lose our soldiers so regularly? Why are our political forces so blind to losing brave soldiers? Why the f must we lose soldiers at all? Why cant we make them fighting fit, train them, give better equipment? Why are we still stuck at WWII tactics?

We can of course exchange dossiers with the Maoists. That may be a peaceful way to get to the bottom of things.

And a note to newspapers. Do not compare and contrast Maoism with Kashmir. Both are problems that need to be solved.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Bangalore Council elections

The BBMP polls in Bangalore have been swept by the BJP. This, is no surprise, if you are willing to look with a reasonably unbiased eye.

In the last 22 months, Bangalore has seen immense improvements in roads - most roads have been tarred, civic works are going on without delay or interference, a lot of interior roads which were earlier like unploughed farms are now like real roads. A lot of attention has gone into kicking off new projects in infrastructure and work on them ticks along, metro work is happening. Public transport has got a lot of attention - the face of public transport here has almost changed with the Volvos among other things.

Now this is quite unlike what it was prior to that when, sons of oil and their coterie ruled the place. Bangalore was fast going to the canines. Any sane citizen who voted would clearly not vote for the two parties who nearly ran the city into the ground.

Now, hopefully, the hands of the government will be further strengthened and they will devote their energies into Bangalore and Karnataka over the next 3 odd years...

Popular news

A snapshot of what makes the cut for the days popular news.

Stars, luminaries, ex-luminaries, diplomats, rent-a-quoters and all the people who the reporters could get their hands on weigh in on the big question facing our country today.

Offered without comment...

Sunday, April 04, 2010


Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it's still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

Quote by Douglas Adams
Link from India Uncut

Bachchan n Modi

Jug Suraiya asks a question in his blog. Is the Big B debasing his own brand? Let us put the question the other way round. Is NaMo debasing his own brand? By associating himself with a some time Congresswallah and another time SP Wallah?

Of course, the right answer to that is the NaMo has no brand outside firebrand Hindutva politics. Thats what people would like to have us believe.

But you see, data never lies. Gujarat has done well in almost all possible indices in the past few years. The electricity situation is better than any state in the country. The once arid Gujarat is a powerhouse in agriculture. Corruption is at its lowest across the country. Since 2002, the landmark year for secularists, the state has made notable progress under the Chief Minister. And why is that not worth endorsing by any ex superstar and still selling brand?

And then again, who is the Congress pointing fingers at? After their 1984 debacle, the only thing that the Congress has going for them is that nothing "much" happened after that. Indeed, the wheels of justice of 1984 mimic some sort of Orwellian story. And does anybody really believe that the Congress is not protecting its own flock? And exactly when did the Big B stand for election on a Congress ticket? Not too from 1984, right? And was anybody apologetic after 1984? Really? I leave you to do the math and read the news.

Now, just for a moment keep all of that aside. Is being associated with Gujarat such a sin? Why? Just because some people think so? Why does any of this make it a place worth not promoting? After all the Commonwealth Games are going to be held at Delhi - the same Delhi of 1984? The wheels of justice are turning. If Mr. Modi is guilty, he will be held accountable and hopefully the 1984 worthies too. Can those on the sidelines stand down please, while that is happening?

And focus on the bigger things that need our focus? Like yet another impending terror attack someplace? Or the fact that right now, our military strength is at its lowest, bravado from the latest chief notwithstanding...

Friday, April 02, 2010

Pullman on free speech

Superb one, via Atanu Dey. Pullman on Free Speech. May his tribe increase...

Think Contrarian

It is easy to describe what happens in a corporate meeting. A proposal is presented and everyone looks at the top boss in the room for his reactions. If the boss says yes, you can be sure that the entire room will be filled with a cacophony of yeses and if the boss says no, you can be sure that the proposal will not get anywhere. Of course, I am simplifying things here, but the picture I have painted is not too far from the truth.

So, coming to the topic of this column, in a firm hiring happens according to a set of criteria. Either qualification, industry experience or a mix of both. The emphasis is always on PLU -people like us. And with PLU, very often, you get TLU - thinking like us. TLU makes life easy - but do remember that it is boring and it makes it difficult to think out of the box when all the frogs are from the same well. As someone said, if two people agree all the time, you need only one of them. It does not imply dissenting for the sake of dissenting, it means, presenting an alternative possibility and keeping an open mind.

Which is where you, as the freshly minted MBA, can add value. Thinking contrarian is a difficult thing to do. It is sometimes trashing something that is deemed to be the best. It sometimes means standing beside something everyone has given up on. It sometimes means trying something so different that it sounds obviously against the grain and almost stupid. It also means putting your heart and soul and even your credibility risking something that nobody else would. But all of this is the big stuff. Speaking out while thinking contrarian is even more difficult.

At a very basic level, your ability to think contrarian lies in your ability to distinguish the message from the messenger. It applies not only to a good suggestion coming from someone hitherto labeled otherwise, it also applies to recognize a bad suggestion coming from an outperformer. It means, regardless of hierarchy, you see merit in whatis being put across.

Now don't confuse Thinking Contrarian with playing the Devils Advocate. Devils Advocates are those who needlessly bring down people and projects and morale. As Seth Godin says in one of his books, "The Devil does not need an advocate". So if you are playing Devils Advocate and think you are adding great value to anything, quit. When you are faced with a Devils Advocate, ask them to come up with a solution, not add to your problems. While a devils advocate needlessly harangues, the contrarian thinker has a thought process behind it.

The contrarian thinker is able to persuade people away from common logic and try out a different approach. To give you an oft quoted example - Reducing cellphone tariffs would get your more revenue as more people would use it is a contrarian thought. Till operators in India did it and people were able to see ARPU go up. Or, using roll on roll off services for trucks on the Konkan railway. Why would anyone want to load up their trucks on railway wagons? Well, there was a reason and there was a good reason to do so.

Both of these are common simple examples, but they are examples of contrarian thinking at work. For telecom networks who believed that the meat of the market was in the high paying customers, it would have taken much convincing to reduce the rates so that affordability increases without making it so cheap that cellphones itself go out of fashion or companies go out of business. For truck companies who pay drivers by the kilometer, what sense did it make to load their trucks onto railway wagons with the drivers and get them to the destination?

In both these cases, as in most cases related to contrarian thinking, there are hidden benefits that you can realize. The lower rate for example made cellphones affordable to, say, a vegetable vendor. Those who can pay for the cellphone, now call the vendor on the cellphone (for whom incoming is free for life, say) creating a market where it hitherto did not exist. Thus the market is widened. And this is just one example.

For the trucks on the Konkan railway, the obvious benefit was reducing wear and tear on the trucks and tyres itself given the ghat roads. A less obvious benefit was reducing time taken and creating a more predictable time for goods being transported and having drivers who are fresh for handling, thereby improving safety and delivery times. All of this actually helped reduce both cost and time on these routes which is
exactly what the operators and the customers wanted.

The entire philosophy of JIT (Just in time) in manufacturing is about a contrarian approach than what is accepted as common practice. It believes in zero stock at workstations, pull rather than push and giving responsibility to the workers who run the workstations.

Thinking contrarian is not easy. Often it comes from intuition, but very often it comes from questioning existing practices that are engraved in stone as "standard accepted practices" that cannot be questioned. It comes from experimenting on a small scale (usually happens with small teams) or from having an open mind about a new process. It often comes from learning from a different industry.

More than that, it is about asking questions when everybody in a room has nodded their heads and provided their assent to something. When everybody in the room, hired and promoted for their intelligence and performance, have passed their judgement and blessed something, who dares ask a question? That first question is often the birth of a contrarian approach and often the most difficult....

It is not everyones cup of tea to think contrarian or out of the box. But it is a trait that can be cultivated. The first place to try it? Your MBA and your case studies while you are in the course.

(An edited version of this appeared in Advancedge April 10)

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Blooming leaf

While the automotive (whats their motive?) majors are launching car after oil drinking car in India, the worlds first mass produced ZEV -zero emission vehicle is launched (very well written post, btw). I cant say if the Reva qualifies as mass produced, but regardless of that, in the eyes of this blogger, the future is here. And the price at which the Leaf is launched is roughly that of what one would get an oil burning car for...Not bad. Not bad at all.

One can argue whether this is indeed the future or not or whether the perpetual energy machine is round the corner, but if there weren't money in here, car companies would not go this route. The Leaf is perhaps the first, the Volt will follow suit soon. Clearly the direction as we see in the way the wind is blowing is clearly towards an oil free future. More power to it. So, do you really want to upgrade now to another oil burner?

So, my dream of owning an electric car is becoming more and more real - lets see which is the first one to be launched in India. Can we get electricity right by then? Please?