Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Branded care

When I was young, we went to the local doctor whenever we fell ill. Usually there were 2-3 doctors in each locality - with strong supporters and equally strong detractors for each of them. We were loyalists to them, steadfastly refusing to change in the face of conflicting opinion from well wishers and the like. But, on occasion we would sneak from one to the other for a "second opinion". 

If your situation got complicated, there was the neighbourhood pathologist or a clinic nearby run by one "famous" doctor where other doctors came on appointment. And worse than that, there were hospitals. 

In this niche have stepped in the hospitals, corporates and then some. In Bangalore for instance, Manipal, Apollo, Narayana Hrudalaya and Fortis, say are the biggies in terms of hospitals. They are not the only ones with reputation in this space, but these are the ones who have stepped into this health care business. 

So, there are many Apollo clinics or Manipal Cure and care in places that act as feeders for hospitals - potentially though not necessarily. These clinics also do not depend on doctor reputations unlike the clinics of old and are instead more process focused (or so I presume) and a majority of doctors are younger (solely my experience). Also, they are great when it comes to the regular diagnostics, but when it comes to something complicated, a visit to the hospital may be mandated. 

In clinics like these, also rides the reputation of the hospitals themselves - more than the doctors. In a way this is the corporatisation of the medical business - a move away from the individual reputation driven clinics. And the multitude of clinics means better reach for the common patient as well. What the local doctors to do to survive them will be interesting - will they join them or stay as a solo force?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A drowning man

A drowning man clutches at a straw and thus it is with the non Janata Dal S. The head of the once political party now reduced to a family party with single digit seats now jumps to the bandwagon of asking special powers to the Lokayukta. But guess who the chief minister was before this government came to power? Not anybody else, but the man who is cribbing himself. Like all people in politics he has a great answer.

Read it yourself if you want to waste your time, but clearly the man has guts.

Did you, sir, have a public mandate to run Bangalore to the ground? Did you sir, have a public mandate to not handover the chief ministership to somebody who you had promised in good faith?  If you did not have a mandate for that, but you went ahead and did it, clearly, there is good reason for you to have empowered Lokayukta too?

But anyway, all these are the straws being clutched at. This is one party that Bangaloreans of this generation will never forgive for holding up the progress of this city for a good many years. Thank you sir for all your effort. If you think that the Lokayukta issue will translate into votes for you, this is as much a pipedream as it gets when we dreamt of good infrastructure during your robust tenure.

Anyway, we all need a good laugh sometimes.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ecomagining my own life

Well, I am trying what I can to bring some ecomagination into my own life. Here is what I do...But first, a confesion. My office commute is by a petrol fired car (this is the best logical choice I have after having considered other options. Update Oct 2012: It is now a year since I switched to BMTC Bus for my office commute). Having said that, here are a few things that have worked for me.
  • I avoid taking the car out as much as possible, if the place is reasonably within reach of public transport
  • My weekend travels are on public transport if I am alone
  • I dont use the car anywhere near my house unless it is heavy duty shopping (once in a couple of weeks)
  • I walk around my house for all my small errands - no bike, no car
  • We compost kitchen waste (been doing this for nearly a year now)
  • I have purchased a bicycle (that caused me an accident too - but well, accidents happen due to stupidity) to try and see if I can cycle to work once a week atleast. (Note to myself: I wish I could work from home.)
  • I live in an apartment where we managed to convince our members to go in for rainwater harvesting (and do some urban farming as well)
Well, these are nothing great, but just some conscious effort on my part to ensure that we live as eco-friendly as possible...

Green tech is big business

GE boosts its Ecomagination initiative by another 10 billion dollars (via).

While there is one part of the world happy with the oil price hike and controlling it and using it to create their own monopoly and spread their perverse of globalization, there is another part of the world that is mollycoddling them, falling at their feet and genuflecting.

And while this circus goes on, there is private initiative that is happy to invest in the future - a cleaner, greener future. Which is why news like GE is great news and the beauty of capitalism. The market will move towards what is logically smart because that is where the money is. This time around, every automobile maker worth its salt has an EV strategy - nobody wants to be known as the automobile company that failed when the world turned its face away from oil.

As individuals, we have two choices, support big oil by buying ever bigger cars or support green initiatives that help ease our movement away from oil into more sensible choices. Put simply, use some ecomagination in your own life...(more on this soon)

Car to what?

This blog about a new electric bike set me thinking on the current nature on electric vehicles. Like it happens, in most technology transitions, the initial effort and ideation is towards making it seem as close to current as possible, so that the change is not painful. Thus, most effort is focussed on making the electric vehicle look and feel like a conventional car. There are some exceptions like the Aptera, but other than that, the whole effort is like making digital cameras look alike analog ones. (including articificial sound - and thats a thought for electric cars too)

But what might very well happen could be something different. Our definition of personal mobility in huge units designed for 5 -10 people and usually carrying 1 or 2 needs to be questioned and redefined. Do we really need to travel in huge cars? Do we really need to commute at all? Cant we rent a nice big car (in India) when we want to travel long distances and use a smaller EV for the city commutes? Cant we go where we want to by bicycle, park it (or carry it) hop onto public transport to another place and use it? How about a hybrid e-bike that charges as we pedal and then lets us use e-power while we regain our energy making it easier to travel longer distances? And then there will be others challenge our thinking along these lines.

Perhaps, it will be a cool e-bike that we could use for our usual transportation in the future? The combination of a lesser need to commute combined with clean vehicles has the potential to change our entire transportation paradigm...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mahindra Reva

For an electric future hopeful like me, this has been an eventful few weeks. The one big event which happened-which I had to blog about was the acquisition of Reva by Mahindra. Forbes India had carried a superb article which is a must read for anybody in interested in this space.

The way I see it, both Mahindra and Reva need each other. Mahindra, obviously, needs Revas technology - which is home grown and fairly proven. Reva, on the other hand gets a leg up with Mahindras proven reach. The marriage of the two could result in some innovative combinations - some of which I will take a bet on soon.

The Reva is an innovative vehicle no doubt about it - to get an electric vehicle into production and sell it in a place like India (and some abroad) is no joke. It is also in a unique sweet spot of experience of selling an electric vehicle in a developing nation - bad roads and bad driving sense and all that. It is the only Indian company with this expertise and it was waiting to be bought. The Revas price point was on the higher side - if Mahindra with its deep pockets can subsidise it a bit, the vehicle will catch on - primarily from a city driving perspective. But all said and done, watch Mahindra do wonders with the Reva - this space is crying for action and could very well see M&M top the stakes in the city vehicles space if it plays this game well.

So, what could happen in this space?

  • An initiative like Zipcar. It may not happen in a city directly, but it can happen within airports, big housing complexes, educational campuses, factories, petrochemical complexes and what not. This is an initiative that begs to happen - perhaps with pick up and drop points near Mahindra dealerships for instance.
  • An innovative public transport option like the rickshaw - with lower price points - again starting off from a small city. 
  • Mahindra figures out a way to put the Reva technology into its vehicles creating hybrid solutions
  • Mahindra has also purchased Kinetic recently - there might be some traction in electric bikes (though this is a segment least affected by oil prices because of the higher mileage of bikes) and trikes and rickshaws and light goods movers (again for complexes)
  • The next gen Reva gets some good traction and reach thanks to Mahindras dealerships and distribution and reach. (Well, I am an eager customer for one)
As the Forbes article says, automotive majors need to have an EV or alternate fuel strategy in place and get it soon, lest they be caught napping. But at the same time, there is this persistent belief that the world will continue just fine with oil burners and  a simultaneous disbelief - it cannot be done. At the same there are those who are proving that it can be. And in this battle, it is better to have your feet on both boats and jump onto the one which floats. I am hoping that the oil story sinks soon...

The electric car is closer than you think

Picture this: Nissan Leaf, the worlds first mass produced electric car gets a raving review. Oil prices go up up and up. Whats the end result?

There are currently two types of people in the world (to paraphrase Amitabhs dialog in Hum) - those who believe that electric vehicles are the future and those who believe that there is no such thing as an electric vehicle. Currently, the second part of the world believes that the world will not change, but we will see.

As I see it now, oil prices have only one to go, up and battery technology to go - get better. When these two meet, it will be when the oil prices are on the way up and battery prices, accessibility and technology are far better. Who will win is anybodys guess.

I personally see an inflection point in the next couple of years as the Leaf and Volt enter the roads and companies like Tata and Mahindra (post Reva - a separate post on this) innovate from the other side.

So, for all those who are investing in an oil guzzler now - the world will change in two years. Personal mobility will happen e-vehicles while the oil guzzlers will be restricted to trucks and perhaps construction vehicles and the like.

A literal break

It has been an eventful 4 odd weeks. I fractured my hand as the result of a small accident which made my typing that much more difficult - but as always helped build up a surfeit of ideas. Much has happened.

Desipundit has decided to close down - and it was great while it lasted. Thanks Patrix and others - for providing bloggers like me the initial exposure and hits. And as a contributor, a grateful thanks for having provided the opportunity!

The Bhopal gas leak which happened nearly 25 years ago is all over the web - if the nuke liability bill aint tweaked, a nuclear Bhopal will happen soon.

But anyway, what can someone do when a hand is fractured? Let it heal, obviously, but other than that, I maximised my reading by catching up on a few books - notably The insider by PVNR, I accuse by Jarnail Singh, The greatest show on earth by Richard Dawkins, A couple of thrillers, a little philosophy etc...Ambidextrousnes has not happened, but the left hand has got practice in the daily chores.

And yes, I cannot wait to return to full health - and there in lies a lesson. The body is an amazing instrument - every small bit of it, perfectly built and coordinated - which you realize only when a small thing goes wrong. Ditto, for normal people with normal life - we take everything for granted. And when a hand loses some mobility for even a small length of time, you appreciate normalcy and thank god for it. So, there you go, am back after my forced hiatus, but much work needs to be done before the hand returns to shape...