Saturday, December 31, 2011

The emperors new clothes

Got the idea of the title via a @doubtinggaurav tweet. Could be a meandering post, so, be warned!

The year 2011 in politics will go down in history as a great year of David versus Goliaths. The first David (with an organization propping him up) of course was Anna Hazare who took on the might of the Congress and the first family. And the second David of course is Subramaniam Swamy who has taken on the might of the Congress and various ministers single handedly and has proved that the Indian Legal System can be worked through. More power to both of them, though I dont necessarily agree that a Lokpal will solve the incessant corruption in the country. A government that can appoint puppets can appoint a puppet anywhere and destabilise any institution. Thank you Anna Hazare and Subramaniam Swamy for fighting. In the year of "ooth" and so called "oothful leaders oozing charm" not living up to the mark, thank you septuagenarians for fighting. And thank you Rahul Dravid too (as @saliltripathi pointed out).

2011 will also go down as a year in which the spectre of corruption has seen to be visibly corroding the country from inside and outside. We are probably being ruled by the "most corrupt government ever" and perhaps even by the most "incompetent leaders ever". Given this background, I have my own doubts that much of the bull run in the recent past in the market was fuelled by all this dirty money. So, while the small investor is now nursing his injuries the ultra rich enjoy their stay in tax havens.The middle class is well and truly screwed. Well, thank you for the LPG subsidy atleast. In any case you exist only to pay taxes.

The current ruckus around the Food Security Bill points in the same direction as NREGA to fuel our future towards a subsidy fuelled population that believes in being entitled. My recent visits to Kerala, TN and some interior parts of Karnataka only supplements this. In both places, labour for agriculture is not available since people to work in the REGA and take home free food grains. In Kerala, migrant labour is coming in from other states. Soon, even Maharashtra will need "UPites/Biharis". The only question is how long will "UPites/Biharis" need to find work given that soon food and work will come in free in any case.Thank you for democraticising corruption through nicely named schemes. Atleast somebody is making money. And some farmers in some other countries will soon make money in the name of FSB.

But the sad part of last year has been the blatant one sided reporting from the media. Look around yourself, on your television screens, print media and you will find very few reports castigating the government for its conduct. On the one hand, the media went hammer and tongs against BJP CMs but remains quiet against Congress CMs and ministers. And we are at this unique point in history when the opposition is blamed for all the crap that the government is spreading. Amazing no. I thought the whole point of life was to take responsibility, but it looks like spreading conspiracy theories and ascribing blame to someone else is what our so called leaders taught us over the past couple of years. Oh, well, thank you for the description of those non-existent robes of integrity and whatever else, media.

The more I see it the more the country is headed in the direction of the North Koreas. As an old joke used to go about USSR. "The newspaper is full of truths, half truths and lies.The sports news are the truth. The weather forecasts are half truths and the rest all are lies." Thank Evan Williams for Twitter. And thank you, Sibble for not blocking it. Yet.

A reading of the novel Animal Farm is highly recommended. Sort of the reflects the state of India at this point.  So, is it all gloom, boom and doom? Hopefully not. I hope that our democracy (whatever that means) wakes up and elects the right leader and government and stops this rollercoaster ride to disaster. Till then, we have the time to do what it takes to ensure that it happens. How? Tweet more and create more awareness to begin with! Thank you, all those on my timeline to keep me sane...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Google Chrome advert on Tanjore paintings

This particular advertisement (for Google Chrome) using the Tanjore paintings as an example is simply mindblowing. It made me sit up and take notice for one. It also made me curious enough to go to the particular website to see what is all about. I suspect this video will generate more hits the site than anything else. Also, very very inspiring. Indeed, the web is what you make of it. And why web, life as well.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Honda Brio

I spotted the Honda Brio yesterday and me and the little one were stunned by the looks of the car.

The overall size, the punchy small look and the back. And the back of the car, oh the back of the car – is awesome. Not sure what makes it so, is it the large glass area or just the shape,whatever it is.

I think this is the best looking small car in the Indian auto world. I thought the Beat was good, but the Brio beats all the others by a mile. So, as far as my auto predictions go (despite my lack of enthusiasm for oil burners), this one seems to be a hit!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The app world

It is a long and old debate on why there is no Google or Facebook originating out of India. The debate has never really been settled and I have usually lingered on the side of the fact that it is no big deal. And that the IT, ITES itself is an industry.

But look at the world of mobile apps. And ask that question to yourself. Why dont we see creative, breakthrough ideas originating from India? What we get to see is usually Hanuman Chalisa and apps for the normal media (like newspapers, TV channels) or B2C stuff (like ICICI on mobile). Sure, there are a few on bus schedules and a few on railways schedules as well, but none that stand out.

I asked the same question to @vishalgondal (CEO of Indiagames) on twitter and he named a few - including Prison Mayhem (produced by 99games online), Bruce Lee, Ra.one Genesis (by indiagames), Quarrel (UTV Ignition) and others. I have tried a couple of them and some of them were nice - but nothing out of the ordinary.

When I say out of the ordinary, let me qualify. I mean, look at the 2011 best apps (one of the zillions lists available on the net) or the best games of 2011 on the App Store and there is nothing that stands out of India.

Again, you might ask why is this a big deal or why should this be a big deal. I think that there is much more creativity waiting to be unleashed there than the current sets of apps coming out of India. Why? Because there is so much that India has - that can be derived out of its rich culture and heritage and there is much potential for some of them to be turned into apps! Are the game developers listening?

On Retail

Swaminathan S Aiyar often has this knack of generating "Eureka" moments for readers. Well, I will speak for myself here. I used to a regular reader of his columns in the olden days of print only, but these days, I prefer to use twitter to pick and choose my readings - and I was pleasantly surprised to see another one in this column.

He argues that online shopping is the real threat to small shopkeepers, not necessarily big hypermarkets and he actually argues that nobody can actually stop it.

I am not sure about it in entirety, but then who can be "sure" about anything (usually 100% surety is surely wrong). But anyway, the Eureka moment was how he calls big box hypermarkers as 20th century and he uses the Thanksgiving data in the US to drive home his point.

And that part surely rings true. I am a big fan of online shopping. For one it allows me to shop in remote and get someone to deliver for one. It also gives one access to all ranges and sizes - which may or may not be available in that specific shop that you happen to reach. It also allows one to reach retailers and products you might otherwise find it difficult to reach.  It saves time - so if or someone is on a short trip, all I need to order my stuff and await delivery. I have tried all of these and I totally love it. But most of that is in the US context.

In India, I am a big fan of Flipkart - and it is worth checking if all bookstores are reporting the kind of numbers they do. Also, Amar Chitra Katha which is not always available in all shops (for god knows what reason). We are still some distance away from getting to big online shopping like the US - though much of KSRTC and Indian Railways and other travel stuff is best done online.

But whatever it is, he is right on the fact that indeed online shopping is the future (rather present). Also, why should a retail chain invest in costly land and people when it can all be done with a smooth online experience.  And why should we have to drive down someplace, search for parking, wait for billing - retail experience sucks in most places. So, more power to this idea and as long as the Maomatas of the world keep opposing FDI in retail and ignore online shopping, great for customers!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Dhara hila, gagan gunja

An inspiring poem recited by the Big B. I like the poem and the way it is recited as well.