I like the sound of this piece. Ford, if it gets it right can capture a goldmine of a market.
A crack team fleshing out Ford’s ‘blue ocean strategy’ describes the business that will take Ford to the next level as ‘New Mobility’. It is grounded in the tenets of sustainable mobility, where the accent is on access, equity, affordability, and the avoidance of disruptions in societal, environmental and economic well-being. New mobility rests on the edifice of public transportation or mass transit.
The Ford gameplan is to mutate into an ‘integrator’ of mobility hub networks; from being a product-centric to a service-oriented company; from being a purveyor of vehicles to a provider of mobility solutions to expanding cities across the world.
I wonder why Tatas is not on this, especially after the Indore city bus story.
Mass transit is the future. I also think walk to work and living in "walkable" and "bikeable" communities is another idea waiting to be exploited.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I like the sound of this piece. Ford, if it gets it right can capture a goldmine of a market.
Pakistan using ads to appeal to Taliban...
Pakistani authorities have launched an emotional advertisement campaign to persuade local Taliban to end their campaign of bombing girls' schools in Swat valley. ...
[...]However, days after the publication of the ad, Taliban in Swat blew up another girls' school on Wednesday.
Meanwhile the US is planning to give F-16s to Pak to fight terror. Perhaps newsprint is a better option considering the above...
The blasts have come and gone and there will be many more. Many more lives will be taken, until imaginary grievances are resolved. The government, will no doubt try to resolve imaginary grievances, since they are more pertinent than real ones, on the ground.
- CCTVs may be a while before they come, but with the proliferation of mobile cameras, we can take a picture of every suspicious object, person that we come across.
- Shop owners could be asked to take a picture of every person who makes a suspicious purchase - either covertly or overtly.
- When you travel, observe - observe very well.
They are out there waiting for you to drop your guard...
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Is there a terror problem at all? Close on the heels of blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, here you go:
The PM visited the blasts affected and offered a "healing touch", this report tells us:
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Politicians style. Use it for the next incident, please.
The terror train stopped at Bangalore yesterday. Since only one person got killed and the blasts were low intensity, it is almost life as usual. But pray tell me, what if the same bombs had killed a hundred or a thousand and were high intensity?
Friday, July 25, 2008
Gasp, what is the world coming to - Internet users jumped 27% in May. Just 6 odd months back, there was a minor kerfuffle on how internet users in India were going down. Was it summer and people had time on their hands (esp the vacation population)? Was it too hot and hence people were at home? Dont bother.
Internet usage in India (and around the world) will keep going up for a long time to come. How the net is accessed may fundamentally change both from a purpose and device standpoint (and the two might be interdependent). So, you might access the net from a comp when you are working, surfing or at leisure. While the mobile might be the device you access the net (duh!) when you are on the move and require quick bytes of information related to where you are - the connect between the real and virtual world if you will.
Related, but not too much -crack down on cybercafes, but does that solve the problem? It would be better to use them well...
Lord Rama, who very recently was announced as the Harry Potter of many millenia back, actually existed, according to government records. Not only did he exist, he also built and destroyed a bridge, according to the latest evidence from the Padma Purana.
Whats up doc?
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Bangalore (and Karnataka) are facing a grim power situation thanks to the lower than expected monsoon. But this does not faze most people here. Why? Most people have generators, inverters (Karnataka never had a very good power situation) and what not built into their homes and offices. But generators require diesel, right? So, the worsening power situation means that people have to use power from generators leading to a demand in diesel and a situation of diesel shortage.
Where from here? Most cabs here run on diesel, so companies have resorted to reducing the number of trips their cabs make. That means employees need to fend for themselves. Given the situation of public transport here, rickshaw drivers will make merry. Also, right now, petrol stocks look ok, but if the diesel powered tankers do not have diesel, what gives?
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Poor translation of a perfect Hindi saying, Tera Khoon Khoon, Apna Khoon Pani?
Read this snake oil piece and you will know why.
Read this piece on the same blog on a different party and you will know why I titled the post the way I did.
Fast company discovers Wipro University...
Well, the bigger companies have huge training outlays including residential facilities, an full time educational staff and so on. They have been having it for the past many years.
It is one way to beat the talent shortage.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Car. Not plane. Fiat hopes that a 14 lakh, 3 door compact will revive its image in India. Revive its image yes. For better, no.
At 14 lakh, I can get one Innova and a Santro. Thats 10 doors. And I get 3? Bah. Try selling the car for 4-6 lakhs and then see the image revive for the better.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
No, this has nothing to do with prisoners, but ITES. Companies that opened captives in India are slowly selling them to third party providers, reports BW. Is there anything wrong? Nope. It is business as usual.
Arriving at a decision to run a captive in India is part of the "make or buy" decision that I am sure these companies must have undertaken at the outset when they set out to create captives in India. Chief among them would have been considerations of "how third party services are making money out of us" and "how we can beat them at their own game". Also would have included "we cannot let anyone access our sensitive data and proprietary algorithms" and "we can retain good employees rather than let them go from our account with the service providers" it would have given them a nice rosy picture. There is nothing wrong with this picture - it usually ends up deciding in favour of "making" your own captive when there is a critical mass.
Now, that the US economy is getting the jitters, the critical mass which companies dreamed of a few years back seems to have reduced, which is why the make or buy decision is now, closer to buy rather than make. Also, a lot of this will apply to those who have sent excess work out to India - using India to handle spillover and surge capacities - who suddenly find themselves with an excess work force. This is not so much of a trend, as much as it is part of a business cycle. Also, no captive can survive unless there is some sort of critical mass at any location that they are at. Who has the critical mass? Those service companies? The same ones you said would stagnate their way out of business? Yes.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Well, to call them dhabas would be a travesty to begin with, but between Kamath Lokaruchi (Bangalore-Mysore road) and Chokhi Dani (Jaipur) there is a long lesson. There are others like Dhola ri Dhani which I have not visited, where one could come up with similar lessons.
Describe yourself. If Lokaruchi is a rural house, Chokhi Dani is a village. No confusion. They are not five star places where there is a spa and a bowling alley and organic food. They attract tourists - they are touristy, by and large. In Chokhi Dani especially, they welcome you with a red tikka and a cheery Ram Ram Sa. CD showcases Rajasthan, truly and completely. CD gives you a small map of the place as you enter - so that you dont lose your way, and also see the entire place.
Whats your identity? They are Indian - completely and truly. In CD, we lost our way and wanted to find our way out and we asked a staffer. His first question, "Did you have dinner?", even before he showed us the way. Studied and trained that may be, but at that moment, it was natural. You want spoons? Salads? Juice? You dont get them at Chokhi Dani. Health conscious? Take 3 spoons of ghee and then we can talk. This is our way here.
Know your clientele. Lokaruchi is as much about the food as much the ambience, but the former attracts a lot of regulars too for whom the ambience is, well, done. The latter has a larger touristy populace, so the charm of it remains even if you visit it again - even if that is once in a few years.
Stay true to your roots. Food quality is superb in both these places, even as they have scaled up. But it may scale up only up to a point - which is where they need to stop.
Sure, there can be other me-toos nearby. But there arent? The ingredients are simple, arent they? Brilliant marketing and great service delivery. So why not? Simple, difficult to replicate.
I just finished reading this novel, The Afghan by Frederick Forsyth. Whatever be the merits of the plot - it is a thriller alright, however implausible, but the wide range of information provided in the book, like his other plots, is pretty neat.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The first time you drive an automatic car, especially if it is after you have driven any manual transmission car is a surprise for many. What do I do with my left foot? The answer is nothing (unless you want to put it in your mouth).
However, many first timers who do not invest in a driving class (and this happens to many of those misers who make their way to the US) find a need to use the feet somewhere and they do. One for the brake and one for the accelerator. Leading to many a disaster.
Sometimes things need not be complicated. They are meant to be simple. Are you simplifying or complicating things?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The ease with we can cancel and rebook railway tickets on the net, surely must have led to the railways raking in more moolah, right?
I am glad that the agents who used to practically run the railways have been put out of work thanks to the internet. This is one category that nobody is lobbying to fight for.
The railways still does not think that there is enough traffic to justify a double line between Bombay and Bangalore (and many other places). As our train slid into a sliding to wait for yet another train to pass - well atleast these days the wait is not more than a few minutes.
Railway food seems to get worse each passing year - pantry car or no pantry car. Puhlees, please dont write about the romance in railway food. If you do, you have not travelled recently. The watery tea, the vegetable that is mostly red chilli powder - yuck.
The Bombay Bangalore bus beats the train by a cool 6 hours - if only the railways woke up to offer overnight sleeper cars between major cities, it can chew up the airlines (who have already been chewed on by the fuel hike).
The railways truly were a social networking tool - the kind of diverse people we meet in a train - and in that sense it is the "old" internet.
For the speeds that the trains move (average 50kmph), I am not sure we need high tech locos - those steam fellas would have have done the job.
The Bombay-Bangalore train follows the exact route that the trains followed nearly 20 years ago. There is barely any change in speed (except that because of a generous buffer, trains pretty much reach on time).
How long before we have better (I mean, real) loos in the train - rather than use the tracks as a toilet?
Monday, July 14, 2008
I recently did a Bangalore Bombay via road on a KSRTC Airavath service. The bus takes 18 odd hours to the trains 24 - both of which have become real options looking at the airfares. That the bus takes 18 hours is good, but it could be better. It can shave off another 3-4 hours, probably more. Why cant it?
The roads are not good enough; rather the highways project looks abandoned. Just off Tumkur you see the first sign. A half completed flyover. Today this flyover looks like Angkor Wat. Trees growing on the sides, near permanent diversion signs and nobody to be seen around - no construction vehicles. After that, near Chitradurga, same thing. It is almost as if someone has given up on it. I spoke to the bus driver who was doing a phenomenal job. "It has been like this for a while now." And from then, it is the same saga. Good roads for a while, then diversion and so on until some distance into Maharashtra (or is it some distance before Pune).
Just imagine what this could have been. You see signs of it all around on the completed sections. Fenced roads, underpasses for pedestrians and villagers. Village roads have access. There are overbridges - some with a provision to take a bike over. (The section that I saw in TN- Bangalore Chennai, did not seem to have all these - leading to people coming on the right lane of the road at great danger to themselves and oncoming vehicles. There are still idiots who violate rules, like a moped came in the opposite direction and so on.) The toll boths have an ambulance, a crane to take care of emergencies. The highway projects could have connected India like no other, but then the UPA has different priorities.
It is definitely not a quadrilateral. The golden part of it is now one of the golden achievements of the UPA. So what happened? The Indian Express had reported on it a little while ago. 2007 was the slowest year of highways. In 2006, there was some fudging of statistics. Heres another one from the Fortune correspondent here.
More on the GQ, here, here.
Friday, July 11, 2008
True there have been many of them, but the 7/11 train bombings stands out as the most recent and perhaps most gruesome and sinister. As we reach the second anniversary, Offstumped puts out a wonderful post comparing 4 cities and how they responded to terror attacks. 187 hardworking innocent people died (1 more got added recently - 188).
Of course Mumbai stands out in the collective bungling and lack of progress. Of course there are vote bank considerations stupid. Of course, we hope that there will be no terrorist attack anywhere, even as the last one in Jaipur left the Prime Minister and others mouthing the same inanities.
2 years on, there is a plan ( yet another one) to create an intelligence cadre and what not, but no progress to make the commuters secure. On the trial itself:
Asked about the progress of the 7/11 trial, Roy said, “The case has been chargesheeted and the trial had begun. However, after some of the accused filed an application, the trial has been stayed by the Supreme Court. However, the matter is to come up for hearing very soon.”
Thirteen people have been arrested and charged under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in connection with the blasts.
But the Supreme Court stayed the trial in March as a Bench agreed to examine the constitutional validity of a specific part of MCOCA that refers to “insurgency” after it was raised by Zameer Ahmed Latifur Rehman, one of the 13 accused.
With progress like this and no anti-terror law, we can continue to count dead bodies and give templated assurances that we will continue to fight terror.
Never forget the Mumbai blasts...
A ho-hum piece from BW in ET, accuses the IT industry of the usual things that get thrown at them.
As for those hundreds of millionaires and billionaires that the listing of these professionally founded and run IT companies has created? No replication of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation here. No great institutes built. No institutions built - no school of IT, no business school, no major innovation labs. Some insignificant spending of a bit of those billions somewhere - but where is it visible? Maybe to a few insiders in Bangalore - but otherwise, invisible.
I do agree on the institutions, business schools, labs bit.
Other Indians have, however, taken note of this lacuna. India’s IT industry, says one, ” is creating a gated community within India. They use their clout to influence national politics, and to keep their interests safe.” Like the rupee depreciation. He complains that though they have been awarded high civilian honours, they put little back into the community, indeed keep themselves insulated from it, in gated intellectual communities.
Hmm...I would like know who those other Indians are and how many jobs they created. Gated communities. Clout to influence national politics. Yeah right.
Remember that Microsoft, has a revenue of some 51 bn dollars. The IT industry in India by comparison, checks in at 36 bn dollars. (slightly dated). But then again, apples are oranges, oranges are apples. Clearly for some, efforts like The Infosys Foundation or the Azim Premji foundation are invisible. Bookmark this for perhaps a longer post some other time.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
As the little one goes to Nursery, a thought from my own nursery (kindergarten) days comes to mind. During my nursery days, there was a curious phrase that the teacher used. Whenever it came, I knew we had to take every book in our bag and place it on the desk.
The phrase went something like this "tekotiyurbux". It was only some 3 years later in First grade that I realized that it was, really, Take out your books.
Perhaps thats how we learn language, as some sort of a Pavlovian response - atleast to begin with.
Update: After seeing Ushas comment, I remembered another one. Pin drop silence. When that was said the whole class went into an eerie uncomfortable silence. For a long time I thought it was a special type of silence where the teacher would drop a pin and it would drop silently.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Got this wonderful question from Marginal Revolution, in turn linked to Econlog.
I don't think we have a recipe that says, "Take a child of two non-college educated parents, add primary education ingredient X, bake, and out comes a college-capable high school graduate." The mystery ingredient X has yet to be discovered.
Tyler gets it almost right in his assessment.
The mystery ingredient X is a very simple thing, in my opinion. Peer pressure that works at multiple levels. Peer pressure to do well from a parents perspective - that is send children to school and invest in their education. Peer pressure from a kids perspective that puts "not going to school" as infra dig and results in not being considered as part of their group.
In many migrant communities whether the migration is from India to US or from within India - rural to urban, communities that are educated are quite simply that ones that focus on it like crazy from the start and that have this kind of peer pressure. It is an almost unwritten code. Not going to school or dropping out is never an option. A lot of success, for good or for bad is measured by how well you do in studies - and in an aspirational society like India, studies is directly linked to getting better jobs. Considering that there are tons of qualified people out there, education is the easiest way for companies to select aspirants. Today, even children of uneducated maids want to study - in a city like Bombay or a place like Krishnagiri. If it is not peer pressure, I cannot think of a reason.
In communities where this peer pressure is not such a big deal (or offers alternatives), kids drop out, parents cop out and the results are there for all to see.
Genetics etc., is an overrated factor - perhaps yes for toppers and high achievers yes, but for just completing a education or getting in and out of college, surely no big deal.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Make that walkmans to mobile phones. Prior to the walkman, a radio or a cassette player was a social device - one that was owned by a family - in general. With the arrival of the walkman, ownership multiplied since it was, well, owned by one person. Ditto the phone. There was one phone per family. Once the mobile phone came along, it became a personal thing. So where if you had a phone in a family, now you have multiple phones - one per family member. (With mobile phones, the gaming market is also poised for a similar transformation though this argument can be stretched in many ways.)
Monday, July 07, 2008
Thursday, July 03, 2008
The three year old has decided that his education is complete after his "graduation" from play school. Half asleep, half awake, his first sentence each day is "I dont want to go to school" or not so subtle variations of it. His fervent wish is that he be allowed to stay at home each day and play. "I dont want a one day chutti, I want every day chutti."
Given the above scenario, our marketing machine has been working overtime. On the importance of going to school, of learning to read, on how school is essential for him to become any of the things he loves (which changes perpetually - but for now it is a pilot or an aeroplane designer or a toy designer or a ship captain).
And today we visited a dentist - which is part of a clinic facility and happened to have a lab of some sort. So, as we walked past it, I told him, "Stand on your toes and see. This is a lab"
He looked through the glass window. As we walked away, he asked, "How can you go inside?"
The marketing machine antennae picked up the cue and started running. "Well, you complete school and college and you become a scientist/pathologist and then you can go in. Got it?"
Silence for a minute.
And I asked him "Yes?"
"But appa, where is the door?
There was a very good piece on rediff the other day on Marathi cinema (worth a read).
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
It will take a generation for us to be perfect. Perhaps more.
And ISO certification became the rage - then Infosys got a SEI CMM Level 5 (and so did many others). Leave aside the fact that certification processes rarely address perfection, but we all thought it was a great achievement. So, many companies are doing pretty well in the "quest for perfection". On the government side, there is a longish rope. We have development programs that continue for decades without visible progress while some others like the space program have given us predictable results.
On mobile phones and networks, we are getting better. Local courier and even post office services are nearly predictable. Trains running on time? Nope. Flights? Almost. Good, predictable roads? No way. So, all in all the culture that drives us towards perfection is missing. If you cannot predict what time you will reach office or what time your courier will reach you, then how will predict anything else?
Overall, it is simply tough to achieve "perfection" in this environment. When all the inputs are "adjusted", how can the output not be so? If that is the case, how have some of the above mentioned entities achieved it? When will our services get there? Will they ever?
Continuing thought, here, here, here and here.