Don't talk just message

There are some genuine advantages of leaving a message over a real conversation/phone call:

  1. Apologize to your angry wife
  2. Communicate with a deaf/mute or with a speech impairment (that includes spouses, girlfriend and anybody with a high pitched shrill voice)
  3. Silently communicate from meeting hall /movie theater/rock concert/lecture hall.
  4. Safely drop a note to a blabbermouth without giving them license to talk back
  5. You are a nervous wreck and you intend to pour your heart out without being judged/mocked
  6. Not being accused of disturbing somebody in the middle of night or act of copulation
  7. You are cheap and your carrier provides you with a zillion free sms/whatsapp

In real life you don’t get 15 minutes to think of a clever comeback line. You might impress someone temporarily through proofreading your message before sending. But messages are not literature and cannot hide the fact that you cannot hold an actual conversation without blabbering like an idiot. Forwarding jokes & links might be amusing but does not improve your social standing (unless you aspire to be the joker)
Messages allow us to skip the small talk, exchange pleasantries or even smile and say hi. This is good if you were a robot, but unfortunately most of us are not. This whirlpool of convenience might allow you to talk to multiple persons and indulge in plethora of pursuits at the same time but is it doing anybody any justice. On an average it takes thrice as much time to get your point across and yet is neither as emotionally gratifying nor as effective as meeting someone in person. If you respect that person, then they deserve your undivided attention. Spend time understanding the other person and show empathy.


Indian Restrooms| Hygiene

Why is it so difficult to get a decent, clean rest-room in India? Furthermore 9/10 restaurants/petrol-bunks/service establishments would not even have running water, lighting or even a remote resemblance of sanitization. Flushes will not work and faucets would be leaking. Furthermore they would put a big lock on the washroom as if it is a storehouse of the entire establishment’s wealth.
Forget tissue paper or toilet roll or even a clean towel. A typical Indian restaurant/petrol bunk would have one of the 3 options:

  1. no soap
  2. Liquid soap which is not 8 parts water and 1 part liquid soap. I wonder if it can still clean because I can never generate any lather out of it for sure.
  3. A bar which is of the size of a 1 rupee coin and rendered practically impossible to scrub with

You would be lucky to find running water or a dry washroom. In most cases we have to pour water a bucket… gosh how unsanitary…. The customers could probably take their bum elsewhere for a crap but have some consideration for your employees and the owner themselves. They have no  other alternative but to use the establishment’s facilities.
The purpose of knowledge and culture is to develop on your heritage. If 5000 years ago Indus valley civilization (Harappa, mohenjo daro) could develop the concept of toilets, running water and drainage why can’t we today do the same?


Thermal Cultural shock

Winters in north India is no joke. It may not snow and rarely do people freeze to death, but single digit mercury temperature is not uncommon. If it rains in winters, then the situation becomes even worse. Yet surprisingly very few Indians invest in centralized heating and we could seamlessly move from inside of home/office to outside.
On the contrary, wearing a jacket indoors in Europe is kind of an insult to the host. It is a subtle accusation to the host that the hospitality is not warm enough. In India, removing the pullovers or layers of clothing might hint that you are getting a little bit too cozy. How the same action/inaction have totally different  cultures . I wish I had a cool T-shirt that explains people “I am from an alien culture and not to think too much in trying to interpret my habits”


Slipping into oblivion

In the story “Man with a twisted lip” where the famous detective Sherlock Homes talks about visiting opium dens for days together primarily to escape the burden of day to day existence. People drank, indulged in substance abuse only because they wanted to forget their mundane existence for a brief time. In oblivion, people are free to choose what they want to be and that is an exciting prospect.
Today the digital world has made it even simpler, cheaper and harmless (no bodily injury caused). So many people drift aimlessly in facebook or social media fantasizing how their life could have been. Some selectively share the tit-bits of their life in such a way to paint a very different (often untrue) picture of themselves and glamorizing their existence.

I recently asked a group of online gamers a question: ”What is worse: your wife/girlfriend finding out that you were playing computer games way past midnight or her finding out that you were watching porn.” Unanimously people responded that their partners would be (relatively) ok to be caught indulging in porn. They say it is easier to explain. What is harder to explain is their need to waste time away in a fantasy world.
Even though they are not harming anybody, doing anything amoral or even harming themselves (except a few hours wasted) why does society brand it as an addiction and looks down upon? Human beings, by very nature, need variety to feed their souls. Maybe in absence of too many viable options, they settle for this.


Halal & Meat market of India

Off late I have been researching on Nutrition deficiency in India and some of the results are quite interesting:
1. Even though there is a wide-spread perception that Indians are vegetarian, only 31% of the population is vegetarian and this is also depleting fast.
2. The vegetarians in India are more likely to suffer malnutrition. (Rich and poor alike.) this is a lot to do with imbalance. There is a prevalent mass scale protein & iron deficiency. In children & females this is in unmanageable proportions. Furthermore higher instance of vegetarianism in India is only compounding the problem. The average pulses intake in India is far below the UN recommendation, A lot of people have a disdain towards leafy greens because they equate it to Ghaas Phoos.
3. Although majority of the butcheries & restaurant advertize Halal, there is no scientific or quality process to verify the claims. Most staunch religious just procure from a muslim shop and pray that they have been religious enough.
4. India has probably the highest cattle population. Yet red meat (beef, pork, mutton etc.) are not sold/consumed much.
5. Although most counties have enforced strict iron fortification, bulk of the Indian food is not fortified.
I am not trying to push people into eating meat. All i am saying is that iron & protein deficiency in India is alarming and needs to be addressed. When pregnant women & growing children have food deficiencies our future generations are doomed. India has malnutrition on one hand, food grains rotting in the government warehouses & so much of cattle not being consumed due to political/religious sentiments.


Importance of Failure

I am reminded of the Rich Dad-Poor Dad quote: “Most people are not rich because they are terrified of losing. I have never met a rich person who has never lost money, but have met a lot of poor people who have never lost a dime.”
In a culture so unforgiving of failure, we often force-fit people into path of mediocrity. Mediocre are insipid and are never able to realize their dreams, their full potential. As a culture, we are so obsessed with not failing, we end up not trying… and hence not achieving.
What is important is to try hard so that never again in life you regret the fact that you failed because you did not try enough. However don’t get obsessed with anything. Failure is a part of life and try to learn from it so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again.
Frank Mondo’s famous theory of PIE (Perfomance, Image & Exposure) has recently caught my imagination. Essentially it means that there has never been a successful sales-person who has never been fired from his job. There has not been any inventor who has not had a string of failures. What is important is “Exposure”, what is it that you have experienced, learned from your past and how can you apply these learnings in your next venture.


Litmus test for morality

My high school Principal had a very simple, yet effective litmus test for morality. If there is something that you have an urge to hide or not take credit for, then most likely that deed/thought was performed for wrong reasons and with malicious intent. In life it is easy to take short-cuts but it will never give you any peace of mind. Choice is yours, do it the right way today or spend twice the energy covering your tracts in the coming days.


Lease not Buy

Everyone realize that cost of ownership of a car is probably as high as maintaining a white elephant. Not only there are regular EMIs to be paid but also weekly fueling bill, 6 monthly service workshop bills & annual insurance payments to be made apart from any additional accident or breakdown repairs. Why can’t I lease the cars rather than buy one and pay a single comprehensive payments…. eg: pay 5,000/- and drive as much as you want for a month all inclusive (except maybe gas/petrol/diesel)
Tesla’s electric cars come with a less than a $ per mile leasing and an unconditional 9 year warranty (even covering user error).
Xerox photo-copiers were available at pay per copy lease. Meaning that customer does not have to pay separately for hardware, refills, paper or repairs.
Even Rols Royce leases aircraft engines at thrust per hour, “pay per flying hour” model.
America sells state of the art defense installations to Canada at PSI (performance -based product support integrator) mode or optimised weapon system support (OWSS). NATO & UK procures arms at Through life customer support (TLCS) contracts.
So from most mundane to state of the art flight and military hardware is available on leasing then why not Cars? Earlier the argument was that people will switch off their odometer/speed gauge to hide the distance traveled, but now there are so many GPS based telematics & navigational tools that can be screwed to the car to make this difficult.
Today the manufacturer has to make many compromises to keep the initial cost low often at an expense of higher upkeep cost. Parking sensors & collision detectors are not very expensive yet most cars don’t have it. My Realtor used to say that installing double ceiling and insulation in the house would reduce the air-conditioning bill by half but nobody want to pay for installing it. Maybe a leasing model will help us get rid of this myopic view and help us make greener, more reliable and economical cars.


Impact of Indians

This week’s economist had an interesting article on Detroit. The opening line really catched my attention. ” City seems filled with people working for exciting startups, a bit like Silicon Valley but with fewer Indians.” Recently yoga pants are making a fashion statement and forcing every jeans manufacturer to rethink their sales & branding strategy.
The entire world is acknowledging the impact Indians are having world-wide but why not in India?
Living in India, I constantly get bombarded with claims about Indian IT, analytic brain, technology, engineering etc. But is it true? Name one Indian product, brand, idea (developed in the recent past) that has had a transformation impact on a global scale? The usual response is to deflect the question.
I always get reminded of my teacher’s pet phrase: “You guys can achieve anything you want… provided you have the aim, determination & right environment” Not sure which of the 3 ingredients is lacking, but surely NRI or people who have emmigrated are more successful.
PS: Yoga, Ayurveda, Buddism and all the other ancient ideas were long forgotten in mainland India and were re-invented abroad. Hence I don’t give Indians credit for it.


Mobo Money: Tap & pay

Carrying small change is always a trouble in India. Esp. Years of inflation has resulted in a user having to carry 60 One Rupee coins to buy something worth a dollar. Some of the smaller denomination coins have been smelted because the metal in them was worth more. Cash-handling in India is so cumbersome that the owner often has to work as a cashier rather than a minimum wager as in most developed countries.
All this makes India an ideal market for a tap and pay solution. Also with the country having one of the highest cellphone tower installations and one of the cheapest telecom costs the market is ideal. Digital payments also install a healthy transparency & billing volume visibility for the owner making it difficult for the employees to pilfer the cash-register.
Many companies & educational institutions have been using ID cards for the cash-less payment in their premises. The RFID chip in the card, photograph of the user & the monthly salary/settlement cycle makes it an ideal. However due to integration issues and the fact that most ids are not compatible with each other (across different organization) this solution has limited applicability outside the premises.
Mobo-Money is TechM initiative to solve this problem. They have launched a sticker which can be affixed anywhere (mobile/id cards etc.) and have received RBI’s approval as a wallet. Hence can be used as universal payment device for all petty transaction.
The product is still in its alpha launch stage and is being tested in the Tech Mahindra (TechM) premises across the nation. The few issues that I faced were:
1. Manual process: Rather than automation reducing the human effort involved in billing, there are still no self-help Kiosk for automated recharge/online recharge
2. The POS does not have a printing mechanism. This makes results in additional attention of the cashier and not saving their time.
3. Unlike the metro cards, these RFID don’t have the balance information. This creates an issue because the server connectivity (over cellphone network) has a latency similar to that seen in Credit card payments… but it is a lot more frustrating when you are waiting for a 10/- (20 cent) payment.
4. Too many sms are going around (on each loading and on discharge). This would be adding a lot to the transaction cost.
5. One of the cafeteria merchant was complaining about the delay in payment. Most vendors and food stall operators work on daily cash & carry model with working capital of 1 day only. Any delay at this end would hurt their business quite bad.
6. Lack of overdraft/credit facility would mean that there would be an additional burden of keeping track of the balance and last minute recharges.
7. Although they are talking of features like online recharge & mobile recharge, I was unable to use them. Also I faced some issue in checking my balance online.
8. Classic chicken and egg situation. The utility/value of this RFID chip increases when more merchants are integrated. Right now I doubt it has any use beyond the cafeteria but things might change by next year.