Aug 31, 2009

Ganpati - Social Networking before Internet Age

Effects of what we do today are seen long after we are gone.

We so often talk of how social networking or professional networking sites have brought about a change in society. We talk more today using profiles, blogs, message updates, chats etc. But think of how important internet is in there as the underlying platform for this networking.

Seeing Ganpati today, one is compelled to admire the vision of Bal Gangadhar Tilak who started it about 100 years ago in Maharashtra. If we think about it, the occasion of Sarvajanik(Community wide) Ganpati is a form of social networking. In fact, the original form of Social Networking. Even the Ganpati celebration at our homes creates social networking.

Tilak's greatness was in understanding the potential of Ganpati's powers in bringing people together. By placing Ganpati (who has such great public following) at the centre of it all, Tilak ensured that his technique would certainly succeed.

Till date, so many people come together, meet...so many young people start arranging Ganpati Pooja at home. And the best part is, this occasion cuts across generations. Old, young, children all come together in these 10 days.

And yes, congratulations to Police in Mumbai as well who manage it more or less in a disciplined manner. The traffic jams due to processions have come down and most of this is managed by the volunteers of the Ganpati Mandal groups. That is public involvement in preventing domestic issues. I remember the horrendous jams when we were in school...that has changed drastically over last 1 and a half decade.

The only one thing I would like to change about the way this festival is celebrated is the use of noisy musical instruments and those eardrum blowing loudspeakers during the processions. They are unnecessary irritants in this festival.

Aug 24, 2009

US Government IT Dashboard - Amazing tool to track IT spend

Check out this IT dashboard that tracks US Government's federal IT spending. This is an amazing tool. It is simple, it is elegant and it gives the information you want pictorially.

The beauty of this dashboard is in its simplicity. While it is information heavy yet the dashboard loads pretty quickly.

The main page - IT Dashboard

Don't miss the tree map view here. I like this feature the best.

Finally, for the more analytical mind - Check out the FAQs - IT Manager's can think of tracking the ROI on IT project expenditure in their organizations based on some of the ideas from here.

Hat tip - Prabal, my colleague, told me about this site.

Aug 23, 2009

Kaminey - Movie Review

Kaminey is awesome! That is my 1 word review.
***** (out of 5*)

I know it is a bit late but it would be incorrect to not praise Vishal Bharadwaj for this one more gem. Indian cinema is coming of age. A thriller that matches any other from any part of the world.

Bharadwaj does not take the easy way out (the one typically used in Hindi double role movies) of the brave guy replacing the simple one. He makes sure he does not go that way by fimply creating a fituation where one pronounfef 'fa' af 'fa' and the other s....s....stammers. So no chance of swaps.

I am not going to say much about the movie. You folks go and watch it in a movie theater that has a good sound system. The music, the chases, the songs, the dialogue, everything....everything is top class. The background of rain, the gaps in story left for you to fill in your mind and many such things are new to our cinema and they work well. The director is respecting you.

Shahid is fantastic as the crazy derby gambler Charlie who cannot fay 'fa' and Guddu as the stammering NGO worker. Priyanka Chopra is mindblowing as the Marathi mulgi Sweety. She spouts fire ...literally. Her Marathi is almost impeccable. There are those loud and mean Bengali brothers, much feared Tashi, 2 crooked cops and other kamineys who are all very good in those characters.

One character that stands out is Bhope Bhau by Amol Gupte.

Though there are a lot of good scenes in Kaminey, I loved the hotel chase and the final climax. The dialogue during the climax are the most enjoyable ones.

When I saw movies like Shawshank Redemption and Usual Suspects, I always felt that our movie makers should also make similar stuff that is original. Well then...here is Vishal Bharadwaj's Kaminey for you.

Aug 22, 2009

Nortel - History of a Giant - Part 1

2 stock charts comparing Nortel with Alcatel-Lucent and Research in Motion using Yahoo finance. See how Nortel never recovered from the dot-com bust.

Look at the similar movements over the late 90s, dot-com boom and bust. Then in 2003 watch Nortel's fall as the accounting scandal unfolded after October 2003. Except for one spike at 2004 end, the stock has been going down.

Also note how ALU has picked up in the last 5 months or so. Nortel is obviously just there for being there.

RIM is obviously a different product company so we cannot compare it directly to Nortel or Alcatel-Lucent. But as the mobile subscriber base has increased, RIM has picked up. There is a similar "W" shape in the 2008-2009 timeframe.




Aug 18, 2009

Auto Rickshaw strike in Delhi

Delhi is a place where many things happen arbitrarily. One of them is the very Indian phenomenon of autorickshaw.

The autorickshaw-walla from Delhi is an entrepreneur at heart. He is the model of rational human being that the Microeconomics text book talks about. He perfectly understands not only his well-being, but also that of his tribe of autorickshaw wallas.

Just go to India Gate and try to get an auto to anywhere. It starts with 50 Rs. even if the place is 1 kilometre away. Then you bargain, feel angry, cheated and humiliated when every auto walla asks for the same 50 Rs. You say, "Lets go by the meter" and they just walk away.

And why just India Gate, go anywhere in Delhi, the autowalla is just the same, "Your money is mine" attitude.

Alright, that is one part of story, now the next - they don't go where the passenger wants to. They go where they want to.

And now, they bring the city to the halt. I just hope no one gives in to them. Make them run on the meter. Make them follow the rules. Impound those vehicles whose drivers refuse to ply passengers. And yes, start good public transport (especially safe buses) that make sure that autowalla starts following rules. Incentivize good behavior and penalize bad behavior.

Also, improve financing to them through usual banks. It is said that loanshark's extorting skyhigh interest rate is the cost that they pass on to the customers. They certainly deserve more credit lines on normal rates.

BTW, during the strike, there was no increase in bus frequency to ease people's problems. Autowallas know this and they are right in thinking that people are in trouble.

Just like Delhi, Nagpur is another place where autowallas run the show. Mumbai, Pune, Aurangabad, Ahmedabad on the other hand have generally disciplined autowallas. Here is a Freakonomics article that attempts to explain the difference:
Why is the Delhi autowalla so different from Mumbai autowalla?

Aug 17, 2009

Fifth P of Marketing - Psychology

Borrowing this "fifth P" term from my friend Paddy, some more thoughts. My flight to Mumbai was a lesson in this aspect.

The flight takes off, water bottles are distributed. After 30 minutes or so, the air hostesses announce opening of snacks counter. This is a low-cost pay-per-snack airline. The air hostesses quietly and efficiently ask with the nicest smile on their faces, "Sir would you like a sandwich or a cup of tea or coffee". Guys remain guys, many say yes.

One chap, who does not seem hungry, still buys the sandwich. He says his wallet is in the bag and with great difficulty (he is tall) tries to draw his wallet out of his bag which is in the overhead bin. From my seat, he looked more and more like a filmfare award trophy as he bent his elbow. After about 30 seconds, he gives up. The attendant, then tries the same, but in vain. Next, she climbs on the seat side, but is not able to draw the wallet.

Her colleague, with an even larger smile, says, "Its ok Sir, please pay after the snack." The passenger is on cloud nine. Such care, such friendliness.

Passengers on my adjacent seat were thinking of coffee, when suddenly one of them says, "I will have sandwich, I am hungry".

Then, suddenly, one of the passengers started feeling cold. He beeped for the attendant. The attendant comes along and shows the fellow how to reduce the fan on the top. Yeah, right, it is quite incredulous to see 40 something year old man not being able to turn down the speed of the AC wind. That was followed with another 2-3 beeps...someone wants water, someone has a question if he can turn on his laptop...Attendant responds, "Sure sir" , "Yes sir, but please turn it off when landing".

More sandwiches....not that it has any apparent connection to the politeness.

Amazing, how much we people want to behave like babies when allowed to. A flight is the best place to be a baby. I want water, sandwich, it is too cold, too warm, my bag does not fit, can i have aisle seat....sure sure sure...is the answer most of the times.

Well, the airlines thrive on such passengers who value-add to their services.

Coming to the mathematical part -

So the sandwich in focus here may be described as follows:
3 slices of bread = 3 Rs.
2 small cube of butter= 5 Rs.
Cheese slice (maybe , I don't know) = 5 Rs.
4 pieces of tomato and cucumber each = 4 Rs.
Ultra Clean kitchen = 10 Rs. (guesstimate)

Qualified chef doing what a 7th standard student can do = 40 Rs. (I am generously taking 10 minutes for assembly of this simple item and Rs. 240 per hour which is quite expensive for this job anyway)

Ketchup sachet = Rs. 5

So this adds up to Rs. 72 per sandwich without building economies of scale into this.

Folks pay upwards of Rs. 100 for this item... this is the magic of the fifth P - psychology.

The 5th P - Psychology is well understood by industries like aviation, hotels / tourism and these days even banking, real estate etc.

(Link to Paddy's article - Consumer Insight )

Aug 12, 2009

Marketing insights summary

My friend Paddy has been writing some very interesting marketing related articles. Easy reading and great summary of about all of our marketing subjects. And no exams at the end :D

Know your audience

Consumer Insight

Credit Cards

- Sid

Aug 9, 2009

Trains crash in Mahim

Just saw on NDTV news that 2 locals crashed in Mahim. This is strange.

In 1999, in one of the sessions during initial training in Siemens, the railways division senior manager had said that Mumbai locals have never had an accident due to faulty scheduling. That was true till today.

When the bombs went off in 2006, Western railways started service in 6 hours or so. Mind you this was not minor damage, these were 7 bombs across the line. The human tragedy was immense...incalculable in fact, but what railways did to fix the things was something to be proud of. As a proof, compare the time required by Spanish rail or the London metro in similar situation.

Accidents before that were more because of human mistake. But this one seems to have had a simulation or an algorithmic problem in scheduling. I don't know which trains these are but the following is common knowledge,
- Mumbai local trains (And I think all trains these days) have proximity sensors, they stop when another train is close.
- The schedules worked out are first put in simulation to ensure no blocking, excess queuing etc. is optimized.
- Mumbai local's motormen have had a very good reputation, they don't do mistakes often. And if they do, systems and processes are robust to take care.

Then what happened?

1) I think it is the pressure to increase trains, get the maintenance done in a rather small window during weekends, ever increasing number of passengers and an infinitesimal possibility to add to the already amazing service level.

2) Or was it something more worrisome? Lapse in quality checks? Substandard sensors and dysfunctional backup system?

I hope we get to see the root cause analysis.

One holistic solution is to improve other towns in terms of business readiness (that is power supply, infrastructure and other similar factors) so that they take some of the load of Mumbai. I know this sounds theoretical but that is one way to manage the situation.

What do you think? Give other feasible alternatives to handle this bigger problem faced by Mumbai and other large cities of our nation.

- Sid

Link to the news:
http://www.headlinesindia.com/crime/accident/local-train-rams-into-another-in-mumbai-one-injured-19202.html

Aug 6, 2009

Telecom headlines - An Asset Sale and A Fire Sale (Review)

1) An interesting kind of "asset sale" happened in US when AT&T paid Sprint $59 M for spectrum swap. The article here "AT&T pays Sprint $59M in spectrum swap" has details.

It would be interesting to educate ourselves about how the valuation of spectrum was arrived at. Hypothetically speaking, the variables needed are
ARPU, delta in ARPU, subscriber, growth rate of subs, spectral efficiency in terms of users per band....hmmm...what else? Can't think of anything.

2) Now the fire sale in Canada - Canadian Govt. takes notice of Ericsson's acquisition of Nortel's wireless business. Isn't this a little too late. It is just sad to see a fine institution like Nortel go down this way. Was bailout an option here? Considering a lot of Canadians felt this was a sort of national symbol...bailout until few months ago was an option. But not anymore. More details on AllAboutNortel article

- Sid

Aug 3, 2009

Adventures at SBI - Part 1

Through the humid lanes, sweat on my eyebrow and a wish to sit in a swimming pool, I trudged along. It was with some satisfaction that I walked towards the glass doors of the shop - must be a 10 feet by 8 feet room in one of the prime locations of Delhi. the board displayed on the ATM - State Bank of India.

It was about 2 months ago that, the highly regarded SBI and its even more highly regarded officials had blessed me with an account in this institution of India. Here is the story of how I managed this feat...

In its full glory, on the first visit, one official read through all my documents. I was happy that in first visit and after only 30 minutes waiting in the queue was getting me to the stage where the documents are accepted. I was ecstatic. This is unheard of...only few days ago my friend was saying it takes 2-3 visits....what was he saying!

The official after a detailed perusal, turns his head towards me and smiles.... Suddenly a shiver runs through my spine, why smile? That's not correct. He says, "Accept karne waale saahab to 2 din chhutti par hai...aap tab aaiye." Still, I ask, "Par kya documents theek hai? Complete to hai na?" He replied, "Yeh to wohi batayenge". What the hell...arey to haath mein lekar padhne ki acting kar rahe the kya!!! Everything in my mind. I walked out quietly.

I go there 2 days later with my 2 colleagues who also were attempting the same stunt of opening account at SBI. We loiter there for 5 minutes and jump the queue and ask the fellow behind counter, "Aaj account khulega?". Pat comes the reply, "aap ko bataaya na 2 din baad aaiye." I protested , "Yeh to aapne 2 din pehle bataaya tha..."

The guy did not bother to reply just looked incredulously at us...something like how Alexander must have looked at Porus or perhaps more like a dog looking at a lamp-post. 2-3 years ago I would have shouted at him, made a scene and stormed out. But not these days....after I had swallowed his look, it suddenly dawned on me. Einstein's theory of relativity works extremely well in SBI.

While we had shifted on the time axis by 2 days...the nice chap helping us out was still in the same time position as (our) 2 days ago. You see this is exactly what happens when you do time travel. (You may call me an idiot but I will prove in the next post that this is true.)

Theek hain..thats ok....

Then, on one Saturday, leaving my colleagues in lurch, I moved stealthily in that SBI branch at 10.30 am with hope in my heart and a prayer on my lips. I went into the bank. Suddenly, I saw a man whom I had never seen before. He was sitting in a seat which was empty on our earlier visits. He must be the one - "The One". I walked to the counter. There were only 2 people there. In less than 20 minutes he was done with them. I thought through my strategy lessons from IIMA. Can I apply any of my case learnings here. He was already staring at me with the look that said, "You are wasting national time by staring blankly at me, you duffer." Unable to think anything, I pulled out something from my bag....Only the documents came out. I handed them over to him. He said, "Iska kya karu?" I spoke with as meek voice as I could, "Sir dekhiye documents complete hain kya"

He glanced through them for the next 3-4 minutes. Sweat on my eyebrows, it felt like 20 minutes (theory of relativity...remember). He said, "Yeh theek hain". As he tried to return the documents to me, I moved swiftly. My hands pulled the form out of the bag and offered to him. I had won the duel. My form was in front of him before he could push the documents back to me. I had won this duel.

With obvious discomfort, he had to accept his defeat in this round. I had not only taken his acceptance, I had also made him move with me in the next round. But my eyes were on the final goal, I kept my emotions closed within. He suddenly smiled...no...I resolved not to allow him easy victory. He said, "Yeh optional waala part bhariye." The old Siddharth popped out and said, "Lekin woh to optional hain". He said, "Theek hai...aapka form vaapas aa jayega central processing se...account nahi khulega". No! I took the form. Without leaving from his line of sight, I scribbled in many more boxes. In 15 or maybe 20 minutes, "I gave him the form". He said, "Abhi Monday ko aaiye". I begged to the 'One', "Sir, aaj hi kar dijiye...please". He said, "To rukiye thodi der". Finally, at 12.55pm he called me and stamped the form. Wait for another 35 minutes and my account was opened.

He gave me the number and the passbook. The third visit was what was needed to find the "One", the messiah of banking. The one man who could open my bank account.

With great joy I came back...the coming Monday I proudly announced to my colleagues. "I have a SBI account". To which they replied... "Well...Good luck to you. We will come to you if we need help." Sure I said. They never came for many days. I am still hoping to help them.

In the meanwhile, I want the online banking facility for which I have visited the bank 2 more times. But the messiah of Online SBI banking is different and his time travel is slower than the earlier one. I guess the next visit...definitely

And the ATMs, yes the ATMs, that story next time...

Aug 2, 2009

Love Aaj Kal - Movie Review

** (out of 5*)

Love Aaj Kal is an interesting experiment. Unfortunately, it is just that...an experiment and mostly a boring one. It is nowhere close to the fire that Jab We Met was.

At the beginning, we know that Meera and Jay have broken up. There is a collage of scenes that form the mystery element of the movie. But then as we learn more and more about Meer and Jay, we feel it is all superficial. Sure they are not committed to each other but still have feelings for each other. This does not come out. After that we see many scenes interwoven in 2 time periods which is good if they are handled well. They are sudden and disrupt the flow of movie.

What stands out in this movie is the story of Veer Singh and Harleen Kaur. The story exudes passion, something of the type of Amitabh's Jay and Jaya Bhaduri's Radha of Sholay. With her quiet presence, terse one liners and stunning simplicity, young Harleen steals away our hearts. Veer, with his Pratigya, patience and building maturity makes a place for himself.

But, overall Imtiaz Ali and his editor have created such a mish mash of scenes and have tried to pace it so much that we somehow do not connect to the main characters - Jay and Meera. And isn't that the crux of any good romantic movie?

Now to the actors. Deepika Padukone is completely flat and boring in her acting. What happened to the Shanti of Om Shanti Om? Her acting was flat in Bachna Aye Haseeno and I did not dare to see Chandni Chowk to China.

Saif Ali Khan's one liners, gibberish and confusion as Jay is heart warming but the serious scenes again miss to connect with the viewers. Veer is great...Saif is good in intense scenes (like Omkara). Rishi Kapoor is mind blowing. I am a big fan of Rishi and feel he has always been under-appreciated by everyone. The new girl, Giselle, as Harleen is excellent. Lastly, why waste someone as wonderful as Rahul Khanna?

All in all, a good movie if you have nothing else to do. Perhaps Imtiaz should try to show us the complete story of Veer and Harleen next time. BTW, songs are good but are mostly placed in wrong places and break the movies continuity...except the last one that is ;)

- Sid

Aug 1, 2009

I hate you Mr. Foodie - Kunal Vijayakar!!!!

Dear Kunal,

Do you know what someone forced to live away from family craves for most? GHAR KA KHAANA!!! Just as I am missing Mumbaicha Paaus, I am also missing mere ghar ka khaana.

And you, in the meanwhile, are running the best show on TimesNow....The Foodie!!!

When I make do with MAggi or Bread Slices....you are there on TV at lunchtime munching away some of the most delicious recipes invented by mankind.

My TV turns on automatically and the remote changes the channel to TimesNow...and lo and behold! You munch away those delicious known or exotic items and all I can do is get jealous of you!

By the way, your show is amazing. Week after week, you show some massively amazing grub. For food enthusiasts like me, these shows are the ultimate entertainment. Also, IMHO, it steals the thunder away from every other show on all news channels :)

Keep eating you foodie no. 1 and showing us what you eat (and how it is made...tum kya samjhe main kaam ki cheez bhool jaunga).

Cheers,
Sid

P.S. - Being a veggie, I manage to control my anger when you feast on non-veg stuff.

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What do you think about the show? Post a comment for this article and let me know.

Oh did you miss the show on TV, check this link...
http://www.timesnow.tv/videolist/4310960.cms

Disclaimer

All the opinions expressed are of the author only. Any action taken by readers on the basis of this blog is entirely at the readers' risk and they are solely responsible for the same.