Is Recession Real?

26 02 2009

Well, many people asked this question and many people responded with what they thought. I am not a financial expert nor an Economist who can answer this question. But, I have been in the Industry for close to 10 Years now and have friends who have been in the Industry for longer than me and also many of my close friends have their own startup’s. This post comes with my interactions with them and also what I have been seeing in the Industry I work. 

During 2001-2003, we saw the Internet bubble burst. There were many people who sacrificed their lives, given up their line of work and moved to the IT field to make their name and fame. There were many organizations born, but eventually, most of them faded away. Let us also not forget, that organizations which had their fundamentals correct, grew up to be giants in their own fields. 

So, are we seeing the same phenomenon here today? The only similarity I see from my eyes in the two recessions is that they are man made. We have been hungry for more in a shorter span of time and this has really effected us. If this is human’s thought process, we should never forget that the nature also has its own ways of sustaining itself. This is a natural cycle and if the 2001-2003 recession helped in streamlining the speed at which we travelled in making a new world, this recession is setting expectations for us to ensure we have our fundamentals correct for a better future. 

Fortunately, most of my very good friends organizations have not been disastrously hit by this current situation and also quite a few of reputed organizations are also not hit. Organizations which have been disturbed are the one’s which missed out one or two of the key elements of ensuring the life of the organization works the way it should. 

What are the fundamentals which I am talking about? 

The fundamentals I am speaking apply to both individual and also the organization. The fundamentals which each of us should be aware of. The precautions we take to ensure we have a healthy living (not money, but health). Eat good food, have healthy habits, keep your mind calm and peaceful and ensure that you perform your responsibilities well. The same applies to even organizations. They have life too. 

I once received a forwarded email about Recession and it made a lot of sense to me. I just wanted to summarize the story here as an illustration of the concept. 

There was a poor man, who made eateries on the roadside. He worked very hard, to ensure he maintained cleanliness around the place he ran his business, he had few chairs for his customers to sit, clean drinking water and his USP was that he always ensured that he was presentable and welcomed his customers with a big smile. He did this for all the last 15 years since he started his small outlet. He was contended with his earning, and ensured that his customers left with a smile.  

This businessman had a son and ensured he provided the best of the education to him, with what he could earn. His son went on to study well and acquired a very decent and dignified job for himself.  One day, his son stopped over at their eatery and was explaining the current situation to his father. How people are loosing jobs, how banks are going bankrupt and how access to money was getting difficult day-by-day. With this, the poor father began to think. Over the period of time, he reduced his expenses. He was getting the place cleaned once in two days instead of every day. He stopped buying fresh water every time, but instead managed by mixing tap water to the water he bought. With various thoughts and tensions in his mind, his smile went away, he cared less about his presentability.

Over the period of time, his customers stopped coming and his business went gloomy. He told his son that he was absolutely correct and the economy is really very bad. Their business has come down heavily and tomorrow does not look bright. 

What is the morale of the story? It is actually not a story, but REALITY. The reality is that we are more worried and hence our productivity is reducing. What would have happened if his son never studied and helped his father? I am sure their business would be the same and their lives would have definitely been the same. At times, too much of thought also hits our overall productivity. 

Let us stop worrying about recession and concentrate on our work. Organizations should do what they need to do and individuals need to do what they need to do. I am sure, our tomorrow is more bright.

In my next post, I would share about my experiences with the industry and entrepreneur friends who are definitely working at the same pace and ensuring they get their business 🙂





Power of Cooperatives

1 01 2009

Last Friday, I was at a book shop and the first book I stumbled upon was I too had a dream. I was looking for any books by/on Dr. Kurian for a long time and finally found it. I just picked up the book and began reading. Today, I completed it.I have to rate this a 5 Star. An amazing narration and very well written and compiled.

I didn’t know what to name this post. First, I wanted to name it as “Malayalee.Milk & Movie” (Read the book and I am sure that you would agree with me on the title).

Well for those of you who are wondering what this book is all about, it is the amazing story of Anand Milk Union Limited (AMUL) and journey of Dr. Verghese Kurian as India’s Milk Man.If there was anything which is a box-office and smashing hit in the Indian Cooperative Movement, it is the story of AMUL. I am definitely not going into the details of the book, but would want to highlight the key aspects of the Operation Flood.

What made me read the book non-stop is how bureaucratic our country has been in accepting the Cooperative methodology. India is a country with more than 70% of the population living in the villages. Since the independence, we have had many Government’s which came and went and also we saw a lot of development in many areas of life. In fact, I would not hesitate to say that no other country has come this far in the first 60 Years of Independence (comparing to countries which have been ruled by some other nation). However, there is a long way to go.

During the course of this book, Dr. Kurian emphasizes the importance of making farmers responsible for their produce, marketing and returns. What this simply means is giving the ownership and the Government playing the role of ensuring appropriate avenues are available. Well, to be very honest, this is the most difficult thing which any country can achieve. But, Dr. Kurian proved that with commitment and dedication we can definitely achieve this. What you need is the Will and the Belief in your dream.

I personally understood one aspect – The Primer Minister’s are people with a dream, and believe me, only people with that commitment get to the position (there are definitely exceptions too). In this book, Dr. Kurian writes about his personal interaction with almost all Prime Ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru to P V Narasimha Rao (after which Dr. Kurian retired). The key aspect is the team which surrounds this super power of our Country.

If you are an aspiring Entrepreneur/Social Entrepreneur, I highly recommend you reading this book.

Also, in this book, Dr. Kurian jumps deep into how Operation Flood, one of India’s most successful cooperative project came into existance and how long it took for them to succeed.





HeadStart – Compute 2009

14 12 2008

HeadStart has been our annual event for showcasing Startup Talents in the country. We started organizing the annual event since 2008, along with ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Bangalore Chapter.

Why HeadStart and ACM?

HeadStart is a community of Entrepreneurs, Investors, Industry Professionals and Evangelists. We came together to contribute back to the community which has brought us to this level and given us lives.

ACM is a focused group which concentrates on future of technology and how it fits into today’s world.

As an Entrepreneur, it is very important for us to understand the Business Model, writing the Business Plan, speaking to Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors, bringing the product/service to the end user, legalities in building your organization, employee management and last but not the least – the future of your innovation.

You have a cutting edge idea and you are excited about it. You speak to various stakeholders and lo! you idea has hit everyone. What next? You are starting up your baby. That’s great news. One important and key aspect you need to consider is what is the future? Today, we see many Insurance companies advertising –For your retirement solutions and your child educational / child future plans, do contact us. In the same way, you need to understand the future of technology to ensure safety and security to your baby (your enterprise) and yourself. We feel safe when we have life insurance and few plans for our children, but we ignore our tomorrow.

Yesterday, I met an aspiring entrepreneur and he invited me to be his Devil’s advocate (I am not going into details of his idea or our conversation with due respects to him). He shared his idea with me and I honestly did not see a tomorrow in that. I did not see a strong bonding of the idea with the stakeholders. But he is passionate. Passionate about the idea and his tomorrow. I am sure he would succeed in what he is doing, but definitely few of my questions have kept his bells ringing.

During HeadStart – Compute 2008, we had two eminent personalities from GE to speak on the future of Database. The two scientists shared their research information on how the future of Database would change. This is what is needed for an Entrepreneur.

A classic example of not looking into the future is the Y2K. Many organizations realized and started working on this issue a bit late in the 90’s. What if these organizations had the guidance to think about this earlier during their startup stage? Things would have been different. If everyone took the necessary precaution, I am sure there would not have been many people who would have got job’s in the west during late 90’s.

HeadStart and Compute are dedicated to create the perfect ecosystem for Entrepreneurs. If you recollect the Project Triangle, then it is very easy to relate to what we do. We do exactly the same – Ensuring for a healthy startup focusing on the key parameters – Technology, Capital and Eco-System.

HS Model

Be there on the January 09-10, 2009 and participate to help create the ecosystem for Startup’s.





Infrastructure – Thoughts on Traffic Problems in Bangalore

16 04 2008

I really like the Blogathon Badge which you can find on the right side pane of my bolg. I am an optimist and I look at solving problems rather than running away from them. I am really meaning what I am writing here 🙂 My favorite button is the middle one – “Maximize” and try to get an optimistic view of the concern. At times when I don’t get answers to my question, I use the first one – “Minimize” and keep the thought process running somewhere in my mind and at one point of time, will get a solution. The last is always disabled for me….

Well, coming to the topic I choose to write for blogathon, is one of my favorite and what we see everyday.

The Problem

How do you want to look at it? As a problem or a defect or bug? Is there a difference? Yes, there is definitely a huge difference between each of the words I used above.

Problem – According to Dictionary.com; any question or matter involving doubt, uncertainty, or difficulty

Bug – According to Dictionary.com; any insect or insectlike invertebrate

Defect – According to Dictionary.com; a shortcoming, fault, or imperfection

Now, I will also present a technology perspective of Bug and Defect 🙂

Bug – An unexpected error thrown by any application due to malfunctioning of the program

Defect – An error thrown by any application due to lack of understanding/mis-understanding of the requirement.

So, under which category should we have our “traffic problem”?

In my humble opinion, I would categorize this under Bug and Defect. Why?

It is a bug because of unexpected growth in the economy which led to the growth in the city.

It is a defect because the town/city planning council (simply put the government body) could not understand the requirement and could not plan for a good algorithm which would look into the future and address the problem.

My View

Almost every city/town in India and other countries in the world are facing the similar problems. Are everyone able to solve this instantaneously? I am quite sure it is a “No”. When we try to compare ourselves to the cities/towns we visit (please include international areas too), we are biased. This is because most of the time we visit either the developed or the so-called developing countries. I am sure, you, as my reader, would have visited a third-world country too…

There are many ways to look at the situation, however, I would want to present only my view with due respects to all.

Yes, Bangalore has really grown 100 folds in the last 5-7 years. Our’s is not the only city/town, but across the globe many countries, cities and towns have grown in the last 5-7 years. Once the garden city and a honey-moon destination (I still remember my brother coming to Bangalore for his honey-moon after wedding in July 1988 and the pictures he has taken) is now the Silicon valley of the East.

Before I begin to pen down my thoughts, for a basic understanding, let us look at some statistics:

The vehicle population in Bangalore has grown more than 20 times in the last 27 years and more than 100% in the last 7 Years. In 1980, Bangalore had 1,75,325 vehicles and by 2005 the city had 22,72,239 vehicles. Today, we have more than 26,00,000 vehicles on roads and adding more than 200 vehicles every day. If you look at the Traffic Police strength, we have close to 2,900 Policemen/Policewomen, in which close to 100 are at the top 3 layers. Population of Bangalore as on date is 62,00,000 (Six million, two hundred thousand). Simple mathematics shows that we have one traffic policeman for every 2,138 people. Wow! This is an amazing number. Why did I bring all these data points? Not to pin point the aspect that we are less on the police man, but to point out there are many things what we can do.

I might not be comparing apples to apples, but just look at the statistics of Beijing. Beijing has more than 33, 50,000 vehicles (a mere 6 Laks more than Bangalore) out of which 20,00,000 are cars. Also, the city adds more than 1,300 vehicles every day on road. By the time Olympics start, the vehicle population is projected to grow up too. So, how is the city managing its traffic problem/defect/bug? Interestingly, the Government is planning to ban few vehicles on the road during the Olympics and also pay the owners some compensation based on their daily use of the vehicle.

Coming to our very own Bangalore, here are the few major aspects which I feel we need to look at from citizen’s perspective:

  1. Ownership while driving
  2. Obeying traffic rules
  3. Drivers Education
  4. Signal Planning

Let me explain a bit more in detail as to what I think about each of the points above. Remember, out of the 4 points I have laid out, 3 come back to us (We, the people) and 1 goes to the Government. This is because, when we point finger at others, there are 4 fingers pointing towards us…remember?

Ownership while driving – Most of us, including me, do not think of others while we drive. “I have to reach, I have to get the right of way, I have to go first”, these are the most common thoughts we have. If we all think about “I” who is thinking of “We”? I am sure, there are quite a few out there who think about “We”, else we would not be here today, where we are 🙂 The first important thing is for each of us to think twice before you make the move while we drive. This is not as easy as I write, but needs a lot of involvement from each of us and with sincerity too. All of us have work and all of us have to go. But, by simply having the thought process imbibed in us, we can make a lot of change. So, let us begin the change with ourselves. Let us from today, drive with due respect to others on the road.

Obeying Traffic Rules – Everyone of us have a license, but how many did actually take the complete test for obtaining the license? I bet not more than 5% of us. When I say complete, I mean the actual requirements to obtain a license. How many on the road do you think understand that when there is a yellow line, you need to stop-look-proceed? Or how many of us understand that it is mandatory to stop at “zebra” crossing? Well, as my reader, you might know, but I bet there are many who do not know. Did you every take a driving class with any motor school? If so, Do you remember any instance where the instructor refused to let you start the vehicle before explaining the rules of the road, the ABC system of the vehicle and last but not the least, if you are learning a four-wheeler, wearing a seat belt?

Well, this turns back to education. How do we educate people? This is a very big question to answer in one small line, but one probable solution is having traffic lessons organized at every institution / organizations. I know quite a few organizations which changed the office timings to avoid traffic, but I do not know any organization which worked with the police to organize for traffic lessons.

Another idea I have is to voluntarily work with Driving schools in the city and organize for traffic awareness sessions for the “trainers”. This would mean that the trainer need to understand the rules of the road and take a test to become a certified trainer. This is like “train the trainer”. Instead of waiting for the Government to support this initiative, if there is any NGO who can initiate this and work in collaboration with the Police and Government, this would be highly beneficial.

Drivers Education – We need to have education for Drivers. Just think for a second, if you have a driver for your car, how many times did you appraise him when he broke a signal or went in the wrong way? I see many educated people who have drivers (when I see anyone in a car, I assume they are educated) and the driver jumps a signal or goes in a wrong way and the owner is sitting in the back seat either reading / chatting / sleeping. If as the owner, you have any time corrected a mistake, the driver will not take the courage to make a mistake (remember, he is your employee and for sure he would take your words seriously).

Drivers also include auto drivers. You would agree with me when I say that auto’s are one of the major cause for traffic jams. They squeeze in-between vehicles and block the way. They go in wrong way many times and also drive very rashly. The passenger does not even utter a word. Next time, when you are using an auto, could you please speak to the driver to educate him of the negativities of this behavior? We need to understand that they are stressed out. Driving is their daily job and definitely it is a stressful one. So, being calm and polite to him/her would be definitely beneficial. Next time when you are in an auto, please speak to the driver if you can.

The next set of most irresponsible drivers are the bus drivers (BMTC/Private). I really have no clue as to why they need to squeeze into small spaces on road while they can just wait and go. Again, we will need to understand that driving all days for making livelihood is really stressful, considering their schedules. However, BMTC/Private bus operators do need to understand that stressed drivers make life hell for themselves and to others. I think a bonus system (any kind) to drivers would make them more delightful and driving pleasure.

The last but not the least set of drivers (predominantly found in bigger cities like Bangalore) are the cab/taxi drivers. Have you ever noticed that the regular cab drivers (Call Taxi’s) are much more better at driving than the cab drivers who ferry employees? The reason is very simple, the cab company gets paid more if they ferry more people. Hence, they encourage their drivers to get more trips done and also the drivers are paid more (bonus) if they get more business. Who is responsible for this? Of course, organizations who employ cab companies for ferrying employees. I strongly recommend that organizations do not accept any clause of this kind in their agreements and also, encourage cab companies on performance basis. I regularly see many cab drivers ferrying employees, who drive crazy on road. Adding to this, the passengers in the car are employees of organizations like you and me and they do not utter a word to the driver when he gets cranky on road. For them, going home faster is more important than their safety. If these passengers be adamant with drivers, then we can address this in a better way. I do agree that the “How am I driving?” stickers behind the vehicle have added value, but if the passengers speak to the drivers to follow traffic rules, the effect would be much better.

Signal Planning – This is one key area of concentration for the Government. Having bus stops before or after a signal is the worst thing which can happen. On a regular basis I notice one such area (Lumbini Garden signal near Hebbal flyover). The bus stop is just after the signal and all buses (minimum 2 per signal) stop just immediately after the signal and jam the junction. The vehicles behind get clogged and adds to frustration.

I can take another example of Nagawara and Kammanahalli signals. These two signals are not more than 2 KM apart, but there is no synchronization at all. Signal synchronization and automated signaling helps a lot while planning for traffic at main areas.

Suggestion – Traffic Ombudsman

This is quite a different and unique idea what I have. According to Dictionary.com, an ombudsman is a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.

In the context where I am speaking, I would request you to remove the second part of the definition. My suggestion is that we have Traffic ombudsman who are general public. The Traffic department can have their own criteria to identify an ombudsman, but what happens here is that there would be more people who can actually have the power to address an issue/concern. As an example, let me say that I am interested in contributing to solving traffic problems and I become an Traffic Ombudsman. Now, I have an identity to stop someone who is not adhering to the rules of the road and educate the person. In our place, most of the times you encounter a question – “Who are you?”. When we are officially identified as volunteers to help, we might be heard. I am very excited about this idea and I am sure it will work. I am sure there will be many people like me who would want to volunteer and help 🙂 What do you think?

Little tips to fellow drivers/travelers like me

These are what I do and I find them very helpful:

  • While driving in a car – switch on the music system and have your A/C running. This adds a lot to your freshness and keeps your mind calm.
  • If you are on a two-wheeler, do not cruise in-between vehicles, leave space for others.
  • If you are on a two-wheeler, stick to the left lane. Accept that there are other vehicles which can go at a higher speed than you.
  • Try to keep yourself to the left if you are driving slow. This is one thing which really hurts me. I keep seeing many a times, cyclists, two-wheelers and cars who want to go slow, stick to the right most lane and this give a tough time to the behind vehicles.
  • Do not get frustrated while in a traffic jam or if someone is blocking your way. Be calm and the traffic would move on.

These are my thoughts on how I would want to help solve traffic concerns in Bangalore. If I better my thought process, I would keep adding to the post 🙂