Tag Archives: Delhi

Why Don’t Indian Companies Take Their Web Presence Seriously?

By Ankit Chandra

images

My friend Gaurav Sharma (name changed for privacy) asked this question. He is the CEO of a leading Indian web solutions company, so his question has got to have a good mix of bewilderment, frustration, anxiety and most worryingly, facts behind it…

This is an interesting question, and when I began exploring it, it unravelled into a many folds of Indian society, and economics which I think we all see, but maybe overlook. I come from a unique (remember everyone is unique? 🙂 ) background of Anthropologist father, Zoologist mother, Bachelors in Engineering and MsBA in Technology Management.  So I tend to have diff perspectives (which more often than not, confuse me more than anyone else) on issues close to my heart. This one sure is: after all, it is things like these that make India look technologically inferior, and not up with the rest of the world etc etc.

So back to the question. I will try and put out my reasons for the question in separate posts: to save you from information (read opinion) overload, but I hope it makes an interesting read.

Perspective 1:

Lets begin with an example.

Any person who grew up in South Delhi would know of Lodhi Sports. This is a shop we respected as one of the few ‘up market’ sports showrooms in Delhi. In the early 90’s it was rare to see exercise equipment in many shuttered shops. This one was all glass and had a wide range of exercise equipment. 20 years later, Lodhi Sports has expanded to many shops around Delhi, in big shopping malls etc. Now look at their current site: http://www.lodhisports.in . It doesn’t even open currently.

Now, its target market very much overlaps the active internet users category in Delhi, so I think it does make sense to at least have a functioning site! That leaves us with two options, either the provider is off the track of the consumer doesn’t want it. As in most cases, I think its the chicken and egg problem.

Reason 1: Coming of age of Indian consumer.. A little more distance to go…


Generally this is what I think other people call as maturing of a market, and I agree. Indian consumers have only recently begun taking a computer for granted in their living rooms, and fewer of them, between 3-8 crores have begun accessing the net actively. The definition of active here is using the internet at least once a month. It is pointless to say that if a person is only ‘accessing’ the net once in a month, he/she is definitely not comfortable looking at it as a utility. It seems more like a picnic; once a month, to try out something ‘new’.  Hence, it seems, that an average Indian internet user is still not getting on to the net to use it for transactions, and information gathering for purchases. That, will take time. Maybe something similar to plastic money and time taken for its traction in India.

Perspective 2:

But then I think internet and cell phones came up almost at the same time in India. And there is no points guessing who won the race. So whats the deal there? The utility of cell phones, and initial investment for cell phones is much clearer to people. And hence, the reception to cell phones is like a raging forest fire. And people indeed are benefiting from it! Whether Internet provides the same amount of value to Indian people is something I cannot comment on. I think it does, given the kind of stuff people in other parts of the world have done from it, but then one can disagree very well on this.

So then why nature chose cell phones over Internet? I think first because every thing about cell phone was very well modularized and tangibly managed. prepaid cards made it easy, compact, hassle free, and decoupled from any kind of red tape, for people to start making calls cheap. Internet revenues on the other hand still depend on credit card swiping. The infrastructure needed for cell phone companies to work on was revolutionized into the ‘Indian model’ now so widely studied across the globe. Internet however, could not come up with its own India strategy. Maybe all the smart brains were still busy making money from the cell phone market. Then the content delivered on cell phones was inherently local, unless of course you call an international ‘talk to me’ lines. Here too, Internet lagged much farther behind, because of its ‘broadcasting’ model vs. the peer to peer nature of phone calls.

Reason 2: Lack of macro-environment support and luck?

2 technologies, equally promising, but ultimately having very different paths…

Ultimately, while cell phones transformed themselves into the Indian context very well by providing cheap calls to lower costs, lightening speed information on prices for farmers, cheap way of keeping in touch for long distance relationship lovers, for moms to check up on their ‘in school and not bunking’ kids, and free sms etc etc, Internet couldn’t really strike the same chord in the daily lives of Indians. It could not go much beyond educated, and computer literate people to the non english speaking housewives, moms, lalajis, and Gangu Bai for the betterment of their daily lives.

Does it mean Internet is irrelevant to India? Absolutely not; it just needs to wear colors of India over it, and ultimately go beyond rediff and naukri. The sites like Saleraja.com, mouthshut.com are getting into different spheres of our lives, beyond the traditional demographic which was being served…

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How Much Forest Does a Man Need

By Ankit Chandra

If you flew over Delhi around june 2010, one thing would be kinda clear. That you couldn’t see anything clearly at all from the window. Well, part of it could have been because most of the city was dug up for Commonwealth games, but there was a major part ascribed to plain dust in the air. Maybe it was due to scorching summer and lack of humidity in the air too.

But then the question comes, if there was so much dust in the atmosphere, wouldn’t everyone be inhaling it? And with lax industry laws, there of course are many pollutants in the air too! And all of them simply, pretty much forcibly just get into your lungs!

The next question is why are people not doing anything about it? Well, I think that’s because people, mostly, are not empowered to do anything beyond their own backyard. And the people who are empowered, are either so dumb to not see the issue, or plain and simple ignorant, or just too busy minting money to see that this effects everyone! including the PM and the President. Well, only when they are out in the open…

So then how do we actually see how bad the picture is? For one, every one could take a flight in to Delhi, which, for obvious reasons isn’t the most economical way of conducting a study. So I thought I should do the next best thing. Take pictures from high above and paste them here.

Thanks to google maps and jing technologies, I was able to put these pics here:

lucknow_googlemapsLucknow, India

hyderabad_googlemapsHyderabad Suburbs, India

nerul_googlemapsNerul, Navi Mumbai, India

noida_googlemapsNOIDA, India

schaumburg_googlemapsSchaumburg, US

niceParis_googlemapsNice, France

tootingLondon_googlemapsTooting, London, UK

I tried to compare apples to apples by keeping the resolution level the same. I also tried to consider only what I thought were suburbs, since they seem to have a better control over land and hence tree cover.

What is clearly visible is that number of trees in the captured area are faar less for Indian cities, no matter where they are, when compared to, suburbs in US or Europe.

This is not a research study, so I am sure the sample data I am looking at would be flawed after a point. But I definitely wanted to put up some comparison between what Indian cities are doing, vs the ‘better’  cities of US/Europe. Also, since these are suburbs, in both cases (India or others) they were settled down into, rather recently.

We all have known that tree cover is said to be beneficial for MANY things, including water table restoration, reduction in free dust just flying around in the air, reducing average temperature of the areas, and keeping the land healthier in general.

Given this, I wanted to hit at at least one problem. That of awareness in people in India about the shoddy state of their green cover. Only 12% of land mass in India is covered with forests, as compared to 33% in the US, 30% over the world, 34% in Canada, 22% in China and so on.

I think the green cover is especially more important in city areas given the concentration of pollutants in general.

Maybe we should start from where we do have control. Our backyard. And then move up from there. Otherwise the average life expectancy in our cities will continue to be low and maybe drop lower with new industrialization and growth happening…

911 vs 100: A Realistic Review

dial 100

By Ankit Chandra

Yes. I plan to compare the two numbers. There are many factors to look at, and I will try to sum them up as precisely as possible…

Ask any American, or watch enough Hollywood movies and you will see that 911 is something that Americans use very frequently, for things as small as sticking your hand to something very embarrassing (in American Pie) to something much bigger as in Die Hard… But you get the picture… as soon as there is any situation of any kind and severity, 911 is one of the first things they will think of. Efficiency of this system is so good that you are almost assured a response in minutes wherever you are in the country. There is proper research done while making roads, to ensure that any part of a city is reachable in 2-10 minutes from the nearest Police patrol (my ex roommate was working for a firm that did this research)

100 on the other hand usually has a fleeting reference in the heads of Indians. Should something go wrong, the first set of people we think about are our neighbors, or friends. In some cases, we probably don’t even want to get involved with the police. Like Hollywood in previous case, if you watch enough Bollywood movies, you will see that people do not usually want the police to get involved, or the police any how comes only when the hero has beaten the crap out of the villain, despite the absence of police. What I imply from this is that police is at least considered inept, or inconsiderate, or untrustworthy.

But if I think deeper about this, the differences don’t just stay as mere facts and jokes as above… They begin to show the vast difference that exists between the two countries.

To implement a system like 911, a few basic things are needed. First it needs to be such a dependable system that time and again, anywhere, anyhow, should there be an emergency, some help should be able to reach the victim. It is only then that a person will trust this 3 digit number so much to remember, and call, this number when their life is in danger. In addition, this number should be able to give you the warmth that you would have no inhibitions in trusting them for any situation of any sort. Third, the versatility of this number should be such that this number can handle any kind and severity of situation.

These are just a few components that go into making this system work. Any person in Process Management would tell you that this calls for operational efficiency, and that too of a very high standard, because it deals with lives of people. Implementing this, even in a small society of 200 apartments is such a huge pain. I can tell you this by my experience in getting an electrician to fix a power cut in my apartment in Delhi.

Now imagine implementing this at the level of a nation. One of the world’s biggest nations by land size and population. But this has been implemented here in the US. And everytime I think of this system, and dare to compare it to 100, I first get awestruck, and then get upset.

Why can’t India implement a system like that? What’s stopping us? Don’t we deserve to have such a system to help us lead a better life? Must our loved ones die waiting for help to arrive? Or worse still. die waiting because the PM is visiting the Hospital?

It needs will which is easy to say, but much more difficult to implement. It is also dependent on how strongly people ask for this, and make this (instead of speaking Marathi in Maharashtra) a political issue. And that comes from social awareness. That is VERY different from education, which is again VERY different from literacy… A nation of 1 billion, with most people not even knowing the significance/value of such a system is where we lack the point. And I think the most critical role here is to be played by the middle class in India. I belong to it, and by having studied in US now, I know what we lack. There are many more middle class students who have been lucky enough to see and understand the difference between the two systems. Now that we are ‘aware’ we must pass this on, and strive to make everyone aware of this.

It is only when people are aware of this that leaders will rise, and take this issue further, and even take it on to them to implement this. And then we will have someone to vote for. Then we could also look at appointment of competent officers in implementing this system, and much more importantly, sustaining it.

The best way to resolve our issues is to move bottom up. And for that we need to be aware…

  • ReThink911 (careandwashingofthebrain.blogspot.com)

Sheila vs Arvind: The Fight The Nation Is Waiting For

arvind kejriwal

By Ankush Kumar

She still has it in her to fight once again. He is a newbie in the race, chancing his luck with crores of frustrated people. This battle is not as one sided as it seems. Arvind Kejriwal & Sheila Dixit will lock horns in the forthcoming Delhi Vidhan Sabha elections and the entire nation will be watching the developments very closely.

Arvind Kejriwal is not a TV star or a movie icon, who walks into a constituency just before the elections, addresses issues of people and yet sounds like a moron. He is a shrewd tactician who has planned his entry with minimum fuss and maximum action in the past two years. Unlike many other urban leaders he is not just an E-phenomena. He has garnered faithful followers cutting across all sections of society.

The auto drivers, the taxiwallahs, the youth on social media and the retired uncles at the chai shop, all swear by him. By making the right noise in different circles he has succeeded in generating immense response amongst the people. Will all of this translate into votes is the big question?

If past is an indicator then the answer well and truly is ‘YES’ he will have votes. If Govinda can make a lame promise of changing the air for the people and win the elections, surely, atleast Kejriwal is intelligent. If we have leaders who compliment their opposition counterparts on their beauty, atleast this man is talking about the safety of woman. If we can have chief ministers who blame population influx as the reason for deteriorating law and order, atleast this man stands up for the common man.

Time and again he has challenged madam chief minister on the electricity issue, but it seems she is only interested in keeping her waning powers in check than addressing the power woes of the people.

The only threat to Arvind Kejriwal is from the non-electorate elements, which have been instrumental in Congress winning elections. If he can keep those elements at bay then maybe India could see the beginning of a new era in Indian politics.

P.S: The journey from 0 to 1 is the toughest. If Arvind Kejriwal pulls this off then AAP is well and truly on its way.

 

15 Rupees – Part 2

15 rupees

 

By Ravi J Singh

My daily journey back home does not end here. The last part is riding a rickshaw to my home, of course as a pillion not as a rider. Somehow I feel choosing a rickshaw wallah, is very similar to the way warriors chose their Ikran on the Pandora Island. Out of those 20-25 odd rickshaw pullers, mostly former farmers, and potters and handicraft professionals, who are in this trade now because the urban India needs them more rather than the rural India, choosing a decent one is a task.

I don’t know which ignorant once said that the soul of India resides in the country side. Means, why else would these people flock ‘our’ cities, and do these jobs rather than adding value to the rural India, if the country’s soul really resides in the villages.

So, once my Ikran for the day was chosen it was just a matter of another 7-10 minutes before I reach home and demand water, and cold drink and fresh cooked food from my wife, and really feel like a king.

Kitna huya (how much)” I asked the short height man in his late 30s, who just stopped his cycle rickshaw in front of my home and was wiping sweat from his face.

Bauji 25 ruppeya ho gya (Sir, its 25 rupees)”. I handed over a 100 rupee bill to the guy. The fare was 25 bucks but he had only 60 rupees as ‘khuley paise’ to return to me. I told him to give me 60, that would be fine. His reply startled me – “Bauji kuch jiyada nahi ho jayega? (Sir, don’t you think it would be too much)”. I smiled, patted his shoulder, took 60 bucks from him, and entered my home thinking what kind of society we have created where 15 bucks for ‘many’ is “jiyada“, and for ‘some’ it is nothing, not even anything!

“Papa Papa, I need fruity and crax” – My 4 year old son came running to me and took me out of my thoughts towards reality. I quickly estimated his demands to be exactly as 15 bucks. And I smiled; again, while I saw the rickshaw guy going back for his next ‘swari’, a bit happy, may be because of “The extra 15 bucks” he got today!

I went in, had water, had my fav pineapple squash, fresh cooked warm and tasty food, while my son with his grand-mom went out to buy his items. But, this thought was biting me, was teasing me, and FB being a good outlet for these kinds of frustrations I thought of posting this rickshaw puller episode.

While I got 36 likes and 10 odd comments on this post, one gentleman also reminded me through one of his comment – “Sir rickshaw wala’s daily earning is minimum 300 to 500 it means his monthly income is around 10000 to 15000. So don’t worry be happy!”

Yep, why should I worry? And, who am I to worry? And, what will I get to have this worry? What does this worry resolve? And, well said, Mr. Cool Urban Dude, if according to your calculation the rickshaw pullers monthly income is between 10k to 15k, in that case they are doing fairly good. Their daily income is much above 32 bucks per day, so they are not doing badly at all. I am not saying this; my country’s government says this, to the Supreme Court, and us of course.

Yeah, why should I worry, well had I known this fact earlier I would never had given that poor fellow, oh sorry, rich fellow, those extra 15 bucks. At least I would have saved 1.5% amount of my next movie outing with my family, or would have saved 0.25% amount of my spending with friends on a Friday night, or would have met the latest demand of my son of fruity and crax, at least that could have been taken care of with this extra amount I paid to him.

Yeah, why should I care about these rural artistes, and entrepreneurs, and farmers, who don’t know why chose to give up their rural life and come to our cities like ‘parasites’, to do these petty chores, to sleep on the road dividers, to get abused by us ‘urbane’ people, to get smother under some SUVs while sleeping. Why should I worry, after all they are doing well, indeed really good with 10-15k per month in a city like Delhi!

 

15 Rupees Part 1

Uttarakhand Floods: Nature’s Fury or Have We Dug Our Own Graves? – Part VI

Chandan Das delves into the fact that in an agricultural economy where early monsoons should come as a pleasant surprise, catches us unprepared — despite all the warnings!

 Ah, what a warning for a thoughtless man, Could field or grove, could any spot of earth, Show to his eye an image of the pangs Which it hath witnessed,-render back an echo Of the sad steps by which it hath been trod! – William WordsworthUttarakhand-Landslide-Calamity-1024x568

Development?? Uttarakhand is a DECADE back now!!

Till early 1980s, there were just a few hutments at the base of Kedarnath. The developments around the Kedarnath shrine may not be considered ‘urban’, but they have typically urban characteristics: density, haphazard construction with lightweight materials and large paved areas. In its Guidelines for Management of Urban Flooding, 2010, the NDMA observes that “urbanisation leads to developed catchments, which increases the flood peaks from 1.8 to 8 times and flood volumes by up to 6 times.” While official estimates say forest cover has increased in the Himalayas, a number of credible independent studies have found significant discrepancies in this claim. The fact is that forests have been diverted for a host of land use activities, such as agriculture, human settlements and urbanisation. Indiscriminate development in the hill towns, mushrooming guest houses, hotels and all manners of illegal encroachment taking place along the rivers, it was just a disaster waiting to happen !!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves ?

The Sleepy “Predictions”

Yeah, it is true that the monsoon rains arrived unexpectedly early, and the precipitation was four times the normal in a space of a very few days. The latter aspect would have made relief and rescue difficult, and there might have been a big toll of life and property in any case. A surprise early monsoon should be welcome news for much of the subcontinent, whose mainly agricultural economy is dependent on the rains, but not if it catches us unprepared — despite all the warnings! The “argument” is that a low pressure system over Chhattisgarh interacted with a wes­tern disturbance to bring unprecede­n­ted rainfall almost a fortnight to a month early (c’mon guys give me a break!!). The fact remains that each year rains have the same catastrophic effect on many urban centers mainly because our civic infrastructure is incapable of handling the first downpour, let alone what follows . Not that our major metropolises were much better prepared: we could see what flooding did to life in Mumbai or to Delhi airport’s swanky T3 terminal!!

But the point is why the www.imd.gov.in could not see it coming? Why don’t we have credible weather stations? What responsibility and accountability the Central Water Commission, the State Disaster Department & the Ministry of Environment and Forest have? I am not even too sure that the Indian Meteorological Department had given any warning of the impending disaster and, if so, whether the warnings were given in time for the civil administration to alert people and take steps to minimise the damage. Today, the Met office is passing the buck by saying the state government had been warned about torrential rains on Friday night. Even if local administration had understood the implications of meteorological data, it didn’t have much time to put out effective warnings across a state where 65% of the area is under forests. Wanna hear a joke?  The met office, with its weather satellites and multiple equipment upgrades, hasn’t been able to demonstrate any measurable improvement in its predictions over the years!!

So was it just a nature’s fury or have we dug our own graves?

india-flood-boy-horizontal-gallery

15 Rupees – Part 1

15 rupees

By Ravi J Singh

“The next station is Tilak Nagar, the doors will open on the left. Please stay away from the doors” – This announcement has lately become the cue for me to vacate my hard earned seat in Delhi Metro, which I mostly win at Rajeev Chowk metro station. It being the biggest terminal so far in Delhi metro for different metro routes, always gives you an opportunity to earn the seat, but only if you are already in the metro not outside.

However, even for that you have to act smart, you need to be swift and precise, you need to read between the lines, you need to understand the sitting composures of the people occupying the seats, you need to make a very good guess if the person will change the metro on or before Rajeev Chowk or not. Otherwise your bet can just get horribly wrong, making you stand the whole journey. And, these days from the time they have this separate compartment concept for women, standing in metro has become very less attractive.

See it is not a joke after all, you need to have a hawk eye, the analytics need to be good, sixth sense needs to be precise; the seats are limited. Moreover, you cannot bet on the four seats which are reserved for elderly, physically handicapped, and the weaker sex, oops, the stronger sex, sorry! So, that leaves you with only 12 seats. I don’t go for the 2 couple seats at the side, not my turf.

My law of probability says only 30-40% vacancy rate for these 12 seats on Rajeev Chowk. And, moreover there are other smart people too who act the same way and stand literally on the top of their ‘party’, to ‘say’ their claim on the seat. I was lately becoming very good at this business, as my guess earned me the seat today as well.

It was still another 15 minutes of journey remaining when at Patel Nagar entered two women and three men, the seat next to me got vacant and one of the lady and the man shot themselves for that seat, man just winning the race with a millisecond. I don’t know why I felt bad for that lady. Not that she was very attractive, she was of average looks, not my kind, but I felt bad for her loosing the game. 2 minutes later another race was won, the good man won from the apathy-man inside me, and I decided to offer my seat to her.

But, suddenly a young boy seeing this as a chance snapped towards the seat. “Hey, hey, hey, I vacated the seat for the lady”, I told him catching him from his shoulder. “I never knew, I thought you were getting off the train”, he replied a bit frustratingly while the lady occupied the seat. The conversation was enough to evoke attention of the 30-40 souls present around us. I told him smilingly “you saw I offered her the seat, and got up, still you thought I was getting off-board”. “Anyways, you were sitting on the ladies reserved seat, see there”, he pointed towards the two corner seats, which are reserved for women and tried to enlighten me. I was not surprised on his shamelessness and ignorance, and replied “Dude, those are only two seats in this row which are reserved, not the whole row”, and added smirkly “By the way, you seems like to be one of those men who even after occupying those two seat do not get up by themselves when a woman arrives around you”.

This line was enough to embarrass him completely, there were chuckles around, people were entertained swiftly, don’t know if some lessons were learned or not, no apology was offered by the guy, no appreciation was shown by the lady. The chivalry took the backseat. The metro and its travelers were mundanely running on the tracks as usual.

“The next station is Tilak Nagar, the doors will open on the left. Please stay away from the doors”. My station had arrived, or rather, the metro train reached my daily destination. I got off the train and ran towards the exit point. I had this weird habit of running towards the exit point daily, and challenge myself to be at least amongst the first three people to exit from the card swipe area, as if some gold, silver or bronze medals were awaiting me. But, I was winning, winning in my mind, and by now had scores and scores of virtual trophies and medals and self- acclamation of ‘how fit I am’ with me!