Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Its 10:13pm. I just came back from IITM, after listening to a talk by Nandita Das on “Cinema and Social Change”. I have to admit that until today, I knew that the name had something to do with the Cine world, but I had no other associations of it. This is the first one, and it probably will last that way – thanks to Today.

There is something good about being in a University campus, and working there. You sometimes feel younger beyond your years, and sometimes you just feel out of place. In either case, it provides you an alternate reality – not that I wish for it, but the difference in perspective in opinion and viewpoint is one that I thoroughly enjoy.

I overall liked the talk. It was simple, casual, touched upon personal lives – had a wee bit of self promotion – was optimistic, and the tone was real. But perhaps the message was exaggerated.

See, Gandhi said the words “Be the change that you want to see”. Quite powerful words, and one that finds itself many meanings, depending on what lens you are wearing. Nandita felt free to use those words to stir up a moment, and even an applause from an audience. I dont blame her, but I think its a very common mistake. Let me tell you why. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alright, If you are not an Indian, this does not in anyway relate to you. So Shoo. 🙂

So there are have been plenty of thoughts, talks and words shared about this N’deal. I am personally glad that we are signing it and we move one step ahead to the league where we are authorized to launch ourselves into a new territory.

There are enough talks that go on in the corridors of IIT and now that the deal in the parliament is all done, it was probably the best time to talk about it. You know, we’ve been through this before. Long time ago we signed a deal with Qualcomm to develop their CDMA technology. They pretty much used our resources, built it and sold it back to us on higher royalty. I think we’ve learnt our lesson the hard way and the folks who are advising the government on this matter are people with relevant experience. Today, thanks to such incidents, we build telecom equipment which is in par with global standards, and also we dont get into such agreements where its not equally set anymore. We needed that stepping stone.

The common reason you hear for this treaty is that we are running short of power. Just who isnt? I think if our current energy consumptions keeping rising, we most certainly will keep depleting resources. But there are plenty of options being explored, including, wind, solar and the such and I absolutely believe that if necessity is the mother of all invention, there is definitely someone with a spark out there who has an idea to solve this issue.

But really, as much as energy is at the core of all this, there are two things which are of absolute importance to this deal. For one, our knowledge in the nuclear space is very limited. If Nuclear energy is permitted, trust me, we could have put a man in mars long time ago. Our space research program would have gone a long away – not as indians, but as citizens of this world, and I think this is a splendid opportunity to look into all that. The leverage that this deal will provide us in terms of raising our knowledge standards – in the same manner that the BPO sector did for us in the IT space, will do phenomenal good for us.

Secondly, there is the core issue. Energy. Energy consumptions are high and resources are running out. But India has the largest resources of Thorium, and thorium requires the residue of Uranium reactors to be made active. Really, think about it. Once Uranium reserves are depleted, and the fossil fuels run out, we are probably going to be the largest reserve of energy. Now that’s a trump card to hold in the future. If energy consumptions are not going down anytime soon – and though as I mentioned alternate energy generations methods are coming up, we will still need reactors to power up industries and residences – we will technically hold the same power and leverage as the middle east has, for years. Add that India rising to the global level and economic power, and I think we will put the US and the Euro to the test.

But all this hinges on one level of detail. Whenever there has been a country with lots of resources, it has always been exploited. We have been there before – and lost all our gold and riches, and the entire continent of Africa went through the same for the gold, and now it will be this. The Only reason the middle eastern countries havent been through that is because of their union and we know what happens when one of them falls out of the fold. And We better get our act together, and eventually for the sake of keeping our borders safe, develop the technology that will guard us.

There has been ofcourse a concern that we possibly don’t have as many nuclear engineers as we should for all this. Well, it was pretty much a similar concern long time ago for the booming IT sector as well, and we managed that, didnt we? We’ll do that once again. The one resource we are in abundant of, is manpower, and that’s quite an asset. We can definitely use that to our advantage.

This is an absolutely positive step for us. And a good one. The only thing, we better start playing our cards carefully, cause every move matters from now on.

What’s the difference between a driver on the roads of India, vs. a driver of the roads of the US? The US driver makes sure that he follows the rules, but probably doesnt even care about who else is on the road. They follow their own rules, keep their space, make sure that they do what they are supposed to do. But that’s where it ends. The Indian driver, as many of you would have experienced, makes a quick assessment of all the vehicles on the road, and almost makes a mental note as to what to predict out of the autorickshaw driver who will hit the breaks the minute he sees someone waving at him and will cause a heart attack to everyone behind him, the inevitable two wheelers who will try to squeeze in and around you as if they are the only ones for whom time moves and as if everyone else are laggards, that doubtful dog which is competing to get into history books just as the chicken did and is trying to cross the road in half-a-mind and not to mention the potholes that are inevitable encounters of everyday travel.

In short, a good Indian driver not only needs to follow his own rules, he also needs to understand that when the rules of the system around him changes, he needs to adapt and often within a blink of an eye. It is that kind of thinking that is required when you build a product, a team, a company and look into your markets.

There were a couple of things that triggered this line of thought and let me jot them down:

Systems, Not even Products. Think Beyond.

Something that people, especially aspiring and early stage startup founders fail to understand is that the world always finds itself in equilibrium. It always is in that state. As much as there are a million bad things and chaotic situations raging across every corner of the planet, there is stability, and there is enough good things that go on, that equilibrium still reigns over all. Every new element or product or even an idea, into a system which is in equilibrium will cause problems, and hence there is always resistance for change. Once you understand this basis of how markets are, then things become a bit more clear as to why everyone keeps insisting on ideas that change the world – in a big way. Unless there is a compelling case granting it the speed to break escape velocity, every idea will get sucked into the gravity of nothingness. That is the certain fact.

Read the rest of this entry »

The reality of Rang de basanti?

I am quite impressed at the way people have taken this simple concept and have chosen to run with it. As skeptical as most folks were, our third campaign had about 30+ people who were out on the roads fixing one of the issues that this city (Chennai) faces – potholes on city roads.

There were some very interesting stories of the folks who came out. One of them was a gentleman who works in bangalore and comes home to chennai for the weekend and he was out with all of us doing his bit. I salute such commitments. Just gotta.

Bangalore is starting their edition and so is Delhi. Delhi though the third one to start, would possibly be the second chapter to get up and running. They are heading out this weekend. If you do want to contribute, actually… if you do have the urge to be part of a solution, then feel free to step out. You can contact Prashant Singh for more details.

The Delhi edition of Times of India has run an article on the same. Very well written by Sujata, it conveys the message quite succinctly.

I love the way the guys in Delhi are thinking. To quote:
“What’s more, the Delhi group plans to clean and paint hospitals, clean up slums, paint fences and classrooms of government schools, replace faulty taps in public places et al. ” They couldnt have been bang on right with the spirit behind which this ideology was conceived.

“See a problem, be a part of the solution” is the core mantra behind it all.

The days of seeing realities of Rang de Basanti, might not be too far from now. I absolutely believe in that.

pothole i fixed

Following up on my previous post on the plan that a bunch of us came up with, in fixing the potholes on the roads of the city as part of the independence day activities. There was a request for updates on that and here it goes:

There has been a lot of interest from prominent individuals from within the city, the media and from everyone involved about this activity. I am not sure if I understand all of the curiosity bit, since its quite a simple concept of – see a problem, fix it – but i guess the ideology of taking matters into your own hands towards a positive end is something that people are really enjoying.

Well, to dismiss the suspense and curiosity, the initiative was phenomenally well received and it went quite well. We fixed about 60+ potholes, and we would like to do this on a sustained basis.

If there is someone else planning anything similar, here are a few summaries:

1. There was a lot of paranoia within the group that we probably might get arrested for doing this. Apparently, as per the law you can’t do this. But I also know from personal and close sources within the city corporation that they are facing an acute problem of not being able to find contract workers to fix up the roads. Put the both of them together and at the end of the day, they shouldnt mind – and they didnt.

2. I think we saw the most enthusiastic and encouraging sets of policemen who were patrolling the city, were curious as to what we were doing and gave us their support – so much for the paranoia and the dreams of some of the team members to spend the night of independence day behind bars

3. Limit the number of people to a size that you can control. You might want to grow organically with the team and with a team that you know quite well – just to ensure quality of the work. There were about 17 folks who turned up. Very positive turnout for three days of preparation and notice.

4. At the early hours of the night, you might want to be careful about the traffic.

If you are interested in doing something similar in your city, write to me and I’ll send you some details on the process as to how to fix a road – cleaning the hole, sprinkling water and the right mix of concrete to fill it and the time required before it sets.

Orkut has an image of Orkut painted in the Indian colors as the frontpage banner. I guess thats a good gesture for all the orkutters who hail from India. I see a second page article on “The Hindu”, one of the biggest and well-circulated, well respected print media about a group of college students who made a sixty foot postcard for the 60th independence day of India. Apparently, it was an attempt to get into the Limca book of records as well. I do not know whether they made it or not, but its almost irrelevant to me now.

A group of us friends sat together over coffee wondering if there is something we could plan for independence day that could bring like-minded folks out of their homes and together to a common ground. Most of the plans that I had in mind, do require some pre-planning (hint hint, do expect something next year, or for Republic Day), so we were forced to go back to the drawing board to think and rethink of something simple and effective work.

For one, I do have a change in heart. I am not set out to change anyone anymore. That’s for sure. Appealing to humanity, or begging for the box of patriotism to tip over and overflow is too much to ask for. People either have it or they don’t. If they do, its actually quite easy to get them out and as part of the parade. if they don’t… its as simple as dragging a simpleton and getting him to bootstrap a company. Its actually a scary thing…. something which is almost sure-set to fail; that too quite miserably.

After some thoughts, out of the blue came the idea. Stop wishing and do something that we all wish was better. “Be the change” seems like an apt message to use, but of course over-cliched as well, so let me stay away from it.

The concept is simple: We are going to fix sixty or more potholes in the roads of Chennai. There is a wiki setup at http://pothole.pbwiki.com/ (thanks to Sagaro for the initiative). If you want to be involved, or want to do the least by letting us know of some potholes in some roads, with some landmarks, we would very much appreciate it.

One thing is very clear. Mahesh (the second guy in the three party ideation team) put it very vividly. “We are not out to make a point in humanity. We are not trying to do a service to anyone. We are going to do this, because the streets are our responsibility, and our property and undertaking is further than than the fence of your own home.”

Divya, the third one in this group, calls this act/movement/whatever you might think event as “I Fix”, where I could mean an individual or India Itself. I kinda like the play with words.

We do this not because we are nobler by any means. We are set to do this because democracy is the best kind of government to have, and it simply wont work unless we pitch in too. That’s my two cents.

India is a fast growing super economy and all that. Yah Sure. But there is a bit of horror attached to that reality.

A recent report that was published makes some pretty scary predictions about India in 2020.

“India is going to create 120 million new jobs in the organized sector in the next fifteen years”. Most of it will be coming from the rural masses. Atleast that’s what is said.

Manish Sabharwal makes a mention in Knowledge@wharton that “In Five Years, 25% of the world’s workers will be indian”

All that is being painted rosy so far. Then it begins:

Ajit Balakrishnan, the founder and CEO of of Rediff.com, in a convocation speech made the statement, closely-following reports coming from various sources that:

“….and this part is often overlooked, is that in 2040, India’s per capita GDP will be just 15% of that of the United States and a third of that of even Russia.

Another way of putting it is that even thirty five years from now, the average Indian will earn just Rs 5,000 a month. On this income he will have to feed and educate his children, look after their healthcare needs, afford entertainment and life insurance.

This means he must have a place to stay with clean water supply at, say, Rs 200 per month, uninterrupted electric power, perhaps at 50 paise per unit at the consumer level, medical insurance at, say, Rs 10 per person per month and life insurance perhaps at Rs 5 per person per month. ”

I am not sure what you feel, but that is pretty scary numbers there. The economics, when broken down do stare blankly at you and begging, actually threatening you for an answer.

We are really going to have to re-look at the very core of how we do things – right from building businesses that are not focused on the dollar signs, but inclusive and can in return capitalize more on the returns and involve more human resources and such – but such initiatives require a much united front and someone to lead them – which will be the government’s role, but sadly that is a role that the government has failed to play time and time again in the past.

Coming back to the report on India 2020, and if we were to let out a sigh of relief that the prophecy of doom shall withhold till 2040, it is not so. We will be seeing signs of our economy fluctuating and struggling to adapt very soon. In 2020, it is said that – as per projections – the indian ruppee will strenghten and will equate to a dollar in 14 ruppees. The complications of that will be all over the place – from changing valuations, right to the price of commodity goods and edibles in the market, to the instability of the currency – which is predicted to drive 50% of this country below the poverty line. This is probably one of the most rapid growing economies that the world has seen and this is a challenge that China and India both will face, in this rapid global economy – simply to adapt, and do it fast – lest we should fall and find no more a time to stand up to the world.


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