Anatomy of reaching your Gooooooal!

The real life Egrets also don’t wait for anybody, same as time and tide!

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Walkway

I read a poem by Kedar Nath Singhji, रास्ता, the Road or the Pathway! The beauty of his poems is that the poems throw up a simple thoughts, a new way of looking at life. In the poem, he talks about three Egrets flying in the sky and three men going out of town in heat of the Sun. They had taken a pathway on the plains and all very confident that they will reach their destination (or target?) by Sunset, the same way as the Egrets reach their home on the trees before Sunset, every day! Since the men thought that they were on their way, they were engrossed in chatting. Suddenly they were forced to a screeching halt and found that pathway had ended;  in front, they found fields full of Jowar! How come the pathway ended? Where has the pathway gone? They were worried and confused wondering what to do now!

Then they saw an old farmer who was packing up for the twilight. They went to him and asked him, “Where is the pathway? How has it suddenly ended?” In their minds, each had different thoughts. One thought it’s a good idea to turn back. The second one thought, they rest for the night and the third one thought that there is a need to somehow find the way. The third one did not waver from his target. The farmer just picked up a lump and threw it towards a cow, who was lazily grazing. The moment she was hit, she started moving in a certain direction through the field. The farmer just signalled to these three men to follow her!

These three men followed the cow, walking through the Jowar stalks, her hoofs making crunching sounds. After walking some distance, they were in for a surprise. Sun was almost down but twilight was still there. And lo! They saw the pathway and at some distance, they could see their destination.

This is what happens in our lives, friends. The cow was there, the fields were there. The farmer was there and Sun was there. Only these men, apparently had forgotten what their target was, what their destination was. And in all this time the Egrets had flown ahead and had reached their destination.

This is the story of life for many of us. We want to achieve a lot, we set our goals, we set our targets, and hope that we will achieve everything. And we hope that we finally make that Goal! But is not as simple as that, there can be a sudden end of the road, there may be a sudden dead end. We may rethink the goal, we may simply give up on the goal. Suddenly, we will become Arjuna! We will lose all the energy and lose our wish  to reach the target! There are many reasons why this happens, all of us cannot explain the way Kedarnathji has explained it beautifully, in his poem रास्ता. Here are the six reasons why we fail to reach our goals!

  • Loss of Focus
    • Why do we lose focus? There are many things in life that we do simultaneously, it can so happen that we may lose focus about a goal
    • This tells that we should prioritize the targets we have and try to work on them and list out priorities.
    • Once we list out the priorities, then we know the path. But don’t forget that there are several goals and hence several paths; maybe you will go on the wrong path when you lose focus. The wrong path may be the right path for a different target!
    • Loss of someone close or in the family can be a genuine reason to lose focus. Things can get derailed for some time, but the motto of “Life Goes On” needs to bring us back on track.
  • The absence of strong enough reasons
    • Our goals and targets are set for some specific reasons.
    • Your friends say that you must get your annual medical check-up done, regularly, every year. You have never had any serious health issues before, you have not known any serious hereditary issues in the family. You then start feeling infallible. What happens if I don’t do the check, let me do it after I am free from the current pressure at work! This is not on! Your health has to be in your topmost priority list.
    • You have a target to buy a bigger house but for some reason or the other, it is getting delayed. Honestly to me it hardly matters if you put such targets on the slow burner!
    • Things like love, family, country, freedom and security are compelling reasons. But you have to state just what those reasons mean to you if you don’t want to fail to achieve your goals. When you state what it means to you, and it’s deep-rooted enough into who you are, your determination won’t waver, and you’ll end up seeing things through.
  • Lack of Planning
    • When an aeroplane takes off from one city to the next, it has a goal. It has a goal to land at a specific destination on a specific day and at a specific time. But it doesn’t just have that goal, people plan to achieve it. It can’t achieve the goal without planning towards it. How will it take off and land? How much fuel will it need? What direction will it travel? What happens when there is air-traffic congestion or turbulence?
    • Create a massive-action plan towards achieving your goals. But don’t just create that plan and forget it. Plan every single day, week and month out towards your long-term goals. What will you do to tackle your most important tasks for the day? How will you manage your time effectively so that you don’t get distracted? There is so much to consider, so be sure to plan, plan and plan some more.
  • Inability to act at the right time
    • I published a blog on 26/10/2018 on this subject, the title is Procrastination. https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/procrastination/
    • I have mentioned the same things in the blog. If we don’t act or react on time, our targets can go haywire.
    • While pushing past the obstacles we face in life is hard, to say the least, it’s overcoming procrastination that’s even harder. But there’s a simple method that you can use to help get momentum back on your side. It’s called the 15-minute rule. Set a timer on your phone for 15 minutes and commit to doing the one task that you’ve been putting off for exactly that amount of time.
    • There is nothing golden about 15 minutes. But this 15-minute timer (it could be 10 or 20 minutes too!) will remind you of what you have to do and break your inaction cycle!
  • Bad habits that hold us back
    • Another reason why we fail to achieve our goals, are due to the bad habits that hold us back. How can we expect to achieve monumental results when those bad habits keep getting in the way? Did you know, according to one study, that habits comprise 45% of human behaviour?
    • If you don’t want your bad habits to stand in the way of you and your goals, you need to find ways to overcome them. It happens slowly over time. Don’t try to go from zero to hero overnight. When you try to create or break a habit too fast, it can snap and unravel. When that happens, you revert back in a more vehement way.
    • The problem with some habits is that they can also create a change in our physiology, making us dependent on them. This goes for cigarettes and alcohol as much as it does for sugar and fatty foods. It’s difficult to overcome physiological dependencies. It takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Apprehensions
    • You want to change a job or to migrate to a different country; as the time to this comes near, we start having apprehensions!
    • This is one tough thing that you need to overcome yourself or take someone’s help.
    • Reaching a goal is not a poetic subject. It involves Brass tacks! It needs detailing, it needs planning and needs to overcome the inertia. It needs for us to overcome speed breakers and many other barriers.

When I came across this beautiful poem रास्ता by Kedar Nath Singh, I felt that the life is not so beautiful and charming! He said the same thing in his charming way, but he has also added that while the three men lost their way, the Egrets had moved on and had reached the target way ahead of the three men! The real life Egrets also don’t wait for anybody, same as time and tide!

Goals or Systems!

He followed a perfect system that removed kinks from his repertoire. Scoring double century was not his goal!

Goooooooal! This is the loudest roar that you hear on a football field. The target while playing the football match is to score at least one goal more than the opponent! Of course, more the merrier! We always want to have goals in life so that we feel that we have achieved things in life. Some of the aims that we have are, getting into better shape, building a successful business, relaxing more and worrying less, spending more time with friends and family—is to set specific, actionable goals. Actionable is the operative word.

We all want to set our goals and keep on doing things to achieve them. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. I remember having set many goals during different stages of life. They were

  • Making a certain profit in business, reaching a certain turnover in the fifth year of business.
  • As a sportsman, you may want play for your national team in the next four years.
  • You are going to the gym your goal will be to reduce weight by certain kgs, in a fixed duration.

For many years, this was how I approached my habits too. Each one was a goal to be reached. I set goals for the grades I wanted to get when in school, for the weights I wanted to lift in the gym, for the profits I wanted to earn in business. I succeeded at a few, but I failed at a lot of them. Eventually, I began to realize that my results had very little to do with the goals I set and nearly everything to do with the systems I followed. I wanted to represent the state in table tennis but I failed badly at a much lower level. A friend achieved the same easily.  His goals and my goals were the same. But he succeeded and I did not. I was always wondering why I did not succeed? Then I realized that though our goals were the same, the systems he followed to continuously improve, were very good and consistent. He would practice improving his service, return of service and his defense.

Sachin Tendulkar is a classic case of continuous improvement. In the season 2003-2004, he showed his real mettle. At that time, he was getting out hitting shots on the off side. He scored 241 runs in the first test against Australia and did not hit a single shot on the off side! He followed a perfect system that removed kinks from his repertoire. Scoring double century was not his goal!

Winners and losers have the same goals: Winners and losers always have the same goals but it is how the winners achieve this is important. They follow the same training regime as losers. They have put a system in place. It is the adherence to the systems that make them winners. On the way, if the winners lose they don’t give up or they don’t change their goals. They modify their system, they improve their systems. Japanese method of Kaizen tells us the same thing.

Kaizen is the Japanese word for “improvement”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. This means that it applies to the whole team. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organizational boundaries into the supply chain. It has been applied to healthcare, psychotherapy, sport, life-coaching, government, and banking. By improving standardized programs and processes, kaizen aims to eliminate waste and improve continuously.

Achieving goals is only momentary: Suppose you enter a room full of clutter. You make a goal of eliminating the clutter. You work hard and do it. The room is spic and span. You are happy and thrilled. But to me, this is a temporary satisfaction. You do not convert this into habit (system?) of cleaning, making things spick and span, regularly; if your team,  does not get involved into Kaizen of daily trying to improve on the previous achievement, the end result will be clutter again, and momentary happiness, will remain, momentary. The room will be back to clutter.

Achieving a goal only changes your life for the moment. That’s the counter intuitive thing about improvement. We think we need to change our results, but the results are not the problem. What we really need to change are the systems that achieve those results. When you solve problems at the results level, you only solve them temporarily. In order to improve for good, you need to solve problems at the systems level. Fix the inputs and the outputs will fix themselves.

Goals restrict happiness:  Systems-first mentality provides the antidote. When you want to follow the processes rather than the end product, called goal, you don’t have to wait to give yourself permission to be happy. You can be satisfied anytime your system is running. At every stage, when the system works properly, it is inching towards the final goal of success. The success of every stage is more important than the final goal. Sometimes the final result may be achieved even though the steps in between were not successful. But if each step is successful then the final goal is bound to be successful. In doing so, at the success of every stage in between, we reach happiness.

Goals are at odds with long-term progress: The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game, perfect the stages in between. True long-term thinking should be goal-less thinking. It’s not about any single accomplishment. It is about the cycle of endless refinement and continuous improvement, Kaizen! Ultimately, it is your commitment to the process that will determine your progress.

Germany and Japan lost the second world war and their economies were devastated. Germany was split into West and East Germany. But Japan and West Germany were in pursuit of systems, perfect systems, sustainable systems, continuously improving systems. Both countries have done exceedingly well, in a short duration! The result of this pursuit in Japan, was the evolution of the system of Poka Yoke.

Poka-yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “inadvertent error prevention”. The operative word in this is “inadvertent”. In this system, if a component is missing, if a step is incorrectly followed, the process just cannot be started. With such perfect systems and processes, the end result, “the goal” is simply a formality.

Kodak had a goal to create the path-breaking product. They achieved their goal by inventing the first digital camera in the world. But probably because of their original dominance in the camera using films, they probably did not have systems to launch the product successfully. The end result, others raced ahead and Kodak had to shut down their business, they went into Bankruptsy. To me, Goals or Systems is not a question! We should be shouting Systeeeeeeem, instead of shouting Goooooooal!

Do we have it in us?

Hence, bigger and larger want to be in China and not India!

Historically, in the last two hundred years at least, we have seen nations moving from Agro Based economies to Manufacturing economies to Service based Economies. The latest classic example of this is China. From 7th decade in the last century, till today they have shown fascinating growth and China has become the manufacturing hub of the world. India was late in this transformation and we were forced into liberalization by the precipice we reached in 1992. India had no money to pay for foreign goods/debts and had to move their “family gold” (it is the gold stock that nations hold for such situations) abroad to borrow the money. Rest as they say is history. 

We reached a growth rate between six and eight % and the effect of that growth is seen all over India, in the last 25 years. But there is a twist in the story here. India has not exactly skipped the manufacturing phase of the growth but it appears that we are jumping more towards the Service based economy. I was wondering why this is happening and as usual, found that this is very complex to understand and even more complex to explain but still I am venturing into trying to explain.  

First and foremost, I feel that with the internet around and excellent connectivity world over, we all know what is happening anywhere in the world. What new products are available, what better gadgets are available is known the world over,  very fast. So, aspirations of the people change very rapidly. But the generations don’t become rich in such small durations. With 8% kind of growth and the speed of growth, this change is even more lopsided than in olden days. Rich are becoming richer faster and by leaps and bound. The disparity between the rich and the poor is galloping rapidly.  This is where the comparison between China and India always comes into the picture. There is no question that China has done much better than India during this period but at the same time, there are certain human aspects that need to be understood. 

China still has a lot of poverty but with the authoritarian government, they make sure to hide this fact. If required, they block websites which try to display such things. Beijing does have a large poor area, well hidden from prying reporters. If any reporter tries to break the government diktat, the reporters get thrown into jail. China simply crushes uprisings or behaviours they don’t like. In India, we are opposite to that. We have people in our society who love the display and discuss India’s poverty by making an argument about freedom of speech but the main reasons are always political. We have this history. In the olden days, 60’s in the last century, we had people like Satyajit Ray who took pride in producing films which advertised India’s poverty. By no means I am saying not to discuss our poverty, in fact, we as a nation should accept facts of life then only we can improve, denial mode is not going to help anyone. But pride in showing poverty is a bit too much.  

With an authoritarian government, it was very easy for China to declare one-child policy. This has brought down population growth rate drastically from 90’s of last decade. This helped China improve per capita income. In India, we tried family planning but it did not succeed as it was done half-heartedly. In poor strata of the society the family planning was a disaster and hence our per capita income showed an increase but not to the extent China could show!  

Government policies about manufacturing, imports and exports have changed very slowly over a period. With this, there was not much incentive for global giants to be in India. By the time they started coming in the bigger way, we see the reversal of trend due to other reasons. Electric Vehicles! EV’s are changing world scenario rapidly, though we may not see many EV’s on road for next five years, the development and investment patterns of these giants are now changing and trying to adapt to their new global strategies based on EV’s. India is not a priority for them! For their own reasons GM and MAN trucks have withdrawn from India and some more are expected to do so. But what happens in China? India’ pride and numero uno, Suzuki has completely withdrawn from China. In India, its share is more than 50% but in China, it was less than 1% of the market! This indicates that Chinese and Indian market requirements are poles apart. Hence, bigger and larger want to be in China and not India!

Another thing that happened in between was Y2K. I am not still sure if it was a real problem! Not a single failure of any system was declared in the world when on 01/01/2001, the Sun rose in the sky! To me, it was more of hype than the real problem. Indian service company giants made a real killing out of it! There came up new industry czars and they popularized the culture of white-collar subcontractors. It was good for the country that finally we started making big money. We started to have a society of young millionaires initially in Rupee terms, then in dollar terms too! Life has been Roses all the way. So, why bother to disturb the bandwagon.

There were some hopes in the industry when small companies like Quick Heal and Tally started making software products but this trend never caught up for the fear that we will lose on easy money. Yes, there appeared to be the trend which showed some changes a couple of years back. But these were due to one Mr Trump who started changing visa rules for our service giants. Not because the Giants wanted to change their ways and go up the value chain! What’s in a name? As long as hot dollars keep coming in the kitty nobody is bothered. Even in the IT industry where we supposedly have thousands of trained manpower, we have missed on things like IOT, AI, the Virtual reality which are already on the way. Are we ready for this? Using these new things company’s world over are creating “products”. Do our glorified contractors have the gumption to take up the challenge? Do they have will to fight it out with Silicon Valleys of the US, Israel? Or do we want to remain service providers to these new product companies? I am hearing the names like Tally and Quick Heal of the new era but I am honestly doubtful that big shots will take it up. Probably, it is better to be the doyen of the industry with billions in the pocket, giving talks blah blah blah. Why bother about being a struggling product creator?  

I am always positive about everything, but I am really not sure of service providers switching to a new avatar of products manufacturer. There are always very few Steve Jobs and Bill Gates! India has already jumped to service industry in the transition!  

Dr. No…! Or Dr. Knows!

Doctors are Professionals like everyone else; they are experts but make same errors like everyone else!

Whenever there is a discussion taking place about medical field, most of the reactions are, “These guys always cheat!” It is like a popular phrase in not so rich a country like India, “All business people are profit mongering thieves!” This sentence is contradictory. Business is an activity of making one’s living or making money by producing or buying and selling products (goods and services). The definition clearly states that it is an activity for making money. It is also said that doing a job is noble thing to do but we forget that when we do a job, we do it for someone who is doing business!

This discussion came about during a chitchat at home where five of the family members were doctors. Subject for discussion was basically how much is the right fee for medical advice, surgery, tests etc. Tests performed are standard procedures where almost identical methods are used for evaluation. The only difference could be a little more automation and sophistication of equipment. So, fees here should be uniform. But ultimately charges are market driven. Consultation and surgery fees will differ as these are dependent on individual skills and expertise.

A doctor friend of mine bought a modern computerized x ray machine. I asked him why did he buy this expensive machine. His reply was very different and interesting. He is my age. He said, “Pramod what is your opinion about my buying this machine.” I said, “Fantastic! Now you will be able to judge patient’s problems better!” His establishment is in the older part of our city where rates for services are generally inexpensive. He told me, “You are one of the very few who has appreciated my going with latest technology, most said what is use if you are not going charge fancy rates.” His further comment was most interesting. He said, “Pramod, consider this as my Mercedes! I would rather move around in a Wagon R as roads in this area are small and congested. I enjoy using this modern equipment, as it helps me improve my diagnosis.”

Among all the pathy’s, we have to accept a fact that only in Allopathy, a lot of research is taking place. All this research is sponsored by pharma companies, who else will do it? It is the business of pharma companies to find new drugs which help improve treatment and rate of cure. Fifty years back, when cancer was detected, death was imminent. There was no chance of cure. This was happening because the equipment of those days, knowledge of doctors, quality of drugs created a situation where it was always too late! But now all these things have improved so much that detection is early, equipment and drugs are better and so is knowledge of doctors. This has resulted in improving cure rate tremendously. When research is done a lot of money is invested. The companies try to get ROI as early as possible (it makes business sense) but when they get competition the prices of new drugs or equipment start tapering off fast. The pharma companies are not thieves; they are investing a lot of money for betterment of themselves and also of the mankind. It is duty of pharma companies to be profitable on behalf of the share holders as they are not a charity organization.

I am not saying that all the pharma companies are saints and there are bound to be black sheep. But this is true in all fields and in all pathy’s. It’s human nature to cheat but this % is generally similar everywhere. Also, like in every field there are checks and balances. There are organizations and associations which track malpractice. I will give you an example. Years back one of the giant pharma company’s sales guy met a doctor in Harvard Medical School. He suggested to the doctor, that if the doctor prescribed certain drugs to patients, they would pay US $ 5000/ month. The doctor promptly reported this offer to his management. There was a court case and the pharma company was fined US $ 940/ million! This still does not mean that such things are not happening but these are not as rampant as they are said to happen.

There is another theory. The threshold values of BP, Diabetes, Cholesterol are changed frequently to suit the pharma companies. This is done with the help of famous doctors. During last fifty years computerization has helped medical field as it has helped all other fields too! These threshold values are not absolute values. Medical fraternity decides this based on the study of large number of patients over a large period of time. Finally, they average it out. What computerization has done is that collecting data and processing it has become extremely accurate and fast. Previously it was taking maybe 30 to 40 years to analyze changes due to manual methods, now this is done every 10 to 15 years! Hence, we notice these changes introduced, as the changes are more frequent! Another reason for this is that in the modern world of internet, news and information spreads really fast!

The fees charged by doctors, medicines prescribed by them, methods followed by them are based on their knowledge and experience; obviously the fees are market driven too! We hear the stories about doctor A squeezes the patients but doctor B does not. The fees charged by these professionals are absolutely market driven. Do you know what fees are charged by Supreme court lawyers? Sometimes these are in lacs per day. I know of one patent attorney who charges about 20 k per hour! Heart Surgeons charge in lacs for bypass surgeries.

Now a new trend has started in medical field about which we all need to be careful. Dental technicians now start their own clinics and charge 1/5 th of the fees charged by the dentists. Many of their patients end up, going to real dentist after wasting money and sometimes with incorrect treatment.  Dieticians suggest diets to people sometimes without knowing medical history of patients. When I said this during a discussion, one of my friends was angry. He said, “Doctors have no clue about diets!” I asked him, “What clue do dieticians have about medical side of the person?” There are certain orthopedic technicians who start their own practice. Physiotherapists have started their own practice. One person has ten bed facility to give traction. I know of someone who has taken 40 plus traction sessions of one hour each, from this person, without medical advice. Traction is suggested by Orthopedic Surgeons based on certain criteria. Many patients take treatment from Physiotherapists without even taking advice from Orthopedic Surgeons. Patients go by treatments suggested by non doctors!

I am not saying that everything is hunky dory in the medical field. Major errors do happen even in case of celebrities. Hema Malini’s mother was operated upon right leg while she had problem on her left leg. That too in a hospital in New York. Mistakes and goof ups are part and parcel of this field. If you want to know first-hand, how things do go wrong, read a book by Dr. Atul Gavande, “Checklist Manifesto”! Atul is well-known Indian born surgeon who lives in America. Dentists have told me patients come to them after being treated by other doctors where they have undergone root canal treatment. On re checking they have found that the cheats had never performed root canal!

I will round up with a very interesting story told to me by my Daughter Dr. Priya. She is a pediatric dentist. An eight-month old baby was brought to her. The parents said that the baby had a gold tooth, yes Gold Tooth! 3 to 4 other dentists had already seen the baby and had declared that this gold tooth must be removed and can be done only under general anesthesia.  Parents naturally did not want treatment under anesthesia. Priya checked the baby and used a small tool to check the “gold tooth”. She just gave a small jerk and out came the gold tooth! Well it was an ear piece which the baby’s mother had lost, stuck in the baby’s mouth. Time taken ten seconds, anesthesia not needed, fees 0.00 rupees!

Friends, select your doctor in such a way that you get a great treatment if needed. And Yes! Don’t be scared, there are goof ups as in any field but % of cheats is also similar to any other field!

Real Life PhD!

What is a PhD? WHat is the proof completing PhD?

A PhD is a degree earned by people who have studied deep and hard after their graduate study or Master’s degree in their own subject. What is a PhD? A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., DPhil, or Dr. phil.; Latin Philosophiae doctor) is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most countries. PhD’s are awarded for programs across the whole breadth of academic fields.  

My colleague for more than 20 years, Deepti, once asked me while discussing, about the importance of PhD. I told her that I am not aware as I am not one! But I have personally known some persons who have done their PhD’s in their field and have done brilliant work and contributed to the knowledge big time! Both Jaya and I have done our Master’s in our fields and felt that we understood the engineering much better during these years when did Master’s. Like anything in life, there are brilliant PhD’s, there are good PhD’s and there are run off the mill PhD’s, the last being the major volume. I have recently seen a trend, that when a person becomes well-known in his or her field, people start referring to the person as Dr.! This probably indicates the people’s perception of the knowledge acquired by that person. 

When I read newspapers in Pune (again this activity is getting diminished due to rapid digitization.) I read the large number of list of people earning their PhD’s from Pune University! Have people become brilliant suddenly? Has research activity become major thing in Pune University? I understand that in education field, to become a professor, you must have a PhD as per norms, these days. This to me appears to be the main cause of abundance of people acquiring PhD’s. What are our education standards and research standards? What is the relevance of acquiring degrees? To me this should be done with the purpose of advancement of knowledge and doing research in own field. Later, when one gets experience, these persons should guide more people. All movement is expected to create mushrooms of islands of knowledge.  

Honestly, I don’t see this happening. In the countries like the US, PhD’s really perform the way they are expected to perform and help the society in general, and industry in particular to make rapid strides in development of products, processes, systems and concepts. They help create new things, improve existing things. Their contribution to the society is unbelievable. I am really not sure how far this is true in India. I very rarely hear of industry providing funding to premier education institutions, to develop or improve products, processes. PhD’s are awarded for work that remains more theoretical and how far the theoretical work is useful to the society, is a subject for another PhD.  

I will share a couple anecdotes. People get Fullbright scholarships do some post-doctoral work in premium universities in the world. A person went the prominent university on the west coast in US, under a world-renowned professor, who was a classmate of mine. They had met at a couple of conferences in India. After initial hiccups, things were settling down for the visitor, at least that is what my friend thought. Later on, my friend  tried to help him in various ways but end result was almost nil. My friend asked this gentleman what was his purpose of going to US on this scholarship. At least he was honest. He said, ” My son is trying for education in the US. I wanted to earn dollars for the purpose!” 

In another case I was on a committee in Pune University management school for an event. While having tea during a break, I asked one the professors, about the standard of PhD’s. He smiled wryly! I asked him the reason. He said let me share something with you. ” I was an examiner for a student’s PhD defense. When I got his thesis, I found that the synopsis and the subject content were totally different. So, I informed the concerned professor, the guide, about the error. When I went for the exam, there was no change; I had thought that it was a binding mistake. The synopsis and the subject had no correlation.” When I asked the guide, who was a “renowned” expert and guide from Pune, he simply ignored it!  

Thinking about Deepti’s question, following thoughts came to my mind. Our company has been in the software business. Out of our many clients, four were either Indian giants or global giants who used our product in India. For these projects there were stages. Simplistically, these can be requirement gathering, design and coding, implementation and running the project for years. Final phase would be enhancements and improvements. All this required huge subject knowledge in technical, business processes in auto industry, commercial as well as taxation field.

Deepti, let me assure you with my meager knowledge about PhD, that each stage in our  project was worth a thesis by itself. We have dealt with many aspects in real life, commercial technical, design, implementation strategies and brought them successfully under one umbrella, that is our organization and our team. Deepti, you as a project leader, have done at least one PhD per project if not more. What is the proof of this? Proof is in the Pudding! People have eaten the pudding. The projects have been technically and commercially successful. We have run the business all these years and people have paid us for our products. It is the real-world work, done by all of us together!

What should I call you? You have earned PhD’s given by real life! Dr. Dr. Dr Dr. Deepti? Go ahead fearlessly, with the new path that you have chosen! You have enough PhD’s in your kitty to handle all eventualities! God bless you!  

Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, a New drive in Water Management!

Jalykukt Shivar Abhiyan, my understanding of the same.

Jalyukt_Shivar_Abhiyan_Logo

The Maharashtra government has launched, with Pani Foundation, water conservation scheme named Jalyukt-Shivar Abhiyan to make Maharashtra a drought-free state by 2019. The program aims to make 5000 villages free of water scarcity every year. Jalyukt-Shivar Abhiyan means a journey towards village surroundings full of water! This is all done by Shramdan, self help, people of all walks of life offering free services, in most cases manual hard work. These groups have people who live in those villages. The drive has caught on very well and Hindi film hero Amir Khan has driven this movement by providing celebrity support and perseverance . He has taken along with Hindi film fraternity, Marathi film personalities like Sunil Barve and others too! I am sure this will help in sustaining the drive. Their organization provides technical support and training to people for correctly doing these things. It is because of the leadership and drive provided by personalities like Amir Khan, there has been a good progress. I am told that the government agencies are also waking up, albeit slowly, because the Chief Minister Mr. Fadnavis is also giving great push to this drive.

I am trying to understand why such tough situation has arisen. Along with increase in population, need for more crop production has also become essential. There are some crops like sugar cane which need large amount of water per acre. India’s sugar production has reached a level of 30 million tons against the requirement of 25 million tons. So, this is excess production! The rain is the only primary source of water for us in agriculture and day to day life; but nobody can be sure that the rain will definitely fall on specific days. Hence, we have gone for water irrigation in a big way, by building dams and canal system. Water available for irrigation is again dependent on rains! But irrigation can also reach limited areas. So, at some stage, this water is not going to be available for farming till the next rain cycle. India is not a country of perennial rains and we have our rains in specific months due to south west or north east monsoons. People started reaching out to third source of water, the wells and so they starting using ground water. Again, the same cycle repeats here and we are dependent on rains, when wells dry out. That is the phase where people started using bore well technology to get water from the ground. It will be good idea to know how we ground water is stored. This will really pin point real problem we are facing.

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The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization aquifers is called hydro geology. An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt). Groundwater can be extracted using a water well. The study of water flow in aquifers and the characterization of aquifers is called hydro geology. Related terms include aquitard, which is a bed of low permeability along an aquifer, aquiclude (or aquifuge), which is a solid, impermeable area underlying or overlying an aquifer. If the impermeable area overlies the aquifer, pressure could cause it to become a confined aquifer. So water availability really depends on unconfined acquifers. Though other areas under ground store water, this is a a very slow process and impermeability or low permeability does not allow water to reach confined acquifers quickly enough. Once we start touching these storage areas, we are in trouble.

Why have the water conditions gone from bad to worse? What does the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan do to change this situation? The government of Maharashtra has a law which forbids drilling of bore wells beyond 250 feet or 80 meters. Is there any cross check on this? No, the bore wells have been drilled to the depth of 250 meters, 3 times the allowed depth. How many bore wells can be drilled in an area? My friend Shende told me the other day that in Solapur district where he does farming, in an area of 4.5 to 5  sq km, there ten thousand bore wells! To me this is beyond indiscriminate, it is criminal. When he told me this number, I could not believe it so I asked him again and he said the figure is right. If you try to suck ground water from so many wells what will happen? You don’t get water even at the depths of 250 meters. Ok, our population has gone up so we need more water, crops which need a lot of water are planted in abundance, sugarcane is the prime example of that. In India, this year we have manufactured 30 million tons of sugar against our requirement of 25 million tons. International sugar prices are already low so there is a big problem! On top of that we do this indiscriminate pumping. We don’t need experts to say what will happen!

What is being done under Jalyukt Shivar Yojana? The main aim is to increase the water table levels in areas where possible. This is done by various methods. Over a period, top soil in many areas becomes impermeable. Trenches are dug, contour digging on slopes is done. This increases the ability of the soil to absorb water. All the actions that are taken are to ensure that during rainy season, the water that we get, seeps to the water table in the area where this work is done. When these actions are not taken, the top soil in that area would be like “opaque glass”. The water would not seep but would flow away to other areas, making the top soil only wet and causing erosion. When the dredging is done by various methods, the soil becomes like “transparent glass” and water seeps through easily.

I asked my friend Shende what benefit they are expecting after this year’s work. He said that last year, only 1 % of their water needs for farming were met. They expect that after this year’s monsoon, because of the work being done, the availability should go up to 25%. They expect water table to come to the level of at least 80 meters. This is quite a jump but nowhere near what they need. What should the society do in general? First and foremost is the discipline; unless we follow basic discipline of depth of bore well, water table issues will continue. Secondly, maybe people should try and cultivate products which are suitable to the water availability. When we don’t use ground water, it does not go anywhere. It remains there. But out of fear that others will use the water anyway, everybody breaks the discipline. The thought process is probably, if I do not get it then I will not let others also to get it.

Let us not forget that earth is the only natural resource that human race has. Once any resource gets depleted, it can take thousands and thousands of years to regenerate it. By pursuing this current drive relentlessly, we will probably get a method, whereby we may be in a position to get water regularly for agriculture and drinking! The nature does not have द्रौपदीची थाळी, a Marathi idiom for unlimited resources. We think it has. Civilizations in olden days have gone down the drain, no pun intended, over a period of time due to indiscriminate use of natural resources. Cape Town in South Africa will become water less in a month of two. There is a serious a discussion going on to pull some Icebergs towards Cape Town, to get fresh water. To me this is the first step towards disaster, in terms of bore well we are trying to dig to 120 meters! So let us heed to such warnings unless we want to be left water less and I don’t know what worse scenarios.  Honestly I can not imagine one!

EV’s! The Eco System Disruptions!

Are we prepared for major disruptions in many Eco System due to advent of EV’s?

Below is an article which informs us about governments seriousness regarding introduction of EV’s in India. It is hoped that at least 30% of all new new vehicles by 2030 will be EV’s. Last year, government ordered 10000 EV’s and there is a plan to order the same quantity this year too! Government is also encouraging bus fleets to buy Electric buses. Himachal Pradesh has ordered 25 such buses and are being run in hilly areas. I saw a few of them plying, during my recent holiday in Manali.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/centre-launches-national-e-mobility-programme-10-000-more-e-vehicles-to-be-procured-59845

What EV’s are going to do to various Eco Systems? When we discuss EV’s, discussion is about pollution, how long petroleum products will last etc. There is also a discussion about petroleum cartel holding human race to ransom. But there are many more disruptions that need to be considered. These are not only for individuals but for various agencies like government, businesses and many other systems. These need to adapt, change and modify to suit new environment created by the EV’s.

Take the case of governments tax collection. Tax collected on petroleum products are so huge that these are almost 100% of the price of the petroleum products. At every stage tax is collected. From refining, to distribution to sell. Both central and state governments will start losing this revenue when critical mass of new EV’s is reached. 2030 as indicated in the above mentioned article, may be that year. Government needs to find methods to make up for this revenue loss. Not all revenue will be lost but there will be a loss of big chunk. Another issue is the “fuel” that will replace petroleum products will be electricity which traditionally is being manufactured in Public sector. This fuel cannot be taxed very heavily,  as its usage will be multi-purpose, vehicles, industrial and domestic usage.

Another major change that has to happen is the growth in production of electricity. If this continues to happen using petroleum products, then pollution will come out of chimneys instead of car exhaust systems. Main thrust appears to be on solar systems but they will also have their own issues which need to be tackled in parallel with increase in production. Another method that is being undertaken is nuclear power. This will also help the ecosystem to achieve the same goals.

Why would people switch over to EV’s? In case of buses, since it is a public transport this can happen faster if funds are made available. These organizations are anyway public sector. Of course, cost of the vehicles needs to come down. From present knowledge, it appears that maintenance cost will be lower. With decrease in Electricity price, battery replacement costs may also become quite manageable over a period of time, due to mass production.

But the real numbers will be coming in cars. Why will people change over to EV’s, the cars? Cost of ownership is the going to be the answer. This is made up of Price of the Vehicle, Cost of servicing, cost of repairs, resale value and ease of use. To me the last factor is also very important though it is not a tangible factor. All other factors have been there in IC engine cars too! But this is a new factor that has come up. We are all used to just using the key to go where ever we want; if required, we go to the petrol pumps and fill it up! With EV’s it may not be as simple, to start with. We need to plan, we need to have cars that will give more mileage per charge. The current charging technology available takes about 30 to 40 minutes minimum, to fully recharge. How fast this technology will improve? Will the charging time reduce to 5 minutes or some such time? Only time can tell. This brings us to charging stations, which is going to be a factor by itself!

EV’s will need charging stations, bus operations will have their own stations. But cars will need a huge number of charging stations. In India, we should not forget two Wheelers. Two-wheeler companies are also thinking big in terms EV’s and those numbers could be large. First and foremost is going to be the charging time! Unless this reduces drastically, number of charging stations needed will be a big challenge! So, to me this improvement to around 5 minutes or less is almost mandatory! I am sure the improvement in battery technology will increase the capacity of batteries which in turn will increase per charge running of vehicles. Who should invest in charging stations? Who will invest in charging station? Current Oil companies can take up onus of this, being public sector companies. Chicken and egg situation will prevail in initial phase. Charging stations first or EV’s first will be the dilemma! ROI on charging stations will be tricky and priorities is going to be an issue. Till IC engine vehicles are manufactured, they will keep on having the pressure of exhaust pollution control. By 2030, something equivalent of Euro 8 or 9 standards will be prevalent.  Car companies and Oil companies both will have to invest a lot on pollution control during this phase, along with investments in EV’s. This is tricky because nobody can predict the speed at which proliferation of EV’s will take place. Lest we forget, EV’s are Zero pollution vehicles!

About charging stations, will the government agencies build them or private agencies build them? Private companies have an option of not building them. There will be  individuals who may have proper parking space in office or at their home. They will build their own station but that number is going to be small, at least to start with. But looking at vehicles parked on roads even at night in cities, common charging stations, like petrol pumps, looks to be the only way. Can there be a “Charging Station Cess” on all new vehicles sold? Will it be acceptable to burden IC’s engine car buyers to benefit EV buyers? Can local governments take part in this, in cities where EV’s will be sold in large numbers? When will they know the trend? When will they decide to do it? All these questions do not have easy answers, but these issues need to be resolved.

The drive train in IC engine cars, starting from Radiator and ending with Exhaust pipe, will be replaced by about 18 parts, maximum. Out of these, the motors and gear are the only so called moving parts! When there are less moving parts, there will be less repairs needed! In fact, Tesla is offering life-long warranty for their cars. So, the car service industry will be the first victim of EV introduction. Today major chunk of repairs after warranty period is over, are the drive train parts. When these repairs are simply not needed, will the service industry be viable at all? Will manufacturers offer the paid service life long, through owned outlets. This is already happening in spare parts business, where component manufacturers find it difficult to compete with the vehicle manufacturers.

Another major disruption will be component industry and their basic vendors like casting, forging industries and their allied industry. These industries today, employ millions of people. Since there will a major disruption in this eco system, things are going to be tough. If a certain business simply ceases to exist, what do you do in life? Not everyone plans 10/15 years in advance. By the time they realize this, it could be too late! This group of business men will have business knowledge but may not have where withal to completely switch over to something new! How many will be smart enough to change to a totally new and/or unconnected business?

Friends, I have seen my city Pune change from use of carriage pulled by horses (called tanga), to auto rikshas, to Ubers and Olas. Tangas simply don’t exist now! I have observed that riksha business will also taper off over a period of time. Riksha is not an elegant mode of transport and it appears that young generation does not want to come in this business, as it is NOT COOL! The advent of Metros in the city in next three years will push Rikshas and even Uber/Ola! I will definitely use a Metro, if possible! When I talked of major disruptions, I was talking of obsolescence too! History has been harsh, and there is no replacement or option for obsolescence. If a system has to go, it has to go whether it likes it or not! It is like death, one has to accept it. Welcome to the brave new world of EV’s.