Millennial Work-Life balance!

 

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The above image is eutopian image of working from home!

In the last thirty years, Work-Life balance has gone for a toss! But there are new generation Millennials who are changing the thinking — a millennial is a person reaching young adulthood in the early 21st century.

Work-life balance is the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. Work–life balance consists of, but it is not limited to, flexible work arrangements that allow employees to carry out other life programs and practices.

The term ‘work–life balance’ is recent in origin, as it was first used in the UK and US in the late 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Work–life balance is a term commonly used to describe the balance that an individual working needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work–life can include personal interests, family and social or leisure activities. Technological advances have made it possible for work tasks to be accomplished faster due to the use of smartphones, email, video chat, and other technical software. These technology advances facilitate individuals to work without having a typical ‘9 to 5’ workday.

People who began working until the late 1980s were docile people and would accept all the rules and regulations of their workplace. Over a period of time, the demand for work and the employee time started going up and up. Through the 90s, the work graph started going up exponentially. Over a period, it became fashionable to be in office for ten to twelve hours a day, and later it became routine. Slowly the long working hours became the norm; going home at the regular time was jokingly called “half-day” leave.

These changes, plus long travel times, made work-life balance totally imbalanced. Competition in business and rat race amongst employees gave a different meaning to this imbalance. People were getting scared to take a couple of weeks of holiday with the fear that if work moved smoothly in their absence, they could become redundant. Such situations made life even more stressful.

I will share a couple of stories, which I may have shared in some other blogs before. A friend came to my house one evening and asked me if I could spend a couple of hrs with him. It was an emergency. We went out, and he said he was doing very well in his job, but his work-life balance was so disturbed that he did not feel like to going office even for one day. I suggested that he should resign. He did resign his job in a week and got an even better job but with better work-life balance.

Another friend went to the US for work for a couple of months. His daughter was unwell, and there was a significant repair work pending at home. One day we had gone to meet his wife. At that time, our friend called and told his wife that now he had to travel to Germany and he would be in Germany for three months for work. We did not know how to console his wife!

In the first story, the friend did not have a choice, but in the second story the friend was senior enough, and he could have decided to travel back home for a couple of weeks before going back again. Workaholic? Or Who cares?

But I am pleasantly surprised to read about the way millennials are looking at the situation these days. When they look for a job, they look for prospects, salary, benefits and flexible working hours. Flexible working hours are now becoming as important or even more important than the salary. Millennials look at the job as a part of life and not the central part of life.

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Each human has the responsibilities of the family. It could be some repairs at home, Parents-teacher association meeting, helping ailing parents, supporting the spouse when the spouse has temporary additional work pressure. I also agree that these are also equally important aspects of life. Human should continue to enjoy professional work, but if the work is going to prevent the person from fulfilling other responsibilities or having a yearly holiday, something needs to be done.

We read of many examples where people accept a significant pay-cut to achieve work-life balance. If the money you are earning can never be used for enjoyment or support family responsibilities, what is the point in making that money? For many people, work has become an obsession, long hours and endless struggle to aspire to do better in job. It has caused burnout, unhappiness and gender inequity, as people struggle to find time for children or passions or  any sort of life besides what they do for a paycheck.

But increasingly, younger workers are pushing back. More of them expect and demand flexibility — paid leave for a new baby, generous vacation time, along with daily things, like the ability to work remotely, come in late or leave early, or make time for exercise or meditation. The rest of their lives happens on their phones, not tied to a specific place or time — why should work be any different?

Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work in life — and end up redefining work for everyone else?

It’s still rare for companies to operate this way, and the obstacles are more significant than any company’s H.R. policies. Some older employees may think that new hires should suffer the way they did, and employers benefit from having always-on workers. Even those that are offering more flexibility might be doing it because current unemployment is so low in certain parts of the world, and they’re competing for workers, which could change if there is an economic downturn.

But such luxury is not possible for many people. People working on the shop-floor of the manufacturing industry, the police, the doctors and nurses, and many such workers cannot work from home whatever modern technology we invent. But the effect of millennials working for better and more flexibility will affect other sectors. Such cascading effect could make the life of workers better than what it is today.

Jack Maa of Alibaba had suggested to his workers to work 996. Nine to nine every day for six days a week. You may get a very high salary but when will you spend it? When will you rest? When will you have quality time with your family?

But the same Jack Maa has now suddenly changed his advice to work three hours a day four days a week.

https://tech.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/corporate/jack-ma-says-12-hour-work-week-could-be-the-norm/70892513

With technological advances, this is possible in specific industries. Probably people are thinking in the right direction. I am quite sure that once people get real flexibility in work, they won’t mind working a few times even while they are on a holiday. It is going to be possible because your work tools are available to you, 24/7 at the tip of your fingers.

Imagine you are lying on a seashore surfing both on the sea waves and on the net! A vital customer calls you and requests you to resolve his critical issue. Maybe you will do it because your company is taking care of your flexibility needs. So why not go out of the way and help the client?

That day hopefully is not far and it will be Win-Win situation for everybody!

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Deep Discounts or Deep Distress?

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I am as usual caught in a conundrum when I read some stories. On the 15th of August National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) launched a logout campaign against the deep discount coupons that are offered by these five aggregators Zomato, EazyDinerNearbuyMagicPin and DineoutSince then, more than 2300 restaurants across the country de-listed themselves from these food apps claiming that “discount structure, terms and conditions, by the food tech companies are unjust and unsustainable.” The president of NRAI said that to stay competitive in the market, some aggregators give discount of buy one and get one free. Others have done the same thing differently; they have straight away offered a 50% discount, which means the same.  

The story does not end here. On particular Gold Card membership, such discounts are allowed on one itemBut our desi brain works interestingly. The people go to restaurant A and take starters- 50% discount. They go to another restaurant to take drinks- buy two get two free! Finally, they go to the third restaurant and order the main course- buy one get one free! Using this method, they get the whole meal at 50% discount which kills the business.   

The worst part of the whole thing is that the discounts are being borne by the restaurants and not the aggregators. The association wants these discounts to be removed so that customers get used to not getting high discounts. It is a sort of detox action that is essential, according to the association. It appears that both the sides have understood the problems created by deep discounts and they also know that it will take some time to reach normalcy and come out of the deep discount issue.  

You and I are naturally going to be unhappy with these changes. We have to now look for happy hours or special days to get good discounts. Now, these changes are going to take my outflow back to normal, which I do not like. But we should not forget that such gimmicks never work in the long term.  

I always felt as if I am an uneducated person, though I have run a small business for more than 35 years. Giant organisations like Amazon and Flipkart have been in the deep discount game for quite some time. The difference is that they give deep discounts from their pocket. For years, they offer deep discounts, give Prime memberships and so on. They keep on investing billions of dollars for years. Amazon has never made profits in the last twenty years. But they continue to invest in the business to get more and more customers all the time. Uber CEO has recently made a statement that Uber may never make profits. What is the business model of such companies? Jeff Bozos has become “poor” when he settled his divorce, and his wealth is at lowly US $ 65/ billions. He bought some time back Washington post for an all-cash deal of US $ 250/ million.  

Uneducated me does not understand the principles used in these businesses. Uber charges higher rates when demand is up. But I have seen that as a routine, they charge about 10 to 15 % more than an Auto Riksha in Pune. The price difference between an Auto Riksha and a car can be three lacs of rupees. Many Rikshas give mileage about 1.5 times more than the cars. 

On top of that, Uber takes 30% of the amount we pay to the driver. To me, the driver may break even, Uber’s figures show that they make losses. Other than making vehicles available quickly to us, are they running a charity organisation? Is it not similar to deep discounts offered by Zomato or Amazon?  Or for that matter, Oyo?

Venture capitalists, angel investors, put in their money in such companies. Venture capital is defined as capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business. I am sure that those who invest in such companies expect reasonable returns on their capital. By what I have described above, there are no returns, then why are the investments continued? Where is the source for such unlimited funds?  

There is no doubt that Amazon, Uber, Zomato are market disruptors. They have shown the world a new way of doing business, which even 25 years back did not exist. New methods, new ways of doing things make a lot of difference in day to day life. Consider AirbnbThe concept is so good that it is helping people all over the worldIt reduces the cost of travel and uses people’s assets which have been remaining idle.  

Amazon, WalmartJio are gamechanging companies which have made a big difference in our lives. But they are making these changes with their own money or at the cost of competitors. They are disrupting the market and making their competitors think; I am sure the competitors will come up with even newer ideas.  

But this deep discount business with own money or someone else’s money is not sustainable business model. I am not surprised that NRAI has revolted against it. I was talking to someone about these aggregators. It was felt that the aggregators probably sell the data of their customers to make money! When companies like Facebook have done it, what will stop the aggregators from selling data!  

Ultimately, market disruptors come with ideas and business models which were never seen before. But one thing will never changeSuch organisations have to make profits at some stage. Unless, of course, you are an Amazon or an Uber. But don’t forget that Amazon is the market leader in Cloud Computing business; so as a group, they make profitsBecoming Unicorn company (market value exceeding One Billion US $) is fine for publicity; it will help companies get more VC fundingBut if they don’t start making profits, such companies fall in the group of 95 % plus companies, which close down sometimes even without a whimper.  

 

Recession or Cyclic downturn?

The automotive sector in India is under significant stress. Sales are going down drastically in unprecedented numbers. It is a vast sector and has already started giving layoffs, having non-production days- a euphemism for plant closures. A large number of dealerships have cancelled their tie-ups as the business does not appear to be lucrative. On top of this, BS-VI norms will be starting from 1/4/2020, which will cause further stress as no BS-IV vehicle will be even registered from 1/4/2020.

More difficulties will come up during this year and maybe even next year. The reasons for this is that CAFÉ norms will come into the picture from 2022. There is already a discussion of auto companies going slow on investments, but statutory requirements are mandatory, and these companies cannot avoid them. BS-VI norms and CAFÉ norms will increase the prices of cars. One thing that never comes into the discussion is the sale of old vehicles. It is not that people are not buying cars. People suddenly don’t change their habits. But people become practical and smarter.

George Mathew

I will tell you what I mean. I read an article from Indian Express which was discussing the sales pattern in the industry in general. The data in the table is for two thousand plus companies. The table above shows the business figures for April-June quarter comparison of 2018 and 2019. Sales of AC’s are generally seasonal. But other items like TV’s, Microwaves have not shown any decline. Sales are almost normal and have only shown seasonal changes.

I want to write a disclaimer. I cannot “read” the financial data, and hence, I cannot analyse it too! But as a layman, I thought there is not much difference for these two years. The sales have gone up in 2019.  Operating margins have reduced slightly. Depreciation is quite high in 2019, indicating the investments done in the that year. Hence interest paid has gone up maybe due to investments in plant and machinery. Proportionately tax paid has gone down, and profit has gone down. These figures do not show any drastic changes happening in the market. Companies considered in this table exclude banking and finance companies.

Then why is the auto sector in distress? I have mentioned that people have become smarter and practical. In the last financial year, the total number of vehicles sold was large. But the sales of new cars have come down. There is a secondary market where people buy used cars. The total number of old vehicles sold was four lacs more than new cars. Why is this happening? Small cars like Alto are now sold more in three-tier towns. Young people in big cities want to buy bigger vehicles. I understand that a 3 to the 4-year-old big sedan is now available for the price of an Alto. The trend of buying used fancy cars is affecting the sale of new cars.

I am not arguing that there is no recession in the auto sector. But we should not forget that it is one of the most protected sectors in India. Customs duty on cars below US $ 40000/ is 60 % and above this value 100%. The used cars have a customs duty of 125%.  For various reasons, this sector has remained inefficient. After many international companies started coming to India and opened their factories in India, the auto sector had a tough time. Some Indian companies took 15 years to reach the quality levels of global companies. One company that followed a correct way of doing business is Bajaj Auto. They currently export 1.8 million motorcycles every year. It gives them a buffer when the local market sales dip!

Some of the reasons for the downturn could be that main barrier for transport vehicles like octroi has been removed. The action has speeded up the turnaround time of vehicles  substantially. The effect would be that the number of trucks needed to transport material would be less than those previously required. Another reason that is making rounds is that demonetisation effect causing the sales to drop. Is such a large industry dependent on cash? In the rural areas cash was being used to buy vehicles; even large SUV’s were bought using cash. If people had so much cash with them why did they not use bank instruments to pay? The answer is obvious. Not paying taxes honestly is a habit that does go away quickly.

What was the auto industry turnover 20 years back? How much has this industry grown? The auto industry has made decent profits all these years, so I am sure they have reserves. Pollution norms have been known to everybody, so no point in raising hue and cry about investments needed.

Any sector that is in stress always talks of alarming results of the recessionary trends in their business. Should the government give selective help to the stressed industry? Is such action fair to other sectors which are doing okay in their business? The financial stimulus can be a solution, but such money gets diverted from equally essential areas. We should not forget that high tariff on imported vehicles has helped the industry for a long time.

All the companies in the automotive sector are large organisations, and they have the wherewithal to overcome current tough times. Asking for a reduction in GST is a short-term major and is taking a myopic view of the situation. In the last couple of years, the government has been receiving feedback from business about GST. Government has already made changes for the benefit of both industry and the government. Making changes for a specific industry for a short duration is an incorrect way. The auto industry has been generating decent profit for the last few years. Some things have changed; some new variables have come into play. There are who experts can find a solution and suggest corrective actions. I am sure the industry will come out of it.

Raising the alarm, making statements like “It is the wake-up call for the Government of the day” does not solve issues. But the government help should be an exception but not a rule. There is an interesting story about General Motors and Chrysler. When they were in serious financial trouble, a decade ago, the senior executives of both companies were called to Washington DC for discussions. In the initial informal chat, they were asked if they reached Washington the previous night. The surprised executives said, “Oh, we landed only about 45 minutes back. We chartered a plane to come here.” The government official was aghast!

So where is the vendor conference this year? Italy, Las Vegas, Macau? How can you have the conference inside your factory? Cost cutting is for others. I have attended General Motors vendor conference once in Pune. It was at the Oxford club and there were at least six helicopters used by GM bosses to arrive at the venue! It is not a surprise that GM closed their shop in India.

Trust the potent weapon!

Roti, Kapda Aur Makan! Food, Clothing and Shelter are three basic things we need in our life. But there is one more important thing that needs to be added to list, Trust! You will now add WhatsApp, FB and Internet to the list but then these are not basic things. Trust means a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. 

It is equally applicable to personal relations and in business. We put our firm foot forward without any doubt if there is trust in the relationship. Trust is a central part of all human relationships, including romantic partnerships, family life, business operations, politics, and medical practices. For example, if you don’t trust your doctor or psychotherapist, it is much harder to benefit from professional advice. In politics, a government falls when no-trust motion is passed against it.  

Trust is a set of behaviours, such as acting in ways that depend on another or is a belief in the probability that a person will behave in specific ways. Trust is a general mental attitude towards a proposition that someone is dependable and is a feeling of confidence and security that our partner cares.  

Behaviours and verbal expressions are certainly evidence for trust, for example when someone treats you well and says beautiful things to you, but these behaviours are merely evidence for the internal mental state of trust that causes them, not the trust itself. Trusting people may involve trying to guess how they will behave, but people usually trust others without any understanding of probability or any precise predictions about their behaviours. Trust is an abstract feeling like love. But, it is challenging to define trust, but humans do it by gut feeling.  

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Our first and topmost gut feeling gives us the confidence to accept our mother’s trust. A child blindly believes in whatever the mother does and commands. From babyhood, we trust the mother. It probably has to do with being in her womb for nine months. During that phase, the mother and the child have an interdependent physical system, but still, they are oneThe child does ALL its activity in the safety of the safe atmosphere of the womb! In that period, humans get the training of learning to trust.  

The same trust is what drives our life; we expect and hope to have similar level of trust from others in both personal and business matters. Some people and companies achieve it, but many don’t. The reason could be that maybe we expect too much from organisations. But I will share some stories which suggest how I handled them.  

Years back, I had bought a couple of dongles. I found that they did not perform to my expectations. Hence, I closed my account with them by paying cash to avoid any discrepancy about final payment. I kept on receiving their bills for the next three months. Then a bouncer came to my office for the unpaid bills; I showed him the details and told him that next time he comes, I would call the police. Eight months later, I got an invitation for tea at their regular customer meet where a wellknown lawyer was to explain intricacies about bills. They threatened discretely in the end that they will sue me if I did not turn up. Two years later, I got a phone from a cell phone by a lady who claimed that she was talking from Delhi. After using choicest bad words, she threatened that the company would sue me in Delhi and a lot of my time and money will be wasted etc. When I counter threatened her with police complaint, there were no calls again. The amount involved was Rs 785/I am told that when such follow up is done 80% of the people pay the money out of fear. It is an extortion racket run by these companies. Will I ever trust such companies or their group companies?  

I have been using Honda cars for sometimes. Very rarely, I have had any problem with these cars. Whenever I had any technical or commercial issues, responses from their dealers and the company would be swift and resolved the problem. That has ended in my trusting Honda totally.  

Companies make mistakes in their responses, in their products and customer relationship. But many come out of them quite well, though some of them are still controversial. Take the case of Uber. It has many many issues with customer relationships, but somehow, they overcome them. But the product they have provided is such that it has given us comfort that a taxi will be available when we want it. 

I had hired an Uber taxi sometime back, and the driver turned out to be nasty. The trip never began, and the driver ended up telling me to cancel the trip. I did it, and during cancellation, I wrote about the incident. By the time I came home using the lift, (elevator) I had got a phone call from Uber. Their customer care called me to say sorry and to find out the detailsPhone calls continued for three days, and I got calls from different levels. They informed me of what action they had taken against the driver — Uber way of getting the trust back.  

Trust is rarely absolute but somewhat is restricted to particular casesa wife may trust her husband to pick up the groceries but not to buy a party dress for their daughterSuch decisions are based on previous experiences, knowledge about husbands capabilities and interests in doing something girly!  

Wife’s trust in the husband is not just an estimate of the probability that he will pick up the groceries but also a positive feeling toward husband in this respect. Her gut feeling tells her that he will be able to buy the groceries correctly, but she may not be sure about his buying the right dress. She may feel that he is not reliable enough to do such a chore! Trust is the highest when the previous history, the gut feeling, and persons’ interests match.  

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Talking of trust in business, Facebook has made a significant blunder by sharing user data with Cambridge Analytica. At the same time, they have shared data with Microsoft, Netflix, Yahoo and Amazon. Google is already capturing many of the activities we do without informing us. Boeing has made a blunder by not sharing the details about the problems in the model 737 Max. They had this information with them for more than two years before two major accidents took placeIt has created a distrust about them. On the commercial side, they have already spent the US $ 5 billion due to this episode. It will be tough for them to gain customer trust again.  

Building trust isn’t glamorous or easy. And at times it involves making complex decisions and difficult trade-offs. Trust is less fragile than we think. Companies can be trusted in some ways but not others and still succeed. Trust can also be rebuilt. 

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Trust is never objective, but it is subjective. People do not suddenly stop believing in others or companies. When the specific reason for the loss of trust is removed or corrected, trust can be restored. But there is only one relationship between the mother and the child where distrust never gets created, at least from the mother’s side! Conserve your most expensive asset, the Trust!

Trust me to share good blogs with you! emrgency1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autonomous or Driverless Cars! (Part I)

 

 

For some time, I had in mind to read and write something about Autonomous or Driverless Cars! I started reading about these sometime back; I am really fascinated by the technology involved. From whatever little I have understood; I feel that these cars will have higher technology involvement compared to EVs. ( Electric Vehicles) Anyway, making the drivetrain in IC Engines is technology wise more complicated than the making EV drivetrain. (EV drivetrain might feel complex today because it is new) I will keep on sharing with you the information (not knowledge) I will acquire over time. My initial attempt will be a little scattered as there many things to understand and absorb.

A self-driving car (sometimes called an autonomous car or driverless car) is a vehicle that uses a combination of sensors, cameras, radar and artificial intelligence (AI) to travel between destinations without a human operator. To qualify to be called fully autonomous, a vehicle must be able to navigate without human intervention to a predetermined destination over roads that have not been adapted for its use.

The companies which are already in this field are Google’s Waymo, Apple, Volvo, General Motors, Tesla, Volkswagen, Nissan, to name a few! Many of these companies are NOT into car manufacture but are developing this technology as they have the wherewithal! As usual, who will end up at the top in the race only time can tell. There will be mergers and acquisitions. To my understanding, only Apple and Google have the money to manufacture the cars too! But I have my serious doubts if they will get into car making.

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The above graph is showing data from 10 companies. It shows the number of miles driven before the manual intervention is needed while driving autonomous cars. Waymo needed manual intervention after every eleven thousand miles, whereas Apple needed manual intervention after every 1.1 miles. It indicates that Waymo and GM Cruise are way ahead of others in this technology. It also shows the safety aspect too! If I have to buy a car, I will buy a car using Waymo technology.

Which other aspects need to be checked and discussed? To start with, I am going to deal with the type of automation that is available in these cars. I used to visualise that an autonomous car means there is no steering wheel, one sits in the car, punch the destination and start chatting with your flame. But, that is not what it is. There are five stages of automation.

  • Zero level starts with humans doing the driving.
  • Level 1 is an Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to aid the human driver with either steering, braking, or accelerating, though not simultaneously. ADAS includes rearview cameras and features like a vibrating seat warning to alert drivers when they drift out of the travelling lane. It means some automation starts at this stage. Currently, an automated clutch change system is available (not the Automatic-transmission) which changes gears based on the car speed, without human intervention. Clutch in the car is operated automatically, but there is no clutch pedal.
  • Level 2 is an ADAS that can steer and either brake or accelerate simultaneously while the driver remains fully aware behind the wheel and continues to act as the driver.
  • Level 3 is an automated driving system (ADS) that can perform all driving tasks under certain circumstances, such as parking the car. (Parking assist) In these circumstances, the human driver must be ready to re-take control and is still required to be the main driver of the vehicle.
  • Level 4 is an ADS that can perform all driving tasks and monitor the driving environment in certain circumstances. In those circumstances, the ADS is reliable enough that the human driver needn’t pay attention to driving.
  • Level 5 is the vehicle’s ADS that acts as a virtual chauffeur and does all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are passengers and are never expected to drive the car.

From the current information available the Level 5 is far away from reality. It is not about the autonomous system. But the new system will need changes in insurance policies and laws, legal aspects of driving and responsibilities in case of an accident.

Each of the companies has their vision for autonomous cars. I was surprised to find that Nissan Leaf, the Nissan EV is one of the leading Electric Vehicle, which also has added autonomous systems to some extent. What are those?

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This button is called de-stress button. When you press this during driving on the highway, it does the following things.

  • It allows you to set a distance between the car ahead of you.
  • If required it comes to a full stop
  • When the traffic restarts, it starts driving back on its own!
  • It keeps the car at the centre of the lane while driving, and this is also done when there is a smooth curve, controlling the speed if required.

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The picture above is E-pedal. You can theoretically accelerate and brake with the same pedal. You press it; it goes boom! You start reducing pressure, it starts braking. But there is brake pedal available too, just in case! Even on the hilly roads, one can drive with a single pedal, if required.

There are many such features on these cars, but we will discuss them over a period. How are autonomous vehicles going to change many things? What benefit will they offer to humanity?

First and foremost is that the number of accidents can reduce. Accidental deaths will come down over a period. But there will be many legal changes needed. Laws will have to be made and passed by the highest authorities.

Another technical change is that these cars will generate significant and vital data. This data will have to be stored and processed online many times. It will develop a new field of data science. How this will change the car driving is anybody’s guess. Will it eliminate the jobs of many drivers? Only time will tell. One thing it has done. One company in Pune, a multinational, has hired several hundred people to process the visual data captured during testing by autonomous vehicles. The data is treated and uploaded into the database. So, some new types of jobs will get generated.

One new problem could come up. Both husband and wife will be relatively less stressed when they reach home in autonomous cars. So, they will have enough energy to restart the argument which had to be stopped as both went to office! But on a serious note, life on roads will be simpler over a period.

Mahesh Bhai!

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Mahesh Kothari was the Chairman and Managing Director of Exedy India Ltd when he died on 25th  January 2017!

I must thank God that Rajendra Shitut (God bless his soul) was my classmate. I came in touch with Ceekay through Rajendra, who used to then work for Ceekay. With Rajendra, I went to Ceekay office at Nariman Point in Mumbai; at first, I met Pradeep Chinai the MD, and we just hit off. (Ceekay later became Exedy India Ltd) Then I met Mahesh Bhai; I did not know how to place Mahesh Bhai as I could see that he was different. We chatted, then he took me out for lunch, he was a little serious by nature, but I don’t know when our relationship changed to friendship and then into the family! I had become Ceekay advisor in 1981 and continued to date.  I was taking my baby steps in professional life, and Mahesh Bhai discretely guided me as if I was his younger brother.

I am so lucky that I knew him when one reads about bad things in this world, I have always wondered that when there are humans like Mahesh Bhai in this world, how the world could go wrong. He was the epitome of clarity of thoughts, softness and purpose in life; he was definitely “Clutch Man of India.” In his way, he has guided many at Aurangabad plant through their career. Desai, Medsing, Malani, Kale, Shekhar, to name a few. Mahesh Bhai had a great ability to get the right people in the right place. Most accompanied him till the end in his life’s journey.

I have seen a few professionals in my life from close, but Mahesh Bhai with his empathy, kindness raced well ahead of others though others may have been equally good technically, business acumen wise and thoroughness. He used to get a bit agitated sometimes, and he could not withstand people who were not clear in their mind. He had a great generosity to accept errors made by others. I was always amazed by his ability to know minutest of the technical details from the factory shop floor. I asked Mahesh Bhai once about this, and he smiled and said, “Pramod, I just remember such details, somehow.”

Maheshbhai would never mince words and always called a spade a spade! Once during a meeting with a senior officer of a large manufacturing unit, we were bombarded by the officer about the poor quality, even before we sat in the chair. The officer continued his diatribe without allowing us to say a word. After things cooled down a bit, I said, “Could you call your person who is handling our product at your end?” The person came and was asked to explain the quality problems of the clutches supplied by us. He said, “The problem is not with their supplies; it is there for the other vendor’s supplies.” The senior officer was ashen-faced and mumbled, “Sorry boss! I did not mean to say this. Would you have a cup of tea?” Maheshbhai got up and said, “Thanks for the offer for tea, we just had it with someone else. Please remember one thing, if you don’t mean to say something, don’t say it!”

Another excellent quality in him was humility. Once he called me early morning and gave me a piece of his mind. The general rule was, when he spoke, you would just listen. At the end of the discussion, I told him, “I will study the issue more and come back to you, but perception on this appears based on insufficient data.” After two hours, he called me again. He said, “Pramod, my apologies! I passed judgment based on insufficient data.” As a CMD he did not have to apologise, but that was Maheshbhai for you!

In another incident, we were making clutches as per customer’s design, but there were severe warranty failures. Customers engineering team would not allow us to change the design. Our efforts to convince the customer were not succeeding. We were a single source. One day in a meeting at the plant, he called me and said, “Pramod, tell that engineer who has come, that we are stopping the manufacture of this item after one week.” With his firm stand, the design was modified in two months, and the issue was resolved.

Till the  5/6 years back, Mahesh Bhai used to visit Pune regularly, and it was always a high point for me as I could spend the whole day with him. We would talk on any subject in this world. His working style was that he would never impose anything on anybody. Work just happened. All people in Tata and Bajaj had great respect for Mahesh Bhai as he would always stick to commitments and was forthright in all his dealings.

I have travelled with him from Pune to Aurangabad many times, and he used to love driving. He would always share with me the driving time. We have had many chat sessions with only two of us, at the guest house. He would share many things, he would explain many things, and for me, they were more of training sessions of life. He would care very much about his family. He was 100% family man. He was always very proud of the way his son, Saurabh, grew and matured into an excellent professional and a human being. Saurabh has also picked up a significant number of helpful things from Mahesh Bhai. Lately, when I asked Maheshbhai about his next visit to his daughter in Singapore, he would smile and say “Yes, we will go shortly”!

Aurangabad was his second home. He was so much involved in work if he needed to visit a vendor quickly, he would hop behind on some one’s bike, if required, and rush to resolve some technical issue. All the people at Aurangabad plant were his family. When someone was travelling to Japan for the first time for work, he would personally make sure that the person had the clothing, suit and vegetarian food if required. He wanted to ensure that nobody ran into unnecessary trouble in a foreign country.

Mahesh’s presence for my family functions was always assumed. He would find time in his busy schedule. He always knew small nuances of so many things, Jaya and I would still be amazed. Mahesh, Nauka and two of us have had a few dinners together, and he was a fun person in a small private group. I last met him in Diwali when Jaya and I went to be with him. In spite of his body not supporting him, he, as usual, had very pointed questions about, work and my health (unfortunately both of us had similar health issues on which we exchanged notes), my children. He asked me when we were leaving and how we were going to Pune. When I told him I am taking eastern free-way via Crawford market, he, of course, knew the more straightforward way through Prarthana Samaj. But I never knew that it would be his last guidance to me in life!

We will always ask this question to ourselves with moistened eyes, why Mahesh Bhai had to go early! If Mahesh Bhai had been around and if we were discussing someone’s death, Mahesh Bhai the pragmatic would have told me, “Pramod, टाईम आता है तो जाना पडता है. (if your time has come you have to go)”

Bricks and Mortar!

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Pyare Khan from Nagpur!

4G then 5G! One TB storage space and 100Mbps speed. VCs and Angel funding! Till very recently G was about gravity, Storage space Cubic Meters and speed was 100 kmph! The numbers have remained the same but suffixes, if I may call them, have changed. Yes and VCs were Vice Chancellors and the Angels you generally met after death!

In the sexy world of IT, VC, Angel funding the Ooomph is there. The real-life talks about loans, mortgages, illnesses, loss of jobs, and what have you. But we all forget one crucial thing, this is real life; the sexy side of life is more of a service industry. These services make bricks and mortar functions efficient, they create services which at some stage were not even thought possible. For example, Uber, Air BNB. Who would give his or her own house on rent to people unknown? The beauty is even after these people used the home, you never came in touch with them, ever. For that period your home was converted into a service apartment. There is one product which the IT industry has created which is not brick and mortar, the computer games. To add to this, unfortunately, there are virtual frieships instead of real ones.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/auto-driver-to-iim-case-study-his-journey-on-uncharted-highway-5807065/

The story of Pyare Khan from Nagpur is shared in the above article. His brick and mortar story must be shared with all. He was born into a low-income family and started working at the age of eighteen by buying a bus. His business failed, and he sold the bus. Then he started driving an autorickshaw at the age of 21. He went to a bank and asked for a loan to buy a truck. The loan amount was Rs Eleven lacs. The amount was way above his level, with no way of providing any other collateral. But somehow the bank manager was convinced in the end and the rest, as they say, is history! Khan’s company’s current turnover is Rs 400 crores (or four billion Rupees). He uses his 125 trucks, plus 3000 other trucks ply under his company. A financial institution from Dubai is now offering him a loan of Rs. Eighty crores (Eight hundred million Rupees). As usual, when he had no money, getting a loan was extremely difficult, but now that his company is doing good, people on their own are offering the money. The funny part is that IIM, Ahemdabad selected his case and gave him first prize! It was chosen over all the other fancy startups funded by, who else, venture capitalists! Other participants were from all over the world. The beauty of the whole thing was that Khan was not even aware of what is IIM!

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Old Amrut Tulya Tea Vendor!

There is a similar story happening in Pune on a smaller scale. It started with a family called Yevale. They branded of all the things, ready to drink tea! In Pune, there has been a tradition of selling tea in shops called Amrut Tulya tea! (It means as good as nectar from heaven) Such tea houses are a conventionally low-cost shops which could be equivalent to Pubs, where people meet to gossip. Tea houses also serve select bakery items. Yevale family turned this business on its head. They started probably with a similar inexpensive shop but created a different business model. They kicked off with their first modern shop on 1st June 2017, and as on 17th October, 2018 have opened 30 th branch in Pune and around. All they serve is tea! They have their recipe perfected. They give franchises. Their monthly sales are now Rs twelve lacs or 1.2 million. Annual turnover is 14.4 million Rupees. They sell their tea in elegant small cups. The quantity they serve can be finished in about three large slurps — the same as the Expresso, which is even less quantity. I have paid Euros 2.25 for an Expresso in Turin! Look at the maths. They charge Rs ten for each cup and sell 120,000 cups of tea a month. Wow and wow!

New Yevale Amrut Tulya Outlet!

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Such businesses or enterprises are what can be called as Unofficial India Inc! Not many people know about them. The promoters have the zest and the verve to succeed. They don’t use laptops, generally don’t change their lifestyle! Such people simply start a business and keep on successfully running them. I do not know the percentages of success and failure in such enterprises. But the percentage is more than the “Startup” model of business, where the success rate is less than 1 %, but the hype is more than 100%!

How many examples can we discuss now? These are mostly in the so-called parallel economy! They don’t pay taxes; Oh come on, how many organised sector companies cheat on taxes. How many ditch the banks on loan repayment? No point in blaming smaller businesses on this matter. It will be a good idea to bring smaller establishments into GST and Income Tax net. Now with the computerisation, this linking is simple and easy to track.

I will share a few more such examples briefly. Near my home, there used to be one Vada-Pav vendor (Potato patty Sandwich). I used to buy a couple of these items once a while. So I got to know him. On asking him how many plates he sold, he was initially hesitant. But then he said that he sold 600 to 700 plates a day, and up to 1000 plates in a day on busy days. Each dish would cost Rs.12/. To eat two of them were mini-meals, and one was a snack or breakfast! One family ran a Kachori business in Kanpur, I think. Father, two sons and two employees ran the business. They could barely stand in the hole which they called their shop. Income tax department tracked them and found out that during the peak time of the day it took forty-five minutes to serve you, in regular times about twelve minutes, and in quiet phase about two minutes. After fifteen days they found out that their yearly income was about Rs eighty lacs. (Eight millions)

My point is, why are these so-called family businesses more successful. They do not know much about the business aspect; they do not get funding. They have no guidance. Whereas the Startups get financing, the folks are educated and polished. They are funded based on a rational business plan. I assume this because the VCs have their own experts to whet the plans. Based on the study, startups are funded. But most of these businesses don’t talk about brick and mortar stuff. The world runs on brick and mortar things. The IT stuff makes brick and mortar businesses better, more efficient. The Kachori Wala and Wada-Pav wala have good knowledge about the product they are making. If these businesses are run inefficiently, the profitability will be less; there can be more headaches and many businesses fail too! But businesses still run. So my question is why these types of companies are not funded by angel funders? Is it because it is not very attractive to discuss in parties? When the success rate in IT areas is so low, why not finance “Real” business? The only answer I can visualise is God Only Knows!