Real Life PhD!

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

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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.

I am the best!

Going up the value chain is the only option!

Our Tera Firma is full of smart people. In last 50 to 70 years the innovations, evolution of technology has gathered momentum which is far swifter than what happened in previous 2000 years. This has happened because of the people who besides being smart, innovative were humble too or may be some of them were not! They knew that any idea that becomes popular may easily get pushed aside by a better idea or a product. Maybe some of them hardly had any choice as one can’t stop advent of new things especially in technology area. 

Digital cameras is a classic case of the  inventor  being  flat  footed.   Digital  cameras  were  invented  by  Kodak ,  the  pioneer  in  cameras  and  films.  They  invented  the  digital  camera  but  apparently  forgot  about  it. Later Cannons and   Konicas  of  this  world  just  blasted  Kodak  out  of  business  by  bringing quality, reasonably priced digital cameras in the world in large volumes. By the time Kodak woke up it was too late! They went into bankruptcy. Now these same digital cameras are being included in cell phones. These cameras in cell phones, are becoming better and better. So, what is the future of digital cameras as we know them? Honestly, it is difficult to judge but is it possible that digital cameras will come with a SIM card in future or we may have cell phones with better and better cameras. I am not talking fantasy. Recently I read that Jio, Mukesh Ambani’s company is bringing out Laptops with SIM cards with the idea of always being connected. Then do you need WiFi? I don’t know what this will do to the current market conditions. However, there are already cheaper hotspot devices, with 4G, available in the market. For a fee of Rs.400/ per month this hotspot can be connected to 10 devices. Then will we need SIM card for an individual Laptop? This is how the technology is changing swiftly. All the current and new players in the market will have to come up with their own variations to ween away customers towards their technology!  

Electric Vehicles, especially cars, were considered as niche products in the market and maybe people thought that they were competition, at US $ 100,000/ price, to high end cars like Mercedes, BMW and Audi. This was only a couple of years back. Besides Tesla, other car makers are also showing nimbleness. They have already come with their own EV’s and going strongly in bringing EV’s in mass production.  The other car makers already know how to manufacturers millions of cars, so once they master Electrical drive train technology at a competitive price, things will change drastically. What will happen to today’s drive train industry? We don’t know. But there is a good chance that this industry will become sunset industry. Maybe 20 years? I have had a discussion with couple of friends who are running allied industries in auto field. They are worried and are already thinking in terms of change over. Their nimbleness will help them. But a few others are still saying that EV’s is a passing fad! For their sake, I hope they are right but my mind tells me otherwise. They are “I am the best” types.

We see similar case in Indian IT industry. Our IT business was started by doyens of IT industry. They have done a fantastic job of bringing India on world IT map. Indian IT business grew by leaps and bounds and has created technology culture in India. They also created large number Indian millionaires and now billionaires. Their contribution has helped India in other sectors! They have made India confident too. But during last few years there have been signals, that this model of service providers is not going work for a long time. Indian companies need to go up the value chain. These companies on Nasdaq are officially described as “Providing technology consulting, application, system integration and engineering services” that means these are service industries. In India, they call themselves as software  companies.  It is with this false nomenclature they have started thinking that are software product companies.  They started the culture of people sitting on bench, as per demands of their customers. For those who don’t know the meaning of “sitting on bench” this is what happens. The customers ask the service providers to ensure that additional 20% people are assigned to the project but they have no work. If the project is of 2 years duration,  then   these 20% folks have no work for two years.  What culture have we developed? Should we not be going away from this method? 20 is a substantial % to be forced to remain idle. This according to me is poor management, in crude language run by bean counters. Is profit the only motive? What about the career of 25/30 year old young people? Once they get used to this life, they would be happy to remain idle, if possible, all their life!

Once there was a meeting between a doyen of IT industry with CEO of an American company.   The American company is a world’s top end product company employing 5 thousand people   where as the Indian company employs  1.5 lacs people.  Out of 45 minutes meeting the doyen talked for 40 minute and the CEO for five minutes. Both their turnovers are same. Doyen never felt it necessary to find out how the same turnover is achieved with so few people. He must have got same opportunities to talk with many such people world over but probably, “I am the best attitude” has kept the thought process where it was ten years back. I hardly read any news about this company trying to go up the value chain. Attempts made by a new CEO were brought to null by the doyen with his “Expert” knowledge! In such fast changing world, even a year or two of sluggishness, can put a company under severe strain; but maybe these “Limited” companies are “personal limited” companies even though share holdings of the doyens are low. Going up the value chain, what is that? I know how to run this company. “I am the best.”

All the best to Indian IT industry and hope better sense will prevail at some stage. I have seen enough small companies which have made software products and are up the value chain. Typical case is “Tally”. They have made an ERP suitable for India and millions of copies have been sold. Quick Heal is another company that comes to mind. Their security products have become well known. For both these companies their Profit/Turnover per employee is pretty good. If these smaller companies can do it why all the service giants  cannot do it? They have mountains of cash reserves. They don’t know what to with it. Is it the proverbial  Ostrich’s head in the sand?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

Power Drunk? Or Corrupt!

Corruption is monetary and that due to Power!

Pune has the largest base of engineering industry and 2nd largest base of IT industry in India. I have seen the birth of this industry. I have seen it growing from nascent stage to behemoth that it is now. Since I have dealt with both engineering and IT industry, I have seen the culture in both. Whenever there is a discussion about corruption, it is usually claimed that in Govt and Public sector there is more corruption but not in private industries.  But it is not so.

Today of course the amounts for everything including in corruption have become astronomical. The days which I am talking about are 80’s and 90’s, when salaries were low, expenses were low and therefore amounts involved in corruption were also low. There was corruption created by power, which some people wielded. It was absolute. This has not changed much. It was as universal as it is today. I have not come across corruption in IT industry, yet! 

I will share the experiences that I have had, first hand! These are not hearsay stories. I was working as a manager in a company, besides my QA responsibilities, I was also required to handle subcontracts where technical issues were involved. One such requirement was re sharpening of tools. We used to get it done from a vendor; then the vendor had a competition from his brother. It helped me to reduce the costs for my organization. The day arrived about decision for the yearly contract. First guy gave me his final offer. Later the second guy came. He was better than first guy, commercially. While closing the deal, he said that he wanted the order badly. I said let me talk to my boss and then I will tell you the decision. He said that he also wanted to share some profits with me. I initially did not understand the meaning of what he said. I asked him if he was serious. He just smiled. I opened my drawer and took at the other quotation. I said we had decided to give the order to you but now you have lost it. I showed him another document. It was my resignation from the company, submitted on the same day. I told him that, “Friend, you misjudged me. The order was going to be my last action before I left.” Incidentally, that was only time I was offered money. Maybe because I was on technical side of life, while I served, before starting my own business. Why he offered me the bribe? Why did he misjudge me? I will never get the answer but  I remember this incident still, even after 38 years.  

I switched over to the other side when I started my business. I started my own business where I was required to sell things and ideas. During this phase main corruption that I observed was the corruption due to power too. I was in a five-star hotel in Chennai, late in the evening and heard big noise and shouting. A senior person was in the process of checking in. Apparently, there was some chaos in his booking. The person on the counter was trying to explain the chaos and said in five minutes he will resolve it. The big boss shouted at him and said, ” Do you know who I am? I am so and so, Executive Director of ABC company”. What was the point in shouting at these guys? I am sure he must have been their VVIP customer. But it was the classic case of corruption due to power.  

Another similar case is of one of my customers in software business, who was also a friend! Since I handled the commercial aspect of the business, my colleagues were told not to discuss this aspect with the customer. But this gentleman started crossing boundaries and wanted every update free. One day he made such a nasty incident with my colleagues that I had to simply stop doing business with him. Again, corruption due to power and my decency to not create a scene. This reminds me of another incident of corruption due to power. The same friend  running  behaved like a drunk elephant who gets high, in public. There were some students waiting to get into their coaching class in the evening as light was fading fast. One of them was my daughter wearing a helmet. Our friend came in his car, he wanted to park his car at a specific place where these kids had parked their bikes. It was a public place and a small road; it had no boards about specific parking rules. He started shouting at these kids that they had taken his place and ensured that they moved their bikes. On a public road? My daughter would have normally confronted such a person but she saw that it was my friend, she refrained from getting involved. She was really upset when she came home and told me about this incident. She said, ” ABC uncle behaved like a drunk elephant and was trying to bulldoze the kids.” He had of course succeeded, as my daughter could not take part in the incident due to embarrassment. What if you are successful in life and make a bit of money? Does it give you a right to be nasty? Does nastiness depend on background; our friend did not have a very comfortable childhood. Or is it the ego? I don’t know. He was never this way in college times. But a little later in his life some traits were seen when we used to meet once in a while but honestly, I had also not expected him to change so much. 

Last incident that I want to share with you is of a guy who was pretty simple and a nice guy working for a large company. During one of my customer visits, I met him after a long time. I said, “friend how have you been?” He said that he is not the same person that he was! I was surprised with that statement. Then one fine day he came to my office and said that he will need some money every month to have trouble free supplies. For me, there was nuisance value as our supplies were quite large. So, we negotiated and agreed upon some amount. While leaving, he said that he was sharing that amount 50:50 with his boss. This worked for six months and one fine day his boss died, suddenly. Next time he came to collect his bounty I gave him only 50% of the agreed amount. He asked me where is the balance amount? I said, take me to your new boss and we will renegotiate the deal. He went home without discussion and 50% amount!  

What makes people corrupt? First thing is  power. Power corrupts people absolutely. Of course, I have met some extremely powerful leaders from the industry but they were normal persons, in fact one of them was so humble, that  those who did not know him, wold not have believed, that he was such a big industry leader. I have never understood monetary corruption. Though people are quite well off, they indulge in such practices. The other side, I have seen that very poor people, who are very honest in this aspect. Does it come from genes? Do the circumstances make you corrupt? I have seen siblings at the two end of corruption, one was absolutely corrupt and the other was absolutely honest. I am talking of an older generation, a couple of generations before mine. This corrupt guy also made his father corrupt at the age of 80 to help him hide his ill-gotten wealth. Old man who  was lifelong honest guy, changed in last phase of life. Did the blind love for his 50-year-old son make him corrupt? Well I just don’t know, maybe this is how our world is made! And what is the current scenario in today’s world? I honestly don’t know; but I have full faith in human race, good always wins over bad! Maybe I am naïve!  

Game Changer or Disruption!

EV is going to be new beast compared to todays cars!

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I have been writing about Electric Vehicles; for updates I keep on talking to people in the industry, read on the net and am lucky enough to have someone in Tesla to update my understanding of EV’s. I am no technical expert in this field but I can feel that something big is definitely happening. Hope I am able to see some of these major changes in my lifetime. I was lucky to be part of two such events, Internet and Cell phone. These two disruptions have  changed the way our world has been operating! When Jaya was in the US for her MS, 1980-8;  talking to each other on phone, needed a lot of coordination. We did not have phone at home. So, she would write to me the timing when she would call, that too at someone else’s place. If we were lucky she could get through after ½ hour delay! By next year, I am told that cell phones can be used during the flights too!  That is game changer!

In IC engine cars, the Engine has been the heart for more than 100 years, and car performances have been defined by the quality of the engine! Then the quality of the overall car is said to be better when the exhaust system and engine jointly released least amount of pollutants. Of course, now exhaust parameters are mandatory world over. By 2023 these parameters will be so tough that company like Volvo has already declared that they have decided not to develop any new diesel engines post 2023, as development of the same will not be cost effective! Plus, cities and countries are slowly banning diesel cars to be driven within their boundaries.

The drive train today, is placed physically in between tyres, from front bumper to rear exhaust system! This whole drive train is being replaced in EV’s, (as shown in pictures above) so what will decide the quality of EV’s? What is the Engine for EV’s? The Motors, the electronic controllers, battery pack, inverter and  gear. So, the car which travels more distance per charge, which accelerates faster will be a better car, all are zero emission cars anyway! No, it is not that simple! This is just the beginning of the car revolution! The batteries will have better charge storage per unit area, they may cost lesser and lesser over a period of time but this becomes  commercial aspect. To me battery packs are petrol tanks! Better battery only increases the capacity of the “new petrol tank” and distance traveled per charge!

Major parts in the new drive train for cars are going to be the software and the sensors that are going to be there in a car, besides the battery pack, motors and ECU’s. Around 2010, some vehicles had software with about 10 million lines of codes! In 2016 it is supposed to have increased by 15 times to about 150 million lines of code! The software is related to car autonomy, safety and infotainment related codes. But this is going to change even more drastically over period. The whole system might become  a computer in the car! The car recalls will not be because of faulty clutch or a gear box it will be because of software glitches and sensors!

The cost of software currently in large cars can be about 10% of the Bill of Materials but is likely go up in next 10/12 years to 30%! So, this is going to be the first game changer. What happens to current vendors of engine parts? As the population of EV’s starts increasing, the population of new IC engine cars is going to come down! Instead of one set of vendors, who make drive train parts, new set of vendors from IT industry and electronic industry will take over! So, need for physical RM will start getting replaced by “products” which cannot be seen by naked eye! Players who are currently tier 2 or tier 3 vendors may start becoming tier 1 vendors. At the same time car manufacturers may stand on the toes of Operating system vendors so that they can control the distinct facilities they can offer. This cannibalization is already being observed in case of battery manufacture! Vehicle manufacturers themselves are producing battery packs now. In IC engine cars, batteries have a small functional role whereas in EV’s it is going to be the new “Petrol”! OPEC, I am sure is already having sleepless nights or nightmares!

It looks like software will follow the path of infotainment innovations, autonomous driving capabilities, intelligent safety devices which will be able to work even if some part of software fails! The software will integrate with hardware in the form of sensors! This my friends, is going to be future drive train! The whole system over a period will be of increasing complexity which will need newer and newer algorithms and will generate such a huge data that all the data generated from these cars will have to be stored to cloud! One important aspect of new drive train is temperatures; these are almost at room temperature compared to IC engine cars where exhaust temperatures can go upto 600 deg c! This normal temperature in “New Engine” will allow usage of lot of electronics, sensors, software and ECU’s.

What do we foresee? Basic car with body, trim, seats etc which will keep on changing as is happening now. But it is the “New Engine” in the form of sensors, software, ECU’s and cloud computing that will change the car and make it a different beast than what we see today!

First and foremost will be the infotainment area which will have full connectivity with our single “communicator” which is currently our cell phone! It will have all these functions plus, music, internet hookup, reverse drive screen, automatic parking capabilities. This will use cameras in place of mirrors and it will also be the GPS display screen! What new functionalities will be added is anybody’s guess! Next consolidation will be ECU’s. Currently, there are 8 to 10 of them per car. These will be consolidated over a period, to one or two ECU’s which will handle all functionalities . The “real engine” will be controlled through these ECU’s along with other systems like wipers, window regulators, AC’s and so on. Next important aspect is, each vehicle will generate so much data that storing the same can be an issue. So, all this data will be transferred to cloud. This data can be used for analysis, diagnostics, on improving performance of the vehicle. This will be real life data and give the car makers real life continuous flow of information; product improvement cycles will be much shorter! In most cases in future, product errors will be related more to sensors and software. Software errors can be updated easily by releasing patches to all concerned cars as these cars will always be connected!

Another game changer will be what is going to happen to car service industry! Cars will go to workshops only for sheet metal work! Or small odd jobs! This will also affect vehicle manufacturer’s spare part sales; we know that drive train component manufacturers, will go down over a period! These components will exist only for old cars as no new cars will not need their products!

Another new area that will come up is third party software products! We really don’t know what these products are going to be! Most of the products will be available for passengers, as the driver naturally cannot use them while driving. Oh, I forgot we will have driverless cars at some stage, then all are going to be passengers. So, possibilities are simply unlimited!

I could write on and on and on! Let us wait and watch; there have been car racing games for computers. But now you will be having computers which drive real life cars on real roads! That too on their own! As a game changer or major disruptor of business, it’s a great thing for humanity. But for those who are in business of making current drive train components, it’s going to be a nightmare. As my friend had rightly said during a discussion, “I am ok with this change because it is for my next generation to handle this and not me because real inflexion point could be 2030, by that time I will retire!”

 

Is it three cheers for EV’s or one cheer?

EV’s are here to stay!

The other day I was at a party held by foundry technology experts group to commemorate an individual landmark. Fish, chicken and various tikkas were available in abundance. Liquor was flowing and I was as usual high with my drink H2O on the rocks! Different subjects were being discussed, old memories were shared. It was a fun atmosphere. I asked someone who is in foundry related service industry, “What do you think will be the effect EV’s on your business? And when do you think it will start affecting your current business?” He was very candid and said, “Yes, this is going to affect my business in a big way, that may be felt from year 2030. But then by that time it will be for my next generation to handle it, and not me!”

There were 2/3 others in this discussion. One of them was a foundry expert plus, energy consultant. Another person was a foundry expert for an International giant for Asia Pacific region. I am none of these but as a hobby, I read a lot about Electric Vehicles and consequently about Energy situation. It was mentioned that one the industrial giants, Kalyani group is already jumping the EV components bandwagon. Tata, Mahindra, Suzuki-Toyota combine, Hyundai (they claim that they will launch their first EV in India ahead of Suzuki-Toyota combine in 2019 itself.) will be four major players in India; for these four mentioned companies, it is imperative to be in EV market. Suzuki manufactures and sells more than 50% of their global production in India. Hyundai’s India % is sizable. Tata/Mahindra are local companies so they have to do it and have started off well in EV’s. My other friends were arguing that that 2030 is too early but inflexion point for production will come around 2040 which is 22 years hence.

(Point of Inflexion means a moment of dramatic change, especially in the development of a company, industry, or market.) 

Another argument was about power availability in India. I felt that people’s information on power situation in India was a little dated. India has jumped the power bandwagon in a big way. Solar and wind power may not need long distance transmission of power as is normally done, thereby reducing transmission losses. It could be done locally and there are huge number of diesel engine run water pumps in India, in rural areas. I will not go into details of whether this achievable but I can say that power generation costs have come down in India by using non- conventional methods; one tender was sanctioned in Gujarat in Dec 2017, at Rs.3/ per unit as against Rs.6/ plus of coal and fossil fuel methods.

http://powermin.nic.in/en/content/power-sector-glance-all-india

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_India

These links give details about power generation situation in India as on Dec 2017 and renewable energy projections upto 2022, respectively. The argument in the party was that current power production is way below even today’s needs, so how can India feed EV requirements. When fossil fuels rates are controlled by Arabs how will we get cheap power? The two links clearly show that the current power generation situation is not as bad it is thought by many. In some areas in India there is a power surplus. Our current problem is that the grids are not able to distribute the power from surplus areas. As more and more power in India is going to be generated by non-conventional sources like solar and wind, price reduction  of power will quickly happen and capacities will be added faster! This is already happening in Germany and in California!

According to my understanding the Point of Inflexion for introduction of EV as a product reached long back. In September 2017 total EV production in the world was 1,23,000 which was 56% above 2016 Sept sell. Extrapolated to yearly sale it will be 1.45 million against world production of around 90 million. This is about 1.6%. This indicates that point of inflexion of product proving is crossed. There are reasonable number EV’s on the road. Major manufacturers like VW, Toyota, Ford, Nissan already have big plans for EV’s which will start rolling out in larger numbers.

In the discussion I was having, someone had a view that EV is just a passing fad and will die soon. IC engines can never die! This I felt was a very naive thinking. This gentleman also suggested that many products showed a lot of initial potential and then died. There are two strong reasons why this will not happen for EV. First is pollution. Delhi, London, Beijing and many others are classic examples of what havoc pollution can do. World is not left with many choices but to get pollution free methods of motoring around. Secondly, countries which have large amount of fossil fuels currently, control the economy and inflation related issues. World already has said enough is enough. Big searches for different methods are underway for alternative fuel. Already some major cities and some small nations have started creating laws which will be effective in not allowing diesel cars within their limits ; later on they will not allow even registration of fossil fuel cars.

Smaller companies have already made their foray into electric tempo, riksha. These are one of the most polluting vehicles. This is a good sign as the last mile is always tricky. These are not very costly and fancy vehicles, so big shots will not be interested. Another good sign is people are also talking of making ships run on EV! It is doable, weight and space is not an issue for them. Buses appear to be next after cars but I am reading about leading companies like Hero, Bajaj and Honda foraying into Electric two wheelers.

So, whether we like it or not, whether we know about it or not, whether we want it or not EV’s are here to come. So, during my next party with H2O on the rocks discussion will be more about when and not about “if” of EV’s. Cheers!