India Shining Silently!

Among the political upheavals, hyperbole things are changing in India, slowly but surely. There was a political slogan, India Shining,” sometime back. But India is silently shining. The surprising part is that the change is happening on the Engineering side of life. The engineering feats are not sexy like IT, where smart men and ladies market their achievements.  

I read a couple of news items today. I found them very interesting for a different reason. One of the articles was about railways, and the other was about DRDO. 

I will talk about the railways one first. When we speak of railways, we visualise historical systems, dirty platforms, and bogeys. In general, we get to remember inefficiency everywhere. But this article shares details about how a 20-year-old problem was resolved by Railway Engineering arm. The problem was about LHB coaches which were put into service; these were imported from Germany. There was a problem of coaches shaking, giving jolts while braking or at a higher speed. Railway team found a solution locally. There were about five thousand coaches involved. They replaced the Center Buffer Couplers with new design couplers. They also found that the usual braking method also caused these jolts. Hence they asked the drivers to use regenerative/dynamic braking system when speeds were above 30 Km/hr. With a combination of these two, jumping teacups and jolts have become history. There were 5000 such coaches, but with proper project management, the work on all of them was completed in two years. These stories don’t come out with fancy celebrations; these projects were done as part of routine practice. Great story to make everyone proud. 


The news above is another silent development of a highly complex military requirement of anti-tank missiles. Initially, the order was placed with Israel, who had a fierce competition with the US. This order was placed in 2014 for 351 launching systems and 8000 plus missiles worth US $ 500/ millions. Indian organisation DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organisation) was also in the process of developing the missiles locally. After successful second stage testing at Ahmednagar, the government decided to cancel the contract with Israel and go ahead with DRDO under Make In India initiative. These weapons are highly sophisticated and use infrared technology which has been proven during testing in hightemperature regions of Rajasthan deserts. No fanfare, the sheer hard work is the key to such success stories. Again this is the story of excellent project management where DRDO will deliver all the systems by 2021 as per requirements of the army! Kudos to DRDO. 

At the end of the second world war, Japan and Germany had lost, and many of their factories and cities were destroyed. All the treaties that were signed ensured that they would not resurrect rapidly. But somehow these nations rose literally from ashes like the Phoenix bird! All this was achieved due to the dedication, will power to excel and love for the nation.  

India, as we know today, became one nation for the first time at the time of independence. With the diversity of people, religions, languages, cultures, it was like Europe or much more complicated. Getting people together itself has been the greatest achievement of the last century, though we do not realise this. India has another significant problem. Our diverse culture has been very mature and has an old history of thousands of years. So, specific thoughts and beliefs are ingrained very firmly in our minds. We take time to change. Added to this was the large population. That India has survived and prospered is a miracle by itself.  

Slowly, we have started to learn to keep the diversity at home and now work together with professional pride as a single proud nation. Reading the above stories gives great hope to me about our great nation and people.  


The viaduct of Pune Metro!

There are many such stories which are known to us, and we have started taking things for granted. Metro railway is an institution built singlehandedly by the doyen of this technology E Sridharan. He was also instrumental in developing the Konkan railway system. The system was one of the most stringent projects to build because of the tricky mountainous terrain. What Sridharan did was a technological marvel, management marvel. All the projects handled by him were always completed on time.


Konkan Railway Bridge on the river Panval

My classmate Shashikant Limaye was the chief engineer for bridges on the Konkan Railway project. Shown above is the bridge designed by him on the river Panval (Yes it is supposedly near my native place Panval, where I have never been!). This bridge is 80 meters high from the ground level. It is considered a significant technical achievement in the project. How do people like Sridharan achieve such things? Looking into the smallest of the details has ensured everything works like clockwork on these projects. There is an exciting story about Sridharan. As the Metro lines started becoming operational in Delhi, he would visit different sectors every day to begin his work. Where he would go was not known to anyone. As he entered the station, he would bend and check if there was dust on staircases and escalators by wiping with his hand. What was the result of this dedication? Delhi, Jaipur, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Hyderabad, Lucknow are all having Metro lines or are in the process of installation. All projects have always been completed on time.  

These projects have proven that in India, we can do worldclass technical work and have excellent project management abilities. In the example of bogeys, do not forget that these bogeys were not in one place but spread all over India. The work was completed without hampering the regular services.  

We have been doing great things in Technology. ISRO has already proven that it is India’s showcase worldclass organisation. It competes and beats others from the world in quality, performance and equally importantly, costs! 

On the business side Reliance has done a fantastic job of creating world-class large business; they have proven the same again in their Jio venture too!

But somehow we are not able to go up the value chain in other areas where we can do it. I am talking about the IT industry. They started doing well in ’90 s of the last century with Y2K! They started making big money and started getting large service contracts. Such contracts led to making even more money. In 20 years, these companies became very large, and have so much money that they did not know what to do with that money. Recently they started buying back their own shares from the market. The buyback indicated that they had no plans for developing new skills and gaining expertise in more modern areas. They have still not shown the willingness to go up the value chain. They have the people, the money but lack the will! I sincerely hope that these companies invest some money, human resources, and efforts in creating world-class products! Don’t just become Billionaires; become proud owners of great products!  





EV Conundrum!



I am back to my favourite topic, Electric Vehicles or EV! A couple of days back there was a meeting called by NITI Ayog to discuss and decide EV policy for two-wheelers, in India. I am going to write only about the Indian scenario. My observation is that the electric four-vehicle of similar specification as the IC engine costs almost double the price. Plus per charge range of these vehicles is about 110 km. The specs are not good enough for the car to be used for out of station travel. With these limitations, it is going to be challenging to sell such vehicles. But in two-wheelers, I have observed that the price of EV’s is comparable with IC engine version. Distance travelled using two-wheelers is much less compared to four-wheelers. In India, parking two-wheelers at home is manageable compared to four-wheelers.

There are many angles to this issues. First and foremost is the fuel. With limited petroleum product reserves, there is bound to be a tough situation for the whole world if no action is taken, we will have difficulties. Add to this a new dimension; the US has threatened India to stop buying oil from Iran or else! If the US is so much worried about the whole world vis a vis Iran, then they should sell Oil to India at the same price as sold by Iran and that too in Rupees! But the US can get away with anything in diplomacy.

Petroleum product based fuels are adding to pollution is a known fact. The whole world is trying to reduce pollution by tightening the pollution norms, but apparently, there are limitations of investments to achieve the goals. Again the US has opted out of the body which is trying to track pollution world over. Again, it is the act of a bully.

All the nations are trying to reduce pollution in their cities and India is also trying its best. NITI Ayog meeting was held for the same purpose. Four-wheelers are still miles away from reaching the balance between the price targets and the cost. As four-wheelers will be expensive, their sales will not match current sales volumes at a price expected today. The second most crucial aspect in India is the challenge of charging the car batteries. Majority of the cars in India are parked in public places. Many of them are parked on roads and streets. How to provide a facility to charge batteries for such vehicles? Do we provide charging points on roads like we have parking meters? I don’t think that is a practical way of doing it. Another issue is that fast charging techniques are coming up but are still not good enough. With such limitations, NITI Ayog is trying to put pressure on the two-wheeler segment.

As already discussed, EV’s in this segment will have a comparable price, and because of lesser parking issues, charging the batteries using home electrical outlets may be possible. Charging is manageable; costs are manageable, and the number of these vehicles produced is very high. The number of two and three-wheelers manufactured in the latest financial year is 30 million plus. Total of fuel used by these vehicles is massive.  If totally converted to EVs, there can be a significant impact on pollution.

There are two groups in this segment. First and the main is the group of established manufacturers like Honda, Hero and Bajaj. They are already developing EVs. The second segment is the startups who are in the process of developing EVs. They have no hangups and are trying to support the government. But the established ones have the issue of scaling up. NITI Ayog is insisting that by 2025, majority two-wheelers manufactured should be EV’s. The Giants have a vast experience in manufacturing and can visualise or foresee the issues. Startups really don’t have manufacturing expertise and experience. They probably do not understand the meaning of manufacturing 2.5 million vehicles a month.

Now here is a complicated situation. Established manufacturers have to keep on producing IC Engine vehicles and ramp up EV production. Tremendous efforts and money will be needed. Startups may know the EV technology but do not have the wherewithal to manufacture one hundred thousand vehicles a month. Selling these numbers without the right experience is going to be very tough. What about funding? They are solely dependent on financing by VCs. Today I read an article about VCs trying to go away from electric vehicle manufacturers, in China, as there are too many variables. These startups will never get bank funding. Don’t forget that even Tesla is still a VC funded company! They are already facing production bottlenecks, and their sales are going down!

Will Lithium producers make a cartel like the petroleum cartel? It is a million dollar question. India does not have Lithium reserves, but China has done brilliantly. They have taken controlling shares in many mines across the globe. Till foreseeable future, it looks like the Lithium, and to some extent, Cobalt is going to be the key elements. Their control will be the key to success.


The cost of the battery pack was the US $1000/ kW-hr in 2010. In the year 2016, it came down $273. At this rate, the EV’s will become affordable over a period. By 2020 it is expected to be sub $200/. By 2026 the price is projected to be $100/. But till that time it is going to be a tricky question about change over. Those who can afford will buy the EV’s, but the mass production models will take some time to become affordable. In the countries, where parking of cars is an issue, it is difficult to predict what the solution will be.


One pertinent point discussed by NITI Ayog was that if the pollution goes out of hand, then the courts will intervene. Once that happens then, the discussion will be between manufacturers and the courts. NITI Ayog suggested that some policy decisions need to be taken while interested parties are involved in the debate; it will enable both sides to come to an excellent resolution.

It is more of a chicken and egg situation. It is known that EVs are good for pollution management. On one side, nobody even knows which startups will even survive five years hence. Hence there is no point in putting your money on them. But the existing giants have their issues. They need to run their current business, which has its unique problems. They have to simultaneously scale down and scale up for old and new business. Hence they have shown their apprehension with the year 2025. How will they come out of this conundrum is anybody’s guess.

Are Electric buses the real solution for pollution control and to take people away from personal vehicles?

996 or else!


You must be wondering if I am going to start writing blogs in the digital language of 010101. Don’t worry; I am not doing it! But what is this 996? Chinese companies now expect their employees to work from 9 to 9, all six days of the week! For workaholics that sounds like great news. But 996 workaholics, by choice, are rare. People do work longer hours. But can that be the reason enough to work 996, all the time? I don’t think so. No sane person can follow that schedule. If you work 9 to 9, all six days of the week, where do have time for family life, time for personal chores? Time for enjoyment and time for quick picnics. Spending time with spouse and children on the seventh day is out of the question because it is likely, that one will sleep it out on the seventh day! Below is the status of 996 people on Sunday!


How has this come up? Competition? Dictatorship? Fear of losing the job? Unrealistic goals? Or probably it is a combination of all the factors. Add to this, for international companies, with headquarters in America, and offices in Germany, Israel, India and China. Working with colleagues in different continents can play havoc on the lives of the people. In any organisation, the work is done by different teams in collaboration with each other. Hence there is a need for telephonic meetings regularly. But does it mean that 996 should be the norm? How longer hours will complete the complex jobs shown below, more efficiently?


Jack Ma, the big boss of the Chinese company Alibaba, says, “The 996 schedule – which means working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.” He further says that if you don’t work this way when you are young, when are you going to work hard? The question comes to mind what the definition of young is In a group of 100 people if 80 members are young and 20 are not so young, then can you have different timings for young and the not so young? He also feels that such a work regime has allowed Alibaba to become a giant on the world stage.

Why do we work? To win our bread and butter, to learn new things, to go ahead in our careers. How many of us are bothered about the last aspect? The main thing is to achieve, is to steadily get our bread and butter, to pay our bills on time. Educate the children and pass life peacefully. Not everybody is looking to become highly successful in life. Would such people be interested in 996? Would they be able to sustain 996?

I remember about a young engineering graduate who was in the US for his master’s degree, for a couple of years. He joined a company in Pune, where the atmosphere was not 996 but hectic. It was a group of smart engineers working to do some great technical work. Three months later, he went and met his boss and said, “I cannot work with such a smart group of people; probably this is not my taking.” Later he started playing bridge and made his career as a professional bridge player!


Is 996 feasible in the long term? I don’t think so. There is murmur going on, “family or ICU?” The 996 types of lifestyles are bound to create issues — even our 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle is against the fundamental requirement of the human body. Before the industrial revolution, our lifestyle was based on nature. Sunrise and Sunset would decide the daily routine. 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle also involves travel, business dinners and late meetings. So even this lifestyle is hectic. What made Jack Ma think that 996 is sustainable in the long term, I would not know.

Following two paragraphs are taken from a webpage

Working long hours at a company, devoid of any work-life balance, is rife in China’s tech industry. Earlier this week on Tuesday, a Github user with the name “996icu” created a webpage that he shared on GitHub, to protest against the “996” work culture in Chinese tech companies.

The 99icu webpage mentions the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, according to which, an employer can ask its employees to work long hours due to needs of production or businesses. But, the work time to be prolonged should not exceed 36 hours a week. Also, as per the Labor Law, employees following the “996” work schedule should be paid 2.275 times of their base salary. However, this is not the case in reality, and Chinese employees following the 996 work rule rarely get paid that much.

These two paragraphs indicate what is happening at the ground level. Can the developers come together and fight the system? I doubt, and it may not be possible even in the US as well as in India. But probably breaking laws in China appears to be blatant. Companies are getting away without being prosecuted by the authorities. The latest information says that 996 will be replaced by 10107! Ten AM to 10 PM seven days a week.

I understand the aspect of profitability in business. But will 996 achieve those numbers? It is evident that people are continuing this out of fear, and also because of no immediate options available. Years back I had met one engineer from Wipro on a flight. He said that his job was quite laid back, but every day he felt like changing his job. After office, he took 2 to 3 ½ hours to reach home. In 996 and 10107 the commute time is not even considered. I read on the website that someone changed residence and moved into not a very decent home, to reduce commute time.

Many companies are not into 996 or 10107, yet. But the number of hours put in plus the commute time makes it terrible. If both husband and wife are working, then the practical solution will be to look for jobs in areas nearby and move residence near the workplace. I know of a couple whose total daily commute time is six hours daily, minimum. One of them has a health issue and is required to exercise daily. But this is not possible due to commute time.

The Chinese colloquial term for a developer is “码农. Its literal English translation is “code peasants” — not the most flattering or respectful way to call software engineers. I call them white-collar workers on the lines of blue-collar workers. Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra group, had tweeted, “I feel as if I am a businessman from Dinosaur times.” He made this comment after he read a statement by Uber CEO that Uber will never become profitable! I have a run very small business all these years; I am also surprised that Amazon has never made any profits, ever! I am told that these are 996 companies!

Mr Naraynamurthy of Infosys had sent an email to all Infosys employees to make sure that they leave office on time. But his instructions have never been followed in the spirit! I have discussed with people working in larger companies, especially the coders. All of them have said that they can concentrate on their job for not more two hours at a time. If 996 culture is followed how much will be the real productivity is anybody’s guess.

996? 10107? To me, none of these makes sense but what is the option? We had apartheid! We had slavery! The only difference is that compensations are high in the new bondage! Hopefully, there will be an organised movement against these systems, so let us wait and see, fingers crossed!

End of the road for Diesel cars!

Maruti Suzuki declared today that they would not manufacture cars with diesel engines starting from 1st April 2020! That is the day on which BS 6 norms for pollution will be implemented in India. This time the government is very stringent, and it is declared that from this date, only the cars BS 6 norms will be registered. Forget the selling; there will be no registration of cars other than BS 6! It is a great thing that the government means business, now!


But is this the beginning of the tumultuous scenario in the automobile domain? Is it a mini tsunami? Has this statement started indicating the way things would happen in the auto industry? All these years life was much more straightforward; introduce a new model, play around a bit with the price and periodically change pollution norms when government forces you. The smooth ride was the norm! But a statement by Maruti says that the cost of development of BS 6 compliant diesel engine and the cost of making the BS 6 engine will be so high that in the small car segment, customers may not be able to afford them. Currently, the price difference between petrol and diesel model of a car is around Rs. One Lac. They feel that this difference could be Rs.2/ lacs for BS 6 cars ( ten lacs is a Million). On a vehicle costing Rs. 5 to 6 lacs, difference of two lacs will be too much, and customers may not be able to afford these cars. For cars/SUV’s costing Rs.10/ lacs and above, though the difference will be similar, % increase would not be high. How this sector will perform from next financial year needs to be watched. For SUV (both mini/standard) good news is Maruti Brezza will not be sold; hence manufacturers will rush to pick up the market share up for grabs. Maruti, however, has left the option open for 1.5 L diesel engine cars, used in Brezza.

Diesel engine cost issue due to BS 6, was expected. Volvo has already declared that they will stop making diesel cars when the norms change from Euro 6 to Euro 7, because of the cost of development and the price of the vehicle. Compared to trucks, the number of cars sold is much higher hence a smaller number of diesel cars will be better from the pollution angle.

Why did people use small cars with diesel engines? The lower price of diesel was the main reason. These cars cost approximately Rs. One lacs, plus plus, more than petrol cars. If the usage of vehicles was not enough, then owning such a car was not cost effective. On top of this, diesel engines have periodic mandatory maintenance cost which petrol cars don’t have. In many cases, it was not viable to own a diesel engine car.

With the imminent entry of Electric Vehicles in large numbers, the market is expected to be shaken further. In the late ’90s of the last century, Toyota came up with Prius, their first Hybrid car. (For those new to this subject, a hybrid car is one which runs on petrol and battery combination; each manufacturer has its own combination of the technology) It was expected that Hybrid would be the future and Toyota was expected to be the leaders. Yes, they are still the leaders in Hybrids. But a maverick called Elon Musk decided to plunge into EV’s. General Motors had manufactured around 500 EV’s at the beginning of this century, but then what happened? Petroleum lobby made sure that this initiative was killed. A few years later GM scrapped the vehicles.


Combination of Tesla’s efforts, cheaper battery sets (hopefully!) at some stage, fast charging technology are pushing humans towards EV’s. Range per charge still remains the primary concern. Add to this reduction in the price of solar systems is making cheaper fuel for the EV, the Electricity. Now, what is adding to making it more difficult for petroleum products further, are the pollution norms for diesel cars?

What will be the future of diesel engines in the car segment? In India, the overall car segment is under pressure. In the last financial year, four lac more old cars were sold than the number of new cars that were sold. It looks like more small vehicles are being sold in II and III tier cities. Will Maruti’s prediction about diesel engine cars affect thinking by other car manufacturers? Will they also go away from diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

The current financial year is going to be very tricky for car manufacturers. Let me explain what is involved, as the last date on which the BS IV car will be allowed to be registered. That date is 31/3/2020. To achieve this target, they will have to attempt and sell BS VI models from 1/1/2020. To meet this date, they will be required to push in BS VI vehicles from 1/10/2019. During this transition period, there will be tricky scenarios. BS IV cars will be produced less and less, but customers may want to buy them, as these will be cheaper than BS VI models. There is a possibility that in certain areas there will be customers and no cars; in other areas, there will be cars but no customers. All unsold BS IV cars will have to be sent back to manufacturers for conversion to BS VI at a considerable cost. Predicting requirement from 1/10/2019 to 31/3/2020 is going to be a nightmare for sales teams and along with them the dealers. The trend of lower sales is going to add to the difficulties further.

Will everything be hunky dory after 1/4/2020? That is again a very tough question. To achieve better fuel efficiencies and to go away from petroleum products, there will be efforts to introduce hybrid cars. But except Toyota, nobody has real expertise in this area. The predicted numbers for 2030 are 30 % EV’s, 30% Hybrids and balance IC engine cars, mostly petrol and CNG version. Does it mean that it is a death knell to diesel cars?

Another prediction by Maruti is that for small EV’s, where numbers are high in the typical small car segment, the volumes can be tricky as the price could be between 9 to 12 Lacs. This price is based on battery packs being manufacture in India. Larger cars will cost much more, but the high-price segment is less sensitive to the price tag. How the volumes will be achieved in EV’s, will be difficult to predict. I have not even discussed the charging station infrastructure issues! In India, most cars are parked on the roads for the night, so how and when will the charging be done?

At least in India, there is a significant turmoil about where the car market will go? Will Maruti continue to lead the pack? Will others follow Maruti and go away from small diesel engine cars? Only time will tell.

Electric Vehicle-another revisit!

During a surprise visit by my grandnephew last night, we went for a quick bite of Idli-Dosa. He works for Tesla. We, of course, discussed the merits and demerits of the Idli-Dosa one gets in the bay area. As usual, it was concluded that you can’t beat the “original” stuff you get in India (it need not be from Chennai, even Pune Dosa is better!) The main subject of discussion naturally, was about EV’s. The original EV maker is Tesla! In such a debate, there never is any conclusion. What one does is exchange information and knowledge. So here we go!  

The development and now the production of EV’s is gaining momentum for higher and higher volumes. China is leading the pack, and almost 50% of global EV production is done in China. Technology wise Tesla is way ahead of the competitors. Tesla vehicles smoothly go 300 miles and above per charge. In fast charging technology, Tesla is ahead of others; they can do it in 30 minutes. Looking at our Pune Bombay travel on Expressway, if the 30 min/300 miles combination is achieved by our car manufacturers, then it is easily possible to make a round trip, the way we are doing with IC engine cars today. The same is possible with Nashik, Kolhapur, Aurangabad. But our car manufacturers are still lagging behind Tesla in the above combination.  

How fast can the EV’s come in daily use and what could be the limitations for them? What will affect the quick proliferation of EV’s? Other than Tesla all giants like Toyota, Honda, GM, Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat have the knowhow to make cars in large numbers, In fact, they have decades of experience in this field. But they are behind in Electric drive technologies and batteries needed for EV’s.  Tesla will struggle to reach large numbers like other giants. Elon Musk twitted Tesla achievement of producing 6000 in a week for the first time in the history of Tesla; Ford Europe CEO congratulated him on the twitter, “Elon congratulations on the great achievement! For your information, we achieve these numbers in four hours”!  This shows that replacing IC engine cars by EV’s in a significant way is not going to be so easy, yet. 

Except for Tesla, most companies making EV’s are having joint ventures, different joint ventures in different countries. Toyota has joined hands with Suzuki in India. They have jointly come together in India with Toshiba to make battery packs! It is interesting to note that Suzuki will make EV’s in India for Toyota too! For EV’s, Toyota is providing technology to Suzuki. Toyota has joined hands with Mazda for making EV’s in the US. What Google and Apple will come out with, is anybody’s guess. But there is a big drive going on for driverless cars. It is expected that in the US driverless cars or their variants may come faster than EV’s.  

Other than the points mentioned above, what factors will decide the proliferation of EV’s. If we see country wise, smaller countries might be able to handle this better because of geography. Creating charging infrastructure, changing laws, changing insurance policies will be much easier to incorporate. With the same logic, the EV numbers will go up in large countries, states or regions. Like in the USA, proliferation will be quite swift on the west and east coast but will take time in mid-Americas because of low population density and vast distances; add to that mountainous regions. 

One exciting event took place. A couple of weeks back, Tesla has opened up all its patents to the general public for use. Musk declared, “We are aware that Tesla alone can not achieve the car volumes required to improve the environment. We are opening up all our patents to everybody with a hope that this will improve EV production volumes fast.”

Similarly, in India, this will occur around metros like Delhi-NCR, Mumbai-Pune. Chennai-Bangalore, Surat-Vadodara-Ahmedabad. There are more such areas in India. But India has similar problems with long distances in rural areas with less car usage. But it will take some time of coast to coast driving in the US, and Kashmir to Kanyakumari drives in India to happen regularly.


The graph above shows the reserves of Lithium in Metric tons in the year 2017. Lithium could be the next oil, and the top four could form the next Cartel, the Lithium Cartel. The battery pack is going to be the most crucial part that is going to limit the production of EV’s. As per current technology available, Lithium is the raw material for batteries. The four nations above are going to be next Arabs for the auto industry. The auto industry is one of the significant consumers of petroleum-based products. As EV production goes up, Arabs and other cartel members will come together and reduce petroleum prices; using IC engine cars will remain more attractive. This will make it attractive to make IC engine cars. So, what will be the product mix in 2030? That will be decided by many factors. 

The product mix in the year 2030 is predicted to be 35:35:30 of EV’s, Hybrids and IC Engine cars. The combination could vary a bit, but the general proportion will be as above. EV’s will be controlled by how car manufacturers other than Tesla adopt and ramp up with the limiting conditions of per charge mileage, least possible charging time and availability of battery packs.   

Hybrids are a combination of Electric drive and IC Engine drive. Hybrids are forced by the requirements of environmental norms; hybrids have a better carbon footprint compared to IC Engine vehicles. The volume of EV ramp-up will not be sufficient to achieve global improvement of environmental standards; hybrid will provide some relief.  

IC engine cars will contain a predictably higher percentage of Petrol cars. Diesel Engine cars are expected to get a major jolt by the year 2022/23 when Euro 7 norms come into existence. These norms will be extremely challenging for diesel engine manufacturers. The cost of development and manufacture of Euro 7 compliant diesel engines can be prohibitive. Volvo has already decided not to manufacture Euro 7 compliant diesel engines for cars.  

It appears that if Electric buses are made available, they will be quite useful and practical. In Pune, about ten Electric buses have started plying on the roads, about ten days back. On the first day, approximately forty thousand people travelled on these buses. Bus application is going to help the improvement of the environment in a big way. Today most of the buses everywhere are run on diesel. They are very polluting, extremely noisy and many times people travel in them because of the lack of other viable options.  

One interesting aspect I must mention. When EV’s are produced in large numbers, industries like casting, forging, heat treatment, furnaces will move towards extinction. Same will be with the car service industry. But as almost 70 % of cars are expected to have IC engines even in 2030, these industries will have more time to handle the life-threatening change.  

My personal experience with EV’s is minimal. I have visited Tesla showrooms a couple of times during my visits to Seattle. In our condo in Pune, a couple of people own Electric Scooters. I drove one of them for a few minutes. The feel was excellent. I have enjoyed a few rides in the Toyota Prius, the Hybrid, and it was a very pleasing experience. 

I am looking forward to owning an Electric Vehicle.  When? It is anybody’s guess!


Jingoism or Pragmatism!

Years back when Japan started exporting good cars to the USA in a big way in the ’80 s of the last century, there was a lot of noise created in the US! The US decided that this needs to be handled at the highest level. During a visit of a President of the US, they had informed the Japanese government that the President would push Japanese to open their market for American cars. Japanese agreed immediately. During the meeting it was it was declared officially. When the detailing was being worked out, Americans found that American car makers, engineering-wise, were unprepared, to make right-hand drive cars needed in Japan. They lost ¾ years in this! Rest as they say is history.

In the last few years, the winds against the so-called free trade have started blowing in the USA! Even in Britain, Brexit has happened, and Britain is hoping to walk out of the European Union. Brexit is a classic case of a referendum. The young people who did not want Brexit were too busy to take part in the poll. The seniors did. Currently, the British people have a significant advantage of visa-less travel to Europe. The young brigade could jump to holiday locations, for a job or weekend excursions to the places of their choice. British business had a big, trade barrier-free market available to them. Current British Government is trying its best to find a face-saving formula or do what the majority population wants. (even though referendum said otherwise) Another option may be a second referendum.

Every nation, every society needs to look after self-interest and self-respect. As the country grows, its business grows. The business growth will make the nation and its people proud. Value-added growth could happen when modern products and services are developed in the nation internally. The business needs support from the government, for such a growth. The Indian government is attempting to follow this method. When they sign a contract for import of high technology defence items like radar, planes etc. they try to ensure that the deal is in two parts. Initially, India imports some quantities fully assembled; later at least 30% of production is done in India along with some local partners. Make in India is the name of this project. The results of such initiatives will be seen 20 or 30 years hence.

Why do nations change their thought processes? A country like the United States is technologically the most advanced nation in the world. In the last 50 years, they have many world-class organisations, especially in the IT field. Most of the other countries play the catch-up game with them. They have created world-class hardware and software products like iPhone, Android OS, Windows OS, Microsoft Office to name a few of them. They are also famous for aircraft manufacturing facilities. But where hardware manufacturing was involved, they slowly moved production to China. China also has done a terrific job of going up the value chain; China is now called the world’s manufacturing setup.   Similarly, India has become back office of the world. Since the last couple of years, India is also trying to go up the value chain.


With the election of Trump, thinking in the US has started changing. Why did this happen? When we refer to the USA, we think only of the East coast and the West coast. We never bother regarding the Rust Belt. Rust Belt is the American midwestern area where industries went into decline due to various reasons. The decrease is mainly in sectors like steel, mining and to some extent automobile.  Add to that the local culture which went into a social rot. The problems of this area can be understood if you read a book called “HillyBilly Elegy” by D Vance.

We will understand better, Trump’s election victory, after reading this book. Jingoism has started after the win and America began to looking inwards by having tariff wars with China and India. Trade wars also led to the wave, “Make in America”!

History repeats due to lack of proper planning. Apple is the classic case of Make In America failure. There is the story “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be Assembled in the U.S.A.” in New York Times. Apple started churning out great products in the last decade, after struggling since ’80 s of the previous century. They wanted to make the most of it and began subcontracting work. This improved their profitability. Over a period, they shifted all their assembly work in China to Foxconn. Most of the significant components in iPhone were made in the USA or other parts of the world. Assemblies and small parts were made in China. As assemblies entirely moved to China, US industries were left with unused capacity for many small items, and they closed shop or moved to other business. The classic case is of a non-standard screw needed in the assembly. China can produce any quantity of such screws. When an attempt was made to move production back to the USA, capabilities for producing such items were found missing. On top of this, Chinese wages are the US $ 2.10/hr for workers as against the US rates which are very high. On top of this, the totalitarian regime in China does not bother about labour laws. Meeting the targets are achieved by waking up the workers from home at night (when required) and are made to work the night shift. Getting people out of bed for factory work is not possible with US laws and culture.

Jingoism does not solve the problems; it merely creates an unhealthy atmosphere. In the case of Apple, history is getting repeated as it did in the case of cars in the last century! Governments and industry both need to be pragmatic. Apple is facing another issue. The iPhones assembled in China get a tag “Made in China”! The US government wants to charge high tariffs on “Made in China” items. On one side iPhone sells are sliding, margins are slipping; market capitalisation is dropping fast. Higher tariffs will add to Apple’s woes!

While taking any decisions in life, especially when these decisions are business related pragmatism should come to the fore and not Jingoism. The British decided in the referendum about Brexit. The analysis found that high % of citizens in the group above 55 age were for Brexit. Whereas against Brexit was a mixed group, young and old. Brexit is going to create problems for the young ones.

Jingoism takes a society towards a situation where governments promise something during an election or political rhetoric but are not able to deliver — not being pragmatic leads to further churning. Governments try to show their strength by taking a firm stand which is not sustainable. Politicians remain in political mode all the time leading to Jingoism.

Hope the leaders and nations who are following the path of Jingoism learn their lessons quickly; otherwise, the voters correct the same anyway. But for the period till next election, a lot of damage is done to the fabric of the society, and most importantly economic setbacks can cause long term damage to all concerned.

Small is also big!

Whenever we discuss progress, we talk about the contribution of large-scale projects; they help the nations in a big way. Yes, the contribution of such projects is enormous, but we tend to forget the small contributions made by the tiny business. Their changes can be called incremental or delta changes (In mathematical terms). There are hundreds of thousands of small companies that also help society and nation to grow. These small businesses together also make a significant contribution.

In Marathi, there is a term called खारीचा वाटा, a contribution made by a Squirrel. Squirrels are very tiny, and they can carry small things held their mouth. But they are busy animals and do a lot of work in a short period. The term खारीचा वाटा has come from a mythological story. Lord Ram was trying to cross the sea to go to Sri Lanka. Sita was taken to Lanka by the demon Ravana. An army of monkeys led by Hanuman was putting large boulders in the sea to make a bridge. A squirrel saw this and helped in her own way to build the bridge. He picked up small twigs and made many trips to support the bridge creation. Ram was impressed by squirrel’s contribution. He picked him up and caressed him by using three fingers on the back. Squirrels have three lines on the back as a result of this caress. Ok, enough of mythology.

Small contributions, small improvements, small habits can all contribute in a big way if done consistently. Small continuous improvements are made famous by the Japanese technique of Kaizen. (カイゼン) Kaizen is the Japanese word for “efficiency”. In business, kaizen refers to activities that continually improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers. It also applies to processes, such as purchasing and logistics, that cross organisational boundaries into the supply chain. Healthcare, psychotherapy, life-coaching, government and banking sectors implement Kaizen.

How do small changes improve things? How are they helpful? I read about the British Cycling team. Till the year 2003 British team was also-ran team in all the tournaments. Their reputation was so bad that the reputed cycle companies avoided selling any bikes to them. In the year 2003, the British Cycling Association appointed Dave Brailsford as new performance director. Since 1908 they had one gold medal in the Olympics and had never won the Tour de France race in 110 years.

Brailsford had a relentless policy known as “the aggregation of marginal gains”. He felt that everything involved in cycling should be looked into for improvement. Even if it gave 1% improvement, it was used. They tried different massage gels which improved recovery time of muscles. They determined what type of pillows and mattresses should be used so that athletes slept well. Many more such changes indirectly affecting the cycling performance were made. But these things improved the lifestyle of athletes which in turn helped them develop better cycling skills. They also used improved seats, quality of tyres and such things which directly affected the performance.

In five years after Brailsford took over, the British team dominated the track and field event in 2008 Beijing Olympics and won 60% of all the Gold medals. In 2012 London Olympics, the group broke nine Olympic records and seven world records. That same year, Bradley Wiggins became the first Britisher to win Tour de France race for the first time. Next year his team-mate Chris Froome won the race and went on winning for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017! Between 2007 and 2017 the British team won 178 world championships, 66 Olympic medals.

The above records show the contribution of 1% improvement model. Sometimes improvements are quite small, sometimes these are not even noticed. These minor improvements are helpful when they are done consistently. Imagine 1% improvement every day for one year, i.e. 365 days. See the maths. There will be an astounding improvement of 3.7 times compared to what you were doing on the first day. The reverse is all equally true. Imagine you are doing 1% worse every day. You will not take much time to reach the zero level.

The small habits that we form are like compound interest earned on money deposited in the bank. It is better than the simple interest earned. Don’t do good things once in a while; if you want to become a good reader, read every day, every week.  If you’re going to remain fit go to the gym every week. Go for those long walks you tried to take, regularly. Maybe going on every Sunday is a good idea.

Look at the way how Kaizen helps. Consider a process in which the operator has to bend twice, per cycle. At some stage, the operator will get tired, and his efficiency will go down. Study the process and try to eliminate at least one time bending to start with the improvement. The change is bound to improve productivity. All the Kaizen methods are based on common sense and are quite cost-effective. But for this, a detailed review has to be made for the process. There is a case study where using common sense, a significant cost saving was achieved. Two equipments were kept next to each other. A component processed on the first machine was fed to the next device. It was done manually. The simple solution was provided by increasing the height of the first machine. The component was pushed to the following equipment by providing a chute!

I wrote about habits in details in my blog last week.

A group of about 12 bees in their lifetime will produce a teaspoon of honey between them. The quantity is a negligible quantity, but thousands of bees together produce honey which is commercially sold. Similarly, an ant individually is tiny. But all of them together build their large colonies, take away things from our homes. It is the small contribution that does this work.

Friends, I have shared some of the methods about which I have come across, and I found out that consistent, small contributions are crucial to the success of individuals personally and professionally. Large companies are equally important, but that does not mean that small enterprises can be neglected. Both should be treated on par!

Think small consistently and improve significantly in the long run!