Slowdown! Recession and the cycle! 

Economic cycleThe science of economy is something which I don’t understand, seriously! Noble laureates give their theories, experts write essays, but an engineer like me understands only physics. Whatever goes up must come down! It is the theory of gravity. Sometimes it goes up slowly and comes down fast with a thud. Sometimes both speeds are similar. Economic growth goes up swiftly and comes down slowly sometimes. India has been lucky that it came out of the 2008 recession reasonably unscathed and bounced back for the last eight years to a decent growth rate of 6 to 8%.

Many factors lead to growth. Similarly, different factors slow down the economy. These factors are market sentiment, buying power, and so on; the Indian economy since independence did not show correct growth due to a parallel economy. The parallel economy, in the local language, is called Black Money. What is black money, and how does it get generated? Many businesses like construction, land dealings, trade pay each other by cash. Cash payment is made to avoid Income Tax. A part of business activity is never shown on paper. When there is “no business” there is no profit hence no Income Tax. The parallel economy also grew because of unprecedented corruption activity. Nobody takes bribe by cheque, so spending is also done in cash.

In some cases, corruption is in kind by gifting condos, high-end cars, or items which can be bought in cash. Such gifting is done in the name of non-earning spouse or a relative. In Many cases, such assets are “Benami” assets in the name of one’s sweepers, peons and drivers. In a recent interview, Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra said that the economy has been going through a process of ‘detoxification’. Since the negative impact of disruptions is now over, the economy is expected to see an upside in FY21, Bloomberg TV reported Chairman Mahindra as saying at an event in Davos, Switzerland. “The prime minister has been quite obsessed with the kind of growth he wants, and that is transparent, free of corruption” Mahindra also said. He also felt that the upcoming budget is expected to be watched closely by different quarters of the economy amid the slowdown.

The Indian economy is seeing a slowdown for some time now on account of a fall in consumption and demand. The government announced a slew of measures in the past few months to revive growth ranging from bank recapitalisation and boost in liquidity.

The perception right now is that government actions caused the slowdown. But on the other hand, if you are going to detox yourself, you always have a process of cleansing before you start recovering and running again. Demonetisation and GST were the part of disruptions that have now ended, and the economy is already seeing signs of life. From the next fiscal, India will surprise the world on the upside is the general market sentiment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently slashed the growth estimates for both the Indian and the global economy. The global growth is expected to reach 3.3 per cent in 2020, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2019, the slowest pace since the financial crisis a decade ago. The Washington-based international crisis lender revised downward India’s GDP growth projection to 4.8 per cent for FY20 and 5.8 per cent for FY21. “India’s domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in the non-bank financial sector and a decline in credit growth,” the IMF report said.

Detoxification had to be done. It has not eliminated black money. But the reports say that it is reduced to some degree. The government is relentlessly after the businesses and businessmen who have cheated their customers and banks. People like Modi and Mallya are in jail in Britain. Other business people like Sahara Subrata Roy, D S Kulkarni, Wadhawan are in prison. Unitech projects have been taken over by the government to give homes to 21000 people like you and me. The authorities did not have the guts to detoxify the banking system in olden days. The detoxification process has started bringing out huge NPA’s (non-performing assets) of many banks. These NPA’s were created with the help of bank employees sometimes. But many times, the businessmen cheated the banks. Under the garb of hidden NPA’s our economy was “doing well”. When the cleansing act began a few years back, the loan sanctioning processes became a little tougher. The result of more scrutiny was that credit availability came down. When the available credit comes down, business activity slows down. It is a spiral that any economy dreads. But system correction was a must.

recession1recession2

Growth any any country cannot be perpetually high. As the base increases rate of growth is bound to come down.

On one side, the automotive industry has slowed down, but there are reasons like availability of Ola’s and Uber’s of this world. But there is a surprise that the SUV introduced by KIA is selling like hotcakes. There is going to be one more hurdle here; the government is pushing for Electric Cars or initially more efficient IC Engine Hybrid cars. These cars will be more expensive than current IC Engine cars; the young generation is now changing their thought process. They don’t buy cars, but prefer Uber and Ola; they rent homes instead of buying homes. India has now become number two in the world behind China for the Smart Phone market. Spending ways are changing.

I am happy about this downturn for another reason. Gita Gopinath from IMF explained that the Indian recession has caused a 0.1 % reduction in the growth rate in the world economy. It indicates that India is not a small cog in the world economic wheel. At the same time, she has also said that the worst for the Indian economy is over, and it will start the upward movement in growth rate from this year 2020! The statement will disturb some people because they hoped that bad times would continue. Each group has his/her agenda! Some for political reasons and others for TRP reasons! The lousy news is THE news!

Indian economic experts had made similar predictions and statements! But we believe in someone who sits in cool climes; even if the person is desi, it is okay! Old habits die hard!

I have observed an interesting thing in international diplomacy. Turkey and Malaysia had no business to poke their nose in the internal affairs of India. They made some statements which were not necessary. When India protested, they continued in the same vein expecting the docile Indian response of yester years. But they must have got a shock of their life. India kicked them where it really hurts. India had ordered one ship worth US $2.2/ billions, on Turkey; it was put on hold. For Malaysia, India was the most significant customer of refined palm oil. A few hints here and there, the purchase pattern changed within a few months. Indian traders switched over to Indonesian palm oil. Malaysia was shocked, and they have no option but to accept it. Their prime minister accepted that Malaysia is too small to retaliate. They are trying to offer some sweet deals to India. But India is ignoring them.

Friends, in the economy of any country and for that matter world, there are always cycles of growth and downturn. A downturn can be because of market sentiments, inflation and sometimes the combination of two, stagflation. The experts of every country find ways that suit their economy. Japan for years is not doing great because of their efficient methods of working. The Japanese markets are too small for some of their giants like Toyota, Honda, Docomo. They have no option but to export and open plants in different countries. The German case is also like Japan because its economy is entirely dependent on the exports of superb engineering products. The economies of different countries are now changing from a global open market to the one which is suitable for own requirements. The US has become a leader of such self centered thoughts.

It is going to be a game of diplomacy where each country will look for ways which will be to their benefit only. Brexit is a latest classic example of this thought process. In each country, the opposition plays the political games of troubling the incumbent governments. Whichever is the government in any country, they can make mistakes, but they all put the interest of the country ahead of everything else.

For commoners like you and me, it is necessary to be remember that economic activity is a cyclic process. It goes down and then it bounces back; we need not worry about these issues.

 

 

 

 

Reporters and their ilk! 

What is a reporter? Who is a reporter? A reporter is a person who reports, especially one employed to communicate news or conduct interviews for the press or broadcasting media. Now the definition of press, broadcasting media itself is changing. Methods of collecting information to reach the readers are fast changing. am confused about what a reporter is. 

In mythology, the well-known reporter was Narad Muni. He was known to pass on information (or rumours) wherever he went.  

Narad was a master of the Sankhya and Yoga systems of philosophy, conversant with sciences of war and treaty and proficient in concluding by judging things, not within direct knowledge. He knew about the six sciences of the settlement, war, military campaigns, maintenance of posts against the enemy and strategies of ambushes and reserves. He was a thorough master of every branch of learning. He was fond of war and music; he was capable incapable of being repulsed by any science or any course of action. But he was cursed by Gods that most of the people will not believe in whatever he said.  

Jornalism2

It looks like the definition of today’s reporter! The knowalls! In the western media, the days of printed news are numbered. The simple reason being the proliferation of news apps and online portals. The young people and millennials read their news online. In western countries, the concept of receiving printed newspapers at home and office are almost gone. Old school people like me still prefer to “read” the paper as the newspaper is called. 

A nephew of mine once (ages back) told me a story; he had just started to read newspapers. I told him that something is wrong in the story about which he spoke. The nephew said, “But Pramod kaka, I read it in today’s paper, so it must be true.” I told him, “I will give an advertisement in the same newspaper tomorrow and declare that my nephew is an idiot. Tomorrow it will become true because it is printed in the paper. Buddy, the reporters, can and do make errors.” He said, “Now I understand.” The story is shared just to indicate how we were trained to believe in the printed word. 

So what is it that the reporter supposed to do? With the internet, everything is changing very rapidly. News media was described as the fourth estate of society. The first three being the clergy, the nobles and the commoners. The fourth estate was news walas and the media. But now the internet is defined as the fifth estate. The internet is rapidly changing the way the fourth estate works. Don’t be surprised if the fourth estate becomes the poor cousin of the fifth estate.  

Journalism1

But what are THE reporters doing in India Many of them look as if they are descendants of Narad. They think they know every subject in the world. Not only that but they are experts in all the issues. 

There are exceptions to this rule. We have Sunandan Lele who has been reporting on cricket for a long time. But he sticks to cricket all the time. Besides reporting, he writes a few articles, but those too are about cricket. Harsha Bhogale is another such expert who talks, gives commentary, writes only about cricket. But these are honourable exceptions. There may be a few in other fields too. It is no surprise that Sunil Gavaskar talks, writes only about cricket; he was India’s cricket superstar in yesteryears. 

But some of them do not follow basic rules. There was a news item in the papers today, which was a statement made by Alia Bhat. Newspapers reported that she was hurt during the shooting of some movie. Alia Bhat has given a statement, “I request people to check before referring to some news. What happened was that during the shoot, my old injury started “talking” again.” When people come to know about an accident about our near one, we become anxious. Till all the near ones come to know that it was the old injury, they keep on calling. Why not check before reporting? It is simple logic. It is ok to “talk” about affairs, flings and so on. These are part of Bollywood glamour folklore. But in this case, too, there should be a limit. They should not hound a person like it was done recently in the case of Meghan and Harry. Imagine the mindset of Prince Harry. His mother, Diana, was bothered by press people and the Paparrazi. She died in a car accident while Papparzi were chasing her. During his childhood and adolescent years, Harry has seen that the press behaved with Diana poorlySimilar behaviour with his fiancé and later the wife Meghan must have brought those memories back. He ultimately withdrew from the royalty!  

The argument put forth by the news people is that they are doing their job; it means that they have to earn money for their channel/paper by means fo ensuring that TRP (Target Rating Point) remains high. Nowhere has anyone told them to break the privacy of anyone. A few years back, they used the telescopic lens to photograph Kate, the Princess of Oxford, in the privacy of her beach. One person’s rights cannot be at the cost of another person’s privacy. It is said that this is the cost of being a celebrity. A celebrity is also a human being. In the case of Harry, he is a celebrity because he was born in a royal family. He loves his privacy more than his celebrity status.  

About TV channels less said, the better. The duties of a journalist are to uphold truth, unbiased reporting, serving the public as a watchdogToday these things remain only on paper. In today’s times, both anchors and the owners of the organisations are hypocrites. They are highly opinionated. Republic TV, India Today, Times Now and NDTV are at the forefront of this reporting. Today while watching the news on NDTV, during break they showed Kanhaiya Kumar reading the preamble to the constitution. Do we need to know whom NDTV is supporting? I am okay if they formally work as a mouthpiece of a particular party. But don’t call yourself a leading channel for the betterment of society and following responsible journalism. What does one say about Arnab GoswamiRajdeep Sardesai used Modi’s victory in 2019 to write a book “How Modi won India?” His twitter handle says that the only ism I am following is Humanism! Modi is right for the business, but when it comes to politics, anything that suits on a particular day is the direction Rajdeep’s ship takes!  

What should we make of all these complex issues? Which news to believe? Okay, there are some sites which tell us about false news and false photos. How do we know the exact situationThe good idea is to see the websites of established newspapers. They at least give the news correctly. Their analysis, justification, commentary will be as per their leaning left/right or centre! BBC at least tries to be balanced, sometimes. But New York Times and Washington post are dead against us on almost everything. The articles in such papers are written by people of Indian origin who live in the US. There was an article written by Kashmiri Pandit scholar lady. Living in the cool climes of the University, she claimed that nothing wrong has happened with Pandits. They have excellent relations with Muslims in Kashmir. She is a third-generation US citizen! 

What is the solution for you and me? Don’t believe things on unknown social media forwards. When it is reported that all the Bollywood is against something, it translates into 15/20 of social media savvy guys are writing and making a show. Someone does it because that person’s movie is being released. There are 5 lacs (five hundred thousand) people working in Bollywood. Some people want top cricketers and Bollywood stars to comment on every subject. The wise ones don’t because they know their limitations. They have expertise in a different area. Common people are made to protest blocking main roads in the dead of winter. It is continued for months together. All the “Leaders” sleep in their cosy homes in warm blankets. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Are we ready? 

The year is 2029. The family is eagerly awaiting the birth of the child in the family. As the time comes nearer, the lady is in the labour room. Finally, a baby girl is born. The doctors give a couple of pats on her bottom, and she starts crying. All is well! Everybody is happy and thrilled. The waiting family takes a look at the baby girl who is naturally crying. Doctors tell the family that once the baby starts sucking the mothers breast, she will stop cryingThe baby sucks and stops after fifteen minutes. The mother hopes that she will finally be able to sleep at least for some time.  

But no, the baby starts crying again. An hour passes, but she doesn’t stop crying. Finally, they call the paediatrician again. Doctors phone rings while she is checking the baby. Two-three rings of Mozart’s Allegro 5 and the baby stops crying. The baby stops crying instantly. She is a smart doctor. She asks the mother, “Did you listen to a lot of Jazz during pregnancy?” The mother smiles. The doctor says, “Put some music on when the baby cries non-stop. She is used to your heartbeats and the Jazz. Buy a pair of headphones for the baby too!”  

Okay, this is fantasy but nothing surprising. In the last two decades, our lifestyle has completely changed. WWW, Internet, Social media have touched our life everywhere. Where it will reach in the future, we do not know. In the first decade, we felt that it is okay for senior citizens to stay away from these things. But the rapid proliferation of cell phones has changed many things.  

Bill Gates had made some predictions in 1999. All of them have become reality in the two decades. 

https://www.businessinsider.in/Bill-Gates-made-these-15-predictions-in-1999-its-scary-how-accurate-he-was/11-Online-discussion-boards/slideshow/47090642.cms 

It is both scary and fascinating at the same time. It shows his visionIt shows his smart thinking. Not bad for a college dropout- don’t forget that he was admitted to Harvard before he dropped out.  

The most surprising aspect is that Microsoft is the only company that has remained in the top ten performing companies list during this continuous transition period. They had products with them which were futureready. They were required to make changes to suit the changes in hardware and internet speeds. Their top products are the operating system (they lost out to Google on Cellphone OS), Office needs no introduction. They have gone towards cloud computing using Azure. They are offering storage- free as well as paid using one drive. We talk of Google when we search on the web. But you may not be aware that Bing, the Microsoft search engine, is used by Facebook.  My prediction is that Microsoft will be a top performer in the coming decade too.  

Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other chat sites had a phenomenal growth during the last decade. But I feel that they have reached their plateau. Now future growth could be average, or they will face fierce competition. Honestly, I don’t know who those competitors will be. 

Finance and banking sector will change drastically in the coming decade. I had two diametrically opposite experiences in the last fifteen days. I had made a couple of iTwitternvestments in equity and Mutual fund. I wanted to redeem both of them. For the mutual fund investment, I had to go to their office physically, wait till my turn came. My work was finished in ten minutes. But I had to travel for about two hours. Whereas in the equity-based investment, my experience was different. 

To begin with, I found out that the management had changed and the name of the company was different. I could locate my portfolio without logging in based on PAN number. I was wondering about the next step, and I saw the button “Call me”! I entered my cell number, and lo I got the callback within in minute, at 8 pm. The person guided me through the procedure; my user id was an extinct email id. He changed it for me online to my present email id recorded with them. I redeemed my investment in ten minutes again, but the system helped me to eliminate the two-hour travel. 

I bought an internet TV recently. Well, internet TV is a TV which is connected to the internet. So, there are distinct advantages. Jaya’s and my cell phones are of the same make as TV. In a zip, they have become additional remote controls. I have not bought Alexa, but finally, now someone in the house listens to me, the TV. Thanks to Google assistant (OS on the TV is Android) I can instruct the TV to do a few things.  

Am I getting too techy? But friends the world is becoming techy to help us perform our day to day things. No point in remaining away from these things. Take help of your grandchildren if required. My six-year-old granddaughter Rhea was talking to us on WhatsApp video call. Suddenly she said, hold on for a moment. I was wondering what she was going to do next. She said, “Now let’s group chat, I have taken so and so on the call.” Thank you, Rhea! 🙂🙂 

What I see in future is that we will have to use the technology, whether we like it or not. Traffic police stop you and ask you for the documents. Now you can’t carry all the original documents in the car. If the vehicle gets stolen along with the papers, god bless you! So, what is the alternative? Well, whether you are twenty or seventy, you need to show the documents like License, the RC book and maybe Vehicle Insurance policy. Simple it is. Open your Digi locker on your cell phone and display all these documents. It is now legal to show the documents on Digi locker. I was coming by an Uber one day. While chatting with the driver, he told me, “A policeman stopped me for a minor traffic dispute. I showed the license to him. He took it away and returned it after fifteen days; I could not use my taxi for those fifteen days.” When I told him about Digi locker, he was thrilled.  

But don’t forget that technology can make mistakes too! A technological error saved the world recently from major conflict. Yes, I am talking of Iran shooting down Ukrainian commercial aircraft. Iranian radar system made an error in judging if it were enemy aircraft or a neutral aircraft. The conflict was saved at the cost of 172 innocent people.  

Technology will have different effects in future. Technology will handle remote car repairs, and you will have driverless cars. But the similar technology will run Uber and Ola. So, people may buy fewer cars. Electrical Vehicles will turn the car business on ithead because twenty parts will replace 2000 parts from the drivetrain. Technology will help invent new drugs and investigation tools. It will bring down the death rate, but technology will make humans redundant in some areas. So many areas, jobs will not be created but will be lost! 

But you and I cannot prevent technological development, newer and better technologies. So, the right idea is to keep abreast with new stuff and start using it. It is no surprise that four-year kids take photos on cell phones, and do many other things. I am sure that in future eighty five-year-olds also will also use technology for everything.

 

 

 

 

 

Kar Chale Hum Fida! कर चले हम फ़िदा! 

कर चले हम फ़िदा is a serious song from the film Haqeeqat sung with high emotions by Mohamad Rafi!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6yTCblgAQQ

I have used it as a marketing gimmick to attract your attention, you will say! You are not wrong, but the subject of the blog is similar. How to prepare for our final journey! The Rafi song is based on the war that we had with China in 1962. Don’t be surprised if your eyes are moistened when you see the video!

The subject for the blog is equally serious, but I have written matter of fact things about our assets that we leave behind when our journey ends. No need to have moistened eyes, we are all going to end our journey at some stage, and it is not a big deal!

We all go through ups and downs in life. But over a period, we keep on accumulating assets. We all hopefully end up with some cash- it could be in the form of money, FD’s and other financial instruments like Mutual Funds or Shares etc. We might end up having homes, flats, land and other such properties.

Though we don’t know the day and time of our final journey, it is a good idea to prepare for it well in advance- when we handover stuff to the next generation. You must be wondering about what is Pramod talking? To start with, it is essential to make your WILL. I have seen two opinions about the WILL. Oh, do you think I am going to die? What is the hurry? I have only one child, so does it matter if there is no WILL? Yes, it does matter. God forbid, but you may have the only child who is more bothered about your assets than you. I know of stories when one of the spouses expired; during those emotion-filled days, the child had taken away all the assets from the remaining parent. I am not going to use legal terms, but it suffices to say that you must have your WILL. Everything should (or WILL) go to the remaining spouse on the death of a spouse. After the death of the second spouse, everything needs to be distributed as per WILL. Don’t forget that the WILLS do get challenged; then it needs to be resolved. But the WILL is the document which supersedes all the other things like nomination.

Okay, you have made your WILL, but are the documents perfect. Let me tell you from my experience that the papers are far from perfect. In banks, everything will go wrong if it has to go wrong. We have so much faith in the system that we believe entirely in whatever is printed. It is not; banks make simple mistakes. We have been banking with a public sector bank since 1976. I get excellent service. But there are errors galore.

I went to a financial institution where they asked me to submit a cancelled cheque and the first page of bank passbook, as the cheque did not bear my name. While submitting various documents, I was dumbstruck. The bar code on the cover indicated my account, and I had carried the cheque book for that account. But the first page of the passbook showed all the details of another account; Jaya and I have this account in common. The records printed inside were as per barcode data. Luckily, the person saw the bank account details, noted them down and said that there was no need to submit documents.

So, I started going through all the passbooks and FD’s for details. What errors can be there? We have filled up all the forms and given instructions. To start with, we had an FD created for a specific reason. The interest was to be deposited in an account. From this account, a standing instruction was there to pay for something yearly. After this years payment was made, I found out the interest was being deposited in another account. So, it made me check all such instructions. Luckily, there were no other errors.

I  had opened the account in 1976. At that time, my address was different. But later after Aadhar card came into the picture, we had instructed the bank to change the address as per our Aadhar cards. That process is still going on after a month. When I checked last week, Jaya’s address was corrected, but Priya’s correct address was changed to Jaya’s address. My address is yet to be fixed. Now Priya’s address needs to be recorrected to match her Aadhar card address. I asked for the passbook that is mentioned above. I got it back with more errors! I give up! No, I don’t give up. Mistakes can cause a mess after us.

Then there was a question of Jaya’s surname spelling. They had wrongly put it as Panwalkar or Panwalakar. On all the FD receipts, I had to get it corrected. On a couple of FD receipts, the spelling was correct. I asked them why the spelling was correct? They had no explanation. Computerisation Ki Jai Ho! Ultimately even in computerisation process, raw data is required to be filled up by someone manually. Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo! The dying soldiers are giving the message to their colleagues! We also need to handover the correct instruments to the next generation. Otherwise, after we are gone, this process can be tricky.

About assets like homes, land the story is different. All these assets have government documents like registration papers or 7/12. If these are not available, then disposing of can become cumbersome. Documentation for properties should be such that if you have a customer, these should be “Saleable” immediately. That means all the documentation is in the right place.

I have heard of many horror stories. A friend who wanted to sell his parent’s home after their death found out that the corporation tax for more than 20 years was not paid. I know of stories, where someone had bank accounts, where only that person was the signatory. Such errors can cause a headache for the next generation. After the death of the husband, his wife has also continued the same policy. Fortunately, there are no disputes amongst their two children. But keeping the correct documents is very important.

About banks, now for many of their activities, the software lets you see and make changes online if required. So handover the baton to the next generation as smoothly as possible.

I will share one experience with Jaya’s credit card; she has a card from India’s pioneering company. Her card bears the name Jaya Panvalkar. Sometimes time back government had declared that Aadhar card should be linked to Credit Cards. There was an online process. My card was linked in a zip. When I tried to link Jaya’s card, we got a message, “Name not matching”. We checked the Aadhar and the Credit card again. Everything was matching. Then I went online to check. Jaya’s name was registered in their records as J P Krishna. We talked to them on the phone and then sent all the relevant documents like Passport and Aadhar copy! Later we went to their bank branch and showed them all the documents. From their side, they also sent a mail for correction. Nothing happened, and we kept on getting a reminder every alternate day.

Then one fine day, they sent an email, “Your card will be blocked after one week if you fail to link Aadhar card to the credit card.” We immediately wrote, “Thank you so much for blocking. I have already got a credit card from xxxx.” Next day, there was a mail, “We have checked our records, now you can use the card again.” No apologies or no Sorry!” They know that if they accept the error, they can be taken to the consumer court! I went online to see the changes they had made. It was changed to Jaya Panvalkar, finally.

Addendum: My friend Subhash suggested that I should also specifically say that we should have minimum possible active accounts. Close the dormant ones! Perfect!

Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage! 

You must be wondering what I am talking about. I am saying that cars will go out of fashion soon, and will be replaced by horse carriages. Technological changes are developed over a period, but once they reach the tipping point, technology spread can be breathtaking. Okay, I was joking!  What I want to say is that IC Engine cars will be replaced by Electric Vehicles!

The photos below were taken 13 years apart. It’s 5th avenue in New York. The first picture was taken in the year 1900, and the second one was taken in the year 1913. Production of the Ford T model started in 1908, and by the year 1930, the equestrian age was over for all practical purpose. Such is the power of disruptive technology.

We can replace these years by the current relevance of electric vehicles; replace the year 1900 by 2010, 1913 by 2023 and 1908 by 2018 the trend looks very similar. IC engine vehicles will be replaced by 2040 if we replace the year 1930 by the same logic. Are you surprised? At least I am not surprised. In the first 30 years of the last century, there were many battery-operated vehicles, but somehow the research in battery technology lagged far behind other developments. IC engine cars took over.

The year 2019 has seen dramatic sales drop in Indian Automotive sector. Sales are down by about 10 % in two-wheelers, by average 25% in cars and 35 to 40% in the commercial sector. Is the point of inflexion in the automotive sector reached? Nobody can explain why this is happening. The only sector where sales are doing well is high-end cars. In this range, people buy cars when they want, recession or no recession!

According to me, there could be many reasons. For the first time in the car segment, the number of second-hand cars sold was more than the new cars sold. Millennials would rather buy a second-hand Corolla instead of buying a new I 10. Or they may not buy cars at all and use Olas and Ubers.  According to me, two-wheeler production has reached a saturation point.  Add to the woes of automotive sector, Metros are getting operational in many large cities; their introduction is also a game changer.

In the commercial sector, many things have happened in the last five years. Roads all over India have become much better. The stoppages of these vehicles at various hurdles has reduced to one hurdle, the toll plazas. Most other checkpoints have gone away because of system changes. Because of this change, the turnaround time of these vehicles has improved drastically. Computerisation, GPS and other such systems have helped to keep track of the vehicles easily. Now toll collection all over India will also become automated in the next few months due to mandatory implementation of RFID technology. It will further reduce the time wasted at the toll plaza! The overall efficiency improvement has resulted in a reduction of the commercial vehicles required by the industry.

Carriage3

On top of this scenario, Electric Vehicles are slowly being introduced. What direction it will take is difficult to predict. But it appears that many Metro cities are trying to introduce Electric buses.

carriage4

In Nagpur, Ola has introduced 200 Mahindra Electric cars. Raipur has introduced 200 Mahindra autos. It appears that established companies are coming into the market strongly. Bajaj Auto has declared introduction of Chetak Electric scooters.

Tata Motors is talking about introducing Electric cars for individual customers. MG Motors and Hyundai have introduced high-end Electric SUV’s, with good range per charge, in the Indian market.

So, the similarity between horse carriages/cars and IC Engine cars/EV’s is not far-fetched! Another strong variable getting into the market is driverless cars. Looking at traffic in India, we feel that it will be impossible to introduce such cars in India. But in the developed countries this technology has been developed, and it is said that driverless vehicles will come on the roads by the 2021/2022. How will this development affect the car segment? Consider a journey which costs Rs 100/ today. If Ubers and Olas of this world introduce driverless cars, the cost of the journey will reduce by say, Rs.30/. Further, they introduce Electric driverless vehicles.  Assume that the running goes down by Rs.20/. The same trip will cost you Rs.50/. When the costs go down so much, will you buy a car? At least I will not buy one. There will be lots of Ubers and Olas on the road at any time.

As the battery costs go down, and as the production is scaled up, the running costs of cars will go down. Even at today’s running costs of EV per km  is less than that of IC Engine cars.

About Electric cars, we forget one thing. The batteries are going to replace petroleum products. Currently, petroleum products are delivered finally through petrol pumps. But there is a huge ecosystem which has come up over a period of one hundred years to reach the fuel to petrol pumps.

Similarly, “the new petroleum products” also need a delivery system. The delivery system is the charging station like the petrol pump. For charging we need Electricity- “the new petroleum”. Increasing electricity production is also equally important; it is equivalent to oil wells. Non-conventional methods like Solar, Windmills and Nuclear power stations are the way forward. In the time frame that I have mentioned above, the required infrastructure will be in place.

What about the scaling of battery production? It is already happening. Tesla is in the process of setting up a Giga factory. Part of this factory is leased to Panasonic. Panasonic brings their raw material and processes it, and produces battery cells. These cells are  handed over to Tesla on the same premises, and Tesla do the final assembly.

Similarly, Volkswagen is also in the process of setting up its own Giga factory for battery production. I am sure other serious players will follow suit. In India, Toyota and Suzuki have joined hands with Toshiba to manufacture batteries in a plant in Sanand. Suzuki will make Electric cars for both themselves and Toyota in India, using Toyota technology. Toyota has joined hands with Mazda in the US!

Unless you make your own batteries, the cost of electric vehicles will not come down. Costs will further come down on scaling. But smaller players will have a disadvantage with the cost of batteries.

I am not an expert in this field, but I have been in the automotive components field all my career. So, my comments are based on my gut feeling. Electric vehicles will spread faster in small developed countries like Norway, Sweden. In large countries, they will spread into the market in regions. For example, in the US, it can happen quickly in the bay area or areas around New York on the East Coast. The introduction will be faster in areas where average daily commute distance is smaller; people anyway will have home chargers.It can happen around London, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt and so on. China anyway is way ahead of others in EV production. 50% of EV’s in world are currently made in China.

In India, I feel that it will happen faster in buses, taxis, rickshaws and high-end vehicles. In high-end vehicles if per charge distance covered is decent, price hardly matters. Total moving parts in IC Engine cars are 2000, and the same in Electric Vehicles are 20. Hence commercial vehicle maintenance cost will be reduced drastically. Once “new petroleum” infrastructure is in place, the numbers will go up exponentially in cities for local transport like buses, rickshaws. Small cars will be initially costly because of battery prices; hence, their spread will be slower.

Car? No, I would instead take the horse carriage!

Oh, my title was wrong!  I would instead take a Driverless Electric Vehicle!  

Surprising uses of GPS!

Today is world tsunami awareness day! Taking this opportunity, I thought I will share with you some interesting technical stuff.

Friends, this is not a blog in the usual sense.  It is a compilation of scientific applications of GPS in different fields. I have taken this information from the net but mainly from some documents published by Smithsonian Institution.  I thought I must share this with you folks.

https://www.si.edu/ 

If you are scientific-minded, don’t miss the opportunity to view this site. 

GPS is a commonly-understood acronym that stands for “Global Positioning System,” which in turn is an interconnected system of satellites and receivers that allows for the precise pinpointing of locations anywhere on or directly above the earth. These sorts of systems have become very popular for everyday navigation, and many cars come with receivers installed to help drivers find their way to their locations. Maps applications on many smartphones also provide this sort of turn-by-turn guidance to help people get on the right streets and take the proper exits. Beyond this more “standard” navigation, though, global positioning systems also have a significant role when it comes to navigation on the ocean, deep in the forest, and in other largely “uncharted” areas.  

The current GPS is wholly owned by the United States, but they allow free usage of the same to everybody.

Several other countries and regions, in particular Russia, the European Union, and India, have or are in the process of creating their unique systems. It is to complement the US version but potentially also to augment it and protect local users in the event of failure or other disabling of the services. 

The heart of the system relies on 24 satellites that orbit the planet twice per day. Devices that are equipped with GPS equipment receive transmissions from at least a few of the satellites and can discern exact positioning data. The first of these satellites was launched in 1974, and it wasn’t until 1994 that the 24th entered orbit. New satellites are periodically launched to replace ageing ones. 

The discussion is going to be a bit technical, but I will try my best to make it in English instead of techy language.  

I was surprised to find that GPS can be and is being used for some other applications too! It is nor surprising in the technological world. The human brain can find many different uses other than the intended usages. 

GPS is being used to 

  • Analyse atmosphere 
  • Probe the snow 
  • Sense a sinking 
  • Monitoring the Volcano 

I was also equally surprised to know these usages of GPS systems. I will briefly share how this is done. 

Analyse atmosphere 

Water vapour, electrically charged particles, and other factors can delay GPS signals travelling through the atmosphere, and that allows researchers to make new discoveries. 

A group uses GPS to study the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere that is available to precipitate out as rain or snow. Researchers use these changes to calculate how much water is likely to fall from the sky in drenching downpours. 

GPS signals are also affected when they travel through the electrically charged part of the upper atmosphere, known as the ionosphere. Scientists have used GPS data to track changes in the ionosphere as tsunamis race across the ocean below The force of the tsunami produces changes in the atmosphere that ripple up to the ionosphere. These changes help in predicting details about tsunamis.

Probe the snow 

A typical GPS receiver mostly picks up signals that are coming directly from GPS satellites overhead. But it also picks up signals that have bounced on the ground you’re walking on. It is then reflected up to your smartphone. 

For many years, scientists had thought these reflected signals were nothing but messy interference of signals. Scientists started looking at the frequencies of the signals that reflected off the ground. Depending on how those combined with the signals that had arrived directly at the receiver. By studying these two signals, a scientist could deduce qualities of the surface that the echoes had bounced off.  

Such a study allows scientists to learn about the ground beneath the GPS receiver. For instance, how much moisture the soil contains or how much snow has accumulated on the surface. The more snow falls on the ground, the shorter the distance between the echo and the receiver. The technique is beneficial in areas like Arctic and Antarctica, where having physical weather stations is not practical.  

Sense a sinking 

Scientists placed one GPS station on the concrete roof of a primary school. They set up a second station nearby, atop a rod hammered into a rice paddy. If the ground is sinking, then the second GPS station will look as if it is slowly emerging from the ground. And by measuring the GPS echoes beneath the stations, the scientists can measure factors; the factors as how much water is standing in the rice paddy during the rainy season. 

Monitor a Volcano 

Many volcano observatories, for example, have GPS receivers arrayed around the mountains they monitor, because when magma begins shifting underground that often causes the surface to shift as well. By monitoring how GPS stations around a volcano rise or sink over time, researchers can get a better idea about where molten rock is flowing. 

Before the big eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, researchers used GPS to understand which parts of the volcano were shifting most rapidly. Officials used that information to help decide which areas to evacuate residents from. 

I hope you liked this compilation. The scientific theories behind these applications are too techy. Hence I have avoided using technical terms and tried to make it easy to understand.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Millennial Work-Life balance!

 

Workfromhome2

The above image is eutopian image of working from home!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Workfromhome1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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