Flora and Humans in Karve Nagar!

Reminiscing old Pune via Karve Nagar!

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I used to go for my morning walks at 5.30 am. Now I have kept the timing flexible and go out a little later after 6.45. Why did I change the timings? Cooler weather, though I like it, has been giving me a bit of trouble as I get some issues with my throat. Hence, I thought this could be the better timing. And Lo! I enjoy my walks at these times too! Each slot probably has its own charm and cannot be compared. The almost zero traffic, skies just starting to lose the darkness, has its own beauty. In winter, the chill, and darkness create their own zone. But then beautiful rising Sun with crisp wind also adds to charm.

Another advantage I see is that one can actually see the expressions on the faces of people walking at that time. I don’t smile at everybody on purpose but I am lucky to have a smiling demeanor, maybe! I see all the possible combinations of facial expressions in this world. I really want to catch all these expressions on the camera but it is not a practical thing to do! One couple, maybe in late fifties always has the lady giving a bit of sermon to her husband every day. They should make a pact that the sermons should stop at the gate of their home. Maybe they do not get that freedom at home or maybe fresh air induces more energy in the sermon! I see a very senior citizen with worry lines on forehead. I hope that it is his demeanor and not the real worries! Young folks of course are walking briskly but are in their own world, ear buds and all! Once I spoke to one of them while she was adjusting the ear buds. I jokingly asked her, when there are such lovely sounds of birds chirping, why the earbuds! Her expression either said, look at the stupid guy or what is he talking about!   

Karve Nagar has beautiful flowery trees and shady trees! It is the area where I currently live in Pune.

Certain areas are just amazing with their collection of flora! With current easy availability of cameras in cell phones, I am enjoying taking photos which I am sharing with you. Around 30 years back, this area was comparatively undeveloped. The major bridge in that area, called Rajaram Pul has come into existence in last fifteen years. This bridge has changed the traffic pattern of this area from sleepy area to a bustling area. One thing for sure, during development of this area the fauna in this area was reasonably well retained, however the types have changed. This area had orchards of Guava for miles together and some Mango orchards too. These were private plantations and later on became housing colonies. But while developing the colonies, authorities as well as individuals have tried to keep the area as green as possible, it has also become colourful due to certain trees, especially Bahawas. Somehow, I have not found many of Gulmohars, though they are around. The abundance of trees is easily reflected when we come home in the evening. There is marked difference in temperature, of at least a couple of degrees Centigrade, when we take a turn towards the colonies from the main road.  This is happens as there are natural welcome arches formed on the roads, by the trees!

Coming back to humans, this area is now reminiscent of Sadashiv Peth and Narayan Peth of olden days. I understand that many people in those areas moved to Karve Nagar area when the wadas in the old Peths (Localities) got developed in to new buildings. I can see typical Maharashtrian products available in small joints in this area. For example, Thalipith, Sanja, Shira, Danyache Ladu and so on. In summer we see many vendors selling Mogra flowers and Gajare, a typical Maharashtrian love! Ladies adorn these Gajaras and will share them with other ladies when they visit them!  

This area has developed well, over a period of time but is not modern in the sense of many skyscrapers, malls. A major lane here and there bustles with Pizza Huts, Star Bucks and Pumas of this world. But preferred joints will still be Wada Pav and Pohe, Cutting chai and Bata! Preferred Ice cream will still be Local Ice cream to Baskin Robbins and the local parlors selling fresh juice. This area also has a nice set of bungalows but is has more of apartment complexes built in 80’s and 90’s. Though we see a few Mercedes’s and BMW’s, there more Nanos, Alto’s and two Wheelers which are called in local lingo, Gadi! A motorcycle or a scooter or a moped is always referred to as Gadi.

Karve Nagar area reminds me of the Old Pune of 60’s and 70’s with a slightly modern touch; so naturally it takes me back to days of my youth! Let us see if there is any other “Old Pune” coming up “New Pune”! Or maybe that phase, old Pune, may have become History and we will see only NEW, “New Pune” in future!

 

 

I am the best!

Going up the value chain is the only option!

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

 

 

Auto Industry 2040?

Auto Industry Circa 2040. where will it be?

WOW! MMG! DISCO! These could be names of some of the leading auto component industries in the year 2040! Why have I selected the year 2040? Simply because everyone is talking of this year for introduction of electric cars in a big way; from this year onwards, the real downward trend in manufacture and use of IC engines in the cars, as we know them today, will begin. I am simply assuming that the cars will be available, similar to the cars of today. Masses of cars will be driven by humans, they will have a steering wheel and a power plant/train to give them. They will have some form of braking, electrical system handling various functions, wheels and body with fuel storage area, air conditioning and so on! Things inside could be fancier with more and more entertainment, superior navigation abilities, drivers may become more stress free as cars systems will be able to understand many things and may take over some functions from humans. Internet of things (IOT) will allow things that are not even thought of today.

This is part of evolution of human race but this could be culmination of major change that is taking place currently. The “new” car industry is putting its toddler’s steps today. Evolution is nature as everything in this world is always evolving! Basic driver for these changes is computers and computer chips. The car industry will be using different chips and will capture lots of data data generated by various systems. This data will be in endless loop and will allow cars to function more and more efficiently.

What will be the difference in the cars of today and those in 2040? Today’s power plant, the Engine & Drive train will be replaced by Batteries and Motors. Today’s drive train, gear boxes etc will be just be not there. The exhaust system as is known today will be simply not be needed because there will be no IC engine, both Petrol and Diesel. Gear box and the whole system is really not needed because their function can easily be handled by Electric Motors. Even today, in electric cars, there is a single gear which reduces the RPM to what is needed to drive the car at allowed speeds!

There are many companies that are manufacturing the components that are discussed above. These components may become redundant over a period of time due to introduction of electric cars. Bosch, Denso, Continental, Valeo, Aisin Seiki are some of the major players that manufacture the cluster of these components. These companies together manufacture products worth US $200/ billions every year.  These products may comprise of 40% to 70% of their current turnover. The giants must be already studying the questions that have come to my mind. How are they handling these questions? I am sure it’s a tough call to all of them though they have the where withal and deep pockets to handle difficult situations. Some have started making navigation products, some are making parking assist, camera -related systems. But suddenly new names are being heard in these discussions as vendors. CISCO, NVIDIA are some of them. Some are direct vendors to car makers and some are vendors to components manufacturers.  Where is the real scope for new development and business? Battery packs, battery charging technology to increase per charge distance that the cars can travel today! All other developments that are computer related can also happen in IC engine cars too! TESLA is already building a giga factory for their Battery Packs! So will the “new” component business be taken over by Car Manufacturers? Suzuki, Toyota and Toshiba are coming together in India for big battery plant! What happens to smaller manufacturers of these components? Will they survive the major change? Will “WOW! MMG! DISCO!” replace them? Only time can tell.

In car making, after a long time, new name TESLA, started coming into prominence. TESLA came mainly for the new product offering. It appears that technology like fashion goes round! Till first two decades of last century, IC engine based transportation was not very popular. Trains used steam, cars used electric power plants; but battery technology could not catch with the then needs. Hence IC engine cars and trains became popular. From the existing car manufacturers, some are already manufacturing electric cars more than what TESLA is producing. On top of that they have a running profitable business producing IC engine cars. But one thing is for sure they have the humility and know where they lack. Look at what Volkswagen Brand CEO Deiss has to say about TESLA! 

VOLKSWAGEN brand CEO Diess has said that VW which manufactured 5,987,800 cars last year has to catch up with Tesla which produced 83922 cars last year. “Tesla belongs among the competitors which has abilities that we currently do not have,” Diess said in the interview with “Inside”, a publication for VW employees. Around half of Tesla’s engineers are software experts, while at VW’s core brand it is a much lower proportion, Diess said. Tesla has good electric motors, a fast charging network, autonomous driving technology, internet connectivity, and a new approach toward vehicle distribution. “This shows that we need to significantly improve. We can do this. We measure ourselves against Tesla quite deliberately. Our goal: Using our abilities not just to catch up, but even to overtake,” Diess drives an electric VW Golf.

 Current giants have ready infrastructure and eco system to make and sell millions of cars. They of course lack Electric car eco system as mentioned by Diess above. Their main struggle will be recharging stations for electric cars; but TESLA is also going face the same problem! The question arises if TESLA, a loss making company, a start-up, survive? Let’s look at the startups from the Silicon Valley and the west coast, who really made it big in computer industry sunrise era. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple they all became very big with the products/services that never existed before. TESLA is pitted against the giants for making existing products where the main “driver” is only a different technology! That’s a huge disadvantage. Fighting against giants, who have woken up a bit late, like Mercedes, Honda BMW, Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat, Hyundai is going to be very very tough for TESLA! Some of these giants are also going to suffer or may merge! My take,Continental TESLA may cease to exist  by 2040 or even earlier as it is known today! Takeover? Maybe! 

 

I am getting a Toyota Prius!

One of the most important aspect of human civilization is that nobody can stop the technological advancements. Technology, the right one, is simply unstoppable. Humans do not change and they most of the time feel that so and so technology cannot become popular. There are very few visionaries who can guess, predict what can happen after a couple of decades. Initially when any technology comes the cost of its implementation as well as usage is always very high. This cost does come down with increased volume.

Let us consider the scenario in solar energy globally. Germany recently on a particular day produced, 85% of its total electricity produced, by Solar. The energy market in Germany runs like a trade market and the rate at which power is bought by distribution companies is based on demand and supply. On that particular day the rate went below zero! California on one day recently produced 67% of its electricity by Solar. US being a very large country will take a long time to reach Germany’s level as a country but it will happen in pockets. India & China are galloping fast towards solar energy in a big way.

If we think about steam engines and trains, initially people were just curious and felt that trains cannot compete with carts pulled by animals. Once the fear in people’s mind reduced, time of travel decreased and more and more people started travelling in trains and rest as they say is history. My first travel to USA was in 1981 and I had paid US $ 1076/ for return journey. Even today we pay hardly more than that in Dollar terms, for return ticket to USA. Why this happened? Because of safer, faster, larger airplanes increased the volume.

Cell phone is another classic example of technology that made it a disruptive device! When I first got my cell in late 90’s the cell phone was quite heavy, almost ugly, and it cost Rs.16/ minute to receive and make calls! In twenty years Cell phones have become sleek, they are much more powerful than computers specs ten years ago! Ten years ago GB was a word very rarely used even in computers. On top of that making calls is now free! Technologically in 20 years cell phones have gone places! Who would have thought of these changes? In the initial phase cell phone was the so called rich person’s toy. The beauty is that land line telephones have been there for more than 100 years doing same basic work that cell phones do, talking to each other. But other than becoming sleeker, land line phones did not change much in technology. Hence the landline phone population is on the wane world over.

Next classic battle that I visualize is between IC engine cars and Electric/Hybrid cars. The usual naysayers are saying that the current car companies are so powerful that they will just not allow this to happen. What are the parameters that will come into picture? Current volume of Electric/Hybrid cars is miniscule and their yearly volumes are nothing to write home about. So what is it that is needed for the picture to reverse, if it does! Fuel costs is one important parameter. Petrol/Diesel costs have come down from highs of US$ 150/ per barrel and have stabilized around US $50/. The original cartel led by Arab countries is finding it difficult to keep high rates due to new people coming in, huge American & Canadian reserves which were not known even ten years back, have suddenly become available. Their cost of production of extracting oil is also coming down. The fear of Petroleum products simply getting exhausted from the world has gone. So fuel cost may not be THE thing that will trouble current cars. But on the other hand, the cost of producing electricity is definitely going down fast. As more and more countries including India go strongly after solar energy, this cost will come down further. The countries which have lot sunlight round the year can become major players in producing next “Petroleum” for cars. Along with this wind energy is also playing a major role. One thing is for sure compared to petroleum products “Sunlight & Wind” are definitely never going to get exhausted. What all this will also do is pollution levels caused by burning Petroleum products will also come down. On top of this when more and more Electric/Hybrid cars get into use pollution levels will further go down.

Largest component of Electric/Hybrid cars is battery pack. Tesla is already building a Giga battery factory in Nevada where they will be able produce battery packs for five hundred thousand cars a year, at naturally very low cost. Already, Tesla is talking of producing cars that will be only slightly more expensive than sedans. Another limitation currently is the distance the car can travel with one charge. In cell phones  already fast charging systems have come, so I am sure it will happen in Electric cars too! So maybe when you have coffee break or wash room break, you can recharge your batteries. Once these cars are reasonably priced people may use such cars the way we use scooters in India, to travel smaller distances. For last hundred years there has been not much improvement in battery storage technology, compared to other fields and same is the case with IC engine cars. I am sure in batteries the break through is just round the corner! If automotive technology had improved as much as electronics, a car would have travelled round the globe in one liter of fuel!

If we summarize this battle, cost of production of fuel (electricity) to charge the electric cars is going down, cost of battery packs is going down ( it is like engine price going down), battery pack capacity will slowly start going up like some Tesla cars go beyond 350 km per charge, pollution improvement is a bonus. On the other side Volvo has already declared that they will not produce diesel cars from 2023 because cost of using technology for pollution compliance will go up exponentially. Volkswagen has already claimed that they will not produce IC engine cars beyond 2030. In India Suzuki & Toyota have joined hands to manufacture hybrid cars for Indian market. Suzuki and Toshiba have joined hands in India to build Lithium Ion battery mega plant. In USA GM and Ford also have big plans for electric cars. BMW i3 model electric car was quite visible when I last travelled to USA. Along with that a lot work is being done by Google and Apple in driverless car. I feel that controlling an electric car with computers will be much easier than IC engine cars! Will humanity be able to stop Electric/Hybrid car technology? Only time will tell. But in the end right technology will win!

So my next car is definitely going to be a Toyota Hybrid Prius! There is small issue of money in the bank but I will generously accept it, if someone wants to gift me a Prius! I will put big donor name sticker on the car! Happy (electric) motoring!