Montreal Musings-day to day life III!

Now the writer in me has started understanding the difference in going on a planned holiday on a tour and living at a destination for a reasonable period. Taking a tour is like going for a movie and then to go back to your routine. Whereas staying at a place is like reading a long novel. Enjoy it part by part. And keep on doing it for a much longer duration.

The leaves are changing the colours but not as fast as I have seen at other locations. In Montreal maybe only the Maple leaves change the colours, others only wither as winter arrives. Hopefully, within the next few weeks, I will come to know what happens.  I said this, and I saw some lovely colours today when we went out for lunch.

Public transport is one thing that I am enjoying; I don’t get that opportunity in back home. It feels nice to say hello or good morning to the bus driver while swiping the card. The response is also always a smile. Some of us may think that it is a bit mechanical, but it is anytime better than ignoring each other. Now my French vocabulary has reached the level of Merci and Bonjour! Priya shared one experience with me, which was shocking. Once while Priya was in a bus standing, a lady struggled to climb up with a walker. The driver did not start the bus as she was struggling and must have been hoping that someone will provide her with a seat. The driver even requested people to do so. But it took a few minutes for someone to decide to offer her a seat. Jaya and I are sometimes offered with the seats, but maybe we do not look old enough.

A couple of days back there was Environmental March which 50000 people attended. On that day, Montreal city contributed in a very innovative way. The public transport for all the people was free for the whole day, to encourage people to attend the march.

One thing I observed about the weather is when it is raining intermittently, the temperature may be higher, but it feels damp and cold. Five degrees cooler with Sunshine feels warmer even in the shade.

There is one interesting service offered. In our area, there was a power outage for about four hours due to some cable related issue. The affected zone was isolated, and the power was restored. It is now four days, but the fault is yet to be rectified. But that is not the end of the story. Electricity people have made some temporary arrangement with wiring and have provided power continuously to affected people for these four days using a truck-mounted generator.

Though I see at least one beggar at most Metro Stations (but never more- which is a surprise).

The developed countries have their own different systems and facilities for the pets. I see many shops catering to pets. I see many veterinary doctor’s clinics too! Probably many couples prefer to have Pets instead of children. These shops keep different clothing available for the pets. These include wedding dresses, clothes for winter, raincoats for use during rains and so on.

Another interesting thing found here is the number of flowers and flower beds, currently. People know that the flowers are going to last only for six or seven months, every year before winter takes over. But they follow this expensive hobby!

One fascinating place to visit is the festival of lights at the Botanical Garden, near the Olympic Stadium. Inspired by the ancient Chinese tradition, this event has been enchanting people since its creation. Glittering lanterns of various shapes illuminate the Chinese Garden and the eyes of thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the magical spectacle. The Japanese Garden leads you along a meditative illuminated path inspired by the seasons, and the First Nations Garden features an intense multimedia experience that lets you feel the beating heart of the Cycle of Life. One interesting thing; the path in the Japanese garden is quite dark, but they have made the displays with the help of mirrors, the trees appear as if they are full of fireflies! One more speciality was the Bonsai trees. One of them was as old as 160 years.  Montreal Olympic Stadium Tower in the background of light festival.

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Even as late as 15 years many Indian food items were difficult to procure, including the raw material like dal etc. But it is a pleasant surprise that most of the things are available here in Montreal reasonably easily. One can imagine their availability in the Bay area in SFO and New Jersey!

It appears that the preparations for Durga Pooja, Garba in Navratri and Diwali are already on or are being discussed. I will feel happier when assimilation of festivals also takes place, and friends other than those of Indian Origin are invited to celebrate such festivals.

I hear of Indian people who have been living in Toronto and Montreal for more than forty years. In the initial phase of their lives, it must have been trying for them to live an Indian way of life. But with more and more people living in different parts of the world, I was not surprised to see a typical store in one of the malls selling Agarbattis! Business is the ultimate leveller in this world. I read somewhere recently, that Agarbattis worth Rs. 800/ crores were imported in India from China. When we were on the Alaska Cruise about three years back, there were at least forty different Indian food items available in the spread. These included Dal- Khichdi and Malvani Fish!

With more and more Indian professionals becoming financially more comfortable at a young age, they are going to travel more, and I won’t be surprised if Indian items become very popular like Indian Curry and Indian Restaurants in the UK! Add to this, the children of Indians born in foreign countries; so, this number is going to become very big as keeping touch with home base  has become more comfortable with video calling and internet calling.

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By the way, we went out today to eat Pani-puri and Wada-Pav! But I had Wada-pav and Thali!  The joint is started by a French guy who got himself trained in Mumbai.The Chai was served the Indian cutting way.

Chai1

The day before yesterday, I had breakfast in a restaurant serving middle eastern food, on top of that it was vegan. There was some lovely omelette, another item which was like our Sanja and a dish made out of lentils with a nice bread! I had fun.

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Another thing I saw on Montreal roads. Public charging of EV’s is now available. My little knowledge of driving cars for fifty-plus years tells me that fuel tank and the lid are on the opposite side of where the driver sits. But the Tesla I saw being charged on the road, had the charging on the same side as the driver side! Can anybody explain to me why this would be so? All other EV’s seen in Montreal followed the normal convention!

Some interesting things like Puneri Patya!

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EV Conundrum!

 

Lithium2

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.

https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/india-lithium-ion-battery-market

Lithium1

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.

Lithium3

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?

Administrative Reforms Tsunami!

 

Tsunami1

The above slide depicts the difference between a specialist and the generalists. India currently is administered by Generalists where now the need is for both Generalists but in many places that of specialists.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/plan-to-import-talent-a-third-of-deputy-secys-from-outside-govt-starts-work-to-induct-400-directors-5776102/ 

This news item from a newspaper must have sent shock waves through a particular section of the administration in India. Prelude to this was the appointment as External Affairs Minister, of Mr Jaishankar, recently retired career diplomat who had handled his work with aplomb during his career. Instead of appointing a politician, Jaishankar, the domain expert was appointed.  

The British ruled us for 150 years. They created an administrative infrastructure to suit their needs and not the needs of India. At the top of the pyramid were the elite IAS service and other such allied services. Their job was to ensure that the British rule and its arm functioned smoothly. Their main targets were to ensure that the taxes were collected on time, to break the agitations against the British government and nip them in the bud. (Remember Jalianwala Baug?) An example of different priority was the cultivation of opium in Bengal and Bihar. British made sure that all the produce was sold to the government and at one stage British sold Opium worth Seven Million British Pounds in a year to China from India; for opium growing areas officers were expected to give top priority to opium fields over all other functions. Anti-mutiny work and Opium farming were a couple of services which indicated that the system was designed to run in ironclad fashion with no allowance for deviation. It was a sound system, and it served the purpose of the Britishers. We inherited and continued with the same system even after the Independence was achieved, which helped us initially. It served its purpose till the last colony, the one in Goa by Portuguese, was driven away in 1960.  

As usual, everybody was happy with the status quo. Why repair something which ain’t broken? Out of all central services, the IAS was considered top echelon even above the Police. As administrators, they advised the government on every subject under the Sun. The system continued to remain ironclad with all the keys safely with the IAS team. They decided rules, regulations, salary rules, transfer rules everything. It ensured that Civil Services always had the best deal. They continued to have a group of staff to support them at home with many other facilities. As per the rules, they were generally transferred every three years or less to make sure that special interests were not created. So from district administration to finance, finance to technology, technology to Land reforms and the law was the typical journey. They were considered experts in whichever department they were handling.  

Tsunami2

I started thinking about persons who appear for a competitive examination at the age of 25. Based on this examination and interviews, they are selected to become an officer to run a district, the state and the nation. The system was probably alright till the ’70 s of the last century. But slowly, with the advent of computers and India getting linked to the global economy over a period, their “expertise” was found wanting though was never challenged. Most of the selected persons have been smart people with reasonable intelligence. But the situation has changed so much in the last 25 years or so that everybody realised that we must have domain experts to run the government departments too!  

All domains have become multidisciplinary where even technologists can find going tough. For example, GST involves knowledge of taxation, law, commerce, computers and project management. Aadhar card needed software knowledge, database expertise, data science; fortunately, we had Nandan Nilekani to handle this.

Rajeev Gandhi recognised the lateral entry need in government when he was the PM. He invited Sam Pitroda to suggest the ways and means for India’s entry into the modern telecom & electronics era. That was a masterstroke, and India did start moving in the right direction under Pitroda’s guidance. But such entries were infrequent. Pitroda had direct access to Rajeev Gandhi so he could put aside objections from the administrative framework. The massive behemoth of administration prefers the status quo to anything else. The people were Subedars in their domain. They would try and not take decisions or move the files backwards and forwards. The administrative infrastructure was like Khan Market gang, privileged, with everybody knowing each other. India moved at a snails pace if and when, in spite of the group. Twentyfive years back, the Indian growth story started, so did the need for the specialists.  

Who could break the shackles of generalists? Dilliwalas? No way. In came a confident Narendra Modi, a rank outsider from Gujarat with a background of a tea-seller. A common man but a man with zeal to take India forward. In his first term, he broke shackles and started with improving efficiencies. All the subedars had to swipe their cards in the office at nine am. Time frames were decided for specific actions and achieved. 

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Now in the second term, the government has realised that only the advisors and consultants are not going to make the government more efficient and successful. Executives also must be specialists where needed, and this is what the government has started. Now if you reread the above article, you will realise the importance of specialists. I am very much aware that every system needs both specialists and generalists. For understanding social issues (and many such issues) and tackle them, generalists will continue, and they may be essential also. But the government is trying to fill 1/3 of the positions with specialists.  

Two critical points to be remembered are that the empire is going to strike back looking for rules, loopholes and ways of preventing lateral entry from happening. After all, the entry of specialists is directly affecting their career prospects and importance. Reservations is another issue that needs to be handled. In allowing the lateral entry, reservations need to be kept in mind. When the first nine such positions were filled, the HR department decided to advertise each post as an independent post and not as a pool of secretaries. Single post declaration allowed HR to overcome reservations requirement. The change will cover a large population in India. Though the number of entries being discussed currently is only 400, unrest can start leading to agitations. 

Friends, the modern world, say in the last 30 years has changed so much that the specialists and subspecialists will be needed everywhere. How can the administrator decide which fighter plane India should buy? Should we have Shinkansen or Maglev or TGV trains for India? How to improve and ensure that modern electronics goods are manufactured in a big way in India? Even specialists are going to find it tough to understand such things. But this change is going to create a big Tsunami for the administrators whether they like it or not!

Startups, Venture and Angel Investors!

I am venturing into an area where even angels are afraid to tread! For a long time, I have felt lost with the terms mentioned in the title. To my understanding as an oldie, anyone starting a new business is a start-up. Investopedia definition of a startup is below:

A startup is a young company that is just beginning to develop. Startups are usually small and initially financed and operated by a handful of founders or one individual. These companies offer a product or service that is not currently being provided elsewhere in the market, or that the founders believe is being offered in an inferior manner. 

If we go by the strict definition of startups then the names like Uber, Airbnb, Zomato, Oyo and their likes come to mind. These companies have provided a service or a facility which was never offered before. These facilities became possible because of the internet and IT. I wont call Tesla a startup because they are providing a variant of an existing product; that variant is no doubt a game changer as it will change and push the Petroleum economy. But the car itself is not a game changer. 

 

Unicorn1I read a news item today which said that Delhivery a startup has become a Unicorn company. Unicorn is a mythical animal depicted from thousands of years and appears unique; maybe that is the reason this name Unicorn, a unique company. Unicorn company is defined as a company whose valuation as per markets is One billion (One thousand million) US $, i.e. Rs Seven thousand crores. As a semi-retired person nearing 70, I feel out of depth to read such figures. But for records, all my life I have run a business (a dirty secret- a software business) and had consulting assignments. In both my activities, I have dealt with companies from a couple of billion dollars to nearly 40 billion dollars. So, these numbers don’t scare me, but personally these days I go to an ATM to withdraw money for myself, I am a small man.  

Many of these Unicorn companies have been based on the internet, and IT technologies but some of them are doing the work of brick and mortar things as mere mortals do. Here is a table that I got on the net and made me start thinking. 

US $ Million  Revenue 2018 Funding   Valuation  R/F  R/V  F/V 
BYJU  219  784  4000  0.28  0.055  0.196 
Swiggy  72  1500  3300  0.048  0.022  0.455 
Zomato  47  653  2500  0.072  0.019  0.26 
PayTM  51  2200  10000  0.023  0.005  0.22 
Oyo  400  1600  5000  0.25  0.08  0.32 
Policy Bazar  62  35  1000  1.77  0.062  0.035 
Udaan  4  285  1000  0.014  0.004  0.285 
Freshworks  14.5  249  1500  0.058  0.010  0.166 
Delhivery  15  365  1500  0.041  0.010  0.243 

 I will briefly mention what they do.  

  • BYJU is in online training– revenue from students 
  • Swiggy and Zomato are restaurant food delivery companies- revenue from the restaurants whose food they pick up and deliver. Tie up with restaurants and menu details is unique 
  • PayTM is a wallet plus allied things company
  • Oyo- helps book hotel rooms and takes money from hotels– this is unique 
  • Policy Bazar- helps you buy many policies online- commission on the sale 
  • Udaan is like Flipkart and sales products online 
  • Freshworks offers sales and support solutions 
  • DelhiveryPhysically delivers goods from place A to place B and has warehousing facilities.  

To me except Oyo, Swiggy and Zomato others do not fit the strictest of the definition. Are other companies providing products and services that did not exist before? No, still they are called startups! By this definition then, like other companies, my company was also a startup and faced the same problems as these companies are facing today. The only difference is that some experts in the world thinks that they are doing something extraordinary!  

As usual, my mind started whirring, and I have questions! What is so unique in becoming a company which some experts” feel is doing fantastic work; they have invested large sums of money in them. For an oldtimer like me what matters is how much I am selling and what is the profit that I make out of the business!  Is the business sustainable over a period of time?

I will introduce two more terms now for better understanding. 

Venture capital firms are investment companies that operate only to handle investments in business ventures that may be considered high risk. 

An angel investor (also known as a business angel, informal investor, angel funder, private investor, or seed investor) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  

Now that we are through with definitions, tables, please help me solve my queries. When the companies are creating variants of existing available services and products, how do they become startups? These companies are supposedly creating products and services which are not existing. So how do investors and angels analyse them, study them and invest considerable sums in them? Uber concept never existed, Airbnb is a new concept; so in these two cases, the investors seemed to do more right than wrong.  

I have read that more than 90% of startups fail. What could be the reason? The reasons for failures are the same as the reasons for any failed businesses. These are 

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Too much pride and ego; that you were a smart techie does not mean that you can create and run business 
  • Taking advice from wrong people (including advisors brought in by investors) 
  • Lack of general and specific domain knowledge in life finance, operations and marketing 
  • Raising too much money too soon. 
  • Lacking good mentorship  

From what I understand about the world of business, you need experience, maturity. How will young guns have this? Recently I read some story about a 15-year-old who has done something great in creating a platform for short story writers. He has two thousand hits to his short stories! Come on, its not two million hits. I also happen to be a blogger, and I know what hits are and how difficult it is to get them.

Similarly, how can 25 years old be know all? He may be brilliant both in his techie side and convincing the investors about his ideas about which others don’t know much, anyway. How do dollars get converted into a sustainable running company? 

The table above shows all the figures in million US dollars. It shows revenue, money pumped in and valuation! The revenue is tiny when compared to the money invested. Who does the valuation? What is the significance of the appraisal? I will tell you something about valuation. How can an unproven company, with unproven management, product or services with 4/15/14 million dollars have 1.5 billion dollars valuation?  Do investors not understand these things? But since private money is involved, who cares?  Is this gambling, horse racing equivalent?

Apple was the first company whose valuation reached one trillion (I can’t count zeroes) US dollars. But once the US-China trade war started, it appeared that Apple may have problems. Immediately its valuation has come down, now Microsoft is numero uno! Apple valuation with tons of money and great products and with proven track records can come down. The companies listed in the table above are both brick and mortar companies and IT companies with nothing proven. Their valuation is going up and up and up! Any logic? 

Friends I will introduce you to more things. What people called in olden days as an investment, is now called burn rate. These companies burn money, it’s not yours anyway. Then there are serial entrepreneurs a la serial killers! They create startups, burn money (a % goes to own pockets), take the company to a level and start looking for larger companies for merger and acquisition! Someone decides and declares them more valuable. So promoters, investors, angels all make money as a new set of people replaces the old team. The show goes on. Nobody keeps track of what happens to such companies. Since bank funds and financial institution money is not involved nobody cares. No Nirav Modis and Mallyas are created. Start next company and go through the same cycle, make a million or two. The cycle goes on.

The end result of all this is that “Startup Culture starts in your country. The startup language is a new language which most don’t understand and I am sure you have still a lot of questions on the subject discussed, even after you have read this piece!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pulwama-War or Peace?

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                 जंग तो खुद ही एक मसला है, जंग क्‍या मसअलोंका हल देगी? 

                 आग और खून आज बक्‍शेगी, भूक और एहतीयाज कल देगी। 

                        इसलिए ऐ शरीफ इन्सानों, जंग टलती रहे तो बेहतर है। 

                  आप और हम सभी के आंगन में, शमा जलती रहे तो बेहतर है।

These are the lyrics of a poem by Sahir Ludhiyanvi, the famous poet and lyricist. These lines aptly fit the stand-off between India and Pakistan after the Pulwama incident. Pakistan has been following the policy of thousand small cuts against India and has succeeded. In between these small terrorist attacks, they have made significant attacks like Pathankot in 2016 and the recent one at Pulwama. With the latest attack, the whole Indian nation came together, and the atmosphere in India became very tense. Some print media newspapers, web newspapers and TV stations started making jingoistic statements. The frenzy led to people making statements like, “Let’s teach the enemy a lesson!” It is easy to get swerved, but the Indian government remained steadfast in their stand and said that they were studying the matter and would take appropriate action at the right time.

The poem brings reason to our thinking in such tough situations. The gist of the poem is in the first line. “When the war itself is an issue, how can we use war to resolve other issues.” Hence, the poet says, gentlemen try and avoid war! It is better if we have the Candles burning in our courtyards! The candles burning signifies peace.  Let us not burn candles for martyrs.

What does war do? In recent times we had one in Kargil and before that 1971 war which gave birth to Bangla Desh. Pakistan had been morally hurt due to the 1971 war where ninety thousand of its soldiers were required to surrender to the Indian army. Unfortunately, none of the Pakistani leaders had the mentality of trying for peace. Bhutto was suave but was a hawk who wanted one thousand years of war with India. Zia Ul Haque was a religious fanatic and gave birth to the thought of troubling India under the garb of religion. Kafirs must be punished was his theory. Musharaff was equally terrible with a hawkish mentality like Bhutto.

Sine the 1971 war, India has always offered to discuss and resolve the issues but Pakistan all the time wanted to take the Kashmir problem on the global forums; India has always said that it is a bilateral problem. Pakistan has all the time had a so-called democracy in which the government was controlled by ISI and the military; successive governments were in denial about the terrorism problem.

Various Indian governments tried peaceful negotiations, including a visit by Modi to wish Nawaz Sharif on his birthday. When Musharraf was the prime minister, cricket match diplomacy was attempted, but results have been continued terrorist attacks. What is the solution to this? War? No way. Jingoistic sabre rattling by social media, TV anchors is not a solution.  They only vitiate already tense atmosphere. The anchors and their brethren have crossed the LOC many times in discussions; they have bombed the bases and won the wars in their dreams. I understand that TV anchors have a job like you and me. But they shout, “We don’t want condemnation, but we want blood, enemy blood!” These folks think that it is like moving around on a film set with a toy gun and kill the enemy, Rambo style! Red paint on the chest and all! It is like playing soldier-soldier! In war, somebody’s brother or father or son dies. We should not forget that it’s a human being like you and me that dies, whether he is Indian or a Pakistani is secondary. Villages and towns on the borders are also damaged, people get killed.

It is excellent for TRP’s with simulated atom bombs blowing the mushroom cloud. But do these anchors know how many people died in the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? It is estimated that approximately One hundred and fifty thousand people died in Hiroshima and about seventy thousand people died in Nagasaki! Are we prepared to take the human losses on this scale? With more powerful bombs and a much larger population than 75 years ago, the number of deaths is unimaginable, if the bombs are dropped today.

The link below is a link for an interview in Indian Express. IE team interviewed Gautam Bambawale who was the High Commissioner of India in Pakistan in 2016/2017 and was in China in 2018, post-Doklam controversy. As per the current practice anchors and politicians may not believe some of the facts shared by Gautam. Style these days is to ask for proof. Gautam, by the way, is a Puneite, and his parents lived in Chaturshringi area.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/one-surgical-or-aerial-strike-may-not-force-pak-to-stop-aiding-terror-but-we-have-raised-the-costs-gautam-bambawale-5618709/

After every incident, there are a lot of discussions in the government agencies, within them and with each other. These discussions are held under the leadership of the head of the government. Armed Forces are consulted for preparedness and options. External affairs ministry starts dialogues with the different international governments to explain India’s thinking and possible action. These friends are requested to support India openly as well as in the bodies like the United Nations. Coordinating with other governments is a real tough and confidential work that takes place in the background. Mr Bambawale has said in the interview that after Pathankot some action was imminent.  (it was known only to a very few people on the need to know basis) The ministry of External affairs had advised him to be prepared to ensure that all embassy staff was safe by locking down in a safe place. Lockdown was essential as the reactions within Pakistan could not be predicted.

Blood for blood is a slogan good for TRP. What terrorists do can never be justified. But in the conventional war, thousands of soldiers from both sides can die! Let us not forget that Pakistanis are also human beings like you and me. Their powerless and hence unreasonable government’s acts, cannot be replied with a full-fledged war. What India did post Pulwama was to show Pakistan that now it means business. It hit the terrorist camps deep inside Pakistan territory! When India made a land-based surgical strike after Pathankot attack, Pakistan went into denial. But this time they tried to react with an air attack, which led to combat and they lost an F 16 fighter, and we lost MIG 21. Indian pilot Abhinandan was captured after he bailed out in Pakistan territory. Under international pressure, Pakistan released him in a couple of days to win a few brownie points.

Mr Bambawale has said in his interview, “With the (surgical strikes) for the first time in 2016, and now again in 2019, what we have indicated is that the people of India have had it up to their necks in suffering from terrorist activities. Also, we have indicated — and the government can take credit for the bold and brave decision — that if Pakistan does not control terrorists, then we will go and strike them inside Pakistan. That is what has changed. A lot of people are describing it as a new template that has been brought to the table. I agree with that assessment. It is no one’s case that one surgical strike, or one aerial strike, would force Pakistan to stop aiding and abetting terrorism. But we have increased and raised the costs for them to do this.”

Our brilliant opposition members in politics seem to have mentally become Pakistani supporters. One of the leaders said in an interview that Pulwama mastermind was Mr Modi. This clip was continuously being shown on Pakistan TV. Some opposition leaders initially made statements that we are together with the government. But later they congratulated the air force for the strike. Such attacks are approved by the head of government was conveniently forgotten. Then they started challenging the attack itself and said where is the body count. It seems that opposition expects that, after a surprise attack some Indians will go to the location and take the body count. Another leader also said the same thing. We will support the air force, but we will never help the Prime Minister. The raising of severe doubts about Indian State and its actions using the Air Force was the height of stupidity. The meaning of what they said was that the Air Force was in connivance with the government to cook a story of the air strike. Pakistanis must have been laughing; they must have said we don’t need Chinese or US support, our Indian friends are supporting our cause.

Mr Bambawale’s interview gives you a deep insight into how the crisis is handled. I sincerely wish and hope that for once the opposition leaders will stop talking in a frenzy as if they were Pakistani supporters. But in spite of opposition, our government has handled the situation well especially on the international stage. Propaganda made in other countries is putting pressure on Pakistan to act against the terrorist camps and the outfits.

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“One surgical or aerial strike may not force Pak to stop aiding terror. But we have raised the costs”. One sentence summarises Gautam Bambawale’s interview.  The idiom “One Swallow does not make a summer” perfectly fits the situation. India has finally changed its policy which will make Pakistan think about continuing with its current strategy of supporting terrorism. Individual terrorist attacks may continue for some time, but audacious attacks like Pathankot and Pulwama may not happen again because they know that India is going to hit back discretely, at their own will.

To conclude, Rajwardhan Rathore, Indian Minister,  has summed up the situation in cricketing parlance! He said, “Now in the terrorism game, India is now doing batting also. All these days we were just fielding!”

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.