Budget! It’s not a Game show!

My take of yearly budget; handle it with prudence!


Annual Government Budget has been a political show for years together but over a period it has lost its sheen and it is less of a show. When India became an independent nation, budgeting process had to be started. India as a whole, had never been a sovereign country before independence. In 1947 November, India’s first budget was presented. Of course, India was a poor country then and even now the large majority of the people are poor. But over a period, India started many industries, services, IT services was a major proponent of growth. India has a large number of farmers and farming sector, even today, it engages largest number of people. With the rapid growth in various sectors, India’s GDP is in top five nations in the world, though its per capita income is still very low, due to large population.  

As expected, India had a great difficulty in budgeting as there was nothing much in the kitty. Balancing the budget was a great art and there was always a conflict in budgetary allocations. Naturally, we started with education, India opted for large public-sector industries, big dams to help farming and to generate electricity. Then there was war with China in 1962, Pakistan 1965 & 1971 and one in 1947. With these wars, allocation started going more towards arms and ammunition. Factories were built to produce war material. Like any poor household, this strategy put stress on other sectors like agriculture, education. Private manufacturing was looked down upon and the industrialists were looked down upon as profiteers. Profit was a cuss word in those days, hence there was permit Raj and there were limits on the quantity of goods that could be manufactured. This type of thinking always led to scarcities and shortages. This further led to hoarding and black marketing. Added to this was political turmoil of 80’s. I think Bajaj Auto was the first company who challenged the government and said we will produce more scooters than the capacity, let us see what you do!

Since last ten years things have improved in India’s finances. Money is around and governments are trying to be prudent about allocations. Making a large country like India modern in science & technology, engineering, transportation, farming and defense is not a joke. Another important area is digitalization of the nation. Huge allocations are required for all these sectors.  

There is a large middle class, rich class, and biggest class is the poor class. Other than allocations for various sectors mentioned, the poor class needs to be supported in such a way that they become self-sufficient over a period of time. Other two classes have the where withal of taking care of themselves with or without Government support. This is what the government has done in the current budget. Poor will not be helped by dole or subsidies. But government actions may help this group in the most difficult areas, handling medical expenses.

Government has proposed a medical insurance scheme which will cover 100 million people in next couple of years. This scheme will cover a family of 5, for Rs.5/ lacs each. This means that 500 million people will come under the scheme. Illnesses have been one of the major factors that have ruined poor families’ finances. This scheme can take care of expenses during illnesses. Cynics will talk about difficulty to implement such schemes etc. Have you heard of something called Aadhar lately? Aadhar will be perfect tool to launch such an ambitious scheme.  

There is one more decision that will help millions of farmers. Government has covered 23 different items where farmers will get higher than today’s assured purchase price. This will help farmers, hopefully, from their current financial difficulties. There will be discussion why item A is not under the scheme but B is under the scheme. But this discussion is natural as everyone will be interested in his own well-being. But it is about people who are poor!  

But I see people like you and me cribbing that Income Tax slabs have not been improved. Come on we pay taxes; the majority who need help are those who don’t pay taxes! We worry that deduction against money spent on medical insurance is not increased. Difference is we are able to buy our own insurance, there are millions who can’t even buy it.  People are worried that iPhone, diamonds will become costly, Mercedes will be costly. Can these be even subjects for discussions? Every group of people want their pie to be improved. All want Indian cities to look like foreign cities. Only GDP increase does not do this. There should be minimum people below poverty line in any nation. Budgets now should now try and achieve this. For this all have to work together and support the Government whether it is formed by Party A or Party B!  Let political parties play the blaming game; it is their business but why you and I should be party to this?  Let them treat it as a game show in the Loksabha or outside the Loksabha!

Another thing I have observed post budget this time, is the proliferation of “Experts” being interviewed by newspapers. Since when students, housewives start giving Stars to the budget? Are they even one star in their knowledge about budget? Ask finance guys, ask people from industry, ask people in the know of it. They should be giving an overall opinion. Many real experts have opined about the effect of budget on their areas of work. Their remaining comments were general comments and not sweeping ones. What do the newspapers achieve by asking such a wide spectrum and asking them to give “Stars”? If by chance somebody had come to interview me, I would have 100% said, ” No comments! I am no expert in national budgeting”. 

Our nation is now on auto pilot for growth of GDP because of actions by successive governments. Now our budgets are what they should be, declaration of intents, allocation of funds to the priority sectors as visualized by the government in power. Let us make sure that this does not become lopsided; help poor to come out of their quagmire. Super rich will become richer without budgetary support. You and I should stop cribbing about vegetables being a little costlier, tur dal being a bit expensive. Sky is not going to fall if income tax deduction percentage is not improved. We want better India, smarter India and cleaner and neater India; let us make it all inclusive improvement. There could a little pain for a few groups, bearing it is tough, cribbing is simple. You decide what you want to do. Jaihind! 


Palmistry & Horoscope!

The other day we went for dinner with an American friend of ours. The restaurant was in a mall! While going to the restaurant we saw a palmist sitting with his advertisement board and all! He was dressed in appropriate attire. This is a very sensitive subject, so here is a disclaimer! I am not writing this to hurt anyone and I am not passing any judgement. When I read on these subjects, questions come to mind. I am trying to check them against known facts and current scientific knowledge.  

Our friend asked us jokingly, “Hey Pramod, did you and Jaya get your horoscopes matched before marriage?” I told him we did not do that, I said we had a civil marriage where no religious ceremonies were involved. Both Palmistry and reading of horoscope are supposed have their origins in India. Both these  have been practised from ancient times in India, China, Greece and old cultures. There have been misconceptions, wrong interpretations, disrepute galore through the history, about these practises. Are these sciences as some people call them ? We have extreme views on the subject, total belief to total disbelief! The real thing must be somewhere midway as usual!  

What does palmistry tell you? The palmist studies the palm of an individual and can foretell some things about the person by studying lines, shape of palm, ups and downs on the palm and so on! Physical features of palm definitely tell about person’s cleanliness, health, occupation, nervous habits. Nail biting and Calluses are indication of this. Over a period, a palmists have learnt to judge the people’s personalities. I have a feeling that 60% information predicted can be correct. I assume that these people also study the face of the person; face reading is also an art. We are also aware, that medical professionals are able to judge various things about the patient’s personality looking at the face and the palm. But this is judgement backed by scientific knowledge. I feel that palmistry can be described as an art rather than science. During my childhood in Bombay, there used to be palmists siting on footpaths. They would have details written on paper and neatly tucked in envelops. These envelopes, between 50/75, would be kept in front of him. When a customer arrived, there was a practise that the customer would be asked to give some feed to the bird! After that, the bird would hop around and select an envelop for the customer. That envelop contained a document with customer’s future explained! Wow! Perfect natural way of prediction with no bias! Now I am told that bird is replaced by a computer!

Horoscope is another matter. The description of the constellations is based on the Traditional Astrology – the emphasis is put on the natural inclinations, talents, and events that one may encounter in life. Horoscopes are mainly used for matching personalities of the boy and the girl before the marriage. Each horoscope is supposed to have different Gunas, or check boxes. It is said that if 36 Gunas match for both, then the pair is perfect for marriage. If the match is less than 18, then the marriage is not expected to take place. I also understand that the horoscopes can be suitably modified, at a cost! I remember a joke. A pair decides to get married after their parents get the Horoscopes matched. Match is 100% as 36 gunas match. Then next day they go out for a cup of coffee. The girl says to the boy, now that we are getting married based on 100% horoscope matching, tell me how many affairs did you have? The boy is a little shaky but says, “Oh! I had five affairs!” The girl says.”now I believe in horoscope completely! Our 36 gunas had matched! I also had five affairs!” 

Lot of questions come my mind. My personal opinion is that these are not proven practises. These are judgment-based reading of the situation. In case of palmistry looking at hand and face! In case of horoscope, these are based on horoscope created for the person born. In horoscope, study is made with help of checking of Nakshtras or Lunar Constellations and their positions with respect to each other. This is supposed to checked on the basis of exact time of the birth of the child.  That is where questions start popping up in my mind. Currently, 3,500,00 children are born every day. This means 4 per each second. Do all these four have exactly same horoscope? Since horoscopes are being created for a very long time, there could have been issues due to incorrect time measurements. Time measurement correctness must be an issue even today in rural India. If the basic premises are wrong, then will the Horoscopes be correct? The Horoscope also says that an individual can have bad omen or Mangal Dosha, when there is certain astrological combination. 

In Hindu astrology, Mangal Dosha is an astrological combination that occurs if Mars (Mangal) is in the 1st, 2nd (Considered by South Indian Astrologers), 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the ascendant chart. A person born in the presence of this condition is termed a Manglik. 

It is believed to be unfavorable for marriages, causing discomfort and tension in relationship, leading to severe disharmony among the spouses and eventually to other bigger problems. This is believed to be caused due to the “fiery” nature of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war. Also, if two Mangliks marry, the negative effects are believed to cancel each other out. However, Mars is not the only planet in Astrology that is supposed to affect the relationship and these effects should be seen in a broader perspective of overall astrological compatibility. Two bad things negating each other and creating “Good” scenario, is a great way of overcoming constellations! I am told that there is one scenario where the Mangal Dosha in a person can be negated by doing some religious ceremony? How convenient?! 

I remember one scene from a Hindi Movie, Munnabhai, MBBS. During the marriage ceremony of a couple, their  Priest is creating fear in the mind of the family about Mangal Dosha and what can go wrong because of that. The hero of the film asks the Priest, “Do you know what is going happen to you in next one minute?” The Priest says that nothing is going to happen. The hero takes out a gun and puts it to the head of the Priest and says, “I am going to kill you! If you do not know your own destiny how can you tell other people about their life’s destiny based on unproven practices?” Of course, he does not kill Priest! The destiny is the correct word and destiny generally decides what is going to happen in our lives. The beauty of life is that, we do not know our destiny. It helps us remain optimistic all the time. I had a sore throat trouble for a month in 2013 end; till I went to a specific doctor I never imagined that I would be detected with Cancer! Even when I went into his clinic, I thought the doctor will give me some very strong antibiotics or steroids! This is destiny! But I did not go to palmist or a horoscope guy.   

In today’s times there is great scientific advancement, many things are predicted by science. Still a large number of people believe in in unscientific methods of predicting future, deciding marriages, starting new ventures. What is it? Fear of God? Fear of Bad Omen? What is Bad Omen? This term is being used in the foreboding sense, as with word ominous.  

Palmistry is another method of knowing about the nature of a person and foretelling persons future. Let me tell you scientifically the reasons why we have lines on the palm. Scientifically speaking the lines on a palm, or palmar flexion creases, help the hand’s skin to stretch and squeeze. They can also help identify certain medical conditions. The thickness and number of creases on your palms also depend on factors such as family history and race. This indicates that these lines are formed in the natural way. Lesser number of creases may cause difficulty in stretching skin in that area and may cause bunching of skin.  

Using these lines to predict nature and future of the person is difficult to accept. Faith that people have in palmistry is simply amazing. Let me tell about my college friend. He was a very smart guy and suddenly he started claiming that he has been studying palmistry. But he also claimed that he had specialized in palm reading of girls! Let me assure you, he had a good cliental in college and all his friends were extremely jealous of him!  

I simply believe in Him and destiny. I will share a small anecdote which mixes horoscope and destiny, but its fiction. A person goes to see a horoscope guy and asks about his destiny. Horoscope reader tells our friend that he can predict death but does not share this information. He is told, “You are going to die today evening at 6 pm hence I am sharing with you the time.” Now our friend gets upset and decides that he is going to cheat death! He tosses a coin, heads he goes to North and Tails he goes East! Its Tails so he goes 100 km East and checks into a hotel. Orders food, asks for some beer and watches TV. He awaits 6 pm! At 6 pm there is a knock on the door. He opens and sees Yamaraja himself, the God of Death. Our friend says, “Ok, I am ready but I tried to cheat you and it was pure luck of the coin that decided my presence  here today. How did you locate me?” Yamaraja is surprised with the question. He looks at the document in his hand and says, “This document says that you would be in this hotel today at 6 pm. I was not required to look for you. I came here straight!” Destiny? 

I am predicting future! Future tellers will ask you to put your finger on a glass, eyes on lenses; immediately you will get OTP! The teller will tell your Name, Age, Sex, Address, Date of birth! It’s pure science called UIDAI!

Let us all become Bill Gates!

Let Donations be way of life in Golden Period of Life!


Bill Gates has done many things in a single life time, what most others will not be able to even think of doing in many lifetimes! The most famous Harvard dropout started Microsoft with Paul Allen and today Microsoft is the world’s biggest pure software company. They are hardly into hardware! While achieving this, his wealth kept on increasing by leaps and bounds. He started donating his wealth, the figure I could locate is US $ 60/ Billions, his total donations till 2016. It is immaterial how much % of his total wealth he is donating! He has not only donated his wealth but is encouraging many super rich people from different countries including India, to donate their wealth. Slowly but steadily the movement is catching up and people are coming up by donating huge amounts of money. But is this the prerogative only the super-rich? I don’t think so.  


Link for Gates Foundation

Gates foundation has three main bylines. 

  1. Ensure more children and young people Survive And Thrive  
  2. Empower the poorest especially women and girls, to transform their lives
  3. Combat Infectious Diseases That particularly affect the poorest  

This mainly suggests of empowerment via education and good health of weaker sections. I had similar thoughts in mind but I thought borrowing proven ideas makes more sense. These bylines make so much sense. They talk of practicalities of life! Ensure that more children and young people survive- it means that let’s nurture our future wealth, the children of today! Empower the poorest especially women and girls- it means make the weaker section of the society stronger. Combat infectious diseases which affect mainly poor. If we want to become Bill G we can try something similar!  

There are millions of people world over, who have money far in excess of their needs, mind you they are not super rich but are fairly well off. For theoretical calculation, let us take the case of India and China. Consider a figure of US $ 10000/. This is equivalent to Rs.6.6/ lacs. According to me at least 1 million people in India and maybe 2 million people in China can donate this amount easily! So, in US dollar term it is 3 million people can donate US $10000/ each. The collective amount becomes US $ 30/ billion.  

Let us consider next group. Reduce one digit from US$10000/ and make it US$ 1000/ which is Rs.66000/ The number 3 million can become 30 million. So, from this group of people, the amount generated can still be 30/ Billion! Are we not in the direction of becoming Bill G? 

If people decide to donate the sums I have indicated, we create one more Bill G! 

Folks, I have just shown you some calculations which are hypothetical but these are not an impossibility! This is only tip of the iceberg! Our world needs many Bill G’s; I am a firm believer of theory, that when less and less people are jobless, and in good health, this world will become a better place. But unease, shear pain of looking for your next meal, and many frustrations due to poor health leads to many bad things that happen around us! So instead of happy world, situation is sad. Consider an Utopian scenario where everybody gets a job, their daily two meals and are able to send their kids to school. This is what we should aim for. 

What can donations do? It is not about collection of donations and putting them in a bank account or a black box. We must look at the broader picture. What have the Bill G’s of this world done? First step was to think about giving away the wealth. Second, they decided what to do with that money. Then plans, organizations, budgets were prepared. Gates foundation came into being. They decided how to go about all this; the bylines mentioned above tell us the direction that they have taken.  

How to put my hypothesis mentioned above, in practice? In our case,  

  1. Firstly, we will have to decide to become Bill G  
  2. We should also want to make some of our friends Bill G! This process has to run like a chain reaction  

I am sure something big can happen. In Bill Gates’ case, the money was already there; in our case also money is there. But it is in different locations under control of different people. This really is the problem, 

Consider a case of an individual. The person is at stage zero and is not aware how much spare money is available! The quantum of money available for donations is going to be dependent on how the person analyzes the finances.  

I honestly feel that we can start this thought process around the age of 40! We will have to make some assumptions here. Firstly, we can assume that we are going to be on the “Tera Firma” till the age of 80. Does 80 sounds like a good figure? We can honestly do a lot in 40 years. We can start with small amounts of money at the younger age. When we retire and are in golden period, we should become more serious about donations. My take is that people keep on doing charity but it is not commensurate with the funds they have. Why this is not done, is because we do not do the realistic calculations. Another thing is there is no well spread culture of donations in our society.  

In golden period, money is needed  

  • to live,  
  • to have fun and holidays,  
  • contingencies,  
  • medical emergencies  
  • and to pass on to the next generation. 

If we are lucky and pragmatic, we can make changes in the phase “pass on to the next generation.” Do we really want to do this? Do they really need this? Are they struggling in life? If the answer is NO to all these questions. Calculate how much money you need to live, to have fun and holidays, contingencies, medical emergencies. As we grow older, only medical expenses can start going up; expenses under other three points, slowly will start coming down. The money that we have in golden phase is from Income from our capital or war chaste, and in some cases pension. I feel that we are afraid to touch our capital! Super rich have so much capital that they do not have worry about such aspects. But we the middle class and slightly rich also have more capital than we need. On top of this, we have money invested in homes. Emotional value and “passing on to next to the generation” are main reasons we hold on to them. Why not sale them over a period and start living in rented homes? Some people think that reverse mortgaging could be a better but it is individual choice!  

Passing on money and homes to the next generation is a good idea but passing on to them the culture of donating is even a better idea! In our country and I think in Maharashtra, the state where I live, the donation culture has been present only in rich people. But we have forgotten that during last 20 years we have done better than we have ever done, and there is money available for donations. 

Coming together and forming and organization like foundations, can be tough and we may be skeptical about it. I suggest following routes. 

First and foremost, do not be  cynics; systems do work in India many times.  In Pune Adar Poonawalla foundation has already taken up 40 kms of public  road cleaning under them by donating Rs.100/ crores! . 

  1. Sponsor children’s education – there are institutes like Karve Institute
  2. Improve schools-  Give them modern education tools and for god’s sake repaint some of them, especially vernacular schools! Children from low income families go there! You give I pads to your kids, to play, anyway!  Two ipads equivalent is the cost of one school room modernization. 
  3. I am told that we can donate to build public toilets, there are organizations who will maintain these at a cost for you. Do it!  
  4. We can do these things individually.

There can be many ways of doing this without getting bogged down by systems. I am thinking very strongly of formally starting this movement and hope you folks join this. Mind you, money need not be collected, it can be given directly to institutions. 

I read a beautiful thought about relationships. Consider relationship between a Kite and thread that flies it. This becomes a beautiful site to behold, when they come together with kites soaring on top of this world! Consider that we are able to bring together, weaker and poor section of the society (for me it is the kite) and the hidden wealth with us (like a Thread) . How this kite will soar in future? Let’s start doing it. I want as many comments from you as you can, and then let us hit road! Come on you Bill G’S! 

Adar Poonawalla




Data, the New Oil!

Walk through of benefits of big authenticated data!

In one of my blogs, I had used a statement by Mukesh Ambani, “Data is New Oil” My friend Ajit suggested that I elaborate on the statement. So here we go!

We have been using oil and Petroleum products, extensively during last century! Initially, the approach taken by westerners was flamboyant! They went to the desert land of Arabs and extracted oil at a decent profit. In early 70’s in the last century, Arabs realized that they were sitting on a goldmine and rest as they say is history! From desert kingdoms, where the countries were mainly run by expats, these countries have become rich countries and are sitting on a mountain of money! This was all due to correct commercial exploitation of Oil as a resource and later squeezing non-oil producing countries!

Current century is the century of data as we have already started observing. A lot many things happen digitally and there is tremendous amount of data that is getting generated and obviously being stored somewhere! The country, the businesses which will harness the power of data, already available, will become leaders in their own field. How to exploit this data? For doing any digital transaction, authentication is mandatory. We started with passwords, spoken word and so on for authentication. Indian government had a foresight to start creating a database of people in India and issuing digital identity to people called Aadhar. Aadhar has Unique identification which is biometric. This is THE ultimate method of authentication. Aadhar UID is the largest such data of population with authenticated identities in the world.

Due to this authentication method, many things can be done digitally. First and foremost, what Aadhar has achieved is to bring large number of poor people in India into formal system; this allowed these people to open zero balance bank accounts, to start with. Large number of populace has been outside the formal system all along, because of non-inclusion! Non-inclusion was because these people did not have any formal identity! The inclusion will increase GDP as transactions made by these people will get added in the formal system. The same poor people, get subsidies from the government. There has been extremely high leakage of subsidy as this money did not reach the right people. In the system when black money gets generated, it goes out of circulation and formal economy gets affected. With Aadhar, subsidies go directly to people’s bank accounts.

These are some of the effects of large amount of authenticated data being available. There are more advantages of authenticated data. During GST returns filing, it is mandatory to share that month’s sales figures with authorities. Now government will link this data from GST returns to Income Tax returns filed. Naturally, the values must match. If they don’t, the tax evaders can be easily trapped. This change will happen because of linked data. According to some estimates India’s GDP is much higher than what is seen on paper; this is because cash or black money transactions remain outside the formal system. Black money is the money on which income tax is not paid. When all transactions happening in India become above board, real GDP figures will be known. Data is the way for that! GST data will be huge data but putting it to proper use is going to be the key to success. Initially people required PAN cards for some financial transactions but there was no real authentication done while issuing them. With the result that people had several PAN cards making it easy to cheat. With Aadhar linking of PAN cards, each person can have only one PAN card. Power of authenticated data!

What is being linked to Aadhar? Bank accounts & FD’s, LIC and other policies, Mutual fund investments, Cell phones and many more things. These instruments are used by all people irrespective of their status whether they have black money or tax paid money. Authorities can link all this data from huge data bank and link it with Income Tax data base. I need not elaborate what will happen as the result of this linking.

Ambani’s cell phone company Jio has sizable data of their subscribers. Subscribers are registered using Aadhar card. Jio has plans to compete with Amazons of the world with a different business model. It is said that not even 10% of population buy their stuff on the net! Jio will provide discount coupons to the subscribers for local shops, within their cities and preferably in the vicinity. These subscribers will go to the shops using their cell phones & linked coupons will buy things they want and pay the vendor. These vendors will be local grocers, fruit wallas and will compete with Amazons through Jio. The vendors phones and customers phones are linked via Aadhar to handle the payment part.

Another business process that is being tested in China which can be adopted with or without modification in India. Someone wants to buy stuff from a vending machine. After items are selected, the person gives iris scan. This scan is linked to Aadhar card to Credit Cards (if they survive technology onslaught) or bank account. Payment is done using iris scan. Can it get easier? Just imagine that your Iris scan is going to be your credit/debit card, online banking and wallet all rolled in one!

Already there are apps like True Caller! If you have True Caller installed on you cell, any unidentified call received is checked by the app on huge data, thereby displaying you the name of the person calling you!

Another large data that is captured these days is the data from cars. Cars these days have a lot of censors to track and send the data to servers. Such sensors are now functional on normal cars like VW Golf also! High end cars are even more data hogging. What do we do with this data? I will give a couple of examples. Vehicles performance like engine performance, oil levels are captured. In case of some issues in the car, diagnostics is done quickly as data is always available. In VW Golf, if you get flat tyre, and someone else is using your car; your registered cell phone will receive a text message “Your front right side tyre shows reduced air pressure”! There are lot of such messages received when something goes wrong with the car. Driverless cars and EV’s are next in line. They will all capture very large data from all cars. How this data will help? Diagnostics, design improvement, performance fine tuning. Important thing is nobody must go and capture data!

I feel that, in India, data is going to help reduce corruption and black money due to Aadhar linkage. Data has already brought large number poor people in the formal financial system. Data will give true picture to the planners of the nations. All this will allow the nation and thereby people to prosper. The correctly authenticating data is the way to go forward. Looks like iris scan is the proverbial golden wand to do it!  On the technical side data will allow new business processes to evolve; some of which don’t even exist today. Speed of doing research and analysis will become fast. New products, new methods, new medicines will get evolved much faster. All the speed and accuracy due to authentic data will be a real boon to human race!



Advantage, Poor Economies!

Sometimes not being too developed is an advantage!

As the cliché goes, “Change is the only constant”! Human race with smarter brain and use of Thumbs of both hands has leaped frogged ahead of other species. From stone age tools, to the wheel, to metals, list is endless. During any and every change there has been resistance, there has been reluctance to accept new things. Flat earth theory is the classic case of non-acceptance of the progress of science. But in the end, all the new changes became routine.

During last 50 years of previous century and 17 years of current century, the changes and innovations have happened at an breath taking speed. Some things kept on becoming more efficient and improved tremendously. Some products, became obsolete even before their potential could be realized. Classic example is Fax. Before we started using fax in a big way other methods of communications came into use, PC became a mass product and over period fax machines simply disappeared. Some products which never existed before suddenly became household names, like iPod.

Computer proliferation has been the most important change that happened during 80’s and 90’s. Advent of computers, first as big as a room, then came desk top machines, followed by laptops, tablets and smart phones. This sequence is important. Computing and storage capacities went on increasing so rapidly that current smart phone capabilities are far greater than original desk top machines. One of the most important effect of these changes is to speed up discoveries in various fields, improve diagnostics in medical field due to better imaging techniques and faster results of collection and analysis of data.

I have only touched upon a couple of innovations and technological changes, but I always wonder how the general population of the world will handle these changes. One important thing about some of these changes is that they are seamless and are accessible without the hindrance of international borders. This reminds me of a Hindi song Panchi Nadiya, Pawan ke zoke, Koi sarhad na inhe roke! Birds, Rivers, the Breeze fly and flow at will and no border can stop them. Internet is one such thing like the birds and rivers and breeze! Except in countries like China, who go by their own laws of freedom. Another unfortunate seamless development is terrorism but that is a subject by itself.

How is general population able to handle these changes? In developed countries where literacy levels and education levels are higher, you might think that they handle it the best. But we already know that India is leading the usage of Cell phones, more than 80% of India’s population has biometric identification, which is practically unbreakable. High % of Kenyans use cell phones to make their financial transactions. I am quite sure many more Indians can do it but they avoid doing formal transactions so that they can cheat on taxes. I do not know the data about how many Indians have started using Bitcoin crypto currency! This switch over will be fast because it is currency which is non-traceable, seamless internationally and illegal in India. This will help people keen on dabbling into “black money”; at least currently it is better than keeping money in Cayman’s island!

How can new technologies change the world order? This may not happen overnight, but it can happen. Countries like US, England, Germany and many other are money rich countries, but countries like India are data rich. In 70’s in the last century when gulf countries realized the importance of oil, in a decade or so they became rich countries because they exploited the oil! Mukesh Ambani has recently said that Data is new Oil! What is the meaning of this statement? It means that the country which garners and manages the data well, will become rich fast. China is both rich in money terms and is data rich, so they will probably gallop over the others.

The Rich world already had systems and with new technologies they have improved on their systems. But in countries like India a large % of people who are not in the system, are taken into formal system, thanks to Aadhar which has biometric authentication. This has enabled India to create completely new systems. This will enable such people to access loans, and funds to which they never had any access. These systems can give poor, subsidy in Electricity bills and Fertilizers, directly. Before new systems there was a big leakage of funds and benefits never reached the poor. Systems are being designed for day to day use where biometric authentication is the only thing that is checked e g vending machines. Using this authentication, financial transactions can be completed. In India power deficit has been historical. Recently, a solar power plant for 800 Megawatt was commissioned in six months in Andhra! Five thousand people were employed on this project. One more example of new technology doing quickly, what old and polluting technology was taking years to do. Those who can afford, should put a solar plant on their own rooftop, for home use. What this does is 30/35% transmission loss is gone because there is no transmission!

Will the “uneducated un included” population be able to handle these rapid technology changes? If cell proliferation is an indication, then things look good! Cell phone is going to be the tool for all so it is upto the app developers and various agencies to create business processes in such a way that life becomes easier and easier; biometric authentication is already there! Before signing off let me share one more example of new technology and thought process. There is a Dam near Pune with a very large reservoir! The is plan, is to cover 4600 acres of water with floating solar panels to generate 1000-Megawatt power! Do you know what the bonus is going to be? Great saving of water which is lost due to sublimation! Great thoughts and new technology are simply going to change things for “Have Nots”!

India 2020 or 1820?

I am really not sure if our society is in 1820 or 2020!


Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod, you always look positive and gung ho about Bharat desh; but you seem a bit perturbed after you had a chat with your friend, Vijay,  who came back from China visit, today?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual, Genie kept on talking. Genie said, “I know that Vijay must have shared with you the advances made by China in all fields.” 35 to 40 years back Chinese started a revolution in their lives, overcoming the setbacks from Mao regime. Ok, I saw you smirk and I know what you are going to say. They have dictatorship that is why they can do whatever they want! Give 30 % discount to “No Democracy” but still how far ahead are they? Look at their new cities, look at their production volumes? In car production they have gone way ahead of the US also! So many international companies get their products manufactured in China for different reasons. Cost, productivity and quality! When they get these benefits, it is obvious that people will queue up to get things manufactured in China. Chinese think out of the box. They have a major manufacturing set up in north west China. Shipping products from there to harbours on the east coast, putting them in containers and sending them to Europe by ship, was 45 days cycle. They got the rail tracks ready in north west China to connect to Russian train system and now they ship the products by train to Europe in 15 days!

Pramod, you look gloomy. I know that you are not sure if we in India live in 1820 in mind, though we will be reaching 2020 in a couple of years! Yes, we are doing some great things like ISRO but you fail to understand why can’t we follow simple things like crossing roads on zebra crossings; sometimes it looks as if cattle is moving in the field in random direction but these are roads in cities and these are humans and not cattle! It is no rocket science, oh but we do very well in Rocket Science! We run excellent Metro Services in many cities but what happens on local trains and especially long-distance trains? We have dirty bedsheets in sleeper coaches, unclean toilets and so on. We are doing good in IT field and looks like we will go up the value chain going into AI and deep learning. But we can’t find solution to smog in Northern India. The smog levels reached are ten times the normal value, but we are collectively sleeping! Pramod, I know Beijing also faces similar problem, but they are at least trying to do something about it and not sleeping over it!

In our Metro ecosystem behavior of Indians is very disciplined and the system remains very clean all the time! Just outside the system we are back to “Old Dilli” ways. Old Dilli is a thought process. चलता है is our motto! This means whatever rubbish is done we accept it with an attitude, “It’s ok! चलता है.” Unless we come out of this attitude we will remain in 1820! We have Urinals on expressways just after every toll station. But people will relieve themselves on the wall of the Urinal but from outside. Local governments ear mark zones for hawkers, but we will start hawking where ever it is suitable to us. On footpaths, railway foot bridges! But with चलता है attitude we regularly buy stuff from these hawkers and accept situation as if we are still in 1820! Local Governments make anti encroachments drives, within a couple of hours or days, hawkers occupy the same space and it is business as usual. We do not have time to breathe because of busy life but we will spend hours together to follow some age-old traditions under the garb of religion.

Pramod, what is the solution to this? How do you think Indians can be physically as well as mentally be in 2020? Do you at least  see some progress in that direction! Sri Lankan cricket team captain made a statement that their teams performance is not up to the mark because of some “Spirits” are working against them! Are you sure Pramod that these things are not discussed in Indian Cricket team meetings? At least from what is written in newspaper, Indian skipper is a 2020 guy who totally believes in training, discipline, performance and positive attitude! This probably helps Indian team to open the bottle of “Spirit”, Champagne, after most of the matches, these days!

Pramod, I want your reply on this, as I know you have strong views! I also know that your friend Vijay is like you! He also is in gloom after visits to other countries  but is a similarly positive guy like you and wants to work harder again! Pramod tried his best not to talk but Genie hustled him again with the same questions! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, look at the positive side. All this discussion shows us that there is so much to do! For next many many years, we all have lots of work to do! I am sure we will do it, the way we are doing with ISRO, Metros, IT “

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod my gut feeling tells me that most work we will be required do will be on Indian Mentality!”


Digital Numero Uno!

India the Numero Uno of day to day transactions!


Pramod somehow caught hold of Genie, managed to make Genie run at the high speed that was expected of him. Genie as usual started narrating a story. He started with a question, “Pramod, you always claim that you know a few things in digital world. Tell me who is going to be the Numero Uno (the best or most important country) in day to day digital transactions? US of A, China (中国), Japan (日本) or Good old India?” Pramod knew that if he uttered a word, Genie would slip out of his control and system will hang! So Pramod did not give any reply to the question asked.

As usual, Genie kept on talking. Genie said, Pramod now that we have had a decade and half of digital revolution (a la Industrial Revolution) who do you think will be the leader by 2030 in day to day transactions! Even as early as in next five/ six years the clear winner maybe seen; do you want to say something about it, Pramod? Genie was hoping to trap Pramod into talking but Pramod just smiled. Genie as usual kept on blabbering.

Pramod, I feel it is going to be India! Come on, don’t believe in me. Let me share some information with you. Last year along with demonetization, Indian Government started digitalization drive. This gave impetus to digital way of doing transactions and payments. Even some small time vegetable vendors, fruit merchants started accepting money in new format. You obviously don’t go to market with your laptop, so the obvious solution was using cell phones. Suddenly, many apps started coming into picture. I am giving you information based data available today.

There are two methods of transferring money from A to B. Bank to bank transfer (the best method for this is created by Government is known as UPI, (Unified Payment Interface) and Wallets by private parties and banks. Basic difference is that in UPI your money remains with you in your bank account till you transfer it. Whereas in Wallets, you have to transfer the money in Wallets from you bank account for further use.

Let me start with UPI; Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is an instant real-time payment system developed by National Payments Corporation of India facilitating inter-bank transactions. The interface is regulated by the Reserve Bank of India and works by instantly transferring funds between two bank accounts on a mobile platform.

“UPI is built over Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) for transferring funds. Being a digital payment system, it is available 24*7 and across public holidays. It uses Virtual Payment Address (a unique ID provided by the bank), Account Number with IFS Code, Mobile Number with MMID (Mobile Money Identifier), Aadhaar Number, or a one-time use Virtual ID. An MPIN (Mobile banking Personal Identification number) is required to confirm each payment.”

Pramod, many banks are now using UPI but again the Government is also equally serious and has come up with an App called BHIM. BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) is a mobile app developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), based on the Unified Payment Interface (UPI). The app supports all Indian banks which use that platform.

All banks have their own apps but Pramod you will realize that it is a seriously big business and Google has jumped into fray  with an App called TEZ (fast and furious!) based on UPI. It cannot get any more serious than Google making app only for India.

Pramod, Wallet is another option which transfers money in two ways. One is Wallet to Wallet and second is Wallet to bank. Wallet to Wallet transactions have the limitation that both parties should have same Wallet. Wallet to bank is a normal transaction. But how does money come in the Wallet in the first place? It come through credit cards and through Bank transfers! Wallets have started using UPI too! Wallets are apps by private companies like PayTm which is currently the most famous amongst the wallets.

Pramod, which one will you prefer? Many banks have their own apps. BHIM UPI has ease of use as your account can be from any bank, your UPI id can be 1234567890@upi where digits are your cell number! Easy, isn’t it? Current authentications are MPIN number, but this authentication can be easily replaced by biometric authentication? Aadhar anyone? Of course!  In Wallets I will currently prefer PayTm. It is backed by Alibaba in a big way, so theoretically should be around for a long time. It has facility for UPI too! Another interesting feature they have started is Chat! While chatting with someone you can get or transfer some money from the Partner. Another reason it is my favourite is that Uber account is linked to it and for extensive user like me, money gets automatically debited to PayTm!

Pramod, don’t you think that entry of Jio in cell phone service providers is a game changer? Their low-cost cell phones are offering most facilities provided by expensive cell phones; this  will also play a major role in proliferation of digital transactions. Credit cards are looked at by many as elite tool; so for users who do not spend large amount in month, credit period offered by card companies is of no use. So, cell phone is going to be Swiss Army Knife for us. Capable of doing everything and anything. Making calls, taking photos, chatting, video calls, financial transactions, sharing photos, chats, GPS the list is unending! Pramod, do you think that after say about ten years credit & debit cards will be relevant? Debit/Credit  card needs investment from vendors but UPI and Wallets don’t need to have swiping machines!



Pramod, I want your reply on this as I know you have strong views! Pramod tried his best not to talk but Genie hustled him again with the same question! Pramod just could not keep quiet. He said, “Genie, with one billion cell phones and one billion biometrics data in the from Aadhar (which is the best authentication method), it is no brainer to say that India will be Numero Uno in day to day digital transactions over next ten yeas”

With this statement Pramod broke the golden rule of silence that Genie had locked him in.  At that instant Genie slipped out of Pramod’s grasp, Genie’s speed became equivalent of 2 G and system hung!  Genie could not help but make a passing remark before escaping. “Pramod my gut feeling tells me that it will be five years and not TEN!”