Diet! Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken!

Don’t fiddle around with your body if it is not needed!

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Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken! This is a statement that needs to be uttered many times in our life! Internet and Google Baba have made it easy for people to understand the stuff and get information about almost anything. This also makes human race suddenly “smart and intelligent”! Selecting people for Nobel prizes is going to be tough in future as there are millions of people who seem be experts on almost all the subjects under the Sun!  

 

maharashtrian-full-meal

This thought came to my mind as I took part in a discussion on a WhatsApp group. Except me probably most knew a lot more on the subject of dieting! Majority had experience of 2 to 6 months on the subject. They said the diet A is a fantastic diet and works wonders. There were of course some hidden gems who did not take part in the discussion. I am not talking about any specific diet, its pros and cons! Its advantages and disadvantages! But above image which shows typical Maharashtrian square meal, if followed regularly, will ensure that no special dieting is required. We are a group of people around the age of 70. Some of us are thin and few others are plump, but only two are obese; some are fit and others are not so fit! I don’t know the actual figures but my assumption is that at least 50% from our group have some medical issue or the other, or maybe they have a history of some major health problem from the past. My judgment is that 10 to15% are lucky enough to have remained successfully free of major health issues.  

There are health experts or maybe the diet experts. Some are doctors and most are non-doctors. From what I read, majority of these are not from medical background. I had my basic question during the discussion. Who should diet? What is the age at which we should start this new regime? Under whose guidance should we start the diet? Suppose someone has diabetes issue, then should that person follow a diet which says that you must eat every 8 hours and the eating time should be not more than 55 minutes at a time? Suppose one is required to take diabetes medication three to four times a day, then it is an obvious no no! To me a majority from the group will be ineligible. Then why is it that people want to start something new, which can have effect on their health directly? Is it only for weight loss? Or is it for something else too? Is this something about novelty because people have too much time on hand? The people who have started this diet, to my knowledge, did not appear to have any weight issue.  My worry is that at our age, our body looks fit and may have dormant problems, waiting to happen hence we should be careful when start something new, and unproven method. It is claimed that a diet eliminates diabetes tablets. What is the issue if you are required to take a couple of tablets a day? Heavens are not going to fall on you!

As against this some people seriously need to do something about their weight, classic case was that of Anant Ambani. He lost 108 kgs in 18 months by natural process. https://www.indiatimes.com/health/buzz/here-s-the-secret-behind-anant-ambani-s-stunning-weight-loss-253270.html 

Of course, later on a well-known diet expert was declared to be his advisor, which was untrue. I am sure Anant must have followed a very strict regimen under medical guidance. His was a classic case where drastic things were needed under medical guidance.  

We need to understand something. Doctors are also people like you and me; they are also likely to make errors. Dieticians are not our regular doctors; how will they know about individual medical issues and about our body? I will give you an example of how tricky the situation is. I came to know about a person who had a medical issue, called vertigo. He is elder to me by about six years and lives abroad. When the vertigo attack comes, the person feels blank, dizzy, faint and gets vomiting bout for about ½ hour. Tablet prescribed to him can then be taken, once he stabilizes. I asked a question to known doctors in Pune, most said that he should stop driving, a couple of them said, no comments! But the treating doctors have told him to continue driving! (60 miles an hour?) If there is so much difference of opinion among the doctors on a serious health condition, should we start something new, as yet unproven, at the age of 70?  

To my understanding, at the age of around 70 our body has taken a lot of beating; under Indian conditions all this group is “driving on reserve tank”, using two-wheeler terminology. Average life expectancy in India is 65 years! Why not enjoy bonus life unless someone’s idea of enjoying life is going on a diet, as yet unproven! Try not to become a guinea pig, nobody is forcing you. During the discussion on WhatsApp group, a friend Sudhakar said, he feels pangs of hunger in the early morning phase. Then why? Why not enjoy your early morning chai, omelet, or fruit or whatever you eat. I am not aware if he has any specific health issue. I am sure that he is smart enough and won’t start something different if he has some health issues.  

I am aware of another diet being strongly followed in Pune. It is does not talk about timings for eating food, it says eat moderately every 2/3 hours. But the diet suggested by that expert is very much different than what we normally eat and drink! It starts with a smoothie made up of Pudina and different condiments. It suggests Jowar bread instead of Wheat bread and so on! Now at this stage of life, our eating habits are so much entrenched in us, that the followers of this diet, talk only about diet when they meet; they miss their “normal” food so much. Their socialization has come to zero. For eight hour wala diet, the socialization must have been  drastically cut down because if you are invited at different time, than your meal time,  for a drink and/or food, what do you do? Your hosts will not know that you have skipped the meal,  if there is a large crowd present for the party, but if you are invited in a small group/individually or during an office business meeting or during holiday travel how do you handle it!

There are other aspects also. Some of these people, charge you for treatment,  latest famous treatment is based on videos on internet. No consultation fee, no direct interaction with the expert- correct me if I am wrong! Another person, charges Rs.1.5/ lacs for a 5-day session in a Darjeeling resort. About others charge, I do not know. It’s about your need for a treatment, or about how much proven it is. Or maybe the expensive treatments give you bragging rights!

It reminds me of a famous fish treatment in Hyderabad; it is said that it cured asthma. What is done is that a family, who did this social work free, had a recipe for a potion! This potion they would stuff inside some small fish. This fish was supposed to be gulped (more pushed down your throat) and not chewed. I met a friend of mine after quite a few years. I was trying to fix up a time for dinner with him. But he said that he to go to Hyderabad for this treatment. He was quite gung ho and said that it was helping him to cure his asthma. I said, “How do you know it is helping you?” He said, “Oh! I go to Hyderabad every year for the treatment!” Every year? 

Something fishy!

Democracy, Mobocracy, Lynching?

Stop Lynching at the earliest before they become uncontrollable!

India urf Bharat is the world’s largest functioning democracy which has been holding reasonably fair elections since more than 60 years. People have punished the Leaders who had done wrong things e.g. Indira Gandhi after emergency, Congress after major corruption scandals in 2014 to bring Modi in! It is also driven by emotion and brought in Rajeev Gandhi with a very large margin after Indira Gandhi was assassinated. Our democracy is always in the self correction mode. But does this mean that we are really functioning democracy in the right spirit? I have my doubts. Let us not forget that India’s worst lynching was the 1984 killings of people from Sardar community in Delhi and surroundings.

Recently, we have been reading  about public lynching. These are not one of events but it appears that there is an epidemic of lynching all over India. I don’t care and bother about the political angle but I am worried about the human angle. Whatever the instigation, how can people kill any person when there has been no personal enmity, no personal interaction? In Most cases the lynching has taken place based on rumours. Unfortunately, spreading rumours is just a finger-tip away, thanks to Whats App! In India, Whats App is being used extensively. India has largest number of groups and the sending “forwards” has become national past time and hobby! Two major rumours that spread were, “There are people kidnapping children” and the second one was “flesh of so called “Holy” animal is being transported by persons of certain community.” The holy animal concept is like freedom fighters and terrorists. The holy animal for a community provides flesh which is delicacy for other communities. Assuming that some persons did break a law, why not inform the authorities and let them handle it? Who has given people the authority to kill people? Have public courts now become official?

History of humans has been brutal. Largest brutality was the world war second! Millions of people were killed in this war! All this started with pogroms against the Jews. (A pogrom is an organized massacre of a particular ethnic group, in particular that of Jews in Russia or eastern Europe.)

World over, Jews is the community that is either loved or hated, but mostly hated. They have excellent skill sets in business, music, literature to name a few areas of their expertise. But they are always determined to succeed in whatever they do. They are a determined community which has been succeeding against all odds. Some of them are extremely orthodox and very ruthless in their business dealings. Worlds sharpest minds are from this community. But when the “Aryan” Germans decided to punish the Jews for their perceived treacheries, Jews had no chance and hundreds and thousands of Jews were killed, in cold blood by sending them to concentration camps under the garb of research. This ultimately culminated into war. This war was one of the most fierce and brutal war in history of mankind. Worst brutality was the Atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki! 

Do we humans ever learn any lessons from the events that have taken place in not too distant a memory? Some do but many don’t. My friend Vijay told me a story about his discussion with a blue-blooded German, during one of his visits to Germany. Subject of Bhagwad Geeta came up during discussions. Vijay explained to his friend how Lord Krishna convinced Arjuna to take up the war to fulfill his duties. The German friend told Vijay, “I don’t care if the Lord told Arjuna, I would not follow this advice. You folks do not know the gravity of what we in Germany have gone through during the second world war. I would never follow such advice even if Lord Krishna gives it”! To me this is one incident that throws focused light on what really happened during the world war two.  

But the lynching incidents that have been taking place, have given me shudders and these incidents give me a feeling the there is no difference between humans and the beasts! Humans are supposed to have a refined brain which allows the human race to behave like, yes, the humans do! The people taking part in the lynching are beasts as far as I am concerned. Beasts generally fight among each other for food, power and females, they have their community laws. A beast will generally not attack its prey, if it is not hungry. But now humans have started killing people in cold blood, just based on rumours; the so-called incidents had no relation with the people, taking part in lynching. They have killed simply based on here say! Simply based on Whats App messages.  

The recent lynching that took place in Karnataka had a victim who was working for Google. He and a few friends while taking a spin on a weekend, stopped at a road side kiosk for a cup of tea. One of their friends from a foreign country, was with them. The friend saw some children playing there and offered them chocolates. Some altercation took place and a few locals asked, “Why are you giving chocolates to these kids?” To avoid any further complications, the group simply said sorry and drove away. Instantly, Whats App messages started circulating, claiming that these people were from a child kidnapping gang. Their photos got circulated and road blocks started coming up in the direction where the car had taken off. They finally were stopped as their car turned turtle. One of them was killed in beatings. Others got seriously hurt. They did not get an opportunity to explain anything. Were the killer’s humans or beasts?  

What leads people to such a brutal act? Are there no laws in this country? To my knowledge there are enough laws that can act as deterrents to such barbaric acts. After all these barbaric acts were no case of sudden anger, no case of love triangle. The people killed had not done anything, they were simply rumoured to have done something. It’s the application of existing laws, and fast track courts that can take these cases to their natural end, quickly. Though these thugs are insane, they cannot hide behind temporary insanity plea. The victims were not known to the murderers, the victims had not done anything illegal. In fact, the victims were visitors from far off places and were on a very temporary visit.  

Government is pushing Whats App, the company, to eliminate methods of quick circulation of such rumours. They have already started acting technologically, but it will take some time. It should not so happen that failure of Whats App to prevent such rumours being spread, leading to censorship or closing of their India operations! Because that is killing the messenger, pun absolutely intended. Why these acts have started?  Why these Vigilantes have become active?  (vigilante is a civilian or organization that undertakes law enforcement (or actions in the pursuit of self-perceived justice) that is without legal authority.) 

Vigilantes become active when they feel that government is not able to handle misdeeds of some people. But this is not true! These so-called Vigilantes themselves feel that they can do anything, with impunity. Let us all not become Vigilantes and attack these brutes but let us wake up the law enforcing authorities to act and act quickly. Form special fast track courts to reach the just conclusion. I sure am hoping that these cases will be treated under the Indian penal code of “Cold Blooded Murder”. They deserve the maximum punishment under the law.  

 

Virus Bonhomie!

Technology has brought people together! Don’t lose this opportunity to bond for life long!

This blog is about a specific group but I have tried to make it as generic as possible. But it applies to all the groups of friends. 

Once upon a time there were a set of retired people and not so retired people, who lived their life, enjoying their golden period. Things were quite good. They were traveling, enjoying with family and had great time with their grandchildren, once in a while. They had illnesses, they had their anxieties but were game at carrying their burden, gracefully. Of course, the children were around but the there was a small issue, they were around the world, for many. Children and their family was a great solace, once in a year or two years, in some cases after five years! There were WhatsApp messages and Video calls, all keeping them very happy in the winter of life. Everything was smooth, children were very caring; they ensured that there were caretakers available round the clock, if needed. Everything was hunky dory! Once in a while there was a cool breeze and warmth of good old friends. This would come out of blue and kept people gasping as they had gone their separate ways in the journey called life. Friends from the old gang, were expected to meet only once in a while. Yes, these folks were also in college once upon a time; had gangs and great friends!  

A few years back suddenly, a species started appearing on horizon! It looked like UFO, nobody initially knew what it was. On searching Google, people came to know it was called Bonhomie! (Oxford meaning of Bonhomie is cheerful friendliness; geniality.) As normally happens, nobody was sure what really was happening. These people realized that there were two naïve folks who were bringing in an unknown creature called Bonhomie in their lives. Thanks to WhatsApp, FB and modern technology in general, things started moving really fast. The group of people was a little confused; they were not aware that they were getting converted into “group of friends, close friends!” The thought itself was breath taking. Am I going to meet my long-lost friends again? Am I going to meet Ashkya, Dhanya, Panya, Dindya, Sharya again after so many years? What fun we had when we were together in college? 

Lists were made, groups were created thanks to technology and two idiots! Phone numbers were shared and, in some cases, photos were exchanged. Calls were made and demeanor of all the people enjoying golden period slowly started changing. People at home were surprised and took some of them to doctors. Doctors said that there is new virus spreading fast, especially in people who are enjoying golden period. There was simply no cure to that. Sometimes these people show signs of Euphoria. But let them be. This virus can actually cure many ailments in that age group. Of course, Bonhomie is not a cure all. It cannot cure cancer, heart attack and stroke! But this virus is an antidote to overcome anxieties created by such illnesses. Anxieties in life, worries in general, feeling of loneliness!  

Finally, the D day arrived for the group to meet! Meet they did at their favourite place near the river! Words like Mithi, Salya, Jadya, Taklya, Lambya were thrown in with gay abandon. There were slaps on the back. There were bear hugs, and of course some tears of joy (which I have even while writing this piece too!) And the party started. There would be formal meets maybe twice in a year. Friends started meeting in small groups; old gangs came together! Bonhomie virus was spreading and parties started in Mumbai too! Small picnics, big parties, idli/dosa at favourite joints was the name of the game.  

As the gang became closer, there started good old fights and skirmishes like those from olden days, as if they were young adults again. The resolution in all the cases was always virtual or sometimes by a phone call. Group magazine started to keep bonding, it died its natural death over a couple of years. Photo albums were created to be shared with all but this also stopped after a period, a natural thing. But after every meet, there was a only one discussion, “When are we meeting again?” And the party continued. Joy was spread among friends regarding achievements of next generations, some of them in studies, some in art, some in painting. Travel photos and experiences were shared and advise taken from others for next holiday.  

Honestly, things were too good to be true! But bonding continued. There was sharing of sorrow due to demise of common friends. There was real enjoyment when some long-lost friend suddenly started meeting again; then a friend started sharing his old passion, paintings. He started getting time for his passion and made everybody’s life all the more enjoyable by sharing his art. Everybody looked forward to his paintings.  

I am all for a healthy world but started getting jittery that our group was traveling in the direction of destroying the virus of Bonhomie. This is one virus that I want to be alive all the time. Google was searched again. Google explained that there was a strong anti-dote, for this virus, called EGO. The group was slowly managing to infuse this anti-dote on a daily basis. Some friends were getting worried, some were overwhelmed. Some were relentlessly doing it. One friend joined only to infuse this dose. Advise of spin doctor was taken. The Doctor said that the virus of Bonhomie remains healthy with a regular dose of a vitamin called communication both verbal and written. The doctor suggested to reduce the communication for some time, to find out if his judgment and treatment suggested was correct.  

Reduction of this vitamin indicated that doctor was right. There were hardly 2/3 friends, who showed interest in checking out if monthly meet was ON! The experiment continues. But the spin doctor also suggested a communication by way of a big write up, which sometimes kick starts the rejuvenation of virus Bonhomie!  

Friends, don’t let this virus die. You will know it’s importance after it goes into coma. Instead of current two idiots, there can be 2/3 additional idiots who will nurture this virus. If not on first Sunday, friends can meet on second Sunday, at a different location, at a different time. Suggest whatever you think will keep the virus kicking! We all have a large stock of anti-dote EGO. Just dispose it off! Throw it away. This is true for all the remaining life of any person young or old, man or woman. Have fun, nurture friendships. God has gifted us three great things. The nature, the family and the friends. You cannot destroy nature because it is self-sustaining and self-correcting. But other need to be handled carefully, they come with a label “Fragile! handle with care”!  

But rest assured that two idiots will not rest till the Bonhomie virus is kicking in again!  

 

Digital Numero Uno!

India the Numero Uno of day to day transactions!

                                                                  InternetGenie

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!

SwissArmyKnifeCellPhone

 

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!”

 

New .com bubble!

Startups, Venture funding and profitability go hand and hand else you have a failure on hand!

My friend Nandu Pradhan sent me a message if I have opened a blog tap! The fact of the matter is that I am on a bit of a sabbatical for a week or ten days. Thoughts keep on coming in the mind and somehow I am able to reach the end line pretty quickly.

I read an article about venture funding this morning. It said that venture fund taps seem to be shutting down, albeit slowly, at least in India. I don’t understand much about venture funding but I am told that this funding is given to start ups with brilliant ideas; then there is second and third round of funding as the idea tries to bloom into business. One term that goes hand in hand is “burn rate” while discussing startups. Burn rate is the money spent every month, without doing any business at least in the beginning.

Most of my life I have been running a small business and during this period, barring a few years, I never needed outside funds! Of course, those loans were in the form of bank facilities. I paid outrageous interest charges on the bank funds. At some stage, I decided that enough is enough and returned all the bank funds. Idea behind running my business was simple, it was my job, and it earned me a living! So idea was to keep on making money from whatever activities I was doing!

Don’t get me wrong but I honestly do not understand this concept of venture funding and startups. All can’t be Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Googles of this world. These are some of the names that come to mind when we talk of starting up in garage and so on! Don’t forget that people behind them were brilliant people. They may not have had the best of the ideas to start with. Apple took 20 plus years to really hit it. Microsoft initially had a tough time but the idea of MS-DOS is what really took off! These guys had different business models. Microsoft has been making software products and are now also in cloud computing, in a big way! Microsoft’s obituary has been written a few times but lately they have become extremely agile to customer requirements. I need not write about Apple; once the iPod became a hit, rest as they say is history. They have real world hardware that they are selling at very high margins. Google made a brilliant search engine and the advertisements on the engine are their bread and butter; they hardly have anything else that is earning money. Facebook was pioneer in social media and have taken up Google business model but this forms 80% of their income. They have about 20% of their income from other sources. What I am trying to imply is that they are all real profit making companies and balance sheets have been in black, most of the times. They all have hard cash.

Coming back to start ups. I am sure that there is a genius lurking behind all these startups that we keep on hearing. Mr. Mukesh Ambani recently made a statement that Jio is a startup! I think what he meant by that is Jio is thinking out of box, its agile, its is taking business behemoths in the same field head on but of course there is a business plan which will make it profitable sooner than later!

I am naming two large e commerce giants in India, Flipkart and Amazon.  Amazon is doing billions of dollars of turnover world over but I understand that even after 20 years their E commerce business is not in profit! So they keep on pumping money. Because of market capitalization Bezos of this world have become billionaires. So must be Flipkart honchos. What is their business model? To my understanding this is trading business as these two companies’ sale products themselves or through their partners; they do not manufacture a single product. How come their burn rate is much more than their income? I feel that it is because of the discount war they keep on playing to gain territory It is a good thing that they do not take loans from banks; otherwise list of bank NPA’s will grow longer! Loss figures March 2016 Amazon Rs.3572/ crore, Flipkart Rs.2850/ crores, Paytm total loss Rs.7971/ crores! Not bad! Profits can always wait! (Ref. Economic Times dated 24th Sept 2017)

If the organization is not making money then what is the point in doing business? With the taps of funds being slowly turned off, the startups are thinking, in terms of operating profits! Real profits are miles away! I am not sure about operating profits too! I am surprised about both sides. Those running business are not really bothered about profits and the funding guys are hoping that one of their clients will become a Microsoft or a Google and then they will get windfall! I am sure the funding guys are very very smart people and they are pumping only part of their billions as investment in startups! But what about startups which are very small or medium size? Or do the promoters also make their money, on the side, from the “burn”? If there is no profit then how do you sustain? What do you achieve by having a high “burn rate”? Is the business model right? Do these guys have enough maturity? They must be real smart technically but running a business is different ball game! An idea, a great presentation, business plan (which always look lovely on paper) get them funding. But how long can the operations sustain on funding? Should the business not be self-sustaining? Is it easy to convert a brilliant idea into a self-sustaining business? There are many so called brilliant ideas, on paper; they face different hurdles, when they come into business domain.

Coming back to my lack of knowledge, I feel that business is a business is a business! The aim should be to make it profitable, of course not at any cost! One has to follow business ethics. When you get funding you don’t have to pay interest on funding that you get though you actually borrow it!  Funding is a cool name for this borrowing! One is really lucky that this is interest free loan. That most startups fail, is to me, an indication that most ideas don’t get converted to profitable business.

I will give you an example of a “startup”. This was not a startup in the conventional way. This person’s business and products were not hi fi type but products made for farmers and used in farming. Of course it was not cool! He was mentored by my wife Jaya. Jaya happens to be on cool side of life i.e Computers, IT and all. What she found was that the person was brilliant and knew his subject and had good products. He was trying to make too many products on laboratory scale for different produce. After a few meetings Jaya asked him, “What is the USP of your products? Which is your best product?” He said, “My products will give immediate results with very high returns in Pomegranates!” Jaya told him to concentrate only on that. He did it and rest as they say is history. Now he is a reasonably successful businessman. He received recognition from United Nations and business wise he is doing pretty alright! Mind you, he took funding but only after his business had grown reasonably well and was very much in black! Writing this story probably has answered the questions which I raised in the beginning! So startups and venture funding is good provided you have good profitable products and a profit making business plan; otherwise you have to be Amazon or Flipkart or Paytm! To hell with losses! There are enough people who will fund you, if you are large enough!

Low Aim is a Crime!

This is take on being satisfied with Money earned rather than going up the value chain!

India got its independence in 1947. India missed the industrialization bus by a century because British allowed only a few benefits of industrialization to percolate to India.  Before independence educated Indians were interested in working for British, whatever work they could get, mostly they got clerical jobs; those were the only real jobs available anyway! British chose the people for senior admin positions and made them brown sahebs. These proxy Britishers were more British than the Britishers themselves.

This scenario put India under the gloom of disease of getting satisfied on achieving small things and doing mundane things. This led to metastatic mentality of under achievers; those who were trying to do something different were looked down upon and discouraged from doing anything different. Some of us from our generation were able to improve on this thought process and later generation became even more active and started taking risks.

IT sector was the first sector where India did pretty well, financially. Y2K issue was the one that gave impetus to Indian IT sector; middle class started growing faster than ever and large Indian populace started having money, living in foreign countries for work and started buying their own homes in a big way. This of course combined with official opening of Indian economy in 90’s. Effect of higher salaries in IT sector was seen in other sectors like engineering, pharma, finance and so on. But this success hid one thing from general populace and even from IT sector that the “great” work that we were doing was actually mundane work done for others as a service. This model kept on working well till about a couple of years back. Then the signals started coming that the mundane work that was outsourced to India can be automated so….

Circa 2017! Large Indian IT companies are sitting on big pile of US Dollars. This indicates their past success, financially. But it appears that these large “successful” companies were run more by accountants than by entrepreneurs! So they have made big money, hundreds of thousands of millions, many of them in dollar terms. But since the scenario started changing a couple of years back, it is obvious that if you don’t move up the value chain, you are going to come down as fast as you have gone up! The fact that these companies are sitting on a big pile of dollars shows that our mentality of mundane “services” type of work has not changed. This pile of money should not have been there; it should have been invested in going up the value chain! But even today this money is being used to buy back shares! The big bosses have not thought in terms of creating own IPR’s or products in any field, IT or Engineering or Pharma! When “services” are generating money why bother.

To give an example of how things are changing, when you “talk” to say Amazon on chat about some issues, the “Ravindra” or “Asha” who is taking to you may be a “BOT”. What is a BOT? An Internet Bot, also known as web robot, WWW robot or simply bot, is a software application that runs automated tasks (scripts) over the Internet. Typically, bots perform tasks that are both simple and structurally repetitive, at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone. The largest use of bots is in web spidering (web crawler), in which an automated script fetches, analyzes and files information from web servers at many times the speed of a human. More than half of all web traffic is made up of bots. (This is Wikipedia definition of BOT)

How this is typically done is very similar to self-check-out counters in big departmental stores. At these check-out stations, for a group of ten such stations there is one supervisor helping, if you need any help. So what this system does is, instead ten people manning ten checkout stations, one person is sufficient. These BOTS also do the same thing. Now do you understand how the nature of business is changing? If your business is dependent on someone else’s way of working, you are in trouble if automation comes into picture.

What is the way out? Going up the value chain; but if you are a company with 100 to 150 thousand employees with “service” level skills you have tough task on hand. Basically it’s a tough call for the senior management to change its own ways from accountant based running module to technologist based running module. Who runs highly successful companies? Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, you just list such companies and will see that these are technology driven companies. Yes, finances are very important but if the company is run by accountants they will never take risks! But when you don’t take risks and try and don’t keep abreast with new technologies or create new technologies, you will never know what hit you! How many of us know that Google and Apple are spending big money on Car technology, and they are creating newer technology in cars which was never even thought of. Nvidia is already a big auto system vendor to VW’s, Audis and Mercs of this world. They have invented technologies which are forcing these Auto giants to use new technologies to remain competitive in business. Elon Musk of Tesla had the audacity to start making Electric Cars and even start making space vehicles using venture capital.

Of course there is silver lining to each dark cloud! The surprise is that the silver lining is coming not from private sector but Government sector. ISRO, Metro projects implementation, Solar Energy project implementations, highways all over India are sign of we Indians have started getting hang of the situation. On IT side one of the success stories of product selling is Tally ERP. Yes it has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and is unquestionably India’s “Numero Uno” product on IT side! If Tally is doable why can’t others do it? India is the largest democracy and is the only country in the world where all elections use EVM’s- electronic voting machines! Paper ballots are Passe’ in India! The EVM’s were developed by C-DAC! Aadhar card is one such initiative that has become pride of the nation! All these projects indicate that we are slowly coming out of the Chalta Hai mentality! Chalta Hai is a phrase indicating Small achievement is good enough! We should have Sachin Tendulkar’s in each field then only we as a nation can start achieving things!

So friends we started with discussion about Indian mentality of being happy with whatever little is achieved! Will our giants survive the onslaught of market changes? They have the money but do they have the wherewithal other than money? Do they have the mind set? Do they have the technological willpower to go up the value chain? Going up value chain is real hard and smart work. I hope these giants do it, but we are still discussing US H1B visa rules, which is the backbone of current business model of sending people on site to provide services! I hope our current young generation and future generation are as audacious as Elon Musk!

 

I am getting a Toyota Prius!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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