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!”


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!