Is this Popcorn or Caviar!

You have options, cribbing is not one od them!

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I went to the airport the other day to pick up my delayed bags. While coming back from airport, I again used Ola cab. There was a difference of Rs.35/ on the same trip, the return trip cost more. I checked the invoice and found that they had charged, airport pick-up charge. Ola and Uber both now have stands at the Pune airport. For this facility they pay yearly fees to the authorities. They are passing it on to the customers. At a time 8 to 10 cabs are always waiting at the airport!

The other day, we went to a multiplex to watch a movie! I did my booking on the website. Besides buying high priced tickets, I was charged convenience fees above the price of the tickets. I asked my young friends, who are savvy in such things! A friend suggested that we should use the website to check the tickets availability; if plenty of tickets are available, simply go the multiplex and buy the tickets. No convenience charges are applied.

So far so good. While watching the movie, we thought that we must follow the tradition and decided to eat popcorn, sandwiches and coke (diet of course!)  Popcorn was freshly made, sandwiches were ready to eat; probably made in the kitchen near the back office. Coke was from the fountain. None of the product sold were legally “packaged” food. “Packaged”  stuff under the law of MRP!  Non packaged products do not have MRP and there is no need to “declare” it price!

(MRP) Maximum Retail Price is a maximum price which can be charged to the consumers in India, as specified by the authority. Under the Consumer Goods (mandatory printing of date of Production and Maximum Retail Price) Act, 2006, consumers cannot be charged more than the MRP mentioned on the packing of the products.

When my card was charged I realized that there was not a single packaged item. Hence there was no MRP for whatever I bought. I realized that the multiplex owners must have had robbers as their ancestors! They simply robbed me on food prices, and there was nothing I could do about it. The total cost of food was much higher than the price of movie tickets. Since the items did not come under MRP laws, they could charge me whatever they wanted! Mind you there was a big queue to buy stuff and apparently people have money and do not mind spending money on entertainment. I asked my young friend later, the trick to overcome this issue. I asked her, if we could take stuff from home to eat. She said that we are not allowed to take outside food in the multiplexes due to security reasons; and that is the law! My theory about ancestry was proven!

So far so good, the movie was nice so we did have a good time in spite of meeting the  robbers! Now what is the law on this? Somebody has recently taken these multiplex guys to court. Arguments are going on in the court. The court has made an observation that when we go to five-star hotels, we pay whatever they ask for the food! We never expect the prices to be similar to other smaller restaurants. Similarly, I know that the prices of movie tickets in single screen theaters are much lower than what multiplexes charge. I am sure pop-corn, sandwiches also cost much less in single screen theaters. The court will check only the legality of billing done for food, if needed. Compliance of taxation will be checked by tax department! But nobody can tell them at what price they should sell the food!

The stories apart, is the high price for food charged by multiplexes justified? I am not sure but the multiplexes are projects by themselves and there is a lot of investment made in each such project. The movie business is unpredictable in general, so sell of tickets will depend on how popular the movie becomes! Their earning from movies is also unpredictable. The movie tickets are priced from Rs.80/ to Rs.400/ plus, for morning shows to most popular movies later in the day. I am not aware of their earning per ticket. So, what they are charging us for food is as per their business model. We are going to five-star movie theaters where we have fancy theaters, escalators and all the modern things. Prices will be high and we will have to accept them.

In India, when we travel by railways, we don’t pay extra luggage charges. But when we fly we are required to pay additional fees to the airlines as per rules. On some airlines they provide food free because the price of tickets is inclusive of the food. But on some low-cost airlines, we are required to pay for the food. Recently on our first leg back to India, on Seattle to Toronto flight, Air Canada was charging for food but they were serving coffees and cokes free, though it was an international flight! They probably decide based on the duration of the flight. On New York- San Francisco flight we were served food, since duration was 6 ½ hrs. So, each of the businesses have their own business model! We shouldn’t crib about it. We choose whatever is suitable to us, itinerary wise and price wise. So, we have options to see a movie in a multiplex! We have choices! Single screen theaters, YouTube, Netflix. We have to decide ourselves, nobody is forcing us.

What is the solution to this issue? For me there is no solution! But yesterday a party known for its rough politics, man handled a restaurant manager in a multiplex, for selling popcorn at  “high” price. Is it the right way to handle things? What can the manager do about it? The prices are decided by the management! Taking law into your hands is never justified whatever the reason!

There was one new Ranbir Kapoor movie being released! In the second week when the ticket prices are down, we can go for the movie. Tickets are on me, food is on you! Offer open only for multiplexes!  Are you game?

Technology Onslaught! Reskill or Perish!

Technology forces humans to retrain!

Some lawyers in Pune have declared that they will go on fast until death, against the decision of Charity commissioner. It is now decided that that all registrations with charity commissioner will be done online! Thereby eliminating the need to employ lawyers to handle this work. Lawyers have gone by the only route known to them. They are cribbing, crying and fasting. Welcome to the brave new world of technology.

Technology is a part of revolution that mankind has seen from stone age. Only difference is that today’s technology can take away work from highly educated and successful people! When the wheel was invented, the strong people in that era must have gone on strike because with invention of wheel, people with brute force, for doing various manual things, became irrelevant. This sort of thing is not only technology related but it is about out of box thinking too!

Western part of China has many industries that produce goods for the world! Shipping of these good to Europe was a real long haul; taking the goods to east coast of China and from there goods would sail to Europe, in big ships. Total time taken would be between 40 to 45 days. Someone had a great idea. China had talks with Russia and rail system in western China was realigned to connect to Russian rail system. Trains full of these goods now reach Europe in 15 to 20 days! Ship owners have not gone on strike!

Human nature is such that we want status quo, all the time. While going is good, humans don’t try to find efficient methods of doing things better. Lawyers probably never understood that drastic changes that were coming up. Nobody designed something specific to make lawyers’ work irrelevant. Technology does not target anybody, it just looks to improve things or to do things in a different way. Somebody in government took a step forward to make the system more efficient and transparent. This is already happening in many areas in the private as well as government domain.

Blockchain is a classic example of technology can change things drastcially! I will briefly explain about Blockchain. A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. This allows the participants to verify and audit transactions inexpensively. This technology is already being used in cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. Technology is proven and slowly becoming popular. This technology has a potential to eliminate ALL the agents that are currently there in the system. These agents are Chartered Accountants, Bank Agents, LIC Agents, and so on. Over a period, Bitcoin Technology is expected to eliminate even the Banks and Currency! This shows two things; currency as a tool can vanish and Blockchain can push many educated people out of work, in big numbers. What is the solution? Retrain, get new skill sets! Don’t crib!

The other day, I was having coffee with my friend Sharad. He told me a story about some government agency people who wanted to do ground survey, near his factory, for a new expressway being planned. The people living in that area have been opposing the project. As a protest, they blackened the faces of the surveyors. Surveyors were cool guys. When Sharad asked them how much time the survey will take? They said 15 minutes. They moved around, put some paint marks on the rocks around and were ready to go. Sharad asked them, ” What happened to your survey?” They said, ” We are done! Now Google will take over and do the necessary survey; we just had to paint some markers.” Technology? How are local protesters going to stop Google Satellite?

Do you remember Tonga, the horse carriages being replaced by Auto Rikshas? Now a days, we rarely see young people driving Rikshas, so it could be on it’s way out! Heard of Uber and Ola? For long distance travel, the replacement was trains. Then came airplanes, local purchase is being slowly replaced by Web based selling. Amazons, Flipkarts are taking over business from local grocers! Typewriting institutes? What is that? Where are the typewriters? Where are the typists? Are we now hearing stories about Electric Vehicles? Another 20 years maybe! There may not be big repair workshops!

Most of the times, new technologies start with some mundane task or something which is not relevant at that time. It takes people thinking out of box that makes rapid and sometimes dramatic changes. Something similar is happening in another area of our lives.

When Jaya did her engineering in early 70’s, ladies in this field was a novelty! Lady engineers making a full-time career after degree was even more rare! This has been changing for some time. Early part of current century has seen major jump of ladies coming into different professions, in large numbers. They got themselves adapted and trained to handle many aspects of life which they were not supposed to know or do! How has this changed things in the society! It’s the women who have been retraining themselves, realigning themselves to out of box thinking. Some have gone into supplying home cooked food for people, some have gone into running creches! They have retrained themselves as per the need of the hour. Are men doing necessary changes in their thought process? Have enough number of men done this? Have they retrained themselves? Have they re-skilled themselves? Have they learnt cooking? Have they learnt to change diapers? Have they learnt to go to office after spending hours with the child who was unwell at night?

No, they have not! The majority have not done it! What comes in the way? It’s the so called traditional way of thinking that men are supposed to perform so and so things in life and women are supposed bear kids and manage homes. What will happen if men don’t change? They may not become irrelevant like lawyers, but whether they like it or not they will have to face ground realities. Whatever traditions or old way of thinking may say, there is one skill set which only women have! Bearing and producing a child! Yes, men are needed for this but technology has proven that you don’t need men but their sperm to produce a child! Remember, Kunti had given Karna birth by using this method! Mankind knows and is very much aware of this method, for a long time, as mentioned in mythology! But the point of inflexion for this to happen regularly, is still too far away!

What is the easier and more prudent way for men? To retrain themselves, to acquire skills to run the family jointly with women. This does not need technology change; this needs the change in mind set. Change in old way of thinking! Accept that people who don’t adapt to new technology or thinking can become irrelevant over a period of time!

Lawyers, find your selves a new area where your skills are needed. Try and re-skill yourselves for doing something different! Become a great chef, become an online teacher, become a producer for online serials! Instead of striking you may strike Gold in your new profession!

EV’s! The Eco System Disruptions!

Are we prepared for major disruptions in many Eco System due to advent of EV’s?

Below is an article which informs us about governments seriousness regarding introduction of EV’s in India. It is hoped that at least 30% of all new new vehicles by 2030 will be EV’s. Last year, government ordered 10000 EV’s and there is a plan to order the same quantity this year too! Government is also encouraging bus fleets to buy Electric buses. Himachal Pradesh has ordered 25 such buses and are being run in hilly areas. I saw a few of them plying, during my recent holiday in Manali.

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/centre-launches-national-e-mobility-programme-10-000-more-e-vehicles-to-be-procured-59845

What EV’s are going to do to various Eco Systems? When we discuss EV’s, discussion is about pollution, how long petroleum products will last etc. There is also a discussion about petroleum cartel holding human race to ransom. But there are many more disruptions that need to be considered. These are not only for individuals but for various agencies like government, businesses and many other systems. These need to adapt, change and modify to suit new environment created by the EV’s.

Take the case of governments tax collection. Tax collected on petroleum products are so huge that these are almost 100% of the price of the petroleum products. At every stage tax is collected. From refining, to distribution to sell. Both central and state governments will start losing this revenue when critical mass of new EV’s is reached. 2030 as indicated in the above mentioned article, may be that year. Government needs to find methods to make up for this revenue loss. Not all revenue will be lost but there will be a loss of big chunk. Another issue is the “fuel” that will replace petroleum products will be electricity which traditionally is being manufactured in Public sector. This fuel cannot be taxed very heavily,  as its usage will be multi-purpose, vehicles, industrial and domestic usage.

Another major change that has to happen is the growth in production of electricity. If this continues to happen using petroleum products, then pollution will come out of chimneys instead of car exhaust systems. Main thrust appears to be on solar systems but they will also have their own issues which need to be tackled in parallel with increase in production. Another method that is being undertaken is nuclear power. This will also help the ecosystem to achieve the same goals.

Why would people switch over to EV’s? In case of buses, since it is a public transport this can happen faster if funds are made available. These organizations are anyway public sector. Of course, cost of the vehicles needs to come down. From present knowledge, it appears that maintenance cost will be lower. With decrease in Electricity price, battery replacement costs may also become quite manageable over a period of time, due to mass production.

But the real numbers will be coming in cars. Why will people change over to EV’s, the cars? Cost of ownership is the going to be the answer. This is made up of Price of the Vehicle, Cost of servicing, cost of repairs, resale value and ease of use. To me the last factor is also very important though it is not a tangible factor. All other factors have been there in IC engine cars too! But this is a new factor that has come up. We are all used to just using the key to go where ever we want; if required, we go to the petrol pumps and fill it up! With EV’s it may not be as simple, to start with. We need to plan, we need to have cars that will give more mileage per charge. The current charging technology available takes about 30 to 40 minutes minimum, to fully recharge. How fast this technology will improve? Will the charging time reduce to 5 minutes or some such time? Only time can tell. This brings us to charging stations, which is going to be a factor by itself!

EV’s will need charging stations, bus operations will have their own stations. But cars will need a huge number of charging stations. In India, we should not forget two Wheelers. Two-wheeler companies are also thinking big in terms EV’s and those numbers could be large. First and foremost is going to be the charging time! Unless this reduces drastically, number of charging stations needed will be a big challenge! So, to me this improvement to around 5 minutes or less is almost mandatory! I am sure the improvement in battery technology will increase the capacity of batteries which in turn will increase per charge running of vehicles. Who should invest in charging stations? Who will invest in charging station? Current Oil companies can take up onus of this, being public sector companies. Chicken and egg situation will prevail in initial phase. Charging stations first or EV’s first will be the dilemma! ROI on charging stations will be tricky and priorities is going to be an issue. Till IC engine vehicles are manufactured, they will keep on having the pressure of exhaust pollution control. By 2030, something equivalent of Euro 8 or 9 standards will be prevalent.  Car companies and Oil companies both will have to invest a lot on pollution control during this phase, along with investments in EV’s. This is tricky because nobody can predict the speed at which proliferation of EV’s will take place. Lest we forget, EV’s are Zero pollution vehicles!

About charging stations, will the government agencies build them or private agencies build them? Private companies have an option of not building them. There will be  individuals who may have proper parking space in office or at their home. They will build their own station but that number is going to be small, at least to start with. But looking at vehicles parked on roads even at night in cities, common charging stations, like petrol pumps, looks to be the only way. Can there be a “Charging Station Cess” on all new vehicles sold? Will it be acceptable to burden IC’s engine car buyers to benefit EV buyers? Can local governments take part in this, in cities where EV’s will be sold in large numbers? When will they know the trend? When will they decide to do it? All these questions do not have easy answers, but these issues need to be resolved.

The drive train in IC engine cars, starting from Radiator and ending with Exhaust pipe, will be replaced by about 18 parts, maximum. Out of these, the motors and gear are the only so called moving parts! When there are less moving parts, there will be less repairs needed! In fact, Tesla is offering life-long warranty for their cars. So, the car service industry will be the first victim of EV introduction. Today major chunk of repairs after warranty period is over, are the drive train parts. When these repairs are simply not needed, will the service industry be viable at all? Will manufacturers offer the paid service life long, through owned outlets. This is already happening in spare parts business, where component manufacturers find it difficult to compete with the vehicle manufacturers.

Another major disruption will be component industry and their basic vendors like casting, forging industries and their allied industry. These industries today, employ millions of people. Since there will a major disruption in this eco system, things are going to be tough. If a certain business simply ceases to exist, what do you do in life? Not everyone plans 10/15 years in advance. By the time they realize this, it could be too late! This group of business men will have business knowledge but may not have where withal to completely switch over to something new! How many will be smart enough to change to a totally new and/or unconnected business?

Friends, I have seen my city Pune change from use of carriage pulled by horses (called tanga), to auto rikshas, to Ubers and Olas. Tangas simply don’t exist now! I have observed that riksha business will also taper off over a period of time. Riksha is not an elegant mode of transport and it appears that young generation does not want to come in this business, as it is NOT COOL! The advent of Metros in the city in next three years will push Rikshas and even Uber/Ola! I will definitely use a Metro, if possible! When I talked of major disruptions, I was talking of obsolescence too! History has been harsh, and there is no replacement or option for obsolescence. If a system has to go, it has to go whether it likes it or not! It is like death, one has to accept it. Welcome to the brave new world of EV’s.

Do nothing holiday!

“Not doing anything holiday” is the doing holiday!

Why do we take holidays? There are different reasons for this. The working people take a holiday to come out of their day to day grind and to rejuvenate. Sometimes, we take holidays to visit relatives, to attend family functions. Other times we take a holiday to visit places, see things. But sometimes, we should take a holiday only for the sake of taking a holiday. But is it necessary that every time we travel, we should do something, see some places, perform some activity? Well  at least we took a ” do nothing holiday” for the first time and it was fun. One thing that is my favourite on any holiday is to watch human interactions along with nature!

We were planning for a holiday in Himalayas. We were trying the eastern part of India and but in the end somehow, we finalized on Manali. We booked the vacation for a week and had decided to take it easy. Except for arranging the travel logistics, we did not bother to find details about Manali, except for weather details. This was essential, as in mountains weather can be fickle and it can become cold. We geared us with woolens; our planning was on the dot as weather turned out to be the same as what we had  encountered in Alps, last September, rainy and cold, at least for a few days.  

During this holiday, we had decided not to do much of research so that we could get some surprises when we reached the destination. We had some information about Manali. Our some knowledge about Kullu Manali was 30 years old, when our  son Sachin had come here for trekking, while he was in school. As we landed at Kullu airport, it was a pleasant looking small airport surrounded by mountains.

When we came out with our baggage, we were surprised to see only 5/6 cars that had come to pick up travelers, around 30 of us. How others were going to move further was a mystery. The driver said that the distance to our destination was about 45 kms. In his inimitable way he said, that we it will  take 1 ½ hrs. We took two hrs. Courtesy, very narrow and bad, bad roads. Same distance was covered in one hour and twenty minutes on return journey though the driver was not as brisk. This was because we started our journey at 5.30  am

Manali in April presented us with snow clad peaks, cold weather, sunshine and rain to our surprise. Of course, it also gave us local Puri Bhaji and Parathas. When it was not cloudy, weather was divine though we had to wrap ourselves in caps, mufflers and jackets. Our main plan was sitting on the lawns and soaking in the sun and the nature. We did take a few photos and a couple of videos but the main agenda was to absorb the sights and whatever we could absorb from the nature. What more do we want in life when you get beautiful nature, lovely weather and surroundings, birds chirping; add to this our usual reading stuff!

Please keep volume high to hear the birds chirping!

We knew that Manali is famous for trekking, white water rafting, skiing, paragliding and its snow. We found another adventure activity there. At Solan Valley, we saw a couple of hundred three-wheel cross country bikes. People take cross country rides on these bikes, with a driver. Behind the driver, there is two-seater bench where parents and kids sit to enjoy the ride! We were also lucky to see the light snow fall. The flowers in bloom at our resort were beautiful.  

Besides surprises of Manali, we enjoyed our human interaction. We met a doctor couple from Mumbai. Young folks with their 6/7-year old child and their mother, who needed support even to climb down the stairs. But their enthusiasm was to be seen to believed. They had driven down from Mumbai and total driving distance was going to be about 4000 km. Driving this distance with their mother who had physical difficulty in moving around, must be tough. The mother would stay in the hotel all the time when the gang went for trekking and other activities!  

We met a couple from Pune, our age group, with their retarded daughter who must have been about 40 years of age. They were on circuitous tour from Delhi to Dharamsala to Manali and back. An arduous journey by road for anybody. But their enthusiasm and the way they handled their daughter’s needs was amazing.  

Best interaction with people, happened at the Pune Airport when we came back. We hired an Ola Cab. When we sat in the cab, the driver said that it was his first trip. I asked him why he started so late during the day; we hired the Cab at 6.30 pm. He said that it was his first trip with Ola! We both gave congratulations to him and wished him great business in future! He was so naïve, that he was unaware of basic things. When the trip started, I gave him the OTP I had received from Ola. He asked me what to do with the OTP. I said that he had to key it in. He asked me where to punch the OTP? I naturally did not know. Then I suggested to ask him to check with another Ola driver. It was finally done. He was very helpful and at home he put our bags in the lift for us, in fact he forced us to wait on the side! 

We had a pleasure of meeting one couple from Nasik. Husband was an engineer, and his wife a painter. We naturally found some common friends. We spent lovely time with each other. A couple of times, we had local lunch together.  

As planned, did we not do anything? We did a lot of things which we should be doing. We interacted a lot with people. We did not rush into things. Manali “activities” were anyway not suitable for our age group. We soaked into the nature, enjoyed the surroundings. Eating and purchasing was only incidental but trying local stuff was the main aim. One so called activity we did was going to the Spa! That 90 minute activity was very relaxing but so was our “not doing anything”! The 90 minutes in Spa gave me deep insight about Manali, local life and surroundings, from my masseur! This “not doing anything” bug has caught up with us and I am sure our next holiday will also be similar.