Paradox, thy name is India!

Disrespect & Indiscipline are the main reasons for lack of cleanliness!


A friend Shreekant, went to Europe for a month and mostly lived in Holland with relatives. On his Facebook page he shared some very nice write-ups about the pleasant weather, systems and so on. In his comments there were natural references and comparisons with Bharat desh. He made a very prudent and specific statement that we tend to be very harsh on ourselves when we compare with other societies and other nations, we are a young nation with very old civilization. I totally agree with him because there are a lot of complexities involved in our nation and life! I have always been wondering for the reasons for these paradoxes! Honestly I am never able to come to any conclusion for my question, WHY? It is why to everything.

Let us not say that in India, people live mostly in Villages, it is old story. There has been a big migration from villages to towns and cities. I know why this is happening. It is the abject poverty and lack of job opportunities in villages that pushes people towards cities. Recently I was in Europe, in larger cities and smaller towns and sometimes in villages. Obviously my mind too started making comparisons. Both in cities and smaller places things were relatively similar in Europe. In India also we have similarities but of the wrong kind! We are extremely capable as a society of making our cities & villages dirty! Cities like smaller places can be really dirty! That is the first impression that we carry whenever we travel outside India to developed nations.

 India as a country has made great progress  in satellite technology,  they are well known in IT field! India is the largest manufacturer of two wheelers in the world! Suzuki car production in India is much larger than their production in Japan! India has slowly started doing well in sports at world level! Indian engineers, doctors, scientists have done pretty well on global scene. This is where the paradoxes begin.

Let us begin at the beginning. How long have we been one, as a nation? Before 1947 there was no concept of India. We may sing paeans of glory of Bharat, जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा यह भारत देश है मेरा! It feels good to listen to the song but the ground realities are quite different. Indian continent was made up of hundreds of small kingdoms ruled by the Rajas and Nabobs. For the first time in the history of the continent, area from Pune to Atak was under the rule of Peshwas. That too was for a brief period. Many years before that, Mughal invaders came to “India” and ruled. Before 1947 British ruled us for 150 years, using a small army and big brain. British had clearly understood that since there was no “India” as such, they could easily use the divide and rule strategy. Under the non-Indian rulers most of the population never had any rights; the benefits of technology hardly reached them. British made sure that industrial revolution benefits reached only where and when it was beneficial to British. There was no “All India” policy.

European countries have existed as nations for centuries, sometimes by different names, some have split and some have merged. Japan has been in existence for a long time. China also is around for a long time. United States and Canada have also been existing as countries for a couple of centuries. Most important aspects of these countries is, though there has been variance in different parts of the nations, mostly they were quite coherent in food, culture, clothing and language. Except for the obviously large countries, all others are pretty small, smaller than the many Indian States of today. Ruling and managing such countries was much easier.

Indian complexities start with 31 major languages, with that many different cultures, as many different types of foods including the way we eat. But somehow one thing we have in common across the cultures of our great Indian continent is total disrespect for laws and rules, total disregard for each other’s personal space, disregard for maintenance of personal infrastructure of all types. I am not talking of government infrastructure! You must be wondering how I have not written anything about cleanliness! Lack of cleanliness is the end result of everything.

Disrespect for law is ingrained in our DNA. We have disrespect for authority. The respect starts with respect to next individual. In Hindi movies whenever a young person meets elderly person, they are always respected by touching their feet! In mythology we have great stories of Ram, Laxman, and Bharat who go really out of the way to respect their eldest brother Ram. When it comes to public life how respect suddenly vanishes? Though we have our old traditions for respect! In north India even a new born child is addressed with respect, using word आप. Luckhnow culture is known for पहले आप culture, meaning please go ahead, I will follow you! I feel that we make use of traditions conveniently! What could be the reason for disrespect? The Indians were always ruled by others for centuries. Main reason could be it is a way of protesting against authorities. But we forget that now it is our country, so how this attitude will help?

Disrespect to others creates “I don’t care attitude!” I feel like spitting in public, I will spit! In our society chewing paan or betel leaf and/or tobacco, and of course spitting the juice in public, is “culture”! Basic things like standing in a queue are handled so differently. People sometimes stand so much near you in your personal space that you have to tell people to move away. You will be jostled, pushed. Most of the time, someone will always try to jump the queue claiming “I have only half a minute work”! I also find problems in traffic. When I stop for red signal, at least 5 to 10% of times guys on bike will try to snake their way in non-moving traffic banging on my side mirror! Personal space, never heard of that!

Stopping for a red signal is an international norm. We will try to jump signal if policeman is not around, else we think that stopping over zebra crossing is our birth right. This is disrespect to others and law! Laws are made for smooth running of the society. In any society a small percentage of people are bound to break the laws. But in India very large numbers break laws with impunity. Once I was driving thru a green signal; after I passed, I heard commotion. Suddenly around 15 bikers just broke the red signal and drove thru. A policeman was there but how can a single policeman catch 15 people? Two wheelers are supposed to carry two passengers; it started with taking additional baby in the lap. Then it changed to two adults plus two children around the age of 10 or 12. One of them sitting on the petrol tank of the bike. Mind you this is not an exception!

Personal infrastructure is the area around homes, condos or where you live! In olden days there were small homes generally one story or ground level. Cleaning homes and pushing the dust outside home was the definition of cleaning the home. There was no concretization, there was no paper, so cleaning was pretty simple, push dust outside in the dust around your home. Things have now changed drastically and homes have also changed. The amount of trash we generate is enormous. The mix has changed, there is plastic, there is metal, there is paper and there is glass. Still in many homes definition of cleaning has not much changed. At the most people collect their trash and throw it in a convenient spot on the way to somewhere, dumpsters be damned! The best way to keep things clean is to not create the trash in public spaces;  when you achieve this, you  don’t have to clean the roads. In advanced countries the trash that you generally see on roads is tree leaves and cigarette butts. Somehow developed countries have also not been able to eliminate these butts. Once my grandson Suyash, who lives in the USA, had come to Pune. From our 7th floor abode we could see a lot of buildings around. Suyash asked me, “Grandpa, why don’t they paint their homes?” They all looked pretty ungainly because they were never probably repainted after construction. Buildings were maybe 10 year old. In these ten years not even one building was repainted. With Monsoon and heat, Moss streaks make buildings not a very pretty site. I am sure people living in these buildings could definitely afford to get them repainted once in ten years! I  normally live in a colony of row houses or town houses. People just used to hang their laundry from front balcony. Only after we started fining people they reluctantly stopped it.

I feel that all the lack of discipline, disdain for laws and rules, lack of consideration for others are independent of social status, financial status, (In fact sometimes I feel that it is inversely proportional) and your education. All the cleanliness drives, swatchhata diwas are of no use if the mindset is not changed. If we as a society handle the trash prudently instead throwing stuff where ever we want, we will have cleaner cities and villages. Pune is one of the better places where sweepers sweep the roads sincerely but I would rather have sweeper less Pune. Why are we required to sweep the road instead of collecting trash? All over India there is a big drive going on from government to stop open defecation, subsidies are also offered to needy. to build toilets But in Punjab many men still defecate in fields though they have toilets at home; when asked why they do so? The reply was, “It is Manly”! God bless us! Amen! You may listen to the song जहा डाल डाल पर सोने की चिडियां करतीं हैं बसेरा using link below. Tell me how you feel after listening to the song, now! 

Auto Industry 2040?

Auto Industry Circa 2040. where will it be?

WOW! MMG! DISCO! These could be names of some of the leading auto component industries in the year 2040! Why have I selected the year 2040? Simply because everyone is talking of this year for introduction of electric cars in a big way; from this year onwards, the real downward trend in manufacture and use of IC engines in the cars, as we know them today, will begin. I am simply assuming that the cars will be available, similar to the cars of today. Masses of cars will be driven by humans, they will have a steering wheel and a power plant/train to give them. They will have some form of braking, electrical system handling various functions, wheels and body with fuel storage area, air conditioning and so on! Things inside could be fancier with more and more entertainment, superior navigation abilities, drivers may become more stress free as cars systems will be able to understand many things and may take over some functions from humans. Internet of things (IOT) will allow things that are not even thought of today.

This is part of evolution of human race but this could be culmination of major change that is taking place currently. The “new” car industry is putting its toddler’s steps today. Evolution is nature as everything in this world is always evolving! Basic driver for these changes is computers and computer chips. The car industry will be using different chips and will capture lots of data data generated by various systems. This data will be in endless loop and will allow cars to function more and more efficiently.

What will be the difference in the cars of today and those in 2040? Today’s power plant, the Engine & Drive train will be replaced by Batteries and Motors. Today’s drive train, gear boxes etc will be just be not there. The exhaust system as is known today will be simply not be needed because there will be no IC engine, both Petrol and Diesel. Gear box and the whole system is really not needed because their function can easily be handled by Electric Motors. Even today, in electric cars, there is a single gear which reduces the RPM to what is needed to drive the car at allowed speeds!

There are many companies that are manufacturing the components that are discussed above. These components may become redundant over a period of time due to introduction of electric cars. Bosch, Denso, Continental, Valeo, Aisin Seiki are some of the major players that manufacture the cluster of these components. These companies together manufacture products worth US $200/ billions every year.  These products may comprise of 40% to 70% of their current turnover. The giants must be already studying the questions that have come to my mind. How are they handling these questions? I am sure it’s a tough call to all of them though they have the where withal and deep pockets to handle difficult situations. Some have started making navigation products, some are making parking assist, camera -related systems. But suddenly new names are being heard in these discussions as vendors. CISCO, NVIDIA are some of them. Some are direct vendors to car makers and some are vendors to components manufacturers.  Where is the real scope for new development and business? Battery packs, battery charging technology to increase per charge distance that the cars can travel today! All other developments that are computer related can also happen in IC engine cars too! TESLA is already building a giga factory for their Battery Packs! So will the “new” component business be taken over by Car Manufacturers? Suzuki, Toyota and Toshiba are coming together in India for big battery plant! What happens to smaller manufacturers of these components? Will they survive the major change? Will “WOW! MMG! DISCO!” replace them? Only time can tell.

In car making, after a long time, new name TESLA, started coming into prominence. TESLA came mainly for the new product offering. It appears that technology like fashion goes round! Till first two decades of last century, IC engine based transportation was not very popular. Trains used steam, cars used electric power plants; but battery technology could not catch with the then needs. Hence IC engine cars and trains became popular. From the existing car manufacturers, some are already manufacturing electric cars more than what TESLA is producing. On top of that they have a running profitable business producing IC engine cars. But one thing is for sure they have the humility and know where they lack. Look at what Volkswagen Brand CEO Deiss has to say about TESLA! 

VOLKSWAGEN brand CEO Diess has said that VW which manufactured 5,987,800 cars last year has to catch up with Tesla which produced 83922 cars last year. “Tesla belongs among the competitors which has abilities that we currently do not have,” Diess said in the interview with “Inside”, a publication for VW employees. Around half of Tesla’s engineers are software experts, while at VW’s core brand it is a much lower proportion, Diess said. Tesla has good electric motors, a fast charging network, autonomous driving technology, internet connectivity, and a new approach toward vehicle distribution. “This shows that we need to significantly improve. We can do this. We measure ourselves against Tesla quite deliberately. Our goal: Using our abilities not just to catch up, but even to overtake,” Diess drives an electric VW Golf.

 Current giants have ready infrastructure and eco system to make and sell millions of cars. They of course lack Electric car eco system as mentioned by Diess above. Their main struggle will be recharging stations for electric cars; but TESLA is also going face the same problem! The question arises if TESLA, a loss making company, a start-up, survive? Let’s look at the startups from the Silicon Valley and the west coast, who really made it big in computer industry sunrise era. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple they all became very big with the products/services that never existed before. TESLA is pitted against the giants for making existing products where the main “driver” is only a different technology! That’s a huge disadvantage. Fighting against giants, who have woken up a bit late, like Mercedes, Honda BMW, Toyota, GM, Ford, Fiat, Hyundai is going to be very very tough for TESLA! Some of these giants are also going to suffer or may merge! My take,Continental TESLA may cease to exist  by 2040 or even earlier as it is known today! Takeover? Maybe! 


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!