Saturday, August 24, 2013

The 100 Trillion elections and Political Illiteracy of the Mango Man!

Most young Indians get repelled by the deafening noise, lack of substance, callousness, double standards and above all corruption of the current day politics. They have an indifferent attitude towards all things political. Most of us are politically illiterate. We don’t know why BJP is right wing, why CPI is leftist and why Congress is centrist. It’s all so corrupt – we simply don’t care to know any of it.

Many don't realise that such Political illiteracy amongst the young educated Indians is a big threat to India's future. Amongst India’s middle classes & white collars, any discussion on politics is not encouraged.  Nor does it find interested young participants. It’s as if we have called a pseudo non cooperation movement against all things political.

By doing so we are rejecting the very tools our forefathers left for us to uplift our nation. The power vested in the publicly elected political institutions was supposed to ensure glory for our great nation. Our forefathers fought hard for our independence and debated hard for the kind of system we want. They could not have imagined a situation so early-on, where their future generation would simply be not interested in the political system they bled for.

Sadly, this reference to context of how the power is to be implemented by the citizens for the citizens is completely lost & forgotten by the young India. How many of us know that the electorate mandate to be given in coming Lok Sabha elections is worth a cool Rs 100 Trillion. (in FY 14 alone the Union public spending was at Rs 16.5 lac crores OR Rs 16.5 Trillions).  That’s approximately Rs 5 lacs for a family of 5– and that’s your tax money we are talking about. Double that and you will get the expenditure made by your state and municipality.

But today’s youth wants none of it –and instead finds solace in some NGO activism that soothes their mind. Very much like our weak prime minister whose personal ethical hygiene is useless to reform the cabinet of thugs that he leads. We fail to see that the very future of our country lies in our own hands.

We can begin by investing at least one hour a week in debating politics – which can set the ball rolling.  Let’s pledge to eliminate the political illiteracy that resides amongst many of us. Let us begin by respecting our politicians – at least the good ones; for they are gallantly carrying out the nation building responsibilities that most of us are shirking. We will have to know them, their policies, views, debates, background & reasons. We need to get involved, spend time, get influenced and influence others. We must form political opinions, jump from the proverbial fence and take sides… actions if needed. That process by itself will revolutionalise everything else.

Let your vote in this election be a studied vote, a well deliberated vote, an awakened vote and ultimately a quality vote that our Rs 100 trillion elections deserve.

Patriotism is dead

Patriotism is no more aspirational & cool as it was 30-40 years back and for a period of 50-60 years before that. We all are busy buying our 3bhks, iphones & SUVs. We don’t have stomach for social issues that are ailing us.

Nobody dreams big for the society & the nation. Nation building is left to the politicians – who were meant to serve the citizens. The lack of involvement in the socio - political process on part of the citizens has reversed the situation.  The servant is now the master! The citizens of the country are akin to the incompetent supervisors - who don't know how to get any work done from their subordinates. We don't give a clear mandate, can't force accountability and fail to select the right candidates.

Worst, we ridicule our politicians publically- only to ensure that the least qualified amongst us will aspire to become politicians in future. One cursory look at the future crop of politicians in your locality is enough to know how bleak the future is going to be. The current situation can only be blamed on us - the citizens.

We need the best amongst us to serve as politicians. Nation building is like marriage – it’s all important & you have to work at it. We need to start contributing to the socio-political process in whichever capacity we can –instead of watching and cracking stupid politician jokes, like bystanders.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How many lives are we living?

Every one of us wants to be that one in a million lucky guy – don’t we? That one who has all the luck and the success and more… But suppose, you ARE that O.I.M. (one in Million) –how exactly are you supposed to know? Would someone knock your temple – congrats – u r a certified OIM !!!! or something like that?

I for one got to know via my mentor – who also happened to be one – O.I.M.! Yup – you heard it right – I am an OIM!!! Please remember that you heard it here first – on your favorite radio channel :-)

After all, we all live in a time that is truly one in a million! There has never been time like this in past billions of years! Looking at mankind’s present downward spiral, I am almost sure that there won’t be ever be party time like this in future too.

But the present is … well…. A true present – a gift!

Have you ever wondered how many lives a 21st century man can live? I listen to classics from average of 50-60 years period on my mp3 player. I speak to relatives thousands of kilometers away anytime I want. My average friend stays within 15-20 kms radius and I stay connected with friends within thousands of kms radius. I read novels from over 100 year period because new printing technologies allowed replication and preservation that was unfathomable just 1000 years back. My food plate contains choicest cuisines from across the globe. I travel for 40-50 kms everyday for my work – and fly continents for leisure. And it’s not only the span but also the depth or the quality of lives. I have exact and specific expert recommendations on almost everything I care to find out – be it trying out new cuisine, or listening to that Ghulam Ali ghazal or visiting a particular bi-lane in fort Kochi. Everything that today’s generation is seeing – be it theatre, music, arts, movies, writing – everything - is being witness to history being created in front of our eyes.

And last but no way the least – the peace. It is for the first time that masses are truly free from fear of being thrown out of his house, being torn away from his family, his peace being taken away forcefully. It’s the first time ever, when literally billions have come out of poverty – and are aspiring for a better life for their children.

What are you waiting for? Go –Live!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Re-Imagining Indian Telecom!

Countless strategic theories speak about redefining the market from consumer point view. The blue ocean strategy, the sudden change in the paradigm, the proverbial outside idea that brooms away today’s winners and redefines everything. It’s always seen that the incumbents had the best of everything – but were blinded by love for their own product features than consumer benefits. They fail to see the picture from the consumer’s lenses and become irrelevant.

I have been an Indian Telecom professional since almost a decade now. And since I am a bit of a student of strategy myself I am going to attempt to imagine NEW VALUES that Indian telecom can create by just adding a few cosmetic layers to its foundations.

To me Telecom is the business of connecting different people or points. It’s not about selling minutes alone. Not many know – but top Indian Telcos like Idea, Voda and Airtel own the biggest distribution machineries anywhere in the world delivering a mindboggling 10 billion + units of recharges every month. They are behemoths who have the best of the manpower, infrastructures and deep pockets.

Here’s my list of top 10 outside ideas the telcos can consider to create new values and new businesses– by just unlocking some of the existing asset’s values

1. Direct to Home deliveries – Ask a EBAY.COM or any of the newly launched e commerce portal the value of the distribution that we own. Ability to send anything to any part of country on back of our own (not outsourced 3rd party) distribution is priceless. Also ask them the value of having already enrolled the customer and having a contact centre set up ready at the other end. We already are a biggest catalogue retailer in the country who is yet to open shop!

2. Google On Phone - Just Dial – whose business it? Who should have created it first? Is it not funny that it took a Just Dial to make us realize the value of becoming a GOOGLE on phone? With low literacy rates and internet penetration– there will always be opportunity for a GOOGLE on phone to emerge. Doesn’t matter that some small players have taken a small first movers advantage. Given their sheer size the telcos can do a far better ‘me too’ product and take that market away.

3. A discount catalogue – this is an allied business to the Just Dial model or the Google model. Once you own the searches then you can always own a bit of additional value from each of the business that gets benefited by that platform. Again given that the telcos are already interacting with close to a million shop owners already – and each and every street of India is pounded daily by its sales force - this job of enlisting offers from various establishments should come naturally to the telcos

4. VAS retailer on the phone – The mobile VAS industry today is 10000 Crs. And still each and every VAS buyer is confused about how to buy / understand his favorite VAS service. A VAS retailer on the phone – one single number where the customers can dial and can directly speak to a telecaller is the order of the day. Need I mention that this retailer need not be brand exclusive :-)

5. A desi me too FACEBOOK, Google, You Tube, GetJar and EBAY– Bulk of future internet consumers are yet to log in for the first time. Bulk of the future internet consumption will happen via the mobile phone. What are we waiting for? Didn’t the Chinese create their local version of Google and EBAY? I think there’s serious business case for Indian Telcos to create multiple ‘me toos’ duplicates of popular web products – and peddle it to their own captive customers. Take the vernacular route if you wish. There’s immense value that can be created without much effort on this count.

6. “Radio on the go” – Telcos today are biggest sellers of music and Radio is the medium to sell music. Imagine an exclusive radio station for Airtel or Idea subscribers – somehow preloaded on the SIM card or the bundled handset or even otherwise. We can promote all service updates, new VAS products via the RJs. And all songs that are played are immediately sold as ringtones and CRBTs. Do you think that makes sense?

7. Telco as Banks –Indian telcos today handle over a billion transactions on DAILY basis and settle / tally all of it online – a feat most of the banks can’t boast of even today. Telecom’s reach is over 10 times that of Indian banking. It has reached most of unbanked Indians in a matter of 10 years – something the banking industry failed to do since last 50 years. The fact that millions of Indians store over a 100 billion rupees at point in time in form of mobile balance shows the trust and faith it has amassed. Need I say more? Indian Telcos are already the best banks that are yet to open shop. This particular one I know is held back in regulatory hurdle – nevertheless it’s worth mentioning it here.

8. Money transfers – India is slowly turning out to be a nation of Nomadic Tribes – every Indian is working out of someplace else these days. From migrants to MBA execs. Sending money back home to paying bills on parent’s behalf – money transfers is a big opportunity, and given that the telcos own the two end points – they already have a head start here over others.

9. Boutique MVNOs - There are so many niche ways in which Indians may want to consumer telecom – but marketers are yet to explore those niches. There could be lifestyle cards, airline co-branded points program, shopping cards, premium niches too – like some customers may want a secretary to attend the calls beforehand etc. I think there’s lot that can be done in this space.

10. Telco as media house – Finally an immediate advertising opportunity. Telcos today print billions of recharge coupons. Millions log in at contact centre and are put on hold to hear boring background music. Telcos also sent out millions of bill inserts every month. And there are obvious medias like SMSs and others. There are thousands of mobile towers that telcos own in vantage locations. We are some sort of small media house with a bouquet of assets lying idle on sidelines. This can be a small business of sorts waiting to be explored– and with mobile screens becoming bigger day by day – who know we could start a newspaper of our own on cell phone one day – who knows?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

U R the real Terrorist

And there you have one more blast in Mumbai!

Now that the terrorists are done with terrorism – it’s time for us to engage in the business of “being terrorized”. Ironically “being terrorized” is a far bigger enterprise than the terrorism itself. The “being terrorized” industry includes the reporters, the news anchors, the programming crew, the print media, the advertisers who pay for it and YOU the viewer. On the other hand “the industry of terrorism” itself is a small fly by night operation which involves a obscure unfed, unkempt, underpaid resource trying his hand with exploding a bomb or two in the most unguarded territories with no skill and courage whatsoever !

Its spookey that i wrote about a similar incident 18 months back

Here are some plain facts

  • Terrorism feeds on the fear of the one who is being terrorized

  • It depends greatly on media coverage and the eyeballs who watch it and the advertisers who pay for it

  • It is not even top 10 causes of deaths worldwide

In media they say – it (the story) leads if it bleeds. Media loves the high octane human drama involving blood, pain and the saga of human suffering. They are not in it for the high of dramatic reporting – but for the lure of advertising bucks. Shame shame.

But then it gets murkier – there’s someone who is buying this stuff – glued to the TV screen in comforts of the living room– knowing fully well that the likelihood of this happening to him is close to zero… - face it –You are the porn buyer, YOU are the child molester, YOU ARE THE TERRORIST.

The real face behind this ghastly game is YOU.

Think - who is ultimately paying for the non-stop media reporting of terrorist acts via the advertisers? And what could the terrorist achieve without the media coverage – which YOU are indirectly financing? If YOU switch off the TV and stop overreacting to the terrorist threats (remember its not even in top 10 causes of death) the game stops. Yes your heard it right – THE BLOODY GAME STOPS FOR GOOD! Simple huh!

Now we know why terrorists are appearing to be winning in Kashmir – how the struggle continues for 20 years. Who the invisible hands belong to? We ourselves are feeding it via media, advertisers and by being terrorized. We stop and they stop – its as simple.

It’s time we understand that terrorists are using media (and therefore us) as weapons. A random round of gunshot, in some random town which kills less than 0.00001% (less than 100?) of population is not enough to shake the confidence of one billion people unless we contribute to it. And we are.

We must stop unintentionally aiding the terrorist – NOW.

I propose a few things

  • Complete private channel blackout of terrorism coverage. State media – like DD – is generally responsible, slow and dull enough to take hype out of the equation. And such coverage will also protect our right to information

  • If the above amounts to subversion of media then the private media should be allowed on one condition - no advertiser slots during the terrorist attack coverage. This will force media to avoid giving undue importance to such attacks – and more importantly will avoid reruns of stale images. (Terrorists watching this coverage must be relishing such star status – Additionally such coverage serves as the best recruitment advertisements for terrorist organization. Lets stop that as well.)

  • As responsible citizens let’s switch off the TV sets and SHOW repelling behavior towards media which over covers it. They will automatically smell the coffee.

  • I advocate strong web / internet filtering of terrorist messages.

  • Most importantly public awareness campaign on tv and mass media making citizens aware about how terrorists are using media and mass terror through it to their advantage in this 21st century war.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

4. The Official Ponzy Scheme– Governments and currency notes!

I am a wannabe half economist at heart. It gives me the killer advantage of being able to confidently cook up astonishing concepts, without being bothered about the minor aspects of having sound theory to back it up! Here’s one more such half theories you may thoroughly enjoy – it is shocking, true (at least it sounds true!) and ‘seems’ well founded (to me!).

“I promise to pay the bearer the sum of xx rupees” – the line that’s printed on each and every note got me curious. Why is it that the note is a “promise” and not the real thing? It so easily could have been the real thing – after all there is no such thing as ‘real’ rupee – therefore the note itself could so easily have been the rupee. But alas – it is not! It’s only a promise – I wondered why?

Then there’s this open secret. The total amount of currency printed by any government is significantly lesser than sum total of bank balances held by all of its citizens via numerous bank accounts! If all of us were to simply convert our bank balances into cash at the same time– a perfectly legal thing to do- any government will go bust! They simply didn’t bother printing so much of money. And it is the case with all governments worldwide since hundreds of years.

Let’s take an example to understand this. Say there are only 4 persons in the economy. A,B,C and D. Each one of them decides to buy a house. So they go to a builder – Mr BIG – and pay him money to buy 4 flats – one for each one. But the builder – Mr BIG – instead of handing over the flats – hands over a promissory note to each one of them which reads ““I promise to GIVE the bearer the sum of 1 FLAT”. Now instead of building 4 flats – one each for 4 of them – Mr BIG builds only 2 flats. Each time one of the four buyer comes to Mr BIG with the promise note – Mr BIG can give the buyer his flat – not a unique one but an interchangeable one from total of 2 flats that exist. But should all 4 of them want to have their respective flat at the same time? Oops! The ponzy scheme goes bust! Now imagine that the builder has to pay salaries this month – what does he do? He simply prints more promissory notes and gives more such “flats” to his employees. Is this legal? Is it right? Is it ethical? Think think…

Now replace the BIG Builder with your government and the word flat or house with our national currency “RUPEE” – and see what you get. Yup – a perfectly legal economy! That’s what your govt does day in and day out.

Let me not mislead you – it’s not as if this is some kind of fraud or something. It’s just that this is how the concept of ‘currency’ works which many of us are unaware of. Your money is as safe in the banks as it is anywhere else – and it is being invested in multiple projects in the time you don’t need it in cash form. That’s alright with me.

The point I am making it something else. Your economy – which many of us believe to be based onhard science – is in reality nothing else but a derivative of faith! Think of it – the economy survives till the time everybody continues to together believe that it exists. The minute that faith is shaken – kabhhooommmm …. It will all go up in thin air. And the moment that faith shatters – it creates spiral that doesn’t stop at your bank balance alone – it takes your job, your savings, value of your assets - everything. Similar to what happened in recession 2008. Indeed it has happened to many countries before – and will continue to happen in future as well.

Think of it – all the wealth that exists - is in reality a “collective national imagination”. IT IS therefore IT IS– a self fulfilling prophecy! Because everybody together believes that we all have so much of wealth – therefore we all actually have so much of wealth. It’s a pack of cards - the minute one card is removed – this castle of cards will collapse as if it never existed.

The ‘hard’ cash, the ‘concrete’ real estate and ‘safe’ bank deposit, ‘booming’ stock market – all of it exists because we all together believe it does. Our faith is the source of Mukesh Ambani’s billions, and the neighborhood politician’s millions.

Mull with the logic a bit more and its finer nuances will begin to emerge on you.
The Looser Majority- It will emerge to you that the marginalized poor of this economic hierarchy is not so ‘unimportant’ after all… far from being a looser, he actually is an integral part of the system. The system can’t exist without the loser’s belief that he is poor and he is marginalized – another self fulfilling prophecy! In a strange way the system feeds on the marginalized silent majority which believes that it has been beaten in the game fair and square by the powerful clique of minority. It’s his blood that the system feasts on – and therefore he is indispensible! Strangely enough if the marginalized together start believing in a new system – the renaissance uprising – then they will succeed more often than not. They have a veto power to bring down the status quo - that they are not aware of! More often than not – this sleeping giant never wakes up!
The Winning Minority – <10%>80% of all wealth. They manipulate the system to make the majority believe that the game is fair and square – without acknowledging that their winning is highly dependent on other’s accepting defeat and favorable rules that are turned & twisted.
Sadly - The rules of the game are set in such a manner that there are only a few winners and lots of losers. Mr Ambani’s billions are extremely dependant on the majority continuing to believe that he has those billions – even more than his own hard work or self belief.

The question is why then can’t we tweak our beliefs to give billions to everybody? Is it necessary that the system should have only a few winners and so many losers? Why can’t we all be rich at the same time if it mainly depends on our faith and belief?

Can we create an economic faith / belief system which allows everyone to be rich?

The answer is more shocking than fiction …. In reality – yes we can!

There truly can be a panacea for economy – where all participants are wealthy and well off…. I can imagine it, feel it, but can’t put to theory – not as yet. After all I am only half a economist !!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Traffic Jam killer ideas!!!

An average Mumbaite spends anywhere between 2 to 3 hours on road everyday - stuck in slow moving traffic. I am sure so is the case with most other large cities nationally and internationally.

But given that I am a “solution idea person” – I always end up thinking of root cause of the problem. The fact that I am not an engineer adds further imagination to my solutions!!! So here goes…

Firstly – is this problem important enough to merit a discussion?

Given that petroleum, auto and road industry put together are easily more than 10% of our GDP – even a small improvement in this field can lead to massive public benefits. It’s obvious - At micro level just think as to what %ge of your monthly expense can be attributed to travel costs. Add to that cost of time of so many people stuck together and you are staring at a large national problem, opportunity and priority.

First of all I think the system of wheel based vehicles driving on firmed up “roads” is little dumb. The idea basically has lived its lifetime. The system itself is pre historic, Stone Age idea and has changed little over the years but for the quality of vehicles and roads.

  • Frankly I think that its time the roads gets smarter to navigate and drive us all the way… after all the challenge is not very different from independent data packets moving intelligently via data super highways without colliding even once.
  • The car in itself is also not very efficient. On any average weekday morning in Mumbai, there are about 20 Lac cars drivers who spend countless man-hours together doing basically the same thing – navigating from each other to safely reach the destination. And an average car drives 1.5 persons in peak hour…What a waste! We don’t need so many drivers doing the same thing – we can somehow get all these cars to bundle up and one or two drivers can pull the vehicles on the main streets which would be 80% of journey distance. Your driving skills will come into use for only the last mile!
  • We live in communication age – but average car owner like me struggles to find peer group of travelers with similar start - end destinations and time of travel. Such information can easily help in commuters organize themselves in logical units and achieve more efficient travel

Is it sounding like I am basically suggesting that all carwallahs take a local train instead?

The answer is NO.

I am not underestimating the comfort and flexibility offered by a car.

What I am really saying is this – how would you have designed the city transport system had there been no legacy structure? If you were given the task of building it bottoms up?

I think this is a 3 part solution

  • The start mile and last mile – these is the journey from your home till one grand assembly point and then from destination deport point to the workplace (and vice versa on return). This stage should include small vehicles like cabs or private cars which can be parked near the pick-up and drop point.
  • The problem of bunching – we need a intelligent wireless mobile phone based system which will track commuters and manage the workload
  • High bandwidth fast travel connectivity – this is journey constitutes 80% of travel distance. Wherein masses of commuters are bunched together and ferried at faster pace via highways that will totally free of individual drivers.

Sounds too dreamy? Think again. Let’s try and make this happen from current available means.

We already have King Long AC buses in Mumbai and we have A/C Cabs and we have mobile networks.

All we need is a service wherein a service provider offers integrated solution at one single price point – say Rs 2000/- per month for Andheri to CST.

The service provider uses my cell phone to track me (via Google Latitude kind of service).

There is A/C cab pick-up and drop for the last mile and King Long AC bus service for the highways. The frequency of the buses and cab can be managed depending on workload on real-time basis so that nobody has to wait for the bus. In fact once registered I don’t have to make a single call for the cab or wait for the bus. It’s all taken care via my cell phone!

The technology is available, the customers are ready – waiting for next Mr Ambani to wake up and smell the opportunity.

At a conservative million customers a month – you are staring at a business opportunity that’s worth Rs 200 Crores a month in Mumbai alone. Extrapolated for all india annually, its worth over Rs 20000 Crores a year!!!