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Sunday, October 10, 2010

No More Linear

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Back in 90s, I used to hear from my parents that all the charities were fraud.Though I was not part of any, but saw such things in movies and some television shows. I dont believe in linear progress because thats now how society works. To elaborate, if we agree that in past 60 years of Indian independence 1% of people are working genuinely in nonprofits, linear extrapolation of 600 years to reach 10% level will not hold good. It will be much less, perhaps 100 cant say. So I am hopeful that this non linear or should we say exponential progress has the potential to surprise everybody and this time it will be for good.

Though I am not a big fan of bucket lists, but I feel that its important to keep recalling so many good things which are happening around us, the list of good activities, earnest movements, inspiring lives of silent warriors which keep working despite much mumbo jumbo, publicity and other such things which are all worldly.

Sharing some of the some innovative, relevant, sustainable and powerful concepts which have potential to create long term, non linear and perhaps unpredictable impact on the civic societies in the coming years -

An interesting model to tackle corruption -
I Paid Bribe

An innovative way to combat poverty -
United Prosperity

From darkness to light -

Electrifying rural India -
Husk Power

A model which can be replicated in every town to counter the traffic police corruption -

Solar Power rockss -
Surya Bijlee

Innovative world for differently able -
Ability Unlimited

An umbrella organization with the simple motto - Be the Change you want to See -

Monday, August 30, 2010

IITians, Doctors and the Brain Drain but What if....

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Though an old topic, but was thinking about this from some time and so decided to write about it. Should people who get highly subsidized education be allowed to migrate to developed countries? The legal answer is whatever - freedom it is !! Somebody might argue about the moral responsibility then the detabte will become too vague and subjective because ward officer is morally responsible to develop his/her ward, government doctor to provide equal quality of service to everyone visiting government hospitals and I can give 500 more examples in next 5 minutes !! So, lets not get into that...

What does this nation expect from an 22 years old fresh graduate, who has worked hard, prepared under tremendous peer pressure/ family pressure? Society/ family - creates tremendous pressure to get into IIT, followed by pressure to get good grades, followed by pressure to get good job and do well in life( some might argue who's forcing any bdoy to do well by the way? but that might be a topic for another blog entry someday).No wonder Pink Floyd is so popular within IITs...

So what about few hundred thousand Rs. of subsidy given by government of India to students at IIT/IIMs. I hope people are aware that until few years (and to large extent even now), government medical colleges charge fee as low as Rs.500 per semester. What about the 1/3rd rates at which politicians buys cars and computers for personal use and what about the 200% price at which government offices buys printers and same cars for public/office use. Do we have a plan to recover all this money lost in providing subsidies !!

One of my good friend once said that by paying income tax, we are promoting corruption!! Agree yes, but perhaps not a very positive thing to say about one's country. Some might argue that just because person X is doing wrong, we can justify the wrong actions of person Y. I dont agree. What happens when person Y do something good/positive, does it morally binds the person X do good? Not until we have more of X's and less of Y's

I strongly believe that good people are necessary for slow undercurrent kind of revolutions to happen. History though does not appreciate the average good people who do their jobs with honesty, pay taxes on time, help their neighbors, like good music, send their kids to good schools,loves to go out on weekends and don't throw garbage on street.

But what if we can create circumstances for reverse brain drain overnight. What if amongst 25 million Indians living abroad, 10% of most experienced, qualified doctors, lawyers, engineers, writers, poets, businessmen, social activists decide to go back return back to India tomorrow . Imagine 2,500,000 such good, qualified folks being sent back to India overnight. Increase the y's...fill the ecosystem with lot many good people in different walks of life. The number is small but lets take one step more. Lets distribute these folks evenly in 626 districts of India, implying approximate 4000 such folks in each district. Wow, what an addition now, aint it !! What's best about them returning back to India ! Their perspective, their diverse experiences, their ability to see things differently from a purely Indian perspective, their ability to follow rules and make others follow rules. So while we love, secretly hate, feel jealous of other cultures, there are lot many things besides 'widespread acceptance to premarital sex' in other countries and cultures as well, form which we can certainly learn a lot.

I have lived in pretty small towns(can be qualified as village as well)and if I imagine my town filled with 80-100 such folks, whoaa. If there were couple of good guys playing good guitar, running some good small, local companies, running schools and colleges with honesty and integrity, I might not have stepped out of my town. May be I might not be writing this blog then, may be, may be not.

I know of couple of not so positive elements in my town, who influenced 100 odd kids from my school and indulged them into not so socially acceptable practices. So I am sure 4000 such good reverse drained folks can influence millions of students,kids, parents, teachers, musicians and can tremendously add to the undercurrent which over a period of couple of decades can have humongous positive impact on the society. Utopia thoughts!!

Year 2111, A Brith/American writing similar article!! Dont believe me? Read on- Chaos the Only Order !!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Second hand revolution

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After spending a year working in Qatar, I returned to India in May this year ( dont take me for the stereotyped NRI holding bottles of mineral water in hand and cursing government as the Auto Rikshaw drove passed the crowded lanes and maneuvering past the stray animals and potholes !!) and I found a sea of change in almost everything. Though I get a daily dose of Indian soap operas and entertaining news channels back in Qatar, but still I couldn't envisage the volume of changes which I was seeing for myself.

Skeptics declared they are done, its saturated. And then it comes back and hit the roads again. This time its slightly different perhaps little less creative but still effective and serving the bottom, middle and even the top of the pyramid to varying extent. A glance over Hindi and English newspaper the first day and I couldn't stop wondering about how can they afford this..within 5 minutes of surfing through channels...I was taken by surprise and really started wondering how can they really afford this...who are they and from where do they came and started conquering THE 'customers'. What I am talking about ? I hope thats not a question in your mind ! Isn't pretty clear, out n' loud !!

Loaded with Swarovski crystal, chic looks and (hold your breath, if your head is still reeling in an in vain attempt to guess what it is !!) 2 MP camera, weighs less than 100 gms and price Rs.5000/- (approximately $110) !! Its the new mobile from Micromax and let me tell you that I am no mobile expert and this post is not about the review of Q 55, bling from Micromax, which by the way 'Twinkles'

The Indian consumer over past 6 months or lets say 1 year has been pampered by OEM's which otherwise used to sell the hardware to the big guys. Micromax, Spice mobile, Lava, Videocon, Onida and so many more companies launching new handsets almost every week. You think your Black/Blue Berry with QWERTY keypad is cool..beat this
"Presenting Lava B5 handset with world's first ABCD keypad" funny,bizarre,innovative..Surprisingly nobody thought about it before (including me- can you believe it :)) But ya I think the guy is right...finally we can't use more than 2 fingers (anybody already using the 3rd finger yet must meet me ASAP) on the mobile phone keypad the logic behind having QWERTY keypad in mobile handsets relevant? I would recommend carrying out some trials on mouse or cats perhaps and see how do they react to ABCD keypad !!

Surprisingly folks at Gartner agree with me, I swear I read this article only after typing the last paragraph !! Gosh...I should have written this blog the day I came back from India, which for the record was June the 6th 2010.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Road to Salvation

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I used to wait,
for somebody
To salvage me.
often wondered,
When nobody turned up.
blaming my destiny,
Only later to realize that,
salvation is not about
Wondering and waiting
for destiny to work its wonders!
But, In working, And,
creating wonderful things, 
Let others wonder about it.

Or is it about detaching and forgiving
everything and Everybody
To look beyond the
ethereal mirage
To know thyself,
in totality
On the way to,
ultimate Nirvana !


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Role of Chance and IT Industry in 21st Century India !

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We are 1.2 billion people and even an conservative estimate of 25% employable population implies the employable population of India is much larger than the total population of USA/ UK/ Germany etc. Industrial revolution started in these countries 200 years before India got independence. Only on growth and development aspect, if we start comparing ourselves with China, Taiwan or Korea, I think we have not achieved anything extraordinary. We are doing OK so far, but the sheer size of our country combined with democracy and freedom has made growth a largely unplanned activity. I think still we are on a right track, BUT the unfortunate part is that track we are following is not created by Design but by Chance !!
The time consuming back end work which is also resource intensive and recursive in general and/or requires specific skill sets which are available in specific regions/ geographies is loosely termed as Donkey work...which according to me is very demeaning and superficial usage !

Activities ranging from pharma research, project management, design and engineering, medical transcription, legal processes, IT and ITES are all being outsourced/ off-shored by the organizations to drive the bottom line of that particular company/organization. This implies that there is a Simple Demand for these services and there is/will be Abundant Supply from all across the globe to cater to this Demand ! Nothing is being forced on anybody in such situations and simple demand- supply mechanism comes into play. So I don't see anything wrong in nurturing an ecosystem which caters to that Demand...because if we don't somebody else will ( E.g China, Philippines, Russia, Africa, Poland, Brazil etc) but we always had and will have the choice Right !!!

Two of the prime reason behind this effective India centric outsourcing/off-shoring model are Exchange rate and the Cost of Living ...We know that for fresh Indian graduate living in India a salary 6 Lakhs INR per annum is above avg/ fair but at the same time....this is also equal to apprx $13k per annum which is below avg/unfair for a graduate living in the USA !

Both these factors are the repercussion of economic policies, lack of education which leads to unawareness about minimum standard of livings, billions of dollars of trade deficit accumulated over years and many more economic and financial aspects !! So, only if the Cost of Living in India rises faster than the Developed world (US/ Europe) and/ OR our currency strengthen w.r.t Euro/ USD AND alternates to India are available, we will loose quiet a lot of jobs and business (please don't forget the indirect impact on ancillary industries such as travel, tourism, real estate, entertainment, auto, banking etc) and jobs as well....

In my limited experiences I have seen pilferage and wastage (in all forms - time/money/resources) are an inherent part of the bureaucratic system of our economy and country in general. So I feel that there is a huge scope to improve the efficiency of the economy which in turn will ensure better utilization of resources/funds ( i.e timely completion of projects such as Bandra Worli Sealink or Commonwealth Games infrastructure etc). By achieving that efficiency we will be still left with lot many time/money/ resources to take due care of environment and other socially relevant schemes.

We might not be the best in discovering/inventing great socio-economic/scientific or even mathematical concepts/ theories (and so we have a far lesser number of papers, patents or noble prize winners from India) but we (the people of India) are good at application and practical usage of theory/ technology etc. I still believe that private sector and IT sector in particular created a completely new business model 20 years ago which did helped in supporting/ employing millions of engineers, which we were anyways bound to produce in those 20. There was no divine plan/ vision of the government to create employment for these millions of people otherwise. So somebody's stroke of genius (Infosys) saved the governments and created employment (including 1000s of Infosys employees who went on to create their own companies + ancillary industries). If you remember back in late 80s and 90s population control was a major agenda of the government which suddenly disappeared from the manifestos because the bane become boon overnight (By chance and not by Design !!)

So, I don't think we become any type of animal in doing something unique/ unparalleled. Hopefully (Still relying on Chance!!) such stroke of geniuses will happen (in fact its bound to happen) in all walks of life, slowly and steadily over a period of time)

I think we can summarize -

-Everybody is not created same (in terms of aspirations, dreams and desires to achieve x,y and z in life). So what somebody enjoys/ prefers doing might be called as Donkey work in very vague and superficial manner by somebody else
-The choice to refuse/ accept always was and will remain with the individual and its pretty irrelevant of the generalizing - are WE donkeys/ monkeys is pretty vague to me at least !!
-Exchange rate and cost of living are something not in the hand of any single individual or the organization...
-Whether we acknowledge it or not...the competition is increasing globally in the field of outsourcing/ off-shoring including our own companies operating from alternate geographies...

AND fortunately/ unfortunately we are creating almost 3 million engineers and doctors every year and WE dont have a plan B and plan C in place as of now...infact the Plan A too just happened by chance and sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Plan A didnt happened by itself/ chance ( and not by Design) !!

Can we run a Monte Carlo simulation on Indian socio-economic decisions/ lives, the options we had and the options we used ? Is this the best we could have achieved in past 60 years with our given natural resources? The unfortunate (destiny again ??) part is we still are not working on plan B and C.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Brief History of Education Systems in India.

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Gone are the days when considering education as business was unethical/incorrect. In the ancient to medieval Indian society, education was a prerogative of the highies and almighties of the society! Education was customized inline with the Varna Vyavastha of then Indian society. The rise and demise of the Bhakti Movement did infused a new line of thinking in the highly aristocratic Indian society. The Bhakti Movement though was short lived and often condemned by the gatekeepers of education of those times. But I think it was very significant movement for several reasons. One the teachings were in the form or short poems and bhajans in the local language. In the language spoken by masses in their day to day lives. The movement was for sure not about formal or scientific education, but perhaps it is/was the world's first (and may be the only) movement which emphasized on Common Sense and Rational thinking. Both these attributes made the Bhakti Movement an eternal movement which still has relevance in the 21st century Modern India.

Between now and the era of Bhakti Movement was the period of rise and fall of the British empire. Under the British regime schools and colleges imparting formal and scientific education were created but with the primary intent of catering to the administrative requirements of British empire. Whatever the intent might have been, in my opinion these schools and colleges made the formal, technical and scientific education available to the masses.The penetration was very low due to several reasons - lack of intent, lack of resources, the common mass was involved either in the independence movement and cared less about getting higher education.

Post independence Pandit Nehru accurately gauged the need of hour and the stress was rightly placed on three critical fronts - Primary education to create a broader base of people who can read and write; Higher education - institutes for higher education, technical education and management education were formed (such as the IITs, IIMs); Practical Education - several institutions imparting job oriented education (such as ITIs) were created in parallel to make the masses employable. For the next 30 years the results of these three pronged approach were complacently satisfactory. Slowly however since the overall education system was still not very dynamic and so lost the relevance and efficacy. On the one hand we faced the problem of brain drain of the highly skilled labors, engineers and doctors while on the other the practical and job oriented education system failed to cater the need of new industries.A deeper analysis revealed that at primary level we were still following the curriculum and text books which were designed in the pre-independence era.

One thing is very clear from the above analysis that the time frame for which a particular system and a curriculum and overall education ecosystem remained relevant shortened. We followed a Varna Vyavastha for thousands of years, followed by a couple of years of religious-socio-education centric Bhakti movement which lasted for couple of hundreds of years, then under the British empire we perhaps developed for the the first formal, more wide reaching and scientific education system and then a Nehruvian education system, which is what we are still following to a very large extent. Guided by some political motives and desire to get media footage the curriculum has been mildly revised in past 30 years at primary level and with the rapid emergence of private colleges backed by the political support and desire to make quick money overnight more than 500 colleges have mushroomed out of nowhere in the past 10 years.