Asian Correspondent » Sriram Vadlamani Asian Correspondent Thu, 02 Jul 2015 10:36:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dear Firstpost, what about rape? Tue, 16 Oct 2012 15:37:27 +0000

Just woke out of my slumber and found that the world is a different place from where I left off. Apple is launching bugs, people are jumping from insane heights and most importantly Indian politicians turned scientists have come up with new reasons on why rape actually happens in India. Not quite a HowStuffWorks for rape but the reasons are, well, different. Here are some:

Top reasons for rape – Chowmein, short dresses, eloping, ‘fraternisation between sexes‘, women working after 8PM and the list goes on.

On all occasions, the blame is fairly and squarely on the wrong sex. Rape is getting new attention from the media. Maybe because of the startling new statistic: A woman is raped every 22 minutes in India. Only 1 in 4 men accused of the crime is convicted.

Rape is an ongoing debate. There is no denying that. It should probably get more coverage than it actually gets. But wrong coverage isn’t what we want. Firstpost, an online publisher, has done just that. Out of the blue it has pulled Arvind Kejriwal into this rape debate with a post titled : “Dear Arvind Kejriwal, what about rape?“. Now you know where the title for this post is coming from.

Arvind Kejriwal is the crusader who is fighting against corruption in India. After fighting together with Anna Hazare, Mr. Kejriwal took a detour (from the movement’s origins, not from the mission) and will soon be forming a political party. On the way he has gone against the dynasty (Kejriwal has put a new spotlight on the assets of Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law), which no one has ever done successfully. All in all a movement worth tracking.

I have but few questions for Firstpost.

  • Why is Firstpost piling up on Kejriwal?
  • Why isn’t Firstpost writing a letter to the PM or Sonia Gandhi for that matter?
  • Most importantly why isn’t Firstpost covering rape as often as it should?

I have done a quick google search with these queries :




The results are astonishing. 421,000 results turned up for rape; 19,000,000 results turned up for Kejriwal; 24, 300,000 results turned up for Sonia Gandhi.

As it turns, Firstpost doesn’t pay much attention to rape as much as it does to Kejriwal or Sonia Gandhi.

So I am asking again : Dear Firstpost, what about rape? #JustSaying

PS: A slightly modified but more accurate version of the Google search query has yielded similar results. Queries uses : intitle:rape, intitle:sonia gandhi, intitle:arvind kejriwal

PPS: Chowmein was trending on Twitter at the time of writing this post. The tweets are really interesting.

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For India, social media is the new Pakistan Tue, 21 Aug 2012 12:34:43 +0000

Pink is the new black, Facebook is the new Digg and when it comes to shifting the blame, social media is the new Pakistan for India. It’s hard not to follow what’s happening in India and its North East. But if you are out of touch, like I am, here’s the low-down.

In Assam, clash between Bodos and Muslims has left 50 dead and 400,00displaced. While protesting Assam clashes, violence erupted in Mumbai which left two people dead and many more injured. After that social media and text messages threatening the people of North East origin were disseminated to create panic which resulted in a mass exodus from cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune.

Few doctored videos and images have surfaced on various social media sites. These videos are apparently from 2008 and have originated in a completely different country.

Following which people from North Eastern states who have migrated to cities like Pune, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad have feared and lined up to go back to their home states. The fact that this exodus has happened from some of the most cosmopolitan cities is noteworthy. This has posed a law and order problem in these cities and an overall unrest to the government of India. The situation is completely new. It has used new tools which has spread the message in a matter of minutes. The reaction to this situation by the government of India is anything but new.

First it has put the blame fairly and squarely on the social media sites. Second it has banned the block SMS facility for 15 days. Third it has blamed Pakistan. These three reactions were used by government of India in various crisis situations but not all the three of them for the same situation. NE Exodus is the first time all these three reactions came together.

Don’t shoot the damn messenger

It is now more than established that 40% of the messages originated from Pakistan. Facebook and Youtube has confirmed that the uploads originated from outside India and mostly from Pakistan. The role of Pakistan has been confirmed by Indian government and will share the details with Pakistan government. If true, India is right to blame Pakistan. Strategically for Pakistan though, the 2008 Mumbai attacks now look very silly.

If we look at the past two years, Indian government has blamed Pakistan less and Social media more. Beyond Pakistan, India has found a new punching bag in social media. I expect it to stay for a while. Are our politicians so thick headed to understand that they can’t shoot the damn messenger? Of course not. They think that inflation actually helps the farmers but this thing about social media, they would know. Alas, they have been using it to their benefit for quite some time. Then what gives?

It’s the politics, stupid.

Isn’t everything about politics? Social media is a just a lame duck to sweep the actual internal strife under the rug as pointed here and here.

Just like TV, Social Media is just a medium. It’s a new medium with new rules, benefits and as we are finding out, new challenges too. Deal with it. And don’t pretend that banning social media is an elixir. At best it’s a diversion. This government’s biggest strength – more than managing the coalition partners is just that – creating diversions. Now that we have India’s two new blame darlings (Pakistan and Social Media) in the picture, the real reasons for NE exodus will never be known. Besides, aren’t we a little too busy for 2014?

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Finding cricket’s greatest captain Mon, 16 Jul 2012 03:13:01 +0000

Humans as a species have a habit of measuring everything. Right from human emotions to happiness and influence, we have devised ways to measure anything. Sorry this isn’t about Klout or klouchebag but about ranking cricket captains across decades or eras and coming with a top 10 list. Can we do that?

Looks like we can but if you start now you will be the second person to do it. Satyam Mukherjee of Northwestern University has used Google Pagerank algorithm to rank cricket captains from 1877 to 2010. And what did the algorithm spit out?

Steve Waugh who captained Australia in the nineties and well into the 2000’s is the best test captain ever; Steve Waugh doesn’t figure in the ODI top 20 list;

Ricky Ponting is the top ODI captain and the third best test captain.

Graeme Smith is the most consistent captain with a #2 position in both forms of the game.

Here is the gist :

Quite a few observations can be drawn from just those 10 lines. The best captain is obviously Steve Waugh, many reading this could probably relate to it because we have watched him play and lead at the same time, not a quality many captains have.

Some observations

When you match the best captain’s table with the best test team table, Steve Waugh’s team comes at 9 and 10th position. That’s is ironic because of the fact that Steve Waugh has become the best captain of the history with just the 10th best team in the history. I am not sure if we should mix these things up but that’s what I could infer.

Another little surprise for my Indian fans is the presence of MS Dhoni in the list. On first look that makes sense. But if we read it a little closer, the chart is really for test matches and Dhoni’s heroics were in one-day internationals and twenty-twenty matches. I haven’t heard from anyone that Dhoni is a good test captain. May be I haven’t heard much.

When it comes to ODI’s Dhoni’s is placed at eight position which I think is just fine.

Yet another observation is the top 3 placed captains are from the current era. Have the number of matches played influenced this? We know for a fact that there was too much cricket played in a calendar year. This is before twenty-twenty became more than a fantasy. With that, the top 3 placed captains might have an unfair advantage to earlier era captains because of the sheer number of matches played (and won).

One-day Internationals

In One-day internationals, India has a bigger chunk. A total 0f 5 captains made it to the list the most from any country. MS Dhoni, Kapil Dev, Sourav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin and Rahul Dravid. Everybody might be a little surprised by the presence of Rahul Dravid’s name on the list. Yet India is placed at number 6 (right below Pakistan and just above New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) in the overall team rankings from 1971 to 2010.

Pakistan and West Indies too has produced 3 captains each across the eras. Most notably thing however is 2 captains from South Africa – Hansie Cronje and Graeme Smith. That’s because, South Africa didn’t play cricket for the better part of 1971-2010 (for ODI’s) and only came to play the game internationally after 1991.

The rub-off

The good thing about the ranking and the paper presented by Mr. Mukherjee is the quality of win matters more than the sheer number of wins. What it probably doesn’t consider is the legacy and inheritance of these teams which might have played a part.

Steve Waugh’s captaincy and the team’s winning attitude might have rubbed on to Ricky Ponting. Same is the case with MS Dhoni who has inherited Sourav Ganguly’s legacy. Most importantly the team’s these captains got were well built already. In the test rankings Sourav Ganguly is placed at number 15, the only Indian captain on the list other than Dhoni.

Go through the paper and let us know what you could infer.


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Indian eTailer Myntra raises $25 million in funding Thu, 05 Jul 2012 05:50:32 +0000

While the whole world is staying cautious and the word austerity is thrown in every other day, investors of the India’s eCom story seems to have not heard any of it. They just shoved a cool $25 million into Mytra’s pockets. Myntra is an Indian eTailer which started as a online custom gifting shop and later morphed into a lifestyle online store. This $25 million seems to be one of the bigger investments in the eCommerce space.

Myntra has raised $20 million in February this year, $14 million in November 2010 and $5 million before that. The latest round of $25 million is coming from Accel Partners and Tiger Global Management. The investor-duo has invested heavily into India’s eCom darling Flipkart not too long ago. This only suggests two things : The investors are extremely bullish on the Indian eCommerce story or they have something else in mind.

LetsBuy which seemed to be threatening Flipkart shared the same investors and before we realized it, Flipkart has bought LetsBuy. What went behind the scenes is not known but having the same investors does give us some insight. After LetsBuy, Myntra seems to be the shining star of India’s eCom story and a star which Flipkart is already taking notice. After all they share the investors.

Is there another mega-acquisition brewing?

We never know for sure but if it’s just a speculation why not make it large? When Flipkart bought Letsbuy their product portfolio overlapped a lot. There were no visible ‘synergies’ between the two. Flipkart bought it anyway. Flipkart later went into other verticals. Right now there isn’t much of anything which Flipkart doesn’t sell? Or is there? Sorry I was too fast. There is a certain category which Flipkart doesn’t sell and it is lifestyle products ( clothes, shoes and such like). Flipkart sells bags though.

Myntra sells something which Flipkart doesn’t.

That might be a coincidence and seems to be more compelling than LetsBuy. I wonder what the (common) investors are thinking. If it happens, I will not be doing a “I told you so” charade. If it doesn’t, I will file this under “media-speculation”.

Via | Images from

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India : 50 million phones shipped in Q1 2012; Smartphone’s drop though Thu, 05 Jul 2012 00:43:15 +0000

Mobile handset market continues to grow apace with the feature phones leading the pack. A total of 50.2 million phones were shipped to India in the quarter of Jan – March of 2012. Of which 47.5 million are feature phones and 2.7 million are smartphones. In fact, smartphone shipments have dropped from 3.4 million (by 20.6%) from the previous quarter while the feature phones continued to rise. I haven’t done the due diligence of checking previous quarters data but if my memory serves me well, this might be the first time India touched 50 million in shipments for a quarter.

Nokia has 23% market share; Samsung 14.1% market share; Micromax has 5.8% market share.

Feature phones and low-cost phones

Nokia continues to lead the low-cost phone market. A phone costing less than Rs. 5000 rupees ($91) is generally termed as low-cost and is also the last category as defined by CMRI, the company which is giving us these numbers. Unsurprisingly, 90.18% of the total shipments are in this (<5000) price range. This is probably the reason for buoyant mobile phone sales which touched 50 million. Nokia leads this pack with a 21.8% market share followed by Samsung’s 10.7% market share and Micromax’s 6.4% market share reflecting the overall shipments trend.

The next best selling category after 0-5000 range is the 5001-10000 range which accounts for 7.8% of the total sales. If we just look at phones costing less than Rs. 10000 ($183) then it would account to 97.44 %. That’s amazing and all the more reason for Samsung to bolster its portfolio in this price range.

97.44% phones shipped to India cost less than Rs. 10000 ($183)

Though there is no figure suggesting that all low-cost (<5000) phones are feature phones, we have to reason to believe so. Beyond the Rs. 10000 price range, all the phones costing from Rs. 10001 and above make up for Rs. 2.56% which are bound to be smartphones. In the 5000-10000 price range too there are a lot of smartphones and very few smartphones. This category makes up for 7.26%. Total smartphone shipments make up for 5.3%. If we assume all 10K+ phones are smartphones, we are left with a 2.74% of smartphones costing less than 10000. An evidence enough to suggest that majority of <5000 phones are feature phones.


The overall smartphone shipments have dropped from previous quarter by 20.6%. Samsung continues to lead the smartphones shipments with a market share of 40.4% followed by Nokia’s 25.5% share and RIM’s 12.3% market share. Together 3 smartphone vendors control 78% of the overall market share. RIM still holding a 12% market share is surprising but can be understood as India seems to be having a thing for Blackberry and RIM seems to be having a thing for India too. RIM has slashed prices on many of its models and entered the crowded 5000-10000 price range recently. This probably led to the #3 position.

The beauty of smartphone shipments (or sales) is, though they make up 5.3% of overall shipments, they contribute to 23.4% of market value in 1Q 2012.

Smartphones make up for a 20th of the overall shipments but account for more than a 5th of the market value

3G, Multi-SIM

4.7 million 3G phones were shipped during this quarter. This is an actual decline but CMRi is of the opinion that slashed 3G rates should influence 3G sales in Q2.

Like always India loves multi-sim phones. This category seems to have now expanded from dual-sim to triple-sim and beyond. It now constitutes of 67.7% of the overall shipments.

2 of every 3 phones shipped to India are multi-SIM phones.

There are quite a few charts shared by CMRi but this particular chart is quite interesting :

Samsung which leads the smartphone race has decided not to include Samsung Galaxy Note in these numbers. As per Samsung it’s a phablet, though tech pundits have a problem with that category, Samsung wants to get its way with Galaxy Note. Now that 40.4% market share of Samsung looks beyond reach, doesn’t it Nokia?

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India: Rupee falls, petrol rises; will diesel follow? Thu, 24 May 2012 03:44:34 +0000

The Indian rupee is now the worst performing Asian currency. It has slid more than 5% against the dollar this year and as per experts the slide will continue. Yesterday the rupee has touched 56 ($1 = Rs. 56), which is a first.

Reasons being cited for the rupee’s fall are euro zone crisis, widening current account deficit and of course the lack of reforms. Inflation isn’t coming down and as for governance, it is as if there is a vacuum up there, except for yesterday. Indian government raised the price of petrol by Rs. 7.5 (US$0.13), or roughly 10%.

The reason for this drastic move is the fall of rupee and the mounting losses of the oil companies, which are bleeding every day. As per the calculations, the oil companies are bleeding Rs. 21 crore rupees every hour because of oil subsidies.

Oil subsidies include petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG. Together they cost Rs. 138, 541 crores in subsidies from the government. 58% of the total subsidy losses came from diesel for the fiscal year 2011-12.

But if he didn’t have to subsidise the OMCs, he could have brought down the fiscal deficit by an equal amount and his fiscal deficit would be just around 3.75 percent, not 5.1 percent. The markets would be salivating at this turnaround, and foreign money would be flooding in.

This petrol price isn’t necessarily a reform. It’s a mere hike. If there is a hike in diesel price (which is being contemplated to be raised by Rs.5 per liter) then that would be when the real dissent comes in. It’s not that we don’t have any dissent right now. Our resident-dissident Mamatha Banarjee has already weighed in. BJP which, never takes an opportunity, is weighing in meekly. Everyone else took to the punching bag Twitter.

The anger on Twitter was more towards why diesel was left alone, than why the petrol price was raised. Many found solace in humor by joking about how there will be loans for petrol and how they will torch their vehicles with their last drops of petrol.

With yesterday’s hike, Hyderabad (Rs. 80.58 per liter) is the most expensive city for filling up the tank followed by Bangalore (Rs. 80.51 per liter). In the metros Delhi has the cheapest rate at Rs. 73.14 per liter. Goa’s Panjim enjoys a bargain Rs. 62.4 per liter. This is because of a bold move taken by Goa’s Chief Minister to the cut the price.

I have just checked the news and nothing drastic happened in the last 10 hours since the hike, which means we will continue to live with this price hike. The burning question right now on everybody’s mind is, will the government go for Diesel and the cooking gas? Diesel price in Bangalore is hovering around Rs. 46 per liter and with yesterday’s hike for petrol, the difference between these two fuel categories now stands at a staggering Rs. 34 per liter.

Last quarter ,for the first time, diesel car sales surpassed petrol car sales. The main reason driving this surge is the obvious price differential. However, cars aren’t the biggest consumers. It’s the trucks which are the biggest consumers of diesel. Also they are the vehicles which transport everyday goods and vegetables from one place to another. Hitting on diesel is directly hitting on inflation. Most importantly, it is hitting just about everybody. Is the government ready for it? 

PS: The air is still free by the way.

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3 things about lanes in India Fri, 18 May 2012 08:03:56 +0000

The most common comment you hear from westerners visiting India is :  “There are no lanes in India”. Of course this is only beaten by the other popular expression “There are cows on the roads”. You might not hear these from Hillary Clinton because she has been here before and she also has a bigger agenda.

Now let’s talk about traffic lanes. There are three things about traffic lanes in India which you should be aware of – whether you are visiting or driving. I haven’t travelled in all parts of India, but I have travelled enough to draw out three abstract things which can be applied across the sub-continent.

There are no lanes in India

Get used to it.

Though it sounds like I have a bone to pick with whoever says that expression, it is in fact true. I know hypocrisy is the word you are looking for, but that should be just fine.

The only real lanes you see on the road are logical lanes. Like a car behind a car or a bus behind a bus. Guess what? This is working amazingly well in India. Soon there will be a 16 lane highway between Gurgaon and Delhi. That would transform to some 25 lanes people use.

There are lane demarcation lines in quite a few parts of the cities but these are often viewed as beautification projects by the passersby. They hardly get the respect they deserve. In fact they would be derided for wasting tax payers money for petty things like painting the roads which would come off during the monsoons. There are white dotted lines, white solid lines and yellow dotted lines.

White dotted lines translates to waste, Solid line translates to double the waste and yellow is “getting cute, are we now”?

Signal after or during, not before

Lane changing, though a misnomer, is an art. Not science, not intuition, and definitely not common sense. Lane changing is 87% art and 13% guts. You can do all the right things like signaling your intentions, checking the lane for free passage, turning your head to check the blind spot and still might find another vehicle just kissing your vehicle.

Thesere are no rules to lane changing. These are some observations.

If you signal and then try to turn, chances are, the vehicle behind you will be alerted and wouldn’t want to cede even few inches for an out of the Towner. The real way to do this is to check the feasibility, don’t signal, get into the desired lane like may be 20% and then signal. The vehicle would have been alerted but you are already in so the inches have to be ceded. At best you might get a honk back at your feat. You can always take that as a compliment.

The probability of you changing lanes without signaling is much higher than the probability of changing lanes after signaling. Now this is a dangerous affair and don’t try it yourself just to prove me wrong. You can disagree with me in the comments and I will take your word for it.

Now that you are equipped don’t expect that you are the only game in the town. In fact this is the game everyone already plays. So expect some of this lane changing and signaling in front of you too.

If you signal before, expect delay
People might either be too scared to test above hypothesis or might just be too uptight and follow rules. Then they might expect delays. Sometimes very long delays.

This is not to say that no one ever respects a signal. Some do and some will. One might have to get lucky to find such a tailgater. But good luck anyway.

The idiosyncrasies of traffic lanes in India will continue to prosper. If you have any tips or such experiences, please share as a comment.

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Why This Kolaveri Di : Piracy and the Hypocrisy #IndiaBlocks Fri, 18 May 2012 04:00:47 +0000

India is proposing to establish a UN sponsored net nanny organization. This proposal –  if goes through and I really hope it doesn’t – will allow a coterie of countries to decide what goes and what doesn’t on the Internet. There was a lone sane voice which came out from the Upper house of the parliament. MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar has written a letter to the Prime Minister to change the government’s stand on being a Net Nanny. This gutsy MP happens to be an Independent.

While this is taking place at its own pace, a movie production company (not sure if they do something else too) has obtained John Doe orders to block torrent and video sites. The list of sites blocked is exhaustive and I have talked about it in my column at Tech Wire Asia, our group’s Tech blog. Copyright Labs happens to be producer of two recently released movies.

The two movies in question are 3 a Tamil movie and Dammu which as the blogs are pointing out isn’t a Tamil movie but a Telugu movie. There is a Tamil version of the same movie by name Singamagan. But that’s just a slight deviation of the topic. Not really important. What’s really important to note is that the ban is acquired by the producers of the movie 3.

It’s the same movie which has released the now popular song and a social media sensation, Kolaveri Di. No body knows why that song was an Internet sensation which mutated into various videos and interpretations across the world The video released was an official video by the way and reportedly some amount of money was minted with that digital release. It has some 55 million page views thus far. Turns out the movie wasn’t such a blockbuster. Far from it, it’s a flop.

Given this background and tasting the success through digital media, it is hard to understand why the producers of a movie embraced digital media few months back only to alienate it later. That too for a flop movie. What do you call it : Irony or Hypocrisy?

Or should we ask, Why this, Why this Kolaveri Kolaveri Di

Sounds strange but for some movies piracy could bring in a fresh lease of life. 3 the movie could probably use some piracy love. No?

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Sanity comes to Indian TV; ads restricted to 12 minutes per hour Tue, 15 May 2012 05:10:18 +0000

Trai is introducing new rules (or curbs) on advertisements during television shows. No more than 12 minutes of ads per hour. This might sound bad for the advertisers and TV channels but it could prove to be a good thing.

Watching television has turned from being a pleasure to a chore. Programming might get the most of the blame and bad programming is made worse by the advertisements that pop up for no real reason. Watching cricket or the latest Bollywood blockbuster, one should develop a taste for advertisements, to watch them over and over.

Trai has made several other rules (and they are good by the way):

  1. 12 minutes of ads per hour (of the clock). No carryover of the left-over minutes from the previous hour.
  2. Only full-screen ads
  3. No pop-up ads and using the edges of the screen during the actual telecast.
  4. No shouting : The audio levels of the advertisement should not be greater than the audio levels of the programme the advertisment is being used on.
  5. During sporting events live telecast, the ads should be shown only during the breaks.

As you see, these are the exact things wrong about Indian television. Irrespective of what screen size your TV is, it always ends up being a circus of advertisements. I have seen matches where the penultimate ball of a regular over is cut off to tell me how effective a new pain reliever really is.

Advertisers could benefit from the renewed focus. There is a likelihood of developing brand aversion if an ad keeps popping up and ruining the most important moments of watching TV. If there is a slot and there is limit, the repetition would be kept to a minimum and probably audience will pay attention. That’s the point of advertising anyway.

Instead of watching a cricket match or a movie between advertisements, we will now watch advertisements during a movie or a match.

A two-and-a-half hour Indian movie usually takes more than four hours to complete. As per the new regulation, it should be done in 3 hours. That should be your new check whenever these rules become effective.

I hope the new rules become effective before Olympics. If not, our channels would pull in the ads even before Usain Bolt has crossed the line.


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7 reasons Indians prefer second-hand property Mon, 14 May 2012 14:59:33 +0000

74% of home-buyers across India prefer second-hand property (pre-owned, if you are looking for a euphemism). Second-hand doesn’t necessarily mean occupied by someone else but preferably a second-sale which provides a ready-to-move-into property for the buyer and a return on investment for the seller.

The reasons for buying a house (flat) can vary. But mostly it falls under two categories: Investment or Tax Saving. Of course living and not paying rent (but paying EMI) are other obvious options. Second sales typically rise from the investment option. These second-sale properties also command a premium.

Home buyers are ready to pay the premium because they know exactly what they are looking for. A ready-to-move-into property is also the best option for people who can’t really visualize things (like me). Usually these are common phrases in the real-estate speak: There comes the club house, there is the swimming pool and there is the new 8 screen multiplex. A vision is a must to decipher the real-estate gobbledygook. More than vision, one needs gumption or blind optimism.

The survey by Track2Reality seems to throw out some obvious but never-pronounced reasons for buying a ready to move in property. After reading them, they don’t sound like a bad list at all. In fact, this list could serve as a checklist if you are on the lookout for a property. Never go home-shopping without this list.

Here are the top 7 reasons for buying a second hand property :

  1. Buying under-construction property is a double-blow – Paying rent and EMI : 92% (of the survey respondents felt so)
  2. Delay in delivery: 92%. I am yet to hear a story where the builder has delivered a flat on time. Almost in all the cases, the buyers wait for it to complete. The penalties which are laid out in the agreement are never really imposed.
  3. What you see is not what you get : 78% (Don’t go by the model flat). Model flats are built with a single point agenda : To entice the buyers. Entice could easily turn into deceiving. Not all flats will get the same aesthetics.
  4. Scared of going to consumer courts : 72%
  5. Faulty design or construction : 70%
  6. Tax benefits can be availed only after getting the possession of the house : 68%
  7. Making sure of neighbors and overall community : 52%. This sounds silly and probably wouldn’t feature in any of the home-buyers checklist but this should be part of everyone’s checklist. Of course, this is only possible if the property is fully built.

Via | Image

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e-Education: A $45bn market in India Mon, 14 May 2012 04:33:18 +0000

Technology’s next stop is education. Education was also Steve Jobs’ next frontier. While the revolution in education won’t necessarily come from either iPad or its iBooks, it will definitely come from technology. Not any single piece of hardware or software, but through a confluence of several forces.

A recent report seems to support this thinking. eEducation in India will be a $45bn market (or opportunity) by 2015. It already is a $35bn market. A spate of recent investments by marquee venture capital firms in India’s education startups seems to be supporting the study.

I can’t argue with the numbers because they seem to be just coming up from nowhere. Our beloved Economic Times begins the article by saying that education spending in India will be $600bn.  I hope they meant $60bn.

Irrespective of what the numbers are, technology in education will revolutionize education. Let’s not get hung up on whether it will be the iPad that transforms us all or it’s something else. It can’t just be a single device or idea. The revolution would come from several different forces. When they all combine, we will have a revolution. We are seeing something like that in education.

Salman Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, has some 3200 videos in subjects of Algebra, History, Finance and test preparation courses like SAT and GMAT. Khan Academy has by far the most profound effect on the use of technology in education.

The beauty of technology is, it doesn’t have to be in a specific location. An algebra video made by Salman Khan in the US can be streamed to a student located in the remote part of India, multiple times, until he or she gets the concept. The beauty of education is it isn’t restricted to a specific location. Sine or Cosine of  30 degrees would mean the same in the US and in India. When we mix the beauties of education and technology, we get wonderful babies like Khan Academy.

And it’s not just the Khan Academy. Two Stanford professors – Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig – has started an experiment in higher education. They have offered their Artificial Intelligence course online for free. 160,000 students enrolled from several different countries and the videos were translated into 44 languages.

Following this massive success, MIT and Harvard have recently launched their edX platform, a not-for-profit organization which will offer courses online. Udacity is another platform which offer courses for free.

In India too, technology is used in education. Though the use cases here are more of an experiment or enriching an already enriched student. IIM Ranchi’s recent experiment asks its students to stay in hostels while the lectures were delivered to them live online through their laptops. This could be seen as a pilot because no professor would like to deliver a lecture knowing that their students are in their pyjamas across the street in a hostel.

Educomp is a common name you hear in India when the subject is technology in education. Educomp isn’t the only game in town. There are several startups which are doing interesting things in the education space.

Startups like MadRat Games and Redbyets want to make education fun. Omidyar-backed startup EnglishHelper uses a software called RedToMe to improve English skills. SchoolCountry with its products Mathlab and BrainX helps students in Mathematics. iProf uses tablets to deliver test preparation content for competitive exams. And this isn’t an exhaustive list.

The education sector is a hot market and continues to be so. As per ASSOCHAM, $1bn will be invested in the education sector by Private Equity and venture capital firms. Most of those investments will go to firms which marry technology with education. That’s what provides the non-linear growth for the investors, education and reach for the rest.

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Are Indians pruning their credit cards? Sun, 13 May 2012 18:49:41 +0000

There is always a love-hate relationship with credit cardsbut the convenience of non-physical money is here to stay. How are we doing with our inseparable plastic money?

Not sure if this is good news or bad news, but there was a 2% decline in the credit card usage in 2011 when compared with 2010. Now before we get all worked up on the percentage points, let’s understand that these numbers are a result of HSBC survey of 5000 people across Asian countries in the 18-54 age group. Countries include: India, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines

In India the number of card holders declined by 2% to 21% in 2011. The premium card holders rose by 29%. Platinum cards too rose from 18% in 2010 to 29% in 2011. Reasons for this steep rise: The rise in the affluent section of the society and the companies focused sourcing of customers in high-income segment.

In India at least there seems to be some responsible credit card swiping. More and more consumers have reduced their credit cards and consolidated their spending onto one card, a feat which I tried to achieve in 2009. In India, single card holders have grown the most at 90%. Of those who held credit cards, the Asian average is 2 cards per person. Singapore has an average of 3.3 cards per person, with Hong Kong and Taiwan having an average of 2.7 cards per person.

India’s credit card penetration rate isn’t known but Hong Kong (77%), Taiwan  (55%) and Singapore (52%) have the most penetration rates. Again these percentages are from the number of people surveyed.

While pruning credit cards sounds like a good idea, one shouldn’t overdo it. If a person is holding four credit cards and on a simplification drive cancels two of the cards, it would hit the person’s credit score. By how much isn’t something we know readily and probably be best delivered by a credit score from CIBIL.

The next best option is to freeze the cards, literally. Better yet, cut it.

Via | Image

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10 things you should know about Satyameva Jayate Wed, 09 May 2012 03:05:04 +0000

Satyameva Jayate, a show hosted by Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan has marked quite a few firsts. It’s Aamir Khan’s entry to the world of television. Beyond that, it’s a show which incurred huge costs. Unsurprisingly, the show has gained a lot of attention and traction.

Here are the 10 things you need to know about Satyameva Jayate

Sunday 11AM is the new prime time

Aamir Khan’s new show is changing the prime time back to 11 AM on Sundays. Sunday mornings are long forgotten to be the most leisurely time to watch television. While the TV sets have grown many fold, there aren’t very many shows to watch. Satyameva Jayate is changing that. It falls in line with the uber popular Ramayan and Mahabharat, which were aired during this time two decades back.

Aamir Khan charges more than anybody else

Though the show has a social responsibility back drop, Khan is spending some serious time on the show and is being rewarded handsomely. Aamir is being paid Rs. 3 crore rupees per episode. To put things into perspective, Bollywood superstars who entered television before Aamir Khan have charged less than 2 crore rupees. The ensemble includes Amitabh Bachan, Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar and Hrithik Roshan.

10 second slot costs Rs. 10 lakh rupees

That is more than the premium, India’s billion dollar cricket league commands. 10 Second slot on IPL matches is going for Rs. 4 lakh rupees. Satyameva Jayate has bettered IPL’s record for this year. Star Plus is justifying this with the amount of money involved in making the show.

Aamir Khan doesn’t have to do TV. Not yet.

The most important thing everyone has to know about Aamir Khan and Satymeva Jayate is Aamir Khan still has a lot of movies left in him. Be it acting or producing, there is still a lot left. Khan could be busy with just films for the next five years. But he chose to do TV.

Widest audience

Unlike any other show on TV (including the IPL), Satyameva Jayate is packaged to reach the widest possible audience. Though Star Plus is the original producer of the show, the show is being aired through 10 channels including Doordarshan which has a reach of 21 million homes along with a host of regional channels.

Available in regional languages

While the original show on Star Plus and Doordarshan is aired in Hindi, the show was dubbed and aired simultaneously in regional languages like Bangla, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu. Something which wasn’t tried in Indian television before.

Available online

The show is immediately available online on a YouTube channel and on the website of Satyameva Jayate. Wider audience, greater reach, greater buzz and probably new revenue streams.

Yes there’s a legal trouble

What good is a popular show without its share of legal troubles. The show has its own legal trouble over the theme song. Euphoria’s Palash Sen is accusing the show of stealing the 22-minute anthem from Euphoria’s Phir Dhoom album.

A big Social Media hit

Social media sentiment analysis is a must for anything. This show is no different. The show is a big hit on Social Media too. It has generated 637,000 + likes and is a top topic on Twitter.

Bigger than IPL

I want something to beat cricket and IPL in Indian audience mind space. While IPL is a daily ritual, Satyameva Jayate comes once in a week. It would be tough to beat the mind space with a show which comes once in a week. But Satyameva Jayate is beating IPL in the money front. A 10 second slot of advertisement on IPL would cost the sponsor Rs. 4 lakh rupees. The same slot on Satyameva Jayate costs Rs. 10 lakh rupees. Not just that, one episode would cost Star Plus Rs. 4 crore to produce, which doesn’t include the Rs. 3 crore it pays Aamir Khan.


Satyameva Jayate has all the makings of a blockbuster TV show. The reason why everyone’s excited about the show is because it’s not Bollywood, it’s not cricket, it’s not a reality show with a porn star and it definitely is not a game show which promises instant riches. Unfortunately those are the four categories which occupied Indian TV for many years.

The only quality Satyameva Jayeta shares with the aforementioned categories is the presence of a celebrity – Aamir Khan. I guess that’s the only indulgence for an otherwise soul stirring show which is challenging the mundane.

Via | Images are from Satyameva Jayate’s Facebook page

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India : Provident Fund accounts no longer tied to an employer Tue, 08 May 2012 03:01:14 +0000

Indian government has finally decided that it’s best to keep Employee Provident Fund as independent accounts and should not be tied to the employer but to the employee. This means, every time someone changes the job, he or she doesn’t have to open a new Provident Fund (PF) account with the new employer.

PF account will be like the PAN card or the UID card which remains the same across. My only question about this whole episode is, what took them so long?

For starters, this new facility isn’t portability as in mobile number portability or health care portability. Provident Fund contributions from the employees and employers are maintained by Employee Provident Fund Organization which is a government organizations. It is the same organization which maintains the corpus whether you are working for Employer A or employer B. So the question of portability doesn’t arise. If someone with a total work experience of ten years has worked with five companies, he or she would have had five different PF accounts.

Employee perspective

If not properly managed the employee will be missing out on the eight wonder of the world : Compound Interest. Money in the PF accounts attracts an interest of 8% to 9% depending upon the vagaries of the interest market. This interest is compounded annually. If an account is left as an orphan when an employee changes jobs, there will not be any interest on that account after three years. More than that, if the account is not linked to the existing PF account of the employee, the power of compounding is all but lost.

As per the latest stats, EPFO has a corpus of Rs. 3.5 trillion rupees spread across 95.31 million accounts of which only 44 million accounts are active. Inactive accounts here means, there is money but there might not be any interest being accrued. Ill informed employees will be losing money and the power of compounding.

Job hoppers would find this extremely convenient. Not that they were waiting for this.

EPFO perspective

EPFO has to spend significant time to manage those 95 million accounts. If it was just like the PAN card which is employee dependent and not employer dependent then it would mean lesser number of accounts to the EPFO.

The benefits to the employee are much more than the benefits to the EPFO. I still wanted to ask what took them so long, but would settle with “Better late than never”.

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India: A new TV show is changing prime time and probably TV too Mon, 07 May 2012 18:16:18 +0000

A new TV show hosted by Bollywood superstar could actually bring back the audience to TV. Aamir Khan, known for his blockbuster hits and intense focus on projects, has put together a show called Satyameva Jayate.  It’s a show spread across thirteen episodes to bring attention to India’s perennial problems. A charge of three crore rupees per episode notwithstanding, Khan is using his stardom to good use by creating awareness.

Satyameva Jayate, unlike many TV shows which came before, plans to change few things along the way. It’s not a regular soap opera or a saas bahu serial which breaks the mold and challenges the popular notion that only cricket, bollywood or masala works on TV. Satyameva Jayate is also changing the definition of prime time.

For long, 7PM to 10PM (or 8-11) is considered to be prime time. India’s popular shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati and many soaps were shown during the prime time. Indian Premier League the multi-billion dollar cricket tournament is also broadcasted on an entertainment channel during the prime time (8PM).

Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate re-defines prime time to 11 AM on a Sunday morning.

Aamir Khan’s new definition of prime time is actually an old and probably the most popular prime time for whoever watched TV in the 90’s. Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan and later Mahabharat were aired during this time. These were aired at a time when state sponsored Doordarshan was the only game in town. Ramayan or Mahabharat on a Sunday morning is a family ritual. In some areas (or in most areas) it’s a community ritual where groups glued together in-front of the nearest tube available. That was the time a color television was a luxury.

Things have moved on during the 20+ years since Ramayan. Doordarshan is now replaced by hundreds of satellite channels. Black and white TV’s are a rarity, so are shows worthy of mention on a Sunday morning. Satyameva Jayate promises to bring back the olden days.

Unsurprisingly the show has garnered a lot of attention and well on its way to Indian TV glory. Will it sustain?

The show’s advertisers who are paying 10 lakh rupees for a 10 second spot and Star Plus which is spending 4 crore rupees per episode to make the show, would want the show to be a mega hit, not just sustain.

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Barack Obama’s picture used to get mobile connection in India Wed, 02 May 2012 03:13:54 +0000

How well do telecom companies know their customers? A little too well really. A 21-year-old in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh in India has used the picture of Barack Obama to get an Airtel connection.

There could be two things that might have happened. The man didn’t have his passport size photo on-hand and used Mr. Obama’s picture or the people who were collecting the documents have never seen Obama’s picture. Either way it’s one funny Know Your Customer (KYC) story to tell.

KYC is a requirement which the Indian government is trying to impose on banks and telecom companies where new customers have to provide ID. Take a look at the picture below from Times Of India :

To prevent such ‘ludicrous’ irregularities, Andhra police have made some suggestions. One such suggestion is this:

The AP police have also recommended introduction of biometric system to capture the identity of the customer. It has also been suggested that the customer who wants to become a subscriber of a network provider should be physically present before the fixed centre. (TOI)

We got that covered too. The biometric system we all so wanted which already has collected biometrics for 200 million people has just issued a Aadhar card for a vegetable. An equally amusing story where a person has used a series of vegetables and greens to secure an Aadhar card (India’s most ambitious project).

In most parts of India the chances of you getting a new mobile phone connection are much higher than you finding a packet of milk. Telcos are under tremendous pressure to rack up subscribers. Hyper-competition might be the immediate reason which should get a lot of attention but rather it’s the pre-paid nature of the business.

Close to 90% of all the mobile subscriptions in India are pre-paid. Which means telcos don’t really wait for the customers to pay the bills. The bills are already paid. This takes out the incentive to really know the customer. You pay, you talk. You don’t pay, then you don’t talk. All the telco loses is a lousy chip called a SIM card.

Coming back to the Obama picture, the stand-up comedians and late night shows will have a field day. Republicans can’t really use this though.

Update : As per the recent TOI article which was published after Airtel complained, the number was never allotted. As per TOI’s original article, the number was allotted and the Nalgonda police have disconnected the number. Strange how things work in the media world really.

Telecom service provider Airtel on Tuesday wrote to the SP of Nalgonda that the mobile telephone number 9177523297 that was said to have been procured by Nalgonda resident Prasad by using the photograph of US President Barack Obama has not been allotted to any subscriber. It stated that the number is actually lying as an idle stock with its retail outlet. The letter was signed by V S VPrasad, the head of legal and regulatory functions of Airtel in the AP circle.

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India diesel price deregulation: Has its time come? Wed, 25 Apr 2012 09:20:53 +0000

The Indian government may deregulate diesel prices like it did for petrol prices. There is a news item which is doing the rounds since yesterday but there isn’t much of a debate going on. The main reason could be government’s ploy to dilute the situation with the words “in principle”.

The matter might be subject to agreement by several parties involved. Without going any further, none of the parties involved will agree because most of India runs on diesel. Opposition parties like BJP and the left have already opposed such a move.

What’s interesting about this move is the words Indian government chose to use.

Government has, in principle, agreed to make the prices of diesel market determined. However, in order to insulate the common man from the impact of rise in international oil prices and the domestic inflationary conditions, the government continues to modulate the retail selling prices of diesel. (TOI)

It’s deregulation but not as you might think. That’s the message I’m getting.

There will be frequent diesel price hikes but the prices will be set by the government and not left to the oil companies. For simplicity sake, if there are 4 hikes of petrol prices, there might be 2 hikes for diesel prices. At least that’s my interpretation.

Government has left the cooking gas (LPG) prices untouched. Even cooking gas is a long-pending issue. The subsidies on the gas are very high and would go as high as 50%.

India’s auto industry, though seeing a lot of upsurge, is under some kind of pressure. First it was the budget which had pushed the car prices up. Now it’s diesel price deregulation. After the petrol prices were deregulated, the effect on the car sales wasn’t immediate. But there was an impact which was only evident in the first three months of 2012.

For the first time, the sale of diesel cars has outpaced the sale of petrol cars in the month of February 2012. Diesel cars cost more than their petrol counterparts. This was neutralized by the price differential between the fuels (diesel and petrol). Someone who is driving a diesel car would neutralize the extra price paid upfront by driving the car for 3-5 years. After which the running costs would come down. Or so they thought.

The strange thing about this news item is everybody who heard this was expecting a large scale strike. Some were counting on Mamata Banerjee. I’m expecting a rude shock. Maybe diesel price deregulation is an idea whose time has come.

PS : I drive a diesel car and am not happy with this prospect. Given the large scale impact, the fact of driving a diesel car is now a moot point.

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Compulsory reverse brain drain: Indian doctors must return after higher studies in US Wed, 25 Apr 2012 03:07:45 +0000

Immigration has never been under so much scrutiny as it is now. Across the oceans, popular destinations like the UK and US have tightened their processes. The UK has abandoned work after study. US has increased visa fees. While the move from the US will create some noise early on but it will be business as usual, the UK’s move is more damaging. Both the news stories are nothing in comparison to what you are about to witness.

Any doctor who is going to the US for higher medical studies will have to sign a bond with the government that they will return after their studies. Universities across the US will ask for this bond from 2012. There is a statistic to go with the news:  3000 doctors left for the US in the last 3 years and none of them returned.

Well, what can I say. Expecting people who left for the US to return back to India is wishful thinking. I just hope India isn’t getting its policies from China, just like it gets toys and electronics. In fact, China might not even have this kind of policy.

Compulsory brain drain

First there was a brain drain when the IIT students have left for the US, made their millions and never returned to India. Of late we are hearing the term reverse brain drain. This is a wave of entrepreneurs and enthusiasts who have returned to India and are contributing something back to the Indian economy. What we are about to witness is a compulsory reverse brain drain, where the brains will have to come back by law and not by will.

The law sounded simple when I read it, but it’s anything but simple. The cost of higher education in countries like US and UK is higher than it is in India. No one really want to spend an insane amount of money without thinking about the return on investment (ROI). The ROI will kick in only when these students get themselves a job and work for at least 3-10 years. That is a broad plan which fits for all the students, be it doctors or engineers.

If we go by the law, someone who goes on to study in the US and comes back to India will be a doctor, but a poor one. Not the reason why the brain drained in the first place. I hope it doesn’t, but if this goes through, there will be a sharp drop in the number students joining  medical courses in India. Engineering, which is already popular, will become even more so.

It’s clear that the government is trying to solve a problem, but this isn’t the right solution. I assume lack of doctors is the problem. Going by the count of doctors who went to the US and never came back, it’s just 1,000 doctors per year. We are not talking about Iceland but India, a country with a population of 1.2 billion people. If there was a Pareto chart of the reasons on why India doesn’t have enough doctors, I bet doctors leaving to the US wouldn’t figure in the top 5 reasons.

The same news item has a solution to the problem : 3 year Bachelor’s degree of Rural Health Care. That’s where the Indian government’s energies should be spent.

PS : Statistics always lie about the most important stuff. The correct statistic the Indian government has to look at is the scenario for the past 10 years, not 3 years. I am not saying it would be different but it would be more reliable.


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India: Government jobs back in vogue Wed, 25 Apr 2012 01:31:20 +0000

There was a time when all the graduates in India dreamed about just one thing: A government job. A groom with a government job is worthier than a groom without one. In fact, no one’s really a groom until he has a government job. Looks like those times are back. The only difference between then and now is the alternate private sector which is available now which was almost non-existent then.

A new email survey done by with a sample size of 2000 people reveals some interesting choices. Given a choice, non-IT students prefer a government job in a Public Sector Unit (PSU) or would like to work for the government. Among engineers from non-IT streams, DRDO came out as a first choice.

India has successfully tested Agni V, an inter-continental ballistic missile, which can reach many parts of China. The range as per India is 5000 kms and China thinks that Agni V might have a greater reach. DRDO is the research unit of India’s defense sector and is the key driver of the launch. I hope there isn’t a undue influence of India’s launch of Agni V on this survey.

That government jobs are in vogue doesn’t mean that the traditional IT companies are not in vogue. The demand for postitions at IT companies like Infosys, TCS, Wipro and IBM still continues. Infosys and IBM are the top choices for both engineering and non-engineering students.

Non-engineering graduates chose Infosys and Wipro above other companies. Engineering students chose IBM over Infosys, TCS, Wipro and Accenture.

There is a reason why many prefer government jobs. They are untouched by recession and the vagaries of global economy. After the revised pay scales the salaries of many government jobs have come on par with IT salaries. In fact IT salaries are nothing but hype created by a coterie of people who never knew what they were doing. If anyone goes up the ladder in a government job the perks that follow are unmatchable to any other similar jobs in the private sector.

If given a choice, I would have preferred a government job too.


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Income taxes across the world [infographic] Tue, 24 Apr 2012 02:03:28 +0000

Death and income tax are the only things certain in this world. Of course that quote doesn’t put the tax evaders and the tax havens in the picture. Unlike death, income tax can be evaded. Not that you should.

Living in India, I thought taxes were high. But this interactive infographic has shown what a taxing world we are living in. In fact, taxes in India aren’t either high or low. They seem to be at the mean of the global average.

A Global Look at Personal Income Taxes - Interactive Infographic by TurboTax

Landlocked African nation, Chad, has the most income tax rate of 60% followed by Sweden’s 56.74%. Japan (50%) and Australia (45%) are other nations which have high income tax rates. India’s 30% income tax rate is close to United States 35%, though India has a layered approach to Income tax.

There are three different slabs on the income tax : 10%, 20% and 30%. On average it can come to 25%-30% for people earning a certain amount of salary (something over 15 lakh rupees or so).

Income tax in India is a funny thing because the government decides to squeeze whoever pays without any mechanism to bring everyone into the tax net. It’s not about taxing the rich or taxing the middle class. Tax Deduction at Source or TDS as it is famously called is only applicable for salaried individuals. Just yesterday, the finance ministry had this wicked idea of bringing some perks like conveyance allowance and car lease under General Anti-avoidance Rules (GAAR). These were allowed by the government in the first place.

Of course there are countries with lower tax rates and there are countries with no taxes at all. Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman are the three countries which don’t have any taxes imposed on their citizens. No taxes also means no accountability by the government. Paying taxes doesn’t mean the government is accountable either.

Get Your Maximum Tax Refund with TurboTax

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India: Look who’s got an Aadhar card Wed, 18 Apr 2012 04:50:29 +0000

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, a vegetable just got a biometric based Aadhar (UIDAI) bearing the number : 49911866 5246. The card was sent to an address which is yet another mix of vegetables.

The blooper occurred in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. An Aadhaar card, bearing the number 49911866 5246, was issued in the name of Mr Kothimeer (coriander), son of Mr ‘Pulav’. In the address section, it was mentioned as Gongura Thota (Hibiscus Cannabinus), Mamidi Kaya Vuru (raw mango village) of Jambuladinne Mandal in Anantapur district.

The card displayed the photo of a mobile phone against the name of the card holder.

I hope it was a Nokia phone. I almost wanted to post this under “This is funny” category but this is rather serious.

“It is probably a prank played by someone who wanted to tell us how casually the process of data collection is done in villages. The private agencies entrusted with the job have no understanding of the job,” said Opposition Telugu Desam Party MLA from the district P Keshav.

This is nothing but dereliction of duties. I’m not sure who wouldn’t understand a job like this. Leaving all the names aside, how can one post the image of a mobile phone for the card holder picture?

UIDAI is the most ambitious project undertaken by Indian government and it probably is the most ambitious in the world. It is a project to collect biometric information of India’s citizens. 200 million biometrics have already been collected and UIDAI numbers were issued, which is the most by any country. Budget has been allocated to collect for 400 million more.

The benefits of a UIDAI number are numerous. It will bring banking to the unbanked, automatic transfers directly to the bank accounts for welfare schemes, can be used as an identity card for anything from getting a mobile phone to securing a cooking gas connection. UIDAI isn’t just about convenience. It probably is the single most important tool to root out corruption.

When money ceases to be cash and everything is done electronically and thus accounted for, the billions of dollars which are being embezzled from the welfare schemes will find a new and right destination. It will go the people who it was intended for. Of course it can’t stop the high-end scams like what we saw in 2G spectrum but everything else which directly effects the common man will change.

That is the gravity of UIDAI. Thought it tickles a funny bone, a goof up on such a matter is simply not acceptable.

Source : TribuneIndia Via : Medianama. Image from johnandgill’s flickr stream

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Facebook faces the heat in India, again Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:06:43 +0000

Removing objectionable content and prosecuting perpetrators might be two terms which you will hear very often in India, which is getting cozier with the Internet. With 50 million users on Facebook, it is a subject of many discussions. More so now that we have a new Chief Minister in the western part of the country who is obsessed with her image, literally.

Here’s how it works. Someone who has far too much time on their hands photoshops an image of a popular politician, the politician throws fits and launches a full offensive on the social media site. Someone or the other brings up the issue of monitoring social media sites and setting up servers in India. And the cycle continues.

The current cycle involves a morphed image of West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamatha Banerjee which was posted on Facebook. West Bengal’s Crime Investigation Department has lodged a complaint with Facebook to delete the image in question and also to provide the originating IP address.

Now that looks like a sensible request considering what has happened just few days back in the same state. A professor from Jadavpur University was arrested for forwarding a cartoon on Mamatha Banerjee. The professor, Ambikesh Mahapatra, is out of jail now but was allegedly attacked by Trinamool Congress activists (Ms. Banerjee’s party) and is now fearing for his safety and that of his family. A seemingly innocuous cartoon turned out to be a life threatening instrument.

When we compare the two stories originating from the same state, you would be amazed at the differences. In case of Mr. Mahapatra, the CM’s men chose to arrest and harrass. No one has thought about where the cartoon originated. When it came to the Facebook image, West Bengal government’s response was far more sensible. Now that is paribartan.

With this incident, the need to monitor social media sites has surfaced one more time. This time around, Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Ashok Ghelot was vociferous about monitoring social media sites and setting up their servers in India.

“I would appreciate if these site could develop a system which by itself prevents posting of material with communal and anti-national overtones,” he said. (TOI)

Prevention is better than cure. Looks like someone is taking that too seriously. Of course Mr. Ghelot is missing the fact that this isn’t prevention but pre-empting which is only possible in movies like Minority Report.

“I would suggest that the Government of India should develop a system which can help in obtaining the information from these servers on real-time basis or as an alternative making it mandatory for these companies to set up their servers in India,” Gehlot said.

It’s Deja Vu and Blackberry all over again

Via Times of India

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Blackberry snooping in India? There’s an app for that Tue, 10 Apr 2012 03:23:54 +0000

The saga of the Indian government’s need to snoop on Blackberry messages is finally coming to an end. Indian government now has the ability to snoop on Blackberry messages and RIM has done its best to help the government by setting up a facility in Mumbai.

RIM Blackberry

Pic: AP

Research in Motion (RIM) was fighting a losing battle all along ever since the Indian government requested the interception facility in 2008. The need to snoop was intensified after the November 26 attack on Mumbai in 2008. The battle, which RIM lost, has ended with RIM setting up a facility in February 2012. A readily consumable format is in the offing. Who knew an app would be next.

The Indian government was never in a position to break through Blackberry’s encryption and was seeking RIM’s help. When governments ask for help, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it either asking nor is it a help. The Indian government has threatened to shut down Blackberry’s services in the country if it didn’t comply. That would mean a little over one million Blackberry users would be out of service.

Blackberry for some reason is still popular in India, especially among youths. RIM also has a renewed India strategy which means cutting down prices across its handsets and trying it to compete with Samsung.

Blackberry has three clientele groups: Politicians and celebrities, corporate users, and students.

Of course, the Indian government thinks that terrorists use Blackberrys and those are the phones the government really want to tap into.

Corporate users might just have a problem or two here. The past few weeks in India were tumultuous weeks for confidential information. Letters from the army which were deemed secret were leaked to the media. What guarantees do the corporates now have that these snoopers aren’t leakers?

Most of the celebrities for some reason prefer Blackberry’s. Very few use iPhone and adventurous ones use Android. Same goes for politicians. Is it because of the encryption Blackberry provides? There is nothing which suggests that the celebrities and politicians are using Blackberry’s to hide something. But if they are then they should look for alternatives.

As for RIM and Blackberry it has lost its final armor. First armor was the QWERTY keypad which every manufacturer from Micromax to Nokia have broken. Blacberry’s last armor was its encryption which is now ‘broken’ by the Indian government.

For those who have been buying Blackberry’s, is there a reason to buy it anymore?


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Indian auto-makers post record sales in March 2012 [graphic] Tue, 03 Apr 2012 03:11:34 +0000

Indian auto makers across the board have posted record sales for March 2012. Auto majors like Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Honda Siel and Volkswagen have posted their biggest ever monthly sales.

India Car Sales 2012 : Domestic vs Export


Tata Motors has for the first time crossed the 100,000 sales in a month threshold. It has sold 100,414 units in March 2012, of which 5,367 units were exported. March 2012 has been a bumper month for Tata Nano, too. A total of 10,475 Nano’s were sold.

Maruti continues to lead the passenger car market with 95,758 vehicles sold in March 2012. Maruti Suzuki has exported 13,228 vehicles in March 2012. Maruti though had a mixed fortune in its sales across categories. There is an increase in sales from Year-on-year in segments like Compact and Super compact segments which registered a growth of 23.6% and 60.1%. Other segments like Mini, Mid-size, and Executive have seen a fall in sales from the same month last year.

Hyundai Motors has sold 59,229 vehicles in March 2012, of which 39,122 were sold in the domestic market. March 2012 was impressive for Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and Nissan.

Mahindra has sold 23,020 units in the passenger segment. Its total sales stood at 47,001, of which 2,659 were exported. Of the 47,001 units sold, 5,089 vehicles were 3-wheelers.

Will the trend continue?

This super sales trend isn’t likely to continue. Ever since the Indian government has de-regulated the fuel prices, the cost of petrol has skyrocketed, increasing the gap between petrol and diesel per liter. This has tilted the scales in favor of Diesel cars. Not all auto makers have the production capacity to meet the increased demand for diesel cars.

Almost all the major auto makers have plans to increase their diesel car production capacity. But this will not kick in until after few months. Until then consumers either buy existing diesel varieties or wait for their favorite diesel car.

In addition to the petrol-diesel imbroglio, the Indian government has raised excise and import duties on automobiles, which will push the car prices even higher. Next fiscal year looks to be a tough one for auto makers.

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12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of our time – Narayana Murthy, Muhammad Yunus make the cut Thu, 29 Mar 2012 02:52:25 +0000

Entrepreneur and entrepreneurship might just be the most used words of the technology world these days. With incubators and nurseries all around the world, we are at a point where most people think that you ought to be an entrepreneur. Well, let’s leave the ought to part to the experts. The list we are about to see is a list of the greatest entrepreneurs of our time. Fortune magazine has published the list.

Here are the 12 Greatest Entrepreneurs of our time :

  1. Steve Jobs of Apple
  2. Bill Gates of Microsoft
  3. Fred Smith of FedEx
  4. Jeff Bezos of Amazon
  5. Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google
  6. Howard Schultz of Starbucks
  7. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook
  8. John Mackey of Whole Foods
  9. Herb Kelleher of SouthWest Airlines
  10. Narayana Murthy of Infosys
  11. Sam Walton of Wal-mart Stores
  12. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank.

The only question I have about that list is : Why 12? It’s as if to accommodate someone in the list and cut-off someone else off the list. Looking at the names on that list, you might actually be thinking that may be 12 is the perfect number and every list ought to have 12 as a count.

The list is diverse but not for the sake of diversity. Though it’s dominated by American entrepreneurs with one each from India and Bangladesh, it has a sense of completeness to it. The industries the list covers are Technology, Logistics, Coffee, Foods, Aviation, Microfinance and Retail. These are probably the most influential people in their respective industries.

Herb Kelleher and SouthWest Airlines for example, no other airline company in the world has seen the kind of success SouthWest has seen and it continues to see. Walmart has squeezed its supply chains so much that it’s hard to think of any other way to do it. Bill Gates has brought computing to the masses and probably is the reason (remote) why Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Mark Zuckerberg made their mark on this world. Mohammad Yunus brought credit to the unbanked.

And the famous founders of the technology quartet :  Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook. We all know what roles they play in our everyday computing.

Narayana Murthy’s entrepreneurship was in the toughest of times and in the toughest of conditions. It was the time when the angel funds didn’t exist. There were no startup nurseries and the only nursery they knew was the thing kids go to. Naryana Murthy has not only started and groomed one of the most reputable IT company of India but he has stuck with it.

Here’s Fortune’s rationale for the list :

The list was prepared considering economic and social impact, world changing vision of the entrepreneurs, ability of the entrepreneurs to inspire and motivate their employees, their record of innovation and their actual results (The Daily Star)

While the above factors might be true, there is one more underlying factor which we shouldn’t be ignoring. They are all founders and remained so until they retired. You don’t find a serial entrepreneur on this list. That might not sound like a big deal but many of the entrepreneurs on this list were doing it for more than 20 years.

Zuckerberg is relatively young but it looks he is in it for the long haul. In fact, that’s the exact advice Zuckerberg got from Steve Jobs. It’s all about building a great company and not about the valuations or exits.

I don’t see the “I’m in this for a long haul” attitude in the current generation of entrepreneurs. May be I’m generalizing this but I have a feeling that Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg might be the last set of entrepreneurs who are in it for the long haul. We are looking at a new generation which is impatient (thanks Airtel for this). New generation wants valuations, stash of cash and high profile exits and something more exciting to move on.

There is nothing right or wrong with it. It just is.

In a question asked by VCCircle blog about the end-game,  Games2Win’s Alok Kejriwal has this to say :

Like any other entrepreneur; our end game is to make a massive exit. As far as when can we see it happening, is not clear at this point of time.

If VCCircle has quoted what Kejriwal has said correctly then I have this to say :

Any other entrepreneur will be looking for a massive exit. Great entrepreneurs look to build great companies and become greatest in the process.

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