Let Our Work Drive Our Energy

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Let Our Work Drive Our Energy

There is so much we can learn from the views, experiences and beliefs of others; especially if our own values have strong roots in light of the learning of others.

Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, gave an inspiring speech at the town hall meeting at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. The event was the second anniversary of the government’s citizen engagement platform, MyGov.

I have been a huge fan of Mr. Modi’s speeches, perhaps for his clarity of thought, national pride, and his collective and all-inclusive vision for growth.

However, events, trends and incidents across the country, over the decades, have consistently sent us conflicting signals. Be it the differences between powerful and hopeful speeches and increasing communal tensions, or the interference in our education system. Don’t forget the continued indifference in Kashmir, or the apathetic attitude towards our armed forces. Then there is our weak indecisiveness in retaliation to shameless Chinese and Pakistani infiltration at our country’s borders.

Not to blame it all on Mr. Modi, or even blame him at all. But when the pulse of the country feels different from the words we hear from our leaders, it does leave you with questions about the intentions of the entire political framework in our country.

A recent Bollywood movie, Madaari, brilliantly portrayed what many already believed to be true. That all political parties are essentially one, taking turns to collaborate and plunder.

On a related topic, till last year, Nestle’s Maggi could as well have been given the honour of being India’s national food. It commanded strong brand connect across generations, with faithful consumers across decades and the length and breadth of India.

Yet, not enough people found it surprising that it was caught in an ugly controversy almost overnight. Between highly suspect test labs and questionable findings, to the company’s willingly destroying of crores worth of product, smelt conspiracy. The parallel, meteoric rise of Patanjali noodles, part of a business empire founded by a yoga teacher who also happens to be a faithful supporter of the ruling political party, all seemed too coincidental.

And the fact that the global giant that ranks #72 on the Fortune 500 list didn’t consider a big defamation suit in the light of contradicting lab findings makes things even more suspect. I don’t have a problem with a young, home-grown company rising to compete with global veteran giants. In fact, nothing would make me more proud. But the fact that it all happened so suddenly and ‘coincidentally’, it begs a re-look.

Have you watched the 1991 Hollywood movie, JFK? It might give you a horrific glimpse into what people in power, and with an ulterior motive are capable of, even in the most developed of nations.

Time will tell how this great nation and its citizens shape out to be in the decades to come. One thing however, that Mr. Modi said during the town hall speech really stood out, and which could help India achieve her true potential.

An NRI asked Mr. Modi how he managed hectic, trans-continental travel and then show up for work the next day. After all, many know well enough how sapping jet lag can be. Mr. Modi plainly stated that contrary to popular belief, doesn’t have more strength than the average human.

Modi retorted that it isn’t extra strength that allows one to do more work. On the contrary, he said, it is the realization of the quantum of work there is before us to be done, that gives us the strength to do more.

If we Indians can acknowledge and understand that simple belief, and set and pursue worthy goals, we can truly lead the world into a new and far better tomorrow.

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Source: link

Originally posted here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/shrutinshetty/let-our-work-drive-our-energy-2ivq1

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Why Indians Need Real Idols, not pretentious ones

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Why Indians Need Real Idols, not pretentious ones

The pretentiousness and shallowness of many Indians can be really overwhelming.

sultan may have been a great movie, but I won’t know because I won’t be watching it. Not in theatres, or on TV subsequently, for obvious reasons. It’s not the movie I’m against, but the encouragement of wrong. But should that bother fellow Indians?

What should bother us, is that we are the same people who were furious when vijay mallya fled the country.

And we are the same people who, despite salman khan’s wrongdoings and ego, continue to encourage him by supporting him, by watching his movies and making him even more full of himself than he already is.

Now, there is a marble plaque installed by him on a traffic island outside Mehboob Studio. In memory of, (beat this!), his two dogs that died about 7 years ago. And what’s so important about those dogs? Nothing, apart from the fact that they were his pets. The plaque itself, approved by a local BMC ward, was installed about 2 weeks ago. Less than 700 metres from the spot of his infamous hit-and-run. [link]

I love dogs. And out of admiration for ‘man’s best friends’, I have read a fair amount about memorials for dogs all over the world. But those memorials were for exceptional and distinguished ones; those who either served in a war or with the police, in narcotics or anti-terror divisions of the forces, or saved multiple lives, or bravely sacrificed themselves saving or protecting children, etc.

Yet, in a country where even our human war heroes, police martyrs and civilians who have lived for social causes fight for remembrance and recognition of their exceptional sacrifices, we choose to make heroes of smaller people, and their pets.

It is not that our heroes don’t deserve our country. After all, we have been blessed to have been born in one of the greatest countries in the world, and our heroes undeniably loved it more than we can imagine.

It is, shamefully, that we Indians don’t deserve our heroes, for our respect and loyalty are invested in petty mortals.

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Brick & mortar won’t be dead by 2023

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Brick & mortar won’t be dead by 2023

online-retailers-offline-retailers-same-strategy1

Extreme comments or views are often a huge hit or miss.

And Niti Aayog’s Mr. Kant’s futuristic sounding comment about how brick and mortar businesses in India will be dead by 2023 was a huge miss, in fact to the point of sounding immature.

Coming from a school or college student in a metro, that would have been ok. Especially, given our views are often influenced or limited by what we do and see in our immediate surroundings. And the recent explosion in number of apps would certainly give a lot of people the impression that that’s how the future will be. But not so fast.

The US has been several years, if not decades ahead of us in terms of some industries and technologies as well as innovative business models and businesses themselves.

As of December 2015 in the US, ecommerce retail formed a tiny 8.6% of total retail. The rest of it happens offline! So ~100% of businesses or only retail ones moving online by 2023 seems like a fantasy.

There are some significant differences between the Americans and us. To start with, they’re one-fourth of our population, living on a land that’s three times the size of India!! Years ago, one could have argued that that itself should’ve led to a majority of businesses serving customers online, to cut the long distances customers need to travel to buy even the basics for home. But that’s exactly the opposite of how things are happening there, as we speak. Though no doubt, technology has played a critical role in simplifying business for them, given the relatively lower manpower levels as compared to us.

Now let’s look at it from a physical store or service point of view.

In the states, a college girl working part-time can single-handedly manage a standard sized clothes store without breaking a sweat. Running between the cash counter, answering customer queries in the clothes section, to checking if the customer trying something in the trial room needs anything. Technology, be it tablets to order faster, or pager-type devices alerting you at your table that your meal is ready to be picked up at the counter, all make it for a more logical way to operate, given the light manpower models and limited manpower. Indians on the other hand, are arguably far more capable. But given our sheer numbers, affordable manpower, efforts to reduce unemployment, etc., often find ourselves hiring more people than we need.

Driving across some of those bridges to New York, you either use an E-Z Pass device, or through coins into an automated basket at an unmanned toll crossing. Many a times when using the Bandra-Worli sea-link in Bombay, there are three people at every toll lane. One taking the money, the other inside the booth printing out your pass/receipt. And a third handing the same to you.

A few years ago, I used to head the regional arm of a robot automation solutions company. There, I was once speaking to an industry colleague of mine who worked for a mid-sized auto ancillary company. I was exploring the possibility of having a part of his company plant automated. He stopped me mid-sentence, and in no uncertain terms told me that they don’t need robots. He said, “We’ve had about 2 crores worth of robots gathering dust for over 2 years now. Because our plant workers won’t allow it on the production line.” And for a progressive, carefully-run, mid-sized company to have ignored a sizable investment like that; doesn’t the idea of most companies being completely online in seven years sound like a pipe dream.

One of the youngest from the online era, Amazon, wouldn’t be opening physical stores now, if they already were one of the first people to sell online.

We in India are nearly the largest, and almost the youngest population in the world. And our country has never looked more promising from a technology, innovation and progress point of view. But I don’t see anything of the sort Mr. Kant mentioned in his comments happening ever. And it perhaps doesn’t have anything to do with technology either.

It’s probably our inherent need for human interactions, that will never make brick and mortar businesses go out of demand.

offline-retailer

Image: source

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A Rural Electric Ride

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Hemalatha-Annamalai- Ampere Vehicles

A Rural Electric Ride

While a lot of us are busy in our world of self-indulgence, it’s reassuring to know there are Indians like Ratan Tata, who’d go the distance with regard to businesses that positively impact to one or more segments of the population.

I’m speaking about the Nano in particular here, the world’s cheapest car that was inspired by the concern Mr. Tata had for a number of Indian families that traveled with their spouse and children on two-wheelers, and the risk that posed to their safety.

Now I’ve written a few posts mentioning the Nano, though I don’t think I’ve written enough about that business and engineering marvel.

Anyway, here’s a relatively unheard of company in the field of ‘affordable’ AND ‘electric’ cycles, scooters & load carriers from India.

Hemalatha Annamalai of Coimbatore, the founder of Ampere Vehicles Pvt. Ltd., has been making affordable electric vehicles since 2008. What’s better, is that she has a focus on rural transportation. And it gets better. She is backed by Kris Gopalakrishnan, one of the co-founders of Infosys. And none other than the original king of low-cost vehicles in India, Mr. Ratan Tata himself.

May there be more entrepreneurs like her.

Read more about her and her vehicles here: link

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A Love Song for India

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Full-HD-Indian-Flags-HD-Wallpapers-Hand

A Love Song for India

I tried thinking of a love song for India, and couldn’t find one more appropriate than this. ABBA‘s ‘Lay all your love on me’. These four lines seem to be a perfect message from our country, to us citizens.

“Don’t go wasting your emotion
Lay all your love on me
Don’t go sharing your devotion
Lay all your love on me”

India | Independence Day | 15th August.

 

indian-flag-photos-hd

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Ghost Rider

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Ghost Rider

India has seen a meteoric rise in the number of vehicles on its roads. And with it, driving sense and etiquette have disappeared into oblivion. I’ll agree I’m not too great a driver myself. But few things anger me as much as bikers riding on the wrong side of the road.

And it’s still ok if a rider only risks his own life. But many of them even dare with their family sitting pretty, pillion. And then there are those that ride on footpaths (sidewalks), risking lives of unsuspecting pedestrians too.

I’m not sure how you deal with them, but if it’s just a bloke riding alone on the wrong side, I normally go straight at them, with lights on high beam. I might swing out at the last moment, or just slow down but continue, making them stop and pull to the side as I drive past. I’m quite sure that makes no difference though. The cops don’t seem to be in any hurry to even start addressing these riders who risk lives to save insignificant minutes or fuel.

Ok, now imagine this. A holographic projector fitted on a car that creates a very real-looking holographic image of a bike or car next to it. The purpose being to deter bikers from riding on the wrong side of the road.

Obviously the image would be unbelievably real enough and appearing to leave no space for the bikers to squeeze through. The image obviously wouldn’t stop or slow down, just keep coming. I wonder if that could be enough to frighten the hell out of the rider? And while the rider would eventually pass through the image, it would hopefully frighten them out of their skin, leaving them puzzled and horrified enough never to ride on the wrong side again.

Sure it is a slightly more expensive alternative to good old effective traffic enforcement, but I’m sure it would be fun to experiment with while the enforcers get their act together.

And this below, isn’t a ghost car, just an insanely cool see-through 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six.

Ghost Car 1939-pontiac-deluxe-six-ghost-car

Image [source]

ghost carImage [source]

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Holy How?!

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Holy How?!

Does god exist?

I personally do believe in faith, and in a higher power, but one without a name or face. Culture and upbringing however, do tend to influence that faith with names and appearances. 

Unlike popular belief, India does not have 330 million gods. But of the comparatively fewer we do, festivals are celebrated in the grandest ways imaginable. The next few months marks some major religious festivals, including Janmasthami (just went by), Ganesh Chaturthi and Dussehra. The days on which these festivals are celebrated each year are determined by the Hindu calendar, and not the Gregorian calendar which is followed for all other purposes. And each year, in reference to the dates on the Gregorian calendar, festival dates can vary from a few days to a few weeks (Dussehra, for instance, fell on Oct. 24th last year as per the Gregorian calendar, and it is on Oct 14 this year).

Now we have all come across sensational news stories, of deities drinking water and milk, of others crying blood, and of some appearing in the sky. And yet, more often than not, Science has had a fairly sorted out explanation for most, if not all these ‘miracles’. So, apart from Science, do other gods exist too? 😉

Believe it or not, but when it comes some festivals here in India, every single year, it always rains around midnight on Janmashtami (barring a few exceptions like this year) and during Ganesh Chaturthi. And it’s not just light random drizzles. It often pours on those days. And till a day before, you could have sworn the monsoons had passed. Holy chow, aye?

Interesting? So, the question of whether god exists or not, wasn’t to spark a debate, but to see if you have a logical explanation for this one?

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The Future Indian PM

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The Future Indian PM

Technology played a crucial role in winning Barack Obama his first, and securing his second term as US President. With that, I think it was evident that a capable leader and change maker must have the power of new age technology and media on his or her side, to connect with the constantly changing and eternally curious new-age citizen.

Back home, while most political parties and politicians have funds enough to bail out small European countries, few have new age tech on their side. Most, if not all parties, have been channeling their energies and efforts towards luring the masses with quick fix incentives, little carrots, so to speak. This makes it easier for them to secure the adequate numbers. Rather than needing to showcase their capabilities before well-educated and probing audiences.

But with the internet and smart phones finding their way through the obscure terrain quicker than electricity, clean water and government schemes ever could, it is just a matter of time before focus shifts from using public or personal funds to bribe voters with television sets or cars to win votes. The need for politicians then, would be to prove their track record and showcase their abilities. And not just to naive but trusting pockets of the population, but to a well-informed voter base. And via a medium of technology that the voter prefers.

Currently, Narendra Modi of the BJP seems to be the only strong contender for the PM seat who has the ability to pull off a campaign that is riding on technology. Be it his awareness of trending topics globally, the presence of a tech team backing his election campaign, or his Guinness World Record creating 3D interaction across 53 locations, he definitely is doing it right on the tech front. His plan to analyze an estimated 140 mn Indian mobile internet users by 2014, or his strategy to target a very small but distinct base of key influencers instead of going after the herd, shows a well-thought out tactical approach to election management,

Modi has managed to impress a lot of us with his awareness, future-looking and progressive India-oriented thinking. As with his ability to walk the talk, and the innumerable developments across several fronts in the state of Gujarat. All these seem to make him a compelling contender for the big post. But the occasional allegations against him show that he too has his share of skeletons in the closet. In the United States, two of the best candidates distill to the top of its two political parties. Quite unlike that, the Indian scenario is much more complex. Now I am fairly clueless about the political scene in the country. With all the in-fighting within numerous political parties, multiple potential candidates, and each with their own agenda. All in all, the mess is all too evident to miss, even by the uninterested.

What the 2014 elections will bring to our battered economy and scam-riddled reputation, only 2014 will tell. But the way I see it, it is clear that technology brings with it, forward-looking supporters and change-makers. It might be easy for primitive-minded parties to hire tech teams at any cost to bring them up to speed. However, only a good leader who doesn’t look at technology with hostility, will be able to take the country forward.

And sooner or later, such an ideal and capable leader will emerge, wisely using technology as an enabler. To shine through the herd. And gain the trust of disillusioned citizens by constantly staying connected with them. And as long as India produces such leaders, we still have hope.

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Attention! Is this the Police?

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Attention! Is this the Police?

Last evening I went to pick up some things for home from the department store. Visits to that store isn’t exactly something I look forward to. Considering the place is a little dusty, and the staff is slow and clueless. And for some inexplicable reason, they keep shifting some sections around every other time.

Anyway, while parking outside, I noticed two police constables standing beside a car nearby. I assumed they must be waiting on a senior officer who might be in one of the neighboring buildings.

I picked up the things on the list, and had just gotten into my car, when I saw a woman and her 6-7 year-old son get out of the store with a few shopping bags on them. They headed straight for the car where the two cops were still waiting.

And then, the hard-to-believe happened. The woman and the boy handed the bags to the two cops, who then loaded them into the trunk of the car. It took me a few moments to process what I’d just seen.

As I type this, India is being taken to the dumps or worse. By corrupt politicians, obsolete laws from another era, and more corruption. The dismal safety conditions that citizens have to put up with, speaks poorly of a weak system. And unappreciated and over-worked enforcement bodies, a large section of which, is deployed for political (politician plus family) security. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to see the pits of it, with officers of the law being made to load vegetables and other grocery into someone’s car.

Whether the car belonged to a politician or a senior police officer, I really don’t know. But either way, let’s look at it from the point of either of the two officers, who were perhaps in their late 30s/ early 40s. Young and driven, they obviously would have joined the force to protect and serve India, not to serve the public servants [politicians]. Then why was the job description of these officers changed, and by whom?

Look at it from the point of view of such officers. They obviously didn’t sign up for such a role. And how many weeks or months, do you think will pass, before all the dreams, aspirations and enthusiasm they joined the force with, leaves them?

Let’s look at it from the point of view of the woman with the kid. If appearances are anything to go by, she came across as well-educated. Why then, did she not see the terrible crime in playing along with something like this, if it wasn’t her idea of course. Whether the reason was a driver on leave, urgent need for home supplies, or whatever, was not reason enough to divert an officer of the law for such absurd and petty tasks. It’s a crime.!

Imagine the little boy now. What impression, and how much respect for the police will he grow up with, when there he was, handing over bags of grocery to two of the departments officers.

There are departmental pressures, hierarchy, work pressures, and all that. And above that, there’s the conscience of the officers and the police department. Then, above that, there’s also right, and wrong. While unscrupulous

Heads up Mr. Satyapal Singh [Commissioner], the average Indian has little respect for politicians. It’s up to you to help us retain our respect and faith in our police force.

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Two Sides of The Same…Country

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Two Sides of The Same…Country

Little over a decade ago, I had just learnt how to drive a car, and, sorry; I must learn to be specific. I had learnt to drive a car in India. Yes, here, it takes more effort, selfless commitment, definitely more skill, and sheer bravery to even just want to learn to drive a vehicle here, let alone actually drive.

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Not even attempting to give you an idea of what it takes, here’s a picture I took on a holiday in Rajasthan a few years ago.

That said, every once in a while, random scenarios would pop up in my head. About what if I was driving and ‘this’ happened, or, how would I react if someone on the street did ‘something like that’. It was probably a natural part of getting accustomed to the newly acquired skill and to getting used to how perspective changes when you are behind the wheel.

I remember one of the ‘possible scenarios’ was about who would be to blame. Say, if a vehicle was driving within the speed limit, and if it were to inadvertently hit someone who decided to dart across the street at the last second. It would give the driver almost no time to react. So could the driver be blamed for the fault of a reckless pedestrian? One who, well knowing the risks, still decided to test their luck? The answer came back a resonating, ‘no‘. The driver could not be blamed. I then reassured myself with the example of trains. Trains travel at specific speeds, and have considerably large stopping distances. So if someone decided to cross the track when a train was close, and got run over, it couldn’t possibly be the engine driver’s fault? Knowing well that crossing tracks is unsafe, and that crossing streets recklessly, equally so.

It all seemed fine. Till yesterday. Yesterday, a speeding train in the state of Bihar in North India, ran over 37 [yes, you read correctly; thirty-seven] pilgrims who were crossing the track at the time. It was tragic. And it was the fault of the pilgrims. But for those who of you who don’t know what followed, angry crowds nearby went on a rampage, setting the train on fire, and attacking and killing one of the engine drivers, leaving the other one in a critical condition. [the news article]

So my theories on ‘who’s to blame’ went out the window. India. A superpower. Among the most promising economies, is still incapable of identifying who’s at fault in something as obvious as this unfortunate incident. It also gives one a glimpse into who we are. Not who we are capable of being, but instead, of who we have stooped to become. Hopefully not for long though. Knowing risks, we’ll still expect the other person to take preventive measures, while we try to kiss a runaway train, while we try to break Border Collies speed records while crossing before speeding cars. Yes, that’s who we have somehow become.

However, and incidentally yesterday itself, there was a story that ended the day on a note of optimism. Bombay’s public bus transport service, the BEST, has been infamous for menacing drivers who break signals, who have run over pedestrians, and damaged vehicles as well. In my family itself, we have two to three horrifying incidents to narrate. Of how BEST’s impatient drivers have damaged our cars just because they were in a blind frenzy to zip through bus stops and go home.

best-bus
BEST_Bus_Mumbai

But last night was different. I was driving mom to the market to pick up some groceries. The road I was on, required me to take a right turn to get into the market lane. However, before I could take the turn, there were vehicles coming from the opposite side, and passing my car on my right side. I had to wait with the indicator on, as 5-6 cars whizzed past. A BEST bus was approaching too. While I could have quickly made the turn, knowing them well, I decided to wait for him and the few cars behind him to pass. However, to my complete surprise, he stopped the bus, and signaled for me to take the turn, while cars patiently waited behind him. Still confused, I made the turn, mom still wondering if that had actually happened. Thank you, Mr. BEST driver, for the pleasant surprise.!

Well, we all have it in us to change. We all have it in us to make a positive difference. It all comes down to us deciding to make that choice.

I’ll leave you to think about this, with a quote immortalized by Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV.

“If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change.”

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