SUV Drivers – Look Out

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India has seen an almost meteoric rise in the number of SUVs and compact-SUVs in the last few years. Perhaps the size fits in well with our gradually growing economy, disposable incomes, and egos. Among things that haven’t grown, is our sense of driving and responsible presence on the road.

India’s roads are getting more dangerous. And the higher seated position makes it tougher for SUV drivers to see, especially around the vehicle. Add to this the narrow, blocked or poorly-lit (and therefore unsafe) footpaths/ sidewalks, and you have more and more pedestrians choosing to walk on roads instead.

This is why it becomes even more important for pedestrians walking with small children, to keep them on your side that is away from the traffic. This also means moving them from one side to the other on dividers, when crossing bi-directional traffic. Or carrying them when crossing roads. It is tough enough for drivers of hatchbacks and sedans, thanks to the lack of lane discipline and distracted pedestrians. But it will be more dangerous if pedestrians bank on just the cautiousness of SUV drivers, given their limited proximity view from their high seats. And slightly more so with women drivers.

Sources said the observations will be given to the civic authorities to help them improve roads.

Source: link

The image above shows how you should never cross the road when accompanying children. You should be between the children and oncoming traffic.

Here’s an older post highlighting the risk [link here]

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Ryan International school – Are CCTVs the Best Solution?

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Ryan International school – Are CCTVs the Best Solution?

5 min. read.

When faced with a problem, ideally, we should get to the source of the problem first. Only then can we attempt to solve it. But of course, we all know that!

And yet, almost always, we will first react to a problem by attempting to solve it with the first innovative seeming available. And what a sense of accomplishment it brings! Does it solve the problem? It might, or not. It sometimes might get you to believe the problem is solved, only for the problem to transform into another one.

To put it crudely, problems are like rats trying to get in. You can’t prevent them from entering a place by fixing the only opening you see. Because they’ll find another way. You need to know why they’re coming, and identify all the openings available to them, and fix that!

Consider the recent horrific murder of a student at Ryan International school.
There has been a petition doing the rounds, requesting for a law to enforce installation of CCTVs at schools, with viewing access to all parents. It does sound logical (if not somewhat creepy). But is it a great solution?

Of course CCTV cameras help. Not only by hopefully preventing such horrific crimes, but also helping a tab on the children, ensuring they’re not doing anything they shouldn’t be.

But as quickly as the solution of CCTV cameras comes to mind after any crime, one should know that their effectiveness is limited by the need of people to monitor it, and the constant, undivided attention of those people who are monitoring it. That is, if a crime is to be prevented. As per doctors, the young boy was dead within 2 minutes of the attack. CCTV cameras do have a deterrent effect. But the fact that the school in this case already had them, functioning or not, meant the criminal was not ‘deterred’.

So are CCTV cameras our holistic solution to prevent such gruesome crimes? I don’t think so.

Tight security at home, before 1 am on night

When I was in school, almost another lifetime ago, times were far safer. Employees listened, followed rules. And perhaps fewer people were as sinister as they are today. My school had a few smaller gates within the premises, giving access in different directions. However, there was a strict protocol when it came to those gates.

Parents, relatives and drivers who came to pick up students, were only allowed up to a second smaller gate inside. Both gates were guarded. All other internal access gates were either locked at all times, or kept open only at certain times (around breaks, etc.). And I don’t think the smaller access gates were ever open when the main gate was. This prevented any outsider from entering the premises.
A simple process. But effective.

It didn’t need anyone constantly monitoring (except the guards).

However safe one might feel about CCTV cameras, monitoring them is arguably among the dullest jobs in the world. Requiring constant alertness; a tough ask of the average human staring at a screen. Even worse now, with smartphones and easy access to entertainment. Automated monitoring with hostility detection, that would be safe. But I’m currently clueless on the degree of advancement in that space. Cost and mass-implementation would be a different story, at least at the moment.

But that said, we need to still work on the basics. Identify sources, causes, weaknesses. And fix them with simple but effective measures, not just with readily available solutions that seem perfect.

The advantage with having a process like the one above, of securing different boundaries, is firstly its effectiveness and simplicity. But more importantly, the entire staff is involved in the process. So you, as a staff member, know what gates should be closed at what times, and why. If a gate is left open, you’d spot it instantly, because you are as concerned about the safety of your students as any parent would be. And you are much more likely to alert those in charge, and not merely go about your routine assuming cameras and people monitoring it have it covered. Of course, it would take more than a miracle to protect children, when owners of the school themselves were so careless and indifferent about security.

Incidents like the one above are deadly serious, and merely assuming a plug-&-play solution will fix it, and more importantly, not create more/different security or safety problems, is what one should be more concerned about.

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Step Up – Escalators Are Dangerous

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Escalators at the Copenhagen Metro

Most of us have used escalators at malls, in office buildings and at airports. And we have surely seen that nervous person standing at one end of it, caught in a mental conflict of whether to step on it or not.

While some of us have been mildly amused by that person, their fear is, in fact, more than justified.

Escalators aren’t as safe as a lot of us have come to assume they are. In 2013, there were 12,260 escalator-related injuries and deaths in the US. Of those, children and senior citizens comprised over 60% of the victims. [source]

The web is filled with horrific accidents involving escalators. I just saw this one a short while earlier. Apart from being really tragic, it serves as a strong reminder to parents, to get their heads out of their phones and out of distracting conversations when accompanied by young kids.

A Suggestion

Given the obvious risks associated with escalators, what if malls and other buildings with escalators installed a barricade at the two ends, right in front of the handrails? Just something that doesn’t move easily, and is about ~3.5 feet high. Something shaped like cricket shin pads perhaps? While it won’t reduce risks due to collapsing of linked steps or landing sections, or wandering kids going up or down the escalator, it will prevent accidents due to handrails themselves.

It’s not just kids

Back in college, I was once hanging out with friends at a mall, when one of them, while talking to us and walking backwards near an escalator. He continued talking while unknowingly leaning back onto the escalator’s handrail at the top. Before we could even realize what was happening, the conveyor and handrail had managed to pick up my friend, and he was backwards, on his way down, atop the handrail. Thankfully we managed to pull him off at the top.

Obviously toddlers are not the only ones at risk with the handrails. Friction between rubber handrails and a person’s body or clothes creates considerable grip. And conveyors are powerful enough to lift even an overweight adult.

We users really need to be careful while on or around escalators. And it is high time manufacturers started thinking of ways to make escalators safer.

Stir Up a Hornet’s Nest

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Here’s another product review.

I recently bought the a horn for my bicycle. The Hornit.

Hornit [the company], interestingly, is founded by a lawyer (yeah, cool huh?!) who felt the need for a loud horn while riding to and from work. He tested his first  prototype back in ’07, and it was only in 2011 that he got into it full-time with Hornit.

And what is Hornit? It is the world’s loudest bicycle horn. At a deafening 140 decibel, it does warn the average zombie behind the wheel who is about to drift or cut in front of you while you’re cycling. Or, like the Hornit people mildly puts it, “it gives the cyclist greater control over their safety, rather than passively hoping to be seen.”

I’ve tried it out, and it works. And well. You do feel a lot safer using it,  compared to other bicycle ‘bells’ by leading manufacturers that are barely audible even to the cyclist, let alone a vehicle a short distance away.

The horn itself is louder than the average car horn, so drivers do take notice, and while it might take them a few seconds to realize that a bicycle under 14 kg. sounded that piercing horn, it gives you sufficient space to pass through.

Hornit - 1

It has two sound modes (140 dB & 130 dB) for riding and parking. The sounds themselves aren’t very cool, one sounding like a bird, and the other just a deafening beep. Personally I would have definitely preferred an air-horn kind of sound (the ones used on trains or large trucks). But that said, the Hornit more than delivers on its basic purpose. It’s sleek, unconventional and good to look at, too. The horn button can be placed at a convenient position on the handlebar. The quality of the button’s elastic locking mechanism isn’t too great, but all in all, the Hornit is a great product and a must-have for any cyclist.

[4.75/5] For serving its basic purpose well, for the cool name, for a good speaker design  and ergonomic button.

And if you’re wondering what it sounds like, aufhorchen baby.!

Delhi Police – Grow a Brain

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To the Degenerate Idiots in the Delhi Police,

Politicians sisters, daughters, mothers and wives do not get raped. They are totally unaffected and could not care less about what is happening around the streets and alleys of their country.

It was your lack of responsibilities that led to the gruesome incident on Dec 16, 2012. And yet, you blindly follow orders from higher ups and use water cannons and lob tear gas shells on unarmed protesters, who include ladies and children.

Try growing a brain when it comes to deciding what is right and what is not, and acting accordingly.

TV channels showed even a 13 year old kid protesting. If even kids know the difference between right and wrong, what is wrong with you all?

What would you have done if that 23 year old was your daughter? Would you have been part of the protest? Or would top officials have given mindless orders, you would have scratched your butts, said yes sir, and gone firing water cannons at your family members?

So while our corrupt politicians are a bunch of soulless pussies, always remember, you are all a part of the common public, for whom the protest is happening. The protesters are fighting for a right for the safety of your wives, mothers, sisters and daughters as well.

Sincerely,

Disappointed and Angry citizens of India

Delhi - 22 Dec 2012 - Protest

Fly-by-satire

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Today, another MIG-21 crashed in Haryana. Thankfully the pilot was safe and apart from a big ass crater in a field, there was no major damage.

With 6 MIG-21 crashes in this year alone, the IAF has lost over 100 pilots in 283 accidents between 1993 and 2002. Till date it has lost over half the 976 MIG-21 fleet in air crashes. The Indian Air Force seems to have an innovative method of retaining only the best pilots. Send them all up in MIG-21s, if they survive, they must be damn good or bloody lucky.

The world has moved on to the fifth generation fighters with Short Take-off & Vertical Landing, Stealth, Internal weapons, the works, and yet we’re hell bent on sticking to flying coffins from the 1960s.

Herd Capital

Everyone’s aware of the herd mentality. Be it iPods, bigger and bigger cars, or even a Twitter account.
I’ve noticed similar mentalities in the VC industry. Why do we seek the safety of the herd?
Here are a few examples of it, and also the effects of the same on industries.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Herd Capital

Everyone’s aware of the herd mentality. Be it iPods, bigger and bigger cars or houses. Or even a Twitter account (which doesn’t really make sense if you’re not actually gonna use it). Hell, even I got a Twitter account that I don’t use.

And many a times, it takes a while before a smart management guru finds the method behind some of the madness.

I’ve come across a few similar instances of herd mentality in the Venture Capital industry too in the past few years.

Before I mention them, I’d just like to state here, that the views below are only mine, and I don’t, in any way mean to undermine or insult the knowledge and strategies of my fellow members of the VC community. I’m merely expressing my concern about something I’ve observed.

Herd Mentality. Hmm.

Here’s one such example that comes to mind. The textile/ garment manufacturing and associated retail industry back from 2006 through most of 2008. Companies saw several Million $ of investment, and were doubling and tripling their manufacturing capacities – spinning, weaving, dyeing, printing, stitching; you name it… not to mention the number of retail outlets, adding customers (read big brands in apparel) with demands going into astronomical numbers of pieces of clothing.

And obviously all of this took the valuations of these companies pretty high. Just to give some perspective to the quantum of investing, this sector saw around 3% of the total $5.6 billion of VC investment in just the first six months of 2007. That’s roughly a whopping Rs.750 crore.!!

And then, with the collapse of the US economy, textile exporters suddenly lost one of their prime markets. What followed, quite instinctively, is that many of them came back home and focused their energies and capacities on the domestic market. A domestic market that was beyond saturated with all the domestic expansions that were funded.

That led to more n’ more discount malls springing up, running on wafer thin margins.

Then, there was the mad rush after clean n’ green businesses. Of course, there’s nothing bad about investing in technology that’ll help conserve the limited resources of the globe. But from a VC’s point of view, it’s about making money too, right? The focus on making those returns should be a fine filter through which great companies and amazing business models must pass.

However, here’s what happens with the herd mentality. Some companies with limited knowledge or capability, get invested into. And that’s only because some VC was probably not approached by the best companies in the sector yet. Or the VC did not want to miss out on the ‘gold rush’. And so they end up investing in the 20th company in the sunrise sector at a ridiculous valuation. The VC seeks the safety of the herd. Everyone’s doing it, so maybe I should too. This makes the top team at the company over-confident of their supposed capabilities. What’s worse, it makes it tougher to raise its next round of investment. Because of the already sky-high valuation it got its first round investment at.

So, we end up with:

  • Just a handful of the numerous funded companies actually adding reasonable value, globally
  • Several overconfident funded companies that just trudge along, finding it difficult to raise additional money
  • The sector very quickly becoming over-invested and going out of flavor with the VCs. This is due to high valuation expectations by other companies. This is resulting in less investment happening in creating more effective and widespread clean and green technologies and applications; something that was needed by the world on an urgent basis, to begin with

It would help if VCs invested after a well thought-out strategy rather than almost on impulse. Irrespective of whether it means missing the bus on a fad investment sector. This would result in the VC not making losses on a bad investment. At the same time, she or he could focus on understanding the sector quickly and perhaps support young companies with innovative products or solutions that they feel might significantly help preserve the planet. Instead of dumping money into just another solar-cell manufacturer. Or another wind turbine manufacturer, or something like that.

In the end, all this could be herd mentality, or perhaps even the wisdom of the crowds.

Only time and lots of investing will tell.

[Again, these are just my views on it, being strongly based on my belief that known and stable businesses or mass producing of products should be funded more by debt; and the risk investing in paradigm-shifting technologies and solutions should be left to VCs. I would like to get the views of promoters and fellow VCs on this. In the end, it’s all a part of our learning process.]

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