Saturday, December 31, 2011

Characteristics of an Entrepreneurial Mind

A nice article, I found via @GuyKawasaki on Twitter.
But for entrepreneurs who are bringing something new and novel to the marketplace, experimentation can be truly…experimental. Removing expectations and letting the results lead you in completely new directions is the attribute that marks a truly entrepreneurial mind.
Read the full article here: 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The 14 Hour Vacation

The Bear
Took a fourteen hour vacation, and a relaxing one at that, starting yesterday evening at Vasant Uncle's factory outhouse. Was speaking to Uncle day before yesterday and the topic of our long-pending hike in the forests of Shivrajpur came up. Lo and behold, Uncle was spending a few days at Halol itself, and we decided, irrespective of it being a weekday, we could take off on Thursday morning. Further, Uncle suggested, that I get over to Halol on Wednesday evening itself; spend some time in his pool, the night there and then we could leave early morning for Shivrajpur. Now, thats a wonderful idea! But, can it so happen that I have low workload the day I decide to take an off? A definite NO.

 So it was not before 7 in the evening that Simba and I left for Halol. A fifty minute drive to Halol and ten more traversing the pot-holes, I land up to a wonderful sight. A nice bon fire and Uncle / Aunty sitting by it. Simba and I jump out of the car, don't know which of us was more excited, but we knew that was the best place to be at that moment. Spent a while sitting around and then comes the gourmet. આલું રિંગના નું શાક, લસુન ની ચટણી અને મકાઈ નો રોટલો. Good authentic gujju food, and the rotlas roasted on an earthen tawa being fired by dry wood. While having dinner, I realised that this was probably the longest I have taken in quite a while to finish my meals. Vasant Uncle reminded me of an anecdote that my Dadaji told him. Eating slowly has an advantage, its only for that time that you can enjoy the taste. :) Anyway, dinner out of the way, and we went to the next course of the evening; a couple of beautiful sufi songs by the Wadali Brothers; and surprise, meetha paan! This ended, and it was just half past ten. But a long tiring day, enjoyable evening and lovely weather meant instant sleep, much in anticipation of the walk next morning. I was dreading if I would be able to drag my lazy bum out of the bed at six. Some readers might remember how I have overslept early morning trains!!

5.55 this morning and the Blackberry Antelope ringtone tries to wake me up. There's no hitting the snooze button this morning. Get up, drink water, loo, get Simba out and 6.25 we are ready to hit the road. Vasant Uncle comes out in the open and then suddenly feels, oops, its cold, I need to get my cap out! :) Yes, it was quite pleasant this morning and warm ears and head is all one needed to head out. Simba still hasn't learnt to jump into the boot of the car, so I help him up. And we are on our way to Shivrajpur. Very little traffic and a steady 70kmph drive passing by Champaner, Pavagadh enroute and listening to Uncle's explanations about the Manganese Mines, the Champaner - Shivrajpur narrow gauge rail line and the weather for a while makes me feel that I can forget the Kumaon Hills' retirement plan and consider this area. Thinking of this, gets us to Shivrajpur chai stall. We were under strict instructions from Shaila Aunty to stop for chai before heading out. So we get two; nah four cups of कम शक्कर chai prepared. Nice chai, local banter at the chai stall regarding the panchayat elections; makes us feel the lack of sugar and we get more sugar put into our chai. Geared up with high sugar content, we are off. A few false turns, an under-construction bridge and a few kilometers of ride gets us to a nice place where we think we can start off on a trail.

Simba jumps out and we consider letting him roam free without the leash. The boy enjoyed himself without the leash, always wanting to be the first one ahead, wandering off, but coming back to a whistle call. This is for the first time. Cliched, but the wilderness was so quiet that we could hear the silence. And hearing the silence is ever so calming. This is a short trail and in a few minutes we are back to where we started. So we decide to move on.

Stop by an old well and irrigation system. We found the well to be very interesting; the catchment well was made into a makeshift dump of used liquor bottles. Two thoughts, the water would have definitely tasted good (no, we didn't try it) and second, do we ever not pollute? The good part though, the pollution and leaving behind was organised; only the well was littered.

We drive further and come near a bridge from where we feel an easterly trail might be good. Here's a pic of where we started from; but taken at the end of the trail since I had conveniently forgotten (good in hindsight) my phone in the car.
Start of the trail
We keep walking in, following the trail, enjoying the views, and spot a wonderful piece of art. Some tribal and carved a 2" x  4" leopard with utmost detail on the trunk of one of the eucalyptus trees along the trail. The camera not being present, I don't mind going back again to get a photo of that tree. We continue along, passing by a settlement of an enterprising tribal family (more about them later) and deeper into the forest. A check dam, a passing stream (in which Simba enjoyed a lot), a mahua distillation site, (quite) a few fallen eucalyptus trees (officially fallen?) oblivious of the time and walking till we needed a break. Sat on one of the fallen trees; had an orange each; some biscuits for Simba and started on our way back.

While on our way back, we stopped over at the tribals house, made some small talk with him; admired his children. They looked like Europeans! And then got walking on our way back. We had just moved a few tens of yards from the enterprising tribal's hutment, that we heard him calling us. Guess what, he had a gift for us. Fruits (very bitter and sour to taste) of kothu, a taste that children enjoy and chutneys are made out of. That's what is called a big heart. He didn't need to do that, but he did that. Do we town people ever think so selflessly? The Material World!!
Kothu Tree
Anyway, we all walked back and Simba got the idea that he's supposed to jump into the boot of the car and started on our way back. Was about quarter past nine. On our way back, we say the board to what used to be Shivrajpur Railway Station. A heritage site with all due respect and look what remains!! There was also a station building; and it was painted. Painted with slogans of political parties!! Hope we do something about it. And by we, I mean, maybe I as a person get an opportunity to engage proactively and do something about it, rather than just wax eloquent on my blog.
Shivrajpur Station (or what remains of it)
We took a long detour through a bypass; an amazing road; cruising at 80kmph and reached Vasant Uncle's factory around ten. After dropping him off, it was all back to the grind and there ended by 14 hour vacation. Back to coordinating things at work; meeting a visitor to the office (I was grossly delayed :( ) and other mundane daily matters. But what an unwind. Mother Nature, blessed we are for you to have given us such immense things like music, forests, seasons, friends. Isn't it a miracle?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What? Wait!! Not Again!!

Are we going to have an encore of England?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ooh la! la!

मेरे ब्लॉग का पहला sleazy पोस्ट.
This should increase traffic! ;)

Does it? Well according to Mr. MJ Akbar, it should!
Nonetheless, a nice song. Should get to the movie one of these days. Seems to be one final sensible movie by Vidya Balan; and so also finally a hindi movie that uses sleaze not just to increase traffic!! ;)

Two Long Years

A quote from Brahma Chellaney on Twitter, which I quote below:
Thanks to its aging and scandal-marred leadership, India has gone in just two years from being a country of great promise to a nation adrift 
And then a Facebook update, by Bhavik, earlier this afternoon
depressing!! depression!! depressed!! state of the nation, state of the economy (2 come), state of v the people??
prompted this update today. What's happening? It's almost like we seem to be a country that can be compared to a deer on the highway stunned by the headlights of a large truck approaching it; or a huge ship thats just headed directionless.

The woes we have of a flip-flop government, that I blogged about a few days back, are just not attributed to the jhingoism, but are really ironical, and if I could call it, at best, lip service to development! Speak about our renowned economist, Montek Singh Ahluwalia's take and then anti-take on the daily sustainance (, and he was one of the economists we really adored during our education days), or the recent and much hyped FDI story, that made the markets swing close to 5% (who made all that money, is anyone's guess?); and then today a $9 billion incorrect calculation that came to fore today (maybe, it's actual human error).

But, what image are we showcasing to the outside world? That we do not know where we are headed? What's the long term vision or short term operational basis of this country? How are policies in this country decided? Are we exposing ourselves to the outside, already dying economies of the world and still letting them have a strong hold? And more importantly, what foundation are we laying for the years to come? What are the pillars of our economy? Oh, the 50 million traders, the 30 million employed in the organised sector, the 200 million micro and small enterprises, they'll resolve it all. Time enough! Time enough we showed a spine and did our bit.

Bit of what? Our bit in doing what is right. Saada haq!! Each of us knows what is right, and neither am I going to wax eloquent about it. So maybe time enough for us to do what our heart says is right. And to give an example, what better, but an example of Baroda's greatest rules, Sir Sayajirao Gaekwad III, and here's one of the ways he did the right thing, by doing what is right!

May the force be with us!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Moss Grows Thick on the Rolling Stone...

Petrol price is hiked then rolled-back.
TUCC is stringently applied then rolled-back through concessions.
FDI in retail is hiked then rolled-back.
India gets most favored nation status with from Pakistan; which is then rolled-back.
PM calls Gilani India's friend; Home Minister rolls that back.
...what we have is a rolling (-backwards) government.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Comes of Cricket?

Should I say a tight match? Well, without taking any credit from the West Indians; I would expect more out of the World Champions. But a nice thirty minutes towards the end of the match; a good unwinding for the day.

But to think of it how much more passion would an early nineties match have generated. It wasn't many years back that a good series on a Sunday; or for that matter, even on a weekday would lead to deserted streets, half-days at work, bunking classes and people just rushing home for a match; or atleast being close to an All India Radio receiver. A good match doesn't cut the ice anymore. Is it just an increase in our population or is it that cricket no longer remains a passion as it was in the days of Kapil Dev and his team; or even more recently Azhar's team.

Cynical, but an overload of cricket has cut it out. We don't need to wait weeks or months for a much awaited series. Its just back-to-back ball and bat. T20s, ODIs and Tests. If I see my, borrowing from social networking, follows, tests is what remains of enjoyable cricket. T20s are just a quickie, fine once or twice, but not always. ODIs are far too many and spending a day for a match except for on a Sunday afternoon is good. But its the tensions of test matches that keeps many a fans stuck to the game.

Having said that, lets not take anything away from our cricketers. They are probably the only sane people seen on TV these days! Long live test cricket!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ado About FDI in Retail Or Is There More To It Than Meets The Eye

Retail FDI, the buzz word of this parliamentary session. Forget the aviation crisis, inflation, black money, graft, our lovely neighbours in the east and west. Short lived is the promise of our wonderful leader LK Advani who was to have got each BJP MP to, very conveniently, say they had no black-money abroad. Mark the qualifier. And it isn't just the near orphan, BJP, but also the ever so childish Congress. How about the flip-flops of all party meets as always, after the issue. Just like the Indian Police in our movies, Congress wakes up a nice bit late to do lip-service to issues of importance.

It's quite easy for me to get off on a trajectory, but the thought running through mind all day today and yesterday was the much ado about 100% FDI in Retail. Just like in anything there are pros and cons to each policy. No doubt there are the benefits of access to world-class processes and products; an overhaul of the supply chain (leading to a definite reduction in black-money); greater employment; much needed foreign exchange inflow in to the country (not just the stock market); boost to production; and the list could be endless.

The pros are many and easy to grasp; but a critical analysis of the cons is where the crux of FDI lies. This of course is different from the political opportunism of our opposition; which in my opinion leverages on the insecurity of the middle class towards greater competition and an inflection point in our economy that much needs secondary-sector based growth. This political tango is best left to our politicians.

Lesser said about our leadership, the government in power or the opposition, the better it is. It is deplorable to have a government where fuel prices have increase by almost 100% during its rule, essential commodities such as milk have shown a 70% growth; the markets show a daily volatility of 5-7% and a quarterly volatility of 20-25%. A 7.5% growth with 11% inflation, do we see -3.5% growth? There is definitely much more to this than what meets the eye.

For a moment, lets forget the cynicism, and assume that this is a perfectly elastic market with no hidden parameters affecting it. Then what else could make us a country with amongst the highest GDP growth in the world and yet with the 3rd worst currency in the world?

To me, the problem lies not in regulation, or the lack of it. But in the non-thoroughness of our policies. My experience has been with the recent Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Policy (or in other words the nuisance calls and sms policy). This since it directly affects our business. Such a policy and controls are no doubt important and is a step in the positive direction; however, the ambiguity and frequent changes in the policy is what cause problems. There needs to be more thoroughness around policy building. I have a half written article on my 24cents (its a better currency to be in today) regarding TCCCP streamlining; this I shall post later. But the bigger concern is the fine print behind each policy.

Some questions that come to my mind when I read this policy are what are the control parameters to ensure that:
  1. The poor or non-unioned farmers are not exploited by this policy?
  2. Only those with strategic interests for growing the sector are permitted into this sector?
  3. There is a lock-in to build a sustainable business and not just a bubble for the sake of investment and valuation?
  4. There is no downward spiraling of costs and therefore a repeat of the woes of the telecom and aviation industries just to gain market share?
  5. Significant revenues generated are to be kept within India? Also, this should not be for a period of x years, but sine die.
Maybe some questions that time will tell. Definitely our babus are amongst the most competent in the world; but have the taken lessons from the recent growth sectors of pharmaceuticals, aviation and telecom while building our retail policy? Only the greatest teach of all will tell. Time.