A Girl in Red

It was the weirdest part of the trip. What was supposed to be a 4 nights 5 days trip in the himalayas was gonna go wrong. OK calm yourself, no one died, no one broke anything and no one was lost.


It so happened that my company had taken on a stupid stupid client and we were trying make a lending software for this hard nosed stupid ass. I was the BA leading the calls and I messed up. Well, that’s another story, maybe for another day, but for now there was a stupid stupid client that I couldn’t drop and I was in the Himalayas.

With regret I had told my guys I was gonna stay back in Mcleodganj. The initial plan was to drive up to Manali from Mcleodganj, try skiing and any other adventure sports available and maybe play in the snow! But I couldn’t. So the guys went ahead to on the trip and I stayed back alone in the hotel room with my laptop. There was no heating in the room and there was no room service in the hotel.

The guys left for Manali early in the morning, at around 5:30 AM. I just woke up to see them off and went back to bed. No one was gonna be in office before 10. I don’t need to log in at 5:30 to prove anything. To my pleasant surprise, when I woke up by 9:30 AM, there was snow! It had started snowing in Mcleodganj in the 4 hours that I had been asleep since the guys left! The gods must really like me to have made it snow so that I didn’t miss seeing snow! It was the first time I saw snow in my life and it did feel new and fresh and unique. I walked out to the front porch of the hotel and stepped on the snow. Took a couple of steps and turned around to see my foot steps in the snow. The feeling was surreal. I had just taken 3 steps on flat ground in front of the hotel and it got me excited. So weird!

The kids who were manning the hotel started playing in the snow. A couple of them started making snowballs and throwing at each other. The 3rd kid wrote a girl’s name in the snow and was taking selfies with it. They were not kids per say, they might’ve been 18-20 years old but they were playing in the snow like they were 8 year olds! Snow is the beach of the highlanders I suppose.

I asked if breakfast was available, there was nothing in the hotel. Not even noodles or eggs or bread or even chai. I was asked to walk down to a small town center, a center circle like the town plaza which had a line of shops. I decided to take the chance. It’s not like I was hungry, but I liked the snow and a walk in the snow and a spicy fried egg seemed more inviting than drafting lengthy unconvincing mails.

I wore literally all the cloths I had with me. I hadn’t packed mustang, so I wore my thermal inners, 3 layers of cloths on top and then the only jacket I had. Gloves, socks, shoes and the cap too. I started walking down, the snow wasn’t think and since it was the first day of snow, there was no frost and it was easy to walk. I walked down to the plaza and found a neat eaterie. It had colorful interiors and looked like a library cafe. I picked up a political magazine, quite an anomaly in the otherwise “love all – no boundary nation ” theme of the cafe.

As I walked in I noticed there was no one else in the cafe. I was afraid I was gonna be turned down, but thankfully not. Another 18-19 or 20ish kid came up and took my order. I ordered a masala egg and cup of hot latte. He wrote it down, turned on the music to loud blast, gave me smile and ran down. It felt good, I was important. Perhaps in the himalayas when there is snow and bad weather all around, even a single customer ordering a single egg is important.

I ate my egg slowly sipping the latte. It had stopped snowing and there was noise outside. It was a Monday, so children had started going out to school. Few other eateries started playing music and other shops and establishments started opening up. Each with one or two guests.

A few kids, again 20ish kids had started playing cricket in what looked like a small park. There were some younger kids and some older ones. In fact the older ones were the kids who were running these cafes. They all played together but ran different cafes. Seems strange at first, but guess that’t the life in mountains.

I walked back to my room shivering in the snow. A girl in a red knee length coat was walking down towards the plaza. She was alone and didn’t look like a tourist. Our eyes locked, I nodded as a way of wishing the morning and she gave me a smile. I never saw her again, but the memory of this split second exchange of warmth still keeps me warm on cold lonely nights.

~*~

Solve For x

The problem is not the problem, you’re attitude is the problem. Said a legendary Pirate. Pop culture may have romanticized this pirate, but the quote would’ve sounded just as sweet had it come from an old crooner. Except the fact that crooners may not be willing to be problem solvers.

Capt. Jack Sparrow

Problem solving is a skill, the fruits of the trade lie in the process. The exhilarating experience of hitting dead ends, feeling the world press against you, and the never ending pall of gloom all add up and make the victory seem sweet. Sometimes it’s just an end that you’re craving for and not even victory.

Once it ends, you look for the next problem, next battle, next pall of gloom to fight through.

It was my father’s long standing dream of seeing the world, or to be more specific, seeing USA. Ever since I was a child – perhaps 6-7 years old, I had seen my father try for the foreign posting jobs at his work. Every time he would be disappointed, he would count and recount the sequence of incidents and stay disappointed for days on end.

As he got older and moved onto literature, he became active in the Kannada literature circles. He published 3 books in a single calendar year. He hoped against hope that the who’s who of Kannadigas in USA would notice his work and invite him over for a session or a reading or any other cultural or literary event in USA. The invite never came.

Finally, I put my foot down and said enough of trying and failing dad. You keep clinging onto hopes that others might give you an opportunity, but you’re just losing time. I think you should go on your own. You have the money, you have the health and you have the time. What else could you need?

Finally he went for it. Got the visa, got the tickets, got on the invite list of a few events, made a list of all the tourist spots, relatives to visit and shopping to do, and he went. Mission accomplished. It took nearly 35-40 years – or it could be more – but he had done it. What next? He started writing a book about all this – Ok maybe not about the 35-40 years, but more like a travelogue – but he had moved onto the next challenge – next x.

The story of the crystal merchant in the book The Alchemist is known to all. Here’s what you need to know about him if you don’t know already. If you don’t know and didn’t bother clicking the link, he wouldn’t do something, lets call it x because he believed there wouldn’t be anything to live for once he did his x. Did my father push his foreign trip or look for disappointing avenues to the trip because on the inside he didn’t want to go?

All of us love staying in the problem because we don’t know what we would do next, or rather what problem we would take up next to solve. Makes me ask, are we all always looking for problems? Maybe that’s why someone long ago though ignorance was bliss?

The truth is established that we all love to move on from problem to problem, because life is after all a game of improvisation, but what are we trying to improvise on? or rather improvise towards? An eternal state of bliss? Does moving from one problem to another count or does it mean we constantly want to remain in the problematic state? It sounds so cruel, but to sum this argument, you are either a problem averse person or you’re a person who loves to dwell in them.. how do we find a balance?

That’s the question. Its easy to say Moderation is the answer, but how to we moderate? The hell if I know.

A Day in Paradise

Haven’t we always wondered what happens in the world? How do birds fly? What makes it rain? What’s the need of a catch basin? OK pause. Judging by the desperate nature of the examples, you would’ve figured that this is an unwanted intro to something completely different. You’re not all that wrong.

Like the questions, we also have one burning question inside us. How are laws made? The easy answer is: we as people elect our representatives through elections, these representatives come up with ideas that could improve our lives. Once an elected representative (most often but not always is a part of the government in power) comes up with something, he/she then tables (floats/pitches etc) the idea in the parliament, where the rest of the representatives (both from the govt and opposition) take an objective look at it, study it and come up with questions and amendments to the proposed idea. Sometimes this results in lengthy debates, setting up on committees for further studies and finally when everyone is satisfied with the amount of debating, the proposal – also called a bill is subjected to a vote and if the bill passes the vote, then does the idea become a law? Well not exactly, but this is the first step – Ok what are the other steps then? We’ll take that up some other day – but just to remind you, this was in your secondary school civics text books.

So, what is this blog about?

This blog is about taking a look at whether it is really all that simple. Do laws just get ‘tabled’ in the parliament, debated upon and passed into being laws or does something else happen? Let’s look at one day – hence the cheesy title – A Day in Paradise. For our purpose, I’ve taken up 4th July 2019 as a case for our study. Now let’s dive in – there will be technical terms and ‘governmental’ or ‘parliamentary’ jargon what we’ll try to define in simple terms as we move along.

Business

Business in our terms means agenda. It is the list of activities that are planned for a day’s work in the parliament. The Business is generally published 2 days in advance and in case of revisions, a revised List of Business is published and shared with the members of the parliament. I’m not sure if all the ministers coming to the parliament go through this before coming but its published as a matter of practice and standards.

Here’s the gist of what was going to be the business of the day for 4th July 2019: But first lets just understand what the different things mean

  1. Questions
    • Any questions to be asked of any member of parliament – these needs to separately listed and made available to the said member of parliament so as to be able to prepare and answer the question.
  2. Papers to be laid on the table
    • These are basically reports or notifications that any member of parliament wants to bring to the notice of the parliament. Once a paper is placed on the table, it may be brought up in discussions in the parliament (also called the house) or in general cases it is just a point of information for the house. Eg: certain XYZ Report has been produced by the ministry of oil and gas based on a study done on all oil refineries on the east coast of India.
  3. Messages:
    • Messages from either of the houses to each other or from the different state heads or the president that needs to be relayed in the parliament.
  4. Statements
    • Ministers or committee members can raise a request to make a statement in the parliament, these requests are taken by the speaker and based on merits and discretion provided a slot to make the statement.
  5. Motions:
    • Basically a topic or a line of thought that any member of parliament wants to bring out in the house and start a debate and discussion or come to consensus about a past discussion or debate.
  6. Resolutions:
    • It is a kind of coming to a decision about a certain topic, or bill or business of the house. Best explained with an example. The Finance minister can move to bring a resolution on changing the Duty on say computers from 10% to 20%. Now this isn’t a law or something that will amend a law, but it is something of importance to the nation and hence needs to get an approval from the parliament. Hence the minister will move for a resolution and the house will vote aye or nay for or against the resolution.
  7. Legislative Business
    • The thing that we thought was the main business of the parliament – making laws. These are basically laws and bills that are not yet laws that a minister may bring up for creation or amendment. These bills once brought up can either be taken up for debate and discussion or be brought up for the vote.
  8. Matters under rule 377
    • Matters of business that don’t fall into any of the other mentioned categories

Now the table above talks numbers, but what are the questions raised? Are any of them really really important to the nation and how did the concerned member/minister respond to the question? What are  the messages replayed in house? What were the motions submitted? And was there a debate on the said motion? How was the bill passes? Was there a debate? The things we see on TV, the ruckus and commotion, can we capture that? Well truth be told, all the commotion and ruckus is also captured and is there for everyone to see.

For starters, the happenings in the parliament are all on record. Secondly most of it is video recorded and available on the TV channels LSTV and RSTV. The video recordings of these parliamentary sessions is also available on the websites of the loksabha and rajyasabha. The websites of Loksabha and Rajyasabha also have PDFs of all the documents that you need to look up. The list of business, the questions, the bulletins, the debates and the speeches held on the floor of the house.

The objective of this blog post was not to bring out what happened in the parliament. Its to give the reader a general idea of what happens and that our parliament has enabled us as citizens to look for and find all the information about the happenings of the legislative arm of our democracy.

Since there is hardly a fortnight left in the current session of the parliament, Dr. Timepass will compile data of the business of the house in these 2 weeks and do some qualitative review. Come back again by the weekend to see what happened in the lower house of the Indian parliament this week and what we at Dr. Timepass make of it.

~*~

Documents used for this Blog:
1. LS List of Businesses – 4th July
2. LS Bulletin Part 1 – 4th July
3. LS Questions – 4th July
4. Papers to be laid on the Table – 4th July

It’s Downtime!

I was just thinking the other day when Instagram Facebook and WhatsApp were down for a brief period of 9 hours and how everyone went bonkers about it. Well, it wasn’t totally down but partial only the images weren’t being sent. If this had happened when I was about 14 years old I wouldn’t have bothered about it but now It’s a big deal right?. Most of us are glued on to our phones right from the moment we wake up to the moment we sleep. Even if there isn’t anything worth it you’d still be skimming through your news feed. You’d feel missed out if you haven’t checked your phone.

It is quite hard to put an end to all of this. Especially, if you have a mind which doesn’t quite shut up and wants to express itself every now and then. You can’t silence it for once specially when you are getting attention from everyone. Who doesn’t love seeking attention anyways may be this is why these are such successful platforms.

Honestly, I miss having the real conversations with people but it is also true that I have got amazing friends online whom I haven’t met. It’s been of great help to express myself. Had it not been there, probably I couldn’t have made these many friends.
I wonder if people would actually talk to each other in future or would it just be like how they predicted in “Wall-e” Animated movie. I just hope that we don’t end up like that coz we are better than that.

Next time while doing something with your servers, don’t mess up!

BMTC – Illusioned to Fail

BMTC – Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation has always been one of my favorite things about Bangalore. In fact, the public transport of a city plays a major role in forming the culture of a city. Be it the trams and cabs of Kolkata or the locals and kali peelis of Mumbai or BMTC in Bangalore. This blog comes in the wake of the Chief Minister’s announcement to cut services in the city to reduce losses.

The CM of Karnakata, HD Kumaraswamy came out with an announcement that the only way to reduce the losses of BMTC is to reduce the lossy AC buses. These AC buses have a shortage in users and hence are not pulling their weight. The commuter community reacted with disappointment and said this was a stupid decision and the government was drawing short sighted conclusions.

BMTC before its separation and rebranding in 1997 was called BTS and affectionately called Bitre Tirga Sigalla by Bangaloreans. The BTS was known for its scanty service. BMTC was an attempt to breathe new life into the failing public transportation service. It started with acquiring fresh capital and equipment. The government of the day pumped money knowing well that it was a going down the drain.

The turnaround happened in the second half of the 2000s. By 2006-07 BMTC had emerged as a unicorn in India’s public transport services. The period between 2006 and 2010 can be termed as the period when BMTC reached its peaks in profits and popularity.

The measures taken were not simple. Money was added, people were hired and a lot of new services were added. New buses, improved bus conditions, Digital marquee displays, bus stop announcements, and the addition of all the different new kinds of service.

This was the time when BMTC went on an expansion spree, they launched the AC bus service, the airport bus service, the pass bus, women’s bus, the training bus, Janti vahini – double coach, hospital bus service, BIG 10 bus service, MBS – long route buses, and special high frequency bus services on specific route, patron engagement campaigns like Bus Day and the launch of the MyBMTC App. One can wonder what happened to all these plans. One by one, many of them gave way.

Recently it was announced that BMTC has reported a loss of 300 crores for the FY 2018-19. Why? How? How did the unicorn of public transport just 10 years ago start losing money? On closer observation, it becomes clear that the unicorn has been bleeding for quite some time.

While BMTC made success and reported profits in the first decade of the millennium, at the turn of 2010, the drive to innovate and upstart started drying and the objective was to capitalize on the investments made. The prices of bus service in Bangalore has always been higher in comparison to cities like Chennai or Hyderabad or Mumbai, the patrons were OK with paying the fare. It could be because of the lack of alternatives or the fact that historically the economic divide has been better off in Bangalore.

The arrival of Namma metro, Ola and Uber, rental bikes and cars may have played a small role, but looking at the growth rate of the city, all these are not enough to handle to 9 Million residents of Bangalore. In fact in any city in India we face this problem, the growth is faster than the availability of infrastructure – but that story is for another day, let’s stay focused on BMTC.

Traffic

So why now did BMTC start losing money? BMTC like everyone is Bangalore is a victim of the ever-growing menace of traffic. The city’s roads are filled with 45 Lakh 2 wheelers and 13 Lakh private cars, in comparison, the 6000 odd buses that ply though the city are doing a commendable job in ferrying public in the city of 9 Million people. The exponential growth in traffic means the turnaround time for buses goes up.  A 25 Km trip to Whitefield from Majestic – which is one of the kinder routes, takes nearly 2 hours. How many trips can a driver make in his designated 8-hour shift? Not more than 3.

Fuel

Public transport corporations are notorious when it comes to revising fares based on the fuel prices. BMTC is no different, it did this as it pleased, every change in fuel price was warmly welcomed with equivalent fare revisions. The revisions also affected bus passes, daily passes that costed  ₹ 20  when they first came out, now costs no less than 70. BMTC also periodically reduced the fares if there was a price drop in the fuel market. But as one can expect, they were far and few.

Fares

The idea of cutting loses by reducing the service routes is the general knee jerk reaction. MTC, the bus service in Chennai does this often – but it couldn’t be a good example to talk about as the MTC is not a profit-making body. In fact, there are very few public run bus services that can be compared to BMTC. How then can BMTC make a second turnaround? Definitely not by cutting services – maybe by redesigning the routes?

MTC Fairs – Bus service in Chennai

A 2017 blog post comparing the different RTC’s paints an informative picture about the state of Bus fares across the country. It is important to note, none of the RTC’s are making a profit.

ServiceRegularAC Service
BEST – Mumbai720
BMTC – Bangalore615
MTC – Chennai315
PMPML – Pune5
DTC – Delhi2.55

Since Namma Metro entered the scene of public transport in Bangalore, the BMTC has reduced its fares. This cut has been across the board, including long distance route on AC buses. If a passenger pays 80 rupees for a 25 Km distance that the bus takes 2 hours to complete, it’s hardly surprising that the bus is losing money. Today the average mileage of BMTC is 3 Km per liter and one liter of diesel costs around ₹ 65.  This comes up to ₹ 500-550 per trip, this should be easy to recover. Considering it is traveling on a long distance and hence the number of passengers using the bus should offset the sad mileage.

Politics

The CM of the state announced that BMTC would redistribute the costly AC buses to other RTC’s owned by the state in the north. While this is a move to ‘cut the losses’ Bangalore’s need says quite the opposite. The Bengaluru Bus Prayaanikara Vedike in its research says Bangalore needs at least 3000 more buses to cater the public transport needs.  One might say there is no place on the roads to add these buses, but as we’ve seen already, of the 65 lakh vehicles on the streets of Bangalore, there are only 6000 buses. Hence adding more buses could actually bring down the other vehicles.

So where does this leave us?

  1. Don’t cut bus services – they don’t affect traffic and they will help the public better
  2. Recalculate and reroute AC bus routes
  3. Don’t reduces bus fares for AC buses – metro is not a competition  
  4. Reduce bus fares for normal buses – they will help the public
  5. Real estate game – building TTMC’s was not a master stroke, may cut your losses here and stop the real-estate game
  6. Non Operational income – ad revenues needs a new strategy, renting of buses to private parties and renting of parking space can be made into a lucrative non operational income – this needs work

Most importantly, don’t just call BMTC to have failed before attempting to revive it.

~*~

PS: Unfortunately I haven’t been able to cover the income generated via the non-operational activities like advertising, leasing and renting of buses, parking, and private party renting. Perhaps an addendum will come up shortly.

Also read: BMTC – Pocket full of Sunshine

Novice Poker Effect

Re-post from 1st Dec, 2013

It had been a while since I had been sent out of a classroom… the last time this happened, I think It was in the OOPs lab in 2008. Teachers wouldn’t get offended that easily in UVCE I guess, anyway it was an interesting class of rural marketing and I seemed to be interested, but sadly I was caught fiddling with the phone and making some kinda tattoo on my hand. The teacher took offence at it and pushed me out of the class. But what I was googling about was the Myths involved in Rural Marketing. I’m not gonna bore you with what I found.

Something I remember from class held my attention for a long time. The prof had said ‘One of the biggest myths about rural marketing is that the marketers think that rural buyers don’t ask many questions, in fact they ask more questions than urban buyers, they are smarter than the urban buyer. They sometimes ask questions that seem silly and make you laugh, but we fail to find answers to such questions and that’s what makes rural marketing more challenging.’

Yes, we’ve heard this being said a lot of times. It’s almost a cliche. But something doesn’t fit right, does it? How could rural buyers with less exposure and information about what’s happening be harder to outsmart? Why would they be harder to sell to? Why do they ask harder questions? Why are they tougher to convince? Do they know what we’re trying to do from before? Not really. I like to call it, The Novice Poker Effect.

It happened roughly 2 years ago; out of boredom I decided to teach my cousin how to play poker and tried to play him a little. I couldn’t read him, I couldn’t bluff him, I thought he bluffed when he played simple and I obviously lost. The reason is simple. A novice poker player is not playing you, he is just playing his cards. It’s the same with Rural Marketing, a rural buyer is just playing what’s on his cards, he isn’t bothered about what or why a marketer is trying to sell. 

We could conclude that a rural buyer is not smart; he’s just like a novice poker player. Hard to read, hard to pick up trends and hard to know what he wants. It’s this Novice Poker Effect that makes us think a rural buyer is smart. If we understand that the rural buyer just looks at things from his side and doesn’t try anything fancy against him, we would succeed. 

So to round it up, learn to play poker with a kid, maybe you’ll excel in rural marketing.

~*~

Original Post – Novice Poker Effect