Friday, December 17, 2010

Mr. Company can you please email me the financial report instead of sending a hard copy?

Every time I look at the cabinet below the TV where we store old newspapers, magazines, old books, etc which we throw out or sell every month, I realize that a huge chunk of it is financial reports which companies send to their shareholders every quarter. Also most of them are still in their plastic bags or paper envelopes … yeah they go straight from the courier guy’s hands into the waste paper cabinet. Why would I bother to read a hard copy of an annual report when I can easily browse through one online (using control F) and even have all kinds of financial analysis on the various financial portals? Seriously how many of us still bother to read hard copies of annual reports?
So I really wonder why these companies still courier hard copies to all the shareholders every quarter. Surely at least 50% of all the shareholders are computer literate and can use a soft copy of the report which can be mailed to them or by going to the company’s website to look for information.
Well the reason I’m writing about this is; imagine the amount of paper we waste over this and what this does to our ecology. As per the American Forest & Paper Association to print 1,200 copies of National Geographic we need to chop down one tree.
So I tried to do a small analysis to calculate roughly how many trees we can save if we stop the use of hard copies of financial reports. The company I’v chosen to do this small analysis is India’s biggest company – Reliance Industries.So even if companies stop sending physical copies of financial reports to half of their shareholders and instead email soft copies as attachments, we can save around two crore trees every year and yeah that too just in India!!! I know we have recycling of paper and all … but even then this is an issue to ponder on! Not to mention the cost of couriering and labour for the companies, which goes in packing the reports in envelopes and mailing them!
Companies should give the option to the shareholder’s to either receive a hard copy or a soft copy. Thus a large amount of cost can be saved for companies if they opt for emails rather than printing the documents and couriering them and in turn this will improve their bottom lines. This is an indirect incentive for shareholders as improved bottom lines mean bigger bonuses and also possible capital appreciation in the stock market.
So Mr. Company can you please email me a soft copy of the financial report instead of sending a hard copy next time?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Chronicles of Tata : Voyage of the Tata Nano

When Ratan Tata unveiled the “Nano” in Jan 2008, the whole world stood up and took notice. It was branded the wonder car! People queued up for registering and were ready to wait for long durations to get their hands on a Nano. Suddenly everyone wanted a Nano. It was engineered for a family of 4 on a bike or a scooter and was expected to eat into the two-wheeler sales in a big way.

But the last six months show a very very different picture. Sales of Nano have been dipping mercilessly since July’s record sale of 9,000 Nanos while total car sales in India have been showing a record growth. November, where just 509 Nanos were sold, was the fourth straight month of falling sales for the Nano since July 2010.

So what’s the problem? Is it the car in itself? Is it the manufacturer? Is it the competition? What?

It's not the car. It's spacious and comfortable, the air-conditioning is quick and effective, at 60 kmph it drives smoothly, it’s easy to park; its fuel efficient; and all that for just over a Lakh of rupees! To add to it, the manufacturer, Tata is the most reputed corporate house in India. And where’s the competition? There is no four-wheeler in that price range which can compete with the Nano. So again where’s the problem?

Problem 1: Positioning & Perception
When the Nano was launched, most people who applied for it were from the higher middle class with access to funds, who were just attracted by the glamour and hype of the Nano. Their interest soon waned off when the aura around the world’s smallest car disappeared. They now call the Nano an air-conditioned Auto Rickshaw! We have to remember that the Nano’s main target, are people who own two-wheelers or who do not own any vehicles. These people mostly from the lower middle class or teenagers do not have easy access to funds.

Problem 2: Lack of financing options

Tata officials believe that it’s the lack of financing options available to buyers which is causing a dip in the Nano sales. Banks have been unwilling to lend to most low-income customers on concern that they might default. Dealers claim that almost nine out of every ten prospective Nano customers are also shopping for a loan. Also the rate of interest charged by banks for Nano loans is around 20-22% (equivalent to ROI for two-wheeler loans) which is almost double the rate on other car loans.

Problem 3: Safety Issues

At least six Nano cars have been gutted so far in various parts of the country and this is playing on the minds of prospective customers. Tata Motors has been asking existing Nano customers to bring back their cars to add free of cost safety devices to prevent the vehicles from catching fire, but insist that it is not a "recall."

Problem 4: Waiting period and unavailability of spare parts

Other problems include the long waiting period and also the unavailability of spare parts due to shifting of vendors from Pantnagar to Sanand. People still think the Nano is sold through the booking process, which makes them believe there will be a long waiting period.

Going Forward:
Tata seems to have understood the problems and is trying its level best to get the Nano sales on course. They have been trying to improve the interaction between customers and financiers and have even launched an exchange scheme under which the owner of a two-wheeler can exchange his bike or scooter for a Nano, by paying the differential price. The company is also trying to provide financing for Nanos through its motor finance arm Tata Motors Finance Ltd.

To woo potential rural customers who have neither driven a car nor visited a car showroom, Tata plans to set up kiosks in the countryside. They are also trying very hard to dismiss the perception that advance bookings are still required to buy a Nano.

In addition, most importantly dealers across India are pointing out that existing customers of the Nano are really satisfied with their cars.

So I think once the Sanand plant is fully functional and the financing part is taken care of, we could soon see the Nanos breed like pests and choke our already overcrowded roads!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Solar power - future face of Indian energy sector?

The Indian solar market which is expected to grow to around INR 15,000cr by 2013, presents a great opportunity for foreign solar energy companies to ride this opportunity and make it a win-win situation. Conventional energy (oil or coal) cannot be a long term option. We'll have to look at other sources for renewable clean energy. And for a country like India solar energy seems like a very viable option.

Follw the below link to read my article on the future of Solar power industry in India.

Using the sun to light the nights

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mumbai’s war with political hoardings

Well there was a time when, while driving on Mumbai’s roads you would look out for those funny Amul billboards or have pretty film stars staring down at you from advertising hoardings. But off late the only hoardings/billboards you get to see every where are put up by political parties wishing their leaders a happy birthday or congratulating them on some electoral win or welcoming them into the city or .. uummm …. just about anything! So instead of your pretty Bollywood starlets, we have kurta or lungi clad ugly politicians in various poses staring into your face through awful & garish hoardings. I had once actually seen a nanasaheb someone pose with his dog on such a hoarding!! In fact I had read somewhere that nearly 90% of the hoardings in Mumbai are political while the remaining are religious or cultural. To add to it political parties mostly pay fees only for 50% of their total hoardings while the rest are illegal. Should we be surprised? Instead of earning revenues from these political hoardings, BMC spends around INR 1lac daily to get them removed as it has to deploy a vehicle and four employees in each ward every day to bring them down.
So it was really encouraging to see Maharashtra’s new CM, Prithviraj Chavan ordering his supporters to pull down all the hoarding congratulating him on becoming the CM. This led to BMC going on overdrive and pulling down over 500 unauthorised hoardings in Mumbai in a single day!
Actually in July 2010, Mumbai high court had said that a political leader whose picture appears on illegal hoardings or banners can be prosecuted. But funnily the fine for illegal display of hoardings in India is INR 50 to 100 irrespective of their size. Continuing offense attracts a princely penalty of INR 10/day! Also politicians argue that these banners do not bear the name of the person who put them up, so it gets difficult to prosecute the offender. But I think it’s high time our leaders are made accountable for acts of their party workers. There has to be a code of conduct for the party. Some one has to be accountable. We cannot let them treat our city as their personal blackboard!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A speech by Narayana Murthy on Sitting late at work

Infosys' Chairman and Chief Mentor Officer (CMO) - Mr. Narayana Murthy's Speech on Late Sitting:

Hope that many of us start leaving early for home after reading this... I am not relating this to the present scenario. I know people whowork 12 hours a day, six days a week, or more. Some people do so because of a work emergency where the long hours are only temporary. Other people I know have put in these hours for years. I don't know if they are working all these hours, but I do know they are in the office this long. Others put in long office hours because they are addicted to the workplace. Whatever the reason for putting in overtime, working long hours over the long term is harmful to the person and to the organization. There are things managers can do to change this for everyone's benefit. Being in the office long hours, over long periods of time, makes way for potential errors. My colleagues who are in the office long hours frequently make mistakes caused by fatigue. Correcting these mistakes requires their time as well as the time and energy of others. I have seen people work Tuesday through Friday to correct mistakes made after 5 PM on Monday.

Another problem is that people who are in the office for long hours are not pleasant company.
They often complain about other people (who aren't working as hard); they are irritable, or cranky, or even angry. Other people avoid them. Such behaviour poses problems, where work goes much better when people work together instead of avoiding one another. As Managers, there are things we can do to help people leave the office. First and foremost is to set the example and go home ourselves. I work with a manager who chides people for working long hours. His words quickly lose their meaning when he sends these chiding group e-mails with a time-stamp of 2 AM, Sunday.

Second is to encourage people to put some balance in their lives. For instance, here is a guideline I find helpful:
1) Wake up, eat a good breakfast, and go to work.
2) Work hard and smart for eight or nine hours.
3) Go home.
4) Read the comics, watch a funny movie, dig in the dirt, play with your kids, etc.
5) Eat well and sleep well.

This is called recreating. Doing steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 enable step 2. Working regular hours and recreating daily are simple concepts. They are hard for some of us because that requires personal change. They are possible since we all have the power to choose to do them. In considering the issue of overtime, I am reminded of my eldest son. When he was a toddler, If people were visiting the apartment, he would not fall asleep no matter how long the visit, and no matter what time of day it was.! He would fight off sleep until the visitors left.. It was as if he was afraid that he would miss something. Once our visitors' left, he would go to sleep. By this time, however, he was over tired and would scream through half the night with nightmares. He, my wife, and I, all paid the price for his fear of missing out. Perhaps some people put in such long hours because they don't want to miss anything when they leave the office. The trouble with this is that events will never stop happening. That is life! Things happen 24hours a day. Allowing for little rest is not ultimately practical. So, take a nap. Things will happen while you're asleep, but you will have the energy to catch up when you wake.

Hence "LOVE YOUR JOB BUT NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR COMPANY (Because you never know when it stops loving you)" - Narayana Murthy

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diwali - The festival of pollution?

Its just one week to Diwali, and everyone is already excited about buying new clothes, sweets, greeting cards, lanterns, gifts, crackers ……. hhmmm ….. crackers …. lets get straight to the point.
Is Diwali all about shooting rockets in the air, lighting 'anars' and 'chakris' and blasting bombs? Do we even give a thought to what happens to the ecology after we blow away loads of money on crackers?

One Diwali night causes as much damage to the ecology as regular pollution does over the span of a year. The heavy smog full of sulphur nitrates, magnesium, and nitrogen dioxide can be felt even days after Diwali is over. Thousands of people, mostly kids, get injured while bursting crackers every year. Not to forget the tons of toxic garbage strewn around on the day after Diwali, which is mind numbing. Approximately 8,000 additional metric tonnes of garbage was released in Mumbai alone last year.
Also there are thousands of under privileged kids who sit late into the night manufacturing crackers which are made using harmful chemicals and acids. These kids work from morning to night, breathing these harmful fumes and coming into constant skin contact with the chemicals. They burn their hands, legs and eyes, and many get maimed for life. The conditions they work in are inhumane and the compensation, pitiful.
Does that mean we just stop bursting crackers during Diwali? No, but we can surely deal with it in a more considerate manner. Instead of every family spending thousands of rupees on crackers, we can have societies/schools hold public display of fireworks. This can be done on school grounds, playgrounds or open areas where it’s safe to burst crackers. Care should be taken to avoid noisy crackers and first aid should be always around. In this way we can enjoy crackers but avoid exploitation of the ecology.
It’s high time we remember Diwali is a festival of lights and not of pollution!!
Happy Diwali.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Indian M&A activity on the rise (April to Sept 2010)

The Indian Mergers and Acquisition scenario started with a bang in 2010 with Indian companies announcing M&A deals valued at an impressive USD 14bn in just the first 45 days. In contrast, corporate India was involved in M&A transactions worth only USD the previous year 2009, when the worldwide economic slowdown forced Indian companies to look within the boundaries of the nation for merger and acquisitions deals. Domestic deals had accounted for more than 60% of the total USD 11.9bn worth of deals last year. But now, the drift seems to be changing as more and more domestic companies are venturing out and have announced a number of multi million dollar international acquisitions like the USD 9bn Bharti-Zain deal, which happened in March this year.
As per ISI Emerging Markets data base, a total of 220 M&A deals were announced with a total deal value of over USD 28.56bn in the first six months of the financial year 2010 (April to September).
Out of these 91 were domestic deals amounting to a deal value of USD 14bn, 40 were outbound deals where Indian companies acquired a foreign target (deal value USD 5.9bn) and 85 inbound deals saw Indian companies being acquired by foreign firms (deal value USD 7.9bn).
The biggest deal in the first 2 quarters of financial year 2010 was, Vedanta Resources Plc, the UK-listed metals and mining company agreeing to acquire between 51% and 60% in Cairn India, the listed Indian oil and Gas Company. But the deal is currently stuck up in red tape, with Cairn needing at least 10 separate clearances from the petroleum ministry before it can close the deal.
Sector wise analysis:

A sector wise analysis shows that the Oil and Gas sector accounted for 31 per cent of the total M&A deal value while telecom accounted for 13 per cent.
Electric power generation was the third most-active sector, as it contributed 12 per cent in deal value for the first two quarters of financial year 2010.

Month wise analysis
The month of September saw the maximum number of M&A deals (50 deals), but as deal values for many transactions in that month were not disclosed, the total deal value for September was USD 3.47bn.

The month of August saw the highest aggregate deal value of USD 11.63bn, which was because of the USD 9bn Cairn-Vedanta deal.
The rise in the number of outbound deals provides clear proof that corporate India is consolidating and at the same time aggressively working on global expansion. As global economy continues to recover from recession blues, I believe that interest in outbound activity will continue as Indian companies target global expansion to boost both growth and resources, with a focus on medium sized deals. However, it will still take some time before corporate India can mirror the peak deal activity levels of 2007-08.
Notes: Includes deals announced in the period of April-September 2010. Includes joint ventures, acquisition of minority stakes & restructuring deals
Source: ISI Emerging Markets Database

Sunday, October 17, 2010

India to bid for Olympics 2020 – case of putting the cart before the horse?

Well finally the Commonwealth Games are over and India came a creditable second in the medals tally. What started with a sour taste, thankfully ended with a silver lining. The whole world stood up and appreciated India’s efforts, while the opening and closing ceremonies received special mention in the global press. Indians showed the world that they can organize an event of such big magnitude and make it a grand success. So should we be really proud of ourselves as Indians?

As we bask in the afterglow of the mega event, have we forgotten the rampant corruption which shook the nation a month ago? Did we achieve the main objective of the Games in terms of promoting sports, infrastructure and tourism? Did we manage to showcase India as a progressive developed world power?

Even before we try to get answers to the above questions, interestingly now dear Mr. Kalmadi and the Indian Olympic Association has announced that they want India to bid for the 2020 Olympics! What does this mean? Another chance to fill up their pockets?

Do we really need to spend so much on a mega event, where a country of a billion people cannot even win a handful of medals? Even today nearly 30% of India’s population lives under the poverty line, the overall national literacy rate is just about 65% and most people still do not have basic sanitation facilities. There isn’t even basic sports infrastructure in most Indian cities. Most of our athletes come from rural areas, get basic training facilities and have to undergo tremendous hardships to just even survive. Even today India has less then 25 astro turf grounds for hockey, (is it still really our national game?) while in a country like Holland, which is maybe as much as the size of Goa, there are more than 450 astro turf grounds!!

Interestingly, the budget allocation for sports this year (2010) in India, has gone down from last year's Rs 3,706 crore to Rs 3,565 crore, a major chunk of which, Rs. 2,069, crores was earmarked for the Commonwealth Games. More money is being spent on events than sports promotion and development. Now isn’t this a perfect example of ‘Putting the cart before the horse’.

Instead of dreaming about mega events like Olympics, we should first concentrate on improving our grass root level sports infrastructure. We need a sports academy in every state dedicated for the development of sportsmen (not cricket) and sports. Sports should be made an integral part of elementary education. Scouts should be nominated to visit every small town of India and hunt for talent which can be nurtured. We need sportsmen and athletes before sports events. But only if the Indian Olympic Association understood this!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Leader Should Know How to Manage Failure

Came across this wonredful interview of our ex-president Mr Kalam and thought it would be a nice idea to share (Former President of India APJ Abdul Kalam at Wharton India Economic forum, Philadelphia, March 22, 2008)

Question: Could you give an example, from your own experience, of how leaders should manage failure?

Kalam: Let me tell you about my experience. In 1973 I became the project director of India's satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India 's "Rohini" satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources -- but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 -- I think the month was August -- we thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order.

My experts -- I had four or five of them with me -- told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal . It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference -- where journalists from around the world were present -- was at 7:45 am at ISRO's satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India ].

Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure -- he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed.

Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite -- and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, "You conduct the press conference today."

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Commonwealth Games or ‘Personal wealth’ Games?

Just after the closing of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when it was announced that India was elected to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a wave of jubilation swept through out the nation. The Indian Olympic Association promised to dish out the best even sporting bonanza even seen in India.

The total budget estimated for hosting the Games is USD 1.6 billion; and this amount excludes non-sports-related infrastructure development in the city like airports, roads and other structures. This will likely make the 2010 Commonwealth Games the most expensive Commonwealth Games ever. The first question which comes to mind is - do we really need to spend so much on these games, when there isn’t even basic sports infrastructure in the country? Most athletes have to spend their own money for training and coaching, and when they become successful because of their own efforts, the country claims them as ‘sons and daughters of the nation’!

Anyways, now that we have been selected to host the event, the picture today is absolutely shameful. Most of the games venue are incomplete and have been slated to miss the deadlines. Even the completed work has been branded as substandard, with leakages starting within a week’s time. Everyday the newspapers scream out reports of blatant corruption, irregularities in building standards, loss of revenue, or overpayments in handing out contracts. All this has been creating an absolutely sorry image of our country around the world.

Now when it’s just over a month remaining for the opening ceremony, our respected prime minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh has suddenly woken up and is taking a personal interest in the completion of the work for the games. He has appointed a new group of ministers to oversee preparations, visit games' venues each week to monitor progress and ensure contractors meet fresh deadlines.

We can only hope that the people concerned really buck up now, forget about filling their personal pockets and try to salvage the games and India’s image. It’s high time they stop making this a ‘Personalwealth Games’!!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

India's 64th Independence Day

As India celebrates its 64th independence day, let’s take a moment to think about all the people who laid down their lives for the country. Thousands of martyrs with a single dream of an independent motherland threw themselves into the freedom fight against the British. Their vision was a free independent, fair, democratic nation where the people’s progress is imperative. The question after 64 years is; have we achieved their dream?
Indian still is counted as a third world country with nearly 40% of the population living under the poverty line even today. Since 1991, inter-state economic inequality in India has consistently grown; the per capita net state domestic product of India's richest states is about 3.2 times that of the poorest states. With rampant corruption, internal conflicts, illiteracy, an ever growing population, we need to ask ourselves a lot of questions.
Actually, we all know what the problems and their solutions are. We just need to dig deep and think about all the martyrs who laid their lives, so that we enjoy freedom. We just need to take the correct decisions, do the right things. Today, let’s each one pledge to make this country a better place to live in, by contributing our squirrel’s share. Jai Hind !

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fish Fry

Sorry to disappoint all you fish food lovers; what I mean by Fish fry is baby fish :)
Continuing my fascination with fish keeping, the next step for me was fish breeding. I had heard from many people about the joy of watching tiny fish which have been born in their own houses. Wanting to experience that, I got a pair of loaded (pregnant) Mollies and introduced them to a new smaller tank (8 gallons). I kept them alone so that they won’t be stressed out by other fish.

Mollies are live bearers and give birth directly to babies rather than laying eggs. Mollies have been known to snack on their own babies, and so to avoid that I added a lot of plastic plants to the tank to create a lot of hiding places for the baby fish.

In a week’s time I was surprised to find my tank full of baby fish, I counted more than 25 to 30 fry. I realised that the fry kept on swimming upwards towards the surface of the tank to avoid being eaten by their own mummies! So I added a few fresh leafy vegetables to the tank which float and create lots of hiding places for the fry.

It’s been a month now, and there are still about 10 fry left in the tank. It has been really fascinating to watch their grown and needless to say they have been the star attraction in the houses since the last month.

This is a picture of the Mamma Mollies

Here is the 4 day old fry

The fry after a month’s time

Meter Jam - Once more please !!

Meter Jam, the campaign against auto and taxi drivers yesterday, can be termed ‘successful’ as it created a lot of awareness among the commuters as well as the auto/taxi drivers. Nearly 30,000 people supported the campaign by signing on the website, while many more boycotted auto and Taxis, opting to walk or use public transport.

It was really heartening to see many senior citizens, giving the cold shoulder to autos and instead opting to walk. But at the same time it was equally frustrating to see many educated youngsters, run after autos and taxis. Though most auto drivers refused to accept the success of the campaign, they have accepted the fact that commuters will no longer take nonsense lying down.

Surely, this one off campaign is not expected to bring a sea change in the behaviour of these auto/taxi drivers, but it surely brought about awareness. I sincerely hope that we have these campaigns periodically to continue the pressure on these errant drivers and increase awareness.

A big hug to all the commuters who supported the campaign; and for those who ran after the autos/taxis and got rejected once again … .well you deserved it!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My name in today's paper :)

The following article appeared in today's hindustan Times - Cafe.
Monogram Thieves
Aalap Deboor, Hindustan Times, August 11, 2010

Whenever Aniket Pargaonkar (32) noticed luxury cars without their monograms, he assumed that they had been stolen. He knew that these logos made their way straight to the black market and were sold at a lesser rate than the originals. But last week, he was in for a rude shock. He discovered that the logo of his Tata Indica had been stolen. “They'd come after my car, an Indica! Usually, you’d think they'd go after a luxury car whose logos are expensive,” he says. High-segment cars such as the BMW, Skoda and Mercedes have routinely been targets of monogram theft in the city. Their rear and front logos are jemmied loose using screw drivers and pointed tools, and are then sold for cheaper on the black market, possibly back to the owners themselves. Of late, even Tata and Fiat cars have been spotted missing their monograms.
The police started looking into the matter when complaints from car owners began steadily increasing. They soon discovered that a number of adolescents and college students were behind the racket.A source from the Mumbai police said that college students pay street urchins anything between Rs 200-500 to remove the monograms, and sell it in the grey market for much higher. “These incidents have been reported the most in western suburbs, where there are many expensive cars. Most people just opt for a duplicate monogram as it costs much less,” the source said. In extreme cases, the police make arrests and take the accused to court.
Automobile mechanic Suresh Shirke had two kids come up to him a while back to try to sell him monograms of a Skoda Laura. What’s surprising, Shirke says, is that they belonged to affluent families and were doing this for easy money. “One was eight, the other 12. I informed the police and called their parents, and they were let off with a warning,” he says. Asked if he stocks the logos, Shirke says, “If I buy one from the black market, I’m part of the chain that sells these,” he adds.
Pargaonkar installed a new monogram from an authorised Tata showroom for Rs 60. He didn’t lodge a complaint since a new one was priced so low. “An original monogram cost me Rs 60, I wonder how much the thief would have made for stealing mine and selling it on the grey market!” Pargaonkar says.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Customer harassment by Vodafone

I just faced a real horrifying incidence while trying to close my father-in laws account with Vodafone. I had earlier called their customer care number (which is charged from now on by the way!!) and requested them to close the account. After taking all the verification, they tried to convince me why not to close the account. But when I clearly told them that I was not interested in continuing, they asked me to send a mail requesting them to close the account from the ‘Registered Email Id” for that number.

The Email ID that has been registered with that number is my wife's number as my father-in-law is a senior citizen and not computer literate. Accordingly I sent them an Email from the registered email ID on the 22nd of July. But to date they haven’t closed the account and I got a bill for the whole last month, even when the number hadn't been used at all.

Today I once again called up the cust care. Now they tell me a new story, the request they said was made from a 3rd party email .. it seems!! The Email ID does not have the name of my Father-in law in it!! Now they want me to send a request from my father-in-law’s personal email Id. I told them that he is a senior citizen and not computer literate. On that the ridiculous solution they gave was to create a new Email ID in my father-in-laws name and then send a cancellation request to them!!! I mean how ridiculous is that? When you have registered an email ID for that number and you have been sending your bills on that I, why can’t you accept a cancellation request from that ID?

This is just a way to harass the customers who want to close their accounts. When you need a new number they’ll send their agents to your house and goody talk you into believing that they are their for all your needs, but when you want to close the account, they show their true colours!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Meter Jam !!

For all you commuters who have forever faced the rickshaw menace in Mumbai, here’s an opportunity to strike back! Tired with the rickshaw drivers’ unwillingness to take passengers for a small distance, meter cheating, fake mater cards and unruly behaviour, a movement called as ‘Meter Jam’ has been formed by a group of Mumbaikars.

‘Meter Jam’ calls for a non-cooperation movement on Thursday, 12th August, 2010 where an appeal has been made to all mumbaikars to reject autos and taxis and bring their meter to a grinding halt for a day. Commuters are encouraged to arrange car-pool, alternate transportation or use public transport for the day.

Commuters who wish to support this movement can register themselves at and show their support. I have already registered with the website and have pledged not to use autos or taxis on the 12th of Aug!

Looks like this time, the hunter’s gonna be hunted!!

Friday, August 06, 2010

My Fishy Affair

I’v been meaning to write about one of my favourite hobbies for quite some time now. Well, if something excites me as much as food, it’s got to be Fish! Not on my plate but in fish tanks. Just watching them peacefully swim through the water, relaxes me and takes me into another world.

For pet lovers in a place like Mumbai where space and time is a big constraint, fish can be the ideal pets. Unlike other pets, such as dogs, fish don’t expect a big chunk of your time, they don’t need to be taken for walks, they don’t need to be toilet trained, they are not noisy, they don’t bite or spread diseases and they don’t cost you much. Also its easier to take care of fish when you are on holidays, as you have options of holiday food which lasts for 4-5 days or you can request your nice neighbour to just put in some food everyday in case of longer vacations.

I’v really begun to enjoy keeping fish since the last 8 months. I bought a 135 gallon tank (28”x18”x15”) at first with an acrylic hood, under gravel filter, external power filter, coloured gravel, and some plastic aquarium plants. This cost me around Rs. 4,000 (one time expense). I got some hardy fish to start with such as Goldfish, Red Cap Orandas, Shubunkins, Plecos (Sucker Cat Fish), a Betta (Fighter Fish) and honey Gouramis. Gradually I’v added a pair each of Silver sharks, Red tail Sharks, Golden Angels and Golden Apple Snails. Fish cost anywhere from Rs 30 to Rs 30,000 depending upon their breed and size. Most popular home aquarium fish like Goldfish and Angels cost around Rs 100 to Rs. 500 a pair.

The most important fact about keeping fish is to keep the tank water clean by doing regular water changes. Water changes are usually done once in 2 weeks, where about 25% of the tank water is removed and fresh water which has been treated with chlorine remover is added. This takes about 15 to 20 mins at the max and is very easy to do by using a gravel cleaner (Rs 100). Fish can be fed once or twice a days depending upon the quantity and size of the fish. Fish can be fed different types of food such as fish flakes, fish pellets, freeze dried worms or even fresh vegetables from your kitchen such as cucumbers, tomatoes or broccoli. Most fish like Goldfish eat vegetables, while Fighter fish are carnivorous and have to be given dried worms. Fish food is not costly and ranges from Rs 50 to Rs 100 a bottle.

These are some pictures of my tank

A close up of the tank

My beautiful Golden Angel pair. I entered this snap in a monthly photo contest conducted by a fish enthusiast’s forum and actually won :)

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rickshaw menace in Mumbai

Ask any vehicle owner or a person who does not own a vehicle, what the biggest menace on Mumbai’s roads today is … well apart from the zillion potholes, I’m sure each and every one of then will point their fingers at the ubiquitous rickshaw drivers.

Private vehicle owners, complain that it’s the rickshaw drivers who always break the lanes without giving any signals, stop just about anywhere on the road, again without giving any signals and start suddenly from their parked position, guess what, again without giving any signal! If you try to reason with them regarding this bad driving and not following of traffic rules, invariably they will fight with you using the foulest of language and they always have the other rickshaw drivers rushing to their support. They have absolutely no respect for basic civic sense or courtesy.

Now coming to the plight of the people who are forced to use the service of these princely rickshaw drivers daily. Every time a person gets off a crowded train in Mumbai, the first thing he prays for is that he gets lucky today and at least one rickshaw driver is willing to ferry him home. But alas, if wishes were horses …. Beggars would ride!! The Rickshaws refuse to ply your route as if it’s their right to refuse you every time. I guess they get some sadistic pleasure out of it! And the funniest part is they refuse just about every route, making you wonder why are they even driving a rickshaw? Will they decide where you need to go?

As per the law, they are supposed to ferry you wherever you want and cannot refuse you. But it never happens. Even if you try to forcefully sit inside the auto, after the driver refuses to ferry you, he’ll either give you excuses such as ‘petrol nahi hai’ or he will simply refuse to move. They care a damn even if you threaten to lodge a complaint against them.

Well, the papers scream out everyday, giving numbers for help lines and email addresses for commuters to complaint against such errant rickshaw drivers. But does anything actually happen after you complaint? No! We had a bad experience with a rickshaw driver last week, and like a true blood Mumbaikar wanted to fight back against injustice. So we filed an on-line complaint against the errant driver with his auto registration number, the place and time of incidence. But to date nothing has happened of it!

The Traffic Police as well as the RTO really need to be serious about this rickshaw menace and try to help the commuters who face tremendous difficulty everyday because of this.
The solution to this could be that, the police can post officers during peak hours, at specific rickshaw stands, especially outside railway stations, bus stations, etc and see to it that the rickshaw drivers do not refuse to ferry commuters. Also the RTO should give basic soft skills and civic sense training to all the rickshaw drivers and help them to improve their image.
On the part of commuters, they should make it a point to continue to complaint against errant drivers hoping that at least some of them will be pulled up.

So till the time the authorities take some real strict actions against these errant rickshaw drivers, lets keep the prayers going!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trip to Malshej Ghat

We had gone to Malshej Ghat last weekend which is a small hill station, 150 kms from Mumbai. Surrounded by tall Sahyadri Mountains and lush greenery, Malshej ghat transforms into a perfect heaven during the monsoons. We stayed at the Flamingo Resort there, which is owned by MTDC. The rooms and food arrangements were pretty good and the climate there was just incredible. As soon as you open the windows of your room, cool moist clouds rush in. You feel as if you are living in the sky. Everywhere you see there are beautiful waterfalls rushing down the mountains on to the roads.

We had an amazing time getting drenched in the waterfalls and the rains. There is not much to do at Malshej Ghat, apart from enjoying the beautiful scenery and the waterfalls, so make sure you go there only during the rains. Also try to avoid the weekends, as it will be full of wild crowds guzzling beer on the roads and dancing. So a better plan is to go there on a weekday if possible to get maximum enjoyment. Also other nearby attractions are the Shivneri fort, which is Shivaji maharaj’s birth place as well as the Levyadri and Ozar Ashtavinayak temples.

Do not buy car logos from the black market

Every time you stop at a signal now a days, the first thing you notice is that most of the cars have been stripped of their maker logos/monograms. At first I found it amusing, till yesterday when I discovered that the logo on my Tata Indica was also missing! Till now the logo thieves were targeting higher value car brands like Mercedes, BMW, Honda, Skoda, etc but off late even logos from Marutis and Tata have been disappearing.

Various newspapers have been reporting that these gangs mostly consist of school children, which is really shocking. These kids get anywhere from Rs. 25 to Rs. 500 depending upon which logo that can steal. Logos of Mercedes and BMW are the most sought after. Many schools have been facing problems with their students having been caught red handed while stealing logos. Also since most car owners don’t register a case of theft for the logos, police are unable to take any action.

But who are the customers for such stolen logos? Apart from the few rickshaw and truck drivers who pretend they drive BMW rickshaws and BMW trucks, we our selves who have their logos stolen, are the biggest customers! A second hand Honda logo costs around Rs. 1000 while an original costs somewhere around Rs. 4,000. So many people who have their logos stolen prefer to get logos in the black for a much lower price. Unless we stop this practice and only buy logos from authorised dealers, this logo theft will go on. The only way to kill supply is by killing demand. Also please inform the nearest police station that your logo has been stolen so that the police can keep a watch and try to nab the culprits.

And ya, well I did go to an authorised Tata dealer and got a new logo fixed.

Interview Bloopers

Over the last few years that I have been conducting interviews at VN as well as at my earlier jobs, there have been many memorable inst...