Sunday, July 30, 2006

Changing times

I was reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" where he was making a point about the major decisions that shook the world being taken by a few people who genuinely wanted to see their countries progress ahead. A few examples are:

1.Deng Xiaoping tossing aside communism with the sentence "Black cat, white cat, all that matters is that it catches mice"
2.Dr. Manmohan Singh opening up India's market without indulging in any major debate. 3.Ernesto Zedillo, the formaer president of mexico remarking that all the decisions to open the Mexican economy were taken by three people.
4.Similar case with Mikhail Gorbachev and Margaret Thatcher.

Dr. Manmohan Singh has come a long way since those path breaking times of 1991. Infact now, technically speaking, he has gone one step higher, to become the prime minister of India. Again, technically, he has higher powers than what he had in 1991. But are these 'technicalities' consistent with the 'practical realities'? Lets have a look.

In 1991, as far as I remember, there was not much of significant opposition to these reforms. That was when India was almost bankrupt, and even our gold reserves were pledged. It was a shameful period indeed, but the 9 year old me could not make much out of it. But I am thankful that these reforms came about. The overall access to education, employment opportunities, choices as a customer have increased tremendously and I can have a life on par with that of the western Europeans/Americans staying in India itself.

Fast forward to 2006, where Dr. Manmohan Singh is forever on the defensive courtesy of the fractured mandate given by the ever confused and ever confusing Indian public. Every decision be it political or economic has to pass the seal of approval of the biggest thieves in india, the left. (this should be proof enough that I am moving towards the centre from my leftist leanings.) On top of this are the biggest hypocrites in India, the BJP who are behaving like true spoilsports. Add to this the minority appeasers like Mulayam Singh yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and the Congress itself, its still a wonder that Dr. Manmohan Singh has not gone mad yet. Hats off to you sir.

Why is this so? Do we need to go to depths like bankcruptcy to start taking tough decisions? Can't we make hay while the sun shines? These, I know are questions that will elicit no answers. But I still ask them.....the eternal foolish ideal optimist that I am.....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Loco Poco, Take Action

In the July 3rd issue of Outlook, there is an article on Reliance Infocomm branching out into GSM technologies in Delhi and Mumbai. Apparently Reliance does have a 2.6 million GSM base covering states like West bengal, Assam, MP, Orissa, Bihar and also parts of Calcutta. If it is popular in these areas, I certainly have not heard of it.

The obvious question that is gonna be raised is, "Why the hell is Reliance, which is a hardcore CDMA based company dabbling in GSM, which already has major players like Bharti, Orange, BSNL and to some limited pockets Idea, BPL, Spice etc?"

The first reason that is quoted by the article is the Anil Mukesh rift. Seems Anil wanted to chart his own course in the telecom sector, and when he wrested control of Infocomm from a CDMA obsessed Mukesh, he immediately chartered a cruise in the GSM seas. The second one is that, since Reliance already has a small GSM base, it hopes to pick up from that and have a massive advantage when it comes to a situation when the whole world converges to the future common standard called WCDMA. They also plan to use the existing CDMA basic infrastructure as a base for the GSM equipment. A few things that I can think of are towers, billing centres, outlets, call centres etc. Of course, some tech differences will surely come up.The clinching factor for Reliance would be the higher returns per customer from GSM as compared to CDMA (Rs. 362 vs Rs.256). Not to discount the smart choice of Delhi and Mumbai..the two richest cities in India. Having stayed at both places, I can be a guarentee for the richness quotient of some Delhiites and some Mumbaikars.

But, the reason for me writing this blog, is to bring to my friend Kirankumar H. N's (Loco's) notice that this could possibly be a means of taming Qualcomm into submission as regards royalty. Indian CDMA players pay a royalty of 7% to Qualcomm for using the CDMA standards set by them, whereas markets like China and S. Korea pay 2% and 2.9% respectively. And of course, since USA is the home of Qualcomm, no royalty funda exists. Supposedly, Reliance accounts for 8% of Qualcomm revenues, and Anil obviously aims to use this to his advantage by threatening a move to GSM. As of the article going to print, Qualcomm had not blinked and said that the question of reducing royalties did not arise.

As is the norm, sceptics do exist who say that Reliance should have gone on the acquisition path, going for Spice, Aircel and Idea who are marginal so called "5th players"; instead of starting afresh. Also, there are doubts about whether they would be able to sustain the massive competition.

Finally, the article concludes by saying that this GSM journey is a test for Anil, specially to get rid of his "playboy image" and to prove that he is a hard-nosed and smart entrepreneur.

My take: GSM or CDMA, as long as it benefits you, for as long as you have a choice, and for as long as there exists the concept of fine print, you are the king who is at the mercy of kingmakers. You will be subject to the same connectivity which fails enmass when something like 11/7 occurs. You will end up paying the same amount as bill inspite of companies' efforts to be different. But, the spirit lies in sticking to your choice and caring a damn for whoever criticises your choice of network provider!!!

PS: Since I don't have internet connectivity at home and I can't do extensive surfing at office, there are going to be a spate of articles which are not researched extensively on the net. The articles will be based on what i read or see, which in any case has been the norm. I somehow have lost the enthu to link to others and comment upon what they have written. And providing hyperlinks seems to have become an alien art!!!!

Anyway, this entry is going to be posted on two locations

1. My own blog 'From the Capital'

2. The Bangys of NITK 2004 blog, 'Chappargaandus': this is because of the Qualcomm connexion in the form of the roly-poly Loco, the IT CR of 2003-2004................dude, mebbe when u go to US, u can talk to ppl to remove the royalty bullshit!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hot Pursuit?

After every terrorist attack, the most gung-ho statement that is made is, pursue the terrorists to their dens and finish them off. Another variant of this is, launch missiles/air strikes against the camps in PoK. And I find, the repeated comparison with Israel.

Fine, agreed that hot pursuit and butchering of the militants is the best way to take revenge, but in that process one cannot skip over the status of the neighbouring country's arsenal. Lets analyse the situation in both cases:

Israel has been adopting this policy right from its formative years. It also ensured that future generations would not have to deal with neighbours armed to the teeth by subduing the enemy completely. See how Syria is still struggling to get Israel out of the Golan; see how Egypt and Jordan went in for a peace treaty; see how toothless Lebanon and Palestine are...

Contrast this with India which had the opportunity to finish off Pakistan in 1971, but didn't and instead went for the Shimla Agreement. Bangladesh is small but a significant thorn in the flesh. Out of these two, Pakistan has gone all the way to become nuclear too, and their army is not a pushover.

So, my dear GI Joes who want 'hot pursuit', how do we go about solving this problem? Back to square 1 aren't we???

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Reflections on a Vidharban travel, being alive and a ride on the western express highway

In everyone's life there is bound to be a phase or a journey of self discovery where you are all alone inspite of having people with you; when you wish that there was someone with whom you could share all thoughts, feelings and emotions. Someone who would not break your thought just because she is feeling bored. Someone, that perfect (or imperfect?) her!!!

These were precisely the thoughts that came to me as I was travelling on the last leg of my journey to Nagpur from Chandrapur. The VCR was playing Krrish, with hardly anyone in the bus interested in it; but yet watching it to get their Rs. 130's worth. The 3 hour journey was over in a jiffy with my time spent in watching portions of Krrish, watching the Vidharban landscape and reading Foucault's pendulum. I was still in a state of trance when I was dropped at the entrance of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Airport, Nagpur from where I was made to walk about 2-2.5 kms to reach the departure terminal all because the police would not allow me to flag down a vehicle. The reason? Manmohan's departure to Delhi.

And as I sit to write this on the 12th of June, I am more grateful than ever to be alive...I can follow my passions, take my evening strolls, talk to family and friends, watch TV and what not. I am thankful to my sixth sense, God and the presence of three of my friends that I took the taxi to Andheri rather than the local, which I had taken on the 10th, from Dadar to Andheri..a bone crushing ride wherein I found my laptop bag's strap around my ankles, and the bag itself in my hands above my head, with 3 of my fingers holding on for dear life so that I didn't get swept away by the surging crowd. I could not believe that on the 11th, someone would stoop down so low to attack honest, working people who just don't care beyond expressing solidarity with or expressing vocal opinion about whether there has to be a temple in Ayodhya or a mosque; whether Kashmir stays with India, goes to Pakistan, becomes independent or goes to hell; whether there are cartoons denigrating the prophet, whether goddess durga appears on a whiskey bottle or a panty, whether Anne Frank is shown in bed with Hitler or what not. And most stunning of all, the same Western line which I had made my lifeline...this line was mercilessly bombed!!! Fuck terrorism, fuck terrorists!!!

Being alive has other benefits, like for example, the long ride from Goregaon to Nariman Point. But I must warn you that your arse is going to scream in pain, and the first few steps that you take at Nariman are going to be like that of a freshly deflowered virgin. I recommend this ride for the following reasons:
1. To watch how the social topography changes while travelling from North to South Bombay.
2. Experience the thrill of whizzing along the Western Express Highway at top speeds and experiencing the thrill when your pillion rider's balls crash onto the seat when you take the bike along pot holes which he cannot see. Of course the favour may be returned some other day with compound interest!!!
3. To end up thirsty and tired at Haji Ali juice centre on the return journey and have some of the best fruit juices in the planet.
4. And for me, the most important see if a certain hazel eyed female with flowing hair frequents marine drive.

All said and done, the train has to be taken from someday. I cannot continue contributing voluntarily to the Autorickshaw and taxi drivers union indefinitely. Till the time I buy a bike, Mumbai Suburban Railway Zindabad!!!

PS: Someone (Abhyuadaya, I guess) questioned me regarding the fate of "From the Capital" once i moved out of Delhi. Simple, I have just shifted from the political/sex capital to the financial capital....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Nagpur, a city ahead of its time

The night of June 28th was spent in fitful,`partial and fearful sleep. Fearful because I was afraid that I would miss my 07:05 Jet airways flight to Nagpur, on my first ever business tour. Wake up finally I did at 04:00 and completed the usual stuff that all human beings are supposed to do when they get up every morning.

The early morning drive from Worli to Santa Cruz in incessant rain, with all the road to me, my driver and my taxi, was awesome. The best part of this city Bombay is that, even at such an early hour, there is life, proving that this is India's answer to New York as the 'City that never sleeps'.

Bombay airport domestic terminal B is a deadly piece of architecture with the mere sight of it enough to knock you out of sleep. The same happened to me. Once I entered, I began by old dirty habit of criticising Bangalore (I need to overcome this, after all its my hometown). Spotted my colleague, checked in and finally was on board the flight awaiting the journey to Nagpur.

I was supposed to stay at Hotel Chidambaram in some area called Ramdaspeth. The journey to this place showcased some of the best roads that Nagpur has got and I guess, the only flyover.

Later on, my work took me to areas to get to which I had to travel through some of the best landscapes of Nagpur. I mean it was as if I was in the US where you get to see acres and acres of space with hardly anyone in sight. Atleast for me, having come from some of the most crowded cities of India (Bangalore, Delhi and Bombay), this was a sight in contrast.

My manager summarised it by saying, "This certainly looks like the city of the future." It well might be, but I attribute the emptiness to the heat and nothing else but the heat...For a moment, when I saw females all wrapped up like the Saracens, I felt for a moment that I was back in Delhi..

Next blog would probably be on one of the following topics:
1. My journey from Amravathi to Chandrapur
2. My stay in Chandrapur, one of the bastions of the naxals.
3. My enjoyable stay in Bombay..specially the night ride from Haji Ali to Goregaon.