Sunday, May 8, 2016

What's App launches Bold, Italics and Strikthrough features

What's App has released its latest feature today. Using this you can have Bold, Italics and Strikethrough in your comments. This is expected to add a new dimension to the way people communicate. Below is how it will work.

To highlight a word in Bold add an asterik (*) before an after the word/s without space
*Hello* will become Hello

To highlight a word in Italics add an underscore(_) before an after the word/s without space.
_Hello World_ will become Hello World

To strike through a word add a tilde(~) before an after the word/s without space.
~Hello~ will become Hello

On the left is a screenshot of how it looks on mobile.

Friday, April 29, 2016

India is losing land to China & Pakistan in front our very own eyes!

I do not belong to any political part, cult or organization. Am just a true blue Indian concerned the way India is loosing its land. The worst part is, no one is raising it! The parties are busy discussing Rahul's IQ or Mr Modi's chest size - this is a more pressing matter and a loot that is happening in the front of our very own eyes.

The three maps of India above show the below three stages:
Left Map : The one of the left is the map I was taught when I was in school
Center Map : That is what you find most commonly on internet these days - part of J n K is with Pakistan
Right Map : Now the other half is with China (and Arunachal is disputed)

The first time I came to know about the revised map of India was a few years ago on some random website on the internet. I thought it might have been a mistake but slowly similar maps started popping up everywhere. It was alarming and more alarming was the fact that no one, not a single media house or political party raised it. It is like the elephant in the room, everyone knows about it but no one wants to discuss it.

I admit, that probably that piece of land was India's and we lost it because Pakistan occupied one part and China the other before we could act thanks to the useless bureaucracy that we have. So maybe these maps showing what they do is actually just the reflection of what the ground situation is. 

It may not be in our favour and we are on the losing side, or so it may seem, but there needs to be a discussion that are we to accept the lost portion as lost. Or are we going to fight to get it back - not a war but you can fight at the UN. You can send ships to Vietnam and Japan and try to coax China. You can start disrupting the port at Karachi.

Annexation of land amounts to an act of war - I do not profess a war. But I definitely do profess some action for the country that we are losing to outsiders right in front of our very own eyes. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

A rolling stone gathers no moss

Disclaimer : This blog is a random babble and does not have a head or a tail. Its occasions like these I miss the days when my blog was secret. But, I guess there are times when I'd like my blog to be read too. :)

Years ago, when I was in Kolkata I made a decision based on experience. Having lived in multiple cities in a short life span of 23 years I truly understood the proverb, "A rolling stone gathers no moss". It's a profound saying - few understand it, even fewer have experienced it.

I do not profess to be a teacher in the art of living and admit having had an imperfect life till date. Its been a life of majestic highs and disappointing lows. Though I do honestly admit to having had achieved a bunch of true friends from across the world. I can proudly say that as of today am in touch with all except one. I guess the exception of one just proves the point of an imperfect life and the roller coaster it has been. Its my experience that imperfections correct themselves over time - which is a story for a different blog itself.

Anyways, coming back to my initial topic - so years ago I decided to come to Pune. I would have preferred to go back to my small city called Bhavnagar but sadly that has not been possible to achieve, but someday I shall. Over the years in Pune I've made lots of friends, the funny thing about life is if you get stuck with a job, with a routine you stop meeting new people unless newer people meet you.

That's when I figured out the other side of the proverb, "A routined soul gathers no moss either" and so began my next quest to socialize. Its been an eventful journey for a person like me who takes time to trust but slowly and steadily it is happening. Of course a routined life lived efficiently leaves you with a lot of time too which helps in meeting newer people and more friends.

So as I continue on this journey I hope to be able to enhance even more on the proverb by the end of this year, "A routined rolling stone gathers no moss"

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Corporate Life - Changing jobs

Currently I work in the KPO industry - its elongated as the Knowledge Process Outsourcing Industry. I believe this industry the greatest piece of dumb luck India has had after Independence. 

Why So? Without it, India's burgeoning population wouldn't have had jobs or work to do. The amount of fresh grads this industry absorbs and trains is phenomenal. India's schools and colleges are mostly dismal in imparting education required for a guy from rural India to make it or be fit for any type of Corporate careers. These KPO and even BPO firms train such half trained kids and make them eligible for shot at a decent corporate career. The amount of employment and skill up gradation they provide is simply mind boggling. But that is not what this blog is about - its about changing jobs. An aspect of the KPO industry that is painful and very common with most KPO's running at a 35% annual attrition rate - what it basically means is that, 1/3rd of your team will leave within the year!

I have changed a few jobs and will agree that in India, the West and the South offers the best jobs. For technology companies, Hyderabad offers the best companies followed by Bangalore and then Mumbai and the rest. For KPO industry its a bit all over the place but primarily concentrated in certain pockets. What basically it means, that any person who changes a job has a reasonable chance of changing his city as the opportunities are spread around.

That brings me to the crux of my blog today, is changing city a good idea. I used to think if the money was worth it, yes it was! But as you mature, priorities and understanding of the world around you changes. I have started to believe that it may not be the smartest thing after a certain age. A rolling stone gathers no moss they say, it actually is a double edged sword. Imagine moss as intellect, friends, connections and family - if you move about too often you may not gather it.

My advice, finalize on a city in your career as soon as possible and build around it. A few years can be spent roaming about but always have it at the back of your mind. Build your network, your connections in that one city - it will help in very interesting ways. Yes, there may be occasions when you can definitely change and should change your city - but it today's world of flux and continual change, permanency is something that may just be the thing that actually sets you apart. Stick to a city - and as long as it has adequate opportunities and think medium term because in the long term we all are dead anyways. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Mumbai 26/11 returns as Paris 14/11 - Similarities between Mumbai and Paris attacks

The resemblance is uncanny - technically the Paris attack are a direct copy paste of the Mumbai attacks. Actually, the terrorist learned from their mistakes in Mumbai. It's ironic none of the international media is able to draw a parallel. They are drawing a parallel with a Charlie Hebdo attacks whereas instead the direct link needs to be Mumbai. Above all, the Paris Police need to quickly learn from the Indian authorities on how to investigate it correctly same way as the terrorist learnt how to improve such attacks.

Here are some very obvious parallels:

  • Simultaneous coordinated attacks over multiple locations
  • Low security targets attacked
  • Very well trained gunmen
  • They attacked at a time when these locations were crowded
  • The scale was mostly similar - one prime city in a country they wanted to terrorize 
  • Cheap AK 47s and machine guns were used to make it a low cost mission
  • They had sufficient training to carry out such a mission
Now, the terrorist did some mistakes too when they attacked Mumbai. 
  • In Mumbai, terrorist did not wear suicide belts
    • That was probably their biggest mistake and that is why Kasab was caught alive and the investigation got a head start - in Paris it was meant to be a suicide mission with suicide belts which were to be used when all the carnage was done
  • In Mumbai, terrorist called back home
    • Again it was a mistake as the phone conversations were intercepted and the link with Pakistan was established. I am ready to stick out my neck and say that the terrorist in Paris made sure they did not commit this mistake.
  • In Mumbai, terrorist carried food 
    • In the hindsight, it was a waste of space as any which ways they were on a suicide mission. And they figured, food and water was something they could easily get from their targets
    • People may argue that they had planned a longer mission and hence the food inn Mumbai; the counter argument would be, it was just a simple miscalculation due to lack of experience as a protracted attack did not increase their hit rate in hindsight
If you objectively analyze it, the Paris attack were inspired by the Mumbai attacks. Someone, did a lot of research on the attacks in Mumbai, not to mention the fact that they may hired a consultant from Pakistan ISI to assist them in planning the attacks.

Of course the French did a lot of things better than Mumbai; above all the French media was much more responsible than the Indian media that made it a show to increase TRP. Also, the police acted as fast as they could and neutralized the threat.

Now the French (a first world country) may feel ashamed to admit that they had an attack similar to one in a third world country - but guess what, India managed to stop the attacks (Indian Mujaheddin attacks were stopped too). I would recommend the French authorities to contact their Indian counterparts and talk. Else, the French are going to have a tough time stopping such attacks as Indians were attacked just for the heck of it, but the folks attacking France have a bone to pick. And Indians have learnt over the years how to deal with such attacks thanks to Pakistan - for the Western world this may just be a start.

Back Link : 

Friday, November 13, 2015

A true story

"Sir, I can't sleep, am worried if I calculated the amount correctly. I even see the amounts in my dreams", said Ram over the call.
"Don't worry tonight, you can't do much about it from home. Tomorrow when you reach office check it. Sleep tonight, I'll handle in case any issues come up - I am your manager and that's my job", said I trying to placate him and get done with the call.
"OK Sir, Good Night", said he and put down the call.

I sighed as I continued with my dinner in the office canteen. It was 4 AM on a cold November night in 2013 and I had been in office for over 16 hours now. The transition from UK to India was killing me and there was no end in sight. My team comprised fresh out of college grads and needed a lot of hand holding which was proving to be difficult. Above all, Ram had proved to be a challenge and training him was taking a toll on me.

Ram came from a small village near Belgaum. He had had a very humble beginning. His dad ran a small provision store that barely made 5000 Rs a month and he had 4 mouths to feed. The MBA degree that Ram had got from one of the hundreds of colleges that dotted the Indian landscape did not teach him much (or so thought I), but did set him back by 100,000 Rs not to mention the additional 30,000 loan he had taken from his friends to come to Pune and find a job.

I still remembered the first day when he had told me his calculation :
"Sir, I get 12,572 every month as salary in hand. I pay 2000 in rent and spend 900 on food. I come by bike on a sharing basis so it just costs me 600 Rs as otherwise the office cab would have costed me 1600 Rs! Additional expense come to about 1000 Rs every month. So in all I save 8072 a month. In case I skip lunch for a week, I may even save more that month", he told me with a grin.
I asked, "So for what are you saving the money for"
"Sir, my target is to save 100,000 by this year end and pay off most of my college loan. Then by the middle of next year I will pay off the rest of the loans and then start sending money home to help my dad pay off his debt"

So touched was I that I could only say, "Good" to that. As he walked by, I thought, 2 years of his life will be spent on saving every penny to pay off a debt that otherwise could be paid off in 2 months had he had a fair chance at opportunities that life offered well off kids in India. It was unfair, yet he was happy to have got a job after 4 month of searching.

As I sat there staring at my dinner I wondered what could be done with him as he was not performing well on the process. Other managers had suggested replacing him (i.e. firing him) with a newer resource who had better communication and was more skilled. But I had resisted. I felt that he deserved a chance at life. A chance to make him and his family debt free. The sacrifice needed was added attention and support that he would require - I was ready to do it. I felt I owed that much to a fellow human being. Above all, I saw that he was also eager to achieve that. That was all that I needed.

I took that decision 2 years back and it was a grueling journey for both of us. He was an epitome of being the most unfit candidate for the job. He had no communication skills and the job required that to the fore. Yet he persisted. Yet he tried. Not to mention so did I - to groom him.

Today as I look back at him I smile. He has grown as a person. Above all, he appreciates it. Its rare to find such employees these days. The humble beginnings definitely helped. Today he asks for extra salary and thinks of buying fancy gold rings. His demands have increased because he has been enabled to make that demand. It took a toll on me, but I know it was worth it.

As I see his family photos on facebook of a trip he went on, I come to realize how important and crucial those two years were for him and his family and what a transformation it has brought in his life.

Now he earns 20,000 a month. Still pittance compared to what others may, yet he is happy.

Finally, I guess, you should follow your heart - it normally points you in the right direction is what I feel.

To Ram.

*Name has been deliberately changed to conceal identity - but this is a true story of an employee who is a part of a team I manage and Ram continues to work in that team

Monday, November 9, 2015

Whats wrong with TinyOwl?

Maybe nothing as of now. TinyOwl's founders would have to be really dumb to have something wrong at their firm after raising 100 cr just 8 months back and having another 50 million USD lined up. Actually, TinyOwl may have become the victim of its own hype and the fact that people forgot that they are a start ups and allowed to do mistakes. I personally do not believe their current business practices are going to make them last long, but yes, as of today it should look like a perfectly healthy company to the outside world.

The important word here is Outside World. Now, a murmur has been going round in the investor community since the last year or so of the exorbitant funding/valuations start ups are receiving with no tangible value add to the customer beyond discounts. It is as if everyone knows about the elephant in the room but no one is talking about it. Take the example of Tiny Owl - they were founded in 2014 and received a funding for 100 cr by February on a base of almost no sales or traction to warrant this scale of investment. This level funding was based on two premise by investors :

  • A start up has to show traction, no matter how small - investors will put in money to fuel this
  • Registered users matter more than revenue
Because of these two premises we saw a trend towards getting more users registered at any cost. Tiny Owl offered 100% cash back at one point and Food Panda was not lagging at 80% discount. The aim - get more registered users. If you think about all the new apps you've used - PayTM, Swiggy, Myntra, etc - they all ask one thing in common, a customers email address and phone number. That's the thing that's going to get them the next round of funding, not the next sale. Its ironic how the priority turned the wrong way in no time.

So the question comes, weren't investors aware of this. Of course they were - but that's the thing with hype - when you are a part of it, you ignore the risks. The smart investors already reduced their investment portfolios in the last year into internet companies or took a really hard look before investing, but then there are always those who will just follow the herd b

So what is in store? Well, actually its a good thing Tiny Owl's lay off got hyped up. These questions will now be asked more openly and hopefully we will have a soft landing to this investment boom based on crazy myths. Expect some metaphorical bloodbath as more of these startup's run into the proverbial trouble. 

Finally, the few start ups that will survive will be the ones that offer true value add to the customers. Value adds that go beyond discounts as discounts are not sustainable. Here's my bet in the food industry - FoodPanda, TinyOwl are going to disappear, Swiggy may just prove to be the winner given the investment its putting into its value chain. 2016 shall tell.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I am no poet

My Wife

Twinkling and Winking, she wakes me up Thinking;
Hugging and Whispering, she starts the day very Pleasing;
She is my beautiful morning alarm.

Rambling and Dancing, she goes around Prancing;
Mumbling and Grumbling, she does it with Fumbling; 
She is my go to office charm.

Energizing and Strengthening, she bonds like Gluing;
Laughing and Helping, she is a Friendling;
She is my awesome social bond.

Analyzing and planning, she goes on manning;
Huffing and Puffing, she like being the homeling;
She is my baby mom.

Cooking and Serving, she is very caring;
Slicing and Dicing, she is a chefling;
She is my 'fatten him up' tom.

Calling and talking, she goes on babbling;
Smiling and Beaming, she is very happening;
She is my energy song.

Ordering and executing, she is very leading;
Tiring and hardworking, she goes on multitasking;
She is my manager all along.

Laughing and bumping, she returns home jumping;
Shopping and eating, she is well knowing;
She is my grey eyed prom.

Patting and cuddling, she begins sleeping;
Humming and dreaming, she starts dozing; 
She is my loving wife lifelong.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to reissue your passport in India

I recently had my passport reissued and it was a very tedious experience given the nature of the process and since we have a very horrible and corrupt police verification system.

Re-Issue your passport

Below are the steps that a person can take if he wants his passport reissued.

Location : Hyderabad

Background : I live in Hyderabad for my work but am from a different state so my permanent and temporary address were different.

Step 1 : Fill in the online Passport Application form 

It all begins with filling in a form online and making the payment on the passport website here. You can save the form and keep editing it till you don't make the payment but please note that you cannot edit the City from where you want your passport reissued - so it's best to think out where that will be. The validity of the online form is one month, so you will need to make the payment and submit it before that.

Also another important thing to take care of is to ensure that you have the correct Police station selected as you can't change it later.

Step 2 : Make payment & book an Appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra (PSK)

Once you are sure you have made all the changes, you are ready to make the payment for 1500 Rs for regular passport. Make sure you opt for the SMS service as it can prove to be very helpful and convenient. Also in case you do not opt for it, you will be able to view the status of your application online. 

As soon as you make the payment, you will get an option to Pick a Date for your appointment at the PSK. In Hyderabad, the earliest date available for a regular appointment was 2 months away - I chose one that was the most convenient for me. However, do not waste time on selecting a date and chose one as quickly as you can as in some cases the dates may get full and you may have to wait another day.

Also, keep the printer handy as you will be given a confirmation receipt when you pick a date that you will have to print. You can even print the same at a later date if you so wish.

Step 3 : Appointment at the PSK

The PSK is managed by TCS and compared to other government organizations it's pretty well managed. You will only be allowed to enter the premise 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time, so just plan accordingly. There is no point reaching there very early as you will not be allowed to enter.

The PSK in Hyderbad have paid parking space nearby so finding parking space is not a problem if you are planning to drive down like me.

Documents required for Passport

The list of documents required for the passport are given here.

Please note that the passport office are very firm in terms of the required documents and will not accept any lapse. However, the good thing is, in case you do not have a document they give a few days to procure them.

In my case, since I did not have a few documents, I was given 3 weeks to procure the document and come again next time with the required documents.

Step 4 : Appointment at the Passport Seva Kendra - Window A

On the day of your appointment, if you have all the required documents, you will fist have to go to Window A (at least in Hyderabad). Your documents are verified and they are put in a folder by the person present there. Normally, the process works this way:
- You give the person the documents
- He asks you to wait at the side for sometime
- He files them in a folder and then shouts out your name in about 10/15 minutes
- He will give you the folder and ask you to move on to the next section

Step 5 : Photograph

Once you complete Step 4, you will be given a token number. This number will flash on the screens that are put up along with the window number you need to go to for further processing.
Normally, this is the next room that you need to enter after going through a turnstile. In this section, all your originals entered in the folder by the previous section are verified again and then they take a photograph using a webcam.

Personally, I felt that using a WebCam gave them a very poor quality/low resolution photograph but it is what it is and you can't do much about it. Please note that this photo will be the one that will come on your passport.

Also, in case you have registered for SMS services, you will need to pay 30 Rs here for the facility. Note that they will ask for change so make sure you carry that.

Step 6 : Previous records

Then you move to the next section where any history associated with your Passport is verified and they inform you if you will require police verification or not.

I was pretty impressed by the fact that they were able to pull up an ECNR request I had filed 8 years ago from Kolkatta - the fact that surprised and impressed me was that even at that time these records were maintained (or alternatively, these records had now been digitized).

The lady there confirmed to me that I'd require a police verification as my previous passport was issued in Gujarat and there was an address change compared to my previous passport.

Also in this section, they stamp your old passport with a stamp that says, Cancelled and give it back to you.

TIP : In case you are reissuing your passport, always use the same address you had as on the earlier passport. It will save you the trouble of having to go to the police station - the most corrupt and rude office in the whole process.

Step 7 : Exit from the Passport Seva Kendra

You will need to fill in an exit form which asks for feedback on any of the steps you found to be a hassle or in case any employee was rude. This is a good exercise as it helps to provide authentic feedback - does TCS action it or not is a question I have till date.

Step 8 : Police verification

This is the most corrupt and problematic section of the whole process. I had police verification post issuance, so I got my passport within 15 days from my request, however I still had to go for police verification as I had a change in address vis a vis my previous passport.

I got a call from the police station mentioning the time when I had to visit. I will write a separate blog on the same, however for issue free verification below are the general rates and threats the police guy will make (over and above the insulting way they talk).
- In case all documents are present : Pay 100-300 Rs as processing charges (else we will visit your home for verification at the time you are not at home and send a Police Verification Failed Report)
- In case a document is missing : Pay 3000 Rs or more (no need to submit documents - we will manage it at our end is what the police officer will tell you)

As a hint, in all probability, you will be asked to pay a bribe pretty blatantly. Always negotiate on the bribe amount asked. I saw quite a few people successfully negotiating the amount to half or more.

Overall Feedback

If you have all the required documents as mentioned in the list, the process is very easy at the PSK. The staff is generally helpful and a welcome relief from the otherwise impossible to deal with government departments.

The police verification piece is pretty nasty - be ready to be insulted there and get vague answers. In case you don't have any document required, don't bother about procuring it, it would work out to be cheaper bribing the police guy than trying to get the document. There are instances when some good officers may not take bribe, but those are very rare. On the day I went for verification, everyone was asked to pay up pretty blatantly (100 Rs to 5000 Rs).

As always, police are the biggest crooks and thieves in India. After this experience, I understood why its best to have the police under some political control - in case they create a lot of nuisance, you can always complain to the local Corporator and the things will get sorted.

SMS Service
In case you subscribe to the SMS Service, you'll get some of the below messages. Some are difficult to understand so below is the interpretation.

SMS Messages and their interpretation

Message 1 : Thanks for opting Passport Seva SMS Services. You will receive updates on your File No. BN071268435013 through SMS 
Interpretation 1 : Your have successfully registered for the SMS service. And the file number is for tracking purposes - you can use it on the website to track your application.

Message 2 : Passport printing inititiated for your File No. BN071268435013. You will receive SMS once your passport is printed.
Interpretation 2 : You will receive this message a few days after you have submitted the documents at the PSK. Since, mine was reissue, I got the passport before the police verification was done. Please note that for re-issue, you will have post verification, what that means is passport will be dispatched irrespective of whether your verification is done or not.

Message 3 : Passport printed for your File No. BN071268435013. You will receive SMS once it is dispatched by speed post.
Interpretation 3 : As the message says, the passport is printed and ready for dispatch. Please note, in case of urgent requirement, you can directly collect the passport from the PSK at this stage.

Message 4 : Passport No R1323432 dispatched on 07/01/2015 and can be tracked using Speed Post Tracking No. RA9454354IN
Interpretation 4 : As the message says, that the passport has been dispatched. It will take a day or two to reach your home. Please note that in case you miss the delivery the speed post guy will take the passport back to his regional head office and you need to go there and collect it within 5 days. In case you miss to collect it, it will be sent back to the PSK! Then it becomes a big nuisance as then you will have to pay bribes to retrieve it. So please make sure you don't miss it.

Message 5 : Police Verification initiated. Contact Nampally Thana, if not done in 3 weeks
Interpretation 5 : What it means is that your file has been sent to the local police station. Please note that normally the police Thana official will give you a call and ask you to come to the station in a week or two from this message. They will give you the time when you need to come on the call itself. Alternatively, you can visit the Thana in case of urgency - but be ready to bribe them to speed up your case. The police station is the most corrupt place in the whole system.

Message 6 : Police Report not yet finalized by Commissioner of Police, Dist Hyderabad City. Contact Police for details
Interpretation 6 : Now this is a very misleading message and confuses a lot of people. The police and the PSK have an understanding that the police need to submit the report to the PSK within 30 days. Since police are very lazy, they do not submit the report to the PSK in 30 days and that's why we get this automated message. You should not worry about it as normally in two weeks from this message you will get confirmation stating that your verification is completed. 

I even went to the Commissioners office when I got this message, they told me that my application was still being processed and this was an automated message.

Message 7 : Police has submitted Clear report for your current address
Interpretation 7 : Yippie. You are done. You have a clear report on your passport.

Practical Tips

  • At times getting a the appointment date for the PSK can have some wait period (of over 1 month in some cases). So its better to book an appointment ASAP.
  • The PSK (Passport Seva Kendra) normally has a customer query window that is helpful. If you have questions its best to pay them a visit beforehand.
  • If you are renewing/reissuing your passport it is to keep the address same as the previous address (even if you have moved to a different address). If the address is same as previous, there will be no police verification if the address is same. However please note that the passport will be sent by speed post to that address. So someone should be there to collect it.
  • In case you miss to collect the speedpost, the post man will normally keep a note on the door mentioning your courier id. You need to visit the local post office in your area within 7 days with the ID to collect it. In case you fail to do so, it will be sent back to the PSK.

Also in case you have any more questions, please add them in teh comments below and I will be happy to answer them.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

POTUS In India

The Beast lands, Air Force 1 is prepped up, Sheraton has 157 rooms as POTUS is coming to India. For some reason, the whole theme of the Obama visit and the jargon that goes with it sounds as if we just found Santa Claus and are bringing him to India.

Agreed, Barack Obama is the President of the Unites States of America (POTUS) and technically the most important person the earth has to offer, but purely in terms of achievements a single visit can only do as much. Democracies unlike Autocracies have a long decision making process and a single visit by the president is just a large step in million other smaller steps. In terms of timeline, a Obama visit with some definite agenda and action points tomorrow will achieve tangible benefits after 1 year!

I do not blame the media from hyping it up - there isn't any other Islamic bomber around currently blowing up things so they need to hype it up. Lost for any tangible things to speak on, the focus is on Obama's car (The Beast), his hotel (The Sheraton), his sniffer dogs, the number of security cameras and his loo timings not to mention Michelle Obama and daughters.

At this point I can be assured that both the leaders will say the meetings were very successful (at the end of the trip). They will say a lot has been achieved and we are all positive and gung ho about it, but purely from an engagement exercise, this visit will achieve more symbolically than much in terms of tangible benefits. I am more than inclined to ask Mr Obama to pitch in with Amitabh Bachhan in the 'Come to Gujarat' advertisement. Obama can definitely be a better tourist puller globally than Mr Bacchan.

So as things stand, Air Force One is ready for departure in 11 hours from now. Mr Obama has a long flight to India with a stop over in Germany landing in India at 10 AM on Sunday which I believe will be shown live on TV.

My 2 cents, Mr Obama, please pack warm clothes - its pretty cold in Delhi and the parade starts early :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Maggu's life till now

Its been over 6 months since I last wrote here - but I have a very good reason for it. Profound changes
Where Was I?
were happening in my life in the last 6 month : Maggu found Maggie and married her. <>

So, how did the story unfold. Well it began like how most arranged marriages would - the first date over coffee initiated by our parents. We talked a lot of nonsense over the date, but somewhere deep down you connect - you know it the moment you are done with the meeting and depart. You know it because you haven't felt this feeling earlier. You know it because you think about it. There are a billion reasons why you know it, but you do. On the other side of the fence, I thought it would be very difficult to find someone like me through 'arranged marriage', but well, turned out actually it wasn't so difficult. The only thing you need to be ready for - a long tedious process of meeting a hell lot of girl (honestly, speaking when you think of it, its something that should promising for any self respecting guy).

Once Maggu found Maggie, the story began. Late night coffee and drives through the deserted streets of Pune. A drive into the mountains just for the lack of a good place to chat. Even a visit home and to the beaches and long winding roads it had to offer - it was a very fruitful courtship period at the end of it all.

And that's where Maggu (that's me), been busy. Courting Maggie. Setting up their new Nest as one of his cousins pointed out. Of course, now as the dust settles, Maggu got time to revive his art of writing. In the days to come, I plan to write of the journey it has been till now and the journey that is called The Indian Wedding.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The first separation

'What are you doing' asked Maggie over phone on a Friday afternoon.
'Just got off a call and will be dialing into the next one in a moment' said I as I scanned a management report on my desk sitting in office.
'Oh OK. Get done with your work. I am coming to meet you at your office' she said excitedly.
I just have a nervous giggle and said, 'Sure'.
I looked at my watch, it was 2:30 pm and Maggie would be coming over in 30 minutes. That meant I had very little time to finish off the report. I quickly jotted down a few To Do items, rescheduled the call, assigned a few tasks to my team and almost jogged downstairs to meet Maggie in the cafeteria.

Now as long as I have known her, Maggie has always had a cheerful smile on her face but today was different. She was sitting on a table and just staring at her fruit plate. I strode over to her and said :
'Hey, what's up'
'Hey, how are you' said she with a sad watery smile.
'What's wrong?' I asked very concerned.
'You know, I'll be going home this weekend. This is the first time I'll be leaving you' saying so a tear rolled down her cheek.
Then I understood what it was all about and was overcome with emotion. I just stood there with a smile on my face and gave her a pat on her shoulder and said, 'Don't worry it'll be fine. I'll call you regularly'
She looked at me and with a watery smile and said 'I know this looks stupid and it's just three days but I will miss you and that's making me cry. Will you miss me?'
'Heck I will. I'll be in touch every day and make sure you don't miss me'
She wiped off her tears, gave a brighter smile and said 'I guess it's best to start our snacks. But before we do that I want to tell you again Maggu, I love you too much'

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

5 steps to get investors for your startup

Get Funded
Having been associated with a many software start ups across India, I have noticed a recurring issue that most start ups face - how to get angel funding. Based on the experience garnered through various pitch events, competitions and preparing countless PPTs, below is the collated list of the experiences garnered.

Having a great concept, great product or even a great idea is not enough if you are not able to sell it - so read on.
  1. Friends and Family
    This has to be the first place you look for funding. This is the safest and the most reliable bet when raising funds. Dig through your relatives and close friends, try to find that rich uncle in your family and see what he can offer. In all my years of experience, I have noticed that it is the most easiest way to raise funds for any start up - not only that, it is the most safest in terms of any legal aspects if your business goes sideways. Best of all, you don't need to give guarantees and do a tonne of paperwork - your word will suffice.
  2. Commercial Investors
    What if you can't find a family member to fund your dream project - in that case you need to reach out to the investor community at large - Mumbai Angels, Sequoia Capital, IAN, etc to name a few in India. The question is, how do you convert a potential investor into an actual one.
    • Persistence
      Persistence no doubt is the single most important factor. You need to identify the point man for any investor group and start following up with him. Investors are humans and like attention - give it to them. Contact them and develop a personal relationship. Getting the first meeting is the most important and persistence is the key to that. Get a meeting and 50% of the battle is won.
    • Great User Interface
      Once you have your first meeting scheduled, what next? Well, its very simple actually. Investors go through 100s of pitch presentations monthly and rarely have time to go over the details. They rarely look at the working model of the product - the first thing(and in quite a few cases the only thing) that attracts them is a great UI (User Interface). It is paramount that you get that right - a few bugs in the actual product is acceptable but a flawed UI will be reject outright. Get it right and 90% of your battle is won.
    • Prototype
      Nothing attracts an investors as much as a profitable prototype. If you have a small prototype - show it to them. It may be small in scale, all you need to show them is that it works and is profitable by itself. If you can convince them of this, your battle is won. The cheque is in hand with one last question - entry barriers.
    • Know the entry barrier to your business
      The biggest fear any investor has are other investors! What if another investor with deeper pockets starts a similar business - how will you beat him? You need to know the entry barriers to your business that can prevent competition from stopping you (atleast in the initial few years). If you can convince your investor on this final piece, you will have the cheque in hand.
  3. Crowd Funding
    If the above two options don't work for you another option to raise funds is to opt for Crowd Funding. Though personally I would advise against it especially if you are raising funds for projects in India because most people are not keen to crowd fund projects in India. Still if you have the time (as crowd funding can take over a few years) and are keen on trying, this is another option to consider to raise funds.
  4. Event Participation
    This is the last option that can help you raise funds if the ones above don't work. It is not actually an investment strategy but is more of a survival strategy (which seems to have worked for a few start ups). All you need to do is participate and win events for start ups. There is Nasscom's 10,000 start ups challenge, Microsoft Bizspark, Microsoft Code for Honour and many others which are starting to form a part of the annual calendar with handsome cash prizes. Nominate yourself in these and see if you can win the cash which can act as a great survival strategy.
Finally, a word of advise, don't make raising funds the sole aim of your life but make your product the most important piece of your life. If your start up is profitable by itself, it can bootstrap itself with no funding required. It is difficult, but will give you the maximum satisfaction. And finally, if you do get funded, remember - 2% of something is far more greater than 100% of nothing.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Glass paininting and a flying dragon

Maggu's Color pallete
It was turning out to be a usual Saturday for Maggu and Maggie(Maggu's fiancée). They had gone out to meet a cousin in the morning then had done grocery shopping and finally some window shopping late into the afternoon.

Snack Time - Maggu's Prep
As the sun began its decent into a pleasant evening a tiny thought crossed Maggie's mind - let's do a glass painting.

Now Maggu is no expert at painting but he knew Maggie was and was keen to see how she painted so he was all for it. And so began the 'Glass Painting'.

Maggie's Color Pallette
As Maggie toiled though the evening on the piece of glass, Maggu watched in awe as a masterpiece was created out of a piece of glass and some colours. Of course this meant that he had to do all the household chores like getting the evening snack ready.

Maggu's Masterpiece
For reasons unknown looking at Maggie paint Maggu got tempted to paint his own masterpiece late into the evening. With limited skill set, a large heart and basic water colours Maggu began his own creation - a dragon.

Maggie's Masterpiece
To cut the story short, in about an hours time and just before it was time for Maggie to depart the two masterpieces were ready. Till date Maggu can't stop admiring his masterpiece and finding ways to sell Maggie's art. **wicked grin**

PS : In Maggu's defence, my imagination should be credited and the fact that now kids can know how clouds are created. Additionally, Maggu had far lesser colors to choose from compared to Maggie, so his lack of perfection and choice of colors should be excused.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to get your electricity connection reconnected

Everyone at some point or time in their life would have had to face this predicament. The wireman comes to your door step one fine morning and announces that he is going to disconnect your  electricity connection for non payment of bills.

I recently had such an experience. I was pretty alarmed by the prospect as any interaction with any  government entity is fraught with touts which extract a hell lot of money from you. But I went ahead and ultimately it turned out to be fairly simple. So I just decided to jot down the steps for anyone who needs to re connect their  electricity connection.

Step 1: Pay the outstanding bill at the nearest MSEB office. Note that you will not be able to pay the outstanding bill online as MSEB does not have that provision. Also keep the receipt of payment handy.

Step 2: The same office should provide you a re connection form. Go to the relevant department, show them that you have paid the outstanding bill and fill in the reconnection chalan.

Step 3: Take the chalan, go to the accounts section (that will be the same where you paid the bill) and pay the fine of 100 Rs.

Step 4: Then photo copy (Xerox) the 4 documents (i.e. bill, receipt of payment of bill, chalan, receipt of payment of chalan) and take it to the substation office where your home lies in.

Step 5: Submit photo copy to the substation office and you are done. The person will come and reconnect the connection in a few hours.

- In case the wireman disconnects the connection in front of you try coaxing him into not doing it and pay the bill
- Always take the Wireman's phone number so it's easier for follow up
- There is a possibility that you may need to visit more than one office if different departments are in different locations. Be ready to travel a bit. Ideally they would be in a 3 km radius
- In case you don't have the physical copy of your  electricity bill, you can take a print out online