Friday, June 30, 2017

If and when Alphabet / Google fails ..

Larry Page
The reality of the present day metropolitan lifestyle - Alphabet/Google influences more than 50% of a metropolitan citizen's alert life .. With the vast spread of the tentacles of the Internet, the rest of the world catching up is not far away. Look at the scenario below ..

We are all very comfortable presently logging into Google and carrying out our daily chores of communication, knowledge gathering, blogging, Google maps, you tube videos, searching, video calling, using Android smartphone etc..

What will happen if one day Google hangs up and the founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin decide to call it a day and go on a loooooong holiday ? (they are already among the top ten richest people on planet earth now with personal wealth of almost $50 billion each)

The whole world is used to Google apps and innovative offerings for almost everything in their lives. A very tricky situation which we need to ponder about ..  The result is the Google effect -
1. no friendly discussion with colleagues and friends,
2. coccooning effect - people tend to be to themselves most of the time and
3. intellectual laziness - a laziness to understand things, you just need to know which sources to tap for the knowledge, not the knowledge by itself. 
Socrates in 475 BC bemoaned the practice of writing saying it would kill the practice of memorising. Similarly the development of the Gutenberg's printing press in the 15th century, brought many people to decry it saying it would also stop people from memorising. Over time, we have found that these developments instead of pulling us back, have only helped us to scale greater heights in societal development, economic upliftment, scientific growth and technological innovations.

Sergei Brin 
How can we insulate ourselves from the harmful effects of a Google shutdown ? Let me start with the Google effect. 

For example most of us Google site maximum for
1. Internet search
2. Gmail is our indispensable mailing client  
3. most important, Google Drive is also our precious online storage, stores all my class notes, case study manuscripts and final pdfs, academic writings and so on. 
4. It is an indispensable word processing client, most of us have chucked MS and its products for many years now.  
5. Google Blogger additionally serves as valuable teaching aid that supplements classroom teaching, reaching out to the "knowledge-thirsty" student community all over the world.  
6. Google News keeps us updated with events happening around the world and it updates us on a minute-by-minute basis.  
7. Google Maps helps us in Bengaluru to tide over the painstaking traffic by giving real time updates on the traffic conditions in Bangalore
The only two areas where Google has still not entered is in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and E-learning portals. In a world thirsting for knowledge, the earlier Google enters, the better it is for them - just my opinion !!

If Google decides to shut down, most of us are in for serious trouble, as are a good part of the world population !! If Google decides to withdraw its free offerings and charges, we may or may not go for it, that's a different issue. The fact is Google is not in this field of business just for money (like Microsoft..), as much as for their passion for innovation and enterprise ..

The greatest attraction of Google's parent company Alphabet, which has grown inorganically through over 200+ acquisitions over a 19 year period, is its passion to innovate. Google always has a surprise element in its offering and this brings in the needed novelty. Any person logging in anytime never gets bored and is attracted to its different offerings. It could also bring psychological states of addiction in some cases.

How Google Maps helps me tide over the unruly Bengaluru traffic ?

Google's secrets of Innovation .. Susan Wojcicki, earlier Google VP Advertising ...

Google surprises the world with its stream of innovative products ..

Google's innovation potential brought the Google LunarXprize challenge, which Team Indus from Bangalore is very confident of winning.  The prize money is $30 million ..

The problem I feel which could be a major threat is, what if somebody with a lot of money takes over Google ? What if the new owner of Google is not an enterprising, as innovative, as inventive, as open minded, as unorthodox, as unconventional, as inventive and as ingenious as Page and Brin ?

For the time being lets hope such an eventuality never happens !!
Maybe the Google effect will help us conquer some other dimensions of human intelligence which humanity is yet to conceive and comprehend !

Ref : 1. Ramaprasad, T, The Google Effect - Maybe good, maybe bad, The Hindu, April 2012. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A primer on Cryptocurrencies ...

Of late we are seeing the rising surge in use of virtual currency - cryptocurrencies and the issue of many Initial Crypto Offerings (ICO) in the market..

The most popular however happens to be Bitcoin and Ethereumn and some more .. We shall try to explain something about bitcoin, the most popular of them.  

Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority or banks; managing transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is open-source; its design is public, nobody owns or controls Bitcoin and everyone can take part. Through many of its unique properties, Bitcoin allows exciting uses that could not be covered by any previous payment system.-

Value of bitcoins ...
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and a digital payment system invented by an unknown programmer, or a group of programmers, under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. It was released as open-source software in 2009.
The system is peer-to-peer, and transactions take place between users directly, without an intermediary. These transactions are verified by network nodes and recorded in a public distributed ledger called a blockchain. Since the system works without a central repository or single administrator, bitcoin is called the first decentralized digital currency.
Besides being created as a reward for mining, bitcoin can be exchanged for other currencies, products, and services in legal or black markets.
As of February 2015, over 100,000 merchants and vendors accepted bitcoin as payment. According to research produced by Cambridge University in 2017, there are 2.9 to 5.8 million unique users using a cryptocurrency wallet, most of them using bitcoin. -

Cryptocurrencies together around the world presently have a combined value of about $80 billion .. (click here for the Economist article ..)

What are the advantages of Cryptocurrencies ?

1. Limited nos of currency in circulation, issue of fake currency is totally removed with encryption and distributed database
2. Difficult to duplicate as it each transaction needs confirmation/authentication from a digital database - the blockchain
3. Just like shares, a cryptocurrency value can fluctuate as more people start using it and can be reliable form of currency
4. The volume of crytocurrencies in use also increase at a predetermined rate in such a way that the value does not skyrocket at any point of time and holds it within reasonable limits. Bitcoins which were issues at $.05 in 2008 are now valued at more than $2420 as of 24 May 2017.
5. It is a global currency, no central bank controls it. The distributed database (blockchain) of the coins and the great secrecy with which it is encrypted makes the database difficult to breach or hack.
6. It gives customers freedom to store their wealth in national currencies or digital currencies
7. As digital currencies escape national government regulations, it is a definite pointer to a unified global currency and unified global markets.
8. The extensive range of use and applications of the block chain concept and encrypted digital currencies can ensure stability in global financial markets in future.
9. More popular an encrypted digital currency, more will be its usage and more value will come out of it.
10. The innovative uses of cryptocurrencies and blockchain is limitless, it could even change the way we do business in future cutting across national boundaries.

The Challenges :
1. The transaction cost is now at $6 per transaction which could demotivate large transactional volume
2. Transaction times can be anywhere from 2-3 hours as databases on blockchain around the world have to be referred before finalising any transaction.
3. Big IT firms can have hold and control of future cryptocurrencies and they could attempt to throttle free enterprise and monopolise global economic transactions
4. Can it be used in the wrong way like for example to finance extortions or drug money transactions ?
The coming days will definitely see innovative uses and applications of the concepts of cryptocurrencies  and blockchain database across the world. Let us wait for more of it. 


Friday, June 23, 2017

Mukesh Ambani shares entrepreneurial lessons ..

Mukesh Ambani is India's richest industrialist, though Reliance family is second to Tata Sons as the largest business conglomerate in India.

Frankly speaking, I used to think of him as a person who inherited a great business empire from his father. Despite academic qualification from one of the best business schools of the world, I really had doubts whether he would succeed. But the recent launch of Jio telecom which made India the most competitive telecom field in the world was something which would make everyone stand and applaud. Putting up to $33 billion into the telecom sector in the new startup, he not only made Jio the most promising telecom player in India, he made India the most competitive telecom field in the world. Even Vodafone had to call quits, were it not for Birla's Idea Telecom's timely intervention.

Recently while talking to a crowd of well-wishers, fellow industrialists and media persons at a NASSCOM event, he shared his life lessons on entrepreneurship.

Though these lessons are simple, they are heavy weight, worth their weight in gold... Since it comes from one of India's greatest entrepreneurs, it has great value for youngsters and old alike. Click here for the youtube video of the talk..

Here are his life lessons, hope someone out there benefits from it.

1. Figure out what one wants to do in life, what dream to pursue ..

2. Find a problem one is passionate about before finding a solution to the problem

3. In whatever actions or dreams one pursues, create societal value which benefits the society first, later financial returns will follow ..

4. Realise that failures are just a step before success, learn from them and never give up.

The next two points he says are non-negotiable ..

5. Treat investor's money with great care than one's own money

6. Have the right passionate team aligned with one's mission

7. Always be optimistic, entrepreneurs help spread positive energy in society

Now my respect for this person has increased by many times. As he says, creating societal value is one thing entrepreneurs should be primarily concerned about. When Mukesh visited IIT Bombay during the late 90s, though I attended hsi talks, I never then was impressed by his capabilities and personality.

Now I am thoroughly impressed with this person and his abilities to influence society and work wonders. I still have some anguish at the way he handles national wealth of oil in the Krishna Godavari basin for his personal aggrandisement.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why is General Motors exiting India .. ?

General Motors , over a century of operations around the world ..
After India's attraction as a manufacturing hub for some of the global popular and mid-range auto majors like Ford, GM, VW, Toyota, Renault, Hyundai, Suzuki, Skoda, Fiat, Volvo, BMW, Audi, Mercedes etc, for the first time we find GM is exiting India. As a management case study it makes great sense as to what went wrong with GM's India operations at Taloja, Maharashtra plant and how they could have salvaged it.

US takes pride in General Motors as the second great automobile company to come out of US in 1908 in the last century. One of its greatest CEOs Alfred P. Sloan already has the MIT Institute of Management named after this great leader. It is a great shock to the rest of the world and a great lesson for other automobile companies from around the world who already have operations in India or are planning to open up new ones to understand what went wrong with GM India strategies ? GM India now makes cars only for the Latin American market. 

The major reasons for GM India operations failure as has been outlined after a research by Prof. Vijay Govindarajan of Tuck School of Business are five in number (HBR, June 2017 issue).

After a thorough analysis of the reasons of the inglorious exit, we find the withdrawal of GM from India is due to the failure in two fronts, leadership and strategy.

Failure in Leadership 
1. Frequent change of Indian leadership - 9 CEOs have come and gone in 21 years heading the India operations, though the latest has been around for 14 years. The long term impact of frequent change made the situation within the country very fluid and no leader had a vision and long term plan for the company in India, GM having already exited from India two times in the past.
2. Local leaders never got autonomy to take independent decisions - Indian operations being large and catering to a billion plus population needs to have lot of autonomy content inbuilt, Indian CEO cannot be interacting with Global CEO and with Global HQ for each and every action to be taken to spearhead Indian day to day operations. This lack of autonomy to Indian CEO affected GM India operations and dented it's image much. 
Failure in planning strategies 
1. Indian operations can be run only with India specific strategies -  India being a global player and set to lead global economy by 2050 AD, cannot be expected to follow strategies suited for other economies. India is by nature very cost conscious and Indian customers are some of the greatest cost bargainers and at the same time demand unparalleled quality in the products, unlike other global customers. Global Companies need to look at such stringent cost and quality constraints as opportunities for growth and global leadership. General Motors failed to understand this truth in India. (the recent example of Vodafone running scared of their Indian telecom operations finally having to team up with Birla's Idea telecom is an example to quote) Suzuki and Hyundai, global auto leaders have suited their operations to manufacture sub compact cars for the middle class customers and have reaped intense benefit, together they control about 65% of Indian market.
2. Indian strategy has to be focused on volumes and scale, not just on expensive high end cars - Indian customers are very diligent when it comes to spending money on cars. They study the market carefully, make personal observations and ask their friends and relatives many times before finalising on a high value purchase - a societal norm too. Indian customers are extremely obsessed with value for money and do not allow themselves to be taken for a ride by the automobile companies. Companies that have a good dealership and maintenance chain across the country frequently do succeed in their domestic operations. Maruti, Hyundai, Tata etc have great maintenance network across the country.
3. Lack of a long term strategy - a long term strategy is much needed for success in Indian markets. India having opened to almost all auto-majors of the world now is a great ground for improving product competitiveness. It also holds promise to be the world's largest automobile market very soon especially with the advent of electric cars. Short term myopic strategies rarely succeed and fail in India because Indian customers are some of the smartest in the world. Despite initial setbacks, a company that focuses on long term vision only can hold itself and withstand intense competition from other global competitive players operating within the country.

This GM India withdrawal case should be an eye opener not only in the automobile sector but in the FMCG sector too. Indian cost consciousness already is making waves in the high-tech space technology and atomic energy market, India leading over the rest of the world in high-quality cost consciousness.

India once again proves to the world, that though it outwardly appears to be a castaway, it is high time countries and companies around the world started taking it seriously, if it is to stay in business in the country and plan for its future survival in the world..


Ref : 1. Govindarajan, Vijay and Gunjan Bagla, What US CEOs can learn from GM's India failure, HBR, June '17. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sadhguru on why we need to save our rivers

Sadhguru - Jaggi Vasudev ..
Great video.

Great civilizations around the world have thrived and survived on rivers. The Egyptian civilization around the river Nile, Mesopotamia civilization around the Euphrates Tigris, Indus Valley civilization around the river Indus, Chinese civilization around the river YangTseKiang etc.. 

Human civilization all over the globe over the past 10,000+ years have been interwoven with rivers, thriving on river banks .. 

Indian rivers in a single generation have from being perennial, become seasonal .. shocking ..

We need to save our rivers for survival of mankind on planet earth .. !!


Will Indian politicians allow the US game plan to disrupt Asia ?

Has the Indian political establishment fallen to CIA designs and plans to disrupt Asian economic growth ? Yes, there are all indicators for that ..

By pitting India against China, US intelligence has managed to push both countries not to worry about their economic growth, and instead concentrate on the nationalistic pitch, gain cheap publicity for the leaders to find an excuse to fight and distract from productive growth. 

Indian political leaders have clearly fallen to these destructive plans, looked outside their economic growth and derailed the economy in the long run.

The present Indian PM instead of playing to the gallery should be smart enough to see through this US game to continue their economic and political domination of the world. The former Indian PM was intelligent and smart enough to understand this, understood the priorities and acted accordingly. 

Present Indian PM Modi should realise that it is quite easy to ruin the economy, but it is very difficult to build it to greater glory and prosperity.. 👍👍


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Kochi metro sustainability initiatives ..

For the first time in the world - Each of the stations on Kochi metro are Platinum certified GREEN BUILDINGS , the highest ratings for sustainable buildings across the world granted by the Indian Green Buildings Council. 
E Sreedharan's contribution to Kochi metro has been phenomenal ..

This recognition is besides the already existing reputation for Kochi metro as
1. the most advanced metro in terms of signalling systems, connectivity etc 
2. the cheapest one in the country (at Rs 220 crore/km compared to Rs 337.3 crore per km for Bangalore Namma Metro, a clean Rs 107.3 crore more per kilometre !!) and  
3. the fastest executed metro in the country in just three and a half years compared to Bengaluru Namma metrro which has been struggling to cover an additional . 
To cover phase I of Bengaluru Namma metro (43 km) which is 60% more than Kochi Metro distance of 26 km, Bengaluru Namma metro has incurred INR 13,800 crores over Kochi's INR 5200 crores, a clean 150 % more. Inefficiency or corruption whatever it be, this is shocking..

When we talk of green buildings, we have to say that all the Kochi metro stations are built using locally available materials ensuring least transportation of building materials and storage, least disrupting natural streams and wetlands, ensuring best use of natural lighting eliminating expensive unnecessary indoor lighting,  best use of natural ventilation,  maximum use of renewable energy - almost 25% is solar energy and recycling of water, ensuring very healthy places to gather and travel to. 
The surprise never ends ! 👍

LED lighting across all stations, water efficient toilet fittings and rainwater harvesting in stations makes the Kochi Metro a greatly renewable energy type of ecosystem, recycling the precious resource of water, unheard of anywhere in the world ! 👍 Even every fourth pillar of the metro is an enviable hanging green garden full of flowers and rejuvenating the environment with Oxygen.

In short, the Kochi metro has the lowest Carbon footprint among all the 200 metros of the world !! 🙏, making Kochi leaping towards being recognised as the green capital of the world, with the world's first and only 100% solar energy powered and energy neutral International airport in the world, competing along with the Kochi Metro.


Friday, June 09, 2017

Byju's coaching classes.

Turning a coaching business to a mammoth online education venture worth $600 million in 2017, generating revenues of Rs. 260 crores, headquartered in Bengaluru in just 10 years from 2007 is a mammoth task.

Especially the organisation when it gets featured as a Harvard case it raises many an eyebrow. It is just great to read how this Malayalam-medium student from Azhikode, Kannur, Kerala is leading Byju's to be  India's first edu-based unicorn ..

Running the organisation, exhibiting great leadership
Byju's has already been valued at $600 million and set to be India's first edu-tech unicorn (>$ 1 billion valuation), It has already been financed by venture capitalists Sequoia Capital and Sofina, Chan Zuckerberg initiative and so on.

Byju, an Engineer by profession was already giving coaching to his roommates on how to crack the Indian Institutes of Management Common Admission Test, already having cracked it twice with 99.9 percentile, he loved the teaching profession. Both his parents are teachers.

Even though Byju's started initially as a classroom coaching class, it spread to classes in huge two thousand seater halls and later to recorded sessions in other cities of India, to Tab based teaching and from 2015, it has moved to Smartphone app based teaching (Android and iOS based) .. ..

Today Byjus caters to a whole lot of competitive entrance exams in the country starting from UPSC exams, IIM entrance exam CAT, IIT JEE, NEET for medical entrance, GMAT management aptitude exams for foreign Management Institutes, +1 and +2 preparations..

We wish this largest great edu-tech venture which is exploiting the power of technology to scale up in volume and to grow large.

Here is a very short management casestudy prepared on the challenges faced by Byju's at scaling up, how to overcome them and look out for innovative ways to make the learning ecosystem bright and colourful all over the world... May be useful to business school students to understand the challenges faced by educational startups from any part of the world and why they find it difficult to scale up.


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

World's first carbon-neutral village - Meenangaadi in Wayanad, Kerala ..

Ponds help raise watertable and charge wells
In 2006, the English village of Ashton Hayes of 10,000 people tried to become the world's first Carbon neutral community. Over the last decade they could reduce their emissions by 23% but is still to be a carbon-neutral community. 

When the all-polluting US and the Western world is struggling to live up to their  promises to build a greener world, Meenangaadi village in Wayanad district in Kerala has already taken the great steps to become by 2020 the world's first carbon-neutral village ..

With the active cooperation of the supporting government, public and the local administrators, the village of Meenangaadi is becoming a model to the whole world !!

A pond of the 467 new ones dug to catch water and grow fish ..
The Finance Minister of the state of Kerala in India Dr Thomas Issac went to UN HQ in Nov 2015 to present a paper on Waster Disposal at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, He came back with an audacious plan - make Meenangaadi, a village of 34,000 people in Wayanad district as India's first (and world's first)  Carbon-neutral village by 2020.

Nestled in the quiet and pristine Western Ghats this village of 34,000 people of over 54 sq. km area has been facing the worst implications of climate change, with drop in rainfall precipitation and lowering of water table, a decline in rice production and spices like cardamom, pepper, tea, coffee etc.. By 2050 AD, the average rise in temperature around this area is predicted to be around 2.5-3 deg C

Beena Vijayan, Meenangaadi gram panchayat president
taking soil samples to find the Carbon content in
Meenangaadi soil. Courtesy - The Hindu. 
The villagers are well aware of the ills of pollution, they have been well informed of the benefits of a carbon neutral environment for their children and grandchildren and together they sincerely desire the town to be carbon-neutral. Not to forget, the impact they would be making globally as the first Carbon neutral village of the world !!
"To bring the town’s net carbon dioxide emissions down to zero, we will conserve and expand our forests, plant more trees, reduce carbon emissions from households, promote self sustenance through organic farming, and recycle our waste.” - Beena Vijayan, Meenangaadi gram panchayat President .
Scenic views around Meenangaadi ..
In their greening spree, the villagers have planted on 38 acres of land (the area of 20 football pitches)  which includes public and private land, 4,50,000 coffee plants, 32,500 cardamom trees and 20,000 other shade trees which were provided to the villagers for free by the panchayat. Free organic vegetable seed and buds belonging to cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, beans, bitter gourd, ladies finger, tapioca and chilli were also provided to the villagers to help imbibe a sense of awareness of organic farming practices among the villagers.

The crematorium in the village now runs on LPG saving precious wood which was earlier used to burn dead bodies. The town has completely shifted to LED bulbs and in even envisaging starting an LED bulb manufacturing firm in the village to meet the needs (the problem of having to offset the carbon emissions from the plant would be the next problem for them).

Getting ready to get global attention ..
Of the 467 ponds newly dug in the village to help raise water table and charge the wells in the town. almost 420 of them are fish rearing bringing extra revenue for the people of the village and for owners of private compounds where some of these ponds have been dug. The village has also set up an aerobic composting plant, that converts the organic wet waste in the village to manure that could be used for the vegetation. A bio-gas plant to convert organic waste to energy and a solar park that will feed electricity to the energy grid of the state are other ways by which the village is planning to go carbon-neutral.

The MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) Chennai is helping the village authorities along with a group, Thanal from Trivandrum to do a soil audit and energy consumption audit in each of the houses in the village to find out how much Carbon the village emits and then offset it by their innovative actions as outlined above.

Click here for a copy of the presentation I gave at Alliance University, Bangalore in Jan '18.


Ref : 1. Balachandran Manu, The world's first Carbon neutral town could end up in the planet's most polluted country,, Last visited 24 June 2017.

         2., Kerala village to be the first Carbon-neutral panchayat, , Last visited 23 June 2017

        3. Manoj, E.M., Meenangaadi marches to Carbon-neutral tag, The Hindu, March 2017..

Yoga - India's contribution to the world !!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Brilliant Rifath and a mediocre Indian education system.

The smartest kid in India as accepted by the world and developer of the 64 g KALAMSAT, would not even get a chance to study with the less intelligent dumbos in IITs and other Engg. colleges, but would go with a heavy scholarship to MIT.

What a messed up, screwed up and useless higher education system we have ! To make more idiots !!

Data Visualisation Presentation..

Dr. Sukanya explaining the finer aspects of Data Visualisation in R Today 19 July 2019, Business school and Engineering school of Alli...

My popular posts over the last month ..