The Strange Case of Indian Feminism

As a kid I remember both my grandmother were smokers and me going and buying the Indian version of cigarette called “Beedi” from the nearby shop was common. Now I am not sure when and how they had started and unfortunately by the time I was old enough to ask them they were not around anymore. There is no doubt about them being devout enough. My dad’s mother would religiously go to Ganga every morning before the sun rises and do her daily prayers. So one really can’t say that they were forward looking or modern. But today when a lady smokes eyes turn and it comes as a shock.

When you look at temples like Sun Temple Konark (have visited personally) or famous Khajuraho (only heard), the depiction of images that are considered taboo today.  Guide at Konark was really shy showing us the sculptures himself. I am not sure why places of worship will have such display of things that nobody wants to talk about in modern world. This is quite intriguing that people were so open in those days.

Today when we stand for young people wearing dresses that they want to, going to places where they like to, speak about things that they would like to, it should not be considered  an extra privilege but more as way of life.

I am not sure when “purdah” became a system, when women folks were not allowed to move out of homes and when dowry became the norm. We do not have texts or historical evidences of common people’s life but I would like to believe all this to have started due to extreme invasions or violence which became sort of common after 1000 AD.

The society created these artificial inventions that became traditions that people would die in order to protect. It became age old way of life that forced women to be in walls of their house where ever they go.

It became so much so that the mom-to-be would like the one in the womb not be what she is. She would not like her to face an uneventful life like hers and probably the yearning of having a male child started and this took to imagination of other folks as well.

I think a society will only reach true potential when everyone has equal opportunity and it is true for modern women folk as well.

In today’s world there are many who have the opportunity to shun these age old traditions and come to limelight but they prefer to be cocooned in the artificial boundaries created for ages.

 

How was Ashoka’s rule special?

EdictsOfAshoka
Edicts of Ashoka

Ashoka ruled huge parts of modern India which extended from present day Afghanistan  in north to Karnataka in South, Orrisa in East to Gujarat in west which probably constitutes 80% of present day India. So its not entirely true that India as we know today is gift of the British rule. And thanks to Ashoka’s Rock Edicts this expanse can be proven by history and archaeology as well and it cannot be judged to be someone’s figment of imagination.

The problem with Indian history is so enmeshed with mythology that it sometime become very difficult to differentiate between mythology and history. Ashoka was a visionary and quite innovative for his times. Almost two thousand years ago when communication was not as easy he developed means to communicate to his subjects and he used the Rock Edicts all over his empire to convey his message. In Today’s world if Prime Minister Modi wants to convey his messages he can just go to his twitter handle or do “Mann Ki Baat” that is telecasted in various modes like radio, television or internet. Internet has made dissemination of information very easy. In modern age one doesn’t have to be so powerful like Modi or Ashoka to broadcast messages, Facebook wall or a blog like this has become for us what Rock Edicts were for Ashoka.

According to the legend Ashoka was not the heir apparent to the throne of his father Bindusara as her mother was not the senior most and he already had a substantial harem and heir apparent called Susima. Ashoka was sent as an emissary to Taxila in order to thwart the rebellion brewing up there. But eventually he was successful in becoming the third ruler after his Grandfather Chandragupta who established Maurya Dynasty by overthrowing Nandas. The inflection point in the life of Ashoka was the battle to include a considerably smaller kingdom of Kalinga, present day Orissa under his Dynasty. Though he had won but there was extreme violence which changed his heart. From then on he became follower of Buddhism and its greatest patron in the entire history. And thus began the story of a communicator-par-excellence. Ashoka started sending out his thoughts for public around his empire to be written on Rocks surrounding places where common people can read it.

These edicts were commissioned throughout his years as an emperor. It covered thoughts of emperor on dhamma promoting morality to secure happiness, protection of animal from mindless sacrifice, proper courtesy of people from slaves to Brahmins and many other similar discussions. These messages were in Brahmi script in parts of current day India and in Kharosthi in present day Afghanistan. How these messages were perceived by the common people of that time is somewhat difficult to judge as nothing else has survived apart from these Rock Edicts and incriptions. Any written account Ashokvadana was written in or around 2nd Century CE or Mahavamsa written around 5th Century CE which is much after the time of Ashokan rule.

Ashoka is a ruler whose story will continue with us as the Indian national emblem and National Flag both have Ashoka’s legacy deeply integrated. The Lion Capital and Chakra of Ashoka is symbol of present day India.

Ashok’s wall is probably the earliest wall in today’s world where everyone has a wall and probably an inspiration for Modi’s “Mann Ki Baat”

 

Image Attribution:

By PHGCOM [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Toll Problem with Uber: Personal Experience

On 8th of Feb 2017, I got down at the Bangalore International Airport (KIAL) and booked a Cab with Uber. It was late at night and by the time I collected all may bags and confirmed the ride it was already beyond 11:30 PM. There were few changes at the airport due to construction of Rapid Exit Taxiways from Feb 19th to April 30th. App based pickup locations had changed and looks like there isn’t any parking left for them and they need to be hovering around near the toll plaza until they get a ride. The distance between toll plaza and parking at KIAL is about 6KM and the riders need to wait depending on traffic situation.

The Uber driver started a chat and started talking about two days strike by the Uber drivers. He said after the strike it has been decided the toll needs to paid by the rider from now onward. I was already skeptical about what he was claiming and asked him that Uber has toll charges included in the fare itself. Uber help clearly states the following

uber_help
Uber Help Snapshot

But the driver was adamant on me paying the toll and he was not moving the car out of toll plaza. I saw that the traffic was building up. I reluctantly gave him money for the toll. Since I was not happy he took 80 rupees and returned 20 back, not sure why. The toll is 120 for cars. I felt cheated and was trying to convince him that I don’t need to pay toll additionally. He agreed that if toll is listed on his receipt he would return my money.

uber_receipt
Uber Receipt

So at the end of the trip, I showed my receipt which had the toll charges were included.

The driver was trying to understand what I told or rather knew that whatever I was saying was correct. According to him all other riders have been giving him toll in cash and he showed his receipt where there was no toll included. It was already 1 AM and I decided let him have the toll money that I had given. I raised an issue on Twitter as well on the App and here is what Uber had to say which means that I was correct.

uber_message
Uber Message on my complaint

Hopefully I will get the refund but it was a hassle. Its not about 125 rupees. It is about what is right. I like using Uber or any other app based taxi services because they are transparent and upfront with the fares. They were able to control the behavior of drivers through technology but in India there needs some more effort.

Lets not fall into the demand of driver just because he can be more rash than you. Atleast we can stand so that Uber can rein in the unruly drivers. Hope this experience help someone else facing a similar situation. I know this isn’t something really big but necessary for the transparent system to work

Make In India needs Fab In India First

In today’s world electronic parts plays a great role in almost all kinds of product. Be it consumer products like mobile phones, tablets, smartwatches or many other gadgets or industrial products like sensors, network swtiches, power controls, home automation or the upcoming IOT revolution. Ubiquitous usage of electronics in products is known fact.

Chip manufacturing is a very specialized field which is more or less absent from Indian manufacturing scene as of now. Chip manufacturing facilities are normally called “Fab” or “Foundries”. A typical fab takes more than two years to build from the scratch and investment of over billions of dollars ($3-$4 Billion investment is very common)

Major fabs/foundries are spread across USA, South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and few other European countries. Most of these companies have made huge investment in building these world class chip manufacturing facilities. It can be seen from figure below and there isn’t one in India.

fab_world_map
Fab/Foundries Around the World

Fab ,as it can be seen, is a huge investment with massive infrastructure requirement. Also every 18 months there is a recurring expenditure to upgrade the Fab due to change in node and technology. There are not many players in world today who are ready to invest such huge investments themselves. Most of the companies are using common facilities like TSMC or Global Foundries as they cannot bear such huge costs sustaining these facilities. Intel is one major semiconductor company which still maintain there own Fab.

I think with all this information it is very clear that making a fab facility and maintaining is not that simple one and need lot of commitment in terms of investment in infrastructure as well a very specialized man power (mostly fabs are automated and hence they don’t create lot of jobs).Currently India imports majority of semiconductor needs.

So what is the status as of now in India, as per my research of publicly available document Indian government is keen on developing Fab in India and there are possibly two Fabs being planned as of now. One in Noida, UP where Jaiprakash Associates in collaboration with Tower Semiconductors (operate the fab) and IBM (technology for CMOS manufacturing process ) but lately it has been in news that JP Associates has pulled out and this project has gone into jeopardy as government and other partners are looking for investors . Another one is being planned by HSMC (Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) in Prantij, near Gandhinagar, Gujarat with ST Microelectronics (probably technology partner) and Silterra (operating the fab). This project has also got support from AMD and looks to be in better shape. There is some news also regarding Cricket Semiconductor that wants to start a pure play analog foundry in Indore, Madhya Pardesh.

All these three fabs have been in news but it is not very clear how and when these may become operational. Since this is very capital intensive and the chip industry as such has overcapacity globally so raising money has been of great concern.

As chip manufacturing is generally getting outsourced and many successful companies have moved to Fabless Manufacturing retaining the design of chips in house and generating IPs. ARM is one such company that has its processor core in 99% of mobile devices but does not manufacture their chips. So if this condition lingers on for a while the enthusiasm may go down and there may be push to get into design and develop IP and rather than getting in to hugely capital intensive chip manufacturing.

But as far as Make In India is concerned and if we really want to make a dent in the global market these Fabs would be in the core. Once Fabs are operational, manufacturing of printed circuit boards and assembly would also pick up and world class facilities would crop up in order to utilize the availability of local resources.

Hopefully Modi Government realizes this and if the groundwork is not completed and construction of kick started they may not see this operational by the end of their current tenure and Make In India will remain as a fancy name with companies just taking advantage of these by importing knocked off units and assembling it India which is a very low value add in the whole ecosystem of products.

Demonetization: A Chance to learn new things

It was night on 8th of November and as usual I had switched to DD NEWS to get my daily dose of news. For couple of years I have stopped watching any other NEWS channel due high intensity noise that raises anxiety levels in me. DD NEWS has its own problem being forced to highlight government moves as well air NEWS related to Information & Broadcasting Minister who these days is Venkaiah Naidu, even when related NEWS are not of that importance. But anyways let me not digress and to my surprise I saw Mr. Modi addressing the nation live. I did not believe initially when heard that from Midnight of 8th November 500/1000 denomination of notes would not remain valid.

Now this was something of a radical move for our generation as we had never heard of steps like that. Later I realized it has happened in India earlier once in 1946 and another time in 1978. The effects of this move  on the economy, on reduction in corruption, terrorism funding, real estate and so many other things is a moot point. I think its better to wait and see how all this pans out in coming future.

But there is one thing for sure, there is a chance to learn new things for everyone. I am sure there are many views that the poor uneducated people in our country who will face lot of difficulties and there is no denying of that fact. In today’s world lot of people are not comfortable with online buying, e-wallets, online banking and so many such things that can make their life easy.

Here I would like to write about United Payment Interface (UPI) which I understand can be a revolutionary in taking mobile banking to another level. National Payment Commision of India an umbrella organization for all retail payments system in India setup under guidance of RBI and IBA.

UPI is an interface which allows users to transfer money instantly from their bank account to anyone else’s bank account without worrying about which banking company the account is held.

In a laymen terms it is like creating an e-mail address first which is done by installing any of UPI apps on the App Store. Once you have a valid e-mail address you can send e-mail to anyone without worrying about if account is with Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or any other e-mail.

When one installs a UPI app of any bank, one is assigned with Virtual Payment Address (VPA) which is more like e-mail address. Once you are logged into app, it can add bank accounts based on mobile number that is attached to the Bank Account automatically. In order to do transaction user needs to create a MPIN which can be done through the App itself. With MPIN created the money can be transferred to one bank account to another though the App using the MPIN directly. Money can be transferred based on VPA or mobile number but one needs to make sure that the user with the mobile number has any UPI app installed. Also if multiple accounts are mapped to the same mobile number the first account which is added on the app is used by default to credit money back into account.

UPI transaction happens directly to account and hence your money doesn’t get stuck in various e-wallets. Currently UPI transactions are not getting charged but eventually it will incur charges similar to IMPS transaction which around Rs 5 per transaction.

UPI is a neat idea and is backed by NPCI which is a Government of India body with full support of RBI. As far as security is concerned I believe it is no worse than any other existing wallet. The transaction are controlled by MPIN and as soon as it happens you get a SMS/e-mail regarding the transaction, so any security breach can be identified and transaction blocked

Current limits on transaction are  1 lakh limit per day. 20 transactions max in a day.

I have used PhonePe App and it has worked well for me. If you  install the app do the first transaction you make Rs 50. So go ahead and use UPI. With less Marketing Budget than PayTM, UPI was not able to get Modi Ji on front page of TOI but hoping word of mouth creates enough traction for it

Featured Image attributed to: By National Payments Corporation of India – http://www.nearex.com/first-impressions-of-upi-as-an-user, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52097360

Purging of Black Money hits real Estate Hard

The real estate prices are bound to go down if the black money is sucked out of the system which may be good news for all the people looking to buy their dream house. Imagine a situation that people don’t have black money to buy flats after flats and with excess capacity already in the real estate, it may be the best time to get your hands dirty and keep your research going on. There may not be a better time for people wanting to invest their hard earned white money to get their dream home.

The litmus test of demonetization is going to be its affect on real estate prices. There are many in the country today supporting the move and many against the move but something at this scale can be only analysed by its after effects.

It is popular belief that there are two things that have the so called “black money” invested mostly in real estate including land, flats, villas or any office buildings and the aurous metal called “Gold”. In this article I would concentrate on Real Estate.

Demonetization of 500/1000 currency notes is going to affect individuals who have unaccounted money in these denominations stashed somewhere in the homes or safes. Since at the face of it, it looks like there was not a lot of opportunity for such people to take that money and do something about it and hence it cannot be used to buy stuff unless the sellers accept such money. For something like real estate where money involved is much larger than gold so that possibility is there but I believe builders will not be able to do something of that sort.

If all this is true, then in coming times the price of real estate is bound to go down as buyers would not have excess cash lying to be invested. Any home buyers or investor of real estate should wait and watch as to what is going to happen the prices. In the real estate industry price changes take time, so delaying the process of buying the home for about 6 months looks to be a good bet.

The correction in prices of already inflated property prices is going to be the criteria for passing the litmus test.

Hopefully it takes time to generate black money afresh and probably it may have gestation period of 1 to 2 years depending on the efficiency of the system(which I am sure is very efficient). Until the point when the coffers are again filled with loose cash , all buyers with white money can look for better deals and once in a lifetime opportunity.

If  this does not happen then the assumption of black money stashed and its role in real estate may have to be looked upon again. All this pain that the country is going through, all this enthusiasm in the middle class and all the 16.5 billion 500 rupees and 6.5 billion 1000 rupees that are getting culled will go waste 🙂

PS: I don’t like classification of Black and White. It is really racism of sorts where we treat ill gotten money as “black” and hard earned money “white”. We should find better terms for these .. whatsay 🙂

Stale e-Commerce Sale Branding

 

All the e-commerce players are trying to create an atmosphere of “sale” during the festive season and get customers to buy stuff that they don’t want. The three big players Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal have been following a very similar strategy and there isn’t any difference between their showcasing of deals.

I have not seen other newspapers but Times Of India Bangalore edition of 2nd October had probably six pages of full page advertisement of Snapdeal, Flipkart and Amazon before actual newspaper started. I think they were in the same order. Looks like this had become a minimum benchmark for  e-commerce players to feature full page advertising on leading dailies. As per Quora post  a full page advertisement can cost INR 1.5 Crore (15 million) for a an edition that has lot of readership in a metropolitan area. So in any way this is nowhere cheap and when all are doing the it makes all the more difficult to really stand out.

Also if you have been monitoring the price, many of the 70% off are actually on the hiked price before the sales which is an old technique used by brick and mortar shops for long. I have bought stuffs from Amazon and Flipkart and don’t think have actually got any better deal as to normal off deal time.

To me it looks like half hearted attempt just to create buzz around the market and get people who have not been doing online shopping much.

I feel there is definitely a scope for a product that helps in price discovery (buyhatke is one which has been trying to do something on this)on the online sellers like these tracking historical prices and helping customers to actually make a judgement as to what is actually a deal and what is actually a farce.

I also imagine if offline price discovery can be brought into it will be great for the customers as many times I am seeing these days the deal turns out be much better the the online retailers.

Unless there is a earnest desire of these e-commerce companies to rise above these stale branding campaigns where they are spending lot of money and the actual customers are in no way getting a better deal.

Hopefully we will have some better product for price discovery  so that the e-commerce players will consider Indian market more mature and we will get really good deals 🙂