Thanks to the jet lag – I have been up since 1 AM. So don’t be surprised if this blog entry confuses you. Its going to be a desultory piece talking of Contradictions and Oxymorons and more.
I first got introduced to the word ” Oxymoron” in Class 8 while reading about the sinking of the Titanic. The author beautifully described the morning after the disaster when the first rays of the sun fell on the ice bergs amidst the flotsam and debris of The Titanic as ” Tragic Splendour“
An oxymoron is a compressed paradox: a figure of speech in which seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side. The oxymoron has also been called “the show-off” figure, one that gives voice to life’s inherent conflicts and incongruities. The true beauty of an oxymoron is that, unless we sit back and really think, we happily accept them as normal English.
Paid Volunteers, Kind Cruelty, Open Secret, Pretty Ugly, Original Copy, Clearly Confused….. are some wonderful examples of Oxymorons. Here is a paragraph I found that is packed with Oxymorons and it does make an interesting read.
It was an open secret that the company had used a paid volunteer to test the plastic glasses. Although they were made using liquid gas technology and were an original copy that looked almost exactly like a more expensive brand, the volunteer thought that they were pretty ugly and that it would be simply impossible for the general public to accept them. On hearing this feedback, the company board was clearly confused and there was a deafening silence. This was a minor crisis and the only choice was to drop the product line.
From Oxymorons lets move to a few other interesting examples of contradictions using colours.
- A bright clear blue sky symbolises endless possibilities and optimism, and getting the blues plunges you into a world of despair and gloom.
- Blue also stands for peace and tranquility – wile the deep blue sea is ominous and its depth has hidden mysteries.
- Its often a that a Green Horn shines in a green field project.
- A red carpet welcomes you but red tape pushes you into a maze
- The color Green can symbolise freshness and a verdant atmosphere , at the same time you can be Green with jealousy and negativity.
- A newly wed glow in her dark red saree and Code Red stands for Violence and death while the Red Cross is the beacon of hope for many.
And as a parting shot a few more interesting contradictions I picked up from a post on FB today from Ashutosh Kapoor.
- In a play / theatre you rush for front row seats , while in the same auditorium you want the rear seats to watch movie
- Soap removes oil , but no soap can be made without Oil.
Is life black and white or is it inevitable that you have to manage shades of grey.
There are no right answers , I guess contradictions is a part of life and its all a function of your own perspective.
The ICSE board had an interesting section on Creative writing. While most exams gave you a topic to write in the class 10 ICSE exam we were given picture and asked to write about it. It was a wonderful exercise as one could stretch ones imagination. Right there in a class of 30 you could see the students who had the creative spark early in life – while most captured the essence of the picture directly a few would give flight to their fancy and come up with a very different perspective that was entertaining.
I tried the exercise below with my children and was fascinated with the answers I got. Try it with your child and get them started on a journey of creative thinking.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN HIS MIND
Write a creative essay in 250 words
99% of the children will immediately write about the fear in the Man’s mind – the 1% creative guys will talk about what is going on in the Tiger’s mind. If that happens with your child – rejoice you just discovered a very creative kid at home.
I have been a loyal Flipkart customer since it started shop selling books. I loved the experience – it worked all the time. they exceeded expectations in delivering , refunding , the call centre picked up the phone in 2 rings – I love them and have strongly endorsed them over the last 7 years. Not only have they helped themselves but the country. As the harbinger of the eTailing revolution in India they have helped the country and the consumer.
Today a person in a remote location has access to products that he could not shop for in the past. Look at how the country has saved with Zillions of products being sold online – we have saved so much petrol, electricity , traffic congestion in our already crowded markets and malls.
But I worry if Flipkart will survive in the near future. Here are 5 Reasons on why they may struggle.
1. History has not been kind to Indian Companies. Nirulas the pioneer in fast food business collapsed when McDonalds came to India. Thumbs Up succumbed to Coke & Pepsi. Pizza Corner has almost wound up as Pizza Hut and Dominoes continue their mad growth. Mad over Donuts stands no chance against Krispy Creme or Dunkin Donuts. CCD that ruled the length and breath of the country is slowly but surely collapsing in front of Starbucks and Costa Coffee…. the list is long but the ending is similar in every case. The Global Multinational rules and the Indian upstart bites dust from a position of leadership.
2. Indian companies rarely go Global. When Amazon started within a few years they were in numerous countries – US, Canada, almost all of Europe, Australia , Singapore …….. . Flipkart has been around for 7 years , they currently have a run rate in excess of 3B / year – yet they operate only in India. WHY ? Is this being content with growth in India , lack of global expertise , or the desire to sweat it out till you have a massive IPO and then cash out.
3. Most Indian companies have the IPO syndrome – post the IPO – the quality / service all starts dropping rapidly. The founders and investors make so much money and there is so much joy and glee that the desire for enterprise building starts dropping. We have seen this often – Club Mahindra, Meru, Sobha .. all dropped on the service front after their IPO. Is this a case of Indian new age entrepreneurs being Sprinters Vs Marathon runners! With the Flipkart IPO around the corner ( Post the success of Alibaba) – I just hope this does not turn out to be true.
4. Obsessed with Competeition. A quote from Jeff Bezos on his recent visit to India said it all – “Usually companies are worrying and obsessing about competition when they should actually be worrying and obsessing about customers. Our first priority has always been customers, and we are not worried about competition,” Bezos said at an event organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with Amazon.
The last 6 months Flipkart management has been taking a lot of potshots at Amazon, when their Global CEO was in town they took hoardings all the way from the airport putting up spunky taunting comments. Was this necessary?
5. Oct 6th, Flopkart – What I experienced, what my fiends told me and what I read on the Social Media all indicated that Oct 6th was indeed a Flopkart. Was this necessary? Did it help the Brand or hurt it.
The founders claim success
“Our teams and sellers worked days and nights to make this sale a success — and our efforts paid off. We got a billion hits on our site and achieved our 24-hour sales target of $100 mn in gross merchandise value (GMV) in just 10 hours,” the Bansals said in a statement.
Lets do the math – there are about 20M Broad Band HH in India and an additional 25 M 3G users. Even if we assume a 50% overlap between the two – thats about 30 – 35 M people who can access the Internet ( I am excluding Edge customers because the 3G speed on Mobile in India is so slow there is no way you can do online purchase on 2G) . I am not assuming that all of them were waiting to visit Flipkart on Oct 6th – lets take an optimistic number and say 50% were – To get a Billion hits how many times would these 15M people have visited the site – about 60 times each, that doesn’t sound feasible at all.
India is a country with a population of 1.2B – if there are 200M kids below the age of 10 – are we saying that every adult in the country visited the site once OR 500 Mn people visited it twice on Oct 6th – Sounds highly improbable given that we have an installed base of less than 50Mn PC’s and only 28% of the phones in the country are SmartPhones.
Even the figure of $100 M sale in 1 day does sound hyperbolic. I wish there was some mechanism to audit this data.
I am proud of Flipkart and the dynamic young founders who have made history – I just hope they beat the odds and history and continue to maintain their fantastic growth trajectory and sustain the revolution they have started in India. Like many I am a strong believer that we are seeing Chapter 1 of the eTailing business in India. In telecom we missed the Land Line bus and jumped to Mobile, similarly on retailing we are all set to move from Mom & Po General Trade to eTailing by skipping the Organised Trade bandwagon.
Lets hope that this time Flipkart leads the pack and not Amazon
Always on the lookout for offbeat locations I was lucky to find Wildwood’s Spa on the internet . Most folks in Bangalore wait for long weekends to plan a getaway – and after a few years having covered Coorg, Ooty, Kodai, Bandipur, Chickmagalur, Waynad, Hampi & Badami – I was happy to find another great location in Karnataka. We are lucky that Karnataka has so much to see
Located 130 Km from Mangalore (3 hr Drive) its north of Mangalore on the Mangalore – Goa highway. We took a flight to Mangalore and then drove to the resort – Roads are single track but decent for 90% of the route . There is however a more convenient option of taking a night Train from Bangalore 16523/24 Karwar / Kannur Express that leaves bangalore at 8 PM and reaches Byndoor at 11 AM. Byndoor is a 15 min drive from the Resort. I recommend you take this – don’t get confused by the name – the train that leaves Bangalore splits into two at Mangalore – one half goes to Kannur and the other to Karwar.
About the Resort
Its a new resort – 18 months old with 9 Cottages and 16 Villas. Spread across two tracts of land 4 Acres & 16 acres separated by a village road. The Cottages are in the 4 Acre property and the Villas in the 16 Acre. The Resort is in the last stage of completion and the Villa section is 90% done. Its a botanical resort with over 7000 species of plants set at the border of the jungle with a nice small river encircling it. The greenery attracts a lot of birds and butterflies – a rarety for city dwellers today.
3 Things that make the Resort appealing
1. Lovely Location – Lots of greenery – Gurgling River less than 50 feet from your room
2. Nice Rooms , Great Service , Homely food
3. Lots to see – Beaches / Temples / Treks
The rooms are nice & spacious. We had booked the largest room (Room – 1) that came with 2 Bedrooms – 2 Baths. The Bathrooms are well designed , with all modern amenities. Rooms are designed with Thatched roofs and well covered – so even during day you need the lights on.
A TV in both rooms with Cable connection , AC , Fan and Coffee Machine makes it effective and functional with all the amenities you need. The rooms has a small sit out with a bench that overlooks the river.The Cottage section of the Resort spread across 4 acres is small – the Restaurant and Spa are a stones throw from the room.
We Paid 15 K / Night for the two Bed Room – that included all meals.
Food is homely and tasty , mainly Veg. Spread is decent but not as expansive as a 5 star hotel. The Chef is open to suggestions from guests. One day he even served us “Brahmi Spinach Curry” – thats the leaf that helps with your memory. The morning juice was also exotic – on day 2 we were served a drink that looked like it was full go fish eggs – on enquiry we were told that its a local drink called ” Tampina Beeja” which is supposedly good for keeping the body cool.
Liquor is not served – but you are welcome to get some from home and have in your room. If you came here thinking of Mangalorean fish – then you may be disappointed (We were happy not to get the Fish smell)
The best activity
While there are many things to do the best activity we liked was the trek up the Kosalli Falls. Its about 6 Km – and takes 2 hr one way. A tough trek ( by my standards) its thru thick jungles and some parts are on the edge of the hill. I just made it puffing and panting – but the kids had great fun and beat us hollow.
The other attractions nearby are the beautiful beaches.
We visited 3 beaches of which 2 were outstanding.
The Someshwara beach is the closest – 15 Km , 30 min drive from the Resort. Its also the beach where a river meets the Arabian Sea. Empty , neat and clean its rare to find a beach like this in India. No hawkers, No shanties, Nobody ogling at women – its a great beach. The other beach I would recommend is the Marawanthe beach – a 1 hr drive from the resort its on the way back to Mangalore. The temple town of Murudeshwar also has a beach – but that is very commercial. Water in this part of the country is rough and swimming is not advised.
For the religious minded there are some famous temples to visit. Udupi – 85 Km , Kolur Mookambika – 40 Kms, Gokarna – 120 Km , Murudeshwar – 37 Km. And for some more fun Jog Falls is 120 Km ( 3 hrs drive) and Goa is just 4 hrs away.
This is also Cashew land – you can see forests of Cashew trees on both sides of the road as you drive. We visited a cashew factory and saw the laborious process of how Cashew Kernels are boiled/burnt and then the nut is cracked open. Post that they are manually scraped and cleaned and then graded by size. At the end of it you get amazingly tasty cashews at a price thats almost 50% of what you get in Bangalore – Rs 500/- Kg.
Other activities – Long Walks , TT & Badminton, Non Monsoon season they arrange for River activities, and even Snorkelling. Many of the activities are seasonal. We enjoyed our morning walks along lush green paddy fields every day. But Kids can get bored – so plan to come in a group.
Its humid – even in end Sep the Temp was 30 +. The best season as always is Nov to Feb. Summers can be very hot and Monsoon is clearly avoidable.
In Conclusion – we loved the place. Yes getting there was a bit of a challenge and the 5 K for the Innova from Mangalore to the Resort was a bit too expensive. Food was good, service was great and we had enough to do for 3 days. It did help a lot that were two families – I strongly recommend that you go as a group. It takes a lot of passion and energy to run a resort like this – hats off to the owner and his team for doing a super job. I don’t think they make any profit out of this venture.
If I were to make 3 suggestions to the Hotel management – they would be
1. Decide your positioning – Spa Centric or Nature Centric , The name Wildwoods Spa – gives it a feeling that its Spa Centric , but in reality its a Nature Resort
2. Package your activities – 1/2 day modules , and sell that package , as of now you decide where to go and the hotel helps you with local transport.
3. Create more activities for Kids – if in Monsoon river activities are not possible , create something like Cooking , gardening etc – Kids need activity – The Cashew burring activity we did one day was excellent and well appreciated by the kids.
Yes the place does not have Internet/Wifi – I think thats a blessing in disguise.
As we wrap up one holiday we are already set for the next one in Dec – as we head to the Himalayas, our bookings are done and we are looking forward to some mountain fun and snow time at Soulitude in the Himalayas. Look out for that Blog in Dec
We often see award ceremonies for best Banks from ET / Business Standard / Business India etc. Happy CEO’s gloating over their trophies ( which in most cases is linked to the ad spends you have made with that media group). I wish there would be an award for Online Bank Sites on ease of User Design / interface. I am confident that if there were one such award the bank that would win the LAST price for being the worst designed site would be Axis Bank & Axis Direct.
Online Interface design for financial institutions have been happening for over 15 years. I remember how easy it was to use Datek Online in the US in 1999. Wellsfargo, Washinton Mutual in US and even Citibank and Stanchart in India have excellent intuitive UI design.
In addition to color, layout, font and clutter the two basic rules for website design are
1. How many clicks to get your job done
2. How prominent is my Call to Action
If I evaluate the Axis Bank and Axis Direct sites on these two parameters they fare very poorly.
Lets take the simple job of logging into http://www.axis.com – you want to see your balance. In most global banks that would be one click. the login page would be visible on the home page. In Axis bank its 5 Clicks.
1. http://www.axisbank.com – 2. Click on Login in a cluttered home page where the CTA of Login is barely visible – 3. You land at a page that says imp information and has the login button again saying continue to login – 4. You land at help and support and how Axis bank.com is now available for Mac users & Continue to Login – 5. Finally you come to the secure login page where you can enter your login credentials
Painful? But thats Axis Bank and its incredibly poor UI design. I wonder who designed this website. But your problem doesn’t end there. In most sites including banks you can customise your login credentials. In Axis Bank its your Cust ID thats a 9 digit number which is difficult to remember. Most people would have their logins to all their favourite sites common – its easy to remember. Trying to remember the cust ID for Axis Bank is a pain – so every time you need to log in you need to check back on a file / folder where you may have written this number.
There are many transaction – which requires you to enter your Cust ID even if you have logged in with it. You have a Transaction password but in most cases you need to do the Transaction Password and the OTP that comes by phone. Overall very messy – the folks in the bank say its RBI regulation – but I am surprised that Citibank , Stanchart and most MNC banks operating in India under RBI guidelines don’t have this level of mess.
I am stopping here on Axis bank – but there is lots more to talk about. The site is begging for an average UI designer to take it up and clean it – I hope someone from Axis Bank management sees this blog and gets on the the job fast.
Lets move on top Axis Direct the trading site which even beats the Axis bank site. The home page is a clutter with no clear CTA, but if we can live with that lets see the effort to do some basic tasks.
View your Portfolio – thats the basic you want to do and see whats the gain / loss in your portfolio. Its 6 steps to get there after crossing many Ads
1. http://www.axisdirect.com – 2. login – 3. My Portfolio – 4. Equity – 5. Detailed View – 6. Instrument Equity . And once you finally land on the equity page there is no way for you to buy or sell the stocks that you see listed there. Normally there would be a simple button next to the equity in the Portfolio page saying Trade. But that common sense does not exist with Axis Direct.
Lets look at a few other examples and how difficulties to get to something as basic as seeing your Profit & Loss or your Trade book history. All of which is needed to determine your Tax Liability. The list below may look simple now – but the site is so poor on intuition that it took me hrs and multiple trials before I was able to figure this out
To check Derivatives Profit and loss: My portfolio>> Derivatives>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Derivative Portfolio.
To check Equity Profit and loss: My portfolio >> Equity>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Equity Portfolio.
To check Derivatives Profit and loss: My portfolio>> Derivatives>> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implications on my Derivative Portfolio.
For Mutual fund Profit and loss: My portfolio >> MF >> Portfolio analysis>> Tax Implication for my Mutual fund portfolio.
Getting to Your Trade Book : Step 1: Login http://www.axisdirect.in > Step 2: Click on Trading >> History >> Trade book. Step 3: Select Equity trade book. Step 4: Select date ‘From and To’. Step 5: Click on ‘view report’.
India is known for its software design expertise. But examples like this clearly show why we are an outsourcing hub and not a design centre for products. User Interface, aesthetics, testing are all areas that are way down on our priority list. We just want to get the job done and say – we also have a website, so what if its the worst website in the country – who cares.
If Axis bank has a SEO / SEM web Marketing department – I am sure someone will pick this up and forward it to their MD. I hope very soon I can see a better site with better UI capability.
You can understand when the village Khap Panchayat invokes the concept of Gotra during marriage. But when highly educated, modern, urban relatives start talking of how they will not have their children married to prospective grooms or brides from the same Gotra it gets me angry and worried. This Blog is dedicated to all these people.
Firstly lets understand whats the meaning of the word “Gotra”
The word Gotra is formed from the two Sanskrit words Gau (meaning Cow) and Trahi (meaning Shed). Note that the English word Cow is a derived word of the Sanskrit word Gau with the same meaning Gau. So Gotra means Cowshed. In Atharva Ved, it is referred to a clan
The traditionalists and the Khap interpret this as family lineage.
They claim that according to the brahminical theory, the Brahmins are the direct descendants of seven or eight sages who are believed to be the mind-born sons of Brahma. They are Gautama, Bharadvaja, Vishvamitra, Jamadagni, Vashista, Kashyapa and Atri. To this list, Agasthya is also sometimes added. These eight sages are called gotrakarins from whom all the 49 gotras (especially of the Brahmins) have evolved. For instance, from Atri sprang the Atreya and Gavisthiras gotras
I dont agree – let me disprove this with simple Mathematics
- Total Population of India = 1.2 B
- Total Population of Brahmins in India = 120 M ( assuming 10% – the actual figure is lesser)
- On an average if we distribute this across the 6 Main Gotra thats 20M Brahmins / Gotra.
- So Bhardwaj Gotra should have 20 M people – 10 M men and 10 M women.
- If Sage Bhardwaj is our patrimonial starting point in the lineage lets do a backward calculation using the an annual population growth rate of 1 % , the formulae is simple , 10 M = 1 ( 1 + 1/100)^ n. That would solve for n = 1620.
- In other words if Sage Bhardwaj lived 1620 years back i.e. in 394 AD then at a 1.2% annual population growth the size of the Bhardwaj male clan would be 10M today.
But hindu Mythology says that Sage Bhardwaja one of the 7 original Rishis who lived many 1000 years back. If we date the Mahabharata to 2000 BC ( as many historians do ) , then Sage Bhardwaj would have lived around 1900 BC since he was the father of Dronacharya. Some say that the Mahabarata and the origin of the sages date back to the time of Adi Yogi which could even be 10,000 BC.
So clearly Sage Bhardwaja did not live in 394 AD, because if history documents Buddha and Mahavira from 500 BC then Sage Bhardwaja would have found reference in our History books. Like always the dots in hindu mythology never add up.
Let me share a possible view of what could have been a strong case for the creation of Gotra’s and this logic comes from the meaning of the word ” Cowshed”
Lets assume the year was 2500 BC. Man was a nomad. He had just learnt to domesticate animals. The Cow was the source of livelihood & food it was central to the economy of India in 2500 BC. Like normal tribes these wandering nomads used to cover vast distances with their families and cows always on the lookout for greener pastures.
Man being man there would invariably be a fight amongst the group wrt ownership of their cows. In a storm or a melee the cows would get mixed and cause tremendous anxiety and ill will.
The possible solution for this was to identify 7 wise men and distribute the total population – men and cows amongst these 7 wise men. Tired of travelling they would have decided to settle down. Each Wise man set up his farm / village / cowshed in an area and that group / Clan came to be known by the Rishis name. Since they lived in a cowshed – they were called Gotra. Each clan probably followed a concept of collective responsibility and shared the resources they had in their clan. The Cows were now common property and the Wise man / Rishi was the head of this Clan.
Since each Clan shared and lived together they became an extended family and marriage was probably not advised within the clan as the population of Cows could not go up. I am sure dowry existed in those days. So marriage always happened between two clans living maybe a few 100 Km away from each other.
Does that sound logical ? If so then the issue of each person being a descendant of the great Rishi does not arise. Clearly this concept has been advanced at a much later date – maybe by the likes of Max Mueller and Western Historians who were always on the lookout to create concepts that could divide and fraction the society.
And I just hope that the educated people of today stop thinking like the Khap and take a more balanced view to getting their children married.