A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Month: January 2014

Old at 30 ? Not fair – Sd Personal Computer

Since when can you call a 30 year old – OLD ? In the prime of my youth I am being written off.  And people say I am dying , dead – and I am  all of 30.

I was actually born thanks to the brain power of the two Steve’s in 1976.

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Apple 1 & Apple II were runaway success stories and big blue saw this. Aug 12, 1981 – IBM launched the IBM PC and since then the Personal Computer has been history. Jan 3, 1983 issue Time magazine named me ” Person of the year 1982″ – this was the 1st time an inanimate object was given this award. And the 1st Mac was launched in 1984 – that redefined ease of use. The Mac just turned 30 and continues to be the most user friendly PC in the world.

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IBM was smart – they got my brain made from Intel and the Operating System for MS and made the entire architecture open. This helped a lot of companies – Compaq, HP , DELL , Packard Bell , Gateway , Lenovo , Toshiba ….. and many more to make PC’s. They were all the same using the same Processors and MS Operating system.

In the 80’s there were large R&D teams working on me , the FDD was replaced with the CD ROM  & Zip drive, my hard disk capacity became bigger , I became sleeker from plug in boards to Single Board architecture , Green design reduced my power consumption. But the biggest last Innovation that happened on me was when Toshiba launched the Laptop in 1985. That changed the PC Industry – I was now mobile , people could carry me. This helped my sales grow rapidly. Last I checked – 70 % of PC’s sold in the world are laptops.

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But sadly that was the last major innovation that happened. yes Intel and Moore’s law made the CPU faster and MS came with new versions of Windows and Office every 2 – 3 years . But that was it – beyond that there was no Innovation. The R&D team at Compaq, DELL , HP, Acer  were slowly disbanded. I was no longer Hi tech – I became a commodity. A commodity that still sells in Millions.  In OND 2013 I sold over 80 M units WW. Till date there are well over 1 B people who cannot live without me for even a day. Yes th. e PC sales are slowing down – but most people don’t realise that the Mac is continuing to grow in MS – tarts because Apple still continues to innovate and redesign the mac every year. If you don’t nurture me – how will I grow ?

Look at my contribution to the world. Would the world GDP be where it is today without me ? Would commerce , banking , trade , education, entertainment  have flourished without me ?  The WWW could not have existed without me. And think of a world without the WWW. Most people call me a commodity – some even compare me to a phone – they call me dumb . Ouch – That hurts.

Tablets are the new kid in town. Yes they continue to grow. Last quarter at 76.9M units they are on the verge of bypassing me in quarterly sales. But you think a Tablet can replace a PC. I challenge you – throw your PC out and try to live with a Tablet – no way you can a manage.  Remember the presentation Steve Jobs when he launched the iPad ? he said that the the Tablet is a new category that fits in beautifully between a  Mac (PC)  & an iPhone( Smartphone).

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A tablet is great for browsing , email , social networking, sharing photos , reading books, playing games. yes its easier to watch a movie inflight on a  tablet than on a laptop – a Tablet is mainly for consumption of information. I am great at both creating and consuming information. I have a longer life , more power , greater utility. I am the serious guy – the Tablet is just the fun guy. Great to flirt and date with the Tablet – but when you ant to marry and settle down you have to choose me. I can do all the Tablet does and more. And as Smart Phone size gets bigger the growth of the Tablet is bound to come down. If I can get sleeker and smaller and the Smartphone can get bigger – we can squeeze out this new kid in town.

I don’t know why people stopped innovating on me. I could have grown to be the integrated TV , Phone , VC system in the house.  Think of me as the central unit in the house that powers all your communication needs. All other devices are tertiary that cloud plug on to me like an add on. I would be the HUB.  And look at it I am the HUB – iTunes  can run only on a  Mac or a PC and if the iPad, iPhone , iPod , Apple TV need to work they need to connect to me as the HUB. I am indispensable. I am glad that at least Apple is working and innovating on me constantly. But with the others I feel orphaned – Intel , MS and all the big guys of the past have abandoned me in my middle ages. Now I see the advantage of one company owning hardware and software and the power of integrated technology. I hope you do too.

So don’t write me off . I am just 30. They say life begins at 40 – I am not going anywhere. I just wish a few more  Steve’s came and gave me a new look and packed me with some new powerful features with which I could serve humanity better.

Your Humbly

The PC

Multi Brand Retail – Yeh AAPne Kya Kiya

Arvind Kejriwal is probably the only leader who since Independence has made such a powerful impact in such a short time. He has always come out as one with strong conviction , courage, logic and tenacity. He has overnight become an ideal for many and the last hope to change the political mess in the country. I contributed generously to his party and when he won I felt I had won. But sadly this confidence has been shaken in the last 1 week.

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Its not shaken because he has not solved all the problems of Delhi in 15 days. He has made a great start and opened up multiple fronts. He and his core team probably work 20 hrs a day . What parties have not solved in 60 + years – lets give him a few months to solve. Yes the inexperience shows , the hunger for speed , the frustration at bureaucracy – but then here is a party where almost all the MLA’s are 1st time MLA’s.

Its not shaken because Captain Gopinath and Binny send a few slurs. As far as Captain is concerned he probably wanted to get some visibility and mileage. Who is Gopinath to comment on AAP – Someone who started a 3rd rate airline which probably had the record for the worst service and a cargo company that never really took off . If he feels that he needs to be heard and be given centre stage in AAP decision making – thats his ego talking. And its not very difficult to fathom the reason  why Binny went ballistic. If AAP has won an election in 1 year – they have brains and they will figure out the best solution without advice from Gopinath and his kind.

While you , me and the common man want AAP to succeed – a lot of people are worried as their future generations may not enjoy the comfortable lives they led. If corruption is tackled , power centres are abolished , Jugad culture is eliminated then there is fear for the 1% that controls the country. So when we read a lot of blogs and articles that talks against AAP – I guess we should take it with a pinch of salt.

But what worries me a lot is the decision on Multi Brand Retail. Lets analyse this a little deeper.

The argument against Multi Brand Retail is that it will eliminate mom and pop stores. Unemployment will increase. Millions will be jobless , homeless. Lets look at some examples in India.

Remember Nirula’s & Pizza Corner. The 1st set of fast food restaurants in India.  They started well but could never scale. Quality dropped , rates increased. We now have McDonald, Pizza Hut , KFC , Domino’s….. and many more fast food brands. Has it eliminated jobs or created jobs. Have the Dhaba’s  and Darshini’s shut down because of the MNC food brands – they haven’t. Saravana Bhawan and McDonald both survive well next to each other at Janpath. The standing joints and Udupi restaurants continue to flourish. the market has grown – there is space for everyone. Yes Nirula’s and Pizza Corner are almost bust – but they were not able to compete.

Nirula's Just after Pthankot, No breakfast before 8 AM

In the 80’s India had only 2 car Brands – Ambassador and Premier Padmini. We should have never allowed Suzuki, Ford , Honda , Toyota to come to the country. Our Premier Padmini broke down almost once every month – in the last 10 years I am yet to see anyone pushing a car in the roads of Bangalore or Mumbai or Delhi. We now have variety , better quality . It also resulted in more factories , more jobs , a vibrant components industry , foreign exchange from exports – all positives. Are we better off by opening our automobile industry or worse ? We all know the answer to that. The only people who would have opposed this would be the Bombay Club. If you have no competition you can sell substandard products at high price ( remember the Chetak scooters being sold in Black market)

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What if we had not allowed FDI in telecom. BSNL & MTNL had a 10 year waiting period. You needed to know an MLA to get a Tatkal connection. The C Dot exchanges almost always crashed. All that changed when Telecom was liberalised. If not for the Ericsson , Nokia , Alcatel equipment and investments from Singtel , Hutch , Vodafone … the Indian telecom industry would have never taken off. Has this created more jobs and  given a boost to our economy or were we better off with BSNL & MTNL ?

I could go on and on. Mult Brand Retail will do the same thing. It will improve quality and create jobs. Its not going to replace the Mom & Pop Shop. The neighbourhood store 100 feet from your house will always be there for your bread , butter , eggs and last minute emergencies. But yes it will threaten the Nilgiris. Spencer’s , Foodworlds , Reliance Retail, Big Bazar – the so called Indian chains. Walk into any of the stores and see how the experience has collapsed in the last few years. The AC doesnt work , the strolley is broken , the teller  is a overworked , underpaid person. Lifestyle , Shoppers Stop and a few more brands may survive – but the vast majority will not.

Not only do they create jobs – but they will ease traffic congestion & pollution. These shops will come in the city outskirts. There is no space in the middle of our cities for these massive stores. They will have ample car parking, the rates will be lower ( we already see that in the Metros & other B2B stores) , the AC will work – the overall experience will be superior. We complained when the Bangalore airport moved 50 km away – today we are fine with it. Our Habits will change – we will drive out once every fortnight to these stores and stock up. Only those with large refrigerators can stock up. The city will expand , there will be more development in the fringes of the city.

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The metro rains will get you there. the CBD rates will fall , there will be lesser traffic , and no cars parked bumper to bumper on a  narrow 100 feet road that doubles up as a high street. Look at I Nagar 100 feet road – in the 80’s it was a beautiful tree lined street where you could take a peaceful walk. At 8.30 Pm you were scared to walk alone. Today it a mess – a lovely locality has become  one of the busiest commercial zones in the city. Do we want that or would it have been better to have a TESCO and Home Depot at C.V Raman Nagar ?

So coming back to the point – Arvind and his team are smart and intelligent. A large majority of their supporters are people like me . Urban, educated upper middle class. This class is puzzled with the AAP decision to go back on the Multi Brand Decision. Why did they do this ? Are they losing their logical thinking and falling into a populist trap ? Are they making decision that sound Pro Poor and Anti Rich ? In the process are they actually putting us back or taking us forward ? Are they really the idealogical simpletons with passion to change the country or are they a shrewder lot ? Is there some truth in the Blogs that talk about funding from Ford Foundation and how the US is using AAP to block Modi ? Great start – but the worry I have is ” Yeh Topiwala Topi to nahi pehnayega” – because if they do that a lot of people will be very very disappointed.

Time will tell – but for the moment , I am a trite disappointed.

Bangalore more expensive than US !

Its True. I just came back from a 1 week US trip and realised that life in US is a lot cheaper than in Bangalore.

Houses are Cheaper – Roseville is a lovely town – 2 hrs drive from SFO. Intel & HP have large establishments here and its a short 20 min drive from Sacramento the capital of CA. A predominantly white neighbourhood – its picture perfect with its broad roads , lovely pavements ( yes if you come from India you ogle at the pavements & kerbs) , greenery , trees , peace & tranquility. Nice parks, lovely walks and drives. All amenities and stores close by. Safe & Secure. A 4 bedroom house here in excellent condition on a 5000 sft of land would have cost you  400 K ( 2.5 Crores). If you had a location like this in India ( which we don’t) a similar house would have sold for no less than Rs 5 Crores. A close comparison would be an upmarket Villa complex in Bangalore like Adarsh Palm Meadows or Prestige Ozone where a similar sized Villa would have been upwards of 4 Crores. And I am not talking of Texas where for 250 K plus you could get a similar deal or better. Apartments with no land in Indian Metros sell for 2 – 5 Crores depending on the location. These are bubbles of glitz surrounded by chaos & cacophony.

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Electricity ,Water & Cooling / Heating for such a large house costs less than $ 250/ month. Thats about 9000 Rs. In Gurgaon if you have to run a similar house with centralised AC your monthly costs for electricity alone would be upwards of  Rs 25,000. And AAP will not subsidise this. Yes the property tax you pay in US every 6 months may be higher than what you pay in India – but most apartment / Villa complexes charge you a monthly maintenance that can vary from 5 – 10 K / month . If you add this to the property Tax you pay then we pay a lot more in India than in US.

The monthly cost of running a house – Grocery / Maid(s)/ Driver / Cable / Milk / Newspaper/ Gas for Car / School for kids ….. is a lot higher. In India this can be upwards of  Rs 1 Lac (~ $2000) / month. In the US you can manage very comfortable within $1000 – $1500. Thats a 50% saving. Food is cheap and nobody has maids or drivers. Most people have started getting a Neato or Roomba a Robotic maid that takes care of cleaning the house. 

Buying a Car is a lot cheaper. A fully loaded Corolla in US costs $ 22K ( 13 Lacs) – In India its upwards of 15 Lacs . If not for the recent currency depreciation the gap in price would have been a lot more and the cars in US were almost 40 – 50% cheaper. And fuel prices in US are a lot cheaper than India. And its got more features and is a lot more plush. As you start moving up to SUV’s and Luxury brands like BMW & Merc the price gap widens and is almost 2X in India .

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Cost of Eating out is comparable and you have a wide variety of upmarket restaurants. Yes the parking in US is a lot more easier and the ambience is better ( thats my verdict). A 3 course meal with some decent wine  for 2 can cost you 75 – 80 $ . Good high speed Wi Fi comes free of cost. A drink – Just 1 Margarita in a nice restaurant in India can put you back by Rs 899/-. The taxes and surcharge in India are a lot higher. Most restaurants add a service charge and on top of that the waiter expects a 10% Tip. Add all this up and the cost of a meal in a fine dining place in India is comparable or higher to the US. And I am not even talking of ITC / Hyatt / Taj – where the rates are exorbitantly higher. But yes if you eat in Saravana Bhavan in the US the meal is 4X the cost of one in Chennai.

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After food you come to clothing. Here again the US beats us hollow. The deals you get and the markdowns in an outlet Mall are genuine. If you have the time to hunt online you can get real fabulous deals. A simple track pant from Nike or Adidas can cost you Rs 2000/-  – you can get that for $14.99 very easily in any Mall or large retail store. Levis in India start at Rs 1500 – you can get better quality stuff for $19.99. Van Heusen , Park Avenue shirts are so overpriced in India – they retail for 1500 – 2000 Rs , excellent formal shirts are available for  $ 19.99 . I visited an outlet mall at Folsom and picked up Gym Tops for my wife – super quality Izod T shirts priced at $ 5.95 (Marked down from $30) –  For $5.95 or Rs 360 you don’t even get a decent handkerchief in India. Across items clothes, shoes, bags, accessories  you see a 30 – 50% cheaper pricing. And in most cases these are items made in India , Bangladesh , Jordan , Egypt –  the stores are cleaner , AC works , the buying experience is better – and yet they are cheaper. I wonder how !

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Hotel rooms come in wide variety from $ 59.99 to $199 for high end branded ones. Sure –  the top brands in India at 200 – 300$ / night offer better service than the best in class in NY or DC  that may charge you upwards of $500 / night – but if you can get a La Quinta Inn for $59.99 why do you need a Maurya Sheraton. Clean beds , toilets , Wi Fi , a Denny’s outside – thats all you need for your family when you go on a holiday. India has 1 star and 5 star – nothing in between – US has a wide variety  to cater the the budget for all – and they all come well above the threshold.

Yes an University degree is more expensive. But you need to realise that you got 12 years of excellent schooling free of cost. And if you take into consideration the quality of education and facilities  one can understand why millions from across the globe rush to US universities on a one way ticket. But for the many who pay donations and join Manipal or its equivalent – think twice should you pay 1 Cr and join Manipal or use that 150K for a good college education in the US.

And finally the only showstopper is probably INSURANCE. Medical , Car Insurance can really be a whammy and cost you 500 – 600$ / month. In comparison in India you can insure you car for 10K / year and your family for 25K / year. The only silver lining in this case is Obama Care – especially for the elderly.

So if you are planning to move from Bangalore to US don’t think twice you can manage in the same salary , but if you are moving from US to Bangalore remember to ask for a hike !

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