A Few Good Things

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

A Few Good Things

Category: Daily Life (Page 1 of 9)

Find Purpose – The Means Follow, 3 Rural Hospitals – A case study in excellence

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to visit divine forces at work in remote rural India. It is amazing to see the transformation that a few good people can bring around with their commitment and passion. There is no adulation, no positive strokes, no awards – the commitment is totally Service, Service, Service. This is Karma Yoga in its purest form, True meditation – and they have found peace happiness and satisfaction.

The 3 Centres we visited are all located in Rural India – about 125 to 200 Km  from Bangalore.

  • Rishi Valley Rural health centre (Near Madanapalli) –  http://rvrhc.blogspot.com
  • Tribal health Initiative at Sittilingi (100 Km from Krishnagiri) – http://www.tribalhealth.org
  • Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement at Saragur , H.D.Kote – 70 Km from Mysore – http://www.svym.org

There are a few common things that have made these initiatives so successful in the last 25 – 30 years since they were started from a thatched hut or 1 room.

  • The dedication and commitment of the doctors who started these centres. They could have had great careers in the cities with big hospitals but they consciously decided to tread a different path. They started small – hands on, and built it brick by brick.
  • The strong focus on community development and awareness. They are Human Centric Organisations focused on Holistic Health. All of them have invested in counselling and guiding people to lead a healthy life. As Dr Seetharam at SVYM pointed out – ” We are not here just to kill the Bacteria & Virus but to ensure that we provide Holistic services to the community to ensure that they don’t fall sick”. And they have taken it to a totally different level with a team of dedicated counsellors and even a Radio Channel to spread awareness.
  • All of which has translated in deep trust and overall development of a healthy community

Dr Regi & Leela started the Tribal Health Initiative at Sittilingi in a remote hilly tribal valley 100 Km from Krishnagiri. It all started with a thatched hut with no electricity – but over time they have built a 30 bed hospital with 3 operating theatres and have earned the trust of the community. Treating over 100 patients every day they conduct ~ 75 surgeries every month. What is more important is their initiative to train the Tribal women as counsellors. The core team trains the local village women  who become the first point of contact to spread the awareness on health , sanitation , pre & post natal care – and this has created wonders.

Dr Karthik and Kamkshi at the Rishi Valley Rural health centre had a similar start almost 20 years back. Trained in AFMC Dr Karthik left a successful career to start the centre with his wife Kamakshi – a pathologist. Today they serve over 200 patients a day – some coming as far as 100 Km away. Madanapalli is a district HQ with a Govt Hospital – but the trust and quality of service they offer is so high that people prefer coming to them. They have taken the level of service to a totally different level and even have a local cobbler designing shoes specifically for diabetes patients.

While talking to Dr Kamakshi she introduced us to a young girl from Washington University St Louis who was visiting them on a Fulbright scholarship to research the high instance of Diabetes in the area. Inspite of the idyllic rural setting – the instance of Diabetes, Hypertension & Thyroid are widely prevalent amongst the villagers. Preliminary study indicates the usage of pesticides and extensive use of Palm Oil in cooking as possible reasons. Here again the focus is on counselling & advisory services for healthy living – how to shift to Millets , the right diet , enabling them to access the best of Govt programs etc.

I had written in one of my earlier blogs for India to Progress – you need 3 things Healthcare , Education & Jobs. Most of these places seem to be following this to perfection. They all  have a school that helps the community children get educated. Quality of education is excellent , schools are neat and clean , well equipped , good teachers. They also provide jobs to the local community – the Nurses , technicians , drivers all come from the local community. At SVYM they have even tied up with Mysore University for a 2 year management program in community development.

Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement (SVYM) was founded by Dr Bala when he was graduating from Mysore Medical College and he has not looked back in the last 30 years since its inception. Today the centre has a 100 bed hospital and outreach program that covers almost all the districts of Karnataka. The institute is doing ground level practical research on areas that impact the lives of the local in close coordination with the Govt. The Viveka school of excellence adjacent to the hospital is an excellent facility for overall development of the children. The approach is 100% Holistic – Dr Bala the Secretary explained that SVYM even helps the local get legal help when they face harassment regarding their land , they help them the documentation to apply for Govt aid programs, they even supply them seeds to promote kitchen gardening – they are a one point social connect to the localities.

At all the three centres the doctors were clear that there would be a nominal charge for services. This contributes less than 50% of their expenses – but there are compelling reasons to charge. Dr Balasubramanya explained beautifully why it is important to charge a notional amount. This is what he had to say

Charging helps preserve the poor patients dignity – he is now demanding service. He has the right to question. This puts pressure on the institution. We are a country where we walk in to a guests house with a token gift of fruits or flowers or sweets – even the poor tribal does not like the concept of Free

The other common theme was the element of trust. Dr Anup explained the importance of building Trust thru Human Connect. Rural people are simple folks. You need to advertise to them. They believe what they see. they believe their community. When the same doctor visits them or treats them, is genuine, doesn’t con them – then slowly familiarity breeds favourability. Then the Trust quotient builds up and spreads word of mouth.

These are hospitals that are spotlessly clean, efficiently run, professionally managed with well defined process and as the mission statement at the Tribal health centre says it all  – their mission is to play an integral part in the communities development. India runs because of such people and their selfless service.

They say “Find Purpose – The Means Follow” – and these doctor teams have demonstrated this saying word by word. Dr Karthik, Dr Kamakshi, Dr Regi, Dr Lalitha, Dr Balasubramaniam  and his wonderful team are all testimony to this.

They are helping define what the new age hospitals should look like. Its time the management from Apollo , Fortis , Manipal …. hospitals paid them a visit. And if you ask ” What is the one things that distinguishes these hospitals from the 5 Star Corporate hospitals of Indian cities ? ” – the answer in one word – GREED.

You can play your part – visit their websites and feel free to contribute what best you can – remember that they need help from Corporates and people like you to manage 50% of their operational costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

500,000 Views – Launching the new Website for “A Few Good Things”

“Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” – Dalai Lama
 
I do it a lot more than once a year. If the travel bug bites you there is no antidote.

My blog is a live example of the power of compounding. When I started in 2010 after attending a training on Digital Marketing it was an exploration. Which rapidly grew to a passion to share a lot of good things. It took nearly 5 years to get to a 100,000 hits and less than 3 years to get to 500,000 hits. And thats when I said its time to upgrade the Blog to a Website.

The website A Few Good Things –  has a clean , simple layout that is based on the Golden Rule of 3

  • All the 170 Blogs are distributed under 3 heads – Travel, Spirituality and Daily Life.
  • The Travel section is further trifurcated to Day Trips, Short Breaks and Longer Breaks.
  • There is an excellent search engine that can help you navigate with ease

This started as a travel blog. I love to travel and document it in detail so that fellow travellers can plan their trips easily.  I hunt for offbeat locations and resorts and help market them through my Blogs that have a viewership of ~ 500 a day.

Over time I have added other interesting entries on Spirituality and Daily Life (Corporate, Personal Finance, Fitness etc). All these are based on my real life experience.

Some of my Blogs feature high on Google search – for Eg if you search for “What is Rudram”  my blog may well be in the top 3 . Tirupathi Travel Tips, Baevu Village, day trips in Bangalore  are also some of the blogs that come in the top 10 in Google Search. Blogs on Valley of Flowers, Soulitude in the Himalayas, Badami – Pattadakal , Tiruchi in 3 days, Vipassana Experience  –  record a high viewership daily benefiting many. The PIO to OCI writeup has helped thousands in Bangalore to visit the FRRO office and get the necessary paperwork done. A Few Good Places which is an exhaustive list of all the places we have been to and those that are in my list – is used extensively before the holidays.

Many resorts have thanked me  – as they have seen a steep jump in bookings rating their property as a must visit – with all the details on how to reach and spend your time there.

The journey continues and I seek your support to continue the compounding effect – help take the 500,000 to 1 Mn and beyond. Do sign up as a follower and please do share the blogs that you found useful with your friends and relatives.

A big thanks to all my well wishers, followers and travel partners and lets pray that a Few Good Things continue to roll out regularly.

 

 

3 Catchy Promises to Win 2019 ?

The golden rule of 3 is the foundation of Communication. Most of what we see is a play of 3. The Trinity , Past – Present – Future, Good – Bad – Ugly , Breakfast – Lunch – Dinner , Introduction – Body – Conclusion , The 3 Little Pigs , Fork – Spoon – Knife ….. I could go on and on . The Golden rule of 3 is a great framework for communication – and when you have to reach out to woo a Billion + electorate it works miracles.

It all started with “Roti – Kapda – Makan”  – a catchy promise that was not met for a very very long time. But it connected with the masses and helped Madam G to be in power for well over 15 years.

And in the last few decades has given way to “Bijli – Sadak – Pani” . I am not sure if this can be attributed to Atalji – but definitely the last 15 years has seen significant progress in Bijli & Sadak. I have travelled extensively across many states and the Urban and Rural roads in India are in good shape. We seem to be generating surplus power and with solar power spreading rapidly the days of 8 hrs load shedding are things of the past. Our villages are getting electrified and Diesel Locos will soon be history.

 

So what will be the 3 key things to focus and connect with the electorate in 2019 ? The last 10 Lok Sabha elections where BJP has lost after 2014 clearly indicates that if promises are not met – the people show you the door. The common man is hungry for more – he has growing aspirations and he wants Acche Din NOW.

Lets look at a few things – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly.

First the Good Things

Our / Capita income is rising rapidly, inflation has been under control , food prices are stable , the monsoons have been good so Agri production has been decent ( Yet there is discontent in Rural India).

We get our passports in a few days , we dont need baggage tags while flying , the country is cleaner – there are more public toilets and you rarely see beggars in stations or in front of temples. The stock markets have done well in the last 4 years and just when retail investors started coming in droves the LTCG came as a rude shock. There are too many cars and two wheelers on the roads and everyone is a flaunting a nice expensive Smart Phone.

 

And now the not so good things 

The country is going Digital but Aadhar is a pain. I just spent a few hrs visiting a small outlet to get my PayTm activated – and I have been doing this for months now – For my phone , Bank accounts , Mutual Funds , LIC – this is bugging me. its irritating – its a waste of time. And a billion people doing this – is not a joke. There should have been a smarter way of getting this implemented.

The interest rates are coming down and the large population of retired people are fuming. And when they just started moving from Fixed Deposits to Balanced Funds and regular dividend to increase their income from 7 % to 10 – 12% they got hit with a Tax on Dividends. This is a large segment of our population and they are fuming – both with the lower interest rates and with Digital India.

And finally the Ugly things

The 14 M graduating everyday are struggling to find jobs. The only jobs I see are delivery boy jobs. The education system is broken and the quality of Graduates coming from our colleges are not job ready. Skill development projects re yet to take off on a. large scale. Yet again a large population that was hoping for a miracle with Acche Din feels let down. This is the generation of instant gratification – they will not wait for 10 years. Even if logic says that Modi is the best and has no alternative they will not think twice before shooing him out if after 4 years they dont see job prospects.

Our cities are going dry, the lakes are drying , the rivers are drying – as urban population explodes the cities are not geared to manage this influx. A city like Bangalore lives off Tanker water – the population zoomed from 3 – 8 Mn in the last 15 years and the prediction is it will touch 30 Min by 2030.

Which brings me back to the Topic of the Blog – what are the 3 Most Important things that is needed to be communicated AND implemented in the next decade. Here is a probable list which may matter to different segments of India – and from this will emerge the catchy slogan for 2019 – and lets hope that is not an empty promise.

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Clean Water  & Sanitation
  • JOBS
  • Broadband / Wi Fi across the country
  • Food Inflation at 0%
  • Happy, secure , debt free , successful farmers

But I will end this on a happy note – the Indian economy is on a. long term growth path since 1992 and irrespective of who comes to power the growth engine will remain accelerating for the next 20 – 30 years. We saw UPA – 1 benefit from all the good work done by Atal Ji’s government.

 

In 2014 BJP inherited a shabby economy and its taken them 4 long years to try and get it back on track ( remember the article on the eve of 2014 elections which talked about how UPA 2 was like a retreating losing army burning and marauding everything before they fled) – so irrespective of what happens in 2019 – we will still see a positive economy and health markets for the coming 3 – 4 years. Lets hope for the best and pray that India does not miss this last chance to become a developed nation.

 

 

 

PS – Source of Data Slides – Anand Rathi Chief Economist presentation on “Future of Indian Economy”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kolkata Shining – Well Done Didi

I recollect that some years back Kolkata came to the news for all the wrong reasons – it was christened the “Dying City”. This after many many years under the administration of Jyoti Basu. From 1977 he held the CM post for 23 years without a break – a tough record to beat. But Bengal and Kolkata saw no progress.

I remember my trips to Kolkata – from the mid 70’s and till 2005 almost nothing changed. Traffic jams , pavements choked with hawkers, load shedding, appalling poverty , filth – it was a mess. Mother Teresa and Dominiqe Lapierre did not help by positioning Calcutta as a city in deep despair. I remember in a quiz competition in school we were asked to name the dirtiest city in the world and the choice was between Karachi , Dhaka and Kolkatta. Karachi narrowly beat Kolkatta to claim the distinction.

Things slowly changed and in the last 7 years Mamta Banerjee and the TMC have done a phenomenal job in transforming Kolkatta. I visited the city after many years in the last week of 2017 and was pleasantly surprised to see a city that I could barely recognise. The transformation is to a scale that you cannot comprehend. Broad Roads , cars zipping at 50 Km/hr ( restraining themselves as thats the speed limit), clean footpaths and pavements, well lit roads with plants, a maze of flyovers , clean billboards and shop fronts, efficient traffic police, the water bodies or “Pukurs” that dot the city are sparkling clean. In the 3 days I was there I did not see a single pothole or a dug up road or footpath – I could go on and on.

 

I would rate Kolkata as the Indian city with one of the best urban infrastructures in the country today comparable with Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and of course New Delhi. Coming from Bangalore ( Koramangla in specific) where traffic crawls at less than 10 km /hr and it can take you 30 min to cross the Sony Junction Kolkatta felt like a foreign city. Add to this Kolkatta has no power cuts and thanks to the mighty Ganges you will never see water tankers queuing up in front of apartment complexes.

We visited the Dhakuria lake complex – again a very well maintained park with excellent walkways spotlessly clean.

All this is indeed creditable work. Its not easy to change a dying city that has been languishing for decades. Yes good work was started by the former CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and if the Nano plant at Singur had happened the industrial pace at W Bengal may have matched that of Gujarat. But full credit to Mamata Di for picking up speed and achieving the impossible. Well Done Didi.

The Indian Press is miserly – all I have heard about Kolkata sitting in Bangalore is Didi’s anger against Modi and the Muslim appeasement – not a word has been reported on how a dying city has been transformed in such a short period of time. You need to give credit where it is due and this change from a. dying city to a sparkling city should have been cover page article and news.

Its not just the infrastructure but also the cleanliness. People have started taking pride in their city – the Bengalis have always been proud of their legacy and now they have earned their bragging rights. I am sure this saga of development will continue. Its a very affordable city and the cost of living would probably be less than half that of Bangalore or Mumbai. A city with history , legacy , sights – a city waiting to be marketed. With all this going for Kolkatta its a matter of time before the builders, brands , malls , companies , jobs flood into Kolkata. And all the  NRI babus who always wanted to be in Kolkata and enjoy their adda will come back. A city on an ascending curve is unstoppable and as the momentum picks up the growth will accelerate.

The trip was also special as I caught up with my college mates from REC Surat and met them after 25 years. We were knocking at 50 but as we met after so many years we felt like 18 year olds. Thanks Manik , Somen and Tutli for taking time to come over.

It was also nice to meet up the folks from ABL township – the colony where I grew up after 30 long years. the hot didis and aunties had aged gracefully. Thank you Ishani and Deepa Di for making this happen. Bengali is a very sweet language and Bengali women are amongst the prettiest you can meet but behind that pretty face and charming smile is a dominating woman – this after all is the land of Ma Durga & Kali.

A trip to Kolkata is never complete without visiting Dakshineshwar & Belur Math. We left our hotel at 5.30 AM and reached Dakhsineswhar by 6.15 AM – spotlessly clean with hardly any crowd we had a blessed Darshan of Ma Kali in all her divine glory. The Ganges was sparkling clean and majestically flowing with Belur Math on the other bank. We could feel the vibrations of the great Sage Ramkrishna in his small room at the temple complex. We didi visit Belur Math also and the Bhog we had was special, don’t miss it – piping hot Khichdi , delicious curry, and Kheer so tasty all served with so much love and affection. Whether its Golden Temple or Puri Jagannath or Dakshineswar there is something special about the Prasad they serve in these divine places.

This is also the city of food – from street food to fancy restaurants all at very affordable prices. We relished the Jhal Modi at the Maidan as we waited for a ride on the iconic tram and enjoyed sweets galore all through the trip. There is no comparison to Kolkata sweets. My fatty liver restricted me from being very adventurous but we did through justice to the amazing food of this great city. The only disappointment was our lunch at Tero Parbon at Hindustan Park where the service was disastrous.

Central Kolkata was buzzing with energy – the stretch from Victoria Memorial , Park Street , Chowringee , the National Museum – is mesmerising and brings back fond memories of childhood when we used to visit Kolkatta from Durgapur. The yellow Ambassador taxis are fast making way to the Uber’s and Ola but I pray that continue for some more time. Kolkata without the yellow taxi and its blaring horns would never be the same again.

Its a paradise for shopping – again great stuff at affordable prices. This was the time of the year when there were melas all around the city. Khadi , Handicraft and a wide variety of clothes and artwork at prices which you cannot believe. From sarees to pyjamas and kurtas, shoes, leather goods you can shop all day long in this city.

Kolkata has so much to offer – it was only on the last day that I came to know of a Jyotir Linga at Baidyanath Temple – a 1 hr drive from Kolkata. I missed it but will come back for sure to visit. There are 12 Jyotir Lingas in the country and most states market them very effectively. These are divine sites blessed with the energy of Lord Shiva – Kolkata needs to market itself better.

I have 3 suggestions to make to help the city sparkle more and attract investments. 

Kolkatta and Chennai produce nearly 50% of the CA’s of the country – Kolkatta with its low cost base can easily position itself as a back office finance hub for the country. The intelligence of the Bengali and the low cost of the city will make this a very compelling proposition.

A lot of day trips can be organised to market the city better. A 7.30 to 6.30 PM trip that includes breakfast and lunch – its easy to identify 10 – 15 such packages and have buses travel on a daily basis to these locations.

Launch a company that can help cities like Bangalore – specially BBMP spruce up the city. You now seem to have the expertise to provide consultancy and execute projects that can bring cities like Bangalore to shape.

And last but not the least Kolkata needs more Gym’s. Given the rich oily diet, lethargic lifestyle, late dinner habits and probably the highest % of smokers in the country   – my friends in Kolkata need to exercise vigorously. But I hardly saw any gyms.  Here is an opportunity for Mukesh Bansal to open many Gyms across Kolkata – so Mukesh please don’t open any more Cult Zones in Bangalore – head to Kolkatta. If Mamta has succeeded in a cleaner Kolkata I am sure she can make it a fitter Kolkata too.

Hospitality is in Bengali blood – my friend and his family took such good care of us we felt we were with family. Thanks Subhashish and Ruma for going out of the way to make us comfortable. I am looking forward to my next trip soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A year after retirement at 48 – Changes & Learnings

Nov 7th, 2017 –  I completed a year after I left the corporate world.

A year back I had written this blog https://vak1969.com/2016/11/12/is-48-the-new-58-the-growing-trend-of-early-retirement/ – and a lot of people came back asking how the last one year has been.

How do you spend your time ? Did you have second thoughts after a few months ? Are you feeling restless ? Are you bugging your wife staying at home all the time ? Etc Etc …. So I felt its time to share how the last 12 months have been  on what have I gained and lost.

In Summary : Its been a breeze – I have had no second thoughts and have been recommending to one and all to pull the plug. Now lets look at some of the key Learnings & Changes

TIME no longer manages me – I am the BOSS 

TIME – Most challenges in life come because TIME dictates us. All our stress, tension , spoilt relationships is because TIME is in total control of us . The day has 24 hrs and you need to do a lot – so you start the day getting irritated in chaotic traffic and all thru the day you fight with TIME and its a losing battle. TIME is your ultimate boss and trying to constantly catch up with TIME wrecks your life.

I am now in control of TIME – I am the boss. The world looks very different when you don’t have multiple deadlines and time pressure. There is no stress – you look around when you drive , you stop by small stores in the neighbourhood , you talk to people in the stores, you admire the flowers in the garden , you observe the birds in the morning walk , you see things you never saw before  – that is a Big Big WIN .

 

You have very few TRUE Friends 

You may have over 500 FB contacts and over 1000 Linked in connects – but if you have a few genuine friends consider yourself lucky. When you are in a position to help people a lot of people keep in touch . For Employee discounts on Apple products , jobs and internships , special deals , references – that translates into 100’s of Diwali , New Year & Birthday greetings. All that vanished- and a few good people kept in touch , to be specific 3, and I am thankful to those 3 people (they know who they are).  So your phone bill comes down – I downgraded from a 1599 Airtel plan to a 799 plan and I am good. I get worried when the phone rings and keep it in DND most of the time as the only people calling me are those wanting to sell insurance products or credit cards or Orphanages wanting charity

A Rupee saved is a Rupee earned 

I was a flamboyant spender – never counted the pennies. But suddenly even if you have enough and more you become very cautious when the monthly pay check stops. It all started one day at the grocery store when I was buying butter and realised that Nadini , Amul and Britannia were priced Rs 40 , Rs 42 & Rs 44 – thats a 10% difference – all 3 brands work fine. The same veggies in two shops 100 m away could be priced differently by as much as 25%. I always had a cup of filter coffee at Adyar Anand Bhawan during my visits to Axis bank – now I drink the same coffee at Udupi Vihar next door – Adayar Anand Bhawan Coffe was Rs 15/- while the one at Udupi Vihar was Rs 10/-.   Same goes with eating out – earlier a family Dinner was in the 4 – 5 K /meal range , we have now discovered lovely places with great food and ambience where it costs us 1000 – 1250 / meal. I never flinched while working paying 30 K / night for a hotel room – we now discover lovely hotels for 5 K / night.

Hotel Rooms , travel , dress , food – you name it – if you have the time to check out a few places there are amazing savings around the corner and without too much of an effort we were able to bring our annual expenses down by 25%.

Do it Yourself. 

Indians are bad at DIY. Our parents were great – as kids we banged nails in the walls , took an entire cycle apart (and fixed it successfully), changed the scooters punctured tyres , and most households managed with 1 maid.

This week I saw in our building Whats App group a lady complaining that the electrician needs to be changed – she has not been able to change her fused tube light for 3 weeks since he did not come. Another  complained that the laundry guy doesn’t come and pick up clothes for ironing. A very good friend calls up HDFC bank to deliver cash at home – we have lost it. And I had lost it too. But now I am starting the DIY journey – and its linked to both TIME and MONEY.

When the laundry guy increased his rate from Rs 5 – Rs 6 ( a whopping 20% increase) my monthly bill went up from 1250 to 1500. I started ironing clothes – 10 a day , most of them are easy to iron – in 20 minutes I can iron 10 clothes – and I am sure I will get better with time. Now you are no longer dependent on anyone and you have saved Rs 1500/- Same with the driver – he hardly had work for 3 hrs a day – his cost to me was Rs 18,000 / month – I let him go with a months notice. We now manage with UBER / OLA and we call in a driver for Rs 350 for 3.5 hrs twice a week – all of this put together costs us less than Rs 6000 /- month – a saving of Rs 12,000.One way of looking at it is I saved 1.44 Lacs – the other way is I just paid for 3 holidays in a year.

We live in comfort – but having a driver who is utilised for 3 hrs a day is unnecessary luxury. My next step is working on reducing our maids from three to two – lets hope that happens soon. For a start we are already washing over 100 utensils a day.

It takes time to change HABITS – but I guess my habits are changing , from becoming extravagant I am now thinking twice before spending money.

And now to answer the main question everyone had for me – How do you spend the day ? Its easy the day flies by – I have watched 3 movies and almost no TV this year. The day can be split into 3 clear sections

On an ideal day I wake up at 4 AM , meditate for an hr , Chant the Gayatri Mantra 108 times and do Yoga/ Walk  for an hr. That between 4AM – 8.30 AM.

We have an early lunch Ashram style piping hot freshly cooked at 9.30 AM. Then from 10 AM – 2.30 PM I have free time to check out mails , make some money on the stock market , read , go shopping , visit Chai point for a cup of tea, go to the bank etc etc

Before the kids come we make some snacks and then its pick up and drop to Tuiton classes , Music Classes , art classes etc – most days that keeps me busy till 5.30 PM. Then I run for 5 Kms (40 minutes) on the treadmill, come home , Chant the Mrityunjay Mantra 108 times , have dinner by 7 PM , spend time with kids and off to bed by 9 PM.

I travel every month to some place – this year has been great and have covered Binsar, Dunagiri , Andamans , Goa , Bandipur , Tiruchi , Chidambaram, Kanchipuram  – and I have Kodaikanal planned in early Dec and Cal / Bhubaneswar / Konark in end Dec. I completed a 10 day Vipassna program and went to Valley of Flowers for an amazing trek. Not just that we discovered 14 new places in and around Bangalore in our Fusion day trips. There is no dearth of things to see and do in India. I learnt swimming ( but got to practise more – Bangalore cold weather not helping) , tried my hand at learning Kannada and failed miserable. Spent a lot of time in doing the interiors for my Villa. Improved my cooking skills , perfected my vegetable chopping skills and with my dish washing ability I am now a great backup if the maid takes leave.

So its been a wonderful busy productive year – not a day have I sat back thinking ” so what do I do today ? ” And I am sure that the next year will be equally busy and productive.

I gained a lot – and I lost a lot – I have lost my anger ( most of the time) , lost my restlessness and have worked on the two most difficult things in life – reducing EGO and minimising DESIRES. I am healthy and fit , 6 kgs lighter and my Fatty Liver which used to erupt every month has troubled me only once this whole year. ( this will go down in history as the most expensive cure for fatty Liver and GERD)

My family sees me at home a lot – and I guess they are happy because they grumble when I say I am taking a few days off. My wife gets to travel more as now there is someone at home to look after the kids.

The essence of my new life is based on 3 fundamentals

  1. Nothing is permanent – everything will pass
  2. You are responsible for everything no one else
  3. My belief in destiny has got stronger – do good and good will happen to you

I am happy that I took the tough call to leave a high paying job at Apple at 48 – No Regrets at all. Its helping me inch forward in my quest for Truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Relocating to Bangalore – Think Again !

Whats the trigger to writing this blog – When a 1 km drive from home to my daughters drawing class takes 30 minutes its time to vent your frustration. (You have to drive because there are no footpaths , the roads are full of potholes and choked with traffic)

A lot has been written on Bangalore’s infrastructure – but its no longer collapsing, its collapsed. Every month thousands relocate to Bangalore – to them I have to say STOP – Bangalore is choking, we are sold out , no waiting list , no RAC.  In the late 90’s I used to joke with my friends in Delhi – relocate to Bangalore now or very soon there will be a Visa – I wish the Visa had come ten years back

Lets look at a few facts

The current vehicle population in Bengaluru stands at 67.22 lakh. In the absence of an efficient public transport system, private vehicles dominate the city’s landscape. There are 46.54 lakh twowheelers (70%), 13.01 lakh cars (19%), 1.35 lakh taxis and 1.71 lakh autorickshaws. All this, with a population of a little over one crore.

And the population is exploding. Close to 10 M Bangalore’s population today is in excess of Chennai & Kolkatta put together. That is colossal. I recollect in 1992 when I was graduating and my 1st company gave us a choice of  selecting a city – I toyed between Pune, Ahmedabad & Bangalore – as they were Tier 2 Cities 

Today Bangalore ranks in the list of Top 3 Metros. Which is great –  but it has the infrastructure for a population of less than 5 M. The IT Boom and now the eCommerce wave has created millions of jobs , real estate rates have boomed, investors , politicians and builders have made billions – but in the process the city has been raped.
This is a photo of ST Bed (Srinivagulu Tank Bed) – in Koramangla 4th Block where I live. Its one of the most sought after expensive localities in Bangalore – Apartments sell  at 10 – 12,000 / sft and a 3 BHK rents for over 50,000. The average speed of traffic anytime between 7 AM and 9 PM is less than 5 KM / hr. To cross the Sony Junction signal will take you 20 – 30 minutes. The narrow roads and by-lanes have cars parked on both sides including the footpath – so less than 50% of the road is available for motoring. The drains are choked – and when you have an entire locality built on a Tank Bed you can imagine what happens when it rains for a few hrs. What you see below is the effect of 3 – 4 hrs of rain. Not a storm or cyclone that went on for 3 – 4 days. With this comes sickness – one of every 5 households in Bangalore has been hit by Dengue this year – you cannot sleep without spraying Hit, even at 530 AM when I step out I need to apply Odomos.
Yes Bangalore has a Metro. Namma Metro with a Phase – 1 length of 42.3 Km – probably the second largest metro after Delhi. It started late and Phase 1 was completed recently – a delay of many years. The metro should have happened in 2010 – but better late than never.  Its made an impact in places where it has come – the 2 wheeler and Auto traffic has reduced significantly. But look at the map and see what are the areas covered in Phase – 1 ?
The biggest residential &  office hubs in Bangalore housing thousands of office and millions of daily commuters are E City , Koramangla , Outer Ring Road , White Field , Bannerghata Road, Sarjapur  – Namma Metro Phase – 1 does not touch any of these parts. The result a drive from Koramangla to Whitefield a 15 km distance will take you a minimum of 2 hrs. The frustrating part is when you go out of station and drive 300 Km in 3 hrs and then the last 15 kms to get home takes 2 hrs. The Railways have planned it beautifully – as you get to a junction or main station the number of tracks increase – they need to do the same for the roads – a 4 lane road getting into Bangalore needs to become a 12 lane road.
It may be a coincidence but Namma Metro Phase – 1  covers most of the old city and the areas which have a higher density of the local Kannadigas. Koramangla, Whitefield, Sarjapur, Bannerghata Road are packed with IT workers – mainly Immigrants. In our apartment of 124 flats not even 5% are locals. Thats the story with all these localities. There is utter neglect of these localities. The nice broad roads , world class “Tender For Sure” footpaths, Metro – all of them exist but in Central Bangalore , Malleshwaram , Jaynagar , Basavangudi, Palace Grounds . These localities have Cauvery water and decent electricity supply.
Bangalore desperately needs some zoning laws. Residential houses on 30 ft X 40 ft plots have 4 stories – so the cars spill over to the roads , worse many of them are let out to companies. between these cars and the UBER / OLA’s the roads are jammed 18 hrs a day. God forbid a major fire or a medical emergency in these areas.
The lightest of Drizzle and the current is cut in Koramangla. Fortunately we have a Genset in our building – but as the current keeps coming and going it plays havoc with your electronic devices. While watching a 2 hr movie last week I timed that the current kept tripping 9 times. The Cauvery water does not meet even 25% of your requirement and the rest is managed thru Tankers ( In many localities 100% of the water supply is thru Tankers)
With 30% of the Bangalore Population being Tamilians there is no Saravana Bhavan here – wonder why ? the annual Cauvery water fight would have resulted in them being easy targets of demolition by local goons. But does Bangalore need Cauvery water – a City that has been bestowed with so many lakes. The city in its heyday had more than 250 lakes. In the 60’s with a population of less than 1 mn , full of green cover and hundreds of lakes – Bangalore was a Hill Station. The lakes are gone – its either Apartments or Offices or Golf Courses that are built on the lakes and storm water drains.
The lakes that are left are dying – they are choking with pollution and weeds. And there is total apathy at fixing this mess. The NGT has issued multiple deadlines to fix the frothing and fuming Varthur lake – but sadly there is no accountability. So the next time a builder solicits you with a lake facing apartment – think twice , the beautiful lake picture in the Ad may be from the 60’s – what you may actually get is something below.
Bangalore is jinxed – God has been kind in bestowing Bangalore with excellent weather , lakes , greenery , hundreds of lovely weekend getaways – but in the last 20 years we have destroyed it. Lalbagh and Cubbon park came up during Hyder Ali and the British – in the last 20 years not a single new large park has been established.
Its one of the few states where the State and the Central government are never in sync.
BBMP one of the largest city budgets after Mumbai – but one wonders where the millions are spent. The roads and drains are fixed every year and they hardly last for a few months. I wish an investigation journalist would compare the money spent on Bangalore Roads in the last 10 years with any other city ( Indian or International)
In the last BBMP elections the current CM requested the people to give him one chance to make Bangalore a golden city – he got the chance in a messed up coalition with JD(S) – the result is there for everyone to see. The future looks bleak – young dynamic BJP chief Ministers like Fadnavis and Adityanath are driving development and change – when it comes to Karnataka BJP has chosen Yedivuruppa – a sad choice.
In a way the IT bust is good for Bangalore – hopefully this mad growth will slow down. A few years back Villas in Whitefield ( the famed Palm Meadows and Prestige Ozones) would rent for a few Lacs and there were none available for sale even at a million dollars. Today 25% of these villas area available for rent at less than 50 K / month –  and there are no takers – a sharp drop from its heyday rates. With almost 30% of the Real Estate in Bangalore locked up – its a matter of time before the prices crash. Rent to Investment ratios are less than 2% – one of the lowest yields in the country.
Between the IT Slowdown , RERA and the collapsing Infrastructure lets hope the jobs and people migrate to Hyderabad and Amravati and Bangalore can slowly but surely get back to its feet as a livable city.

Buy Buy ITC

Todays headlines has been the 13% drop in ITC stock – as an unexpected cess is expected to affect the bottomline. So the mood of the day is SELL SELL SELL. And thats how the market operates – knee jerk reaction. The impact of higher Taxes on ITC is a regular phenomena – Cigarettes are one of the highest category Tax products in the country – and the stock always bounces back to new highs. This is the perfect time to look at the history of the stock.

ITC is one of the best buys in the market. And with a 13% drop – this is a great opportunity to get into the stock. Every long term investor must have this in their portfolio.

Not many know that ITC’s FMCG business, which includes packaged food, personal care and education stationary products, crossed the Rs 10,000 crore revenue milestone in 2016-17 with sales growing by 8% to Rs 10,511.83 crore. Thats colossal and with a fast growing India – consumption stocks like ITC will continue to grow rapidly.

India has over 100M Smokers. By 2015, there were roughly equal numbers of men smoking cigarettes or bidis. About 11 million women aged 15–69 smoked in 2015. The absolute numbers of men smoking any type of tobacco at ages 15–69 years rose by about 29 million or 36% in relative terms from 79 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015. This represents an average increase of about 1.7 million male smokers every year. Habits die hard – and whatever be the price consumption will continue to grow. As affluence steps in more Bidi smokers will switch to Cigarettes. Legal cigarettes constitute only 11% of all tobacco usage in India and the per capita consumption of Cigarettes in India is one of the lowest in the world.

(Source – Trends in bidi and cigarette smoking in India from 1998 to 2015, by age, gender and education – http://www.cghr.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/low_bmjgh-smoking-trends-paper.pdf

http://www.itcportal.com/about-itc/shareholder-value/ITC-Corporate-Presentation.pdf

Lets look at the story in some simple visuals and question the knee jerk reaction

 

ITC  Crashes on July 17th – Panick button – everyone is in sell mode – headlines scream of thousands of crores of losses – mostly  notional.

 

 

 

Now look at the ten year graph and how ITC has given annualised returns of 18.6% beating the Sensex handsomely

 

 

Even in a 2 year period the stock has gone up from 190 to 280 ( after rallying to 350) and remember the 280 price is post Split. 

 

 

Talking of Bonus – this is one stock that gives you Bonus with regularity every 5 years 

 

And here is the company performance track record over the last 20 years – a tough one to beat and with Consumption and growth in India accelerating things can get only better. 

 

So make the most of it – remember every great stock gives you an opportunity to enter and this is the time to BUY ITC.

 

 

 

 

 

Soul Space @ Prestige Mayberry

Building a house in India is a long project that can run into many years. In the US you can get a custom designed house in 6 months – in India it could take you 6 months just to do the interiors.

Bangalore has been a happy ground for Trading Apartments and Villas as the prices of real estate soared between 2000 & 2010. You could book a property at Pre Launch and sell it on completion for almost 50 – 60 % profit in a few years. Those were the days when the complexes were small and the builders delivered on time.  Things changed after 2010 – projects dragged on , the complexes became monstrously large with 1000’s of apartments and the Builders camouflaged the cost under so many small sub headings that the billboard launch rate of 4999/- sft would actually be 6999/- sft.

Having done enough of “Buy – Sell”  – I finally wanted a dream house. After 25 years of work I had earned the right to build it.  A nice green gated complex , close to the main road but tucked away  from the hustle & bustle of the city. Not very crowded but a good community with excellent amenities & security .  And it was sheer luck that we chanced on a property like this.

In 2012 as we were aboard “The Palace on Wheels” a Broker called my friend with a great opportunity to invest in the Pre -launch of a project that met most of the above criteria. And thats how we invested in Prestige Mayberry – a lovely complex of 180 Villas spread across 25 acres in Whitefield near Hope Farm Junction. Prestige delivered on time ( a 6 month delay does not count in todays world where projects are delayed by 5 – 6 years) and price and we took possession in 2016 Sep.

Then came the dilemma of doing the Interiors – I had a very clear idea on what I wanted. But there were too many options and the price quoted varied from 40 Lacs to 10 Lacs. Getting interiors done is a complex job – its tougher than buying a house. Do you go with a Big established guys with German / Italian credentials  who will charge a hefty premium or choose one of the hundreds who will start calling you once your house is ready. Do you fall for the beautiful looking factory finish modular stuff or the proven and tested carpenter who may lack on finish and aesthetics but delivers solid stuff. The options for Ply, Veneer, Paints, Hinges, Handles  are all so many that its very easy to get confused. A good Carpenter is an asset but you will need a good Architect also  – and here are a few simple guidelines to choosing one

  • Look for Experience – Minimum 10 Projects, Talk to the clients with who they have done the work – don’t just see the photos
  • Check their contacts not just with Carpenters but with Plumbers, Civil Artisans , Electricians , Painters etc – in a 30 Lac project the woodwork will only be 50%
  • The Kitchen is complex – strongly suggest you go with an experienced Branded player for that even if the costs are higher
  • Discuss the Business Model – who is paying the vendor their bills , how are you avoiding double taxation , are the vendors insisting on Cash or are they OK with Cheques

Remember – you can have a very clear idea on what you want – but getting it executed is a big challenge. If you want a dream house you need to invest time. From Koramangla to Whitefield is a 90 min one way drive – we did that twice a week for almost 6 months. We loaded tiles and granite and bricks in our Innova and visited numerous markets & stores multiple times. After a lot of time , effort and money and a 2 month project delay – I think I  finally got 80% of what I had in mind. The Architect. the Carpenters and all the other vendors where very supportive all through the journey – and its thanks to their commitment and dedicated effort this project has finally happened. Its a great learning.  

So what is Unique about this House 

This is not a normal house  – its a bright energised space. A 2400 Sft Villa across two levels – its ideal for a couple or a small family. . With a house like this you don’t need to hunt for an offbeat retreat – you can find the peace and quiet you seek right here in Bangalore.

A Large Master bedroom opening to a spacious balcony, a lovely study room and a family space is what we have  in the 1st floor.

The Ground floor  has a beautiful and serene meditation room , a large bright sunny fully equipped kitchen with Microwave , Grill , Dishwasher and the Dining and Living space that opens to the garden.

The Villa comes with 3 Bathrooms (2 Attached) and a small garden where a gardner is already tending to Mango, Pomegranate , Guava , Papaya trees and a host of flowering plants. You have space to park two cars. the visitor Car park is also very close to our Villa

The Villa Number 27 is a special number –  it Totals to 9.

The painting , pictures and the artefacts in the house make it bright and energetic – and you will sense it when you enter the house. A semi furnished house – its ready with almost everything AC’s, Storage , Crockery Units, Shoe Racks , even a Gas Cylinder and clothes line. All that you need is your Bed, Sofa, Dining table  and Refrigerator. (That can also be organised for the tenant if required) – and you have 24 by 7 power and water.

Whats Unique about Prestige Mayberry 

Its not cluttered, Its rare to find in Bangalore today a Builder developing a 25 acre property with only 180 Villas leaving so much greenery all around. The Club House is fabulous – a beautiful large pool , Squash Courts , Two Badminton Courts , A well equipped Gym and a lot more. The design and quality of the clubhouse like in any Prestige Property is 5 Star.

And its so close to everything – just 200 m from the Main Whitefield Road , Hope Farm Junction is a stones throw away. The 3 Malls at Whitefield are easily accessible, Hospitals , Shops, Temples , Churches, Restaurants – all at close proximity . ITPL and the main Business District of Whitefield is less than 2 Km. And the Whitefield Police Station is round the corner. A professional Cricket Coaching centre is right behind the property. The best of International School on Varthur Road is a 20 min drive.

With all this it just amazes me that a 3BHK flat in a 15 year old complex in crowded and messed up Koramangla demands the same rent as this beautiful Villa in Whitefield !

And this lovely place is available on Rent  – given that we have spent so much passion in getting this house ready we will be picky in choosing our Tenant but for the right person we will be very flexible on Rent.

So if you are peace loving small family or couple  – do reach out to us at

+ 91 98452 18532 ( Whats App or Message Only)

vak_1969@yahoo.com

Few More Photos of the Place 

 

The Sports Club adjacent to Mayberry 

The Sports Club adjacent to Mayberry 

 

 

MBA Gold Medalist searching for a job in Booming Indian economy !

The title sounds contrarian doesn’t it. The worlds fastest growing economy , stock markets at an all time high , positive spirits all around – and yet the job market for the youngsters seems to be spiralling downwards rapidly.

In this Blog I am going to try and connect the dots between 3 things

  • The economy – Job Readiness and availability
  • The need for young entrepreneurs for self employment.
  • A few radical solutions for generating employment and settling the restless youth

I have and continue to be an ardent admirer and supporter of this government and PM Modi. Its our last hope and the string of economic reforms, interest cuts, demonetisation, new initiatives have all been exciting – if all of this doesn’t get the economy and jobs pumping – what will, I wonder. Or is there a lag between policy and change on the ground – if so whats the gap. This gap better be bridged fast – well before 2019 or the backlash from the youth voters could be very very strong.

Let me share with you a few recent incidents of the last few weeks. These are real life incidents.

Case – 1 : A very bright young girl  who has been a topper in her Under Grad and Post Grad Science programs goes on to do a MBA in HR from the Premier Management Institute – Fore School of Management Delhi (Ranked in the top 20 in the country), Is a Gold medalist in her MBA class – there are Zero campus placements for HR and she is actively hunting for a break.

 

Case – 2 : I was at the JetKing centre at Calcutta. JetKing is the country’s premier Skill development institute. I met a M Tech student who after 6 years in a premium engineering institute, with excellent grades at the age of 25 had enrolled with JetKing for a 1 year program hoping to get a job that would pay him a salary of 10 – 15 K ./ Month. JetKing graduates have great hands on skills in IT, Networking, Digital technologies – and he was lured by the thousands of engineering graduates who had managed to get a job after enrolling with JetKing. He was happy to settle even for a 10 – 15 K / month salary. (Thats comparable to what a Swiggy delivery boy earns and way less than what an Uber driver earns)

Case – 3 : While at Cal I caught up with a very bright young person who used to work as a free lance trainer in my extended team some time back. He was one of the best – sharp, intelligent , excellent attitude – an engineer with a few years experience, excellent communication skills. he took a break 6 months back and is now struggling to get a job. He says there are just no open jobs in Sales or Training. Attrition levels are almost zero and for all the tall claims we see nobody is really expanding the physical sales force – with a fast growing commerce market and everything including Training becoming Virtual and online.

We hear that 90% of Indian Grads are not ready for the Industry – but these 3 people mentioned above are in the 10% of very capable and competent people , Good technical skills , good communication ability , IQ levels well above average , excellent attitude – yet they struggle for a job in the worlds fastest growing economy.

Case – 4 : After these 3 challenging situations I saw a very different scenario when I met my daughters Chemistry teacher. Surya is in his early 30’s  – an engineering graduate from Vishakapatnam Andhra University in 2005. Surya is one of the most sought after Chemistry tutors for class 11 – 12 in Bangalore. He visits the children at their house ( so they save a lot of travel time) – has a group of 5 – 6 students , takes long sessions of 3 hrs at a stretch and charges a princely sum of Rs 500 / student / hr. Compare this with the Rs 100 a month I used to pay 30 years back to a REC Durgapur Phd professor. But nobody is complaining – he is doing a great job , the students love him , the parents are happy that he comes home. Its a Win Win.

If Surya had joined Wipro or Infosys like most of his peers did 12 years back he would probably have been one of the thousands who were getting laid off – but thanks to his spirit of entrepreneurship Surya now makes more than 5 Lacs a month and the best part is – his day starts at 430 PM after school – he has the full day to himself.

There are many Surya’s out there who have ventured out to be self employed professionals and these are the people who are standing out in the challenging economy of today. If you are talented and smart – there are enough opportunities out there – but you need to find an avenue where people start running after you Vs you running after companies for jobs.

The meltdown of the eCommerce market has dried up whatever few job openings were coming. There is a blood bath in the IT industry and what we have seen is the tip of the iceberg – this will gain momentum as the crisis deepens.

However there is hope – there are 12 massive disruptions around the corner , the 4th industrial revolution is at our doorstep and can create colossal changes.

The next set of Wipro’s and Infosys will emerge in the coming years and the old order will change yielding place to the new.

These technologies are rapidly moving from the lab to touch the common may in their day to day lives… but there is still time for this massive change to integrate and drive the economy. The impact of this will not be visible to the millions of unemployed Indian youth before 2019. To them the Digital world is just a Smart Phone with an App on which you can transfer money or watch a Video.

I have one suggestion to PM Modi – like the demonetisation move it may sound tough and harsh – but thats the fastest way to get the employment engine going.

So here is what I propose

Pass a legislation to make the retirement age in companies Pvt & Public to be 50 years. People who have worked for 25 – 30 years are specialists in their area – they have savings , most have a Pension to fall back upon – and now they are the best equipped to take their expertise and become entrepreneurs. If they are pushed they will do it – and they will have a better chance of success than a raw 20 year old. This move will open up millions of jobs in months , it will reive the consumption economy as billions locked up in PF accounts will now become liquid in the hands of those retiring at the age of 50.

This may be the easiest and fastest way to get the young and restless gainfully employed and to rev up the economy to faster levels.

There is a second option – Universal Basic income 

The next best option is to do a Universal Basic Income – dismantle the subsidy income and deposit 15,000 Rs / month to every Adult who has a bank account. I recently read that the cost of  subsidy and its administration is comparable to giving every adult a 15,000 Universal Basic Income in this country. So the Govt doesn’t lose money, eliminates corruption and the middleman in one go.

Yes PM Modi promised 15 lac in all our accounts – he may as well make a start with 15,000 / month in our accounts from 2018.

Who knows this may very well happen – lets pray for the best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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