Friday, January 25, 2008

Shtop Lights

Everyone talks about the retail boom in India.
it is overflowing to the streets as well.
i am sure you would have been approached by some hawkers at stop lights with a fairly large array of goods.

other than the traditional car wipe cloths, i have seen 'designer' sun glasses, magazines, sun shades, electric mosquito swatters and a range of seasonal items.

This week, there were Indian National Flags, stickers, and soem desktop displays of flags.

i am amazed at the distribution network and also the economics.
though i have not bought anything from these hawkers, i am sure there is sufficient business to make this viable.

Stop lights are becoming Shop Lights - or stoppers shops!

a recent sales pitch from a small boy raised a few doubts in my mind.

this boy was selling tissues. he wanted me to be his first customer - around 9 AM.
his offer was 5 packs for Rs. 100.
i had the window glass down a little, so he decided to engage in a harder sell.
when i responsed to his initial offer with a no, he must have felt that he had got my attention and interest.
he said, For you, sir, i will give you 6 packs for Rs. 100.

the sale was still not concluded.
the car started inching towards the light.
the next 'final offer' was for 7 packs for Rs. 100 and that i could never get that deal again, ever..

it was a false alarm, as the light was still red.
this time, he said, 'sir, last and final offer - 8 packs for Rs. 100'. i will give you all the boxes i have.. i am giving this only because you are my first customer.

as the car started moving, i started to wonder if i would have anyway felt bad and cheated anyway - either because the actual price would have been even lower or maybe the boxes were all empty or had a very low number of tissues.

i do not want to get the answer by buying from the street corner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

less is better

the last two days, most of the maxi-cabs and many private buses are off the roads in bangalore.

while they are protesting the mandate of fitting their vehicles with speed limiting devices, it has been better for the other drivers, as they are able to drive faster than usual, with less crowded roads.

i am sure that this is one of the reasons for this protest and reluctance.

i have some solutions for this issue:

make the speed limiting device active during peak hours only
have special drag races for these drivers who are forced to drive with limitations; these races to be held over the weekends in specially designated roads that have the normal number of potholes, cross traffic etc
like slow cycle races, have a slow-sumo race
offices should reward the drivers [and the employees, consequently] who come in late to work, due to slow driving
i shudder to think how long it would take to get to the new airport with a maximum speed of 15 kmph..

p.s. no idea mentioned above to be construed as the author directly or indirectly promoting rash driving!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


or Chinese innovation.

i visited a friend recently.
he had returned from a trip to the US, and was showing some of his shopping there.

these were Chinese products, LED based lamps.
of was a stick on - that could be put inside cupboards.
another was a hand charged torch light.
a third was a candle [wax] lamp.

the candle lamp had real was [vanilla fragrance] and an LED lamp.
the lamp would flicker and also create the illusion of a normal wick burning. if you did not know that it was electrically operated, you cannot tell the difference.

three interesting aspects of this:
1. the finish was very good. no ragged edges, pleasant colors and very low power consumption - LED lamps.
2. they were all Chinese made designs
3. they were very cheap. the candle lamp was about Rs. 20, the cupboard lamp was about Rs. 40. [USD 1.00]

i had read the book Tigers at your doorstep on Chinese innovation going beyond the cost / price based competition alone.

this was very interesting - to see that simple applications of simple technology. no risks on either front. but creating immediately appealing products and making them affordable.

consider this with the sharper image products..

something to think about.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The driving genes?

of late, due to business travel, i have not been driving as much myself, but rather been in chauffeur driven cabs.
in Chennai and noida as well as in bangalore, for the drive to and from the airport

one thing that struck me recently was the whole 'driving culture' that seems to have evolved very distinctly, not only in the context of cities, but also within localities in the same city.

In Bangalore, most junctions have their own implicit conventions. when you are expected to cut the central circle and when not. at some junctions, the conventions vary with the time of the day as well as the presence of a traffic regulator [policeman or a home guard].

irrespective of signals, some junctions have their own right of way conventions - as to which roads get the preference etc. added to this is the 'might of way' conventions, resembling the Darwinian survival of the fittest [genes] theory. the bigger, faster your vehicle is, the mightier and rightier you are considered.

recently, what i noticed - both in chennai and bangalore was that when the culture code of - flashing headlights to signal that you claim the right of way, or honking to indicate that you are unhappy with the world in general - is broken, the affected party, or whoever considers that offensive, starts pumping adrenaline and has to show that the offence is not taken slightly.

on my way home from the airport a couple of days ago, a truck that was also turning right [obviously he was not on the rightmost lane to make the turn] made a deep swerve and was almost cutting my cab off. natural protective instinct led the driver to honk. surely, the truck driver was not amused.

with a wanton swing, he came very close to the cab to threaten and say that he could anytime just touch the cab and not even be affected by it.

this was enough for my driver to literally shift gears in the cold war. normally a very calm and composed driver, he stepped on the pedal, surged ahead, moved swiftly to the left - to get ahead of the truck ... and, slowed down, forcing the truck also to slow down!

having done that, a quick look at the rear view mirror he sped ahead, and resumed his normal, composed driving.

i see similar acts of aggression - the seeds of road rage? - in every city.

when i reflected, i realize that my own driving style has 'evolved' in the 17 years that i have been in Bangalore. i have become more aggressive that what i used to be.

do you think that driving needs a special set of genes and that these have their own social conventions?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Previous day's newspaper

i like reading the newspaper.
if i cannot do it in the morning, i prefer to read it the next day, rather than in the evening.

when i travel out of town for a few days, i like to read the papers after my return.
helps me catch up with the local, national and international stories.

reading the previous day's paper is interesting.
you most likely know the main stories already - from TV or through someone else. so there is no element of surprise.
but, at the same time, it is a good source to quench your curiosity. you can get the details of the stories that are of interest.

in that sense, it is better value for time spent with the paper.

another advantage with the previous day's paper is that there are unlikely to be other contenders - so you can read in peace - as long as you wish, wherever you wish!

when i travel to a new place, i like to read the local - more local, the better - paper.
many of the local papers are tabloids.

they want to ensure that you - as a reader - can empathize with the neighborhood in times of distress such as a cat that climbed a tree and caused a lot of mental agony for the caretaker as well as the neighbor.

with this habit acquired in India, i sorely used to miss the daily paper in the morning [no. i usually do not drink coffee, so that is not a necessity]. on one occasion, when i was visiting the USA [in California, to be more precise], i picked up the free local Daily News during lunch time. my co-worker commented that it was my daily dose of depression.

i have thought about it many times. and still cannot find a simpler, clearer and correct definition or reason for the newspaper habit.

i need my daily fix of news and views.

the e-paper versions do not hold the same charm for me. while they have matured in the recent times, and provide the page turning effects, i still cannot fold the image to the size of, say, the crossword!

why talk about old newspapers in the new year - you may wonder.

almost every paper has a recap of the year that was - the top / bottom list, whose logic nobody would know - as it varies from paper to paper.
in effect, they are compressing all that happened in the year to a page or two.

i hope that one day we will have our own paper - with the look and feel of the texture and size of paper, customized to our preferences, that is completely electronic.

what the iPod did to music and now videos, this newsPod would be the next killer product idea.