Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai, Bombay, Mambai & Bambai

The original 7 islands inhabited by Kolis that became this city

Till 1996, we called this city what we wanted, we called it Bombay in English, Mumbai in Marathi, Mambai in Gujrati and Bambai in Hindi. Then divisive politics happened and the one and only exclusive name became Mumbai. Bombayites and Bambaiyas became Mumbaikars. If after that you dared call this city anything but Mumbai you risked the wraith of political goons assualting you, or attacking your house.

Why this divisive politics? What is the need for a divisive strategy? Does it win more votes? Is it the only way? What about an inclusive strategy? Why not have added the names Mumbai, Mambai and Bambai to the then official name Bombay? After all isn't dosen't our own country have 3 names: India, Hindustan, Bharat ? Germany has 2 names: Deutschland and Germany; Holland is called both Netherlands and Holland; and there are many more examples.

The names Bombay and Mumbai both have historic origins. Bombay comes from the Portuguese term Bombaim, which means Good Bay, which probably refers to the fantastic natural bay and shipping harbour, that lead to the establishment of the Bombay port, which was instrumental in giving birth to this essentially trading and shipping city. The word Mumbai, originates from the patron goddess, Mumba Devi, of the Kolis (the original inhabitants of this land before it became a city) where the word Devi translates into the word Ai, which means mother in Marathi.

So why can't we have 2 names or 4 names? Why can't we allow people to use whatever they are comfortable in using? Whatever suits them. Surely our heart is large enough, because we have an Indian heart, which is known to be especially large.

Now that the follies of our divisive methods, which pits man against man, are coming haunt us through terrible events, where the lives of innocents is being lost, let us roll back these silly divisive actions and thinking, because more than adding 3 names, it is a roll back in our divisive thinking to a purer thinking, where we are once again inclusive in our thinking.

Lets campaign for Inclusive thinking, starting with adding 3 names to the existing solitary name of this beautiful city with beautiful people.

Why is there no SAG permanently in Bombay?

The National Security Guard was established in 1985 after Operation Blue Thunder when the need for a dedicated anti-terrorism squad was felt. The NSG is a highly skilled, highly equipped and highly trained outfit of 14,500 commandos on deputation from the army, navy and air force.

The NSG has a dedicated counter terrorism and counter hostage wing known as the Special Action Group, SAG, which is tightly focused on rescue and counter attack in situations of terrorist and hostage situations.

The other wing of the NSG is known as the Special Rangers Group, SRG, whose job is to defend VVIPs (VV Important People/Places) from terrorism and other attacks and they can be seen guarding people such as the Prime Minister and important locations.

What struck me most about the terror attacks on Bombay that started 2 days back is that the Bombay Police where highly ill-equipped to handle terrorism. And ofcourse that is normal. A city's police force is raised to deal with crime and protection from anti-social elements, not high trained terrorists. One cannot expect a city's police force to have the budget, training and politics to be able to handle enemies who have been obviously trained to the standards of special forces.

The other thing that struck me was that the SAG had to be flown in from New Delhi to deal with the terrorists in Mumbai. By the time they left it was 1:30am (the crisis began at 9:30pm) and by the time they reached the airport and then onward onto the specific locations, it was already 6:00am. All the killing and hostage taking happened between 9:30pm and 6:00am! Infact as soon as SAG got in they started freeing the hostasges with the 1st batch being released at 6:30am.

So why does an important and venerable city like Bombay, the commercial capital, not have a SAG battalion based locally? why do they have to be flown in from Delhi?

Is it something to with politics? Yesterday the Chief Minister of Maharastra was quoted in the papers as saying that "we need to raise a force like SAG in Maharashtra" !!! Why???

I think it's the fault of disgusting politics and sheer Indian incompetence that there is no SAG unit in Bombay. In addition to the benefits of rapid response time, the team will be familiar with local establishments and terrain, making them that much more effective.

For the sake of nearly a 1000 people that lost their lives in Bombay and so that their sacrifices do not go in vain, let us be sensible and setup a SAG permanent unit in this great city.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Our Pledge Against These Cowardly Attacks

I hope you are safe and your resilience not too shaken by these shocking and distasteful events that are now ongoing for 48hrs in Mumbai.

These attacks by cowards on unarmed civilians at the leisure centers of our city, in the evenings when people were relaxing after working hard, and on those places which Indian & International company executives frequent, have been designed to disrupt Indian business activities and demoralize teams. They are meant to cast fear into the minds of foreign visitors and parents/families of our cities' workers. And they are meant to breed mistrust. They want us to abandon our work so that we as teams fail, so that investments into India stop, so that our growth fails, so that we descend into chaos.

Our response to these cowards will be that we will not fall for the fear that they are attempting to create. They do not realise that while we Indians may be an easy going, jovial people, we are not weaklings that will scare and run away. Our response will be that we will get back at these people by growing our country to great heights and making our country stronger. We will leave our opponents frustrated, not by attacking them in return, but by becoming successful and secure.

With several 100 dead and many more deeply wounded, this is also a time for deep reflection on the India that we are building and why we have been repeatedly subject to attacks, both from within and from external forces. For too long we have built a lawless India where the legal system is in shambles and people cannot get justice, breeding deep frustration; for too long we have built a corrupt India that robs efficiency, leading to unemployment and poverty; for too long we have built a greedy India with a great gap between the haves and have nots; for too long we have built a divisive India where we have divided up each other on the basis of caste, colour, state, wealth and religion; for too long we have built a disrespectful India where we do not value other people's opinions, always asserting ourselves; and for too long we have built an India befrit of teamwork, so that it becomes virtually impossible to get good results in anything, including basic security.

Some things thus that we must henceforth pledge:

  • we will never ever hinder or criticize any security measure or officer that is undertaken on the roads, malls, airports or offices. We will coorporate fully
  • we will not attack each other, verbally or physically, over any issue, big or small.
  • we will treat each others' point of view with immense respect and listen to it carefully
  • we will work hard, sincerely and with 200% honestly
  • we will strive to become more productive and increase our growth beyond even our own expectations
  • we will be united and work tightly as a team
  • we will spread the message of sincerity and teamwork wherever we go
  • we will never complain when we have to stand up for the national anthem, because the reason we stand is in respect for those who lost their lives defending India.
  • we will work hard to build the legal system
  • we will work hard to remove corruption from it's root
  • we will not divide people or get divided
I would like to take this moment to express my grief and sympathy for the families of the security officers and civilians who lost their lives and were injured. My heart goes out to these victims, these brave people and their grieving families. Let us become more dignified, better people and more productive so that their sacrifices are not in vain.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Improving India's economy one name at a time

One can't deny that ever since Bombay's name was changed to Mumbai in 1995 India's economy has boomed. The Mumbai change was followed by Bangalore to Bengaluru, Calcutta to Kolkatta, Madras to Chennai and a few others, all of which has undoubtedly contributed to Indias 10% annual GDP growth.

Now that Oil has gone over the top and the world economy is on the rocks, it's time to release some important strategic name reserves and make some important name related changes to shore up India's economy and ensure we do not miss our 10% target this year:

Orissa changes to Odisha
from now in Mumbai all nameboards have to be in both English and Marathi.

Both these important changes were passed by the respective state governments after debates in governing houses. I am so glad our politicians are doing the right thing and ensuring that the people live well and the economy keeps running.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

When India attacks India

It's bad enough that India's borders are being constantly attacked by Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, etc; and the secret service outfits of these countries have also created militant outfits within India that keep setting off bombs every few months.

What is even worse when Indians attack themselves. Everyday the media is filled with news of how some political or semi political outfit went violent and attacked people. Just today the story is about the Gujjar community in Rajasthan attacked people, police stations, blocked highways and dug up railways tracks. Lots of people lost their lives as a result, 1000s were injured, lots of economic damage was done and people are generally in a state of fear.

Another story today is about political parties in Mumbai, namely the Shiv Sena & the MNS are attacking North Indians and destroying property. They beat up so called North Indian taxi drivers for immigrating to Mumbai and destroyed these poor people's taxis and even killed a few. Then they went around destroying museums and commercial establishments because they had the word "Bombay" in their name.

This is happening with total and complete disregard for the law. My view is that if you are unhappy with something, goto the court and complain, but don't resort to destruction and violence. When the very political parties that are supposed to govern do this, it speaks volumes of the state of affairs of our judicial system and the liberties of the common man: there is virtually no justice in India !

India, please stop attacking yourself.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Why the US needs to lower taxes and attract foreign investments

With 30% Federal Corporate Income Tax, 10% Sate Corporate Income Tax, and in the case of New York City, another 10% City Corporate Income Tax, and with Sales Tax of nearly 10% in most states, the US is one of the most tax intensive countries in the world.

Which is a shame, because it fabulous infrastructure, highly qualified workforce, huge capital markets and large domestic market the US is one of the best places to set up a global head quarter. A company could base it global HQ in the US and cut short by many years the time it takes to grow.

But these high taxes come in the way, so instead companies want to locate the corporate head quarters in Dubai, London, Gibraltar, or are agnostic about where they locate their headquarters.

With the diminished role of the US Dollar as the world's reserve currency, the US has seen since June 2007 reduction in monthly Government Bond purchases by foreign nations from $300B a month $80B a month. This has sucked a lot of low cost liquidity out of US capital markets.

To compensate for this reduced liquidity, the US needs to go all out to woo foreign companies to shift their global headquarters to the US. And the best way to do this is to cut taxes drastically and even go as far as giving 20 year tax holidays to any businesses over $5M turnover that relocate headquarters to the US.

With businesses relocating to the US, investments will follow and the US should easily be able to compensate for the low cost $220B it is losing out every month.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The unreal world economy

Oil is at $110 a barrel, yet the price of petrol and diesel hasn't gone up in India the last 3 years. Since a year back, oil has doubled from around $60 to approximately $110 today. Yet, I am paying the same in Rupees for my petrol as I was last year.

How is this possible ?

The price of petrol is being artificially maintained. India's 3 large petrol and diesel retailing companies, all state owned, are deep in the red, their combined debt has mounted to over $2000 Billion !

This is being done to keep people happy, to keep prices from going crazy. To ensure that people can go on living and there are no major disturbances in towns & cities.

But this is not sustainable. How long can the oil companies go on borrowing? This is madness.

The price will have to correct and when it corrects by doubling, cost of food, transport and electricity will go sky high. A majority of people's incomes will go towards simply meeting these costs and people will be forced to reduce spending on new homes, new cars, new tvs, holidays, clothes, etc. The economy will come to a screeching halt.

This is not just an Indian problem, this will be a world problem. The cost of the basics is likely to go so high that people are just not going to be able to afford anything else.

Unless, the world once again gets a new source of cheap energy, quickly.

What can that be? It can only be Nuclear & Coal. I think the planet should start going Nuclear on the double. There is no more time to waste deliberating if it is good or not, it is necessary. Coal fired power has already started, all recent power plants coming up seem to be coal based.

But can all this happen fast enough, or is the planet going to be caught napping and we will end up with 7 to 10 very hard years. Well, we'll find out in early 2009 by which time oil should have crossed $200.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Google: Don't be STUPID and ARROGANT

Here is a Google horror story, and it's happening to me. Suddenly while using my email in the middle of my work day, I get the message that "Your email has been locked down for 24hrs due to illegal activity". This is not my ordinary email, but my Apps email.

I read all their reasons for the LOCKDOWN and I was in violation of none of them. I am using no 3rd party software, not using 2 machines for the same account, not sending spam, nothing. Yet it happens.

Google is so sure of their technology that they believe they are 100% right when it comes to taking severe & damaging action against a user.

The best part is their support form does not even contain support for Google Apps email. You have to fill in your gmail id in "what if your email id", so I am not even sure if their customer service centre guys will understand what is to be done.

Google, I can tell you that you are sure to lose me as a customer and my whole company if this issue is not resolved quickly and keeps re-occurring.

Update: Google resolved the issue within 30 mins of the lockdown; not sure if this was due to the complaint I filed, or if it is auto-programmed into their system.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Back to IE & loving it

After spending years with FireFox, I never imagined I'd move back to IE. But with all of FF's memory leaks, which seemed to grow with each release, I moved back to IE 7. And what a relief. All the same functionality, none of the misery. It's a shame that FF couldn't resolve this issuse, which may happen with FF 3....

Monday, April 14, 2008

Getting brand right

Getting brand right is the differance between just doing business and doing profitable business. If you don't get your brand right, if it isn't unique, the you are likely to spend a vast amount of money on being just another brand and thus you don't make any profits.

Here is a long but great presentation on how to get your brand right.

Here is another on how to get Luxury Branding right

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tips for startups

Reposting this from my original post in VentureWoods

There is an interesting post doing the rounds on the blogsphere which talks about 17 tips for startups.

Most of these tips apply to the US, but some are universal, and the one I like the most: fire employees who are not workaholics. I totally agree with this one and strongly recommend that every startup apply it. You don’t need a big team, you need 2 to 3 people working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week with no vacations. Find them and keep them.

Anyway, that post was followed by a Techcrunch post, which was a startup not too long ago and the founder had his own advice.

If you have any additional advise then do share here in the comments section.

Here are some of my tips:
1. Try and outsource as much as possible. You may not be able to recruit great people because you are a startup, but you will find fantastic entrepreneurs who are available to work on your project in an outsourced capacity.

2. Cash is a very scarce in a startup. Try and do equity deals with outsourced companies, this will bring down your costs. You will be surprised how many are willing to take equity if they like your idea

3. Don’t recruit employees. Recruit co-founders. The best people no longer want to work for companies, they want to own them, so recruit co-founders. You will be amazed at the quality of people you get, far better than if you advertsied for employees. You will need to give them some stock, but that can come from the ESOP pool. Goto to see how much you should set aside for ESPOS

4. Drive the costs down of everything. Don’t be shy of bargaining.

5. Work like crazy, don’t relax, get everything done at 5 times speed. You will run out of money faster than you think. You customers will come later than expected. The only chance you have of beating the system is keeping costs low and working faster than money runs out.