Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today 5 pm, Colaba: Disgusted with Scams? Time to Reclaim your Citizenship!

CWG, Lavasa, 2G spectrum, mining contracts, Adarsh… The skeletons keep tumbling out with mind-numbing regularity, and each delivers the same message: Eternal vigilance is the price that we citizens must pay for freedom… or else! If we remain passive spectators, we will lose our collective self respect and wealth. So the buck literally stops with ‘We the People’.

Too often in the past, we citizens failed to participate in governance. We left it all to politicians and bureaucrats while we withdrew into our comfortable private worlds. The results of our collective neglect are now all around us, too squalid to ignore.

Mr. & Ms. Citizen, isn’t it high time we dusted off our 60-year-old contract with the State, called the Constitution? Isn’t it time we re-looked at the meaning of our fundamental rights and fundamental duties? Isn’t it high time that we invested some energy and resources into enforcing our rights and delivering on our duties?

Isn’t it time we stopped nervously watching from the sidelines, and stepped into the centre-stage of non-electoral politics and governance reforms?

Come, Rediscover your Constitution, Reclaim your Citizenship. We invite you to participate in our forthcoming meeting.

Date & time: 20 November, 5 to 7.30 pm

Venue: Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA),

Cooperage, Near Oval Maidan, Colaba

Landmark: Gate opposite PVM Gymkhana on the road that comes straight from Churchgate

RSVP & Enquiries: Krish 98215 88114

The Constitution is the blueprint of India’s democracy. Although 60 years have passed since it was painstakingly drafted and enacted, few of us ever laid hands on it. We remain unaware of the role that it plays in our daily lives and the strength it can provide to our struggles against bad governance. Come, let us look at some landmark cases that the Constitution helped people win… and how these have changed the way we live. Let us look at the essential tools that we can use in challenging and changing the way in which we are governed.

Come. Let’s review some of our own beliefs as citizens that have contributed to the squalid reality around us. And then let’s move towards creating a new reality.


  • This is part of a series of interactions in Mumbai and other cities being held every month until 26 January, 2011. The series is anchored by Vinita Singh and Krishnaraj Rao. Vinita has been working in the area of social development for 16 years, largely among the urban and rural poor. Krishnaraj is a professional journalist, publisher and campaigner for proper implementation of Right to Information and other crucial rights & duties of citizens.
  • This meeting at Colaba is organized with support from Kishore Jagtiani & 3rd – 4th Pasta Lane Residents’ Association, Kunti Oza & Oval Cooperage Residents’ Association (OCRA), Colaba ALM (CALM) & Cuffe Parade Residents Association.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Disgusted with negative Commonwealth Games news coverage

Unfortunately the quality of jounalism in India tends to be oversensationalised and non analytical, with Bennet Coleman at the top of the trash heap. TimesNews, Times of India, Economic Times are virtually rags, constantly reporting highly sensationalised and mostly negative stories...notice how TimesNow has Saas Bahu (notorious afternoon soap on the battle between daughter and mother in laws, watched by stay at home daughter and mother in laws!) type editing and effects with the camera doing triple repeat zoom ins of the same spot with suitable "slashing" sounds to create a sensationalized effect. As these are pretty popular news media across India, the trash tends to be picked up and redistributed by people socially, cause India bashing are topics that get the reactions.

I had the good fortune of visiting the games village 6 weeks back. It is extremely well built and very beautiful (yes its the one above), with lovely gardens, nice architecture, very nice finishing, lcd tvs in each apartment, gorgeous bathrooms, superb fitness center, pool, etc (it will be sold as premium residential apartments after the games and if you are looking for property in Delhi it is highly recommended). It is built by an international firm, Emmar, the same people responsible for many of the beautiful buildings in Dubai (including the worlds tallest one). Check it out here

The foot-bridge that collapsed was also being built by an A list contractor...

Today the Times (website) is screaming the headline "Roof Collapses", when you read the story it turns out a small part of a false ceiling came down due to heavy cables...

Go figure!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Age of the Aggregator

Hi, so I haven't blogged for many months now, thanks to Twitter, but I wanted to write a little longer one so here I am!

Have you noticed the Aggregator phenomena that's sweeping the world? An Aggregator is a service that complies the products/service of many brands and provides them to customers in a single place. The Aggregators come into place when there are multiple brands which are very similar to each other, and of virtually equal quality, thus the customer does not mind choosing between them. Instead the customer goes to single source where they are available. In New York the department stores are the aggregators with Bloomingdales, Barney's, etc ruling the fashion scene, with designers groveling to their every demand. In the Internet era it is the topical "portals" which are the Aggregators.

In the early 2000s we saw Google and Amazon both of which are Aggregators:

Google, aggregates and organises data from the web and help your find the most relevant one. Thus you do not have to remember countless website names and URLs, just the subject you are searching for and you get to browse countless websites. A highly illustrated version of Google as an Aggregator is Google News, it aggregates news from thousands of news papers and blogs and organises them topically for you. Now you don't need to remember the news source, you just goto goto Google News and all the news you need is there. Infact it's better going to Google News than a single newssource such as CNN or BBC as there you may not get the very latest and diverse coverage available.

Amazon, aggregates 1000s (millions?) of products brands in a single portal and organises them by topic for the customer's convenience. Why goto the websites of individual brands when here you can get choice, choice, choice.

Then we also saw aggregators for travel, Exedia, Travelocity, etc. Go there and get not only a multiple choice for your flights and hotels, but also pick the best deals!

Off late we have Gilt Groupe and Groupon, both of which are aggregators of newer categories

Gilt, organises high end fashion and lifestyle brands and presents them in the form of 3 days sales to consumers. They are the Barneys and Bloomies of the Internet; why goto individual stores or designers when I can buy them in a single place?

Groupon, organises deals from around the city and presents a deal of the day to its users.

Closer home in India, we have seen the successful IPO of MakeMyTrip a travel aggregator. And we are now seeing the rapid growth of Gropupon and Gilt clones.

Aggregators have moved to the top of the value chain because they are the ones which have the relationship with the customer. The customer is no longer loyal to a brand, such as Malaysian Airlines, but the aggregator (the travelsite in the case) where he shops multiple brands and products. God has decreed that whomsoever shall have the relationship with the customer shall have the largest share of the value chain!

A new but lessor known aggregator is the Venture Capitalist. While not having a relationship with the customer he is on the opposite side, aggregating multiple investors. Instead of starting businesses he cherry picks investments, aggregating a portfolio of companies, present in virtually every sector.

No longer is the inventor, the manager, the entrepreneur and the conglomerate the aristocracy of the working world. The aggregators at both ends, one on the customer side who aggregates both customers and brands and is the vital link between them; and on the other side the one who aggregates the money and is the vital link between the money and the businesses, the new emperors, with the rest relegated to the working class.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

When the law leaves India

The images above are the infamous MF Hussain Paintings, which led to Hussain's home being attacked in 1998, his shows in India vandalized and 1250 court cases filed against him. The paintings were created in 1970, but came to controversy in 1996, when an Indian magazine published them.

Subsequently Hussain fled India and lived in Dubai, where he continued to work and prosper, owning by some reports multiple Mercs and Ferraris, which is believable as a recent work of his sold at Christie's for $1.6M. Then 2 weeks back came the stunning news that Hussain has given up his Indian nationality for the nationality of Qatar (great PR coup by Qatar).

So why does an Indian citizen have to flee just because he has raised a controversy?

Today in the papers there is a report that the Andhra Pradesh High Court will take 320 years to clear pending cases! With this kind of break down in the system of justice, people can easily take the law into their own hands, attack anyone or create harassment, with no fear of being pulled up by the courts. The story is the same across India, the law and order mechanism is in shambles: if you goto court it takes forever to get justice, if you goto the police station, it is virtually impossible to register your complaint (FIR).

In Mumbai we constantly see political parties hold the city to ransom, you dare say something that is not to their liking, and they will attack your house; and if you are a movie star that will attack the movie halls when your movie is showing causing you financial losses. The courts are helpless (probably takes 10 years for your case to be decided), so the only thing you can do is stare them down, which recently Shah Rukh Khan did and the bullies retreat with their tale between their legs. But that is not how civilised society can function.

Successive government upon government has not done much to improve the delivery of justice, neither have the powerful industrial lobbies done much to push the cause of fast justice delivery. So while on one side India has a year on year growth rate of 7%, on the other, the gap with the justice system keeps widening. Its already at proportions where justice is non-existent as we can see from Hussain having to give up his Indian nationality.

I pray and hope the Indian government, industrial houses and citizen groups awaken to the importance of a fast and effective system of courts. This is the single biggest threat presently facing our country.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meru Cabs from Airport: the best ride

Here is a tip: when arriving at Bombay Airport, looking for a sign that says "Fleet Taxis" near the "Pre-Paid Taxi" counter, both at international and domestic arrivals. Under Fleet Taxis sign there will be a few black phones, just pick up any of your choice, my preference is Meru Cabs, and get yourself a smooth ride to your destination.

This is such a relief, because though Bombay's 1960 "Fiat" taxis are charming, they are rickety and way past retirement. Modern taxi services like Meru, Mega, Dot Cabs, Forshe (only for women) bring the much need high quality service and comfort missing from Bombay till a year back.

If you want to book these taxis for hopping around the city, you can do that do, just Google their names to get their phone numbers.