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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Coffee Break Labs – A new initiative I am helping with

I have recently been helping a friend Sridhar crystallize the idea for a non-profit community oriented entrepreneurship promoting site called Coffee Break Labs. I’ve been in touch with several entrepreneurs in India over the past year or so and almost every second person I meet either is working for a start-up, is working on initiatives besides a full-time job or is a full-time entrepreneur. This of course is without even including the family-owned businesses who too are a core of this group.

There’s a silent mass-movement towards entrepreneurship that is taking place in India maybe aided by the recession and the lack of a lot of action in companies. One look at professional networks such as LinkedIn will tell you the number of groups that are getting formed to bring together these enterprising individuals, help them learn from each others mistakes, find like-minded partners for their next venture or just find some more inspiration to convert their aspirations into a real venture. LinkedIn we feel is too generic a platform and is more suited to job-seekers.

CBL (I have another rant coming on how much I hate the name :-)) is a movement that aims to bring these entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs together, share inspiring stories, learn from each other and provide tools (tips, incubation, advice) and resources (Financial: Angel Investors, VCs, Contacts, Financial Institutions, Govt grants and Non-Financial: Sourcing, Hosting, Software, Hardware, etc ) and a whole lot of other stuff. These are initial ideas and the way we see it – CBL is going to be shaped by the first few people who join the community and work with us. So if you believe in this story, have suggestions for us or just want to enjoy the ride and learn with us as we try to grow this community, you can visit us at www.coffeebreaklabs.com and sign up and / or follow us on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn so that we can keep you posted on our progress.

Using Windows Live-writer

I decided to try out something new today – an offline blogging tool called Windows Live-writer from of course who else but Microsoft that should allow me to increase the number of rants per week. Now that the election fever has died down, I am thinking of something new to rant about.

Coming Up: CBL – A new initiative I am helping with

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hillarious reasoning of the Indian mandate ...

Stolen from comments section of .. http://churumuri.wordpress.com

Credits: Gokulam 3rd Stage


All politics is local politics. Sample conversation overheard somewhere in rural Karnataka.

Kamalamma: “aa uduga yaar vosi helu” (Who's that young guy, tell me, tell me?)
Gowramma: “Indramma idralla, avar mommaga ante” (oh, he's the grand-son of Indramma - Indira Gandhi - referring to Rahul obviously)
Kamalamma: “alala, yeshtu muddaagade mundedu. bellage olitavne” (oh, he's so adorable, so fair and shining)
Gowramma: “kenne myaake guli beeltade. aadre adyeno heltavne artha aagakilla” (he's really adorable, but i've no idea what he's saying)
Kamalamma: “nin votu yarge? yaav party? asta na?” (so who are u voting for - the hand? referring to Congress)
Gowramma: “illa sumkiru. kamaladoru vote ge 500 rupayi kodtaarante kanri” (are u crazy, the Lotus party-BJP is giving 500 Rs per vote)

This conversation probably replicated itself in every constituency in the country. If the BJP didn’t pay cash, the UPA ensured it was done through the government machinery by implementing the NREGS. Everybody likes free money. Villagers like free water, power and Rs.8 per year of kandaaya on an acre of land (if at all collected). City dwellers like Rs.10000 annual fees for an engineering course for their hudugas and hudugis. Whose father’s what knot goes?


All offence intended to the dirty politicians.

Excuse the poor effort at translation if it does not sound as humorous as the original (Rural Karnataka dialect).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Elections 2009 Results - My thoughts and some more

Despite being a vocal supporter of the BJP, I'm thrilled about the results as a whole and no the market jump up (Up 17% and closed due to hitting the upper circuit) is not the reason. Wondering why? 

The maturity of the Indian Voter collectively has left me stunned for two reasons.
  1. Vote for Stability: The country was in pain crying for stability and a kick up the backside for the third, fourth and whatever fronts. And the only reason they existed was BJP did not have a Pan-India presence (No presence in AP, TN, WB, KL, and J&K). So what does the Indian Voter do - make the choice clear. No more third and fourth fronts for me.
  2. Vote for Performance: AP (YSR), Bihar (Nitish), Gujarat (Modi), Orissa (Naveen Patnaik), J&K (Omar Abdullah - although a very short stint), Karnataka (BSY - A short stint again) and Delhi (Sheila Dixit) clear positive votes for performance and UP (Maya) a clear vote against (although UP is too complex to describe in these terms). Did I miss any others?
The good thing here is the BJP ruled states (most of them) have returned them. They need to continue to do the good work and repair the damage in other states such as Mah/UP/MP/Rajasthan caused due to infighting (Raj), vote-split among factions (MNS) among other reasons.

Despite all the talk about Muslims grouping against BJP, the BJP have no reason to complain unlike Mayawati who is cursing them for ditching her despite her efforts to act as their messiah by arresting Varun Gandhi and detaining him under NSA. You don't go around threatening a community and not expect them to group up against you. This chest-beating might have won the BJP a seat in Pilibhit, but resulted in a rout in UP and a significant loss of Votes around the country. I know several friends who were sitting on the fence who decided to switch to Congress just because of VG. And this time, unlike the past elections, most of my friends did vote and in a close election (several seats that I was monitoring were neck-to-neck and kept switching back and forth), these few voters VG pissed off did matter and probably resulted in atleast 10-15 fewer seats.

For the BJP, it is time to look beyond Advani. The main stream media does not give him his due and that was probably the biggest reason for his not being able to emerge taller than Manmohan. Most people don't realize his contribution in building a party (he did this and not Vajpayee) that he brought so close to being a strong rival to the Congress and the importance of that in a democratic polity. Before the BJP, our best alternatives were Mr. Deve Gowda, Mayawati, Laloo and Co. His voluntary sacrifice of the PM contender post in favour of Vajpayee in 1996 is really admirable. Contribution cannot be measured by the posts you hold which in the India Context is probably directly proportional to the number of times you switch parties. He's toiled hard for a party and it has almost established itself as the rival to the Congress that India desperately needs. But alas, so close yet so far.

The next step for the party involves establishing a presence in the states where BJP has virtually no presence and cleaning up the in-fighting in . Since most of these are bipolar states already, BJP cannot make a decent entry into these states without allies and unfortunately for the BJP, it cannot hope to make any allies without toning down its extreme Hindutva content. Unfortunately for them, when you say Hindutva, people only think of Godhra, Ram Temple, Muthalik/Mangalore, Kandhamal and others. 

So the way out is to find a moderate leader - a Sushma Swaraj, a Jaswant Singh or a Arun Jaitley and please not MM Joshi - the only thing I remember about him is his efforts to rewrite History books like that was the biggest priority in HRD ministry and completely stop any tacit spport for the rowdy elements within the BJP, stop all Ram-Talk and condemn/take swift action against any such BJP and non-BJP elements who engage in this. 

And maybe in 2014, after the Congress screws us for another five years, there will be a wave in favour of the BJP (and this time across the country).  Or maybe, just maybe, the Congress and all other parties will take the warning that the Indian Voter has served on them and start performing. Wishful thinking??? I hope not.

Older Posts

Friday, May 15, 2009

Indian Elections 2009 – The “D”or is it the “C” day

After 4 weeks and 5 phases of Elections, a heated campaign and mud-slinging battles galore, the day of Counting of votes is finally here. It’s been a passion following Indian Politics for me ever since the 1996 election which was the first time I almost voted. I was so excited about being able to vote in a few months that I’d started reading up on the politics, different parties, different leaders and had started forming an opinion and sat through 72 hours of counting, news reports, horse-trading, parties switching sides, forming bargaining groups and the whole works. There’s already enough signs that this one’s going to be one better than the 1996 episode of the biggest soap opera of them all – “The Great Indian Election” and the whole world is watching this one (even Obama and Hillary apparently).

Does the Indian Electorate really want instability?

Let us try to analyze this from what the electorate gains from this:

  1. If a coalition government does get formed, every small party comes into demand and their particular regions can get its pound of flesh from the Center as Chandrababu Naidu so wonderfully did between 1998 and 2004. Already see signs of this with Nitish and TRS.
  2. If a government is formed and doesn’t last its full term like 1991 and 1996, they get one more round of elections which going by last estimates, ends up with parties spending up to a % or two of India’s GDP. Where is this money going to? It is the common people. A large portion of this is probably black money which is coming out into the open. But the elections is surely one of the big revenue sources for a lot of small-scale industries, small entrepreneurs and party-workers. Why wouldn’t the Indian electorate (read common man) want this?
  3. The electorate if it can give a good enough fractured mandate that there is no government that can be performed. That is probably the best time for India. There is no one out there to ruin the country’s economy and loot the country’s exchequer. What better mandate than that do you want?
  4. What else will explain so many regional parties getting formed and actually doing well? Time for a Kannada Janatha Party maybe so that we too get our pound of flesh - central funds, an NSG unit, a lot more railway lines, international airports in other second-tier cities - Mysore, Mangalore, Belgaum?

This is probably the greatest insult that the Indian people collectively are throwing on the whole polity. If they don’t get the message now, they never will. And I have a strong feeling, they probably never will until there is a mass movement - a revolution of some sorts and we are too comfy in our own lives to do anything about this.

The other end of the argument is that people are not thinking of this at the national level or at least not enough people are thinking about it at the national level. Even assuming that, this is in fact the case, who is to blame?

What are the national level issues raised everyday in the news by the main-stream media (especially those stupid anchors – led by Arnab Go’saw’me – I would if I could)? Varun Gandhi and his shouts against a community, Priyanka Gandhi’s nose and smile and whatever else resembling her grand-mothers (I was hoping someone would say it resembled mine :p). Rajnath Singh having a tiff with Arun Jaitley and his sulking for days on end like a kid who’s been denied his lollypop, Party hopping by one person or the other, breaking and forming coalitions, shouts against a caste, sucking up to a religion, calling people names and this is the only news that is reported. The day a national party released its Infrastructure Manifesto, the biggest news was Sanju Baba promising a Jadoo ki Jhappi to his sister Maya memsaab.

While one part of me tells me that the only way to protest against this “Soap Opera” style reporting by the media is by totally boycotting the main-stream media and following the results on a more fact-based avenue such as maybe the election commission’s official website, I know I just won’t be able to resist the temptation of rushing over to check out which joker has jumped onto which bandwagon. That is probably the reason the Main-stream media sticks to the soap-opera style reporting. They won’t change until we change.

Can I resist the temptation? That is the question besides of course the more important question – who’s going to form the next government.

PS: My bet is on a Naidu or Pawar or Nitish or some other dark horse propped up by either the BJP or the Congress or maybe both. That will be fun - a government that has the support of around 500 members of parliament. 

Older Posts on Indian Elections 2009:

Indian Elections 2009: My Vote and Why

Change is definitely on its way

WTF - Is this stupidity or is this arrogance?

Tweeting URL: You can follow me on twitter here

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Swine-Flu: Better Safe than Sorry

As part of my research for Zeopane, I started reading a lot about flu in general and branching off of that, reading on swine-flu - the latest killer which is slowly but steadily spreading its tentacles. Flu Vaccines is a killer-app that we are looking at for validating our technology since they are delivered transdermally and our low-cost microneedle patch will save costs significantly and also allow easier vaccination of the poorest people in the developing and under-developed countries. 

I know this post sounds like a pitch. :-) But the point of this post atleast is not that. After seeing more than 25 ads a day on TV in Hong Kong on Swine-Flu and ways to prevent it, HK and China as well have learnt their lessons from SARS. I was concerned if there's enough of an awareness in India about the disease. This is just my tiny effort to spread awareness of the symptoms and the precautions that needs to be taken. 

What are the symptoms of Swine FLU?

  • Lethargy
  • High fever (102 degrees+) along with chills, aches and pains
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Nausea and/ or diarrhoea
  • Fatigue

How do you prevent its spread and / or how do you stop yourself from being infected?

  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid visiting very crowded public places.
  • Avoid touching the mouth, nose or eyes, which are primary modes of transmission.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue -- dispose it off and wash your hands immediately
  • Avoid close contact with sick people, as far as possible.
  • If you get sick, stay at home.
  • Be well hydrated with fluids.
  • Eat a nutritious diet and build up your immune system. 
It's easy to say "Oh, this is a Mexican/SE Asian phenomenon". But with all the Air Travel that takes place these days (especially between India and SE Asia) and with the near 100% circulation of the air within a flight, it's a very strong possibility that if you don't take the said precautions, it could reach India. Although I do admire the fact that India has been very cautious in the airports, you never know when this killer can break through.

And knowing what happened in China with SARS (repeated denials for over 4 months) just to ensure the transfer of power happened smoothly in March 2003, I won't be surprised if Mexico's current claims that Swine-Flu is under control (especially after several governments including China started blocking people and products from Mexico) is a total or partial lie. So, please do take your precautions. 

Better to be safe than Sorry!!! And do spread the word around by sharing  these details with friends and relatives.

Older Posts on Zeopane that you might like to read:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

WTF - Is this stupidity or is this arrogance?

Rahul Gandhi's latest statement on the Quattrochi / Bofors issue  is a killer - I am stuck for words here. How do you react to this? When asked if the CBI is being misused by his regime, he says

"Every party which is in power could put pressure on institutions. It is a fact," he said, adding that every government tries to push its people into such agencies. "

Even if this is indeed true, shouldn't he be ashamed of saying this. His screwed up party ruled our country for 54 of the 62 years of Independent India and his screwed up family ruled us for over 30 years directly and over 40 years directly or indirectly. If you ask him why there is so much corruption in India, he's probably going to say every party is corrrupt. If you ask him why is there so little done by the government to solve the country's problems (Terrorism, Poverty, Communalism, Casteism, Corruption)  he's going to say no party does anything. 

Is he really as dumb as his statement shows or is this his arrogance of being the natural heir to the monarchy he thinks India is? I am seething here ...

And to add to my anger is another article I came across on rediff titled "Rahul Gandhi no more a political pappu".  How long are we going to keep buying this crap from our so-called leaders?

Older Posts: 

Friday, May 01, 2009

Greenery of my garden city??? :-(

The greenery of Bangalore City or what's left of it still (as seen on Google Maps). The small green patch in the Center is Lalbagh (about to be cleaned up partially or completely with the new Metro Station planned there) and the one on the right is the National Games Village Stadium.

No way can we call this mess of concrete a garden city, can we? 

But the positive spin about all this is the citizen activism and the buzz around getting the politicians to stop s%$%ing us hiding their corruption / nepotism under the guise of development. I really can feel the change happening around the country even from outside India. I can't imagine how exciting it must be to be a core part of this. In hindsight, we may have to thank Pakistan for providing the final trigger with 26/11.