Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey Raam

Hey Raam !

I am losing the religious plot from a political and social perspective nowadays.

1) Hindus have started issuing fatwas. A religion that prides itself on being innovative, inclusive, flexible and laying claim to all good aspects of living right from Yoga to Ayurveda, has now resorted to copying tactics from other religions. As Vajpayee would have said “ Yeh koi acchi baat nahi hai”

2) Our Hindu leaders seem to be getting the old Indian cricketing team (not the T20) malaise of not firing on all cylinders during crunch situations.

VHP has become dharma focused rather than karma focused making wimpy statements like “The VHP's main concern was only to reinforce Hindu dharma and it had never indulged in personal attacks or supported inflammatory speeches”. Imagine the number of fatwas that would have been issued if someone had questioned the existence of certain prophets.

And what happened to the fiery Bajrang Dal? How are they so surprisingly silent on this issue? Atleast for the namesake they should sympathize with the monkeys who had been instrumental in building the setu.

3) Then we have the Dravidian dappers, who refuse to see Raam. Maybe the leader should take of his big black glasses for a change. Maybe he will see it then.

And it is strange that a person who has launched a TV channel of his own name, forgot that Ram(Arun Govil) and Sita ( Deepika) exist not only in our hearts but also were members of Parliament.

And even if we question his existence, how do we stop saying things like “Raam Raam” a standard greeting in many parts of India, “Hai Raam” a standard sigh in many parts of India and many other TV serials.

The problem is more fundamental and goes back to the Aryan-Dravidian theories. Now if the Aryan theory is a hoax created by overpaid European historians, then it proves that its antithesis (since every hero needs a villain) being Dravidian is a superfluous existence. So if your own existence is pure vapourware, then why try to undermine an existence so hardwired into the collective consciousness.

4) Now if all Gods to us are just idols then are Indian Idols also new Gods. And who judges Indian Idols? Not our CM for sure. So can Anu Malik and Javed Akhtar tell if Rama is a God. But again, Javed Akhtar cant be neutral because that means Sholay was a fluke, he cant be positive since the Muslims will issue a fatwa against him and if he is negative then Hindus will stop following Indian Idol.

Welcome to the new paradoxical world of our countries politics, ideology and social sizzle. Wait for more fun till the next elections.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Forbidden parking idea

I had been to Beijing a couple of months back. As the capital of the country that attracts the highest FDI in the world, it is impeccable with wide roads , a good mix of the old and new and amazing cleanliness. You do find beggars and rag pickers as a redeeming feature for the desi who wants to hype the negative and play down the difference between Beijing and Delhi.

Forbidden City was a let down by tourist standards since most of the monuments seemed similar within the city. Tianeman Square was imposing and seemed to have a sense of history even on a normal dull afternoon. Every city with a history needs such a central fulcrum and just a normal glance at this Square can conjure up images of crowds, strikes, marching soldiers and fiery speeches. Of course the forbidden incident just takes away some appreciation but an imposing structure nonetheless.

Coming back to the idea, look at the picture. Its simply a parking lot lock of sorts. If you own the parking slot, you can unlock this and the upper bar will come down, helping you to park at your designated slot. If your trying to hadap someones slot of course, you will damage your car. Simple concept, great execution, no RFID, geo-tagging, sensors and all that shabang.

The place where it would be useful is in corporate offices with limited parking slots. Herein the security guard plays the villain, by saying to the yuppie who has splurged his bonus on a new Swift: 'saab idhar parking nahi karneka, yeh bade saab ka slot hai, bahar park karo' reminding him , his exact place in the corporate hierarchy and pecking order in the food chain. And when he parks outside, his new Swift becomes a collectible for pigeon shit and paan stains.

Most old apartment blocks in India also have a huge parking problem. The space where youngsters used to practise their Tendlyagiri are all lost to the burgoening number of cars. Forget stilt, people might even try tilt parking to get that extra foot to park in the safety in the building. Of course this leads to the tricky problem of who parks where. Drawing lines are of no use if you have 8 cars trying to fit into the space for 5.

Such a device would not cost more than Rs.2oo-300 to manufacture, and would easily have a target market of Rs.30-50 Cr in India. Not bad at all for any entreprenuer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jet set to go?

When Jet Airways listed on the Indian stock exchanges, lot of questions were asked about its seemingly high valuation , its promoter heritage and its international strategy. One aspect which was never questioned was its customer service. Although Kingfisher made it pull up its snooty socks, Jet has set the benchmark in aerial and on ground customer service for a lot of Indian corporates. And in my opinion it continues to do so even in its international flights.
Let me compare Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines on the mostly full Mumbai-Singapore route. Jet Airways has a better flight schedule since its flight leaves at 1130 pm in Mumbai and reaches Singapore by 715 am allowing enough time to catch that morning meeting. Whereas SQ reaches at 830 am on the busier terminal leaving you slightly hassled if you have morning appointments.
Now SQ is probably regarded the best airline in terms of customer service in APAC. But in my travel with them, the style of customer service is a bit cold or seems to come from laborious practice rather than genuine warmth. The worst experience was when I asked for water after the flight took off , the hostess told me that they would be serving 'drinks' shortly. She had to be admonished that water and drinks serve completely different thirsts for her to get me water.
Now water is probably a key requirement in flights and only Jet manages to serve that before take off with a smile alongwith the freshening towel. In fact they are happy to give small water bottles sometimes as well if you ask. The Jet After mint is almost a signature item. SQ has in fact tried to imitate that but they havent been able to get the quality right. Plus Jet Airways hostesses seem to stock extra after mints and happily give that out unlike SQ.
Although Jet has a single aisle flight which can be really painful when there are tussles between the airline crew and passengers for space, it makes up for that with better customer service. But a smaller aircraft also means faster boarding and alighting time. Once Jet converts this route to a jumbo, they could make up for what they lack as compared to SQ in terms of space and entertainment. ( last time 50 heads were craning to watch phir hera pheri on 8 overhead screens on the Jet flight)
For a lot of Indian corporate travellers,flying Jet on overseas routes also adds critical miles that can provide the much needed free ticket for a must-attend wedding or holiday. Thats a reason why Jet has been able to get a good customer mix on their international flights, where you have executives rubbing shoulders parents visiting kids and of course Kesari tours and Raj Travels customers.
What surprises me is how Jet Airways has created a genuine customer oriented organization that can be really world class in the airline industry. Its air hostesses exude a certain warmth and helpfulness that I think could be a key competitive differentiator. But Jet has never got the attention as a probable case study in management literature . I would be curious to know what kind of management practices they have or how do they incentivize and train their staff, what their utilization ratios on international routes are and so on.
Till then, its a tough choice when deciding the airline to fly home from Singapore. Its literally a miles vs smiles tradeoff.