Monday, May 28, 2007

This day, that age

This blog came live three years ago, on exactly this date.

Hmm. Never imagined it'll survive three full years. Let's see how far it goes. :)

P.S: I know the title 'mumbo jumbo' is least imaginative, but I never figured when I created the blog that it would stay so long. Now I'm too tired to change it. :)

A perfect weekend

Had a perfect weekend at Coimbatore. Awesome weather, awesome-r breeze, no internet/computer crap, a lil' bit of music, a lil' bit of driving, a lil' bit of reading, and a LOT of home cooked delicacies.

Just perfect.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Beauty is nothing without brains

You've got to see this.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The beauty and the beast

I've booked the SX4. The choice was a cinch - there were no real alternatives in the price range. Did quite a bit of research though - I guess you automatically become cautious when an EMI (although only for 18 months) is going to load you for the first time in life. The research only double-confirmed by decision.

Here's one comment in an expert Car Reviews forum that definitely went in favor. I didn't know such a great car related forum existing in India. What is really surprising is the forum never really comes up in any search - probably because it's page rank is lesser than that of my blog (??!!). You know you are in the right hands when people use an impossible number of abbreviations. I've expanded each one in brackets in the evaluation below.
This car is incredible. If the FE (Fuel efficiency) can get to the 11 kmpl mark, I don't see the petrol Fiesta and Verna, and even the NHC (New Honda City), left with any real reason to exist. If you slam it down 20 mm, and fiddle with the suspension, this car will be track ready, and how! Tight chassis, nice mill, good GC (Ground Clearance), Maruti's legendary A.S.S. (After Sales Service), this car has it all. At a price that's lower than its main competition by a lakh or so. If I had to buy a petrol A3/C segmenter, this would be it. Small gripes include the overenthusiatic ABS, the too-high GC, the hollow feel the rear doorpads have, the Swiftness of the whole car, the gripless OE tyres. But still, incredible VFM.
The forum is infested with people who wheel-spin, stress test, and even participate in Raid de Himalayas. You get the drift.

VFM (Value for Money) was pretty much what I was looking for. I don't think I would've fell for the snob value or spend this much on a car right now if SX4 hadn't been from Maruti. Let me see how things go from here. The car apparently goes to 98kmph in the second gear and 145kmph in the third. Wonder what one should do with the 4th and the 5th gear.

Some of the things that make you long for life.

P.S: Wrote all this down and then had this feeling that I shouldn't post this coz it's getting personal, but figured wtf!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

2 Life Skills B-schools Don't Teach

Here's a surprise. For probably the first time ever, an article titled 'What B-schools don't teach' ends up really conveying something! Open the cork!

Here are two points I whole-heartedly agree with:

Good health: Corporate waistlines are expanding almost as rapidly as company bottom lines. And between early morning flights and late night conference calls, no one seems to have the time to take care of their own bodies.

Perhaps B-schools should inculcate the habit of an hour in the gym every day. And the pursuit of a sport, say, every week.

Work-life balance: No man on his death-bed ever said "I wish I'd spent more time in the office." Watching your child grow up, spending time with loved ones, being there at those special moments in other people's lives - all these can probably give you as much joy as a deal clinched or a market share point gained.

"What would you do differently if you knew you had only six months to live?" We could all probably answer that one quite easily (spend more time with the family, play with the kids, take off on that vacation to the hills, write that book...). Alas, none of us really knows when precisely we have only six months to go.

I just couldn't agree more!

Most articles titled 'What B-schools don't teach' are pure, certified crap. Some so-called hot-shot giving opinions such as 'B-schools don't teach leadership', 'B-schools don't teach the art of negotiation' is gibberish and write-for-the-sake-of-writing stuff. I just used to detest those articles. In my opinion, given the two years, there are somethings B-schools can teach, and some they don't - because they simply cannot. Leadership skills and negotation skills are some of those.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To visa or not to visa

If you are one who's employed in the IT/ITES industry, chances are you would've already seen this from one of your friends. Two US Republican senators have asked top Indian outsourcing firms to explain the rationale behind the number of visas that they have requested.
Contending that the H-1B visa programme is being abused to displace qualified American workers, two US lawmakers have asked nine foreign-based firms, including some leading Indian companies that used 20,000 of such visas, to disclose details about their workforce and their use of the special programme.

As the US Senate gets ready to take up the comprehensive immigration reform legislation, the two top law makers -- Republican Senator Charles Grassley and Democratic Senator Richard Durbin -- said "more and more it appears that companies are using H-1B visas to displace qualified, American workers."

"As we move closer to debate on an immigration bill, I continue to hear how people want to increase the number of H-1B visas that are available to companies. Considering the high amount of fraud and abuse in the visa programme, we need to take a good, hard look at the employers who are using H-1B visas and how they are using them," Grassley said in a statement.
I guess it's one of the issues that everyone had conveniently buried till now, but it just had to come out in the open. There are, obviously, two directions - one where the number of visas will further be reduced, or the other where the number will be increased. Senators would obviously ride the first option for attracting the vote bank - by selling the 'visas displace US jobs' story. But people who've really tasted the might of skilled workers would ride the second story.
The companies the senators sent letters to were Infosys Technologies, Wipro Ltd., Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Patni Computer Systems, I-Flex Solutions Inc., Satyam Computer Services Ltd., Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd., Tech Mahindra Americas Inc. and Mphasis Corp.
US technology companies have long lobbied for removal of visa restrictions - to keep US competitive.
Bill Gates said he has a hard time understanding the logic of those who decry the outsourcing of American jobs yet are reluctant to facilitate bringing the high-skill people who are catalysts for economic growth to this country. "People just shake their heads at what kind of a central planning system would say having 65,000 smart people come in, that's okay, but 70,000 smart people, no."
Let's see what's in store.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The rocker called SX4 from Maruti Suzuki

Update: I've booked the car.

I just had to put a post on SX4. Touted to be one of the most important – and significant – releases in the recent years in India, SX4 is a rocker from the word go.

For starters – I’m referring to Maruti’s newly released saloon called SX4, which is said to be next version of Baleno. This is very significant in the Indian car industry since Maruti has always been perceived as a ‘low cost’ or low-end (A1 and A2 Segment) car manufacturer, despite being the market leader. They proved themselves in the upper A2 segment by releasing Swift. And SX4 is Maruti’s answer in the A3 segment, and I guess they got it damn right.

Image Courtesy: Autocar India

SX4’s release had been hyped up until now with occasional glimpses of this stylish piece in European car shows. But everyone was tight-lipped about its price, and that’s again where Maruti made the perfect move. SX4 has been priced well below market expectations. The automatic version of Suzuki’s SX4 had been running in Europe as a hatchback for sometime now. With SX4’s release in India, even before it hits the most competitive market in the world (US), Maruti and Suzuki have shown the importance of India as a car market. SX4, in India, comes with features that are generally present in cars that are 2 to 2.5 lacs higher.

The base price of SX4 comes at 7.03 lacs on road – according to the business quote I’ve got from a dealer in Chennai. It’s longer, taller, wider and, in my opinion, much better looking than all of Honda City, Hyundai Accent, Verna, Renault Logan, Chevrolet Aveo, Tata Indigo, Ford Fiesta, Fusion, and a host of other cars in the same category. Running costs are certainly going to be easy on the pocket – what with Maruti’s spares and mighty service network. What more, it comes with a rocker of an engine that generates 103BHP @ 5500 rpm. Compare that with Honda City that generates 77BHP @ 5500 rpm and priced about a lac higher than SX4, with lesser features. In my own test drive, SX4 is vintage Maruti in refinement, smoothness and noise control. I think they’ve got it all damn right. This is a great move by Maruti to fulfill the needs of long time Maruti owners who are looking to stick with Maruti for the value the cars bring along.

I had almost zeroed in on Renault Logan which fits exactly my budget (6 lacs), but SX4 is simply irresistible. I really wouldn’t bother to stretch myself if this car hadn’t been from Maruti, but now this is serious food for thought. Let’s see what’s in store.

For people like me (who’re planning to buy a car) 2007 has been an amazing year. Logan was one of the most important releases in the recent years. It doesn’t look as stylish as SX4, and is apparently not the last word in refinement and noise control, but Logan is one damn good buy, in my opinion, for under 6 lacs on-road. For people who can stretch a little bit, SX4 is a great deal. If I were asked to choose petrol cars in difference categories, this would be my list: Maruti Alto to start with, Hyundai Santro in the 3-4 lacs range (or Maruti Wagon-R if you want cheaper running cost – the only vehicle with company provided LPG option), Maruti Swift in 4-5 lacs range, Renault Logan in 6-7 lacs range (or Maruti Esteem if you are ok with the looks), Maruti SX4 in the 7-8 lacs range, Toyota Corolla in 10 lacs range, Honda Civic beyond that, and then straight on to Mercedes.

Technology and choices have come a long way in the 12 years – which is when I first started driving with the hand-geared old Premier Padmini. My love for driving hasn’t lost a single bit since then. Days now are really exciting and I can’t wait to floor the pedal of one of these beauties!

SX4 on road price in Chennai (with sun film):
Base specification: Carwale research.
VXi (AC + Tubeless tyres + Power steering + Power windows + Central locking) - 7.03 lacs
ZXi (VXi + ABS + Stereo + Air bags + Alloy wheels + Auto air conditioning) - 7.80 lacs
Leather (ZXi + Leather seats) - 8.20 lacs

Also Read: Renault Logan hits the C (A3) segment

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Chennai is the second cleanest Indian city. Or is it?

When Metblogs Chennai posted the results of the AC Nielson ORG MARG Lifebuoy survey (Also in Business Line) that Chennai is the second cleanest Indian city, I fell off the chair. Well, almost.

Chandigarh emerged the clear winner with a score of 144 followed by Chennai and Kolkata with 118 and 108, respectively. Kolkata has scored high on greenery and plantation, clean roads and garbage disposal system. The only other cities to log above 100 points are Thirivananthapuram, Bhuvaneshwar and Lucknow.

The rest of the cities, including the national capital (Delhi) and Mumbai apart from Hyderabad, Dehradun, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Guwahati, Bhopal, Patna, Raipur and Ranchi had below par cleanliness scoring 99 to 76.

There's no surprise that Chandigarh tops the list. It is one of the two planned cities in the world, and I was very impressed by the city. I wouldn't have thought twice to settle down there if it had been down south - closer home, that is.

Everything else in the survey comes with a bit of surprise. Bangalore is rated 4, and in my two years of stay with the city, I thought it deserved better. But things seemed to have gone awefully wrong in the 3 years after I left - echoed by the Bangalore Buzz blog that hints that it is surprised to find Bangalore even at the fourth spot.

I haven't been to Kolkata, but was nevertheless surprised to see it in the number 3 spot. As far as I've heard - and I've heard this one thousand times - Kolkata is a filthy old place. That's number 3? Lucknow is rated 6. Again, I'm surprised a city in UP ranks 6.

Mumbai ranks 8, and Delhi stands at 9, which seems fair.

Either the survey is screwed up, or the following comment in Chennai Metblogs is true:
If Chennai is second in india then I can only see how much worse the other cities are..
It takes quite a bit to quickly realign your brain to think that you are living in one of the cleanest Indian cities. Right now, I'm reciting the line "I'm living in the second cleanest Indian city" a hundred times a day. I expect myself to get accustomed to this fact after thousand recitals.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The new manager

Sidin's articles in the New Manager section of Business Line is always a great way to start the week. Here's one of the best pieces that I came across in the recent past.

Is it true that young managers are often asked to do menial jobs in their first few months in the office? Isn't this insulting to my education and self-esteem?

It is a sad truth that many young managers do often end up photocopying and couriering for many months in their first job. However, one must realise that several people have risen to GM and VP levels purely on the strength of their documentation.

Dear Sidin, I am a fresh new manager. I love my new job and I am very happy with the money I am making. Everyone here respects me. All in all I am absolutely delighted. But no one else I know is. Is this norma

This is perfectly normal. This is because you are probably in HR.

All said, I truly don't know how people pass 20 to 30 years of life working in the office day in and day out. It does look like a mammoth challenge staring hard in the face...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Paranoia in the west

This is fun. You know how much the developed world is scared of the developing world when you read articles where people start comparing entrance exam question papers between countries to check how competitive their exams are.

UK's Royal Society of Chemistry got pretty paranoiac after seeing a Chinese pre-campus Maths people and floated a challenge to people in UK. They've even compared their own maths entrance puzzles versus the ones in China and have come to the conclusion that they are falling behind. I couldn't stop smiling reading the whole thing. [Courtesy: BBC]

I think this is plain paranoia. For one thing, the way people get taught in developing and developed worlds is totally different, and I presume China isn't very different from India. I remember solving far more difficult questions in standard XII. The other experience I had was when attempting Maths questions in the IAS exam where I didn't accomplish anything other than counting cobwebs in the room. The difference in learning between the west and India is: we learn to solve the problem, and the same problem appears in the so-called 'exam' where they are supposed to test our skills. In effect, we mug the solution instead of learning how to actually solve the problem.

That said, I think what the west has to be really worried about is not the quality of questions in our (say India and China) syllabus, but the effort students put in to get into universities, and how hard-work is just wired into our routine. Unlike in the west where education in a good university could be attained with some effort, we pretty much need to mortgage our life to get into one of these prominent universities - and that teaches us the 'survival instincts' that make us quite competitive.

This bout of paranoia is very similar to a chat I was having with a museum curator a couple of weeks ago in New York. The discussion veered towards outsourcing after he found that I hailed from India, and he said 'you guys are doing a great job and are pretty successful'. I spoke about our how our low cost of operation helps, and he retorted 'Apart from low-cost I think you Indians excel because the genius is in your genes, and you guys are like born smarter. Like Jews.'

I couldn't help smiling. I didn't retort because, I admit, it was too tempting not to accept that sort of a compliment. If that is the general impression, amen!