Thursday, August 14, 2008

A new beginning


The sweat, the blood, the glory, the heart-break - the year of this blogs existence on Blogspot are over.

It's moved to which is now on a Wordpress platform.

Wow! Uber-cool eh?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Freakonomics - Desi 'Ish-style'

How come you have never seen a venture capitalist on a motorbike? How come most doctors in South India are named Vijay Lakhsmi or Ramamurthy? Just like the immensely successful book did, this post endeavours to answer these and a few strange, ironic or freaky occurrences which tend to find their way into our day to day lives.

None of these questions or occurrences might have any bearing on your life.

Come to think of it, when was the last time you read something that actually had a bearing on your life?

So, let's get started

Why do people prefer borrowing a DVD from a library, even though buying one is in most cases cheaper?

Yes, buying one is cheaper. And more so, you get to own it, build a library and do all those sorts of things. Yet, statistics say that the libraries are the most successful. They have the maximum foot-falls and make more revenue.

Why so then? I asked around and these are some of the answers I got:

  • Borne out of Habit
  • Libraries are more civil places than back-alleys which sell pirated DVD's
  • Wider selection

And so on, but then each of these can be easily refuted, it’s like saying the ICL won't be a success because of the IPL, there must be something more to it, or so I thought.

Most DVD's are only watched once, therefore there intrinsic value plummets after you watch them the first time. More so, they are not so easy to store and those who do manage to store them successfully will tell you that they are so inundated with requests to borrow DVD's from friends, that very soon they don't have much of a collection.

While this is true, it didn't quite convince me enough. So, about 3 months ago, I went ahead and bought 10 DVD's from the black market and also parallely began renting movies one week at a time, such that I borrowed approximately 10 over a 3 month period. All other conditions remained the same – standard of print, popularity of movies and so on.These were my findings at the end of the 3 month period:

  • The 10 DVD's I borrowed from the library - I've watched 9 of them, had to return one without watching it, which I am till today repenting.
  • I look at my 'collection' which I tried to build. Out of the 10 movies I bought, only 6 remain, 4 have been ‘borrowed’ and I have no idea when I’m getting them back. Out of the remaining 6, I have watched only 3.

Every movie evening, I look at my ‘collection’ and tell myself “Haan these DVD’s are mine right, I will watch them when there is nothing else.” If it were a Library DVD, my thought process is a little different, it’s more on the lines of “Damn it, put it on, I have to return the damn thing tomorrow or that guy will hound me.”

Why do your friends not return your DVD’s? They have every good intention of doing so, but hey there is a part of them which wants to replenish their own own depleted ‘collections’ right? It’s a vicious cycle.

Why do frequent flyers have a tendency to put on weight?

Ideally, you'd think that a frequent flyer has more of a tendency to lose weight. What with choc-a block queues, flights which never seems to take off on time and traffic jams which seem to pop up only when you are running late for that connecting flight. You'd think the stress would get to you and cause for you to lose your mind and some weight along with it.

Surprisingly, freakonimian research indicates otherwise. Contrary to popular belief, frequent flyers actually have a tendency to gain weight or there would be enough evidence to suggest so anyway. Why so then?

What was the last domestic flight you took? 11 AM Delhi - Mumbai, a 4 PM Chennai - Bangalore or perhaps a 9 PM Bangalore - Delhi, for the 11 AM flight your wife/mother probably made sure that you had a good breakfast before leaving. you had a coffee and a puff while you were waiting for the flight, you got on board and was served a healthy 'brunch' by a beautiful air-hostess, who you quite palpably couldn't refuse. The same probably happened to you on your return journey home.

A quick look back will tell you that at 11 AM and at 4:30 PM, instead of smoking / blogging / faffing or whatever it is you generally do at those times, you were eating. And why so, cause really you had very little else to do.

So boredom + pretty air hostess leads you to eat a meal regardless of the time of the day it is, and in many ways a flight itself creates environments in which you are forced to eat. The more you fly, the more you eat, so there you go.

In a social gathering, why is there a good chance that you will be told that you've both lost and put on weight?

I'm sure this is happened to you. You walk into a party where you are meeting a bunch of old acquaintances, and one of them pops up and says, " Hey Dev, looking slim and trim, working out kya?". You feel extremely happy with yourself, you walk a little further and then this heart throb from the good ole days stops you, " Hey Dev", she pats your stomach and says, "Looking quite prosperous, I must say."

How did then that happen? Could that Gulab Jamun you had between meeting Rajiv and Shruti cause you to have put on weight? Do women acknowledge men to be fatter than they really are? Are men more polite?

Not quite.

The real reason is far simpler. It's for the same reason that the most common conversation you hear at a party is "Where is your drink?" or "How is your drink?" or an equivalent. In many ways, it's for the same reason that Indians crowd around an accident site and make conversation.

Because by nature, man is social. He wants to be social, to meet people, he is looking out for something to talk about, looking to break the ice. So he talks about the weather, talks about your weight, talks about anything that he believes will get a response. Really, he doesn't care about your drink, nor does he remember really how fat or thin you looked the last time. In many ways, it's just something to get the show going and if you are intelligent enough to recognize that, you are well on your way to becoming a ‘socialite’. If you want to become one, that is.

Why Indians have a tendency to crowd around an accident site and do nothing to help? That my friend, is a different question altogether and we can probably look at answering that in a separate forum.

Why is a free hit not capitalized upon as much as it should be in modern cricket?

You've seen it before, smashing opening batsman on strike, bowler bowls a no-ball, the next ball is a free hit, the bowler is under pressure, the crowd is expecting one to fly into their section of the stands, the bowler comes into bowl and wonder oh wonder, the batsman misses it completely. How did that happen? Why did he miss the ball?

Do bowlers bowl free hit balls better? Do 'free-hit' deliveries swing more? Or do batsmen put more pressure on themselves. Well, the latter sounds sane, and is probably an answer. But we aren't going to end this discussion so easily, are we?

I would like to draw upon a parallel here. Have you been to one of those all-you-can eat buffets, where it seems like you need to hire a cab to actually see all the dishes being served. You go there with this massive appetite all ready to devour the food. Half an hour later, you are all done and full without even finishing half as much food as you would have wanted to.

Freakonomian research states that like with the free hit, your approach to an all you can eat buffet is very different to how you would approach a normal meal. As any cricketer would tell you, technique and the necessity to guard your stumps is as important for a regular delivery as it is for a free hit. However, when a free hit is announced, all that seemingly goes out of the window. It's like all his Diwali’s have come on the same day and he swings his bat with gay abandon, not realizing that his chances of hitting the ball out of the park in effect reduce.

My syllogism here is that free hit or not, at the end of the day, they are certain balls you can hit out of the park and certain balls you can't. Just like when you go for a meal, there is only so much you can eat regardless of whether it’s free or if they are paying you for it.

It’s a pity that we can’t do a real-time comparison for this, but in my estimate, if 6 balls are bowled in the 50th over of an ODI match, 6 free hits Vs 6 regular deliveries, there is a good chance that the batsman will score more of the 6 regular deliveries.

Why do cigarette companies in India celebrate every time the budget is announced?

It happens every year, the budget is announced and the first thing you read under the column 'Things that will be dearer' is Cigarettes, followed most times by Paan Paraag. The government's reason, simple - it's injurious to health. Somehow taxing something that's 'injurious' to health, reduces their feeling of guilt.

So, the prices get higher. The markings on cigarette packs, first started to create 'awareness' on the ill effects of smoking have now progressed to show life threatening images which would evoke as much fear as the scariest Hitchcock movie.

Beware - Smoking ruins your teeth, heart, lungs and whatever is left


Do you think he cares?


Your right - he doesn't. It's an addiction for him and honestly he couldn't care if it were his own corpse on the cover. So, the fact of the matter is that in spite of the annual price rise, the scary images on the covers and all the commotion of how an individual is not allowed to smoke anywhere else except underneath his bed, sales of cigarettes have increased every year. Bottom line figures state that annual sales of cigarette prices have gone up by 8% every year. More so, the industry is worth a whopping 100,000 crore today and maybe, just maybe, this is the main reason why everyone likes taxing them so much. How come the alcohol industry is not taxed every year because of it being injurious to health?

So with every tax rise, the price of the cigarette goes up by a certain percentage. What happens is that a cigarette pack which was worth about Rs.30, is now priced at about Rs. 33. The cigarette companies see this as an opportunity to conceal a price rise and take the price up to Rs. 35. After all in the smokers mind, the price has increased because of the budget. Damn government! The cigarette company in his mind is not responsible for this price rise at all.

A smoker really doesn't mind paying an extra two rupees for every cigarette pack he smokes, for him there is little difference between Rs.33 and 35. Sales increase every year, so do profits.

End analysis - cigarettes remain one of the most 'profitable' commodities to tax for the government, Cigarette companies use it as a vehicle to conceal a price rise and hence increase their profit margins, the smoker well he forgets about it after a couple of days, and really he couldn't care. And I thought – “ Win – Win situations didn’t exist”.

I'm quite looking forward to the budget now to see what the increase will be...

This post tries to provide some answers to questions which might have baffled people. More so, this post tries to underline the fact that most times life is more about the questions than the answers. With, everybody can find out the answer, if they know the right question. Right?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Of Coorg, Cameras and Camaraderie

It was another Monday at work, you know one of those days you wish you were elsewhere, clubbing in Rio, Skiing in the Alps, Skinny dipping in....ah yes, you get the picture. Anyway it was one such day, and regrettably both those corporate tools - the Email Inbox and the mobile phone were witnessing unpreceedented activity. It was the latter, which was more frenetic, calls poured in, Muthukumar who insisted on offering me more credit to a credit card I never knew I owned, Palani Swamy who couldn't believe his ears, when I told him I didn't need a personal loan and Murugappan who was adamant that I explain to him, why I conferred only a '7' upon him in his customer service appraisal. Yes it was another regular day in the office, until the phone rang again with it this time reading 'Kiruba', 'Kiruba'. Kiruba Shankar, blogger, entrepreneur, journalist, consultant, I sometimes wonder if there is not one but two Kiruba Shankars, anyway one of them was calling me, must be something important, I thought.

So, I said, " Hi Kiruba, What's happening?", he replied " Not much Sudhir, would you like to come on a trip to Coorg?". And I was like, " Hmmm, Hmmm... Errr, I have to check my...", he interrupted, " It's an all paid trip sponsored by Club Mahindra."

The next time I met Kiruba was in the airport, boarding pass in my pocket. Smiling palpably as you can see...

Copy (2) of IMG_0032

I mean, you would too right, a fully paid holiday to the land of beautiful women, flying Kingfisher and staying in one of the best resorts in the land. You probably would've smiled wider.

It was around this time that I learnt that I was to join a group of some of the best travel bloggers in the country. Imagine that, it was only later in the piece that a part of me inferred, that I was only enlisted to maintain the required balance. To maintain the right formula, the group apparently required both the traveller and the 'tourist', the subdued and the 'loud', the punctual and the 'not so', needless to say, I fitted in perfectly at the extreme end of the latter side of those descriptions. The group was hence now a balanced one.

So, there we were then, a motley crew, as you would expect, each figuring out 'who' or 'what' to expect as company for this momentous journey. Soon enough the group began to take shape, with there being a clear demarcation between the intellectual 'traveller' and the 'gawar tourist'. The 'intellectual traveller' easily identified with his manner of speaking. " Have you been to Leh, , 25 Kms south-east of 'Namcha Barwa Himalayas , 890 Kms north of the tropic of capricorn filled with Azure skies and that rarified aroma !". The gawar traveller would look on, looking forward to his next meal, to him the word 'Leh' took on a slightly different meaning.

Another one at the forefront of the pack of 'gawar' tourists was Marketing Head Honcho Dev Amritesh. Dev like me thought he had seen all that life had to offer, but when he came across cameras styled like 'Bazookas' and patience greater than that of the Buddha in awaiting that perfect snap, he too scratched his head, shaking his belly in amazement asking, " Arrey! Kahan ponch gey yaar hum!!?"

Soon enough we arrived, and what awaited us was a true Coorgi reception.

The dance symbolizes the onset of the harvest season.

It was then the turn of our official tour guide, Mr. Joy E. Patel to make his entry.


Ever smiling, fun-loving, effervescent and with immense knowledge of Coorg, Coffee and the 'Kodagu' culture, Joy always had a story to tell. Not least of which, was how he acquired his surname. " Actually, you know, in our community, we only have initial and no surname. But, when I was in the registrar's office, he insisted that I give him a surname, so dada thought for a while and said, "Patel! Let's just go with Patel". As simple as that, and here in the 'city' we hear of couples spending months and years on end in trying to find that perfect name for their pet poodle.

By now, I had become well acquainted with the whole group. It was an interesting bunch indeed, we had Mridula, one of India's top travel bloggers. It was quite clear that she had primarily 2 great interests, Travel and T.T. The latter of which she was so menacing in, that soon enough but for the wall, she had none to play with. Another exceptionally creative person from the group was Anil, for Anil a camera was not something you just went click, click and discard with. For Anil, it was the entire reason for his existence, so much so that we often saw more of his camera than we did of him. The photos on his blog stand testimony to this.

Our first stop on our trip the next day was TalaCauvery, the birth place of the river Cauvery. Set amidst, the mountains, the Tala Cauvery is the spring from which the Rivery Cauvery originates. Truly picturesque, as Dev pointed out it was in many ways ironic to see that the river Cauvery, and all the controversy and heartburn that come along with it, all originated from a spring which is no more than than 3 by 3 feet in dimension.

Didn't someone once say, "Big things come in small packages"

Inspired by Anil, and his long talk with me on Apertures, Shutter speeds and hues, I took the one photograph, I am actually more than just a tad proud of.


To the most of you, this is just a random photo of a few people in front of a bell. But, the discerning few of you would notice how, the sadhu in white looks towards the water, while a man stands next to him on his mobile phone. Is this the oxymoron i.e the new India? A bell is positioned in the center such that it balances and aportions the hues and contrasts, shutter speed - high, aperture - wide, camera focus at an angle of 67 and a 3/4 degrees.

Anil, has quite clearly rub off on me.

An evening of much revelry awaited us. Guitaring, our voices and Simon and Garfunkel, thankfully there was enough liquor to make us all believe that we sounding incredible. The next day, saw us making a trip to the Elephant sanctuary, where the Elephant bath is the chief attractions.

A photographic journey:

Here comes Mr. Elephant


Down goes Mr. Elephant


Scrub, scrub, scrub


Time to eat some chow


All aboard...!


Our trip came to an end that evening, with a sit-down dinner around a bon-fire. From a group of absolute strangers, thrown together from various parts of the country, we had become one group, and the cameradrie built was overwhelming. There is something about a traveling group which brings it together, maybe it's the feeling of togetherness, maybe it's the feeling of going through the same journey, or maybe a holiday is the one time, a person can truly be oneself with little or no pretensions. The group itself, may never meet one another again, but those few days spent together will always remain special.

A big Thank you to Arun of Club Mahindra for making it all happen.

And then en route back to Bangalore.

03122007031(1) 03122007034

The Tibetan Monastery. I guess we could all do with some enlightenment from time to time...

Monday, September 24, 2007

India : Twenty 20 World Champions

In the 2 years of me writing on this blog, I have completely refrained from writing about cricket.Firstly, writing about cricket is probably the easiest thing one can do, for really when it comes to cricket, everyone turns expert and everyone turns expert writer. The other thing is that when it comes to cricket; Indian cricket in particular, everything about the game is so inconsistent that something you might write about could be completely the opposite tomorrow.

And through it all, we the undying legion of loyal Indian fans have stood by the team. Yes, they have been those who broke down the team's houses at every given opportunity and those who sent mass sms's asking everyone to contribute Phenol to burn the team down; they exist and will continue to.

But then they have also been others who have continued to had undying hope, those who have watched and lived Indian cricket through the good and the utterly atrocious, those who have watched in disbelief as India got out chasing 120 on a minefield in Barbados, those who watched with pain in their eyes as India managed to lose 5 wickets for a paltry 16 runs against Pakistan in Chennai, and those who thought the end was near when the unheralded Bangaladesh beat Indian in the inaugural match of the World cup.

This one is for them.

As Sreesanth, caught the last catch and as India made the victory lap of the ground waving the tricolour. All I can say is Chak De!

This one is for me.

Those long hours in front of the television, uncountable days listening to the scorn of friends, missed homework, procrastinated assignments, agony, despair often ending in disappointment leading to tears.

For that one moment, when Dhoni held the trophy, it was all worth it.

I can tell my children, I got back early from work, and watched as India beat Pakistan and became World champions.

Chak De India!

P.S Cricket my dear scornful friend, is alive and well.Be it ICL, PCL or even the gulli version. Only 1 week after our exit from the Worldcup, on an assignment in far flung Koddikerri this is what I saw, and for me that in itself was evidence enough.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The I-Phone

It's here finally, as promised the much awaited demo of the I-Phone on my show on India Interacts.

My guest on the show is Rohit Agarwal, the CEO and founder of techTribe. Rohit was one of the guest speakers at, and gave a talk on 'Effective PR' for the young entrepreneur.
His firm Techtribe is a career networking site based out of San Francisco and New Delhi, and has been making rapid strides since it was launched 9 months ago.

The highlight of the video however, is his demo of the I-phone. Having held it, and seen it up close, I must tell you its a work of art, and if only for its look and feel, is worth all the hype that's been associated with it.

The demo of the I-phone starts in the second half of the video, watch out for the last bit when he..... actually why don't you find out for yourself.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I-fixed. Did you?

It was with this speech on this day, 60 years ago that India was awarded its independence as a democratic, sovereign,secular, and republic country.

It's on this day, every year that most Indians feel the sudden urge to be patriotic and jingoistic. Some do it with hoisting flags outside their homes, others do it by making their children dress up as Pandit Nehru, while still others do it by going for Independence day parties, getting intoxicated and taking the concept of independence to an entirely new level.

I felt this urge as well. So come the 13th of August, like every year that has gone by,I too made plans of singing the anthem and hoisting a flag on my balcony. Even more so, as this would be our 60th anniversary. The momentous celebration like every year however, would no doubt be short lived, with the flag making its way back to the attic on the morning of the 16th without fail.

I then got a sms from Vijay(Of fame), which went something on the lines of "Hey, a bunch of us are planning to fix all the potholes in the city as part of independence day, Would you like to join us?" Knowing the bloke,I knew only he could be crazy enough to send that message and actually mean it.

At 10pm, he and Mahesh, an architect mate of his along with a team of 10 individuals got together on the Velachery bridge in South West Chennai and using cement, concrete and a truck started attacking one pot-hole after another. I joined them at 1 AM, and these are some of the sights I saw.

Everyone seemingly chipped in, the industrious ones got their hands dirty with filling the concrete and cement.

While the not so industrious ones like me, helped out with diverting the traffic, identifying new pot-holes to attend to and providing refreshments.

Very soon, as we progressed, open pot-holes which looked like this,

were very soon beginning to look like this.

By 7AM, a total of 40 pot-holes were 'Fixed'.There was another group of individuals headed by set out on the same mission in another part of the city.The two groups tackled drunken drivers, killer mosquitoes and over inquisitive policeman while successfully tending to over 80 pot-holes across the city. Quite an achievement for one night, I'd say.

The group which orchestrated this is titled 'I-Fixed' and believes in the maxim that the best way to fix a problem is to actually go ahead and fix it yourself. In the next few months, the group plans to do their bit to address other local issues which they find consensus on.

As much as this might sound like another Lok Paritrana initiative, another NGO or another social service community, it really isn't. It's just a bunch of individuals, who complain a little more than everyone else, and have finally decided to do something about it. The initiative might succeed, it might fail, it might spawn a revolution across the country, it might be the last such effort, who knows. What's important is that we tried , atleast now we will have some sort of an answer to that voice in the back of our heads which asks, " So, what have you done to address the problem?".

The sight of seeing the logo shining in the night sky, next to every pot-hole we covered simply made the whole experience worth it.

Oh! And before I forget, here's wishing you all a very happy independence day!

P.S Do log onto the wiki here, if you are interested in joining the group.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Way goes the Video way!

Yes it does, thanks to some benevolent folks at Indiainteracts who have very kindly agreed to allow me to host a show. (Wow! There is hope for the world)

My show titled 'Business Bytes' will feature individuals from the business World, big time CEO's, small-time entrepreneurs, IAS officers and basically anybody worthwhile who will take time out on a Saturday morning to have a chat. Yes the word 'Worthwhile' has a very relevant connotation here, and no 'Worthwhile' doesn't necessarily mean that he has to be from the web2.0 industry.

The show has been on for the last 2 months, and I think it has finally reached a level where I can allow for it to gain from a link on My Way!

One of the interviews, I particularly enjoyed doing was this one with Abhishek Dingra of Mr.Pronto. Abhishek's is an interesting story, I met him at a bar one drunken night and out of curiosity asked him what he does. "I repair shoes and bags", he said. I called him the next morning, and he surprised me by saying exactly the same thing. "Damn!", I said if anybody can repair bags and shoes and still afford to buy his own drunks at a bar, he must be worth interviewing. One week later, I found myself in his store at Spencer's plaza with my crew interviewing him.

Mr.Pronto is certainly a journey, especially when you consider that it started only a few years ago as a final year project idea during his MBA in the Philippines. The store now has 3 branches and anyone who has gotten their shoes or bags repaired there, will vouch for the quality of work. You can check out the rest of the show here.

I was so excited after I finished the interview that I forgot I wasn't carrying any money in my wallet to pay for the parking. And the sar 'Press' trick didn't work, which meant I had to park my car near the ticket booth and actually go back in to find an ATM. Well, as luck would have it all ATM booths then decided to close, which meant that in an embarrassing turn of events, Abhishek the subject of my interview had to come back and bail me out.

Another interview, which I thought was blog-worthy was one with Mr. Madhav Das, CEO - Southside Magazine. Madhav is the former CEO of Magnasound Music; is one of the funniest guys I have ever come across and is one of the best people you could ever want to interview! (I really didn't have to do too much talking) Former CEO of Magnasound, I write cause as he tells me in this interview, Magnasound had to shut down thanks to the internet industry. How many of you guys knew that? I for one thought the company was alive and well.

Madhav's claim to fame is having brought out Rahman's first every music album. One of the highlights of the interview, is the part when he tells me how he capitalized on Rahman's fame after he became famous. I wouldn't want to spoil it for you.

This is part 3 where he talks about the Rahman incident.

Lots to look out for on the show, the next set episodes will be those from where I even managed to get someone to demo for me ..... hold your breath. The I-Phone.

Now my page views should finally increase!