Ego cogito, ergo sum

A compodium of my published aritcles, features, etc. on technology, IT and everything else; sourced from CyberMedia publications, Financial Express, Free Press Journal, Nazara.com, etc……

Archive for the ‘Feature: General’ Category

Looking out from 25000+ feet

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‘The mountains are Vishnu’s bones, clouds are the hairs on his head, the air is his breathing, rivers are his veins, trees are the hairs of his body, the sun and the moon are his two eyes and the passage of day and night is the moving of his eyelids.’

– Rig Veda

From the time when I boarded an aircraft over a decade ago, have been fascinated by the sights that one comes across from the tiny glass pane up in the sky. It is nothing less than magical to see giant bridges turn into tiny dots, long railways transform into an micro-toy trains and looming sky scrapers mere indentures on the landscape. Even after scores of trips over the Indian map and other ones, I still take the window seat and keep peeping out, as if there is something else that might just come up. Or it could be someone as well, like say, God. After all doesn’t he (she or even it) lives in the heavens. I have been keeping a watch out for him as well, because looking beneath at the wonderful creation that more or less fits on my palm, my belief in his existence is reaffirmed.

To-date, my most memorable journey was the one I took from Mumbai to Newark, non-stop. The American Airlines plane, to cut the route short, flies over Asia and Europe to the North Pole and then descends over the American hemisphere via Canada. I spent hours peering out in the darkness of the North Pole, could somehow feel the chill of the immense block of ice and the moon kept me company in the vigil. The fact that almost a century and more back there were so many valiant explorers who were racing to the find the North Pole to plant a flag. So many perished in the endeavour and so many just disappeared. And here I was their descendant, flying over the Pole in the comfort of a cosy cabin munching on cashews and sipping wine.

Here is one such journey I made, albeit much shorter and in daylight: fromMumbai to Delhi, on Indigo Flt 6E382. As I was looking out of the window as usual, random thoughts kept popping into my mind (as usual again), with a small difference though, this time I had a pen and paper on which I could jot down whatever came to my mind. This post is a chronicle of the same mind that was travelling at 100s of Kms per hour. Here it goes:

  • The captain makes an announcement; “Welcome onboard, we are flying at 37000 feet . The place is near Ahmadabad. It almost seems like am flying over the Indian map. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

February 19, 2010 at 1:32 am

Uddhav: The Reluctant Tiger

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Right alongside the mirror in Matoshree’s bathroom, there must be a sticker of the party emblem — the tiger and a placard that would have the words ‘growwllll’ etched on them. The purpose of the two is simply to remind Uddhav Thackeray his lineage, and to imbibe the ‘killer instinct’ in him that the Thackerays are so much renowned for. Somehow Uddhav, the youngest of the Bal Keshav Thackeray clan, was a misfit in the family and hence he needs to be constantly reminded of who he is and what he must pose. The latest episode involving the mud-slinging with Rahul Gandhi and Shahrukh Khan is an illustration of the same fact, the display of false paws.

Some are born great and some have greatness thrust upon them, goes the adage and Uddhav is a living testament to that. Till about 2002, little was known about Uddhav except that he liked photography and yes that he was the youngest  son of the ‘remote control’ of one of the most vituperative Hindu leader. The bespectacled almost impish Uddhav preferred to do his bit, snap tigers in the wild, or shoot forts in Maharashtra from a helicopter.Uddhav, whose name means the brother of Krishna, was quiet happy to lead a non-descript life with his two sons. Since, he happened to be at the vortex of power, he could barely afford the privilege of a profession. So, he was content hosting his photo exhibitions now and then and living it out at his idyllic farm house in Karjat. Unlike his elder brothers, Jaidev and Binda, who were either spoilt by the allure of power or caught in a web of indulgences, Uddhav kept away from both politics and business. In a way, youngest Thackeray seemed to have inherited more from his mother Meena Thackeray, a warm and genile persona that shielded an iron will.

Yet, for all his desires to be away from the dust and grime of politics, he was destined for it. With the death of his brother Binda Thackeray in a car accident, his mother Meenatai in a cardiac arrest and relationship souring between Jaidev and senior Thackeray, his ageing father had no shoulder to lean on, except Uddhav’s. Though, there was indeed Uddhav’s cousin and Balasaheb’s nephew Raj, who had completely imbibed his uncle not only in the way he looked, but also the way he spoke, he thought and he reacted. Raj also had a keen business mind, and was not averse to using any means to achieve his ends. The Ramesh Kini murder case was an example, Raj was accused of threatening and subsequent murder of Ramesh Kini for a real estate deal. Raj over the years, under the aegis of Balasaheb had become the de-facto heir, whose anointment was just a matter of time. But destiny had other plans for him as well.

Once, the Shiv Sena (in conjunction with BJP) had tasted power, they were keen to hold on to it. In fact, before the saffron combine took over the Maharashtra state legislature in 1995, Shiv Sena were just a band of ruffians that were content to terrorise real-estate barons and business people and exhort money from them. But on ascending the CM’s chair, this band of ruffians suddenly realised that the real riches lay elsewhere and what they had been all the time dealing was merely a drop in front of the ocean of opportunity that lay in front. After 5 years in power they were badly itching to be back. Power was undeniably a great intoxicant and now that the ruffians had tasted it, they could not stay away from it.

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Interview: Dr RK Pachauri (IPCC)

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“Is the climate change situation as dire as you make it sound?” Is invariably the first question that any interviewer puts to Dr. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the director general of The Energy and Resources Institute. Ever since 2007, when Pachauri came out with earth shattering commentary that our planet was moving rapidly towards an ecological disaster of gargantuan proportion, somewhat of an Eco-Armageddon and it was human activity that is responsible for the same; he has been hailed as a hero and reviled as a villain across the globe. Since, then Pachauri has been asked above question over and over again, and yet the environmental Nostradamus always answers the question calmly and lists down all the dangers that confront us in a solemn demeanor.

For western nations like the US that after years of releasing obnoxious pollutants in the atmosphere and wanting other nations like India and China to take a commitment first, Pachauri is a somewhat of a bogeyman. Nonetheless, he has taken a strong stance on what the world needs to do forestall the doom and how the developed countries should not merely shift the onus and blame to developing countries. In recognition of his efforts and those of IPCC, the Nobel Committee conferred on IPCC and Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. In his acceptance speech on behalf of IPCC, Pachauri had invoked the Sanskrit adage, vasudev kutumbakam (the whole universe is one big family) and asked everyone to contribute to the fight against climate change.

Post Nobel, Pachauri turned into the most recognized face of climate change and he continues to invoke the same vasudev kutumbakam principle to ask all to join in the challenge. In a special discussion, he talks about the ways in which Indian corporate sector can play a significant role in battle, on CSS, nuclear energy and so many other things.

Whenever, we talk about climate change it is often from a macro perspective, namely what the governments can do on it. Do you think that at a micro level, say enterprises too have a certain amount of responsibility and can work towards a better world?
Indeed it is so. There is a whole range of things that companies and enterprises can do. The impacts of climate change are going to be very diverse, they are going to range from an increase in extreme climate events, to heat waves, drought, and also changes in precipitation pattern so the availability of natural resources like water is going to be definitely affected and it is going to impact on the working of the corporate sector. So companies need to start looking at how they need to adapt to these extreme events, for instance if there is an company that uses a large amount of water like a semiconductor fab; the water is not going to be available in the manner and to the magnitude they need in the future. So probably they need to think in terms of recycling of water, using processes that are less water intensive, etc. So these are adaptations measures that they can. And this will not only benefit the company but also go a long way in the fight against climate change.

What do you think about the eco-consciousness of the Indian corporate sector?
Well, it is growing, it is still not where it should be but I think the consciousness is growing. What is important is that there is desire to understand and to find out what they can do. But not all of them are not well informed on what the impact of climate changes are and how they should respond to it. I want to highlight the fact that the need to reduce the emission of green house gases (GHG) is also linked to energy supply because energy is going to be an issue that will affect countries, corporate entities, and even individual. The security of energy supply is certainly in question as far as the future is concerned. So to the extent that corporate sector can use energy more efficiently, perhaps to shift as much as possible to the use of renewable energy. There own security about the supply of energy will enhance. And while doing all that they will also be able to cut down on costs. They will have to carry out some due diligence, exactly define what they can do. The corporate sector in India needs to wake up to the challenge of climate change.

Right now, most of the green initiatives carried out by the corporate sector are clubbed under the CSR tag, what do you make of it?
You know, I think by and large a lot of corporate organizations treat CSR as a kind of a cosmetic effort. I don’t think that is the right spirit. CSR should be mainstream, after all if a company has to succeed it alsoRK Pachauri 1 has to ensure that the society succeeds as well. And hence, for that to happen companies need to start looking at some of these initiatives as part of their overall operating strategy, not something that you do external to the enterprise. Hence, it is essential to integrate the two.

Due to your association with TERI, you have been privy to a lot of information about the various sectors of Indian industry; what do you think about the eco-consciousness of the IT industry vis-à-vis the rest of the sectors?
Some of the IT companies are indeed getting conscious of the fact, but I am not sure whether they are doing too much about it. Even if you look at some of the buildings that they construct, they have not really paid any attention by and large to energy efficient design, reducing energy in a way to make it sustainable in terms of supply opportunity in the future. And I am not too sure whether most of them are looking at even at the hardware and the software that they use being focused on energy efficiency. So I still think that there is a long way to go and I am not singling out the IT industry, every industry and enterprise needs to gear up for the challenge. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

November 8, 2009 at 11:43 pm

Killed by Blackberry?

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“Heard the latest? Ranjan Das is dead,” my friend Sudesh updated over GTalk. The bit of news numbed me, and for a moment I thought it must be some other Ranjan Das he might be referring to. Certaily not the Ranjan Das that I knew, the MD & CEO of SAP, who was young fighting-fit with a cherubic face. Amongst the many IT top guys that I knew, he was by far the fittest, Ranajajoy Punja (ex-cisco and now Vodafone) would come in second. I remember meeting Ranjan a few months back, the suave and genteel man seemed completely in control and excited to drive the German company’s revenues in India. In fact, SAP after many years had nominated an Indian for the top job (followed by Alan Sedghi) and Ranjan seemed to be the best man for it proved by the soaring revenues even as the economy took a dip. Hence, after a few anxious moments, I asked Sudesh “the SAP one?” To my dismay it was. And all that remained was a shock.

The reason for this profound effect was his age. At 42, Ranjan could be termed to be at his prime. He was physically fit, in fact he was returning from a session at the gym when the hands of fate stopped his Rajandasheart beat. Going by my own gait and girth, I for once would have been a more likely candidate for such an event in comparison to Ranjan. But then Ranjan is not the exception when it comes to a life snuffed out in the prime, in my own personal sphere I have come across numerous instances like Dewang & Sunil Mehta from Nasscom, Vivek Dayal from Mphasis, etc.

The one thing that is common to all these departed souls except for their relatively young age, is the fact that they all were involved in fairly high-profile work. All of these people including Ranjan were complete go-getters, always on the move, with set goals for the future and moving briskly towards them. The only thing a miss was that such work and lifestyle brings in tons and tons of stress with it. Somewhere their bodies could not keep pace with their ambitions and it gave up. Hard stress and not hard work killed them. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

October 26, 2009 at 12:48 am

Caught in the slough of mammon

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Media industry in India was badly hit by the global economic downturn and yet it is only their greed and ignorance that is to blame.

On a sultry February evening, the high and mighty of print media in India, namely, Indian Express’ Shekhar Gupta, HT’s Shobhana Bhartia, and TN Ninan of Business Standard dropped for a visit at Shashtri Bhavan to meet Anand Sharma, then the MoS for Information and Broadcasting.

The meeting was unusual as the triumvirate of Gupta, Bhartia and Ninan were meeting the Minister not as condescending journalists but as supplicants pleading for a bailout especially for the newspaper industry due to pressures borne out of the economic slowdown.

Apparently, the minister gave them a kind ear and promised to look into their demands. Within a few days, the government announced a stimulus package that comprised a waiver of 15% agency commission on DAVP advertisements and a 10% increase in rates for the ads released by the DAVP.

Certainly, it must have been a major embarrassment for the proud Czars of the Fourth Estate to mollycoddle the very government they are prone to stick a knife into. But ever since the tide turned in the US markets and thereby the rest of the world, the media industry in India and elsewhere has been under severe pressure in terms on increase in input costs and a massive reduction in revenues.

Not such a fine print’

Indeed the inputs costs in terms of newsprint prices have really ballooned over the past year so or so– by around 60% since 2007. According to recent study done by FICCI-KPMG, the sudden escalation in newsprint prices is one of the primary reasons why the newspapers have suffered.  The study estimates the print media industry to be collectively worth around Rs. 17260 crore for 2007-08, and due to the pressures from within and outside the collective growth of the industry has been pegged at a paltry 7.6% and projected to grow by some 6% in the current year. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

September 25, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Mumbai Sea-Link: For Townies & Lal-battiwallahs

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Yesterday, the first lady of India, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the 5.6 kilometre long sea bridge that connects Bandra and Worli amidst much fanfare and celebration. Dubbed as Rajiv Setu, the sea link —  the longest one in India — is touted as an engineering marvel that promises to cut down travel time between two distant suburbs of Mumbai from some 45 mins to 7 mins. The media guys, who have gone wonkers on the bridge, would have us believe that because of the sea-link gazillion gallons of petrol will be saved, atmospheric pollution will come down, global warming will be solved, India will become a super power, humanity will live in peace, etc. etc.

And yet, speaking for the average Mumbaikar or the Bombaywallah, there is something about this bridge that just doesn’t seem right; and it has nothing to do with its splendid architecture. The trouble to be honest is very existential in nature and can be stated as following:

DID MUMBAI REALLY NEED THIS SEA-LINK?

Mumbai, for the uninitiated, is a longitudinally spread city, i.e. unlike other cities that usually take a circular sort of shape spreading out from all directions, Mumbai does not.  Thus when the Britishers came here in the 17th century and settled down in what is now Colaba, the city has been stretched like a rubber band to the northern side.  In fact, till around 1950s, places beyond Bandra (or as Salcette Island as the Portuguese referred to it) were not considered to be Bombay at all. People would loathe to live in places like Goregaon, Kandivali, Joegeshwari, etc. In fact, most of the city denizens would not deem the suburbanites to be second class citizens, much like the compartments in the local trains.

But in the past few decades that has changed drastically. Driven by commercial needs the city has expanded frantically and what was despised in the 1950s is now much desired. While Churchgate, Colaba, and Dadar were the centers of the olden days; Andheri, Ghatkopar and Kurla are the new hubs of a modern and vastly overcrowded city. In fact, the change has been so drastic that it is almost as if there are two different cities that stare at each other over the Mahim creek. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

July 1, 2009 at 8:11 pm

Learning to live with Ahmadinejad

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Ever since the Persian nation went to polls some days back, the world had been waiting with baited breath for the results to come out. In fact, more than the local candidates, the global leaders seemed to have more at stake, starting from the very top from Mr. Obama to Monsieur Sarkozy. The interest level could be gauged by the direct address made by Obama to the Iranian public (which had been largely blacked out by the national media) exhorting them to vote for a change, which could be simply translated as anybody but the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  

And where the western leaders stopped, the western media came in. Over the past few weeks, almost all the major news channels right from BBC to CNN have been airing special documentaries on the life and politics of Iran. Watching them, it is not hard to miss the subtext to it all, “Ahmadinejad is evil, Mousavi is the savoir. So vote for green”. Over and over again, people were shown the two Irans that live side by side; a modern nation of youths eager to break the shackles and the ancient land of peasants who just want to subsist on government subsidies. Images of young people with spiked and streaked hair, waving the “V” for victory glared at you through the screen. It seemed to be more Idaho than Iran. All through the past few weeks, the channels emphasised how life in Iran had taken a turn for the worse, and how badly Ahmadinejad had failed. It was as if Mousavi had enlisted the help of all these news channels in his battle for Iranian president ship.

But all that fell flat, when the results came out, the bugbear won and won handsomely; Ahmadinejad cornered some 63% of votes versus 34% that of Mousavi. All hopes of a Green Revolution on the lines of the Orange and Purple ones came crashing down to the ground. The verdict is quite unequivocal, even if there have been some irregularities in the process, they can in no manner bridge the immense gap between the victor and the challenger. For good or for worse, Iranians have chosen Ahmadinejad to represent and to lead them. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Shashwat D.C.

June 14, 2009 at 2:46 pm