Saturday, December 28, 2019

Bengaluru, then and now: How was Bangalore 30-40 years back?

Thanks to my dad’s career in defense service, we had an opportunity to relocate to the city about three decades ago. And after retirement, my parents continue to call Bengaluru their home. After graduation, I moved to Mysuru for my Masters, and continued to come back to the city after my stints around the world.

Let’s look at the question from two dimensions – what’s changed in Bengaluru; and what remains the same.

What’s the same?

  • Air quality and Pollution issues – In the nineties and early part of the millennium, there were lot more open spaces. Parthenium menace would plague the city and those with Bronchitis and Other lung diseases would be advised to move out or cope with it. Thanks to urbanization, the city has turned into a concrete-jungle; and Parthenium and pollen pollution has given way to C02 and sulfur pollution. Those with Bronchitis and other lung diseases are still advised to move out or cope with it.
  • Kannadigas vs Kannada-gotilla Camps – Bangalore always enjoyed a large influx of migrants from across the country. Thanks to the large presence of military, research and Public Sector undertakings (HAL, NAL, DRDO, ISRO, BEL, BHEL, BEML, HMT etc etc), the city has always had a cosmopolitan feel. Some new migrants have tried to assimilate by learning the local language, while others in transferable jobs have also managed just as fine without doing so.
  • A few tree lined streets – A stretch in Malleshwaram, Basavagudi, Jayanagar or CV Raman avenue and a few other pockets continue to be tree-lined. Similarly, the city continues to enjoy a few lung-spaces like Cubbon-park, Lalbagh.

What’s changed?

  • Gardens have given way to tech parks – Bengaluru has long enjoyed the moniker of ‘garden city.’ But the gardens have given way to massive tech parks, especially in the South and South Eastern part of the city. This is perhaps the greatest change we are seeing around. While the influx of folks in Defense and PSU sectors continue, influx of millions of tech-generations has transformed the southern part of the city.
  • Tree lined Houses with gardens in residential neighborhoods have given way to multi-story flats. Influx of lot more people in the same parcel of land is increasing the population density
  • Unregulated construction, citizen and builders flouting zoning regulations. Large multistory apartment complexes have mushroomed in the interiors. Builders don’t bother to work with civic authorities to provision access driveways to main-roads leaving new residents scratching their heads in frustration.
  • A generation ago, lot more people used bikes, scooters and even bicycles to commute. Now most middle-class families living in small apartments and houses have cars but nowhere to park. They park their cars on streets in front, further choking narrow streets.
  • Cyclists are almost extinct on main roads. I loved riding a bicycle for the four-kilometer stretch to Malleshwaram during my college days. It is unthinkable to even imagine navigating that stretch in today’s busy traffic!
  • Perennial construction and digging around – you can’t drive a few hundred meters on a major road without seeing some roadwork or construction debris from adjacent lands blocking parts of the road. But isn’t it the same in rest of the country?
  • Cost of living has increased – Old timers complain that housing is much more expensive, eateries and darshanis charge more etc.; But isn’t it the same in rest of the country?
  • Density of population and traffic chaos - Outer, peripheral and other ring roads are choking. But isn’t it the same in rest of the country?

So, what does all this mean?

With all the chaos one sees around the sprawling metropolis, I am inclined to give A+ to the civic authorities including BBMP, BWSSB, BESCOM and even local Police. For a population of 13+ million
  • Residents don’t experience frequent blackouts like in other third world Metropolis. A few power-cuts are primarily due to constructions in neighborhoods, not because the system is failing!
  • A large portion of the city gets fresh Cavury, ‘corporation’ water, which is not a small task
  • If you are so inclined to go green, BMTC and Namma Metro continue to provide an above-average service for commute within the city. Taking public transit beats riding a bike or driving a car on choked roads any day!
  • Although residents come to grips with occasional incidents of robberies and theft, the Police by-and-large keeps the city safe!
City continues to grow. Now that the ring road is choking, the city is already planning for a peripheral ring road Four-year plan to implement 65-km peripheral ring road in Bengaluru

Monday, December 23, 2019

Yet another Kleptomania story: Mexican ambassador caught shoplifting in Buenos Aires resigns

A recent incident involving a Mexican diplomat who was caught shoplifting a $10 book from a high-end bookstore in Buenos Aires made for international headlines. The society holds professionals like diplomats in high esteem; and when a member of that cadre strays from the straight and narrow, we all take note.  According to news accounts
Mexico’s ambassador to Argentina resigned on Sunday citing health problems following new allegations of shoplifting after video from late October showed the diplomat attempting to steal a $10 book.
Ambassador Óscar Valero Recio Becerra “has been ordered to return home,” said Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. The diplomat will be investigated by a government ethics committee. 

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires - GETTY IMAGES
“Ricardo Valero is a great person, he’s undergoing neurological treatment and I wish him a speedy recovery,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard wrote in a post on Twitter. We are all taught from an early age that stealing is wrong, and such an urge must be suppressed. The incident also brings up the debate on whether shoplifting and Kleptomania are symptoms of a mental and neurological disorder or simply an un-suppressible urge to steal things one covets. According to Mayo Clinic "Although there's no cure for kleptomania, treatment with medication or talk therapy (psychotherapy) may help to end the cycle of compulsive stealing."

Also, the viral video of "Indian family gets busted for stealing hotel accessories in Bali"

Sunday, December 22, 2019

FAQ on Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill

I have been blogging my viewpoints and observations "Aging and caregiving in India" during the past couple of years. 

In the previous post, I introduced the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill, and it is anticipated that the bill will soon be passed into law.  This is a great and timely move for a society that is undergoing changes.The earlier support systems enjoyed by elders in joint families are slowly giving way to nuclear families with a free-for-all. While Indian baby-boomers are aging, nuclear families are torn between caring for elders and supporting themselves and the next generation. 

Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the topic of elders and elder care in India that the articles in media seem to be highlighting 

Question: The Bill proposes the registration and maintenance of minimum standards of senior citizens' care homes. How will this work?

Standardizing the registration and maintenance of senior care homes will certainly help families considering this option. However, as with most other regulations in India, there could be a large gap between the intent and actual enforcement. Even in western societies like the USA where senior living homes are highly regulated by Federal, State and local agencies, the quality of care varies widely and enforcement is not always uniform. A few recent articles in the press:
As the law comes into effect and we see more nursing homes in existence, the plans for enforcement will begin to mature. 

Question: Is everyone going to be okay with senior citizens being entitled to maintenance 'by law' from their guardians?

Merely passing the law does not mean senior citizens can automatically begin demanding 'maintenance' from their children or others. One has to understand the intent and spirit of the proposals in the law : 
  • Many families live a hand-to-mouth existence themselves and it won't be fair or practical to ask a son struggling to maintain his household - e.g. wife and kids - to also dole out a sum of money to his parents. 
  • On the other hand, the intent of the law is to ensure that families with property that they are likely to inherit from elders, pay-back by taking care of such elders with dignity during their lifetime. 
Senior citizens who do not have children or grandchildren can claim maintenance from a relative who is either possessing their property or who will inherit their property of the senior citizen after their death. The relative must not be a minor and must have sufficient means to provide maintenance. If more than one relative is entitled to inherit the property, then maintenance must be paid by relatives in proportion to their inheritance of the property.

One frequently reads horror-stories of children abusing their helpless elders by demanding their assets or rights to other property. The law is intended to deter such folks and make it easier for victimized elders to seek protection.  

Question: How do you see the family dynamics change after the amendment brings other family members including sons-in-law and daughters-in-law into the ambit of the law?

Merely passing the law does not mean senior citizens can automatically begin demanding 'maintenance' from their children or other members of the family mentioned. The intent of the law is to ensure that family members with property that they are likely to inherit from elders, pay-back by taking care of such elders with dignity during their lifetime.  

One frequently reads horror-stories of children abusing their helpless elders by demanding their assets or rights to other property. The law is intended to deter such folks and make it easier for victimized elders to seek protection.  

Question: How should I file a case to seek maintenance from my family under Welfare and Maintenance of Parents and Citizens Act, 2007?

Let us take the example of an elderly senior citizen without sufficient means to survive and his/her children have enough resources to live and they are not taking care of them financially. The senior citizen may write an application to the local government authority (e.g. district magistrate) citing all the facts and ask them to direct the children to pay maintenance. If district administration fails to compel the children to act, then the senior can file a civil case against children under the above Act.

Of course, there may be practical issues involved here; e.g how is the senior citizen going to get the resources and knowledge to contact an attorney. 

Question: Will the amendment help Senior Citizen who are incapable of handling legal proceedings due to one reason or another?

The amendment to the law doesn't seem to directly provide for help with complex legal proceedings. However, a couple of points highlighted include :
  1. Appointment of Nodal Police Officers for Senior Citizens in every Police Station and District level Special Police Unit for Senior Citizens.
  2. Maintenance of Helpline for Senior Citizens 
These provisions are likely to make it easier for Senior Citizens to seek help, but don't seem to indicate that lawyers or legal help will be made available to them. 

You may check out some of my viewpoints on "Aging and caregiving in India" 

Indian law to protect rights of Seniors : Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill

India has a large aging population of senior citizen. There are over 135 million elderly people in India and by some accounts it has the second-largest population of senior citizens.

The Indian society is transforming at a fast pace, and joint family structure has given way to nuclear families with youngsters migrating to metros for opportunities, leaving behind their parents and elders. The traditional support systems where neighbors in a small town would keep an eye on the young and elderly has given way to large apartment complexes where neighbors hardly know each other.

Taking into account the continuously widening the gap between generations, Indian lawmakers have stepped in to ensure a conducive environment for the elderly. A “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act” was passed in 2017.

Indian lawmakers have decided to amend the act with a proposed ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill.’ The proposal is attempting to balance the traditional, moral responsibilities of families around a legal framework and has the following major salient features:
  1.  Definition of "children" and ‘parents’ has been expanded.
  2.   Definition of 'maintenance' and ‘welfare’ has been expanded.  
  3. Mode of submission of application for maintenance has been enlarged. 
  4. Ceiling of Rs.10,000/- as maintenance amount has been removed. 
  5. Preference to dispose of applications of senior citizens, above eighty years of age, early has been included.  
  6. Registration of Senior Citizens Care Homes/Homecare Service Agencies etc. have been included. 
  7. Minimum standards for senior citizen care homes has been included in the Bill.
  8. Appointment of Nodal Police Officers for Senior Citizens in every Police Station and District level Special Police Unit for Senior Citizens has been included.
  9. Maintenance of Helpline for Senior Citizens has been included.
Senior Citizen and those in online forums are excited about some of the amendments proposed. It is likely that the Amendment bill will pass the Indian parliament, after which some of these will be rolled out. However, it is unclear how and if the act will actually improve the plight of some of the 
135 million elderly people in India. 

I will try to blog some of the questions into a FAQ in my next post. In the meantime, you may check out some of my viewpoints on "Aging and caregiving in India" 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Reflecting on "HIDDEN BRAIN" The Ventilator: Life, Death And The Choices We Make At The End

This week’s podcast of Hidden Brain really hit home for me. The episode raises intriguing questions about end-of-life decision. Shankar Vedantam's narrative takes us  through the question "The choice was always, do you want to see tomorrow?"

The episode takes us through the journey of a family grappled with the same question. Over the decades, they talk deeply about the choices they would want to make in the face of an incurable illness or terrible injury. But when the time came to act on their beliefs, they discovered a question they hadn't considered. What if the seemingly rational choices you prefer when you're healthy no longer make sense to you when you're actually confronting death?

The questions around life, living and the reluctance to embrace the inevitable death even when it is staring you in the face are topics that I have been reflecting on since my father was paralyzed and eventually spent the last 8 months of life needing 24 X 7 care and support just to see another day; a day that may not be better than the one gone by.

I also began to appreciate how rational people react when facing the inevitable end. My dad was a proud and active veteran who had spent his early retirement years traveling around with my mother. He continued to be upbeat, even when facing the of debilitating effects of Parkinson’s.

What will happen to me after I die?

Would we be better prepared to embrace death when it inevitably comes calling, if we can answer this question? It is a question that humans and philosophers across civilizations and generations have pondered. Religion, spirituality or even the study of history and anthropology doesn’t give a clue into death and what lies at the other end. And if there is something in that ‘black hole.’

Humans don’t have the answer since the dead cant tell us what’s on the ‘other side’. And while the living can be certain that death isn’t reversible, we don’t have an assurance that the unknown we pass onto is going to be any better. Hence we take comfort in the status quo, and the certainty of life as we continue to live.
Of course, not all of us are destined to face this question. For many, death may be sudden, abrupt or untimely; leaving only the survivors to come to terms with death.

I have often wondered about the reason why people like my dad, and the protagonist of this podcast, Ms Stephanie Rinka want to struggle to live.

It is the will to struggle through the ailments and live to see another day, or is it the fear of the unknown finality of death that keeps them hanging by a thread?

Friday, October 4, 2019

Career advice: What does the career path for an Enterprise Architect look like?

Here is my response to a recent question "What does the career path for an Enterprise Architect look like?"

Looking for a “career path” for an Enterprise Architect is like seeking inputs on a strategy or roadmap; it really depends on various factors. I say this because:
  • Enterprise Architects in Consulting firms - EA’s in consulting firms bring in depth in one or more technical or functional domain and play and advisory or program manager role for their clients. Consulting roles require frequent travel and moving from one client to the next. Some individuals may work in consulting roles for some time before they decide to take on a permanent role as technology or functional manager.
  • Enterprise Architects working for large organizations generally come with years of experience in their respective domains.
    • Some EA’s continue to grow and contribute as EAs, and may be happy driving large multi-year transformations in their organizations. I know a few EA’s who happily retired as senior EA in their organization.
    • Some EA’s may take on managerial role in their organization and pursue the Director, VP, SVP, CIO/CTO track
  • Some EAs may continue to switch between consulting and FTE roles every few years as opportunities arise
As you can see, an EA’s career path really comes down to an individual’s preference and personal circumstances.

career advice: Will a TOGAF certification be helpful to move from a developer role to a software architecture role?

Here is my response to a recent question "Will a TOGAF certification be helpful to move from a developer role to a software architecture role?"

TOGAF is a broad body of knowledge that covers BiDAT dimensions of architecture
  • Business Architecture
  • Data Architecture
  • Applications Architecture
  • Technology Architecture
Those working in Software Engineering and Application Development will benefit from knowledge of some of the TOGAF topics.

Now, back to your specific question - as a software developer, if you are looking to complete a TOGAF certification in order to move to an application or software Architect role, you may be better off focused on other vendor/technical certifications focused on Technical Architect roles.

Look around your organization’s technology landscape and identify technologies like SAP, Microsoft, IBM, SFDC etc and consider Architect level certifications in those domains. Those certifications will provide you an opportunity to move towards and architecture role.

However, after you have gained sufficient experience in one or more technology or functional domains, if you plan to pursue a career in Enterprise Architecture, TOGAF certification will help.

Also, check out my earlier blog on this topic Career advice: What is cost of TOGAF 9 certification? What are the job opportunities in Bangalore?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why is dual citizenship not appreciated in India where a largely migratory global labour market exists?

The above question came to me via an online forum that raises an interesting question: Should India allow Dual Citizenship? My response:

Some of us might think of immigration as a simple, linear movement of people from one country to another. And those of us who muse about ‘dual citizenship’ probably don’t appreciate the complexities of politics and policy issues involved.
Issue 1: Politics and regionalism: Indian subcontinent is highly divided and parochial. Some of the regionalism is a legacy of ‘divide and conquor’ left behind by British rulers, which the country hasn’t been able to move ahead from. Political leaders across states continue to nurture this mindset. Examples - Mumbai for Mumbaikars || 2008 attacks on Uttar Pradeshi and Bihari migrants in Maharashtra|| Andhra passes Bill giving 75% job reservation for locals || Migrant labourers targeted in Kodagu
  • The concept of “largely migratory global labour market” exists only in pockets. Many migrants who move overseas often return back ‘home’ during a downturn
  • Some states like Kerala are already struggling to accommodate returning NRIs “The Kerala government has sought special grants to the tune of around Rs 50 billion from the 15th Finance Commission. The state government said it has raised claims for grant funds, including Rs 15 billion for rehabilitation of Keralites who are returning from Gulf countries following the crisis there.” (ref: article)
Given this political context, imagine this problem: how and where would a India accommodate a diaspora of 15.6 million IFF they suddenly decide to ‘return home’ en masse? Would an NRI of Bihari origin be easily assimilated in Kashmir or a North Eastern State? Should such folks be allowed to vote? What would happen to the local vote banks? It is probably easier for Indian policy makers to restrict those who acquire foreign citizenship from holding an Indian passport.
One of the keynote speakers at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) in 2017 that I attended was the Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa who proudly showed his OCI card to the audience
Issue 2: Complexities of Policies - At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the policy discussions around citizenship were front and center.
  • Imagine this scenario: If India offered dual citizenship, folks like António Costa could migrate back to Goa and run for elections there too. What would Goanese feel about this?
  • Descendants of Indian colonial slave workers to get OCI cards - As a policy maker, imagine if all such ‘descendants’ of Indian origin living in Fiji, Mauritius, Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore, and even Sri Lanka begin asking for Indian Citizenship?
  • What about 2nd or 3rd generation ‘people of Indian origin’ living in Burma, Bangladesh and Pakistan? Should they also be offered a dual/Indian citizenship, especially if some of their siblings or other relatives migrated over to India generations ago?
  • Check out the report “Assessing India's PIO and OCI Schemes - The Ministry of External Affairs” that highlights some of the issues and challenges
As a policy maker, one would aim to be fair and equitable to the entire class of eligible people. But as a class of people, the millions of Indian diaspora doesn’t fall into a neat little pattern. ‘Dual citizenship’ would raise more issues than one can fathom.

Bottomline: The current OCI policy is more than a simple compromise towards dual-citizenship. It gives a practical option for people like me who want the ability to stay connected with their motherland. Check out my blog post What’s it like to give up your Indian citizenship and accept American citizenship?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

What does the CCD founder’s death tell us about corporate culture and pressure?

First things first, condolences to the family of VG Siddhartha, a remarkable entrepreneur of our time. [VG Siddhartha death Live Updates: CCD owner's body to be taken to Chikamagalur for last rites]
VG Siddhartha founded and ran several successful business ventures and is best known for his role in the growth of Café Coffee Day (CCD).
The CCD story was a quintessential desi story of our time and B-school students around the globe learnt from the case study. Harvard business school - Coffee Wars in India: Café Coffee Day Takes On the Global Brands || IIM - Exploring Brand Associations in the Indian Context: Cafe Coffee Day || IBS - Cafe Coffee Day's Expansion Strategies| Strategy Case Study || DSIM - How the Man from Bangalore Brewed a $200 Million Success Story? || Others on Google Scholar
Given the success of CCD and Siddhartha’s business acumen in creating a brand and franchise from ground-up, most of us are wondering what went so wrong that he had to take his own life? While the media and digerati speculate, here are a few thoughts on running a business in India
  • The topic of taking on debt, (Good Debt vs. Bad Debt: What's the Difference?) is perennial staple in B-schools and among business leaders and consultants. Good debt is exemplified in the old adage "it takes money to make money." However, when a business faces headwinds, the debt can turn “bad” very fast, and can be lethal.
    • In a letter released before Siddhartha, wen missing, he had said that "tremendous pressure" from other lenders had made him succumb to the situation.
  • Businesses periodically undergo financial stress. Some of the stress rubs on the founders, owners and business leaders.
    • For example, another charismatic Indian entrepreneur Kiran-Mazumdar-Shaw was quoted saying “The hopelessness he seems to be indicating in his letter on financial stress is a real problem. And the way the stakeholders of the financial sector are dealing with business and dealing with entrepreneurs seems to be what the problem is.”
  • Fates of Business, government and society are intertwined in India.
    • Fate of many business leaders are closely aligned with their political sponsors. The government (ruling party) of the day uses IT raids as a tool to control/manage opponents. This can be exacerbated when there is some impropriety and business leaders think they can skirt some regulations or rules.
    • VG Siddhartha was the son-in-law of S. M. Krishna, the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, Indian Minister for External Affairs and Governor of Maharashtra. In a recent letter, Siddhartha alleged ‘harassment’ from Income Tax authorities (Decoding VG Siddhartha's letter: What's the 'harassment' from tax authorities CCD founder faced?)
Fight-or-flight response
Psychologists who study human behavior describe the fight-or-flight response (also called hyperarousal, or the acute stress response) as a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. Human reaction to crisis is highly subjective. Some high-flying business leaders like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya chose flight, by literally flying out of the country when faced with financial doom.
In Siddhartha’s case, he seems to have Fought back for a while, before taking Flight to a lethal extreme.

[reposted on Quora]

Friday, June 14, 2019

Here’s why Indian government should let the automotive sector shakeout

In the past decade, Indians have fallen in love with their automobiles, but recent media reports indicate that this honeymoon may be drawing to an end. The love for cars and bikes has led to tremendous growth in the automotive sector, which is visible around us – most neighborhoods have swanky new dealerships and petrol stations, not to mention chock-a-block traffic that we see all around.

Based on recent reports, a segment of automotive-sector is already calling for government handouts, which the media seems to be echoing.  However, when one looks at urban roads clogged with traffic, one wonders if a bit of shakeout or even the disappearance of a few automotive brands wouldn’t be a bad thing for urban India.

While living in America, I was acutely aware of how cars were an essential part of suburban life. During visits back home, I would continue to be astounded by the increasing traffic density, and the variety of automobiles on narrow roads: compact, convenient Marutis had given way to a range of SUVs, midrange and luxury cars. On relocating back to India, I began to use my dad’s old Maruti to run errands before I exchanged it for another compact car – a KWID. I was seriously looking for an EV but the only compact one in the market is overly priced and the reviews weren’t flattering. Our car is primarily used for a few family trips, shopping or to run errands around the neighborhood. For much of our daily commute, my wife and I depend on local buses, auto rickshaws, Ola and Uber.

Shouldn’t the government step in to help the automotive sector?!

According to reports from the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), the Indian auto sales in April declined by almost 16% compared to last year. Almost half a million passenger vehicles worth $5 billion, as well as 3 million two-wheelers valued at $2.5 billion are lying unsold at dealerships.

The sector employs around 32 million people across the country, and any slowdown is bound to impact jobs and local communities. However, the slowdown comes after years of stellar growth, and there may be little sympathy for auto manufacturers or dealers that have been profiting from the boom.

While taxes from auto-sales account for a percentage of its revenue, the government might be reluctant to bail out an industry due for correction.

An Argument against bailing out the automotive sector

There are several reasons why the Indian government and policy makers should refrain from stepping in, and just let the market forces run the course:

  • This slowdown and declining sales may be attributable to consumption fatigue: There are only so many cars Indian roads can accommodate, and Indians aren’t as prone to swapping their old cars to newer models as western drivers are. Incentivizing consumers to continue to artificially fuel demand is just going to delay the inevitable slowdown.
  • Parking wars in residential areas are all too common, and most neighborhoods are already saturated with a high density of cars. Most smaller apartments and houses in Urban India haven’t provisioned for parking spots, forcing residents to park on narrow roads nearby. The 25-30 feet wide roads designed to accommodate just two cars passing each other get jammed when cars are parked alongside too. A radical proposal by Karnataka’s Dy. Chief Minister asking potential car-buyers to demonstrate availability of available parking spot while applying for registration was quickly buried after it was leaked to the media.
  • The last mile challenge in commute is overblown – Living in a Bengaluru suburb, I have comfortably been commuting by BMTC’s AC buses to a tech-park about twenty kilometers away. This means that I have to walk a few hundred meters to a bus stop near my house and another 750 meters inside the tech park after I get off the bus-stop in front of the sprawling complex. During the past year, I occasionally miss the door-to-door convenience of commute that driving would afford, but I would miss the benefit of 3-4 kilometer walk; not to mention the stress-free commute of sitting in an AC bus.
  • Car ownership no longer a millennial’s dream - Ride-sharing, Ola, Uber and easy access to public transit have led to a segment of millennials refraining from vehicle ownership. While some find public transit and ride-share convenient, a few millennials are also making a statement – that life without cars shows they are environmentally conscious.
  • A slowdown will test the resilience of the industry, especially foreign auto-giants that have been profiting from the boom. The market forces will also be a litmus test to identify the multinationals that are here for the long haul.

The economic impact of the slowdown in the Indian automotive industry is being scrutinized in public forums. However, the Indian society is not as addicted to cars and automobiles as Americans and other westerners are. There are certainly more modes of transport in urban India. If the bulk of Indian middle class consumers have decided that they want a fewer cars, more power to them.

The Indian automotive industry has been focused on satisfying the demand for traditional vehicles, and perhaps got a bit complacent. There is hardly any domestic innovation in emerging areas like low-emission and electric-vehicle technologies where the rest of the world is moving towards.
A shakeout in the industry might force a few players to seek opportunities in that neglected sector that is due for a growth. Fewer cars on crowded Indian roads wouldn’t be a bad thing after all. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Enterprise Architecture Roadmaps: reconciling across enterprise domains

I was at an industry forum where the discussions focused on strategy realization and roadmaps and some of the challenges with digital strategy execution. While discussing the challenges, many were in agreement that Business leaders are generally well versed in capabilities of IT, and the promise of digital tools and techniques.

Strategy realization involves executing on pre-defined roadmaps, and aligning business processes with appropriate technologies and platforms. In an earlier blog post, I described the process of reconciling Architecture Roadmaps across an organization. (link). This involves bringing together views from across functional and regional domains that coexist along with Business, Information, Data, Applications and Technology (BIDAT) areas. In addition to BIDAT, Architects also need to align across IT Services and digital backbone domains, each with distinct strategic drivers, business sponsorship and execution strategies.  A brief description of each of these along with some of the implications on EA roadmaps follow.

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Enterprise-IT - services for internal consumption

Many large enterprises have moved towards a shared services model to centrally support systems and processes for business units and functions that may be globally distributed. IT, along with selected functions like facilities management, HR, finance and production may be managed within the shared services organization.

The enterprise-IT in a shared service will be designed to support internal operations in organizations with thousands or tens of thousands of employees. . These employees will need consistent processes and systems to support business operations, sales, support clients, manufacture and distribute goods in regions across the globe.

The enterprise-IT systems and processes must be continually supported, enhanced and upgraded. A large ecosystem of Enterprise IT application vendors with a variety of tools and technologies offer services for business verticals.

Implication: Senior executives closely watch the SLAs, metrics and cost of operations of enterprise-IT platforms and processes. The costs of operations can influence the organization’s bottomline, and so can productivity gains from transforming some of the processes and systems.

Digital Backbone

In many organizations, the growth engine is driven by distinct capabilities or intellectual property aligned with its core competency. In some organizations, the digital backbone may be called the “engineering” or “technology” capability. At a manufacturing company, the digital backbone will include R&D behind design of products and services. For a media company, it will be the newsroom operations supporting reporters and journalists. At a petrochemical company, the digital backbone will include innovation that drives its geo-information, GIS and drilling capabilities.

Systems and processes to manage core competency have evolved with emerging digital technologies and tools; and these are also likely to be most impacted by digital disruptors in the marketplace.

The past decade has seen entire industry segments and companies disrupted by digital innovators. Ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have disrupted taxi services and public transit systems around the world. A decade ago, low cost online-only brokers disrupted full-service brokerages. Similarly, advances in electric vehicle technologies are being watched by the entire transport segment dependent on internal combustion engines - from automobile companies to oil drillers.

Implication: Technologies that enable the digital backbone are generally customized to the organization’s business processes and can be the engine for growth. Transformation of an organization’s digital backbone can impact the top-line, improve market share and sales, and transform its business model.

Architecting in the Enterprise: Impact on roadmaps

In most of the large enterprises I have worked with, there is a line in the sand when it comes to managing Enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone. The platforms and systems are managed and operated independently, but there is value in working across the silos.

Many of the tools, technologies and services are interchangeable across these business units. For instance, a cloud hosting strategy may be applicable across these BU’s. Similarly, the organization will have a better negotiating leverage by consolidating licenses for infrastructure, network, databases and other technology services. Knowledge of Design and development skills may also be interchangeable across the organizations.

The organization’s culture may dictate the level of collaboration across enterprise-IT services and the organization's Digital Backbone.  An effective way to bridge the divide without being constrained by the culture is for technology leaders to continually reconcile Architecture Roadmaps as described in an earlier post. The reviews and reconciliation should be consultative, although some aspects - like external vendor inputs or Technology Debt (link) - may have to be directive. 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

A drive to the Big Banyan Tree : Dodda Alada Mara

The Big Banyan Tree, (kannada: The Dodda Aalada Mara) is a giant 400-year-old banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), located in the village of Kethohalli in the Bangalore, about 10 minutes drive if you are around Mysore Road, near Kengeri.

We decided on a detour to visit the Big Banyan Tree during a recent trip to Mysuru. According to Wikipedia 

This single plant covers 3 acres (12,000 m2) and is one of the largest of its kind. In the 2000s, the main root of the tree succumbed to natural disease, and thus the tree now looks like many different trees. The tree is the natural home of a large number of monkeys, and tourists are advised to be careful with food, water, camera bags, and anything else that can be snatched away.

The 400-year old tree is in a 3-4 acre park which is rather well maintained with a walkway surrounding the sprawling tree.

However, the extent of preservation by local authorities ends there: The town and people of of Ramohalli have encroached around most of the land surrounding the 3+ acre park, which makes one wonder if the tree will survive another 3-400 years.

There is a main road that goes across the front of the park and adjacent the park a few buildings have come up. It is hard to imagine if the tree will have any further space to grow in the years to come. It will be a shame if urban sprawl is unconstrained and the historic tree ends up just in textbooks and blogs.

Practical tips: Watch out for monkeys around the park. They are known to swoop down and grab edibles and belongings that visitors carry in.

How to get there:  The tree is located in the village of Ramohalli, about 28 kilometres (17 mi) from Bangalore, on the Bangalore – Mysore Road.  One can take local BMTC Buses from Majestic to Kengeri, and then from Kengeri to Doda Alada Mara. There are a few direct buses from K. R. Market to Dodda Alada mara which stops just beside the tree.

Check out my review on Tripadvisor

History meets urban sprawl

The 400-year old tree is in a 3-4 acre park which is rather well maintained with a walkway surrounding the sprawling tree. ....

Monday, March 25, 2019

#Bookreview : The Reckoning: A Novel by John Grisham

Here's my recent review of John Grisham's "The Reckoning: A Novel"

Having read most of Grisham’s works, and having seen him give a lively talk to a hall-full of fans, I was ready for ‘The Reckoning’

The blurb explains that it is a “story of an unthinkable murder, the bizarre trial that followed it, and its profound and lasting effect on the people of Ford County.”

Set in the Nineteen forties cotton-picking South, Grisham throws in an ample dose of gentleman farmer’s family, blacks-vs-whites and the war. It is a story of Pete Banning, Clanton's favorite son, and war hero who kills the pastor of the local Methodist church and surrenders with a simple statement 'I have nothing to say.' And ‘why he did it’ is the mystery that Grisham keeps readers hooked on till the very end.

The first part of the book has a brief description of Pete Banning’s exploits and experiences during the war, but Grisham seems to relish taking us through the gory details of Guerrilla warfare. Even going past this to the end of the book, I was left scratching my head over the need for such detailed narrative on the topic of war.

The characters of Pete’s son, Joel is rather well developed and much of the narrative is through Joel’s eyes. The unpredictable end, however, is a satisfactory anti-climax that explains Pete Banning’s reason for ‘why he did it;’ and how it all backfired on him and on the Banning clan.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

A first person account why cases are languishing in High Courts in India

Many of us go through life without having to deal with the law or courts, and get our knowledge from tele-serials and documentaries. Until recently, even I had minimal interactions with law and legal system in India, UK and even the US for minor issues like reporting an accident or for police verification.

You might have walked by derelict buildings or properties around any Indian metropolis and noticed painted signs that state “Stay Order in XYZ court. Case/order # ABC123” and wondered about it. Or you may occasionally come across articles about the Indian judiciary swamped with cases, quoting litigants who talk about ‘years’ or ‘decades’ it took for a verdict. Such news of law or litigation however has little interest to most of us, unless we are at the receiving end; in which case an endless wait for our day in court can be excruciating. 

On the face of it, the Indian legal system seems extraordinarily sluggish, with phrases like “justice delayed is justice denied” holding true. My recent brush with the judiciary, however, gave me a ringside view of the machinery at work.  After a recent opportunity to sit on proceedings at Karnataka High Court, I came away with an admiration of a system that works, even when it is swamped by the sheer volume of cases.
Image result for karnataka high court
Image from published source

My Case

I migrated back from America a couple of years ago to be around for my parents. While reviewing the family’s records, found that my dad had bought a parcel of land over two decades ago and had been trying to register in his name unsuccessfully. He had spent substantial sums - to the tune of lakhs of rupees -  pursuing the title registration. It turned out that most of the money spent was in bribes to sundry agents and officials, hoping for positive action.

I decided to pursue the matter further, and I consulted with an attorney who practices in Karnataka’s High Court. After reviewing the land records, he was confident that we could file a writ petition against the State Government asking the local Thasildar (land records department) asking them to register the title to the land in my father’s name. His fee sounded reasonable and he was confident that the matter would be heard and processed expeditiously. That was nearly 1 ½ years ago.

My attorney filed the writ petition in October 2017 and after an initial adjournment, the case came up for hearing. At the hearing, the Government’s Attorney argued that the validity of the original grant was in question, and it needed to be reviewed by the government authority. The judge passed an order stating that the revenue department was to be given 6 months to investigate the records.

The attorney said he was disappointed with the judgement response, especially since we had all the relevant documents on hand. He felt it was just a delaying tactic adopted by the Government’s attorney, and suggested that we file a writ Appeal at the same High Court. 

I was dreading further prolonging of litigation. However, I felt that having come this far there was little point in just dropping the issue and walking away, especially since my attorney indicated that the fee for preparing the writ appeal would be ‘negligible’. There had been too much time and effort that my dad had invested in pursuing the land. 

The paperwork for writ appeal was filed in Oct 2017 and the case wasn’t picked up for a few months. In March 2018 my lawyer’s assistant called and said the court had asked for translation of documents, which were originally in Kannada. He recommended an official translator for the job and I paid the fee for translations.

After that, we waited several months when the case was picked up for an initial hearing. The judges found the documents in order and said the matter could be admitted for final hearing. That was in June of 2018. 

The High Court website – Transparency at work

In the months and weeks after the original filing, I familiarized myself with the High Court’s website and began visiting it periodically. As a technocrat, I was impressed by the usability and ease with which citizen could review the records, judgments and updated case status. I was able to download a copy of the judgment passed in original writ petition and read it in entirety. Likewise, the case status were updated daily and were used by lawyers and the public alike.

The website also publishes a real-time tracker of cases being heard in court halls across the High Court on a specific day. This allows the public and lawyers to look up the “Bulletin Board” on their smartphone and plan their attendance at schedule times.

My day in the court ?

In early march, I got a call from my attorney that the case had been scheduled for final hearing on 6th March. I asked him the appointment time for the hearing, and he said based on the roaster, the case was listed as Number 58, so it could come up for hearing sometime in the afternoon. 

I decided to go to the court to observe the proceedings and I reached the majestic Karnataka High Court complex around 1 pm. I found my way to that hall, which was on the second floor or the main building.  The courtroom resembled what one sees in Indian movies and TV serials – the bench where judges are seated is at one end of the hall. Facing the judges were a couple of lecterns with small mikes where the lawyers for plaintiff and defendants stood. 

The first case that afternoon was a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) about a construction of a government building on a ‘tank-bund’ next to an area of 610 acres marked as a lake by the state government. The government side was represented by a couple of lawyers from different departments. The lawyer filing PIL said that the building was an ‘illegal encroachment’ on the 720 acres marked as a lake on original survey and was done on behalf of a local MLS. They went back and forth and seemed to claim that it was legal as per law of that time. That case took the entire half hour before the court broke up for lunch at 1.30 pm.  

After lunch break, the lawyers and the audience assembled for the proceedings to continue. Before the next matter could be heard, a lady approached the bench and began ranting that she wanted ‘some’ help from the court. As she continued to rant that she wanted some ‘justice,’ the Chief Justice (CJ) asked if she was being represented by a lawyer. She said that her lawyer had fallen ill himself and was unable  to help her and she did no have any case filed in the court. The judges wanted her out of the room and called the bailiffs. Before that could happen, the lady decided to walk out herself. 

After this unscheduled interlude, a few other cases came up for hearing.  Two factories in Bomannahalli, represented by their attorneys began dueling it out. One was claiming that the other factory was creating a lot of sound and noise that had affected its foundation and windows. Both lawyers made their argument for about 45 minutes, after which the CJ orally dictated his verdict to his clerk in verbose legal language. 

Hearing in the matter of a few other cases continued till about 4.45 pm, when the court adjourned for the day.  I was a bit disappointed that my case had not been picked up for hearing. I, nevertheless came away impressed with the professionalism and decorum of the court.

The judicial officers, lawyers and judges diligently wade through innumerable cases every day: Cases where litigants like me have a lot of emotions, time and resources invested, hoping and praying for a positive verdict. However, as I could see that day in court, dozens of cases are listed for hearing every day. But given the time constraint, only a small fraction of them can be heard by judges, and orders passed. The rest of them, like my case get adjourned and continue to pile up with the scores more that are filed by litigants every day. 

So, how does the story end?

Later that evening, I logged back into the High Court website saw an updated status : my case was adjourned for another “2 weeks.”  That was on the 6th of March 2019; and it has now been nearly 6 weeks after that and I continue to login to the HC website with a hope and prayer, to see if my case is being scheduled for a hearing.

[alternate title: Justice delayed … but hope lingers]