Showing posts with label India. Show all posts
Showing posts with label India. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Welcome to the Mobocracy


If the current affairs are going to stay, we will have soon lose our status as the world’s largest democracy. It was subtle at first, but its definitely getting worser every day. There is a new form of government in force today, one which its citizens can threaten, and hold ransom. Doesn’t matter what the law says, or the constituion mandates, it is the mob which is control. More of a threatocracy or mobocracy.

On on the eve of republic day this year, the news which greets Indians is that of utter chaos.



So background. There is a terrible film-maker who has steadily made stupid , boring movies shot on elaborate soundstages. Having running our of original thought years ago, he now picks up historical stories from the country, and adds his own twist to them. I slept through his last 4 movies. Even when they were on DVD ! His movies should definitely be banned, but not for the reasons currently trending on news.

Even after the supreme court stated that states cannot interfere, there are now violent protests in those states. And the states are not doing anything to stop it. Theatre owners are scared shit to run the movie. Fearing mob backlash.

All this for what is actually a snorefest of a movie.

This is not the first time the mob has held the state ransom. This exact thing happened last year. On 25 August 2017, widespread rioting in northern India broke out after guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the religious leader of Dera Sacha Sauda, was convicted of rape. At least 41 people were killed,authorities had suspended internet services for 48 hours and Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code was imposed.


The world is watching us slowly destroying ourselves into chaos. What a time to live in.

Happy Republic day.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Throwback to the Satyam scandal


Remember 2009 ? Me vaguely. This was when smartphones were still only for the filthily rich, in countries with very high wireless speeds, orkut was the facebook of the time, and flipkart still sold only books. The tech industry in India was hit by a huge scandal that year. One of the more prestigious software services firm revealed that they have been cooking their account books for years, and was actually in massive loss. The Satyam scam was at the same time shocking and unbelievable, because the company had a rags to riches story and aleady has branches in many foreign countries and hundreds of clients. And I think it was also shameful, because the name ‘Satyam’ in hindi/telugu/(insert any south Indian language here) means ‘Truth’. Talk of punctured balloons.

I remember the day when the scam was revealed, mostly by SMSes and rapidly forwarded e-mails. Most of the engineers on the floor I think did not see the seriousness of the scandal, and were actually looking for a way to cash in on this in the stock market. You see, when the truth about the scandal was made public, shareholders began dumping Satyam stocks. Like garbage. People on my floor (looking at you, Ankit !) had plans to buy Satyam shares when I hit rock bottom, confident that the issue would be resolved in a few days and would pick up soon. Time enough to make some money !


Remember , this was all happening during the last recession. Engineers employed by Satyam began looking for jobs frantically, flooding jobsites with their resumes. Most were even willing to take a paycut just to move to a better job. Some took drastic steps. Even today people are hesitant to admit they worked for Satyam.

Anyway, I divert. The big question everyone was asking how come such a huge financial scam was hiddden. Surely there were multiple people in a co-ordinated cover up. Satyam’s books were audited by the …ahem…prestigious PriceWaterCoopers. Apparently they were auditing only the physical books the Chairman had specially cooked for them, instead of actually double checking with the banks.

Had this been any other country, the courts would have dealt out something in a matter of few days. Maximum a few months. But nobody is in a hurry in India. The court battles began running marathons, and justice was delayed. This week, more than 9 years after the scam, Indian courts have banned PriceWater from auditing any listed Indian company for two years, effectively affecting their direct revenue. This was in addition to who knows all the fines they will be charged.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has barred Price Waterhouse from auditing any listed company in India for a period of two years for its alleged role in the Satyam scam.The regulator had also directed the auditing firm to disgorge 13.09 crore along with 12% interest per annum since January 2009.In 2010, SEBI issued a show-cause notice to Price Waterhouse, among many other entities, after it emerged that the accounts of Satyam were falsified and inflated.

I was thanking my good fortune. When I was a fresh graduate looking for an IT job, I had attended a Satyam job fair in Kochin, Kerala, a few years prior. I had cleared all the rounds and was rejected by their HR-asshole in the last moment. Some of my juniors got through though. Had they selected me, I would have taken the offer and stayed employed with them in 2009, when all hell broke loose.

PWC had a nice run all these years. Meanwhile the chairman was pronounced guilty only in 2015, and Satyam was taken over by Mahindra’s software division in 2012.

When I joined there a few years ago in Bangalore, I could notice the older Satyam logo at multiple places in the campus. An old logo on a building was removed but grafitti remained. On stickers on old furniture and computer systems.

Its a scandalous past everybody just wants to forget. But the cases will still continue in Indian courts…

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Turbulent year


A few more hours to go, and hopefully it will all end. It has been another turbulent, problematic year. I would say 2017 was another year of dirty politics. The news was constantly littered with nations threatening nations, people protesting, and revolts. More Indians will harmed or killed in the name of religion, or just for being women. The joke of GST played out hurting businesses.  Natural disasters hurt the country, which as usual, was unprepared.

But personally the biggest impact I directly saw was the loss in jobs in Indian information technology industry. India’s $160 billion IT industry laid off more than 56,000 employees this year. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Infosys, two of India’s largest IT companies and once leaders in job creation, reduced their headcounts for the first time ever. Around 6,000 Indian employees at Cognizant reportedly lost their jobs to automation. Mumbai-based Tech Mahindra implemented a cost optimisation plan of increasing automation and reducing manpower. It turned ugly in July when the firm made headlines over a controversial audio clip that featured an HR personnel purportedly coercing an employee into quitting by 10am the next day, or risk being fired.

Donald Trump’s arrival at the White House only made matters worse for India.The criteria for computer programmers to apply for the H-1B visa became tougher. In March 2017, the US government stalled the premium processing of this visa category.

The trepidation is unlikely to end anytime soon. By next year, automation will put nearly 70% of the roles in the Indian IT workforce at risk, according to analysts.

Indian IT companies have known for years that the party will end at some point. But instead of preparing early , they are now left to pickup morsels to continue.  After years of job creation in developing economies ,developed economies will be creating jobs for their own citizens in the foreseeable future,

Friday, December 15, 2017

Everyone forgot what happened today


Today is December 16. Five years ago, on Dec. 16, 2012, Jyoti Singh, a 23-year-old physiotherapist intern living in New Delhi, was headed home after watching the movie Life of Pi with a male friend. They got on a bus. Six males were on board, including the driver.

In the moving bus, all six assaulted the couple. Singh was gang-raped, and her friend beaten severely. She died days later.

I checked the news today, and there are absolutely no articles on Indian media about the anniversary of this incident. Everyone forgot.

The only article I did find, was in the US. On NPR. Unbelievable.

Read this fantastic piece about a physcologists attempt to study the mind of convicted rapists.

This line stood out

But she did say she saw a pattern of "cognitive distortion" — they had created their own version of the crime that allowed them to justify their actions.Most convicted rapists presented themselves as nonrepentant and attempted to justify their crimes


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

As long predicted, now tax on Bitcoin


The taxmen are coming. For your Bitcoins. Saw this on Indian media today. Indian Income Tax officials have begun raiding bitcoin exchanges across the country.  Multiple teams of tax sleuths yesterday, investigating virtual currency Bitcoin's investors and transactions, conducted raids at nine cryptocurrency exchanges in Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kochi, Hapur and Gurugram.



Bitcoin was created as a virtual currency not under the control of any government. But now it seems that definition no longer holds. Exchanges operating in bitcoin will be expected to pay tax just like any other company. And their customers too.

But I think the anonymous miners are still …well, safe. Wondering how they will be taxed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Does quikr , olx work ?


After all the buying online, it was finally time to sell something online for me. I was moving, and wanted to dispose off some things second hand , which were in fairly good condition. Being in the tech city, it was obvious the answer was online. So I installed apps of the two top reselling apps in ‘demand’. And tried my hand on trying to make a little profit instead of giving things away for free.

Well, it did not work. Some did. But mostly not. Instead of what I thought were  intelligent, careful buyers who would ask questions about what I was selling, I was greeted by a horde of deal jumping numbskulls with quick fingers. The only question they asked were: can you reduce the price to zero ? Something very low. You get the point. I had success selling a steel cupboard when I reduced the price to 50% of what I had paid originally. But for everything else, the buyer wanted the product for free. Even when I asked them to come over and inspect the goods to check its quality , to justify my asking price, they flatly refused. All they were doing were judging the quality of the goods on sale looking at the picture. And thats it.

This poses a problem. What you sell must be in good condition, or it will be returned. But if it is in very good condition, you wont get a good price for it. So basically, you can only sell off things in good condition for throw away prices. Basically its a market to dispose of good things at near zero prices.

Some years ago I was building a top CRM product for eBay. You know, the online auction company ? The site which started the whole online auction and marketplace business, now left for dust. I could see production data were customers were debating the quality of items sold. Some customers had clearly been cheaten, sellers sold a box of bricks packaged as UPS batteries and electronics. But there were also lots of complaints of ‘bad condition’ and ‘poor quality’ in them. In most cases, eBay policy meant reversing the sale, and they were loosing money taking care of the logistics expenses. Thankfully I was not a case agent, I was just building the CRM system for the agents. But I could see that they had a lot of work cut out for them, even with all the automation we built for them.

Sites like quikr and olx are quick ways to dispose off your good condition stuff you no longer need. But for dirt cheap prices. Don’t expect to make money off them, specially after their sale commissions.

Well, coming back to my problem, I found success somewhere else. Another new second hand furniture service called gozefo. These guys buy your funiture and appliaces, refurbish and sell them. They will still offer you less, but before arriving at the final price, they send an agent over to inspect the goods. The technician verifiies the goods are in good condition and then quotes a value. They take away the goods in 24 hours, and sell it refurbished via their online marketplace.

Its a much better service, if you want to talk some more sane buyers.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Media is powerless


While growing up, we were taught at school that journalism is one of the most important & powerful career choices open to us. Because it takes an army of truth-reporters to breakdown the days news so that it can be understood by the common man. He who wields the pen, the pen is migthier than sword pen, has more power than the forces. Or so were were told. So it is disheartening to see how journalism and media are losing the war. Politiicians, corrupt or otherwise, are growing in power and are in control of the narrative, and media has no other option but to report as mute spectators.

I first came to notice this about 2 years ago, when assaults against reporters were reported in the Indian media. Any paper critical of the party in power or government, would be served defamation cases. Then the free and fair media were denied permission to report from courts etc. Then it became clear that the people who read thorough researched journalism did not vote,  and those who voted, did not read. Every big decision of the governement was criticized, clinically, by supportive facts and figures. But people failed to take notice. And nothing changed.

Demonitization was critcized, but to no avail.

The ill affects of GST were predicted. But no one cared. And the economy fell anyway.

Communal clashes were widely reported. But what changed ?

Rising crime against women were reported. But the crime only grew.


Although I speak of Indian media, it is a similiar story everywhere else. The biggest dumbstruck moment in 2016 was when no US-media could predict a Trump victory. All their prediction models and alaytics failed. In the US, its painful to see virtually every channel and talk show criticizing the administrations actions, yet not being able to keep them in check.

Late night shows in US have to demean themselves by making fun of….the first lady ! . Because they are…helpless ? There are numerous jokes about the first lady trying escape. There are jokes about ties (suit ties, not russian ties), hair and makeup, and food choices (fried chicken) even fat shaming (Chris Christie) and age shaming (Mitch McConell looks like a tortoise) representatives. Yes, they do report the news, but why do they have to bow so low themselves ?

Of course they can get away with these acts because they have absolute freedom of speech. Something we can only dream of here.  Its much worse this side. Journalists are now relegated to tweet reporters, busy reporting what is happening on social media. Everybody on twitter is angry anyway, so they just report their anger. This post go these many retweets…etc etc.


Now they have started reporting on a new financial law, using which failing banks can take away citizens hard-earned money. Something tells me the law will be passed anyway, with no one having power to oppose it.

Low standards of journalism could be another reason why subscriptions of newspapers have also decreased.

Why pay for nonsense ?

With no power, comes no responsibility …, right ?


Friday, November 3, 2017

India’s data science conundrum


Came across a nice article attempting to burst the myth of data science jobs, supposedly the coolest new job trend. Every day I get at least 2 e-mails from companies advertising data science courses which enables candidates to get data science jobs. Turns out, they are eventually paid the same salary which programmers working in traditional languages get. Maybe a little more. But the median is the same.

This is primarily because most of India’s data scientists only know how to use the tools, but do not possess the solid foundation in math and statistics to grow in the field.








And some of the these data-scientists are also jobless.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bollywood is stuck

It has occurred to me over the years, I now watch less and less bollywood movies. The bollywood flavor of love stories is now irritating  and tediously repetitive. Its nice to see others come to the same point.

Watch how CBE breaks down the typical bollywood movie, and why its always just a fantasy, never realistic.

Friday, June 9, 2017

India’s 4G speeds a third of global average

How fast is 4G again ?

India ranks at 74 in a list of 75 countries ranked according to average 4G speed

Regardless of the flood of deep discounts and attractive data packages telecom operators have been offering in recent months to retain their subscriber base, 4G internet speed in India, a crucial parameter of user experience, continues to be dismal, a new survey has found.

At an average data speed of 5.14 Mbps, 4G speed in India ranks three time below the global average and just a notch above the average global 3G speed. Ranked at 74 among 75 countries surveyed, India’s 4G speed was found much slower compared to other countries, including Pakistan and Sri Lanka and faster than only Costa Rica which ranks at the bottom.

According to the Open Signal report, Pakistan recorded average data speeds of 11.71 Mbps. The countries on top of 4G internet speeds include Singapore and South Korea, with download speeds of about 40 Mbps.

In Costa Rica and India, the drop in average data speeds was attributed to the abrupt increase in number of 4G users in the country.

The report also ranks countries in order of 4G network availability in the world and India fared better in this particular list, making it to the 15th position, globally. Between September 2016 and March 2017, there has been an 82 percent surge in 4G internet availability, largely on the back of Reliance Jio's entry into the telecom sector last year.

India has some of the slowest LTE speeds in the world, the report said. In fact, the report goes on to underline a pattern of drop in 4G network speeds in the country, recording a fall of over one per cent over the past six months.

These findings come in stark contrast to the figures released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). The telecom regulator had earlier said that Reliance Jio topped the ch

art in 4G network speed for the month of April with an all-time high download speed of 19.12 megabit per second.

4G Speed Comparison
051015202530354045504G Speed (Mbps)SingaporeSouth KoreaHungaryNorwayNetherlandsLuxembourgCroatiaNew ZealandBulgariaAustraliaDenmarkLithuaniaCanadaSerbiaBelgiumItalySpainUnited Arab EmiratesAustriaLatviaSlovakiaTaiwanGreeceSwedenBruneiRomaniaTurkeySwitzerlandFinlandLebanonJapanCzech RepublicEcuadorFranceOmanDominican RepublicIrelandEstoniaUnited KingdomMexicoSloveniaPortugalPeruTunisiaGermanySouth AfricaBrazilColombiaChileIsraelPanamaPolandMoroccoQatarKazakhstanRussian FederationHong KongJordanUnited States of AmericaGeorgiaMalaysiaGuatemalaKuwaitCambodiaThailandPakistanArgentinaBahrainSri LankaIranPhilippinesSaudi ArabiaIndonesiaIndiaCosta Rica

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Aadhar is not progress


Read an impressive post on Mozilla’s Open policy  blog about why India’s Aadhaar is a step backward in citizen rights. The central problem in this context is clearly spelt out:

This is all possible because India currently does not have any comprehensive national law protecting personal security through privacy. India’s Attorney General has recently cast doubt on whether a right to privacy exists in arguments before the Supreme Court, and has not addressed how individual citizens can enjoy personal security without privacy.

The problem is compounded by the fact that is not that difficult to procure a fake Aadhaar card in the country, one of the most corrupted in the world.


So while honest citizens will be forced to provide proof of identity to receive government services, illegals and criminals will continue to feed off the system.

Monday, May 15, 2017

India still in denial of WannaCry


The second wave of the wannacry ransomeware attack is in full swing this week. Computers in 150 countries have been affected, specially China. But the Indian government , like always, has chosen to go to denial mode. Government and media are reporting that the threat is minimal, and systems are not affected. Reality is that lakhs of systems were already affected.

Just check the real time tracking of this attack.



Crude reality is that due to mass use of pirated software in India, reports of attacks will go unreported.  Meanwhile, ransomware incidents were reported from Kerala, Kolkata and Andhra Pradesh. However, no corporate office or institution came forward fearing that their brand image will take a hit if the news of their computers being infected goes public. The real impact of cyber attack in India can be only assessed later this week. The government too tried to dispel rumours about banking telecom or aviation being hit by the outbreak


Monday, March 27, 2017

HCL wants to create its own zombie engineers


I was shocked to read this , HCL is going to train high school graduates into low paying programmer jobs, and these people will never be able to leave their company, because they do not have an engineering degree.

Also they salary the new high schoolers will start with, will be lesser than what entree level engineers currently earn at HCL.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

India’s obsession with crimes committed by software engineers


A long overdue and awesome article has come up on Bloomberg. About the media craze behind ‘techie’ crimes in India. Specially, in Bangalore. It also hints to the kind of resentment the locals have towards ‘techie’ outsiders








Prachi Das was murdered on a Monday. The killer, a friend of her husband’s named Basudev Jena, showed up at her apartment in Bangalore on March 2, 2015, in hopes she would help him with his debts. Jena hadn’t meant to hurt Das, he later told the police, but he lost his temper when she refused to lend him money. He tried to tear away her necklace, and when Das screamed he cut her throat. The landlady stopped him in the hallway as he tried to flee, his shirt stained with blood.

In India, print newspapers thrive as if it were 1995. They’re numerous and energetic, and they rush to the scene of a good story. Das’s murder was a sensation, and each publication did what it could to distinguish its coverage. The Indian Express dwelt on the meaning of a carton of ice cream found melting near her body, and the Times of India floated an alternate theory of the crime, speculating that Das had screamed because she saw a rat, leading Jena to panic. But all the papers agreed on the overriding importance of a single, seemingly inconsequential detail: Both Jena and Das’s husband were software engineers. Or, as the profession is known in India, they were techies.

“TECHIE’S WIFE MURDERED” read the headlines in both the Hindu and the Bangalore Mirror. “TECHIE STABS FRIEND’S WIFE TO DEATH” ran in the Deccan Herald. To read the Indian newspapers regularly is to believe the software engineer is the country’s most cursed figure. Almost every edition carries a gruesome story involving a techie accused of homicide, rape, burglary, blackmail, assault, injury, suicide, or another crime. When techies are the victims, it’s just as newsworthy. The Times of India, the country’s largest English-language paper, has carried “TECHIE DIES IN FREAK ACCIDENT” and “MAN HELD FOR PUSHING TECHIE FROM TRAIN”; in the Hindu, readers found “TEACHER CHOPS OFF FINGERS OF TECHIE HUSBAND” and “TECHIE DIED AFTER BEING FORCE-FED CYANIDE.” A long-standing journalistic adage says, “If it bleeds, it leads.” In India, if it codes, it explodes.

The epicenter of techie tragedy is Bangalore, a city in the southern state of Karnataka that bills itself as India’s Silicon Valley. Bangalore has more startups than any other city in the country and is home to Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Oracle, in addition to big domestic information technology companies such as Infosys and Wipro. More than 10 percent of Bangalore’s 10.5 million residents work in tech, giving journalists plenty of unfortunate events to sensationalize: “ASSAULT OVER BANANA SPLIT: 3 TECHIES HELD”; “DEPRESSED BANGALORE TECHIE INJURES 24 IN SWORD ATTACK SPREE.”

The resentment implicit in techie headlines occasionally spills over into actual violence

When I visited the city in September, the Bangaloreans I met fondly recounted their favorite techie stories from the local press. One involved a couple whose nanny secretly rented out their baby to street beggars. Another featured a software engineer who pretended to be an astrologer to trick his wife into confessing infidelity, then bludgeoned her to death with a religious idol and, for good measure, called in bomb threats to the airport pretending to be the husband of an ex-girlfriend with whom he hoped to get back together.

Reddit users recently observed that the “Indian techie” has become like the “Florida man” meme in America: an archetype of incompetent criminality and hapless violence. But in India, the techie is also celebrated as a symbol of the country’s ascendancy in the global economy. “In a society where there are no heroes, techies are the only heroes,” said Mohandas Pai, a venture capitalist, in his corner office on the top floor of a building near Bangalore’s central park. “A techie is a person you look up to with great respect,” he said, adding that the media’s sordid stories “are just sensationalizing.”

Even if that’s true, the coverage resonates with readers. The resentment implicit in techie headlines occasionally spills over into actual violence. On Sept. 12, riots broke out across Bangalore after a court ordered Karnataka to share water with a neighboring state. Thirsty mobs targeted the well-kept Oracle office, which had to be evacuated, as well as eight Infosys employee buses, whose passengers were forced to walk home under a hail of stones.

Technology was supposed to deliver India from poverty, but in Bangalore it’s also deepened the division between rich and poor, young and old, modern and traditional. As the city has grown richer, it’s also become unruly and unfamiliar. If the tech worker is the star of the Indian economy, then the techie is his shadow—spoiled, untrustworthy, adulterous, depressed, and sometimes just plain senseless. (“TECHIE WITH EARPHONES RUN OVER BY TRAIN.”) In one occupational boogeyman, Bangaloreans can see their future and their fears.

Hundred Feet Road runs through Indiranagar, a once-quiet neighborhood that’s now the center of the Bangalore tech scene. It feels as if someone diverted a highway through a shopping mall. Shops and restaurants crowd the sidewalks like spectators at a parade, and rooftop pubs crank their music to drown the clamor from the street. People complain that Bangalore’s traffic is the worst in India, and the eight lanes of Hundred Feet Road often come to a standstill as drivers, trying to get somewhere as quickly as possible, make it impossible for anyone to get anywhere at all. Only the cows, headed nowhere, enjoy the right of way.

Across from an Adidas shop, Chiranjiv Singh, the former development commissioner of Karnataka state, lives in a small but verdant plot—a sliver of the wilderness he found when he moved there 40 years ago. The land was a coconut grove then, and a few tall trees still lend his home their shade. The birds and monkeys have stopped visiting, though, and Singh, a soft-spoken Sikh with a long and coarse beard, expects he will leave soon, too: “I don’t know how long we can continue here because of all this noise.”

Bangalore gridlock: Natives bitterly complain about the role of techies in crippling the city’s infrastructure.

Photograph: Kuni Takahashi/The New York Times via Redux

Bangalore used to be known as the Garden City. It was a medium-size, middle-class metropolis in one of the few areas of India that didn’t broil in summertime. Colonial bungalows nestled among flower beds, old trees, and pristine lakes. “I have discussed the subject of Bangalore with persons in other parts of India and have found that 90 out of a hundred dream of settling down in Bangalore, after retirement,” the novelist R.K. Narayan wrote in 1977. Another nickname for the city was the Pensioner’s Paradise.

Bangalore’s makeover began in the 1980s. Previously a center of textiles, aerospace, and electronics, the city became an outsourcing hub as undersea fiber-optic cables made it possible for U.S. and European corporations to offshore IT work. Texas Instruments opened a software-design center there in 1985; Infosys, an omnibus software and services provider, went public in 1993; and three years later a local coder invented Hotmail. By the turn of the century, Bangalore had established a reputation for coding quality software at low cost, and corporations hired the city’s engineers en masse to guard their systems against the Y2K bug. Bangalore inspired Thomas Friedman’s 2005 best-seller on globalization, The World Is Flat.

From 1981 to 2001, Bangalore doubled its population, to 5.7 million. The invaders had a name. “We had a new occupational category emerge: the IT engineer,” said Balaji Parthasarathy, a professor at the International Institute of Information Technology in Bangalore. IT engineers brought a lot of benefits. Real income grew much faster in Bangalore than in other parts of India, and the city became the country’s main link to the economies of the West. “We have more connections with Silicon Valley than with Delhi,” said Pai. “Bangalore is India’s only global city.”

But the IT engineers lived differently from the pensioners and other longtime residents. They spoke English, not the native Kannada, and lived in gated condominium towers with pools and fitness clubs rather than in traditional bungalows. They worked in amenity-rich office parks, shopped in designer malls, ate at Western chain restaurants, and socialized in posh microbreweries. And their strange habits were chronicled by the booming local press.

The word “techie” first appeared in newspaper headlines in the 1990s simply because it was shorter than “software engineer.” Readers loved the stories, and editors soon went out of their way to assign them. “The news value of anything to do with a techie seems to be more,” said B. Pradeep Nair, the news editor of the Hindu, in his office, as that day’s edition was being put to bed. Media consultant Imran Qureshi recalled a story he covered 15 years ago about a married couple in Chennai who were producing child pornography. That in itself wasn’t scandalous enough to make the story a sensation. “It became a headline story because the man happened to be an IT professional,” Qureshi said.

Today, Indian journalists apply the word “techie” to anyone remotely connected to the IT industry. Some headlines imply that techies are more important than other people, such as “TECHIE AMONG THREE BURNT ALIVE IN GARUDA BUS MISHAP.” Other stories tell of incidents so minor they seem to exist only so the journalist can use the word. The Herald recently reported on a techie who had stepped on a “brittle footpath slab” and suffered “swelling in his leg.”

The close scrutiny makes the techie seem alien, like a strange specimen in a cage. “When we use ‘techie,’ it is a bit of a local-vs.-outsider thing,” said Ravi Joshi, editor of the Bangalore Mirror, in his newsroom. “It is basically the profession that does not belong here.”

One afternoon in Bangalore, my Uber driver, Chethan J., invited me to join him in the front seat of the car. (Many Indians use a single name, or mononym, sometimes with an initial.) We were in the center lane of one of the city’s busiest roads, which meant, of course, that we weren’t moving. Chethan is 22, with thick black hair and a mustache grown long at the tips. Thinking to myself, When in Bangalore, do as Thomas Friedman does, I asked him for a driver’s-eye view of tech workers. Chethan’s mood darkened. “They are coming and destroying our culture,” he said. Industry boosters are fond of saying that each tech job creates anywhere from 3 to 10 support jobs in the city, but Chethan had no affection for the engineers he ferried around all day. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics and joined Uber only when he couldn’t find a better-paying job. “The locals are servants,” he said. “All of Bangalore is going bad.”

The tech boom that was supposed to profit the city has made daily life harder. Bangalore’s population has doubled again since 2000, buckling the local infrastructure. There are more than 6 million vehicles, and the average driving speed in the city center is below 6 miles per hour, meaning it would be faster for everyone to jog slowly than to drive. During the initial IT boom, the portion of Bangalore’s population living in slums doubled. Blackouts became daily occurrences, and road-widening projects destroyed parks and trees without decongesting the streets. Money flooded in, but the lakes dried up—of the 900 the city once counted, fewer than 200 are still considered “live,” and most of those are filled with sewage. In October, thousands protested in the streets over plans to build a multibillion-dollar elevated bypass connecting the Bangalore airport to the city center. Demonstrators argued the project would benefit the jet-setting elite but do little to help poorer residents who spend hours every day in gridlock.

“They’re always before the system. It makes them behave like a beast, almost”

Frustration was palpable all over Bangalore. A kindly older man named Vijay Thiruvady, who leads tours of the botanical gardens and Cubbon Park, the city’s largest remaining green spaces, rued the failure of the IT industry and government to coordinate the growth. “The tech boom has completely changed the city. They’ve ruined it,” he said, as we sat in yet another traffic jam. “I’m going to use a strong term,” he warned, before cursing another motorist as “a stupid fellow.” Then he resumed grousing about techies.

“With the coming of the techies, you can see the traffic, you can see the road rage, you can see the problems with infrastructure, you can see trees being cut everywhere,” said Narayanan Krishnaswami, a reporter with the Times of India. “For a lot of people, that is a repudiation of what the city used to be. And they trace it back to the cause of the prosperity, which is the tech sector.”

One of the main appeals of the newspapers’ techie coverage is schadenfreude. “When a techie falls, everyone is secretly happy,” said Joshi, the Mirror editor. Techies arriving from across India are assumed to be more interested in the Western lifestyles of the modern workplace than the local culture of their new city. They tend to live away from their parents, drink alcohol, spend money freely, travel abroad, keep strange hours (because they work on the schedules of U.S. and European clients), and choose “love marriages” over traditional arranged ones.

Someone who suspects tech workers of immorality would find plenty of grist in the newspapers, where techies are frequently killing their spouses and having affairs. Such stories sometimes implicate the victim in his fate. An article might note, for example, that the parents of a woman whose techie husband killed her had disapproved of the marriage, or that a techie killed himself after a “trivial” argument with his wife.

Taken together, the stories can read like morality plays. They assuage a reader’s envy by suggesting that a tech worker’s material wealth conceals a deeper poverty. “If a techie can commit suicide or kill his own wife,” said Sahana Udupa, a social anthropologist who previously worked as a journalist in Bangalore, “it says something about the stress, something about the depression, something about their loose morals.”

I thought it unlikely that tech workers were genuinely troublesome, so I visited the Bangalore police headquarters to ask for an official perspective. Bureaucracies in India like to unfurl themselves before visitors, and the police commissioner on the first floor referred me to an additional police commissioner down the hall, who referred me to a deputy police commissioner on the fifth floor, who was so thrilled by my visit that he paused our interview midway to take my photo with his phone. His name was M.G. Nagendra Kumar, and a few years earlier he had studied crimes involving software engineers. He concluded that the techie “lacked the general thinking of other common people,” he told me. “His mind works like a computer machine.”

Kumar said the techie’s long hours in front of a PC could make him dangerously impatient: “He wants life to go at internet speed.” At a busy intersection, a techie wouldn’t wait for the signal. “Only techies are the deceased in road accident cases,” Kumar said. And at home, a techie might grow angry and violent with a wife or family member who didn’t follow commands automatically like his computer. At this point, a police inspector named Kanakalakshmi (also a mononym), who’d been sitting quietly beside me in Kumar’s office, spoke up. “They’re always before the system,” she said. “It makes them behave like a beast, almost.”

India’s largest IT companies, including Wipro, draw young workers whose ways are often at odds with local tradition.

Photographer: Altaf Qadri/AP

Kanakalakshmi produced two spreadsheets. The first listed 139 cases since 2010 in which a software engineer had been accused of a crime; the second listed 297 cases, excluding petty thefts, in which a software engineer had filed a complaint. Neither sum really suggested a crime wave in a city with more than 1 million tech workers, and it was hard to make sense of the statistics. The translation from Kannada to English had rendered many case descriptions unintelligible, and the spreadsheets seemed to exclude certain cases I’d read about in the papers while listing others twice.

It was nevertheless interesting that the most common complaint by far was a spouse alleging mental and physical harassment (in some cases, the police use the word “torture”), often in connection to a dowry dispute. The clash between the traditional expectations of Indian culture and the demands of modern professional lives doesn’t only shape the relationship between techies and the rest of the city, it also plays out in tech workers’ private lives. “Social liberalization hasn’t kept pace with economic liberalization,” said Asha Rai, a senior editor at the Times of India. “The values they imbibe at the workplace and when they travel are in conflict when they come home.”

I wasn’t attacked by sword, pushed from a train, force-fed cyanide, tortured, or otherwise harmed by any of the techies I met in Bangalore. I was introduced to coders, startup founders, investors, and engineers, including a group that was building a moon lander for Google’s Lunar X Prize competition. A robotics specialist from IBM named Aswin Subramanian gave me a tour of Whitefield, a tech district, in his race car and then invited me to his home, where he played Yanni songs on a keyboard. (OK, perhaps there was some torture.)

Techies in Bangalore extol a strain of utopianism similar to that found in Silicon Valley. “Eventually everything will be solved by tech,” said Mukund Jha, the co-founder of Dunzo, a concierge app that lets users hire a runner to carry out almost any task for a few dozen rupees—less than a dollar. At the moment, a Dunzo runner was fetching him a coffee from Starbucks; he’d also used the service to repair the cracked screen of his iPhone and install pigeon nets on his balcony at home. Customers have used Dunzo to retrieve lost phone chargers, deliver birthday cakes, purchase toilet paper, and check whether a shop is open. “Once you get started, you get hooked to it,” Jha said. “On a good day, you can get anything you want within 10 minutes.”

Dunzo is incredibly useful in a city where completing simple tasks grows harder by the day. But the app also indicates how technology further cocoons the privileged from the rest of the city. Dunzo’s founders say they hope their app will trickle down to the masses, but they’ve targeted early builds at the elite. “We haven’t seen a single request which is non-English,” Jha said.

Although tech has offered millions of young Indians a ladder out of poverty, there’s also concern that it will soon eliminate jobs instead of creating them. At IBM, Subramanian was designing robots for use in automation. (He recently left the company.) Dunzo is working to build artificial intelligence that would eventually replace much of its operations staff. Wipro and Infosys, the IT companies that most symbolize Bangalore’s tech industry, replaced 8,200 human jobs last summer with software. Tej Pochiraju, the managing director of Jaaga Startup, which bills itself as India’s first co-working space, said the divide between engineers and laymen would only accelerate. “As things get more and more automated, technology and techies will become more godlike,” he said.

In a New Year’s letter to his employees, Infosys Chief Executive Officer Vishal Sikka wrote of “the tidal wave of automation and technology-fueled transformation that is almost upon us”—a choice of words that sounded more apocalyptic than utopian. A few weeks later a techie was murdered by a security guard on Infosys’s campus in Pune, about 500 miles northwest of Bangalore. The Hindustan Times warned about “a growing list of IT workers kidnapped, molested, raped, or killed on campus.” Although unrelated, Sikka’s letter and the crime coverage shared a certain anxiety: Tech could guarantee neither job security nor personal safety. The techie, the hero of the Indian economy, would never be as safe as he seemed.











Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Story of India’s space program



India's first rocket launch became possible quite literally after divine intervention. The land which now houses India's famed Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, from where, in 1963, Indians watched their first rocket head for space, was originally a Catholic church.

So, how did a church become a space centre?

In the early 1960s, Dr Vikram Sarabhai selected a small fishing village called Thumba in Trivandrum as the ideal location for a rocket launching station. And the spot he had zeroed in as a potential launch site housed a church.

St Mary Magdalene Church was located on Earth's magnetic equator, an imaginary line where the Equatorial Electrojet (a narrow ribbon of current flowing eastward in the day time equatorial region of the ionosphere) exists. This had stirred Dr Sarabhai's interest.

So, one fine day, Dr Sarabhai and his colleagues went to speak to the then-bishop of Trivandrum, Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira, about acquiring the church.

That must have been an awkward conversation. It also culminated in a cliff-hanger. Instead of giving them a definite answer, Reverend Pereira, asked the scientist to attend the Sunday mass that week.

Among this group of scientists was Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, and he wrote about this particular Sunday mass in his book Ignited Minds: Unleashing The Power Within India.

This is what he writes the bishop told the congregation: "My children, I have a famous scientist with me who wants our church and the place I live for the work of space science and research. Science seeks truth that enriches human life. The higher level of religion is spirituality. The spiritual preachers seek the help of the Almighty to bring peace to human minds. In short, what Vikram is doing and what I am doing are the same - both science and spirituality seek the Almighty's blessings for human prosperity in mind and body. Children, can we give them God's abode for a scientific mission?"

Kalam then writes that there "was silence for a while followed by a hearty 'Amen' from the congregation, which made the whole church reverberate."

The necessary permissions were fetched, due paperwork done, and the villagers shifted to a different village that had its own brand new church. And on the garden before St Mary Magdalene Church, our first rocket launcher was build.



From St Francis's church to Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre

According to National Geographic, St Francis Xavier built a humble thatched-roofed building in 1544, which went on to become a concrete St Mary Magdalene Church by the 20th century.

History has it that the church got its name after some fishermen found a sandalwood statue of Mary Magdalene that had washed ashore.

Then, in the 1960s, St Mary Magdalene Church became Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. In his book, Kalam wrote that the prayer room became his first laboratory, and the bishop's room his drawing office.

It is said that the church's cattle shed was converted into the laboratory where the scientists worked. The main church building, of which nothing seems to have been demolished,went on to become a space museum.

In time to come, TERLS became Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC). In fact, the roots of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in a way, lie in this church too.

Rocket on a bicycle, launch-pad in a church

India's proud history of rocket science took its baby steps on a bicycle and a bullock cart. In order to be brought to the launch pad, parts of the NASA-made rocket, Nike-Apache, were carried on these vehicles, as shown below:



After much labour, on the eve of November, 21, 1963, Nike-Apache blasted off into space from the garden facing St Mary Magdalene Church.

The building, which bears church-like beauty of towers and bells, now houses a space museum, where you cannot walk in with your shoes on.

Once you're inside, you don't encounter an altar. Instead, you are faced with a fascinating array of rockets, satellites, and details of how church became a space centre.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Chaos for Cash


In its effort to bring out black money, the government overestimated  the efficiency of banks, and underestimated the time it will take to deliver new notes. Its now day 3 of the ban on high value currenty notes, and banks and ATMs have gone dry in the nation.

Meanwhile new generation plastic and e-cash startups have upped their ante, pushing new ads to market their services. And people are still converting cash into gold paying inflated rates.

The only good thing which happened to me was that Bangalore elevated tollway stopped charging their entry fees. So the tollways were free for all. And that lead to reduced traffic too.

I guess it will take at least a month to get fresh cash in circulation again.

Thankfully, cities like Bangalore had already gone majority cash-less. All supermarkets and most restuarants already accepted plastic money. In the wake of cash scarcity, they have reduced the minimum amounts required to make the transaction, and are letting people swipe cards for even Rs 50/-. Cab services which accepted cards and e-cash services had brisk business. But auto-drivers were left in the dark. There are talks of black marketeers charging upto 40% commission to exchange out the older notes in the system. There is also news of a person contacting the beggars-mafia to arrange for hard cash !

Somebody even made an Unboxing video of the new 2000 Rs/- note !

Sometime back I had read an article on gloomberg arguing why a cashless society cannot exist. I guess its author needs to take a second look at India.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Its a whole new world


I hate the open office configuration, what’s designed to facilitate communication sometimes leads to communication mayhem. Like today. The whole office floor was buzzing with bad news. The dual attack of bad news in the day. The biggest breaking news of this year.

One was the fact that Trump is leading in the US election results. And the other big bang was the Indian Government's decision to discontinue high denomination currency notes. And the third news was that the stock market was under attack , and the sensex was headed down.

When Election Day dawned, almost all the pollsters, analytics nerds and political insiders in the country had Hillary Clinton waltzing into the White House. Headed into Election Day, polling evangelist Nate Silver’s 538 website put Clinton’s odds at winning the White House at about 72 percent. By midnight, the site had more than flipped its odds making, giving Trump an 84 percent chance of winning.

This was the biggest 'error' statisticians had committed in centuries. It’s amazing how with all the latest analytics systems and big data and social media..and all those nonsense..they still got it wrong. By a huge margin.

I feel so bad for Stephen Colbert. And John Oliver. And Jimmy Fallon. And James Corden. And Trevor Noah. Even Bill Maher. And Jimmy Kimmel. The past many months, I have devoured their sketches and news and bits whole heartedly, knowing and trusting their hints that the Democrats would win. Here's hoping they are around for a lot more time.

Anyway, back to my office, it was clear there was cause for concern. A lot of Indian IT companies depend on US enterprises as clients for outsourced work. Trump and the republicans in power would mean its the end of it all. This could be end of Indian IT as we know it.

And back home, the incumbent government's struggle to contain blackmoney took a new turn when they announced the de-monetization of high value currency notes. Indian citizens now had 50 days to deposit all their de-monetized currency with banks. Keeping in mind there are over a billion citizens in the country, 50 days seems like too little time to get through it. But this short window is definitely required, to prevent people from converting all their ill-earned wealth to legal, 'white-money'. Its amazing how a decision of such high importance was kep top-secret till the Prime Minister got to personally announce it on an unscheduled address to the nation.

Kudos to the government for this ultra-quiet, sneaky, 'surgical strike'. This time, nobody is asking for proof.

Now just to be clear, no-one in the IT industry will have to worry about their wealth. It is probably the only industry to pay correct taxes upfront, with tax deducted right at the source. All IT employees are paid online, and they have their Form-16s and TANs and PANs to show. For once it turned out honesty indeed is the right policy to live by.

Historians are going to remember November 8th, 2016 as the day everything changed. The most unpredictable happened right in front of our eyes.

And no one saw it coming.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

India’s bold move to stop BlackMoney


India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday announced that the currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 denominations will not be legal tender beginning November 9. Prime Minister also added that all banks will remain closed for public work tomorrow. ‘Terror strikes at the innocent. Who funds these terrorists’ Across the border, our enemy uses fake currency and dodgy funds to sponsor terror - this has been proven repeatedly. The process of cash circulation is directly related to corruption in our country impacting the lower classes of our society. From midnight November 8 today, Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes are no longer legal tender,’ Prime Minister Modi said while addressing the nation.

‘You have 50 days (From November 10 to December 30) to deposit notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 in any bank or post office. Respite for people for the initial 72 hours. The government hospitals will accept old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes till November 11 midnight,’ he added. Prime Minister Modi said notes of Rs. 2000 and Rs. 500 will be circulated soon.

‘The RBI has decided to limit the notes with higher value. There will be more purification the more we get support from you. Let’s continue the process of cleanliness and work together for successful completion of this initiative. We want to take this fight against corruption even ahead,’ he added. The Prime Minister further said that on November 9 and in some places on November 10, ATMs will not work.

Here are some imporant takeaways:

Less bang for your black bucks: Those with large amounts of large-denomination black money in cash will be hit hardest, since offloading this cash will become extremely difficult. Exchanging crores of rupees at banks will likely attract the attention of the taxman.

Less counterfeiting: These denominations were the most easily and widely counterfeited notes. Taking them out of circulation will eliminate a big source of fake notes.

Terrorism funding: A significant amount of terrorism was funded using counterfeit and/or high-denomination notes. This will also be hit badly.

Election funding: It is an open secret that elections in India are largely bankrolled by massive amounts of black money, typically in cash that are often used as direct bribes to voters. This spigot will now be shut off, disrupting the electoral system. The UP and Punjab elections will the first to face the brunt of this move.

Corruption: Most bribes across the system are typically paid in cash. While smaller amounts will not be affected, large amounts of bribes will now be limited, at least until the new denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 2000 are introduced in large numbers. But again, those will already accumulated cash will be hit hard.