Archive for August, 2006

Where have all the good people gone?

The more people I interview, the more I’m convinced that college degrees are merely being bought with time or money or both! Now don’t get me wrong! Of course there are some fantastic institutes that produce some of the greatest minds in the world, but those are a minority! What about the rest? There are about 17000 degree colleges in India (not including 6500 vocational institutions). If you made an optimistic assumption that there are about 2000 good schools, they constitute only 12% of all institutes in India!

Of course, there could be other factors such as the reputation of my company that influences the kind of candidates I meet! Even if that weren’t the case I cannot arrive at any conclusions with just one data point! However, when I talk to people from various organizations – big or small, reputed or just starting up – it’s all the same story! And it’s not as if the expectations are very high! Most software organizations just look for basic analytical skills (that is usually judged by some basic mathematical questions) and a basic understanding of programming! In many organizations, the latter is of lesser importance as they are willing to invest the time and effort to train fresh graduates.

So how come a graduate fresh from an engineering college cannot answer simple mathematical problems – the toughest of which might involve applying the Pythagoras theorem! Half the people I met don’t even attempt the problem! However, try asking them to state the Pythagoras theorem and most of them would be able to write down the formula for calculating the length of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle.

One possible answer presented itself as I was watching TV last night! CNN IBN was carrying this report on how students from a bunch of really good private schools fared in a scientifically designed diagnostic test that tried to assess the extent of the student’s understanding of the subject. “What is the chemical composition of steam?” – This is a simple question most children in Class V should be able to answer since it’s a part of their curriculum. However, of the 4,235 students across 600 schools in India, only 15.6 per cent gave the right answer to the question – H2O! A majority (69%) said steam is a ‘mixture and doesn’t have a chemical formula’! The other answers ranged from ‘Don’t know’ to ‘it’s out of course’!! Another shocker – only 22% of class I students could correctly identify a square out of a set of shapes shown to them! (you can read the complete article here)

Most problems have simple solutions – the difficulty is in implementing them! While it is easy for me to say we should move away from our ‘marks-focused’ way of education in favour of a more ‘understanding of concepts’ centered approach, implementing it would be a challenge. But given the potential benefits of our so called ‘knowledge ecosystem’ growing at an accelerated pace, it is a no-brainer that we must invest in measures will fuel that growth! However, out vote-bank politics is ensuring that quotas are given more importance than the quality of our education!

Where have all the good people gone?

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August 31, 2006 at 11:59 am Leave a comment

Being a Libran is killing me

I hate yes-and-no answers. However, as I grower wiser (it depresses me to say older), I find most answers are of the yes-and-no type! If there are two sides to a coin, you would assume the coin would fall flat and expose just one face, but no! The coin seems to always move on its rim and as it moves around in weird curves, sometimes you see one side of it and sometimes the other!

Life is tough as it is. I make enough mistakes as it is. I should either be defending my stance or accepting that I’ve been a royal ass. But that just can’t be. I need to see both sides of it. Sometimes I torture myself with more than two sides. It’s almost like a game of chess played with several rules and moves. I’m quite lousy at chess, by the way. Which says quite a lot about the way I play these mind games with myself.

It is good to be able to see both sides of a matter, they say. Not everybody can argue both the pros and cons of an issue, they say. It is a gift to be able to view a situation from everybody’s perspective, they say. Excuse me, but count me out! It is crazy to be living with two people in your head. Period. I defend the stupid. They drive me insane. I adore the heroes. They’re plain simple impractical. I despise the ruthless. Come on, you have to admire their confidence! Do I really need someone else to drive me to an institution for the mentally unstable?!

Ayn Rand’s heroes and heroines are unreal. Or so I console myself. You really cannot be so sure. I mean, what if you find out that the scum who banged into your car today and drove away was actually on the way to visit a loved one in the ICU?! What if the dog howling through the night was actually guarding its puppy from some drunkards?! What if…..

It’s a relief to be able to blame something else when you mess up things. My excuse is that I’m a Libran. Well so is Anand. But then he’s from Mars, while I’m from Venus- the Libran planet. I dread the day they decide Venus is too small to be considered a planet ….!

kanch

August 29, 2006 at 8:40 am 1 comment

Delivering Value

I’ve forgotten when or how Madhu, Vishal and I came up with this idea, but when one of my friends remarked – ‘I wish Ramanas delivered in Indiranagar’, I knew it was an unfulfilled need that we were addressing.

So why doesn’t Ramanas deliver their food to the residents of Indiranagar? Its probably because spending too much effort and money on delivery would prove unprofitable unless there are a large number of people from Indiranagar calling in everyday!

There are many such restaurants that make excellent food but have either limited or no delivery capability. The increasingly chaotic traffic situation makes it difficult if not impossible for people to commute to their favourite restaurant!

This throws open an attractive service proposition – delivery of food from any restaurant to any place within the city! Sounds pretty impressive but it’s easier said than delivered!

There are quite a few issues that have to be overcome in order to make money providing this service!

  1. The service has to be of service – Maintaining the quality of food during transit is critical to winning repeat business and therefore new business through reference!
  2. Navigating traffic and still managing to deliver on time – Of course, we can’t make a generic 30 minute guarantee, but keeping any promise will be a challenge!
  3. Optimizing costs – Profits will depend on the ability to develop a highly efficient network of local cells that will help reduce the cost of delivery.
  4. Hiring the right people – The people making the actual delivery shall be the face of the company and they will have to be smart people. Given the needs of the job, finding those people will be a challenge. Additionally, the network will have to be developed by someone who has extensive experience in setting up & managing such networks. Additionally, the responsibilities of this role would have to progressively be de-centralized to eliminate any single point of failure!
  5. Building scale – There is big money to be made only if the business scales. If not, the money made might be too little for the effort it will take to deliver the service!

Having said all this, it’s important to note that all the issues listed above can be overcome with the right expertise, people, equipment & commitment! I think this is a service waiting to be implemented!

anand

August 29, 2006 at 6:30 am 3 comments

AppleTalk

Of all the fruits that we have on this planet, none seem to have as many references in history, legend and folklore as apples!

They’ve been credited with the birth of mankind, gravity and the larynx! It has been known to represent both the downfall of man and the redemption of man! An apple a day is said to keep the doctor away though it brought a person perilously close to needing one everyday when William Tell flexed his bow! (There has been a lot of debate around the ability of the apple to reduce our medical bills, but not many of us know that the apple seeds are poisonous – with cyanide being a mainstay!)

The only other fruit I can think of that comes anywhere close to having as many references to itself is the orange! It is nowhere near the popularity of the apple, but would probably still qualify as second best! But did you know that in many languages, the orange is referred to as the Chinese apple! (eg. Dutch Sinaasappel (China’s apple))

On a similar note, I’ve never understood why the custard-apple (or sugar apple) is called so when it doesn’t seem to have any physical or other resemblance to the apple! Or why we have an applecart to carry apples and no ‘bananacart’ to carry bananas? Or why spoiling well laid plans should be associated with upsetting the applecart? Or why only discourage people from comparing apples to oranges when they shouldn’t be comparing water to motorbikes or even strawberries to pears?
Anybody?

anand

August 28, 2006 at 6:43 am 3 comments

The Doors

Fools rush in when they see a door

Sounds audacious? Observe what happens when you visit a movie hall or board a flight! Despite the fact that all tickets are numbered and there is no real motivation to be the first at the door, people are willing to elbow, stamp and butt everyone else to be the first through the door! So what is it about the door that forces people out of their natural sense of inertia! Here are some possible alternatives –

  • A sense of accomplishment – the door represents the reaching of a target, the achieving of a goal – whether or not it has any material prizes! Maybe the reward is in the race itself!
  • The sub-conscience treats every door as the finish line of a race in an effort to try and make winning a habit
  • It is a chain reaction started by the first person who makes a rush for the door – seeing someone else trying to be the first forces a person to defeat that person!
  • The final possibility – in my opinion the most likely – is that most people are stupid idiots!

According to a fundamental law in scientific research, when there are many explanations to a particular observation, the simplest one is the most likely . And in my mind, the last possibility is the simplest & non-bollocks reason to explain the madness!

I know, I know – you are thinking ‘save me the cynicism dude’! But honestly, what do you make of it when a bunch of people are trying so hard to be the first to get in to a movie hall that they prevent the people from the previous show from getting out! Any which way you try to look at it, the only way the people outside the hall can get in is by allowing those inside to get out! It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure that out! And if you can’t see that then you’ve got to be really stupid! And it’s not just the movie halls! You can see this mad herd disease almost everywhere – when boarding & getting off planes and trains, getting in & out of elevators and when you are driving on the roads!

It’s not like we haven’t tried to address the problem – we have boarding plans at airports, we have lanes & dividers on the roads – but it still won’t prevent people from falling prey to the madness! That’s probably because all our current solutions address only the visible symptoms and not the disease itself! So, how do you solve the problem of stupidity at its roots?

anand

August 24, 2006 at 6:26 am 6 comments

infinitea

i’m not even close to being a tea connoisseur! in fact, i am more of a coffee drinker (though I hate to be branded in an ‘either or’ way). yet, i’m in love with infinitea!

the decor and service is average – nothing out of the world! but the varietea of tea on offer runs into pages and there is certainly a tea for everyone! my favourites are the elixir on the rocks, ginger ice tea, hot lemon tea (without milk) and the masala chai. of course, there are a lot more that I haven’t even tried yet!

add to it some good food including a delicious breakfast comprising of eggs with toast, a very relaxed atmosphere (you have to remind them that you are still around) and you’ll understand why it’s become one of my favourite haunts on a lazy weekend morning.

an additional attraction is the tea that’s available for sale! i haven’t tried all the exotic varieties that are available – i leave it to the tea connoisseurs to do that! however, i’ve tried the darjeeling green tea, chinese green tea and the lemon tea (all available in nylon tea bags) and i absolutely love all of them!

to sum up, its a great place to hang out – and coming from a coffee drinker, i guess it says a lot about the place!!

anand

August 4, 2006 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

learning to fly

when i look back at life, it seems as if it was packed with a million different things! yet, when i try to list all those instances when i tried something new, there aren’t many that  comes to mind! when was the last time i even tried some dessert for the first time?

well, maybe i don’t remember such details because they are not all that important! At least that’s the only way I console myself!

but that’s about to change today!

i shall remember today – for this is the first time i’ve created a blog!

<waiting for the applause to die down!>

thank you! thank you!

many a time in the recent past, kanch and i have thought about having our own blog. but like many of the things we’ve talked about, it has remained just a thought!

well, for once, i am taking the initiative in a new venture!

apart from getting our cheap thrills bindass bakwaas is an effort to force our musings and ramblings on all those who don’t care enough about spending their time wisely!

anand

August 4, 2006 at 6:22 am 2 comments


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