Friday, January 30, 2009

Coping with job losses in IT sector

Pundits say joblessness of our IT professionals has to do with the knock-on effect of the economic down-turn in the west, notably the US. It is evident that our software companies have been way too dependent on foreign companies and clients for their business. The latest
quarterly results of the top two IT majors - TCS and Infosys - make a telling point. That is, TCS revenue from India represents merely 7 percent of their global earnings; and the figure is 1.2 percent in respect of Infosys.

Nandan Nilekini was heard telling the BBC that he considered India's economy basically strong ; and that the global econmic downturn would drive our IT companies to come up with new business models. Which, I reckon, means that our IT majors would do well developing business within our economy, instead of chasing high-paying foreign clients. This inward-looking strategy would help them redeploy, rather than retrench IT professionals. This calls for a mindset change on the part of our IT majors as well as their high-paid employees. Proposition 1) software companies need to scale down their profit margin to the level acceptable to domestic enterprises ; and 2) IT professionals working for Indian clients would need to accept lower pay and perks.

As part of their business development strategy; and as an aspect their corporate socio-economic responsibility our IT companies could educate medium, small-scale, and also trade and service sectors about benefits of IT applications. The uninitiated segment of these sectors can be made to realise a) that the computer can do for them a lot more than they think it can, by way of process re-engineering, data warehousing, and supply chain management; and b) that all this can be done at a price they can afford.

The catch is in the acceptance of a meaningful profits/pay cut by our IT companies and their army of underutilised professionals .

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

After B Tech,what?

This is the question that stares at IT grads fresh out of college. IT companies that have suspended campus recruitment suggest that leading educational institutions introduce a one-year post-graduate programme for students on loose ends; that is, those passing out of colleges this year. The suggestion is reported to have come from the communications manager of a leading IT company.

This way colleges could hold graduates in class-rooms for one more year, by which time IT industry would hopefully recover from the current recession. The suggestion has not evoked response from any leading educational institution. What is there in it for them ? Besides, students are looking for jobs, not parking space till the industry is ready to take them. And where is the guarantee that they would get jobs after the stop-gap post-graduate programme ?

The suggestion would, perhaps, be acceptible if 1)IT companies come forward to sponser students for the stop-gap programme; and 2) if the sponsored candidates can be sure of employment after successful course completion.

Newspaper industry in Britain used to have a sponsorship scheme,in which school-leavers recruited by newspapers were put through a proficiency course in the National Council for Training of Journalists. Curriculum, designed with guidance from the media, focused on working experience and hands-on training. And the graduating candidates get a proficiency certificate and job in the nespapers that sponsored them.Their course is paid for by the newspapers that also provide a stipend to students.

Would IT majors consider such a model for eligible IT graduates, now on hold for possible employment in 2010? Corporate India is used to cherry-picking recruits from leading Tech and B-schools.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Holiday Waste

By Holiday Waste, I mean the waste generated after the holidays. When this waste-line increases the results can be disastrous!

Journeying through India in the past few years has been a very pleasant experience. The monuments, architectural marvels and scenic delights are all preserved and taken care of so well. But then I did come across some eyesores too... particularly the water bodies. They are misused and left uncared, the result is waste getting accumulated in them.

Edible fish have ceased to exist in these water bodies due to continued bouts of hypoxia. Most of them I am sure are mosquito nurseries of these scenic sights. It was a shock for me to see the locals washing clothes at Agastyatirtha Tank at Badami in North Karnataka. I did try to talk to the locals; they seemed to be very casual about this pollution.

At other places like in Daulatabad in Maharashtra, the locals blamed the tourists. Much of the waste, the plastic bags and bottles are left behind by the holidayers they said. The problem needs immediate attention of the tourism industry.

How do you handle Holiday Waste?

After every festival or holiday we create a lot of waste stuff; left over food, dead batteries, wrapping paper, packaging, bottles, cans and more. Those that can be reused must be reused, if further reuse is not possible recycle them and then the final step, dispose properly. If only the tourists followed this meticulously, these sight seeing places can leave sweeter memories.

Look at this bird struggling to find a neat corner to sip water from. When will we learn?

Read more: Facts on Holiday Waste.
How to Reduce Holiday Waste

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thrown to the wind

No,this isn't about the untapped potential;it is about unused installed capacity in wind power generation. It is reckoned that over 1000MW windmill energy generated in Thrunelveli, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin districts in Tamilnadu go waste.Tirupur garments exporters and textile mill owners who have invested in putting up giant windmills in Udumalpet area reportedly face revenue loss.

Because the state electricity board has not put in place effective and adequate feeder/transmission system connecting wind farms with the nearest electricity
sub-station. This results in unacceptable wind power wastage, while there is all-round energy shortage.It is reckoned that adequate transmission infrastructure would go a long way in bridging power shortage.

In places with an average wind speed of 8 to 12mph,they say, small-sizes windmills that can be fitted in one's backyard is feasible; and a US company is reported to have devised a 33ft tall windmill with six-foot blades. Heavy duty Suzlon wind turbine has 144-ft long blades,from hub to tip. Suzlon's main factory is in Pondicherry, where some 1,200 employees assemble turbines and mold giant fiberglass blades.

High installation cost and long payback time may inhibit individual house-owners from going in for small-size windmill. But the backyard model can find institutional customers.They can be installed in urban open space, on the fringes of schoolyards, public parks,zoos, and other public institutions where there is space enough to fit in a minimum viable number of wind turbines. Railways could explore possibility of fitting in windmills along rail tracks.

Wonder if we have a wind-power map,identifying locations with tappable wind speed. District authorites, with support from the Met. office and the depatment renewable energy can work wonders in this area.


Fellow blogger Anjali’s post ‘The transition' put me on this track. This is something that has to be dealt with - by all of us.
Domestic violence.

Often have the women who help me at home complained of the menfolk in their families beating up either themselves, or their daughters or their sisters. They take it with resignation, while I advise them to protest, or make a complaint at the nearest police station.

All to no avail. While some men think it is their birthright to slap their womenfolk around, the victimised women tend to say that it is a family matter, and outsiders should not interfere.

Sons, who grow up watching their mothers subjected to violence and sympathizing with them, unfortunately end up like their fathers, thinking it is their heritage to hammer women. And so it continues….

Apparently this is prevalent in all layers of society.

It may not be possible for us to physically be present and prevent such abuse. But we can at least raise the level of awareness about this problem. Talk to the men, wherever possible - make them understand their responsibility to care for their women; tough I know, but at least an effort would have been made. Talk to the women, tell them they don’t have to suffer this indignity, and ask for help. We can put them in touch with organisations that help women in such situations, or other social services.

When I saw this in my mailbox today, it was too much of a coincidence for me to pass over. It is the publicity material for an awareness programme about domestic violence. Actor Boman Irani is the Brand Ambassador for the programme called “Bell Bajao” (Ring The Bell).

This video has been created by Ogilvy & Mather,
The project was created by ”Breakthrough” in collaboration with the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNIFEM.

Watch the video here:

Friday, January 16, 2009

Coconut fiber car parts

A research team at Baylor University, Texas, has made car parts - trunk liners, floorboards and car-door interior covers - using fibers from the outer husks of coconuts, replacing the synthetic polyester fibers typically used in composite materials.

The husk fibers are blended with polypropylene fibers before being hot-pressed (compression-molded) into required shapes.The coconut fiber provides a rigid architecture for the lightweight, yet stiff, composite. Mechanical properties of coconut fibers are just as good,if not better,than synthetic and polyester fibers when used in automotive parts.Coconut does not burn very well or give off toxic fumes,which is key in passing tests required for their use in commercial automotive parts.

Sourced from LiveScience

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Charity begins at home...

...but it should not be limited to the home!

Parents teach their children to be nice to their siblings, to help each other out when need be, so on and so forth. But unfortunately, very often that is where the lesson ends.

We need to take it beyond our homes, and into our neighborhood, our city, our country, and finally our world!

Instead of shielding our children from the injustices happening in the world, we need to make them aware of it, and also teach them that it is their job to change these things. Teach them that they CAN make a difference!

A few things I can think of that parents can do regularly to make their child a responsible citizen...

1) For every three new toys a child gets, he/she needs to pick a good one from their existing pile and donate it to an orphanage. This teaches the child not only to give and share, but also teaches them to not be too greedy and keep asking for more and more and more.

2) Maintain a piggy bank that the child puts at least 1 rupee into everyday, and donate this money to a charity on the child's birthday. If the charity is a local one, encourage the child to go give it personally.

3) Every few years, celebrate their birthday party at an orphanage. If started at an early age, of say 5 years old, I think this will go a long way into building the child's character. It will teach them to treat the less fortunate ones with equality and respect.

4) If the maid servant comes to work at a time when the child is at home, then encourage the maid to bring their kid to work. The kids can then either play or study together like friends. I would recommend studying :-)

5) Teach the child to treat the servants with respect. We HAVE to teach them to respect other people's labor! We HAVE to teach them to treat the servants as "people", not just servants!

I remember reprimanding a 5 yr old ordering her maid to bring her a glass of water. I felt that was not right. The servant's job was to cook and clean, and help the kid with things she could not do. When I asked her why she won't go inside and get it herself, she said, that's what she is for! I then gently explained to her that "Didi is here to help Mamma with her work because she does not have time. If you cannot reach the tap, then you can ask Didi to help you with it, but it is not right to say, "Oye, paani laao!" She is older than you are, and we need to treat elders with respect, right?" She was still a little confused though. She agreed to the bit about respecting the elders, but disagreed about not ordering the maid. I hope she gets it when she grows older!

6) Parents can also lead by example by volunteering at NGO's on a regular basis.

7) Another interesting trend that I have been noticing recently is that of "voluntourism". It is volunteering combined with tourism. You get to see new places, and can also pitch in to help those that need it. Just google for it, and you will see the various options available.

I strongly believe that it is the moral and social responsibility of every human being to help those that are less fortunate. And that this sense of responsibility needs to be imbibed into our children at a very young age. Along with teaching the child to be helpful, we also need to take care that they do not start to feel "superior" to those that they are helping.

That said, I leave it up to the actual parents to decide how they can raise upright citizens! I after all have NO first hand experience with kids :) So I ask the real ones to share stories of how they inspired their children, and also add to my list.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Borewell deaths


Last year a friend of mine talked to me about this issue of bore-well deaths. I had no clue about this until she pointed it out. Basically, what is happening is, people dig very very deep bore-wells hoping to strike water. Which is a good idea, BUT, in case they do not strike water, they do not care to cover up the well! The result is horrendous!
These are some headlines my friend has compiled:

A nine-year-old boy who fell into an open borewell in Karnataka's Raichur district was today found dead after a 55-hour operation to rescue him. The body of Sandeep, which had started decomposing, was pulled out of the borewell in Neermanvi village in the district this evening, Additional Superintendent of Police P B Kitali told PTI. He fell into the abandoned borewell in an agricultural field at around noon on Tuesday and was stuck at a depth of about 40 feet. "

"Ujjain, Dec. 31 (PTI): An eight-year-old boy died after falling into a 200-foot-deep borewell despite a rescue by the district administration. Kalu Singh was trapped at a depth of 40 feet after he slipped and fell into the well yesterday. He was pulled out early today but died before he could be treated."

"Bhavnagar, March 11 (PTI): A four-year-old girl who fell into a 60-ft-deep borewell died here this evening before experts from the army and ONGC could arrive. Aarti Chavda fell into the abandoned well while playing."

"Bikaner, April 2007: Girl trapped in borewell dies. A one-and-a-half year old girl, who got trapped inside a 155-feet deep borewell at a village in Bikaner two days ago, was found dead"

"MP: Boy falls into borewell. A three-year-old boy fell into a 50ft borewell at Goreshwar village near on Sunday, prompting the administration to launch a rescue operation"

Bangalore: A nine-year-old boy, who was trapped in an abandoned bore-well in a farmland in north Karnataka since Tuesday, was found dead Thursday, police said."

Dharmapuri Feb.16. Two persons were arrested yesterday in connection with the death of a four-year-old boy, who fell into a 605-foot deep borewell at Athiyaman Kottai here on Friday."

There are a lot more such incidents that she had in her report. I have picked just a few of them to highlight the point that the problem is all over India! Rescue teams spend hours and some times days in futile attempts to save these little kids. A lot of money is also spent in these missions. In most cases they are unable to save the kids. The owners are arrested and prosecuted, but yet, not many folks bother to cover up these pits.


The first thing that would come to mind to prevent this is to cover the pits with chamber covers. But this would not work! The covers would get stolen in NO time! The solution that my friend, a landscape architect, has come with is this:

The easiest way to stop this is getting the borewell agencies to list sites where they havent struck water....and simply plant a tree in them. These pits are 9" to 3' in diameter and go upto 80-150' down. The roots will hold on to the soil and fill the pit as well as make the world lil greener. A root ball is 15" to 18". We can get plants about 15' tall. If they are smaller, we can put 3 plants around the pit. Within one monsoon, the plant should take charge of filling in the pit by holding onto the soil. Plants have a natural tendency to move towards sunlight, similarly underground the roots move in the direction of easy penetration or loose soil as compared to hard rock... If the pit is too wide to plant something in, it can be surrounded by 3 plants forming a protective ring to warn people.

The most important thing, though, is to find these unguarded pits. My friend is looking into what sort of registration (if any) is done before digging is started, and when the work is finished.

It is an extremely simple and effective solution to a horrendous problem!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Power from rice husk - a 3-in-1 idea

Generating electricity from rice husk, besides being eco-friendly, can be a viable business model with three streams of income - 1) sale of electricity generated from a rice-mill by-product; 2) sale of husk ash to cement units; and 3) carbon credit accrued by way of reduction in carbon emissions in electricity generation.

Husk power system (HPS) drives mini-power plants, each capable of generating electricity to meet the requirement of 300 to 500 households for 8 to 10 hours a day. Five pilots plants, powering 12,000 households, are up and running in Bihar's paddy belt. They are working to get from the government Clean Development Mechanism certification to enable them to sell carbon credit.

The idea is credited to two students in the US. They are not power engineers, but have an engineering mind to transform a socially benefitial concept into a working model. Manoj Sinha, whose idea it was to empower people in his Bihar village, was a microprocessor designer with Intel; Charles Ransler, project strategist, has been into software development pertaining to digital publishing. What brought them together was their social activism. Manoj produced the idea; Charles came up with a business model.

They were joined by Gyanesh Pandey (left),so taken up with the proposal that he gave up a promising career abroad to come to Bihar to run their pilot project. Ratnesh Yadav completes the team. He is locally influential. Ratnesh is described in the company website as 'politician/entrepreneur, who promotes business enterprises in Bihar'.

HPS promoters conduct an energy audit and, before taking up a project, discuss with the village panchayat aspects such as power delivery system, payment mode (pre-paid), and training of local residents for consumer service and maintenance of the power plant.

Photos credited to : Development Through Enterprise and HPS website

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sleep vs Sound

Sleep is an important part of one's life which starts even before one's birth in womb and for pregnant woman too. Right from a growing child to elderly and sick including the harried and stressed-out executive, it is only sleep which can relieve the stress, help in overall health more so for growing children.

An eight hour undisturbed does wonders for one's health and cheer the next day.

May be considering the importance of it, the Supreme court have made it mandatory that no loud speakers should be used between 10 at night and 6 in the morning.

Like every aspect of our lives, this is all flouted by all and sundry with impunity. We need very little incentive to start off blaring music with earsplitting loudspeakers to celebrate any event sometimes beyond midnight. Whether it is marriage, birthday, felicitating a politician - for anything under the sun, - music is played at the highest decibel , so the the event could be considered a 'hit'. More often the guardians of Law , the Police, are helpless bystanders or participants if the function involves a local politician. This is a shame considering they are supposed to enforce the law.
These days even religious hymns, slokas, shabad keerthan in the name of Gods, Goddesses, Christ and Allah are played right from early morning at 5 or 5;30 hrs. While sentiments of every religion is no doubt important and should be respected deeply, it should be kept within the confines of the premises or there should not be any loud speaker.No religion should disturb the sleep of just born or the sick who need sleep as a tonic. In fact every religion wishes good health and long life for its devotees!

When will we realise this? How to put an end to this nuisense ?