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Friday, 30 August 2019

The joy of design

"I enjoy my work and design like I paint" said my daughter Amrita. She added "Just like when I paint I seem to know where every leaf should go. Just like in a symphony where every note knows where to go. So it is in my architecture design".

She then said thoughtfully "it all comes together when every bit is exactly where it should be".

Amrita, an architect, runs her own firm Archam Design in Gurgaon, India.

Today, is her birthday, and we gifted her this book 'Peter Zumthor Atmospheres'.

These thoughts about her work, flowed from the experience of her holding this admired book which she asked us to gift her!

Just yesterday she completed her office. The first design of hers which is fully realized in the real world.

The process of this design being made on a computer and then coming about in a actual form was fascinating to watch.
 
At one point when we were discussing one of her drawings she said to me "A drawing never lies, what is beautiful in a drawing is beautiful in real life". Now that her office interior is ready it becomes clear to me what she meant. It is true.

The step from the drawing board, which is poetic, to the pragmatic real world, which is based on available skills and materials is a tenuous link. The connect has to be nurtured to get the best results. Every design does not therefore come out the way it was thought.

It depends a lot on the skills of the people who build based on the design.

For example, a skilled worker in India learns his trade as an apprentice. He may not have formal training. But he knows how to use technology. And he is a fast learner.

Here are a few instances which we came across in our recent experience.

The carpenters were very comfortable in using pdf drawings for their work. The electrician pulled up an online video to see the process for fitting a complex electrical fitting. Messaging with the team were through a messaging app. Photographs of the work were shared between us online.

So aesthetics of design and actual work on ground came together through technology to produce a beautiful interior space. This is a joy of design.

The photo below is from this space.


Interiors by Archam Design


Thursday, 22 August 2019

Milk from booths to milk from apps: how delivery of milk has changed

As a boy, holding a milk carrier made of wire and walking alongside of my grandfather on a chilly winter morning in Delhi of the sixties is what I remember. We would walk down, carrying the previous days empty milk bottles, to the milk booth near our house and stand in queue to get our milk.

It would come in bottles with a metal foil cap. Punching the cap with your thumb would open the bottle. The cream on the inside of the cap used to be a small but welcome treat.

This is how it was for many years.

Then came the automated milk dispensing booths. Bottles were no longer required. We bought stainless steel milk containers.

A token purchased from the milk booth attendant and slipped into the dispenser token socket would wondrously lead to the flow of an exact quantity of milk to the eagerly waiting container placed below in the dispensing slot. For some reason it was always exiting to see this happen.

So for many years the only way one got milk was by walking down to the milk booth.

That is if one did not buy it directly from a milk man who would come to your home and pour it into your milk vessel using his milk measure.

Branded milk starting arriving at our door steps once it started getting packed in poly bags. This was now supplied by the local grocery shops.

While earlier the milk was collected directly from the milk companies outlet, the poly bags were from a local shop to which the company supplied. This was a change in the supply chain.

The quality of milk would always be a point for discussion.

Recently milk of certified quality is being supplied by new companies. This is supplied through an app. Milk comes in poly bags. Reaches your door step like clockwork every morning.

What is more one can change the amount of milk you need any time by going to the app.

Convenience and quality have come together.





Saturday, 17 August 2019

Liberating technology makes queues disappear

There was a time, not to far back, when buying a train ticket required a trip to the train station and standing in a long and winding queue for hours at times. A large part of the day had to be set aside for this.

Even when computers starting printing tickets the queues remained though the waiting time in the queue became much shorter. You see, before this happened train tickets were little printed cardboard pieces manually checked and punched by the ticket clerk. This took much more time.

The real change happened when we could print our tickets at home from the railways website. This single step liberated time for a large number of people, a huge amount of time.

The train ticket queue disappeared.

The airlines ticket queue was shorter. The ticket was a booklet of leaves made of fine and thin paper with each onward journey appearing on a separate tear away sheet. Online booking changed this and now we print them at home.

The airline ticket queue disappeared.

The bank teller queue would make you wait for withdrawing money.

The ATM made this queue disappear.

Online payment made the bill payment queues disappear.

Hours of waiting time for all of us has disappeared.

This time has been liberated from the queues!




PS.
Also see my blog posts:
We live in a world of apps
Customer experience: a people and technology milieu
Flow of technology changes our lives
Digital markets: when the computers decide
Window to the world: digital access as an enabler
From paper to pixels





Monday, 12 August 2019

First signs of more electric vehicles on roads in India

I have a hobby of looking out for electric vehicles.

In the last week I spotted two electric vehicle taxis!

I know, one swallow does not a summer make.

But this, seeing more electric vehicle taxis, is in my view is a big thing.

Why so?

A taxi driver will use an electric vehicle only if it gives him a decent income and is most importantly cheap to run and maintain.

Well there is good news here. The per km cost, purely on fuel or electricity cost, will cost five times more per km for an internal combustion engine vehicle as compared to an electric vehicle.

This is huge. Just this one thing can be a game changer.

In my view if an electric vehicle taxi can be bought for about Rs 6 to 8 lakhs, and if an exchange scheme or repurchase scheme is put into place say after 5 to 7 years of use, the number of electric vehicle taxis will multiply.

You have to just look at the quick rate at which the numbers of e-rickshaws have gone up.

Which shows charging time is not an issue.

So watch out for more electric vehicle taxis.

They may be the first signs of the future of cars on Indian roads.

PS.
Also see my blog posts:
More charging stations and cheaper electric cars: a virtuous loop
Are small electric cars viable in the Indian market?
Incentives and infrastructure for Electric Vehicles in India:
Electric Vehicles in India: we are at a cusp of change
E Rickshaw shows the way: an electric vehicle success story


Friday, 9 August 2019

We live in a world of apps

My father used to say "technology is neutral". The technology which makes the apps on our smartphones and our computers is neutral. It can be used for good or otherwise.

In my blog posts I focus on the uplifting changes brought about by technology.

Today, as never before a very large part of humanity is creating or using apps or even working for them!

The other day, when traveling back home, late in the evening I got talking to the driver of an app based cab. It turned out his home was not far from where we were going. "I am wondering whether I should sign off for the day after dropping you" he said.

He wanted to work more but was not sure where app will send him next, and he would have to drive back home all the way if it happened to be at the other end of the city.

In a way he was working for the app!

So he had to either go where the app sent him or sign off for the day.

I felt he was happy for the work the app gave him but also vary on how it will interact with him.

A little different from working for another human.

On the other hand the mutual rating system of apps make the work environment fair. For example in a taxi app, the customer gets to rate the driver and the driver gets to rate the customer.

So there is a degree of fairness. Human biases are reduced.

Freelance apps have brought down the old barriers for finding work. Individual to individual work is possible and is thriving. The mutual rating system works well here as well.

Being able to interact with an app has become a major mode of finding and doing work.

We indeed live and work in a world of apps.


PS
Also see my blog posts:
Freelancing portals and the evolving work market
The Co-worker: the changing nature of work
Customer experience: a people and technology milieu
The way we learn, study, recruit or apply for jobs: it is all changing
Digital markets: when the computers decide
Window to the world: digital access as an enabler
From paper to pixels: how technology is empowering the way we invest.
Navigation then and now: how technology has changed the way we navigate.











Friday, 2 August 2019

More charging stations and cheaper electric cars: a virtuous loop

There are two fascinating news items.

The first is that Tata Motors has reduced the price of its Tigor EV by Rs 80000.

The second is that Tata Motors aims to install hundreds of charging stations across India.

The reduction in price of electric cars is a result of reduction in GST to 5%. This benefit has been passed on to the consumer.

The drive to create more charging stations is encouraging for present and future electric car user.

This charging stations will come up in a variety of locations where Tata companies have facilities. These are like auto dealers, stores and other Tata outlets.

The ease of availability of electricity everywhere, as opposed to the logistics needed for transporting and storing fuel is a clear winner.

If electric cars become more popular then more charging stations in a diverse locations may become common place.

Cheaper electric cars leading to more charging stations leading to more electric cars leading back to cheaper electric cars as economies of scale kick in.

This is a virtuous loop which is likely to strengthen.

It is interesting to watch this change to different roads and a different automotive world.


PS.
Also see my blog posts:
Are small electric cars viable in the Indian market?
Incentives and infrastructure for Electric Vehicles in India:
Electric Vehicles in India: we are at a cusp of change
E Rickshaw shows the way: an electric vehicle success story

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Are small electric cars viable in the Indian market?

Typically in the Indian car market a car costing in the region of Rs 6 lakhs (USD 8700) is what people will be tempted to buy. However the smallest electric vehicle in the Indian market is priced more than that.

The entry level small cars in India start at Rs 3 to 4 lakhs. This is the most attractive price range for entry level buyers in India. No electric car is available in this price range.

Couple this issue of price with that of range of electric cars and also with the paucity of charging stations and we can see why we are not seeing more electric cars on Indian roads. While we may get high end electric cars soon. But these will be small in numbers. So to really make a difference competitively priced small electric cars have to be made.

For this to happen batteries for electric cars have to become much cheaper and charging infrastructure has to be created.

The maintenance cost of electric cars will be less than that of internal combustion engine cars simply for the reason that electric cars have much fewer parts than internal combustion engine cars.

Indian customer will not mind some inconvenience when it come to refueling or recharging an electric car. This is evident from the longer but patient car queues we see on compressed natural gas stations as compared to normal gas stations.

So an electric car which is priced competitively and which has low running cost as compared to gasoline cars will be a winner on Indian roads.

This may happen sooner than later.



PS.
Also see my blog posts:
Incentives and infrastructure for Electric Vehicles in India:
Electric Vehicles in India: we are at a cusp of change
E Rickshaw shows the way: an electric vehicle success story


The joy of design