Category Archives: Infrastructure

Marketing lesson from Mumbai’s BEST AC bus service failure

Ideally, city public bus services can help traffic congestion in metros. AC public transport buses can also attract some private car owners to switch to them if the service is reliable, fast and comfortable. One bus can help keeping 30-40 cars off roads used in daily,  regular commute.

AC bus service provided by BEST in Mumbai runs empty even during rush hours. This is one example of marketing failure. There is a huge demand for transport during rush hours in Mumbai, and still BEST does not get customers and loses money on the service.

Why?

The buses run frustratingly slow. It seems the drivers are trained and told to “take their time”. Also, the buses seem to have very slow pickup. Or, may be they are of inferior quality which can’t run or maneuver fast. So, taking such a bus means having a leisurely ride to somewhere where you are not in hurry to reach. Officegoers can’t rely on such a slow, unreliable service.

Another reason is timings. Many of the rides run during non-rush hours, attracting hardly 10% occupancy. It seems BEST has not studied customer needs before starting this service and its timings.

If municipal corporations want to provide some reliable alternative to private commuting, they must promise and provide reliability, punctuality and speed at peak hours.

If they fail to satisfy this basic customer need, customers will not patronize it. It is simple marketing lesson. Governments and its companies should look at marketing from customer’s point of rather than ruining their enterprises from bureaucratic point of view.

Our wish-list for Railway Budget-2014

Respected Shri D V Sadananda Gowda,
Minister Of Railways,
Government Of India.

Warm regards.

As a citizen of India, I present my wish-list for the forthcoming Railway budget which you are going to present soon.

1) Due to disppointing level of services and facilities provided by varioud government agencies, we, the people of India have lowered our expectations from anything ‘Government’. Indian Railways is one such enterprise. We request you to break that jinx. Make improvements in Railways such that ‘Government’ mean reliable, credible and dependable.

2) A lot of facilities are started with lot of fund allocation, but they are not maintained properly. Different types of coaches, station facilities, technology solutions, web sites, indicators etc are some examples in case of Indian Railways. Request Hon Railway Minister Shri Sadanand Gowda to ensure that all facilities that are started, are maintained properly to attain their intended purpose.

3) Indicators displaying train coach position, time, platforms etc are a real blessing, only if they work properly and consistently. But somehow, due to poor maintenance, they go out of order any day. One can’t depend upon them. Please make them dependable. They can save a lot of time, trouble and stress.

4) Make railways’ public address system meaningful. Train the disgruntled announcers to speak in a tone, volume, speed and language which is understood by listeners. Today, such an announcement is more a noise than anything useful.

5) Decongest IRCTC web site. It is certainly not rocket science to avoid hours of delay one has to face while logging into the reservation site during Tatkal booking beginning hours.

6) Stop the menace of unreserved travelers traveling in reserved coaches. Only a firm, determined resolution is required to curb this. The TCs have to be held responsible for such transgressions.

7) Your previous counterparts created a new class called “Sleeper Class” separate from Second Class with practically no tangible difference. It is obvious that this unnecessary complication has only added confusion to the system and people. Request to abolish this “Sleeper” class or merge it with Second Class.

8) Same is with now-defunct First Class in non-local trains. First Class is a classic example of the failure of government ministries to rationalize the products/services with changing technology or market landscape. With newer AC classes, First Class has lost its relevance. But, like all things English, Indian Railways has failed to update or altogether remove this laughable luggage of outdated, aristocratic Angrez mindset.

Ironically. in Indian Railways’ first class, there is nothing first class except the  fare. The fare is much higher than much better AC classes. The official apathy and lack of clarity has resulted into meaningless legacy being continued halfheartedly.
Make First Class really “First Class” or abolish it for good. Nobody will miss it.

9) Currently, the seat allocation during running train is at the discretion of the TC. Due to this, the reserved passengers who could not travel have no practical way to prove their “no show”, preventing them from getting any kind of refund and the TCs have a field day “selling” such seats to people who have no waiting list tickets also, bypassing the bona fide wait-listers.

This situation can be easily corrected. If Mumbai’s city bus service can introduce handheld machines for issuing each ticket, why can’t railways do? Allocate a unique barcode to every reserved ticket, scan it through a handheld with TC, which will ensure which seat remained empty and was reallocated by TC on the way. This handheld should be connected to the central reservation server, which will dynamically update actual arrival/occupancy status in real time, enabling RAC/Waiting passengers to know the real seat status. This will plug the leakage of unaccounted money going to TCs and will make the system completely transparent.

10) In Chair Cars, some genius Einsteins in the design departments have tried to save some money by providing 1.5 or less hand-rests per person. There is only one hand-rest between the two people in the adjacent seats. This leads to continuous jostling between the two to capture the few inches of the hand-rest. This may be based on the assumption that an average Indian has 1.5 arms. Please get rid of this outrageous assumption. With barely enough space to accommodate one’s body, provide TWO arm-rests for each seat. This seems funny, but the current situation in an AC Chair Car is funnier.

11) Toilets in the coaches need to be checked, cleaned and maintained regularly. Currently, it is not done regularly. I am sure a full budget for manpower, maintenance, cleaning etc is passed and is ‘deemed’ utilized. But this needs to be made accountable.

12) Food provided in Shatabdi/Rajdhani is outright down market. It is of poor quality, bad hygiene and appears as just a formality being completed. The plates and seat trays are storehouses of germs. Please ensure that somebody randomly checks this food and the manner in which it is served. There is certainly a room for improvement.

13) Pantry cars are nothing short of gastronomic disasters in motion. They are dirty, unhygenic and badly maintained by dirtier manpower. Please overhaul food delivery system in trains.

14) The platforms, waiting rooms, bridges, subways or any other common utility areas at railway stations need to be cleaned and maintained properly. Again, same is true as mentioned above for toilets. Giving it to private parties against advertising rights can make this easily feasible.

15) Please simplify the rules for cancelation, refund, break journey etc along with their explanation. Currently, they are worded in such a way that one needs to be an advocate to decipher them.

16) Make fine collection transparent. Currently, fine collection is a money making machine for the officer on duty to make some quick bucks with very little reaching the bleeding coffers of railwayd. Use technology to prevent this leakage.

Here are some suggestions for Mumbai local train service.

17) In Mumbai, the areas inside and outside railway stations are encroached by unauthorized hawkers, causing a lot of congestion and convenience to the commuters. In spite of the enough manpower, this menace goes unchecked. Have courage, will and determination to prevent this encroachment forever.

18) Distinctly separate ladies and first class compartments and coached in Mumbai local trains with some clear visual distinction in the interiors as well as exteriors. In newer trains, this division is very blurred. Due to that there are lot of confusions with new commuters getting into wrong coaches.

19) Also, please ensure visual barricades inside the coaches separating these compartments within the same coach. Currently, ladies/gents first class compartments are separated by steel railings, allowing clear views across each. Same is for first/second class compartments within the same coach. Please get them visually blocked from each other. This will stop a lot of peeping and mischiefs by the onlookers with a roving eye.

20) Install more automatic ticket vending machines. They can be a very good alternative to the burden of highly inefficient and demotivated manpower that the railways is carrying. Please don’t forget to keep them properly maintained.

21) Majority of the Coupon Validating machines are out of order most of the times. This is just one more example of too many initiatives, too little improvement. Please ensure proper maintenance.

22) The ‘lean management’ practice implemented by ticket counters in Mumbai results in sometimes 25 minute wait for a 4 minute travel, because all local/outstation and season tickets are sold from every window. This ridiculously slows down the dispensation.  Please advise somebody to have a sensible correction.

23) Please insist on the personal inspection by everyone who decides on the designs of the coaches and other passenger facilities which affects millions of people. The newly introduced coaches in Mumbai locals have truncated leg spaces and have little consideration for standing commuters who outnumber the sitting ones many times. Advise them to undertake one full journey themselves during peak hours to understand the real problems.

24) A lot of discretionary misuse by TCs can be stopped by using technology and ensuring proper vigilance. Make vigilance accountable.

These are some of the improvements sought. Please ensure their timely redressal.

Thanking you in anticipation,

– A Common Man of India

एक सामान्य भारतीय का श्री नरेन्द्र मोदी को खुला निवेदन पत्र

आदरणीय श्री नरेन्द्र मोदी साहब,

सादर प्रणाम |

भारत देश का एक सामान्य नागरिक भी अपनी महेनत, मनोबल और महत्त्वाकांक्षा के बल पर सर्वोत्तम स्थान पर पहुंच सकता है, इस बात का ज्वलंत प्रमाण पेश कर ने के लिए आप को हार्दिक अभिनंदन तथा इस देश में सुराज्य लाने के आप के संकल्प और प्रयासों की सफलता के लिए हार्दिक शुभकामनाएं |

आप को यह पत्र लिखने की प्रेरणा मुझे मिली है उस आशा से जो आप के आगमन ने मेरे जैसे करोडों सामान्य भारतवासियों के मन में जगाई है | राजनीति और politicians पर से हम भारतवासियों का भरोसा उठ गया था, जो आपने पुन:स्थापित किया है |

भारत की विकासयात्रा को सही पटरी पर लाने के लिए अाप को बहुत सारे और बहुत बड़े काम करने हैं | और आप सारी कोशिशें करेंगे ऐसा हमें विश्वास है | लेकिन इन बड़े कामों की योजना बनाते वक्त आप हमारे जैसे करोड़ों छोटे लोगों के जीवन की समस्याओं पर थोडा गौर करके इन समस्याओं को सुलझाने के हेतु को केन्द्र में रखकर सरकार की नीतियां बनायेंगे, तो आप के आगमन से पैदा हुइ आश साकार स्वरुप ले पाएगी | मैं और मेरे जैसे भारतवर्ष के अन्य सामान्य नागरिकों की आप से कुछ अपेक्षाएं हैं, जो मैं यहां प्रतिघोषित करता हुं |

१) किसी भी सरकारी डीपार्टमेन्ट से छोटा या बडा कोई भी काम कराना हो तो भारत में किसी ना किसी सरकारी अफ्सर या politician को पैसा देकर “सेटींग” करनी ही पडती है | एक बार एक किसी पावरफूल व्यक्ति के साथ “सेटींग” हो गइ फिर फटाफट काम होने लगता है | भारत की यह अनोखी Single Window Clearing System, यह “सेटींग” बिझनेस, बन्द हो और योग्यता अनुसार काम हो ऐसी अपेक्षा |

२) बचपन से ही भारतवासीयों को पुलिस से डरने का सिखाया गया है | भारत के politicians इस डर को अच्छी तरह से समझ गये हैं और लोगों को डराकर अपना काम कराने के लिए पुलिस को use करते हैं | नीडर भारत के लिए निष्पक्ष पुलिस की आवश्यकता है | पुलिस को politicians के डर से मुक्ति मिलेगी तो ही पब्लिक को पुलिस के डर से मुक्ति मिलेगी | सामान्य भारतवासी को खुद को हुए अन्याय की फरियाद करनेे के लिए पुलिस स्टेशन तक जाने में जो डर लगता है, उस डर को दूर करने का निवेदन |

३) कोइ भी व्यक्ति अपना १००% तभी दे सकता है, जब वह भयमुक्त हो | लोगों को सरकार से यह अभयदान मिल सकता है, लेकिन आज पुलिस या कोइ भी सरकारी अमलदार खुद ही आमजनता को डराकर, भयभीत करके उनका फायदा उठाते हैं | हर राज्य में एक कोमन फोन-नंबर की हेल्प-लाइन देकर लोगों को किसी भी सरकारी अमलदार से भयमुक्ति दिलायें ऐसी प्रार्थना |

४) जनता को हेल्प करने के लिए हम अलग-अलग प्रकार की हेल्प-लाईन तो चालु कर डालते हैं, लेकिन कुछ महिनों बाद उसे attend करनेवाला ही कोइ नहीं होता | अगर होता है, तो वह कोइ गुस्सेवाला भूखा-प्यासा, पीडित आदमी होता है, जो हेल्प कम करता है, भौंकता ज्यादा है | हेल्प-लाइन पर बिच-बिच में फोन कर के वह सो न जाय ऐसी व्यवस्था हो तो सही मदद होगी |

५) दूसरा डरावना शब्द है Taxes | एक तो अनेक प्रकार के टैक्ष और उपर से उनका पेपरवर्क | टैक्ष के सारे कायदे कानून इतने पेचीदे हैं की उन सब का पालन करना अत्यंत मुश्किल है | टैक्ष की पूरी प्रक्रिया को सरल बनाना जरुरी है | दूसरी यह मान्यता की सरकार को टेक्ष देंगे तो ९०% हिस्सा politicians और सरकारी कर्मचारी “खा” जाएंगे | यह खाना-पीना बन्द हो और जनता से मिले टैक्स का सही उपयोग हो ऐसी गुज़ारीश |

६) भारत में सरकार कोइ भी प्रोजेक्ट के पीछे १०० रुपये खर्चेगी तो उस में से २५ रुपयों का ही काम होगा ऐसी मान्यता है | बाकी की रकम अनेक जरुरतमंद लाभार्थी लोगों में बंट जाएगी | यह जरुरतमंदों में बंटवारा बन्द हो और पूरी रकम नियत प्रोजेक्ट पर खर्च हो ऐसी पारदर्शक व्यवस्था करने की प्रार्थना | हमारा देश गरीब नहीं है, लेकिन सरकार-Politicians और सरकारी कर्मचारियों के लोभ-लालच की वजह से बहुत धन लीकैज हो रहा है | इस लीकैज को त्वरा से भरें |

७) कश्मीर के ओमर अब्दुल्लाह जब राजनीति में आये तब एक टी.वी. इन्टरव्यू में उन्होंने कहा था “मेरे पिताने कहा कि पोलिटीक्स एक अच्छी लाईन है, इस लिए मैंने राजनीति में आने का निर्णय लिया |” शायद ओमर अब्दुल्लाह उस वक्त नासमज थे इस लिए उनके दिल की बात ज़बान पर आ गई | लेकिन अकेले फारुक अब्दुल्लाह ही नहीं, भारत के सारे politicians राजनीति को Profession नहीं लेकिन एक Business मानते हैं, और ज्यादातर किस्सों में देश और उसकी प्रजा को लूटने का कारोबार चलाते हैं | यह धन्दा बन्द करें |

८) किसी भी सरकारी अस्पताल में सारी सुविधाओंका बजेट पास होते हुए भी आम जनता को सही ट्रीटमेन्ट नहीं मिल सकती | सरकारी अस्पताल world class सुविधा और सर्विस दे पायें ऐसी व्यवस्था की अभिलाषा |

९) सफाई के लिए जरुरत से ज्यादा स्टाफ और साधन होते हुए भी हमारे देश का कोई भी जाहीर स्थल हमेशा गंदा ही रहता है | रेल्वे-बस स्टेशन, होस्पिटल्स, स्कूल्स, सरकारी दफ्तर, राह-रस्ते, गार्डन सब कुछ एरपोर्ट की तरह साफ-सुथरा और चकाचक रखने का बजेट तो पास हो जाता है, लेकिन काम नहीं होता | सिर्फ बजेट ही नहीं, काम भी उसी क्वोलिटी का हो यह देखें | इस परिस्थिति में १००% सुधार संभव भी है, और अपेक्षित भी है |

१०) कोई भी सरकारी नौकरी मतलब “चांदी” | सरकारी नौकरी मतलब बिना काम किये पैसा कमाने का लाइसन्स | सरकारी नौकरी मतलब “उपर की कमाई” का अविरत स्त्रोत | सरकारी नौकरी सब से पहले एक सेवा कार्य है, और अपने कार्य से देश की सेवा कर के रोजगार पाने का एक प्रामाणिक ज़रिया है, यह भावना सरकारी दामादों के मन में जाग्रत हो ऐसे ठोस कदम की अपेक्षा |

११) सरकारी दफ्तरों में काम करनेवाले अफ्सरों को यहां-वहां तबादला कराने की और उनका promotion करने की सत्ता politicians के पास होने से अफ्सर खुले मन से काम नहीं कर सकता | वह डरा हुआ रहता है | अफ्सरों की भर्ती, तबादले या प्रमोशन को योग्यता के आधार पर पारदर्शक बनायें |

१२) जिन commercial activities में सरकार की कंपनियां (PSUs) हैं, उन में से ज्यादातर PSUs में जरुरत से बहुत ज्यादा स्टाफ और अन्य resources हैं फिर भी उन के private sector के competitors से उनका नफा कम है, या वह नुकसान कर कहे हैं | उन सब को अपनी कार्यक्षमता और profitability बढ़ाने का मौका दिया जाय | और अगर वह ऐसा न कर पायें तो उन्हें Private कंपनियों को सोंपा जाय |

१३) देश के अलग अलग राज्यों में कुछ ऐसे विस्तार हैं, जहां किसी लोकल गुंडे, politician, ग्रुप या किसी कौम की सरकार चलती है | ऐसी हर parallel government को चुन-चुन कर उस के उपर भारत के सार्वभौमत्व को स्थापित करने का आवेदन |

१४) इन्फ्रास्ट्रक्चर के लिए बडे बडे प्रोजेक्ट तो बन जाते हैं, लेकिन उन्हें आम आदमी कैसे use कर पाये ऐसा ध्यान में रखा जाय, तो बहुत अच्छा होगा | यहां मुंबइ के T2 जैसे टर्मिनल, या बडे हाइ-वे तो बन जाते हैं, लेकिन उनके अंतिम फिनिशिंग या योग्य signage जैसे छोटे काम बाकी छोड दिये जाते हैं, जिससे सामान्य जनों का समय-शक्ति व्यय होता है और उन्हें काफी असुविधाओंका सामना करना पडता है |

१५) आज ज्यादातर सरकारी स्कूलों या कोलेज में शिक्षा का स्तर एकदम निम्न कक्षा पर चला गया है | बच्चों को डीग्रीयां तो मिलतीं हैं पर उन्हें कुछ प्रेक्टिकल ट्रेनिंग न मिलने की वजह से वह किसी काम के पात्र नहीं होते | शिक्षा-व्यवस्था खराब होने की दूसरी एक वजह है, शिक्षकों की गुणवत्ता | पगार कम होने की वजह से अच्छे लोग शिक्षक बनना पसंद नहीं करते | अर्थहीन शिक्षा-व्यवस्था बेरोजगारी की मुख्य वजह है | शिक्षा को अर्थपूर्ण बनाने की बिनंती |

१६) भारत में बेरोजगारी का एक दूसरा बडा कारण है, Unions | इधर भी अलग-अलग राजनैतिक पार्टीयां कम से कम काम करके ज्यादा लाभ पाने के सपने दिखाकर employees की आदतों के साथ बिझनेस की कार्यक्षमता और profitability बिगाड रहीं हैं | Labour laws में उचित परिवर्तन की आवश्यकता है | नौकरी मिलना नहीं बल्की काम पाना हक होना चाहिए | जोब मार्केट में राजनैतिक पार्टीयां तथा युनियनों की दखल बन्द होंगी तो ही सब का भला होगा |

१७) Information Technology का सही उपयोग करें | आम जनता को रोज काम आनेवाली information किसी वेबसाइट या और किसी माध्यमों से समय पर मिले तो हर साल लाखों दिनों का समय बच जाएगा | इन्डीयन रेलवे की online बूकींग की साइट तत्काल के बूकींग के समय दो घंटों तक खुले ही नहीं ऐसा नहीं होना चाहिए | इस के जैसे अनेक उपायों से आमजनता का अधिकांश समय बचेगा जो देश के आर्थिक विकास में उपयुक्त हो सकता है |

१८) मुंबइ जैसे शहरों में फुटपाथों पर चलने की जगह ही नहीं हैं | फूटपाथ पर फेरिवालों तथा व्यापारियों का कब्ज़ा है | फुटपाथ मुक्त हों तथा चलने योग्य बनें ऐसी अपेक्षा |

१९) मुंबइ को Shanghai जैसा बनाने के वायदे देकर काफी सरकारोंने अनेक प्रोजेक्ट पास करवाकर करोडों रुपयों का खान-पान किया है | मुंबइ के ज्यादातर रास्तों पर कहीं भी 100 मीटर का अच्छी गुणवत्ता का, बिना उबड-खाबड का रास्ता नहीं है | Shanghai जैसा बनाने के लिए अनेक लोगों ने Shanghai की यात्राएं कीं, बडे बजेट पास करवाये, और अंत में हमें खड्डे ही मिले हैं | ऐसी सपनों की सौदागरी बन्द होगी ऐसी उम्मीद |

२०) मुंबइ की लोकल ट्रेन तथा सीटी बस सर्विस अच्छी है लेकिन उसे आधुनिक और कार्यक्षम बनाने की जरुरत है | सफाइ, सुरक्षा पर ध्यान जरुरी है | ट्रेन-बस की डिझाईन या उस संबंधी अन्य कोइ निर्णय लेने वाले बडे लोग इन ट्रेन-बस में सफर करें और लोगों को क्या परेशानियां होतीं हैं उस का वास्तविक अनुभव करें ऐसा compulsory बनायें | मुंबइ जैसी पब्लिक ट्रान्सपोर्ट व्यवस्था सारे शहरों में स्थापित करें ऐसी अपेक्षा |

२१) न्याय व्यवस्था में भरपूर परिवर्तन जरुरी है | तारीख-पे-तारीख की वजह से Indian Judiciary पर से आम जनता भरोसा उठ गया है | “कानून है” यह सबूत न्याय व्यवस्था की ओर से पेश हो ऐसी व्यवस्था करेंगे तो बडी महेरबानी होगी |

२२) भारत में किसी भी सरकारी दफ्तर में जाएंगे तो अपना काम कितने समय में पूरा होगा इस की कोइ गेरंटी नहीं है | सरकारी कर्मचारीयों में उन के तथा आम जनता के समय की कीमत के विषय में जाग्रति आये और उन में कोइ भी काम पूर्वनिश्चित समय-अवधि में पूरा हो ही जाय ऐसी accountability स्थापित करेंगे तो करोडों मानव दिनों का समय बचेगा |

भारत को सोने की चिड़िया कहा जाता है, लेकिन भारत के politicians और कुछ multinational कंपनियां हीं इस का साक्षात्कार कर रहे हैं | उपर कथित बातों पर कुछ ठोस काम होगा, आम जनता की जिंदगी आसान होगी तो मेरे जैसे सामान्य नागरिकों को भी भारत सोने की चिड़िया ही महसूस होगी |

हार्दिक शुभेच्छाओं के साथ आभार…

– भारत का सामान्य नागरिक

In India, how can we save a lot of public money?

Recently, a report about a teenager’s suggestion to US government to change font in their stationery from Times New Roman to Garamond estimated that it could save some $400 millions of the government due to reduction in ink use. Even though the authenticity of the claim is yet to be established and counter arguments are out to prove this wrong, India, too, can save a lot of money if some obviously simple things are done more sensibly. Here are some suggestions.

1) By putting proper signs on roads

A lot of precious time and fuel can be saved and a lot of accidents can be avoided if the quality of road signs in India improves. The signs on inner roads and highways are either missing, or they are too small or at obscure locations which are impossible to spot while driving. At most of the places, the Einsteins in charge of NHAI and other road infrastructure authorities have put so ridiculous signs at completely meaningless locations that they appear just too late, leaving no time for action. The only sensible and timely signages are found on expressways. Why can’t all Einsteins think similarly?

2) Making the commonly used information accessible

A huge amount of time and energy is wasted in finding some simple information regarding government and its offices and companies. A web site like sarkaritel.com can save a lot of money. The only condition is that somebody should actually pick up the phones of which numbers are mentioned. In India, helplines are generally not helpful because most government helplines just keep ringing.

3) By putting timers on traffic signals

In cities like Mumbai and other metros, sometimes we need to wait for 20-30 minutes at some junctions when 3-4 iterations of signal changes pass before we finally get through, thousands of litres of fuel can be saved by shutting down vehicle engines if timers indicating seconds to reopen the signal can be shown.

4) By putting signals or traffic police at every crowded junction in cities

A lot of avoidable traffic jams are caused by vehicles which break traffic rules at an unmanned junction. In the absence of regulator or a disciplining reference, India’s smart drivers prove their enormous smartness and agility by sneaking through impossible places, risking their own and others lives and creating a complete chaos and traffic jams. India has a lot of unemployed. The cost of employing people to control traffic will be many times compensated by the saving in terms of time, energy and fuel.

5) By sensibly designing coins

The recent coins introduced by the Einsteins of RBI are so confusing that people have to spend a lot of time just figuring out whether it is 1, 2 or 5 rupee coin. The similarity of new Rupee symbol with number ‘2’ adds to the meelee.

6) Privatize all Government companies

Yes. Privatize or close down all Government companies. Business can’t be mixed with charity. History of Indian PSUs has shown that Govt can’t do a good job at business because of its temporary nature. The bosses change every five years. Where is consistency required for implementing a stable mission? Most of the government companies are hotbeds of inefficiency because of the callousness from top to bottom. Examples like telecom, aviation, infrastructure and metal industries have proved that the fear of customer disadvantage due to privatization are completely misplaced and the contrary is true.

Most of the money wasted in India is due to unaccountability of the Government and its machinery. This rot from top must stop. If the government is divested of all other activities than pure governance, it will be a blessing for India.

Indian Railways’ Bad design = Bad Customer Experience # 1

Indian Railways (and many other Indian Government departments) have a large number of Einsteins sitting in their dusty offices. These Einsteins come out with innovative designs and process solutions which, instead of improving the quality of service, increase the hardships and troubles of the passengers.

Railways has installed some modern escalators at local train stations in Mumbai. At Dadar, one such swanky escalator on platform no.2 on Western side is not much used by people. It is always deserted. Very few people use it preferring the staircase next. Why is this so in a heavily crowded station like Dadar, where people should have loved to use such modern facility?

The escalator leads to a foot over bridge which is truncated up to Western side only. The unassuming people willing to go to East side or Central Railway who climb up the escalator have to first climb down from that bridge and climb up stairs all the way again….! Result ? The escalator is useless for 70% of the commuters.

Some among the Einsteins should have seen the place before coming out with such half-baked modern solution wasting huge amount of time, money and energy. Bad designs result into bad customer experience. At least we should learn this from the wasteful expenditure of our government.

These Einsteins don’t have to pay from their pockets so they can afford all such idiosyncrasies.
We can’t.

Terminal T2 is a symptom of a larger disease

It is only a month since the new swanky terminal in Mumbai T2 was thrown open with a lot of fanfare. Traditional and Social media got abuzz with proud list of facilities and photographs of this new marvel of the country. This new, modern terminal was touted as one more sign that India had suddenly become world-class.

Now it is coming out that this grand looking structure may be an architectural marvel, but it is not a properly designed one as long as people’s experience is concerned.

Many of the facilities are not functional.
Facilities are badly designed from user point of view.
The first-class lounge is infested with mosquitoes. Recently, a false ceiling came down causing a disruption.

We are a very easily impressionable society and get impressed by grand structures and grand talks. May be the grandeur makes us feel smaller. May be our repeated disappointments have made us lower our standards.

But as a conscious society, we should notice and be warned that in today’s time any public place or structure that comes up, suffers from the curse of poor quality.

Any road, any flyover, any station, any airport, any stadium or any other structure made today by some government department is of the poorest quality. The money spent is for the best quality, but what the country gets is of third-grade quality.

Why?

Because each such building or structure is milked as a source of income for the people involved in approving it. In India, for every 100 rupees spent by the government, major portion is siphoned off by the powers-that-be. In India, for some greedy people who could not employ themselves gainfully in some respectable vocation, politics is a business of looting this country for personal gains.

Till the deep stomach of India’s politics and government machinery is filled up, we will have to content with the leftovers and merrily circulate the photos of half-cooked and poorly designed structures.

When a Raja becomes vyapari, praja becomes bhikhari.

And beggars don’t have a choice.

Here is what stops India’s industrial growth.

India is shining…! Or, that is what the government wants us to believe. The emptiness of this claim is visible in the decelerating economic growth since last few years. The reasons for this disappointing performance are not difficult to find.

It is very difficult to be an entrepreneur in India. Even though the country needs a lot of entrepreneurs, it is hostile to entrepreneurship. The Indian government and its bureaucracy has always treated Business and Industry as a milking cow. Officially, businesses are imposed various types of taxes and levies. The impossible maze of rules and regulations encourage another unofficial extraction of money from the businesses in the form of palm-greasing amount for various permissions, licenses, certificates etc.

This all has lead to a step-motherly treatment to industry and entrepreneurs. Instead of building sound infrastructure and facilitative rules and regulations, the government and politicians don’t leave a single opportunity to strangle the business and industry. I saw a live example of the negligence, exploitation and apathy of the government towards industry during visits to Silvassa and Daman, the union territories on the border of Gujarat.

1) Even though thousands of SME units are located in this region, the infrastructure in Daman and Silvassa is at its worst. As soon as we enter Kachigam from Vapi, the miserable quality of road welcomes you. The one kilometer stretch passing through one of the industrial area, takes at least 10 minutes, with not even 5 meters of flat road to be found anywhere. Driving this through this road is a hellish experience. Theoretically, every year some money is sanctioned for improving this road, but the condition is simply unchanged. The pathetic condition of this road has remained the same since many years.

2) The poor infrastructure has grave impact on the industries here. A lot of international companies fail the units here in their internal evaluation audit only because the infrastructure in the vicinity is not conductive for the business. This puts the industries here at a huge disadvantage.

3) The Daman-Silvassa has an independent Member of Parliament to represent this region. But, instead of helping the industries in this region through proper infrastructure and facilities, the politicians here seem to be busy ‘developing’ their own future. Instead of helping the industry which brings jobs and prosperity to the region, their lieutenants are known to harass the industrialists by running a parallel government in the industrial belt milking the entrepreneurs for ‘maintaining’ the region. Every now and then, these pseudo ‘governors’ drop in for various favors, including seeking financial contributions from the owners of the units in the area. These people, ‘blessed’ by the reigning politician, ensure that all types of contracts go to them only and their own people are employed in these companies, regardless their qualification or suitability for the post.

4) It seems the poor central government does not have funds to maintain roads and other infrastructure in Daman-Silvassa and hence the volunteers from the ruling MP’s cadre have to work hard to go and collect the ‘contribution’ themselves from the industry owners, to build the roads and maintain the infrastructure. In spite of the ‘hard work’ of these volunteers in the form of collecting repeated contributions, the roads are not in place. May be the pit is too deep to be filled.

India will have to wait to grow its industry till all such deep pits are filled.  Till then, the industry will continue to struggle for growth and the country will have to continue to live “in the pit…”

Options to the real estate industry

The real estate industry in India is facing an uphill challenge. Last 5-6 years have seen an unprecedented rise in rates of real estate all across India. The rise is really phenomenal as it is beyond any logic that market experts could attribute it to.

But, now it seems the rally has stopped. The rise has stalled for the time being. But, the recent hike in the sale prices in real estate has resulted into a corresponding rise in the input and interest costs. So, even though the prices are unaffordable, they are not coming down. The developers of the real estate industry can’t sell at lower rates and can’t bear the burden of the unsold inventory also.

So what is the solution?

In marketing terms,there is a NEED for the accommodation, for the real estate. But this need is not resulting into sales, because the price is not affordable to the customer.  How to bridge this gap?

1) If we observe recent trends, there is a lot of mobility in people’s careers. More people are shifting bases rapidly, jumping from one job to another, from one city to another. The demand-supply equation of the job market is prompting people to stay at a city for few years and then move to another city. A large number of these people are youngsters, who are not yet married and are open to change cities for few years. But, each time they shift to a new city, they have to pass through a lot of hassles of finding and settling into a new house.

2) There is a huge movement of marketing/sales/support people across the country for shorter periods at various cities and towns. They face difficulty in finding decent accommodation, because hotels are prohibitively expensive and the low-end options are unacceptably lower in quality. Admin departments of companies are always hard pressed to find good temporary staying solutions for their touring staff members.

Such types of movements of people from one place to another can be supported and exploited commercially by real estate developers.

For that, they need to look at little ahead in their value chain. They need to develop real estate management organization and provide managed, furnished, shared or independent decent and affordable paying guest type of accommodations to individuals, families or companies for various types of time periods.

In short, there is a huge demand for managed, rental accommodations which do not have troubles associated with Leasing or renting Leave & License accommodations and are affordable below the hotels. Also, if such housing options are available across major cities, companies will be interested in booking accommodations for their touring manpower. They will get same standardized quality across various cities.

In today’s changing India, temporary ownership is becoming popular. Customers are not averse to paying for using something of good quality. This way, even if they can’t buy it, they can avail of good quality product or service. And the real estate developers can get better returns on their investment, while still holding the ownership of the property and earning its appreciation.

Just like radio cabs pooled together many assorted transporting vehicles, it will be pertinent if real estate developers and investors look into similar options for accommodation.

Narendra Modi, please MODIfy public transport in Ahmedabad

Narendra Modi has undoubtedly done a lot to MODIfy Gujarat.

His no-nonsense approach towards getting things done is what India needs. In the absence of any other equally resolute, determined, articulate and confident leader who also has huge public acceptance, he remains the only hope for a MODIfied India. He has clearly shown by his work in Gujarat that he has all the credentials to surely make a positive difference to India.

But, among all the good and great things that he has done for Gujarat. There is one small thing which needs his attention. And that is, public transport in Ahmedabad. My recent and earlier visits to the city showed that the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service (AMTS) is anything but efficient. The frequency is bad, buses are in bad shape, the drivers are careless and always-in-hurry and the service is pathetic.

The auto rickshaw service in the city is worse. The metering system is almost 30-years old. The auto drivers are always aiming at fleecing the passengers for some easy money by taking new people in the city for a ride literally. The general attitude of the autowallas in the city is rude and greedy. I have hardly come across any co-operative auto man in Ahmedabad. Their lot in the railway station area is the worst. They don’t follow metering system and even the Traffic Police don’t do anything even after told to intervene.  There is also a shared auto system (called ‘shuttle’) in the city which carries at times EIGHT passengers along with the driver. I have sat in such a ‘shared’ auto with 7 others… It is downright risky. But in the absence of any other viable transport system, people have to take such risks.

Ahmedabad is growing in all directions, but this growth will not sustain if corresponding public transport facilities are not added. Currently, public transport infrastructure in the city is grossly inadequate, and traffic police is virtually invisible to control the menace of auto rickshaws.

NaMo should intervene and influence the town developers in Ahmedabad, with the example of Mumbai. A lot of progress of Mumbai has happened thanks to its robust public transport system of local trains, buses and auto/taxis.

Till then, a visitor to Ahmedabad will have to bear the brunt of the rude, greedy auto-men and inefficient bus services. This makes the city visit memorable for all the wrong reasons. Along with developing all other parts of the state, NaMo must immediately look into this issue and MODIfy it also.