Monthly Archives: June 2014

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

हम कस्टमर के अनुभव को कैसे बरबाद करते है?

पर्यावरण को खराब होता बचाने के लिए Green Initiative के अनुसार हर बार Printed Statement न भेजना पडे इस लिए HDFC Bank ने हमारे बेन्क एकाउन्ट का पासबूक भेजा, ताकि जब जरुरत हो तब हम उसे Update करा सकें | इस से बैंक का स्टेशनरी और courier खर्चा कम होगा |

स्वीकार्य है |

लेकिन जब पासबूक नया छापा है, कस्टमर के नाम-अड्रेस छापे हैं, तो उस में अभी की current balance भी तो छप ही सकती थी ना? आज तक की बेलेन्स उसी कोम्प्युटर में से उसे छापना है जहां से यह पासबूक छपी है और उसका कोइ अलग खर्च भी नहीं होनेवाला है | फिर भी बैंक ने plain passbook भेज दिया है | अब पहली बार उस में entry कराने के लिए बैंक के लाखों ग्राहकोंको ब्रान्च में जाना पडेगा |

अगर HDFC Bank ने कस्टमर के Reference से सोचा होता, तो उसने पासबूक का पहला पेज current balance को छापकर ही भेजा होता | एक छोटी सी लापरवाही लाखों कस्टमर के लाखों घंटों का समय-शक्ति बरबाद कर देती है |

हमें हमेशा अपने कस्टमर की सुविधा का विचार करना चाहिए | अगर हमारा हर कर्मचारी, हमारा हर डीपार्टमेन्ट की सोच के केन्द्र में कस्टमर का खयाल करना स्थापित हो, तो ऐसी बिना सोच-समज के Decisions नहीं लिए जाएंगे |

अगर हम वैसा नहीं कर पाये तो कस्टमर की नाराज़गी स्वाभाविक है |

How to handle exam failure?

This is a season of school and college results. Like every examination result, this year, too, there will be many joys and some disappointments.

Handling exam result setbacks is difficult, but not impossible. I have passed through such frustrating experiences.

On the day when I got news of my result much below my expectation, I was shattered. The world seemed to end that day. It was too bad to handle. I felt terribly sense of shame and clueless.

But thankfully, I survived. And no, the world did not end. Neither did it stop.

I did not get good marks as per the expectations of myself and others. But, I got some important learning.

The learnings are :
1) The result is only the reflection of my performance on a particular day. It is definitely not the reflection of my abilities.

2) I learnt that time is the best healer.
With time, I forgot everything, including the painful disappointment that overwhelmed me on that day. I learnt that “This, too, will pass.”

3) The best thing happened was that now I had an experience to deal with a personal setback and survive it. It sort of prepared me to deal with life’s circumstances with renewed resilience.

So, if you are not happy with your exam result, don’t worry. Learn from the failure. Move on.

Remember,  few marks more don’t make you a Hero and few less don’t convert you into Zero.

Life is much more than a mark sheet.

Business management lessons from AAP’s failure

The sudden rise and equally sudden fall of Aam Aadmi Party has some important learning lessons for businesses which are currently in the growth mode.

Many businesses which start with a rapid growth in the beginning, start faltering after growing to a specific size. Maintaining growth momentum after attaining some size becomes a real challenge which few companies can overcome. Others either stagnate at that level or go back downhill.

AAP faced some management challenges which it could not overcome. Growing companies also face similar challenges. The debacle of AAP in 2014 elections has some management lessons for growing businesses.

Arvind Kejriwal’s
AAP rose to popularity really too fast. It promised a hope of a corruption free India. It is a success story of a brand getting hugely popular too fast. But, the brand AAP did not live up to the hype it generated. Why? Here are some reasons.

Management Bandwidth
One reason for AAP’s failure is the lack of Management Bandwidth. Just like many suddenly grown companies, AAP, too , faced lack of quality, talented and experienced manpower who could manage the party’s affairs and could provide leadership at various levels of the organization.

Only Branding Focus,
No marketing
AAP and Arvind Kejriwal are good at grabbing media attention and thereby keeping their brand afresh in popular mind. Somehow or the other AAP and its leader kept themselves in the news. Huge advertising budget and a lot of noise in the media may ensure brand awareness and visibility, it may not necessarily ensure marketplace success of the product. The product has to deliver on the brand promise. Here is where AAP failed. Media hype was good, but the party failed to deliver what it was expected to. Particularly, after the Delhi government fiasco, it became clear that AAP was good at agitations and not in execution. Along with focusing on popular attention, AAP should also have developed its own governance and administration arms.

Lack Of Structure
In any family managed business, there is no structure and the family members monopolize control over all decisions and resources. AAP functioned just like such a  business where all decision making rested with a select group of people. This lack of democracy disillusioned many big names in the party who deserted it recently.

Even though it is not the end of the road for AAP and it can definitely recover from the recent setback, it will have to make greater efforts to bounce back due to its own mistakes.

The business which wishes to cash in on its initial success must learn from these mistakes and avoid them.