Tuesday, 10 January, 2017

New telephone number scheme, India's chance to lead?

As a kid, one of the tasks I got every summer was to prepare a dairy of all telephone numbers and postal addresses sorted in alphabetical order. I remember atleast two instances of changes to numbering plan, when Bangalore moved from 5/6digit numbers to 7digits and then to 8 digit telephone numbers.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) has announced setting up a committee to review numbering plans. Quite likely, we will soon have a new numbering plan for the country due to the huge increase in telephone/internet connections in the past decade. Like I did in my childhood, millions of consumers will have to update thousands of contacts on their phone to the new numbers. But since our address books today are digital,you could expect TRAI to provide us an app to update thousands of contacts in one click! The telephony problem too could be solved by a simple redirection database/service.

But a new numbering scheme will still be a huge logistical nightmare for the whole country (and probably a bigger fiasco than the recent currency demonetisation). This is because our phone numbers today are much more than just telephone numbers! To enumerate some

  • Today, a phone number is a person's identity. Whatsapp, BHIM/UPI, and thousands of other applications identify a person by their telephone number. If your telephone number changes, each of these service providers must provide you a mechanism to update your identity, and you must participate if you want to continue to use those services
  • A phone number is also an authentication mechanism - Banks, Aadhar, Gmail etc use the phone to authenticate your transactions (like 2FA), so possessing a number is equivalent of your signature in the old paper world. No piece of software will ever be allowed to update your signature on your behalf, so you must update it yourself manually.
  • A phone number is also used as a hidden/back-up auth mechanism. Should you forget your google or facebook login password, you can reset it with a code sent as a SMS to your telephone number. Quite likely, you wont update them if you don't even login to that service for a long time. And you probably don't even remember all the services with which you have shared your telephone number!
So, whats the primary requirement on the new numbering scheme? Traditionally, they got a volume projection (or total number of connections) as the primary requirement, such as to support 1 billion telephone numbers. Any such volume projection can get exhausted in a decade due to changing technology/lifestyles. What if all automobiles, consumer electronic gadgets at home and other "things" need a telephone number in future for internet connectivity? Can we afford to force so much "unproductive" work on all our people every decade?

So, the primary requirement for the new numbering scheme would be perpetual scalability. Traditional call routing on analog exchanges enforced a fixed number of digits. Digital exchanges with routing implemented in software need not have such limitations. They have to take inspiration from email address scheme; our grand-children could possibly use the same scheme, albeit with  longer ids/addresses.

I haven't come across any nation that has defined such a numbering scheme, without assuming a fixed/maximum number of digits in telephone numbers. TRAI has a chance to lead the world into the future, and I hope they do latch onto it.

Friday, 2 January, 2009

New year resolutions

Till date, I have never made a new year resolution. So, I am feeling strongly against making one. Add to it, most people don’t keep their new year resolutions into Feb/March.

But then, my resolutions were not made during or specifically for the new year. These are thoughts that have bothered me over the bulk of the past year. So, I don’t intend to call it new year resolutions.

Over the past year, I have been thinking greatly about the kind of job I should take, being friendly to the environment, urban youth education, my own ‘further education’, my social commitments amongst a lot of other things. So, my mind has been clogged by these thoughts, since I haven’t bothered to blog them (Thanks Ritesh).

Even in this post,  I am not writing about these. This post is like a mail I wrote a few friends last week, in which I promised to get back to them by the end of the year about my work to the society during the year. Similarly, at the end of the ‘new’ year, I will blog on the same.

As the saying goes “Barking dogs don’t bite!”, I don’t want to keep barking. But then, I also need to ‘bark’ a little; If I don’t, there is no pressure to ‘bite’!! I fear complacency.. And, in sharp contrast to the crux of the post, I will resolve to give up the ‘habit’ from the new year!!

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, 11 November, 2008

Bye, Bye Sourav

         I would have loved to come up a compilation of quotes on Sourav Ganguly like this. But, I was many more times impressed by this tribute to Ganguly by a Pakistani Blogger. He presents the top 10 Ganguly moments from his perspective, but to me there is nothing that portrays the spirit of the man better than this Pepsi ad. This is what I will remember Ganguly for.

Ganguly Pepsi Ad

Sunday, 2 November, 2008

Anil Kumble announces retirement??

I am no one to pay a tribute to the great man. I recollect the words of Ravi Shastri (at the ceremony to congratulate AK on getting 600 wickets in Chennai on 25 March 2008). See the DH Article attached.

Friday, 5 September, 2008

Teachers Day

    I use this platform to convey my gratitude to all my teachers. They have put a lot of effort in moulding me into my present form.

    A special mention is needed of my high school class teacher, CSP (CS Patil), who instilled a lot of my values. Another teacher I need to remember today is NJS (Siddaraju), since it was because of some special quality in him that started respecting all my teachers, irrespective of their perceived competencies.

Thursday, 4 September, 2008

First Thoughts on Google Chrome Browser

    When I heard of a new browser from Google, I got too excited to have a look. I was waiting for the download link to be enabled. Google Chrome, though in beta, should beat Firefox and IE hands down. Or so, was my impression.

    Finally, when the download link was available, I did manage to download the installer. Weighing just 475KB, I was surprised and thought only Google can pull out such a lightweight and feature-rich product. All this frenzy was to last only till I started to run the installer. Because, only then did I realise that I had downloaded only a stub, and the actual installable is hidden from the user. The usage of an installation stub was a deviation from the other Google products – Talk, Picasa, Desktop, which allow the user to install the software offline.

    At the first look, the "New Tab" page is a good design. It lists the most frequently used items - along with a thumbnail, the bookmarks, and the recently closed tabs. Chrome integrates the address bar and search bar into one. The argument is that you now need one bar to search either the web or your history. But there is a contradiction because they have added a new box to search the history items!! Other than this contradiction, the combined search bar (erstwhile address bar) is a failure to me, since it intertwines history (URL) results with suggestion terms for a Google search. Unless these two are displayed with a clear separator, it is a clear no-no for me.

    How does it perform? The Chrome browser runs a process for the main browser and opens every tab in a separate process. The intension is that if one tab crashes, the whole browser application need not come down. But, this fails miserably with memory management. On most PCs, you will find a notable reduction in the performance once you open 5-6 tabs. Now that's another disappointment!!

    There's a new feature to open a link in a incognito window. Data related to pages that are open in the incognito window are not stored on the local machine. So, you won't find that item in history, and no password or cookies are going to be stored for pages opened from that window. For me, it's not a useful feature, since my browsing of the web is restricted to safe-sites!!

    And since it's a new browser, there is still no support for download managers, or any other such add-ins. This is completely understandable for a beta of a new software, but surprisingly, Chrome supports only the scroll down from a scroll device, but not scroll up!!

Recommendation: Wait for a while till the browser improves, and you have some useful add-ons. Remember, nobody likes the Firefox browser without the add-ons!!

Friday, 23 May, 2008

Of election dates, results and downfall of kingmakers

One would remember that the Karnataka Congress was not ready for an election in May. They took the alibi of delimitation in their appeal for September (or even November) polls. So, I don't expect the Congress to get majority this time, since they themselves aren't confident of it. The BJP planned to harp on the great betrayal by the JDS. As time passed by, it has lost out the sympathy factor. BJP would have preferred the elections to be held in January this year. So, it may miss out on getting majority for the second time running. So, the biggest beneficiary of the present dates of the elections would be the JDS. Not that they can achieve majority, for Gowda and sons are keener to be kingmakers. The elections are most likely to throw up a hung assembly.
The Congress has too many chief ministerial aspirants. Former CMs SM Krishna and Dharam Singh, party chief Mallikarguna Kharge now have competition from the latest imports from JDS, Siddaramaiah and MP Prakash. There are some dark horses in HK Patil and DK Shivakumar. All of them would be interested in capturing the gaddi. In case of a hung assembly, Deve Gowda would ensure that SMK, DKS and the new recruits from JDS are kept away from the government. Congress would not like Deve Gowda to decide its leader. If the two join together, it could be toss-up between Kharge and HK Patil for the CMs post. That would mean Gowda and sons consolidating their land (err.. literally) for the next three years. Yes, three years is right. The assembly can't last the full term with Gowda and sons calling the shots.
The BJP has a clear leader in Yediyurappa. In case of a hung assembly, he would not be foolish to support Gowda. He would be wary of even accepting their support, since they fought the elections mainly against the JDS. A BJP-JDS combine is, without an iota of doubt, out of question.
So, the Congress-JDS combine is most likely to form a government. That combination could divide the Congress, since the most influential Congress leaders are opposed to Gowda. So, if for any reason, the Congress-JDS combine doesn't come through, there could still be a way out, and without fresh elections. Confused?? Read on...
The 2004 elections were fought with anti-BJP rhetoric, all over the country. That forced the Congress and JDS to come together. SM Krishna, the only hitch then, was shielded from serious charges of corruption with gubernatorial duties. The sole intention of the combine then was to keep the BJP out of power. This time though, both the BJP and Congress have fought the elections against the JDS. Keeping JDS out of power is their common objective. That could be enough to bring them together. So, I won't be surprised if Congress provides outside support to the BJP, or BJP to the Congress!!! As they say, politics can make strange bedfellows!!
The game is about to begin... Whoever said the IPL was the most-fought and entertaining event of the year, Karnataka may just prove them wrong!!
PS: I wrote this post for IBN-live website. Click here to access the same post on IBN blogs.

Monday, 14 January, 2008

Tata Nano: Why it won’t succeed

        Wow !! A car for just 1 lakh!! The Tatas believe it will be successful, since the potential market numbers in millions. But the, the same is true of a 35k motorbike as well. All those low-end motorcycles have failed miserably. Bajaj CT100 is probably the only exception. It failed to attract consumers after the initial euphoria. So, does the ‘cheap’ car really sell? I don’t think so.

        As Amitabh Bachcan says in the “India Poised” campaign, “there are two Indias”. One India is of the past, which was not only cost-sensitive but was seen as low cost business provider by the world. There’s another India, which is very successful, delivers the best quality of products and expects to consume the same. “The first India is dying, with more and more of its population crossing over to the new India” says Amitabh. It is this India That I expect to reject the new car. This India is keen on ‘Nano’technology, not interested in the old ‘iPod Nano’ or the new ‘Tata Nano’.

        If the economic superbia is not enough reason, consider Tata’s history. The first version of any of its cars – be it Safari, Indica, Indigo etc – have not been successful. When Indica was launched ten years ago, it couldn’t compete with ordinary cars like Santro and Matiz. It later made a resounding comeback – ala Ganguly – so much so, I compelled my father to buy Indica and nothing else!!

        That’s not all that history tells you. It also tells you that Tata Motors do not have any credible petrol engine product. The success of Indica has been driven by its diesel models, a popular choice for taxi operators. Tata Motors claim (on their website) to have 4 million vehicles running on Indian roads, but ask them how many of these are petrol vehicles (around 10%, that’s my estimate) and the answer wouldn’t surprise me.

        Despite such opinions, I have no doubt that the initial craze may create a large short-term demand for the car. Sooner or later, I will also buy the car, irrespective of public perception and quality, for it’s the most stylish car (from the pictures) since Maruti Zen.

        I adore the Tata group for following the fairest business practices. They have been striving hard to build a new India. I would be happy if my prediction goes wrong.

Boosting the Rural Economy. Incomplete, Dump of my thoughts

I happened to read the June 11th issues of the India Today. The cover story Grain Drain provides a gloomy picture of the nation’s food reserves and production capacity. Some of the issues ailing the agro sector are
i. Land holding of a typical farmer has decreased significantly over the years. This means a farmer today has a smaller piece of land, and finds it difficult to produce enough quantity (of crop) to get back his costs.
ii. In the past 6-7 years, all the regions of the country have witnessed atleast two droughts/floods, if not more. This means that for those two years, the farmer has not been able to repay his loans, and hence has a bleak possibility of getting further loan. This is the driving factor for farmer suicides.
iii. A critical problem is that around 70% of the population is dependant on agriculture. It is very difficult to deliver any benefits on such a large scale.
Given these problems, a primary school student will provide a solution like – increase land holdings of farmer, help him get enough money and reduce the size of farming community. What we need is a solution as simple as that!!
The government should allow, and mandate, large private companies to invest in agriculture. Obscure! Is it? Let me tell you the benefits for the parties involved.

It’s not a new idea for private companies to invest in agriculture. Tata has been doing it for its tea business, much like other tea companies.
The telecom revolution started initially in the metros and soon spread over to the large cities. Even as the telcos started growing in the cities, they had spread to the towns. Now that the telephone connections have stagnated in the urban areas, the growth is being driven by the demand in the small towns and large villages. You will surely witness the same pattern in retail. Now, have a look at the companies operating in the telecom sector – Reliance, Bharti (Airtel), Tatas, Birlas (Idea). You will see that these business houses are going to drive retail sector also. They need to build efficient procurement and delivery systems. Still not clear?
One of the biggest problems today’s farmers have is the scale of operation. The farmers more or less continue to operate on the same land for attractive salaries (yes, you read it right!) by Reliance (Reliance, as a synonym for innovative business practices). The Reliance, in turn, gets the right to dictate the farmer what crop to grow, collaborate with neighbouring ‘salaried’ farmer, share resources like well, bore-well, motors, tractors etc.
Long ago, my father was working for a nationalised bank and pursuing his law course as well. My grandfather, a businessman, took a promise from my father that he will not practice law, only because a bank job would guarantee a ‘known’ monthly income, irrespective of competence and other factors such as luck, business environment etc. Similarly, the farmer would be happy to take a salary, and get insured against drought, flood or any other natural calamity and be absolved of loan, buying seeds and fertilisers and so on.

Friday, 4 January, 2008

Happy New Year to all fans of reservation politics

Even as people were busy exchanging greetings for the new year, I was engrossed thinking about the some of the issues that will for sure make headlines in the year.
The year-end (of course, he may continue as a ‘dummy’ till mid-Jan 2009), will see the end of George Bush, atleast as President of USA. That could mean that the Indo-US nuke deal should be sealed by October or it would be lost forever. The Manmohan government will be under pressure to finalise the deal. That is enough reason for the Left to call for early elections( yes, they call the shots..not the centre or PM)!!
Whether or not this happens, reservation is going to be a sure-shot tamasha. No party got much mileage from the 27% reservation for OBCs in premier educational institutions. Much noise has been made about reservation in private sector, with more to come in 2008. But then, calm down, it wont be implemented, thanks to an ‘hyperactive’ judiciary, industry and the UPA , which ‘wishes’ to come back to go on with its unfinished job. Vote for UPA!! Vote for hunger!!
I truly believe that reservation can be an effective tool for uplifting the less developed sections of the country. But, I do not subscribe to the UPA school of thought. Such a system, over the last five decades, has not financially helped the underprivileged much. What it has achieved is to instil leniency in the so-called ‘backward’ classes and frustration in the so-called ‘forward’ classes. Let me share my experiences.
I was preparing for GATE 2005 with my friend, my namesake. A ‘backward’ classmate of mine told me he “pitied” us,” for you have to work hard to get decent scores like 95. If I get 80, I will be happy”. Knowing well that had irritated us a lot, he repeated that frequently, and laughed to get sadistic pleasure.
More than a year later, I had applied for MSc at 3 departments of IISc. I met him again, when I had been there for an interview. He came in atleast half an hour late and the first candidate had already come out to tell us the horror of 15-20 professors pouncing on the poor fellow with near-simultaneous questions. As soon as he came in, he saw me and walked towards me. I expected him to ask me about the procedures, the venue or just talk pleasantries, for we had met after a long time. Instead, he asked me who was in-charge of the interview, and I pointed to the person, sitting close to me. I was expecting him to ask the in-charge a similar set of questions. Instead, he asked about the travelling allowance that he was entitled to, only to get a rude reply!!
As he came back to the seat next to me, he asked “How many calls have you got?”, quite politely, I must add. “One, only this” I replied. “That fellow, the other Srivatsa?” he asked, rather audaciously. “Two, EEE and CEDT” and I had to stop when he started a long “Hhhheeeeeeeehhh”. “I got three” he said, with contempt clearly visible. This after the fellow was just happy, err got 80 percentile, while I managed around 96 and my friend around 98. Even a year after graduation, despite numerous attempts, he had not managed to get a job in Bangalore’s IT industry, where we jokingly say “trespassers will be recruited”.
Those were not the only time I was agitated about reservations. Immediately after PUC(12th), we had to take up an entrance test for getting admission into any of the engineering colleges in Karnataka. Any 3-digit rank was definitely considered good and I was happy to have ‘achieved’ it.
A good friend of mine, who attended tuitions with me and had a ranking of around 2400, could have utilised reservation to get into good engineering colleges. His father pestered him into getting a caste-certificate done. He was against it, saying he would get into a college ‘he deserved’. He said this to his father even after he got his results. Less than a month later, two days before my turn for selecting seat (on basis of our ranking, we were called to select the course and college),I called him, only to know that he had already finished his under the 2A quota. The same day evening, when I went to play cricket with neighbourhood friends, another person with a rank of 8500, told me that he had secured a seat in a top Mysore college. There were three main categories of seats, subsidised, general merit and payment (some kind of cross-subsidisation). Just to put things in perspective, while those two got seats with subsidised fees, I could not opt for the same courses even by paying a much higher fee, almost 5-7 times the fee they paid.
I have nothing personally against the two. I only envy them. They were born lucky (You will agree that it’s not my mistake that I was born in a particular sub-caste!!!). But then, I do complain about the system, for which I have my remedies.
As already illustrated, individual progress, and hence the progress of the society he/she lives in, is not determined by caste. Nor can economics be the sole determining criterion. If reservation has to be implemented, it should be based on socio-economic and regional factors. Just because some society is ‘backward’ in a particular geographical region, it doesn’t imply that the same community is ‘backward’ in some other region as well. Politicians have successfully marketed this fact as a majority-minority distribution issue, going on to suggest that minorities are ‘backward’.
We need to balance the adverse impact of reservation with merit, so as to ensure inclusive and sustainable social growth. To put it simply, reservation should not hamper the growth of any part of the society. For this, quantum of reservation (for a particular section) should be determined by the performance of that particular section in the recent past.
In Karnataka, during my years as a student, there was a common entrance test(CET), for admission into engineering and medicinal courses. That was hailed as a fair and transparent system. Based on performance in the CET and other academic, ranks were allotted to students. Of the tens of thousands of people who took the exams, consider only the top 5%-10% performing students. The social distribution in this set of students should determine the quantum of reservation of the community. So, no community can afford to be complacent, since if the students from that community do not much representation amongst the top performers, they do not stand to gain much. This will ensure that one group will not eat into another, more meritorious, group.
The drawback here is that if some section of the society has very small representation in the first (present) sample, they will take a long time to improve their position, or may even lose the battle completely. To ensure a fair chance for everyone, we should gradually move from the fixed reservation system (the Arjun Singh school of thought: 27% reservation for OBCs in IITs, IIMs and AIIMS, irrespective of whether or not they are inclined towards the kind of education) to the merit-based floating reservation system proposed above.
Having proposed the floating reservation system, I do not believe that any form of reservation is an effective means of achieving inclusive social growth. Though this can be a short-term solution, affirmative action remains the only long term solution. India, not only needs affirmative action, but can also afford to take the route. Over here, I am only seconding the views of the Constituent Assembly. Since India of 1950s couldn’t afford affirmative action as a means to provide good quality education, jobs and standard of life to all sections of the society, reservation was expected to be a low-cost alternative for a period of ten years. As a matter of fact, the concept of reservation has to be approved by the central cabinet for a maximum of ten years, with the last extension of ten years approved by the NDA government in 2001.
Wait for more suggestions on affirmative action….