Friday, June 27, 2008

Technology and the Indian Farmer

The Indian Farmer has lived in poverty and extreme circumstances for a long time. Technology now provides a glimmer of hope and promises to grow their businesses.


When farmers in northern India's Uttar Pradesh state harvested their wheat in the past, they usually had to sell to local middlemen at whatever price was offered. Now, thanks to the Internet, they can get higher prices for their crops.In villages in Uttar Pradesh and eight other states, farmers can go to an Internet kiosk where they have access to a network set up by the India Tobacco Company. On the network, known as e-Choupal, they can check prices and sell their crops online.

Computerised Milk!
A quiet revolution is taking place in the unremarkable town of Baramati. It was all very different in Baramati just a few years ago. Then, the milk was sold locally, if at all. Its recently installed computerised and automated milk collection centres are helping India retain its new-found position as the world's largest milk producer.Its 100,000 largely illiterate dairy farmers milked their few cattle by hand and struggled to get to market before the searing heat turned the milk sour. At the market, they could never be sure they would find a buyer, day after day. But cutting-edge technology used in the collection, processing and sale of milk is triggering a "white" revolution in the 150 dairy-farming villages around Baramati.

Text Messaging Advice
IITians are helping farmers find answers to their crop problems. And they do this with SMSes.Standing in the middle of his vineyard with a laptop in hand, 30-year-old Sandeep Khode is perhaps the face of the new techno-savvy Indian farmer, who gets expert agricultural advice by posting queries online at call centres across the country are answering farmers' queries related to everything from fungus on brinjals to kisan credit cards and prices of insecticides.Set up by the Department of Agriculture, under the Ministry of Agriculture, in January 2004 with an initial investment of Rs 100 crore (US$1=Rs43), the Kisan Call Centres - a single-knowledge pool catering to Indian farmers across the country - are proving a boon for the farming community. Farmers can dial the toll-free telephone number - 1551 - to get specialists, positioned at 84 call centres across the country, to answer a repertoire of questions related to agriculture and allied fields.

AgroSupply Chain Improvements
Infosys Technologies has partnered with ACDI/VOCA, a non-profit international development organization that promotes broad-based economic growth, to develop an Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-enabled application that would improve efficiencies in the agro supply chain in India. The solution minimizes inventory requirements, reduces waste and allows retailers and farmers to be better integrated.The application also gives farmers real-time access to agricultural experts, thereby improving farming technology at an overall level.

A video-conferencing system
Intellicon does wonders for farmers in Rajasthan. Technology is moving ahead and so have the farmers in Rajasthan, all credit to the two-way Aethra video conferencing system. The video conferencing system has recently been installed by the Rajasthan government in Krishi Vidya Kendras (KVKs) in 10 districts.The system connects 11 locations spread across Maharana Pratap University of Agriculture & Technology in Rajasthan. The farmers are now using video conferencing to procure good quality seeds, fertilisers and for others inputs. These systems also help them access market-related information and most importantly market their products in a better way.

Weather Advisories
Millions of Indian farmers will soon get district specific agro-weather advisories to boost agricultural produce and reduce losses due to the vagaries of nature. This will be done by the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) in collaboration with agricultural universities across the country. This will cut down the error margin and benefit the farmer most.

I wonder about the scale of these initiatives and hope one day all farmers will have access and use these technologies to make their business's better and more efficient.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The race to build India's biggest mall

A number of large malls are being developed in India. The opening up of these malls will give a considerable boost to the Indian Retail Industry.

The DB Realty -Orchid Ozone

DB Realty, India’s fastest growing real estate and hospitality conglomerate, is developing Orchid OZONE - India’s biggest mall with over 2.5 million sq. ft at Dahisar, North Mumbai. Being built with an investment of USD 175 million (Rs. 700 crore), the mall promises to transform the sector by ushering the Next Level of international benchmarks in the Indian retail industry.

Orchid Ozone will be a complete and unique retail experience spread over 1.6 million sq. ft for urban shoppers. In addition, it will also comprise of luxurious lifestyle and entertainment choices such as:
* Mystifying Water themed atrium by Wet Design Inc, USA
* A 20-screen megaplex theatre
* A 125 room boutique hotel
* A 50,000 sq. ft kids ‘play & care’ zone
* Travolators to connect shoppers seamlessly from one level of the mall to the other.
* Large food courts offering world cuisine that overlook the scintillating water themed atriums.

Open to shoppers :2009 -2010

Mall of India

Gurgaon, already over-crowded with malls, is set to get the mother of all malls -- a humungous 40-lakh sq ft sprawling property that is being touted by its developer DLF Universal as the biggest mall of the world.The average size of malls here is 2.5 lakh sq ft; this will be 16 times bigger. The mall -- christened Mall of India -- will be spread over 32 acres and will have parking space for 10,000 cars.

Open to shoppers :2009

Emaar MGF Mall

Taking realty major DLF head-on, Emaar MGF is planning to build India's largest mall. Currently on the drawing boards, the mall will ape the world's largest mall (spread over 5.8 million sq. ft.) being built by the compan’s partner (Emaar) in Dubai.

Open to shoppers : TBD

It will be interesting to see how the decline in the Indian real estate market affects the construction of these projects. With a growing inflation and high oil prices, it is likely that the malls open up at a time when the Indian consumer confidence is at its lowest since 2002.

The Electric Vehicle Revolution in India

Electric vehicles are virtually maintenance free. It has no gears, no engine, no belt or chain drive, zero emission, no pollution, electronic start and accelerator, besides it is exempted from the Central Vehicles registration act by the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and does not require any registration.

Electric Cars
  • Reva, a battery-run, two-door electric passenger car runs like a car but doesn't pollute like a car.India's accelerated economic growth over the past decade has given rise to tremendous growth in air pollution, 70 percent of which is attributed to cars, buses and other vehicles.Designed to fill the niche between the two wheelers and traditional, gas-guzzling cars, Reva comfortably seats two adults and two children. The car's battery has a life-span of 40,000 kilometers, and on a single charge, the Reva can be driven for 80 kilometers. It's price-approximately US $5,000-is competitive in India's current car market.You can read more about it at if in UK or if in India.
  • The Morbi-based world famous clock-maker Ajanta group is planning to manufacture an electric car at its unit at Samkhiyali in Kutch district and market it at a price lower than Rs 1-lakh Nano. The Ajanta group is serious in its attempt to keep the basic price of the proposed car as low as Rs 85,000. At present, in the electric car segment only Reva car is available in India.

Electric Bikes
  • Indus Elec-trans, a division of Electrotherm (ET), is formed to manufacture electric vehicles and hybrid electric vehicles. .Currently INDUS has commenced manufacture of hi-tech electric two wheelers, YObykes at the state-of-the-art plant at Kutch in Gujarat. Development of Electric three wheelers, four wheelers and hybrid electric low floor buses are on anvil for future.The price of products range from 16000 to 36000 depending on the power of the battery and the electric motor.
At current, heavily subsidized, fuel prices, battery-operated electric vehicles (EVs) cost only about one-tenth as much to run as petrol-driven vehicles, and those drawing power from overhead central grid-connected lines, even less.A number of Indian companies, from places as varied as Chennai, Kolkata and Rajkot, have announced plans to make electric cars. The number of electric two wheeler brands in the market already exceeds 20 and is growing.

Can this industry reduce India's dependence on foreign oil? The price of oil over the next few years and continued government support will be important for the growth of this industry.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A billion dollar home and a billion dollar slum

The Billion Dollar Home

Up a winding, tree-lined street away from the constant chaos of India's financial capital lies the construction site for what is believed to be the most expensive home in the world.The house -- more like a tower, really -- is estimated to cost $1 billion, and its future resident, Mukesh Ambani, is India's richest man.As designed by Chicago architecture firm Perkins + Will, the in-progress glass-tower is estimated at $1 billion and is known to feature, at the least, a health club, multiple "safe" rooms, 3 helipads, 168 parking spaces and require 600 servants to maintain, and physically, the structure stands at 27 stories, or 570 feet tall.

The Billion Dollar Slum

Dharavi, in India's commercial capital Bombay (Mumbai), is Asia's largest slum. Made up of ramshackle corrugated tin sheds it is home to almost a million people. It is 500 acres in length and is estimated to be the most densely populated area on earth.But it is a unique shanty town.Thanks to a thriving crafts industry, Dharavi generates business worth nearly $1bn a year. Local workshops turn out leather goods, pottery, and jewellery, much of it destined for shop shelves in the West.

As India progresses into the 21st century the growing divide between the rich and the poor grows wider!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

BMC and the Monsoons

Mumbai, India's financial capital is in a pitiful state every year during the monsoons.Roads get flooded, house leaks are rampant and rains practically disrupt travel within Mumbai.

A month ago, the BMC ( Mumbai’s local municipal body) had assured the masses, that this year, there will be no waterlogging on the streets due to the annual rains. They had claimed to have arranged for an efficient drainage system which was ‘monsoon-ready’ !

With a budget of Rs9,865crores (or more than US$ 2billion), the BMC is the richest civic body in India. Understandably so, considering its mandate is to keep Mumbai running.

But year after year, inspite of BMC's assurances, Mumbai drowns during Monsoons. I have attempted to research the reasons for their failure.


For close to two decades, the BMC has been run by the Shiv Sena-Bhartiya Janata Party combine. However, with the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party Combine winning the State Elections in 2004, power over the city had been split.

With opposing parties running Mumbai’s largest and most important organizations, there have always been spats, face-offs and blame games between both organizations, and hence political parties, for all the ills plaguing this city. Crater filled roads ? Blame the MMRDA for digging up all the roads for the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP). Choked up drains ? Blame the BMC for not clearing the pipes before the monsoons. And so on and so forth the blame games between both organisations have continued for some time.

Basic Resources

Even with the rains a few days away from the city, our traffic cops are yet to get their basic rain gear. The department claims their written requests for the same to the state government and the BMC have not garnered any replies yet.The budget for the monsoon gear — including raincoats, boots, umbrellas, torches, emergency food packets, medicines, inflatable boats, etc — is approximately Rs 15 crore. The traffic department is now thinking of using last year’s rain gear, most of which is likely in very bad condition

Subway flooding

The problem of subways getting flooded during monsoon is due to the absence of proper drains. While most subways are situated below railway lines, the BMC and the railway authorities have done nothing -- except heavy paper work -- for improving conditions near subways

A major link between the eastern and western part of a suburb have been flooded with storm water. The BMC makes pre-monsoon arrangements like desilting of nullahs close to subways but the proximity of stables owned by former corporators has left BMC with no option but to neglect them.


The Indian Railways and the BMC spend millions of rupees on the eve of the monsoon, hoping to clear up the debris that has been piling up over the past 12 months.But a nexus between shady contractors and corrupt officials results in the efforts being washed up in the very first rains.


People in Mumbai are used to throwing garbage on the streets, drainage and sometimes even from their houses. Much of this garbage finds itself in the drainage pipes and chokes them. We see the result of choked pipes during the monsoons. The growing Mumbai population does not make it easy for BMC to execute its planned tasks.

Given the issues above BMC cannot be soley blamed for Mumbai's woos. The state government , political parties and the people of Mumbai are all to be partly blamed for this mess.