Wednesday, December 23, 2009

(Much needed )Change

News on TV few days ago . Sense of déjà vu in hearing spokespersons of the Congress and BJP *. Seldom do they have a point of view that is progressive . They are either defending themselves or attacking the others. The issue could range from the trivial to grave. That's incidental. They are steadfast in their approach. They manage to drag down the standards for conduct , quality of thought to a sub-zero level. The country suffers status quo and stagnation as the monkey show goes on day after day.

It used to be that way in some industries (in India ) - e.g airlines where one endured the incompetence of Indian Airlines . Thankfully more and more sectors face competition either by new players in the industry or a product/service offering from another industry that meets the need of the consumer. There's hardly any business that can afford to operate in a stagnant way and not experience the consequence of it .Unfortunately for the people of India the politicians are still able to get away with their self-serving , least common denominator approach #. One hopes that 2010 will bring in a change on this account...Each of us will contribute to making that change.

*Congress , BJP representative of political parties . The nonsense is no way limited to them.
# Every walk of life has people of integrity and good intention. In Indian politics such people are outnumbered as of now.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Browsing through a book store I noticed a copy of 'The Noticer' :) Sometimes , all a person needs is a little perspective. True of mankind at an individual and collective level.

It's easy to get into an 'auto' mode while navigating through life or at least in the moments one sees as a means to an end. Quite literally the long commutes in places like Mumbai. The crowd , the poor quality of roads and the sheer time it takes are reasons enough to switch off , get annoyed or switch on an MP3 player in a bid to escape the din. Each of these moments has the potential to introduce us to something inspiring , beautiful , insightful , humorous. If we choose to notice.

Recently a friend who traveled by the trains in Mumbai noticed an elderly gentleman switching off the fans in the train when it reached it's final destination. As everyone rushed to get off the elderly gentleman went about his chosen task. Possibly not many people notice what he does (and he does it irrespective of acknowledgement or appreciation ).

The capacity to notice and the perspective is not limited to journeys.It carries through to various life circumstances bringing forth new insights and solutions enriching the world and it's futures.

Take a moment to notice

p.s - Celebrate the Noticers in your life

Thursday, December 10, 2009


While God waits for His temple to be built of Love , men bring stones .

- Tagore

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tread lightly

Spring cleaning of a cupboard by a family member yielded a file with various original documents of my school and college education, early phase of my working career. It was a surprise partly because I thought the file was in one of my cupboards . A reminder perhaps that locations are relative :)

Going through the papers evoked many memories. Some of them not so pleasant considering that they pertained to exams and a rigid educational system. Considering that my last encounter with the edu. system was years ago I have the benefit of distance to allow for a certain perspective. Some of papers represented turning points in my life that set me off on a journey that led to the present moment.

At one time these certificates , scholarships were cherished possessions that symbolized accomplishment. Today , it's a file of old papers from a bygone era. A reminder that what one seeks today will one day have a very different meaning at some point .

Tread lightly and mindfully.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Few days ago I wanted to make some additions on my wardrobe door to create an efficient arrangement to hold papers , reminders etc . Managed to get a hook. After which I realized the need for some cord to create the arrangement I had envisaged . A search revealed that there was none at home. Normally for me when inspiration strikes I want to translate into action asap. Made an alternative arrangement that currently serves the purpose.

This episode made me reflect on various products . Increasingly we find (as urban residents ) that a high and growing percentage of our needs are fulfilled by products purchased off the shelf. or services outsourced. There's less and less of DIY in a whole range of needs. Furniture , clothing , home accessories , stationery(this merits a post by itself ), packaging , gifts . The last bastion is perhaps food which too is being targeted for ready made options.

DIY/creating solutions are like a muscle . Needs to be exercised regularly. The satisfaction and joy of having created something can't be replicated by a purchased product. From a business perspective - products that have some degree of DIY built into it can engage the customer way more than a completely plug n play product *
. e.g a piece of clothing that is versatile , a home decor product that can create varying looks depending on what it is combined with. From an environment perspective DIY would be kinder on the earth . You're likely to use a product you emotionally connect with longer and with more joy - hopefully resulting in less use and dispose.

* DIY is a definite no-no in certain products . I'd be hopping mad if any electronic item I purchase has a DIY element :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

86,400 seconds

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"

~William A. Ward

Rethinking design

Thought provoking presentation on design thinking by Tim Brown of IDEO .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Go forward in faith.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Less Oil

Anyone worried about the world's oil reserves should be invited to eat Indian food in Indian restaurants. They will glimpse the oil floating on the curries . Often one needs to dive past at least a quarter inch layer of oil before making contact with the curry.

Recent attempts at cooking had me thinking that there's a great opportunity for restaurants to pitch on ' great taste less oil ' type of food . Find fun ways to demonstrate that the food indeed has minimal oil / fat content. e.g Invite nutritionists to evaluate the cooking process and the food. This would be a huge draw in most places . Folks are spending considerable effort and money to reduce weight , and in dealing with weight / lifestyle related health problems. With the current quality of food the logical choice for consumers is to cut back on eating out.All things being (reasonably) equal restaurants offering great taste with minimal oil will develop a fiercely loyal customer base.

For the restaurant offering low oil/fat food will mean a reduction in ingredient cost while offering a benefit that would be valued by customers. Win win for all involved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Strength and spirit

Pray for the Gods

Indian Gods are deaf . Or at least that is a key assumption made by millions in India. Is a prayer heard only when hooked up to a loud speaker ? Do Gods prefer movie soundtracks ?

I would have written more . The din in the neighborhood makes it impossible to do so . I'll pause for a silent prayer FOR the Gods.

An important man..

From this moment on, all the way through to Christmas, the most important man in an Indian woman’s life is not her red-hot sizzling lover; not her boyfriend who brings her bed tea and other goodies; not her daddy or sugar daddy who showers her with solitaires and antique armbands; nor her husband...The most important person in a woman’s life is the local tailor who will stitch her dreams out of brocade, silk and cotton. Oh so true .

In Indian clothing there inevitably comes a time ready made garments are simply unworkable in terms of fit and/or aesthetics. The availability of tailors who can provide styling inputs and a good fit will spur the sale of fabrics. Besides stores retailing fabrics there are several exhibitions where craftspeople from different parts of India showcase their handcrafted fabrics . Sarees , dupattas , stoles which are essentially finished products sell well. There is a regional angle to this. e.g in Delhi the culture of tailoring is much stronger than in Mumbai . The problem of not being able to get a good tailor is more true of Mumbai than possibly other parts of India.

Men have the luxury of a decent fit in ready made garments as well as brands offering 'made to measure' service. There's an opportunity for brands retailing Indian clothing for women to launch a 'made to measure' service marrying the benefits of good style , customized fit , service - creating a loyal customer base and a profitable business .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daily Dump

Daily Dump. Brilliant , much needed initiative enabling composting of wet waste at home.
View the website in detail for the benefits of composting ranging from
- gardening
- reduced burden on public waste management system
- reduced usage of plastic (to throw wet waste)
- fuel savings
- employment generation
- cleaner cities

Daily Dump products can be purchased in various cities in India .

Next , composting of non-physical waste generated each day... unproductive thoughts , feelings , fears , stress, anger.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nurture spaces

We have many strengths as Indians . Maintaining heritage structures is definitely not one of them. In fact , we have a penchant for bringing the past to the present . Beautiful , distinctive heritage structures are all made to look like characterless , dilapidated urban buildings . Ugly scaffolding , thoughtlessly placed lights , bill boards , graffiti to proclaim your latest infatuation. Hell , we can write a 'how to' book on this .

A beautifully created and nurtured space has a vital role for individuals and a collective. It can be a beacon that inspires joy and hope . Whether a mosque in the sea , a temple , college , neighborhood. Unless we awaken to this fact and preserve (or rather restore ) the beauty and sanctity of spaces we can soon find ourselves in a characterless , urban mass of concrete .

Augurs well for the outward bound tourism industry . Residents of Mumbai will need to get away more often to seek solace and rejuvenate.

Sea-side view

Marve beach , Mumbai . A place that evokes many wonderful , childhood memories of holidays and extended week ends . A serene , clean beach that was in effect a second home . My cousins and me pretty much retreated to the cottage only by late evening.

A few weeks ago went there on an impulse.

This isn't a new species of trees . It's trees assaulted by plastic bags callously thrown on the beach.

30 feet across the road from this picturesque view are expensive houses possibly purchased and built at a premium for the view . One that the residents don't seem to care about any more. Maybe there's money to be made in selling land / expensive villas near land fills.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Flipside

Inspiring book by Adam Jackson .

The stories in the book are amazing . Many people have the ability to perceive their bucket of woes as the vast Atlantic and stay submerged in it . The inspiring folks mentioned in the book have risen above seemingly insurmountable odds to create a life that made a positive and powerful difference.

...the secret to finding the flipside does not , in fact , lie in the event itself ; it lies in our response to the event. Every setback in life has two sides , but it takes a special type of person to find the flipside.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Listening to feedback from your stores

Recent visits to stores had me wondering on the quality of communication between retail outlets and the folks in the brand HQ (headquarters ).

A gift store had shabby gift wrapping paper as the complimentary version. Even the gift papers for purchase were mediocre or suitable for teenagers at best. On giving feedback to the store in-charge he requested me to write to the company because "if we tell them they think we are making it up" .

A clothing store which had elegant gift wrapping paper said the paper was out of stock . Since I was a regular client they offering to buy paper from another store in the mall (the gift store referred above ) and pack the gift . Knowing that the gift store did not have any worthwhile options I declined the offer. On enquiring why the paper was out of stock the explanation was that HQ team have advised that new paper is being printed . Therefore the old stock was withdrawn . Why would a company withdraw the existing gift wrapping paper before delivering the new stock to the stores ? In the discussion it emerged that the store staff did not feel confident about giving such feedback to the HQ team.

The retail stores can provide valuable inputs to the company . Inputs that can enable greater customer satisfaction , repeat business , market share and profitability. Being responsive to the feedback and translating it into action across stores can (in several cases) mean fixing something before it becomes a chronic problem. Instead of listening to what the stores (in effect customers ) have to say companies spend millions on market research agencies to get feedback or indulge in guesswork (A prime example of this is the 'world's local bank' - a case study of 'dis-service')

Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Normal Day

Normal in the context of a day is often used to mean uneventful / boring . To someone ailing in a hospital a 'normal' day is a gift to be cherished . If you are healthy , global warming hasn't radically altered your part of the planet , you have family / friends....then 'normal' is special.

Loved this quote by Mary Jean Iron...."Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fake plants

My fake plants died because I did not pretend to water them - Mitch Hedberg

Analogy applicable to some social interactions and relationships .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

On flowers..

Why do people give each other flowers? To celebrate various important occasions, they're killing living creatures? Why restrict it to plants? "Sweetheart, let's make up. Have this deceased squirrel."

~ The Washington Post

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What then ?

This one is from one of my school books . Included in the syllabus by an optimistic person who thought school kids would get the question..

What Then?

His chosen comrades thought at school
He must grow a famous man;
He thought the same and lived by rule,
All his twenties crammed with toil;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'

Everything he wrote was read,
After certain years he won
Sufficient money for his need,
Friends that have been friends indeed;
'What then?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'

All his happier dreams came true -
A small old house, wife, daughter, son,
Grounds where plum and cabbage grew,
Poets and Wits about him drew;
'What then.?' sang Plato's ghost. 'What then?'

'The work is done,' grown old he thought,
'According to my boyish plan;
Let the fools rage, I swerved in naught,
Something to perfection brought';
But louder sang that ghost, 'What then

- W.B Yeats

Happy Independence Day

There are no boundaries in the real Planet Earth. No United States , no Russia , no China , no Taiwan. Rivers flow unimpeded across the swathes of continents . The persistent tides , the pulse of the sea do not discriminate; they push against all the varied shores on Earth

- Cousteau

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Today I can complain because the weather is rainy
I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.

Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money
I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases
wisely and guide me away from waste.

Today I can grumble about my health
I can rejoice that I am alive.

Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up
I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born.

Today I can cry because roses have thorns
I can celebrate that thorns have roses.

Today I can mourn my lack of friends
I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships.

Today I can whine because I have to go to work
I can shout in joy because I have a job to do.

I can complain because I have to go to school
eagerly open my mind and fill it with rich new pieces of knowledge.

Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework
I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body and soul.

Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped.
And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping.
What today will be like is up to me
I get to choose what kind of day I will have!

(Ruhi - thanks for emailing this beautiful verse )

Monday, August 10, 2009

Zero baggage

Travel (for many ) involves packing bags of clothes . A new service to be launched in Australia next year will make it possible for travellers to hire clothes for their holidays rather than lug heavy baggage to the airport.

You can book clothes on-line and they will be delivered to the hotel . Quite a radical idea . It would definitely find enthusiastic takers for the sheer novelty of the idea.

Quite impossible to do something like this in India - unless the garment in question is a sari , dupatta or dhoti . Sizes vary across brands . Fits vary within styles of a brand. The brave who attempt something like this in India should keep a spare set of (own) clothes or a few metres of fabric handy :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Rent a friend

In India one has heard of hiring people to mourn death of a loved one . In China there were cases of women hiring boyfriends to take home during holidays - to ward off pressure from the family to marry. In Japan , people are being hired to pose as friends in weddings. Either way it's unfortunate .As individuals and societies change - it will reflect in various forms . Seeking to hold on to rituals like weddings attended by a certain number of people serves no purpose (other than the enterprising entrepreneur who started the business of 'renting friends').

One wonders about the brides and bridegrooms in locations other than Tokyo who may be facing a similar dilemma on their wedding day without the luxury of a company from whom to rent friends (or those who can't afford such a service even if it is available ).Instead of focusing on the joy of the marriage they would agonize over the unnecessary stress of the guest list. The Japanese are quick to follow new trends. Time to start and promote a trend of private weddings attended only by close family and few friends. It would be easier on the couple - emotionally and financially.

Approach to taxation

India's commerce and finance ministry should learn a thing or two from China's approach...

“Such wealthy consumers exist and instead of them spending their money overseas, why not keep them in the country,” Jiang said in a commentary published in the People’s Daily today. “Lowering the duties will boost the imports of luxury products and that will spur domestic retail sales.”

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Next time..take-away

Visited an upscale Italian restaurant in Mumbai . It was my first visit to this place. Quite a large restaurant. The attempt seems to have been to create a cozy , intimate kind of ambiance. Vintage looking walls , chandeliers (hanging at perilously low levels) , lighting dim enough to induce sleep (personally I prefer good, diffused illumination in a restaurant ). All of these features are at loggerheads with what seems to be the core clientele of this restaurant ( based on what I witnessed in my visit ) - large groups of people most of which often have 1-2 toddlers in tow ! By 8.45 pm the din in the restaurant would have sufficed to attract the attention of inhabitants of neighboring planets. Not many (standalone) restaurants in India pay adequate attention to acoustics and the inter-play of the sound with the visual scene. Perhaps it is lack of expertise in interior design or it's a non-issue for the restaurant. There is undoubtedly a cultural aspect to it . And the fact that a restaurant with 100+ people is bound to be noisy. I do believe that the overall it could have been made more bearable by attention to detail.

The food thankfully was amazing. Though a next time I'd be more inclined to order a take-away.

Home grown

Received an unusual gift from a friend . Home grown vegetables :) Grown in a Mumbai apartment.Cooking with home grown vegetables makes the food and the whole experience somehow special.

After some thoughts on the food crisis , it was lovely to see a mini-farm in an apartment :) Inspiration to expand my little garden at home beyond herbs .

Friday, July 24, 2009

Unexpected side-effects of the recession

Consistent , high quality service is a smart strategy in good times and bad. Service however is a subset of the organization's values and culture . As they say in Ayurveda - you can't treat a part without addressing the whole.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New shop window

The new shop window - (3G) Mobile phones, the high-end online fashion retailer, persuaded shoppers to buy couture dresses and shoes on the Web. Now, it is betting they will buy luxury goods from their cellphones.

This week, released its iPhone application, the Net-App. Shoppers can browse new handbags, clothes and shoes; read the weekly fashion stories that editors publish on the Web site; and make purchases.

One-fifth of’s customers have an iPhone or iPod Touch, Ms. Loehnis said. “Our customers love to shop from their homes or offices, but we want our customers to be able to shop from a cab or while waiting in line and really maximize what little free time they have.”

Not sure how much fun it will be to buy 1000 $ shoes through the mobile . Would be certainly handy to manage purchase of essential goods and services through the mobile in the hours otherwise lost in commuting (in Mumbai ).

Whatever form it takes - the new shop window is here to stay.

Versatile clothing

Visited the website of one of my all time favorite companies - Patagonia - a US based retailer focused on apparel and accessories for outdoor clothing. Patagonia is a role model in various aspects of business - from their ideology , culture , environment focus , product design.

It's fascinating to see Patagonia's customer reviews on products . Clearly the customers love the products and feel part of a community .

Versatile clothing is consumer friendly and environment friendly . It if it fits well and looks great - it deserves an Oscar. Who would have imagined that a dress from an outdoor gear company could be worn to a meeting or a wedding as much on a hike or a vacation. Clearly borders (between clothing categories) are fast disappearing. One hopes that such versatile apparel will be available in Indian retail soon. Here we are still in the dark ages in terms of quality , easy to maintain western wear for women !

Monday, July 20, 2009

Caminho das Índias

Indian style soap operas have a new audience - half way across the world in Brazil ! Fact is stranger than fiction . And this is really strange fiction.

Caminho das Indias (Portuguese for 'India's way') is a popular soap opera in Brazil that has viewers glued to television sets .

Watch part of an episode here . Quite amazing and hilarious to see Ekta Kapoor type settings being enacted in Portuguese .

The serial has done (for India ) for successive Indian governments , dept of Tourism , business have not so far - generated a wide spread interest about India among Brazilians .People now use words like achha, theek hai and Bhagwan ke liye (for God’s sake) as common slang,” said B.S. Prakash, India’s ambassador to Brazil who’s been inundated with emails from curious Brazilians.

Caminho’s success is affecting everything and everyone Indian in Brazil.

“Before the show, only people interested in yoga knew about India. Now, we have many more diners coming in. And everyone wants to drink chai,” said Madhava Lila Deva Dasi, who owns a restaurant called Gopala Madhava in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city with 11.1 million people. “Suddenly, Indian costumes and jewellery have become very fashionable.”

Maybe the next Caminho das Indias will be made in China :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The road stops here...

California state is struggling with fiscal problems and looking at some tough measures to cut down government spending .

Hard to imagine a politician in India saying 'the road stops here'.  Here the origin of a problem is always due to the opposition party or some external event / entity.

Irrespective of what Mr Schwarzenneger does to resolve the crisis and the extent to which he is able to resolve the problem - it is heartening to see him taking accountability to resolve the crisis.

'The road stops here ' applicable to individual 'crisis' situations too :)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My network

This is not me . It is however the network I use. 

This is the latest series of ads by Loop mobile . The point of which escapes me entirely.

Maybe this is the latest concept in advertising. Create ads that can't be comprehended . That way customers wonder what it was about / post it on their blogs etc . The purpose of recall is achieved.

(if this ad was modified to show a mobile tower and 'my network' written very near the image I would have agreed wholeheartedly . It would accurately reflect the range of 'my network' . All the folks who have trouble reaching me on my Loop mobile now you know why..) 

Post script - a net search revealed that the idea of the ad is that the network follows you wherever you go. If so , then the ad is off on 2 accounts -
- the point of the network coverage does not come across (clearly). The Vodafone ads made the point re network clearly and in an engaging way with the pug .
- As a Loop mobile user for the past 9 years I can attest to the fact that the network has always been and continues to be erratic . It would do Loop mobile customers a world of good if Loop mobile diverted some of their ad budget into improving the infrastructure and the network experience. 

A fine balance in Kutch

Interesting insights by Rohini Nilekani
....Meanwhile, in Kutch, the work continues. Using new technologies and approaches, people are innovating beyond earlier models to create a sustainable water infrastructure. Solar pumps have been installed in some places to compensate for the irregular supply of electricity. New kinds of percolation tanks are being built, new designs tried out for storage and distribution. Local people are being trained in operations and maintenance. Many NGOs are involved in this huge capacity- building exercise. It seems to be yielding social dividends. Quite unusually, in the Kutch villages of Haripar and Karamta, we met strong women leaders who were at the forefront of the discussion, with the men sitting quietly in the back rows. But it will take the strength of the whole village to accomplish the mission they have set for themselves. It is no mean task to convince people all over again to live within their ecological limits.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Future me

Through Futureme you can write a letter (email ) to yourself , pick the future date for the email to be sent to yourself. Reverse of 'Letters to my younger self' . 

Interesting to see that the past , present and future self is acknowledged as being different persons. 

Now , write a letter to your present self :)

There's no toilet paper...

...on the road less travelled.

Hilarious book on travel (mis)adventures by various writers. Delightfully funny (the parts I've read so far). The striking bit about the tales is that the events by themselves are not unique . The perspective of the writers and their ability to find humor is. It's the book equivalent of listening to funny tales by someone with a poker face.

The delightful and therapeutic benefits of humor are undeniable . Find , create and share humor.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


.....The rise of rental or borrowing services catering from everyone from fashionistas to environmentalists has even spawned a marketing buzzword: the "transumer."

(When) will this concept work in urban India ?

What were they thinking ?

The BMC ( Municipal Corporation of Mumbai City ) has announced a cash prize for property tax payers whose children have scored more than 90% in Std X or XII . Possibly the BMC did an extensive and detailed survey which revealed that most of the property tax payers have school going children . And that this incentive would set their cash counters ringing with people queuing up to pay property tax. The BMC has set aside Rs 10 crore of public money for this ridiculous plan.

Next , the BMC will probably announce that on wednesdays the people who show up at the BMC office in yellow colored clothes will be given priority attention re their issues . Something like that would make as much sense as the arbitrary cash incentive for property tax payers whose children score more than 90% in Std X or XII. At least that would not throw public money down the drain.

Monday, June 29, 2009

(Hoping for ) Indian in design

India's design heritage is magnificent. Whether in terms of architecture , interiors , textiles - the beauty , functionality of our earlier creations is superb. A visit to the Calico museum had me wondering if with the advent of technology we had actually regressed in terms of craftsmanship in textiles and clothing.

Recently we worked on a hand embroidered range inspired by the Taj Mahal. While discussing it we realized that in architecture and interior design the modern day buildings in India - residential and commercial - seldom reflect the wisdom and beauty of India's heritage. Layouts , materials in construction and interiors can be influenced by India's rich heritage creating spaces that are environment friendly , creative and have personality.

When working on the interior design for our office one of our requirements was for the space to reflect India in a unique way while creating an inspiring workspace. Over innumerable discussions I discovered that the interior designer equated Indian with ornate. One of his (many) problems was that he did not seem to know of any precedent of such design in a work space. In the many months that it took to create the space I realized that it's possible to weave interesting Indian elements into the design of an office or home in a cost effective way. It's also possible for a space to be designed to be reasonably versatile.

This extends to restaurants , spas , retail spaces , hotels, educational institutes, public spaces as well . When the design of a space is unusual it automatically draws the attention and interest of visitors , customers. It's an important step in differentiating one's brand / company. One that's often overlooked in the zeal to be 'me too' , 'modern' and (in case of multiple outlets / chains) creating a standard look across the country that ensures a degree of commoditization. 

Done thoughtfully the design of a space can enable it to be an ally.

The Neemrana hotels are a case in point . One might argue though that they are a heritage hotel and therefore their hotels will reflect the heritage of the region. They do so tastefully and beautifully. Each of their hotels has a unique look while offering a certain quality of service and experience. The design and feel of the space adds immeasurably to the experience. 

There are restaurants in India that offer speciality cuisines . Yet the design of many of the restaurants is done in a bland , neutral way . The food and service experience has to be that much more powerful for it to transcend the banal surroundings.

When one travels to another city in India the malls start to blur and look like the long lost twin or at least cousin of the mall in one's suburb. Likewise , national retailers . A Shopper's Stop or Lifestyle or Westside in one city looks pretty much like the one in one's city . While the merchandise may have some local flavor the design of the stores does not inspire a sense of discovery. 

Unusual (in a contextually relevant way ) design offers benefits to a single store as much as it does to a national chain . This is an area where India's design heritage offers a treasure trove of inspiration to create beautiful , memorable , fusion spaces that blend the ancient with the contemporary.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

2 seasons

The monsoon has finally arrived in Bombay . Temperature has dropped by several degrees. The weather inspires poetry . The sea and sky form an every changing kaleidoscope.

Courtesy 'modern' architecture we are in an office that has only one large window . Necessitating air conditioning even for air circulation and ventilation. With the temperature outside having reduced the air-cons are super effective . Indoors , it feels like winter in a hill-station . Some of us in office are therefore vibrantly dressed in shawls and sweaters . At any point there are 2 seasons - one outside and one inside.

2 seasons...a bit like life . The surface (external 'reality') of life and one's experience of it. 

Fragrances over the internet

...NTT Communications has developed a ‘fragrance communication’ system that makes it possible to send a variety of different fragrances using the internet.

The company, which is a subsidiary of Japan telecommunications business NTT, calls the invention the I-Aroma service, and will be product tested in July and August, before it is launched, according to web-based news provider Crunch Gear.

The system is based on a 15cm high USB device, which contains six base oils. These oils can be blended and vaporized according to the online commands that are sent through to the diffuser, making it possible to create a wide variety of different fragrances....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rediscovering the joy of shopping..

For someone who doesn't cook much I've always enjoyed shopping for fresh vegetables. Even as a child it was something I looked forward to. Love the aroma of fresh coriander , spicy green chillies , aromatic mint in the vegetable market. Even during exam days I would volunteer to go out and buy vegetables. 

Fast forward to the last few years. The emergence of the supermarkets resulted in a lot of the household shopping being attempted in supermarkets. The stores in my suburb seem to specialize in getting average to bad quality vegetables and fruits . Tomatoes are some shade of green . Red peppers turning black while on the shelf . Overall , there is no joy in the selection , buying process . It's a chore. What makes this whole experience even worse is watching every single vegetable packed in an individual polybag. 

Today , I rediscovered the joy of shopping for vegetables at a local market. The sight and aroma of fresh vegetables was delightful. The vendor struck up a spirited conversation to persuade me to buy a variety of vegetables . All along he made sure that every selection was quickly weighed and kept aside . Add to it the fact that I could get all the vegetables in my cloth bag without using a single plastic bag . AND , no waiting in a check-out queue for 20 mins !

Fantastic products , personalized service , environment friendly and time efficient. The joy of the experience was infectious . Folks at home loved the vegetables . Made a delicious salad. So , healthy food can be added to the list.

Fresh vegetables and fruits - Fantastic products , personalized service , environment friendly and time efficient - all of these are possible for big retail stores to deliver. Yet , they (at least the stores in my area * ) fail in varying degrees on all accounts . 

* Star Bazar , Food Bazar , Nature Fresh , Foodland ,  Spencers . Hypercity scores somewhat in the fresh produce quality (compared with the other supermarkets )

Monday, June 22, 2009


Alice Kahana , an artist living in Houston , has a painful and vivid memory of her journey to Auschwitz as a 15 year old girl. On the way, she became separated from her parents and found herself in charge of her little 8 year old brother. When the boxcar arrived , she looked down and saw that the boy was missing a shoe . "Why are you so stupid ! " she shouted at him , the way older sisters are inclined to do so. "Can't you keep track of your things?" .

This is nothing out of the ordinary except that these were the last words that passed between them , for they were herded into different cars and she never saw him again.

Nearly half a century later , Alice Kahana is still living by a distinction that was conceived in that maelstrom. She vowed not to say anything that could not stand as the last thing she ever said.

- The Art of Possibility , Ben Zander

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Killing softly with beedis

Incisive article by Swaminathan Aiyer .

Thursday, June 18, 2009

It's cool to carry your lunch to work

Interesting to see the various motivations that make it appealing for Japanese office goers to carry lunch to work.

Quintessentially Japanese to bring design (in this case the design of the lunch boxes) into the picture to add to the appeal.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Honesty Cafes

This initiative involves the citizens who are more likely the victims of a corrupt system. The primary and the largest source of corruption is the government and government agencies / companies. Unless corruption is tackled there - initiatives like this will be of limited value.

As an experiment it is certainly innovative and commendable.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Opportunity in a bottle

In a country like India plastic bottles are a relatively recent phenomenon . For years I remember the stainless steel water jugs and glasses used at home . Today , it's a challenge to find a stainless steel or copper water container in the modern format stores. Even more challenging to find a stainless steel alternative to a plastic bottle to use in office or use in travel. Stainless steel bottles / water containers represents an intersection point where the needs of the environment , (health) benefits to consumers and the needs of business meet.

Over the next several days I'll look for the steel alternatives in the traditional stores. Suggestions for stores in Mumbai that stock such products most welcome :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Universal right

France has declared access to internet as a universal right.

Millions of Indians are waiting for their government to deliver on basics like clean drinking water , sanitation , medical care and education.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tackling effects alone

Found this article (online) about Mumbai in a Calcutta newspaper. The High Court is urging the Municipal Corporation to declare car-off in days in Mumbai as a means to reduce pollution. The line of thought is why should 85% of the population suffer due to the 15% who use their vehicles. There is a genuine issue - pollution and a declared villain - the folks who use their vehicle to commute. Has the makings on a needless saga.

This makes as much sense as the Traffic Police in Mumbai putting up energy guzzling electronic signs to flash statistics of drunk drivers arrested , messages like - don't honk . Implication being all problems on the roads is solely due to the indiscipline of motorists . Never mind that most roads resemble the moon's surface , traffic signs in many places don't work or are not even installed , BMC has thoughtlessly dug up roads in an entire area reducing the lanes available for traffic movement , corrupt officials have turned a blind eye to pavements and roads being encroached , successive governments and the municipal corporation have not made the effort to develop the public transport adequately . I have read often that Mumbai has a very good public transportation system compared with many other parts of India. Well , in the land of the blind the one-eyed is king.

Coming back to the pollution issue . It is a genuine problem . One that affects most residents of Mumbai. Commuting takes much longer than it should. The solution for that is not to mandate car off days . First and foremost develop the public transportation system in quantity , quality and frequency which incentivizes travel by public transport. Once a robust and comfortable public transportation is in place then to experiment with car-off days makes sense. The government need not do it all by themselves . Some of the bus , train transport can be privatized. Improving the public transport takes vision , will , ability to implement plans within specific timelines * - all of which our successive governments and municipal corporations have so far not demonstrated.
* cases in point - 
1. The Metro . It looks like a fairy tale ending . And then they built it happily ever after....
2. Bandra-Worli sea link

We need to work on genuine, long term solutions rather than waste time on impractical (at this point in time) ideas like 'car off days'.