Random Conversation: Why is my petrol price rising?

Random Conversation: Why is my petrol price rising?

As a product manager, I have always been curious about learning from others and I take every conversation as an opportunity to learn. One such conversation left me with a lot to ponder about. It was a casual conversation with an autorickshaw-driver, that made me feel that a commoner is open to listening to others and using opportunities to learn from others as well.

Click here if you prefer to listen rather than read.

What started as a casual conversation about Uber and why auto drivers think that it failed them went to different tangents including politics. Though this part of discussing politics makes my family shrug urging me to avoid it, I strongly believe that there is no taboo associated with discussing politics and we certainly should be doing so, as it affects our everyday lives. The concerns exhibited by drivers contributed to my earlier article about Uber. The topic then took a tangent when we were discussing ideas about how their problems could be solved and that’s when he mentioned the Government being a part of the problem and how they have handled various issues including the constant price rise of gas(petrol).

When I mentioned to him that the war in Ukraine is also one of the variables behind the rise of Petroleum prices, he was shocked. To him, it did not make any sense, he could not understand how a war happening in a different country affects the rates of petrol in India. I wanted him to assume that there are 100 taxis run by 5 different associations owning 20 each that supply taxis to bring employees to work. One association is banned by the committee of taxi owners for some malpractice. Now the total number of taxis that can run in the market is reduced to 80. But the total number of customers remains the same. Because of the demand for taxis, companies will want to bring their employees happy and bring them to work, so would engage in a price war. This pushes the cost for the companies up and the taxis will be given to those companies that bid a higher price.

Similarly, India is predominantly dependent on other countries for Oil and Gas with OPEC countries being the major contributor. Though, India was buying not more than 2% of its oil. Russia the 3rd largest producer was sanctioned by many countries like USA, and Canada for invading Ukraine. This caused the countries dependent on Russia for oil to look for alternate sources thus causing a price war for crude oil. This is a classic Supply Vs Demand issue. This indeed was an Ah-Ahh moment for the driver. Besides, this there is so also the factor of low crude oil production from OPEC nations contributing to this price rise. But that is a topic for another day.

Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

He was genuinely shocked when I told him that in Canada and the USA in 2022, the price of petrol rise by more than 100% compared to the prices in 2021. The price of 1 Litre of petrol in Canada was 0.95 cents in some locations in 2021 and it was selling for $2+ in June 2022 in the same location. The situation in India is not as gloomy as it is projected always. As I alighted from his auto, he thanked me and wondered how much information is not being shared or discussed in mainstream media.

Unfortunately, that’s where the bias of the media comes into play and such critical information which will help a lot of people is left unattended by the media in Tamil Nadu. All the debate in the media was just blaming the government and not even one tried to explain the reality. I believe each and everyone should invest some time to educate others about some basic functioning of the world to help them make better decisions and not let be fooled by politicians/media houses that want to create a mass mentality in understanding issues seldom analyzing them. Even schools and colleges should have a mandatory course in basic economics which would help students understand the functioning of the real world.

I am Bhaarath. 75 years young!!!

I am Bhaarath. 75 years young!!!

A rather surprising sales pitch from a street vendor triggered me to write a long pending article. I am proud of how India has evolved to be a global force despite facing many hurdles through its resilience and grit. Aug 15,2022, India celebrated its 75th Independence day. It is indeed a great moment to celebrate for all Indians. The country has gone through a lot in the last century. India was colonized and plundered until 1947. Wealth was sucked out the nation and was left to bleed in 1947 thanks to the ill-timed partition. The nation had to focus on rebuilding its base. Imagine bringing together 500+ princely states, Sardar Vallabhai Patel should have been burnt out at the end of the negotiations.

Photo by Lucky Trips on Pexels.com

Let us go through a bit of geography or history lessons. India is a country that is 1/3 of the size of the United States of America yet is 750 million more in population. Supposedly, The population of the state of Orissa is more than the population of Canada and the state of Uttar Pradesh is more populous than Brazil. India has 20+languages and do not be surprised if you cross a state border the language changes; if you cross a district border the dialect changes. People complain that India hardly brings home medals from international events. But keep in mind, the infrastructure spending on housing and industries needed to be given more priority compared to other areas for the welfare of the nation. India has also gone through a lot of invasions and there were more than 500 princely states in India when the British granted India independence. The day of Independence which should have been celebrated was rather welcomed with bloodshed caused by the bitter partition in which around 500,000(5 lakhs) lives were lost.

Moving on, 2008/2009 was a proud moment for all the Indians when AR Rahman and Rasool Pookutty won Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire. Little did I know then about the impact that movies had on certain people. A colleague visiting India from the USA was surprised to see tall buildings and a booming industrial sector in India and it was nothing like what people in the West had imagined after watching the movie. In the United States and in Canada, there have been times when people get surprised when my wife or I spoke fluent English. To this extent, media and movies have played a role in stereotyping India and Indians. Movies, media and social media have painted India as a struggling country. Believe me, tour India with an open mind, you will find people welcoming you with open arms and places that will pleasantly surprise you with kind architectural splendor that was built ages ago and the quality of workforce in India.

Picture Credit: https://publications.banque-france.fr/en/india-global-forefront-digital-payments, Times of India

The 3 pictures in the slideshow above show the present and the future of India. India has taken to digital payments like how a fish would take to the water. Whenever I want to avoid buying from someone, all I used to tell them was “Change illa ma. (I do not have cash/coins on me)” but a small street vendor pleasantly surprised me when she said, “Google Pay(GPay) irukku Sir!! (I got google pay)”. Such is the penetration of digital payments in India that small vendors and business owners have adopted for the growth of their businesses. Corporate heads across the globe are looking at India as a key player in their strategy and advancement. India recently jumped ahead of the UK in the global GDP ranking. It is an humongous achievement considering that this India was once a colony of the UK and as per a report British drained India of 45 trillion. India has steadily moved up the ladder from being 10th in 2014 to 5th in 2022 is no mean achievement.

Like every other country, India has its own share of problems. India needs to improve the ease of doing business, make it easier for small businesses to thrive, increase the products made under the “Make in India” program, urbanize the rural population, increase expenditure in building infrastructure and improve the skill levels of people to make them more employable. With a stable government that focuses more on these rather than focusing on appeasing the voters, I am sure India will become a bigger force to reckon with by 2050. Also, India has a young population, with close to 50% of the country’s 1.3 billion population below the age of 35. This gives India a huge advantage over countries that have an aging population and fewer working-age workers. For all those naysayers, wait for the magic to unfold in front of your eyes.

Jai Hind!!!!

India is indeed dependent: https://vyasonkeys.com/2013/08/15/india-is-dependent/

Navratri Series: Reaching Shakti through Bhakti – Part -5 Atma Nivedanam and Pada Sevanam

Navratri Series: Reaching Shakti through Bhakti – Part -5 Atma Nivedanam and Pada Sevanam

Atma Nivedanam is the ultimate form of devotion which means surrendering fully to the will of the Supreme, with no traces of ego whatsoever left in the devotee’s heart. In this stage, one completely surrenders to God and has no other motive in their mind other than serving God himself and pleasing Him. This is not easy and requires a special effort both mentally and physically.

Mahabali and Vamana in our Golu.

Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad Gita –

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जना: पर्युपासते |

तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम् || 9-22 ||

Ananyaaschinta yanto maam ye janaa paryupaasate  teshaam nityaabhiyuktaanaam yoga kshemam vahaamyaham

(Bhagavad Gita,9.22)

 “He who constantly remembers me and worships me at all times, is protected and his welfare is taken care of by Me at all times.”

– Shri Krishna in Bhagavad Gita

King MahaBali is the perfect example of Atma Nivedanam or complete self-surrender unto the lord. In Vamana avatar(The 5th avatar of Vishnu) of Lord Vishnu, King Bali welcomed the Lord disguised as a young brahmin with open arms and promised him that he would offer him whatever he desired. He offered to wash the feet of Vamana and sanctify himself by sprinkling that water on his own head. Bali’s preceptor, Shukracharya was an all-knowing counselor. Aware that Vamana was an incarnation of Vishnu, he advised Bali to go back on his offer to Vama. Bali said, “When the Supreme lord Himself has come to me asking for a gift, I am prepared to give away everything regardless of what happens to me”. Bali told Lord Vishnu: “I offer to you, Oh lord, all my wealth and possessions, as well as myself. I take refuge in you, protect me, Oh lord.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 8th canto).

This was the sense of renunciation with which Bali offered himself to Lord Vamana. Thus he attained the lord through his selfless devotion and surrender to the Supreme. The feeling of ‘oneness’ with the lord and all His divine beings is achieved only in the spirit of the final form of devotion to the Supreme–Atma nivedanam.

Pada Sevanam is the worship of the lord by concentrating upon or ‘honouring’ His feet or Paadukaa (sanctified sandals). To approach a person’s feet is a sign of humility and that is why in Indian tradition, we are taught to touch our parent’s and elder’s feet as a token of respect. The feet of the Supreme Lord are so sweet and beautiful that they are known as paada pankajam or Lotus feet as they are so soft and red like the lotus petals. Mother Lakshmi Devi is the prime example of a person attaining perfection simply by the process of pada sevanam —serving the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. Another great example of this Bhakthi is Bharatha. He is the personification of pada sevanam. For 14 years he served the paduka of Lord Rama, performing his duties leaving the results and fruits of his actions in the hands of Rama.

King Bharata ruling Ayodhya by placing Lord Rama’s paduka on the throne
Navratri Series: Reaching Shakti through Bhakti – Part 4 Smaranam, Dasyam and Sakhyam

Navratri Series: Reaching Shakti through Bhakti – Part 4 Smaranam, Dasyam and Sakhyam

Smaranam: Constant Remembrance of God.

गेयं गीतानामसहस्रं

ध्येयं श्रीपतिरूपमजस्रम् ।श्रीपतिरूपमजस्रम्

नेयं सज्जनसङ्गे चित्तं

देयं दीनजनाय च वित्तम् ॥वित्तम् २७॥

-भज गोविन्दं by Sri Adi Shankara

Meaning – Regularly recite from the Gita, meditate on Vishnu in your heart, and chant His thousand glories. Take delight to be with the noble and the holy. Distribute your wealth in charity to the poor and the needy.

Andal as a kid talking to her Parrot (Hand-made)

As Sri Adi Shankaracharya highlights in Bhaja Govindam, constant remembrance of God and meditating on his name and form is a very important fold of Bhakthi. Namasmarana is the easiest path to attain the Lord in Kali yuga. One can do this by remembering the beautiful form of the Lord (in whichever deity one believes in) and chanting their name. If one cannot imagine a form, then let us look all around us. We are surrounded throughout with His wonderful creations. This can be a good reminder for us to remember and thank Him for everything. Andal/ Kodai Nachiar was one such great devotee who was ever engaged in namasmarana. Andal (Tamil: ஆண்டாள்), also known as Kothai, Nachiyar, and Goda Devi, was the only female Azhwar among the twelve Hindu poet-saints of South India. She composed two poetic works in her lifetime, Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi. Andal was constantly engrossed in the remembrance of Lord Ranganatha.In the 5th Pasuram Andal highlights the importance of Vishnu-Smaranam. She says,

வாயினால் பாடி மனத்தினால் சிந்திக்க

போய பிழையும் புகுதருவான் நின்றனவும்

தீயினில் தூசாகும் செப்பேலோர் எம்பாவாய்

5th Pasuram – Andal

“vaayinaal paadi, manathinaal sindhithu…. by doing so, our sins get burnt like a cotton which falls in fire.

Our Golu this year, dons a cute little baby Andal, sitting on the fields thinking of Sri Ranganatha and singing his glories.

Dasyam is the next form of devotion where the devotee sees himself as not just the ‘faithful-servant’ of the Lord but also the servant of the Lord’s devotees, with no sense of inferiority. Dasyam refers to a heartfelt yearning to be of personal service to the Supreme. It is the ultimate expression of humility, yet it is bold in its aspiration. Dasya Bhakti is the means of transcending one’s ego. It helps in the spiritual evolution of a person.

Kondapalli Hanuman Carrying Rama and Lakshmana on his shoulders

Lakshmana, Hanuman, Angada, etc., cultivated this Dasya-Bhava (Sense of being in constant service to the God) of Bhagavad-Bhakti. Hanuman is a towering example of Divine Seva to the Lord. He spent his whole life in serving Lord Rama. Angada did not want to leave Rama even at the latter’s request and prayed to Lord Rama that he would serve Him at all times, that he would do even the most menial of services for the sake of Lord Rama. These devotees were of an exceptional type and it is very difficult to develop such a Bhakti as was possessed by Hanuman, Lakshmana or Angada.

दासोहं कोसलेन्द्रस्य रामस्याक्लिष्टकर्मणः |

हनुमान् शत्रुसैन्यानां निहन्ता मारुतात्मजः ॥

“The son of Kausalya, Lord Sri Ramachandra, is a great warrior. I am a faithful servant of that Lord Rama”

(Valmiki Ramayana ।।5.43.9।।).

Sakhyam is the next form of devotion wherein the devotee considers himself to be the ‘friend’ or sakhaa of the Supreme. in this form of bhakti, you will share all your happiness, sorrows, and every moment of your life with God. You always feel that he is with you in every point of your life. God is one’s best friend. Sakhya bhakti can be cultivated by offering oneself earnestly to Him for His companionship. The bhakta shares his moments of joy and sorrow with Him. The devotee will develop a special and personal relationship with the Divine. Sakhya bhakti is not limited to making friends with God alone. It also includes making friends with people sharing the same temperament or with His devotees. Satsangs can be an important place to develop Sakhya bhakti with like minded people. People attending Satsang will share their experiences of God, Guru or saints which can be spiritually enriching to the bhakta. Friends in satsangs can form the basis of spiritual progress in a devotee. Sudama, Gopis of Vraja, Vibhishana, Sugriva, Arjuna and Uddhava are some of the examples of devotees who had Sakhya Bhakti with the Supreme Lord.

Kondapalli Partha and Sarathy adorning our Golu

भक्तोऽसि मे सखा चेति रहस्यं ह्येतदुत्तमम् ॥ ४-३॥

“O Arjuna, you are both my friend and Bhakta.”

(Gita 4.3)

Stories about the friendship of Krishna and Arjuna abound in the Mahabharata and Bhagavatam. In our Golu display this year, we have presented the scene from Kurukshetra war, where Lord Krishna became Arjuna’s charioteer and guides him throughout the war in the path of Dharma.

NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -3 Archanam and Vandanam

NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -3 Archanam and Vandanam

The next two folds of devotion, go hand in hand and we present them together here. Archana– Worship of God can be done either by offering some external materials like flowers, leaves etc or with strong inner feeling. Archana consists of the physical worship of God in the form of an idol etc, and brings more joy when performed along with the offering of using the correct rituals (upacharas) as prescribed in the ancient scriptures. These rituals consist of procedures like bathing and clothing the Deity, and also offering Him scents, food etc. An essential requirement of Archana is the presence of faith (Shraddha) in the devotee. Archana includes, worshipping through means of offering physical materials like flowers, fruits, nuts, leaves and water. Offering flower petals chanting various names of God is a commonly practised form of Archana in temples and homes alike. Our Scriptures and Gurus have always emphasised that the thought and pure heart are more important than the material being offered. Sri Krishna beautifully puts forth the following verse in the Bhagavad Geetha.

पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति |

तदहं भक्त्युपहृतमश्नामि प्रयतात्मन: || Ch 9: 26||

Bhagavad Geetha

If one offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even water, I delightfully partake of that item offered with love by My devotee in pure consciousness.

We have illustrated the glory of Archana Bhakthi through the famous “Gajendra Moksha“ story in this year’s Golu. Gajendra Moksham ‘The Liberation of Gajendra’ is a Puranic legend from the 8th Skandha of the Bhagavata Puraṇa. When Gajendra offered a Flower and prayed earnestly to save him from the clutches of a Crocodile, Lord Vishnu came down to earth to protect him. Gajendra then attained a form like that of the god (Sarupya Mukti) and went to Vaikuntha with Vishnu.

Archanam: Gajendra Moksham, Idea by Sai Gayatri

Vandanam can be described as the humble prostration to the Lord by touching the earth with the eight points of the body (Sashtanga-Namaskara), with faith and reverence, or prostration to all beings knowing them to be the forms of the One God (namaskaar). When one bows down in prostration it is said that our ego is annihilated and we are open to receive the blessings or in modern context open to listen to others with an open mind. Namaskaram , bending down and touching the feet of elders seeking their blessings is an integral part of Bharatiya Sanskruti(culture). We are constantly reminded to give up our ego and surrender ourselves to our ancestors, gurus, elders and the universe to receive their good wishes which helps us learn from their experience.In addition, to spiritual benefits, the posture of Vandanam or Namaskaram has innumerable benefits to the physical body too. Namaskaram is an integral part of Yogasana, and we all know the immense benefits it brings along.For example surya namaskar is proved to help improve the digestive health, reduce anxiety, tone muscles and aid weight loss.

An inspiring example of Vandana Bhakti is Akrura, another great personality in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The great Bhakta Akrura could not contain himself when he entered Vrindavana. He was overcome with emotion and the consequent surge of affection for Krishna resulted in overflowing eyes beginning to shed tears. Akrura jumped onto the land of Vrindavana and rolled around on the earth saying: “Oh! This is the dust touched by the feet of my beloved Lord” (Bhagavatham-10.38.26). We have an interesting example of Vandana-Bhakti illustrated in our Golu this year; one who is constantly prostrating to Sarveshwara(Siva) – Nandeeshwara. Nandi/Nandeeshwara is the divine bull, always present with Lord Siva as his constant companion. He is an exemplary example of this Bhakthi, as he is in constantly paying obeisance to Shiva and is steadfast in being so. Nandeeshwara reminds us that patience and steadfast belief is God through trials and tribulations is of prime importance.

Nandi Praying Lord Shiva. Kailayam set in our Golu
NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -2 Keerthanam

NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -2 Keerthanam

All through my childhood, being woken up by Suprabatham – meaning auspicious morning, rendered in the sweet nectar voice of M.S.Subbulakshmi was an everyday event. This will be followed by Bhaja Govindam. This was an everyday ritual at home. Every channel on TV and in every house, this was a ritual. The day always started with remembrance of God and singing praises of God which elevated the mood in the house amidst the rush to get ready to school or work.

Bhagavata adi purushasya narayanasya namoccharana matrena nirdhta kalir bhavati [Kali santarana Upanishad verse 3]” translates to “Simply by chanting the transcendental names of the lord Narayana, all the sins will be cleansed in Kali-yuga.”

A Depiction of MS Amma’s kutcheri(performance) adorning our Golu.

Our Sanatana Dharma teaches us that there is Divinity in anything and everything. There is divinity in music and hence musical recitation is another fold of devotion that helps us get closer to Divinity. Reciting and rejoicing God’s names (Nama) in the form of Songs, Bhajans and Musical Hari-Kathas, are said to instill and grow the seeds of Bhakti. We have innumerable examples of Gurus, Sages saints and also common people, in the annals of Indian history who have emphasised the importance of Keerthana-Bhakthi. Meera Bai, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Tukaram, Chakku Bai are few of the innumerable examples of those who have achieved God realization through Keerthanas. Chanting God’s name brings relief to the devotee’s mind. It is said that Keerthanam is the only way to achieve salvation in this kali yuga. After all, what is more powerful than music in touching one’s soul.

One such personality whose mellifluous voice awakens the dawn every morning for millions of Hindus all over the world, M.S Subbulakshmi adorns our Golu this year as a contemporary example of Keerthana-Bhakthi. In 1998 the government of India honoured MS with the country’s highest civilian award the “Bharat Ratna” for revolutionising devotional music in India and also for earning global recognition to Indian classical music. Besides, she was also the recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award. Most of the literary masterpieces by great sages would have remained unknown to the world if they were not given that magical touch by the mellifluous golden voice of MS. In this beautiful Navaratri season let us pray for good health, peace and happiness for one and all , resonated in her voice and the words of HH Kanchi Mahaswamigal- Chandrashekarendra Saraswati.

M.S performed this at the UN and this is what Sanatana Dharma teaches. Build friendship and renounce war.

There are many other known benefits of listening to Keerthanas and music in general

  • Elevates the mood
  • Reduces stress
  • Relieves symptoms of depression
  • Helps sleep better
  • Helps reduce pain
  • and so on

श्रेयो भूयात् सकलजनानाम् !!

Let all the people, live in peace and prosperity!

NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -1 Shravanam

NAVRATRI Series – Reaching Shakti through Bhakti Part -1 Shravanam

Navratri is an annual Hindu festival observed in the honor of Goddess Sakthi. As the name states, it is a celebration across 9 days culminating in the victory of the good over the evil. In the eastern Indian state of West Bengal, Durga puja is a grand event and something I hope I get to see in person one day. In the south, in my house in particular, it is celebrated by worshipping 3 forms of Shakti for 3 days each. Durga for courage, Lakshmi for Wealth and Saraswati for education. The tenth day is celebrated as Vijayadasami(victorious 10th day) when the 3 Goddess combine together to win over the evil of darkness. To me, it implies that you cannot win over the evils in the world by possessing just one quality, you need to have all 3 – Courage, wealth and education – to overcome your internal and external demons.

Photo by Souvik laha on Pexels.com

This Navratri, my wife and I would like to proudly present the theme of Navavidha Bhakti. The following sloka told by Bhakta Prahalada a great devotee of Lord Vishnu illustrates the 9 forms of Bhakthi.

Shravanam Kirtanam Vishnoh Smaranam Paadasevanam

Archanam Vandanam Daasyam Sakhyam Aatmanivedanam

Shravanam – hearing to the stories and glories of God, is one of the foremost steps in developing steadfast devotion and faith. Sanatana Dharma emphasises on the importance of Satsangam (being in company of good people), always listening to various leelas of God, in the form of Stories (kathas),Songs (Bhajans and Kirtans) and mantras. Shravana or hearing about the glories of God is highlighted in the Srimad Bhagwad. In modern times, how do we listen to God, reach out to your Gurus who will show you the right path.

Some examples of Shravana Bhakthi – Prahlad heard the glories of Lord Narayan when he was in his mother’s womb from Sage Narada and he was born with great bhakti for Lord Narayan. King Parikshit attained liberation through Shravana. Suka Maharishi spoke about the glories of the Supreme in the Naimisharanya forest amidst many great Saints and Rishis.

King Parikshit heard the supreme nectar from the mouth of Suka Maharishi and attained salvation on the seventh day and enjoyed Supreme Bliss. After all, modern science has also been emphasising on the importance of what a human hears from their very first creation in Mother’s womb and how it is affects their growth. Also, our thoughts are impacted by our language, thoughts impact our emotions and how we react at work or home. Negative thoughts sows the seed of doubts and confusion thereby causing us to react angrily while hearing positive talk lifts our mood and enables us to do better things in life.

King Pariskhit listening to Shuka Maharishi – Handmade by Sai Gayatri

For our Golu this year, we have recreated the scene of Pariskhit Maharaja listening to Srimad Bhagavatham from Shuka Maharishi as a part of our Golu ensemble this year. Let us thank all the great Rishis, Yogis, Hari-Katha exponents and Gurus, who impart Shravan Bhakti in our day to day lives.

What The Creators of Kim’s Convenience Taught Me About Product Management

What The Creators of Kim’s Convenience Taught Me About Product Management

Disclaimer: This post is not related to my employment with CBC and I am not paid to write this post. This post is a true reflection of my views on why Kim’s convenience is a runaway hit. I still hope the creators can come back together and give this show a closure that all the fans are longing for.

There are many shows that my wife and I start watching but there are only a select few that catch our attention and we manage to complete. One such show that we watched was Kim’s Convenience. As per me, an episode of this hit sitcom can give you energy on a draining day. There are various aspects of why this show is a success and I was able to see parallels and learning for product managers which can help them succeed. Here are my takeaways as a Product Manager from Kim’s Convenience.

Keep It Simple: The primary reason for the success of this show was the creators of the show kept the show simple enough that the users had no trouble connecting with the show. The seamless flow of story helped the audience understand the value of the show without the need for re-emphasizing. In the digital world, a product is a success when the user can understand the flow without the intervention of a specialist. Keeping it simple is a not an herculean task. Think of a product from a customer’s perspective, users should not require hand-holding to understand your product and the value it brings to them.

Building Strong Persona(s): The show had a father, mother, son, daughter, friend(s), and a boss and each one of them had a strong character. Some key tips for a strong character includes Building characters by describing their attributes and what they do with those attributes, focus on why those attributes are important, Show their motivation and also include their strengths and weaknesses. This ensured that the audience were able to relate with the show and consume the content with joy. Similarly, when a persona is built in the following sequence it will help stakeholders an opportunity to discuss critical features, develop a common understanding of the audience, build an informed design and creating more empathy and understanding of the product’s users.

Example of a good persona

Key Steps in building a Persona:

  1. Give them a fictional name
  2. Give them title and build core responsibilities
  3. Define their core characteristics
  4. Provide more information around their demographics: Gender, Ethnicity, Age, and Education.
  5. Their background and dependencies/constraints
  6. What is the motivation behind them using our product, What is their objective?
  7. What is stopping them from taking it a level up? Frustrations and pain-points

Binge watching shows can sometimes leave a lasting impact on us and some shows give us a valuable lesson that changes our perspective. Feel free to comment if there was a show that had a similar impact on you.

Money or Customer Service: Why Uber/Ola Drivers Cancel Your Rides

Money or Customer Service: Why Uber/Ola Drivers Cancel Your Rides

“Ola!” and “Uber” do not mean Hello and Outstanding anymore in Indian vocabulary. These words have become synonymous with ride-hailing services or app taxis. For audiences outside of India, Ola is much similar to Lyft and competes with Uber (and many others) in the ride-hailing service space. Besides cab rides, these companies have also turned their attention to offering 2-wheeler rides to delivery services similar to dabbawala. You can also avail tuk-tuk or auto rickshaw as it is locally called using these services.

Unlike in the Americas(at least most of the USA and Canada), ride-hailing services cannot employ everyone who owns a car. It is highly regulated in India and requires you to have a commercial license to operate with Uber and Ola. The cars should be registered with RTO otherwise known as the Regional transport office and in some cases the state government to be a part of the ride-hailing ecosystem. Tuk-Tuk locally referred to as auto, is a very popular option among riders.

Innovation is taking two things that exist and putting them together in a new way.

In 2017, my mom who was never comfortable with e-commerce or apps in general was at ease in using Ola and Uber. This was the inspiration to write this blog. Switch to 2022, booking a cab/auto on uber and ola was a nightmare. The rides were regularly cancelled for varying reasons. Some scenarios that I encountered were

  1. Drivers would call ask for the destination and cancel.
  2. Drivers would not answer the call of the riders
  3. Drivers demanded more money than what was shown in the app.
  4. Drivers sometimes had a callous attitude towards the customers.

The customer or the product manager in me wanted to get to know a little bit more and understand why the rides were cancelled. The ride cancellations did not burn my pockets but also resulted in losing valuable time that I could have enjoyed. I would have probably taken close to 50+ rides during my 3-week stay and used this as an opportunity to understand the problem of the drivers (Not a great sample size given India’s population but still significant in my view). The Ola/ Uber drivers were pretty vocal in showing their displeasure with the services.

  1. Too high a commission: Uber and Ola charge the drivers a commission based on the type of car and the rides. The drivers in India claimed that the charges of 30% commission are unfair. Some drivers were honest enough to share the amount they received for the ride and their claims were not incorrect. Transparency in how the commissions are charged could help the drivers understand it better.
  2. No Incentives: Each company goes through different phases of development in their journey. During their acquisition phase, Ola and Uber showered their customers and drivers with various incentives. I remember there was a time in which drivers received INR 1000 for 5 or so rides. These days the drivers complain that they do not receive any such good incentive that motivates them to ride.
  3. Not fairly compensated: Some drivers would cancel my ride saying that the fare for the ride is too low. I would then negotiate with the rider and tell him/her that i would pay a part extra in cash. Even then some rides were cancelled. Some of friends took it to the other extreme, they would ask the driver the to cancel the ride but would still request the driver to pick up them and pay them in cash. The drivers also complained that the inflation and the volatile gasoline rates are not taken into consideration. Ever fluctuating price of petrol is also another major concern.
  4. Delay in settlement: One puzzling question that most drivers asked me was “Are you paying me by cash or Ola/Uber money?”. The moment we mention wallet money, there is a frown amongst the drivers. The drivers will either request me to pay by cash or cancel without any notice. The issue that the drivers had with the ola money or uber money was the turnaround time was sometimes 2+weeks which for a daily wager is a bummer. Most drivers need to spend a part of their daily earnings on petrol(gas).

Uber and Ola have been pioneers in ride-hailing services and have been a step ahead in innovations and acquisitions. But this trend according to me is a serious concern and a product gap that the services need to address sooner. So how do you think they can arrest this decline? Feel free to drop in your comments and in 2 weeks let us discuss some solutions in my next blog.

The Ultimate Rockstar

The Ultimate Rockstar

March 4, 2022, I felt a part of my childhood was taken away from me when the news of the passing away of the World’s best spinner, Shane Warne. People might argue with me on the title of best spinner ever, but I agree to disagree with them. When Healy or Gilly yell “bowling Shane” you know some magic is happening and more to come. Warne was a special cricketer and great analyst of the game who played the game with great pride and passion second to none. There is a lot to learn from Warne’s career and personality and here is my take on how he has left a lasting impression on the youngsters and professionals across the globe.

The Fan Moment: Though Warne made a huge mark on the cricketing circles with the Ball of the century to Mike Gatting, I started following Warne with more curiosity during the 1998 Australia tour of India. Sachin Tendulkar, the batting genius, whom I thought could play anyone on any given day made special preparations to face Warne speaks volumes of this wizard. I remember the first time I saw him live he dismissed Sachin cheaply for 4 and I cursed him for spoiling the day. Every time Warne bowled I used to bite my nails or hold my heart, because this genius could cause serious damage. Cut to 2004 Chepauk(MA Chidambaram Stadium) erupted in joy when he dismissed Irfan Pathan to move past Muralidharan to become the then world record holder. This shows the kind of respect and adulation that spectators and rival teams had for Warne.

Gone too soon, Warney…

A leader without the title, Shane Warne was easily the best leader who never captained Australia. It might have been partly because of his off-field antics but he never shied away from taking up the leadership role and speaking his mind to his captains. His captains speak so high of the inputs and ideas he brought to the table. For him, the title did not matter, winning as a team mattered which brought joy to millions of Australians. Every professional should think about what contribution do they bring to the team and the value they help deliver to the customer/users and not worry much about the title. By doing this, the title and the rewards will find their way to you.

Part of the art of bowling spin is to make the batsman think something special is happening when it isn’t

Shane Warne The planner and the executioner…
Courtesy: Cricket Australia. Not indented for copyright infringement.

Planning and Execution go hand in hand. Good planning should be backed up by an equally good execution to get the right results. Warne was good at planning and great at the execution of his trade. This video is a sample of how much he analyzes his opponents and plans his moves. The clarity of thought and the way he went about his execution were phenomenal. As professionals, we plan, create roadmaps but we also need to ensure that the execution and performers are empowered to perform the tasks. Execution should not be tied to the success or failure of the product. It is what you learn from the success or failure and how you build on top of it, which Warne did throughout his career.

Warne’s farewell test

KISS & Repeat – Keeping it simple, straightforward and repeat. Such was his bowling action. I might be right to assume that anyone who started bowling leg-spin mimicked his action. The reason, it was simple, straightforward and repeatable. When your actions adhere to this principle, it is easily understood and allows us to sense how people react to them. When we keep things simple, they tend to be robust, the probability of getting things right is high and there are fewer moving parts. In totality, simplicity leads to high accuracy, increased reliability, and higher productivity.

Work hard, have fun and make history

attributed to Jeff Bezos

Hard work was his mantra. Warne worked hard, in fact, he had to work so hard that he had to fight and take most of his wickets on pitches that did not suit spin bowling. Add to that he had to tussle with legends of the game like Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Merv Hughes, Jason Gillespie to name a few. More than 500 wickets on not so helpful conditions required hard and smart work. Warne had fun going about his job. He cherished every moment he played and loved entertaining the crowd. In the process, he ended up making history.

A champion is remembered. A legend is never forgotten. Warne will never be forgotten. Rest in peace Rockstar.