Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Second Opinion - A Short Story

"..... the diagnosis wouldn't even have enthused Calpurnia, Caesar's wife. The C-section was fixed  for the 18th December ,a week ahead of schedule, as Dr. D'Silva was leaving for her annual vacation the next day". "Dr. D'Silva's scans had revealed that the baby was not in the head-down condition even by the 33rd week...".

" I was very keen that my child be normal, beginning with a Spontaneous Vertex Delivery - but that did not seem possible". Of course, Dr. D'Silva did mention to me that a normal delivery was possible even with a Breech presentation - in my case a Frank Breech presentation - however, this was fraught with the risk of birth defects - a risk that I did not want to take."  "I had asked the doctor if there could have been an error in the diagnosis - to which she replied that this was highly unlikely". " She mentioned that in addition to the Ultrasound test, a CBC (Complete Blood Count) and Amniocentesis was done to rule out any possibility of any mis-diagnosis." " This was on the 12th December. I had to confirm my decision of going ahead with a Caesarean - a week ahead of schedule- to the doctor - so that necessary arrangement could be made at the nursing home."

" It was later, the same day, that Geeta casually mentioned about taking a second opinion from Dr. Rao". " I was not very keen about a second opinion - however, I was even less keen about a pre-mature delivery. So, I went with Geeta to see Dr. Rao - who she knew well". " What happened at Dr. Rao's is what's amazing."
 "After analyzing some reports for about 15 minutes, he asked me to cancel the Caesarean". " Not only that, he  asked me to inform Dr. D'Silva to proceed with her vacation plans - only leaving word with the other doctors to make arrangements for a normal delivery". " 

Dr. D'Silva was aghast at my decision. She did her best to persuade me to change my mind.She told me that there was only a 15% chance of spontaneous correction of Breech Presentation - a very low chance to take a risk." " She told me that Moxibustion techniques could promote greater fetal activity to correct a Breech Presentation. However, she also warned me that Moxibustion was hardly a mainline treatment which could be relied upon to give a good result with a high Confidence Interval."

" However, by then, I was very confident of Dr. Rao's prognosis". " Rohan was born on the 25th December". " It was a normal delivery - I was back home in 2 days". "Rohan is absolutely normal". 

"Dr. Rao's analysis was that my ascendant was Cancer with Jupiter posited in it. He told me that exalted Jupiter aspecting the 5th house in both the Birth Chart and the Navamsa was certain to lead to a normal delivery. What convinced me about his ability was the  fact that he was able to tell me that I was a Lawyer, have keen interest in Sports, a big ego(!) and  that success came to me after my marriage with Arjun.

" The ultrasound wasn't inaccurate - only, the analysis of my birth chart revealed what the ultrasound could not."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pilot Error - A Short Story

"AB 358 approach 24 left”
She would have sounded peppier than this voice thought Srinivasan as instructions from the Bangalore ATC crackled into his headphone. Captain A.S. Srinivasan had been flying the Dubai - Bangalore route, with Air Bridge Express, for over two years now. He was making a trip to Bangalore almost twice a week.
“. . . 24 left”

By some strange coincidence, each time he flew in to Bangalore, his Controller at Bangalore ATC was usually Sangeeta Singh. This was one of the few times that it was someone else. Srinivasan had wanted to take it easy this time. He had let First Officer Ajay Dayal pilot this flight. As the aircraft cruised towards Bangalore at 0.84 Mach, fluffy human shaped clouds scattered sparsely across the clear blue skies triggered Srinivasan’s imagination.
He fondly reminisced about his initial interactions with Sangeeta, from his port side cockpit perch. First, it was over the ATC radio. Then, over phone and subsequently at Bangalore's numerous watering holes. Romance had blossomed. Srinivasan recalled, almost embarrassedly, how he had proposed marriage to her.

There was a faint trace of a smile on his countenance when he recalled her acceptance of his proposal to marry her. The formality of their families accepting this proposal went through without a hitch. Both families welcomed the North South Bridge.

The smooth acceptance by Sangeeta, of his proposal to marry her, did not, however, result in a smooth follow through. Srinivasan encountered clear air turbulence when he raised the issue of her moving to Dubai. She went around the issue as deftly as she had guided his aircraft around bad weather. He realized that he was as dependent on her acceptance for getting her to move to Dubai as he was when hovering to get a clearance to land.

He had told her, quite authoritatively, that the Dubai ATC was always in need of experienced Controllers. Sangeeta, he knew, had rapidly progressed from being a Ground Controller to Departure Controller before taking over as Arrival Controller. With Dubai's Terminal-3 operational, traffic had increased significantly along with the need for experienced Controllers. However, Sangeeta would have none of it. The Taurean in her was adamant. She was firm about not leaving Bangalore.

Srinivasan had reasoned with her with crab like tenacity. He had told her that it was much easier for her to get a well-paid job in Dubai than for him to move to India. Working conditions were also much better, he had explained to her. But she wouldn’t budge from her position. She loved Bangalore, its cosmopolitan nature and the weather. Except for her poor knowledge of Kannada, she was as Bangalorean as one could get. She had studied at the Clarence High School. Later, she did her B.Sc at St. Joseph’s College before her training and taking up a position with Bangalore ATC. With the airport moving to Devanahalli, she loved her job even more. The 65 meters tall Bangalore control tower, she had said, was the best.

The radio crackled again: "AB 358 reduce speed now to 160 knots".
"Reducing to 160, 358. . ."

Over the next few months Srinivasan had tried, unsuccessfully, to convince Sangeeta to move to Dubai. He finally managed to convince her to make a recce. She checked the malls, her possible work-place, and quality of life. She loved it, but loved Bangalore even more.

"AB 358 slow down to your final approach speed".
Sangeeta had tried to convince him to move to Bangalore. Srinivasan had weighed the possibility carefully before finally decided against it. Air Bridge did not have a Bangalore base. Moving to Fisher Airways would have meant undergoing conversion training – Srinivasan had flown Boeings throughout.
"Correct minimum speed AB 358. . ."
Over the next few months, they had drifted apart. As recession set in, Air Bridge Express, as part of its cost rationalization measures had reduced the number of layovers in Bangalore. They met less often.

"AB 358 contact Bangalore tower frequency 118.35. . ."

While they drifted apart - it seemed that Cupid had other plans. The opportunity came when Srinivasan had least expected it. Air Bridge Express decided to set up a base in Bangalore. The company offered Srinivasan the check pilot position, based in Bangalore. Srinvasan had, of course, over 500 hours of command experience on Boeing 777 - total command experience of over 1,000 hours. He had over 3,500 hours of flying experience.

This was just what Srinivasan had wanted. This was his last flight to India from the Dubai hub. He was not rostered for the return trip. His company policy allowed him 30 days to set up home in Bangalore before he was required to take up his new position in Air Bridge's new office in Yelhanka.

". . .AB 358 keep me advised if you require any deviation off the approach course. I'm showing what appears to be now some lightning at your 12:30 over to your 2:30 position at a range of about six miles".

"Yeah, we've got it on the radar. . ."

Srinivasan wanted to surprise Sangeeta landing bag and baggage at her Sahakarnagar apartment. That was still some time away. A squall kept his aircraft from landing. Besides, post-landing formalities had to be completed.

“. . .AB 358 turn right to the heading of 220 degrees. Going to parallel 24 left a little bit. Once you are on the west side of the weather, I'll bring you back to the approach course. . .
“Showing weather at about 11 o'clock at about 10 miles”.
"... AB 358 continue to descend to 5,000 feet on QNH 1019. Radar vectoring for ILS approach runway 34 with no delay".
" .. AB 358 is cleared to land on 34. Wind is 330 at 12 knots.

Formalities done, Srinivasan boarded the company car to Sangeeta's apartment in Sahakarnagar. He had stayed over a few times before and knew the route well. Srinivasan was glad to be back in Bangalore. This time for good. “30 minutes to Sahakarnagar" he whispered to himself. Sangeeta, he knew from her routine, would be back home about the same time that he reached her place.

Sangeeta had got on to the cab about 10 minutes earlier.
It had been a long day for her. She had muttered the address to the cab driver and sank back into the seat gazing through the cabs widows looking at the fading airport lights as the cab sped to its destination.

Srinivasan waited impatiently for the lift I at Century apartments. Was she back, he wondered.As the lift climbed, the entire sequence of events - from the day he first met Sangeeta - flashed through Srinivasan's mind. He rang the doorbell impatiently while positioning himself away from the line of sight of the magic eye on the door.

The first time he met her was when he had dropped by at the Bangalore ATC after landing. It was rare for a pilot to visit the control tower. Sangeeta was the cynosure of all eyes that evening. It was then that he had complimented her for her peppy voice. Her demeanour, as he discovered was even peppier. For him, it was love at first sight.

She had reciprocated, albeit cautiously. Their second meeting was at a coffee shop enroute her home in Sahakarnagar where he dropped her before moving on to his hotel on Kumara Krupa Road. As familiarity grew, so did the duration of their meetings and the cosiness of their meeting places. They moved from coffee shops to candle-light dinners in a space of 15 meetings in 55 days.

He had proposed to her on their twelfth meeting, at Ebony – Bangalore favourite roof-top restaurant with a magnificent view of the city. Half way through the meal, at an opportune moment, he had whispered." Will you marry me?" She had not replied immediately. She continued with the meal slowly, in silence, as if in a trance. The mood which had been chatty and interspersed with laughter turned sombre after he proposed. He had squirmed till she had reacted. He had wondered if he had timed it well. The silence ended when her acceptance came as they finished desert." I’ll be happy to marry you Srini" she had said softly. He bent forward for their first kiss.

Realizing that Sangeeta was not home disappointed Srinivasan terribly. He was tempted to call her and let her know that he was waiting for her. However, the desire to surprise her overcame that temptation. He dumped himself on the stairs while his luggage sat at a more vantage position outside Flat 606.

It had taken a lot of persuasion from Srinivasan to get Sangeeta to make the recce to Dubai and experience the city and the Dubai ATC before she came to a firm conclusion about not shifting there. She was impressed by what she saw at the Dubai ATC. It handled 5,600 flights a week, with 100 airlines flying to 200 destinations across six continents. The shop-till-you drop at the Mall of Dubai enthralled her. The Atlantis hotel - where they had several meals - fascinated her. Srinivasan was certain that she was seriously tempted into considering a shift to Dubai. Srinivasan had taken a short leave, from work, for long walks in the pleasant Dubai winter. Trips to malls, meals at the Burj-al-Arab, Desert Safari and long drives gave her a good insight about life in Dubai. She had enjoyed her stay in Dubai. Her unhesitating no, which landed a day before she left for Bangalore, shattered Srinivasan. He was anguished and bitterly disappointed but had still remained hopeful of convincing her. On the day of her departure from Dubai, he had hoped that she would change her mind during the drive from this Dera home to the airport. The miracle he wanted did not happen.

He subsequently made several more attempts to convince here. However, she remained adamant. Srinivasan, of course, knew that Sangeeta being a Controller had a high Situational Awareness. She could seize a situation well and come to an unshakable conclusion. At this point, he knew that any more reasoning would not work.

It was nearing ten pm. Srinivasan was tired of waiting. Should he call her, he wondered. He decided to, finally.

"Come on... take the call" he prayed fervently as Sangeeta's phone rang without response.

" Hello"
" Where are you Sangeeta, I have been waiting for you for hours"
" Waiting for me"? "But how did you...."
“Never mind... when are you getting home"
" Ten minutes, I was stuck in bad traffic". " Srini who ... "
" Never mind, just come quickly"
"OK will be there in less than 10 minutes"

It was, perhaps, the longest 10 minutes in Srinivasan life. The ten minutes didn't end in ten.
"Sangeeta, where are you?"
" Ringing the door bell, why aren't you answering"?
“The door bell? Where are you Sangeeta? Srinivasan was almost trembling with un-pilot like anxiety
" Outside your Dera flat, Srini"?
" Dera" Srinivasan blurted. Sangeeta are you in Dubai?
" Yes, Srini. Surprise! I quit Bangalore ATC a month back and caught the Emirates flight to Dubai this evening"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Being Passenger cum Janitor

Fortunately, there is no airline regulation and/or charge (budget airlines, please note), yet, that makes it necessary for you to put your cabin baggage only on the rack above your seat . The absence of this regulation is particularly useful when the flight is full- or even if they are not - but have holiday makers who sneak in more cabin baggage than they are allowed. It is, of course, okay for business travellers to smuggle in extra cabin baggage - you can't, after all, expect them to be whiling away their time at the baggage carousel.

As I entered the aisle, with only one piece of Hand-Baggage - as per regulation - (the other was only a backpack) I espied that most overhead baggage racks were full - all the way to row 36.I walked-down-the-aisle (fun, not pun intended), fast enough for the guy behind me not to prod me to move faster and slow enough not to miss a potential slot for my luggage, with my strolly when my spatial instincts located a parking slot over 15C. In a trice I heaved the strolly and backpack to give it a home for the next 150 minutes. Smug with my achievement, I squeezed my way back to 10A - my allotted seat.

We landed after a comfortable flight. I have often wondered what's with Indians who scramble to retrieve their luggage the moment the flight lands. Perhaps, this is a vestigial trait - from decades of scrambling to board long distance trains only to grab the space under your berth,for your luggage, before the next man can. Or perhaps it is due to the decades of training we have had standing in long queues for everything from rice and sugar (ration queue) to cinema tickets (box office queue). These "Charles Darwin" queues will take a few decades of double digit GDP growth to be erased from our DNA.

I was not perturbed when I saw the passenger from row 15 picking up my luggage. Perhaps he was doing this only to collect this luggage before returning mine back to its slot. But, hello, that did not appear to be his intention when he took my luggage and turned around to disembark from the rear exit. I did consider the possibility of hollering across to him - " hey that not your luggage" or passing on a chain message to him through the several who were in the Darwin queue to disembark. Then, the wicked thought crossed across my mind - why not avail of the free porterage!

I was amazed that he did not realize his mistake, if it was a mistake, even after lugging the unit - which would have been of a different odour,colour, dimension, weight and scars from his own luggage - across the aisle to the entrance of the coach.

At the entrance of the coach, I struck!

Me: Excuse me, are you Bharat Ram?
He : No.
Me : Well, I am Bharat Ram at it is his luggage that you are carrying!

With this I took the luggage and boarded the coach while he, in a mild state of panic, rushed back to the aircraft to retrieve his luggage - if it was still there.

Indigo airlines co-opts "Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls" to "prepare the cabin" for the next flight. If, like this time, someone could lug my 15 kilograms luggage from the cabin-to- the-coach I will, more willingly, be the airline's passenger cum Janitor.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

WW III - No cover, No succour

The commanders of the Allied force still don't know what's hit them.There is disarray in their ranks. The Allies took their first hit in WW III at 29°59' N latitude 90° 15' W longitude*. 80% of the city was completely destroyed.1,836 people lost their lives.$ 80 billion worth property was damaged.

Site of the first hit in WW III
Barely had the Allies started recovering from this attack that they were attacked the second time. This second attack - a stealth attack cost the economy $ 61 billion. An estimated 5,000 people lost their lives in this attack. While the site of the attack(42° 55'N 106° 28 W'**)  has now been restored the scars still remain. 
Site of second attack - WW III
The Indian sub-continent which was only on the periphery of WW II is in the thick of the battle as part of the allied forces.The first attack in India took place at 34° 10' N 77° 40' E***. The attack on this region left over 200 people dead and over 1,000 people missing and many thousands homeless. The Axis forces used the deadly Jet Stream+ technology to cause untold misery to the people of this region. This weapon was earlier used by the Axis forces to imperil the lives of 14 million people in the region surrounding 34°02'N latitude 71°37'E longitude****.

The Jetstream technology of the Axis forces is so advanced that all scientific advancement in the Allied countries can't even decipher the exact nature of this technology. There are rumors that the Axis, in order to gain a comprehensive advantage over the Allied have used technology borrowed from aliens.

Site of third attack - WW III

The Axis forces have relentlessly attacked several key locations in other part of the world. As a result of these attacks in Russia, 30% of the nations crops have been destroyed. Some of the country's airports had to be closed as a result of these attacks. Pollution levels have doubled in some cities leading to abnormally high deaths due to lung disorders.

The ferocity of these attack have left the Allies shattered. It appears that they have no choice but to surrender to the Axis, unconditionally. It is reliably learnt that the Axis have agreed to stop aggressive attacks provided the Allies adhere to the following terms of surrender:

- Planting a tree: A single tree can absorb about a ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime.
- Switching to green power : Use power through solar or wind sources where available
- Using fresh food instead of frozen : Frozen food consumes 10 times the energy of fresh foods.
- Car-pooling : Carpooling 2 days a week can reduce carbon emission by 1,590 pounds a year.
- Supporting local produce :  Buying locally produced food and thus saving on energy taken to transport food
  across the country or the world.
- Not leaving appliances on standby mode : A television switched off using the remote keeps consuming 40%    of the power consumed when "on". Using the switch on the television and other devices to switch off power   when not in use.
- Choosing products which are not highly packaged: Buying refill packs when possible. There is less waste when you buy products which are not highly packaged.
- Checking tyre pressure : Checking the tyre pressure of your car. Proper tyre inflation can improve mileage by over 3%.
- Use washing machines and dishwashers only with full load : A less than full load wastes water, detergent and other resources. Also, not setting the temperature to high. This is since modern detergents work well at low temperatures too.
- Encouraging others to conserve: Sharing information on the various methods of conservation and prevention of global warming with others.

The Axis have warned the Allies that a non-conformity with the above will invoke more debilitating attack on planet earth. They have also warned that the Weather War weapons experienced by the denizens of Earth are just some of the less potent weapons in the armoury of the Axis. It is reported that the Axis gave a demo of their Solar Tsunami weapon on the 4th August, 2010.

In the event of the Allies not meeting all the terms of surrender the Axis have threatened to launch a full scale offensive commencing from the 21st December, 2012.

Let's all join hands to prevent the Weather War.

* New Orleans, USA. Hurricane Katrina, one of the 5 most powerful hurriance in the history of the USA struck New Orleans in 1985. Even 5 years later several thousands of displaced residents are still living in trailers.
** Drought and extreme heat along the great plains in the USA (in the vicinity of the Yellowstone National Park) which lead to crop failure and the death of over 5,000 people due to the heat in the year 1988.
*** The cloudburst over Leh, India killing over 200 and leaving thousands homeless.
**** 14 million people hit in Pakistan due to torrential rains.
+ Jet Stream : The deadly new weapon

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ironed Out in India - A Short Story

He kept his sight trained on the rather large luggage as it moved slowly and disappeared into the horizon of the baggage conveyor system at the Tom Bradley International Terminal of Los Angeles International airport. Never before had he prayed for the well being of his luggage, perambulating over a  baggage conveyor system, during his not so infrequent trips to India. However, this trip was not from the familiar territory of the San Francisco International airport. The baggage track at this airport ran for over 4,448 meters. Luggage was guided by technology over the four and a half kilometre route. He just added the power of prayer to  technology.
Sid Santhanam's trip to Bangalore was, essentially, indicative of how well Jack Welch’s 70:70:70 rule at GE has permeated into the American industry. Over several sessions with the top management, Sid had expounded how an India development centre could dramatically improve the fortunes of Instinct Financial Software, where he worked - which was already among the largest global companies in its domain. Once the project got the nod from the Board of Directors, Sid  was appointed as the Project Director for setting up the Instinct India Software Development Centre -  IISDC.
Burning midnight oil over the next few days, Sid  put together the paper work required for submission to the various government agencies in India, to seek clearance for the project.  Sid had moved to the USA as a student over two decades back. As an undergraduate student in India, he had heard about his country’s frustrating bureaucracy. Since he had no India work experience, he had not felt any of it.  For the setting up of the IISDC, he had to interact with three ministries and five other government agencies. He had dreaded the procedure. However, just two days into the process, he was astonished. Almost all that was needed to be done could be done on-line. He discovered that the national portal of India – had all the information that he sought. The website of all ministries and government agencies,  he uncovered, were secure and used 128 bit encryption. Digital signatures and on-line payment gateways were standard. Only a few critical documents – each consisting of many pages had to be handed over personally at the Ministry of Corporate Affairs – where they would accept these documents, have a tête-a-tête with him, before issuing the Certificate of Incorporation.
As he swung his backpack over his shoulders, he rechecked the baggage ticket for the only piece of checked in baggage. He then moved to Starbucks for quick sandwich and a shot of Cappuccino. As the strolled to the north of the terminal, toward Starbucks, he patted his shirt  to reassure himself that the baggage ticket was secure in his  buttoned pocket . His luggage was checked in directly for Bangalore - though his  flight had a 6 hour stopover at Dubai. He could feel the glossiness of the baggage ticket though this denim shirt. "Everything is in place", he thought to himself. There was nothing left to do before boarding the flight except having some Coffee. Then, it struck him. “O my God! I have left my bag behind at the check in counter”. He raced back to retrieve his bag, hoping he would find it. He slowed down as he spied it from a distance. The bag was untouched – who, but he, could be interested in his used clothes he thought. As he nonchalantly picked up his bag and walked back to Starbucks, he checked whether his baggage ticket was still ensconced in his shirt pocket.
Just before boarding, he rechecked with the ground staff if the had to rebook his checked in baggage at Dubai, for Bangalore. The answer he got was what he was told the fist time – the checked in baggage did not have to be re-booked in Dubai and could be collected in Bangalore. One of the reasons why he was travelling via Dubai, this time around, was his less than satisfactory experience with airlines which flew via London - which was his preferred route on  previous trips.In his preceding trip, he had received his checked in baggage two days after he reached Bangalore. They had not connected it at Heathrow, thus delaying its arrival into Bangalore. At Bangalore, he had to make several phone calls and more than one trip to the airport to retrieve it.
As he settled down into his starboard seat in the front of the aircraft, he wished he could see his baggage being loaded on the aircraft – like he could, in Bangalore.  However, the recent $ 500 million renovation of the terminal had completely overhauled the baggage handing system using overhead conveyors. He just hoped that the system was as efficient as it was expensive.
As arrival into DXB was announced, his thoughts went back to his checked in luggage. For the 6 hours layover at Dubai, he had been put up by the airline at the airport  La Median hotel. Before heading for the immigration, he quickly checked with the airline ground staff if he had to, by any chance, rebook his checked in luggage for Bangalore for his flight 6 hours later. The answer did not differ. Post immigration, he picked up some Dates from the Duty Free. As he selected the Dates, he wondered if a Date was just a Date. What, he wondered, was special about Dates from Dubai? He answered that himself saying date from Dubai were as different from Dates in India as Made in Switzerland chocolates were different from chocolates made in Belgium. The packaging, filling and the ‘made - in” was all that mattered. Just then, he noticed that the Dates he had selected were labelled – grown in Saudi Arabia. He further noticed that these were dipped and pickled in Glucose. He reckoned that his friends in India would like these sweetened Dates.
As he drove into the Median, he thought that the hotel, categorized as five star, looked more like a budget hotel – comfortable but only just. The jet lag and his state of drowsiness did not allow him to make any more observations about the hotel. He awoke, on wake-up call, just in time to leave for the airport. The Sheikh Rashid terminal at the Dubai airport, he thought, was hedonistically designed. It aroused your desire to shop whether or not you desired the things you shopped for. A few more packets of Dates, rechargeable batteries, and Belgian chocolates went into his baggage. Sid  settled down in his Business Class seat, looking forward to landing in Bangalore.
He awoke with a start. He felt himself being pinned down to his seat as if there was a tremendous G-force being exerted on him. He felt a pit-in-the-stomach feeling – like the ones he had felt a few months earlier, at Disneyland, as the giant roller coaster - Space Mountain, accelerated from 0 – 57 mph in 2.8 seconds exerting more G-force than a Space Shuttle launch. He automatically mumbled a prayer as he saw cutlery floating in the air, grown up men and women screaming like babies and babies looked amused at grown ups screaming. He saw fear in the eyes of the stewardess who was belted in place and held on to the seat handles. He realized, from his extensive air travels, that this was probably some kind of a turbulence that the aircraft was encountering – but was nothing like anything that he had encountered before. It seemed, that among all the passengers in the aircraft, he was the most composed, outwardly. His apparent composure came from his interest in aircrafts and aero modelling that he had done as a teenager. He was an avid follower of the blog Captain Lim, had, of course, in his blog clarified, several times, that for a pilot flying through extreme turbulence was no more uncomfortable than for a coach driver to drive on very bad roads. He also knew that air turbulence, or Clear Air Turbulence  was dangerous only because passengers not seated or not strapped to their seats could be thrown about the cabin due to the turbulence – caused by the outside air suddenly changing speed and direction. Sid, of course, had his seat belt on and saw the turbulence through on the strength of the seat belt and the power of his prayer.
After the aircraft had stabilized, the pilot announced that the aircraft had entered into an air pocket causing the aircraft to go into a free fall from 35,000 feet to 30,000 feet – not an uncommon occurrence in the annals of aviation. As the aircraft made a smooth touchdown, the passengers spontaneously gave the pilots a loud round of applause. He saw that several passengers were either in a state of shock or physically injured as a result of the turbulence. Sid was as relieved to walk out of the aircraft without a bruise.
Immigration was a breeze. He was pleasantly surprised with the speed with which he cleared immigration. He reckoned that this new airport was as good as  the best of the smaller American airports. As he waited at the baggage carousel, he hoped that his baggage had been loaded on at Dubai. Despite his frequent flying and his interest in statistics, he had not been able to figure out if baggage, in the cargo hold, was unloaded in a first-in-first-out or last-in-first-out mode. He waited impatiently for his Grey soft luggage, distinctly identifiable as his, from scars from his frequent travels.

As the density of luggage on the baggage carousel reduced, Sid’s heart pounded. He wondered if the luggage was connected at Dubai. Finally, it was only a lady with the trolley and he who were left at the carousel. “There it is!” screamed the lady, pointing out to the monstrous package dawdling on the carousel towards her. Sony was emblazoned across the cardboard box. It was, evidently, a television set bought by her in Dubai. Sid wondered why televisions had to be packed in such giant cartons in the days of slim LCD televisions. He also wondered why Indian consumers still shopped in Dubai when there were Sony stores all over India. Was it only to claim that they shopped abroad or whether it was account of the latest models not being available locally. He snapped out of his reverie when he realized that there was no more luggage on the track following the Sony. A chill struck his heart. It would be too much trouble to be stuck without this luggage – he would have a lot of explaining to do. As he turned, disappointedly, to enquire about the status of his luggage he saw it. His grey, distinctively scarred luggage, was in a clinging embrace with and was behind the Sony package. Sid was relieved.
He supervised the loading of his Grey checked in luggage and his hand baggage into the airline arranged limousine which would drop him off at his hotel. As the Mercedes sped away from the terminal he got a wide angle glimpse of the airport terminal building. From the outside, he reckoned that it was better looking than most other airports that he had seen
Once in his hotel room he unpacked and stacked his clothes in the closet. Then, he unzipped his backpack. All the documents required to be submitted to the Department of Company Affairs were in good shape in spite of the knocking that the backpack had got during the course of the 20 hours journey. He then dialled from the room phone. “Hello!, is Ravi in? Could you please send him to 205? Thanks”. Sid  had stayed  at this place frequently. He knew the General Manager, the Chef and most of the Front office, Room Service and Housekeeping staff by their names.  As the door bell rang, he opened the door to be greeted by Ravi “Welcome back Sir!” Without any further explanation Ravi walked in and picked up the scarred luggage and said “The usual Sir?” “Yes, please, Ravi”. “Can I get this back by tomorrow?"  "I leave the day after” “Sure Sir!” With this, Ravi rolled the luggage out of the room as Sid closed the door behind him.
Sid’s meeting at the office of Ministry of Company Affairs went of well. As he submitted the required documents, the young officer in-charge asked him some questions on the business and the time frame for commencing operations once the company was issued the Certificate of Incorporation. He was asked to download the Certification of Incorporation the next day from - the ministry's website. Sid was impressed with the speed. He was earlier involved with the setting up of the company’s office in Singapore. He thought that the process of documentation seemed more difficult in case of India but was actually as simple as in Singapore. Perhaps, it was India’s bureaucratic reputation which made things appear more difficult even when it was actually not so.
Back in his hotel room he watched the first semi-final’s of the IPL. As the match was getting over, the doorbell rang which Sid answered to find Ravi standing with his luggage. “All done Ravi?” enquired Sid, as he took his luggage from Ravi. Ravi smiled broadly as Sid handed him the payment for the job done – with a generous tip. Closing the door behind him, Sid heaved the luggage onto the luggage rack and unzipped it. There was a faint smile on his countenance as he appreciated its contents, all neatly strapped down.
“Nothing else comes even remotely close to the sharpness of clothes pressed with a traditional seven kilogram coal iron, heated to over 100 degrees Celsius”, he surmised. Then, looking at his wife’s glistening pumps from Choo, Manolo Blanhik, Chanel and Christian Louboutin he marvelled at her thrift. These shoes would have ended up  at the Menlo Park landfill, at Byxbee Park, several parties back, had it not been for the roadside cobblers at Bangalore who rejuvenated them during his Bangalore trips. 

As he zipped up his neatly packed cargo for the return journey – he thought, “Incredible India!”

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

The World Cup Finals : Beyond Paul

Paul, the Octopus, has already spoken, er.. predicted Spain's victory over Netherlands. For Paul's sake, I hope Spain wins the finals. If not, the Spanish may do what the Germans only threatened to do - have Paul for dinner.

My analysis of the finals is as under:
Date of Match : 11th July, 2010 which is the compound number 12 and the single number 3.
Time of Match: 20.30 hours which reduces to the Vedic number 5
Netherlands: Totals to the compound number 42 and the single number 6. Six is the Vedic number for Venus - the planet for beauty and arts.
Spain: Totals to the compound number 18 and the single number 9. Nine is the Vedic number for Mars.
Johannesburg: The city where the finals will be played totals up to 9. Again the number of Mars, which is the same as the number for Spain. Great chemistry here!

The captain of Netherlands is Giovanni Van Bronckhorst. This totals to the compound number 11 and the single number 2. The Spanish captain is Iker Casillas whose name totals to the compound number 10 and the single number 1.

The single number for the date of the match - 3 is in harmony with both 6 (the single number for Netherlands ) and 9 (the single number for Spain). This indicates that both teams are evenly poised with respect to the date of the match.

The Vedic single number 5 (time of match 20.30 hrs) represents Mercury. In Vedic astrology Mercury is friendly with Venus ( 6 is the number for Venus - the single number for Netherlands). Mercury (5 from the time of the match) is the enemy of Mars ( Mars is no.9 - the single number for Spain). Thus, here, Netherlands has a marginal advantage over Spain.

The match is scheduled to begin at 20.30 hours which is the period of Moon with the sub-period of Mercury (beginning at 20.20 hours and ending at 20.32 hours). Moon ( the period at the commencement of the match) has a neutral relationship with both Mars and Venus. This places both teams on an equal footing.

Spain totals to 9 (Mars). The place of the match, Johannesburg also totals to the number 9. This places Spain in a powerful position to win the game.

The Captain of the Netherlands is Giovanni Van Bronckhorst whose compound name number, 11, represents a lion muzzled - a person who will have difficulty. Bronckhorst's date of birth number is also the compound number 11 (5th February,1975) making it doubly difficult for him to win this match. The Spanish captain's name compound number is 10 which is symbolized (in the Tarot card system) by the Wheel of Fortune. It is a fortunate number for carrying out plans. This gives gives the Spanish team a big advantage over the Dutch.

Thus from the Vedic numerology perspective, Spain will win this match.

Let us now examine the game from the Vedic astrology charts:
The Rasi chart (Sign chart) for Spain is as under:

This chart been cast with Spain's creation taken as the 22nd November, 1975 - 12.24 pm at Madrid. This coincides with the ascension of King Juan Carlos to the throne. The Ascendant is Makara (Capricorn) at 10 degrees. 10, as mentioned earlier. symbolizes the Wheel of Fortune as also in tune with the Spanish captain's name compound number.

The Rasi chart for Netherlands is as under:

For the purpose of this chart, the creation of Netherlands has been taken as the 26th July,1581 at 12.00 hours at The Hague. The event was signing of the declaration of independence, on this date, by the State of the Union of Uterecht under the name of the United Provinces. The Ascendant (Lagna) of Netherlands, as per this chart is at 13 degree Virgo. 13 is the number of the warning of the unknown or the unexpected. It is not unfortunate but indicates a change of place and plans.

For Spain, the Lord of the Year is Shukra (Venus) which is powerful this year indicating success for Spain. For Netherlands, the Lord of the Year is Guru (Jupiter) which is moderately powerful, indicating moderate results.

Thus from an Vedic astrological view point too, it appears, that Spain is poised to lift the cup.

Spain may win this game by a margin of 2-0 with both the Spanish goals coming in the second half.

While it does appear that the stars favours a Spanish win, stars give way to great human effort. Efforts can overcome Karma.

May the Better Team Win!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Editor-in-Thief : A Short Story

It was Asin's fifth day at the Indian Age. After completing her course in Mass Communications from the Asian Institute of Journalism in Bangalore, she had accepted the offer from Indian Age to join them at their main editorial office in Bangalore. The first four days had been spent reading multiple editions of the Indian Age. As part of her induction programme - she along with other freshers were advised by the Editor to read and imbibe before beginning to write for the newspaper. 

However, on the fifth day, the newspaper had been tipped off by its sources at the Bangalore International airport about Air Ndia flight XI 810 encountering turbulence over the Middle Eastern skies. After the crash of Air India Express flight at Mangalore, there was heighten public interest in stories pertaining to "incidents-in-the-air".  Earlier, news of injuries to passengers due to Clear Air Turbulence would be routinely filed in the inner recesses of the  newspaper. However,  post Mangalore, public interest made editors give more coverage to "air incidents.

As the aviation correspondent of the newpaper was on leave, Asin had been asked to speak to the "source" at the airport to get more information on the turbulence that XI 810 encountered and to file a report before 10 pm. Asin looked up Wikipedia, and earlier newpaper reports on other such incidents, before speaking to her "source". She submitted her report to the Copy Editor - Divya Desikan well before the deadline. Her report:

Air Ndia XI 810 encounters turbulence over Middle Eastern airspace
Bangalore: It is reported that Air Ndia's flight XI 810 encountered strong Clear Air Turbulence over the skies of Jordan. It is reported that the aircraft lost height when it encountered turbulence at 37,000 feet. An Air Ndia spokesperson has clarified that Clear Air Turbulence is normal for this time of the year and occurs when the wind at high altitudes suddenly changes speed and direction causing the aircraft to mildly wobble. In some case the aircraft also loses height. The spokesperson also clarified that turbulence lasted for under one minute as the pilot, upon reporting turbulence to the ATC, was moved to a different altitude.

Under twenty minutes of her hitting the send button, Asin's intercom buzzed. It was Divya. " Asin, come over", she said curtly.

" Do you think your story  is interesting, Asin?"  "Pre Mangalore, we would have carried this on page 7". 
" Now, it is our attempt to put out all aviations stories on page 1. Your story is completely inadequate for a page 1 lead". " I have completely recast the story". " I expect all your future filings on aviation stories to be of this standard". She then handed over a sheaf of A4 sheets, which Asin noticed had the re-written story, with her initial story as part of the trailing mails. Asin commenced reading - with great interest:

Plucky pilot recovers Air Ndia flight from a nose-dive seconds before a certain crash into the Dead Sea

Bangalore : The shocking story of how 231 passenger on an Air Ndia flight escaped an almost certain crash can now be told. Indian Age has compiled this story with never before details on how flight XI 810 was saved due the skill and presence of mind of its commander, Captain A.I. Dastur.

Till an hour after takeoff, it was a routine flight. The Pilot Flying, the co-pilot in this case, had put the aircraft on auto-pilot. Captain Dastur had gone to the wash-room. As the he was washing his hands he felt the aircraft wobble, mildly. Captain Dastur knew that the aircraft was on auto-pilot and the co-pilot was in the cockpit. The auto-pilot itself would  take corrective action. Then, captain Dastur banged his head against the toilet door as he felt the aircraft banking sharply to the starboard side. Instinctively, Captain Dastur knew that all was not well. He hurriedly rushed out of the toilet. What he saw shocked him. People who were not seated were sprawled on the floor knocked out by the sharp banking of the aircraft. Childen were crying and there was a look of terror in passenger's eyes. The cabin crew were valiantly trying to restore order among the passenger and were helping others back to their seats.

Captain Dastur frantically buzzed his co-pilot on the intercom - to get him to open the cockpit door. However, there was no response from the cockpit. Captain Dastur then realized that either his co-pilot was incapacitated or was busy trying to get the aircraft back in control. The Captain then punched in on the number pad, just outside the cockpit door - the memorized code, for an emergency opening of the bullet proof steel door. While the Captain was waiting for the door to open, it is programmed to open in 35 seconds, he could hear the clacker from the GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) indicating that the aircraft was less than a safe distance from the ground. He realized that there was no time to lose.

As Captain Dastur yanked the door open on the 35th second, he was horrified to see his co-pilot incapacitated - perhaps being hit on the the head when the aircraft had banked steeply. He realized that there was no time to waste - not even enough time to take his  seat. Even before sitting down - he pushed the Auto-Pilot bar down to disengage the auto-pilot. Then, in a split second, he pulled back the Flight Control Column with considerable force and got the aircraft out of its dive. Next, he alerted the air traffic controllers. He wasn't done yet. The aircraft had gone into a 30 degree nose dive - at this angle, the plane was flying at higher than its permitted speed - a perfect receipie for structrual damage.  In order prevent any structural damage, Captain Dastur  rolled the aircraft more than 90 degrees in order to take the pressure off the control surfaces until it was safe to switch the hydraulic controls back on. As he got his breath back, he realized that he was only 10 seconds away from crashing into the Dead Sea.

He then flew to his destination at slower than normal speeds in case the aircraft had suffered some structural damage.

Aviation experts, contacted by this reporter, were fulsome in their praise for Captain Dastur whose skillfull airmanship saved the lives of 231 passengers and crew.

As Asin came to the end of Divya's racy piece, Divya snatched back the sheaf from Asin. As the papers were being pulled out of her hands, Asin's sight fell on another trailing mail below Divya's piece:

--- On Wed, 2/6/10, A.I.Dastur> wrote:
From: A.I.Dastur>>
Subject: XI 810 - Details for lead story
To: "'Divya Desikan'"

Date: Wednesday, 2 June, 2010, 8:57 PM
Dear Divya,
I have suitably amended the write-up by Asin, that you forwarded earlier. I have spiced up the incident for your including it as part of  the page 1 lead story  tomorrow.

I look good, don't I!


Monday, May 24, 2010

There are some things MasterCard can't buy - keep cash handy!

Take the Nilgiris heritage Mountain Railway for instance. A second class one way  ticket, from Coonoor to Ooty, costs Rs. 3/- for the 60 minutes trip. A first class ticket costs 35  times this - Rs.101/-. Try flashing your MasterCard!
This is the Coonoor Railway Station

This is the queue to board the heritage Nilgiris Mountain Railway at the Coonoor Station

This is just not done in India - except, perhaps, in Coonoor. Queuing-up to board the train. Unless, ofcourse, you are travelling first.

This was the most sought after photo op spot - where the guard stands at the head of the train

Take your seat before the guard decides to signal the commencement of the one hour trip from Coonoor to Ooty (Udhagamandalam for those who can manage this tongue twister). The guard stands here waving a red or green flag to the locomotive driver - the locomotive  pushes the train up from behind. The locomotive driver has to be alert for any red flags from the guard. The locomotive driver cannot see the track and what's ahead. He is completely dependant on the guard to navigate the train.

The Coonoor signal cabin. No different from the signal cabin of  any other railway station

First, the push back to change the track.  The train then moves forward after being put on the right track

The toy train moves through a quaint and green topography 

Approaching Wellington station

The lonely Wellington station. The train picked up the lone family waiting to board

It chugs to Ooty through twist, turns and curves

Over an aqueduct...

... which the passengers hoped was strong enough...

  This one was destroyed by a mudslide a few months back. The train crawled over this under-repair structure

  Through a natural narrow passage...

.... and Eucalyptus plantations

The green tea gardens signifying that Ooty was close. Nearing the end of the trip

Passengers taking the return trip have 30 minutes to buy the ticket for the return trip. Only one way tickets are issued at Coonoor and Ooty. There's a long queue to buy the return ticket. 30 minutes is just about adequate for the job. And, of course, you cannot pay with MasterCard!

Friday, May 21, 2010

India - Getting Ready to Draw the Curtains

India is a very challenging market. For a new entrant in the luxury furnishing fabrics segment, the market holds special challenges. 

First, home textile retailing  itself is still in its nascent stage. Sustainable luxury retail evolves from the saturation of the market for premium products. The opportunity for a market for luxury products is perceived when the aspirations of consumers are not satisfied by premium brands. As many luxury brands, particularly in the apparel segment  have discovered, market dynamics are very different from markets statistics. They cannot  be the basis to enter and  build a sustaining market for luxury brands.

Second, the correlation between income and demand is much lower for luxury furnishing fabrics compared to apparel and accessories.   Only a small segment of Indian customers, who can afford luxury products,  are open  to spending   on luxury furnishing fabrics.  Luxury apparel, accessories and automobiles  offers them  a superior platform to display their  wealth.

Third, a study done by the Italian Trade Commission in  2009 estimates the size of Indian market for curtain fabrics  to   be about USD 340 million and that  for  upholstery  fabrics to be USD 373 million.  While this may be true from a macro perspective,  the actual market size available for a luxury brand is unlikely to be more  than USD 18 million which includes sales of  imported fabrics accounting for about USD 5 million.

Roadblocks to  Market Growth

Supply Issues
A dearth of Indian producers  of  the luxury furnishing fabrics  forces Indian retailers to depend significantly on imports. Import duties  are as high as 40 to 60 percent of the FOB value. Depending on the country of origin and the urgency of requirement, freight and allied charges could add upto 10% to FOB costs making these products even more expensive. Frequent and unexpected transit delays lead to customer dissatisfaction on account of non-adherence to committed deliveries

Demand Issues
The Indian consumer is very new to the idea of luxury furnishing fabics.  Even a well-to-do customer is  happy dabbling with low and medium priced products.  She invests in an Italian sofa set. However, when it comes to curtains, she is not always as discerning.  It’s only the very evolved consumer, with an income to match, who realizes the value of luxury furnishing fabrics and recognizes the difference it make to décor.   
 Luxury brands are bought by customers who can afford it and also by those who cannot.  For the evolved customer, luxury is not about flaunting the logo. The number of customers who intrinsically understand luxury is small.  For the nouveau rich, the logo is the  luxury.  This is the larger segment  for luxury products.  Luxury furnishing fabrics offers little scope for flaunting the brand thus cutting out a segment of the population which can afford the brand but trade cheaper in the absence of product branding.

Strategies for Market Growth

Centralized Store Locations
Luxury brands  realise that physical presence in multiple cities may not necessarily convert into a larger customer base. In fact,  infrastructure and operating costs could make a larger chain less profitable than a smaller retail chain. The best way to reach target markets  is to set up stores only in key cities.  The target audience for luxury products, from smaller cities,  travel frequently to these key cities  for several reasons.  It makes perfect sense to have an impactful central presence instead of spreading  resources thinly.

Educating  Consumers
 To generate greater demand in any luxury product segment, including furnishing fabrics,  retailers need to familiarize the consumer with their products. Effective means of spreading awareness in these times are websites and virtual stores.  While these cannot replace the touch and feel facility that physical stores offer and which is crucial for a luxury brand,  these mediums are especially useful for customers who may not have easy access to stores. However, these need to be backed  by efficient delivery and a customer complaint redressal system.

Avoiding Imports
Heavy duties imposed on imported fabrics do not add realizable value for the consumer. Therefore, it is very essential for the retailers to develop a vendor base of domestic manufacturers of luxury furnishing fabrics if they have to address the Indian market on a profitable  basis.

Joint Generic Marketing
It is beyond the scope of a single company to expand the market size.  Furniture and furnishing retailers should initiate   joint action to expand the overall market size. Such alliances would not only create a better market but would also make shopping a more fulfilling experience.  Both segments will equally benefit from the expanded market base.
Co-opetition*, not competition is required to address small market segments which have the potential to grow significantly.

* Cooperative competition as defined by Edward De Bono

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vacation Monologue, Holiday Dialogue

7 days to go:
0500 hrs: Hong Kong, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand, Indonesia. There are too many to choose from.
0600 hrs: Hmm. No visa required for Hong Kong, Indonesia, Bhutan, Thailand, Sri Lanka. If I club Shanghai with HK? The Maglev is important. So is HK Disneyland.
0630 hrs: Why can’t they standardize visa photo requirements. Why should the requirement vary by country?

6 days to go:
0500 hrs: Oh man! These visa forms are never ending.
0700 hrs: Finally all done!
0930 hrs: Will you dispatch it to the Embassy today?

5 days to go:
1000 hrs: Hello! Did you courier my visa application to the Chinese embassy? You did! Thank you. May I have the tracking number? Thank you. Still in transit. “Damn! Tracking sites are very useful.

4 days to go:
1000 hrs:  Hello, I had sent you a document yesterday – it could not be delivered today as there was no one to receive it – are you closed today? Oh! Chinese New Year. Ok. Are you working tomorrow – oh great!

3 days to go:
1000 hrs:   Still under processing. Oh god! Let it get processed today.
1400 hrs:   What is this?  Under scrutiny?  No! What there to scrutinize? I am not a resident of J&K. Wish I were – they would have processed it faster.
1700 hrs:   Under dispatch. Whoopee!

2 days to go:
0600 hrs:  In transit. Good!
1000 hrs:  Still  in transit. How long does the flight from Mumbai to Bengaluru take?
1325 hrs:  Still  in transit. Damn!
1400 hrs: Hello! Dodart Express. My airway bill No. 987653321. What is the status?
1400 hrs: Oh no!
1400 hrs: Can I get it today?
1400 hrs: Can I collect it from your hub?
1400: Yes? There goes 3 hours.
1400 hrs: Thank you

1 day to go:
1000 hrs: Hello! Is it Get Forex?
1000 hrs: I need some of the USD that you gave me on Wednesday to be converted to Hong Kong Dollars and Chinese Yuan.
1000 hrs: Do I really need to come over? Can’t you send someone across? No? Oh, you have an airport counter. OK, I will get the currency converted at the airport.
1900 hrs: There is too much luggage to lug. Didn’t realize that lug was derived from luggage.
2100 hrs: Let me have dinner before completing this never ending packing.
2300 hrs: Almost done.
2345: The bags look neat and packed.

Day 0:
0600 hrs: Hello! Easy Cab. Need a cab for the airport at 1900 hrs. Have to report at 2000 hrs.  Is it confirmed. ?
1915 hrs: Hello! Easy cab. Where the cab which I had asked at 1900 hrs.
1915 hrs: Hello! How long will you take to reach my place? The pickup was at 7 – it’s 7.15 now.
1919 hrs: Please drive faster. Reporting at the airport is at 8pm. The departure is at 11. Can’t be late.
2115 hrs: What recession! This queue is never ending.
2200 hrs. Boarding pass. Finally!
2330 hrs: No. 7 in the take off sequence? There are too many people flying overseas. Can’t they space takeoffs better so that takeoffs are on time.
00.30 hrs: No thanks No meal. Please put a do not disturb on this seat.

Day 1
0555 hrs : Hmm… looks like we are landing. Heck – I wish the flight was longer – so sleepy.
0615 hrs: In a queue of 30 at 6.15 am. What a way to start a vacation!
0625 hrs: Thank goodness queues move faster here.
1200 hrs: Oh hell! Its noon! Oversleeping is such a waste of a vacation.
1300 hrs: I’ll die of hunger if I don’t find edible vegetarian food soon.
1335: Thank goodness for MacDonald’s! So what if it’s just the bun and lettuce sans the non-vegetarian Patti.
1340 : No point in going to Disney today! The day is more than half over.
1425 : Tsim Sha Tsui. Thank goodness for air-conditioned shopping.
2025 : Surprising that shops close so early in Hong Kong too.

Day 2 :
1000 hrs: Shouldn’t have walked all that much in the malls last evening.
1300 hrs: Disneyland is too much hype.
1600 hrs: You need the enthusiasm of a teenager to get around here. Not my cup of Chinese tea.
1730 hrs: This foot massage feels like heaven.
1900 hrs: What a pleasure to tuck in early – also what a waste of vacation time.

Day 3:
0400 hrs:  Why do international flights take off so early?
0500 hrs :  The good thing about early morning flights is reduced travel time to the airport. There are more planes in the air than cars on the road.
0600 hrs: The worst things about vacations are early morning queues. No sunrise-from the-air is worth these red eye flights.
0700 hrs: I feel safer with Air India. God, please make this plane shake less. Mummy!!
0730 hrs: Finally this contraption’s stopped shaking. What a relief.

0745 hrs: But, this is not in English. How do I fill in a form in Mandarin?

0820 hrs: What is this? A border skirmish with India?

0821 hrs: God, please let there be no war. At least not till I get back.
0842 hrs: What an airport. Thank god for the sign boards in English.
0950 hrs: Getting to the hotel was a breeze. Something’s telling me that getting around from here is going to be stormy.
1200 hrs:  Great wall of China. Need to put these pictures on my Facebook wall.
1222 hrs: O there’s Rahul Dravid. What luck. Hello Rahul! May I have a photo with you?
1330 hrs: Beef in a roti. What do I eat?

1340 hrs: Ray Croc, thank you for spreading MacDonald’s far and wide. The great wall is only 8,851.8 kilometers long.
1400 hrs: These cow hide shoes are no good for the calf muscle. Can’t walk any more.
1600 hrs: Beds at Westin are the best. But to travel half way across the world to plonk on bed?
1900 hrs: Where would I be without hot corn soup at, where else, Macdonald’s?

Day 4 :
0800 hrs: Whew! This Maglev is fantastic.

1030 hrs: Commercial Street is better than Nanjin Road. Thank god for small mercies.
1300 hrs: Thanks again Ray Croc.
1400 hrs: The weather here is better than in Banglaore. Only if hadn’t been for the continuous drizzle.
1700 hrs: Wonder how they make the beds at Westin.
1730 hrs: Good beds are bad when you have to rise early.
1900 hrs: Yes thanks. At 4 am please.

Day 5 :
0400 hrs : Thank you.
0500 hrs: I am now certain that no sunrise is any match for a glorious Westin bed.

0600 hrs: I look forward to a directionless world. They overdo directions and instructions here.
0700 hrs: No Clear Air Turbulence this time. The pilot must be cat’s whiskers.
0930 hrs: What do they mean that Chek Lap Kok is an announcement free airport? Do they expect everyone to be literate?

Day 6:
0140 hrs : Not bad. On time.
0220 hrs : Thank god for Meru. Else, at this hour…
0330 hrs: My bed is better than Westin.

Day 6 (continued)
1230 hrs: “How was your vacation? Am sure you had a fabulous time”.
1230 hrs: My head’s splitting. Legs aching. I am jet-lagged.
1230 hrs: Spiders accomplish a lot in 6 days. I am dreading the cleanup.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The key to profitable, premium apparel, retailing

The key to apparel retail profitability, even for premium brands, are stores* like these.
200 square feet, 200 shirts on display.

In my view, the fallacies in premium apparel retailing are:
  • the customer needs to see a display of 2,000 to select 2.
  • if the merchandise is premium, the store needs to be large.
  • premium merchandise needs premium interiors. Is the retailer seeking to influence the customer with the product offering or the store interiors?
  • that stores needs to be located in premium retails areas where the store rent could be upto upto 25% of sales
  • a small army of people is required to pander to the customers whims.
200 square feet stores, located in all key neighborhoods are the key. If a brand can retail from 200 square feet from an airport location, it can do the same from other locations too. Carefully selected merchandise, in 5 well selected  stores in the city, of 200 - 300 square feet each, will fetch more than one 2,000 square feet store. Hand-held barcode scanning and invoice printing devices can even dispense with the need for a cash wrap. For the consumer, it is easy access to the brand. For the brand, it getting closer to the customer without mounting a white elephant.

A combination of a large number of  very small stores and a small number of  very large stores, combined with the power of the internet, is the key to  profitable apparel retailing.