Thursday, December 25, 2008


In the evening in a small inauguration ceremony we had a small lecture on dabbawallahs..
Everyone I guess knows about the dabbawallahs or has at least heard about this system. But many few of us know the finer details.
Dabbawallah system started way back in 1890 during the British time. It so happened, that one of the Parsi banker did not want to eat outside food for his lunch because of two reasons, one that his bank balance was rapidly going down and next his doctor fees was rapidly going up. So he hired a personal servant who would go to his home in afternoon and bring his lunch cooked by his wife.
Now Avaji bacchi (I have to verify this name as I could not hear it properly and net connection is too slow to verify) saw this and thought that it was a good market need and that there should be loads of people like the Parsi Banker. So he started the Dabba service and one of the most initial dabbawallas were farmers who practically did not have any work for half the year.
Today that humble beginning has grown tremendously and has survived for about 118 years and one the most primary reasons for it surviving is according to Manish is that all the Dabbawallas are stake holders. Manish high lights some of the key achievements of this system.

1. There are about 450 dabbawallahs in Mumbai
2. Their yearly revenue is about 10Million.
3. And most importantly in all 118 years this institution has not gone for a strike even once :) :).

Manish Tripathi then says that, "Over the years working with this system I have learnt one important lesson, I am going to share the secret of this success with you. And my secret about this is that it is very difficult to manage the educated people"

He explaines, "If I have Karsanbhai dabbawalla and an IIM graduate with me and I ask them to deliver one dabba from Andheri to Dadar. By the time I tell Dadar Karsanbhai would already be running to deliver the box while IIM graduate would be asking hundreds of question as to the best method of doing it and reason for doing it and so on"He then says that 85% of dabbawallas are thumps up i.e they cannot read and write. Then he puts this all important lesson, "I am not saying that you should hire uneducated people. All I am saying is that you should hire suitably educated people. If you need graduate and you hire post graduate then all he/she would do is to go to and look for a better job”

Manish finished his talk by giving the important lesson that most important thing in entrepreneurship is to solve the problems. And if you are committed to solving the problem money and everything will automatically follow.
Manish did not use any great poems or great lines to give his talk and it was not pre-prepared talk. It was straight from the heart and what he had learnt over the years, very simple and straightforward, I guess very much reflecting the culture of Dabbawallahs.

Lijjat Papad : Working from home

I guess everyone would remember the ad of Lijjat Papads that used to come on Door Darshan, I remember that it had this tagline of “Khai Jao, Khilae Jao Lijjat Papad”.
Over years Lijjat papad has remained the symbol of women strength. Started way back in 1959 by seven women with the capital of 80 rupees, today it has grown to about 40 branches engaging about 42 thousand ladies.
The organization structure is very simple. Each department is independent, and manages its own profit and loss. The quality is maintained by a central trust. All the raw materials are procured by the central trust and Aata is mixed in each center. Every morning women come and collect their “Aata mixture” and go home, make and dry papads and return them next day morning to get new “Aata mixture”. They get paid fixed amount per kg, which is about 20 rupees a kg of work. There is not restriction to joining, any women can go and start making papads straightaway after signing and promising to abide by the pledge which states that “work is worship and they would not cheat”. All the decisions are taken by the women internally. There are no men involved in this organization.
And the best thing about this organization is that women get to work from home, that ways they can take care of their family and kids and also contribute economically to the family. This is the best part about this organization. Four ladies of Lijjat Papad had come, and one of them being Jyoti Naik. They did not use any MBA words, neither did talk like revenue targets or how they want to grow. They were very simple. From them it just seemed that one simple mantra of Lijjat Papad is “Papad”, that is what they focus on, nothing more. These women don’t care about the competition, about market ups and downs, they just believe that if they make good tasty papads, at whatever small scale that they can, they would be able to sell them.
Of course you may argue that 42 branches in about 40 years is not such a speedy progress, but then for what they stand for and the system that they have created is really amazing. The idea being to empower women, and now they do lot of other side activities, like teaching women, training them to make other stuff such as pickles etc. I guess it is a great example of how women can come together and create something as big as this.

Tata Jagriti Yatra

For the next 18 days, I am going on the journey of India. I am part of this travel called Tata Jagriti Yatra and I would be traveling through 18 different places in next 18 days to go and visit various social entrepreneurs who have made it big in social sector and initiating a change. We would visit places like Aravind eye hospital, Barefoot college, Anand and many more. We start from Mumbai, then to trivendrum, kanyakumari, Chennai, pondicheery, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Bubneshwar, Jamshedpur, Lucknow, Delhi, Ajmer, Anand and then back to Mumbai.

I am really looking forward to this trip and I always wanted to visit places like Aravind eye hospital and bare foot college. Also we are going to be about 300 people in a train, a special train, staying on train for next 18 days, so everything looks exciting.

The format of trip is mostly to travel at night and visit one of the places during the day time. The purpose of visit is to understand their business model and figure out how each of these have made it big in their own fields. Idea is to learn, and I guess there is no better way to learn than traveling.

The complete list of places that we visit is available here,

So I guess my blog coming days is going to be filled with details about this trip, assuming I get a change to blog on train. Most of the blogs will not have pictures as it is simply not possible to upload pictures when you are traveling, so guess would do that when I get to Bangalore

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting the "wrong books"

Yesterday I had been to crossword to redeem one gift voucher that I had got long time back. I bought couple of books and then then as always I wrote my name on the book along with the date. 

For some reason yesterday, this simple activity made me travel 15 years back, when I was in school, and it used to be such a great thrill every year at the start of the school term to sit and write the names on new books that we used to get and what a thrill it used to be. That was the time to discard the old torn books (I have never been that organized kind of guy and my books by the end of the year were most often or not in atleast two parts), and fashion the new ones. 

I remember one such incident, I think I was in class five or something. And as every year we used to get the list of the books to buy, along with our report card for the next year. This time around, I had decided take money from parents and go and buy the books for myself, instead of waiting for parents to take off the time of their busy schedule to get them. Parents generally never hurried to get the books early, mostly they went just about a day before the school was supposed to be reopened. 

So this time around, I struggled hard and got money from parents and got the books for myself very much earlier then the school was supposed to start. And I spent rest of the vacation writing my name on the books slowly, after painfully selecting the pen that I wanted to use, and then trying to look for interesting pictured newspapers which I could use to cover the books, and so on. Finally the day came when my school started, and  to my surprise I found that the some of the books that I had got were incorrect. To my horror I had got the books which were not supposed to be of my syllabus, of some different grade. In the evening when I told this to my parents, they were upset, and we immediately went to the bookshop, but since I had put my name on the books with all kinds of pens, shopkeeper would not exchange it for the new books. My father had to buy another set of books for me, and he requested the shopkeeper to keep the "wrong books" and try to sell them even at half price to get some money back.

I dont remember my parents being very angry with me or something neither do I remember getting any punishment, just the instruction that from here on we were supposed to write names on  our books with pencil and not with pens. I dont even remember if my father got any money for those "wrong books", but I am sure that he made have made endless trips to the shop to check if the books were sold.  

I even remember that every year we used to get this number of notebooks that we need for the year.  Starting for english classwork, to english homework, to english composition to english grammar, different notebooks for different things. We used to need about 20 such notebooks, and then father used to sit and analyze and ask me  to use the same notebook for composition and grammar and do the partition in middle and so on. In our school they used to allow partition in the middle of notebook,  if the subject belonged to same teacher. So parents used to patiently sit and look at teachers and subjects and try to optimize the number of notebooks and reduce them to 15 or something, which I was never keen on, but convicing me with various kinds of reasons. 

When I think about it right now, I understand how much struggle it was for parents to save money for the start of year, for our books, notebooks, uniforms etc. Probably that was the most difficult times. And sometimes as kids, we were so adamant to make life difficult for them.  But they just went through all that, never making us realize the struggle they had to go through day in and day out. 

I owe so much to my parents for what and where I am today. 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Waynad Trip

Last weekend we went for a trip to Waynad as a part of my company offsite.  This was my first time to Kerala, and really Kerala has the flavour of its own.

We did not do much of the "tourist activity", one of our office collegues had found his nice home stay, and we ended up spending lot of time there. This guy who owned this home stay, had like this huge plantation to himself, which had a small pond of its own and lots and lots of coffee plantation. here are some of the pictures of that trip.

One of the best thing that I remember about this trip was doing pranayam, I just picked up the spot amid the plantation, and air was so fresh, and it was morning and lot of mist.  I know it sounds like a very boring thing to do, but I really liked the feeling of just closing down the eyes and breathing deeply, it just felt very blissful. 

Here are the pics.

On the way to home stay.... plantations

The below pictures are of the place we stayed.  

Below is the morning photograph of rose, with lot of mist it was lovely. 

Coffee beans... 

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fine balance....

I just finished reading this book from "Rohinton Mistry" called Fine Balance.

Very few books have touched me so much as this book. This book is a story about four individuals, bought together by fate, trying to wriggle out of the endless circle of poverty, uncertainty of life, during the time of Emergency (1975)

After RK Narayan, and out of my limited reading habit, this is the best of fiction that I have read till now.

More than that I learnt so many things about Indian history and about the time of emergency that I never read in history books.

Highly recommended read.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The concept of Getting "Out"

Most of the games that we played as kid, had this concept of getting "out". Remember the time when I used to dread during hide and seek, and never wanted to get out. Getting "out" meant you are not good  enough, it meant kind of punishment. Also in many cases "out" meant staying outside for rest of the game while others played. I used to hate the games period in my school because most guys would play cricket, and me not being that good always ended up sitting half the time on the bench.  And I hardly know of any of my friends/siblings who did not hate getting out. Infact just to prove that we were "notout" fights used to spring between the best of buddies. 

But you have ever wondered why this concept is there. Is it to make us competitive? Is it to prepare everyone for the race that children would face as they grow up?

This was the question that was asked in one of the Games workshop organized by Dream a Dream. And I really found it interesting, because all the games we learnt in the workshop did not have the concept of getting "out". They were just fun games. 

Let me describe one game, The name of game is "Simon Says"

In this game everyone stands.  There is one conductor of the game. So if the conductor says, "Simon says dance", then everyone has to dance, if conductor says "Simon says run" everyone has to run. But if the conductor just says "run" you dont have to run, because simon did not say to run. In short you have to follow anything what 'Simon says' and nothing else.
If you are caught doing the wrong thing, you then you  have to come out in the center and conduct the game. 

Not you may aruge that this game also have a concept of getting "out". But I just found that there was suble different. In this game "out" did not mean punishment, it only meant that it was more fun. Because even I wanted to be a conductor and make people do weird things. Say like, "Simon says, pick your nose".. :).  

So when I played the game I could see that most participants did not want to get "out" because they did not want to be seen as "dumb", but at the same time, most of them did not mind getting "out", because they were having loads of fun conducting the game. 

The idea of workshop was to play games with children and yet not to make some children feel left out. All the games were woven around this idea. And I really liked the workshop not only because I had fun, but also because I really found this entire idea very thought provoking.

Dream a Dream has a document which describes all such kind of games that you can play with children, you can read it here


Friday, December 05, 2008

Email Forwards and 49-O

It has become a fashion since the Mumbai attacks to keep sending forwards, especially provocative forwards. And I don’t know what the rationale behind it is; probably it is perceived that if you are on internet and you don’t take part in any of these useless forwards then you don’t care enough.

I don’t have anything against forward, but I am against forwards which are not authentic and provocative, without any rationale whatsoever.

One of the most irritating forwards that I have received is regarding article 49-O, 

The email goes like this, and funnily I have these emails about two times every day and it goes like this.
Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the
1969 act, in section
"49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm his
identity, get his finger
marked and convey the presiding election officer that he doesn't want
to vote anyone!

Yes such a feature is available, but obviously these seemingly
notorious leaders have
never disclosed it. This is called "49-O".

Why should you go and say "I VOTE NOBODY"... because, in a ward, if a
candidate wins,
say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received "49-O" votes
more than 123, then
that polling will be cancelled and will have to be re-polled. Not only
that, but the
candidature of the contestants will be removed and they cannot contest
the re-polling,
since people had already expressed their decision on them. This would
bring fear into
parties and hence look for genuine candidates for their parties for
election. This would
change the way, of our whole political system... it is seemingly
surprising why the
election commission has not revealed such a feature to the public....

this is a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India... show
your power,
expressing your desire not to vote for anybody, is even more powerful
than voting... so
don't miss your chance. So either vote, or vote not to vote (vote

What irritates me is that people dont even care to verify the contents before forwarding.

Did quite a bit of research to find that there is something called 49-o, which says that you may choose not to vote and inform your decision to electoral office. But that’s about it. Nothing like what is there in forwards.  I found a very useful thread on this here,

Also a nice write up came up in DNA as well

Another very useful and informative blog.

So I was wondering what is the use of the 49-O clause? And from what I understand it is in a way only to pressurize political parties to field better candidates. 

So request to all to not to forward this email or for the matter of fact any email, without verifying the contents. Because you might end up spreading wrong information.