When the Cheerleading Stops

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$_35In life we all face adversity, some more than others. We go about our daily lives and take many things for granted. Then you get the call that everyone dreads, that something has happened to a loved one or a very dear friend. The world briefly seems suspended as you process the information and you feel helpless. I recently got that call from my wife and I could barely understand what she was saying between the torrent of tears and sobbing. Her youngest uncle from her dad’s side of the family had unexpectedly passed away. I was stunned.

It sounds cliche when you hear “unexpectedly passed away”, but in this case it really was surreal. In fact, for the longest time I had incorrectly assumed his age. To say the whole family was in a state of shock is an understatement, he was the “baby” of the family. He was the one that would always want to organize family get togethers or vacations so that everyone could spend time together. He was the one that would walk around the table and make sure everyone had a drink in their hand or their plate was full of calories. He cared for everyone and didn’t discriminate between family member or the staff that worked for him – he wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy.

Let’s be clear, this was not an uncle that I had known since childhood but he became part of my family when I got married. Yet, for days I was shocked and couldn’t believe what was happening. Then it dawned on me why I was feeling this way, he was really the cheerleader of the family. It didn’t matter what you did, he always wanted to get behind whatever you were doing. My wife is an architect and her first project was her uncles flat – his reasoning was she had to start her career somewhere so why not with him.

He was a cheerleader for me as well. Several years ago he heard that I co-founded a financial software company and he was insistent on paying for the software. The best part, his office staff had not even installed or used the software and yet he was asking me who to make the check out to. I was like easy tiger, let’s first make sure your office can benefit from it.

The world is already filled with negativity and it’s great to have someone that is your personal cheerleader. And when the cheerleading stops, that deafening silence is the most painful part of getting that dreaded phone call.

Oh I think that I found myself a cheerleader
She is always right there when I need her

From the song “Cheerleader” by Omi. Although the song is about dating, the song is so apt.

Dear Ola & Uber, Welcome to the License Raj

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Bits-Bytes-CarEveryone from the Bay Area to Bangalore is talking about whether we are in a technology funding bubble or not. I think that misses the bigger question in India of whether the Indian government might have an effect on it. I woke up this morning and saw an article that Vijay Chibber the secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, has stated that companies like Ola and Uber must be registered with the state government like any other taxi operator. Vijay refers to Section 93 of the Motor Vehicles Act which states that the state governments have jurisdiction.

Ola has raised just under Rs. 6,660 crore in funding and employs thousands of people and that is most likely going to come to a screeching halt if the government has its way. Registering with the government is not the issue but existing taxi’s are registered and it’s pretty clear no one likes the existing system. How many times have people been refused a ride from a taxi driver? How many times has the taxi driver driven like he was in an F1 race? How many times have you stepped into a taxi and the floor board has rotted and you can see through? Yup, I’m sure all of us have faced this issue.

This issue goes back to my disconnect with Modi. He will travel all around the world and meet with enthusiastic entrepreneurs like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla’s Elon Musk but back at home…

Well back at home, we are back to square one with the “license raj” of yesteryear. The central government has punted on the issue and has let each state government frame the guidelines for the taxi app aggregators like Ola and Uber. This just means more work for Ola and Uber in dealing with each state government – oh, what joy for them! And, in states like Maharashtra they may impose a cap on the number of taxi’s that an operator can have, because that’s how we roll in the license raj era. VC funding meet Indian Government regulators, you may have met your match.

 

A Decade in India

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passport
tl;dr
(too long, didn’t read)

The original plan was to land into Bombay on October 1, 2005 and stay for 6 months…I’m still here 10 years later. In what can be termed the longest 6 months ever.

The long version

I landed into Bombay on Oct 1, 2005 and thought I would be back to the shores of California by April 2006. But, life had other plans for me. Just to refresh your memory, what was happening around October 1, 2005:

  • USD-INR was Rs. 44
  • Sensex @ 8634
  • DJIA @ 10,658
  • NASDAQ @ 2151
  • The big song in India was Kajra Re from the movie Bunty aur Babli
  • Louisiana was still reeling from the after effects of Hurricane Katrina (Best quote “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job”.)

I’ll be honest, I never expected to last 10 years in India. I used to come to India during the summers as a kid and I would always complain about things not working right, things getting delayed or it smelling. One thing is for sure, some things never change!

Cousins, friends and business associates will ask me from time to time “are you happy in India”. Living in India has it’s own set of pros and cons just like living in the US does. However, after 10 years I can categorically say yes – I like India. The reason is very simple, living in India is an adventure. You will never know what to expect and everyday there is some new thing to deal with. For some, this environment just doesn’t work well if you want things to be consistent, straight forward and proper.

Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I have to shake my head and say to myself “I moved here for this crap?” Such as the recent kerfuffle regarding encrypted internet communications. The Government of India, in their infinite wisdom wanted individuals to save their previous 90 days of chat messages in clear text in case the government requested them. To call this idea stupid would be an understatement, it’s the type of half-baked policy that many Indian government agencies roll out and then quickly back pedal because they didn’t think through the process.

Anyways, they call India an emerging market for a reason. Lots of opportunity, but also lots of issues to deal with you. As I say “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”