The Switch to Android

Screenshot_20180112-184127Several months ago, I talked about moving to Android and most of my family and friends were like “whatever, you will never move.” Hell has frozen over, my new daily driver phone is now a OnePlus 5T which runs on Android. I got it as a Christmas present from Santa Claus and so far it’s been great.

In my original blog post I wasn’t clear WHY I was planning to switch to Android. Below are my main reasons:

1. 3rd party keyboards still don’t work smoothly on iOS. It blows my mind that the default iOS keyboard still does not support typing by sliding your finger such as SwiftKey, Gboard, Flesky and Swype to name a few. And it’s even crazier that so many iOS users have no idea what they are missing by swiping instead of typing.

2. The ability to record phone calls. I’ve been in several situations where people agree to certain terms and conditions on a call and then later seemed to have forgotten what they agreed to. In Android it’s down right easy to record calls and share them quickly if required, the app I’ve been using is called Automatic Call Recorder.

3. Truecaller support. Getting SPAM calls is so much worse then SPAM email and that’s where Truecaller can identify callers before you pickup the call. I have tried Truecaller on iOS and it’s wonky, it has a mind of it’s own when it wants to work.

4. Pricing. With the introduction of the iPhone X it’s clear Apple is moving up the pricing curve because people are willing to pay. I don’t blame them but there are several excellent phone brands in the Android ecosystem such as OnePlus that offer great value for money.

Over the past several weeks when taking pictures of friends and family, several of them have commented quite loudly “Oh my god, you did switch.” I very much did…finally.

Above are the screenshots from my new OnePlus 5T and the apps I have loaded.

Maranello to Mumbai. #Ferrari70

Ferrari-70-Mumbai

Last weekend (December 17, 2017), Navnit Motors the Mumbai dealer for Ferrari held an event to celebrate Ferrari’s 70th anniversary. A total of 25 Ferrari’s showed up and it was an amazing sight to see a sea of red Ferrari’s. If you love Ferrari’s then this was the place to be. This blog post is broken into 3 parts:

  1. Photos and videos from the Ferrari 70th anniversary event in Mumbai
  2. History of Ferrari in India
  3. History of Ferrari

Part 1: Photos and videos from the Ferrari 70th anniversary event in Mumbai

 

List of cars:
00 – 488 GTB, Red
01 – 488 GTB, Yellow
02 – 458 Aperta, Red
03 – GTC4Lusso, Orange
04 – 488 Spider, Red
05 – 458 Spider, Red
06 – 488 Spider, Red
07 – 458 Spider, Red
08 – 488 GTB, Red
09 – 488 GTB, Red
10 – 458, Red
11 – 458, Red
12 – F430, Red
13 – California, Blue
14 – 488 GTB, Red
15 – 458, Yellow
16 – 488 GTB, Red
17 – 458, Red
18 – 458, Black
19 – California, Red
20 – 458, White
21 – California, Red
22 – F430, Red
23 – F430 Scuderia, Red
24 – GTC4Lusso, Red

Part 2: History of Ferrari in India
Ferrari has had a storied past in India with many of biggest names in Bollywood, business and sports owning a Ferrari. Sachin Tendulkar was famously given a Ferrari 360 Modena from Fiat as a gift in 2002 for achieving his 29th test century. Ratan Tata, Vijay Mallaya and Gautam Singhania have owned Ferrari’s as well. Gautam was the first person in India to get a Ferrari 458, that too in yellow and not the traditional rosso corsa (racing red) color. In Bollywood, Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Imran Khan are actors that have owned Ferrari’s.

Prior to 2011 there were no dealerships to walk into and buy a Ferrari. At that time you had to work with “agents” or know someone at Ferrari to order a car. Then you had to deal with the whole issue of importing the car, getting it homologated for India, getting it registered and having a small pooja for the car before you could drive it on the roads of India. If all the sounds painful, it was. And yes, homologation is a real word. All of this was about to change in 2011.

Before we get to 2011 let’s go back to 2003 to set the stage. In 2003, Ashish Chordia of Shreyans Group was a mover and shaker with high-end clothing brands and soon wanted to make his mark on the Indian automotive scene. He was able to get a sweetheart deal from Porsche AG where his company Precision Motors would be the sole importer/distributor of Porsche products and would also maintain their dealer network. In essence, he would be Porsche’s one and only guy on the ground in India. For Porsche it seemed like a great idea since the volumes were low, they would only have to deal with one person. That turned out to be a terrible mistake on the part of Porsche AG.

By the time the financial crisis hit of 2008, Porsche customers were complaining of advances being taken for vehicles and delivery dates kept on being pushed. With Ashish controlling the entire operations in India, customers really had no recourse. Most of the issues never made it to the press, so from the outside everything looked fine.

In 2010, Ferrari came knocking and Ashish hit the jackpot and became the sole importer/distributor and dealer for Ferrari. Ashish negotiated the same setup as he had with Porsche AG. He setup Automobili Italia Pvt. Ltd. which would import and distribute Ferrari’s and sell them exclusively through his dealer network, which initially was going to be in Delhi and Mumbai. In May 2011, the Delhi showroom was opened and the Mumbai showroom was rumored to be setup in Poonam Chambers in Worli. However, that Worli showroom never opened and by early 2014 Ferrari severed all ties with Ashish Chordia.

Ashish had built a bad reputation with his customers not only at Ferrari but also with his Porsche dealerships. In fact, Fortune Magazine wrote an article about his lawsuit with Porsche which eventually led him to flee the country.

After Ferrari shut down operations in 2014, a year later it realized it needed to re-enter India and this time it would be the sole importer/distributer of cars and then it would appoint separate dealers to sell the cars. In Delhi, Select Cars was chosen and for Mumbai, Navnit Motors was chosen to cover the West and South regions of India. Navnit Motors has a long history of selling cars and also many high-end cars like Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, Land Rover and BMW. With this arrangement, Ferrari avoided many of the issues that led to their demise the first time around.

Part 3: History of Ferrari
Back in 1947, Enzo Ferrari created the 125 S which was badge as a Ferrari, the first one. It has been a 70 year journey that has created a cult like following for the “prancing horse” (The Ferrari logo) and in the process Enzo built a racing empire. Maranello, Italy is the current headquarters of Ferrari.

When I had visited the Ferrari Museum in Modena, I was surprised to learn that Enzo Ferrari had a term-sheet to sell 50% of Ferrari to Ford in 1963 for $10 million. However, at the last minute Enzo said no. But, in 1969 he ended up selling 50% to Fiat SpA, which I didn’t realize was an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (FIAT).

There is no point in me writing about the complete history of Ferrari, so I suggest you start by reading the Wikipedia page for Ferrari.

Subscriptions as a Service (SaaS)

216702_new_volvo_xc40_exteriorFor many years we have been hearing the term Software as a Service (SaaS), where software is licensed on a subscription basis and charged on a monthly or yearly cycle. Companies like Salesforce and Dropbox have built their companies on this pricing model.

In 2012, Adobe which is known for products like Photoshop and Creative Suite took a chance and decided to move from a traditional pay once license model and move to a SaaS model. The first year was a disaster for revenues and their stock price took a hit. Today, in retrospect that move was brilliant – revenues are up, more people are using their products since the price points are reasonable and software piracy has come down. With the success that Adobe showed many other large companies are moving to a SaaS model, most notably is Microsoft.

Over the past couple of months, Porsche and Volvo have announced their subscription programs for cars. The two programs are very different, Porsche charges $2000 a month and gives you access to a fleet of vehicles such as 718 Boxster, Cayman S, Macan S and Cayenne which you can pick and choose each month. The plan includes vehicle tax, registration, insurance, maintenance and detailing. This is not a lease, where you typically have a large upfront deposit and still have to pay for your own vehicle tax, registration, insurance and maintenance. The Volvo plan is for $600/month and gives you access to an XC40 SUV.

For many people the above model for cars is super. You get a new car every couple of years and the biggest issue of maintenance is solved. It’s in the best interest of the car company to make sure their cars are trouble free since in the end they will be footing the bill if something happens. Of course, what will happen to the car dealers with their showrooms?

Software and cars are not the only businesses I see where this subscription business model can be implemented, what I’m calling Subscriptions as a Service (SaaS). I envision many physical products moving to this model of essentially renting something and all the costs are covered in the monthly/yearly fee. In your home white goods like TVs, refrigerators, washing machines, a dryer or an air-conditioning unit would be a perfect fit. Yes, there are places where you can rent or rent-to-own these devices but those companies are notorious for renting at insane markups and usually do not cover the maintenance or service costs. I’m talking about the manufacturer offering these products directly on a subscription model to the end consumer under their existing brand or a new private label.

Suppose you put your property on Airbnb. You rent it out and something happens to the TV or refrigerator you will most likely have to coordinate with some local person to get those issues resolved. With a subscription service all the issues and headaches are handled by someone else.

Also, you can space out your payments and if you don’t want to rent the property for a year, you can cancel the TV, washing machine, dryer, etc. This model for white goods works brilliantly. This again ensures that the manufacturers make great products because if not, they will end up eating the cost of fixing any issues. With this shift to a sharing economy model, subscriptions for everything makes sense.

Update:
1. A great article on the history of renting white goods
2. NerdWallet series on Rent-A-Center horror stories

The Ferrari Killler…

tesla-roadster-side-viewTesla pulled a “just one more thing” at their Tesla Semi Truck event and it looks amazing – the Tesla Roadster 2.0. I’m calling it 2.0 since the very first Tesla car was a sports car and it was called a Roadster as well.

Overnight Tesla has put every hyper/super/exotic sports car manufacturer on notice. The Roadster 2.0 is beautiful and the specs are industry leading, 0 to 60 MPH in 1.9 seconds is the fastest production car EVER. I’m a hugh car fan and if I had to put down $250,000 for a Tesla Roadster 2.0 or a Ferrari 488 Spider, I would lean towards the Tesla. And that is saying a lot. If you were to ask me my top 3 car picks, they would be:

  1. Ferrari 488 Spider
  2. Porsche 911 Targa
  3. Mercedes Benz AMG E63 S

Even knowing the history of Ferrari with it’s strong racing culture and it’s exclusiveness, I would still lean towards the Tesla. To hear the engine rev or hear the exhaust note of the Ferrari 488 gets me excited every time I hear one, yet I would still leans towards Tesla. Granted I would have to see the final production version of the Tesla Roadster 2.0 but having seen other Tesla products I’m pretty sure the Roadster 2.0 is the real deal.

Ferrari and every other hyper/super/exotic sports car manufacturer is in a typical innovator’s dilemma. They stick to what they know and yet what they know is being disrupted yet they still cling to the past. The internal combustion engine (ICE) is going the way of the dinosaur and the only place to see those cars in the future will be in museums.

For the past 20 years car manufacturers have been in an arms race to shove the biggest ICE into the engine bay and get higher and higher HP (horsepower) numbers. When I bought my first car in 1996, it was a Nissan Maxima SE and it had a 190 HP engine and at that time that was a big deal for a 4 door sedan. Today, that same Maxima carries a 300 HP engine. I’m guessing most consumers don’t care about those numbers and that’s the issue, the industry is changing. Yet, someone forget to tell the big automakers about this structural shift that is happening.

If I were a shareholder of Ferrari, which is listed on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol – RACE, I would be worried. Ferrari has capped the number of cars they produce in a year to make sure they don’t flood the market but at some point, people will no longer want ICE cars. Time and time again they have said they are not looking at EVs (electric vehicles) or SUVs (sport utility vehicle). However, they are starting to change their stance on SUVs and I’m sure sooner or later they will have to push their chips into the pot and say they are all in for EVs.

Tesla is the future just like Ferrari and Porsche were the future in the 60’s and 70’s. Time will tell if Tesla is the winner, but one thing is for sure that EVs are here to stay and are the future.

The Tesla of India?

mahindraA couple of days ago the Mint newspaper published a story about Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) working with Ford to develop an electric sedan. Ford would get the technology to build a low-cost electric vehicle from M&M and in exchange M&M would get technology to build a larger electric vehicle for potentially the Indian market. M&M is part of the Mumbai based Mahindra Group conglomerate which is run by Anand Mahindra.

So you ask what low-cost electric vehicle technology does M&M have? The answer is quite simple – REVA, which it bought in 2010. REVA (Revolutionary Electric Vehicle Alternative) was started in 1994 by Chetan Maini and way before Tesla came to the market and made electric cars cool. REVA has since been renamed to Mahindra Electric and under the M&M umbrella.

When I look at the Indian car manufacturers – Maruti, M&M and Tata Motors. Maruti is a one trick pony – build cheap cars that the masses will buy. This is not a knock on Maruti it’s just their playbook that has made them the #1 car seller in India. Tata Motors which is part of the Tata Group is currently embroiled in corporate strategy indecision and I’m sure they have not clear strategy in place for electric vehicles.

That leaves M&M, which has the best chance of being a leader in the electric vehicle space not only for Indian but other markets located near India. The Mahindra Group over the years has acquired several companies that call help it achieve it’s goal. If you look at Tesla, they are leaders because of 3 things:

  1. Design
  2. Their manufacturing plant in Fremont, California
  3. Battery technology

For design the Mahindra Group bought Pininfarina SpA in 2015. Pininfarina is the legendary Italian design house that has designed most of the Ferrari’s and one of my favorite American cars the Cadillac Allanté. With Pininfarina in-house they have no excuse not to sketch a car that is out of this world.

Tesla recently admitted that building cars is hard and hence behind schedule with their Model 3 builds. M&M has been building cars and trucks for many years and also purchased SsangYong Motors, South Korea’s 4th largest automobile manufacturer. From a manufacturing perspective M&M seems to have their act together since they have been assembling cars and trucks for many decades.

That leaves Mahindra Electric and their battery technology, which really is the main ingredient in an electric car. I’m assuming their technology is not so strong but with the partnership and knowledge sharing with Ford that should all change. With the partnership and acquisitions it looks like the Mahindra Group is leagues ahead of anyone else in India…now they just need to release a product that will wow the world.

Jio and the Video Revolution

 

reliance-jio-logo-redIt seems like just yesterday when I would come home late and the building security would all be sound asleep. Now when I roll-up at night many of them have their faces partially lit because of their mobile phone screens. Invariably, 99% of them are watching some Bollywood movie, TV show or music program.

There is only one person to thank for this – Mukesh Ambani. Overnight he changed the mobile telecommunications game and dropped boatloads of bandwidth on unsuspecting consumers. At first, people were apprehensive but once they realized it was truly free they started exploring and ultimately found YouTube. A friend of mine works for a fairly large internet exchange point (IXP) and he said the two websites that have benefitted the most from Jio’s explosive growth are Facebook and YouTube.

Even I have changed my internet usage patterns from reading reviews on cars and gadgets to instead watching these reviews on YouTube. One of my favorite Vloggers (video bloggers) for cars is Seen Through Glass. He is witty, loves cars and is generally a treat to watch as he drives some of the most insane cars in the world. In his latest video he is driving around in a Lexus LFA Nurburgring Edition (one of 50 in the world).

YouTube is not the only beneficiary, all the online streaming players are having a field day as well – Amazon Prime, Netflix and YuppTV to name a few.

Of course, Mukesh Ambani wants everyone to stream the content from his services such as JioTV and JioMusic but that’s the beauty of these OTT (over the top) services like YouTube…you can access them from any high speed internet connection.

 

Securing the India Stack

IndiaStack-logoOver the weekend, the Times of India ran a front page article about how someone was able to hack into India’s Aadhaar database.

Aadhaar is India’s attempt to give everyone in India a unique 12 digit ID that can be used for a variety of government services. The Aadhaar project is part of what many call the India Stack. According to Wikipedia the India Stack is:

…a set of APIs that allows governments, businesses, startups and developers to utilise a unique digital Infrastructure to solve India’s hard problems towards presence-less, paperless, and cashless service delivery.

IndiaStack

In a nutshell, the government is going digital and everything will revolve around this unique 12 digit number. Initially, it will be basic government services then it will move to eKYC (Know Your Customer), payments and beyond.

As more and more services go online using the Aadhaar number to authenticate services, we will hear about more and more security breaches. This is not uncommon in the technology world, in the early days of PayPal (they provide online money transfers) they dedicated a large number of resources to “plug” these holes. The reason why people prefer open source security solutions is because you have a large community of programmers that are looking at the code base and constantly testing it to find holes in it.

The Government of India (GoI) should not sweep these issues under the rug and say everything is secure. When a government official says their technology is “tamper proof” that’s when you know they don’t understand technology. Actually, if they are so confident they should host hackathons. These hackathons have two purposes: 1. potentially find bugs or security issues 2. an excellent hunting ground to find talent for the India Stack team.

The Government should actually embrace these hackers whether they are black hat or white hat. Creating a platform like HackerOne would be a step in the right direction. HackerOne is a bug bounty platform that connects hackers (or as they called them “cybersecurity researchers”) with companies to crowd-source security vulnerabilities.

The idea of embracing hackers goes against the grain of conventional thinking but when it comes to digital, I think it’s the best way to constantly improve security and enhance service delivery. The current thinking of “nothing is wrong and nothing to see here” is old school and needs to die.

By the way if you are concerned about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and robots taking over your job, you are in luck! I think India has a severe deficiency in technology security experts which I don’t think robots will be able to takeover…for now. If I was coming out of college today:

  • I would read every API spec document on Aadhaar, UPI, eKYC and others
  • Not only would I read them, I would tear them apart and see how they work
  • Build Android apps around them to understand a real world implementation
  • Start a blog and give recommendations on how to make them better
  • Download other apps to sniff the traffic and see how they implement these APIs
  • Find Indian companies on HackerOne and monetize (as of now, only Ola is on the platform)

Then the next battle will be those robots!