Living in a 3rd World Country

haji-ali-juice-cellAbout 7 1/2 years ago I moved to India and started calling it “home”. Friends and family always ask me “how is it there?” People that want to move over here for business, usually connect with me via LinkedIn and then ask “how is it there?” Currently, it’s breezy, sunny and 90° F (that’s 32° Celsuis). Okay, I’m sure that is not the response people are looking for.

I’ve been meaning to put together a post about my experiences in India but never really knew what to cover or where to start. People are always looking for pro’s and con’s but really each individual situation is different. Over the past 2 weeks it started to become very clear what to write about.

First let’s get the basics out of the way, India is a 3rd world country. Of course in this era of being politically correct the right term is emerging market. Emerging markets by definition are in the process of rapid growth and industrialization. Because of that, business interests and profits always seem to trump everything else whether it’s human rights, the environment, doing the right thing, etc…

The one thing that has always been at the back of mind while living here is the lackadaisical attitude toward safety and really my personal safety. And no I’m not talking about some gangster pumping 15 lead bullets into me or getting some crazy-ass disease. In Bombay, I can’t tell you how many times I see people cross the street and don’t even look for potential oncoming traffic. Or people running after a bus that is completely packed just to be able to hang from it like a garbage collector (I’m sure there is a politically correct term for that).

I always cringe when I drive at night because most people will NEVER turn their headlights on for safety. In their minds they are “saving” the light bulb which will always trump their own safety and mine. So what happened 2 weeks ago? 2 words – cell towers. We realized we are in the direct firing line of 3 cell towers that are about 50 meters from us. The verdict is still out whether electromagnetic fields (EMF) from cell phone towers are harmful but it definitely can’t be a good thing.

More importantly, the building that houses the towers could be at risk but have decided to forgo their personal safety for the monetary gains they receive from the cell tower companies like – Indus Towers, Reliance Infratel, Viom, etc… In addition, there are rules and regulations about tower density on a building but that means nothing in a 3rd world country called India. As a friend mentioned, the cell phone industry is the shining star of the corporate world and safety norms and regulations can only hamper its exponential growth. Profits before safety of it’s residents.

But, it’s not just the cell phone industry that puts profits ahead of safety. I can count on one hand the number of factory recalls that the automotive industry has issued in India. And let me tell you it’s not because they are building world class products that are free of defects. Even the well respected $100 billion conglomerate Tata Sons did not recall the Nano even though it would spontaneously turn the car into a barbecue grill. Instead it was termed a “replacement program” which has different legal and financial implications then a full blown factory recall. Once again profits before safety.

The list goes on and on but that is one of the downsides of living in a 3rd world country. Still interested?

The above article was syndicated on IndiaOpines.com and Medium.com.

Dissecting the Latest Mary Meeker Report

india_2012_internet

This is from the 2012 report, showing Indian internet usage.

It’s that time of the year when Mary Meeker graces us with her annual slide deck (which weighs in at over 100+ slides) about internet trends by releasing it on the internets. Queen Mary has been churning out this “McKinsey-esque” report since 2011, so really it’s just been 3 years. I read the 2012 report and came away thinking…duh, no shit.

What really got me in the 2012 report was the image on the left about Indian internet usage between mobile and desktop. I call bullshit, this graph looks too perfect to be real. But, once the report was released everyone was talking about this graph as if it was the gospel about mobile internet usage in India.

Sorry, if I misled you with the title but please stop reading if you are expecting a full de-brief on the slide deck. I’m sure our friends over at TechCrunch have already written up a full de-brief and tweeted the hell out of it.

For me these reports are just empty calories. You might think you sound smart when you can tell someone “according to the 2013 Meeker report, mobile payments will be hugh.” Or better yet, you randomly throw some nuggets from the slide deck into a conversation at a dinner party and suddenly you are looked upon as some super genius on all things internet, mobile, local, social and payments related.

What is smart is if you invested in a mapping company 2 years back to take advantage of the local scene. Or, you started a mobile payment company 4 years back when people were still trying to figure out what the fuck Twitter was all about. Or, you are working on some new battery technology that will make gadgets last 10x longer and 1/10 the size…that’s uber smart.

Of course, that won’t stop VC associates from around the world to devour the slide deck for breakfast. So that by lunch time they can start the due diligence process in order to have term sheets ready by dinner for new startups to fund.

Startups are also analyzing the slide deck so they can breath easy knowing what they are slaving over 80 hours a week is one of the identified trends by Queen Mary.

If her 2013 report is anything like her 2012 report, I can loosely guess what it contains:

  1. Mobile is massive – Countries like India and China are just scratching the surface. The 2 countries combined have 2.6 billion people do the math…it’s big.
  2. Social is hugh – Of course, if you have a ton of mobile phone users they will want to communicate with each other
  3. Internet usage up – Yup, as more people buy phones they will access the internet

If you have some calories to spare and want to sound smart at your next dinner party then please visit the 2013 Internet Trends by Queen Mary. But remember I warned you because the internet, mobile, local, social and payments space is massive, big and huge for 2013.