Dear Ola & Uber, Welcome to the License Raj

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

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.”

An Update on the Quantified Diet

quantified-diet-update

It’s been a year since I started the quantified diet project and the results have been amazing to say the least. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • Weight today: 79 kg (173.8 lbs.), last year: 89 kg (195.8 lbs.)
  • Weight lost 10 kg (22 lbs.)
  • Lowest weight during the past 12 months: 77.2 kg (169.8 lbs.)

So how did I do it? The original version of this blog post was going to go into detail of what worked and what didn’t, but then I realized that would have been a waste. Over the past year, I have met many people that have asked how I did it and I would start to explain the process. Usually, within 20 seconds their eyes would glaze over in boredom. The phrase that really sums it up is “people hear what they want to hear”. If I started to explain the magic pill or the one thing I did, people would be all in…but that’s just not the case.

It was a year of giving up many things and learning to let go of food and thinking about the long term benefits of being healthier. Yeah, I can’t tell you how many f***king times I wanted to eat 5 pieces of chocolate cake or inhale an entire pizza by myself. But, I had to really control that urge and bury it deep down and not think about that instant gratification but instead focus on the long term effects.

However, the biggest surprise was the social pressure. Many times in the past I would stop drinking for several months while I would train for the Mumbai Marathon and people would understand if you were at a party. But, with food it’s a whole nother level of pressure. It got so bad that I would eat at home and then meet friends for dinner and I would end up getting a cafe latte and maybe a couple spoons of dessert. If we had to attend a wedding and/or reception it was a given that I would eat at home and then come. For some reason, if you are not eating and drinking like everyone else then you are deemed anti-social.

The other social pressure was from people that didn’t seem to be happy that I had lost the weight. One of my neighbors stopped me during one of my running sessions and said “what have you done, you looked better before.” You mean, when I was 10kg heavier and felt lethargic, wore baggy cloths and depressed from time to time…no thanks. She was not the only person, I must have had at least 20-25 people tell me something along similar lines. An interesting pattern developed, if they said I looked better before there was almost a 95% chance they themselves were large.

If after reading all this and you are still interested in going through the quantified diet process, I suggest you read my first blog post on it. Then read Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. It’s eye opening to see how the food we eat is optimized and created by big food companies. Also, watch these two movies about food – That Sugar Film and Fed Up by journalist Katie Couric. I’ve come to my own conclusion that sugar is the root cause of what ails most people.

A Decade of Blogging

10-years-blogging-toprankYes, it’s been 520 weeks since I started blogging at celestri.org. What is more surprising is growing up I HATED to write. Back in grade school if I had to write a book report, I would have rather been cut by 1,000 paper cuts then write one word about My Friend Flicka. Somewhere along the way I got into the groove of writing and here I am 128,000 words and 468 blog posts later. Which averages out to about a blog post every 8 days, over the past 2-3 years I’ve slowed down to a blog post every month…focusing on quality over quantity.

What started out as a way to share my pictures online turned into a online version of dear diary. Most people have two questions for me: 1. Why the hell do you write 2. How many people visit your blog.

I write because it allows me to shape my thoughts more clearly and in the process helps hone my grammatical skillz (haha, just kidding – skills). In the process, I have met many people because of this blog and have been able to share ideas with them. It’s just another way to connect with people.

As far as pageviews, I currently have no idea. About 3 or 4 years ago I deleted Google Analytics which allowed me to track visitors, pageviews and 100’s of other metrics. I decided I didn’t care if people read what I wrote. Deep down I wanted to write about what I wanted to write about. And it’s the best advice I give to people when they say “I want to start a blog”, I tell them write about stuff you really care about and don’t worry about the metrics.

When I started 10 years ago, I had no idea that blogging would take off or that I would be writing 10 years later. Do I have any big plans for the future? No. I plan to continue writing about things that excite me, intrigue me and educate me. If you are interested in starting a blog, I would give you the following pieces of wisdom:

  1. Write about things you really care about
  2. Be consistent – I see people start a blog and write every day then after a month they completely stop
  3. Don’t worry about the metrics
  4. What’s the worst outcome? You will improve your grammar skills

Here’s to another 520 weeks of blogging!

P.S. The 128,000 words I’ve written works out to almost 3 full-length novels.

Getting Fat and Getting Rich

weigh-scale-helpThis is one of those blog posts where the overall idea has been floating around my head for the past several years but never could figure out a way to write it down and simplify it.

The short version – there are no short cuts to losing excess body fat.* (Yes, there is an asterisk at the end of that statement because you could opt for plastic surgery or gastric bypass surgery but those involve elective surgery with potential complications or side-effects.)

Obesity threatens the health care systems around the world in countries were obesity rates are rapidly reaching epic proportions. If you love food or are obese I would suggest you read the book Salt Sugar Fat and watch the BBC documentary The Men Who Made Us Fat. People talk about the destruction that drugs and alcohol can cause but we always gloss over food. That is so wrong, because many of the diseases that people have are a direct cause of what they eat.

In the book, Salt Sugar Fat, they talk about Cheetos and its “vanishing calorie density” which means it melts so quickly that your brain thinks it has no calories, at that point in the book you realize you are screwed. What you soon understand is that it’s a losing battle to lose weight with several factors at play such as processed foods, increasing portion sizes, slick marketing and big business.

The formula for getting obese and getting rich are pretty simple in theory:

(eat more) – (decrease physical activity) = obesity (calorie surplus)
(work more) – (decrease spending) = rich (money surplus)

In order to lose weight you need to eat less calories and increase physical activity. Which means you would be running a calorie deficit which leads to weight loss. Studies have shown that 80% of weight loss can be attributed to portion and calorie control and the rest is from an increase in physical activity, just think about that for a minute…a majority of your weight loss can be accomplished by just shutting your mouth.

How many times have you jumped on a treadmill to run 30 minutes and the display says you’ve burned 150 calories. Then you drink a Jamba Juice smoothie in under 60 seconds which has 300+ calories. It happens to me all the time when I train for half-marathons, I’ll have a great 15 kilometer training run and then feel like I deserve an all day pass to eat whatever I want to…#fail. I always gain weight when I train for half-marathons when logically I should be losing weight.

When you start thinking of losing weight in terms of money, you will quickly realize you can work out all you want but if you don’t control the calories going in then it’s just a wasted effort. It’s similar to getting rich, you can save all the money in the world but if you work at McDonald’s you will never be able to get rich.

What is Lance On?

live-strongLance finally admitted to himself on TV what the world already knew…he took performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) to help him win an unprecedented seven Tour de France titles. Now we know why it was unprecedented, because it’s probably impossible to win seven straight titles without PEDs.

I absolutely hate this guy and I’m not exactly sure why. I’ve never met him, his issues in life have no bearing on me, and his Livestrong Foundation will continue it’s cancer research.

I would say the biggest issue I have with the guy is that for years he called out people who questioned him on his use of PEDs. Even suing people into submission and shutting them up…that is just plain wrong. I hope the way he bullied people, he gets his fair share of it back times fifty.

Below is one of his Nike commercials where he asks:

What am I on? I’m on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day, what are you on?

Well, Lance I’m definately not on a bike and I’m guessing you won’t be on one for a long time as well. Welcome back to the real world.

Why Me?

why_meAs 2012 comes to a close, how often have you asked yourself “Why Me?” It’s often asked when things don’t go your way – didn’t get into the college of your choice, didn’t get the job you wanted, getting diagnosed with a terminal illness, bought Apple stock at $25 and then sold it at $50, can’t find the right person to get married to, waiting to start a family, etc…

Yeah, when you look at the above list only one truly stands out – getting diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Yet, we all think what we are going through is absolutely the worst possible thing in the world and wonder why is it happening to me?

I’ve been there and I’m sure you’ve been there. No matter how many people are around you and trying to keep your spirits high it’s a lonely place. And that’s the issue, you feel all alone and think no one else has gone through what you are experiencing…WRONG.

Bad business decision? I recently met someone who owned about 10 acres of land in Bombay and sold it 12 years ago for next to nothing since it was a liability and not an asset. Today that property is easily worth $500 million dollars…doh.

Bad business decision (part 2)? I ran into someone who mentioned his family had the chance to own 50% of a large mobile operator in Asia. Today that mobile operator is worth $10 billion. They passed on the opportunity because they felt it wouldn’t turn into anything big…well the Indian mobile industry has been the shining star and the rest is history.

Didn’t get the job you wanted? I didn’t get my “dream job” and was constantly asking “why me”. Out of college I wanted to work for Summit Consulting in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were doing some “cool” stuff with IBM AS/400’s, what a joke. My “plan b” was to work at Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) where I actually got to work on bleeding edge technology and travel the world on the company dime. I’m so glad my “dream job” didn’t pan out.

The good news is that once you get through it, you can move on.  The outcome might be positive or negative but if you keeping asking “why me” that can only translate into negative thoughts and that doesn’t help anyone. With 2013 just around the corner, think forward and think positive.