My New Podcast – Performalux

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They say the third time’s a charm, well I’m hoping my latest podcast is the one. Podcasting has been gaining a lot of traction over the past 2 years and my first brush with the technology was back in 2010. I launched my first podcast called “Semper Chai” with a buddy, Mike Martin, out of Los Angeles. We did about 3 or 4 episodes and then we retired from the game!

Then I came out of retirement in 2013 and tried podcasting for a second time with a friend from Bombay – Sahil Parikh. We were going to talk about about technology and called the show “The DotMatrix Show” – connecting the dots of business and technology. That also lasted about 3 or 4 episodes and then we stopped.

Throughout all of this I continued to blog and have been for 14 years. I told myself that in 2018 I wanted to try a different media. That meant either video (vlogging) or audio (podcasting). I know all the cool kids are vlogging but I decided to try podcasting and see how that goes first.

My third attempt at a podcast is about performance and luxury or simply known as Performalux. I will be interviewing owners of super cars, car enthusiasts, car dealers and automobile manufacturers. Cars are my passion so this podcast just aligns so well with it.

Without further adieu, below is the first episode of The Performalux Podcast. I interviewed Gautam Madnani of Lamborghini Mumbai.

To subscribe to future episodes, you can use the links below or wherever you get your podcasts from.

iPhone
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-performalux-podcast/id1367228628

Android
Stitcher- https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/performalux/the-performalux-podcast
Google Play Music – https://play.google.com/music/m/Iyqode7c4qx5lj5idjka44o63hy?t=The_Performalux_Podcast
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1fwmYjec18&list=PL6-pF-IU-94eCTLzGvtMtHjjnAVXhbw9m

Maranello to Mumbai. #Ferrari70

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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 Speciale 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.

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.

Update: April 13, 2018
The Mahindra group launched Automobili Pininfarina, an all-electric luxury car brand. Automobili Pininfarina plans to launch its first model, a `Pininfarina’ badged electric hypercar, in 2020. Click for more info.

The Future of Payments

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Earlier this month I had a chance to be on a panel discussing User Experience (UX) for payments. The panel was part of the Fintegrate Zone 2017 event located at the BSE Building in Bombay hosted by the Zone Startups.

The panel was moderated by Harsimran Julka @HarsimranJulka an editor for the Economic Times. The panel included:
Anurag Sinha, Co-Founder, Walnut App
Deepak Agarwal, CDO, Barclays Wealth
Sohini Rajola, @RajolaSohini, RVP, Western Union
Tina Singh, @tinasinghj, CDO, Mahindra Finance
Malcolm Anthony, Head of User Experience Design, PayPal
Nitin Vyakaranam, @vnitinb Founder & CEO, ArthaYantra

As with any recent discussion involving the Indian financial markets half the time was devoted to talking about Modi’s demonetization. It was more about who benefited from it and who struggled with it, as a whole most fintech startups all benefited from it.

Although we touched on the overall user experience of payments and had much to debate about, I still feel most of the world is struggling with a seamless payment experience. Part of the issue is that people are used to physical cash and it’s been around for ages. People are familiar with it and how to use it, kids from a very young age are taught about physical money and many have piggy banks with some of that loot! Basically, cash is convenient, intuitive and effortless.

But as with everything else, we need to move forward and electronic payments are the future and most governments are behind it as a way to tackle the black money and counterfeit money. Credit/debit cards are a hybrid instrument, although the card is physical in nature it connects to an electronic platform to authorize, clear and settle the payments. Credit cards are prone to fraud since someone can steal your card, go to an online store and enter your card details and buy stuff.

This is where a whole new generation of solutions are entering the marketplace under the banner of mobile proximity payments (MPP), this includes near field communications (NFC) and quick response (QR) codes. NFC is the technology behind Apply Pay, Google Pay, Visa payWave and MasterCard contactless,  it’s a communications protocol that works with devices that are within inches of each other. With Apple Pay when you are ready to checkout, the retailers point of sale (POS) system will “talk” to your phone and then you use Touch ID to authenticate and enable the payment. That really is the way to do it. The problem with NFC is that the phone has to have an NFC chip and so does the retailers POS system. I don’t see this gaining much traction in India as many of the phones are fairly inexpensive and won’t include an NFC chip for years.

How-to-get-paytm-QR-code-175x300
Surprisingly, because of India’s demonetization the use of QR codes has gone from a niche type of application to full mainstream usage. Demonetization was a stroke of luck for Paytm and they turned it into gold. Overnight people needed to send money and many people quickly downloaded the Paytm app and started to transact.

A couple weeks ago, I used the QR code functionality to pay for parking at Phoenix Mills and it was pretty seamless. Since all smartphones have a camera they can scan this QR code and submit a payment to an individual or retailer. I really see this taking off and becoming the standard in India, it’s a low tech solution but sometimes that’s required to get high (mass) adoption in India.

I Love Cars but Hate the Industry

2012 Porsche 911When you decide to buy a car and open an Excel sheet to start doing the math you soon realize cars are a horrible investment. The minute you drive off the parking lot the car has already depreciated by 30%…WTF. However, one thing that Excel can’t capture is the experience of sitting in a new car and inhaling that “new car smell” or driving a Ferrari and getting pushed into your seat as the car sprints forward. Ask any car lover and that’s what you will hear them poetically speak about, ask anyone else and they will spit out those facts that cars are a horrible use of money.

The automotive industry is like many other industries, there is the glitzy side and the not so glitzy side. In the fashion industry, you have fashionista’s walking around with their $100,000 Birkin’s and then you have clothes being made by 7 year old kids in a run down factory in Bangladesh. For the automotive industry it’s pretty clear cut, the glitz and glamour is everything up until you buy the car – the car shows, the magazine review, the test drive, the jovial banter with the sales rep at the dealer, etc… The not so glitzy side is everything after you buy the car – car servicing issues, dealer not responding, insurance for the car, gas prices going through the roof, etc…

I love everything about cars, but hate stepping into a dealer because it just goes downhill for me. In fact, last week I visited a Mercedes-Benz dealer in Bombay to see the new A Class. I mistakenly gave my phone number and now I’m getting an SMS almost every other day to buy the A180 because “the prices are going up as we speak”. My other pet peeve is when a salesperson tells you how reliable and awesome their cars are, then when you are about to sign on the dotted line they will start talking about an extended warranty. A sales practice that puts most people off, but is a huge revenue generator for the dealership.  (This American Life podcast has a great episode about what happens among a sales team at a car dealership – a highly recommended listen.)

For car makers I believe it’s a case of innovator’s dilemma, they don’t want to try new things that might hurt their existing product lines and revenue stream. Over the past 4-5 years there has been an increased interest in shaking things up in the automotive industry from companies based in Silicon Valley. Tesla which is a manufacturer of electric vehicles has not only innovated on the technology used in the car but the entire car user experience – the dealership experience, servicing the car, over-the-air updates, fixed pricing, etc… Google X which is an top secret group within  Google is pouring money into self-driving car technologies, this from a company that made its mark in online advertising.

Car servicing is usually the biggest pain and most frustrating experience for a consumer since they are at the mercy of what the mechanic or service advisor tells them. My interest in cars is also in the not so glitzy side, I’ve been advising a company in India called MotorExpert.in which is changing the way people get their cars serviced in India. The team is looking at many angles of the workshop experience and the consumer website to compare facilities is the first and the most visible product from the team.

Everything I have mentioned so far is around ownership of a car, another area that is being innovated is short term usage of vehicles. Uber with its easy to use iPhone app to “hail a taxi” has quickly rolled to markets all over the world. Uber has been very successful simply because people hate the current system of getting a taxi or paying for a taxi. Because of its popularity, Uber has had to fight the taxi union in many of the cities it has launched its service. Another company, Getaround allows you to rent your personal car to others – peer to peer car sharing. In India, I can see this working for people that have a car and a driver where the car is sitting idle for many hours of the day. You can instantly and safely monetize your car by turning it into a “taxi” on the Getaround platform.

Another area ripe for innovation is car parts with 3D printing of certain car parts. Imagine how great that would be for the spare parts market, it would require much smaller warehouses and reduce the overall time to deliver those parts.

As you can see, I love cars but hate the old school car industry. Much of the innovation for the car industry is coming from outsiders which is not surprising, since no car insider wants to kill the golden goose for their old school car company.

Bombay – The Perfect Bubble

It’s been a week since several bombs tore through South Bombay like a hurricane and already the city is getting back to normal. Some say it’s the strength, courage and/or resilience of it’s people that allows Bombay to move forward. I would simply say, we have created the perfect bubble to live in. This bubble has been created out of necessity since the political infrastructure of this country has simply lost its moral compass. Everything I read about government in India revolves around two basic issues: money and disregard for life.

Safety in this country is a joke. The police patrol the streets with nothing more then a stick and a fat belly. Money that should go towards police issued revolvers, CBs and police cars has surely been pilfered by the higher ups. When a terrorist attacks, the police are clueless and powerless as they don’t have the tools to deal with this type of threat. In the end, people die.

About two years back my parents visited Bombay and they had an extra suitcase which we had no place for. Since real estate is a premium in Bombay, I had the brilliant idea of sticking the empty suitcase in the trunk of my car. For 5 months we visited pretty much every hotel and/or mall that had security and NOT ONE person questioned what was in the suitcase. They opened the trunk looked at the suitcase and then proceeded to shut the trunk. If the government was truly concerned about it’s citizens it would not let private companies conduct security checks and instead use the military as it does for the airports. This decision allows the government to save money but puts the public at risk and in the end, people die.

A politician first and foremost should be doing everything to take care of people in his/her district, but in reality they are more worried about taking care of themselves first. Another great example are the roads in Bombay. Building roads is a fairly simple thing and is done around the world and other parts of India without an issues. However, for some strange reason the roads in Bombay are always in a state of disrepair, of course corruption plays a part. If the cost of the road is Rs. 100, by the time the road is completed only Rs. 5o might have been spent on sub-standard materials, the rest is classified as “leakage”. When roads are so badly constructed it could be a death trap or lead to a serious injury for someone that is riding on a motorcycle and happens to hit a pothole. If you hit that pothole and are taken to a government hospital, let’s just say I wouldn’t even send my worst enemy to a government hospital for treatment. Yet again, the mixture of money and disregard for life creates an environment where government hospital facilities are on par with hospitals from when dinosaurs roamed the earth. In the end, people die.

You get the point, I could go on and on with examples. So what do we do? We create our own bubbles. Who cares if the building we live is filthy, as long as your home is clean. Who cares if people are begging on the street, you are sitting in an air conditioned car. Who cares if someone’s office got bombed, you and your staff are safe.

The problem with bubbles is that they can pop at any moment. When it pops who will help you? The government or will your strength, courage and resilience pull you through.

2011 Mumbai Marathon

The 8th edition of the Mumbai Marathon took place on Jan. 16. This was the 4th Mumbai Marathon that I have participated in and each year it gets better and better, not only from an excitement perspective but also my running time.

This year I completed the half marathon (13.1 miles, 21.1km) in 2:01:26, I was absolutely shooting for sub-2’s, but couldn’t pull it together during the last 4 kilometers to pickup some speed…next year.

My Mumbai half-marathon timings are:

2011 – 2:01:26
2009 – 2:07
2008 – 2:16
2006 – 2:16

What really helped me this year was using the RunKeeper app on my iPhone. RunKeeper was constantly giving me real-time stats on my run and I was able to speed it up or slow it down based on the information. I would highly recommend the program if you are planning to run a 5km or a full blown 42km marathon. You can see my RunKeeper stats for my 2011 run. The website tracks all your runs and aggregates the data and I can see this turning into a much bigger platform then it currently is.