A Better Approach to the Mumbai Parking Fines

By now 50% of my WhatsApp groups have messages about the new parking fines that have been implemented in Mumbai (Bombay) by the MCGM (BMC). The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) is the governing civic body of Mumbai that used to be known as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

haha, redius!

On Sunday July 7th, the new parking rules went into effect that basically raised the fines for illegally parking your car from a few hundred Rupees to thousands of Rupees.

The notice boards were plastered all over Bombay and don’t even get me started on how bad their grammar is. Words like hereby and radius were misspelled. Which I find ironic since for decades, Indian’s have been winning the Scripps National Spelling Bee every year in America. I guess all the good spellers are in the US.

Anyways, people have been talking about how bad the infrastructure of Bombay is and this is just another kick in the balls, I take a different viewpoint. I love that the fines are high, because that is the only way people will change their behaviour and make a difference in the city. I just wish they would had taken a different approach.

They should have launched an app for the city of Mumbai and one of the features would have been for citizens to report illegally parked cars. Currently, the police have to issue a ticket which is a bottleneck and unfortunately the CCTV system is not enabled for issuing violations for illegally parked vehicles. With an app, any citizen can take a picture via the app and it would be geo-tagged and then quickly determined if the car is within 500 meters of a MCGM car park and parked illegally.

But that’s not all, the person that submitted the picture would get 10% of the fine as a reward once the fine is paid. That reward amount can be used to recharge mobile phones and if the amount is above Rs. 10,000 then that person can initiate a KYC process to transfer the money to a mobile wallet like PayTM or a bank account. Imagine the entire population would be on the lookout for parking offenders and a great way for people to earn pocket money.

In addition, they should implement a “leader board” to see who are the biggest parking offenders and who submitted the most pictures. This would bring transparency to the process and also a great way to add “gamification” to the app. One thing is for sure, monetary fines are the only way to fix the problem.

Several months ago I took an Uber to the airport and the driver was speeding on Worli Seaface. But the minute he got onto the Sealink he was going the posted speed limit. I asked the driver why he was suddenly a law abiding citizen, he said “sir you don’t know? they have cameras that give fines.” Money talks.

Apparently, the first person to get a Rs. 10,000 parking fine in Bombay.

15 Years of the Blog

Damn, it’s been 15 years ago since I put up my first blog post.
Here is my 5 year anniversary blog post and
here is my 10 year anniversary blog post

At those intervals I waxed poetically about what I had accomplished and gave some stats. This time, I’m wondering if I’ll still be blogging at the 20 year mark. The current trend is video and even I’ve gotten into video by launching my own automotive channel on YouTube. Okay, that sounds impressive but with a smartphone anyone can shoot video and quickly upload it to YouTube.

Will videos completely replace blogging? I don’t think so, but I think more and more content creators will move to video since that’s where the users are. I was recently talking to someone who was going to write a blog post about creating an Android app and submitting it to the Play Store. He scraped the idea and decided to create a video instead. Watching the video I was able to understand when he says “click here” and clearly see what he is clicking on.

Recently, I was researching some information on how to use the Indian GST portal and the blog posts where okay but the YouTube content was amazing. And most of the content was in Hindi since that’s what the user base is speaking.

When I launched my YouTube channel everyone said I should speak in Hindi but my Hindi is fucking horrible. And now I’m paying the price, my videos are in English and the number of views is a fraction of what it would be if they were in Hindi.

Anyways, I’ll continue to blog even if the user base has moved on. Because for me this blog helps me hone my writing skillz (haha).

The WhatsApp Ecosystem

Earlier this month Facebook held it’s annual developers conference and announced a couple of interesting developments for WhatsApp. Wait, what? What does Facebook and WhatsApp have to do with each other?

First let’s clear the air, Facebook has been getting raked over the coals this past year for a wide variety of issues. Then a couple of weeks ago, one of Facebooks co-founders, Chris Hughes, had an op-ed piece in the NY Times about breaking up Facebook. How many internet properties does Facebook actually have?

Surprisingly many people don’t realize that Instagram and WhatsApp are both owned by Facebook and the 3 properties together: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are a social media 800 pound gorilla.

Back to WhatsApp and those interesting features they mentioned at the Facebook Developers conference. One of the biggest features is WhatsApp Product Catalogs, where users can see what products are available from a brand. This has an immense impact on SMEs that want to sell directly without going through an e-commerce platform like Amazon or Flipkart.

When I first heard about the upcoming feature I didn’t think much of it till a week ago when my wife purchased some products on Amazon.in from a brand she discovered called Pure Elements. Pure Elements is based in Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra and uses Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service. Which means Pure Elements sends their products to Amazon’s warehouse and Amazon takes care of the warehousing, picking, packing and shipping of the product.

We received the order from Amazon and immediately realized there was an error in the shipment. Surprisingly, there was no easy way to tell Amazon that the wrong size of the product was sent. So instead, I sent an email directly to Pure Elements and they promptly fixed the issue and said that next time I should order directly. In the future with WhatsApp Product Catalogs and in-app payments via WhatsApp Payment, I could see myself contacting them directly and getting the products. And if there are any issues I can chat with them directly on the WhatsApp platform.

Currently, the alternative is that an SME needs their own company website with some dodgy payment gateway which invariably is a pain for an SME. Which is the reason why many SMEs in India prefer to use WhatsApp today for commerce even though it’s not as streamlined as it can be. These new WhatsApp features would work well for an SME such as a home baker who sells cookies and cakes.

This brings me to the ecosystem part, imagine if that SME is only going to sell via WhatsApp, then they would only need a CRM (customer relationship management) and a shipping partner. If they made it simple enough for an SME to connect to these external providers it could change the landscape. Yes, WhatsApp does have something called Business API but that’s for larger companies that have a tech team in-house.

I’m thinking something along the lines of WordPress and their entire plug-in community where users can add features to their WordPress website very fast and more importantly without any deep technical skills. A WhatsApp Plugin ecosystem could grow WhatsApp commerce transactions exponentially and spawn many new startups helping SMEs sell more through the WhatsApp platform.

Making it For India

A couple of months ago the streaming music service Spotify was launched in India with great fanfare. I had tried Spotify about 7 or 8 years back but then they started to block IP addresses from India so I quit using the app. At first I wasn’t planning to try it again but I did and I’m so glad I did, their recommendations are spot on…no pun intended.

What really caught my attention during the launch was their pricing matrix. Yes, the monthly price is cheaper in India Rs. 119 (USD$1.70) vs the US at Rs. 693 (USD$9.99). But they also offered daily packs at Rs. 13 (USD$0.18) and weekly packs at Rs. 39 (USD$0.56) as well, almost like the FMCGs offer sachet packs of their products. Sachets – a single-use, a simple flat pouch or stick pack for powders and other runny liquids and gels.

Spotify took that concept and turned it into a digital sachet. It’s a great way to get people to try the product. This is a great example of localization of a product.

When building an app or platform and going to other markets, there is always talk about internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) within the technology team. 7 or 8 years ago foreign companies would sell their products in India and only focus on internationalization. For example, if an app requires a login via a phone number then they enable +91 for Indian mobile numbers.

But the trend is to go one step further and localize the app or platform for the Indian market. And that is where Spotify just nailed it with it’s very Indian pricing matrix. I’m seeing more and more companies localize for the Indian markets because that’s where the growth is as other markets are mature and growth has slowed or stalled.

UPDATE: I’ve received many emails about the confusion about internationalization and localization. For me and the teams I work with, I break it down as:

internationalization – the backend technology to enable the use of the app or platform in another country. For example: language, phone numbers, etc…

localization – the frontend that the consumer will see and you. For example: pricing, localized content, specific features for a country, etc…

Kids, I’m Back on Twitter

In early 2018 I switched from an iPhone to Android and in the process decided not to install some of the apps on my new phone. One of those apps was Twitter.

I felt it was too distracting and it wasn’t really adding any value. However, I would still use Twitter from the desktop but I wasn’t very active in conversations and just shared a bunch of articles I found interesting. One of the things I truly missed about being on Twitter was the vibrancy of technology talk and hearing about new technologies or use cases.

I decided it was time to revisit Twitter on the phone and make some changes to the way I would use it. First thing I did was unfollow EVERYONE and get to zero. Then I added people back that were from the technology field, all the way from deep technology people to product managers.

I made a conscious effort not to follow any news organizations or breaking news accounts. I can’t be bothered by the latest crap from Trump or what Modi is up to. This time around with Twitter, I want to learn from it and hopefully interact with people on the technology front in a constructive way.

Okay, I did cheat a little bit and added a couple of automotive related accounts. So far it’s been a couple of weeks and I’m pretty happy with how things are progressing with using Twitter on the mobile phone. Let’s hope it continues to be useful and doesn’t turn into a cesspool of useless crap.

Is Cable TV Dead?

In a nutshell, yes. The reason is plain and simple – Jio and our addiction to video content. Over the past 6 months when friends get together and discuss what shows to watch, I hardly hear anyone mention the shows that appear on cable TV. Instead, it’s about the latest series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, ALT Balaji, Hotstar or other streaming providers which are collectively known as over-the-top (OTT) providers. The name stems from the fact you can bypass your local cable TV provider and stream the content directly from the internet.

And don’t even get me started on YouTube. This past week there was an article in the Wall Street Journal which talked about the rise of YouTube in India as a search engine. Want to learn how to make a cake? YouTube it. Want to learn the best way to sleep? YouTube it. YouTube voice search is perfect for India where illiteracy is high. Users can speak what information they want and then the search results are videos, where they can see and hear the content.

In fact, I’m finding the quality and content getting better and better even with more and more content creators on the YouTube platform. Just like a Google search you need to know the right keywords for YouTube. But, where YouTube really shines and keeps you on their platform are their algorithms to show you more content that you will like.

A recent example was when I was searching on YouTube for a good vlogging camera. Yes, there were hundreds of thousands of videos but after watching 4 or 5 I was able to decide what camera I needed. And in the process, I came across the YouTube channel called Camera Conspiracies. The guy is a mix of camera reviews and comedy. I’m no longer looking for a camera but I still watch his YouTube channel because the content is addictive.

So where does that leave the existing players? It will be very tough for the direct to home (DTH) providers like DishTV, TataSky and Airtel DTH because they have no real strategy to add more customers. Most of the people I know don’t even turn on their DTH box and are planning to cancel the service when their subscription comes up for renewal.

The cable operators like Hathway are also in a similiar situation but since they own the physical connection to the consumer they have the ability to implement newer technologies such as gigabit fiber to the home. In fact, Reliance backed Jio recently completed the acquisition of Hathway not because of all the users of its cable TV platform but because of the physical access they have to the consumers home. I live in a building which has both Hathway and Jio GigaFiber and I can tell you first hand, we have not even turned on the set-top box (STB) for Hathway in 2-3 months. And all that viewing time has switched to the OTT providers and YouTube.

The Podcast is dead, the Vlog emerges

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If you have been following my blog you know I started a podcast about 6 months ago. Even before I started the Performalux podcast I secretly knew it wasn’t going to last. Podcasting is a great medium for many topics like financial information, news, and talk shows. But a podcast about cars is not one of them. All the cool kids are vlogging because people want to hear the exhaust, see the inside of the car and see how fast objects go by while speeding on a street.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks with podcasts is the distribution of the content, people just don’t know how to listen to podcasts. 5-year-olds know how to use YouTube and skip the intro commercials but listening to podcasts required a Ph.D. Spotify and the other streaming audio providers are trying to change that by having better discovery mechanisms in their app. Will it reach mass adoption is yet to be determined. So long to the podcast format…enter the vlog.

The vlog is hosted on my YouTube channel. I don’t really have a name yet, I’m toying with “The Garage Guy” or my username “mrjain”. I have some time to think about the name, in the meantime I’ll be focusing on getting some great content on the channel. I will not be reviewing Maruti’s and Hyundai’s as there are already a ton of those YouTube channels. The channel will focus on cars I really like and would love to buy. And also talk to the owners of these cars and get their take on what drives them…yes, a horrible pun gone wrong. I’ll stop now.