Club Penguin for Kids

Abhishek and his cousins (ages 7-10 years) have been spending an incredible amount of time on Club Penguin. It is an online virtual world for kids. I have also had to gift them paid memberships ahead of their April birthdays.

A lot of discussion revolves around penguins, puffles and the like! Its a very nicely done environment. The kids have also learnt to use some of the ‘cheat sheets’ around the web, and make their way like pros around.

Last year this time, it was beyblades. This time around, an online virtual world. Progress?

Restaurant Reco: Tuskers at Sofitel

Tuskers is an unusual name for a vegetarian restaurant in Sofitel in BKC. Equally unusual is to find an only-veg restaurant at an international hotel chain in India.

I had a business dinner there recently, and the food was outstanding. The Jain food was also very well done.

So, if you are looking for a good lunch or dinner place at BKC, look no further than Tuskers!


Movie Reco: Kahaani

I saw Kahaani recently. Very well crafted suspense thriller. Good to see Bollywood make movies of a different genre.

Vidya Balan carries the movie on her shoulders. Kolkatta has been shot beautifully.

There as a full house when I saw it on the second weekend. That says a lot about the pull effect of the movie.

Blog Past: Digital India

I wrote this a year ago:

Technology and Government: Fast-tracking Democracy

IT Infrastructure to redefine Citizen-State Relationship

Creating “Digital India” is about using Information Technology to:

  • Disseminate information
  • Deliver services more effectively to citizens in the State
  • Encourage feedback from citizens and provide a channel for them to talk back

Information Technology enables transformation at various levels:

  • Governance made “user friendly” and transparent
  • Involve citizens in working synergistically with the government
  • Make citizens active stakeholders in the development of the state

Weekend Reading

This week’s links:

  • Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas: by Paul Graham. “Any one of them could make you a billionaire. That might sound like an attractive prospect, and yet when I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them.”
  • Online Newspapers: from The Economist. “To survive online, newspapers are seeking a worldwide audience.”
  • The Newsonomics of ARPU, Counting Revenue per Visitor: by Ken Doctor. “It’s a great benchmarking metric, long used by telcos and in the cable TV industry, and one being increasingly used, though not publicly, in the digital news industry.”
  • Indian eCommerce: by Shyam Kamadolli. “Where we are today is that both investors and entrepreneurs have become more aware of the challenges than they were 6 months ago.”
  • India’s Exploding Digital Economy: by Jeffrey Rayport. “The idea that India — with its scale, its energy, its consumers — could become a digital laboratory and growth engine for the world struck me as both likely and inspiring.”

Assembly Elections – Part 10

What the BJP needs to propose to its allies and potential partners is a two-pronged electoral model where BJP contests seats in urban areas in states even where the alliance partner is strong. For the alliance partner to agree to such a proposal, there must be a visible national wave for the BJP so that the partner also benefits across the state.

This will open up new opportunities for the BJP in states like TN, AP and WB with potential partners like AIADMK, TDP and TMC. In these states, the BJP could add 30-40 additional seats.

Such a dual relationship would create a stronger lock between the BJP and its alliance partner as is there in Punjab.

Admittedly, this idea may be far-fetched. But the time has come to think hard about out-of-the-box solutions to India’s political and policy challenge. All our futures are at stake.

Assembly Elections – Part 9

Besides the obvious elements that the BJP needs (mass leader and an aspirational agenda, to start with), I think that the BJP also needs to craft a new political model keeping in mind the federal structure of India.

The existing approach that the BJP has will probably limit it to a maximum of 200 seats in the best case scenario. (BJP’s previous best at the national level is 182 seats.) Even a national wave for the BJP is unlikely to propel the BJP close to 272 because it is almost non-existent in four key states in India.

A figure of 200 still leaves it 72 seats short of a majority, and it will then entail taking support of 4-5 parties (including allies). That by itself may not help with governance given that key ministries will be given out, and any ally could put a stop to any decision it doesn’t agree with. (Case in point: TMC in UPA 2.)

So, is it possible to create a new construct in India’s political sphere that can get the BJP past 272 on its own?

Assembly Elections – Part 8

India’s political future, thus, has four possibilities after the next elections:

  • A Congress- or BJP-led majority government: this is the ideal scenario
  • A Congress-or BJP-led minority government: the stability of this government will be dependent on the quantum of support needed from the smaller parties
  • A Third Front government: this will be inherently unstable given that it is likely to cobble together 10-15 parties, with no clear anchor
  • A Third Front government supported from inside or outside by the Congress or BJP: such a government will be at the mercy of its big ally, who could choose to withdraw support at any time. Also, given that many of the smaller parties compete with one or both of the national parties, it could be difficult  to put such a formation in place

Given the anti-Congress sentiment that is prevalent, the BJP is perhaps best placed to start thinking how it could create a government at the centre in the next elections – with a majority of its own.

Assembly Elections – Part 7

Regional parties rule many states in India already. Each one has the potential to win 20-30 seats in a national election. Since many of them do not have a footprint in more than one state, in theory, they could all come together and try and cobble a government after the next elections if the Congress and BJP aggregate falls to less than 272 (the half-way mark).

That is easier said than done. The inherent differences and leadership aspirations will probably make it very difficult for any sort of stable government to emerge. Once again, policy-making and governance will suffer.

Of course, the alternative is that one of the Congress or BJP gets a majority on its own. That seems highly unlikely as of now. But two years is a long time in politics.

Assembly Elections – Part 6

As one looks ahead, India’s political and policy future does not look bright. On the policy side, government interference in business is increasing. The ban on cotton exports is one example of where the government is needlessly meddling with the markets. With a budget coming later this week, socialistic handouts are expected to increase under the names of NREGA and Food Security Bill. Religion-based quotas also do not seem to be far away. With a desperate and weakened  Congress, sanity in decision-making may take second place to protecting and prolonging the dynastic legacy.

The BJP also has failed to emerge as a national alternative. Without a mass national leader, without a clearly defined differentiated agenda and without recognisable local faces, it is not winning over the anti-Congress votes. These votes are instead going to a clutch of regional parties where they exist.

These trends mean that India could be back in the 1996-1998 era wherein the Third Front experiments held sway.