Tuesday, April 28, 2009

India and Me

Joe, Michelle and me at Lazeez Affaire restaurant in Delhi.

Sari Man
Indian women and me at the Red Fort in Delhi.

Golden Dreams
At the Sikh temple in Delhi.

India 2 206
At the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Flickr Pictures

I've created a Flickr account called ISLP India '08.

Over the next few weeks, everyone from the trip will be uploading their pictures there. It will be a fantastic place to catch a glimpse of India from many different perspectives. Since Flickr allows for pictures to be tagged, you should be able to see all our Taj Mahal pictures with a simple search or a click on the tags page.

Flickr also just added video uploading, so the live action of rickshaw rides, dance performances, and political ceremonies is just a click away.

Our photos are organized in collections by day and by photographer (also see the list of all the sets).

Our permanent address is:

...and our profile address is:

I've posted quite a few of my pictures there, so be sure to check it out!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Poverty in India is ever-present and pervasive. There is no place left untouched by its hands. Driving down the road, the same pattern repeats over and over again. This tessellation is something like children, cows, mangos/bananas, men, trucks, debris, dogs, men, bikes, rickshaws, dirt, women in colorful saris, children, cows...

Stopping at any monument causes our group to be swarmed by trinket salesmen, hungry children, and professional beggars. Poverty is a problem without an immediate solution. For every person from a developed country that says we should just give food to the poor, there’s another that says they should build themselves up by starting their own businesses. While I am generally a member of the latter generalization, I cannot believe the number of small businesses that already exist. We visited a market in Delhi where there were entire streets with 20 stores all dedicated to one good. Examples include wedding supplies, paper, and saris – each one had a street of its own, and for each good there were 10s of tiny shops that all had the same products.

The main roads are lined with small businesses, there are millions of individual hawkers, and there are thousands of shops for the same goods. The large populations of India and China put constraints on any traditional strategy for development. It will be very interesting to see how (if?) there will be enough resources to provide for these teeming masses.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Energy Infrastructure

Mr. Cherian Thomas is the Senior Director at Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), which advises the government on infrastructure development projects. He spoke about all aspects of infrastructure – telecom, transportation, roads, and energy. Due to my work with GreenGrid, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the power industry in India. He said that right now the power companies can’t meet 15% of peak demand. We saw the effects of this when we visited Amity University, the number one business shcool in India. Even at a top school there are power problems -- we experienced several power outages during our two and a half hour stay.

He noted that this performance is actually much better than the system before the industry was “unbundled”. The Indian government decided to unbundle the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity when it came to the conclusion that it no longer had the resources to do a good job of supplying the vast population here. As it now stands, anyone can set up a company that performs one of the three functions. He said that if you have enough money you can set up a power generation plant.

While the industry has made great strides, 15% unmet peak demand is still a terrible problem. The reason he gave was unmetered connections. He said that it is commonly assumed that the poor who live in slums are the culprits of the stolen electricity. However, an intensive study has shown that not only do the vast majority of the poor pay for their electricity, they actually pay more than their counterparts in the middle and upper classes. Mr. Cherian gave the example of how a poor person will pay 10 rupees for a bucket of water, but the rich won’t pay 10 rupees for all the water they use in an entire day. The real culprits of the vanishing power are the commercial properties who know how to tap into the distribution lines and get the power for free. He also mentioned that corruption and bribes likely play a large part in the problem.

Clearly, there is an opportunity for someone who can solve these problems. One solution he mentioned was getting people to use better lighting technology. LED’s and compact fluorescent bulbs, recently popular in the United States, have the advantage of consuming far less power than a comparable tungsten light bulb. Certainly, if this country of 1.3 billion people switched to light bulbs that consume half as much energy that 15% could be met.

From my perspective there is also a great opportunity for a company to use smart meter technology to ensure 100% uptime. Smart meters can be controlled by a central authority allowing them to turn on and off a home’s or businesses power. As part of an opt-in system, a business office could let the power company turn off their air conditioner (and only the air conditioner) in times of the highest demand. The business would get credit on their electricity bill, and the power company could more effectively meet demand with the lower consumption.

In a few more years, vehicle to grid technology will allow individuals to participate in the storage and in effect, generation of electricity. This is where GreenGrid shines, and it just goes to show how viable our ideas and products will be in the future. If you’d like to read about the project, head over to our website at http://www.chargethegrid.com.


Last night when I was dead asleep, I faintly heard a bell through the sounds of my dreams. “RIIING!” There it was again. Wearily, I arose, reality sinking in. The door creaked open, and in walked Joe, my new roommate.

So, I finally have another male to help me keep the 15 girls at bay!

A polite young man, he apologized for waking me up, and told me to go back to sleep. However, my schedule has been so odd lately that three hours of rest is about what I’m used to. I was wide awake in a matter of minutes. Since he had just come from the airport, he was quite hungry and we decided to find some food. We headed downstairs unsure of how we were actually going to be able to locate the food. Quite fortunately, the cafĂ© in the hotel stays open 24 hours!

I caught him up on all the happenings and asked how he had come to arrive so late. Turns out he forgot to get his visa on time, and unbelievably, one of the flight attendants he chatted up at the Newark airport had connections to the Indian consulate. He was able to walk straight through the line and get his visa in less than an hour. ...ah, the power of connections!

Long story short, we had some delicious salmon and daal, and determined that we had similar tastes in music. Oddly enough, he actually is an ex-local rock star who played for years on Sunset Boulevard. He’s 26 and attends Cal State Northridge. He determined that it was time to get responsible and get an education after which he’d be able to have a real job and make some real money (Not a bad realization to come to). So, he quit smoking, started eating raw vegetables, is in the process of purchasing a car, and getting an internship. Perhaps no longer a rock star, but his life will certainly be better because of it.