Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Hey Minister, Save Trees!

Dear Union minister for Civil Aviation,

While traveling in India recently, I understood that I must have my domestic flight ticket printed on a paper to enter the airports.
Initially, I thought this was a security requirement so that bad elements cannot enter our beloved airports. However, I noticed that anybody can pass this step with a visitors ticket that can be bought only for INR 30. (0.75$ cents). Also, with my little knowledge of computers I can assure you that the required printout at the front gate of airports can be produced with-in 5 minutes. So if bad elements want to enter the airport, they will.

The only conclusion I could reach is, this is done to stop over-crowding airports and only let the passengers inside. I completely agree on this arrangement as I myself know, my entire family comes to drop me at airport every single time, and if allowed they would certainly drop me till the aircraft. (and would not leave till the aircraft is ready to go).

So, my problem with this is the "printout". The airport security were not even willing to look at my smart phone where they could actually read everything. They strictly demanded a printout. I tried to convince security at various Indian domestic airports but had no luck.

According to DGCA, we had 50 million domestic travelers in 2010, which means we cut approximately 8,500 trees to only pass the first step at the airports. (please find the calculation at the end of this letter).

I think there is a real possibility of saving trees. I believe we can fix this.

It would be unreasonable to assume that every traveler will have a smart phone to show the e-tickets at the airport. However, it is equally reasonable to assume that each traveler will have a simple phone*. Can we use the mobile revolution to save some trees? If the aviation ministry can regulate air fare prices, I am certain that, they can also dictate airlines to send a SMS for every booking. I am also attaching a possible format for the said SMS with this letter which contains all the information available in the e-tickets which I used to enter the airports.

The airlines do NOT need the print outs. For them, piece of identity and PNR is more than enough. If this information is enough to enter an aircraft and fly, then why can't this be enough to enter the airport.

Also, this 8,500 trees are the direct saving. There is another few thousand trees/CO2 saved which was spent in making paper from these trees, transportation of these paper and waste management afterwards etc etc.

This small measure will definitely make a big impact and moreover make the Ministry of Environment and the minister, your dear friend, Jairam Ramesh happy :)

I believe we have a real opportunity to lead the world by example!

Yours truly,
An average Indian citizen

* The travelers without phone can of course use print outs. There is no easy way around them.

Suggested SMS Format: (100 characters only)

Name: (40-char-name)

(if-needed the remaining 60 characters can be used for advertisements-VOILA)
DoT: Date of travel
PNR: Unique code used by airlines for a particular travel.
ToF: Time of Flight
FNo: Flight Number
ARL: Airline code
PoB: Port of Boarding code (Example: DEL)
PoA: Port of Arrival Code (Example: MUM)

Calculation for number of trees:

50 million passengers per year.
One A4 sheet weighs 10 grams.

So thats: 50,000,000 * 10 grams = 50,000,000 * 10 / 1,000, 000 tonnes = 500 tonnes
It takes 17** trees to make one tonnes paper so thats: 500 * 17 = 8,500

8500 Trees per year.

DGCA website:
Number of Trees per tonne: (Everywhere on internet it is almost the same figure)

1. Every traveler will have a A4 sized printout. Honestly, there is no other way. Few will even take more than one copies.
2. Visitor pass prices may vary across India, but they are not a lot. Maximum around Rs. 100 (2$)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Great Indian Story

When anybody in the world thinks about India, one of the first thing that comes to their mind is cheap labor. After my month long travel in India, about one thing I am sure is, there ain't any labor available, forget about being cheap.

Skilled and non-skilled people should be available in abundance in a country with population over a billion.

Non-skilled Labor
These are the people working below the poverty line, on minimum wages. Of all the medium-scale industries I visited, every owner has the same problem. They have set up
almost automatic factories and need a very little number of hands to run the factories, but they can't even find those bare minimum hands. The problem is not money. They told me, if you pay them more, they are going to get drunk and not return to work next day. It is a big catch-22 problem with no solution in sight.

Skilled Labor
We have heard stories but multi-national companies complaining about not being able to find enough talent. This could be attributed to the lack of "quality" higher education. We do not have enough high-quality institutes to keep up with the pace of industry consumption of talent. At least this problem has a solution: Open more institutes of excellence.

And The Rest
And here lies the main problem. There is a big chunk of population that are enough educated to decline minimum wages jobs in factories but are not qualified to work in big competitive environments for multi-nationals. They are best suited for specific industries like manufacturing, distribution, textile, petro-chemical etc, where they can develop a particular skill over time and have a happy life thereafter. But the problem is supply is much higher than demand and we will always have these people who are very well capable of achieving great heights but will never get an opportunity.

I wish we find solutions to these problems soon, otherwise the story won't be so great after all.

Facebook photo album view still sucks

Give more space to user to showcase his personal albums and less space to photos he is tagged in.

I upgraded today to the latest Facebook profile view to see if they updated the photo album view. Sure they did. But it they could not get over the old thinking.

Finally, my personal albums are on top of the tagged photos of me. Finally. With this change, at least they agree with me that albums are higher "priority" than tagged photos. Then, why are only 6 albums shown on the landing page and an unlimited number of tagged photos.

Let the user show as many albums of him as he wants. (or worst case set an upper limit).

With the new trend of people tagging others in photos that have nothing to do with the tagged friend, but to notice it. It will be a nightmare to scroll through all the photos the user is tagged in. There must be a grouping of these photos.

And, don't even get me started on the links between pages. There are some redundant links and there are some missing links. They should really focus on this: How a user would like to jump around the pages?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Travel Policy

It is really disappointing to travel to the most beautiful cities in the world and not being able to enjoy the most because of how we perceive time. A lot of countries (for example in Eastern Europe) set up their time zones not entirely according to the sunrise and sunset times but are influenced by other countries that bring them a lot of business.

After all my travel experience I have discovered a trick:

Adjust your watch such that sunset happens at 7PM.

This works great, especially in winters. For someone like me, who hates to wake up early during vacations, I used to get only 3-4 hours of sunlight. But now I get a lot more sunlight and also escape the tourist crowd at restaurents. In summers, I just get a lot more sleep with this, which is again perfectly fine :)

Try it!