Saturday, 20 June 2015

Yoga not an exercise. It is a way of life.

June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly December 11, 2014. Celebrating 21st June as International Yoga Day has been supported by 177 countries which is a record for any of this kind of global events.

Yoga is considered to be a good exercise not only for body but also for soul. While the exact origins of Yoga in Ancient Indian history are unclear, it is speculated that Yoga as a form of exercise was adopted during Pre-vedic Indian times.

Here’s few good reason why you should adopt Yoga as a way of life.

Exercise for Greater Flexibility & Strength

Smart yogis know dumbbells aren't the only way to sculpt. "You're using your body weight to move from posture to posture, and in certain poses, you're lifting every pound of it." says Loren Bassett, an instructor at Pure Yoga in New York City. Yoga is one of the most comprehensive exercises since it works all the muscles of the body. 

People having suffered from various problems of the joints (Arthritis), bones or muscles are recommended yoga. This is because yoga helps to strengthen our musculature and ligaments. Breathing and stretching techniques used in Yoga if followed can help to regulate the flow of various fluids in the body. Better circulation means that the body’s ability to self-heal gets a boost. With greater flexibility, we are able to move, grasp, push, pull and lift things with greater ease. This also ensures a better range of motion. According to researchers Yoga improves postures & strengthens back muscles better compared to physical therapy or even medicines. 

Increased Cardiovascular Conditioning

Highly congested lifestyles combined with bad eating habits ensure that our heart is more prone to developing fatal conditions like a stroke. Cardiovascular problems have increasingly started affecting people who are barely in their mid-30s. Yoga by harmonizing the breathing pattern, helps to regulate the heart-rate and raise our overall physical endurance. The heart becomes less vulnerable when pushed into demanding, physical and mental situations. More oxygenated blood and a greater range of motion help to keep the body free from toxins.

Revitalize your sex life

According to a study conducted by The Journal of Sexual Medicine Yoga helps increasing your desire and ensures more exciting times in bed. Yoga helps reduce anxiety, increase body awareness and even leads to speed the release of hormones that rev arousal. All of this translates to a boost in libido, lubrication and ability to achieve orgasm.

Stay Young & Look Younger

One of the most common benefit of yoga is weight management. Since yoga works the entire body and makes the circulation of fluids more smoother, it leads to rise in the overall metabolic rate. Thus, more calories are burned. By working out the lean muscle mass, yoga makes it possible to burn fat, lose weight and look younger. The sense of calmness and stimulation of various bodily organs helps to fight-off the aging-causing free radicals that attack our skin on a daily basis.

Peace of mind & Building Better Relationships 

Yoga helps to achieve a better physical and mental state of existence, everyday apprehensions are eradicated. Women who had followed yoga at least once a week for two years or more released 41 percent less of a tension-triggered cytokine (a type of protein) that can make you feel tired and moody compared with yoga newbies, a study in Psychosomatic Medicine notes.

Also people who are less worried and not bothered by frequent illnesses and naturally feel better. This helps to overcome issues like lack of self confidence or lack of compassion that are common, relationship hurdles. A more focused mind is undoubtedly able to address such problems in a more capable manner. People who regularly practice yoga have a better ability to comprehend situations. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Can twitter replace news feeds?

Twitter has become a growing phenomenon like Facebook surviving off by people using it. It has taken control of the social media platform and has made millions off on consumer generated content. Millions and millions of people are tweeting throughout the day leading to chats, conversations, and social action. It has already created a niche for itself and is used by millions doing a great job getting and connecting with organizations in all subjects such as news, celeb news, sports, and fashion.

Everyone, even celebrities, politicians, organizations, businesses etc have a Twitter handle. Some would say that it is one of the greatest social networking sites there is, while others would think it is for idle people who have nothing more to do, but tweet all day. Celebrities have flocked to the social media site. It has become a tool to connect with their fans as well as other celeb friends. Although it has some good points, twitter has caused many controversies among its celeb users. For example, tweeting offensive or controversial tweets of their unfiltered opinions. Fan bases of celebrities can be more than some of the world’s country population.
Many people believe that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will dominate and soon erase original websites for news. This is a myth. Although followers do receive part of the news from these sources, most people state that they still like to visit the original news website to catch up on their news. Although research proves that the device you are using does not change which website you resource to for news, Twitter news followers are known to be more mobile, using more smart phones and computer tablets than any other news source. Demographics also show that the Twitter population is younger than the most frequently compared to Facebook. Twitter news followers rely on this social network because of its efficiency and the quickness in which the news travel.

In the sports world, Twitter has become a powerful promotional tool. While some athletes just use Twitter to “connect” with their fans, it seems that most are just trying to build a big following so they can get more lucrative endorsement deals. Twitter and sports fit together because the sports newsfeed have to be live, immediate, and suspenseful. With every touchdown, goal or home run you can literally see the spikes in Twitter activity. For athletes it’s not easy to connect with their fans all the time. Maintaining a strong relationship with fans is probably one of the most important aspects of a sport off the field, court or ice. Social networks are effective tools to improve those relationships with die hard supporters while also finding new fans.

How Twitter has also affected the world of fashion and how they spread the new trends from week to week or season to season. A great example of how fashion companies are utilizing Twitter is by looking at how Urban Outfitters uses Twitter to their advantage. From day to day Urban Outfitters updates their Twitter with new music, sales, and the latest fashions. This keeps people coming back for more because they are interested in the next best thing coming from one of the most edgy, and unique, as well as biggest retail stores in the United States. 

Although Twitter has many positives like keeping people informed and up to date and being able to keep in contact with friends and family all over the world, it also has its negatives.  From the perspective of someone that has no social networks an opinion may be considered bias, but it also may be someone who can see it from the outside looking in with fresh eyes.  From what the point of view of not having a Twitter account it is not a necessity.  Twitter is very addictive and distracting, especially for a college student.  Everyone is so dependent on technology and twitter is only adding to that.  Something like this can make college life all the more difficult because it’s something else that draws your attention away from your work, or any task at hand.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Politics in Development: A Grassroot Case Study

The Meaning of Politics

The political process can enable or inhibit development. The word politics “comes from the Greek word ‘politica’, moderated on Aristotle’s ‘Affairs of State’ the name of his book on governing and government written in Latin and translated in English in mid fifteenth century.
Politics is the art as well as science of government. It consists of social relations involving authority of power. It is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions and is not restricted to behavior within civil governments alone. Politics has been observed in all group interaction including corporate, academic and religious institutions.
In other words, political institution express and embody the wisdom of the people of the time and the route to good political and social institution is by deepening of wisdom and by broadening of vision.

Understanding Development

Development is an act or process, a step or stage in growth, progress, advancement. It is a relative term and is comparable to different countries, different sectors, different time periods.
The scope of development is vast and all encompassing – social, economic, industrial, technological and so on. However, development is strongly linked to economic growth and advancement because it is evident that economic growth usually leads to other types of development.
Development practitioners and experts have evolved different indicators for measurement of sector wise development, for example, increase in annual GDP is an indicator of the economic growth of a country. Literacy level among women is considered as an indicator of social development.
Basing on the frequently found difference in development between urban and rural areas, development is also commonly understood as rural development, i.e. the status of development in rural areas of a country. Rural development implies both economic betterment of people as well as greater social transformation.  

Indicators of Development

By consensus, the international community has accepted the following five as the indicators of development:

  1. Literacy, education, and skills
  2. Health: life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, quality of life, and the levels of health care available in situations of morbidity
  3. Income and economic welfare: high levels of employment, high per capita incomes, and increased gross national product, with appropriate corrections for environmental protection and for income equity
  4. Choice, democracy, and participation
  5. Technology: the capacity to develop technological innovations and to make technological choices)


Kanpur is a typical Indian village. It comes under Nakichua Gram Panchayat of Rasgobindpur Block of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha. About 58% of the population in the villages is tribals. The village is situated at the fringe of Similipal Biosphere and is surrounded by reserve forest. Minor forest produce and wage earning on daily basis are the main source of livelihood for the tribals.
Evidence suggests connectivity leads to economic development; however that has not been the case for Nakichhua GP. Here, the community is languishing in poverty, low literacy and other characteristics of backwardness. Distress migration and distress sale of forest products are regular affairs. Local trade and commerce is mainly controlled by outsiders.

An analysis of the politico development of Nakichua reveals there has not been visible development in the gram panchayat. It is a fallacy that the people of the gram panchayat are relatively more educated and closer to developed regions but the development in their own area is much less than expected.

Kanpur is the revenue village with two hamlet villages. Nibas sahi is the tribal and dalit dominated hamlet and the other hamlet known as Kanpur is the upper class dominated hamlet. Development projects sanctioned to the village is always implemented in the upper caste dominated hamlet. But in the official record, it is reflected against Kanpur revenue village. While the Kanpur hamlet has electricity, piped drinking water, pucca internal road, community hall etc, Nibas Sahi, the other hamlet continues to remain in darkness.

Implementation of Government Programmes

In the village, the development projects are never implemented as per the scheme objectives and guidelines. Since the last 6 years, one NGO initiated some activities in the village commencing with the youth club. Initially, people from different caste and economic groups resisted the initiative as the mooted idea by the NGO did not confound to their local intra-community groupism and pettiness. It went through ups and downs often conflict among youth from different caste and economic groups. However, it seemed to catch the imagination of people from all sections despite of nasty politics by the various political party leaders at the gram panchayat or block level.

Malfunctioning of Village level Democratic bodies

In 2007, a gram sabha meeting ended mid way with fight and bloodshed between two factions of the community having support from two rival political parties. On paper, gram sabhas are held as per provisions, but villagers can hardly recall when they attended a gram sabha meeting for the last. The prevailing situation created by the local political parties doesn’t allow a villager to enjoy the constitutional right to exercise his choice and participate in development decision making process.
In connivance with the Block Chairman and other elected PRI members, BDO and engineers at the block level are only interested in cornering the contracts issued by the block office for infrastructure development of the local area under various government schemes- NREGS, Bharat Nirman, Indira Awas, Watershed Development and others. The need and priority are never looked into while sanctioning the work as the decision depends on other factors- which community group that the political party that wills the power will decide all implementation related matters. In such a situation, how an aam aadmi could expect benefit or justice?

PRIs are political bastions

Legally, the lower two tiers under Panchayat Raj system are apolitical. Panchayat elections are naturally fought without party lines or party symbols Panchayat elections are supposed to be free from any influence, be it political parties, muscle power, money power and so on. But, in reality, the political parties select candidates to contest the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti election. Political parties bring out victory processions after declaration of panchayat election results.
There is no effort from any quarter to clean the system or ensure that panchayat raj institutions remain apolitical. Perhaps, the civil society organizations are too scared to fight for the cause.

Continuous denial of justice has caused disinterest among the common villagers to participate in the process

Presence of muscle power and money power and the nexus among the local politician, PRI office bearer, business community and government officials has left no room for the common and the poor to get their right and/or justice. Those not belonging to such nexus and coterie has lost interest in the process of local self governance, participatory development decision making. Village level to district level development planning exercise has become totally a farce. What people desire is not planned. What the powerful within the community decide has been sanctioned. The concept of ‘Equity’  and ‘Right’ exists in the planning commission and the constitutional document.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Lockers: The Future of last mile delivery

Consider this scenario a couple of years ago even in the developed market. You order a product online to be delivered at your residence. What would happen at the time of delivery of your parcel if you are not at home?

  1. Delivery guy will probably call you & ask for instructions?
  2.  Drop the parcel with the neighbors or take the parcel back & reattempt the delivery probably at a later time or in all possibility on an alternate day.
This is a common scenario especially among the urban dwellers, who fear either the package may not be delivered or may be stolen if left unattended. This is a perfect nightmare for any online store as well. Imagine the cost associated with the failed delivery attempts in monetary terms as well as impact on the overall productivity. Add to this other factors such as cost associated with handling customer calls through customer service, dispatching a replacement item in case of lost item or even potential loss of sale due to customer switching to alternate retailer.

To address these challenges e-tailers have been working either on its own (Amazon) or closely with the logistics solutions providers such as Singapore post, Finland’s Itella, InPost Canada, Australia Post for building a network of smart lockers for delivery of parcels. It’s a win-win situation for customers as well as sellers. This solution is helping the etailers & logistics solutions providers not just to avoid the cases of failed delivery attempts, but also with improved productivity due to multiple deliveries at the same point resulting in reduced cost per delivery. Add to factors such as lesser chances of a lost parcels, deliveries during the non-peak hours resulting in avoiding the traffic congestion. Othe benefit being explored simultaneously is, for the reverse logistics. Lockers also work as pick up point for returned items.

How the lockers work?

Smart lockers are generally installed in public places such as Malls, convenience stores such as seven-eleven which are in the vicinity of the residential areas & often visited by the natives for the daily needs. It has compartments of varying sizes to accommodate wider variety of items & can typically handle items weighing upto 10 pounds.
Once the parcel has been delivered with the locker, automated tracking systems trigger the communication over email or cellular phone as preferred by the customer. Mail or SMS sends the details required of opening the lockers. Generally a passcode or QR code. Some of the locker models are also using the Bluetooth connectivity feature for added security.
Items are typically held in lockers for about 3 days for the customer to pick up the items. The backend system is designed for even reminding the customer for pickup of the items or alternate instructions in case item cannot be picked up within the set time or if customer wants the items to be returned to the seller.
While we all hear about the pilot projects of deliveries using drones to address problems relating to cost, traffic congestion, speed & agility, lockers have slipped in quietly into those convenience stores & doing the job assigned to them with ease & offering the convenience to the customers


While the lockers are being successfully implemented in developed nations where people shop online mostly using internet banking & credit cards, it will be interesting to see how this works in developing Asian markets such as South East Asia & Indian subcontinent where preferred mode of payment is still cash on delivery. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Is Nestlé the only culprit?

Nestlé S.A. is a Swiss multinational food and beverage company headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland. It is the largest food company in the world measured by revenues and ranked #72 on the Fortune Global 500 in 2014. (Source: Wiki)

One of the most popular product in Nestlé’s portfolio, Maggi Noodles came under scanner in India. An officer from state of U.P food safety & drug administration ordered tests on over a dozen samples of instant noodles. Nestle claims that the product does not contain Monosodium Glutamate (Popularly known as MSG: Used for enhancing the taste). Gorakhpur lab & Kolkata lab (Considered to be among the best in country for food testing) found the samples to be positive for MSG. In addition Kolkata lab also reported the samples to be containing dangerously high levels of lead content. Lab reported 17.2 ppm of lead in the sample. According to food safety regulation norms in India permissible lead content ranges between 0.2 ppm to 10 ppm depending on product categories. Instant Noodles falls under a category with a limit of lead restricted at 2.5 ppm.

Instant noodles are identified under food category code 6.4.3, which includes “pre-cooked pastas and noodles and like products” that are “pre-gelatinized, heated and dried prior to sale”. These categories of food are governed by Codex international standard 249, standards of food safety recognized by WHO. The masala used in these noodles is identified in code 12.2, which includes herbs, spices, masalas, seasonings, and condiments (eg. seasoning for instant noodles), where the use is “intended to enhance the aroma and taste of food”, according to FSSAI regulations.

Controversies are not new to Nestlé. In 1974 Mike Muller wrote an article for War on want called “The baby killer”. Articles focused on impact of alternative introduced by Nestlé for breast feeding the newborn babies. Swiss court on the basis of the report, warned Nestlé that if the company did not want to face accusations of causing the infant deaths or illness, should change the way they do the business & not to use unethical sales practices. Following the report Nestlé products were boycott across Europe, UK & US. The campaign also garnered support from health authorities & medical professionals in developing nations. Momentum gathered by this even lead to 1981 formation of code of conduct to govern sale & promotion of products substituting breast milk.  

Mike Muller has been consistently active against companies which are purely money minded & does not care towards the health of people.

In one of the recent articles Muller posed an important question. Though this was not applicable to just Nestlé as a single company but to the entire industry. While in 1970’s challenge was high child mortality rates, malnutrition, quality of water, in today’s times issues have been replaced with obesity, diabetes & heart diseases. Back in 70’s industry was accused of harming the health of the babies. Now it has raised to a level of harming the entire nation. In either cases issues about the food industry’s responsibilities remain unchanged.

UN’s current millennium goals are due to expire in 2015. In such case, question of importance is should the sustainable goals focus on unsustainable & unhealthy lifestyle of riches or on the plight for the basic needs of the poor? Also, should UN actively engage with global food giants to control products & marketing to improve people’s health. For answers to these questions we will have to wait & see until we discover/ invent machines that can take us to future.

This article is not intended towards the questions raised at Nestlé but towards the general issues relating to the food industry.

Monday, 1 June 2015

FIFA scandal explained.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (commonly known as FIFA: International Federation of Association Football) is the international governing body of association football (soccer), futsal and beach soccer. (Source: Wikipedia)

Founded in 1904 & currently having a membership of 209 national associations is one of the largest sports bodies in the world. FIFA reported the revenues of over USD 1.3 billion with net profit of USD 72 million. FIFA is responsible for organizing & promoting the game, however it does not govern the rules.

Recent news of an ongoing scandal in such an old organization raised many eyebrows. It was brought into limelight by some investigative journalists of repute. Charges raised include rapaciousness, rigged elections, corruption & bribery. Charges have been pressed against nine of the highly ranked FIFA officials & five other corporate executives by U.S department of justice. It is estimated that FIFA officials have been engaging in malicious activities over past 24 years. Out of these 18 years have been under the leadership of Joseph Blatter. Under his leadership football has increased its popularity many a fold. FIFA also became more successful financially during this tenure. In recent developments, even after the scandal became public he has been re-elected to lead the organization for the 5th consecutive term.

Is FIFA only party to the scandal?

As they say, you cannot clap with just one hand, a scandal will require involvement of atleast two parties. A giver & a receiver. Wait, there will be one more party to it, a middleman since the deal cannot be struck officially there will be an intermediary involved who will facilitate the transactions off the record. With the FIFA, all its associates are likely to be scrutinized for the involvement in corruption. This means two of the world’s largest sportswear & marketing firms Adidas & Nike, football federations of Russia & Qatar, for being awarded the venue for upcoming football world cup.
With time even more companies & federations will come into picture for & play a part in proving corruption & scandals in FIFA.  

What were these people exactly doing?

Justice department has mainly cited deals struck between FIFA, sports marketing firms & broadcast networks for exclusive televisions broadcasting rights for the FIFA events. Justice department has alleged that FIFA officials accepted bribes from marketing firms for exclusive television rights. The amount of money involved is anticipated to be around USD 150 million according to primary analysis.

What is the recipe for perfect corruption?

1.    Red Tape: excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities create the perception that bribes is the only means for getting a job done. Organizations like FIFA have been closed to share any information apart from the revenue & profits. Add to this the confidence in power of position which leads to arrogance in believing that they are untouchables.
2.    Organization culture: in case of FIFA, according to Yenkey, an assistant professor of organizations and strategy at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business corruption was acceptable & nobody felt any evil about it. He cited the example of Chuck Blazer, a former official with FIFA and Concacaf, a governing group that oversees soccer in the North American, Central American and Caribbean region, who pled guilty in 2013 to charges that he engaged in racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering and income tax evasion