Saturday, 31 August 2013

Two Wheelers

If your looking for a handy little run about here you'll almost certainly be starting with two wheels.

Bicycles were big before motor bikes. Four brothers started the Hero cycle company in 1944 and ended up being the biggest bike manufacturer in India.

Hero bicycles, old and new, are everywhere. There's as many adults ridding them as kids.

The world's moved on from bicycles and now everyone rides motor bikes.

You have to be 18 to get a license, though that doesn't seem to be to big an issue for a number of young riders


I'd guess that the ratio of bikes to cars here is about the same as home, just reversed.

The most common bike is the "Hero Honda". They were built by a joint venture between Hero Cycles and Honda which ran from 1984 to 2010.

The newer bikes are simply branded as "Hero".

If your looking for something a little bit different, perhaps more up market, then go for a Royal Enfield. Built by Enfield Motors in Chennai and based on British design from the British Royal Small Arms Factory, who also made the Enfield rifle. The Bullet has the record of being in continuous production since 1934.

#ibmcsc india 

Friday, 30 August 2013


We're into final report and presentation writing mode now, so all office work. Our team is presenting to key stakeholders, which is 6 partner organisations and representative farmers from each, on Monday. We could really use another week to prepare so I can much of the weekend will be spent getting things finalised.

I haven't had time to write up a blog post today, so in the mean time check out this great post from Nina about the safety standards here.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

How Much is That?

When traveling you always need to come to terms with a different currency. It usually means trying to translate the value of some amount currency in the host country back to the familiar home currency.

India uses the Rupee, which uses the attached symbol.  If that's not available, then "Rs" is also acceptable.

If your from Australia the conversion isn't that hard. Rs100 is about $1.70 after some exchange loss. (If your somewhere else you can work out the rate here.) 

A trip in an Auto Rickshaw to most places is going to cost Rs10 per person. ( Less than 20c Au) 
A reasonable main meal is Rs120 to Rs200. ($2 to $4 Au) cheap hotel room can be had for Rs1200 ($20). The car and driver for the trip to Diu cost Rs8900 for all 6 of us ($150). So a $ goes a long way.

If your talking to business people, like farmers and Agri-shop owners, they talk in larger values. I'm quite familiar with $K's and $M's. Here they talk about Lakh, which is Rs1,00,000. If you talk to big business they'd be talking about Crore, which is Rs10,00,000. 

You might have noticed that the comma's are placed after every second zero rather than every third. Except for the first three zeros.

The values aren't simply related to money. There was a festival nearby last night where it was expected that 5 "Lakh" people would turn up. 

If you want to talk about the weight of something, for example the size of a harvest, they'll talk about "Quintal's". 1 quintal is 100Kg.

If you ask how big the farm is, the answer will be in "Bigha's". One bigha is 0.25 of an acre. Or maybe it's 0.4 of an acre. After researching on the internet I'm not sure.

So what does it mean when a farmer say he can grow 2 quintals on each bigha and at market get 1 lakh for for a full crop?  (If that means something to you then we need you to join our team!)

#ibmcsc india 

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


On Friday Claudia and I visited Keith, Emily and Peter who are the Chaitanya team. Keith has a really good post here explaining what their project is about in some detail.

A primary component of CCT's work is running a number of school sessions for the children of the slums. These schools are aimed at children who've dropped out of the government school system with hope that they will get re-engaged and eventually go back. They currently have three sites where these schools are run. One is in a building and two are in the open air. If they can get more money CCT would like to open many more centers.

Our visit was an opportunity for the children to practice a little English by asking some questions of us. At the first school they excitedly showed us some written work, which was very neat.

The first open air school was a simple open area in the middle of the slum. The school is marked out by the green tarpaulin spread on the ground. School runs in the heat and rain and rather large ants crawl all over the place. The kids in the background aren't in the school but we're interested because we were there.

Whilst Gujarat is a dry state, there are still issues with alcohol. Being in the open in the middle of the slum can expose the kids and the teachers to alcohol affected people. At this site there is a small shop next to the school and the shop keeper has made a point of looking after the kids.

The kids want to get some education and the spots in the schools are limited. The rules are strict for both parents and kids, so the teachers find that the kids are well behaved and engaged.

The school had a map of the world and some new visitors was an opportunity to test the geography knowledge. They had no difficulty finding Australia, which they described as paradise. I guess it helps when your looking for worlds biggest island.

While there we gave out some Canada pins that Keith had brought. If ever there is something that the kids can have its important that there's enough for everyone. Which means there has to be a count of kids and gifts before thinking about giving them. I'm sure the pins were a big hit.

The environment that CCT are working in is pretty challenging, but the work they are doing is fantastic and the kids were all great. It was a worthwhile visit. 

#ibmcsc india 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Diu back to Jamnagar

Sunday saw us travel from Diu back to Jamnagar via Junagadh. The road trip was along a different route, but it was still about 6 hours in the car and the roads were about the same as Saturday.

The day started out with a walk along the beach.

With a Portuguese background Anton was sure that there would be a coffee machine. Some of the team have had coffee withdrawal symptoms so were keen to find one. Apparently they'd been drinking up to 15 coffee's a day back home, so the search began. Finally we found a shop that had coffee. Can you guess who the big coffee drinker is?

Then it was back into the car and off to Junagadh. There was lots to see here including lots of wild monkeys. The driver was quite happy to feed them where the rest of us kept a bit more distance.  

In the distance we could see a number of temples. There was a stairway of 9,999 steps from here to the top. It takes about 4 1/2 hours to do the climb up and the same back, so not for us today.

There was a rock that had been carved with something like the 10 commandments. The carving was done around 2,000 years ago and it'd been very well preserved.

There was lots more to see here, but it was 4pm and it was more than 3 hours back to Jamnagar on what can best be described as challenging roads which would be worse after dark, so we headed back home.

The trip back was hard work for the driver, with winding roads, slow and stopped vehicles, pedestrians and animals on the road. He did a great job and we we're quite glad to be back.

#ibmcsc india  

Monday, 26 August 2013


After visiting Porbunda it was on the island of Diu. It was a very long and slow drive to get there, but worth the effort. Diu is a holiday island that's popular with the people of Gujarat and this is a holiday week with all the schools closed which meant that it was a little bit busier than it might have been.

First stop for us was a large fort that was build by the Portuguese who occupied the island from 1509 to 1961.

There were lots of old cannons and cannon balls spread out in what must have been well fortified positions.

Many of the of the buildings and doorways had large ornate carvings over the entrance ways.

There were lots of magnificent ocean views as well as lots of church sites.

I'm not sure why this group of woman was there, but I thought they made a good photo.

There was quite a lot of wildlife here too.

Next we wandered into town and came across a festival that takes place once a year. We really had no idea about what was going on. There was a huge number of people hanging off the sides of the buildings, close to power lines.

After some time a large structure came out with drums banging and people cheering. Then it was spun around and eventually it was thrown into the crowd, who promptly jumped on it and tore it to shreds. It wasn't at all what we expected. Then again, we really didn't know what to expect.

We found this video on Youtube. All of us are in it toward the end, if you can recognize us from above you'll be able to spot us.

This is much better video, shot by Claudia. I still don't understand it, but it was pretty exciting.

#ibmcsc india

Porbander and Diu

The middle weekend of the CSC assignment is the best chance for the team to be able to travel a little further afield and see some of the local sights. Half the team decided we try an overnight trip and with a car and driver headed down to the holiday island of Diu. On the journey down travel via Porbander, the birth place of Gandhi.

It was long way and much of the time we were travelling on roads that were in very poor condition. That meant a lot of the trip had an average speed of around 50kmh.

First stop was Porbunda, and Ghandi's house. Gandhi's house was a multi-story 22 room house which had a display showing where he was born. Next door was large photo display and information about some of the the things that he'd done.

We had the opportunity to wander through the house and see where he'd studied and lived. The house wasn't furnished at all, but was still interesting.

Porbunda looked like it would have been interesting too, but we had to keep moving so it was back into the car, heading for Diu. 

 But I'll have to write about that later as now it's off to work.

#ibmcsc india.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


While wandering I keep being surprised at some of the technology that's in everyday use. Everyone has a mobile phone, though that doesn't really surprise me. It's quite common to see people riding down the street on the motor bike with two or three passengers and the driver on the phone the whole way. Some of the phones are just a basic phone, but many are smart phones. When we visit they're pretty quick to take a phone out and start taking photo's. I'm sure they take more photo's than we do.

Even the most remote outpost seems to have a satellite TV dish mounted on the roof. Which means that also have a TV. I saw a passenger on the back of a motor bike carrying what must have been at least a 40" flat screen. He couldn't see round it and couldn't hold anything but the screen. Sadly I was too slow for a photo.

There's lots of houses with solar hot water. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise as they have the right climate and a basic solar systems is actually quite cheap.

I was surprised to see that the muddy lane on a remote farm had a solar powered street lighting. And the lighting was LED based too.

Large satellite dishes seem to be quite common. The building behind the hotel has six dishes. I have no idea what they'd use them for or why you'd need six.

Half of us are off to Diu Island for the weekend, so no post Sunday. It sounds very different to Jamnagar, so should be fun.

#ibmcsc india

Friday, 23 August 2013

Essar Foundation

Here's a really good post from Nina who's part of the Essar sub team. She describes their project and the work done so far.

Check it out to see what some of the rest of the CSC India 20 team are doing.

Local Field Visit

Today we visited a government office to talk about starting a co-operative. Being able to register the organisation will be important as it has tax and funding advantages. Being able to do that will be up to a decision by a government officer, so we need to talk to them and make sure they support the idea.

The government office was exactly as I expected. Lots of busy looking bureaucrats surrounded by huge piles piles of paperwork, in some cases quite literally stacked to the roof. I would have loved to have taken a photo but they assured me it was secret government business and not at all possible.

The first office we spoke to felt that we had come to the wrong place, and sent us around the corner to another building. The officer wasn't there, and we should come back.

Out the front there was an MLA addressing a large crowd. There was quite a few police around, but everyone was quite. Apparently there is an election early in the new year.  (Which reminds me I need to do something about the forthcoming election at home, as I won't be there.)

Next stop was the Jamnagar APMC where the local farmers sell their produce at auction each day. This facility was much bigger than the other APMC's we'd seen. It was lunch time and the auctions had finished so we didn't stay.

We visited a small seed processing plant, where seed is cleaned, graded and packed for sale to wholesalers. The flash has caught some of fine dust.

Back to the government office. The person we need to see wasn't there, we should come back later.

Now it was off to the local Agricultural Science University.

They spoke to us about their ATMA project, which has been established to provide education to farmers about best farming practice.

Then it was back to the government office. Despite going back three times we didn't get to talk to the officer we needed to talk too. We'll have to go back next week.

#ibmcsc india 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Jogging Park

Some of the team have been keen enough to get up a little bit early each day and head out for some exercise. We're lucky that just across the road from the hotel is a university with a joggers path. Every morning there's lots of people walking and jogging around the track.

It's probably more correct to say that there's a lot of men out walking and running as I don't think I've seen a single woman on the oval, though there some walking through the uni grounds.

In the middle of the oval there's always teams practicing cricket, and sometimes soccer.

One group asked Anton, who's from Slovakia to have a go at cricket. He reported that if he held the paddle like a hockey stick he was able to hit the ball quite well when it was pitched to him. He thought it wasn't to hard as the game was quite like baseball. I think the local cricketers would have been amused by his description.

Judging by the sign on the tree guards, the ground area was originally intended to be a botanical garden. It needs a little maintenance I think.

#ibmcsc india

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

It's not working.

In India you need to be patient. If it's doesn't work now it'll probably work a bit later. Just wait for a bit. So here's a list of things that aren't working for me.

1/ My Laptop. 
On day one in Jamnagar my laptop decided it didn't want to power on, which was just great. After trying various things I decided to let it have a rest, and on the third go a few hours later it worked. Someone suggested I only put it to sleep rather than shut down. Seemed like a good idea, but same problem. Again I tried giving it a rest. taking the battery out, plugging and unplugging the power cord. Talking to it nicely. Talking to it not so nicely. After a lot of mucking around it came to life. It hasn't been powered off since.

When we go the office I just shut the lid and stick it in my bag. Given the temperature it's probably not the best way to handle it, but for the moment it's working.

2/ The Hotel Internet
There's WiFi at the hotel. When it works it's quite usable. The rest of the time it just drives me crazy. There's multiple access points that seem to bounce up and down all the time. If you can connect then you need to log on, and that seems a hit and miss affair. Once connected and logged on it simply doesn't do anything. I think I've spent more time trying to get connected than actually using it.

3/ Mobile Phones
I had a cunning plan to get around the issues with the hotel internet, I thought I'd get a local sim for my phone. Despite two trips to the Vodaphone shop, and waiting about, and then working through all the paperwork I still don't have a working sim. The question is should I invest more time in it or not??

4/ The Hotel's Hot Water
The hotel turns the hot water off once they have finished cleaning the rooms. It comes on for some period of time in the evening, but if you try and have a shower later at night it's cold only. Apparently if you talk to reception nicely they'll turn it on for you. But I find that the cold water isn't actually that cold, so I have always just had a cold shower.

5/ Power
The power supply here suffers from fairly regular interruptions. Fortunately the hotel has a generator, so the power drops out for only 30 seconds or so. Whilst I was at the Vodaphone shop it dropped out and all everyone could do was sit and wait for it to come back. Power dropped out at the SAVA office when we meeting with 5 of the partners. None of the locals looked around or made any comment.

In fairness, I guess I could have these issues anywhere. I probably should take a more Indian approach and not let it bother me.   

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Monday at the office

With a stack of data the real work now begins on pulling it all together. We were picked up at the hotel by the Auto Rickshaw just before 10 for a very civil 10am. Once at the office Anton, our man from finance, locked himself away with Bhimsi from SAVA to try and make send of the financials and then to create a monthly break down. Whilst he worked on that, Claudia mapped out the business plan and I wrote up all the notes from last week. The notes from the meeting really should be done either the same day as the meeting or first thing next day so the meeting is still fresh. There were a few comments that I really struggled to remember the context. By late afternoon the notes were done and Claudia and I started populating the business plan. Anton has at least anther day before he'll be ready to review with us.

All this office work doesn't provide many good photo opportunities, but it is the reason where here.

Last Friday we did the last of the all day field trips. We headed off from the hotel at 7am to catch the 7:30 bus. It took 2.5 hours to cover the 100km trip. The driver was excited that we were on his bus as he said he'd never had any foreigners before.

After the bus we were met by the local contact and driven out to one of the nearby farms. There's been quite a lot of rain making the last section of the track was very wet and muddy. I was sure we'd be out pushing, but there was no problem getting though.

Once at the farm we met with a number of the local farmers and talked through the proposal and collected feedback in the shade of a large veranda area.

The farmer proudly showed us his land from on top of the roof.

His bullock.

And his tractor

#ibmcsc india 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Jamnagar Beach

After the Bird Sanctuary on Sunday we visited the local beach. We were told it'd be a good place to have a swim and given it was an ocean beach I thought it'd be okay. However we found that there was a lot of rubbish on the shore line and the water was grey and silty, so the best any of the team would do was have a wade.

There was small fishing boat at the beach and the owner was happy to take passengers out for a short trip for a small fee. How often do you get the chance to ride a fishing boat off the coast of India? 

So a few of us gave it a go.

We're off to experience some Bollywood this evening. A viewing of Chennai Express. It's not in English, and there's no subtitles, but I'm assured we'll still be able follow along.

#ibmcsc india