Archive for July 2009

The Real Threat From China

July 6, 2009

Over the past decade, people have often asked me the question – where is the next India? A question relating to the next major IT off-shoring destination. The general sense in India is that this is largely a settled question and there is no major emerging competitor to India. While India has some huge advantages over other countries, I believe there is a real threat to India’s dominance in IT, and it comes from a not so distant neighbor – China. Here are the reasons why:

There are three factors that intersect to create large IT off shoring destinations–labor supply, quality and cost. Let us compare China and India on each factor:

Labor Supply: Major off-shoring hubs require huge talent pools. The problem with locations that have limited talent pools is that capacity quickly gets overtaken by demand and wages rise rapidly. Simply observe what happened in Ireland in the late 1990’s and the Chezk Republic earlier this decade. Companies were attracted to the highly skilled, lower cost talent in these countries, but saw wages increase sharply in a matter of years as there was not a large and growing pool of talent. In countries with huge IT talent pools, the supply of talent keeps wage inflation at bay. India and China are the only two competitive countries concerning this factor. And today China is producing more IT graduates each year than India. Essentially, Advantage China.

Labor Quality: This is where the general consensus is India has an unbeatable advantage. Especially when it comes to English speakers. India does have a strong advantage here, but you cannot count out the Chinese. They have made fundamental changes to their education system, making English language studies compulsory starting at the elementary school level. I was in China recently and met with many university students. I noticed a dramatic improvement in their English communication from just a few years ago.

There is also another critical issue. Many outsourcing companies are talking about diversifying their businesses away from the US to Europe and Asia. If a shift in this direction occurs, English dominance will become less relevant. In fact when it comes to competing for outsourcing work in Asia (Japan, Korea, Taiwan)China actually has a language advantage over India. So, when it comes to labor quality, today India has the advantage, but we need to keep a close watch for potential changes.

Cost: Most cost comparisons to-date revolve around wages – where India has historically held an advantage. However, the wage gap between India and China has been dwindling because of massive wage inflation in India. But experienced outsourcing companies are beginning to look at other major costs, such as infrastructure and taxes in addition to wages. The Indian government has fueled the growth in the IT industry by providing all IT companies with a tax holiday for the past ten years. This is now expiring. Interestingly, at the same time, local provincial governments in China are expanding their tax benefit programs for companies setting up large outsourcing centers.

The other major cost is infrastructure. Here, China has a huge advantage. The infrastructure costs in India are large – both monetarily and operationally. As an example, companies have to provide transportation to employees because public transportation is not available. IT companies are running huge transportation businesses instead of focusing on their core business. Sohistorically India has held the advantage on cost, but China is slowly gaining the upper hand.

So what does all this mean? I believe China will most likely emerge as a major IT outsourcing hub. I also believe the overall growth in the industry can support the development of another major off-shoring hub. Further more, this can be an opportunity for Indian companies to embrace China, diversify their own operations, and expand their presence in China.

There is a historical context here. The US lost the manufacturing market because they failed to take the threat from Japan and other low cost countries seriously. When it came to IT off-shoring the major US companies were much more nimble –embracing off-shoring and India. Just look at how quickly companies like Accenture and IBM have developed their global sourcing capabilities.

Swine flu

July 3, 2009

The swine influenza a (H1N1) virus that has septic humans in the U.S. and Mexico. A virus that has not previously been identified in North America. This virus is resistant to the antiviral medications amantadine (Symmetrel) and rimantadine (Flumadine), but is sensitive to oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). Investigations of these cases suggest that on-going human-to-human swine influenza. A (H1N1) virus is occurring.

Swine flu is a respiratory illness of pigs caused by infection with swine influenza A virus (SIV) that can occasionally affect humans

What are the symptoms of swine flu?

Although uncomplicated influenza-like illness (fever, cough or sore throat) has been reported in many cases, mild respiratory illness (nasal congestion, rhinorrhea) without fever and occasional severe disease also has been reported. Other symptoms reported with swine influenza A virus infection include vomiting, diarrhea, myalgia, headache, chills, fatigue, and dyspnea. Conjunctivitis is rare, but has been reported. Severe disease (pneumonia, respiratory failure) and fatal outcomes have been reported with swine influenza A virus infection. The potential for exacerbation of underlying chronic medical conditions or invasive bacterial infection with swine influenza A virus infection should be considered.

What are the CDC recommendations for infectious swine flu?

For interviews of healthy individuals (i.e. without a current respiratory illness), including close contacts of cases of confirmed swine influenza virus infection, no personal protective equipment or antiviral chemoprophylaxis is needed. See section on antiviral chemoprophylaxis for further guidance. For interviews of an ill, suspected or confirmed swine influenza A virus case, the following is recommended:

  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from the ill person; or
  • Personal protective equipment: fit-tested N95 respirator [if unavailable, wear a medical (surgical mask)].

For collecting respiratory specimens from an ill confirmed or suspected swine influenza A virus case, the following is recommended:

  • Personal protective equipment: fit-tested disposable N95 respirator [if unavailable, wear a medical (surgical mask)], disposable gloves, gown, and goggles.
  • When completed, place all PPE in a biohazard bag for appropriate disposal.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand gel.

Infection Control

Recommended Infection Control for a non-hospitalized patient (ER, clinic or home visit):

  1. Separation from others in single room if available until asymptomatic. If the ill person needs to move to another part of the house, they should wear a mask. The ill person should be encouraged to wash hand frequently and follow respiratory hygiene practices. Cups and other utensils used by the ill person should be thoroughly washed with soap and water before use by other persons.

Antiviral Treatment

Suspected Cases: Empiric antiviral treatment is recommended for any ill person suspected to have swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral treatment with either zanamivir alone or with a combination of oseltamivir and either amantadine or rimantadine should be initiated as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. Recommendations for use of antiviral may change as data on antiviral susceptibilities become available. Antiviral doses and schedules recommended for treatment of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:

Confirmed Cases

For antiviral treatment of a confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) may be administered. Recommended duration of treatment is five days. These same antivirals should be considered for treatment of cases that test positive for influenza A but test negative for seasonal influenza viruses H3 and H1 by PCR.

Pregnant Women

Oseltamivir, zanamivir, amantadine, and rimantadine are all “Pregnancy Category C” medications, indicating that no clinical studies have been conducted to assess the safety of these medications for pregnant women. Only two cases of amantadine use for severe influenza illness during the third trimester have been reported. However, both amantadine and rimantadine have been demonstrated in animal studies to be teratogenic and embryotoxic when administered at substantially high doses. Because of the unknown effects of influenza antiviral drugs on pregnant women and their fetuses, these four drugs should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the embryo or fetus; the manufacturers’ package inserts should be consulted. However, no adverse effects have been reported among women who received oseltamivir or zanamivir during pregnancy or among infants born to such women.

Antiviral Chemoprophylaxis

For antiviral chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection, either oseltamivir or zanamivir are recommended. Duration of antiviral chemoprophylaxis is 7 days after the last known exposure to an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection. Antiviral dosing and schedules recommended for chemoprophylaxis of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection are the same as those recommended for seasonal influenza:

Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir is recommended for the following individuals:

  1. Household close contacts who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) of a confirmed or suspected case.
  2. School children who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions) who had close contact (face-to-face) with a confirmed or suspected case.
  3. Travelers to Mexico who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly).
  4. Border workers (Mexico) who are at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly).
  5. Health care workers or public health workers who had unprotected close contact with an ill confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection during the case’s infectious period.

Antiviral chemoprophylaxis (pre-exposure or post-exposure) with either oseltamivir or zanamivir can be considered for the following:

  • Any health care worker who is at high-risk for complications of influenza (persons with certain chronic medical conditions, elderly) who is working in an area with confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) cases, and who is caring for patients with any acute febrile respiratory illness.
  • Non-high risk persons who are travelers to Mexico, first responders, or border workers who are working in areas with confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.


July 2, 2009

Homosexuality is mostly believed a prohibited subject by both Indian civil society and the government. Sexual acts “against the order of nature” remain illegal in India. But Indian Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that consensual sex between adults of the same gender is legal in the country. But any homosexual act without the consent of either partner remains a criminal offense. Indira Jaisingh, counsel for the Non profit Naz Foundation which had challenged the law, told CNN& BBC. India‘s Ministry of Home Affairs opposed changes to the law on grounds that decriminalizing homosexual conduct would “open the floodgates of delinquent behavior. The Delhi High Court, which is hearing a petition challenging the arrests under Section 377 of IPC that bans sexual relationships among people of the same gender, has directed the government to spell out its stand clearly on the issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked the ministries of Home and Health to resolve the differences over the issues and give a comprehensive response to the Delhi High Court.
But the fact is that the government could never arrive at a consensus on this controversial issue. Former home minister Shivraj Patil and former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss had taken divergent stand on the issue before the court. In view of the urgency of the matter, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram proposes to convene a meeting to discuss the controversial section of the IPC. While Chidambaram and Law Minister Veerappa Moily are understood to be in favour of repealing the provision of the IPC, the response of Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is awaited.

More than 80 countries have legislation that criminalizes sex between individuals of the same sex. UNAIDS is urging all governments to respect the rights and dignity of men who have sex with men, lesbians and transgender people through repealing laws that prohibit sexual acts between consenting adults; enforcing laws to protect these groups from violence and discrimination; promoting campaigns that address homophobia and Tran phobia, and ensuring that the crucial health services are met. The International AIDS Conference in 2008 heard that even in countries with generalized heterosexual epidemics, gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HIV, and the laws criminalizing sex between men and homophobia stand in the way of HIV prevention.

Bandra Worli Sea Link

July 1, 2009

After 10 years of expectations , delays and, of course, hardcore planning and labour, the spectacular Bandra-Worli Sea Link is set to open at midnight on Tuesday. Come Wednesday morning and a new day will dawn for Mumbai’s rush-hour motorists, with the Rs 750-crore link offering a new route between the city and the western suburbs. Till now, the Mahim Causeway was the only route
A fireworks, lights and laser show, coupled with music, was held on Monday night at the main cable-stayed bridge at the Bandra end. It was enjoyed by thousands from the Bandra promenade and Mahim beach, but was not clearly visible to those at Worli sea face and Dadar due to slight drizzles, haze and cloudiness. There was no space left at the sea-faces as thousands gathered to view the show, but those at Worli were disappointed, said Anandini Mulgaonkar and Shubha Sehgal of Worli and Bandra, respectively.

From 12.01 am onwards on Wednesday , officials are expecting joy riders to take the link before office-goers arrive in larger numbers as morning peak hour nears. With no toll from July 1 to July 5, a large amount of traffic is expected. The traffic police will face a daunting task at Worli and Bandra.
Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) engineers said the toll-free move is at the behest of politicians seeking political mileage.
An automatic system will identify vehicles going over the 50 kmph limit. MSRDC engineers said cameras on the link can take swift 360-degree turns and capture images of vehicles within 1.5 km. Two cameras fitted under the cable-stayed portions of the link will keep watch on the movements of boats and ships.
While work on beautifying the promenade at Bandra has begun, plans for the highest fountain in the country are on the backburner, but floating fountains may be ready in about six months.
Hindustan Construction Company chairman and managing director Ajit Gulabchand, addressing the media on the eve of the inauguration, said the bridge would be the next landmark of Mumbai after the Gateway of India. “The project has shown us the extent to which accuracy and perfection can be achieved in massive and challenging technical designs,” he said, adding that the world has seen the might and ability of the planners, engineers and developers of India.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar will throw open the Bandra-Worli Sea Link at a public function to be held on Tuesday at 3.30 pm at the Mhada ground near Rang Sharda. Gandhi is expected to inaugurate the toll booth, drive to the cable-stayed bridge and visit the exhibition centre first.
Traffic curbs at Bandra
All vehicles will be prohibited on the road to the sea link at the Bandra end as well as K C Marg (Reclamation) on Tuesday from 3 to 8 pm. Traffic police will allow only vehicles engaged in essential and emergency services and the vehicles of invitees to the sea link’s opening. People traveling to Chapel Road, Mehboob Circle, Bandstand, Chimbai and Carter Road will have to use S V Road or Hill road. Parking restrictions will be implemented on sea link road, K C Marg, A K Vaidya Marg and adjoining roads. TNN

Length of bridge (4.7km): 63 times the Qutub Minar
Weight of bridge (6.7L tonnes): 50,000 African elephants
424 cables for main roadway: can support 900 tons each
Length of steel wire used (37,680km): Nearly the earth’s circumference
Concrete used: 2.3 lakh cubic metres
Height of main towers (126m): 43-storey buidling
Pile caps: Bridge rests on 135 pile caps, the largest being 55 m in length and 55 m in breadth (half a football field)
Peak-hour sweat: 4,000 workers and 150 engineers

Mahim Causeway is currently the only route that connects the western suburbs and island city. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link will be the second major route
An MSRDC survey revealed that motorists from the distant suburbs of Borivli, Dahisar, Kandivli and Malad would be more likely to use the sea link. Motorists from Andheri, Parel, Santa Cruz, Juhu and Bandra would be less likely
During peak hours, around 7,000 to 8,000 cars are expected to use the sea link per hour
Since the first five days are toll-free , a large number of people are expected to use the link initially just for the novelty

Currently, it takes 35 to 38 minutes to go the 7.7-km distance between Mahim flyover and Love Grove Junction, Worli
Transport experts estimate that travelling the link plus its approach and exit roads, which also measure about 7.7 km, will take at least 25 minutes
The builders claim that travelling the 4.7-km main link will take just 6 minutes

FREE: From July 1 to July 5
BASIC FEE: Car or SUV | Rs 50 | Mini bus or mini truck | Rs 75 | Bus or truck Rs 100
PASSES: Daily travel: (2-way ) | 1.5 times basic toll
Daily travel: (multiple entries) | 2.5 times basic toll

Monthly pass: (all vehicles) | 50 times basic toll
Manual payment: 30 seconds
Swipe card (for monthly passes): 20 seconds On-board-unit electronic payment: 10 to 12 seconds
12 cameras will be monitored by MSRDC, traffic police and city police Link will be under the jurisdiction of Bandra and Worli police stations Two policemen on bikes will patrol Shoulders along bridge will allow traffic police to pull over errant drivers

4.7 km Bandra-Worli Sea Link (4 lanes) 4 km Bandra-Worli link (4 lanes; to open later as part of link up to Nariman Point)
Breaking up the link
449-metre toll plaza section at Bandra end with promenades 800-metre pre-cast approach at Bandra end 600-metre cable-stayed bridge at Bandra with two 126-metre tall towers 200-metre pre-cast bridge between Bandra-Worli cable-stayed bridges Two 175-metre cable-stayed bridges at Worli with two 56-metre towers 1,400-metre approach at Worli end 811-metre link at Worli end Another 90 metres or so may make up approaches at either end
Flyover at Love Grove junction, Worli Clover-leaf interchange at Mahim Approach road from Mahim interchange to toll plaza
Main Link cost: Rs 750 crore Total cost: Rs 1,634 crore Initial cost for main link: Rs 434 crore Costs rose because fishermen complained their livelihood was being disturbed. Re-aligned link was built 150 metres farther from the coastline Harder rock was drilled into Extra cable-stayed bridge put at Worli end at a higher level to allow fishing boats to pass Interest payments rose
Initial deadline: December 2004 (later revised to December 2007 & December 2008) Bridge completed: April 21, 2009 All allied work completed: May 31, 2009 Delays caused by fisherfolk protests and payment disputes