Sunday, July 25, 2010

SWADES movie in real life - An inspiration

How many movie scripts turn themselves to real stories? It is, however, another fact that several movie scripts are based on real stories or incidents. SWADES - a patriotic movie, was one of the best movies made in Bollywood. The core theme of the story was awakening Indians to do something(or give back) possible for their society - more so who are outside India. It requires great courage to be a character like Mohan Bhargava (played by Shah Rukh Khan) in real life. For some, such a character seemed impossible. Reality, sometimes, is far more different than conclusions drawn by the mind. 

So, this blog article brings you the case of Gyanesh Pandey - a Bihari who left for US long ago in search of better prospects and now has returned permanently. His research and knowledge is lighting up villages in Bihar. The parallel between the movie and this case study is the core theme.

Note: Most of the facts presented in this article are taken from a detailed article that appeared in Rediff. The source is this link. Also, this article is not about the technical aspects of the working. Every such mechanism will have its pros and cons. Nothing is perfect. What is sure is that it is changing the lives of thousands of people in villages.

Gyanesh Pandey is an electrical engineer who studied and worked in US for several years. Later 2 other friends - Ratnesh Yadav and Manoj Sinha joined. Manoj studied microprocessors and worked in US. The team researched and concluded through various experiments and developed a low cost model of generating electricity from husk. Husk is a product that goes waste in almost all villages.  While Gyanesh is the engineer returned back, Manoj is the MBA graduate taking care of business aspects.  The Chief Strategy Officer is Charles Ransler. Manoj and Charles are students of Univ of Virgina - Darden School of Business. The business plan they demonstrated won the most Innovative Award in Texas in 2008. Here is the link of the univ website.

 The above picture is that of Charles and Manoj.

This is what MIT Engineering Magazine published - Turning Abyss of Darkness into Islands of Light

The company they set is HPS - Husk Power Systems. The website is
  • Even the waste can be used as a manure and the process reduces carbon emissions drastically - almost 200 tonnes.
  • 120 villages in Bihar get 6-12 hours uninterrupted supply of power - 12 hrs is significant from having no electricity at all. The villagers have mobile phones but no electricity to charge and they would walk miles to get them charged for Rs.5-10 before they got electricity.
  • 3 villages in Uttar Pradesh too get power.
  • 50,000 villagers are getting electricity - something they have never dreamt of seeing in their lifetime.
  • 24 hours can be given but there is no such demand for now as villagers are beginning to realize the benefits of electricity.
  • Gyanesh has become GOD for people -
  • Future plan is go up to 200 villages by year end and select villages in Maharashtra later. By 2014 to reach 2000 villages across India.
  • West Champaran, Tumukha and several villages in Bihar are getting electricity - These have been extremely backward regions of India
  • 32 plants set up till date 
  • The Central Govt and Bihar Govt are ready to tie up with the company to generate electricity.
1 PLANT = can generate electricity for upto 5 villages (depending upon number of households - 2000 to 4000)
Each plant = Rs.15 lakh to set up and distribute
Each plant can supply 32 Kilo Watt of Electricity
Funding - done by Universities in US, World Bank = $4 million  and $75,000 from Shell Foundation
Efficiency = close to 99%.
Rs. 120 for running a fan and 2 CFL bulbs is charged from people while Rs. 80 is the charge for taking a connection.

 As Gyanesh himself says (SOURCE) - The entire village would be asleep by 8:30 – 9:00 pm. But now they stay up much longer. They don’t panic if they forget to carry a torch light.  Now they don’t have to pay to charge their cell phone - they can do it at home. Earlier, small businesses would charge the villagers Rs 5 - Rs10 just to charge a cell phone.”

"This is the best experience of my life…Electricity can seed a lot more than just some lumens of light. It can affect each aspect of roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothes and shelter).  And the way we do this ensures that every single individual who interacts with us goes feeling a little bit better about things.”

"This is certainly a welcome change in the villages. People can work longer if they wish to at night. Children who used kerosene lamps are able to study better. Women can do the cooking at a convenient time instead of rushing during the day time.Snake bites and burglaries have also decreased. Shopkeepers do business for a longer time. Electricity will also help set up small-scale units in the villages."

As far as his motivation to do this, here is what he says - "But the good thing is I had the drive, a motivating factor from within, to work in India. No one pushed me to do this."

Just imagine if even 10 such innovations can reach Indian villages - what power they can unleash. Progress can be made through simple ideas and these guys have proven it. I salute these heroes...

Further study can be done from the materials below:

Friday, July 9, 2010

Features of the new Delhi Airport - T3 Terminal

Some people have questioned if it is necessary to have an airport of such a magnitude. The answer is "yes." Just take the fact -  2006-07 and 2007-08 Delhi airport received about 22 million passengers. Here's an article that says since 2006, Delhi is witnessing the highest growth in aviation traffic in the world. Moreover, Delhi in 2008 surpassed even Mumbai, which for decades was the busiest airport in India.

Here's how international media covered it:

Washington Post Article
The Guardian (UK)
Business Week
BBC Article 1
BBC Article 2

In 2007, when my flight landed in Delhi, I had to depend on a local bus (provided by Delhi airport) to move from international to domestic. Those buses were so dirty, had no lights and had shattered windows. The road itself was so congested and I had to encounter street traffic. The old airport was so dirty, stinking and no proper air conditioning. I even saw the maids carrying old style broom sticks and buckets with phenol to clean the filthy toilets. Not even automatic flushing mechanism was there. My viewpoint is not mine alone. Look at what BBC reports are the issues with the old airport (prior to 2007).

In 2009, the airport was totally transformed. It was so good. The maintenance, cleanliness, service was tremendously improved. The toilets were dramatically changed. I used to always get complaints (from news and print media) that with very few gates international flights were given priority and domestic flights always delayed.  What Delhi needed was a spacious airport because Delhi is the capital city and the international passengers would always prefer Delhi as the starting point.  

Delhi always had huge land and that is why expansion was possible. There are 3 runways and they are sufficient (not enough as the plan now is to expand T3 to T4 and T5 and build additional runways). Mumbai always had and is having space issues. Hence, the Aviation Minister - Praful Patel was saying to the media, that now the emphasis is on constructing the Navi Mumbai Airport (will complement Mumbai airport). For this, land and designs have been approved. They are waiting for environmental clearances ( this is exactly what Praful was arguing that we need to get the clearance quickly else Mumbai can't handle even one new flight). What Delhi has done is to have a solution before it goes the Mumbai route of overcrowding and clogging.

If airport express link is an unheard construction in India, this massive airport is an unthinkable feat in India post Independence. If you can't believe, look at what BBC covered. The snapshot of the same in Indian media is as below.

Features of the new parking complex (source: Hindustan times):
  • Parking complex is connected via bridges to reach to and fro from the airport building.
  • It can house 4300 cars at the same time.
  • Largest parking complex in India.
  • Will have automatic ticket dispenser system that charges based on the time used.
  • Uses Space Availability Display System (SADS) - a new system - first of its kind in India by which the incoming car will be shown where it can be parked (instead of searching around everywhere).
  • Has 7 floors including the terrace (can be used for parking).
  • The parking complex features Flight Info Display System to know the schedule of flights.
  • Has CCTV cameras and Public Address System.
  • Ground floor is 19263 sq m while other floors are 19155 sq m.

    Salient Features of the airport:
    • Some tasks become trendsetters. This airport is definitely a trendsetter in India. Simply because this was built in 37 months - much ahead of the schedule.
    • The airport can be reached by a fast, high speed airport express link (covered earlier in my blog)
    • The airport has a huge parking lot that can house 4300 cars at the same time and is the largest parking complex in India. It has about 5 floors and has a new Parking system which will tell the incoming cars as to where the parking is available so that one does not search the whole parking lot.
    • The airport has 48 gates, 78 aerobridges (the largest number for any single terminal in the world). The 78 aerobridges are shared amongst the 48 gates.
    • For the past 2 years, the capacity of passengers in the airport has been around 22 million. The new airport can handle 34 million passengers. Overcrowding has always been a problem in Delhi.
    • The terminal T3 is not the end. T4 and T5 are going to come by 2020. They will act as extensions of T3. The combined capacity of T3, T4 and T5 would be close to 70 million. Such a growth is not exaggerated, it will be reached if Delhi becomes an aviation hub.
    • Delhi surely will be soon the aviation hub in addition to the already existing Bejing, Dubai, Singapore airport hubs.
    • The scale at which this has been done is a testimony to the fact that if private people are involved (reliable ones) they can construct great structures even in a bureaucratic democracy like ours.
    • This airport would showcase that we are moving towards rapid changes in ports, highways and airports (leave alone intra-city roads).
    • At least I feel that the airport reflects many facets of Indian lifestyle and culture, although more could be expected in terms of what architecture we have.

      Some Issues/concerns (only time can say would these be short-term or persistent):
      • Of the 96 immigration counters, half would be for arrivals and the other half for departures. When there is a huge crowd, will all counters on either sides be open?
      • Will the immigration officials be cool, calm and friendly? Or will they be rude, outspoken and unfriendly? Even if airports are made huge, maintained clean, the officials often cast a lasting impression.
      • Will there be any effective complaint center where passengers can place complaints? Even if there is one, will it be effectively implemented?
      • Can the airport ensure that all its hi-tech gadgets function properly? Malfunctioning may occur even at the best airports, but the frequency would be very low. Can this be expected from the new airport?
      • Will the ground transportation be well-organized? At many railway stations in India, pre-paid taxi system works very good - can we expect the same from the new airport?
      • The Govt plans to introduce a new bill aiming at effective management and maintenance of airports by private stakeholders than Airports Authority of India (AAI). This is required and still we have no clue when this will be implemented.
      • Last year, the newly opened domestic terminal's roof could not withstand the heavy unexpected downpour of Delhi, which by far, was the highest recorded rainfall in the city. There were leakages. Can this happen in the new one too?
      • The 100 room transit hotel may be not sufficient if you consider the extreme winters/foggy conditions Delhi faces every year when 100's of passengers are stranded.
      • Will the CAT-III systems that ensures that flights can take off even when visibility is very low work, there have been enough reports and instances where this equipment has failed several times.
      • Will the flights take off on time? There has always been the complaint of both Bejing and Delhi with Delhi's 45% flights delayed and Bejing 38%.
      • Will the giant Shiva statue will be razed so that the effective length of the new runway (largest in Asia) will continue to be used completely.
      A majority of passengers have always complained about Delhi airport's impoliteness and sheer rudeness of immigration officials. This per se is not managed by the airport, but by the Govt of India. This is where dramatic improvement needs to come. And a suitable help desk with proper agents and information is another critical area. This is definitely maintained by the airport staff and must be good else the efficiency is lost. Cleanliness, sign boards, maintenance has been fairly better since 2008. This is definitely a training aspect without which no airport in India will improve in quality even if huge airports are constructed.

      Pictures of IGI Airport T3

      97 walkalators:
      Domestic and International Check in Areas:

      Main Canopy Area using Northern Light Concept (abundant natural light)

      Huge Retail Area:

      Aerobridges, dock stations:

      The dock stations have 3 colors representing Indian spices - Red, Green and Yellow.

      SINGAPORE: 65 DELHI: 78 Aerobridges:
      Has Lounges, Shower rooms, prayer rooms, restaurants, bars, fast food outlets - 20,000 sq m of Commerial Area.

      Retail Space description video

      Pics and videos courtesy: google images, skyscrapercity and youtube