1.1         Intersolar India

posted Dec 16, 2011, 6:02 AM by Hari DK

Well, just got back from INTERSOLAR India (http://www.intersolar.in) - held between 14-16 December 2011 in Mumbai. Have to say it was a great experience for one new to the fast growing solar power and thermal industry (i.e. me). It was a nice opportunity to meet and interact with many likeminded people from all over the world. The exhibition was held in a large hall at the Bombay Exhibition Center, and had hundreds of stalls and thousands of visitors from all over the world. Technology ranging from the small-scale to mammoth was represented. There was a fair split between solar photovoltaic (this means electricity generation from solar modules) and solar thermal (this means concentrate heat from the sun using mirrors etc to run industrial processes) technologies.

The solar photovoltaic (PV) technology ranged from stuff used in tiny (1 kW or less) to huge power plants (think hundreds of megawatts.) Some of the interesting (for me) exhibits:

 

- there were a bunch of German companies selling "industrial-strength" fusing and inverters for the larger power plants

- there was a company from the netherlands that had a VERY sexy-looking futuristic looking contraption on display. Closer examination revealed it to be a very pseud-looking inverter, with touchscreen, power i/os etc. It's tempting to think of us as being in the same era as the computer manufacturers were in the 80s.. hence there are the equivalent of "Apple" for really well-designed, good looking equipment (at a price of course. When I am a rich man, I will get all this stuff for myself :P)

- there was a very nice person from a company called 5N (standing for 99.999%) who patiently explained to me some of the nuances of manufacturing solar modules. It was a really fun and educational experience.. the previous technical area in which I was had a handful of people working on it in the world. It's nice to be in a blossoming field like this where there are so many smart people to interact with..

- Battery technology (which imho is the weak link in solar power plants) was represented on one end by the usual tubular/gel/solar battery manufacturers. At the other end of the scale, there was a HUGE battery system on display - using Vanadium Oxide as the active material - with a voltage of about 440 volts!!

 

All in all a nice experience in Mumbai (though I ate too many vada pavs and suffered as a result.) Later!!..




1.2         Solar PV Manufacturing Plant Visit

posted Mar 22, 2012, 4:03 AM by Ganesh Shankar   [ updated Mar 22, 2012, 5:59 AM ]

 

As part of our work, we make visits to our suppliers facility. This post is regarding one such visit.

 

Couple of days back Hari and I went to a solar panel manufacturing company who are most likely going to provide panels for our currently on going project. An official from that company, who is at a fairly high position in the organization, was gracious enough to take us through the assembly line of the solar photovoltaic manufacturing plant. The unit was very impressive. We came to know about various stages of manufacturing : The cell cutting, Joining cells by soldering, encapsulating the cells between the transparent plates, fitting the connector terminals, fixing the panel on an aluminum frame and finally testing it using an artificial light source that emulates sunlight. The person in charge of the assembly line  helped us understand each step of the manufacturing process with great commitment.

 

Hope we make more such visits and understand the engineering and manufacturing process behind various products that we will integrate in our product line.  

 ( ganesh@fluxgentech.com )



 

1.3         A talk addressing NIT Jaipur students on entrepreneurship

posted Oct 2, 2012, 1:10 AM by Ganesh Shankar

Here is a speech Ganesh gave to the students of National Institute of Technology, Jaipur on Entrepreneurship.

 

I have learnt some of the greatest lessons in my life by embarking on adventuresome activities, such as going on a long distance cycling expedition. I have applied those lessons in entrepreneurship and in some way I feel entrepreneurship is like long distance cycling. I’ll tell you why I feel so.

 

Last year, that is year 2011, some time during February or March I was not associated with any organization either as an employee or as a student. I was pretty much on my own. I had not started FluxGen but I was doing some minor experiments on solar and stuff. I was in no hurry hence I was taking my own time in going about setting up the business. During that time I came to know that a friend of mine, Jonathan Fernandez, was planning to do a cycle trip to his home that is Goa, from Bangalore - well it is about 600 and odd kilometers.

 

Being an adventure seeker, I was thrilled about the whole idea. I met Jonathan soon after hearing the idea and we started discussing. Considering the fact that none of us had done much of cycling for many years we decided to do some short trips before planning for the Goa expedition. In next couple of months, we did couple of one day trips of about 150kms and then did a three day trip to Chennai (from Bangalore)- it’s about 350kms. We did a few more expeditions with other friends as well. And finally we were ready to do the Goa expedition.

 

We did it pretty much like we had dreamt of doing it. It was a fantastic experience. I still think about that trip a lot. I am going to share with you few interesting instances during our Bangalore- Goa cycling expedition..

 

The first day of the expedition, when Jon and I had completed about 80kms, we met a person by name Uday on the road. He was going on a scooter. He was kind of curious to know about us and our expedition. He enquired about it. When I told him that we were going to Goa he was thrilled and was keen in assisting us in some way. He offered us lunch at his place and also spoke to his friend who was about 70kms from that place to give us shelter and arrange dinner for that night. Well his friend, who was an absolute stranger just like Uday, took good care of us that night. We could only thank those gentlemen.

 

There is another incident I remember very well. Jon and I at times had very asymmetric speed, sometimes he was ahead and sometimes me. Once when Jon was very ahead of me, about 10kms distance, my cycle got punctured. I had the puncture kit but I had never used it before. I was trying to somehow fix it and then there were some villagers who came to my rescue. With their help I could get the puncture fixed. Similar incidents happened a few more time during the trip, and we could crack it with the help of people around. Long distance cycling is prone to uncertainties and with experience a cyclist would learn to tackle it.

 

The last thing I would like to share about the trip with you is the stuff we carried during our entire journey . We had planned to complete the expedition in four to five days. Since all through out the trip we had to carry the luggage on our shoulders or on the cycle, we had to be very economical on the weight we carried. Jon and I did a very calculated decision on carrying necessary stuff, because of which we had to compromise on our daily comfort. After the whole trip we hardly found it as any kind of discomfort. The life style that I got used to during my time on such expeditions has pretty much changed my lifestyle forever. The point that I am trying to make here is that our prime focus was in completing the expedition in a stipulated time limit and we managed to complete the expedition with the least possible we could do with.

 

Coming to the entrepreneurship part, which is what I’m supposed to speak, here is what I see the similarity with the long distance cycling. There are some things that are very obvious which I leave you guys to figure out but things that I really want to emphasis I’ll speak here

 

I believe, the stuff you want to do should definitely be daring and exciting. If it doesn’t excite your mind then probably you will not be able to go for long. Goa trip would not have happened had I was not super excited about it. And another thing, it will happen, you shouldn’t be thinking about it all the time, you’ll sooner or later feel the excitement on some stuff you come across and then you may wish to take it tothe next level.

 

The first step you take matters a lot. It could be a tiny tiny step, but it still matters.The first step may not be taken with complete logic or planning. Most of the time, thefirst step is taken with faith.

 

Once you have taken the big leap of starting a business, you will be encountered with several problems and issues. I believe, any issue or a problem can be divided into smaller and smaller parts which may be solved by applying first principles. The confidence to divide any problem statement into multiple small problems will make you capable of tackling any problem that you come across or the problem you define.

 

While you become confident of taking up a tough venture, you will always find people around you willing to assist you. I’d like to mention a Sanskrit quote :“Dhaiyramsarvathra sadhanam” – Courage is applicable everywhere. Courage for a good cause is that kind of human spirit that will always be appreciated and encouraged– so don’t feel alone when you are doing something that makes sense with a bit ofcourage.

 

While you will find many people interested in assisting you out, I should also warn you that the formulas that you will hear from people for success are many but what would fit into your equations is your job to figure out. Sometimes you may have to do all the mistakes yourself to figure out, while sometimes you may be in a position to just learn from others mistakes but what you should remember is that no two realworld problems are exactly same.

 

Coming to the most important part, the focus on what you want to do is very important for many reasons. You may be limited by factors like money, time,expertise etc. With these limitations sometimes you may think you are in a deadlock.But the truth is everybody comes with some or the other limitations. I believe, that with a focused attention and taking calculated risk on things that you really want to do you will be able overcome any limitation and many a times you will convert your disadvantage to some advantage – I’ll not tell you how, I’ll leave you to experiencethat thing yourself.

 

With this gyan that I may have acquired during last couple of years I’ll end my talk. All the best, take care!

 

Feel free to share the post if you like the message.

 

(The speaker wishes to thank Dr. Mathur for giving an opportunity to speak, Nikhil and Mitavachan for introducing Dr. Mathur, Rishika for insisting the speaker to prepare for the talk and Nitesh for correcting the grammatical mistakes in the speech)



1.4         Preparing for a conference

posted Oct 4, 2013, 1:36 AM by Hari DK   [ updated Oct 4, 2013, 1:43 AM ]

Many times, we attend technology conferences where we have the opportunity to talk about our work or related aspects, and also sometimes show demos of our technology. This happens at least 3-4 times a year, by my estimate. It's one of my favourite parts of working in this job.. the previous week is a hectic rush of things to do, technology to develop, work to finish up, posters to make, talks to prepare. I find it pretty enjoyable though. Every time we have the chance to put on a demo, our technology jumps a little bit higher. I'm looking forward to the Electronics Rocks 2013 conference organized by our friends at EFY Magazine. I used to read this magazine as a kid! It's India's oldest electronics magazine and in those days, it used to be filled with cool circuits to do some very nice things. I'm glad to participate in the conference this time as a speaker. I'll be speaking about a little computer called the Raspberry Pi and some of the truly amazing things that people have made with it. Preparing for the talk was lots of fun as I revisited many things I have been interested in in the past - computers, communication, robotics, physics etc. I'm looking forward to meeting my friends and having a great time at the conference!



1.5         An unsolicited career advice…

posted February 28, 2013, 3:20 AM by Ganesh Shankar

28-02-2013

Bangalore

Dear friends,

 

I’m writing this open letter to communicate some thoughts that came to my mind during my recent visit to Delhi. I’ve always felt that travelling has played a significant role in refining my thinking and communicating my thoughts with you has helped me broaden my perspective further. This letter is one such effort. Like always, I hope you share your thoughts on this as well.

 

Last week I  had been to Delhi to speak at a conference organized as part of three day expo by a major electronics magazine. I was suppose to speak on two consecutive days on two different topics. The first one was about “Low Power Electronics design” to a gathering of design engineers in electronics field and the second one was to a gathering of engineering students and teachers (basically academia). I was certainly glad to speak at the event for many reasons. My pursuit to electronics started way back in 90′s when I was a teenager . My father had got me an electronics kit to play around during my school days and later I took electronics as an optional subject in 11th and 12th. I indulged my self in electronics more seriously when I did my engineering and in fact I had subscribed for the same magazine during that time. My father was more glad because he had been reading that magazine since 1969. I was also felt honored as one of the speaker was a visiting faculty at IISc when I was a student there. Anyway I’ve bragged enough about myself, let me address the intent of my post in next few paragraphs.

 

Before my talk on the second day, there was a panel discussion addressing students interest in electronics. The discussion lead to career guidance and stuff. I was more of a passive participant just stuck to my seat as an audience and when I was called on to address the gathering after the panel discussion, I did mention various career avenues in energy sector as it was expected of me to enlighten them though my presentation. I guess I did my job fairly well. I said good bye to the expo and also thanked the organizers for giving me an opportunity to speak. Meanwhile my friend Somesh, who had come with me to Delhi, was waiting  for me to finish my talk so that we could see places in Delhi. We had also got a car from an other friend in Delhi to roam around but it so happened that we didn’t actually use it much to see places in Delhi but instead we used the public rail transport called as “Metro” to see most of the places in Delhi. Metro had connectivity to most places in Delhi and we figured that it was easily the preferred mode of transport for all classes of society. The cost was very reasonable for the kind of service a passenger could get, that too in a place like Delhi. We never waited for more than five minutes in any terminal to catch a metro train. We also figured that the New Delhi Railway Station, the New Delhi Airport and Bus stand were also connected to the Metro network which in a way bridged all form of transportation. There are metro links to outskirts of Delhi which is called by the name National Capital Region – they are the major economic zones for Industries in North India. In short metro is the back bone of Delhi transport system. Somesh and me were blown by the level of design put in Delhi metro while my mind was faintly pre-occupied with what had happened in the panel discussion. When I came back to Bangalore I read more about Delhi metro and I knew what would be my career advice if I ever have to give some one.

 

Delhi metro construction started in the year 1995 under the leadership of an experienced railway engineer by name E Sreedharan. The Delhi Metro construction was completed ahead of time and Sreedharan served as the Managing Director for 16 years before he retired at the age of 80. On further research on him I came to know that he played a major role in Culcutta metro and also headed the Konkan railway project. He served Indian railways for 56 consecutive years. I also happen to read an article which gave greater depth about his contribution to the railways (1).  This story of E Sreedharan reminded me of a quote from a novel I had read recently which says  “This isn’t just an epigram – life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all.” I’ve come across many intelligent people who have had the creative energy to do anything under the sun but I have also seen them not pursuing on one particular field for a reasonably long time. I see that they have very short span of interest towards one field and get disenchanted and jump to something new, which they will eventually get disinterested. Especially people who graduate as engineers don’t pursue engineering for various reasons and people who take up engineering jobs end up getting into management roles or not so engineering roles in very less time. Sreedharan wasn’t educated more than engineering and his job didn’t require any further qualification. Present day role models are mostly Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and not many would know about Sreedharan. I’m not saying Steve or Bill aren’t great people to look up after, in fact they are the pioneers of modern computing which has pretty much revolutionized the way we live but students thoughts are driven by the affluence that they got after making break through in computers. From the kind of questions that were asked in the panel discussion I could figure out that present generation engineers are more interested in doing a high tech jobs or become entrepreneurs with out any kind sense towards problem statement in mind. Many don’t see a point in seeing the difference between the first world countries problems and third world countries problems.

 

I’d like to elaborate on time aspect in career. I happen to attend a convocation function at IISc as some of my close friends were graduating that year . The degrees were handed over to the students by Prof. V.Ramanarayanan who has more than thirty years of research experience in Power Electronics. In his commencement speech he talked about a sanskrit verse on learning , it roughly translates as “you learn one fourth from your teachers, one fourth from your own efforts, one fourth from your peers, one fourth with the passage of time.” He gave a lot of impetus on the last one fourth which is the learning that happens with time. I could connect those words of his at different level over the years and I feel current graduates should give due importance to time in shaping their career. In some discussion a friend mentioned that if pursuit for affluence wasn’t a current day phenomena, people would have valued the importance of patience. I see many of my friends talking about increment, bonus and career prospect mostly in terms financially not really keen on how their work is solving the problems world is facing. I also feel sad that the more evolved ones aren’t thinking in that direction but they are more interested in working on ultracool technology which will not address the issues that their countrymen are facing but merely interested advancement in technology.  The need is forgotten, instead sophistication, comfort and better life style has replaced it.  I really don’t see a point in an intelligent engineer working on technology that can enable voice commands to operate a television when he has got the education to work on technologies that can help millions of people get better drinking water, especially if he comes from a country like India where you face more of third world problems.  Again Sreedharan’s work can be taken as an inspiration. His work has been an enabler for people in doing their work more efficiently, it was at the infrastructure level. May be I sound like a cynic who is against the advancement of technology, but my interest here is to encourage engineers to become proactive on bridging their skills and capability that could cater to the fundamental needs of their country men.

 

Works of Sreedharan has greatly inspired me to an extent that I’d not divert my attention from working on energy systems problems (mostly in India) at my capacity for at least next 10- 15 years. While I see that many things that may come my way could be intellectually tempting and lucrative as well, however I’m convinced that a career which is driven by focus for a reasonably long time  is lot more successful than otherwise.

cheers,

Ganesh

 

(1)    Dr. E Sreedharan - The Bharat Ratna no one talks about:  http://kaipullai.com/2012/02/24/dr-elattuvalapil-sreedharan-the-bharat-ratna-no-one-talks-about/

 

 

1.6         The choices…

posted August 7, 2011, 4:10 PM by Ganesh Shankar

This post is based on my discussion with a friend or rather more of a mentor of mine. His name is Mr. Subramanyan ( Subbu sir).  Subbu sir is a very accomplished Electrical engineer who joined Bharath Heavy Electric ltd (BHEL) some time in ’90s after completing his BTech in Electrical Engineering. He is currently the Deputy General Manager of BHEL Industrial Systems group, where he executes hard core electrical projects. At BHEL, apart from his hectic work, he also mentors Engineering students who do projects in the facility.  During his interaction with these interns , he could get a sense of their interests, priorities and the choices that they opt for their career.  Well, this post is a discussion on the present generation college grads’s carrier interest and how it could be leading to a scary future.

 

In my recent communication with Subbu sir, he said that “Students study Civil, ceramics, mechanical, electrical , mining engineering for four long years and end up in TCS, IBM, InfoSys to do software which is no way related to their study.  I met one of my colleagues daughter today who has passed in ceramics engineering from an NIT and has joined IBM and is put in testing. Her entire class has joined one of the above mentioned companies. I had earlier met a group of students from indian school of mines dhanbad who had joined infosys en masse. Is it not doing injustice to the humble tax payers money on these prestigious schools and with nothing in return for the tax payer?”  Like Subbu sir, I also had same kind of feeling while I was doing my engineering. I used to wonder how could my seniors opt for a career in software engineering when they got such a good education in electronics engineering. I used to find it very absurd until I got into their shoe.

 

When I was doing engineering all that I cared was understanding my engineering subjects and its application in real world. I wanted to be a hardcore engineer who knows every damn thing in electronics, but when the placement season started in the college I was influenced by my friends in applying for a software job and I even got one.  I wanted to do a masters after my engineering and kept the software job as a back up option. However, I neither went to do a masters nor  a software job, instead joined an Engineering  startup which was into special purpose machines and robotics, all thanks to a senior from college who referred me for that job.  While I was doing exactly what I wanted to do in life (though for a lesser salary) but I could understand that its not all that simple to get a right engineering job with good pay that too with out experience. And what makes it even hard to pursue on an engineering job is that their are several lucrative software jobs which could be got with little or no difficulty.  Well, most of us are greedy, we want both good pay as well as an interesting engineering job, and when you dont get both in a job we decide on either of them based on what we care for the most.

 

I thought its more of a trade off then,  partly because I could see it from my friends angle (who took up software job) as having a job after engineering is seen as compulsion in many’s mind and also for financial reasons .  However, if you ask me now, I think similar to what I thought while I was doing my engineering – it’s very absurd the way a college student make a career decision. It’s not entirely students mistake as they live in a society where money is seen as a prominent thing in a job. While I think Software engineering could be an intellectually challenging experience as it requires logical thinking, and anyone who has fascination for the same would find it very rewarding in many ways but at the same time other engineering jobs (perhaps the less paid jobs) are being occupied by less capable folks, leading to a  great asymmetry in quality of engineering products and services from this part of the world. Also the chances of making good fortunes in core engineering jobs after some experience is not ruled out rather more probable.

 

It all starts from the day one of engineering. I remember my classmates and seniors asking me my engineering entrance rank during the first interaction itself. I remember how taking a branch in engineering was not exactly based on the interest but based on the job opportunities. I remember how religiously my classmates studied for exams than to study for the understanding of the subject or for trying some thing new from what they could learn. I remember the mood of my class mates having a direct relation to the marks they obtained in the exams and tests. I remember how getting a high paid job in campus placement was considered as a real achievement. I remember how my friends shifted to completely non engineering domain as if they were fine about it from the beginning of their course. I always felt most people around me lacked objective in life or their objective was something (perhaps money, marks or fame) and their efforts were in something else (perhaps engineering education).

 

Well, does that mean people who take up engineering education should take up an engineering job alone? No, not necessarily. I didn’t mean that. Many a times it requires lot of time to decide what to do in life. Probably many of us were too young to decide the branch of engineering we wanted to do or even taking up engineering it self wouldn’t have been the best idea. We took it based on at what level we could think and also based on many people’s opinion. What is absurd is that we continue to depend on what people think and make our decision based on that. But shall I pore in some exceptions here, I know one of my friend who did her engineering with me and later decided to go for a career in art illustration after contemplating for the same for several years (while she was in a software job). One more friend decided to set up a business in soft skills training after he worked as a consultant in a big MNC, again that was based on lots of introspection. I can give you several such examples if you ask me. I must also say there are some people who did engineering, though not in computer science but later  fell in love with software engineering and are doing better than many computer science graduates. While there are also other people who felt that they repeatedly did wrong decisions and think there is no way to get back than actually to continue doing what they are doing as it helps them pay their bills. And their are remaining others who don’t think at all.

 

Its natural human tendency to try out  easy ways than the right ways. One of the easy ways to make money or to have a safe, secure and comfortable life,  is understood by many as working for a MNC, which is true, I have my self worked in a MNC after doing my masters hence I can say it with more certainty.  Does a comfortable life mean that its a happy life or meaning full life?  I guess that is some thing every one of us have to ponder about and probably none of us can give a definitive answer.

 

This post that I have written is my perspective on carrier shaping, feel free to comment on what you think. I got into this system, I mean Engineering, in the year 2001 and I have been into fairly different kind of places and roles, which includes – student in an engineering college, an intern in a public sector organization, design engineer in a start up company, a Master’s student in a research institute, an electronics engineer in a big MNC,  senior engineer in a social enterprise and now as an aspiring entrepreneur. I really cant say weather I did my best or not in any of these places but I did learn hell lot of things and most importantly I realized the importance of thinking. This  post is for the students and for people who are in the early phase of their carrier.

 

Before I end this lengthy post, all that I am trying to say is that spend some quality time in identifying what you truly love doing, pursue on it once you identify, I guess its similar to falling in love with a person, don’t loose track because of the things that are not part of your objective. Having said that, I also want to add, that the branch of engineering that you would have taken could turn out to be wonderful if you explore it really well. Try to go one mile ahead of what is taught in the class or what is there in the syllabus. If you are spending your precious time of your life, that too youth hood, on something, you rather get really close to it before you decide to go away from it, at least you wouldn’t regret later.  A character of a person is some way related to the things he/she opts to do and also opts not to do, well, after all the essence of life is all about the choices that we make.



 

1.7         the trip!

 

A post that I was unable to finish for more than a year. Finally completed it today, here it is:

It all started with a Facebook update (July '12):

 "Hey, this update is regarding a trip to Himachal or Nepal or Uttarakhand or some such fancy place - which I'm super keen in undertaking this August. I'd say a hitchhiking to make it sound a little adventures - though the idea is to make the trip super economical. One more thing I'd say is to plan very little or not at all plan for anything - full on ad-hoc basis. As of now I'm going alone - if you like the idea, and also feel like joining the expedition, then feel free to let me know." (1)

 

 

Hari (my close pal and also colleague) and I wanted to blow off steam from our work, which took great deal of our attention for nearly ten months. I wanted to do this trip no matter what. Thankfully, Hari also agreed to do the trip and the crazy facebook post did attract my two friends, Christell and Amit. They both were ready  to join however they were very particular in doing the hitchhiking in Nepal alone. So Nepal it was.

 

It was 3rd August 2012. We (Hari and I) were about to leave our respective places in an hours time to the railway station and we got a call from a lady who represented a technology multi-national company that had helped us by providing the hardware and software for our business. She wanted to know if  Hari or I could speak in an international conference in Austin, Texas given an opportunity. We both told her that we were leaving to Nepal to take a break from work. Though she wanted one of us to change our plan, that is to stay back in Bangalore, but at the same time she wasn't sure if the plan to invite us will be confirmed. She told us to consider it as an urgent request and make it to Austin if confirmed. Besides, Hari didn't have a US VISA where as I had one (thanks to GE - my previous employer) and the conference was in less than four days time. So it was me who was suppose to make the decision of staying back in Bangalore or not. I told her that I'll not stay back in Bangalore since it was too short notice and can't take a chance in missing the Nepal trip. I also told her that we will be traveling to Kolkota by train and in case the invitation gets confirmed then I'll try to take a flight to Austin from there itself.

 

My best friends, Vinod, Vinayendra and Rakesh, had come over to my place to convey their best wishes for the trip when I was leaving my place. With all the apprehensions till that last minute we, that is, Amit, Christell, Hari and I started our journey from Bangalore railway station. We were pretty lucky to get the tickets to Kolkota that too in sleeper berth considering the fact that we all decided to do the trip to Nepal in less than a weeks time. The journey to Kolkota was fun. We had lots of fun discussion while pulling each others leg. I also got many calls from the US regarding the conference but unfortunately I wasn't able to speak to them continuously even for a short duration as the mobile network coverage was very intermittent and also the mobile phone battery was getting drained. Finally the invitation to speak at that conference got confirmed  after a chat with the organizers of the event and I accepted to speak at the event. I knew that it was an opportunity that will not come often and at the same time I didn't want to miss the Nepal trip. I told Hari, Amit and Christell that I would some how try to join them at Nepal even if I miss the significant part of the trip.

 

Since I didn't have access to internet nor continues mobile coverage in the train, my close pal, Vinod did all the talking and mailed my details, such as passport number and other personal details, with the people from that company once the plan to US got confirmed . When I reached Kolkota all that I had to inform was my flight plan to that company's travel coordinator. The invitation to stay in the US was for one week which included food and accommodation. Initially I was tempted to stay in the US for the whole week but in that case I'd have missed the complete hitchhiking trip that I desperately wanted to do for so long. As giving that talk in that forum was the most important activity of my visit to the US, I got the return tickets booked just after the day of my talk, which meant that my stay in the US was confined to less than 3 days. I didn't think much about it once I got the tickets booked as I knew that I'd be making a lot of overseas travel as part of my work in the future.

 

Though I made the decision to fly to the US in no time, my preparation for the trip was absolutely zero. Thanks to my friend (lab mate from IISc) in Kolkota, Madhurima and her husband Nirupam for their kind help, without them I wouldn't have done any shopping before leaving the country. It was my first trip outside Asia and second trip outside India. I must say that there was little apprehension before I left Kolkota as I didn't have the print out of the air tickets and the invitation letter, and to my bad luck all the browsing centers were closed near the airport since it was a Sunday. Anyway, I later learnt from a friend that all I needed was the PNR number of the flight and getting a ticket printed at the airport is no brainier. As there weren't appropriate flights from Kolkota, I had to take a flight to Bombay and from there to Frankfurt and from there to Washington airport at Dulles. After arriving at Dulles I had to kill nearly six hours to board a flight to Austin.

 

A lady from the security department at Washington airport informed me about a famous museum which was near to the airport. I got deeply thrilled about visiting the museum when she told that I should be able to see it and still safely board the flight to Austin. With the help of other airport officials I could figure out the logistics to the museum and I did visit. It eventually turned out that my visit to Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum was the only significant place I could see during my trip to the US. The time spent at the museum was great, as an engineer who had worked in aviation industry for some time I could appreciate the technological advancement in the field. There were space shuttles, aircrafts, missiles, gliders and many more. I also saw the first generation computers used in the flight management and control system that was displayed over there - remember UNIVAC (any computer science geeks reading this post)?

 

I did reach Austin without much difficulty. It was little funny during the check in and check out of luggage at various airports as I had this tent, sleeping bag and other trekking gears with me through out the trip. Thankfully the immigration department didn't ask me the reason behind it. The company which had sponsored my complete trip to the US had arranged a cab at the airport to the hotel as well. I was pretty excited when I reached the hotel. It was a five star hotel. It was the first time in my life I was staying in such a posh hotel. I tried my best to take great advantage of the facilities provided in the hotel, I started off with the telephone. I made a three hour long phone call to a good friend in Michigan and only when I left the hotel I figured out that making phone calls weren't part of the deal.

 

Next day morning I went to the conference location, that is Austin convention center. I had a nice breakfast and met people from that company with whom I had earlier interacted as part of work. There were thousands of people from all over the world attending the mega annual event organized by the company. There were people from Industries, academia, government setups, media and what not. After attending the key note by the CEO of that company I got in touch with two ladies who offered to assist me for my talk which was scheduled the next day morning. I prepared the presentation in one of their laptops, which didn't take much time as all the stuff I wanted for the presentation were stored in the web  - all thanks to google mail and dropbox. I discussed the content with one more lady who was in charge of the event in which I was a speaker. She didn't alter the content much but told me clearly to wrap up the talk in seven minutes. She also directed me to a video interview the very same day. The interview was good fun. The two american ladies asked me many questions which were related to my work and the business that I managed and co-founded. I candidly answered all the questions, the best part was that they didn't influence me or prompt me, they just recorded what ever I said. It was for about twenty minutes. Some months back I saw a minute video that was made from that interview to promote a social initiative by the company in the developing countries, perhaps you can consider watching the video (2). The day ended with me having dinner at a posh restaurant with the India team of that company.

 

I got up at around 8'O clock on the day of my talk. I was suppose to speak at 11 PM hence I wasn't in any rush. I glanced through the print out of my presentation while having my breakfast in the hotel where I was put up. I did think about the journey that I had taken to reach the point where I was sitting. I did remember the time when I was slipping while pursuing my entrepreneurial dream. I also remembered the time I left my job at GE, a big MNC where I was having a safe and neat career. I felt damn good. I didn't have to give a dazzling presentation to impress the crowd as I had a story to tell which itself was fairly interesting. However confident I thought I was, the truth was that I did become little nerves when I actually went to speak. I started of my talk with the statement " Hello, I'm doing this for the first time. Please have a smile on your face so that I feel comfortable while I go through this". The whole crowd laughed at it - that acknowledgement was a very positive feeling and I nearly cracked the talk then alone. In fact they did like my story, my sense of humor and most importantly my passion for work. I ended the speech (3) by saying " 400 million Indians are deprived of electricity. It's a concern as a countryman and opportunity as an engineer". There were nearly two hundred and odd people in the hall and many came over to congratulate me after the event. I knew that I had done quite a lot of grammatical mistakes in my speech and didn't distribute my time efficiently but what I cared and what mattered was that I did present it as a story of a dreamer who had a real desire to do things for a worthy cause. After the talk I got pictures (4) with dignitaries present there which included Sir Robert Swan - the first man to go to both the north and the south pole. It was awesome to meet such people. After the event I didn't want to talk to anyone or meet any one, I just wanted to enjoy the moment with myself. I can't really articulate how I felt at that time.

 

I spent the rest of my time at the conference by checking out the exhibition area where there was a grand display of amazing engineering systems. I got a chance to talk to some of the level headed engineers from across the globe who had built robots, medical equipments, earth movers, aerospace machinery and other fascinating stuff. Since I was leaving to India next day I thought of checking out some places near the hotel. Though my initial plan was to cycle around Austin downtown, thankfully, I found some guys, from the conference with whom I had dinner previous night. They were going to a place called Congress avenue bridge which was on the Colorado river that flows on the middle of the Austin city. The interesting thing about that bridge is that about one million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats live there. These bats migrate to Mexico in the winter and spend the rest of the year below the bridge. We could see these birds flying in huge number once it became dark.

 

Meanwhile I had got updates from my friends, Hari, Amit and Christell, with whom I was going to Nepal. Hari had mailed me about the place they were staying. They apparently had a crazy hitching hiking experience from Kolkota to Kathmandu while I was traveling to the west. They decided to camp at a place called Pokhra as suggested by the Nepali localities. I mailed him back about my return to India and subsequently to Nepal. I was looking forward to join them at the earliest.       

 

My last day in the US wasn't of any importance as I had nothing in specific to do or visit. It had all worked out fine. It so happened that the maximum money spent in the US was on phone calls and I came to know of it only when I was checking out from my hotel room in the morning. I was left with just two dollars when I left the hotel. Thankfully there was a cab arranged by the company to the airport. When I entered the airport I had only one dollar as I gave the other dollar as a tip to the driver who did a neat job. My return journey to India wasn't much different from my journey to the US. I reached New Delhi airport in the middle of the night (at about 1AM). I called my home and also my friends - luckily they were awake or got up to pick the call.

 

The second episode of this trip wasn't less exciting, must say reaching Pokhra in Nepal itself was sort of an adventure. Here goes the short description of the Nepal escapade.  

 

Fortunately I got a flight to Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal, at an affordable price from New Delhi by around six in the morning and reached safely in a few hours. The immigration check hardly asked for the passport and didn't bother to even check the luggage - anyway I didn't face trouble until I got out of the airport. Kathmandu people were observing road transportation strike that day. It was almost impossible for me to reach Pokhra that day and I was planning to stay at Kathmandu, but then I came to know about the flight service between Kathmandu and Pokhra. After lots of running around and bargaining I some how managed to get a seat in a 10-seater small airplane. I really enjoyed sitting next to a window in that small airplane which maneuvered in the sky like a bird and that too at a fairly low altitude - I could see hills, people, houses and valleys so clearly. It was spectacular!

 

Meeting Hari, Amit and Christell at Pokhra was very delightful and felt very nice to keep up with the promise of joining back in spite of all the temptations of staying back for some more days in the land of opportunities (read: America). For next three days we did the Ghorepani trek in the Annapurna region to reach the peak of Phoon hill. We saw the beautiful Mt. Annapurna (8091m) and Mt. Dhaulagiri (8167m) from Phoon hill top. The view was extraordinary. Hope some day I climb these mountains which are considered as tough as climbing Mt. Everest. I'll not be able articulate the beauty of the place, you can check the pictures which is pasted in the bottom of this post (5). We even managed to go to Lumbini, the birth place of Gautama Buddha after the three day trek. We got cycles to roam around the place and see Buddhist monasteries setup by various nations. The Mayadevi temple, the exact birth place of Buddha, was a peaceful place to spend some quality time. We took the Sunauli (near Ghorakpur) route by bus to reach India and later managed to get a train to Delhi from Ghorakpur (in Uttar Pradesh). The train journey from Delhi to Bangalore shall always be remembered for innumerable card games we played and all the funny names we kept as a penalty for losing the games. It was helluva fun I must say!      

 

Well, I still can't believe the universe choose all these events to happen in a span of fifteen days but yeah I'm certainly glad that I did have a role to play in making it happen. 

 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

(1) The FB post led to a lot of interaction, people started asking me lot of questions on travel and logistics for which one of my response was something like this:

""Here is the rough idea: Lets say we get a train to Culcutta or Delhi. If we choose Delhi, then we shall check out for buses and trains available to places where there are mountains and valleys. Let say there are tickets available to Shimla and Uttarkashi. Assume, I prefer Uttarkashi and you prefer Shimla then we have two options, either to toss a coin or I go to Uttarkashi and you to Shimla. Lets say we go for tossing the coin and you win. According to your choice, we'll reach Shimla. Then lets talk to people there and find out places there and then perhaps leave to a place where we can do some trekking or mounting climbing or river crossing or any fancy adventure, if both of us find it interesting. When we are there if we hear about another place very close and tempting then lets go there as well. As per cash, I prefer keeping money aside for train tickets and rest not much at all, I don't mind begging for shelter/food/transport there - if in case thr is some way to make money there I don't mind spending a day on it. As per time, when we really miss doing the work we do for our living then lets return back. With this info, I leave you to do the math on the budget and the duration. so what say boy?"

(after seeing this comment not many wished to join though many liked the comment )

 

(2) Planet NI Video interview:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn0QOSTsGJQ

 

(3) My talk at Austin, Texas

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m99BDbaWko8

 

(4) The US trip Pictures:

https://picasaweb.google.com/106423175487235708924/TheUSTrip12NIWeekConference?authkey=Gv1sRgCLiKttTy3-GblwE

 

(5) Nepal trip Pictures:

https://picasaweb.google.com/106423175487235708924/Nepal12?authkey=Gv1sRgCP-T39mU6IeBOQ#

 


1.8         Its like being in a relationship...

 

During my school days I had a great passion for drawing and painting. My parents encouraged me in every possible way they could and never had any doubts on my spirit for it. I had great fun trying out various art mediums like, water colours, poster colours, oil pastels, crayons etc. Shopping for these art materials was like a periodic event, especially during my middle and high school days. My dad used to take me to Avenue road, the place where almost all stationary items are available at a whole sale price, to get the art materials. When ever I saw a new art material at a shop, I used to get super excited and after seeing my excitement, he never stopped me from buying those stuff. Coming from an ordinary middle class family never had issues when it came to persuasion of art, science or sports, all these were valued equally by my parents.

 

By the time I turned 18 my interest slowly shifted towards Engineering. I got attracted by the very idea of making stuff that could have influence on our day to day life. Fortunately, I was in a great place, doing my Bachelor of Engineering (BE) along with some great minds in my class. Though not all were keen about engineering but they were bunch of ambitious people.

 

A road perpendicular to Avenue road (where I got art materials) called S P Road became more interesting place after my inception to engineering. S P Road is a place where we get variety of electronic, perhaps engineering stuff , I mean components. We got all the components that were required to do our lab experiments prescribed in our syllabus in S P Road. Few of my friends used to buy some critical components from there to do experiments during our final lab exams, as many of us had the feeling that components provided by the college could be faulty because of which we may not get the right output in the exam. I used to buy components much much before the exams. My close pal during my BE days, Vinod, and I had an advantage of doing all our lab experiments at my dad's office. My Dad used to work in Industrial Training Institute where there was a facility to do electronics experiments. Vinod and I gained great confidence doing experiments in that small lab which we called it as our BELL LABS. Burning the components (by mistake - like wrong connection) during experimentation was quite common, with that visiting S P Road to buy components had also become frequent. That was when I started visiting SP Road.

 

I had many like minded friends during my engineering education. I had great fun in discussing electronics with them. Two friends who comes to my mind right away are Ashwin Mukundan and Srivatsa Aithal. Ashiwin was my class mate. I must have had discussed with him on nearly all the circuits that we did in our lab and many more that came in some electronics magazines. He was/is a down to earth person with immense interest towards electronic gadgets. While Srivatsa and I did our primary schooling together. Incidentally we both had taken same engineering course (but different colleges) hence we got connected once again after a long gap. Along with them, some more friends from college and near my house, I had made a group to attend a lab based training program/ workshop pertaining to electronics circuits, during our semester holidays. We leisurely did many electronics circuits from morning to evening as the lab in charge had left us with no rules or condition. I specifically remember one incident during those lab days: Once we found a FM Transmitter circuit in some electronics magazine. When we saw the circuit we thought we could try out but we did not have enough components. Ashwin and I decided to do the circuit after buying the required components from SP Road, while Srivatsa was adamant on doing the circuit with the available components in the lab. We , especially I, thought he was crazy. Srivatsa could actually make a working FM Transmitter with a very few components on the desk by evening that day. That's when we came to know the genius in him. Srivatsa had visited SP Road may be ten times more than the number of times I had visited but he had the engineering acumen probably hundred times than that of mine. He didn't just teach us some neat electronics design during that workshop but also shared the spirit for doing electronics engineering.

 

SP Road helped us bridged from our conceptual understanding to practical knowledge in engineering. Every visit to SP road incrementally influenced on our thinking for engineering. There were electronics components shops, computer shops, electrical hardware shops, mechanical workshop based shops, shops related to constructions and many other shops. We could get a tiny bolt to a dish antenna, from resistor to microprocessor, so on and so forth. Almost every body who did engineering in circuits branch (in Bangalore) would have visited or their project mates would have visited. Some would call it as the hell on this earth for its crowd and dirtiness while some of us found it as a god sent engineering 'gold mine'. Well, at least for me my engineering wouldn't have been real education without SP Road.

 

 

After completing my engineering I joined an engineering start-up which was into special purpose machine, robotics and automation. It had a dozen mechanical engineers and a few electronics engineer. My first assignment was to design various circuits that would interface computers with machines. I had done circuits in engineering with little applicability to stand Industry standards , most of them were for fun. When I got into a real design I found my self naive. I made visits to SP road almost every alternate day to buy components that suited my design but to my bad luck I wasn't getting many of the components that I wanted. My boss (who happen to be a Stanford grad) wasn't that result oriented one when I joined the setup. He was considerate person and supported me even when things didn't work. He loudly appreciated when I ever I was able to show even a little progress. He was happy to see me indulging my self into the work. He started teasing me by calling SP Road as my in-laws place. With time I realized that S P Road was not the one stop solution for every need. I decided to move on from there. I found sources that offered many more component, at a little lower price and that too at our door step. My respect for S P Road shop keepers died by the time I completed a year in the company.

 

I was lucky - I g0t a seat in Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to do my masters, hence I decided to leave that start up after working for little more than a year. Studying in IISc was my dream during my BE days, I was super happy to get in. My research work was primarily experimental in nature. It involved developing electronic systems to set up the experiment. Electronics design was very much part of my research work. I was working under a professor who is an electronics genius and little bit short tempered as well. I had to be care full with his moods swings. When I had to procure components, he insisted that he wants to come with me and also wanted to get it from S P Road. I didn't want to get any components from S P Road as I had made up my mind and also I had built other contacts. I had no choice but to go with my guide to S P Road. He had been in the US for more than eight years, yet he wanted to walk in that dirty road and didn't mind waiting for hours to get components. He enjoyed browsing through the shops looking at components as though he had not seen it before while the truth was that he had worked with all those, just that his excitement remained unchanged with time. We had many discussions on various electronics circuits during that visit to S P Road. The components that we didn't get were replaced by the nearly equivalent components that met the requirement though not the part number or complete specification. He had the knowledge and patience to identify those equivalent components which I totally lacked doing during my work in that start up. My dislike towards S P Road was partly to do with the attitude with which I had taken it. After that visit to S P Road, I went there many more times with him and again fell in love with the street as I did during my college days.

 

I had got a job in GE during my placements which I joined after spending two years in the campus. I had left the campus with out submitting my dissertation work as I had not completed few experiments. I left as I wanted a job desperately and my guide also let me join with few simple conditions. In a year or so I submitted my thesis and recently got my degree as well. During those two years in GE, I did get a chance to do neat electronics engineering for aviation systems and energy systems businesses but I was missing out on doing creative hobby electronics as there were no real good place in Hyderabad to buy electronic components. In fact during one occasion when I was in Bangalore, I visited S P road to buy some micro-controllers to do some fun project. I could do very few such projects as I wasn't motivated enough to buy components online or else where. I missed S P Road to a large extent during those days.

 

I quit GE after spending nearly two years. I decided to start a business of my own in Energy domain, to begin with solar energy solution. First thing I did when I wanted to do something in solar was that I got a solar panel and a battery from S P Road to try out the solar charging functionality. However, I spent some three months time in a solar company to get some exposure in solar technology, outside Bangalore. Now I am back to Bangalore.

 

Few days back one of my uncles told me his UPS isn't working and asked me if I could fix it. I readily agreed. Yesterday while troubleshooting, I could figure out that a component had blown and I also figured out that the component isn't a readily available component in a shop. I went to S P Road and after a brief discussion with the shop keeper I found a component that could satisfy the requirement. Today I was able to fix the UPS. When I was having a cup of coffee at a restaurant near S P Road, I could recollect all these days of my association with the street, which in a way made me an Engineer.

GSD Awards - NI Days!

posted Nov 6, 2012, 12:09 PM by Ganesh Shankar FluxGen Engg Tech

Here are some pictures taken at NI Days conference. 

PicasaWeb Slideshow


1-1 of 1