Saturday, April 21, 2007

Who is " small" anyway?

The story from the Bible about David and Goliath always strikes a chord with even the most indifferent people. We have been brought to admire the small entrepreneur who makes it big from a rags to riches story. But a recent spate of media activity has got me thinking- are we abusing this word small?

Daily, we are deluged by the description 'small'. Whether it is SSI's begging for protection or the Hon Finance Minister exempting small service providers from service tax, or shopkeepers and chemists protesting the entry of organized retail into India, there are many interpretations of the word 'small'. For example, would you call an unit with 5 crore worth machinery small? I would not. Would you exempt a 'small' company from making proper accounts as per Accounting standards- just because it has bank borrowings<10 crores? Or, would you call a shopkeeper small- even though he gets a TAX free income more than even many salaried people?

The purpose of my queries are not to demean 'small' industries or units. On the contrary, I feel it is must to harmonize the various definitions of 'small' under various acts, so that the subsidies and benefits offered by the Govt do not go in vain

Sunday, April 15, 2007

BEST- the best!!

It has become fashionable to bash the familiar red bus( dat is BEST) for all the travails on Mumbai roads. In fact, the Mumbai Mirror even run a 3 day piece of this issue- more on that later.

Still, for a government organization, BEST has really pulled up its socks in the last one year. Some reforms are as follows:
(1) Smart Card system for monthly pass:
BEST has made available these monthly passes at rates from 45 Rs- for a 1 wk ltd pass, to a Rs 1200 1 month pass for all routes all buses. This is superb for regular travellers, who now will save quite a bit
(2) Plastic grip handles
These have replaced the old string like system. Paid for by Advt, this is a win-win for all parties concerned. The advertiser gets cheap out door advt, the BEST gets free handles, and the traveller gets better grip while standing
(3) Pay phones!!
Yes, this is not a joke. Hutch has installed these phones for you, if you ever feel like talking on the move!. Yet, at a rate of Rs 3/ minute- very few will feel tempted to use this one.
(4) Bill drop box
Again a scheme of Hutch, this allows BEST to get revenue with no extra costs, merely by using unutilised space behind the driver
(5) Show hand stop bus
This exists on short routes with poor usage. To boost the headcount on these routes, one can catch a bus as easily as an auto- merely with a wave of the hand

This is not to glorify the BEST- they are not perfect. But still, even the devil should be given its due, and BEST is not a devil