INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE: SAMSUNG RESEARCH INSTITUTE

INTERNSHIP EXPERIENCE: SAMSUNG RESEARCH INSTITUTE

Notes:

  1. The blog does not contain any information confidential to Samsung Electronics or SRI Bangalore.
  2. Yet if you are a Samsung employee and find anything against the company interests, please feel free to comment or drop a mail at vishalkhopkar20@gmail.com.
  3. You may feel that this blog is addressed to third and final year students of VJTI; however, most of the information here is non-specific for VJTIans.
  4. SRIB’ here refers to Samsung R&D Institute, Bengaluru (Bangalore).
  5. As per the office policy, photography is prohibited inside its premises. Hence, this blog contains limited photos.
  6. As I said, it is against the company policy to post confidential information. Hence, please do not comment or ask questions regarding that.

samsung_vjti

This was the notice posted outside the VJTI TPO which prompted me to write this as early as possible. I’ll first describe the qualification round for the internship process.

Securing an internship:

Round 1:

The eligibility criteria were a CPI with 7.5+. There was an aptitude test with questions on English, IQ and maths. It is quite easy if you have appeared for the Olympiads and scholarship exams at your school. If you need to practice this, you can refer to http://www.indiabix.com/. After this, there was a coding test with three questions to be solved in one hour. They were quite simple: –

  1. Find the sum of all prime numbers from a to b.
  2. Find all triplets (of three numbers) in an array which yield a given product.
  3. Find the kth largest number in a binary search tree.

This aptitude and coding test was held on https://www.cocubes.com/.

There was no elimination after the aptitude. However, only 35-40 students were selected for round 2 (group discussions).

Round 2:

This was a group discussion. Students were made into groups of 10-12 and were called for a group discussion. They were judged by 2-3 technical people and one senior HR representative from SRIB. After this round, 23 students were selected for the internship. Their results were announced the following day during the pre-placement talk.

The journey for the internship:

We were provided air travel to and from our home city to Bengaluru. Tickets were booked by the General Affairs team at SRIB. The problem was that the airlines being Indigo, we had a baggage allowance of only 15 kgs in the check-in baggage and 7 kgs in the hand baggage. On our arrival at Bengaluru, we waited outside the airport for about 2 hours after which our buses dropped us to our hotel, the Chancery Pavilion [1], where we were supposed to stay for a week. While there are many appreciable things about the hotel, it does have a few drawbacks. The hotel offers free Wi-Fi; however, only two devices per room can be connected to it and you can’t change the devices later. Two of us stayed in one room and as there were 350 interns in our batch, the hotel was almost full of interns!

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The Chancery Pavilion, Bengaluru

The food at Chancery Pavilion was excellent. We were offered with breakfast, lunch and dinner every day which was a grand buffet. The first two days were an orientation in the hotel’s ballroom.

The orientation:

The orientation was conducted in the ballroom of the hotel with all interns seated together. It was so packed that some of the interns didn’t get places to sit (we were the unlucky ones) and were made to adjust with others. We were made to fill a form with our details, submit our mark sheets, documents, etc. We were briefed about the company policy, rules and regulations and were also guided about the mandatory Software Competency Test (SWC) for getting a pre-placement offer. Representatives from ICICI Bank were also called for opening bank accounts in ICICI Bank for those who didn’t have them. We were also provided with our offer letter here.

Apart from this, we were divided into different teams with one or two colleges in a single team and had an informal competition on different themes such as making a war cry, truth and dare, treasure hunt, etc. These were just for fun and for increasing our interaction with the interns of other colleges.

In the meanwhile, we had to search for a PG for the rest of our stay near our office. We stayed at Innovative Petal [2] at Doddanekundi. I’m willing to share the contact of the manager if anyone needs it. For the first two days of the office, there were buses to drop us from our hotel.

About SRIB:

SRIB consists of two buildings – Phoenix and Orion within the premises of Bagmane Tech Park [3][4]. Phoenix is entirely Samsung while only a few floors of Orion belong to Samsung. It is Samsung’s largest R&D unit outside Korea!

 

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SRIB Phoenix building

 

 

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SRIB Orion building

 

Phoenix building has 12 floors. There are eight elevators altogether; of which the elevators on the left side halt only at floors 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. Similarly, the elevators on the right-side halt at floors 2, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11. 2nd floor is the cafeteria and 3rd floor is where the Managing Director, HR, General Affairs and IT team sits. Hence, all elevators halt on these two floors. 1st floor contains a parking lot and gym and hence, no elevator halts here. The theoretical capacity of every elevator is 20 people; however, I’ve never seen more than 16 people inside it anytime because there is simply no space for more to get in. Post lunch, every elevator gets crowded just like a typical Mumbai local and in order to go upwards from the 2nd floor, people usually board a downward bound lift to the ground floor and comfortably go upwards then. This is analogous to what people living in Kandivali and Malad do in the morning time (going ‘return’ from Borivali)!

All interns and employees are provided with a meal card (which is the same as the ID card) which contains NFC by which payments at food joints at the cafeteria can be made. We are provided with an amount of INR 118.75*(no. of working days in the month) at the start of every month with a break-up of INR 30 for breakfast and 88.75 for lunch. Dinner is offered free of cost and if you wish to have evening snacks, you need to pay from your own pocket. There are various options for breakfast – South Indian delicacies like dosas, idlis, medu vadas, upma, etc. as well as sandwiches, burgers, subs, pasta, etc. For lunch, you also have an option of Korean food which is considerably expensive starting at INR 150! Apart from food, you can also use the meal card for buying chips, chocolates, etc. or relishing ice-cream at Baskin Robbins. All in all, the 2nd floor is like a typical food court in a mall!

If you think this wasn’t enough, every floor has a pantry which offers you with 24×7 free tea, coffee and cold drinks. There are refrigerators and microwaves too, to cool/warm food you bring along.

The working days are Monday to Friday. Saturday, Sunday and all public festivals are holidays. It is compulsory to work 45 hours a week, an average of 9 hours per day and a minimum of 4 hours per day. Office attire is informal. Formal clothes are not required. However, do carry a set of formals for the interview.

Load shedding is a major problem at SRIB. As Karnataka is facing an electricity crisis, the lights get switched off anytime, even during the working hours. Everything else, such as the computers and coffee machines run on generators.

The actual internship:

The interns were made to sit in different board rooms or training rooms. They were segregated into different departments: –

  1. Android
  2. Multimedia
  3. Intelligent Services
  4. Tizen
  5. Networking
  6. Communication Protocols
  7. IoT
  8. Knox and pay
  9. Web
  10. CTO

The work and kind of project allotted differed from department to department. Some projects were single-handedly done by an intern whereas for some of them, there were 2-3 interns in a group. Every project had a mentor and the project was more or less the mentor’s own idea. I worked in the Android team and my work was with the Linux kernel.

We had to submit weekly reports for the project in the form of PPTs to our mentor every Friday/Monday. We also had a mid-term review and end review with the Vice President of our department. I also used to have a talk with my mentor’s manager after 3-4 weeks for the status of the ongoing project. All mentors and managers are highly experienced people in the field. These mentors also give reviews which is an important contributor for getting a PPO.

My mentor was one of the most knowledgeable people I had ever met, given the knowledge possessed by our faculty members. He was so kind that he had also taken me for a treat twice! Moreover, all the interns of Android platform once had a lunch at Barbeque Nation!

 

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Me along with Gaurav Singh from IIT Madras (behind me), his mentor Anish (red) and my mentor Sarbojit (black) at Bagmane Food Court

 

 

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Android Platform Interns at Barbeque Nation, Soulspace Arena Mall

 

Hackathon:

A hackathon (a coding test) was conducted a week prior to the Software Competency Test which also had cash prizes.

The process for the PPO:

Round 1: Software Competency Test (SWC):

In order to get a PPO, it is mandatory to pass this test though it does not guarantee that you will get a PPO if you pass the test. It was conducted twice (with two attempts), with a gap of one week. It has one coding question for three hours with 50 test cases. Passing all test cases is mandatory to clear this test. It is relatively simple as compared to the coding tests of other companies such as Morgan Stanley. Dynamic programming is usually not asked here. The emphasis is only on DFS, BFS, backtracking, binary search, brute force approach, etc. There is an internal coding platform at Samsung – SW Expert Academy on which you can practice such questions. Submitting codes on other coding websites such as hackerrank, codechef, etc. is considered as a violation of the company policy. The test is held on Samsung’s own software which disables everything apart from IDEs, Notepad and Calculator.

Round 2: Interviews:

Post the SWC, selected students were called for two interviews – technical and HR. The questions asked in the technical interview were diverse, ranging from different subjects like DBMS, networking, operating systems, compiler design, etc. Prepare well for this interview! The HR interview was comparatively easy. Nobody is eliminated directly after the technical interview.

The results of the PPO were conveyed to our TPO after 2-3 weeks. 16 out of 23 students from VJTI got it and I am one of them. The package offered to us is a CTC of INR 16 lakhs p. a.

Interns’ day:

At the end of the internship, an Interns’ day was organized by Samsung at Hotel Zuri, Whitefield [5]. There were dance and singing performances by interns followed by high tea and DJ.

 

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The Zuri, Whitefield

 

Roaming in and around Bangalore:

Although Bangalore/Bengaluru was not an entirely new city for me (I had visited it in May 2016 [6]), we all did visit a few places in and around the city. I will talk about this in a separate post coming soon!

This is one of the longest posts that I’ve ever written and it deserves its length. After this internship, I found a new myself. It has given me immense knowledge on different subjects as well as sharpened my creativity. I got an opportunity to interact with experts in different subjects. Most importantly, I loved the office ambiance, the environment and the kind of work. Trust me, I left SRIB with a heavy heart and I’m truly missing it now; looking forward to being back soon!

All the best! Looking forward to see you at SRIB!

References:

  1. https://www.makemytrip.com/hotels/the_chancery_pavilion-details-bangalore.html
  2. https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Innovative+Petal,+Chinappa+Layout,+Mahadevapura,+Bengaluru,+Karnataka+560037/@12.977625,77.6917559,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x56441e49fc9874a!8m2!3d12.977625!4d77.6917559
  3. https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Samsung+R%26D+Institute+-+Bangalore+Orion+Building/@12.9803456,77.6963705,576m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x3c2a92ebeb3ac085!8m2!3d12.9798748!4d77.6957899
  4. https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Phoenix+Building,+Bagmane+Constellation+business+park/@12.9804011,77.6958499,343m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x3bae1178f8d62773:0x8ca0b82320ab9a4e!8m2!3d12.9803985!4d77.696945
  5. https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/The+Zuri+Whitefield/@12.990044,77.7209007,685m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x3bae11eca67a4595:0x8df549946d852668!8m2!3d12.9900388!4d77.7230894
  6. https://vishalkhopkar.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/the-growing-city-with-a-long-timeline/

THE FIRST AND THE ONLY HERITAGE CITY OF INDIA

THE FIRST AND THE ONLY HERITAGE CITY OF INDIA
If I would have visited this city before 9th of July, which was technically not possible because of my internship ending on 7th of July, this blog post would have carried a different heading. Yes, for people who read Indian news regularly [1], it is not a big deal to understand which city I’m talking about. And if you still haven’t understood, it is Ahmedabad or Amdavad (અમદાવાદ in Gujarati), the former capital of Gujarat.

If we take a quick glimpse at its history, it was founded by Emperor Ahmed Shah I [2] of the Sultanate of Gujarat. My visit to Ahmedabad comes after the end of my internship at Bengaluru, as a holiday break with my family. Our journey began with reaching Mumbai Central at 5:40 am at dawn to board the queen of the Western Railways – the Shatabdi Express departing at 6:25.

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The Mumbai Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express at Ahmedabad Railway Station

This was not our first visit there. We had already visited it in September 2012 and this year, it was more like a breakthrough holiday rather than a tourist trip. As we had already visited Sabarmati Riverfront, Ashram, Kite museum and the City Museum then, we straightaway headed to Kankaria Lake.

The Kankaria lake is a giant lake with fountains and a mini amusement park in the shape of the logo of the State Bank of India (SBI). Ironically, the logo was designed by Shekhar Kamat, an alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and it is said that it was inspired by the design of the lake [3]. There is also a mini train ride which goes around the circumference of this lake. However, it is not a good deal to visit this place in monsoon as it is infested with flies.

 

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The Kankaria Lake at evening time

Ahmedabad is especially known for its Gujarati cuisine, which is famous all over the world today because of Gujarati expatriate businessmen opening food chains in various countries such as the United States and those of Europe. There are various joints available for refreshments of which we visited the Lijjat Khaman House at Maninagar, near Kankaria lake which is well-known for its dhoklas and pakodas. Gujarat is also famous for its sweets, particularly the mohanthal[4].

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Lijjat Khaman House, Maninagar

A peculiarity of Ahmedabad that one may notice on its streets is the presence of numerous ice-cream parlours. While most of the Amul parlours in Mumbai have closed, and there are hardly any in Bengaluru, you’ll find an ice-cream parlour in Ahmedabad with the same rate of recurrence as that of a vada pav wala in Mumbai or a South Indian joint in Bengaluru. These dedicated ice-cream parlours not only offer you with ice-creams but also with milk and other dairy products. The price of Amul milk per litre in Ahmedabad is INR 40, whereas the same is 42 in Mumbai, owing to transportation costs and shopkeepers selling at 1 rupee higher for reasons not worth mentioning here. Also, how many flavours of Amul cups or candies have you tasted in Mumbai? At least in the retail stores in my area, the only available flavours are some commonly known ones like Vanilla, Strawberry, Butterscotch, etc. However, the abundance of flavours at ice-cream parlours in Ahmedabad would surely make you go crazy!

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Amul ice-cream and milk parlour, Paldi

Gujarati cuisine is incomplete without the Gujarati thali. Yes, the same pure vegetarian Gujarati thali with four to five different vegetables, rotlas, farsan, and papad! The Gopi dining hall at Ellis Bridge [5] is one of the restaurants where this thali is recommended.

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Gopi Dining Hall, Ellis Bridge
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Gopi’s Gujarati thali for INR 250

If you are planning to gift your wife/girlfriend/sister/mother a new saree or dress piece, Gujarat is the best place. Both Ahmedabad and Surat are prominently recognized as one of the best destinations to buy female attire at the cheapest rates. I gifted my mom two designer sarees and my grandmother a simple cotton saree in just under INR 3500; can you imagine that? The same types of sarees from Mumbai or Bengaluru would have individually cost the same as the total price! My mother also bought for herself four fashionable dresses with each at almost half the price than that at which it is sold in Mumbai. Theoretically, if you wish to buy a new dress, the total cost of your journey from Mumbai to Surat/Ahmedabad and back plus the cost of the dress would still be cheaper than its cost in Mumbai, if you are willing to compromise your time for the same!

As it is evident to find street dogs frequently on the roads in Mumbai, cows are a frequent sight here. After seeing numerous cows on the roads, one may have to actually think twice to determine who has a greater population – street dogs or cows?

 

 

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A street cow at Naranpura

 

Our trip concluded with an Air India flight from Ahmedabad to Mumbai in the evening. The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport is a grand majestic airport with two terminals, just as that of CSIA Mumbai; with terminal 1 meant for domestic flights and terminal 2 for all international and domestic flights from Air India. It has several boarding gates, more than required; however, I found the airport to be somewhat mismanaged which was the reason for our flight departing one hour late. Also, surprisingly, this was the only airport where I found pigeons entering the terminal building.

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Pigeons inside Terminal 2, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport

They enter the building from gaps in the wall of the building facing the taxiway, yet this was still ok. The fact that made me heavily annoyed was that of Air India serving just a cheese bread with Real fruit juice at 9 pm in the night! Who wouldn’t like to have these extremely healthy plain slices of bread at dinner time when they’re expecting a tummy full dinner?

An interesting aspect of this trip was my brother’s commitment to his school homework which was truly appreciable. He was doing his homework on the train as well as in the hotel since it was to be submitted on the coming Monday.

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My brother doing his homework in the Shatabdi Express

We had planned to visit many places, such as the Akshardham temple at Gandhinagar but unfortunately, couldn’t because of the shortage of time. Nevertheless, there would surely be many more occasions of visiting the city; especially after the bullet train project is complete. In the monsoon season, I found the city infested with too many flies. Every sweets shop and restaurant uses an ultraviolet fly trap such as the one shown below:

The primary reason for this infestation is garbage and dirt. In fact, I found the city to be as dirtier as clean it was in 2012; maybe it’s showing a reverse result of the Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan in Narendra Modi’s own state!

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A balloon advertising for Swaccha Bharat Abhiyan at Kankaria Lake; however, it shows very little to no effect on the city!
BRTS bus stop (courtesy: Flickr)

No worries, every city falls in some or the other aspect. Nevertheless, Ahmedabad has shown the world the use of BRTS bus corridor [6] and is the only heritage city in India declared by UNESCO. The Union government has also planned celebrations on this occasion [7]. The city is already old enough, and one of the fastest growing cities. A new international cricket stadium is also being built on its outskirts. I’m already curious to know the venue of the final at the 2023 cricket world cup.

ચાલો જોઈએ!

References:

  1. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/ahmedabad-becomes-indias-first-world-heritage-city-unesco-site-indians-first-4742234/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmad_Shah_I
  3. https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-story-behind-State-Bank-of-India-logo
  4. http://food.ndtv.com/recipe-mohanthal-442322
  5. https://www.zomato.com/ahmedabad/gopi-dining-hall-ellis-bridge
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmedabad_BRTS
  7. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/ahmedabad-to-turn-i-am-davad-to-celebrate-world-heritage-city-tag/articleshow/59689658.cms

WHY CAN’T INDIAN CITIES HAVE MANY SKYSCRAPERS?

WHY CAN’T INDIAN CITIES HAVE MANY SKYSCRAPERS?

Skyscrapers today are a symbol of growth and pride for the city, aren’t they? Well, if that’s the case, then one may wonder that if the India can proudly boast of its 7% annual growth, why can’t we see the growth in the height of our buildings? Globally, growing economies are looked upon and shown with a mix of their culture and height of their buildings. Try this out – google image search for ‘India backgrounds’ and ‘South Korea’ backgrounds and see the difference. The fact is that even today, the Western world looks upon India as the place of Taj Mahal, Qutab Minar, the ghats of Varanasi or slums. Who knows – the westerners living in dark shadows of their fake media might still be thinking that Indians still live in only either of the two types of residences – palaces or village huts – just as our age-old kingdoms!Before explaining the fact that why Indian cities fall short of skyscrapers, let us try to define a skyscraper. According to Wikipedia [1][2], a skyscraper is a building which is at least 150 metres high. Buildings higher than 35 metres are termed as ‘high-rises’.Now, with the ever-booming real estate sector of major urban areas in the country and the prices soaring up without a rise in the inflation index, it indicates that the demand for real estate has certainly increased and is expected to increase more with GST and RERA in place; yet our focus is on horizontal spread rather than vertical growth. So, are there any reasons behind this?

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Trends of per sq. ft. price at Dadar, a locality in Mumbai; observe that the prices had doubled in just 3 years! Pic was taken from 99acres.com

The primary reason why can’t builders in Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi cannot build towers as tall as they desire is because of restrictions on FSI (floor space index). It was introduced after the World War II in the United States. The governing council of the city (Municipal Corporation) in the case of Indian cities is responsible for limiting the value of FSI. The FSI is defined as the ratio of the total built-up area to the plot area. For example, if the plot area is 10000 sq. m., the builder can build an apartment with a built-up area of 10000 sq. m. if the FSI=1 and a built-up area of 20000 sq. m. if the FSI=2. In the case of Mumbai, the FSI for the city district is 1.33 and that of the suburban area (Bandra to Dahisar and Sion to Mulund) is 1. No wonder why most of the high rises are located in South Mumbai!

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A comparison of FSIs of different cities

As it is clearly evident, Mumbai has one of the lowest FSIs in the world. So, should Mumbai increase its FSI? Probably no. Why so? There are several reasons for it.

Firstly, the density of population in Mumbai is ridiculously high at 32,400 people per sq. km. On the contrary, Hong Kong, with an FSI of 12 times that of Mumbai is still less! In fact, Mumbai ranks third on this list [3] trailing behind Manila and Pateros, a suburb of Manila in the Philippines. Hence, with an FSI of just 1 and 1.33, if Mumbai can be this dense, how dense would it be if there had been an unlimited FSI?

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A skyline of Metro Manila, the Philippines

Secondly, Indian government always aimed for cities to have a horizontal spread rather than vertical growth. This was because most of the Indian cities were in the interiors, surrounded by villages. Thus, a horizontal spread of the city would mean ease of accessibility to the central city areas from the adjacent rural areas, and thus a faster urbanization of the rural areas. However, for cities like Mumbai, this is not possible. Due to Mumbai’s geographical constraints (situated on an island and the mainland surrounded by forests and the Western Ghats), it limits the horizontal spread of Mumbai’s metropolitan area. Hence, there was no option but to develop the existing areas vertically and that’s the reason you find Mumbai on this list.

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Satellite view of Mumbai and its ‘satellite’ towns

The third and one of the most significant reasons is Indian climate. Imagine two plots of constant area. One of them has a 10 storey building whereas the other has a 50 storey building. What do you would be the difference between the heat dissipation between the two plots? The plot with the taller building will certainly dissipate more heat. As an example, consider the number of ACs operating in the two plots. As the number of ACs or basically all electrical gadgets is more in taller buildings on the same plot area, the heat dissipation per unit area would be higher if we allow a higher FSI. Also, due to increasing effects of global warming, it would be wise to encourage horizontal spread rather than vertical growth. Mumbai is low lying and there is a high risk of it being submerged because of increasing sea levels. Also, the climate of Mumbai is humid and temperatures soar up to 35°C in summers. So, do we want our actions to increase our mean temperature further? Aren’t we happy with the current humidity and heat? This is more disastrous for dry cities like Delhi, and that’s the reason that Delhi has spread this huge with minimal high rises. You won’t believe, but until the 1970s, the tallest structure in Delhi was the Qutab Minar!

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The urban heat island profile map of London, UK

It has also been observed that there’s isn’t much a difference without putting a cap on the FSI. For instance, Hyderabad does not have any FSI limit; so technically you can build a structure any high over there. However, Hyderabad gets a rank of 80 in the list [2], because of its huge area and possibility of a spread.Well, so if you were the one who belonged to the category of people who compared the growth of the economy with the height of its buildings, do you now

Well, if you were the one who belonged to the category of people who compared the growth of the economy with the height of its buildings, do you now realize how wrong were you? My entire article was a compilation of articles by experts [4][5] and some of the answers on Quora [7][8][9] relevant to the topic. The very purpose behind writing this was because I too was inquisitive to know the same and I thought that it would be better to share my research with others, in case you are wondering the same! If you liked this blog, please do like, comment and follow!
All my references are as below:

  1. List of cities with most skyscrapers, Wikipedia
  2. List of cities with most high rise buildings, Wikipedia
  3. List of cities by population density, Wikipedia
  4. Article in The Hindu
  5. Article in The Indian Express
  6. Emporis skyline ranking
  7. Why doesn’t India have more skyscrapers? – Quora
  8. Why don’t Indian cities grow vertically? – Quora
  9. Why don’t Indian cities have high rise buildings like other newly industrialized countries? – Quora

THE PRIDE OF THE MARATHAS

THE PRIDE OF THE MARATHAS

The Maratha Empire certainly had a profound impact on the history of India. When we talk about great names in the uprising of 1857, we can’t forget to mention Rani Laxmibai, Tatya Tope and Peshwa Nanasaheb – all from the Maratha empire – who fought until their last breath to save the falling throne under Bajirao II. Maratha empire in the 18th century gained fame by capturing the largest area from the Mughals and hence became one of the strongest opposition to the Mughals in Central India, all thanks to great Peshwas like Bajirao I. However, when we talk about this great Maratha empire, we can’t stop mentioning its founder – Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who is well revered in Maharashtra even today, with one of the largest airports and railway stations in India named after him. Likewise, how could we forget Pune – the primary place residence of Shivaji Maharaj in his childhood?I had visited Pune many times earlier, but those visits were insignificant as they mostly involved coming back on the same day. Nevertheless, this time I managed to visit some of the most spectacular tourist spots that Pune is known for.

If you wish to visit Pune from Mumbai/Gujarat, I recommend traveling by train. Although a train journey from Mumbai takes longer than by cab or a deluxe Shivneri bus, you can experience the Bhor ghats – which were built in the 19th century to connect the interior Maharashtra with a strategically important port of Mumbai.

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The Mumbai CST bound Pragati express passes as we watch it inside the Pune bound Deccan express

Pune is famous for the Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh temple. It was built by Dagdusheth Halwai (who gained this surname because of his business as a sweet seller). Wikipedia explains his story of building the temple as follows: –

Dagadusheth Halwai (Dagadusheth Gadve) was Lingayat trader and Sweet maker (Halwai in Marathi). He originally came from Karnataka and settled in Pune. After he gained fame as a Halwai, that became his surname. His original Halwai shop still exists under the name Kaka Halwai near Datta Mandir in Pune.

Mr. Dagdusheth Halwai was a successful sweetmeat seller and a rich businessman. In late 1800s, he lost his son in a plague epidemic. This caused Dagdusheth and his wife to go into deep depression. To heal themselves, their Guru, Shri Madhavnath Maharaj recommended building a Ganesh temple. This was completed in 1893.

Lokmanya Tilak, the Indian Nationalist leader and a contemporary of Dagdusheth, was a close friend of him. Tilak saw his dedication and the construction of the temple and it was here that the idea of celebrating public Ganesh festival struck him. It proved to be an epoch making event in Indian history.

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Dagdusheth Halwai Ganesh Mandir

We do not miss the darshan of this temple whenever we visit Pune. This temple has become a sort of an unofficial kuladaivat for our family now. And yes, one would easily get startled by the wealth used in the construction of the temple. The temple was built in 1893, even older than the Mysore palace, though it doesn’t seem to be! Photography inside the temple is not allowed, so this is the only photo of the Lord that one can click (from outside).

Pune is famous for its Puneri misal and Puneri milkshake called as ‘Mastani’. The name is derived from the second de facto wife of Peshwa Bajirao, Mastani. It’s a blend of ice cream and milkshake, though it’s costly – even if you have it from a small shop on a small street!

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The ‘mastani’ is at the centre – surrounded by two glasses of milkshakes

Pune is also famous for its legendary sweets chain – the Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale. One can also say that as Haldiram’s is to Nagpur, Chitale is to Pune; though the former has a nationwide presence. The ‘bhakarwadi’ is a unique delicacy here – though I don’t adore that much.

Next day, we made a visit to Lal Mahal, the palace where Shivaji Maharaj lived in his childhood. Technically, it is a small bungalow painted red. Since it was under renovation then, we weren’t allowed to venture inside.

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The old Lal Mahal amidst the heart of the city

The Shaniwar Wada is also located at a walkable distance from the Lal Mahal. ‘Shaniwar’ means Saturday in Marathi and Hindi and guess what, we made a visit to Shaniwar Wada on a Saturday itself! The Shaniwar Wada is said to be a haunted place and as per the reports of a night watchman, cries of a former murdered Prince ‘काका, मला वाचवा’ (‘Uncle, please save me!’) are heard on full Moon days.

It was formerly a huge palace but only its stone base is remaining today. Excerpts from Wikipedia –

The Shaniwar Wada was originally the seven storied capital building of the Peshwas of the Maratha Empire. It was supposed to be made entirely of stone but after the completion of the base floor or the first story, the people of Satara (the national capital) complained to the Siva(King) saying that a stone monument can be sanctioned and built only by the Siva(King) himself and not the Peshwas. Following this, an official letter was written to the Peshwas stating that the remaining building had to be made of brick and not stone. The Wada was then completed and upon being attacked by the British Artillery 90 years later, all the top six stories collapsed leaving only the stone base, which was immune to the British artillery. Hence only the stone base of the Shaniwar Wada remains and can be seen even today in the older parts of Pune.

Also, On February 27, 1828, a great fire started inside the palace complex. The conflagration raged for seven days and hence, only the heavy granite ramparts, strong teak gateways and deep foundations and ruins of the buildings within the fort survived.

Had the remaining monument being built from stone, we would have been able to see it in entirety today, just like the several magnificent forts of Rajasthan and Gwalior!

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The Shaniwar Wada entrance
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The interior ruins

The Shaniwar Wada also hosts a high-flying national tricolor which is probably the highest in Pune.

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The national flag at Shaniwar Wada

Pune is a must visit city for people keen to know about the Maratha legacy and culture. Today, it is also an emerging IT hub, and it’s keeping its pace with top cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad. The Mumbai – Pune urban agglomeration is also rapidly developing and there is a huge demand for property buyers in places like Khopoli and Lonavala, which are close to Mumbai and Pune both. Since the formation of the state of Maharashtra, Pune has been consistent on its status as a secondary million-plus city in Maharashtra, and guess what, Maharashtra is the only state in India to have two cities in the list of 10 most populated cities in India (List of cities in India by population), two cities classified in the X category as per the HRA classification (Classification of Indian cities) and two cities with franchises in the Indian Premier League. And what would you say when you see that Pune and Mumbai are the two teams competing in the IPL final? I’m writing this article before the start of the final match; let’s see who wins!

जय हिंद! जय महाराष्ट्र!

जय भवानी, जय शिवाजी!

STARTUPS: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

STARTUPS: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

This was my entry to the essay writing competition conducted by M. L. Dahanukar College, Vile Parle (E). I encourage people to comment on this to point out my mistakes and to have a healthy discussion.

Note: The ₹ is the Indian Rupee sign; in case you are unable to view it in your browser.

Since the last few years and particularly after the launch of the ‘Startup India’ campaign by our Hon’ble Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, there has been a lot of buzz for this very word – ‘start-up’. Hence, before coming to the Startup India scheme, let us analyse the meaning of the word ‘start-up’.

Before the launch of the Startup India initiative, on 16th January 2016, the word ‘start-up’ or ‘startup’, had no legal definition in India. Hence, there was no law which could distinguish such newly established small scale companies proposing innovative solutions from the mainstream businesses. Now, the Department of Industry Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has defined a startup under a ‘Definition of startup’ notification gazette (citation: Click here) which defines the word as follows: –

“A startup means an entity, incorporated or registered in India,

  • Not prior than five years
  • With an annual turnover not exceeding 25 crores
  • Working towards innovation, deployment and commercialization of new products, processes or services driven by technology or intellectual property”

This does have additional conditions applicable; such as that the company must not be formed by splitting up or reconstruction of a business already in existence.

Now the very question that comes to our mind is that, were there no start-ups prior to 2016? The answer is obviously no, the only fact is that the government doesn’t recognise them as start-ups because only those companies registered after 1st of April, 2016 are eligible to call themselves ‘start-ups’ technically. This means that companies registered before the said date with an annual turnover of fewer than ₹25 crores could not avail the benefits of the scheme. Hence, companies such as Paytm, Flipkart, Ola cabs, though informally referred to as start-ups, do not fall under this definition.

The very purpose of starting such a scheme was to promote entrepreneurship development amongst young, brilliant minded Indians. India is showing an excellent growth rate; however, unemployment still exists and is a serious problem in various developed countries too! The government can, by no means, provide jobs for everyone. Hence, they decided to let individuals create jobs on their own. It’s often said that the back-benchers land up creating their own companies whereas the front-benchers pursue excellent qualifications, but just to work in such companies. That’s what precisely took place in the case of Bill Gates.

So, what are the benefits one can avail? The benefits include a faster application for patents, an investment of ₹10,000 crores through alternative investment funds, tax exemptions on income tax up to three years, tax exemptions on capital gains and investments and a faster winding up of the company under the Bankruptcy code of 2016, in case the company is unable to make profits in the long run.

So, is it right to say that startups have the right environment to flourish? The government has certainly done whatever it could do for their businesses to prosper. But are the consumers ready to accept products from an unknown, newly established company? It has been my observation that Indians are reluctant to immediately accept products from such companies, but over a period, they do. For understanding this, we may take an example of e-commerce giants – such as Amazon and Flipkart. This is evident from the statistics presented here – in the financial year 2013-14, the net revenue of Flipkart was ₹179 crores, higher than that of Amazon standing at ₹168.9 crores. However, the net loss of Flipkart was the highest, at ₹400 crores and that of Amazon was ₹321.3 crores. Now, in the next financial year 2014-15, Amazon’s net loss was ₹1724 crores, though their revenue increased six-fold to ₹1022 crores. MakeMyTrip – a travel agent company established in 2000, still reports a loss and had a net revenue of 81% of its total expenditure. Thus, it can be said that these online shopping firms won’t be able to recover from their losses soon; it’ll take time, perhaps a lot of time. The reason is because middle class Indians have not yet switched over to online shopping fully. This is mainly because of the hesitation of consumers to accept something new, trying to take over the conventional methods.

This is just one of the many challenges that new startups may face. As per the definition of a start-up, it should be meant for innovation. However, many emerging start-ups take this wrongly and try to be a competitor for someone who’s already innovating. As an example, we can name more than ten online fashion clothing shopping websites such as Myntra, Jabong, Yepme, NNNOW, etc.; but we must keep in mind that we can’t innovate the same beyond a certain extent. Hence, only those emerging companies that are proposing a fully innovative solution, or considerably improving an existing innovation, are considered to be a start-up under the Startup India initiative and hence, tax benefits would be granted only for such companies. Finally, the result is that the actual innovators get a lot of competition, and ultimately all these companies run into huge losses, just as the example presented above.

There could be challenges faced because of poor marketing strategies. The primary idea of marketing could be an utter failure. These companies today majorly focus on increasing their consumer base and not on their quality. This is the reason for them posting a full-page ad in the leading newspapers and offering a discount on various commodities. Thus, they end up paying money from their own pocket for increasing their customers. Today, as more and more companies are engaging into this out-dated marketing trick, customers are becoming more and more smarter and realising the selfish motive behind such discounts; as an example, sellers often upload their products for online retail with an inflated price and then show a hefty discount tag to bring back the price to its MRP. Until the recent past, no company had tried to adopt a new marketing strategy which could truly influence its customers. However, with the changing demands of customers and with more and more customers swinging to online shopping, well-established players such as Amazon are trying hard to maintain their existing consumer base. As an example, recently, Amazon refunded an amount of ₹7999 for a mobile phone ordered by a customer because it had been delivered to him at a different address than the specified one, along with the new phone. In the sense, the customer got the phone for free!

Another important problem for newly emerging start-ups is a lack of funding from investors. Venture capitalism was not considered as a safe form of investment in our country, until the recent past; however, the World Economic Forum in its report on ‘Alternative Investments 2020’ (Click here for the source) reported that China and India together receive more venture capital investment than Europe. However, as per the report, India accounted only for 5% of the investment in 2012-14, in contrast to 14% in China and 68% in the United States. Hence, there’s certainly a long way to go!

Innovation is inevitable; someone must innovate for the betterment of the future; without innovation, we wouldn’t have had computers, mobile phones, the internet, rapid transportation; our world would have been totally blank – we would still be living in the 18th century period! Hence, it’s essential for the government to encourage innovations through startups, the Startup India initiative is certainly welcoming; however, much more needs to be done to keep the startup growing, to bring them into a position to make profits. At this stage when our GDP is growing at more than 7% per annum, there is hardly any contribution from such companies; nevertheless, there would be a time when India would turn into a huge market for them. We need to focus more on improving our ease of doing business, where India stands 130th as per the Doing Business Report, 2017 (Reference: report) and I’m assured that the Central government and most of the state governments are working day and night to make that happen!

A TOUR IN THE ORANGE CITY

A TOUR IN THE ORANGE CITY

Frustrated with the ongoing non-stop and everlasting series of assignments, tutorials, labs and exams in our college, I decided to take a break; though it was pre-decided in December, in the days of Technovanza. The orange city, the geographical centre of India, as it was referred to, by the British, the tiger capital of India, the second capital of Maharashtra, the city of our Hon’ble CM Mr. Devendra Fadnavis – this city can be called by several such names! Nagpur has been talked about in the history for various incidents whose effects can be seen in today’s modern world. Initially, when I asked my Nagpurian friends about tourism in the city, they all gave pessimistic replies as if Nagpur was a dead city. However, honestly speaking, it’s a place worth to visit for a 2-3-day picnic if you want to go moderately away from Mumbai and yet experience city life.

I reached Nagpur by the fastest train 12289 Mumbai – Nagpur Duronto, which arrived at 7 am, 20 minutes prior to its scheduled time, and the hotel’s check-in time was 12 pm, and hence we decided to stay at the station till then. Nagpur is an important junction where trains going from south to north and east to west meet. The Nagpur -Sewagram railway line is a common line for trains on both these routes. Hence, a train arrives at Nagpur station after every 10 minutes or so, thus spending time there is not a big deal. I was lucky to see many long-distance trains, the photos of some of which are shown below, which also includes the Nizamuddin (Delhi) – Bangalore Rajdhani which arrives at Nagpur at 10 am.

 

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A rail map of the Nagpur – Sewagram section of the Central railway

 

 

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Approaching Nagpur

 

 

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12289 Mumbai – Nagpur Duronto Express at platform 8, Nagpur

 

 

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A goods train filled with coal at Nagpur station

 

 

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Bangalore bound Rajdhani express

 

My hotel was on the North South highway corridor of India (NH-47) which is locally known as Wardha road or Nagpur – Chandrapur Road. The construction of the Nagpur metro railway is in full swing on this road, leaving only two lanes per side for road traffic.

 

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Nagpur metro rail construction on NH 47 (Wardha Road)

 

If you are fond of old railways, the Narrow-Gauge rail museum maintained by the South East Central Railway is worth visiting. It contains locomotives, coaches, equipments and other special tools required for maintaining its narrow gauge line from Nagpur to Jabalpur in M.P. This railway line would soon be converted to broad gauge under the Project Unigauge of the Indian railways and hence, the museum would serve its purpose of preserving the colonial era narrow gauge rail technology.

 

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A diesel narrow gauge engine at the museum

 

Something you can’t miss if you’re in Nagpur is Haldiram’s. They sell sweets of different Nagpuri flavours and some of them, such as Mava Jalebi and orange barfi are available only at Nagpur. Also, some of the Haldiram’s outlets also comprise of a restaurant which is famous for its chaat, ice-creams and drinks.

 

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Haldiram’s Orange barfi

 

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Haldiram’s mava jalebi

 

 

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‘Fruit temptation’ ice-cream at Haldiram’s, Sitabuldi

 

Nagpur has been historically known for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and his followers’ conversion to Buddhism at Deekshabhoomi, which was the largest public conversion in the world. Deekshabhoomi also holds a record for having the largest hollow Buddhist stupa in the world. It was my first visit to a Buddhist temple, and I also found East Asians there (don’t call them Chinese); but moreover, what I found, which is uncommon in Hindu temples is silence – no bells, no gossips!

 

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Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur

 

There’s much more to visit there, such as the ancient Shiva temple at Ramtek and Dragon Palace temple at Kamptee, both outside the city, Sitabuldi fort, Maharajabagh Zoo, various lakes, tiger sanctuaries and the recently commenced mine tours organized by the Maharashtra Tourist Development Corporation, at two mines near Nagpur. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit these places as we were supposed to leave the next day, because of my brother’s scholarship exam, whose date was informed too late by the State board, else we would have stayed there for an extra day as well.

Linguistically, I didn’t find many locals speaking Marathi among themselves; most of them prefer Hindi, just as in Mumbai, though Nagpur is a part of Maharashtra. The reason is because Nagpur was a part of the Central Provinces & Berar province in British India which was re-organised to Madhya Pradesh and a part of the province was ceded to Maharashtra. You would not find many people walking there, especially after sunset and roads get too lonely, except in the market areas. Rickshaw-wallas charge you heftily, almost ₹ 70 for a distance of 2-3 km, so I would instead prefer Ola or Uber cabs, which are available easily and you can also avail the discount with their coupons. I also found Nagpur comparatively cleaner than Mumbai. I do recommend a visit to this great city; hoping to visit other cities in Vidarbha too!

 

THE VALUE OF POWER

THE VALUE OF POWER

The word power certainly has many dictionary meanings; for some, it means strength, for some, it means authority and for a mathematical erudite, it means exponent. Hence, many of you may have interpreted the title differently. However, what I’m referring to as power is our daily need – electricity.

You must have often realised that one understands the value of an entity only after one misplaces or loses it. The same goes with power – we never realise how important it is when we use our daily gadgets like the television, refrigerator, desktop and most importantly, the wireless router! However, once the power trips, everyone gets tensed and bored – no TV and internet after all!

Sometimes, the power trips on unfortunate occasions – imagine you’ve hosted a party and suddenly the lights go off; how shameful would it be in front of your guests – although you are not at fault, you get labelled as ill-fated.

Everyone understands the value of a fan in the humid summers of Mumbai. Now this is something that had happened in reality with me – when in deep sleep, suddenly the fan switched off on an intense summer night, I woke up only to realise that there was no power – at about 4 am at night! I opened the door to let some air in, but to no avail. I became almost naked (thankfully I sleep alone), yet I was sweating heavily and facing an inability to sleep! After some time, thankfully, I slept, yet the effects of this havoc were unforgettable.

People in Mumbai do not need to face as many power cuts as those in the rural areas and hence, we aren’t accustomed to them. I’ve seen a large amount of load shedding outside Mumbai – in Thane too, in the past when we had to sit idle and sleep in a breathless and dark environment for a whole night. However, I experienced what it feels to have a candlelight dinner that day, though that didn’t impress me a lot.

Until a past few years, almost a quarter of the country’s population had never seen electricity – I’m talking about those staying in the extreme rural areas of the less developed yet populated states. However, the Ministry of energy of the NDA government, led by Mr. Piyush Goyal was remarkable in achieving new heights for providing energy to those deprived. The progress made by his team is fully visible to everyone – one can download the GARV app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.phonegap.kyrovidyut for Android) (available for iOS and Windows too) or visit the website http://garv.gov.in/dashboard to see what amount of work has been done and how much is yet to be done. They have carried electricity through harsh terrain as well, when they had to drop the poles through helicopters as accessing the ground directly was impossible. However, the authenticity of the information has been questioned by many, as an example, I read a Facebook comment which questioned the Ministry of having declared villages as electrified though only 10% of its houses had an access to power. However, we must applaud their efforts for their visionary mission which it is expected to complete soon, before the end of their tenure.

All this was just to make you realize the importance of power, if you haven’t already, and for being thankful for we have an access to it. Hence, power isn’t something that we use unnecessarily; we need to make up our mind and start conserving it slowly. One can undertake small measures like switching off fans and gadgets when not required (I’m not using a fan while typing this), sitting near a window to enjoy natural air and light, making necessary arrangements for letting a good amount of sunlight in, using LED bulbs, etc. Hence, at least, we, in the residential areas wouldn’t have to use lights in the daytime, which would not only reduce the electricity bills but also that all these steps would be significant in curbing the rising energy needs; after all, electricity is also a basic need for man and hence, one may call it the sixth Mahabhuta – along with fire, water, air, earth and sky.