Monday, October 22, 2007

Dharavi Tours

I took a guided tour (controversial, but highly recommended) through Dharavi, which is known as "Asia's Largest Slum."

However deplorable this place must have been, particularly during the communal riots of 1993, Dharavi today is relatively well developed (for a slum). Yes, living spaces are incredibly cramped, working conditions tend to be pretty deplorable, and there is virtually no waste management. But people do not seem destitute--almost everyone seemed employed. Industries range from plastic recycling to pottery to pastries.

The Recycling is quite impressive. In many ways, the combination of Bombay's poverty and trash-filled streets seems to lead to an efficient system of re-use and recycling. Ragpickers sell bags of plastic to recyclers, which grind it up, wash it, dry it, and melt it down again for plastic manufacturers. I took a panorama from the roof of a recycling 'factory,' take a peek in hi-res.

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lamenting Hutch is Vodafone

When I arrived in india several months ago, I was amazed by how many advertisements there were on the street for mobile phone companies, particularly Hutch. Everywhere you went, there was the bright pink Hutch logo. Then, last week, they changed all of those ads to Vodafone ads -- in about a day. I don't even want to think about how many millions of dollars were spent on this.

I became a Hutch customer because i needed a phone with a keyboard/internet. I tried to go CDMA, but nothing could provide a keyboard for less than $500. So I bought a second hand Nokia 9500 for $150 and went GSM. I named the phone 'brick', because it would double as a weapon in a street fight (the thing is HUGE! Like a Zack Morris phone, if you get the reference).

Anyhow, I am planning on going to China next week, and I needed to figure out how to call my friend Albert Lin who is traveling there now. When I went to the vodafone store, I found out that the cheapest rate i could get was rs40/min ($1/min). ug. So I instead bought a calling card from vodaphone, because that was more reasonable at rs8/min. Why is there such a price difference from the same company? I would would call a lot more often if i didn't have to dial a PIN number each time. If you know why this is, do let me know.

Anyhow, long story short, I just found that the card I bought doesn't work. As in, the number you dial to enter your PIN and phone number, uhhh, just disconnects me. I called customer care, and they said that the server is down, try back in the morning. So, after spending rs1000 to make an international call,
vodafone isn't able to connect me to their own number. I mean... that's pretty bad for any phone company, but Vodafone? I guess it has been a problem for the past 2 or three days, according to the service rep. And there was no supervisor for me to rant to, either, so I'm writing this online, in the hopes that vodafone is listening...

In another post I'll talk about the Nokia 1110i I also bought today for about $35, because it is a BRILLIANTLY designed phone, very understated. Massive commercial success, as well, unlike the ill-fated "MotoFone F3", which is meant to be a 'phone for everyone,' but actually everyone hates it. I've been trying to buy it, because it was specifically designed for developing countries, emphasizing ease of use. Something went seriously wrong with the design, however, because no shopkeeper will sell it, for the reason given to me as "not a easy friendly phone."

Labels: , , ,

Monday, October 1, 2007


I have just completed a poster that documents our work over the past few months. Boy was it hard to fit everything in on a huge 37" by 46" piece of foam board! Just the sheer amount of information we want to convey to our audience is overwhelming, and definitely impossible to do on just one piece of paper - no matter how large it is. It's great how we now have the attention of the school and the company. Hopefully the poster will attract the right attention and make more people aware of the opportunities in India. Derek has been making me jealous that he is STILL in India, while I'm back at school getting ready for the school year. Boo to school, Ganpati looked really fun. Maybe I can go back to India sometime and experience Holi too. Painting people sounds rad.