THE NAME IS BOND, RUSKIN BOND
At the foot of the climb from Landour Bazaar to Char Dukan, the unpretentious residence of author Ruskin Bond sits atop a popular restaurant. Until a few years back, it also existed anonymously. Not so, now.
The octogenarian Bond’s lifetime of quiet dedication to his craft has exploded into a celebration of his existence. At any time of the day, his fans can be seen on the road outside his home, hoping for a glimpse of Mr Bond through the window he has made famous via his writing. Some are clicking selfies at various levels of the painted red staircase that leads to his apartment. Others throng the lone bench under a tree at the nearby entrance to the restaurant. They wait, hoping to see their favourite author climbing down the stairway. Prior to the pandemic, Mr Bond did so often.
A street in LandourThe staircase to Ruskin Bond’s flatView from Ruskin Bond’s window
Both the restaurant at Rokeby Manor in Landour and the bar at The Savoy in Mussourie had arrangements for his fans to drink and dine with the writer, albeit for a fee. On Saturday mornings, he graced the Cambridge Book Stall on the Mall in Mussourie. Here, he would autograph his books and graciously chat with his readers. This chance to interact has alas, all but evaporated since COVID 19 struck.
Perhaps it is this that has led people to besiege his residence in the manner they do. Yet while they stare at his window, none looks in the direction of where the fenestration opens to. Nor, as they tip toe up his stairway, do they venture too far to where the steps lead to outside. The view from Ruskin Bond’s window is as magnanimous as is his writing and the passage beyond the stairs leads into the lush forests of Mussourie-Landour where his intrepid explorations have inspired much of his work.
Ruskin Bond has unquestionably lent life to his surroundings and long after he is gone, the locale shall be enlivened by the imagination and descriptions of Mussourie’s most famous resident. Like him, visitors will be rewarded by widening the scope of their sightseeing and seeking out unique and less well-known aspects of this popular hill station.
DEMOLITION OF HOUSES
The quaint town of Landour, perched just above Mussourie and nostalgically named after a Welsh village by a colonial administrator is largely within a cantonment precinct. Most of the cottages that line the ‘chakkar’ here retain their original British names fondly harking back on a bygone era. Ownership though has since mostly shifted to well-heeled north Indians.
This was amply evident in the recent demolitions that shook the placid hill-town.
The popular Indian subscription to build what you want, where you want and when you want wasn’t acceptable to the Cantonment Board that governs the town and sits amidst the high-security Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) campus. It is the DRDO that occupies much of what is present-day Landour.
Evidently, money could not buy a ‘blind-eye’ and consequently, four or five properties that had violated the building regulations in varying degrees were subjected to demolition. The most visibly affected were the opulent residences of a banker and a hospitality tycoon.
This brings into the spotlight rampant construction in the entire belt. The haphazard manner in which the same is being affected has assumed disturbing proportions. The entire route from Dehradun to Mussourie is pockmarked by eateries that have sprung up at virtually every bend. Within the towns rampant construction, often of monstrous proportions, is indicative a lack of ecologically sensitive planning.
Given this scenario, the oasis that is Landour reminds us of how colonial planning and architecture of hill stations was different from that in the plains. The sensitivity and sense of aesthetics at work when Dehradun and Mussourie were planned and built are, alas, a lost consideration now.
AND AT THE END ARE THE CLOUDS …..
The cynical would shake off present-day Mussourie as a hill-top Chandni Chowk.
Crowded, chaotic and cumbersome.
While this assessment may wholesomely apply to parts of the city, there is redemption at hand when one veers off further from Landour Bazaar and the Mall towards the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Charleville. Here one enters a comparatively unhurried vicinity where a number of princely palaces are located. In their day, some Maharajas and Nawabs preferred Mussorie to Simla as absence of the Viceregal firmament here meant they weren’t subjected to a stringent colonial hierarchy.
Many of these palaces speak of neglect over time. Others have been effectively converted into heritage hospitality ventures catering to an ever-burgeoning domestic tourist circuit. A new relevance has crept in through past decades. Once beyond the colonial edifices, private forests round off the further edge of Mussourie here. The most visible of them is Lyndale Estate that curves along the Hathipaon Road and sinks all the way to the valley beneath. Enveloping an abandoned beer factory that sits perched on the edge of a hill outcrop, this property spread over hundreds of acres belongs to the owners of DLF, India’s largest real estate company.
Further along the same road is Cloud End, another expansive private forest. Unlike the other estates, this one is accessible to public. For a fee, one can walk through parts of the estate although this only allows a limited sojourn and hardly does justice to the captivating landscape.
If you are willing to make the effort a more rewarding experience is to walk along the road leading to Cloud End which offers stupendous views through gaps in the foliage and a distant peek at the cottage of the famed geographer Sir George Everest. This building has since been converted into a museum.
A TRAIN TO MUSSOURIE
Numerous schools dot the Mussourie-Landour landscape. The Doon valley and it’s surrounding hills are a cottage industry in education.
Some of the older institutions are Woodstock, which is possibly the largest land-owner in Landour, St George’s College, Oak Grove and Wynberg Allen.
All of these schools trace their inception to the nineteenth century. Oak Grove School in Jharipani, run by the Indian Railways, was founded in 1888. Apart from claiming an alumni as distinguished as that of the others, it is a part of a curious tale that lies buried in the forested hills below it, for over a century.
In 1920 the British Government made a second attempt to build a railroad from Dehradun to Mussourie. A site within the Oak Grove School was ear-marked for the penultimate station with the Himalayan Club as the last station on the route. The precise location considered for the station, a rare patch of levelled ground, now serves as a sports field.
The rail line had progressed in parts when an accident occurred during the construction of a tunnel between the town of Rajpur and Mussourie. There were casualties and the project was abandoned.
What may have also been a factor of discouragement to recommence work was a vehement agitation against the rail line by the traders in Dehradun. These merchants were apprehensive of losing the business of the well-heeled and ruling classes who flocked to Mussourie every summer. The railway track would have diminished if not eliminated their usual stop-over at Dehradun.
A walk to one edge of Oak Grove School near the building housing the middle classes treats one to a panoramic view of Dehradun. Below a sheer drop are the extensive forested undulations of Jharipani. Approachable from Rajpur, amidst this forest lie the rail tracks abandoned since a century and now obscured by foliage.
Upon exiting the sylvan ambience of a hill station school and driving into the chaotic traffic of Mussourie, one would ask oneself why a railway line here wasn’t a possibility today if it was a consideration over one hundred years back.
Contrarily, given the environmental damage inflicted by the daily movement of hundreds of petrol and diesel vehicles, an electrically operated train service would be a godsend in this fragile ecology.
Residents of Mussourie, riled by daily traffic jams along the approach to and within the city have taken to questioning the intentions of their government. The fact that recently a train service has been provided along a stretch to Srinagar in Kashmir makes a rail track to Mussourie seem eminently feasible, to their minds.
In absence of a state response, the rail tracks hidden in the forests of Jharipani shall serve to remind of braver and more adventurous times.
Rajesh Luthra is an architect in independent practice. Having graduated from Columbia University in New York City, he designs, writes and teaches in New Delhi.
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CLOUD-BASED TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMING BUSINESSES
Several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals by embracing the SaaS model.
The groundbreaking SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) idea has the potential to disrupt many industries, including banking. SaaS, being a cloud-based technology, may assist both fintech startups and banks, particularly in satisfying regulatory requirements and providing security to their consumers. Without a doubt, SaaS is gaining popularity among financial services organizations due to its promises of more business flexibility, faster deployment, and support for an open ecosystem.
Symbiotic relationship between SaaS platforms and Fintech growth
The Fintech approach, which makes use of the resourceful SaaS foundation, allows businesses to access and utilise cloud-based applications rather than purchasing or building their own software. Financial firms may reap advantages such as end-to-end cost reductions, data security, scalability, and agility from the fintech industry. PwC, a well-known rating agency, predicts that more fintech businesses will utilise SaaS to address concerns generated by the post-Covid environment.
Understanding the significance of the SaaS model is not rocket science. According to Financesonline.com, the SaaS market capitalization will reach $623 billion by 2023. The use of the SaaS model in the fintech industry may foster innovation and creativity while also improving efficiency and profitability. Fintech companies can also save huge amounts of operational capital every year because of SaaS. This is not possible with the traditional model, in which companies hire experts.
SaaS solutions are extremely scalable, allowing a financial institution to digitally alter its operations while boosting security and enhancing compliance. It is also feasible to minimise physical footprints and increase efficiency via automation. By embracing the SaaS model for online transactions, several fintech businesses have outmanoeuvred their rivals and the banking and finance industry at large. FinTech lenders, for example, might accept business loan applications online, process them in minutes, and send the money to qualified customers a day or two later.
What makes SaaS a magic sauce for Fintech growth
SaaS platforms have shown the power of open platforms in the open-platform vs. patented technology argument over the last several decades. This has given SaaS a long-term viability and scalability that was previously unheard of, particularly in the financial services sector. For a fraction of the price, fintech companies have started bringing in the bulk of the capabilities that sophisticated legacy systems had inside mega banks.
There was a chance to develop an ecosystem with the use of open application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow banks to interact with these fintech partners, who could bring in novel processes and products at a relatively low cost and with relatively low usage of resources. It is also critical to incorporate outside innovation into an internal environment dominated by legacy technologies in financial organizations. The necessity to start small, to be nimble, and to expand with the market’s and customers’ ever-changing needs is obvious.
The maturation of SaaS models has aided the rise of APIs in the financial services sector, while laws such as the Payment Services Directive (PSD2) are driving banks to establish and promote open platforms. While API-based SaaS platforms have opened up a wide market and empowered the developer community, they have also contributed to the abolition of faceless goods that dominated conventional industries. It has also aided in the extraction of enormous value from data and innovative system integrations, which is now shared across a bigger and more powerful ecosystem.
The triple-edged efficiency of SaaS
Scalability, sustainability, and convenience are the three pillars furnished by SaaS to the Fintech ecosystem. The compulsions in the financial sector are being addressed by the three pillars of a SaaS delivery model. Scalability and the need to quickly add new products to existing systems, as well as a high level of data and platform security and the ability to better control costs, are all reasons why SaaS models are the delivery method of choice for banks around the world, both big and small. It is also the best strategy for working with banks, development communities, incubator programs, and data suppliers in the ever-expanding fintech ecosystem. All of this is wrapped up in a customer experience layer that is easy to use and lets business users, with only a little technical knowledge, launch products in a way that is good for business.
This transformation of SaaS-based delivery models into revenue-generating and customer-driven ones is beneficial to all parties involved. Some issues persist, but the overall contribution of proprietary and open businesses built on the SaaS cloud to the financial services sector has been spectacular. If the total cost of ownership data for the manufacturing sector is any indication, the collaborative delivery models that have recently been brought to the market will almost certainly have an almost immediate effect on banks’ total expenses.
Rahul Meena is the founder and CEO of Treflo.
Utricularia Furcellata: Rare plant species that feeds on insects
Since our childhood, we have grown up studying the ecology of plants and memorising the process of photosynthesis, which is a process by which plants use sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to create oxygen. But, what if someone told you that there are certain types of plant species that feed on insects, mosquito larvae, and even young tadpoles?
Although the thought of plants feeding on insects sounds bizarre, it is true. The Uttarakhand Forest department has discovered a rare carnivorous plant species named Utricularia Furcellata in western Himalayan region of India.
The rare discovery, which has been published in The Journal of Japanese Botany, was made by a team of the Research Wing of the Uttarakhand forest department, consisting of Range officer Harish Negi and Junior Research Fellow (JRF) Manoj Singh in the Mandal valley in September 2021.
“This is the first such recording/sighting of this rare carnivorous plant not only in Uttarakhand but in the entire western Himalayan region of India. In fact, after 1986, this species could not be collected from any part of India,” said Sanjiv Chaturvedi, Chief Conservator of Forest (Research).
Mostly found in freshwater and wet soil, this rare species of plant belongs to a genus, commonly known as bladderwort. It uses one of the most sophisticated and developed plant structures for trap and targets protozoa, insects, mosquito larvae and even the young tadpoles.
At this point, you might be wondering how these plants manage to do that? Well, these plants do this by simply creating a vacuum or negative pressure area to draw prey inside the trap door.
Although this discovery has extended its range of distribution westward, the rare species face the threat of extinction due to heavy biotic pressure because of being at a tourist spot.
While carnivorous plants have caught the attention of the scientific community across the world, this was the first such comprehensive study in the state of Uttarakhand in India. The discovery was a part of a project on the study of insectivorous plants in Uttarakhand approved by the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) in 2019.
So far, the researchers have found around 20 plant species belonging to the genus Drosera, Utricularia and Pinguicula. Prior to this, the researchers were in search of a rare orchid species Liparis Pygmaean, which was reported in the French Journal Richardiana in September 2020.
The discovery of Utricularia Furcellata adds to the long list of rare plant species found in Indian forests, which are rich in flora and fauna.
Globally, carnivorous plants have been receiving increasing attention due to their distinct manner of arranging food and nutrition through the intelligent trap mechanisms. These rare plant species also have potential medicinal benefits, which is yet to be explored and shared with the world at large.
OBSESSION WITH ONLINE GAMES LEADS TO LOSS OF SELF-REGULATION
Children fail to think beyond the animated world and at times, it replaces reality for them, resulting in familial disharmony.
Parenting in the current era comes with its own challenges, and the pandemic has made it even tougher. “Staying online” became a necessity for the parents due to their work commitments and for children to enable them to pursue academic activities. However, what started as a necessity for kids did not take time to turn into a habit and in extreme cases, addiction. The thin line between use and misuse became quickly blurred giving birth to a new generation of computer-savvy, socially awkward and internet-addicted kids. The effect this is having on kids has long-term implications. It is taking a toll on kids’ social, mental, and physical well-being. Recently, there was news of a child being so obsessed with video games that to get his way, he shot his mother dead.
There was another case of a child who committed suicide because his mobile phone was taken away from him. Such extreme cases are but the tip of the iceberg! Many problems are very subtle and non-quantifiable. Being glued to the screen day in and day out reduces contact with society and when such kids are faced with people, they are overwhelmed and do not know how to react and respond. When they are with their gadgets, they are in their comfort zone. Due to the new-age parenting, children are not able to cope with the stress when they are out of this zone. Besides, these games are self-absorbing and also provide a lot of gratification in the form of levels and medals, so children keep going back to those again and again. It leads to an obsession with games and self-regulation is lost. Children fail to think beyond the animated world and at times it replaces reality for them resulting in familial disharmony.
The brain is actively developing and processing new information in the first five years of life. At this age, children require a lot of stimulation. This commonly happens when they hear others speaking, listen to stories and songs, engage in free play, imaginative play and have a multitude of sensorial experiences by playing outdoors. If these precious years are spent glued to the screen, brain development is hampered, and children start displaying adverse behaviours like irritability, hyperactivity and at times autistic personality. Prolonged screen time also reduces physical activity and facilitates unhealthy eating habits resulting in health problems like overweight. Childhood obesity is a new pandemic for the present generation largely contributed to lack of physical exercise and screen addiction. Childhood obesity is a forerunner of lifestyle diseases like hypertension, diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease, and dyslipidemia. In addition, excessive screen viewing results in eyestrain and weak eyesight. It also results in multiple nutrient deficiencies most commonly hypovitaminosis D.
So, what is the solution? There is no single answer for this. There is no magic bullet or a permanent solution. Children need to know their limitations and should learn self-regulation. Screen time should be restricted to 2 hours every day. Playing video games or watching TV should not be the only source of entertainment. They should be engaged in structured and unstructured physical activity daily. They should be encouraged to have friends and interact with them in person. The best way to ensure is by setting good precedence. Parents should restrict their own screen times and should not offer children TV or video games to get their own free time. Parents and children should avoid screen at least 1 hour before bedtime and recreational use of television in the bedroom.
One should be vigilant and identify early signs of screen addiction like loss of interest in other activities, thoughts pre-occupied with virtual subjects, displaying behaviours like lying to watch the screen and familial discordant. It is definitely a difficult task in the current time and age to keep a child away from the screen and requires a lot of determination from the parents, but it is not impossible and is the need of the hour.
Dr Vaidehi Dande is a child specialist and neonatologist at Symbiosis Hospital in Dadar.
For the love of the chair
Back in 1975, the ruling Congress under Indira Gandhi had organised mass protests outside the PM’s house. The so-called “spontaneous rallies” and “people’s rallies” were against a high court ruling, which restrained the PM’s right to vote or draw a salary as a Member of Parliament. The conditional stay had allowed Indira Gandhi to retain the prime minister’s post. Indira Gandhi’s misuse of power had put her in a spot when Allahabad HC accepted a petition filed by Raj Narain, which found her guilty of corrupt practices under Section 123(7) of the Representation of People’s Act during her Lok Sabha campaign in 1971 at Rae Bareli. The mass rallies in support of Indira Gandhi were a desperate attempt to cling to the chair when the moral authority and legal tenability of the government was fast slipping away. Gandhi was in no mood to exit gracefully. To insulate herself from the court verdict, she declared an Emergency on 25 June 1975 on the grounds of internal disturbances.
A similar situation is playing out in Maharashtra as CM Uddhav Thackeray desperately clings to power. In the evening of 20th June 2022 when the political observers, media and politicians in Maharashtra were focused on the Vidhan Parishad vote counting exercise, about 30-40 MLA’s in the assembly quietly made their way out of the state. The surprising BJP victory in the fifth MLC seat proved what the LoP Devendra Fadnavis was saying all along “that inherent ideological contradictions and dissatisfaction within the ranks of MVA will fuel our victory”.
When news about the 40 MLA’s who left the state in rebellion against the MVA government in Maharashtra broke the next morning, CM Uddhav Thackeray found himself in a similar situation to Mrs Gandhi in 1975. The Uddhav Thackeray government has lost moral authority as most of his MLAs have deserted him and the government can no longer claim a majority. Realising this, the CM left the official residence Varsha in order to claim the high moral ground and bring back the MLAs. After emotional appeals failed, he tried to convince, cajole and even threaten the MLAs. He attempted a show of strength on the streets and removed the security of MLAs’ family members. After every attempt failed, he is still clinging to power and repeats what Indira Gandhi did—organising protests in solidarity with him even though he clearly knows that numbers in the Vidhan Sabha don’t favour him.
A graceful exit and the forming of a “natural alliance” with the BJP is what his rebel MLAs have demanded. A “graceful exit” for CM Thackeray is exactly what the NCP under Sharad Pawar wants to prevent, even though the NCP is under no illusion about the future of this government. The NCP is egging the Shiv Sena Chief to fight this losing battle, prolong this humiliation, conduct floor test and face more ignominy. How else can Shiv Sena be thoroughly humiliated than fighting for a lost cause? For two and a half years, the NCP worked in tandem with the MVA government in denying their share of power to Shiv Sena MLAs. Today, the NCP under Sharad Pawar is working on its design to weaken the Shiv Sena further by making them fight a losing battle despite a lack of numbers.
If Indira Gandhi’s experience is any indication, Uddhav Thackeray will face the same fate as Indira Gandhi faced in the 1977 elections immediately post-emergency. The protests on the streets notwithstanding, the Indian electorate has consistently demonstrated a preference for democratic ideals. The excesses and desperation to cling to power of the emergency era had paved way for the first non-Congress government in India. A similar trend will be visible in Maharashtra post the 2019 elections.
In 2019, Shiv Sena had fought elections in alliance with BJP under the leadership of CM Devendra Fadnavis. Uddhav Thackeray abandoned the alliance after elections and formed an unnatural alliance with the NCP-INC combine, thereby insulting the voter’s mandate. The Shiv Sena rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde today is merely calling for the undoing of this insult to the people and a return to the Hindutva fold. If CM Thackeray continues to cling to his chair, the people of Maharashtra will punish his group heavily in every upcoming election, while the “original Shiv Sena” of Eknath Shinde adhering to Balasaheb’s ideals will be rewarded by the voters. The post-emergency era brought non-Congress parties into prominence and led to the eventual decline of Congress. The Love of the chair on the part of CM Thackeray will lead to the same results. CM Thackeray can either choose to respect the mandate of the people and their elected representatives or risk losing his party altogether.
The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation.
ONLINE FOOD DELIVERY IS TRENDING AND CONTAGIOUS
Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant.
If one is asked, “How many times did you order food online in the last six months?” The chances are that one may not even remember the exact number. However, the answer to another question, “How many restaurants have you visited to enjoy food in the last six months?” would be “yes, I can tell.” Millions of Indians have similar answers. Nonetheless, one might be mistaken if they believe that consumers order foods online only because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Most Indians had never thought that online food delivery would become so common that too, so fast. But the reality is that it is now part of urban consumers’ food habits, e.g., food purchase and consumption behaviour, in many countries, including India. It is trending and contagious. In the year 2021, more than 282 million Indians ordered food online, and the number is likely to increase to 493 million by the end of 2025.
Was it all because of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdowns? No, the Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated the pace of the e-commerce business, including the online food business. The two most important factors that led to the food delivery business transformation are a revolution in internet and digital technologies and fast-changing consumers’ lifestyles and preferences.
Technology has enabled consumers to access their favourite foods from their preferred outlets at their fingertips. Food reaches consumers in the shortest possible time at the place and the time decided by the consumer and all of this without spending much. Technology has saved consumers from driving through the busy lanes with red lights at smaller intervals and a longer wait for their turn at the restaurant. It is undoubtedly a fancied choice both for busy and lazy people. Consumers compare price, menu, quality, and outlet and select the best option that provides them with value. This is in addition to the time they save, a precious resource in modern times. With the number of smartphone users expected to increase to about 1133 million by 2025 from 847.7 million by the end of 2021, the future seems brighter.
Consumers, too, are changing faster. Nuclear family, husband-wife working, increased disposable income, family members with varying tastes, not interested in kitchen work, and preference for a faster and easy option of getting food – all these have allured consumers to go online. Further, today’s consumers look for utilisation benefits and seek enjoyment, control, experimental value, and emotional arousal in their day-to-day activities. Ordering food online, fortunately, meets most of the wishes. Consumers today expect food to come to them instead of following, travelling, and waiting for it. With per capita spending on food and beverages expected to increase by more than 30% by 2025, many new consumers are likely to join the bandwagon, and existing customers will increase their online purchases.
There are two different types of online food delivery players in the market. First, the online food delivery system owned and run by established restaurants or food outlets, like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, makes home food delivery after consumers put their orders on their website. Next are food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato, which source food from multiple restaurants and outlets and deliver it to consumers. In India, though restaurant-owned online food delivery is more popular and has a consumer penetration of 15.7%, online delivery platforms, with a penetration rate of 6.4%, are catching up very fast.
Online delivery platforms democratise the food market. Platforms provide every consumer with the opportunity to have food from any outlet, making it possible for smaller and not-so-popular food outlets to serve many consumers. In addition, food delivery platforms make local, traditional, and even international cuisine available to all consumers—a win-win situation for everyone.
The online food delivery system has further decentralised and democratised entrepreneurship with concepts like dark kitchens or ghost kitchens. Dark kitchens create opportunities for established industries to extend their kitchen work and for professionals and entrepreneurs to start a new venture, even with a limited budget, by partnering with delivery platforms. Understanding what, how, and when customers order and how to meet those orders in the least amount of time at a lower price is crucial for the business’s success. It seems that online delivery players are mastering these tricks faster.
Delivering food in the proper packaging is more than 50% of food quality, and the industry seems to learn it slowly but steadily. It can be ensured that hot desi samosa and dosa reach the customer with the same crispiness as those served in restaurants. Hyderabadi Biryani, if not served as it appeared on the screen while ordering or with the fragrance that biryani is expected to have, may upset the customers. Restaurant owners have started using innovative packaging, and delivery partners have added specialised carrying boxes and well-planned routes through which foods are reaching faster and safely. Swiggy food survey 2021 indicates that Biryani and Desi Samosa were the most ordered meals and snacks, respectively, indicating that food delivery players in India are doing it briskly.
Food delivery platforms are labour-intensive, and their success is dependent on their partners. Their delivery persons, called “gig workers” in business terminology, are among the most crucial players in their business. Zomato, India’s second food delivery platform after Swiggy, employs more than 1,60,000 gig workers. Though their remuneration, working hours and conditions have come under scrutiny and have become the subject of debate, no one disagrees that the business creates many jobs at the field level.
No doubt, advancing technologies, changing customers and innovations in the delivery business will result in the rapid spread of the industry. However, the food delivery business still has to cover a long distance before stabilising and settling down. Most delivery companies are yet to achieve their break-even and will require working hard to spread their reach and optimise costs. The business remains immensely competitive and reliant on the external business environment.
In 2021, Indians ordered food worth 11782 million US dollars online, 30.4% more than the previous year. If the excitement the recent IPO of Zomato created, the presence of at least one food delivery platform for more than 100 million consumers, and fast-moving bikers with food in every lane are any indication, it establishes that online food delivery has arrived in India, and it will continue to grow and flourish.
Niraj Kumar is a Professor of Rural Management at XIM University, Bhubaneswar.
Unprecedented transformation of the HR industry
HR, as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries, has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation. The HR industry has changed course and jumped on the technology bandwagon, from handing out pay slips and pink slips to building teams and organisations. HR and technology were once two words that were never used in the same sentence, but today they have integrated and taken the business world by storm.
HR has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries. The human resources industry has shifted its focus from issuing pay stubs and pink slips to forming teams and organisations. HR and technology were never used in the same sentence until recently, but they have now integrated and taken the business world by storm.
EVOLUTION OF THE HR FUNCTION
As the pandemic drove nations to lockdowns and businesses to disruption, HR was thrust to the frontline to facilitate this wave of changes. From handholding employees, as they took up remote work to embracing new technologies such as AI and automation themselves, the purview of HR widened overnight. The HR department made possible the overnight pivot to remote work, organisation-wide move to the cloud and years’ worth of digital transformation within months. As organisations’ appetite for technology grows, the demand for HR tech is building up simultaneously to catalyse change.
MASTERING REMOTE WORK MANAGEMENT
Today, an organisation’s workforce is dispersed across different geographies owing to remote work arrangements. To enable employees to carry out diverse tasks remotely, HR teams must provide them with facilitating tools and technologies. At the same time, they require the right tools and technologies to carry out HR tasks remotely. On top of that, HR teams need to maintain the organisation’s culture even when people can no longer see each other in person. Technologies such as cloud computing, unified communication tools, performance management software and video conferencing technologies help HR teams master remote work management.
BRAVING TALENT MARKET CHALLENGES
Remote work mandate meant for the talent market proliferation of job opportunities, wider talent pools and a shift to virtual hiring practices. This resulted in a surge in demand for video interviewing, virtual onboarding and AI-based technologies. In an ever-evolving talent market, a slew of challenges such as the war for talent and the ‘great resignation’ has erupted. As a result, organisations are increasingly investing in automation, AI and data analytics to optimise their hiring processes and enjoy time and cost savings. Additionally, such HR technologies enable recruiters to hire higher-quality candidates faster.
RE-ENVISIONING EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
As the resignation pile mounts up and the stack of resumes becomes less than a handful, HR teams across the globe are racking their brains in the quest for a cure-all. Technology allows HR teams to rethink their employee experience and reinforce their talent retention strategies. From improving the employee onboarding process to supporting greater work-life balance to elevating employee wellbeing, technology is helping HR to reshape the employee experience. Consequently, investments in tools and technologies such as intelligent chatbots, video conferencing, recommended learning and development, etc., that enhance employee experience are continuously rising.
CONTINUOUS RESKILLING AND UPSKILLING
The global pandemic ushered in a period of great reshuffling, which meant new technologies, tools, innovations and even new jobs. As many jobs, skills and practices become obsolete, HR leaders must upskill and reskill their workforce to take on new responsibilities and challenges. Technologies that enable faster learning paths, interactive and engaging journeys and performance tracking saw an uptick in demand. As digital transformation becomes a permanent fixture on CEO agendas, constant reskilling and upskilling are becoming a priority for HR leaders. As a result, giving rise to persistent demand for new learning and development technologies.
Technology is enabling organisations to inch closer to the future of work and evolve with it. The coming together of HR and technology can catalyse this wave of change. By making the most of this window of opportunity, HR can evolve from an auxiliary authority to an enabling force.
Yogita Tulsiani is the MD & Co-founder of iXceed Solutions, which is a global tech-recruiter provider.
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