The primary purpose of my trip was to see my daughter Sierra, who is in India as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange. She’s been there since July, a long 10 months away from home. After my long plane ride and the time apart, you can imagine our happy reunion in Mumbai. We quickly hitched up and traveled to the city of Vadodara, to the home of her host parents. It was there I noticed her incredible accomplishment, her amazing assimilation into the culture, learning both the local language Gujarati, some Hindi, and even adding Indian accents to her English. It was quite effective for her, funny as it may seem.
After enjoying my time with Sierra’s host family, we were picked up for some sightseeing. We traveled to Jaisalmer in the Indian state of Rajasthan to explore the old Fort and spend time in the surrounding desert just 60 miles from the Pakistan border. In Jaisalmer I observed the contrast, of ultra-new technology clashing with antiquity, like the oasis in the middle of desert. The first thing that impressed me was the sight of brand new wind turbines and sparkling transmission towers dotting the western India landscape. New construction surrounded us everywhere.
But even among all the improvements occurring in the Bulk Power system, other images reminded me time and time again that India has significant challenges ahead when it comes to improving the distribution system: the lights seem to go out once every day. Our partners Alstom Grid and Telvent are both very active in India and working to provide solutions to help India make the transition to a smarter grid.
Back in February we blogged about India’s unique power market and how we are working with our partners to provide solutions to address the challenges. The wiring spaghetti bowl seen in the picture was unfortunately common place and clearly shows how much work needs to be done to reduce line and “social” losses of power. I’ve heard that up to 33 percent of generated power is lost this way. It’s tough to run a business when a third of your output isn’t compensated.
It’s no surprise then that the major improvements needed for India’s power delivery system to increase reliability and efficiency is paying customers. The utilities are trying everything they can. In the picture above an auto rickshaw or three-wheeler roams about Jaisalmer informing residents in the old Fort City that they must pay their electricity bill or service will be turned off in two days. It’s certainly a different approach to customer communications. While I’m not sure our Microsoft Lync solution quite has this one covered, our team in India is working hard to help the government and utilities by providing some pretty darn good SharePoint and CRM solutions for customer service. It may seem odd but as I mentioned before, aside from the camel kidding, the connectivity was very good no matter where I went.
Back to my trip with Sierra. One of the really cool things we did was camp in the Thar Desert. Well, it qualified as camping because we stayed in tents, but in all honesty they were pretty modern tents. There were no air conditioners in the tents, but we did have fans, toilets and showers. All the conveniences of modern outdoor living!
Regardless of the line loss situation, once power reaches the home its used efficiently: I could not find an incandescent light bulb in the country. It wasn’t always pretty, and I often saw bulbs dangling out of strange looking fixtures in strange places, but fluorescent bulbs were everywhere, even in my tent!
Of course we visited the Taj Mahal and numerous other places and I could go on and on about my daughter, my amazing travel agent and tour guide, but I have to pay the jet lag piper and get some shut eye.
One last observation though: The Mumbai miracle is truly that. My colleagues in India warned me that India was Cricket crazy but I had no idea of what they were saying until I arrived and found that the Cricket World Cup was being played in Mumbai. I thought things got pretty crazy when India beat their rival Pakistan to advance to the final against Sri Lanka but that was nothing compared to the dramatic come from behind victory over Sri Lanka. My daughter, son and I were in Delhi and we went to a restaurant to eat dinner and watch the match. Needless to say it was a wild evening that ended in dramatic fashion with India winning by six wickets and euphoric celebrations in the restaurant and across the city! BTW, the lights stayed on that evening! – Jon C. Arnold