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My month-long visit to IndiaDuring the whole month of December 2007, I was in Bangalore, India. I celebrated my 70th birthday (on Dec. 6) in Bangalore with my family. I'm No. 7 in a family of 10; 5 brothers and 5 sisters. My eldest brother (83) lives in England. I picked him up on the way and we flew together non-stop from London to Bangalore.
My birthday-bash was wonderful. My extended family (brothers and sisters and their broods) plus relatives, old friends and schoolmates, were all there to celebrate with me. The fond memories will remain with me forever. I hadn't seen some of my good friends for 50 years - my school buddy is now a family doctor, while another is retired from the Indian Air Force and since flying Learjets and the like. My cute girl-friends now look like old ladies - but then, I too am an old man.... (smile)
Beyond the warmth and love of wonderful family and old friends, I traveled by train, twice overnight. Indian Rail has become so much better than anything I remember. I shall, in weeks and months to come, publish some of my many thoughts and ideas that seem to generate when one is in a completely different environment.
My two sisters and I traveled to Warora, near Nagpur, where we met and touched 94-year-old Baba Amte (weblink below). This humanitarian was born from a wealthy family and trained in law, but was moved by the suffering caused by leprosy and built a colony to shelter victims of that dreaded disease, which is now curable. The Warora colony now houses about 5,000 people including lame, blind and handicapped, who build their own housing, make handicrafts, and cultivate the land to support themselves. We attended a great 2-hour entertainment program - singing, dancing, music - which had the heart-warming motto, "Give us a Chance, not Charity".
At a "Knit India" program in Warora, I talked with 300 high-school students on "You are the New India". I do this often in high-schools here in the US too, with the theme, "Who are you tomorrow?" This is my favorite topic and audience. You'll find links on my website.
Although I had intended to publish the Dec. 07 issue of JimPinto.com eNews from Bangalore, I didn't quite get to doing it. I had good Internet connections everywhere, but the burden of keeping up with my regular influx of email, plus the logistics of sending several thousands of emails from an Indian IP address were intimidating, and I didn't quite get to it.
So, I lived up to my website byline "irregular and irreverent" and didn't send out an issue of eNews since No. 241, on 15 November 2007. Thank you to the many who wrote, "Hey, what's happened to eNews?" Well, I've returned home to San Diego, California, and this is the first 2008 New Year's issue.
Pinto columns written in 'Booming Bangalore'I did write some of my regular columns from Bangalore, India. Here's a sample, from the January 2008 issue of Automation World.
"As I write my New Year’s column, I'm in 'booming Bangalore', India's software capital. This is a city of some 6.5 million people, which makes it India's third-most populous city and fifth-largest metropolitan area.
New technologies and tools abound. On a numerical basis, India is the largest growth market for cell phones, with 160 million already in use and about 6 million being added every month. Market penetration is still low (less than 20 percent), but projections are for more than 500 million subscribers by the end of 2010. I got my own local cell number, to connect with anywhere in the country for about 2 cents a minute, with incoming calls free. No one uses voice mail; you quickly get used to text-messaging as an effective alternative. But you also must get used to deleting lots of text advertising.
Broadband Internet is everywhere, and I connected quickly and easily with my wireless laptop. There are always some glitches, which take getting used to; but one quickly becomes tolerant of the interruptions. Internet cafes abound, with prices that are ridiculously low when translated to dollars.
And everywhere, there is the frenetic rush of traffic. Behind this rush is India's huge middle class—some 400 million—motivated for growth and success. The media is as hyped up as anywhere, perhaps more. On TV, car radios and cell phone media, the sales messages are constant and continuous, catering to that colossal consumer class in multiple languages, all mixed in with English phrases; it's called "Indglish". You witness the upwardly mobile middle-class just gobbling up the plethora of consumer products from Sony, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and the like.
Apart from Bangalore being the headquarters of India’s software giants such as Infosys and Wipro, the large multinationals all have major R&D establishments here. GE’s largest research center outside the United States and SAP’s largest outside Germany are here. Many automation majors have hundreds of design and development employees here too, including Honeywell, Rockwell, Invensys, ABB and others.
Interestingly, the local thinking is not just aimed at how to improve outsourcing services, or play consumer catch-up. Strategic plans at many of the growing giants include major new developments where India can lead rather than follow.
MTL will be acquired by Cooper IndustriesAs if to confirm that the well-known $100M growth barrier still applies, yet another mid-sized company has been acquired. UK based MTL Instruments Group, one of very few independent automation companies announced last month (mid-December 07) that it would be acquired by Houston, USA based Cooper Industries. This rings down the curtain on 37 years of independence at MTL.
Cooper Industries had revenues of $5.2B in 2006 and market-cap of about $10B, 85% from electrical products. Cooper is paying £140M ($275M) for MTL, a premium of about 20-30% over recent MTL share prices. MTL had revenues of £85.3M ($ 170M) and net income of £5.5M ($10.8M) in 2006, so the Cooper offer represents a price/earnings multiple of 26 to 1, and price/revenue multiple of over 1.6. Pretty good!
MTL will become part of Cooper Crouse Hinds, which makes flameproof and explosion-proof equipment for hazardous areas. This is a good fit for MTL which means they can still sell to their broad customer base, with increased global economies and market penetration.
The MTL management team is happy with the good fit and MTL's board has unanimously recommended acceptance. Cooper has announced that since making the announcement of its intent to acquire the MTL shares it has increased the number of irrevocable undertakings to accept the offers it had received from MTL shareholders to almost 92%, including exercises of options by MTL employees.
The deal is now being scrutinized by regulators and is expected to be approved and completed by mid-February 08.
Motor, Drives & Automation Systems ConferenceThe 2008 "Motor, Drive & Automation Systems Conference" 2008 event will take place Feb. 14-15 at the Omni Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. This conference, now in its 5th year, focuses on the latest advancements in motor & drive technology and design, component technology, materials advancements, electronics & controls, system reliability and efficiency, etc. New this year is a track dedicated to automation technology & applications.
I'll be the keynote speaker. My theme: "The Future of Automation, Drives & Controls in a Global Environment". If you're involved with motors, drive or automation systems, you should attend. If you're planning to visit, let's meet and touch.
2008 New Year Pinto prognosticationsMore than ever before, the world seems to be on the verge of disaster. We are all surrounded by a cacophony of bad news and warnings.
The continuing wars and terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, belligerent Iran threatening isolated Israel, nuclear-powered Pakistan teetering on the brink with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto – any of these could be the flashpoint that ignites far greater global conflagration.
Concurrently, rising oil prices and the decline of world stock markets are raising the specter of worldwide recession, sidelining the Mid-East wars as immediate political issues. Meanwhile, the out-of-sight and longer-term problems remain - future social-security bankruptcy, education and health-care decline, global warming, AIDS in Africa, genocide in Darfur – the list goes on and on.
Activism on any one issue is rendered futile when overshadowed by the plethora of problems. So no one cares enough to do anything. That's Apathy, says Shannon Hays in a recent issue of American Mensa magazine, "It is symptomatic of an insidious general malaise, rooted in a disturbing national detachment".
Perhaps most of us simply don't see what we ourselves can do to change anything. And so we do nothing. We wait, expecting that today's worry will be forgotten after tomorrow's new bad news. And so important, major long-term issues are shelved for future generations.
In the US we espouse democracy as "freedom" while we collaborate with military dictatorships and repressive "royals" in the Mid-East. On the surface these people cater to our pretensions, while they sneer behind our backs and continue with undemocratic domination of their people and indirect funding of terrorism. The world understands only two obvious possible motivations for the conflict – Religion and Oil.
Conventional hard solutions are completely inadequate – tanks and warplanes cannot stop suicide bombers. How many millions must die before the paradigm shifts? What is the catalyst that will signal recognition that no one is right or wrong?
Meantime, steadily, and seemingly inexorably, the gap between the haves and have-nots seems to grow ever more unbridgeable. For the majority of the world, the spread of poverty and disease are the most urgent problems. The mass of humanity continues to subsist on the edge of starvation, largely ignored by the media and the wealthy, and catered to only by extremists, religious zealots and political demagogues who incite ever more dangerous unrest. Within the next few decades, perhaps years, these worlds will collide.
While disaster looms, the vast majority remains silent, feeling like helpless onlookers completely incapable of doing anything. And this leaves the minority fringes, the extremists, those who are willing to sacrifice everything, even their lives, acting from an utter sense of despair.
The realization grows that the fundamentals must change for the continuing conflict to cease. The hard realities of the new century bring the recognition that a new society is emerging – new demographics, institutions, ideologies and problems. Things will be quite different from the society of the late 20th century and different from what most people expect. Much of it will be unprecedented. Most of it is already here, or is rapidly emerging.
The mass of humanity yearns to renew itself and the time for transition is near. The change will come when we care enough to ask each other, "What am I doing that makes you feel you must hurt me?" With understanding will come perhaps the beginning of a universal brotherhood of humanity.
Ever the optimist, I predict – perhaps I just "feel" – that the solutions already lie within the problems themselves. Inventive, innovative, caring, charitable, far-sighted humans will indeed find a way. The future will be a better place.
eFeedbackRick Lamb [relamb@MidTechV.com] writes eloquently about the widespread malaise of indifference:
"You're right about needing an awakening, but it's not destined to happen anytime soon. I sit here in the middle of the silent majority in the heart of the Midwest. Everybody complains about little things, they never have enough money, they don't have the greatest boss in the world, they wish they had better schools and better roads.
"But we're all basically content. We've got our big screen TVs, our own houses, our SUVs, our yearly vacations to Disney World, and enough food at the Hometown Buffet to keep us all obese. Some of us get in over our heads with credit card debt, but there's always our relatives to bail us out, if we don't file bankruptcy.
"I'm really surprised that we've handled the loss of manufacturing transition as well as we have. I used to work at a General Motors complex that had 16,000 autoworkers in Anderson, IN. I was a co-op student at the peak, when the oil embargo hit, high inflation, and GM started losing their market share. The place went downhill from there and just this past year the final plant closed. If it weren't for the UAW bargaining, it would have been dead long ago.
"But somehow the economy absorbed all of those people, their children, and we all have jobs and the necessities of life. Even if we lose our house, there are plenty of apartments to live in until we get back on our feet. The sky is not going to fall, our world is not going to collapse, and we're just gonna sit here and keep on keeping on. ....there's not going to be a revolution, and nobody here (the silent majority) is going to do anything about it.
"There's going to have to be some disastrous, precipitous event to cause any major change. One bridge collapsing isn't going to do it. Even two or three probably won't. We'd just as soon spend our money on a new sports stadium than a new bridge. We're all just too fat, happy, and dumb to care, and besides, it's not gonna happen to us!"
"Sadly, they strongly reflect the measures taken here in the UK some years ago and are, I fear, likely to be no more successful. The truth is that, without the whole hearted support of the majors these big shows are doomed and the majors have discovered they don't need them. That's a tragedy for the smaller vendors who can't expect to attract 4,000 delegates to a user conference.
"Whether the existing user conference model is sustainable in the long run and what it might be replaced by - multiple vendor user conferences perhaps? - is probably the more important question but I strongly suspect that by the time we get the answer, it may not involve ISA."
"I have one son who is a walking phone directory and another who puts TV Guide to shame. Kids today are changing the way they think, learn and remember. But they are not letting their ability to remember atrophy. Even us old timers knew to not waste time memorizing things that could easily be looked up.
"There probably needs to be more study on this whole subject before the new generations are forced into a regiment of memorization."
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