Being Phileas Fogg, Day 4

September 8, 2007

While talking this morning to the cab driver taking me to our EGL office in Bangalore, when for some unknown reason, the driver told me that his boss was paying him 3,400 rupees per month, and that after 22 years of service. That actually got me thinking.

The taxi company appointed by the hotel is paying a monthly contract fee of 60,000 rupees to the hotel. There are 30 drivers on contract. Each driver makes 3 to 4 trips a day, each bringing in 400 to 800 in sales. I'll let you do the numbers, but even considering extremely expensive car leases, gasoline, insurance, etc. you'll find out that this taxi business runs easily at close to 90% margins.

And apparently this is not unusual in India. The differences between the poor and the rich are huge. Whereas a taxi driver makes only 3,400 a month, a hotel general manager makes close to 100,000 rupees. Take into account that the taxi driver is not among the poorest in India, and you have right here an example of the remaining of casts in modern India.

But getting back to technology, I gave a TechTalk to the Indian office regarding architecture. I used the "seek vs transfer" example to show how we, as technologists, must sometimes solve technology problems that are strategic in nature and that the business is not necessarily going to think about, not to talk about spontaneously sponsoring. It is an architects job to identify these gaps, and ensure that long-term investment in technology is done.

The seek vs transfer problem and the work we are doing with Hadoop is just one example, but one that I find highly illustrating, and that most engineers associate easily once I walk them through Ebay's publicly known strategy for databases, removing transactions, order, joins, foreign keys ... to the point that Ebay even challenged whether a relational store was still useful for them.

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