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Monday, May 31, 2010

Official Blogger for Tata Nano Superdrive!

eNidhi to all units: We interrupt your program to make this special announcement. Yours truly is one of the 3 hand picked bloggers, who would be serving as an Official Blogger for Tata Nano to cover a 26 days road trip, called Tata Nano SuperDrive

As detailed in my previous post, India’s much anticipated small car Tata Nano has completed 1 year and is now all set to roll out from its dedicated Sanand Facility in Gujarath, on 2nd June 2010. To mark the occasion; Tata is organizing a 15000 kms road trip. 3 Nanos each will drive towards 3 different routes- Saffron, White and Green… Each route will have one designated blogger, who would cover the road trip extensively.

It feels great to be a part of this expedition. Given that I enjoy driving, visiting places and writing, the Tata Nano SuperDrive trip is indeed a 3-in-1 opportunity for me. I understand there was stiff competition among bloggers to be a part of this trip and getting short listed and selected to be among final 3 is itself an honor.

As an official blogger and brand ambassador, my responsibilities will be to
Extensively document the trip, write daily travelogues, take photos, make videos, share them through blog, facebook and twitter…

Where can you follow the updates?
I’ll be publishing daily updates on "Superdrive-Green route" the official blog for the green route, created by the organizers as well as on event facebook page. Occasionally (probably twice a week), I’ll also publish updates/summary at my primary blog, which you’re reading now.You may also stay tuned to my twitter account for real time updates

How can you get involved? 
You can stay tuned to the Event Blog site created by the organizers, facebook page and youtube channel, comment on the posts, like them, share your thoughts, give a suggestion (for example, what are the finest places/landmarks in Cochin in front of which Tata Nano should be photographed)

I am designated to the Green Route, which would be heading south, from Sanand-Surat-Mumbai-Pune-Goa-Mangalore-Cochin-Coimbatore-Chennai-Bengaluru-Kolhapur-Solhapur-Ahmedabad and back to Sanand. This trip will last 26 days, covering about 4800 kms.

We’d be cruising on Mumbai-Pune express way, drive skillfully on the narrow two lane NH17 that runs along the west coast, visit some of the finest Indian cities- Mumbai (5th June) Pune (7th June), Goa (9th June) Namma Kudla (Mangaluru, 11th June), Cochin (13th June)… drive across the western ghats to enter Tamil Nadu, visit Coimbatur, namma Chennai (17th June), namma Bengaluru (19th June), drive across the northern Karnataka to re enter Maharastra and finally back to Ahmedabad (27th June) and Sanand.

Busy packing things. This 26 days road trip is the longest one for me till date and am looking forward for the expedition. Sanand, here I come.

Tata Nano Superdrive Road Trip: 36 cities and 15000 kms

Those who thought Tata Nano is an underpowered, small city car, take note. Tata Nano team is all set to prove that Nano is as good as any other car, in fact better. To drive home a point and create right awareness about Nano, Tata Nano team will be doing a pan India Road trip, covering 36 cities and 15000 kms in 26 days, in the people’s car, the Tata Nano.

Starting June 2nd, 9 cars will be flagged off from Tata Nano factory in Sanand, Gujarat, to do a cross country trip. June 2nd marks the occasion of rolling out of Tata Nanos from Tata Nano production facility in Sanand, Gujarat. Gujarath CM Narendra Modi and Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata will flag off the rally.

The Road trip will see the Nanos cruising through all sorts of terrains- cities, highways, hills and dry-lands, heading from one city to another. The 26 days expedition would prove that Nano is as drivable, capable and reliable as any other car.

At each city, there’ll be lot of activities scheduled, such as road shows, photo shoots, meeting with Nano owners/fans and so on.

One team will drive towards North India, covering about 4098kms, through cities such as Sanand, Udaipur, Jaipur, Hissar, Amritsar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Meerut, Agra, Lucknow, Gwalior and Kota. This would be the saffron route.

Second team will drive towards east coast, the white route. This is the longest route covering about 5888 kms, from Sanand, Indore, Bhopal, Nagpur, Raipur, Ranchi, Patna, Kolkatta, Bhubaneshwar, Vizag, Hyderabad, Aurangabad and back to Sanand.



Third team will head down south, covering 4829 kms. From Sanand to Surat, Mumbai, Pune, Goa, Mangalore, Kochi, Coimbatore, Chennai, Bangalore, Kolhapur, Solapur, Nasik and Ahmedabad.



Nano is believed to be a city car, not meant for long drives or interstate journeys. However, British journalist Venessa Able has already proved that wrong, by doing a 10000 kms India tour in a Tata Nano (fondly named as Abhilasha, The Little Car with Big Balls), (More details in Nano diaries)

Tata Nano road trip, named as Tata Nano Superdrive, is expected to break that record and increase the bar. At select stretches, general public and Tata owners will also be allowed to drive.

Accompanying Tata Nano team on these trips will be bloggers, who will cover the event, photographers and media people. (Standby for some good news on this front)

When I initially read about the trip I felt it would have been far better in a Safari or other higher end car. Nano with its smaller power plant, would take 3 times more time to cover a given distance compared to a decently powered sedan/SUV. 26 day road trip could be a real challenge. But then, that is the whole point of the trip- to prove that Nano is as good as any other car, it can handle Indian cities and highways without pain… Satisfaction comes when a task otherwise deemed impossible is taken up and accomplished.

View Schedule here:  to see when Nano is coming to your city. Photos sourced from Social Wavelength.

Disclaimer: Information mentioned in the article are subject to change at the discretion of organizers or due to unavoidable circumstances. All information as available with the author at the time of composing this post.

Related: Self Drive Car Rentals in India * Car Rally for the blind * Chennai-Mysore in a Skoda * Scorpio 2.2 Vls review * Why Blame Tata Nano *

Post event 2010 Updates: It was a wonderful experience being on road for 26 days with Tata Nano as its Official Blogger. While all details are at the official blog superdrive-greenroute.blogspot.com, here're a few selected posts: Nano FAQs * Nano Superdrive in Bangalore * First 10 days update*

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to make employees blog?

This blog has completed 4 years on 22nd May 2010 and taking liberty to give some Gyan...

Many enterprises launch their corporate blog (internal or external) with enthusiasm and great expectations. But soon, generating quality content for the blog will become a challenge, as most of the employees do not care to spend some time and contribute quality article to the blog.

Those who’re responsible for the corporate blog often find it challenging to motivate employees to blog. How to make your staff get involved in company’s social media initiatives? Here are a few practical tips.

How to motivate employees to blog:
1 Start from top down. Encourage CEO and CXOs to blog first.
This will reinstate company’s faith in social media and encourage rest of the staff to get involved. Many of the employees, though willing to blog, hesitate to do so, thinking “My boss would feel I’m wasting time on blog”. When the encouragement comes from top, it works.

2 Get rid of their fears about blogging:
Many hesitate to blog thinking “What if I do a mistake?” “My English is not good” “Who will read what I write”, “I can’t write anything interesting”. These fears, even if true, can be eliminated only when he or she takes the plunge. So explaining how blogging can help them overcome these fears and improve their language and communication might convince them to start experimenting

3 Show them what all can be written
When someone is not a natural writer, he/she will not have an idea what all can be written. For example, a subject matter expert with few decades experience will be super rich with knowledge related to his field, but may need some handholding if he’s to put his wisdom into words.

Similarly an employee can write about his passion, experiences, fiction, poems, family celebrations, travelogues and so on. Demonstrating them how various happenings in life can be effectively shared via blog will make it easier for them to get started

4 Identify lead bloggers/champions in each department
Identify a few enthusiastic bloggers in each department who can motivate rest of the guys to blog. They can also help as mentors, clearing any doubts questions or technical difficulties other staff may face while blogging.

5 Incentives and Encouragement
When an employee spends quality time in contributing quality article for the blog, his efforts and contribution needs to be recognized appropriately. Appreciation could be as simple as featuring him/her prominently on the blog (say as blogger of the week) or some other financial and non financial incentives

This element is critical because quality of corporate blog will be diluted if time consuming high quality content is treated at par with another post sourced from an email forward

6 Get good readership at the blog
If there’re good number of readers visiting the blog and blog posts get good no of comments, quality writers will naturally be attracted to the blog. Securing good readership for corporate blog warrants another post on its own, but in brief, it can be achieved by planned promotions, effective corporate communication on blogs & its advantages, friendly design and quality contents.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Upclose Photos from the Mount Everest…

May 21st Update: Sandhosh will be attempting final leg of the mission and will be attempting the summit from 9pm this evening (21st May). By tomorrow morning he'd have reached the top of Everest and start his return journey. Wishing him all the best.
----------------Original Post--------------------------------
Sandhosh Kumar,who is into his 50th day today into his 65 days Mission Mount Everest, has been sending some really interesting and up close photos of the Mount Everest, along with updates. While complete details are available at his blog, sharing some selected photos and updates with my blog readers here…
Day 44 – Ted climbing the wall
Sandhosh also has been sharing detailed updates of his day to day activities. Here’re a few interesting lines from his updates…
Mount Everest, up close
Sandhosh is very close to enter the final leg of his mission- summitting Mount Everest. The date on which they plan to do this is kept as a secret, because exact date of summit is decided by experts of IMG (International Mountaineering Group) considering weather and other parameters. Lots of other climbers are known to follow IMG’s schedule blindly. If the summit date is leaked, there’ll be big traffic jam when the team attempts its final stretch. Hence the dates are kept as a secret till last minute.
Ladder Crossing
View this interesting video below, a 5 yr old one though, wherein a helicopter (Eurocopter B3) is taken till top of Mount Everest. There’re very few helicopters which are capable of flying at this altitude (which has almost zero oxygen). The video also show how little the surface area is, on top of Mount Everest.

Here’s what Sandhosh says about heli tourism: “It used to be that, no matter how rich you are, it is impossible to reach the summit of Everest without the effort of your own two legs. The landing of this helicopter would change the rules on Everest forever. I am sure in the future, people would be able to pay thousands of dollars to be on that helicopter and sadly, summitting Everest may not take the joyous 2 months after all.”
A broken piece of ice
Of late helicopter sight seeing trips are being offered, but are pretty expensive. Otherwise helicopters are often used for rescue operations. Rescue from base camp costs about US$ 8000 and cost would increase with increase in altitude.
There’s not been a single season without accident… including the current one. A Russian climber of a different team had died while attempting to summit Lhotse. From Sandhosh’s team, one person had to return due to personal reasons.
Day 36 – The traffic jam down to base camp

As he is preparing for the final climb, let us wish him all the very best. All photos copyrighted to Sandhosh Kumar. Do not reproduce without permission.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Book Review-Imprints, Colours of life, Ravi Sidula & GS Vasu

If you thought techies do not have time/do not care to do anything beyond their software jobs, here is an exception. Two young techies from a leading IT company have put their passion for writing into action, venturing out to publish their stories as a book. This post is a quick review of the book.
Imprints is a self published book, containing a collection of 24 short stories, authored by two writers, Ravi Sidula and GS Vasu Kumar. The 113 pages book is available for purchase on pothi.com for Rs 99 (+shipping)
IMG_1179
When I first received the copy of Imprints, I was surprised to see the cover price being under Rs 100. Because when I’d checked last time, it was impossible to get the book price below 100 at Pothi.com (Pothi.com is a self publishing platform, wherein they print a book and deliver, as and when they get an order. This means there’s no huge investment needed in bulk publishing the book, but on the other hand, disadvantage is that per copy price will be a bit high). When I checked with the author on this, I was told that authors have pumped in extra money from their own pocket to ensure that book is priced below Rs 100.
Well, getting back to the book, each story is independent and well knitted. The one I liked the most is titled “You’re not alone”… The story line goes as below: A man is helped to his seat by the Bus Conductor (Mysore-Bengaluru one), a girl sitting next seat starts the conversation saying “how beautiful the world outside…” The man feels excited by the conversation but realizes that the girl is blind. They continue to talk and become good friends, with him explaining how beautiful she is and so on… At Ramanagara the girl gets down and subsequently, someone comes to escort this man as well, as he too was blind…

There’re many other touchy stories, such as one in which an entire family member, suffering from draught, finally decides to commit suicide, unable to bear the burden any more, unaware of the fact that it would be raining heavily next day. There’s another story wherein a person saving money to publish his book had to abandon the plan as he’d to spend his savings on his wife’s hospital bill. Eventually his notebook containing stories reaches a groundnut seller and then to a reader, who likes his writing, goes back to groundnut seller and buys entire notebook from him… (These lines are just to give you an idea what to expect. I’m not able to explain the stories as effectively as it is portrayed in the book)

Like this, several day to day life experiences and observations are converted into short and sweet stories. Language is simple and you’ll be able to connect with the characters very easily as you read the stories.
Each of the stories are dedicated to various persons, which is a good initiative. Most of the stories are also enriched with an image (pencil sketch version of photograph)

The Book is highly recommended by V Balakrishnan, (Infosys CFO) as well

There’s an irony with the pricing of the book. Flipkart says one has to pay Rs 30 for delivery of this book, since the price of the book, at Rs 99 doesn’t exceed Rs 100. This is a bit unfortunate-may be they should just accept Rs 100 and ship it free. A work around for customers would be to look out for another friend who’s interested in buying and buy 2 copies…
flipkart-ravi-imprints
Nevertheless, Imprints is a nice book.More about the book and authors at its website

Read other book reviews:It happened in India * Raga Chintamani * 2 States * Not a penny more, not a penny less * Zero percentile * Bala Takes the Plunge-Melvin Durai

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Navodayan Prayer: Hum Nav Yug Ki Nayi…


Suddenly all old times are coming to my mind… Do you remember the morning prayer you used to sing during your school days? I still do… Suddenly felt like listening to that song once again…

Our school, Jawahar Navodaya Vidhyalaya is run by Govt of India's HRD Ministry, has nationwide presence, with almost one school per district. Before we proceed, look at the detailed description of the logo of JNV (I was under the impression that the two black heads represented one's father and mother...) More info at Navodaya.net

Below is the lyrics of the song, “Hum Nava Yug Gi…” song we used to sing daily at Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya. My rough English translation is included between the paragraphs for the benefit of all.
Hum navyug ki nayi bhaarti… nayi aarti
Hum swarajya ki richa naval bharat ki navlaya hon
Nav suryodaya nav chandrodaya, humi navoday hon
(We represent the new India, the new wave of India, We're the brand new lyrics of freedom...new sun rise and new moon rise, we’re the new rise… )

Rang jaati pad bhaid rahit hum sab ka ek bhagwaan ho
Santaan hain dharti maan ki hum dharti pooja sthaan ho
Pooja ke khil rahe kamal dal hum bhav jal mein ho
Sarvoday ke nav basant ke humi navoday ho
(We do not differentiate based on colour,cast, status… We’re all children of Mother earth and earth is a holy place. We’re the petals of lotus that blossomed after prayers… We pray for well being of everyone, we’re Navodayans…)

Maanva hai hum halchal hum, prakriti ke pavan vesh mein
Khilen falen hum mein sanskriti is apne bharat desh ki
Hum himgiri hum nadia hum sagar ki lahre ho
Jeevan ki mangalmati ke hami navoday ho
(We’re alive and kicking as a pure form of nature, let the culture of this country nurture in us, let us be the mountains, rivers and the waves at the sea, let there by well being for all, we’re Navodayans)

Hari duudhiya kranti shanti ke shram ke bandanvaar ho
Bhagirath hum dharti maa ke suuram pehredaar ho
Sat shiv sunder ki pehchan banaye jug mein hum
Antriksh ke yaan gyan ke hami navoday ho
(Let there be more green revolution and white (milk) revolution, we’ll work harder for mother earth and protect her. We’ll spread the message of Satyam Shivam and Sundaram to the world and to the space… We’re Navodayans…)

Hum navyug ki nayi bharti… nayi aarti
Hum swarajya ki richa naval bharat ki navlaya hon
Nav suryodaya nav chandrodaya, humi navoday hon
Hami navoday ho hami navoday ho hami navoday ho !!
suresh-chandra-vatsayanNever seriously cared for its meaning or significance of our prayer those days, but now if I look back I have to appreciate the meaning, insight and passion behind this song. The song was written by a Panjabi born educationist Suresh Chandra Vatsyayan. When I was searching for more about him, most of the links referred to the fact that he died in 2008 of cardiac arrest… Sad. R.I.P Suresh Chandra and thanks for the wonderful poem above.

I searched for a proper video or mp3, but there was none. This video has proper instrumental of the same and this video has first few lines with vocals… Some of us should take care to do proper documentation of the same…

Thanks to Deepak Kumar for helping with meaning of Richa Naval...

Watch video below
, thanks http://www.myjnv.com/
Related: Memories of Madhya Pradesh *

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

मध्य प्रदेश की यादे (Remembering Madhya Pradesh)

(Note for Non-Hindi readers: This post is written in Hindi, about my experience of studying my class 9th in JNV Pandhana, Madhya Pradesh. Let me know if you need an English translation)

आप मैं से किसी को शायद पता नहीं होगा की मैंने अपनी नव्वी कक्षा मध्य प्रदेश मै पडा था| कुछ महीने पहले जब मैं घर गया था अजनक मैंने अपनी नव्वी कक्षा मैं दी हुई कापी देखा तो सभी पुरानी यादे याद आ गयी|

इस लेखन मैं मै उस अनुभव के बारे मैं कुछ लिखूंगा |
DSC00010

हमारी प्राथमिक शाला, जवाहर नवोदय विद्यालय  केंद्र सर्कार की मानव संसाधन विकास मंत्रालय की शिक्षा विभाग से चलाया जाता हैं| ये पाठशाला लगबग देश की हर जिला मैं एक हैं| इस विद्यालय के अनेक विशेषताए हैं, जिनमे से एक हैं, उनकी राष्ट्रीय भाव्य्कता मिशन| ये राष्ट्रीय भाव्य्कता मिशन के अन्दर हर साल कुछ चुनी हुयी छात्राओ को दो विद्यालयों के बीच विनिमय किया जाता हैं| हिंदी बोलने वाले इलाखे से चात्रगन उस इलाखे मैं जायेंगे, जहाँ हिंदी मात्र भाषा न हो, और यहाँ के बच्चे वहां जायेंगे, एक साल की पदाई के लिए.

तो इसी योजना के अंतर्गत मैं और मेरे कुछ साथिया (९ लोग थे, में, भूपेश, गिरिराज, हर्शराज, मंजुनाथ, हरी,वेणु, सुमना, मंगला,रंजीता ) अपनी नववी कक्षा पड़ने के वास्ते जवाहर नवोदय विद्यालय उडुपी जिला (कर्नाटक) से जवाहर नवोदय विद्यालय पंधाना मैं गए थे (जो मध्य प्रदेश के खंडवा जिला मैं स्तित हैं). ये सन १९९७ की बात हैं. उन दिनों मैं कोंकण रेलवे अभी बना नहीं था| हम लोग मंगलौर शहर से हजरत निजामुद्दीन मंगलादेवी एक्सप्रेस पकडके पुरे दाई दिन की सफ़र तैर करके इटारसी जंक्शन पहुँचते थे और वहां से गाडी या ट्रेन के ज़रिये पंधाना|

पंधाना एक अलग  किसम का शहर था| उन दिनों मैं वहां केला सिर्फ ३-४ रूपये हर दज़न की भाव मैं मिल्ता था| मैंने पानी पूरी और कचोडी खाना वहीँ से सीखा...एक रूपये मैं चार-पांच पानी पूरी मिलते थे और उनका स्वाध भी अजीब था, जो दक्षिण भारत के चाट की दूकान मैं बिलकुल नहीं मिल्ता|पोहे, ब्रेड पकोड़े और कद्दू की सब्जी वहां की खास चीज थे|

पंधाना मैं लोग निमाड़ी भाषा बोलते थे, जो हिंदी का एक उप-भाषा कहलाता हैं. वहां की विद्यालय मैं कन्नड़ भाषा सिखाई जाती थी, लेकिन कोई उसे मन लगाकर नहीं सीक्था था| हमारे कन्नड़ प्राध्यापक के नाम था कुरी सर. एक और सर थे, खान सर, जो संगीत पढाते थे| उनके केश राशी के कारन वो बिलकुल उस्ताद जाकिर हुसेन जैसे दीखते थे|

हमने पंधाना मैं करीबन १० महीने बिताये. एक बार कुछ संस्कृतिक कार्यक्रम देने इंदोर भी गए थे, जो मध्य प्रदेश का एक प्रमुख शहर हैं. लगबग १३ साल होगये मेरा मध्य प्रदेश से लौटकर| दुबारा जाने का मौका अभी तक नहीं मिला हैं| मिलते ही मैं वहां दुबारा जाना चाहूँगा. उन दिनों हमारे पास डिजिटल  कैमरा  जैसे चीज़ नहीं था, तो ये जो कापी की तस्वीर आप देख रहे हैं, वाही मैं एक मात्र निशानी जो मध्य प्रदेश की याद दिलाती हैं|

फिलहाल इतना ही, भविष्य मैं और कुछ लिखने की कोशिश करूँगा | बहुत दिनों बाद हिंदी मैं लिखने का प्रयास किया हूँ, त्रुटिया हो तो कृपया माफ़ कीजियेगा.

Some photos of JNV Udupi * हिंदी लिपि लिखी गयी हैं गूगल भाषांतरी के सौजन्य से * JNV Udupi * JNV Pandhana websites

Saturday, May 01, 2010

RangDe Swarathma Concert and my investment update

Few months ago I’d invested Rs 10000 in RangDe, a micro finance facilitator, who would in turn lend this money to various villagers who seek to set up their own small time businesses and thereby achieve financial independence over a period of time.

My investment of Rs 10000 was split equally among 5 women borrowers spread around Orissa, AP, Kerala, Maharastra. [Full Details in this post] About 2 months since I made the investment, here’s a quick update on how these investments are doing:
rangde-investment-update
All funds were promptly disbursed by RangDe via its partners, and borrowers have started repaying too. Looks like Parbati Harijan of Orissa is running her tent business most profitably, as she’s repaid as much as Rs 170 (that’s about 8.5% in 2 months). Others have repaid about 40 to 80 Rs so far. I wish them all the best. Will check if I can invest some more.
Meanwhile, RangDe is hosting a Live-in Concert in association with Vasu Dixit’s band, Swarathma, today in Chennai.Rang De Swarathma Live In Concert Event Poster [Watch Vasu Dixit Videos]

Yesterday I happened to attend their press conference, in the presence of Ms Waheeda Rehman, a reputed actress of yesteryears, who is supporting the cause of RangDe.

Here’re some interesting points noted during the press conf:
* Demand for micro credit in India was Rs 200,000 crore in 2006, but the availability was just 10% of that, at 20k crores. Today in 2010, we’ve not been able to meet the demand beyond 15%.
* Less than 6% of bank branches are located in rural India. This is a prime reason why majority do not have access to finance (Stated by Soumitra Ghosh of CSO partners, an ICICI venture that supports organizations like RangDe)
* RangDe went live on Jan 26, 2008 and so far has helped over 2800 micro entrepreneurs, with the help of over 1400 social investors.
* RangDe is planning to expand into vocational training, thus extending its reach further.
RangDe Team press-meet
Couple of photos taken during the press conf: Above: Left: the RangDe Team, with founder CEO Ram NK in the Centre, Right: Press meet with Ram, Ms Waheeda Rehman and Soumitra Ghosh.

Below: Ms Waheeda Rehman and an odd Photo, passport of Secret agent 007, James Bond…spotted in the book, James Bond Encyclopaedia, which was kept in the lobby of Taj Mount Road.
 Ms Wahida Rehman James Bond's passport
RangDe is very careful in selecting its field partners, who get 5% of the interest and do most of the work-lending money to communities, mentoring them, ensuring recovery and so on. Answering my question Ram detailed various parameters (experience, accounts, team etc) they look into before signing up a partner.

I somehow felt it is a bad idea to hold a press conference the previous evening of the concert. Most of the reporters will have a 2pm deadline and if you hold a press meet late in the evening, newspapers are unlikely to carry the report next day. However I understand organizers had their compulsions such as availability of chief guest etc. Journalists at the venue didn’t ask much questions either.

Rs 100 from each ticket (of the concert, priced Rs 300 and 500) will be diverted as social investment in the name of ticket purchaser. This way, as you enjoy the concert, you’ll also be helping out micro borrowers in remote places of India. Investment in RangDe can start with as low as Rs 100. RangDe doesn’t lend money directly to individuals, but they form a community of borrowers and lend them as a group and mentor them. This way, because of the collective responsibility of the group, the recovery rate is as high as 98.5%

I finally found a male borrower in RangDe (from Orissa), but yet to see any borrower from Karnataka...