India Special Part 1. Sphincter tightening taxi rides, a black toe, crazy cocktails and a Scot in India

I am sorry but there is no other way to describe the ‘fast and furious’ taxi ride from Bangalore Airport to the hotel. We were all bundled into separate taxis by Emirates, they must have assumed that having suffered a lot of close proximity to each other over the previous 24 hours we needed some space, but all suffered the same style of driving. I say style as all the drivers appeared to have modelled their driving approach on a combustible combination of outlandish belief in survival despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the need for speed, a complete disregard for lanes, real men only use one hand to steer, only overtaking when dangerous to do so and schadenforeigner (the delight in observing severe discomfort in people just off planes from Europe). I have been to India a number of times but speed has generally not been a factor as there has been too much traffic on their adaptively random multi lane roads. Unfortunately, there was just enough space to really get up to some high speeds for the obligatory overtaking on a blind corner whilst sounding the horn, which is a well documented safety feature in all modern cars. The ride lasted for over an hour. I observed Mike at the hotel at the other end and he was whiter than normal, in fact he passed a white washed wall and disappeared but in fairness to Mike he was also treated to some road rage of the get out of the car and remonstrate with another driver variety. Seriously, if any of the drivers we had, attempted to drive like this in the UK they would have faced lengthy bans for all the violations in just that one journey.

Well Captain Haphazard survived unscathed but I didn’t. I like to walk, it is good for you but sometimes it turns out to be less than healthy. The other night on the way to a micro-brewery, note ‘on-way’ and stone cold sober I managed to violently stub my toe on something in the road. At the time of writing my toe has gone black and I fear I won’t get my international gymnastics career back on track. On the plus side I could have fallen down this.


If you do come to India, which I recommend as in many ways it is a fascinating and intense country, my top tip is to not wonder around at night as you could disappear down a big hole, as they are all over the place. The approach appears to be pedestrian beware. Maybe they should introduce these ‘man traps’ to the UK with the aim of discouraging public drunkenness?

We went out for dinner with Pankaj and Samrat and were handed an interesting drinks menu. You could kick back, indulge in some pleasant banter and sup on a  ‘Suffering Bastard’, I kid you not, look….


They also had a cocktail called ‘Shingle Stain’ which promised to have ‘you dancing on the roof’. I didn’t try either as Mark had ordered me something which I believe he said was called ‘yuk, yuk’ or something. Having drunk it I lost my recall abilities, however, on the plus side it did eviscerate my insides which, after a fashion, got rid my upset stomach.

People from Scotland are specifically not designed for spending any time in the sun. However, some of them do gamely wonder out into the harsh gaze of the sun. I witnessed one do just that this week. As you can see from the picture below he took precautions to protect himself from the strange fiery beast in the sky, as they call the sun in Scotland, but alas it was not enough to prevent his descent into Colonel Kurtz style insanity. As you can see from the pictures below, he started in a calm relaxed frame of mind but as the day progressed his mental state deteriorated as the sun beat down. By the time we got to the evening we knew he was taking several turns for the worse when he started muttering ‘ I have seen horrors, horrors that you have seen. I have seen people who don’t know the pleasure of funky OO and generational hypothesis’. He carried on in this manner getting increasingly disturbed until he ran for the exit screaming ‘the horrors, the horrors’. He was last seen entering a tuk-tuk shouting I need a race, I want a race….. I went to get the Scottish ambassador, who is probably used to dealing with this sort of thing.


We had a great time with the team in India. My thanks to Varsuda, Pankaj, Pavani, Saritha, Prashanth, Shobhana and Samrat for their hospitality whilst we were here. We shared our vision with the team and even subjected them to some ‘Uncle Bob’ coding videos and a coding Dojo. The team in HSC are key to the Digital team meeting our delivery and support objectives and we will together be focussing on greater collaboration and upskilling to ensure we have the same great delivery capability in Bangalore as we do in Edinburgh. Mike and Mark got through eight interviews, we unfortunately had one no show, and are in now in a position to make two offers.

Also , we had some really useful sessions with people outside the immediate Digital team. Jon Higgins was very generous with his time and we met him and his team for them to share their vision of Continuous Delivery. It was a great session as we found their vision the same as ours. We agreed to meet up regularly and remain ‘loosely couple and highly aligned’. We also had an opportunity to catch up with Miguel Blasco and the CA team to talk about their plans for IaaS and Nolio  to support Continuous Delivery. The good news is that there are a lot of people in Tesco sharing the same vision and drive to get the tools in place to enable the right kind of delivery across the Tesco IT landscape.

In other news I was cc’d in an email from Peter Scobie in Digital Demand which had the following in it “Big recognition to Digital Development for building the in-house capability to create and implement the content substitution solution. Not only has this saved Tesco Bank money but it demonstrates the talent that we now have inside the Bank.” Well done to the Web Dev team and in particular Keith for getting this in.


Ivan Zero Defects corner.

Really like this neat encapsulation from Ivan describing the cultural change we need to engineer around testing

‘The culture change is from “lets see how we can break this thing” to “ lets make this thing unbreakable”, the focus is on up front improvements (SBE/BDD/TDD) rather than cleaning up at the rear end (visualize the horse analogy again!)’

The Republicans, clearly following Obama’s lead, have appointed themselves a Chief Data Officer and are experimenting with open source tools like Neo4J and MongoDB. Well worth a read.

Europe wants the Internet to be run for the benefit of all. Are we seeing the start of serious tussle between the EU and the States over the most powerful tool commerce has ever seen?

Amazon strategy. I am reading ‘The Everything Store’ by Brad Stone which I recommend you read. If you don’t I can share this small section with you on their strategy, is very instructive in its simplicity. Following meetings with Jim Collins author of ‘Good to Great’ where he exhorted them to ‘decide what you’re great at’ they then used his concept of a flywheel and wrote their strategy on a paper napkin.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 09.24.10

Essentially it was lower prices led to more customer visits. More customers increased the volume of sales and attracted more commission-paying third-party sellers to the site. This allowed Amazon to make greater used of fixed assets which in turn enabled them to lower prices.

Can dressing down boost your status? Maybe, have a look.

Weekly update is out early this week as tomorrow I will be mainly on planes. Have a good weekend and don’t forget Valentines day.

I will see you all soon.


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