Increasingly, large parts of Germany (one-third, according to some reports),
much of Scandinavia and rapidly growing areas in California will not be
impacted by the rise in fuel prices. Countries like France and Japan are also
rapidly doing away with dependency on petroleum products for power and
transport. We are nowhere with actual implementation of alternatives. While
foreign petroleum companies are rapidly changing into multi-energy entities,
our oil companies still look at increased sales as their only barometers of
growth. And so, if you are sensible, you come to one not-so-startling
conclusion: steady fuel prices, in rupee terms, are simply not sustainable, and
all of us need to get ready for massive increases, at some time or the other,
in prices of everything – diesel, petrol, gas or kerosene. Even electricity at
home. And everything else that depends on any form of power. So what do you
need to start doing right away to keep costs down, as buying power also heads
down simultaneously? Here are a few simple tips.
1. Buy a small battery-operated scooter, either to add to the existing
petrol-operated two-wheeler or as a replacement. It costs around
Rs22,000-Rs25,000 and, if you ride about 1,500km per month, you will easily
recover the capital cost within 11-14 months. The recovery of capital cost is
even faster – if you run a business of any sort, which requires home-delivery
of small parcels or similar work, including office run-around. It doesn’t
need registration and can be taken home for charging at residential electricity
2. Line the ceiling of your car, the sun-facing windows, the roof of
rooms where air-conditioners are used, with thermocol. At about Rs6-Rs10 per
sheet, this is the most effective way of reducing power bills for cooling in
summer, and heating in winters. These are available not just in white, but also
translucent shades, for better natural light inside.
3. Consider taking the train, especially for routes that involve using
toll roads and crossing state borders. Booking tickets over the Internet or
using mobile phones is amazingly easy now – even up to a few hours before the
train’s departure and en route reservations are managed with precision,
which removes tension.
4. See how you can replace cooking gas with microwave as much as
possible. I run a full kitchen in our company’s transit flats in Pune and
Bangaluru without cooking gas and, barring rotis, we can cook almost everything
including the most complicated of Indian recipes in a microwave oven with
minimal cooking oil. The cost:benefits are almost 1:5, and the health benefits
are immeasurable. No dealing with thieving gas agencies, either.
5. Walk about every now and then and switch off all stand-by power
switches on things like televisions, ovens, microwaves, radios, stereos, etc.
Just switching the television off at night, from the wall socket, will save you
over Rs80 a month on your power bills. Your building society may not permit you
to use the roof for solar solutions as yet, but you can certainly start by
switching things off.
6. A decent solar-powered lamp, using LED bulbs, will cost you around
Rs2,000, and will work on one day’s charge through three nights with
light bright enough to study under. This means a monthly saving of about Rs150
per light. Assume you have three lights that need to be on through the night
(staircase, bathroom and outside) and that’s a straight Rs400 saved per
month. The replacement battery is nowadays the same as the one in your mobile
phone, costs less than Rs150 and needs to be replaced after two-three years.
7. Keep air-filters clean in whichever utility it is fitted to; that can
save around a third of costs. Cars, two-wheelers, air-conditioners, fridges –
everything that draws air has a filter, which needs to be cleaned. In addition,
keep tyre pressure to a couple of pounds more than suggested and see fuel
economy go up, especially if you are in city-based, stop-go kind of
fuel-sucking driving situation.
Inflation is headed up and is no longer a number on a TV screen. It is a bigger
hole in your bank balance as well as monthly spends. Saving and investing is
one thing; managing expenses is another. Most of the solutions are already
there. Reach for them.
[Veeresh Malik is founder/director of Pacific Shipping (1985) and Infonox
Software (1999), and is very worried about rising costs impacting not just him,
but his employees too.]