Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday = Mischief & Fun

Sunday = Mischief & Fun

(so many young people keep writing to me seeking career success tips.. this post is for all those young souls seeking corporate nirvana)

Time for some fun. Oh no, seriously speaking.. here are SEVEN sure-shot ways for you my dear reader.. follow these and await guaranteed doom. Trust me!
  1. Be an excuses-person. Always find some excuse for why you were unable to do a thing successfully. It could be heavy airconditioning that slowed your brain-cells down, or even the colour of the cockroach that ran across your workdesk that turned you off.
  2. Be internally focussed always. Never think from your customers' perspective. Customers are duds, after all. Life is made for things grander and subtler than quality for what's paid for.
  3. Never plan in totality. Focus only on what you were asked to do, and not the whole picture. So if you were asked to give the starting speech in a major event, make sure you do not even visit the venue once to get a 'total' feel of it. After all, that's not your job, right? The Event Manager gets paid for that.
  4. Carry an entitlement mindset. Always demand rights, privileges and opportunities. Never realise that they come only when you have delivered something of value to others. The constitution of our great nation has guaranteed some rights. If we won't demand the same, who will? The aborigines?
  5. Close your mind to successes & lessons they imply. Whenever you see someone doing really well, blame it on the stars! After all, you are brighter than her. She cracked it by sheer serendipity. Maybe the Ursa Major was exceptionally well-aligned in her favour. It will be better to invest in an astrologer than in the 6-sigma course.
  6. Never believe in Kaizen. It is for the Japanese. We are not Japanese. Errors must be made repeatedly to have some meaningful learnings from them. Of course, if only your boss could empower you enough to enable this. Simple soul!
  7. Produce work that's truly below standard. It is only when we lose our touch with material reality that higher realisations can seep in. What's the point after all, the long-term point, in getting all spellings, grammar, structure right in a report, when the Sun is surely - ultimately - going to turn into a red giant swallowing up mother Earth? Of course, the idiotic team leader could not understand this profound spiritual reality. How we wish he had a mother who could explain this to him while he was growing up!
So let's get cracking. We got work to do!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Intellectual pursuits for the young

Everytime I conduct a teaching session on "The Economist" magazine, I realise the following
1) it is one of the best examples of well-researched weekly journalism
2) it is one of the best tools to improve your command over the English language
3) it takes you round the world in one shot, every week
4) everything of use for a leader-manager of global importance can be found here, &
5) a sincere reader, over a few years, can almost develop a mastery of key global issues

( I extensively use technology while conducting this session. Electronic PC Whiteboard, Giant screen, audio-video multimedia, videoconferencing with remote campuses, live streaming within campus, etc. It's quite a strong IT stuff. )

Let's talk about the last week's issue, on which I took a session this Friday. We covered the following issues in the course of 4 hours
Teach me, will you?
* The problems in Afghanistan  * The changing nature of Obama's priorities * The Iran situation * Desperation of Hugo Chavez, and importance of 'institutions' in democracies * The World economy - a sullen U shaped recovery predicted * US Healthcare system and its royal mess * Changing nature of brand marketing due to recession * Reckitt Benckisor and the lessons in lean management * Somalian pirates and private security * lessons in global geography * colonial past of Africa * Amar Chitra Katha - 2 small stories (to highlight lessons in morality) * credit crisis summarised in a great YouTube video ... etc.

Imagine! In just a 4 hours, we get a fantastic chance to breeze through all these, and more, and stop at the really serious issues to take a deeper look. At a personal level, I need to work very hard to prepare for each such session but it is rewarding. I learn so much. Each session throws up interesting surprises - like the question yesterday from a student that 'why do so many African countries have almost straight line borders?'

I remember the summers of 1990 when I had the first brush with this publication, on the streets of Daryaganj where I would buy the old issues of The Economist by weight. My friends at IIT found that a crazy thing to do (reading this publication) but somehow I found it interesting! And ever since, I have been unable to put it down.

Larry Ellison (Oracle) famously said "Earlier I used to think, now I just read The Economist". I second that. Oops, doesn't mean I have stopped thinking :)

The Economist is a revered, old, solid British publication. Is it truly secular and even-headed? I now take help of my almost 20 year-long association with this publication as a dedicated reader, issue after issue. And I don't speak lightly on this. 

Well it 'seems' that this publication is even-headed. But its flagrant (now getting subtler) anti-India intellectualism can get on one's nerves especially since you know that we are not that bad as a nation. Maybe I understand - there is definitely a small probability of the post-colonial hatred that these editors may be harbouring against India(ns), especially since Churchill's prediction of India breaking up into hundreds of pieces did not quite come true. Maybe the continuously collapsing credibility of the South Asian neighbours of India will ultimately convince the editors that India is the only place you may trust as a potential world superpower in this region. 

The idea of teaching The Economist as part of course curriculum was the brainchild of the top team including our CEO Varun Gupta, and Director Dr Manas Fuloria.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

IT for SMEs = approximate

IT for SMEs* = approximate

For a science that is built on the perfection, neatness and microscopically accurate functioning of every bit that runs around inside the guts of the silicon nanotransistors, this is quite a statement to make. But I speak from the experience of the user. And not some hands-off user, but someone who put his heart (and lots and lots of precious funds) into getting things speeded up and made more modern by IT deployment.

Hi there, small guy!
Since 10th July 1993, when I began my enterprise in that small family garage, I knew that IT will play a big role in my enterprise. I had seen lots of IT stuff back at IIT Delhi, and though those were relatively primeval days (compared to today), I could foresee the potential of what IT could do, if deployed correctly.

So I set out to spend my precious funds, whenever possible, on procuring and deploying IT on various aspects of my enterprise. Given the size of the enterprise, it was a bold move. It still is.

Today, after 16 years of painstaking but joyful learning, here are my learnings, summarised. (It took me quite a few crores to learn these lessons, and I am glad to share these with you, for free)

  1. If you are the CEO of an SME, learn to tame your IT excitment impulses.
  2. Learn to say "NO" to your colleagues excited over an IT deployment opportunity you know for sure will not create any business advantage.
  3. IT vendors can and will rob you of precious funds, giving no tangible business results in return, unless you make them understand otherwise right from the first meeting.
  4. What sounds like a killer-ERP for an ICICI Bank, is for them. Not for you. You are small. 
  5. Good IT is costly. Actually, very costly.
  6. Good IT vendors** are very rare. Maybe, say, 1 in 20.
  7. Don't easily trust new, very small IT vendors. They have this bad habit of vanishing suddenly from the face of the Earth, after you are midway through a deployment / deal.
  8. IT that is complex for users, is bad IT.
  9. Your IT department head should be able to explain every issue in 30 seconds maximum (each).
  10. Your customers don't care what IT you use. They care what solution they get.
  11. Post-deployment, IT companies really don't care what happens to their products (software or hardware), unless you lock them into a mutually rewarding long-term relationship.
  12. IT is not the end, it is just a very approximate tool.
  13. Every successful IT deployment needs SME's Top Management's total commitment.
I hope this helps those who are into decision making for SMEs' IT issues. It will be great to hear from you on similar experiences you have had.

* SMEs = Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (a term used frequently in India)
** Good IT vendors = vendors who respect the fact that you as an SME need tangible, solid business results from the IT they deploy inside your company, and who personally take care to ensure end-to-end deployment and take ownership of what may go wrong. As for the rest, they are a bunch of brainless traders, masquerading as "IT" vendors

I must say thanks to Dr Manas Fuloria Director Proton Indore for the various invigorating discussions we had on this topic. Thanks also to my old colleague Varun Gupta sir of PT education who is deftly managing the various aspects of customer-technology linkages for Proton Indore.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's dangerous for a teacher to blog!

Famous (last) words!

When a teacher starts to blog
He blogs, blogs, blogs, and blogs                  
Emotions, memories, tribulations put to animation
That's their style, and there's just no asphyxiation
They say it's dangerous to hand over a mike to a teacher
You can only hand it over, and then wait for it to get over
But it never does, as the teacher goes on and on and on
For his emotions, he wants an audience, Spot On!
Those who said this, really never saw a teacher blog
For with infinite storage space, multimedia tools, and a microphone on call
He also speaks & emotes as he blogs
Poor soul! He takes some time to realise
The computer is dead, he (it) doesn't respond
Horrendous though to many sound it may
Even Google (blogger) finds it hard to tame
This spirit of an eloquent teacher
Is like the insatiable flame
That consumed London once upon a time long ago
Passion, thrill and vision come in handsful with gusto
So shall my blog posts be
That's a promise I make to you
Or rather to myself?
That accompanied to the ocean of words & learnings & fun shall you be done
If you have the stamina to digest this free one (my blog, i.e.)
Fiction, Science, Comics, Theology, Physics, and Evolution
Is my avocation
I just love to read
And to put into practice the good that I read
To share with my loved ones
What I feel is the essence of all wisdom
That it grows when you share
And withers otherwise
Is what they said to us through the ages, the old and the wise
I loved it when Einstein talked of the giants' shoulders over which he peeped
And those Newton's meanderings on the beach of the mighty ocean of truth that lay unseeked
Of Richard Feynman's cracking safes where nuclear codes lay dangerously
Oh so beautiful, Darwin's observations that destroyed all religion till date convincingly!
But religion doesn't die, does it? It bounces back
Just like a teacher! Oh just like a teacher!
So the journey has begun
Never to end
To continue till the end
For life is all about the great unbounded joy of giving, sharing, loving, and growing
Those who miss this, their education is a waste
How many I see regularly being laid to, this, this waste
Enjoy my readers and feed me with your ideas

Together, I am sure, we grow!