Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bollywood inside the classroom

I'm a movie buff. As a teacher, I firmly believe that audio-visual techniques can have a strong impact on the learning graph, and have tried to use it a lot. Personally also, I watch a lot of movies as they are the culmination of cumulative creative efforts of a big team of talented individuals, and hence makes for a good training tool for myself. I like intense movies. Irrespective of the genre, the movie must offer intensity. By the way, the generes I love are - comedy, mafia, war, strong intellect based, and humanity-theme movies.

My acid-test for classifying a movie as "wow" is
  • does it evoke strong emotions in me, while watching, and later?
  • does it rivet me to the seat while watching?
  • does it reflect strong intellect of those who made it?
  • does it give some strong message, that can have lasting value?
  • does it force me to re-watch parts of it again and again? And discuss those with friends?
If the answer is Yes for these, then I fall in love with the movie, never to forget it! I promote the ones I loved a lot. I talk about them, I like sharing things I liked in those movies with others. In this blogpost, let me share the names and key message from some of the movies I have truly loved. Kudos to the creators!

Assuming you have never taken this seriously, this blogpost will share some aspects of how a good learning habit can be developed by wathcing these masterpieces. Taste, after all, defines a man (and woman).

A.I. (Artificial Intelligence)
When I first watched this movie, it made me cry (towards the end when the robot David longs for his human mother). My wife suspiciously looked at me, but I did not stop crying. Tears kept coming.. and I realised the masterly quality of work Spielberg had put into making AI. The story is about a human future where robots are given humanlike emotions (although still classified as mechanical or 'mecha'), and are integated into human families. A lovely kid robot called 'David' does true justice to the genius of his creator (a scientist at a large firm) and proves a good learner of emotions. The world gets inundated (global warming and stuff), and 1000 years later, some creatures are digging up things all over. They find David, recharge his batteries, and all he asks for is a return to his human mother, which the creatures can do, but only for 24 hours, due to the specific limitation in the fabric of space-time. Wow! What a story, what a story! Strongly recommended. But be prepared mentally - it's heavy stuff and not many will like it (especially those accustomed to non-nuanced quick ends). Have seen this more than 10 times so far. Recommended for those who wish to learn more about science, its romance, & its application.

A fantastic case-study on how to make a large number of great elements gel well together, this is the one Indian movie that has it all - emotions, drama, colour, fantasy, love, action, panache and style. I particularly like the timelessness of a lot of scenes in this movie. The flood of ripoffs and spoofs still being made on various parts of this classic point at its eternal appeal. I like the raw emotional display the most. The rawness (purity) in Jay-Veeru's friendship, in Basanti's candour, in Gabbar's villainy, in Mausiji's innocence.. quite amazing. No part of this movie seems fabricated. It's like it must have happened this way. And we must remember that many actors in this movie were not 'great' till the time it was made - they became great later due to this movie. Surprising to see so many elements serendipitously fell in place so beautifully. It's almost as if God wanted it to happen this way. Have seen this movie at least 50 times so far (since childhood). Recommended for those who wish to play in the big league one day!

The Untouchables
The power of character screams through the screen as you travel through the mean streets of Chicago, as Kevin Kostener's team takes on Al Capone's dreaded syndicate. It is nice to see the strength of a cool, calm Treasury officer as he rids Chicago of the alcohol menace (during prohibition years in the US). The beauty of the movie lies in depicting the relationship of trust between till-yesterday-strangers, who come together to form a band of brother to fight crime, and are killed one by one, till the hero gets the better of the situation. The wise Malone (Sean Connery) acts like a true mentor for the daring but inexperienced Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner), whose strength of character is supreme. Best scene : the shot and dying Malone asks Eliot "What are you prepared to do now?" Very moving. And very powerful. Must watch! Recommended for those who realise that strength of character is perhaps the most powerful asset we can possess.

The Shawshank Redemption
Maybe one of Hollywood's greatest. This movie weaves around the theme of eternal hope, and how it can liberate humanity. Andy Dufresne is sent to the notorious and lifeless Shawshank prison for the murder of his wife and secret lover. He is lonely at first, but realizes there is something deep inside him that people can't kill and that is hope. Andy becomes friends with fellow-prisoner Red (Morgan Freeman). As I watched the movie, I started living the story of Andy. Morgan Freeman anyway is Hollywood's eternal moral voice (generally). The discovery that Andy kept removing small bits of the wall by digging with a small tool, year after year, till a big escape tunnel is ready - is stunning. The pacific blue end of the movie is quite overwhelming. An excellent work by the team. Must watch! Recommended for a permanent dose of optimism, specially for those who need it quite frequently.


Surprisingly little-known, this movie is such a nice portrayal of character and action, it forces you to sit back and pray it never ends! Arshad Warsi is at his best. The film is centred on the creation of a Special Task Force (STF) to tackle growing organised crime in UP. The sheer purity of approach and character of the policemen involved makes very interesting learning. The dangers of a regular working day add to the thrill. The choice they make - have to make - and the ultimate sacrifice they make in order to uphold the law of the land has been beautifully depicted. There is no melodrama, no over-acting, no screams, no unnecessary violence. Just what the plot demands. Even the villains are not the screaming-types. And the end is exceptionally moving. The telecom professor who is nowhere involved in actual police operations puts the full stop to the movie by pumping bullets into the dreaded gangster. Simple ideas really, but very nicely filmed. I liked it a lot! Recommended for those who love to be on the right side of law :-)

Matrix (the trilogy)
The Wachowski brother truly cracked it big time with their conceptualisation of a world that's a dream. Yes. In the word of Morpheus (to Neo) - "Imagine, if you were to ever have a dream that was so real that you could not wake up from it, how would you tell the difference between the dream world and the real world?" The movie is so good, it makes you come back again and again. The machines have taken over the world (in near future) and few of the humans left have gone underground and are trying to free those who are enslaved as batteries in a gigantic energy machine created for and by the machines. Wachowskis borrowed heavily from Mahayana Buddhism - the whole thing about what's real and what's not, and so on. The ultra-modern special effects coupled with beautiful performances by everyone makes it quite a show. This is a series of 3 movies - that end with a final message. It has everything - mentor-mentee relationship, lots and lots of ultra-chic action scenes (industry-changing, and much-copied worldwide), fundamental questions, human relationships .. Recommended for those who can go beyond the obvious and search for deeper meanings. "You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, disbelief. Free your mind."

Recommended for those desiring to be really strong on being able to speak on intellectually rich issues.

Bruce Almighty
How difficult it must be to be God! To get a witty and interesting answer, watch this movie. In his absolutely inimitable style, Jim Carrey :-) is gifted the supreme power by God himself - to be the God for a few days and help the world. In just a few days, it all falls apart for poor Jim, as he realises that the millions of emails pouring into his Yawhee mail account, all requesting for some favour or other, can just not be handled. So he does the "Ctrl A, Yes to All" and all hell breaks loose. The movie beautifully carries the message that even if we were to turn into a God, life would not be easy at all. Maybe it will be more difficult. Quite a strong message. And the studio scene is one of the most hilarious I have ever seen. Recommended for those who can appreciate a powerful message wrapped in lovely sensahuma.

I will write more on this later, for sure. There are hundreds of movies that I would love to share my learnings with. We did a fantastic case-study on Jodha Akbar with a group of students last year. If you too would want something like this, let me know. Also, will love to hear which 3 movies have you liked the best!

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Education 3.0

I have spent my entire professional life working with students. It's been a good 17 years now. I have taught almost every single day, prepared courseware for various subjects, read across totally unrelated disciplines, and motivated students to excel in various endeavours. This has given me a SOLID understanding of how effective teaching can be done inside a classroom, why teachers bomb inside classrooms, and why some are heralded as messiahs.

Having been there and done that, as I now peep ahead, and try to envision what learning will become in the future, some strange images start to appear before me. I will try and share those in this blogpost.

Before I talk of the future, a quick recap of the past. I feel there have primarily been two major versions of education system in man's entire journey. Mankind is a recent arrival on this planet, and for the approximately 2 or 3 lac years that we have been around in more or less this modern format (homo sapiens, erect posture etc.), our primary method of education was "Observe, Repeat, Inculcate".

The seniors would hunt, forage or gather, and the juniors would look with interest. Then they would try. And fail. So they would look at the seniors again. And try. And maybe succeed. This method - Observe, Repeat, Inculcate - is what I call mankind's Education System ver 1.0.

The key features of this version 1.0 were -

  1. Unstructured learning experiences - nobody would "instruct", kids would just learn
  2. Holistic learning experiences - the processes were totally 360 degrees (naturally!)
  3. Practical orientation of learning experiences - there were no artificial classrooms
Then came the agricultural revolution around 5000 years ago.. and with it came the formalisation of the society. It is very interesting to note how in just 2000 years, mankind changed its entire appearance. From nomadic groups, we settled into tribes, villages, towns and ultimately cities. And marriage was born. Law and Order was born. Politics was born. Formal Religion was born. And finally, Formal Education was born.

This was Education System ver 2.0. For the first time, with increasing complexity of our societies, the need was felt to structure everything in the learning processes. The Indian Gurukul system stands as a fine example of this exercise. Shishyas (students) would stay with the Gurus (Teachers) in their Ashramas (Boarding Schools) for a long time, and through a detailed formal process, undertake the process of learning and preparing for life.

As the Industrial Revolution picked pace, jobs became more and more specialised. And thus arose the need to further offer learning solutions for specialised domains. This fragmented the education system and "specialisations" arose across the world, across "domains". As society's complexity grew even more, the number and range of specialisations grew. The Education System ver 2.0 became more and more formalised and fragmented.

The key features of this newer version 2.0 were -
  1. Structured learning experiences - teachers would formally instruct kids
  2. Fragmented learning experiences - learning was broken up into separate pieces
  3. Theoretical orientation of learning experiences - artificial classrooms created artificial, theoretical experiences
Although the version 2.0 had these apparent drawbacks, it has persisted for (thousands of) years now. That's because it prepares its participants (students) wonderfully well for a narrow range of activities expected out of them in a specialised domain. Nothing more. If someone wants to have a broad-brush type of expertise, he/she has to personally make the effort, mostly out of the formal domain, to learn newer things regularly. The version 2.0 simply adjusted itself to the new reality - a society that wanted more and more specialised knowledge, and took pride in it.

Then came the 1950s. With the knowledge revolution taking shape (the first silicon chip was made around this time), it soon became apparent that the version 2.0 will not suit our evolving needs fully. Dr Peter F Drucker beautifully envisioned it back then, and wrote about the emergence of a "knowledge society" and a "knowledge worker". That surely happened through 1960s, 70s, 80s and the 90s.

But while this was happening, the world was becoming a more and more integrated place. The rapid spread of the idea of globalisation across the world led to sharing of common practices. And these were across domains. Social, political, cultural - all kinds of practices began taking an amorphous global contour. Indians started enjoying McDonalds as much as Americans started revering Yoga.

And how did "the idea of globalisation" spread so rapidly around the world? Well, technology ensured that. Computers, telecommunication and internet all came together in a potent mix to change our perceptions from local to global.

But strangely, the extremely rigid structure of Education System version 2.0 refused to change. Call it inertia or the reputation of the solidified (ossified) Universities around the world, the methods and processes used to teach and learn more or less have remained the same the world over. Even where technology seems to have entered the classroom, nothing much has changed. At least, the teachers' mindsets have not.

But the final nail in the coffin of version 2.0 will soon be struck. And I personally feel that "the irrepresible rise of online Social Media (OSM)" will do that.


Look at how a kid of say, 12 years, today leads out his/her life. He attends school daily, which is a pretty linear experience - everything is a straight line, fixed books, fixed syllabus, fixed friends, fixed teachers, fixed classrooms, fixed holidays (declared months in advance - I often suspect most schoolowners find this part most exciting and rewarding), fixed everything - and comes back home. And then jumps into his virtual world which is a totally 360 degrees experience.

While he is online, the kid does Social Media of all kinds. Facebook. Orkut. Twitter. Skype. Each one of these pulls his imagination into multiple directions with totally random inputs emanating from who-knows-where-next. Chat. SMS. Video. Talk. He keeps inputting his data and wisdom (whatever) into the media, and shares it with the world. The world is doing the same with him. There are no boundaries. There is nothing linear. And I have not even started talking about Video Games so far! When he opens the games sites, a whole new world of mind-body challenge is awaiting his daring escapades. (My friend Vishal Gondal (God-in-chief, IndiaGames) will be happy to learn that I am a big votary of using video-games as part of regular learning processes. I am, in fact, about to implement some parts of this philosophy at my business school PROTON, starting with a daylong video-gaming competition designed to bring out the best of mind-body coordination, strategic planning and operations skills, in my students.)

And then this schoolkid of ours goes to bed, wakes up, and re-enters his linear world of modern schooling! Ahhh.

{ Don't underestimate the power of social media. They are not just playtools. They are powerful catalysts of change. Social change. Any professional who has worked with/on/for softwares in his official work environment knows how boring, unidimensional and gray they can look and feel. The world of online social media (Wikis, Waves, Blogs, Diggs, StumbleUpons..) can be totally different. Colourful. Stable. Unrestricted. Multi-dimensional. High-performance. I personally feel some of the world's best brains are designing these 'sites' and the technology being used is so user-friendly (it has to be, else how will 300 million users work on it regularly with so few glitches!) it makes one salivate. So when I talk of OSM, I refer to the whole suite of technologies that are being built to address every conceivable niche of our communication and learning needs. }

OK! I know you don't quite agree. You feel this is not representative of all kids. Agreed! But for how long will we be able to hold onto that argument? Another year? Three years? Even in developing world countries, the inevitable rise of living standards, 3G, internet penetration and computer hardware (inside homes) will mean every kid has access to all this. And as NIIT's pathbreaking "hole-in-the-wall" experiment with disadvantaged kids has proven, it will take an amazingly short period of time for students of young age to master these new technologies. At least - the operational part of it (if not the design and programming part). And they do it best when left unsupervised!

And what will happen then?

Will this total disparity between a formal linear learning world (school), and an unrestricted multi-dimensional 360 degrees not create big questions?

I was lucky to have been pulled into the online world around June 2008 through a rather inspirational invite to join LinkedIn from my roommate of IIT-Delhi days (who heads McKinsey KC ops in India). Ever since, I have spent quality time online discovering the seemingly limitless possibilities OSM offers.

While I do not recommend we tear down the version 2.0 totally, I do suggest we take a hard look at what components are useful for the next decades, and discard the rest.

A cursory glance at the prism of OSM in the image above will convince you of the possibilities of new-gen learning / collaboration / working I refer to. So, let's move to the questions now!
  • What will (should) classrooms of the future look like?
  • How can we leverage the power of OSM in learning experiences?
  • How can we integrate formal teaching with audio-visual-sensory-etc. media?
  • What should be the role of teachers in these classrooms of the future?
  • What should students' approach be, in these learning environments of the future?
  • What should learning processes be designed to achieve in the world of the future?
  • What kind of a world are we (should we be) preparing everyone for?
  • What skills will effective teachers of the future need?
  • How soon can a smooth transition from ver 2.0 to 3.0 be made?
Remember, the physical world of the future is far more integrated and seamless than we can visualise. In that kind of a world, what kind of skills will make people successful? Linear? Or 360 degrees?

Welcome to the brave new world of Education System version 3.0.

Shall I end without playing the devil's advocate? Not at all. I wonder, when all this technology stuff will fill our daily world, our homes, our classrooms (whatever shape they would've taken by then), our mobilesets and what not.. how will our kids learn most basic human values - empathy, teamwork, compassion, truthfulness, ethics, professionalism?

Will love to hear your comments.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Success secrets - The "3 Idiots" case study

Now that it is widely acknowledged as one of the highest grossers of all times, and has turned into a nationwide rage, I present my analysis of what really made the movie "3 IDIOTS" click big time. I have seen its impact on my own students - at PT, PROTON and SBM. There is no problem in getting an Aal Izz Well in melodious chorus from the lot! That's pretty significant. The youth have made it their own. And every time I think of this phemonenon, I realise it's an entire case-study in management! For the eager learner, the lessons are plenty. Here goes..

  1. Correct Subject : The movie's broad subject-line (and primary target audience) could not have been chosen any better. The most influential demographic segment of India - youth - had their angst reflected beautifully in the movie. The issues that affect the youth the most - career, college, jobs, values, family expectations, personal choice - were all neatly captured in the 3 hours drama. Today almost all sections of the youth (rural, semi-rural, semi-urban, and definitely urban) have realised that education is the key to salvation. And in this journey to "get educated", the challenges that they face are precisely the centre point of discussion in this movie.
  2. Correct Timing : For the urban youth, several questions have arisen in the past 20 months. In the wake of global recession, a lot of assumptions have been put to test. Easy money, easy jobs, easy placements, easy promotions - everything is under a question. The stress has suddenly shifted from 'getting a job' to 'getting a meaningful education that makes you capable of a job'. And this is a really dramatic shift. The movie tries capturing this fundamental issue in a sense. So there is a connect. Yes, I understand that the movie does not talk about recession per se, but it talks about the pangs of finding a job, which is almost as good as that!
  3. Core Message of Excellence : It is noteworthy that the movie appeals to almost all age groups. Why? The serious message given in the movie relates to the issue of career choices - should they be dictated purely by a pre-1990 mindset (that most parents still live with), or should they reflect the reality of a modern and economically liberalised India? Today, being an Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer or CA are not the only ways to ensure a respectable living for oneself. There are many more options that are at least economically lucrative - you can be a sportsperson, an event-manager, or a radio-jockey, for example. The movie appeals to youth on its message of freedom to choose what they want to (or are in love with, assuming they really know what that means). At the same time, the movie appeals to parents and teachers (like me) through its message of "Chase excellence and success will automatically chase you." I could literally hear myself speaking through Aamir Khan... in all my classes I have cried myself hoarse reminding young people that your 20s are the years when you should be totally focussing on slogging like donkeys to develop skillsets and command in your chosen field of work. Success in monetary terms is bound to follow. But, if you chase money through your 20s, misery is guaranteed in the rest of your career. I doubt whether students (youngsters) have really picked up this core message. It will be a tragedy if despite this mind-boggling success of this movie, they haven't.
  4. Slick Presentation : The continuously improving quality of film-making in India has added to the appeal of this movie. The look and feel is totally contemporary. While watching the movie, you feel the colours and the tones inside you. It's clean. It's slick. It's cool. It's young.
  5. Perfect Cast : Well, Aamir, you are God! The sheer youthful exuberance and acting talent of the 44-year old actor pulled crowds to the screens in the first few days, and the audience that saw in the initial stages was so delighted, the movie reached a tipping point of success. Word-of-mouth spread by the minute, and it turned into a deluge. I doubt anyone else other than Aamir could have created this tipping point. The movie would have done well, but that's about it. Sharman and Madhavan ended up making 1+1+1=33, but in Aamir's absence, they may just have remained what the title said - 3.
  6. Heady Cocktail of Themes : A close examination reveals that the Director and Producer duo has intelligently mixed all ingredients needed for success, with such a target audience. You have a heady cocktail of an arrogant college Director who gets beaten blue by the Hero's tactics (oh, so desirable!), there's a family boy who prays day in and day out (yes, I do it too!), there's a troubled family with the burden of a loan to repay (oh, that's me! that's me!), an exceedingly beautiful and intelligent young lady (oh, how I desire I find someone like that!), a cheeky young man who is always rebelling (how nice to see someone else do it!), a suicide attempt by a poorly performing student (how sad ! how sad!), the ultimate victory of brains over money (how gratifying in my society!), and the supposed insider look at the most hallowed portals to intellectual and coporate stardom in India - the IITs (projected as ICE in the film). There is no way this combination of themes was going to fail.
  7. Soul-stirring Music and Lyrics : There is something magical about the music and lyrics of this movie. Aal Izz Well captures the youth's mood like nothing else. You have to see a hall-full of young people shout it out in melodious chorus to be able to believe how deep its appeal has been. See it here!

    It is quite apparent that the pressures of performing well in academics and life (in general) are fairly high for our young women and men. This single song - Aal Izz Well -  ended up giving the Indian youth an outlet for all its anger and frustration, and that too in a melodious and non-violent way. Now that's what you call a coup. A master stroke. You do not offend anyone, and yet end up creating a vent for social anger. Beautiful. Those who find this difficult to digest are advised to listen to the song carefully without prejudice, and then maybe you will understand. Personally, the author is of the opinion that the song could well qualify for our National Motivational Anthem. Seriously! And the other songs of the movie are equally solid. Moving. Melodious. Meaningful. So what you see is a great theme, played out be great actors, supported by a great music. Not bad at all.
  8. Combined Credibility : The combined credibility of the 3 - M/s Chopra, Hirani and Aamir - was so strong that audience were willing to put up even with the extremely delicate depictions that could have easily slipped into the domain of the "vulgar and obnoxious". The ragging scenes with juniors dropping their pants and exposing their colourful behinds, and the repeated use of Hindi terms like "balaatkaar" were simply taken with a pinch of salt by the audience and brushed aside as an important element of the movie without which the youthful college life could not have been picturised. Imagine the use of these stunts in a movie not made by Chopra, not directed by Hirani, and not carried by Aamir! Disaster.
  9. Easy, Easy! : The Indian youth, it seems, is sick and tired of being preached to by their parents, teachers and seniors. The continuous barrage of high-sounding sermons is quite heavy and monotonous. And when these very values were presented in an EASY format, everyone was happy. It caters to the innate sense of being moral and toeing the official line, and at the same time looks and feels cool. That's pretty strong. Aamir was never in a preaching mood in the movie. There wasn't a single scene of violence in the movie. It was fun, always. And that's what the youth want. Wake up teachers & parents of India.. wake up!
I guess this is a grand success secret for anyone looking to launch a product for youth in the Indian markets. The learnings go beyond the immediate and the obvious.

Jab life ho out of control, hothon ko kar ke gol, seeti baja ke bol ......

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Learning entrepreneurship lessons

I recently delivered a talk as part of the get-together of students of FMB programme of SP Jain institute Mumbai. They wanted me to share nuggets of experience I have had as an entrepreneur! I hope I did a good job, and did not scare them too much.

My entrepreneurship experience spans 17 years now, across several enterprises I have tried to build. More information can be seen at

The key points of the talk were
  1. Understanding oneself : It is very important for an entrepreneur (and others too) to understand who they really are. What excites them.. what is it that will drive them for years on end.. what will bring a twinkle in their eyes.. what will create moments of happiness again and again.. Once this is clear in the mind, the efforts can be readily focussed towards creating one's career as an entrepreneur in that particular direction only. There is no point in trying to be everything to everybody - it is not possible. It is far better to be an expert at something, even if it is being a generalist, and then stick to that as long as it is rewarding for yourself. If you do not do this, then there is a lack of sense of purpose in life. You get up in the morning thinking of a long day ahead full of drudgery and tasks, rather than a set of interesting challenges ahead waiting to be tackled head on.
  2. Creating a personal brand : Before you contemplate creating a brand of the various product(s) that your company might be making, consider creating your own brand. Your personal brand. What does the market think of YOU? What is YOUR image in the world? Amongst your relatives, friends, family? Chances are, what they think of you is going to deeply affect the prospects of every future material brand you may launch. It is rare that you enjoy a frivolous image, and your created brands enjoy a serious image. Your personal brand is likely to cast a shadow - positive or negative - on everything you do as an entrepreneur. So invest heavily in creating your personal brand. How to do that? Well, that's a long discussion reserved for some other occasion.
  3. Getting priorities right : You have only 24 hours to the day, and there is no way you are going to be able to do beyond a certain number of things each day. So as an entrepreneur, you will be daily faced with the Hobson's choice - the need and desire to be involved in virtually everything in your organisation v/s the practical limits of time and energy available to do all that. These small small choices you make on a daily basis add up significantly over a period of time. So learn to say NO to the stupid and senseless tasks, and YES to every task that in some way will have a medium to long term impact.
  4. Not taking anybody's nonsense : As the head of your business enterprise, it is your sacred duty towards your balance sheet that you learn to call people's bluff. You will come across many consultants, advisors and wise-men who will charge you for bluffing you. I do not mean any disrespect towards such people but the fact is - Any entrepreneur who is seen as an idiot will be treated like one. So you better learn the basics clearly. Step One : what is it that you want from an external consultant, be clear in your mind. Step Two : Make it clear to the consultant. Twice. In simple language. Step Three : Be demanding in delivery. Step Four : Reject bullshit totally. Even if it looks rude, do not accept bullshit.
  5. Readiness to be un-popular : Well, this one is fairly simple. Love your people, but be clear regarding processes and systems. Our first priority is survival and growth of the brand, for if that is dead, everyone else is dead too. In trying to ensure this, you will be faced with several decision situations where really tough calls need to be made. Do not fail yourself on such strategic moments. Make those tough decisions. In the long run, that's the only way a robust brand / enterprise can be built. Remember General Motors' classic folly. They kept on bending backwards to accommodate the United Auto Workers (Union) for many decades. The payouts washed out the net worth of the company itself. So surely, that wasn't wise!
  6. An eye on cost, and another on profit : Wherever synergy is possible, extract it from the system. Costs = Money drained out of the system forever. Hence, Costs = Basically a bad thing. Hence Costs = Evil. Hence costs need to be contained wherever possible. Of course, quality promised to the customer should never be compromised with, but intelligent optimisation is always welcome. As for profits, it is the final duty of the entrepreneur to ensure that the enterprise makes profits. Healthy profits. No one else can ensure that, or take charge of that responsibility. Only the entrepreneur is responsible for that.
  7. Systems, processes, discipline : To grow beyond a certain stage, you will need to create your replicas. Since cloning is still not a feasible solutions, processes are the clones that will help you replicate yourself or at least your vision across more business units. So if you want to grow, and that is really not a choice (but a necessity), you will need to start developing a process mindset. Find out what all can be made to work without your personal presence. Force yourself to disengage from some parts of the enterprise sometimes. Slowly, a system traction will develop in the enterprise that will help you in the long run.
This was the gist of the talk I presented. I guess it helped them, because the Professor in-charge Madam Latha Nair decided to felicitate me with a really beautiful gift :-). Over dinner, as I interacted with students, parents and the Professor, I realised that the overall experience of this FMB programme was opening up a wide range of possibilities for the participants. Good work!