Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Women of India rise against rape

System versus the People
The Indian capital and the Indian media have witnessed a turbulent period recently. Much to the chagrin of the ruling classes (who'd prefer a docile politically dead youth anytime), the educated urban youth of India actually came out in strength on the main street of Delhi - the Rajpath - demanding replies from the rulers. As expected, no replies were forthcoming. Leaders were not to be seen when needed the most. Hiding behind the vast paraphernalia of an inert, inept "system", the leaders let the protests take an ugly turn. Today, a horrified youth is witnessing various organs of the state fighting with each other (instead of focusing on the main issue - women's rights and dignity), and - as various sections of the media allege - trying to destroy a genuine movement of resistance (against an apathetic system) by hyping the story of one dead gentleman constable. May the departed soul rest in peace - but hundreds of women are raped and killed brutally each year. No leader or policeman expresses similar grave anguish then. So as the media alleges, the farce is clear for everyone to see - calling a spade a spade will do no harm.

In this entire episode, over the past 10 days, I wrote some pieces expressing my experiences. Here is the first:

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Garbage Needs a Thought!

Standing atop my terrace, I observed the garbage collection system this morning.

A neat cycle-trolley was being steered out of the residential colony by an official Municipal employee. The cart was painted - Indore Municipality - and had neat polythene bags stacked inside, apparently collected door-to-door.

Her milk is what some will drink
I was very happy to see that there is a functioning garbage disposal system. Then came the shocker. 

The cart reached the big metal garbage container on the main street. And I assumed that the person will now empty everything into the main container. These containers are then taken for emptying by big trucks that pick them up every 2-3 days, and then replace them again (emptied).

But no.

He emptied everything on the road just all around the container (the service road on which the big container is put). Then two rag-picker girls with their sacks came along quickly. They rummaged through the fresh garbage, and collected useful things and left. Then 6 cows came, and started opening (through force of their mouths and hoofs) the polythenes and consuming the rubbish happily. Then the cycle-cart wallah himself collected useful stuff and put it into his own cart.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Power thoughts for professionals

I started compiling some of the recent updates made by me on LinkedIn, and here is the collection. Enjoy!

What surely happens when we die? In less than a 1000 days (3 yrs) almost every single trace - physical and emotional - would get washed away. So whatever we are doing now, howsoever good it may be, has actually zero permanent value. But we can't stop living actively.. so the trick is "Participate in life and work whole-heartedly and stay disconnected from any notion of material permanence."


Q. What does a crisis achieve? Ans. Three things. 1 - it tells you who your enemies are (by thoughts and in action), 2. it identifies the fence-sitters, and 3. it clearly brings out the loyalists in your life. An entrepreneur or professional who has only tasted success but faced no crisis has led a half-life, oblivious of the truth behind all the fawning and friendly faces.


Don't treat special privileges that your near-ones or company grant you, as your birth-right. Treat them as a great temporary boon from God. They may disappear any moment. Don't regret then. Be thankful while it lasted.


POWER TIP FOR FRESHERS : Anyone who is really good at MS-Excel is blessed with a booster attached to his/her career. A worthy investment.


If you work entirely in 'white', you soon get beaten blue and black by those who prefer working in 'black'. Ambiguous morality in money matters is considered disjoint from overall morality, in India. Everyone knows it, and everyone is happy pretending.


If you wish to have the combined thrill of a bungee jump, river rafting, mountain hiking, parajumping and a jungle trek, just become an entrepreneur in India. Daily delivery of all these guaranteed.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big 5 lessons from Apple's success

Eye-popping sales figures... Industry-shaping technological prowess... Mind-numbing financial strength

What a tremendous success it has been! The Apple juggernaut has trounced all pundits' expectations, steam-rolled all competition into pulp, gatecrashed into the 'PC' market with unquantifiable fury, and totally destroyed all existing business models in its industry.

It is a heart-warming story for those who have followed (the late) Steve Jobs' life and times.

It is a detestable nightmare for the likes of HP, Dell, Microsoft, RIM, Nokia and Google.

It is grand fodder for case-studies that are being churned from leading b-schools portals.

But what is it that's made this amazing success possible? Can it be replicated by Apple itself in the future, or by anyone else? How far can Apple really go? Will it end sometime?

Here is my analysis of the Big 5 lessons from Apple's decade of uncontrolled steam-rolling, left-right-and-centre!

1. Mega success is a unique template
Really big successes - where companies trample everyone else and romp home with full glory - are almost always based on unique business models. There is nothing "standardisable" about such models except the underlying features - genuinely unique disruptive models, firm belief in what the company is trying to achieve, and a loyal fan base. So Apple's model of success just cannot get replicated by someone else. Students of management will remind us of the commoditisation phenomenon, rightly. But other than that, corporate history teaches us that such "repeats" by someone else is almost impossible. Just check out the stories of Microsoft, GE, WalMart, McDonalds, Dell, and Google to get a feel. In each of these cases, no one could repeat their business models with similar success rates.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The sands of time

I wrote this two years ago. It's rather special, and today is the right time to share it once again with all of you!
- - - - - - 

It was a call from my elder brother, a doctor himself, that alerted me to the possibility. It was a second call 10 minutes later that jolted me into action. I rushed to the hospital. And found my father on the ICU bed. He was no more.

On 31st of March 2002, I was on a routine visit to the Indore centre of Professional Tutorials. It was a Sunday, but an audit was overdue, and I was conducting it alongwith the entire team at the centre. Around 12:45pm, my mobile phone rang. Deep into the audit, it took me some rings before I took the call. "Come to the hospital, Dad is not well", said my brother from the other side. "Sure, I will", I said and continued with the audit, hoping to finish it in another 30 minutes. In just 10 minutes, the phone rang again and my brother, slightly more impatient this time round, said "Come NOW."

I rushed out of the office knowing fully well what that tone of voice could mean. And my worst fears were proven true when I entered the ICU of the hospital. My father was on the bed, and a doctor was desperately trying to arouse him from his sleep, pushing a big needle into his heart, with some medicine that's supposed to act as a life-safer in cardiac arrests. I realised that the time has come for me to realise what he had told me earlier on more than one occasions -"A day will come when you will have to realise that we all travel alone, and it is our duty to give happiness to as many as we can in this journey. We must give back to society much more than we take from it."

These were precisely the words I used while designing the obituary advt in next day's newspapers. I hope it gave him happiness that I remembered.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Indian GDP's explosive imbalance

Let truth prevail
It makes for an impressive headline across India's newspapers each year - "Services sector leads sectoral growth once again; clocks double-digit growth, pushes GDP above 7%".
The latest Economic Survey of India (2011-12) presented in March 2012 pegs the share of Services in India's GDP at a staggering 59%. Agriculture and Industry both account for the rest.

Such a figure not only makes a great headline, but creates a great comfort zone for our politicians. They love it. It gives them something to showcase, and hide the systemic faults. It creates a strong illusion that the entire economy is moving forward at a good pace. An illusion that somehow the great discomfort that stems from poor contributions from both the agriculture and industry sectors can be padded using the impressive growth figures of the services sector. And to top it, taxing this sector gives easy recourse to funds.

But the truth is far from this.

The truth is :
Among the three, the Services sector - by its very nature - is the poorest employer of people. And when such a sector starts dominating the GDP with the wild swagger that we see today, it's the most visible sign that a stage of imbalance has already been reached.

The risk of such an imbalance is clear : Large employment disparity, leading to social chaos. 

Trained manpower is in abundant shortage
India is a huge country, with present population nearing 120 crores (1.2 billion) people. Services sector at present does not employ more than 10-15% of the population. A huge 75% plus of India's working population works in its most unproductive sectors - agriculture and industry.

We cannot ever hope that the service sector will become the biggest employer, or a mass-rapid employer, because it needs "skilled" manpower, and those skills take time to develop; and it has been proven through many studies that the Indian mainstream education system has shamefully failed in staying apace with what corporates want today. Even the National Skills Development Mission cannot hope to remedy the situation because by the time its efforts will start paying off in a big way (if they ever), the imbalance will have tilted the ship over.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why reading is no longer a popular sport,
How do I start?
Talk to any young person and you realise that the one habit that has taken the maximum hit due to other temptations of the modern world is "reading".

It seems that the young have simply either given up reading, or have restricted themselves to the narrow niches of their professional needs. Broad, generalist readers are a diminishing community. If things go the way they are, it's a matter of time before a fitting RIP is written for this tribe.

Why is this happening? Some reasons I think are important -
  1. False illusion due to social media : Since a lot of youngsters spend a lot of time doing social media networking, there is a false sense of having done a lot of "reading" directly or indirectly through social media itself! Nothing could be far from the truth. The superficial, cursory and utterly peremptory scanning of the written content on Facebook or Twitter can hardly qualify as genuine reading. Still, many feel so. 
  2. Lack of peaceful reading time : The lifestyles of many do not allow clear reading time slots. There's just so much noise. The mobile radios, the iPods, the earplugs, the incessant chatter online... it kills the very concept of locking oneself in a corner of your home/room and dedicating some time to pure reading pleasure. This gradually develops into a pattern - people just give up reading. And when it is indeed available, the depth of silence feels too heavy.
  3. Strong negative spiral : Unfortunately, once you lock yourself into a negative pattern of habits like the one described above, there's little chance of breaking free. Partially because one does not realise it, and partially because there's the lack of a relevant shock, things continue the way they are. And deteriorate further. Reading is like tilling a land.. you stop and it degrades.
  4. Lack of inspiring seniors : College and schools do not inspire youngsters much when it comes to reading. Neither do seniors who can drive young people through sheer example. So a kind of societal stamp is acquired unknowingly and the bad habit of poor reading proliferates!
The damage that this does to young professionals is immense. Some pointers:
  • Utter lack of depth : many youngsters just do not understand issues as deeply as they should
  • Lack of confidence : scratch below the surface of claims being made, and you realise there's little gravamen below. It's positively scary
  • Poor decision making skills : the more we know about the world around us, the better we can connect the dots and move ahead in a more concrete fashion
All these are rather demoralising facts! But no damage is permanent. And you can do a lot to rebuild the edifice. Some simple suggestions:
  1. Visualise yourself making better decisions : think of yourself in a complicated decision making situation. And imagine that you knew a lot more about the world, its working components, human behaviour, the economy, the nations in turmoil, and so on. There's a fair chance that you will react much better to the challenges facing you.
  2. Keep a slot everyday : start small. Fix a slot of 10 minutes religiously, per day, that you'll devote only to yourself, sitting in a corner/on your study table, with serious reading stuff. Let this time slot grow slowly, gradually. There's no hurry.
  3. Cut down on your internet consumption and TV time : Try reducing your social media time, and the time you spend in front of the idiot box. While it is wrong to ask of anyone to eliminate TV from their schedules (given the amazingly high quality content that appears frequently on TV nowadays), there's a lot of sick and ordinary stuff that cuts into precious time you could devote to your self-development.
  4. Read what you like, first : In order to not get bogged down by stuff that does not interest you, read what you like, first. Don't get into reading things that do not instinctively interest you. As you grow in stature as a reader, your interests will grow too.
  5. Get into debates and discussions : Nothing stimulates your desire to read more than a pleasant experience of "showing-off" your knowledge in a discussion :)  I mean that in a positive and healthy way. So get into debates with intelligent people often. Talk about what's happening in the world - the Arab spring, the resurgence of oil and coal, the uncertainty of the Chinese economic miracle, the problems facing developing nations, gender equality, financial planning, etc. It'll stimulate and grow your existence manifold.
Reading was, and remains, the best self-development tool. Do not underestimate its importance. Start now - it's not too late. Invest slowly, steadily and let it work for you. All the best!

Here's a detailed analysis of an article on the same topic which appeared in a newspaper. Watch the session for some more insights. Enjoy! (more such sessions here)

Perhaps I should rephrase the title to "Why reading is no longer a popular sport - and what can be done about it"  :)


Friday, February 24, 2012

Getting started on Social Media? Five tips for you!

If you are one of the thousands who are just about to start their journey on the Social Media highway, and are eyeing a serious payoff from your efforts online, here are five powerful and direct tips to help you make your journey truly rewarding!

Let's fish!
Social Media is an extremely powerful, useful and evolving monster. It is huge, defies limiting definitions, and can cut both ways. If mastered properly from the beginning, then it may be extremely rewarding in the mid to long term. If done without a consistent thought, then efforts are likely to result more in frustration. And since the ocean of social media is teeming with all kinds of resplendent fish, it's important to learn some basics of fishing!

Here goes!

First Power Tip:  IT TAKES TIME

If you have just started building your serious presence on online platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger, YouTube etc., then remember the first golden rule - it takes significant time to develop rich, deep profiles that will interest a steady stream of followers. It just does not happen overnight. In that sense, social media property development resembles body building. It grows with time only. So do not be too impatient and even if you are, do not be frustrated with results too soon. Wait, and keep fertilising and irrigating your properties regularly. Incrementally, you will see growth. So, for example, your number of Facebook friends may grow much faster than the number of LinkedIn connections. That's how it generally is. So relax and let it happen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spiritual management of traffic stress

I live in a beautiful mid-size town - Indore (MP) - that has an amazing sense of traffic. People create their own rules, and  live strictly by them. Some such rules that I have encountered are:

  • Move when the lights are red, and stop when green
  • Stop ahead of the 'stop-line'
  • Criss-cross the road without warning
  • Never cross the road at the zebra crossing

Many more ingenious versions of these exist in my nice little town.

Now as I am a law-abiding citizen, this gets me really worked up badly. I get angry when I see that a lot of citizens are simply, blatantly, and without a sense of remorse breaking all traffic rules. I start cursing them, and swearing at them, and ultimately have a bad headache.

A practising manager's spiritual pursuit
of equilibrium amidst chaos
And the beauty of it all : nothing changes! In fact, it gets worse by the day :)

So I have found a cure for this huge internal strife that goes on everyday I drive in my town. This intelligent formula is what I call "A practising manager's spiritual pursuit of equilibrium amidst traffic chaos". I will be submitting the writeup of this theory to one of the new IIMs soon for a technical paper presentation, under the modern evolving HR theme (the older, more established ones may not entertain me). Perhaps one of the leading newspapers will also feature me on their front page, with a catchy headline.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When not to take advice seriously

Live it to know it
If you are a start-up entrepreneur, you have faced it frequently. Advisors of all hues and shades - well-meaning and otherwise - telling you what to do and how to do. Even when no advice is sought, there will be many who'll not miss out on the opportunity to advise you; there seems to be some kind of a pleasure in trying to show the path to a start-up entrepreneur.

But beware ye Entrepreneur!

If the advisor is not of the same fraternity, discount his words heavily. Do not take them too seriously. And for sure, do not act on such pieces of wisdom immediately. Think hard before you accept any such wisdom as gospel truth.

There are good reasons for my saying so.

Only those who are in the active role of an entrepreneur - especially the start-up ones - face the following realities:

  1. Fear of death : If the business model does not work out, and the revenues do not flow in, it could be sudden death with no second chance in the immediate future. All the dreams, the presentations, the excel-charts vaporise instantly
  2. Fear of growing unprofitable : The business may be pulling in revenues, but the profits may just not be happening, thereby making the mid-term prospects of the venture suspect. No one may be interested in funding you anymore
  3. Fear of losing everything one has : If the business collapses, then a lot of emotional investment that happens in it goes with it too.. sure you become wiser, but the pain is harrowing. A daily dose of "we told you so..." is likely to follow
Only an entrepreneur who has lived through the daily pain (and pleasure) of facing these brutal realities knows how things get done under such pressures.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

When professional meetings are a pleasure!

There are various experiences that come our way, when we meet people. Especially so in the professional world.

I add value - do I?
We spend our most crucial resource - time - in meeting others, and sharing ideas, thoughts, secrets and expecting to learn from them.

One of the most interesting forms of meetings is an
open-ended industry-discussion. The participants wish to discuss the present state of the industry they are in, and speculate on the future direction of the same.

It turns out that there are three kinds of experiences one can get, in the course of such professional meetings, depending on the quality of the people.

I. The donkey bray:
This is a rather unfortunate waste of time as the other person(s) have little value to add to the discussion going on. Either all are clueless, or one is not and the rest are. If only a couple are good, it creates a complete imbalance in the discussion as invariably, many will be left out. If no one has any clue, it's a total waste.

Cause: Idiots all around!

Outcome / Solution: Pray to God, end it fast, and run.