Thursday, December 2, 2010
Change always comes for a reason- why would you like to mend something that is not broken. Change on a personal level is less turbulent. Our own self is aware as to what we trying to achieve. So every step taken is in view of our larger goal making it less self conflicting. This aided with our strong belief that we never err or we are making a decision backed by our conviction results in change implementation.
I came across a psychological analysis which said that if we in our current state with all the variables put together are a 100%, our ability to change is only 15% in total across all variables. This means if I have 10 habits which can be termed as vices, I can achieve 15% change at maximum on only one habit at any give point. Now that is bad news for anyone hoping a big makeover in a short span.
When I hear of change, I can’t help but recall the ‘We can change’ speech by Obama in his presidential campaign in South Carolina. He was referring to a more social change but did quote the following, ‘The change we seek has always required great struggle and great sacrifice…. So let me remind you tonight that change will not be easy. Change will take time. There will be setbacks and false starts and sometimes we'll make mistakes.’
These words possibly paved the way for Obama to the Oval office.
This above mentioned is the most difficult change to implement or even design. If this was the CEO of an organization making a speech, the same words will inspire hope as well as fear in the minds. Unless it is war- struggle and sacrifice is not acceptable, time is a luxuary, and false starts and mistakes will always see someone’s work and life going down the drain.
It is this fear amongst the herd that keeps the corporate world honchos away from talking to their own people. This fear is pretty similar to what most of us felt when told that a tincture of iodine was going to be applied to a wound. But sadly there is something everyone says while applying iodine, ‘there will be no pain…' and though it does, that one statement is a reassurance. It is saying in many ways that it is gonna be ‘we’ who will see this through.
I thereby say that an important part of Change in an organization is the communication regarding the change. We are conditioned to see through pain with a reassuring communication. But in the absence of it, the situation is much like our experiential learning from childhood… it is going to be painful; may be so much that they don’t even want to talk about it.
It is rather surprising that most organizations will rather offer candy perks of mid-term bonus to be happy today rather than talking to their own people convincing them of a stable future. It is like telling someone to eat today, be happy and forget about the tomorrow he might not have enough for food for himself and his family.
Comforting CHANGE huh?????
Friday, October 29, 2010
I recently had a meeting at work with a company offering telecom service solutions for marketing purpose. The meeting was primarily academic for me meant to know what kind of latest service is being offered on the platform. So no matter how low the neck was, how often the bending or strong eye contact- I wasn’t buying anything.
Representing an American company, the lady tried to tell me about how the US market was different, how Japan was going and the greatest distinction about mobile maturity- “Do Disturb” as an option rather than “Do Not Disturb”. So people actually subscribe to calls or SMS they need- considering no one wants to get sued for flooding data to anyone.
I never knew how priceless that can be until today. Sure I do get messages and calls from obscure sources- but what came today was simply the most stunning bit of conversation I have come across in a long time. Not only it left me somewhere between enraged and stunned- I possibly gave the maximum X-rated response (from me) ever on phone.
The call came from some agency in Hyderabad facilitating Visa formalities for overseas resettling (yes, not jobs). I believe all Calling Executive have some basic training- I wonder how this lady might have got through. Every sentence in that call was a notch above on the stupid scale to what ever the lady said before.
The conversation began on the note:"Sir am I talking to Tushar Jamb... whatever... "… (Did she just call me WHATEVER??? – can’t even read a screen but have some prospect for me- wow). Ignoring the error, I decided to go and hear out beyond.
“We help with migration Visa for 7 countries...”, “So U wanna send me abroad- ok... to where?... “Sir to Singapore...” (Sure I didn’t enjoy the place but it might be good to earn in dollars for a change)…”Sir, we will do all your PR Visa work... it takes about 6 months”…
Now this is strange stuff, no job offer so far… what is this call for??? “Can you tell me what's PR Visa?”… “It is Permanent Resident- so u can go with your family to Singapore for ever…”- This certainly is not a HR Consultant. I decided to go on just to get to the bottom of this- “Ahem!! Ok... and what do I do in Singapore” ... “Sir, we will organize job interviews for u, once u go there...”
I knew of job scams in Punjab and Kerala, this one is not even offering a job. But I just went on expecting sadistic pleasure. “Amazing- what kinda jobs” ... “Sir u in Marketing- so lots of jobs” , “Really??? I haven't seen one”; No sir, lots of jobs- we assure interviews…”
So I land in Singapore and they gimme interviews, what a scam. I tried my smart trick, “ok... so fix me an interview, I get the job, go on a work permit and then u start for the PR Visa”, “No Sir, Job only after PR Visa”
I decided to call it off and said thank you and thought it was over. But with the persuasiveness only rivaled by Insurance agents or the Sindhi shopkeepers in Gandhi Market, she struck back with renewed spirit: “Sir, are u married?”, “What??? How does it matter here?”
The next line was the killer blow, a testimony to the fact that English is a foreign language and we still at time have no clue of what we speak-
“Sir, why don't u try?”
(huh, what the hell is this lady talking about?) “try what? Getting married or Singapore?”
The conversation beyond had to be edited due to high blood pressure effects, use of language ranging from astronomy to gastronomy and overall displeasure explicitly expressed.
All this while, I thought my English was not the best, the world just never seems to end with surprises for me.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
So I was going to Singapore and a major part of why Singapore was- well it had a Grand Prix. So it was a part of my cherished dream to watch a race with Schumacher racing in it and me wearing the Ferrari colours and cheering my team. So some friends were happy that I was gonna watch F1, rest for I was off to Singapore.
Now every travel abroad has its phases- much unlike traveling within the country. The first being pre- travel information that was sincerely being contributed from the more experienced travelers. So ‘don’t go to Mustafa on a Friday with a heavy wallet’, ‘make sure you don’t break the rules’, ‘buy a MRT card- it’s the cheapest to travel around’, ‘Zoo and Night safari is a must’, ‘Sentosa is a paradise’…. That was all I could hear from most. The rest contributed about where to find ‘chicks’, rules in the Casino and so on. On return, I was faced with only one question- ‘How was it???’
Now just over six days and I made up strong opinions about the country- which is the size of Mumbai, population of Andheri, Government Housing (like MHADA) and 50% taxes on salaries. And most of my opinions were not first impressions, they gradually changed over this period.
The Changi Airport is splendid- well, it resembled the new Bengaluru Airport to a very high extent with space no constrain. So I did not have an orgasm with its layout of aesthetics. What I did manage was chocking on a Burger King burger and coffee as I sat waiting for my friend (whom I stayed with and saved money) to come and pick me up. The preliminary Burger Index calculation told me that prices in Singapore were 3 times of all you pay in India for a burger. So the ‘Now I know what was missing in life’ soon had changed to ‘You are on a vacation, keep the conversion tables aside’.
Now by the time I walked off the aircraft, the only Asian girl I had spotted was one airhostess- could be caused due to traveling on an Aussie airline. The airport had people in travel attire and not appealing. So I will confess that the first girl I flipped for was the counter girl at Burger King. By end of Day 1, I was already seeing myself amidst the F1 after parties and the feeling of being in an Asian paradise was growing.
By Day 2, I had reason to believe that like a 100 rules to be followed in Singapore, girls with pants below 5 inches under their waist attracted less attention and were liable to be fined 1000 SGD. In fact, when I was joined by a Brit colleague of my friend as the only non resident member of the group, we both shared a joke on how our blokes manage to keep the mind off girls who wore clothing as a liability.
By Day 3, Singapore was a country with a fine for everything fun, sold expensive beer and smokes and gave you the feeling of being in a Big Boss house; thanks to the millions of CCTV camera’s that throng the place. It also offered Asian girls crafted from the same mould with no distinguishable features, who peeped through the hair they pull on their eyes to hide their large foreheads and looked like chopsticks with mittens wearing a bra as a sign of optimism. By Day 6, I was actually looking forward to seeing Indians.
I have a feeling that Singapore is a country living in fear. There is a CCTV everywhere- though I’m not sure which authority watches all of them. To make matters worse, they have screens that show you what’s being seen as well. But even then, the locals have found a way to get cozy in public. The best place to lip lock is the escalators. They are almost everywhere, provide the height advantage to the person in front- so no one bends, and only the top of the escalator comes on CCTV. So I’m confident that an MMS scandal will never happen - there’s no novelty factor.
Singapore and Sentosa especially are destinations built entirely on marketing and the mystique created by providing half information. To see anything worth a look, you have to pay amount which are never worth it. The beach front in Sentosa is an artificial beach of white sand. The view is the same what I see at Sewree creek in Mumbai. Same merchant ships, same oil tanks- even coconut shells in the water. And I still paid for it. Singapore River passes through the city centre and you see the buildings around. Sadly, the Mithi does not have buildings facing it- else I had a proposition.
So finally, what makes a country worth a visit? Yes, it is clean- but isn’t big brother watching you all day? People are warm and friendly; provided they have their head out of the mobile phone. My local friends were happier underplaying our country to justify the highs of Singapore. My final word will be it is a place worth a visit for what it is. But if you want me not to compare the price points, I will honestly say that you should not compare it with my homeland as well.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I’ve been a few time and now I know, How they turn the propellers and off we go…
I don’t recall whose lines these are (certainly not mine), but it did capture the joy and excitement almost everyone has to travel by air. Why not… it still is an elusive experience, not everyone gets to do it on a regular basis. It is also the closest you can come to space travel. I mean even the cabbies look at you differently if you carry a bag and say Airport vis-à-vis Dadar- Pune Volvo stand.
Over a 100 years old, but this mode of travel still holds a lot of curiosity in itself. It begins right from is the flight on time? Is my seat an Isle or Window? Is my baggage within limits? Is the aircraft a Boeing, Airbus, a DC or Tristar? Do we get an aerobridge or it will be the airport bus and ladder? Did we push back on time? Which of the Hostess is gonna be serving me? Damn…. Too many variants…But that’s a part of the excitement I guess.
So what do I like once airborne- well there are too many things to choose from; the animated safety routines, the food on the tray, the views through the window, the In-flight entertainment…. Too far routine.
Arguably, the most delightful place in a plane is the compact lavatory. I say they are simply amazing. That dingy 6’ x 4’ cabin can provide what I say is divine- pure relief at 35000 feet. You cannot imagine a moment of privacy in your own office or home at times, but this one does offer it. Besides, it is designed to please you in every way. That small space has virtually everything you can ask for.
Close the door and turn the knob to lock the doors and… Surprise!!! The lights on the mirrors come on and just brighten up your day. The fellow passengers are usually in their best behaviour (unless they had a few extra pegs) - so you do not end up with the public utility feel. Now the best part is, there is a specific disposal bin assigned to every probable waste- which kind of baffles me.
Now I can understand disposals with markings that read ‘Toilet paper’, ‘Soiled diapers’- but what about ‘Razor blade’??? Now there is no way you can carry a razor inside the cabin of an aircraft. I mean people are so skeptic these days that International airport check in has a showcase of objects not permitted aboard an aircraft with a warning at the bottom reading “For display purpose only”- how do I get a razor in there???
Now I’m sure someone has already thought of the counter argument that airlines offer a shaving kit- yes I know, but not in the Economy Class. That is a facility for the Business Class or First Class passengers. And those are good quality razors… I mean who goes around like- swipe- swipe- swipe; throw it now, its worn….. No one chucks a razor off after one use. I mean that seems to be designed expecting a werewolf.
What makes those units so clean is the flush in the water closets. They seem to like suck all the bad stuff away- along with those amazing sci- fi sounds. I actually am yet to see how that is actually taken off the plane- which I will update the day I do find out…
Friday, October 8, 2010
During one of our online chats, I was discussing how upset I was for the fact that my brother is a workaholic. I was not happy that he was home after three years and still going online virtually every week to sort his work. I figured it as a weakness of not being able to manage personal time away from work. Going further, I was also feeling that he was not the person most comfortable in delegating work and having faith on his team.
My uncle was quick to point out that this was ‘Corporate America’- more or less like a norm. Add to it, this was like a must in times like today, when job retention was a key concern for most. What came for the next few minutes from him was revolving on how working in US was more demanding and called for sacrifice of personal time.
Now it is no secret that passing a bitter pill down my throat is not easy job- so all this time I had organized my arsenal. How different is ‘Corporate America’ from the ‘India Inc’?
Most of the Indian Corporate sector works from close to 50 hours a week with no extra perks. We adjust our working times to suit our clients from Australia to US. If we are unlucky enough to have work coming in from Nepal (Saturday working) or UAE (Sunday working), we end up 7 days looking after our clients. India is an outsourcing hub as the world knows that we are work horses. Corporate Governance is still a low priority function in India. So how is Corporate America more demanding?
My reply to uncle was simple. We live in an environment where technology, management systems and processes are replicated in India the day next to their success in any part of the world. The output quality from India is by no means sub standard to anywhere across the world. So the argument on work pressures and time to invest is not a US localized phenomena, we live it in India and still find personal space.
The whole discussion did not go anywhere since I was not in mood to convince him that his absence of 45 years from India has isolated his thoughts in the past. But it brought me to a certain revelation. We are living a dichotomy everyday of out life. We are somewhere stuck in transit between the World and India.
Think- we are all today global in out outlook, thought process and work culture. But being in India, there are some areas we are expected to maintain the Indian value systems. So if a girl in India cannot cook or a guy takes no offence to do the dishes- it can be greeted with awe. A girl or guy working till late and coming home, not having time for family will still be suspicious for our society. Do the same in US and see the same people up in praise for it.
What is disturbing though is that this dichotomy is most visible to people who are living it rather than people around us.
Monday, September 6, 2010
I am not fond of gambling, but learning more about the game has made me realize that this game is nothing but what we call real life situation.
Let me just go through and show you how the two are actually analogous.
Everything starts with the seed: You cannot start any project, or be a part of any new venture in life unless you posses the basic requirements for it. This can be money, skill, an idea or simply being the right man or lady. So is true for Poker, you or someone needs to put in the boot amount on the table to start.
Making the best of all you have: Every person is dealt two cards and a maximum of 5 cards open on the table. All you need to do is use any 5 to make the best hand out of them. That is so true for most of us, we are always in a situation which involves things within and outside our control, but we have to make the best out of it.
Internal Conflicts: Best 5 cards to choose from 7, the combination that will be the winning; all are like the conflicts we all have while working with options.
External Factors: On any day, having a pair of Aces in my hand will make me feel a winner; but not in Poker. There are winners above just a higher card. What if someone else has a better hand- may be a full house or a straight sequence? That is exactly what happens in reality- that’s how you may lose the deal which you believe was your best offer.
Managing the odds: Poker has made me realize that the Ace is not the winner always and nor is 2 the lowest card- it is all the way you manage your cards with the cards on the deck. It is much like having the perfect job, perfect partner but not the perfect life, while there might be someone with lesser perfection but a winner feeling more success and satisfaction.
Taking your chances: If you can risk it in Poker, you will definitely evaluate opportunities and risks in life. Every game you just seem to be doing a SWOT over and over again.
Money power works: Yes, no escaping this fact. If you have the money, you can bet on anything just for the sake. If you serious, raise the stakes so high that people cannot match you. If you have the guts- may be just go all in and bleed the rest. I guess I don’t even have to stress on how a reliant company does this to perfection.
Being the Poker face: Something I am still to learn- playing with a straight face and not letting the world guess what you have or intend to do. Letting people live under illusions and waiting for the time you strike with full force. We all do this in real life since at every stage, we are always competing- jobs, clients, partners…. Its endless.
Overall… win or lose- it is up to us to learn the basic and apply it right.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Now don’t jump to a conclusion that it is possibly since there is no work, or no moments of stress and life is a party. No; not so… but I guess it’s a few people around me who have made a difference in the way I am at a work place. And that is simply because we have so much in common that there is no dull moment at work.
Often I have come across people who have linking in terms of music, movies etc which have overlapped with mine. But this time- thanks to Nitin Rajan and Biswaraj , the overlap is so huge, that every discussion has an element of nostalgia attached. And these are discussions which have no linkages with what normal people might even like to associate. Yes- we agree that we do not fall into some pseudo norms set; we are fanatics.
What makes me say that… okay, question: name any two songs by Narendra Chanchal???
Hmm… I know what’s the bigger question in your mind- who is Narendra Chanchal??? Now worries, Google Uncle will help here. (Also note he’s the 2nd most popular Narendra after Narendra Modi)
If that’s tough cookie to crack- who sounds worse, Mohammad Aziz or Shabbir Kumar??? Well this is an actual discussion where even Radio City’s most popular RJ Love Guru joined in, gave his inputs. The song list pulled beyond count. The last words from the man,”…yaar, kabhi fursat mein baith te hain- tum logon ne kuch zamane yaad dila diye hain…”
We today are like garbage bins of all sorts of useless trivia. We know which song has On Shiv Puri dancing or a Bappida track named Gulai gulai go is from which movie. Why crazy sound tracks- we have a liking for things I really doubt people recall. Nitin has skimmed the net to track down the totle track of Fireball XL5. I trip on the Fraggle Rock title. We sit on youtube and hunt down title tracks of serials from our childhood. Neev, Dhoop Chav, Ye jo hai Zindagee…. the list is endless.
But we are not stuck in past. A part is lost in the old days, a larger part lives in present. We love Bappida and Shabbir Kumar, but we also have high knowledge of Kishore Kumar and Rafi. We listen to absurd stuff, but also have our Rock Idols.
We in the true sense are a bunch of nutts!!!
Sunday, August 1, 2010
But information more valuable usually came in from the non academic front. The super spies were not the ones to infiltrate into enemy territory and steal documents, it was the Bond’s who could walk up to a girl to get an intro and at times even walk back with complete data profiles like phone number, her likes and dislikes and most critical one: do you stand a chance?
Second to this was background information. Where has this good for nothing Prof come from? How the hell did this guy ever work in the industry? This girl claims she was a college queen… did this bimbo even been there? The sources were scarce, which made speculations too easy. There were no means of a double check.
There was a recent discussion I had with two different people, both using movies as an example to gauge how much dependence on technology can endanger human race. My father saw a movie named “The Net” and was amazed that a smart hacker could destroy the existence of a person virtually by erasing all records in Government and Social registries. Another friend of mine was sharing the possibility of why nuclear weapons were still being feared when a situation as in “Die Hard 4” could hold the world at ransom based on the fact that some people hold all the keys.
As we all are getting wired to the Net and information of ours is no longer a part of a government file stacked under a million others, the access has become easy. Best part is you don’t need to be a wiz to get information any more. Thanks to social networks, cross linkages to websites and search engines which can search meta tags and content, nothing is impossible.
I guess this all has changed with Internet searches becoming an integral part of our lives. The level of information available on the net soon started making internet searches more popular than skimming the index, glossary and appendix sections in a book. Though books will always be referred for the fact that we always seem to have more faith in what’s on paper.
But the degree of personal information that became available on the net is simply amazing. I would say till somewhere close to 2004-05, social media was still finding its feet in the water. But for people who adapted to this new revolution initially, used it as if it was a reflection of their own self in the virtual world. It was not until some misuse of the information started that privacy settings came into existence.
Even then, we today have amazing level of information at our fingertips. I remember till two years ago, while going for a meeting, we always made a point to as a few contacts about the person we were out to meet. Recently, prior to going for a meeting, I just hit a search for the person and his organization. I had information about his previous 3 employers, the time he spent there, college, schooling all in hand before I even saw his face. What it gave me was a hundred things to talk about on topics I knew the person had a background in and presenting me in a way that made an easy connect with his background.
I thereby want to just sum it up saying that ‘I don’t know’ is a lame excuse. Information today is as plenty as fish in the ocean- all you need to know is the right place and the right way to trap it in the net.
Friday, July 16, 2010
At present, I feel am going through a phase where my spare time is aligned to one key word- Search. Well, someone in my college once made a sweeping statement saying ‘Google is God’, but sadly this god is yet to transform its search results into augmented reality for me.
The primary reason, my current array of search is more of the personal kind; one for a better job and one for what people officially recognize as getting settled in life. Though a new entrant in the latter, I have realized that one thing seems common across- split second decisions based on first impression. Let me explain how I came to this great theory.
During a recent interaction between me and an HR Consultant (Head hunters I guess was a term apt for medieval Dragon Slayers), I made a casual enquiry about anything I might need to carry or know in particular for the interview. The lady was kind enough to a link to a website with things to do and not to do for an interview, talking about the usual basic etiquette.
Now I have no intention of any arrogance, but I have so far been employed by decently recognized organizations and didn’t need that refresher course on how to sit, talk or dress for an interview. But I guess that lady need not be blamed; CV (if read) and interviews are more or less about first impressions.
I can safely say that CVs are mostly never read by the right people. At one place, I was asked how my CV went up to 4 pages without realizing it was the amount of breathing space and indentation was for them to make any notes or jot comments. A facility I had provided by making a 2 and half page document into 4 was seen more as bragging rather than its easy readability. But does it matter, after all they were more interested to see if I was fit enough (physically and professionally) to do sales for them.
Strangely, I have come across a similar pattern on matrimonial sites. Needless to say, people still believe that matches can be made on face value. We strangely still have a taste for physical aspects more than what we want in people on a psychological or temperamental level. The prime evidence to this lies in the open fact that sometimes I have found it difficult to distinguish a matrimonial site from an online shopping portal- critical pints and specifications(on shopping sites only) are hidden as more information.
Photographs play a huge role on a matrimonial profile and building that impactful first impression.
Baseless allegations you say- well gamma adjustment in Photo shop is a god sent gift for most wanting- to- be brides. This weapon is used to the maximum as pictures start to resemble albinos. I mean, the westerners crave for a tan, and we crave for appearing albino. I guess post the movie Satyam Shivam Sundaram, left and right profile pictures have become a mandatory requirement. Not to forget, pictures clicked abroad before a street market in KL or a camel and Sheiks in strange positions in the sands have a greater value. So what if the camel or a basket of bananas covers 70% of the photograph?
I know I have been called a pessimist with a tendency to go fault finding in everything around me. But I have something to say- If I should not judge a book by its cover, or understand that people have layers and it takes time before you know them well, how can we still take calls based on first impressions?
Monday, June 21, 2010
Out of the blue today, I happened to chat with my friend Rahul Pilani today and it struck me- damn, there was a time we had at least two forwards being shared across, chat on the messenger all night and all this was after having spent the whole day in college in the same class. Today, we started from the page where we knew the name and face; but no clue what we both are doing. End result- it prompted me to run down my mail box to trace when was it last I wrote a group mail to my college buddies.
What is has done has opened up a whole journey of time travel. My mail box has actually marked events in my life along with how I have changed as a person along the way.
I discovered I have a mail id on Yahoo since 1998, something I have as my rightful ownership since junior college when thanks to my brother, we finally had an internet enabled PC in the house. Those were the day of stealing user ids and passwords off VSNL users, 28.3 kbps modems and the ‘ppp’ and ‘F6’ to get into the wonder world of internet. I had a student account on VSNL that allowed no graphics, no surprise I never liked it or used it to the full.
By 1999, I was into engineering and the new toys in hand were the ICQ messenger, Yahoo Chat rooms etc. (Sorry, I’m unable to recall some other chat sites I frequented) Its stunning to know that I was a quite a flirt. I have mails from some girls in Brazil, Australia, Latvia, Estonia… with the most idiotic hi-hello conversations- characteristic of adolescence. To my surprise, I discovered having a seemingly regular chat relation with a medical college student from Pune, a commerce student from Cuttack and an Arts student from Mumbai. I can still remember the first one is married and settled in UK; the female from Cuttack called me when she was in Mumbai, but that’s about it.
The earliest forwards was from a friend from college send me a mail titled “Type of men you meet in the Loo”, I took her case real bad coz the content was really intricate. Have a mail from my brother about what all can happen with ‘Hotel Soap’. Jokes, chain mails, pictures of Ferrari’s and cars as attachments- the list is just too long.
Somewhere around 2002, there is the first hint of me and my mail box becoming a bit serious, the first mail with assignment files on mail. The attachment is 28 kb- a word document on infra red imaging has set the stage for a lot of links of machines and technologies. By August 2003 the first CV has left the box, but not many replies to in seen. A mail in December that same year is from Team Lease; asking me for my bank details for my first pay, followed by a string of financial queries, pay slips and arbit stuff from Wipro GE Medical Systems.
In 2004, I started writing group mails to my friends, my first baby steps towards writing. The replies have been mostly critical of my typos and language errors. Never the less every single one was encouraging. There is also a new approach to flirting with me doing some research for the final project of a girl I liked, 7 mails on a subject I had no clue of... Well I somehow was confident that the way to success was to be the man around when it mattered- quite a myth as I see it now.
The next big thing was 2005, where lies my first Resignation letter. This one comes from a web site named i-resign.com which composed it for me off a template for the given situation. I copied this one and sent it to my boss. My Parting mail was replied back by almost all who received it. Some were encouraging my next move, some wishing the best, some summing up the 18 month journey as the start of a new one.
2005 to 2006, my mails have been a string of applications for MBA colleges, information on colleges and update from forums.
What is beyond 2006 is what I said the Gmail effect. Orkut became a hit and I shifted out to Gmail as my primary mail id. Yahoo still remained but became more of a receiving box rather than a send box. With that came a different set of friends and the old, either moved to Gmail or started losing touch.
In a way that is how advances in internet changed my life. What was once precious, became more like a storage. Like grains of sand in the hour clock, it moves from one side to the other, it settles at the bottom and sometimes gets lost as more grains come on top.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
It is rather surprising that in fact there are a few businesses that actually exist and function on the basis of perception.
I was reading an article in the papers last week which was talking of a list of Billionaires out of India. More than anything else, I was more involved in understanding what these league of extraordinary deep pockets do in life. Most were Chairman, MD’s, CEO’s of industrial houses or IT firms in India. What was even better was their value was a combination of movable and immovable assets, stocks, land holdings etc.
And that’s where the question popped in my mind, is this actually a measure of their monetary wealth? So if a certain Mr A sells his stocks, cars, aircrafts, houses, land etc, he is the richest man in India. That’s amazing- but sadly not true. All this was just perceived value.
Apparently in the 16th Century, the Spanish campaigns plundered the whole of South America and brought to Europe what was precious then; Silver: about 45000 tons of it. But what this influx did was devalue silver and resulted in breakdown of the whole economy of the Spanish empire. Main reason- the influx reduced the perceived value of silver and everything linked to prices of silver came down crashing.
It is much the same with Stocks or Real estate. Perceived value in such cases over rules Real value; sometimes by shocking margin. Most stock trade on a level which is exponential of their face value simply based on perceptions built out of speculations. The moment a large chunk of stocks are sold by anyone, value drops. So if Mr A even sells 2% of his stocks, he will lose a lot more money than he would gain through the sale. So by the time Mr A sells all his assets, I feel he would be lucky if he makes even 25% of his speculated worth.
Same is the case with Real Estate. If anyone sells a flat in Mumbai, I’m sure they cannot buy back the same place for the same value the next day. Real Estate can appreciate by close to 40% between the time you book a new flat and the day you actually occupy the same flat. There is no basis on why this may happen- but the perceived value just goes up. The day the builder sells four flats, the rate is hiked by a thousand.
Surprisingly this is how it is. We are all, to some extent are both: aware and skeptic of reality. I guess that is one reason, we all love the game of perception.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
It is that time of the year when most companies in India complete their annual appraisal and a nervous moment for employees and organizations alike. Even though most organizations now have a policy of monthly or quarterly department reviews, half yearly reviews for employees, it all usually boils down to this one point.
The reason this ultimately becomes the moment of truth is the fact that this is the one and only occasion in the year when every person in an organization will get monetary rewards, usually depending on the level of their performance. Whether you like or dislike math & stats, this will be one time of the year where numbers, formulae, equations and their graphical plots will become most important part of you tea time chat, water cooler conversations, smoking break talks- basically everything away from work.
Also a new fascinating curve rules your mind; so fascinating, its mystique has been matched by the number of names it has: Bell Curve, Normal Distribution Curve or Gaussian Curve. This is usually the plot for the Normal Distribution equation which usually defines what Normal is. A typical plot of the normal distribution symbolizes where the most concentration of members within a given set lies. On any given day, most people will want this to be as narrow as possible with a sharp peak.
But appraisal isn’t just any day- its seriousness can only be matched by the judgment day. And this is one time where no one wants to be normal, all want to be extraordinary. Thanks to the beauty of this curve and its application, it has the potential to create discontent in any organization.
Suppose an organization offers 5 grades of appraisal where Grade 5 get 35%, Grade 4 gets 25%, Grade 3 gets 18%, Grade 2 gets 14% and Grade 1 gets 8%, the curve has the potential to distribute 100 employees in a perfect way where top 20 people will get either Grade 5 or 4, the next 60 will get Grade 3 and the last 20 get Grade 2 or 1. This is what I say the beauty of the formula which makes it such an appealing curve. But this is also the ugly side of the curve. It will always leave too few at the top and too many in the middle; leaving a lot of scope for discontent.
It is not unusual for a Grade 4 person to end up amidst Grade 3 and hence crown the person as normal. The problem is the fact that we like to express a continuous curve equation split by percentile slabs which are linear. Also the cake is baked based on the total turnover of the company- so you will be judges on a personal best but paid you share of the cake based on the company’s average.
Okay I realize that the math is pretty boring. So let us just try an analogical model. Not that I am a master in psychology, but I feel I’m good with metaphors.
So let us just take the curve to be a real Brass Bell, a nice hollow bell much like the shape of the normal curve. The bell has a sound edge and a clapper which together make the sound. In two dimensions, the sound edge is at the 2 ends, a hollow chamber in between with the clapper in the middle.
The edges form the top deciles of the bell curve; the edge struck by the clapper being the achievers (or ones who can be convincing fakes) and the other side being the cribbing party. The middle consists of the clapper; the workers who support the achievers. Since they are in the hollow, they just seem to resonate with the sounds from both edges.
Appraisals also have something funny about them. That’s called justifying the numbers. Usually, it is your reporting manager who has to play host to this part. The act is usually of convincing a Grade 4 of why a Grade 3 was awarded. Best excuse is; the company is not really doing well… meaning I know you deserve more, but there is a bag load of slackers you have to pay for from your incentive.
A question I want to ask in general is what came first; the data that gave rise to the equation and the curve or do we make the effort to just adjust data so that we can justify its dispersion with the curve?
How does a Grade 3 organization plan to retain Grade 5 and 4 employees if its all going to be All by the Bell?
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
It was not until my friend Gaurav Batla and I that we discussed insights into profiles on facebooks to take it serious. What’s below is a combine of what two eccentrics can churn out. Of course, Batla is okay if anyone wants to tag people with the archetypes defined and get us a PhD.
Mush Maniacs: Girls (sometimes guys too) who would put keep putting those 101 love quotes from the Internet mostly depressing. Point to note, relationship status: Single
I am glad you are there. You are the best thing happened to me…
Typically they will tell the whole world who their boyfriend/girlfriend is through all those, Mmmmmuah mmmmmuah, Awwws, Love u babyyyyys floating all through the wall.(Please Notice the Extra Alphabets in almost every word).
I am so glad I got a girlfriend (somehow managed): Another variant of the Mush Maniacs but with the couple profile pics.
These people will have 20 albums posing with girlfriend in Malls, Cars, Markets, Amusement parks, eating candy floss. (LSD style has not yet caught up here)
The profile pic will typically be a close up self clicked shot with camera phone held high showing the biggest achievement of his life being held from behind: has to- what if she runs away???
Note worthy- I used to think the “our song” concept was only a gimmick on Sitcoms. Nay, these people live on that stuff….
“Kaise batayein kyun tujhko chahe…” …. “Wow I was singing the same….”… “I love Atif’s voice...”… “Oh I was humming Kailash Kher…”
Desperate Dickheads: This usually are Guys who have never been able to lay their hand (both literally and figuratively) on a Gal and will keep copying Double Meaning Quotes from Internet to attract some attention (in any form good or bad) so that at least somebody notices.
Note worthy: 'I Hate Love' updates. ‘Love is for losers. I am better off being single. No Time for Love.’
Typical Fan Pages : Proud to be Single types.
I, Me, Myself: Typically this type of people are the one’s who took facebook to be a cousin of picasa or flicker. They will have more than 1000 photographs in 20 + albums whose titles are generally on the lines of Random Stuff, Just another Day Shopping, Me and My Friends, Cafe Coffee Day.
Typical trait: More than 100 profile pictures and 90 of them will be self clicked with a camera phone; occasionally with another friend in the frame.
Everyone else is a loser: Slightly different from the 'I-Me-Myself' type. They are more like Rebels without a cause; Objection My lord; I know it all dude…
Typically they will never 'like' any update but always try to find flaws in whatever is written. Try this- next day you post a diametrically opposite update, and I bet that person will find some counter argument there too.
More often than not, they will never post something themselves but will just comment on every single update from others'.
Super Stalkers: This is one true wonder category. They will not have a single status update in the past 3 years. No games, No activity, Do Nothing at all and the best- They will not even have a profile picture.
Generally they are single and not go out on a weekend. Their pleasure tour….log on early morning and will only browse through your updates (or pictures if you are a girl).
These people will know exactly what is going on in your life. They might not know which company you are working for but they will surely know how many girlfriends you have had in the past 3 years or anything you bought in the last one month or even what you did last summer…
Application Specialists: NO... Absolutely NO updates- apart from games and other facebook applications. Farmville, Mafia Wars, Café World is their ecosystem. Fortune cookies, daily horoscopes, stupid quizzes on their friends, daily dates and crushes are their daily routine.
Very rare that they will comment on anybody's status or what’s happening around. They will have only two albums in the profile. One called Profile pictures; rest will be pictures coming through applications.
Typical Profile will have a stiff competition between Friends list and Application list. Most friends will also be the one’s who gift sheep, send a hit man, share secret recipe etc.
Sports Freaks: The Status Messages are filled with the latest score updates: from EPL to IPL. F1 to International Kabaddi World Cup. The word 'God' appears almost every fortnight.
These docile people will appear more aggressive than some Somali Warlord when on facebook. Frequently Used Words : Hail, Kick Ass, Woo Hooo, F*ck you
The 'TGIF' kinds: Typically they will only update two times a week. One on friday evening saying 'Yiiipppppie the weekend is here' and then sunday Evening saying 'Damn.. Why does the weekend run away so quickly'.
Considering most of them do nothing besides sleeping and watching TV over the weekend, they somehow are as excited as a child in a toy shop on Friday.
Oh yes…. Sometimes, there could be a Saturday update saying 'Bored to Death'…
My life is an Open Facebook: Not every autobiography is worth a read- But this type is the kind which feels facebook status is a megaphone on which they need to shout about everything they are doing as others survive on that fodder. Prime objective is to grab attention
Occasionally, they like to broadcast personal messages to one person or look for community sympathy- basically do everything in their power to grab attention
Typical status: Having dinner, sleeping, bored, And you please don’t call me, I am upset, Nobody loves me
Most often, you will find some nosey people do asking what was for dinner or who is upset for what…
This has become just too big for a blog I guess...
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I actually hate to start writing anything about consumer electronics, my opening lines sounds very much like some story going ‘In our times….’ It makes me feel like a Paleolithic specimen on his way to the museum of natural history.
But I guess the rate, at which electronic products and consumers for them are evolving; it does seem like too much has happened already. The telly had a belly like tube, which got flat, became a size zero with plasma and TFT and now works on LEDS. Radio forgot what Short Wave is. Letter Writing is now a literary art form as just about everything today is SMS Lingo (Save Money by Slang)
If there every is a Demand curve plotted for all consumer electronics, I am confident what will be the steepest category. Cell Phones!!! There will be no other product in India which has the level of desire, acceptability and affordability like a Cell Phone. As a vertical open to access for all, cell phones in India are only 15 years old. (Deregulated outside Government Agencies only in 1995) and till February 2010, there were 564 million cell phone connections in India- that’s almost half of our population.
If first impressions are anything to go with, it was a luxury item that cost Rs.17 even if I would have accepted an incoming call- today it has come down to 1 paise /second. But that is what we would say in management terms is the operational expense; what about the capital expenditure. I feel this is the place where the game has changed majorly.
Recently I came across an article in Business Standard which said the handset market is worth Rs 50,000 crore in India. Wow!!! 5 followed by eleven 0’s…. that’s sleek. What’s more, the number of handset providers has gone up from 5 in April 2008 to 30 till March 2010, one new manufacturer has come in to the market every single month. What’s more, The Union Budget 2010 has relaxed the burden on Indian manufacturers- so more could just be around the corner.
Now I can understand, there are going to be names we have not even seen or heard of much. Lava, Benq I have so far only seen on outdoor hoardings. Karboon, Maxx, INQ, Spice, Micromax have moved into the mind space only after their mega sponsorship stints. But that has been just the tip of the ice berg. I really am not sure if anyone has even heard of Oilve and Airfone.
We are seeing the entry of big shots like Videocon, Onida, Acer and Asus: all with strong backgrounds in other electronics come into cell phones. But how about Luminous - a power and energy storage company - into the mobile handset market; coz that’s what has happened as well. All these new home grown entrants are giving tough competition to well entrenched players - Nokia, Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson - in terms of price, features, models and services.
In fact the biggest loser has been Motorola; no new model since 2008. I can’t even recall its last ad- MotoRocker was it???
As I said earlier, it is desire, acceptability and affordability that are driving demand today. We always say that innovators have the advantage of being first. But there is a flip side- others can learn from you and your mistakes take advantage of them and make hay in the market which the innovator has spent years to build.
Desires have changed over the years. It is not limited to communication any more. My Dad’s first cell was a Nokia 2210. It was like a bulky and robust brick. My first handset a Sony Ericsson T100 doesn’t even excite my 3 year old nephew as a toy thanks to its’ mono-colour screen and ringers which sound like- well a cell phone ring…To be completely honest, no buyer from any part of India will be happy today with just a phone to talk.
Desires are driven by your level in the pyramid. Not even a first time user will like a phone which does not have a coloured screen, FM Radio/MP3 playback and funky ring tones. If you are not a first time user, a camera, GPRS capability, Bluetooth and expandable memory become basic. Collegians are now driven by the widgets and applications, young professionals want a QWERTY keypad and Managers want to have cell phones that can become an option to a computer.
Manufacturers have recognized this trend; one reason why these new entrants always talk of the pain points of previous users. Just run a check on how many high end models Videocon has on the platter as a new entrant.
Cell phones have today been accepted as a need and no longer a luxury- of course, I still believe a VIRTU at Rs. 5.5 lacs is one. In many ways, it has replaced the concept of a landline at home. As for affordability, you can get a decently loaded cell phone for Rs 999.
So after all this fact findings, the usual question I love to ask- where next??? Cell phones have affected sales of wrist watches, alarm clocks, calculators, calendars, flash lights, cameras, and portable music players. They have killed the digital diary and business organizer.
Considering we still finding new uses for this small screen each day I feel the next victim is either amongst the TV or the Computer, That’s my Cell Theory….
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Most often when we say Parle, every Indian has the quickest recall of a Glucose Biscuit. But sadly, that is not the company I am talking about- that would be Parle Products. Parle Agro is not connected in any way with Parle G, Poppins or Hide N’ Seek. This is a company which has revolutionalized India between the last 1970 to this date.
Every brand created by them is a journey into a frontier where no man has ever been before. If Thums Up, Limca, Gold Spot are their glorious past, Bailey, Frooti, Appy, LMN and the latest Hippo… all are a part of a brand list created from nothing but sheer boldness. Every brand is also a testimony to how brands in India have been built.
Thums Up for instance; an Indian Cola Brand which had a 60% market share when Coke decided to buy it for Rs. 120 Cr. A brand so strong that Coke; which at one point tried to underplay Thums Up and boost its own self, was forced to revive and make the Global Coke-Pepsi battle into a Coke-Pepsi- Thums Up in India. This might be one of the blunders Coke has done after the New Coke fiasco in 1985.
Thums Up ruled India for 16 years after its launch in 1977. This meant fighting off Campa Cola which came from the same plants which made Coke in India since 1949. Though there are stories about the manner in which Campa Cola was brought down to its knees, there is certainly nothing to take away the credit as to how they built a fortress called Thums Up. Much like Thums Up, Limca also did not lose its shine. Gold Spot was the only brand which made way for Fanta.
In 1985, no one could have imagined a drink in a Tetra-Pak, and that’s what set Frooti apart from Mangola. Appy in a Tetra-Pak in the 80s was not as successful; but its new avatar in the 2000s as a sparkling apple and grape drink is a success story. Bottled water named Bisleri came into India from Italy. But it was only when Bisleri under Parle-Bisleri came in a PET bottle, that bottled water came as a concept in India. Today, Bisleri is not only the category leader; it’s a category by itself.
Latest in line; while Lays and Kurkure, fight Bingo their wars for finger snacks, Hippo comes in as a bread snack with a proposition of not being fried but bakes. If Real and Tropicana are the choice of fruit juices, Saints is waiting n the wings.
In conclusion, FMCG is a sector where loyalties and brands can we washed away when the multinationals flood the market. For the time being, Parle Agro has made itself a class apart- par excellence in true terms
Saturday, March 27, 2010
TV Soaps have never really been anywhere on my list. Reason- well I cannot break free of the world and rush to a TV screen to follow certain soap. That can happen on a Sunday for an F1 race, but that too is limited to the season and only 20 days in a year. Daily follow up is even too much to ask for at work… leave apart it being a recreation.
Now, it was only recent after I completed my Masters in Communication that I actually began to track some TV channels to try and understand what comes where and when… well as marketing consultants need to do that. This was necessary to understand more the consumers rather than the programming logic of channels. Which in fact became the main agenda as I see it today… is there a programming logic at all???
While doing my post grads, I came across people who made confident statements about human psyche and that we as humans love to see suffering. That’s what we seek in movies and drama, that’s what the Oscar Jury seeks as well. Fair enough- that’s how Slumdog made it big; guess Hurt Locker has a similar underlying view. (Not sure as I haven’t seen it)
But what comes on the telly-tubes as Soap has to date not made any sense to me. It is quite astonishing that when audiences to theaters openly appreciate concepts with a strong message, a new social awakening or situations which can arise out of the new internet generation, the TV guys are still at most ease to dish out recipes with the 17th Century flavor. What is disturbing is that most renowned TV actors have come from a theater background and while an actor does a path breaking role on stage, before a camera, he’s watching his wife being questioned for not having her head covered before the elders.
This is like the epitome of hypocrisy we live in, and this is not limited only to Hindi- it’s more like Universal in India. (He He!!)I see it on Marathi channels and can get the same feel over Bengali as well. Interesting topics are taken as the storyline- surrogate motherhood, generation gaps as a result of changing life styles and working cultures. But I freak out when we pull out a ritual from the age of mummies; make them alive by reading from the book of death to make your serial seem different.
I fail to understand how the most popular serial today be Balika Vadhu- considering child marriages are a criminal offence. How can a serial like Sajan Ghar Jana Hai even co-exist with today’s times? How can an on screen woman professional are showered a line demanding her to return home before sunset. If media was a powerful weapon, I see it being applied in a manner that’s more destructive as I see it.
I understand that since normal people will be too boring for people to watch; there always has to be someone who is mentally challenged, a widow or at least one lady who might be not able to conceive for multiple reasons. But how sick is it to include dialogues like “Oh, you can't conceive; you should not even cast your shadow on a pregnant lady”…. Not to forget, this same lady might be a super woman running the family business.
What’s most alarming- we tend to pick up things very easy from what we see in films and TV. I don’t think there was a Z+ security needed for a Grooms shoes before the 90s. Point to be noted: there is high possibility that something we see on TV can trickle down our skin and cause damage.
I find it really tough to understand what kind of people we all are. There is some part of our practical mind which is seeking itself to rise up as a Global Giant. But then there is also this demand from us to retain our identity by doing things the Indian Way- no matter how impractical it might be. Who knows, if anyone was to despise the Women’s Reservation Bill-well, in all likelihood, they will termed as MCPs. I am not sure what we should be calling this media which is putting the chains back onto our society.
We are kind of Stuck in a Moment, one foot in the past and one in the future- where we go next will be decided only once we which foot did we rely on next….
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
People across the world have built their reputation of excellence in almost anything you will find on the planet. A French Wine to Italian Leather, a Persian carpet, a Cuban cigar, the production efficiency theories from Japan or even the Marketing practices out of US. Each one has held its own unique association- a matter of pride. So who can carry the accolades as a country known for its engineering excellence? Of course, Germany!
German Engineering- take any car brand, Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen… and by now
you already have a shiny car before your eyes. Each one has defined themselves to a high level of aspiration- no matter where you are. Germans take pride in the fact that they can create master pieces when it comes to machines.
But here comes the flip side of it. Sometimes this pride can become a passion and become the reason for downfall. The Pursuit of Excellence can actually become the most dangerous cause of self destruction. I just came across two examples where the tides just turned from bad to worse when excellence became the operative word rather than what the need of the hour was.
Take for instance the Tanks in World War II. Search the net and you will find a lot of people saying that the German Panther and Tiger tanks were superior in terms of specifications compared to an American Sherman or a Russian T-34. But major tank battles like the Battle of Kursk saw Germany actually lose out to supposedly inferior competition. How did this happen?
The American Sherman was more like an offshoot of the road truck, simple adaptation prepared for war. The T-34 was a hasty production and was coming off production lines that made farm equipments. But the German tanks were designed war machines. Engineering marvels- master pieces that took time to make. They had power trains that can draw the awe of an engineering brain any day.
But when the average life of a tank was down to 150 kms on a battle field, the Panthers and Tigers were simply outnumbered. Inch by inch, the Allies just got closer as the Germans suffered in their cause to excel in their work.
Well this is certainly not the only example where pride became the reason for losing out in the bigger race.
Let’s talk about Motorola- a Company boasting its Six Sigma standards. The Black Belts becoming consultant to organizations throughout the business circles. Motorola actually has a university dedicated for Six Sigma. But sadly, this became a passion that they just could not get rid of.
Motorola became a world leader in Analog Telephony and Communications in the late 90s. No one could match the sound quality of a Motorola. It’s a Walkie- Talkie... oh... must be a Motorola. It’s a Pager, Must be Motorola.
But the times were about to change. Cellular technology was taking the World over by storm. Transition from Analog to Digital should ideally have suited the leaders much better than the followers. But it certainly didn’t happen. Motorola never became a leader in Mobile Phones. The Six Sigma in sound was no more a priority. The big shift in technology got in something called Short Messaging Service. So while Motorola was busy creating the Crystal Sound technology, Nokia came out with robust models for every country and flooded the markets.
Samsung got a camera into a phone; Kodak did not bother to add a phone chip to its Camera. Today, Kodak looks at shutting down its Camera Film Rolls manufacturing as globally more pictures are now taken on a mobile phone camera.
Bottom Line….. In Pursuit of Excellence cannot be a Goal if it is not the need of the hour.
People did focus to the last digit accuracy in Pursuit of Excellence - what they missed while they played with a Vernier, was the competition going past them by the meters.