Wednesday, November 17, 2010

News Channels

As I switched channels between NDTV and CNN-IBN a few days back, I couldn't help laughing. Both the channels were claiming that they were the ones who broke the story of the Adarsh Society scandal. But that was not what amused me. With hundreds of  channels, this has become a common affair. What was really ludicrous was both these channels were showing exactly same clipping of a politician praising the channel for 'exclusively' breaking the story. The politician, coming out of parliament was in all probability praising the media on a whole.
The way the news channels have marketed themselves has become quite common now. They are on the same lines:

We are the first ones to break this story.

We had the highest TRPs. (the real story lies in the fine print)

Our story had such and such impact.

It has been the same along with some marketable faces of the channels.

Most of the times these self-congratulatory claims make me cringe, specially considering that all the 'impactful' stories surround only 'popular' people.

Can news channels have some different message which they can communicate in their marketing?

Aaj Tak's Sabse Tez was one such message which had made it stand apart at that time. It focussed on the value of getting close to the news the fastest. Of course the competition then was not like what it is today but it did create a mind space and still has a good recall value. An example from the print business is the magazine - Open. It has been able to differentiate itself from the traditional weekly current affairs magazines like India Today, Outlook etc with their positioning as a weekly for the young mind.  Of course it has a strong product to back its claim up.

May be it is time that news channels do something different to stand out. Presently they are all focussed on themselves, loudly and unnecessarily beating their chests.
Going forward, they can offer something that is of some significant value to the customer or at least has that perception.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Outsourcing Selling

An interesting sight took me back to the desktop years of my life. It was a kiosk in front of a computer shop where you could mix and match components of your choice for an assembled computer. It instantly gave you a consolidated price without any involvement by the retail outlet manager. The manager had outsourced some of his job to technology.

For us buying an assembled desktop computer used to be a more interesting experience. And since all the friends bought computers roughly at the same time, trips to the computer shops had become quite common. The process was time-consuming and most of the times finding limits to your decision-making. Even if you clearly had in mind what configuration you want, still the shopkeeper would come up with offers which resulted in greed for more capacity splitting the mind.

Typically, he used to take out a big pad with names of most of the parts that went into making a computer written on it. Then you would discuss each component. He would tell you the price; you would oscillate, trying to balance the price and capacity with offers and counter offers.

The challenge for the shopkeeper was first that of the complexity of multiple customers with highly customized demand. Secondly, he was sitting and spending time with only a 'potential' customer. The buyer would take similar quotes from multiple shops before making the final decision. Afterall it is in our buying culture, specially of expensive items.

But a seller was more successful if he was more involved. One who educated the customer and helped resolve the conflicts. Giving the pros and cons of the components and many times not hesitating to tell that a certain part was expensive and not necessary for the needs of say a college goer. There were other sellers too, who just mechanically jotted down what you demanded and told you the total cost. They thought of you only as potential customer who is here to get one of the quotes among many from across the town. 'Why spend time on him? We will focus more when he comes to actually buy'. But the buying was done from the  person who had 'helped' take us some decisions.

A kiosk is definitely less hassle for the outlet, specially considering that a consumer today is far more knowledgable and knows what he wants. But it is definitely an opportunity lost for up-selling, cross selling and most importantly making a relationship which can help in completing the sale. A recent article in McKinsey says:
Many retailers assume that customers walk into stores for purely transactional purposes: they know what they want and just need to buy it. Yet McKinsey research indicates that as many as 40 percent of customers remain open to persuasion once they enter a store, despite undertaking extensive product research, reading online reviews, and comparing prices on their own.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commentators and Salesmen

CWG was a great marketing platform for a variety of sports. People saw athletes in action, winning medals and in the process making the sport popular. With that a hope arises that youngsters will follow them and in the process make India reach out to the world. More than that, make the sport reach out to Indians, making it as popular as Cricket. The process may be on and the change happening but can they reach Cricket's level of popularity and more importantly sustain that popularity? Tough. Very tough. Yes, there are many variables like more exposure, more games, more facilities etc etc. But one thing that I believe has played a pivotal role in marketing cricket is the commentary!

The difference between the cricket's commentators and the ones of the other sports was evident in the recently concluded CWG coverage. In cricket, since childhood we have been fed on the nitty gritty of the game. It has been helped by Gavaskers, Shastris, Bhogles who know the intricacies of the game and articulate it very well.
Why do We know that if there is grass on the pitch, it will be good for the fast bowlers and if it is a dry pitch having cracks,  spinners are going to rule the roost? Not because we know the science behind it. But because it was drilled into us again and again, match after match in the extensive pitch reports.  Keys were pushed in the pitch, the cracks were shown clearly, the grass or absence of it was clearly pointed out along with the implications. The 8 odd hours was literally a cricket classroom if you had the patience to sit and watch the whole match. And I am sure there are plenty of atleast my generation who have sat there listening intensly for 100 overs and more.

The knowledge of all the nuances of the game makes it interesting. You get more involved because you understand. And when you understand, you can talk and debate. And when something gets people talking, then it is.. well, popular!!
An understanding of why the sports person is doing something in a certain way enhances the experience of watching the game. I saw sports like Boxing, Wrestling and couldn't understand when and why they were being awarded points. What are the strategies employed? We saw boxers leading comfortably but still going for aggression in the final round rather than saving energy in defense. What were the reasons?

One can learn from observations. Yes. But commentary enhances the observation. Whenever a team needs  two runs in say 3 balls, all the fielders are brought closer to the batsman. We can know that by observation. But commentary adds a reason to it and supplements our understanding . For a youngster it is a terrific learning experience which they can simulate while playing on the ground.

There may be an argument that cricket is long and not very fast (like Hockey), giving plenty of time for a good commentary. It will be tougher in games like boxing, wrestling which last for 15 - 20 minutes. Yes, it may be difficult but the time can be utilized better. e.g. in Hockey, most of the time the commentary consists of who has the possession of the ball and to whom it is being passed. It is as if they are stuck in the radio mode describing the action in detail which is actually not required.

Organisations have  Brand Ambassadors as well as Salesmen. A Shahrukh Khan will make you aware of a new Hyundai car in town but for actual selling, a Sales man is needed to tell you the features and benefits of the car and to overcome your doubts.  In sports, we have the brand ambassadors in form of these medal winning and awe-inspiring athletes but what we lack is a Sales team in the form of commentators who need to do the actual connect, giving a good experience to the audience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why don’t music co.s provide free music?

I know nothing about the technology involved in digital music. But what I know is that we are easily able to download pirated songs for free from various websites. These songs are then played on the computers and easily transferred to mobile phones, iPods etc.
Now the first thing that you notice when you open a site like apunkabollywood dot com for a 'pirated' music download is the number of advertisements flashing all around - supposedly their primary source of revenue.
So if they can do it, why not the record labels themselves? Open a website, put up ads on it and let the users download the songs for free. (Presently, the websites have the songs and they are available at a very low price of Rs 10. But still I have to pay that Rs 10 which takes considerable time.  )

Apart from the ad revenues, you can gather a lot of data on what people are searching, consuming, their preferences, patterns, trends. They can be segmented geographically, demographically and so on. All this can also go as an input while creating music.  And the information can even be sold off to other interested marketers from different fields.

This can also be used in other dealings by the music labels. You instantly get an accurate update on what songs are popular and differential pricing can be used to benefit more from licensing to radio and TV channels, to mobile companies for caller tunes, to concerts where it can be sung by artists etc.   Every marketer wants to pull customers . And here are people from a variety of backgrounds who will automatically get pulled for the sake of free music.

The point is that the labels are crying that piracy is killing their revenues. So why not change the  revenue source which they are blocking.  Those who want it for free are already getting it for free and giving nothing in return to the music company. By this,  at least gets some data, some information. And today, information is not cheap.  Google has become a behemoth simply by gathering data and using the information.

Speaking of Google, it is taking music to another level itself - to the Cloud. Buy music online and Store it on an online library. Then listen it anywhere on any device. The basic requirement - a very fast internet connectivity, which India lacks. But who knows, with 3G round the corner, we make take a long jump!!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


If you have been to Palika Bazaar in Delhi, you know that only one “kitne ka hai” about something is enough for them to get behind you like anything. They call you, cajole you, follow you till a distance – their voice does even if they physically don't. Heavy discounts are offered and more often than not they close the deal. After coming out, many times we look down upon the cheap methods by which the sale was done – even if the shopping bags are full.

Well, now even sellers who term the Palika Bazar's methods as 'low market' can also benefit from the same technique. The euphemism that Google has used is 'Re-marketing' or 'Interest Based Advertising'.

The 'advertising innovation' is around 6 months old but came to know about it when Ankit was trying to book air tickets online. Though he did not go through with the transaction, for the next few days, he kept on getting related ads by airlines/travel portals flashed on various websites he visited. It was then we realized that he was being re-marketed.

The concept is simple. Suppose you are on the web to buy let's say an airline ticket for a leisure trip to Singapore. You visit a website which has employed re-marketing and browse around. In other words you have asked a Palika Bazaar dukaanwala(shopkeeper) the price of some thing.

The information gets stored in the cache. The dukanwala has locked on to a potential buyer.

If you leave the website without a purchase, then website uses the cache information to display related advertisements wherever you go on the web. If you leave the dukaan without a buy, the dukaanwala follows you, shouting “Aao to sahi. Kitna doge”.

The ads being popped up offer various discounts on the exact route you had searched for. The same is done by the dukaanwala.

I wonder if Palika Bazaar actually had something to do with Google Re-marketing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ulta Pulta

I think it has been in place for some time now but pray my poor observation skills, I observed it yesterday only.

In cricket matches, two ad spots which have perhaps the highest visibility are the ones just behind the starting point of a fast bowler's run up. Shoaib Akhtar used to start from those banners on the ground.

That batsman and the banner behind the bowler used to face the same direction. Once the bowler started the run

up and camera zoomed on the pitch, the advertisement went out of sight. Or in case of spinners, it hardly was visible. One could only see it behind the batsman but it was facing the other way.

Now, yesterday I observed the banner behind the batsman was facing the camera or in the same direction as batsman. So now when the camera zooms on the pitch, you can see the advertisement or in fact read the name of the advertiser as it ought to be read.

Does it make any difference?

On the face of it - may be not because generally it is a popular brand with a known logo or name. You know that it is Airtel or KFC even if you see the name reversed.

But may be at some psychological level, it makes an impact as legible words are in your face.

In any case, it makes sense to have the banner in the direction where it is going to get the maximum footage. No one had thought about it for many years. Now someone, somewhere has shown some creativity and challenged the status quo!

This one is from a game where when the spinner is bowling, the logo in the background is reverse, thus making less impact. Now-a-days it faces the camera.

Images from here and here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Anti – Social

Main aur Meri Tanhai....

Aksar yeh baatein karti hain...

The case of an actual robbery happening due to facebook updates

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Voice of Youngistan!!

Main aur Meri Tanhai...... Aksar yeh baatein karti hain..

*These ramblings by the anchor are real life - on a show called Wuzzup - The voice of Youngistan on MTV

** Stick figures concept inspired from thevigilidiot (though not very well copied)

*** More MMTs here

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What is IBU?

Infosys Technologies is one of my favorite companies - largely because of the inspiring leadership and also because I started off my proffessional life here. 

Soon after I joined in 2004, the company was re-organised into different industry verticals. Almost every Infoscion today is a part of  one of this vertical known as IBUs. 

I used to forget the full form of IBU initially when they were formed. And gradually I had drilled it into my mind. But recently that information betrayed me. The full form which I knew for so long - "Independent Business Unit",  was wrong. 

So I decided to ask my friends and ex-colleagues if they knew what IBU meant. The results were interesting. 

The question was posed to 20 people - including ex-infoscions, present infoscions who joined along with me, some seniors and some young people with less than 3 years of experience.

3 answers formed the majority - 25% each for "Independent", "Industry" and "Dont know". (that was the I of the IBU. Everyone knew that BU stood for Business Unit). 

The correct answer according to the intranet @ Infy is "Industry Business Unit".

Yes, 20 people out of more than a lakh is a totally illogical sample size for a survey to provide any kind of conclusion or evidence. But it may be a fodder for thought for some intervention by HR @ Infosys. 

P.S: A special thanks to my friend V at Infosys for quickly getting the responses from people around him. 

P.P.S: I have a strong feeling that it used to "Independent" earlier. Even a very senior manager who now has left Infy replied "Independent"

Update: Amit just pointed towards this Client Presentation (Slide 7) where IBU is Independent Business Unit... and this presentaion where it is "Industrial".  In Business World the definition is "Integrated". Seems like no one knows!!!


Responses of 20 people who were asked the full form of IBU


Saw the latest advertisement from Lava Mobiles. First could not understand what was so special about the keypad and why were they focussing on a Qwerty Keypad while every tom, dick and harry is having one. But then it dawned that it is not a Qwerty Keypad. It is a ABCDE Keypad - called Alpha Keypad. Instead of copying a computer keyboard, they have done it differently. 

The first reaction, however is "Silly". The argument being that everyone today has a computer and is accustomed to typing on a Qwerty keyboard, so ideally the mobile should also have that.  

But it may not be that silly actually. Many people do have computers but everyone may not be an expert in typing on high speeds on that. Even if one is quite adept at it, doing it on a mobile is a different ball game, specially if you are shifting from a normal mobile keypad where you have to press the same button 3 times to go to a "C" and where the alphabets are not jumbled up but in order. 

I myself took sometime to adapt to a qwerty keypad on mobile despite using a computer for 6 hours almost everyday for the past 10 years. 

Only the keypad may not be the reason for the success or failure of the model but it would be interesting to follow the user comments on this experiment. 

P.S: Lava has two research labs so good thought must have gone behind the move. Also read recently that the new rupee symbol has also been incorporated on the kepypad. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Hyundai Traffic Squad

It was taking a long time for the traffic to move at one of the prominent intersection. On moving closer it was observed that the traffic lights had conked off.. Well..Not surprising at all. Reasons for major traffic jams are the traffic lights going blind followed by us trying to make the 'best' use of the situation.

But what was surprising was a couple of guys handling the traffic. They were managing the flow to their best of abilities - bravely stopping us from entering the gates of hell. Without them the minor jam could have easily turned into a major headache. I was impressed with the work of these good samaritans.

But on moving further closer I saw not two but eight people there. All similarly dressed and Hyundai written boldly on their T shirts.

So it was a plain marketing gimmick. In all probability the traffic lights were deliberately turned off and these people were managing the traffic and gaining eyeballs. I would not be surprised that in their annual report, under the CSR Activities there is something like "formation of traffic squad to assist traffic Delhi police during peak traffic hours".

It may be the case that they were actually helping, the lights had actually gone off and it is actually a positive CSR activity. But still some questions did surface.

How much they must have paid to the Traffic Police/Delhi Govt for this activity? Do they have the right to do this? How much extra fuel must have been burnt due to this activity by a company which is attempting to project a 'Green Image'?

The good samaritan brand image sadly failed to make a favorable imapact on atleast one of their audience.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


9th August will always be an significant day - no matter it is forgotten or remembered..

The graphical representation inspired by NM-Indexed (and originally by Indexed). Just thought to try it again - not satisfactorily though.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Slice of Delay...

It was my first experience of ordering from Slice of Itlay. And possibly it will rarely happen again. There was an important lesson which we learnt during MBA and yesterday's experience was a good example of it - Product is not everything. The accompanying services are much more important.

The trigger for ordering from Slice of Itlay(SoI) was their beautiful pamphlet which came along the newspaper with a wide variety of delicacies and "Express Delivery" prominently displayed on it. SoI had made an impact on this first moment of truth. But sadly, it went downhill thereafter.

In the evening, a phone call was made. When I told them that I wanted to order for a home delivery, the response was "1 second". There was fumbling noise and this guy asked another person to take the order. The second guy came along and asked me my contact number and name. On being told, there was no response for a long time apart from "Sir, 1 Second" - marring the very definition of a Second! Then he let me know that there was some problem with the computer.

May be the SoI people can henceforth update their training program with  the suggestion that the customer is not at all concerned with what your internal problems are - be it computer or an untrained guy picking up the phone. I just want to order! The simplest alternative in case of technical issues is to take down the order on a paper and update it later. But No. Probably the guy was working according to a script and didn't know what to do when such a problem arose. It took me a full five minutes to order one pizza and one garlic bread. And believe me 5 minutes is a lot of time in the context of ordering on phone. Try calling the next door resturant. It hardly takes a minute. May be lack of technology can be a boon sometimes.

Next failure came at the time of delivery. In a business where competitors have a delivery time of less than 30 minutes, these people took One hour and 10 minutes including a reminder call to them after 50 minutes.

A very basic step while getting an address is to ask a landmark - which I believe in this case would have reduced the time significantly. But there was a failure on this part too.

The product though was good - a crispy and fresh pizza. But no matter how I like the product, it is the service that will lead me to think twice before dialing their number again!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blackberry or BlackCherry??

A girl is sad that her Boyfriend is leaving for another town. But he assures that they will be in constant

touch. How? Through the Blackberry Messenger!!

This is the theme of the advertisement which Blackberry is broadcasting on radio these days.

My first reaction was that of a shock!

My first thought was that it must be BlackCHERRY - one of the numerous duplicates that Times of India proudly

advertises everyday. But No. This was the same business smartphone which last known had a significant

aspiration value linked to it. No doubt new models have been introduced, the prices have dropped making it much

more affordable. But still, if you draw the mindmap of the brand, the strongest link still is a "business

phone". An advertisment involving teenagers with the Blackberry Messenger being projected as the USP is totally


Is this a strategy to target an altogether new segment by blackberry(RIM) or is it just a random short term

tactic to meet some sales targets? Are there more 'cool' phones coming in from the RIM stable to accompany the

'smart' ones. Or is it that the choice of the generation today is more smart than cool.

There seems to be a trend of having connectivity on the go with everyone wanting to share their minds on FB,

Twitter there and then rather than waiting to get to a laptop.(which also augments the need for a qwerty


It may well be an attempt to build a loyal base of customers who start off with BBs in college and then go onto

better models as they rise in their professions later on - something which I feel Nokia has done successfully.

It basically ends up in a throw up between exclusivity and volumes. With their exclusivity of services like

Push mail already in doldrums with n number of mobile devices having the similar features, guess the way to go

for BB is to drive up the volumes.

One challenge that they will face with this segment is the price of data services - which are still steep.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Making "All" Users Happy

Apple - one of the best marketing company is experiencing one of their worst marketing challenges ever.

iPhone4 has been in news for all the wrong reasons. The problem has been accentuated by the negative word of mouth it is receiving on social media. It would be interesting to see how the problem is solved by the guru of marketing.  May be it will be a part of the case studies in near future as well.

As of now, Apple has admitted that there was a mistake and is trying hard to rectify the problem as soon as possible.  Admitting the mistake is an important step considering the trust in the quality of the product that Apple enjoys - both from its users & non users.

Secondly, they are giving away free cases till Sept 30 which will help solve the problem temporarily. Giving something free is important for customer delight in cases such as these. In fact, we as customers expect it. The question is that will there be a free replacement of the handsets if and when the problem is solved?

If the customer focus of Apple in the past is anything to go by, I will not be surprised if there will be something on that lines. This was emphasized on by Jobs in the press conference as well.

"We want to make all our users happy. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Apple."

After this and knowing that there is a true intent behind the statement,  who wouldn't want to buy an Apple product?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mobile Payments

Year 2007 - first trimester of MBA  and a presentation in the area of Information Technology.

Inspired from a Swaminomics article in Economic Times, I had chosen the topic of Mobile Payments. Mobile payments have already been implemented in other emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa. For India, it looked a bit futuristic at that time but the simplicity of it was what attracted me. India had the highest potential keeping in mind the mobile penetration which is in fact still going on on a scorching pace.

The problem with credit cards is that you need a swiping machine, telephone connection et al. This limits its scope. You still need to carry cash if you are travelling by auto, buying groceries from a mandi or paying to your next door mom-and-pop store.

M-payments change things significantly. Both the parties just need a mobile, where in I can transfer the money to your number. Just like a pre-paid connection holds money, this becomes your virtual bank. In any case, if you need cash, you just go to your nearest shop, transfer the m-money and get hard cash from him. Anyone would be willing to do it, making everyone around with some cash as a bank.

And considering the recent focus of telecom companies to target semi-urban and rural areas, it becomes a boon for a city dweller who needs to transfer money to his family back home in a far-away village.

It may have looked futuristic at the time of presentation but within 3 years its time has come . Yes Bank has recently launched mobile money services in Chandigarh (where else ;))

The shot has been fired, the race started. Right now it may be a hurdle race - technology issues, regulatory issues, legal issues. But I am sure in no time this hurdle race is going to become a cross country one - reaching each and every corner.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Football Craze

Read an interesting Faking news and it prompted me to write this.

I could totally relate to the Fake guy Nitin. Wherever I turn, I can see people super excited, ranting off strange, and tough to remember names.

Recently I posted something on Facebook asking who Messi was and it evoked a whole lot of emotional responses - quite similar to what would happen if you happen to ask "Who is Sachin" to someone in India. (Btw I knew about Messi. was just being cynical)

I also realised that Football (or Soccer.. whatever) has striking similarities to our Hindu Mythology. There are multiple Gods. In cricket it is quite the opposite. Hardly months ago there was one and only one chant - Sachinnnn Sachin.. He was the only God that was there.

Despite everyone saying that football is a better game than cricket (duration + full of action), I could never watch a complete match without dozing off or changing channels.

Hence, unfortunately I am never able to comprehend that why there are so many Gods, some hardly 22 year old.

I used to play football but never got interested in it. It was only for recreation and keeping fit (no doubt it is a great exercise).

Often I wonder, if like the Faking News item, many of us are just trying to fall in line with others - a mere peer pressure to follow the game. I, myself have tried it in the past - just to see what is it that the whole world is mad about. But alas, despite several attempts, I still prefer watching Sachin or even Federer than Messi.

And ya, I too (like the FN article) came to know of the funda of football's off side when I was 20 while cricket's off side - I think I knew it when I was born!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Valuable Forgeries

Came across an interesting line while reading City of Djinns by William Dalrymple.
"Forgeries exist because real gold is so valuable"

The case is not only with gold. Forgeries are there everywhere around us.
Take duplicate books for example. Selling duplicate books for half the price on streets seems like a profitable business these days with so many vendors out there. But you will always find only the best sellers down there. It may be a worrisome development but the book is being 'forged' means it has become valuable.
Similar is the case with many products, specially in FMCG segment.

May be publishers, companies and marketers can look at alternative ways of extracting this value.

How? I am also thinking!!

Friday, June 04, 2010

Sabse badi Invention…

The most important invention of all times may be a highly debatable topic. The choices can vary from a wheel to a light bulb to a telephone to an aircraft etc etc etc. But they all span over a large period of time.

Lets narrow our search of the most important invention to our generation.

But before that lets define the parameters based on which we can build a case of our choice. Though there can be a variety of parameters like communication, computing, entertainment, transportation and so on but I won't opt for all these. I would like to go to the roots of our existence.

What is the basic necessity of a human?

Yes, it is the cliched Roti, Kapda aur Makaan. We can live without our cars and mobiles and TVs and Laptops, and Internet. But its really tough to live without the above 3 things.

And it is under Roti or Food, that my choice of the greatest invention lies. The invention is.. <drum rolls>

Maggi Noodles!

I hope everyone agrees!

We love it when we are kids - a time when we have plenty of choices of the home cooked food. It is a delicacy - to be enjoyed once in a while. The scarcity of it providing the Value.

Once you grow up, it becomes kind of a necessity. Hostelers swear by it. You can have it anytime - the taste becoming better as you move closer to midnight.

If you  are on a trek, making a maggi over a bonfire becomes the highlight of the trip.

Though I have no experience of it but I can imagine its use in a married life. Ya, when you have a fight and the wife refuses to make dinner!

In any case, it is the perfect backup when you are not in a mood to make dinner and running tight on a budget so can't order or go out.

The basic point is that maggi has been a solution to the most important need of your life when you need it the most.

Now, after writing so many words on it, how can I resist not having it right now. Will be back in 2 minutes!!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

And the Oscar goes to......

So I turned 28 today. Through the day, I realized that wishes came from 2 sources - Calls and Facebook (Orkut

bhi check kar lena chahiye ek baar). In 'good old times' sms wishes used to form a sizeable chunk of these

wishes. Now it has been almost eliminated - a huge loss in revenue for the Mobile operators for sure.

Actually when you think of it, the case is of Volume vs Value. Facebook is definitely for Volume Lovers -

hundreds of wishes from across the globe - it certainly feels nice to have them.

Sms provided the value. After all it took a little bit of effort on the part of the sender to type it and he/she

needed to know your number!!!

Reading the above lines again, I realize that being a part of the 'Change Generation' - the one who have seen

both sides of the technological revolution - it is a sin to call something 'good old times'. I mean how can you

say 4 years ago as old. Good, on the other hand is definitely subjective.

Anyways, the idea before penning down this post was something else but is turning out to be entirely

different. This was meant to be an Oscar like speech on the past 28 years of life - a suggestion from KT.

But now I realize that for a Oscar-like speech, you need to have an equivalent achievement. Most Oscar winners

have one thing in common - they have been able to focus all their energies on one project and make it the best

in the world. In many cases, they have toiled their whole lives to reach that pinnacle. I compare my 28 years to

it and find myself at the other end of the spectrum. I graduated as Mechanical engineer, became a Software coder

and then delved into learning the art of Management. On the way washed my hands in the washrooms of a heavy

machines manufacturing plant, a steel plant, five star ones of an IT company, a small branch of an Insurance

company and then quite literally with five different types of oil. In a nutshell, these 28 years cannot be more

diversified - quite the opposite of a 'Focus' that is required to be the best in the world.

No prizes for guessing what the learning is out of the thoughts in the last few lines. Wish it was easy to find

out what exactly you need to do in life... You can call that my Birthday wish!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Khussshhh to Bahut ho Tum….

It seems to have been a happy 2010 for Indians - if Facebook's Gross National Happiness Index is to be believed. And assuming it is largely a young India that is Social media active, we indeed have a very happy young brigade.

In fact, in the past several months, even on the occassions we have gone below zero - implying that most of the FB status updates were negative in nature - have not been less than -1. (the only significant dip was last on 26/11/2008 for obvious reasons).

The reasons for this positivism and happiness can be multifold.

1. Jobs are back - probably the biggest reason.

2. No major terrorist attack. Ofcourse Naxals attacking and killing CRPF Jawans by the hundreds is no terrorist activity. Terrorists are only the ones who come from across the border. These Naxals are fighting for Basic human rights. No?

3.Sachin's form. He completes 20 years in Cricket, hits a double hundred, top run getter in IPL, joins twitter. Sachin's form is directly proportional to the nation's happiness.

4. A general conscious or sub-conscious human tendency to make others jealous by writing awesome things happening in their lives.

5. Extra ordinary performances in Farmville. IT may be our growth engine but we are really farmers at heart. It has been proved by young Indians, specially those working in the IT sector being so successful at managing huge farms on their own.

6. Plenty of jokers to make fun of: Yuvi's pregnant woman body, Rahul Mahajan's marriage, the 1411 tigers, MRF Blimp, Nithyanand and ND Tiwari, the evergreen Arnab Goswami.

There are plenty more I am sure. If anyone reading this has more reasons in mind for our happiness, do share.

The GNH index of India and other countries can be viewed here.

Image courtesy Facebook.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Vofadone... Did I call your name wrong?

I would like to applaud Vodafone people for the rigrous training they give to their customer care representatives.Each time I call them I have a distinct, innovative experience. This time it was to get GPRS activated on my mobile. And the representative was so caring that he talked for full 5 minutes to give me an answer which he could have given in around 10 seconds. I was reminded of that ICICI advertisement in which the bank employee keeps listening to the old lady even after the office isclosed.

But in this case, I didn't even have to spend my energy talking. It was the customer care who was talking. And what a polite talk. Every word was preceeded and followed by the words: "Haanji Sarfraz ji batana chahunga".Ya, my name is Sidharth but hasn't someone great said that "Whats in a Name?"

And of course, Vodafone spends so much money entertaining us with zoozoos and pugs etc that we cannot and should not expect them to have CRM softwares which brings up all the customer details in front of the Customer Care representatives.

Anyways, he told me each and everything he might have learnt in his training course on GPRS. It was of real help to people like me who don't have an iota of idea about what yahoo and google are. He was so damn helpful that even after telling him that I have saved the settings which were smsed to me, heasked me three times if I had recieved the settings.

After having accompanied me through the long and tedious process of recieving and saving the setting, when I was all ready to surf the internet, he politely informed me "Haanji Sarfraaz jee... batana chahunga... aur maafi maangna chahunga ki GPRS seva J&K mein uplabdh nahi hai. Sarfraz ji batana chahunga ki yeh seva kuch hi maheeno mein shuru ki ijayegi. Sarfraz ji yeh batana chahunga ki tab aap yeh seva alag alag sites jaise yahoo, google kholne ke liye istemal kar sakte hain. Sarfraz ji..maafi chahunga ki abhi aap yeh kuch nahi kar payenge".

I calmly pulled my hair off my head.So I asked him what should I do with the settings that I had just saved.But may be he had forgotten some lessons from the GPRS class. C'mon who remembers all that what is taught in class. I myself have slept through many classes and during exams skipped many chapters which I was not comfortable with. And as he started "Sarfraz jii.. batana chahunga", I recognized that it was the same tone, I used to have when during vivas I was asked questions from "that" chapter. I am a very impatient man. And I didn't want to de-motivate the guy by running my patience-less train of thoughts over him so I quietly disconnected the call.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Customer Care Again

Continuing on the customer care note, got an interesting call.
I had got my car serviced from Hyundai a few days ago. So the customer care called to know my feedback. It was a sweet voice of a lady.
This is how it went (Original was in Hindi, translated to English for my global audience!! - Ya there is not even local audience as of now but I like to think Long term!!!)

CC: Good Morning Sir. I am calling from ABC Hyundai. Am I talking to Mr. Shadaab.

Me: This could be me. But may be they bungled up with cell numbers.

Me: No. You have got the wrong number.

CC: Oh. You own a Santro?

Me: Yes.

CC: You got it serviced it on 13th.

Me: Yes. But my name is Sidharth

CC: Oh! Sir, I would like to ask you how was the experience.

Me:Not even a sorry!!!

Me: Ya, it was OK.

CC: Were you satisfied with the washing of the car.

Me: Yes I was.

CC: And Overall experience?

Me: Ya good!

CC: Out of 10, how many marks would you like to give us.

Me: umm... 8

CC: Why have you cut 2 marks???

Me: WTF.. what a question!!!! Well..because you call me and don't know my name. And because somebody changed the channel in the customer lounge when Sachin was batting that day!!!

Me: You had promised that some stains on the seat cover will go off. But they didn't. But that's Ok. You didn't charge me for it.

CC: So why cut the marks?

Me: Because you Overpromised and Underdelivered!!

CC: whaat??

Me: Nothing. you promised something and could not do it

CC: But we didn't charge for it.

Me: Ya Ok.

CC: Sir, 9 and 10 marks are for excellent. and below that Very Good..

Me: what the hell!!!!

Me: OK. 9 marks.. Fine now????????

CC: Thank you sir!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Heights of Customer Involvement

I became a fan of the national telecom company of India. Their transparent systems are of the order such that they ought to be included in the Customer Relationship Management(CRM) case studies of management schools.
Customer involvement is one of the popular jargon in marketing and this company takes it from theory to practice. what happened yesterday is proof of that.

Broadband at my home was erratic for 10 days and for past couple of days it had completely conked off. But it was not followed by any bull shit like calling customer care and lodging complaint, then following it up with the same cranky customer care whose sole purpose in life is to increase Blood Pressure of people. May be customer care centers have secret tie-ups with hospitals. Seriously, either IT companies should design better systems for these people or the companies whom they represent should share more information and empower them (words directly from a CRM case study)

Anyways, coming back to our customer focused company, a call was made to the lineman who had installed the land line at the house. The favor balance had been made heavy at the time of installation with the proverbial chai-nashta. So he suggested to get the modem checked. And hence started the journey which opened my eyes to what extents companies go to please their customers. I went directly to the room where all the action was. Huge racks of telecom equipment with cards and wires occupied most of the room. Along side sat the officials who greeted me warmly as the line man himself was there. I was offered a seat along with another customer who was also facing broadband issues. As one of the official remarked "It seems to be our Broadband day today". Gradually they started the diligent process of checking out the fault step by step. Everything was done in a transparent way in my presence so that I could understand how tough it was. And tough it was. Specially identifying the correct wire from amongst a thousand wires. It was literally finding a needle in a haystack. But the well trained officials did it. Important lesson learned - Nothing is impossible though it may take a long time to do it.
After around one hour, the modem was confirmed to be in working order. But by this time, I had mingled with the people there thoroughly - customer involvement!!
I was made part of the team and like a nurse I handed the expert doctors all the tools they needed.
"Pechkass(screwdriver)", one said. "Here Sir". "Gun (some tool)". "Right Away". In fact, after around one and a half hours I was telling them where the tools were after they forgot where they had left them. Some of the more aggrieved customers who came - not surprisingly with broadband problems (it was broadband day after all) thought that I was an employee there and discussed their problems. I heard them patiently and referred them to the concerned person. At one point of time I almost picked up an incoming call on their extension.
I had chai with them and chatted about different office politics specially in PSUs. VRS or Voluntary Retirement Scheme was being introduced in the company and was a hot topic of discussion. I too, gave my honest comments about how it would be in the benefit of the company. How the high average age had affected the PSU to slow down, how dogged with old practices (except the Marketing and Customer Support Department ofcourse) and resistance to change was affecting the flexibility. How losing the old war horses will help improve the efficiency and will open to new, fresh ideas which were desperately needed in the face of changing technology everyday.
But unfortunately, my ideas were not taken very well. May be it was the age of the employees or may because they thought that VRS was a poor scheme. Soon, I excused myself as I had to leave for work. But the good 2 hours spent there really opened my eyes.
Sadly, the broadband is still not working!! I am wondering if my comments on VRS has to do anything with that?

P.S: It has started working although very slowly now. So I am able to publish this post!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Main aur Meri Tanhai

Aksar yeh Baatein karti hain....

Related Post

Moral Conflicts

The biggest challenge, I have faced on job is to deal with people - people who are not very literate, have low IQ, come from low income backgrounds and many times earn on daily basis.
So what are the challenges?

1. First and foremost is to know whether a person is actually idiot or just acting idiot to gain attention or sympathy. There are some who ask about each and everything all the time. Though they have been doing the same thing for a fairly long time. But they have the habit of just asking. It may also happen in case if the person has made some mistake. He knows he has so he acts idiotic to show he doesn't know. This brings up the correlated second challenge.

2. To know when someone is lying. How do you know if a person is telling the truth or not when he asks for a leeway on the pretext of some death in family or a court case or he being stuck in a traffic jam. Experience - some own and some of the others, tells that for every genuine case there are 10 fakers who have killed all their living relatives at some point or the other. Taking a morally correct path and accept the excuse every time may lead to you being labeled as "Soft" and may affect work in some cases. Sticking to "rules" may be considered rude and may not be acceptable to conscious. so how do you maintain the balance??

3. Then comes the 3rd case - When someone commits a mistake. Any mistake in my present line of work should be and are generally taken up seriously as it can take a real disastrous turn - take the case of recent fire in Jaipur. So strict action is sometimes taken against non-employee workers and drivers committing mistakes. The strict action, many times according to "rules", sometimes result in their loss of wages for the day. And hence comes the moral dilemma. Mistakes can be made by anyone but it can be a difference between life and death considering the sensitive work. So to punish and affect his earnings so that learns never to repeat it or let him go this time?

A special case of the above moral conflict comes when the person realizing his mistake, comes, pleads to you and some times even try and touch your feet. Mind you the person begging forgiveness is 10, 20, 30 years elder to you. what to do at this time? Even if you want, it is very tough to follow rules.
You know that the guy is doing it deliberately - to influence you, to soften you up but the oddity of the situation leaves you confused.

There are no easy answers and may be it is experience which gives the answers.

Related MMT Comic

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Main aur Meri Tanhai...

Aksar yeh baatein karti hain....

Related Post

Twitter in Colleges

So now twitter has entered classrooms too. Some tech savvy teachers are using twitter in class rooms for better interaction with students. In a large class, there are many students who have doubts but are shy of raising there hands in fear of public ridicule. "What will others think of me?", "What if the question is a stupid one?" "After the class they are going to call me names". These are some questions which lead to doubts and hence a hesitation in asking questions. It happened with me and I am sure with everyone at some point of time in their lives.

Twitter has come to the rescue now!! A trending topic can now be created (using "#"), and it can be put up on the OHP where the questions can be put up in form of tweets with the particular hash tag. So the shy students can put up questions without having to raise their hands.

I LOL'd thinking how much more miserable lives of our profs could have been if twitter and this pedagogy been around during our times at college. The imaginative and innovative graffiti and ideas due to which desks had to be repainted after every semester in engineering could have been permanently imprinted on the twitter servers and for everyone to see and enjoy. Twitter would have benefited by using it for trend analysis and targeted marketing. Historians could have recorded the data and years after now could have written papers on how the thinking in colleges have evolved/degraded over the years.

During MBA, we used to give a feedback for each teacher at the end of every trimester. Had twitter been around, the prof could have got a Live feedback there and then!! What fun it would have been. The best thing in any case would have been organizing mass cuts would have been child's play.

Yes, twitter in Indian colleges will be a disaster. In any case, one should be working on getting more confident in college rather than using twitter to contribute your thoughts which may or may not be stupid.

Related MMT

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Main aur Meri Tanhai

Aksar yeh Baatein karte hain....

Related Post

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Main aur Meri Tanhai

Aksar yeh baatein karti hain....

M: Why do they keep asking people for their comments on someone which everyone knows has achieved something great? Obviously they will say good things only.

MT: You haven't got a single visitor on your blog praising Sachin on 200. Right??

M: ahem.. well....

The One

Yesterday it was the last nail in the coffin for all so called critics of Sachin. Strangely, these were the people who have not seen or experienced an iota of cricket in comparison to what the master has. After today, whenever a voice against Him will rise, only a scorecard or a shot square of the wicket to a widish delivery will be needed to be shown. And the sad part is that it will not be the umpteen other bat raises of the past.

Now His place has been permanently fixed as THE GOD. In fact, He quite literally is. Every so called religion, caste, region has its distinctions and beliefs. But one thing that remains undisputed is the common belief in Sachin - belief that he will never cheat, belief that he will try his best for the team and the country, belief that Hope is alive till He is there. Now compare that to what all is associated with God - the one that people normally pray to. That God will be always be fair, that whatever he does is the best for you and that Hope is there till the time you are under his wings. Any similarities??

They say that God created the world - the grossly flawed world that we know and live in. Sachin created another world where in people live in pure harmony till the time he is on the pitch. No egos are hurt when a guy in a Mercedes comes to a autowallah with a radio and asks "Kitne pe khel raha hai??". There are no class distinctions when outside a TV showroom you can see people with expensive clothes standing alongside street vendors looking at the screens - all with the same wish in their hearts. And a world where a whole nation can rise with one voice if something goes against the God. Where else can you find such a homogeneous world?

If world is destroyed today and the twitter, facebook and google servers are somehow saved, it will not be surprising if historians of the next phase of human evolution conclude that Sachin was a God who walked the earth - uniting people, making them rise over petty issues - even for a few hours and most importantly making them happy.
If the historians of tomorrow can conclude that, why not do that today??
We are a terribly fragmented nation. There is virtually no so called Unity in the diversity. There is that only one person - THE ONE who provides the constant factor - the unity. He does to India what no Other God can and will be able to do!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Random Observations

It was a small dinner with a transporter last night. As I sat there enjoying the Kashmiri delicacies – Ristae, Rogan Josh, Gushtaab, Sheekh Kabab and Mirch-wangan korma (Ya I ate all that!!), two things struck me.

One was the Similarities in Diversity. Sanchit, after his trip to Srinagar had remarked that he didn’t understand the language in the markets of Chennai. But he didn’t expect the same in North India(Kashmir) as well. But yesterday, I observed the Similarities. As I started eating Spoon, Fork, Knife etc, it was recommended to use hands. So rice was mixed with the Ristae like it is mixed with Sambhar and eaten in the same ‘andaaz‘ as till now I had seen only South Indians eat.
I found it quite amusing.

The second thing which struck me was the extent to which an entrepreneur has to keep his senses open to happenings around him to survive, compete and grow. The guy treating us was a transporter – with a fleet of trucks which carry oil from the IOC facilities to various retail outlets, army, air bases etc. He was interested to know the effect of China skirmishes in Ladakh region to his potential growth. The link is quite simple but it has to be observed. Due to the China factor, there has been an increased movement of army towards the Ladakh region. The area experiences extreme weather conditions hence to meet the fuel demand in the winters, something called Advanced Winter Stocking or AWS is done during summer months. Now with increased army presence and the potential longevity of the issue at hand, the demand – both current and for winters is going to be high. This means many more numbers of trucks required to carry the fuels from here – more so because it takes much more time for them to supply and return than say a trip to Srinagar or Kargil. Hence, with increased requirement means he has to take a decision to invest capital to buy more trucks (and eventually increase his profits – somebody has to take it!!).

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Favor Balance!!

Realized today that interactions with other beings specially with whom you have a professional relationship results in a game of "Favor Balancing". (read something similar in an article long time ago. but can't find a link to it)
It means that if some one has done you a favor, there is an instinct to return that favor.

Now favor balancing can be short term or long term.
In short term, we sometimes call it a tip or to chose a harsher word - a bribe. e.g. there is a scene in the movie Rocket Singh where the Sales Representative tips/bribes the watchman with a pack of cigarettes. He later on charms a receptionist - which can also be painted in similar colors - the latent need of the receptionist to be praised/getting attention is fulfilled against the favor she is doing of letting them an easy access to the boss.

In long term relationships like friends, colleagues, customers, subordinates, seniors that favor done keeps your Favor Account in positive and may be redeemed some time in any time in future. The other person becomes obliged to return your favor in some form or the other. Many times it is in form of 'Gifts'.
Strangely, Gifts are socially acceptable while bribes are not!

Another associated side effect is that once this fact is realized, people manipulate their actions - deliberately trying to emphasize that a favor is being done, hence adding weight to their side of the favor balance.
It will be wrong to judge this as right or wrong because may be most of us must have done this at some point - knowingly or unknowingly. An example of this can be found in a statement like - "There is problem x, Y, Z but OK.. Let me see what can be done". "Its really tough to do it..but no problem yaar.. I will do it..just for you my friend!!"

This can be found in organizational setups where it can help build brand loyalty. A customer facing representative initially shows that a particular request cannot be complied with or is tough to execute. The customer naturally pushes a bit and then the solution is put forward with a show that something impossible has been achieved - thus burdening the customer with a fact that he has been done a special favor. The customer, having made feel special thus unknowingly becomes a fan of that particular entity/brand. If it is a case of subordinates or superior - the return can be improvement in your personal brand.

In life, there are only a few people - family and a set of close friends who do favors for you without thinking it as a favor but because they actually love to do it - may be because they genuinely like you. In this complex world of balances and imbalances it is important to cherish those 'un'favorable people!! :)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Main aur Meri Tanhai

Aksar Yeh baatein kartein hain....

Main(M): Why do people send friend requests to someone they dont know....

Meri Tanhai(MT): Have you received a request from a cute/hot girl..

M: Ya.. How do you know??

MT: You would have hit the "Decline" button by now had it been a random guy...

M: Hmm....

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Empty School Bags

My generation of school goers was characterized by heavy bags. I remember many articles in newspapers which focused on reducing the weight on the shoulders. It was considered the Ministry of Education’s job to help this burden. The solution instead lay elsewhere – in technology!

But books and copies offered exciting time. At the start of a new year, fresh copies and books used to be bought and diligently covered with brown paper and plastic paper. A special cupboard was assigned to books with labels put to divide it into different sections. A sketch pen was used to put the name of the subject on the width side of the copies for instant recognition. Then each night bags were packed according to the next day time table. I remember the anxiety and that fear which used to strike when the wanted notebooks could not be found – may be given to a friend or when there was a sudden realization that some homework given had not been done.

But now, all that is set to get over. The advent of Kindles, iPads or the more local Pi’s is set to change the students – not only at school but at all levels study. School Bags will now carry a digital reader to store all the syllabus books and a digital notepad – to take notes.

There will be no need to pack bags at night, waste cupboard space, fear of losing copies full of notes right at the end of the year with exams approaching. It will also be easier – it actually already is to just copy the homework from a friend.

The only thing that will perhaps not change will be the tiffin box which will still offer a suspense of what has been packed, with a hope that there is maggi inside.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Foggy Drives

Returning from work..Night time.. Dense Fog… Headlights on low beam.. Can’t see more than few meters ahead…Slow Music… Heater is on… Trust your instincts and carry on..

Want to keep driving urge to hit the highway.. the practical mind comes forth… calls you idiot.. turns the wheel in the opposite direction..

Not a soul on road…Misty settings...Seems like a dream sequence from a movie.. Suddenly the mist clears…the destination beckons… Dream Over.. reality time…

Social Media and Social Change

First of all what is social Change?
Simply put, it is a collective change in the behavior of a large group of people which is different from a tradition, trend or a way of working of a system.
To narrow the definition we can say that the change is more libertarian – a more open minded society – open to changes, new ideas and not stuck in ancient beliefs – just following what has been going on and scoffing at what is not in line with that. It can concern anything – religion, politics, movies, business - everything that affects and modifies our daily life!
In no way, I say that those ancient beliefs and ideas are wrong or out of date. There are many examples where we can learn from the past. In religion, for example, going to a religious place, reciting/singing hymns (or listening to it) has been an ancient tradition. It was primarily an exercise of stress relief or a kind of meditation. But now going there has been made kind of compulsory, leading people to believe that if they don’t God will not be happy and his wrath will befall upon you.
The basic point here is that there was a reason to things which became ingrained in traditions and slowly people mindlessly started following it. The need is to know the Why behind it and if ‘Why’ is not relevant then being open to change.
All matters of Social Change will always start with a Why!!
Why should I be only an engineer?
Why shouldn’t I leave my job and be an entrepreneur?
Why can’t the government make public a detailed statement of account of its sources of income and expenditure?
Why is a scene in a movie with a person riding a horse banned or what is the problem with Savita Bhabhi?
Why can’t the government not punish who deserve it or who by acting in certain ways, with certain (un-understandable to common man) motives disrupt the daily lives of people.

Again, the focus here is only on the change in thought process and knowing that there is another person who thinks the same way. What can be done, How it can be done? – The action will be an after effect.
So now can Social Media of today lead to Social change.
I believe it certainly can - the main reason being the viral nature of it. Thoughts, views, observations get transmitted quickly over it that it beats the traditional - the literal word of mouth. Take Twitter for example. The option of retweeting ensures that 1 message will reach multiple people and the fact that it is being retweeted means that it is acceptable and people agree on it and are at par with the thoughts.
It further helps in opinions getting formed, sharpened and being known. Influencers like people from popular media get their thoughts easily transmitted. And more importantly, these ideas are challenged – many times with valid arguments. It also ensures that much more relevant problems and news will be able to reach the people who matter and who are in a position to take it to masses where mediums like twitter wont.
The best deal is that people who are stuck in the old form of beliefs with their stick to traditions and no change policy are NOT there on social media. Of course, how can they accept this wide world that continuously generates new thoughts and messages? As a result, with a majority of libertarians who are active here, the ideas being generated and transmitted are of that nature as well. And thus is in perfect sync with the social change defined above.
Once a good number of us are in line, then there can be a time of action. Then we can ask the authorities on where our taxes go or as Chetan Bhagat points out – even change the governments. After all many of us go voting believing that each and every vote matters and I can change the fate of nation with that one vote – which is clearly a farce. We can change only if 20 million of us vote similarly.
And what can be the medium to channel a similar thought for 20 million people - obviously a place where they all are present, where they hear, listen and observe. The Facebooks, twitters of today and may be something more focused to this task tomorrow!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Conflict

He sat outside the door of his small two room house and stared directly at the setting sun and couldn’t help comparing his life with it. Both were nearing their end and everyday were in a conflict.
Far away army bunkers and watch towers were casting long shadows. It had not always been like this. Born on the other side of the barbed wire, not too far though, he remembered running around the open, unhindered fields without a care in the world, lying down in the open at night and playing in the mud when it rained. But then there was a conflict, he never knew why. The same grounds - his beloved fields were raped repeatedly in front of his own eyes. The result was an undesired, illegitimate child – some called it simply the fence and the others Border.
The conflict took away everything. He had to mature early – the only school of the village which was walking distance earlier was too far away now. Every day became a struggle when running from pillar to post to save whatever remained of his fields. He recalled the delight, the enthusiasm and fervor with which people had celebrated on that special day. There was also a speech he heard on radio and its various translations later. ‘Tryst with destiny’ they called it. Reliving those moments helped in times when he had to stand in queues, wait for the babus to ignore pleas to let him be on his fields. The short stature didn’t help either – it became too easy to overlook him. His walk was like a joker in circus, whole body swaying from side to side as he walked. The dense growth of beard helped hide his thoughts – and pains. They were visible only through the light brown, intense eyes. But who was bothered to look in the eyes of a 5 feet joker.
His son’s voice broke his spell. Thinking about the past seemed more pleasant. His struggle to get the fields back was still on but the energy seemed to wane away now. But the hope was still there in his eyes. His son had then sought to renew the effort. The prospect of getting his fields back made him happy but not the approach that the son sought. The rebellion streak that was absent in the father had caught attention of some people.
He didn’t approve of the path chosen. The belief n the voice in the radio was still there – the passion and the love for the nation it had evoked was fondly remembered and cherished. He would never do something that would be unapproved by what that voice stood for. The time will come – the belief in the system was intact. But in a corner of his heart, there was also that fear that time taken may not be too long. He wanted to run on his own fields one more time and to die lying down there, peacefully staring at the stars. May be his son would be successful.
But after many years, his son had suddenly appeared today – on the run. The dream had gone awry and he needed a place to hide. Only his father could help. The same short height and joker like walk once people made fun of had become respectful - may be pitiful and believable when the beard turned grey and then white.
Again he was jolted back from the past. The sun had set and it was dark now. He had been summoned to the police station for an enquiry about his son. They had got news that he was in the area.
It was Hope against the Belief. Today, with his son accepting defeat the Hope had died. For the belief to survive he would have to confess about his son’s whereabouts.
At the police station, the officer had his usual questions but like everybody he didn’t bother to look into the eyes - Eyes of the 5 foot joker, which always revealed the truth.
He walked back slowly to his house having done what his son did – killed. Today, the beliefs had died too.
He took out a pot of mud from his trunk - saved from his fields. Its smell was invigorating. But today he took it to the roof and spread it out there. Then he stretched his small body over it and lay back staring at the stars. It was strangely peaceful.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

New Year Resolution

I didn’t have any last year. Just hoped that it should be a good one. It was an amazing one. I can easily call it the most amazing one till now – full of ups and downs. It really went to real extremes this year – a roller coaster year… a year of crests and troughs.

Well, I am not in a mood to fret over the bygones – a lesson learnt in 2009. Let’s focus on the one to come and start with the (in)famous new year resolution.

It is not a long list that I have in mind right now. Only one – reducing the net addiction. Possible? The year end will tell. But with things spilling over from computer to internet on mobile too, something definitely needs to be done!!

So how to go about it and what should be the metrics of reduction in the net addiction. Quite simply, a control on time spent on the web!

To detail it further, 2 main things need to be done.

1.  No frequent checking of mails, twitter and facebook

    How to do it?

    -       Not keeping all the tabs open. The college time is over – the time when there was a new mail every 5 minutes. It was important to check them because there were some where there was the most important information on lecture cancellation and you wanted to be the first one to know and tell others, gaining some good wishes from them for telling them the good news.

    -       Switching off the alarm sound on Tweetdeck – already done.

    2. Keeping a designated time for reading blogs/news/articles etc.

      This is a tough – very tough thing to do. But that itself is the challenge.

      Ego:Now… time to plan the timetable for mail checks…

      Alter Ego: Damn!!! What are you doing? What for? Plan something else.. Make a new resolution. You will not be able to do..

      Ego: Shut Up Shut Up… Take out the diary and write it….

      And the fight continues….

      Why I am an Atheist - I

      Definition: a lack of belief in the existence of God or gods

      It was this autobiographical piece by Bhagat Singh ( that started my mental turbulence- of questioning the beliefs.

      Bhagat Singh was a superbly clear minded person who could put what he thought about his atheism so eloquently in words. I am still trying and this is an attempt in putting tough thoughts in words.

      Some of these thoughts and ideas would, of course, be borrowed from what Bhagat Singh wrote.

      One reason is that belief in God leads to an association with a religion. And religion is something that leads to biases. In Mumbai, when we went out to find a house on rent, the point of religion came up many times. If you are of a particular set of religion, then only you can rent the house.


      Are the others not the sons/daughters of the so called GOD?

      And needless to say we have been witness to so many incidents where the division of INDIANS on basis of religion has been exploited. Religion makes boundaries around the lives of people. A bhakt of Hanumaan has to go to Mandir every Tuesday. He reads Hanuman Chalisa every day. A Sikh has his own rituals – may be reading Japuji Sahib every morning. The ritual is good intentioned – so that people read it, understand it and may be follow the learning in their lives.

      But do they understand what they read? How many people try to follow it? It has become what it is - a ritual that has to be done so that the Gods are pleased each morning.

      So my first step to atheism start here – reading a religious book or praying each morning. Why not read a good motivational book or some article on positive thinking instead?

      HR is not all Gass

      An Oil Depot, though a part of a gargantuan organization, is a small company in itself. We have our own set of customers, our own products, a separate finance department and an operations department. Products are the different types of fuels. The team which is responsible for filling these products in Tanks and dispatching them can be called an operations department. The Supply and Distribution(S&D) Deptt gets daily orders from customers and assigns tank trucks to meet the demands on a daily basis.

      For the past few days I have been shuttling between the two departments of my office – the client facing S&D and the operations. And I can clearly see how susceptible they are to conflict.

      S&D has to cater to the demand of all the customers – from the next door retail outlets to the far flung, many times inaccessible parts of the crown state of India. Sitting in an S&D room means non-stop phone calls, people barging in through to know the status of their demands. You cannot turn them away as the product is an essential good.

      Coming to the operations part. Filling of Tank Trucks (TT) as directed by the S&D is just the basic requirement. In addition to providing the right fuel with right quality and quantity, operations also has to take care of the safety aspect as we are dealing with a highly inflammable product here. It has to take care that the TTs have all the safety fittings on, the drivers and helpers who are filling the product are doing so in a safe fashion. And add to that the normal operational hazards of dealing with erratic behaviors of both man and machine.

      Now this creates a potential Mahabharat type situation.

      For example, a customer is pressuring the S&D to dispatch the product at the earliest.

      But while filling of the TT, one of the following occurs:

      -       The loading mechanism goes out of order for some reason in the middle of the filling


      -       The less educated worker makes does not follow the safe filling procedure and has to be reprimanded so that he does not repeat the mistake. (old school methods)


      -       There is some deficiency in the Truck for which it is not safe to fill it with the product

      In any of the situations above, there will be delays in meeting the customer demands.

      Primarily no one is at fault and are doing their job but it creates a conflicting situations where there will be fingers pointed at each other.

      This is at a much smaller scale. I am sure big organizations face this conflict at larger levels.

      So what is the solution to avoid such conflicts. One classic solution which we generally used to write in the MBA exams was Job Rotation - people involved in both the jobs be rotated so that each other can understand the pain points of other.

      But it has other associated problems of handling the ego conflicts and the human resistance to change.

      The point is that all problems at the end involve Humans or in other words are HR problems. May be the HR subjects in MBA courses need to be marketed well to students – after all that is what they need to know the most!!

      Idiotic Ideas !!

      3 idiots, the latest buzz in town is also getting released on You Tube, though some 8 – 10 weeks later. Raju Hirani, the director says that people are anyways going to download the movie from the internet, why not earn some revenues from it. I think this is an excellent idea.

      Many people will still prefer going the free way – downloading from torrents or getting it from friends. But there will be some who won’t mind spending a few bucks getting it “legally”. Human mentality is at work. If it is really cheap vs free, people will have tendency to go for the real cheap because it frees them from the guilt of piracy. It is something similar to what Chetan Bhagat books did a few years back. Everyone used to get the pirated books to get them cheap. E.g. a Rs 300 book is easily available for anything between Rs 80 – 120 at any roadside vendor. By pricing the book at 100 bucks (which now has become a trend with new authors), people went in for the original because it was real cheap. Why not buy an original for 100 rather than a duplicate for may be Rs 60 – 70 and be guilt free.

      Moreover, it also helps in creating a buzz which is especially useful for a new movie. Say the movie is available for download for Rs 100, one who downloads it will definitely put it up on twitter, facebook etc encouraging the circle of friends to go for it.

      One potential problem can be the payment on the internet. Many people are still wary of internet payments and many users will be of the age group who may not possess bank accounts or credit cards.

      I am eagerly waiting to see how this strategy of 3 idiots goes through!!

      MBA & Politics

      Rahul Gandhi yesterday won the CNN-IBN politician of the year.

      Well, I think he is a good example and a case for the MBAisation of politics.

      Politicians traditionally have been people who have risen from the root level, understanding people and their problems and then getting their support and votes to get elected. And while they were at it, many didn’t get enough time to get a full education.

      Then there are technocrats, young (mostly), highly educated, having and open to new ideas who want to change things work. Many times they have been charged with not able to understand the basic problems of people at a very basic level.

      Rahul Gandhi is doing something similar to a FMCG marketing job for a MBA. A young management trainee out of a high profile institute is put on a sales training in different parts of the country where he travels deep into the heartland, understanding the basics of consumers – who they are, what they want, how they behave etc. They are highly educated and talented; they understand the macro side of things very well. And by undergoing this kind of training, they get the micro picture as well. And after that they are as comfortable giving a presentation to a CEO or talking to a paan walah in a small town.

      May be such kind of training programs can be designed in politics as well. Different political parties can come for campus placements, pick up bright people from across the fields – doctors, engineers, MBAs, Accountants and then put them into a training to a point where they are at ease giving a joint statement with a country head or addressing a rally in villages.

      Free Education

      Seth Godin recently came out with a e-book which is available for ‘free’ download. According to him it’s all about spreading the idea. In one of the interviews on music piracy, Palash Sen of Euphoria said that he didn’t have a problem with piracy as long it is helping his work to get to people. If people really like your work then it will help your brand to grow and there can be plenty of alternative channels to make money out of it.

      Can the same logic be applied to education too?

      Currently we have MBA preparation centers, Engineering coaching centers, GMAT and GRE book who provide you material for preparation at enormous costs. How about some company providing books, question papers,  podcasts of lectures – all free of cost. But what can be the source of income for them? That is a food for thought !!

      It can be easily applied to schools and colleges where free material can be provided on the net. There have been some arguments that this will lead to students not attending classes. But I think attending classes has a direct correlation to the quality of the teacher. If the classes are great, no one would trade it for mere notes.

      As one of the articles on a similar debate says:
      “The value of a college education has never been entirely about the content of the classes. People go to college to make connections with ambitious peers and eminent professors, for the social life, for the facilities and, of course, for the credential. The exclusivity of an elite education is a great part of its value, and the fact that anyone can click through a Harvard biology class online is unlikely to change that.”

      Friday, January 08, 2010

      Rekindling the Future

      Few moments have passed in the past 3 years when there was a laptop in front without it being plugged into the vast cloud of internet. But the last 5 months were exactly opposite. Getting an internet connection here in Jammu was a project in itself. But, as they say everything has a brighter side. Lack of connectivity on the laptop meant getting GPRS activated on the mobile.

      Once I was a net addict and now I became a mobile net addict. With laptop, you still had times – travelling, in the class or in general where there was no wi-fi available. But with that small piece in hand and it being connected to the world meant the addiction was waiting to happen.

      So now after around 5 months on surfing through the mobile, I am having trouble concentrating on the big screen of the laptop when it has been finally found purpose. Checking mail on the mobile is much easier, though replying back is not (It can be made easy if you have a qwerty keypad. But can’t complain much as I am using a high(est) end mobile phone that too given for free by Lalit, which also had a major role to play for my mobile-net addiction given its huge screen).

      Recently, I have also been reading books on mobile. Well !! From paper to laptop to mobile. With the emergence of Kindle (and some other e-readers), a debate has been sparked on what is better – a traditional book or reading on some e-reader like Kindle.

      Well most of the arguments in favor of books have been emotional – that smell, filling up the racks with a rainbow of collection, getting cosy with a book in a corner with a cup of coffee on a lazy Sunday etc etc.

      Yes those things make you nostalgic and difficult to toss the books aside. But thinking rationally, for me, books always meant less concentration. It is easy to lose track after some time, especially if you are reading a tough book.

      I read books on speed reading and am still struggling to reach the enormous reading speeds which these books make you dream about.

      I find it much easier to read swiftly on a mobile or on a laptop – without any speed reading guides.

      Though I am yet to experience Kindle but I am pretty sure that I will like it. The only problem that remains is that of High prices. As of now, it is out of reach but that is the best thing about technology. I am sure it will be ‘pocketable’ in no time.