Randomness


Quite a few people have asked me why have I not written any post so I decided to write one. And thanks to those who missed my posts and mentioned it.

First up… wonder if snapdeal.com would mention the name of the sucker who paid 50K for a date with Gul Panang! seriously 50K?? On the other hand they might not mention the fact that nobody wanted to pay that kind of money… Gul might become the laughing-stock and go into serious depression that no one wanted a date with her!

Cricket World Cup starts this week and I thought I was the one who was missing the buzz but as read in the newspaper, it is pretty much a general feeling. The only people who are going hyper about it are the various brands who are exhorting team India to win and want consumer also to win. Don’t think consumer is seriously interested in all the shams that are peddled by way of price offs and contests and stuff.

The general viewer is either in a state of ennui when it comes to cricket or 1. has become comfortable with the thought of India winning the World Cup 2. is not setting his expectations high this time (after the fiasco in 2007).

And staying with cricket, I don’t know if I am the one who has noticed the mistake in ESPN-StarSports promotion or others have too. But the promo says that India will be getting into the battle for World Cup glory after 28 years! Sure they are harking about the 1983 World Cup but India has of course played in every Cup since then. It is  not as if that we had not played in the World Cup since 1983.

Scammed India – Ok so enough in the news about the 2G scam and all the skeletons are falling out of the cupboard. Nothing new over there. We all know that irrespective of which political party is in power, they all make money. Arun Shourie would now be a pariah and his political career is finished after claiming what he has on Karan Thapar show.

Truth is that for any business to prosper in this country, one needs a “well oiled” government machinery. Now if it was lubricant that was required, likes of Castrol would have India as their biggest market. But in this case it is the Swiss Banks which are laughing their way into their own vaults. We should just forget about it.  Nothing ever will come out by discussing it.

And life goes on in the country… rapes, murders, police inaction or misguided action, selective judiciary activism… corruption.. inflation etc.

About advertising – can somebody put a ban on Max Bupa and Future Generali advertising for their various policies and shit? The stuff is getting morbid now.

Signing off… can somebody put pressure on all the corporates and brands not to put intense pressure on the guys with this sham called Valentine’s day. It can’t be love if it is measured in the size of the gift or the price of the gift. All the stuff in newspapers, TV and radio about valentine’s day and various offers.. makes me sick and makes me want to throw up. Won’t even want to log on to Facebook to see the kind of messages that would be going back and forth and all the sugary status messages.

Enough of the random grumbling. Hope I have something nice to write about for the next post…

Money is Everything


Ramalinga Raju is the founder and former Chair...
Image via Wikipedia

So Ramalinga Raju is out on bail. I don’t think it would surprise anyone. What would though surprise everyone is that it took him a year and half to come out. And read in the paper that the so-called jail he was in, he was far more comfortable than I am in my rented apartment! The doctors at the hospital where he was being treated, were not letting him go back to the jail saying he requires constant monitoring and they cant send him back to jail.. but the moment his bail application is through.. they are giving him permission to leave the hospital.

Now surely all of this has not happened because Raju is such a nice guy and a complete philanthropist and a do gooder of humanity… Nope.. he is out because he had tons of money.. in spite of going bankrupt (the bankruptcy money was public money) and he was a philanthropist to a few… grease the cogs well enough and get the machinery to move whichever way you want.

In one of my posts last year I had mentioned that sooner than later he will be out. Not only that.. now the case will keep dragging on and soon everyone will forget everything about Satyam. Money and Connection.. works every time…

I wont be surprised if 5 years from now, he would be pursued by various political parties. They would want him as their candidate in election… but that’s India for you. All you need is money and you can own anything that you want… because everything and everyone has a price…

“Common”wealth and Patriotism


Have been reading about all the controversies surrounding the Commonwealth games and had stayed away from writing anything about it. After all in a corrupt country.. when controversies happen about corruption, it obviously means that there are some people who have not been able to dip into the free flow of money and want to ensure that others don’t get it either.

But when someone I respect a lot and consider a real woman of substance questions the patriotism of people who are commenting on  the preparedness of India for these games.. I felt I had to write. Ms Sheila Dixit has made the blunder of same proportion as MS Gill telling Parliament that if any Member of Parliament wants details about financial misappropriation, they should file an application under RTI!

Ms Dixit, I have lived in Delhi for close to 15 years and have seen the city transform for the better and the public of Delhi has also reposed faith in you over and over by electing you but please do not question our patriotism for the mess delhi has been in past couple of years and the mess it is in today… just month and half away from the Games.

Read a week back that all facilities for London Olympics in 2012 are ready and are being tested!! And everything would be in a state of preparedness a year in advance. So where did we go wrong? Forget taking digs at Mr Aiyer and have an action plan in place for a clean up. Either you are completely blind to say that clean up has happened or under the pressure from the party that you are part of, you are forced to utter such inanities.

However, the larger question is… why did India opt to host the Commonwealth games? We do not have a sports culture at all. And no cricket, hockey and soccer on TV does not constitute sports culture. And more importantly why should we be getting orgasmic about Queen’s Baton?? We do not owe allegiance to the Queen nor to anyone else in the world!

The country has been taken for a ride in the name of hosting such an elite event (and I do question the eliteness of CWG). If this hosting of games was going to be exciting, Mr Kalmadi would not have been trying to twist BCCI arm to give out Rs 100 crores and scrounging for sponsorships. Airtel is a sponsor of a complete non event called Champion’s League to be played in South Africa. If they had believed that CWG would be big, they would have been the first one to be the lead sponsor and of course various other brands would have lined up to be part of the event (just a month back every brand worth something was trying to be part of World Cup Soccer where India does not even participate). If people and the brands would have believed that sponsoring or being part of CWG would heighten the national interest and patriotism, we would have already seen various campaigns. I am absolutely sure that many brands are already working on communication strategies that they want in place for the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

Of course, if the telecast rights had been with a channel other than Doordarshan, things might have been better.. mind you just a wee bit better. And no surprises if the rights were to be sold for the Games, none of the leading channels would have even bid. If anything, they would have asked the government to pay for the production cost!

So the common public is not interested. Corporates are not interested (no Public Sector company would have sponsored either if they had a choice) so who are we holding the Games for?

Reminds me of few instances in the corporate world where I have been part of. In a completely inward looking strategy brands and corporates believe that there will be a huge audience just waiting to lap up their offering. Numbers and projections are made and the product is launched… only to fail miserably.

The tourism industry must be in utter shock (their fault entirely if they believed that there will be a huge tourist crowd linked with the games). All the capacity that was built in the hotel industry would soon bring the  rack rates crashing down.

All the business loss that shopping establishments in places like Cannaught Place have suffered, they would never be able to recover them for years after the beautification in the name of Games is over.

And not to forget egg on our collective faces when facilities at various stadias would be up for the entire world to view. We should not talk about patritotism and global conspiracy against India when the foreign journalists take pictures of the shoddiness and show it to the world.

I think Mr Fennel had visited Delhi few months back and he was extremely worried and the entire media and the CWG people had piled on to him for having doubts. Well he would probably have the last laugh now.

Though I do hope that in a manner typical to us, we will manage to have things in place at the last minute. Won’t be world class but would be “Chalta hai” and hopefully our sports people would win a few medals and media too in its usual way would move on to other stories for getting TRPs. But  only if the malaise that is called the Indian system of  ‘make hay while the sun shines’ can be addressed… This country has the potential to be the best… if only we start believing in ourselves rather than finding ways of how to get things done.

Innovation Culture


Yesterday while discussing something with a friend, the conversation veered to innovation and lack of innovation in India. Now this post can either be criticized for running down so many good things that India has done (and all criticizers are requested to name at least one Indian innovation to prove the point… I will actually compile the list and put it up as my acceptance that I was probably wrong) or people would turn around and say its a matter of perspective and how innovation can be viewed.

A quick hunt for definition on Webster’s Online Dictionary throws up the following:

1. A creation (a new device or process) resulting from study and experimentation.[Wordnet]
2. The creation of something in the mind.[Wordnet]
3. The act of starting something for the first time; introducing something new.[Wordnet]
4. The act of innovating; introduction of something new, in customs, rites, etc.[Websters]
5. A change effected by innovating; a change in customs; something new, and contrary to established customs, manners, or rites.[Websters]

I believe that over a period of time these definitions have evolved. To me innovation is a product or a service or even a custom that was introduced for the very first time.

The very first radio was an innovation. The first ever TV was an innovation. Walkman was an innovation. First automobile was an innovation (though there is a conflict in my mind if it can be so or the first ever horse drawn cart was the innovation). The point here is something that happened for the first time. Everything else that followed was an improvement on the initial idea. LED TV today is the result of constantly seeking ways of enhancing the experience. The basic benefit is viewing images on a screen.

Now notice all the above examples. None of them happened in India. While talking about innovations, my friend mentioned Mr Narayanmurthy and Mr Premji and I was quick to differ. Infosys or Wipro did not invent anything. They took advantage of changing global dynamics and a dearth of qualified people and started addressing the service economy of the west at a cost which was ridiculously low in comparison to what the western world was paying their employees. Did they innovate? Did they come  up with an idea that impacted a mass market? I don’t think they did.

Aamir Khan’s character in 3 Idiots makes a very valid point when he talks about our education system. Our education system is geared to churn out worker bees. It is drilled into our head in every class that we must follow what is being taught. Any deviation leads to deduction in marks. As an aside, in US, almost every year the spelling bee contest is won by an Indian because we are so good at mugging! I have caught snippets of the contest and I wonder if those kids would even know the meaning of the complicated words that they are spelling out. More important how many people would use such arcane words in daily communication. I have heard enough of people mentioning that the intellect level and knowledge of Indians in US is way ahead of kids of american origin. And how our syllabus in India is so complete. And the point being?? Where does it lead us? Education in India like I mentioned is about producing worker bees. Emphasis is on “job oriented courses” or courses that can get a person to become an engineer, a doctor or an MBA. Where is the course or emphasis for a student to explore… to try out things… to break the convention and indulge in independent thinking?

And it is no wonder that we carry this very blinkered and rigid thinking into our work environment (stands to reason after the education we have had). We follow company policy… rules and regulation… structure and working culture of the organization. Because we all want to succeed and move up the heirarchy. (That is the whole point of our existence… to move up the ladder). Any employee who dares to think different or go against the stream… well there would be enough examples that can be cited by readers of this post. Conventional wisdom is held up as the way to go and woe befell anyone who questions that in an organization. “Not on our time or our money buddy”

Conventional wisdom says that Unilever advertising would strictly follow a certain format because it is well reasearched format. Hmmm anyone has ever tried to see how things can be if the set pattern was not followed? Conventional wisdom says that a telecom company looking for a certain position in marketing would only look at a telecom professional (supposedly you want a person who would hit the ground running and would have knowledge of the market… but hell.. that person would be like frog in the well who would not have any new ideas!)

Prime Time on TV is supposed to be 9 PM. Thats conventional wisdom. Now how did that come about. I know there would be tons of research to support the fact. So there we have every channel vying for that time slot to put up there best programs. I say break the mold! If you are good enough as a program.. you will get viewers!

If India needs to truly be a global leader… then there has to be transformation of huge proportions that is required in our mindset. We need to innovate rather than peddling minor improvements in technology or a process that already exists. And we have to understand that an innovation is truly an innovation which can impact a large population. Getting businesses to perform better or improve efficiency of an organization are small ideas aimed at benefitting that particular business or an industry for making more money. Think big ideas… and more importantly run with the ideas. Failures, if they happen… they happen because the people around you have not removed the excuse of conventional wisdom from their sub conscious.

Where is the ‘care’ in Healthcare?


This is a very cynical view of healthcare.

Does healthcare really care about the people suffering from various illnesses?

The most altruistic business in the world is actually as profit driven as any other business… as sales driven as FMCG product.

I think the problem is that all players in this sector have been caught up by the word ‘business’.

Saw an ad for a Clinical Research Training Institute the other day which talked about “Recession proof careers”. It’s a fact alright… but a rather scary fact. Healthcare actually is recession proof… No matter what, people would have ailments… people would need to visit the doctors… people would need medicine. There is really no way out. Its a business that would never go out of fashion.

How many take up the profession of being a healer because it is about alleviating the suffering of mankind?

A pharmaceutical company… will it ever want a person to get cured completely? A cured person is a customer lost. A cured customer is a patient lost for the doctor or hospital…

We get a cold or a cough… we take medicine and it goes away… only to return at a later date. Now why cant there be a medicine which kills it completely??

Why are chronic ailments chronic?? Why after so many years we are still struggling with managing them?

Why everyone in healthcare focuses on “curing”? Why is prevention not a bigger industry than disease management?

Why are doctors pampered so much by the pharmaceutical companies?

Has Hippocrates oath lost it’s meaning?

How easy is it to claim healthcare insurance in the eventuality of claiming it?

All constituents in this space play on the fear factor of the individual without realizing that any visit for any kind of ailment actually comes with a whole lot of cynicism (the cost that would be incurred by paying to every link in the chain)

I truly believe that the day healthcare starts focusing on prevention rather than cure, is the day when the business of healthcare would be profitable and lot more fulfilling for  all concerned.

Everybody counts or nobody counts


The title is courtesy Mr Michael Connelly, a superb author and creator of an awesome character  – Harry Bosch. Have read every Harry Bosch book and for those who read so called self help or enlightenment books or ghost written auto biographies of the rich and famous… read Michael Connelly, Jeffrey Deavers, Nelson DeMille and many such authors.. even Stephen King… its a learning experience.

“Everybody counts or nobody counts” is a statement made by Harry Bosch in the book  – The Last Coyote. The context is that Harry will not differentiate between a prostitute’s murder or a mayor’s wife when it comes to justice and bringing criminals to book.

A very simplistic statement on the face of it. Many would say so whats the big deal but then read the statement again… with the thought in mind of how the world is around us today…

Do we treat everyone equally? Does the government and its various functions treat everyone equally? Do banks treat everyone equally? Do  organizations and brands treat everyone equally?

People with capitalist tendencies… people who have it all… people who are safe and secure would treat this statement or the blog as a ranting of a socialist… Socialism would have been a good thing if the socialists had not taken an extreme view of equality and had not padded their ownselfs instead of truly working towards equality.

Sheetal Mafatlal is miffed and so are many others because she got arrested… but whats wrong in that? You commit a crime and you pay for it… peddle all the excuses that you want… but if you are a regular international traveller, how can you not know what is legal and what is not! It’s a different issue that there may have been other forces at work in this case. Customs I am sure dont catch only one person a day or night… Bet they catch many more…. some with intent on mind and some just pure innocent and not aware… and yet these people don’t make news. They are nobodies…

And Sheetal Mafatlal by the way was caught with lakhs of jewellery on her when Indian Express says that Mafatlal Group is in deep trouble financially.. wonder what must be going through the minds of the the people who work in that organization…

General Motors executives were globe trotting in private planes when since 2004 they were getting into debt every year… Read somewhere that US$ 88 billion was the accumulated debt since 2004… laying off people because the company is not doing well and yet I am sure nothing was amiss for these executive’s lifestyle…

Raju got caught dipping into company’s kitty (ok so he confessed) and who is suffering? not him for sure… the way government and justice system functions… very soon he would be out on bail and the case would continue and media will stop talking about him… his political connections would ensure nothing happens to him…. after all, in this country you cannot build an empire if palms are not greased (and you only need to read the report about how corrupt this country is)

Corporate America is shuddering and there is fair amount of  negative PR already because or President Obama’s policies… They are afraid to share their wealth. After all, America is about opportunity and making money… For so long it has been a symbol of money power and how everyone can make it big if they have an idea… Though President and his wife could have gone easy at their inaugration (wearing a 75 carat diamond at the inagural ball is not a good idea)

Why do we discriminate? Why should banks keep giving loans to industrialist and not be as vicious and demanding to return the loan as they are when it comes to common man?

I am not against money at all.. I love it too… But I believe it should be about wealth creation for all and not just for a few…

I am all for EQUAL OPPORTUNITY.

Times are tough… go easy with conspicuous consumption… go easy with page 3… go easy with putting yourself on display… Economy would turn around because there is always a cycle… but remember.. revolutions happen because man on the street gets tired of living a stressful life… scrounging for money while the swankiest cars drive by and people inside the car give him a glare when he obstructs the way while crossing the road…

Humane is the word that needs to be part of everything that we do or say… Old cliche about ‘be nice to people on the way up because you would meet them on the way down’ holds true.

Give the majority of the population some breathing space… they are stifled right now and someone getting caught with  such expensive jewellery is not what they want to read…

Media has a huge role to play…. move away from politics… move away from cricket… focus on issues that are burning right now… The power of media can bring about the changes if only media can do some introspection and figure out the reason for their existence… Just for a while, let go off the race for advertising revenue and sensationalism and be the proactive force that can transform countries, economies and lives of people…

We need to be inclusive and not exclusive… and make EVERYBODY COUNT…

India Inc. too has a humane side


Companies on talent hunt among pink-slip brigade Economic Times Bureau – 20th May 2009

The cynic in me obviously questions the motives. Great talent available at bargain prices and all that but then this article shows that there is hope for people who have lost their jobs.

People who were wondering what did they do wrong apart from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. They had talent, they had expertise but probably did not fit into the organization culture, did not have godfather in the organization, probably rubbed a few people the wrong and had to be part of the dreaded list. It made them feel worthless. Made them question their existence. Ask anyone who has been without a job for 6 months and he or she will tell about the trauma they are going through. Every opening they apply to and not get any response. Fear of not mentioning on their profile that they were laid off because no company will hire them.

All this could be thing of the past if this article really holds true and more organizations start hiring people who have been laid off. Of course organizations would benefit because there were lot of talented people who also lost jobs and would be ready to work for far lesser than what they were getting.

But there is a very important issue that needs to be addressed here.

Will the organization beat the poor guy down on the salary because he is not in a position to negotiate? Or believe that while earlier salary might have been way too inflated in the economic boom and negotiate something which does not demean the person’s worth.

The first move is fraught with danger for the organization because the person knows why he got hired and will leave at the first opportunity he gets. Why would he be around in the organization when he believes he was taken advantage of… just because he was on back foot.

But the organization which projects that it values the person’s expertise and is there to lend him a helping hand… it has got a person who is going to give lifelong loyalty.

Our culture has instilled a belief in us not to betray trust.

More importantly in the long run… when the economy does turnaround, its these organizations which would benefit with even more great talent. Because who wants to work for people who are only fair weather employers!

A while back I had written about how Pfizer is planning to provide free prescription medicines to people who have lost jobs in US and wondered if Corporate India can ever do anything like that. This article proves it that yes… India Inc also is capable of being humane… all business and economic considerations aside.

This truly would be a  National CSR initiative if more organizations start implementing this move.