Friday, October 22, 2010

Criminal character

<I may have written about this earlier>

 

As I drove to office today, like any other day, there were hordes of people on the road breaking traffic rules. Overtaking from the left, changing lanes without indicators, disobeying traffic signals…all of it. This irritates me the most (well second most, if you count ‘scratching nails on a blackboard’).

Why is that we need policing all the time to obey a set of simple rules? Why aren’t we civilized enough for this simple thing? Breaking all rules may take me to office in 25 minutes instead of the usual 30 minutes. But it increases chaos on the road manifold. It also increases the chances of an accident. And I am not even counting the stress it causes. We Indians being the wisest in the world, why have we failed to apply this simple logic?

Though I see this situation to be a lot better in Goa, it is not certainly ideal. People there have a lot more civic sense. Not out of education, mind it. It’s just the way people are brought up – not to harm others, bully them is something inherent in a Goan. Notably, on the back cover of my Driving License (Issued in Goa) is written the sentence ‘ A RIGHT NOT,  A PRIVILEGE DRIVING IS’.  This is the essence of the road transport policing in Goa.

It’s said, ‘Character is what you do when no one is looking’. For lack of policing, we will all break traffic rules. Or who knows, maybe also steal, rape or murder. Does that make all of us a criminal character?

 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The great Escape

How to make the best of the time you have? Like this!

While I cannot post from my office, Blogger allows me to post via e-mail. I don’t know whether this works or not; but since you are reading this, I guess it does.

So many thoughts have crossed my mind while I am in office. My employers IT policies, slow data services on the phone are some of the things that have stopped me from sharing these.

I am wondering how I can overcome this … any ideas?

 

Monday, September 13, 2010

People Management

My work over the last few months also involves intensive people management. I lead a bunch of 10 souls of different age groups, not much variance there though and the oldest member of my team is not older than me. I have realised that the following facets of human behaviour need to be considered by anyone in leadership position. These must have been definitely written in some book on leadership, but I have learnt them the hard way:
  1. Ego - Mostly observed in senior team members who have as much work experience as you. These people could have been in your position but for some bad appraisal. Such team members mostly do not take any work allocation lying down. Typical responses are 'I will see what I can do' or 'Let me see'. And by the way, these people may also think that you have 'sucked up' your way into leadership.
  2. Incompetence - These people may not necessarily be dumb. They may be acting dumb to avoid work. Or they may have earlier worked in a place where competence was not rewarded. There could also be a problem of low self-esteem in such people.
  3. Westerners - I don't know what exactly to call such folks. But they generally have their preferences set. They will come when they want to, leave when they want to, take leaves when they feel like. This is absolutely fine in a western work environment. But in India, my boss does not understand that people have lives outside work.
I am not writing how to deal with such people because I am still learning that part. You guys go ahead and share tips!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

मेरी दुनिया..

दुनिया सिकुड़ते सिकुड़ते मुझ तक रह गयी है
कभी दुनिया का मतलब होता होगा मनुष्य, प्राणी और जीवन जात
लेकिन कुछ साल पहले दुनियाने अपना रूप बदला ...और थोड़ी अपने आप में छोटी हो गयी
मेरी दुनिया मेरा देश बन गयी
तब सोचा न था कि इससे भी छोटा कुछ हो सकता है
मेरी दुनिया के लिए जान देनेकी तक बातें हुई थी तब
लेकिन फिर और बटवारा हुआ और मेरी दुनिया मेरे मजहब तक आ रुकी
मजहब से फिर गाँव, मोहल्ले, गली और घर तक का रास्ता ज्यादा मुश्किल नहीं था
अब तो मै खुद ही मेरी दुनिया हूँ, बस कुछ ही दिन की बात है
जिस्म का हर पुर्जा अपनी आप में दुनिया बनने वाला है
और खुद की दुनिया बसाने के लिए, दिमाग, एक दिन, दिल की दुनिया उजाड़ देगा

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Kutti Zindagi...

I took this picture on a Sunday afternoon at Chandanagar MMTS Station. The kid in the background, at a railway platform, noise, dusty & sunny was sleeping peacefully. Looked like the street dog watched over.
It made me take the picture and think ... what zindagi (life) the kid has???
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 04, 2010

My Photography Workflow 2009

My Photography Workflow 2009


Hat Tip: Bijou

Discipline...even in photography

About a couple of months ago, I shifted to Digital Photography. Earlier, I used to shoot on film using my Nikon FM10. But because of the labour involved in getting the film developed or sharing these photographs over Internet, I chose to take up digital photography. Having bought a Panasonic FZ35, I have realised that I have shot more photographs in the last 2 months than I have shot in 5 years of film photography.
This comes with it's own set of problems. I now have hordes of pictures (and videos!) taken with different purposes at different times which should have their own life cycle. There are some really good pictures which I have lost already! Lot of junk pictures that are eating into digital real estate! So what now?
The answer seems to be lying in discipline...or workflows! Each picture or video should have it's workflow. They all should go through consecutive filtering and land up in different buckets based on classification criteria. How to decide these criteria is something very personal in my opinion. They can be genres, file types, processing levels, 'date taken' and so on. Backup mechanism, storage, archiving, online publishing, post-processing, RAW storage and god knows how many more things I will have to consider before 'disciplining' my photography.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Stranger to History

I have been reading this Book for many months now. Interrupted by work load, travel and general laziness, I wouldn't actually describe the book as un-put-down-able.
I picked it up at the Strand Book Store in my office campus when I was casually browsing through the new arrivals there. What compelled me to buy the book was that it was written by a young writer, almost my age. Though buying the book was an impulse decision, I had minimum expectations. My experience with new age Indian English writers wasn't very inspiring. But Aatish Taseer's Stranger to history has been a pleasant surprise.
It is very difficult to classify this book into a genre. It is part biography, part travelogue, a bit of world history and much more. Aatish uses his journalistic experience to describe places, situations and societies. But more appealing is his ability to express himself - his precise emotions, dilemmas and idiosyncrasies of people and groups of various nationalities and faiths. The book outlines his journey from Istanbul to Pakistan, where Aatish seeks answers to many questions, some personal and a few not so personal.
If you like reading stuff that asks more questions than it answers, if you entertainment is not the sole driving force for your reading, this début novel is on my recommended list.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Of internet, self restrain and the un-edited world

We all know what the Internet has done to content generation. Everyone with a streak of writing in him has taken to the Internet. Blogs, twitter, personal pages, flickr accounts galore! Even I am one of them. I get a kick out of the fact that my creations always have an opportunity to be seen. They are out there if someone is interested to appreciate. There are no gatekeepers between me and the world that is hungry for content...there are no editors!
The other day I picked up a book that was published about a decade ago. There was a stark difference in the quality of work I see around me today (including mine) and this book. Mind you this book was edited, by a gatekeeper. Then I started thinking, may be editing is necessary. Editor, the one person whose solely responsibility is to ensure that the content that passes through him is of highest quality, and coherence. Yes he was biased at times, he did behave like he owned the place. After all, the print was a scarce commodity. But not today, thanks to the Internet. There are no costs involved in getting your content published. I can merrily upload sub-standard content on the Internet. Keen people will keep visiting my pages with expectation and I will be wasting a lot of their time. The more silly words and pictures reach people through the Internet, the more tired they get.
In school, if I had to prepare a speech, I would spend 3-4 hours in a library and I would have enough content for a 30 min speech. Now, I spend days together browsing through incoherent material out there, ready to be 'googled!' So what do we do about it?
The answer may lie in self-restrain. If there is no one else editing your content, think twice before you press the upload/ submit button. Ask your self these questions -
  • Would you read this if this came printed in a book?
  • Would this help the audience in anyway?
  • If you had just enough space for one article or one photo or one video, would this be the one?

I see that we have a problem of plenty everywhere. We need serious self-policing to get some discipline and quality into what we do. Think about it, in different contexts, business, traffic, TV channels and let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The leech and the butterfly

There are 2 ways to do anything, be it business, job, a hobby or just about anything. The leech way and the butterfly way. The leech way is just to stick it out. Be patient, resilient, determined (and sometimes even shameless) enough to be the winner. You may not be the best choice, but you can emerge as a leader just by the virtue of your determination. Being a butterfly on the other hand, you develop qualities that make people want you. Most of these qualities cannot in fact be developed but you need to be born with them. You need to be so good at what you are doing that people should 'want' you to be on their side.
India is becoming more of a country of leeches than butterflies. What are you?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The business of all that is complex

Very recently I have been following Jason Fried's posts on 37signals.com. I am impressed by his minimalist thoughts and the whole idea of customers 'growing out of' and 'growing into' your product. Per Jason, there are just a certain simple features that customers really want and a product company should strive to be the best at those features. But beyond these features, your customers will always have some desires and will keep asking for more features. One should learn to say no to such demands and crowd the Product with features that only a few of your customers will actually use. These frills not only hamper the performance of the product technically, but also make the Product manufacturer waste a lot of effort in the form of product support and other allied activities. This seems to have been working for folks at 37signals.com and many more such companies (SFDC, Flip Video recorders etc.)

I then started thinking of this philosophy in the context of Indian IT companies. How could we go bare and minimal? How could we leverage the stance of simple and minimalist products taken by some of the product Cos. That is when I realised that we couldn't. Simply because we are in the business of complexity. We are here because our customers buy products (ERP / CRM suits which are very very complex) and then ask us to further customize them to meet their desires. With whatever implementations I have done till now, I have realised that no company utilises more than 50% of a product features, yet they want some modifications, bolt-ons to that product to meet their needs. That means the product already comes with a 50% flab. The product company has tried to put in as many features but our customer still wants more.

Our sales therefore is driven by rosy dreams shown to the client. Our requirement compliance sheets are full of compliance's and we can get the products to do anything. Sales pitches are full of 'we can do all this with a little bit of customization'. The customer never thinks about why the feature did not come with the product itself? I don't see (netiher do I want to see) a way out of this as complexity and desires seem to be earning me my daily bread!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Monetizing your talent.

Some time ago I had post on a couple of business ideas. That is when the question of monetization came up. There was this portal I had envisaged where tenants and landlords could rate each other and the question was how does one monetize this? Thinking a little deeper on this, I came about thinking to myself - ' I have an idea which I think people could find useful. To make this idea a potential business activity, how could I make people pay for it?'. Then it struck me that one should think the same way about one's talent(s).
We all have a talent. That is a given. Singing, dancing, painting, acting, photography and so many more like that. If we can deliberate sufficiently at monetizing at (making people pay for it, or finding people who will), we convert our talent into business. That is when your interest becomes your work and work becomes interesting! Shouldn't be tough ...isn't it?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rajaneeti

Last weekend, with a lot of enthusiasm (and people) I went to see Rajaneeti - A Prakash Jha film with some of the best names in the Indian film Industry. By now all of you must have seen the film, so I will not get into detailing the plot or the storyline. Let's straight get to the point - did I like it? No. It was OK! But when Prakash Jha makes an OK movie, it is not acceptable. I would have liked an OK Ram Gopa Verma movie but not PJ. Probably Shool & Apaharan ( I have not seen Mrutyudand), built up a lot of expectations.
Rajaneeti, needless to say, is better than many of the recent films like Teen Patti, MNIK and what not. It has more substance than a one liner and the effort into story and screenplay shows. PJ has spent enough effort (and money) on casting with brilliant characters drawn from Mahabharat. In my opinion, nowhere else in the whole world, is there a characterisation like there is in Hindu mythology. None of the characters are black or white and all have their shades of grey. It was indeed a masterstroke from PJ to base his characters on Mahabharat. The casting was superb (but for three actors...more about it later). Many of the dialogs were well written and had the punch of a political background. The film did have a good graph throughout that kept me engaged, but...
Dialogs like ' tum mere jeshtha putra ho' - what the hell was this guy thinking man. Copy paste kiya kya Mahabharat se? All the hard work he did on 'Karara jawaab milega' he spoilt it all.
Why the fuck in the whole wide world would someone use 'Vande Mataram' tune in the climax scene? Yuck! Thankfully it was at the end so I was anyway walking out.
When PJ writes his own 'Three Mistakes of my life', they would be his 3 casting failures from Rajaneeti. I don't believe this is the same guy who boldly cast Dr. Mohan Agashe as the idealistic father in Apaharan. Just because she looks western, was there really any need to have Katrina Kaif on board? Did the character demand a western look? Bloody marketing gimmicks!! I would have preferred a mannequin dressed in a starched cotton saree on the screen. Nikhila Trikha, the actor playing Bharati, Ranbeer Kapoor's on screen mother was another failure. She had a fantastic scene with Ajay Devgan where she tells him that he is her eldest son (jeshtha putra). I wanted underplay and she went overboard with melodrama. Lastly, lets face it Arjun Rampal is basically a model, has a bad diction and should not have been cast. Kay Kay Menon would have been my man for the job.
That's about it...I am going out for a game of bowling. Catch you later!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

How to change throttle cable in a Bullet

For the uninformed (you can't be if you are on Facebook), I bought a Royal Enfield Standard 350cc motorcycle on 25th Novemeber 2009. This has been the fulfilment of a long (8 years!) cherished dream.
Here we are...




After exactly three months I faced my first breakdown on my way to work on a Friday. The throttle cable snapped. Thankfully I had a spare at home and I was pretty confident I could replace it myself. Having lived with a 1984 model Bajaj Chetak for 5 years, I was in the habit of applying first aid myself. This wasn't as easy as seemed though. I manage to get the handle side of the throttle cable out. But had issues with the engine (carb side). I checked with fellow biker Aravind (who also owns a Standard 350 that is as old as him). He said it was a pretty simple process and promised to join me in 30 mins. But once he came, we realised, RE had done some changes that had lead to this problem. Here is the issue -







If you refer to the picture above, I was supposed to unscrew 'A' and get the other end of the cable out from the carburetor. But the design was modified in these newer models, such that the nut 'B' and a part of the tank didn't let me unscrew part 'A'. They interrupted in the yellow area marked. This meant there was no way we could replace the cable without removing the fuel tank. Sad enough, I had topped up just the previous evening! We dragged the bike to a mechanic nearby who said he could fix it without removing the fuel tank. But when he started using his inhumane techniques on my bike, I called up RE service centre to confirm that we HAD to remove the fuel tank. I requested one of their mechanic to come and do the honours. He came and did this to the bike...



Unscrewing the bolt B in the picture needs a different kind of tool. That will be my next buy now.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The 2 Business Ideas

I had twitted about 2 business ideas and had promised the details would be on the blog. So here goes...

JustGoa - See a different Goa every time
I have been consulted at least about 15-20 times by different people for their leisure trips to Goa. This idea is a fallout of the experiences.

This is a Goa specific travel company. I know there are hordes of Goan tour operators. But this one is with a different marketing strategy. This sort of concentrates on repeat business. The tours are thematic. Some of the themes would be -
  • Chillax
  • Religious
  • Eco
  • Celebrations (Weddings, Anniversaries, Receptions)
  • Corporate (Conferences, team building exercises, product launches)
The main thrust should be on maintaining the visit history of the tourists and ensuring they do not get bored with repeat visits. Aligning Marketing with capacity for special programs in monsoon, around long weekends etc. will definitely bring in a new angle to this business.


10ant.com
I am not sure if there is anything like this already on the Internet. This can either be an independent real-estate renting portal or can be a feature on any of the existing ones. The idea is to register every property, its owner and tenants on a single portal. Suppose I am an owner and own 3 apartments in Mumbai (I said suppose!!!). Now when I want to rent out any of my properties, I register myself and the property on this portal. There are also many tenants registered who are looking for a fitting property to hire. Till here it is just like any other renting portal. The difference is rating. Every tenant who takes a property gets to rate it and the owner of the property. The owner also gets to rate the tenant. The portal thus has the history of the apartment occupancy. Either of the party can know the disputes the other party has had and can choose which house to rent, which tenant to rent it to and and whether the owner is 'troublefree' or not.
I am not sure how to make money out of this idea though.


Tell me what you think people!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Expressions to Communication 2 Infrmtn

The emergence of language (spoken and not programing) has revolutionised the development of human race. All through history and ancient scriptures, I see an expression of most complex human feelings through language. Different forms like fables, poetry, shlokas etc. were used to build 'life problems' and solutions to those problems. The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, The Bhagwad Geeta, The Vedas, The Upanishads are just a few of the known literary jewels . Not just in Hindu religion but the Quaraan and the Bible are also huge achievements in terms of development of language.
Though diluted to a great extent, I see the trend continue until about 100 years ago or maybe even 50. In Marathi & Hindi, one can find substantial literary work in the last but one generation. I cannot say that about our generation though.
writing a letter was always an expressive act for our grandparents. Words has to carry both, meaning and feelings. But the telephone and Internet made us more blunt. Language, in our parent's generation, moved from being a medium of expression to that of communication. Letters were still written but occasional telephone conversations ensured that letters could be limited to communicate only and the expression bit could be left to telephonic chats. Our generation now has stopped writing. e are a 'mobile' generation. The maximum written communication we prefer is 139 characters. Technology, which could have boosted our literary skills has become a limiting force.
We have become exceptionally good at technology & science. We are answering questions (at least trying to) that have puzzled mankind for long. But, we have moved away from ourselves and our lives.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

No Title

Its not the first time this is happening, neither will it be last. An urge to cry, break into tears, yell, explode. At the same time control the tears for your office desk is not the place.
the feeling is like - buying a land on the riverside hoping to make heaven out of it. Toil to sow and cultivate fruits, flowers and big trees, animals - cows, dogs and birds - my idea of heaven. And then it never rains. Your land is barren now - a vast emptiness lies before you as you kneel and weep your heart out. Someone bought his SUV, someone built his 5 star luxury housing complex and your are paying the price because you need the rain for the little heaven of your dreams. The SUV wallah & the guy in the luxurious apartment are digging bore-wells for their dreams.
No longer is someone singing for happiness or writing poems or gardening. All of this and more is done for money - to buy SUVs & 5 star luxury apartments. Are we earning to live or living to earn?
I didn't let the feeling pass today. I wrote at the speed I thought & felt. I wept through words. I am glad I did. Probably I am one step closer to my heaven.

Monday, March 15, 2010

When the pen is mightier than knowledge!

The title is a mere analogy I have drawn, the topic of the post is more to do with IT and IT consulting.
I have done 2 green field implementations, one in Telecom domain in India and one in pharmaceutical retail in the UK. Most of my dwelling has been in the Marketing and Sales Force Automation (SFA) space in both these implementations. While the Telecom implementation was in PeopleSoft CRM, the retail implementation was in the Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) domain.
When we first started with the Indian implementation, we faced major challenges like loosely defined processes, inadequate change management, untrained staff etc. It is here that I first thought if IT could really help our customer to achieve what they wanted - A better CRM? On a post dinner walk then it struck me. The Director of IISC
Bengaluru had once said in one of his speeches - "e-governance is not about IT. IT is just a tool. e-governance should first start with a willingness to change"
This is the exact point that lacked in the Indian company where were doing the implementation. I blamed it on the company for being typically desi and rushing into an IT implementation just because all the competitors were having new roll-outs. In some of the meeting, I even felt like this company was like a rich spoilt socialite that wanted a car because everyone else had it.
But then when I went to UK for an implementation, I realised it had nothing to do with being desi. almost everyone was the same. Brits being one of the most thoughtful and deliberating individuals had decided on a product to implement without a change management process in place.
Without a proper process study, user awareness/education and change management process all IT companies can at best be 50-60% effective. In most implementations, nobody has a freaking idea how to calculate the ROI of this implementation leave alone judging if it is satisfactory or not. Moreover, whether the implementation will change any processes, how to sell this change to users, how to speed up the change are some vital issues that I have never heard being discussed. While everybody is busy designing integration points, scheduling batch programs and coding to customize a certain business requirement, when the users are exposed to this change they are left bewildered.
In my opinion, the first this that should be undertaken before beginning of an IT implementation is a process study exercise. This should be followed by a change management planning exercise that will lay out the focus areas where change is likely to occur, the extent of this change and how to make this change smooth. The users should be taken into confidence well before the implementation begins so that they know the extent of their involvement in the implementation and can plan their work accordingly. This also helps them to gear up their thought process so that they have a mental note of FAQs that they may need to answer. Through the implementation until the go-live and even post, the change management plan should be followed.
IT being just a tool to help things happen faster, easier and accurate, needs to play a supportive role to this change process. The scene appears very different today though. Everybody seems to be emphasizing hell of a lot on whether the computing happens in the clouds or the oceans, or whether the product needs an upgrade. These are just the tools and should not become mightier than the business itself!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why do I pray?

My morning, when it starts, starts with three prayers I say. Two of them praising lord Ganesh and one of them for Godess Vijayadurga. Why these 2 Gods specifically? Well the truth is these are the only prayers I remember from my childhood.
Prayers are my way of saying 'aal izz well' to my heart. :-). I relate all the three prayers to the safety cucoons I have enjoyed till date. When I close my eyes and say each of these prayers, there is a distinct image associated with each one of them.
The first one is Ganapati Stotra, probably one of the first proper prayer my parents taught me.


Pranamya Shirasa Devam ( Vishwa Vinayak) With Meaning
This is a natural progression after your child has learnt the nursery rhymes of prayers. We stayed in a small rented house then, and we did not have a separate prayer room there. There was a small wooden Mandir  hung on a wall just above the dinig table. I would sit on the table and say this prayer along with other prayers . A prominant image related to this stotra is that of a small cute Ganapati Idol that still exists at our place in Goa. When I say this prayer and close my eyes, it reminds me of my parents and my childhood. It kind of stands for all that they have taught me.
The second prayer I say is the Ganapati Atharvashirsha  (yes, Ganapati is the faourite one here).



Ganapati AtharvaSheersha
Every Ganesh Chaturthi (Ganapati Bappa ka b'day), we gather at my native place and do multiple iterations of this stotra. This prayer reminds me of my grandparents and all the relatives I meet at my ancestral house. It feels good that there are some people back there who still enquire about you and are genuinely concerned about you. When I close my eyes and say this prayer, I am reminded of the morning we do this iteration exercise, me, my uncles, cousins and almost 3 to 4 generations of Desai family, bathed, with chandan on our foreheads, the smell of Agarbattis, as the rhythemic chant of this stotra reverberates.
The third prayer is that of Shri Vijayadurga. This prayer reminds me of my mother's home town, situated at Keri. Having lived very near to this place, I have fond memories of my childhood days spent here as well. This stotra reminds me of my maternal relatives especially my grandmother. When I visted her during holidays, at dusk, she would line up all the kids in the house (it was a joint family) and take us to the Vijayadurga temple next to the house. We would sit there and recite this stotra under her guidence. Even today when I say this prayer, I smell camphor and remember the fondness I enjoyed at my mama's place.
Saying these three prayers every morning is a brief mental trip into my childhood. It makes me fresh and I remind myself that there are people out there who will keep loving me irrespective of what happens through the day to me today!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Where do we begin?

Consider a scenario where you are starting a new business, and are fairly novice in the area. Will you build competency first, or get business first? Is it not the chicken and egg situation that all entrepreneurs go through? What is the solution then?
I am of the opinion that one must first build competency, whatever be the costs. You may have to offer a service free to the customer to gain his confidence and make a mark in the market. There is no other way you can offset the apprehension in the prospective customer's mind. Consider this as the cost of entry into the business or a one time marketing cost. Ones you have put some experience behind you, made some name for yourself, it will be fairly easy to demonstrate capability in further proposals as you will have credentials to show off.
However, if you chose to win a deal first and learn at the expense of your customer, I look at that as a big risk. Yes, the risk does have commensurate rewards, but not worthwhile I think. The very fundamental of your relationship with the customer is a lie. Failure to deliver can cause irreversible damage. But this approach gets your cash counters ringing at a time when you are really in a need for it. A couple of lies, a good deal now & then, and you have all the time in the world to gain customer's confidence. Building a competency can take forever and you also run the risk of being taken for granted by the market.
What is the right approach then? A consultant would definitely start the answer with 'depends'. What do you think?