Friday, 27 June 2014

Eyes On The Road!

Eyes On The Road... Not On Your Mobile. If Not For Your Sake, Then For The Sake Of Innocent People Around You, Who Pay With Their Lives Due To Your Stupidity And Irresponsibility!

I can approach this post in several ways - I can either quote worldwide statistics of deaths caused by Mobile Phones usage during driving, or I can give scientific reasons behind why using mobile phones during driving is dangerous, irresponsible and downright stupid.

Or I can quote 2 real life cases of people I knew who died due to irresponsible, and from my point of view, criminal idiots who were yacking on the phone when they should have been focusing on the road. 2 families destroyed. At least one child I know who is fatherless. One dead child, one dead parent in another case. They are dead because some irresponsible idiot thought his career, his family, his friend was more important than the lives of people on the road. 

3 lives snuffed out, several hopes dashed, several lives irrevocably destroyed and several families deeply impacted. Just because some idiot thinks his chatting is more important than other people's lives. Just because some - excuse my language - idiot thinks he or she is more important than the life of others. For such people, so self-centered, or so congenitally stupid; their time is too important to pull the vehicle over to the curb, and attend to the call. 2 minutes of the time of such - excuse me - idiots is more important than the entire lives of some people. 

Those of you who have read me before will be surprised at my anger, and usage of rough words. What else am I supposed to do when one of these 3 deaths is of someone I know, and have known for 43 years - all my living living life so far. Now, whenever I see some genius jabbing on the phone while driving a bike, or driving a car - I can visualise the last moments of that person who was family, as told to me by people. Personally, I do not indulge in such behaviour; thanks be to God; I immediately pull over. What was conveyed to me by people - the other person jabbing on the phone - shall stay with me a very long time. 

Sad part is that despite this being an obvious fact and something that is known and apparent to all, it is ubiquitous on our roads. For the past 4 years at least I have made it a habit to stop people from indulging in this. In the early days of Mobile Phones, I too was guilty of such idiocy, to be perfectly frank; but the various police drives to educate got through to me, as did my own intelligence in equal part. Similarly, while some people - a good majority, to be honest - sheepishly keep the phone aside, or stop the vehicle; a small minority actually swears at me. Boss - I am not trying to save only you; I am trying to save my bloody skin, and those of others on the road. I am trying to save others from your irresponsibility!

Even sadder is the fact that this happens openly, and no action is taken on this in large parts of India. There is a law against this - but is it implemented? We continue to openly flout this law, adhering to it only in front of the cops, and blissfully and daringly flout it when no one is looking. There is no hint of awareness of the serious risk such overgrown kindergarten school kids are exposing the people on the road to. In doing so, we are putting other people at risk; it is fine if you are stuck in traffic in a jam - you can use your phone. It is not so fine when you are driving your bike or car. 

Why does this happen? Why are we as a people unable to confront and accept this simple reality that usage of Mobile Phones on the move is dangerous - both to our own selves, as well as to others. It is our responsibility to our family, to our community and to our nation; we should realise, understand and accept this - and stop using phones while driving. Is it too much to expect a human being to behave rationally? 

Frankly, yes - it is too much to expect that. This realisation came to me while studying a research paper on behavioural economics, which looks at a similar issue in economics - that a man / woman considers many  aspects in life, and the expectation of rationality is bookish. This applies here as well : the absence of rationality. In the humdrum of daily life, rationality takes a back-seat. The immediate concern  - getting to office on time to avoid a confrontation with the boss, or to get to the meeting on time takes precedence. Since accidents are by definition a rarity, their occurrence is never factored into the equation.  

In such a reality, firm strict and decisive action against misuse of Mobile Phones while driving and heavy punitive penalties is the order of the day. Only the fear of the law, and the attendant loss of the driving licence / thousands in cash can act as a strong deterrent. The need of the hour is to increase the penalty from the teensy-weensy 500/1000 to magnitudes of that amount : say, 2500 or even 5000. That should be effective as a deterrent. Add to that the cancellation of the mobile number and confiscation of the phone with all its data and numbers deleted, although a copy in a data device can be handed over, but only through the court. 

This needs to be supported by social media awareness campaigns, hoardings, Television advertisements, Print advertisements - which is currently happening in almost every town of India. But the evidence of the road suggests that these measures are enough, which is why I am calling for stricter measures on the punitive side. People are dying almost daily - due to this irresponsible behaviour on our collective parts. This article is itself an attempt at adding to the fight against this bad habit on social media.

We are talking about lives here; we are talking innocent lives. Take it from me - closure is hard to come by in such cases, even though the person who died was not my father or mother. What will it be like for the immediate family of the deceased? Spare a thought for them! And spare a thought for those countless, nameless and faceless people who have died because someone else was using a mobile phone! 

If you are reading this, and are habitual of using phones on the move - please desist. Your habit can and has caused inconvenience to others. I can understand the pressures of modern life - at one point in time, I too might have been guilty of the same. But in the past 4 years and more, I have not received the calls - but have called back the callers immediately on reaching my destination - or have stopped my vehicle. And I dont recall people objecting on hearing the explanation. If I can convert even one person through this article, my effort will not have been in vain. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Cultural exchange with Pakistan, courtesy Indiblogger : Jodey Dilon Ko


The title says it all... an event to engage with Pakistani Television actors etc in its Zindagi Jode Dilon Ko Blogger Meet, to be featured on the new Zindagi Channel. The concept seemed interesting - engage culturally with our main enemy, the one nation with whom we are at constant loggerheads, and the one nation with whom we have had 4 wars. To make matters worse, Pakistan is the one nation who we has regularly fomented trouble in the form of terrorism in India. In this backdrop, a cultural exchange seems, at first glance, very strange. 

Before I go onto the Meet proper, let us all look at the other side of the picture : our new PM's engagement with the Pakistani PM : the first of its kind in years, and the reciprocation in the form of a visit - which seemed impossible only a few months ago. The focus, on back-channel diplomacy and building bridges seems to be the flavour of the day. And in that, trade and cultural interchanges form an integral part. 

For the hawks {I should know, I too was on the borderline of the hawk brigade till I engaged with some lucid and well-argued books by Indian Authors, listed below} : Please go through the following books to get a better picture of Pakistan. Pakistan is a very different country to ours, and it would be a capital mistake to equate their polity and internal ethos with ours. It is a nation categorised by multiple power centers and other related problems {beyond the scope of this blogpost}. In such a scenario, any step that develops and strenghthens the peace-loving brigade in Pakistan and India both is always welcome. Please read the following for more information : 

Thus, in this backdrop, it is of mutual interest to increase trade and cultural exchanges, trying to build bridges and create a barrier to further escalation of tensions. Perhaps, over the period of a few years, with the advent a new generation in both our countries, we will actually succeed in wiping out the current hatred. Witness France - England, or USA / UK - Germany, for instance; or even Japan - USA. Could anyone have predicted in 1945 that they will go on to become close allies? Fine, the ground realities and process followed in those cases was vastly different - but the main common point is that it can be done, the hate can be bridged, and a workable way forward can be found. 


The core event was an interaction with Imran Abbas & Sultana Siddiqui from Pakistan. There was a nice interchange between bloggers and the Pakistani artists about Pakistani shows and their positives, as also the near-ubiquitous following of Indian shows in Pakistan. This was a start, a first event; so drawing any conclusions from it, or the interaction would be being unfair to both sides, so let us leave that aside. The best part for me was that an Indian and a Pakistani can face each other and talk about something positive, driven by mutual interest.

It was a different feeling, a strange feeling - even though I am aware of our similarities; but facing it face-t0-face, upfront was a revelation; the similarities in language, looks and music were a revelation even to me, a person well aware of these facts. The only regret - there should have been a greater interchange, a greater exchange, perhaps a wider selection of performers and artists from across the border, with more time devoted to the exchange. 

Did the thought "why is this man {or his country, to be precise} my enemy" cross my mind? To be perfectly frank, no it did not. And that is the most significant point to me, despite being aware of the realities {the presence of a moderate peace-loving element} within Pakistan to some extent. That means it is possible to rise above hate, and above conflict, for howsoever short a time may it be. That one point alone holds hope for peace : alongwith trade.

It is equally true that I was watching and interacting with an artist from an enemy nation {let us all be brutally honest to ourselves here}, who was representing his country, and was on a simple mission to connect with members of the prospective audience for his arts on the new channel. This the artists did admirably well : their conduct, as far as I could see, was picture-perfect; they were perfect ambassadors for their nation. Pakistan, and its image, could use a lot more such events and interactions. 

Did it  make me want to watch their programmes? Frankly, I am blank on that point; the content just wasn't enough for me to take a call on that. That was the other regret : perhaps a couple of interesting 15-minute shows would have made the meet a far more powerful one. The show exposed me to the moderate element within Pakistan, which was a plus any which way you look at it; but it left me wanting more. Perhaps this, being a start, can be overlooked - hopefully in future such intra-nation events, Team Indiblogger will keep my suggestions in mind! 

All in all it was a unique first-of-its-kind event, connecting two people across a political divide, and creating mutual benefit. The other aspect was the revelation that even young Indians do watch some Pakistani serials and content - which should not seem strange, or even objectionable. Remember Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his Mumbai contributions? But does it all add up? Will this interaction {culture + trade} bridge the divide? All that lies in the future, and depends upon a peaceful coexistence between the two of us, devoid of terrorist attacks, and cross-border violence. That is the core, the non-negotiable reality. The ball is firmly in Pakistan's court; I just hope the moderates in Pakistan win the day...

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Democracy At Its Best...

It is now almost a month into the working of the new Government, and already, a few noteworthy events have happened, events which seems disturbing from afar - events we could have done without - and yet, paradoxically, these very same events have underscored the power of our democracy. This, alongside with the crystal clear intent and actions that are by-and-large laudable,  topped with the unitary and strong control at the center, is creating a new hope in a turnaround in India's fortunes. While it is admittedly early days to state anything concrete, the signs are very positive indeed, and bode well for our nation. 


The first was the controversy over article 370. It has, as per information and news articles I recall, always been a view of the BJP that Article 370 should be, shall we say, "discussed". To specific, so as to avoid any misunderstanding, let me state that I recall that the BJP has always asked what has the article in question given JK, and that it should be discussed at the very least. Now, the BJP is in the hot-seat, that is to say, it is in Government, and with a single-party majority. 

Nay-sayers may have doubted as to what will happen if it comes into power; I for one, never had any doubts. As I observed in my previous article on this point -  Blogpost on Article 370"Let us trust of Parliament, Our Prime Minister Modiji, Our Opposition and Our Courts to sort this matter out;  ..... We dont know; and as you can see from the text of the article, it is no simple matter. Further, we have no idea of the history... so let us forget it, and move on.  Trust our institutions, people... trust them. In this, they have delivered admirably well!"


The entire brouhaha over Hindi. The moment the BJP came into power, well - a few days after coming into power, actually, there was a statement regarding Hindi and its usage. I will not reproduce that here - I have tried to keep my blog free of controversial content - so I will not elaborate. This is a very fresh happening, and would be recalled by most Indian readers. 


There may have been other remarkable, or more significant events, but these are the ones that have struck me as being particularly significant. The reason for this is the sequence of events, and the responses of the various players - which, far from being disturbing, is actually quite reassuring, and underscores the depth of the institution of democracy in India, and its overall maturity. Not only that, the sequence of events should actually win some additional support for the BJP, ideally speaking. Let us not get into analyzing whether or not the BJP should have made those statements - as that is a pointless exercise, given that those statements have been made, and further those are in keeping with the BJPs overall stance.

First, this shows that the BJP will at least try to fulfill its various promises. Second, it also indicates that this is a party that can take the bull head-on, and move ahead. Both of these are very significant factors for a nation which is facing the degree of problems that we currently are. Third, it also shows that the BJP will not roll over other opinions, and will modulate its response according to the reactions in a very stable and mature fashion. 

This third point is critical : rather than view it as a climb-down by a party, and make fun of it, we should look at it as a sign of maturity; that it backtracked on its clearly articulated positions, responding as per the needs of the on-ground situation. This means that the entire western propaganda is mired in total baselessness. The facts show that it tried to do something, which got a kickback from the states and other parties including the opposition. Rather than bank on its majority, the BJP elected to play down the entire episodes, even backtracking at places. 

This is significant : it shows that democracy is now so deep-rooted in India, that even the majority party respects other opinions. Even though it is early days, let us all accept that this is a very hopeful sign. The BJP, at least in my book, has not lost : it has shown remarkable maturity, given that it was going against previously articulated positions. And the opposition has also shown the power of objections, and the power of the democratic institutions of our nation.

It is sad to see the West still view this with colored glasses - view this statement by Hillary Clinton : ". If he leads an inclusive government, and there isn't any country in the world that is more diverse than India, but if people regardless of their religion, their caste, their geography feel that this is a Prime Minister for all India" from Transcript - Hillary Clinton to NDTV Jun 21 2014. The events as on date show the exact opposite; that there is nothing to be worried about. I repeat - let us trust our institutions, everyone. High time the West removed its colored glasses, and looked at its own actions instead, and avoid making judgmental statements.

The events point to the emergence of an exceptionally strong democracy in India, an India which is now being led by a strong, centralised party, with clearly defined ideologies, statements and positions, a party which is in strong control and has the courage to implement them. Simultaneously, it is also a party which is mature enough to adjust and downplay its positions under strong objections. Please note that I am not making any comment about the objections, how they were made, whether they were acceptable or not - I am only focussing on the BJP's response.

Worries remain; like criminalisation of politics - where I sincerely believe that a party such as AAP is direly needed with its focus on decriminalising politics & ensuring solutions to the weaker sections within the framework of a functional capitalistic society. Other flashpoints are the implementation issues, rampant corruption, freedom of police, administrative reforms etc. That is why, now we need an opposition that is equally strong - I only hope that the AAP analyses itself and undergoes a resurgence, for I am doubtful of the Congress, which still cannot find a non-dynastic leader. But on that, let us, once again - trust our institutions and our voters. They have delivered admirably well, particularly our institutions... trust them, people... trust them!

Jai Hind! Vande Mataram!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

The Pull Of The Mother Tongue - The Impact Of Technology

This is the eleventh article in the culture series

Recently, I walked into the Inox Theatre at Kalyan for a movie - Bhatukali {Marathi} starring Ajinkya Deo, Shilpa Pulaskar and Kiran Karmarkar. This experience - the mere unlikely fact of me as a person watching a Marathi film in a theater set of a chain of thoughts, leading to what I feel might be a defining change being wrought by Technology and awakening, alongside the spread of economic growth, a change that is seeping into India

It has been a strange journey for me so far; when I look back today, it is indeed a strange conversion for a totally anglicized man such as myself, a man who was known for linguistic skills in English, a man who loved watching Santa Barbara & The Bold And The Beautiful, Different Strokes, Small Wonder, Yes Prime Minister, Home Alone 1&2, Die Hard, Terminator 1,2&3, Independence Day etc...; a man who loved listening to Michael Jackson & BoneyM

If I look at myself today, I am doing something I would not have believed possible; my list of favourite artists on Nokia Lumia MixRadio lists artists like Swapnil Bandodkar, Mandar Apte, Vaishali Made, Salil Kulkarni, Sonu Nigam, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi! My most watched TV serial is Eka Lagnaa Chi Dusri Goshte in Marathi,  followed by Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai; and the movies I love the most list LOC-Kargil, Mumbai-Pune-Mumbai in Marathi... the conversion seems complete; the turnaround nearly 360-degrees. 

How did this happen? I am not too conversant in pure Marathi - while I am perfectly fluent in my mother tongue - I still run into words that I cannot understand while listening to the music; and yet, the music just grows on me, it has an almost ethereal quality and hypnotic pull for my mind. Even if I cannot understand a word, I can get at the gist by reference to the context; the rest is easily done by the simple expedient of asking a friend the meaning! 

The earliest I can identify the change is through my better half, who watched Marathi TV Serials and Movies. Me, I would avoid them like the plague, ensuring my absence from home even, at times. Then one day, Mee Shivajirao Bhosle Boltoye happened; the plot as my wife described it sounded appealing; net result is I liked the movie. This was followed by an awakening of interest through constant exposure on TV of serials like Asambhav, Uncha Mazhaa Zhokaa and Eka Lagna Chyi Dusri Goshte. The power of the Media, and its increasing reach manifested itself...

The other aspect is my exposure through a totally unlikely medium - Nokia Lumia MixRadio, and Youtube. I would watch Eka Lagnaa Chyi Dusri Goshte  regularly on YouTube; one fine day, I noticed an interesting song on it - Devaa Tujhyaa Gabharyaalaa Umbarach Naahi; clicked on it, loved it - and proceeded to watch several other classic pieces on YouTube on Lumia. I am a regular on Nokia MixRadio, so this time I went to Marathi songs - and discovered a melodious world of lovely songs which were intuitively appealing, and very, very contemporary indeed. 

When I look back - I can spot a clear trend - the impact of Technology, and the rekindling of mother tongue-based serials and movies through the spread of cable television and the proliferation of channels. Suddenly, an entire people - away from their culture, but still very much attuned to it, and "with" it - like my better half - had access to entertainment in their mother tongue. 

These early adopters provided the interest in the people with greater resistance - yes, like me - while the spread of technology through mobiles and reduced data rates, alongside a superb and complete repertoire of endless programming on channels like Nokia Lumia MixRadio and YouTube reduced access barriers and obstacles, rekindling and expanding the love for the mother tongue as the tongue of preference even for entertainment. This is the power, the incredible power of the media. 

The greater availability of channels {means} for contact with the mother tongue- Television, Online Music, Websites has dramatically improved the chances for experimentation - like I did - while simultaneously reducing the access cost for the same. Would I have walked into Inox to watch Bhatukali had I not been exposed to Marathi programming over the past 2 years through Television and Mobile? Very likely not. 

This is going hand-in-hand with the contemporary and modern music and media programming - modern in technology terms, with digital recording and excellent reproduction, alongside digital mastering techniques, and musical implements that make for a lovely and rewarding viewing and listening experience. This, in the case of Marathi, is combined with music that sounds by and large traditional, without excessive western influence {my opinion only - and you all know how much of an expert I am ;) }

Thus, it is an interesting "battle" for the Indian Mind that is now underway; the same channels that are beaming western influences into our homes are also faithfully beaming traditional themes as well; this is devoid of fundamentalism in any way, as the traditional programming is based on music, or TV Soaps, or other such benign programming. And, judging from my personal experience, it is no way certain that western values or language shall overrun us; as a backlash has been created by a back-to-my-culture sequence, fuelled not by fundamentalist anti-west rhetoric, but by an interest in and a craving for the culture. 

It is still early days - but technology is working its wonderful way in more ways than one... doing its bit in  creating a better integrated and more modern India in areas spanning right from the critical Meteorology to the daily routine of Culture, an India that already has come to terms with its diversity, an India that has learnt to use its internal forces to modulate its diverse population and culture!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Book Review : HBR - On Strategic Marketing


"On Strategic Marketing" is one of the Harvard Business Review's 10 must read series. The book contains papers and articles from the 1970s upto the current day, and looks at various aspects of marketing. To the average manager, the book acts as an tool that stimulates thought, and is a delight to read. To the avid strategy student, the book in question leaves one desiring for more.The book covers the following papers :

1)  Rethinking Marketing {Trust, Moorman, Bhalla}
This is a research paper that extolls the virtues of direct interaction with customers, and keeping the customer at the centre of all marketing efforts. This is truly a very valuable input - one which all practicing managers can and should internalise. It suggests an interesting and radical refocus of the organisation and its structure which might enable a deeper focus on the customer...

2) Branding in the Digital Age {David Edelman}
This focal point of this article is the sea-change the Brand-Customer interface has undergone in the digital age, with free availability of information, reviews of customers, product and competitor comparisons etc, the multiplicity of Brand-Customer touchpoints and the challenge it places in front of the Brand Team. It also looks at the consumer decision making process in the new scenario

3) Marketing Myopia {Theodore Levitt}
This is a paper of the 70s, which looks at the inward focus of companies, and the narrow definition of the word market - and their mistake in not defining their market properly. 

4) Marketing Malpractice {Clayton Christensen}
The simplest, but paradixically most difficult marketing lesson of them all - product are just a means to satisfy a customer want, a need... 

5) The Brand Report Card {Kevin Lane Keller}
A detailed, interesting and absorbing look at Brand Equity, and its components

6) The Female Economy {Michael Silversteen, Kate Sayre}
A deeply engaging, thought provoking and insightful research paper that looks at the female customer; her types or segmentation, and her needs and wants - and why they should be a specialised market segment unto themselves

7) Customer Value Proposition in Business Markets {Anderson, Narus and Rossum}
Yet another paper that focusses on the simple and the basics - which is, in reality, one of the most ignored and difficult things to do. And that is the Customer Value Proposition - what is that differentiates your brand from the competition? What do you offer that others dont? This is one of the best papers in this book, is extremely practical, and full of tools and techniques that are a decided value addition

8) Getting Brand Communities Right {Fournier and Lee}
A paper that researches Brand Communities - those ardent and loyalist brand followers who go to the extent of forming real-world or social media communities, and how they can be leveraged for the benefit of the brand

9) The One Number You Need To Grow {Frederick Reichheld}
This, along with no 10, is one of the top 3 papers in this book - it makes the book worth the price all by itself. A short and powerful paper that will set you thinking with deep insight into Brand Loyalty, and how to measure and grow your loyal customers by the simplest of tools. Intuitively  reasonable, and eminently practical... 

10) Ending The War Between Marketing And Sales {Kotler, Rackham, Krishnaswamy}
Wont say anything here : The title itself is a guaranteed puller from anyone into Sales or Marketing... one of the three best papers in the book!

This represents the first HBR Book I have read, and it was worth it, despite some disappointments. I would, personally have loved a more detailed research backed by charts and numbers, or examples; but the content, as it currently stands, is sufficiently engaging, intuitively reasonable and deeply thought provoking for it to be worth a read. The one thing that hit me the hardest was the examples in the book were all American {Obviously!}, which left me wanting some top-quality research on the Indian Market and its realities, which would have made the content far more powerful...

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The NDA, Its 10 Points, Public Expectations, And Our Armed Forces

The NDA Government has just announced a series of focus area, or a to-do list, if you will. This is a great beginning, a start - at least a roadmap is in place. Reams have been written on this, so I will not write on these 10 points, but rather on what else needs to be done on a priority. But first, let us take a look at these 10 points

  1. Food Inflation
  2. Economy
  3. Jobs
  4. Taxes
  5. Reforms
  6. Agriculture
  7. Reviving Manufacturing
  8. Infrastructure
  9. Energy Security
  10. Urbaniszation

Sounds good... if they can pull it off. Time will tell. The key lies in overcoming Centre-State Issues, legal blockages, Public Interests Petitions that will surely follow if proper land acquisition is not done, meaning Land Acquisition law needs to be dealt with. As someone I know  {Mr Mohankrishnan R} pointed out, "Money being no excuse it is the question of speedy planning, land acquisitions, addressing environmental considerations and executing the projects on time. It is not unreasonable to assume that the present government will measure itself to these requirements. " Can they pull it off without Police, Adminstrative and Judicial Reforms? I dont think so. And the news on all 3 is total silence, while the nation continues to hurtle towards a precipice.

Because, the moment you get into Land Acquisition, you run into the Land Mafia, Local vested interests, protests of affected people, etc - all requiring extensive administrative and police reforms. If anything, the news on that is disturbing, with recent events confirming the total lack of any movement on these vital reforms. You cannot expect fairplay in these matters without a free police, fast court redressal, and a fair reasonably incorruptible administration that is not hand in glove with local vested interests. And, if perchance these forces come together in unhealthy ways - you are staring at another andolan. Can the NDA do it?

Let us see. I reserve comment - except to state that I am skeptical. Without tackling the powerful vested interests, desired results will not flow. Sure, improvement will be there - no issues. But dont expect magic; it will be turbulent, and hard fought all the way. Might succeed, might fail. Let us see 

The single most problem area for this Government is high public expectation - if they do not deliver...  The writing is on the wall. And the public wont be looking for steady improvements - they will be on the lookout for a transformation. When passions run high, expectations go through the roof. Their biggest challenge is managing expectation - which is going to be impossible, any which way you look at it. Unless they can find a way to reign in inflation in the next quarter or two - which is a very, very tall order indeed. The most optimistic of estimates are looking at cooling inflation over a period of 8 quarters. This is in terms of public expectations

Stock markets are running amok; People are making big plans and talking big; Big Foreign players have suddenly become bullish about India; Nations have a fresh approach; people are running a fever... these expectations will have to be managed, if not met - through action, clear and transparent communication. So far, the NDA is spot-on in communication, at least. That is a big plus.

I cannot recall any such period of euphoria in the past 2 decades or more. The key is managing these expectation - India cannot afford to fall short. NDA has to deliver - and is HAS to manage these expectations properly. How will they do it? They have this initial period to strike gold. The Budget will be the key for a lot of reasons. For more reasons than one. That is one document that is the most awaited one.

The other aspect that is left is the needs of India's Armed Forces. The Armed Forces need a massive infusion of funds, as they are in dire need of any number of systems. That will require money. This is one requirement that cannot be put off. They also require a relook at organisation, with steps like a CDS, and other needed interventions. Defence Procurement needs a thorough revision, while border infrastructure needs urgent refurbishment. A first step seems to have been taken, with the intention to clear the Fighter Acquisition within the next few months, while today's reports show an intent to simplify road construction in border regions. This is heartening.

And this will be the litmus test for me as a person - I, despite being a person interested in Business and Economy, will be watching one thing, and one thing only - what is the NDA Government's plan to refurbish the Armed Forces? And by when? I will be watching concrete measures taken, not words. The reason for this is simple - with the status the Armed Forces are in - they need the help on a priority, to ensure our continued security. This is best done when both our threats are in no condition to mount an offensive - covert or overt. Pakistan is neck deep in trouble, and China is currently locked into the USA-Japan-SE Asia triangle while fighting internal fires on the growth front. We have a few clear years in front of us, and it needs to be utilised. The UPA ignored these points - if the NDA goes the same way, and does not solve the Armed Forces problems, the intent will be clear. Let us see. if they are UPA-3 in another form, or really NDA. Time will tell  I hope, for India's sake, that they deliver - my fingers are crossed... All the very best, GoI!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Massacres of 1857...

This is based on the book referenced below; I have also read one of the books the main source I have referred to, which has also been linked below. This is an unknown part of Indian History... The First War Of Independence in 1857, and how the British won it...

This is what I call The Genocide of Indians in 1857 - 59 : This took place in 2 waves - and was planned at the topmost levels of the British Hierarchy. Village after village were targeted in a cold-blooded manner, and emptied of its citizens through murder - planned, brutal and cold-blooded murder. This was not an impassioned outrage {albeit fanned by vested interests}, nor was it done as a result of a conquerers victory in war.

What makes it mind-numbingly shocking and stunning is the simple fact that this was planned, and perpetrated as a vicious punishment, as a war strategy to take the war to civilian non-combatants with an intention of defeating the enemy - against a people who were fighting for independence, in their own country - and it was done by a people who had no business being here in the first place

This was supported - believe it or not - by legal acts which were drawn up solely to provide a legal cover for the same. The shocking content of those acts - no less than 4 in number - virtually gave a free hand to the wholesale slaughter of an entire people. This was repeated across innumerable villages, where countless men, women and children were wantonly put to death in 1857-58. This was a shocking saga of wholesale and planned Genocide that surpasses belief.

The impact of the same was immediate: the first wave of retaliation resulted in the collapse of the War effort in 1857. The planners resurrected; the British responded again. Jhansi was reduced to rubble, the majority of its citizens reduced to dead bodies. The brutality at Jhansi was unparalleled; so much so, none of this reached the official historical record.

Except for 2 little details. First, an eyewitness - who survived at Jhansi, wrote a Marathi book {I have read its translation} - Mazhaa Pravaas detailing the brutal genocide in stomach-turning detail.

And second, in an effort to win the prize money {oh, yes - there was a prize money as well}, several soldiers and officers wrote to their superiors. This became a part of the archival records. Add to that the reality that more than several soldiers wrote their diaries and memoirs which were subsequently published...

This  is supported by documented evidence from a multitude of sources. The  Genocide of Indians - which no one among us knows - goes against every  grain of civilization, and humanity - and destroys the British {and, by  relation, western} homilies of being a more civilized nation. The impact  of the Genocide at Jhansi is even supported by a congratulatory letter  of the English. This was a planned, and targeted attack on the civilian  population, designed to kill the support for the war from the local  population. The inhuman strategy worked - it took more than 7 decades  for the people to rise again. It also explains why The Mahatma and other  leaders were wary of an uprising - it would only have led to wholesale  slaughter of the population. The English proved that, as late as 1919,  they had no compunction in killing unarmed and peaceful civilians. The  real tales of the murders will jolt your heart, and shock you into  numbness, so brutal were the massacres, and so terrifying their import  and inhumanity. Till the modern day, no one in the west recognises these  uncomfortable realities, and instead pontificate to the rest of the  world on the aspect of civilization!!!!! . So wondrously civilised were  our rapists, they received - and followed- orders to use their own  families as human shields in the course of the war - something which is  unknown to the Indian People in our entire history.

“Most of the citizens and all of the Queen’s soldiers in Jhansi were killed; the streets were  left thick with blood slush. Vultures darkened the skies of the city.  Hugh Rose had given strict orders not to allow the Indians to perform  the last rites of the dead. After 7 April, when the entire city was  stinking, and jackals and vultures roamed greedily in search of  decomposed bodies, did he grant permission for the last rites. –  Mahashweta Devi

And this is a man who was Knighted, as well. May I remind everyone that the Victoria Cross is  highest award for valor in The United Kingdom. Contrast this with our  own Paramvir Chakra, and the people who have won it and their deeds.  Truly, his deeds were indeed brave: butchering women and children,  killing civilians… The Butcher Of Jhansi. And we Indians are blissfully  unaware of the true horror of those 4 days…

In the entire  historical record, the above does not find a mention. The record shows a  humane and tolerant treatment to the people; the record was, after all,  written by The Butcher Of Jhansi himself. According to Rose, even the  heavy shelling and cannonading targeted only men!!!!! (Wow, what  technology: and this was in 1857!). Remember that they were attacking an  entire town… further, Rose makes the claim that it was the Indian Men  who killed their women! And this found its way into the official record!  -

Why is it that the English records to this day teach of the  Black Hole etc where the English died: but is totally silent on these  atrocities? Even in the modern day, the Westerner is blissfully unaware  of the scale and scope of the horrors and genocide perpetrated in India  from 1757 to 1857! The general consensus seems to be that they brought  order to India, introduced Railways, laws, education etc! Unfortunately  for them their own meticulous records lay bare their claims – as we  shall see in my next post: The Distortions of History – And Their Modern  Repercussions… you will readily find details of Europeans being  massacred in India – but no mention is made of the people they massacred  – even today; in the internet age… That, my dear friends, is that hard  truth… as I always say,

Jaago, Sonewaalon

References :

1) Operation Red Lotus : Operation Red Lotus

2) The Real Story Of The Great Uprising : The Real Story Of The Great Uprising

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Should We Judge Attitude While Hiring?

Attitude is increasingly heard to be one of the points to be measured, or appraised or judged while assessing the utility or skills or potential of a person. A number of hiring managers as well as line managers swear by this dictum. A person with a positive attitude is a tremendous asset, and can be far more effective that one with a bad attitude. The statement above is spot-on accurate, and is a manifest truth. A person with a positive attitude is also more receptive to ideas, can think of solutions to problems with a much greater degree of alacrity, that is also a fact. Should we then measure or judge the attitude of an employee or candidate? Or there are pitfalls in doing so?

My experience has taught me otherwise... attitude is easy to fake, and easier to destroy for a boss. Fact. First of all, attitude is not a fixed and defined item that is carved in stone. Attitude changes as a response to situations, and a negative attitude is no certain judgement of ability to perform; it has to be seen in the light of the persons' circumstance. Quite often, a change of circumstance can lead to a sea change in attitude. Of course, outliers will be there : cases with extreme negative attitude, for example. But these are exceptions, and are relatively easy to spot in most cases.

All too often, "negative attitude" has been used as a one-size-fits-all solution for people in your team you do not get along with. It is ridiculously easy to manufacture a bad attitude through targeted tactics; for example, withholding approvals on some borderline aspect {which can be achieved by provision of additional data, or building a case. In place of such advice, the boss just rejects the approval - either deliberately, or due to a blind spot as he anyways does not like the guy}. This, done enough times, along with other "harmless" practices - like excessive follow-up with an employee who hates being distracted, for example - will manufacture a bad attitude where none existed. 

This in no way implies that a bad attitude is permanent; that it cannot be changed. Attitudes can and do change as per the circumstance the individual is going under, the stresses he or she is operating under both at work as well as at home. Far more pertinent is the observation that why focus on other aspects in a competitive world, when attitude measurement, when taken in conjunction with a basic cut-off of skills and experience is a good judge of a prospective great employee? When you have 3 people applying for each job, it is easy to focus on attitude after initial screening for basic eligibility criteria. Or when picking the ones to keep in a team, and laying off people - why not just let the bad attitude person go?

First, the prospective great employee. That creature doesn't exist, for starters, Each new hire has to be inculcated and developed into the system such that his potential is realised. Second, attitude is no guarantee that the skill-set needed for the task completion is adequate; positive attitude or not, you will still need skills to achieve your KRAs. Third, by judging attitude, in my humble opinion, the manager is creating a blind spot; in place of judging attitude, the manager's core task is to select people who can perform the task at hand. The task is more vital than anything else. It is far more pertinent for the manager to create a shortlist based on skill-sets, ability and intelligence, and use attitude only in the case of a tie-breaker, as it were: to finally select in case you get 2 or more with similar or comparable skills.
If there is a superior,or a suited person whose bad attitude can be logically explained, its makes sense to go in for that person. It is a risk worth taking; trusting the ability of the human being to evolve and adjust to a positive situation is not such a bad idea. As a matter of fact, a down-on-his-luck person, as an example, might actually put in a much greater effort in his or her job if given the chance, as he or she is feeling gratitude at being given a chance, and hope that in this new supportive atmosphere, performance will be rewarded. As I said, the risk might just be worth it.

Next, retention of team members. This is a minefield even in the best of times, and possibly the worst thing you can do is look at attitude over and above everything else. Bad attitude or good, each employee has  a reservoir of knowledge and skill-sets, and is performing a function. As we saw in the examples above, it is easy for a bad boss to create attitude issues in employees. Further, genuine problems and hindrances can also be confused for bad attitude. For example, a Sales Manager complaining of pricing problems is often taken as a person with a bad attitude. In reality, it is within the bounds of possibility that a competing brand has actually launched a test marketing initiative or a local promotion that is undercutting your brand, leading to his feedback. Why brand the guy as a loser, when he is merely stating the absolute truth? 

Why does that guy have a bad attitude? And is it possible to turn that attitude around? If so, we get an asset! Most importantly, if the bad attitude is due to internal politics or vicious targeting, you as a leader will be actually re-inforcing the bad but carefully camouflaged behaviour of the perpetrator, keeping the door open for serious problems in future! That is why, when trying to judge attitude, it is vital to go into the background of the person - why does he or she have a bad attitude? Can it be turned? Under what level of stress is he or she operating? Is there is a personal problem that person is facing? Is it an issue with someone in the team? Asking the right questions can actually lead to unearthing some serious issues, or other pertinent learnings that can be of mutual benefit, as well as ensure that further more serious issues dont arise!

This is why measuring for attitude is always a bad idea - all the time, every time. You have to look at it in totality : the employee's personality, his circumstances, his achievements, and achievements under what situation, what was the precise individual contribution {all too often, the credit is taken by the wrong person}. There is no shortcut; the supervisor has to know the employee inside out. I have personally seen careers destroyed because some boss screams "that guy has a bad attitude", without asking one critical question : Why does that person have a bad attitude?

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Developed Vs Developing World - A Simplified Look

It has always been a cherished dream : wanting to emulate the Developed World, and dreaming of following it in every way. The "Developed World" is nearing the end of its reign in terms of rapid economic growth. While it is, and will remain, ahead in terms of per capita GDP for the foreseeable future; the rapid economic growth will obviously come from Emerging Market Economies. Growth rates are low; inflation is low and interest rates are low as most are developed economies. Some are sitting on huge public debt mountains and are literally ticking time bombs. Money drives money; the combination of the above -low growth, low inflation etc means a slowing economy for the perfectly simple reason that it is easier to grow @ 8% on 100 dollars, which means just 8 dollars. But try the same on a base of 10000 dollars - and you are looking at 800 dollars worth of incremental economic output. This is why Developed World companies are always on the lookout for investment opportunities in other countries

Further, the social safety net in the west is a burden even for their large economies, as the past 3 years have proven. That they cannot now go back on the safety net is certain; it has become a structural component in their economic model. They can afford it for a time; the developing world cannot. The West developed in the traditional model - Agricultural -----> Manufacturing  ------> Services. We, on the other hand, went directly to services. Does this imply that we have made a mistake? Or have we done the right thing? For that, let us take a look at the developed world  vis-a-vis the developing world :

  • Remember: Money drives Money. The needs of the developing world are different; money spent on social welfare at the expense of infrastructure (for ex) is not the way forward - as the first is an expense while the second is an investment. We need investment to deveolop; and further - quite a few western countries development was based on "blood money", which was easy to come by.  That option is no longer available.
  • Second, the stage of technological development and penetration; the pace of scientific innovation and inventions are different in the two cases.. (Development and Penetration are 2 differing aspects: India, for example, has nearly 100% of the technological prowess of the west - but Penetration among its people is abysmal as opposed to ubiquitous usage in the west). This means a different set of realities, and challenges
  • Third, the infrastructure conundrum. Each economy has varying levels of infrastructure challenges, development and requirements. This requires individual modelling, and not one-size-fits-all
  • Fourth, Basic Factors like education, health etc. Even in 1950, western nations were ahead of the current status (as of 2011 figures) on these parameters, The reason is the 100+ years of unchallenged growth propelled by blood money, easy land (America), and colonialism which provided funds for both the industrial revolution as well  as investment in people. This means extra focus needs to be given on the development on human potential in the developing world
  • Fifth, varying needs as per the stage of economic development and socio-economic realities. The goods and services required vary wildly as per the stage of development.
  • Sixth, current internal structure of the economy, If, for example, you have only small companies then some level of protection might be required to engender internal growth and competitiveness. In this, it is noteworthy that in our case, the bulk of our economic output is through the Unincorporated sector of the Indian Economy. This is an important point that needs to be kept in mind
  • Seventh, level of development of the financial and banking markets
  • Eighth, extent and depth of internal resources availability
  • Ninth, Level and speed of information flow when the west was developing as compared to now is completely different
  • Tenth, Level of corruption is also totally different
  • Eleventh, The population size,  the will of the people and their expression
  • Twelfth, and most critically, the pace of change between then and now is widely different; the Modern world is growing at an almost breakneck speed, compared to the staid speed of yesteryears 

The above is a cold and dispassionate analysis of the developed and developing world in very simplified terms; the intention is only to highlight the differences. The above points clearly spell out the widely divergent nature of the developed economies versus the developing economies. They also highlight some critical factors. One of the first requirements for growth is Investment Avenues, Sources of funds and their utilization towards the objective of attaining growth. These are different today than when the west was developing; which is what I have highlighted. They had access to easy money from their colonies, money they looted. We as a nation dont have that luxury. The pace of growth during the developmental stages of the Developed versus the Developing world also indicates that opportunities are thrown up at a faster rate; and if you have to ability to cash in, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Our mistake was not in going directly to services, but in not focusing on the right things.

Today it is a matter of building selective competitiveness in sectors where you have a competitive advantage - like India started its upward trajectory on the back of its manpower and educational  institutes. As a result, knowledge intensive sectors like Pharmaceuticals and especially IT took over as the growth engine, providing revenues, allied opportunities and momentum. The presence of a robust (although restrained) corporate sector meant relatively easy scale-up in other sectors as well once the reigns on business were eased. The presence of a very strong financial, legal and banking sector was the catalyst as well as the assurance. Thus, it is a question of building the basic blocks combined with building selective competitiveness....

What we now need to do is focus, or rather re-focus on building the basics - Human Development Parameters, and Infrastructure. The most critical point - point 4 - shows the vital need for almost a warlike focus on this. For example, The literacy rate in Japan in 1929 was 43.8%, with over 90% enrollments in schools. In India, in 2001, the literacy rate is 62.8%. Japan was at this level of literacy around 1960 or thereabouts. This should underline the critical need for focussing on these basics; these are the basics which determine success. 

And this is where we as a nation went wrong; demonstrably wrong. Today, we are counted among the worst nations on HDI Parameters. The requires money - building infrastructure and HDI parameters requires heavvy duty investments - in a highly competitive world with limited sources of funds. In  such  a world, it is important that we as a nation are more competitive than other nations. Which means, Infrastructure, a healthy population with the requisite skills, a robust economy with solid institutions and ease of doing business. That is all that is required. And that is where we went wrong... we forgot to build the institutions - which the west did during their developmental phase.

The pull towards providing safety nets, or subsidising people, will be great; to be sure, there is plenty of reason for us to go down that path, given the ugly realities of poverty that we are facing. But that path is one of great risk; we need to invest every rupee we have into productive assets. I understand that some level of support is required - but let us all not go overboard. If even some developed economies can find themselves in trouble over this matter, then it is being overoptimistic to expect that we can solve our problems that way. We need to minimise, or at least optimise, all such support and put the savings to productive use. That is the need of the hour for India... and the sooner our political class realises this, the better. 

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Corruption : Acceptable. The Right Path : No, No, No No...

A chance comment I heard  {never mind where}  drew my reaction -when someone obliquely referred to an anti-corruption crusading party as being "sanctimonious". The word sanctimonious means, as per google, "making a show of being morally superior to other people", while Merriam Webster website refers to it as hypocritically pious or devout. Let us get to the bottom of this meaning - hypocritical means "behaving in a way that suggests one has higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case." as per google and "a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs" as per Merriam Webster...

Let us forget the particular panel for a moment, as well as who specifically said it to whom. That is not important in the larger scheme of things. I will make no comment or reflection on the panel member, or why he said it. This is not a reflection on that person, he may have had his reasons. What is more pertinent is to whom this was stated. You have an anti-corruption campaigner, and the best you can refer to him is being sanctimonious? The participant was from the AAP. Regardless of the election performance, their manifesto, and their mistakes, the fact remains that AAP is a party that, as its core, is fighting against corruption. What does this speak of our own tolerance for, acceptance of corruption, and of our moral values?

The election results prove beyond even a shade of doubt  that corruption is not a platform on which parties can win elections. The electorate values being smart, having realpolitic, rhetoric and solid economic and national policies as more important. Let us tackle this first, in the interest of fairness. Yes, having solid policies, and a clear action plan as well as proven credentials is absolutely vital; we cannot afford to hand the nation over to unqualified people. The first week of the new Government has, to be fair, has given us plenty of reason to cheer – as I shall look at in my next post. That is unquestionable. That is also not the thrust I am making in this article. Let us get that impression out of the way.

I am specifically referrring to our general attitude towards anti-corruption campaigners, including AAP as observed in the news, on social media as well as Whatsapp messages, the ugly and insulting references to these people. It is fine if you don’t vote for them in a national election just yet – as I already observed above. While I may or may not agree with that, the precedence to policies is understandable and appreciable from the society, and augurs well for our democracy.  What is more important is our attitude towards these people, who are fighting this fight to make lives easier for all of us, and our condescension towards them and their efforts. It is certainly not fine if you don’t even appreciate these people who have set up a political party, taking on the big guns, and fighting a tranaparent fight based on principles.

This goes to the core of our values, and to the importance that we as a society place on due process, morality, values, integrity and honesty. It is also,sorry to say, a brutal indicator on our total ignorance. It is especially sad to see even the highly educated erudite and learned gentry make derogatory remarks, and ignore the core values being espoused by these people. These indicate that we, as a society, do not value the above attributes. Not only that, it is also a sad comment on our selfishness and ingnorance. Selfishness – because we refuse to do things the right but more difficult way, under the specious grouse of “the world works this way; and ignorance - because we are totally ignorant of the damage corruption causes the economy, and the drag it is on the GDP growth of our nation. We continue to pay bribes as a people, ignorant of the immense damage we are wrecking on our economy and our country – and call anti-corruption campaigners fools, or impractical, or theoretical, or worse. I know this to be a fact since I do not pay bribes – and have heard these words, and far far worse; still continue to do.

So long as we as a people continue to regard the anti-corruption campaigners as being sanctimonious, or putting on a farce, or being hypocritlcal, no progress is possible in the fight against corruption. It is high time that we, the people realized and accepted that it is not the anti-corruption campaigners who are being sanctimonious. It is we the people who are fault; it is we the people who are are ignorant; it is we the people who are willing participants in the looting of the corrupt; it is we the people who are selfish; and it is we, the people who are in dire need of a correction of our base value systems, or values and our entire attitude towards integrity, honesty and decency.

It may be hard to believe for many, but corruption does harm everyone. Our stunning ignorance of this matter, and of how corruption damages the nation is a cause of deep concern, as is our deep-seated cynicism of anti-corruption efforts. This is in dire need of correction, along with our now-defunct moral compass. We have seen in previous posts how corruption hits the common man in everything, including security and personal safety. We can see from S Hussain Zaidi’s investigation how corruption plays a role in crime and terrorism. Hypocrisy is not in fighting against corruption; it is in making fun of anti-corrption campaigners, and in paying bribes. And so long as we, the people, continue to be cynics or hypocrites, there can be no real success in the fight against corruption.

Jaago, Sonewaalon…