Saturday, January 30, 2010


Once upon a time there was a little boy. His parents tried to teach him the days of the week.

Monday, dad would say. Munjay, he would say. Tuesday. Chewsjay. Wednesday. Wenesay. Thursday. Chursay. Friday, dad would say. Cryday he would say. Saturday. Chachuray. Sunday. Chunday. Why he said Cryday for Friday they never understood. In those words was a deep secret.

As time passed, he would often ask for cried rice instead of fried rice. And cryums instead of fryums. And Cryons instead of crayons. He loved cryptic crosswords though he never understood any of them. They did not realize that these words hid a connection...

Little did his parents know that he was a cryborg from the planet Crypton. They were the masters of crying. They had elevated it to the level of a fine art. And through a strange destiny, a crashing comet and some luck, a cryborg found its way to earth as a little boy.

And then, one day, he found himself in a bank that was being attacked by the masked marauders. And he found himself, a 4 year old face to face with the thieves. He did what came naturally to him. He cried. And cried so much that within no time the thieves found a pool of tears at their feet. They did not know whether to pacify him or run. They ran. And slipped in those tears. The heist was halted. The boy became a hero. But that was not important for him.

The boy from Crypton had discovered himself and his superpower...

[Needless to say, the little one is not sure whether he likes this story I created for him during one of those teary sessions...]

Enough is enough

Fed up with repeated terror incidents in India aided and abetted by friendly neighbours, the Indian government has said enough is enough. Pakistan players wont be allowed anywhere near IPL3 - which really has nothing to do with the Indian government.

Obviously that has not happened. What has happened is actually the other way round. The PCB, apparently furious "at being insulted", has prevented Pkstn players from playing in IPL3.

Its a strange world we live in...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is the internet good?

What if you never used the internet? What if you did not know it existed? Whats the question you would ask someone? Is the internet good?

Most tools and technologies are as good as their users - apart from obvious design flaws. If you read a lot, an RSS reader is of use to you. If not, it is useless. If you want to take good pictures a camera is of use to you, else it is useless.

On the other hand, if you asked, how can I use the internet to my (or business or work) benefit - the answer you get would be quite different. The same question could be asked of many other things - any new technology or new tool. And at that point, you can see how you can harness the technology or tool to your benefit.

Otherwise, most tools are useless...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

IPL is the market

IPL is the market for cricket players. And the market decides that Pakistani players are too much risk and dumps them. Is it really an insult?

For the franchisees, these players are too much risk. One terror attack or some pitch digging work by Shiv Sena or some diplomatic gaffe and thats it - investment goes down the drain. Rather bet it on West Indies or Bermuda or players from some other random nation.

So, it is no insult as some may want to make it. If somebody does not buy a particular companies stock in the market, is that an insult? So, tough luck guys. Looks like out in your country nobody reads our newspapers which is busy marketing peace for idiots like us. Rockets rain into our country, terror attacks happen - clearly enough guys out there are not reading our newspapers.

If they did, all these would not have happened and of course, the "insult" would not have happened. Are terror and rocket attacks on us, not an "insult" - oh, I miss the point, perhaps they are "appreciation".

Another point, will the players now turn back and tell their government to stop facilitating terrorism? Do let me know if that happens...I might subscribe to AkA myself.

But anyway, I am glad the market spoke for itself, as markets usually do...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our colonial mindset

Mysore is a city in our backyard. Lakhs of Bangloreans visit for all reasons Mysore and for many reasons Bangalore and a lot of them in between. I mean, Mysore is a superb weekend destination for us here. Amazing connectivity, superb food options, quiet place, great drive - among other things. Lakhs of Bangaloreans visit Mysore each day - the bus connectivity rivals Mumbai and Pune connectivity (I think it is better). Yoga - All of India in general and Mysore in particular has been at it for zillions of years now.

Bombay is our melting pot. Yes, there isnt a better city in India. In the world New York would probably come close in my books. What a city! We all know this, for eons now. Usually one would portray Bombay as crowded, slum infested and what not...

But now is the time to appreciate it, because, you know...the fact that these two cities made their place in some random newspaper list of must see places in 2010, makes it big news. I love this line in the report...

Mysore is logging visitors like never before, with the ornate Mysore Palace getting 25 lakh visitors annually. This is next only to Madame Tussauds, the wax museum in London.

The heritage of Mysore compared to a stupid museum? Thats our colonial mindset. When the whites endorse us and give us a certificate we love it. While thats us, our newspapers take it to an entirely different level while reporting it.

Chalo, isi bahane, let us appreciate some of our traditions and cities, as they show up on random lists...

We got independence some 62 odd years ago. But mentally, we are still colonized. More later!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blogging update etc.

Blogging updates are sparse because of a few things happening in the background.

One line of thought that I have is to make the blog more focused by writing in specific areas rather than shoot my mouth off on every random happening. But that's just one line of thought. There are other lines of thought in different directions - it could very well be a timing thing. But I do want the blog to reflect my limited writing skills/abilities, rather my random thoughts - so let me see what I can do about that. One thing is for sure, the blog will continue as is, short and long pieces, stuff that inspires me, makes me think or just makes me go WTF. While putting together this blogging update, this happened...

So, today, I called up an organization as a customer and I couldn't reach anybody because the sales team was in a meeting. Which organization would stay in a sales meeting and not be available to the customer who calls up? Sigh! And these are the kind of things that make me blog!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Google Zeitgeist

The google yearly zeitgeist is a fun way to look at things, though, I am not sure how much of it is edited before making it in the way that we see it here, given the light of the recent news of Googles political correctness with India and in general.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Career lessons from the Big Bs career

Amitabh Bachchan is your hero. As a freshly minted MBA, if there is one person in the country you have to learn from, it is Amitabh Bachchan. The man, once dismissed as too tall for the industry and who was famously rejected from AIR because of his voice turned out to be an icon of Indian cinema.

What has that got to do with your career? Plenty.

Amitabh did not have an easy ride up to where he was. His first movie was a flop. He struggled to fit into the chocolate boy image - a rage in those days. And he was offered a chance in a movie that was a non chocolate boy story - it was an action hero story which none of the chocolate boys wanted. Hindi movie till then, never really had had an action hero story at all. And the movie went onto become a career blockbuster. All his purported weaknesses - height, voice became an asset overnight. ...

And then he created a genre for himself (by accident or otherwise). The angry young man. And as he grew older, he decided to play his age. Till then, actors rarely aged (most still refuse - playing lover boys in their mid 40s). And he changed the game once again. He formed a company (again, a trendsetter), failed till bankruptcy and was staring down the barrel. Did he give up or hit the bottle or kill himself (like quite a few before him)? No. He had one movie at that time and a chance to move into TV. He took that chance with both hands. Ditto here. He reinvented himself as the times were changing and that recasting of himself gave him a new lease of life in his primary pursuit.

Till the time he moved into TV, no TV star worth his name (leave alone somebody of his stature) had ever done TV. But the moment, Amitabh arrived on TV, he found his shows had better TRPs than cricket matches. And of course, the youth brigade followed him on TV and fell flat on their face for the most part. How much fun happens when you are a leader and a trendsetter!

By then, the man had moved on. He was a brand ambassador for many brands. He began playing parts in movies that nobody could believe he could have played. And then he began to experiment with his roles. He delivers voice-overs to corporate campaigns, social initiatives and even projects where people ask for his help. Does he deliver a hit each time? No. Do the hits really matter for him? No. Is he still relevant in the industry. Yes. Is he enjoying himself? Absolutely. And is he working hard?

Of course, even at 65 years of age. And some of his best roles and successes and critical acclaim has come here...

What are our lessons from a career perspective?

Many of us chase the "next big thing" or "try to follow the trend". Not too many of us attempt to break it. There is great joy in breaking the trend. From chocolate boy to action hero was a trend that defined the industry for 20 years, until a movie staring someone in 1987 (a lad by the name of Aamir Khan) broke the trend. Over the course of your career, you will find this happen many times. A lot of people you know today were not trained for IT, but the companies found that these guys had the talent and the domain that was required for pitching for clients. And IT? They learnt it. And today you have entire courses training your for IT. Who is to say that this is the trend for tomorrow? And in any case somebody has to pick up and figure out what can be done with an emerging technology or idea and that can come from anyone who has an open mind.

Second. Throughout your career you will have to reinvent yourself. Sometimes for the company, sometimes for the boss, sometimes because times demand so, but right at the core, something cannot change. That's your passion for the job and your skills. And most of the other things are wrappers or our own preconceived notions etc. And it is important that these wrappers change. If you don't adapt, the job market will give you the go by very soon or you will find yourself in stereotyped roles.

Third, diversify. Under the umbrella of a company, try everything that comes your way - this is a far less risky way of learning new things than having to change a job for doing so and then learning that it does not work. One of my colleagues had a simple measure to try out anything - if it resulted in a learning he would do it. And that meant that as a finance person he often found himself sitting in focus groups, pilot studies and what not all across the organization. And of course, when he got around to heading the finance department of a company, his diverse experience made him that much more open to newer ideas.

Fourth, identify your strengths. This is difficult and important.

Fifth, take everything that is thrown at you, especially when you are new in your career (or when you are established in your company) Often in a job this happens - you are expected to play a lot of roles without a clear benefit in any single one of them. If you are committed to the company, it is a great idea to do everything that is thrown at you. Success happens as a byproduct in these ventures and your commitment and enthusiasm get you brownie points as well.

It is important to take up small opportunities alongside your main vocation (either in your company or outside). You never know which of them could be the 'next big thing' - and by doing this you are not chasing the 'next big thing' but creating it. That distinction is important...

A lot of times, there is merit in taking up that project when all others all around are rejecting it. You could say it was desperation, but it does not matter in the end if you win.

And as far as learnings go, there is much to learnt from the way stars like Amitabh manage their careers as much as cricketers like Virendra Sehwag bat (believe me- there is a ton to learn from him!).

(An edited version of this was published in Advancedge, Jan 10)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Mall mania reduces

This DNA article notes that mall mania is fading in Mumbai thanks to the slowdown and many mall spaces are becoming residential or general commercial spaces. While that is true, there is also another contributing factor - which is the proliferation of malls. When the first mall in India was opened - the Crossroads mall - it attracted people from all over the city. People even got their visitors from other parts of the country to visit the mall. And then as malls opened across the country a similar thing happened. The mall was a happening place - it was the place to go visit, hang out and perhaps do a bit of shopping. But as malls proliferate, in most cities, it is unlikely that somebody will go across half the city and visit yet another mall to shop.

Now, malls are mostly about local catchment areas except malls in places where people would meet up like say, an MG Road here. People in general go to the mall near their place of residence (or thereabouts). Unless the mall is a clear differentiator. Which honestly, most malls arent. They have the same brands in the mall and the shops in the mall also have the same items. There was a certain individuality in terms of the way that a mall was constructed, but that is not a lasting reason for someone to keep going to a mall. So, if malls want to attract people they need to differentiate either by way of goods or services or both.

So, malls become more of social meeting joints for people who don't live "near" and more of shopping destinations for people in a 'catchment area'. So, yet another mall, well, while it adds to the competition, does little else by way of interest. So, mall designers out there, please create a unique shopping experience and you will get more people..

Friday, January 01, 2010

What we missed all along

A little over 60 years. 2 or 3 major wars depending on who you ask. An unspoken fight at snowy heights. An undeclared covert war always happening. Ceasefire violations. Support for terror activity. Tons of perfidy and double dealing.

I need not tell you what comes to your mind when you read this. Friendly neighbour perhaps.

What has not been tried? Peace accords. Cricket matches. Candle light. Booming guns. Diplomatic threats. Calls to big uncle. Calls to small uncle. Calls to uncles uncle. Buses. Trains. This list is not exhaustive, but you can see that it covers a wide range of initiatives.

Except one! Aha! Love! In the form of peace enabling seminars, music festivals, cultural interactions, literary festivals. If we had done this one thing, surely all the above things that happened, are happening (in planning) or will happen would have been avoided.

Surely reciting poems, shooting advertisements will reverse 26/11 - the last pathbreaking interaction we had? And while we interact, can we interact with some of our fugitives who are in hiding and comfort there?

So, while you do all that, can someone have a textbook review also? With students and teachers from standards 5 to 10? Discussing exactly what they learn in history at school? So that each other know what exactly their future leaders are learning? What mindset is being inculcated into them?

I could go on and on, but please dont delude yourself atleast on a new year. And while I wish you all the best, I would be surprised if there was no security at the venue. After all, when you give peace a chance, it also means violence also has a chance.

Update: So, it looks like this is the general opinion all along. Man, we must all be warmongers!