Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lakes, water and all that

Found this link somewhere on twitter if I am not mistaken. This about a project trying to document the lost lakes of Bangalore, many of which are layouts, housing complexes, industrial estates and software parks. Take a look. Here and here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Big Shi(f)t

Tactics change, Big Shift, announces Indias approach to talking with Pkstn, its ever friendly neighbour. Let us really see if it is any change in strategy.

We have been talking to Pkstn since donkeys years and it has produced a whit worth of change in the way that our neighbour thinks. And we have been talking all through their support for Kashmir, our dons in other countries, insurgencies in Punjab and any general thing against India. Why, they would force the South east monsoon to turn away if they could.

So talking or not talking does not signal any change in strategy - indeed in general not talking is a stupid strategy. But from where? Is it negotiation or shooting the breeze? Are we negotiating out of desperation or weakness? As far as I can see, we still cry wolf and negotiate with a gun to our head. There is no change in the way that the neighbour thinks or acts or behaves or any indication of change.

So, what would a change in strategy be? As Theodore Roosevelt said, Speak softly and carry a big stick. A change in strategy would be, if we had a big stick with us. Now, we run often to Obama uncle who has a big stick but is afraid to use it. And then again, Obama uncle is not clear on who he needs to support, for one.

So, this is not a change in strategy, it is pure status quo. Baaki sab bakwas...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Terror express

"Train number 2611, Terror express after various halts across the country is expected to arrive on your platform, you city, your town at an undisclosed time. You patience is solicited as it will arrive, totally unannounced. All signals have been cleared for its arrival, only your presence as a soft target is required. When it leaves, it will leave in its cowardly wake, a few innocents dead. Also will be a few maimed, a few scarred for life in its dastardly trail. The train has no destination - none that we can announce atleast, but it has been on a tour of the country in recent times. We have put up a few signals, but the train does not seem to follow them, so we are helpless to stop the train or put an end to its grisly journey. We are hoping that the train will stop on its own. Probability at present is our best strategy..."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

And there were none

I mean, there were no terror attacks after 26/11. Absolutely none. And the reign of the Empress ushered in an era of peace and justice. Peace initiatives were announced by media groups that promised peace on paper. Secretary level talks were sought to be initiated. And it was all beginning to look hunky dory.

But those stupid imbecile terrorists. They had to blow it all up (literally) by setting off a bomb in a German Jewish owned bakery in the city where Shivaji was born. 9 people went to heaven or hell or somewhere in between. And a few cowards earned their stripes for sending a few more to a grisly death.

Something must have upset those poor chaps. Dont worry about real reasons or intelligence alerts or anything else. No worries. None.

I am sure it was the cake. Now, coming to my bank...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When sports meets middle age...

Middle age is the stage where the mind thinks it is still in its 20s, while the knees remind you that the body is a little ahead on the aging curve.

At this precarious stage of existence, for most of the people like us who grew up in socialist India where access to sport at best meant a maidan with a million folks or gully cricket or some equivalent sport, that is a tragedy.

Imagine that in middle age (roughly described as crossing 30 till nearly 50), you have access to the sports facilities that you have always wanted. Facilities, a far cry from the maidan or your own building - either via a club membership or via your place of residence. Imagine also that from those creaky wooden rackets shared by 4 people and shuttles that were used till it had one feather stuck with glue, you can buy all the shuttles that you want and all the graphite rackets money can buy. From begging at various parents doors for money for a rubber cricket ball or bats made out of coconut trees, you can buy any cricket bat. If you break someones window pane, you need not run away and can pay for it. Which means, your sports career has just begun...

It is in this scenario that the middle aged sportsman, idolizing Robin Singhs career makes his entry. The mind is willing, but the body is weak. The body has no practice, but the mind having seen Tendulkar blast his way in a Desert Storm is in an illusion of its own.

Thing is the body has moved away. There was a time, it could respond to you on a cold start doctrine. But now getting up from bed requires a warm up and cool down procedure.

So, strapped at the knees or fueled by anti-inflammatory tablets, the middle aged sports man takes guard...Imagine swing bowling, imagine a swinging serve or those dazzling drop shots that you lunge forward to take. Only problem, that the back reminds you, as does the shoulders as does the knees that, well, unless you take extremely good care of them, these are best done by professionals while we watch them in the comfort of our living rooms. But then, whats the other option? Unless you chose the carrom board...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Plug in hybrids

Nice video on Plug in hybrids. (via LGF). Good thing to see as oil prices go up...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The art of networking...

Ever wanted to invest money in a dream start up? The kind which offers you its shares at 10 rupees when it has no takers or few? And then, like a dream come true, over the next 10 years expands and multiplies into a big company taking its shares northwards and making you richer in the process? Not too many can be a part of such a dream come true, you say - except say those who invested in an Infosys when it was offering its IPO in the mid 90s?

Well, think again. Welcome to your MBA class. Your class or batch is a set of students seeking to make their mark in the world, corporate or otherwise. As an oft spoken theme in this column, get your MBA to work for you and that happens, not from the point when you are enrolled into an MBA or earlier when you are enrolled into an MBA coaching course such as IMS. It happens from the point you decide to do an MBA - which could preclude all of this by a few days or weeks or years, or if you are unlucky, a few years after you finish your degree. And this is your start up. Your network. Which will grow manifold over the next few years.

One of the things an MBA course is useful for is to build your network. Now, don't start off by saying, I don't network or I don't need a network or I don't have a network. (or saying that this is the only gain from the course - both attitudes are wrong).

Even if that is true, the world is not a static world. People move jobs, countries and that nerdy geeky scholar might be a vice president at the hottest company while your operations research scholar who you thought was fit only to wear a boiler suit might be heading operations in some
unit. The family businessman might turn out to be the best banker or the best banker today could turn out to be running a large NGO. The back bencher might start his own firm and do very well. (And these are live examples of many people I know.) Don't think now. Think 10 years down the line. You will be surprised at the naivete of your perceptions then when you see your class. (Atleast, I am, even today.)

Doesn't matter if you are finance (or marketing) - get rid of those labels. Befriend those marketing (or operations) guys. And those HR folks who you think are doing the touchy feely stuff, are in the hot seat of hiring at any place. Net net, your class is your network. The network that will help you in the coming years. And you are in the middle.

Don't stop at that.

Network with your professors - many of them consult in the real world. Work with them on projects that they have. And that will expose you to the contacts that they have. Network with the contacts. Always remember though to start by working, then by networking. Don't try the reverse - you effort will fall flat on its face. Networking is one of those things that just happens. Do your job, do it cheerfully and the networking is a byproduct. If you do something for the sake for networking, be forewarned, it will not work so.

Network with seniors. Be part of alumni association gatherings, projects. Seniors are your window into entry into the corporate (or entrepreneurship) world. They are more than your network - inspiration, actually, if you chose to see them that way. Again, think 10 years on.

Network with those who do your summer internship. Network with the students you meet there (if you are a group or a team of interns).

So, pause to think. How to build your network? Does it mean collecting visiting cards that become outdated before you figure out a way to file them? The famed Rolodex has its values, but there are other, more useful tools out there today. Or does it mean collecting phone numbers that change at the drop of a hat. I am sure most of you know what I am hinting at.

The first day that you enter the corporate world either as an intern or through your final year project or your first job, create a profile on Linkedin. Indeed create your profile the day you decide to do an MBA. (If you are a non MBA reading this, it applies for you too. It applies
for every profession. The future workplace is a linked one!)

By the time you complete your education, it would look impressive. But it is early days yet to make it work for you. Doesn't matter. Keep building and connecting with people (preferably people you have worked with) through the social network. If someone likes your work, get them
to write a recommendation for you on it. It will stay with you longer than a mail or a letter will. If your network has queries (some members post queries in linkedin), answer them if you have an answer.

Many of those who you met will move on in life. Move on to newer jobs, newer cities, newer careers, set up companies, liaise with the latest and greatest. As will you. So, when you are looking for a job ten years down the line, all your investments would have multiplied into the way I described the start up dream I described at the start of the piece.

The seeds you sowed at the start of the career will grow into a tree or a forest over 10 years. The MBA network you started is now fully grown network. Now, that's doesn't mean each of your contacts are waiting for you. If you had added value to them when you met them, surely they will, but otherwise, there is no point. The only way to add value to yourself in the network is to add value to the contacts in your network.

How? All I can tell you is that there is no one way. There are many ways. And as it says in The Matrix, I can only show you the door - you have to walk through it...

(An edited version of this was published in Advancedge Feb 09)

Oil izzzz wellll

Global warming or no global warming, recession or no recession, oil prices will go up up up. Superb column by SS Aiyar in TOI. Do read this piece...

How the world changes? Nearly a year ago, oil at 200 dollars per barrel was supposed to be the prediction made by those in Goldman Sachs. Then came the recession, prices crashed and happy days were here again. But now it looks like oil prices may be back up again and there is no recession. We do live in an interesting world.

This blog is a hopeful supporter of an oil free world (both in our stomachs and in our vehicles) within our lifetimes.

You may be rich, you may be poor, but unless we move away from oil, future is andhera, blackboard! To paraphrase an old ad on television...

And like the proverbial frog in boiling water, we await...

Where were you...

Super super song. Watch it if thats all you do today. (via Acorn)

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Upgrading public transport

A cursory glance at this blog will tell you that I am a big fan of public transport and its current upgradation in most cities in the country.

Bangalore is one of those places, like most other smaller cities in India that has a love hate relationship with public transport among the people like us category. They love public transport as long as other people take them and hate public transport if they have to travel on them. (The big metros are a bit of an exception.)

Now this is not anything out of the ordinary. Public transport was bad over the 70s and 80s and no form of public transport was ever known to be comfortable. And, most people start off by using buses and get frustrated about the crowds and wait time. Somehow they manage with buses till they reach age 16 and then they start on their two wheelers and from then on it is a journey of upgradation to various two wheelers and then to a car - which then takes over as a status symbol of not having to travel in buses. At some point, buses are known only as traffic hazards in the minds of people.

This is a pity. Because in the meantime, public transport in the city has grown by leaps and bounds in terms of both quality and quantity and if you are willing to walk a bit or wait a bit (both of which are "big" in peoples minds), it is actually more comfortable than your car - you can read a book or even doze off in the airconditioned comfort. And then, you dont have to search for a place to park.

And while initiatives like Bus day are a great idea, I think it is important to use these Volvos as moving billboards too. Eco friendly messages like - All the people on this bus left their cars and bikes at home. Or, paint the picture of a few bikes and a cars on a bus, saying - I saved the city from x amount of pollution. Or, a billboard on the Volvos saying, this ride is more comfortable than your car or bike. Or figuring out easy ways to tell people of how much time they need to wait for a bus is a smart idea of getting more people to use public transport. The message of upgraded and comfortable public transport has to be spread for more people (PLU) to start using public transport...

Try getting stuck in a traffic jam in your own car crawling in first gear and jumping lanes and in a Volvo bus and see the difference.

And while on buses - I am not impressed with Marco Polo buses as much as the Volvos. Tatas, please work on them to make rides on them a little more silent and vibration free...

My dear bank

I had recently been to our friendly neighbourly big private bank to get a statement. This particular type of statement costs me a few hundred rupees. The person who can issue the statement does not access to debit my account. And for getting this statement, I have to be in a queue (nicely token ordered) and pay it - take the receipt and then get my statement. Now, I dont have time for all these niceties. Luckily, she told me, I could always order it online and then there will be an auto debit.

I was stupid, I shouldnt have gone there in the first place for the statement, but I am sure this is a simple thing that can be handled - I mean, people visit service centers as a last resort, so it is in their interest to resolve issues in the shortest possible time when a customer is there, but then there are policies that need to be followed...

And while on banks, another private bank does not give me a statement for my own account online. And for the short duration it gives, it will not print my account number on it. Why? They get to charge for statements of longer duration.

So much for titles like wealth banking, priority customer, private banking and other stupid jargon.

The show must go on

You can get a chief (or not), but do you really think that it will weaken the Taliban? Which company or organization that you know floundered because they lost a leader? Not too many - because the ideal leader would have lines of succession ready - or the lines of succession ready themselves.

Organizations flounder and weaken when their source of funding dries up - more than leadership, it is stopping funding that is critical. Getting a leader, will at best create a pause in the ranks or cause them to go underground - and while essential thats not the only thing. Unless lines of funding are strangled, it will remain...