A tale of two countries. Separated by about 24 hours at their (official) birth, both countries have taken a different path.
Over the more than 60 years of independence, both countries have advanced, in slightly different directions though. Today, both the countries use the abundant manpower available with them. They have set up industries from scratch with barely any foreign assistance. Today they are renowned across the globe for their industries. Global interns are keen to work in these enterprises and it is a talent magnet from around the world. The training centres are huge and require considerable investment. Selection procedures are tough and require a decent level of motivation. Both countries have access to the latest communication systems including blackberries which they use for effective project management. Some projects bomb, but they take in their stride. Clients and vendors are global, as has to be the case whenever the projects of large of such nature. Billing can be upfront or milestone based and can be paid in almost any currency. Many of these companies have operations in other parts of the world - both acquired and organically grown - which allow for a certain degree of operational independence from the headquarters (and plausible deniability if required). A company needs to have, preferably, multiple training centres, offices and enough back up and risk planning capability. It is also important that they are located in catchment areas for the labour. And recruitment centers for have to staffed with local experience. Campus recruitment is ideal though laterals are hired too...The industries that these countries offer expertise in, is considerably mature today...
But in those common paths, there is a distinct difference. Like the by now cliched story of Bollywood movies with twins separated at birth where one ends up becoming a robber and one becomes the police, the story of these two countries is remarkably different.
Today, one country is the epicentre of global terrorism outsourcing and another one is the epicentre of global technology outsourcing. Just as every single terror attack big or small finds a linkage in Pakistan, almost every single IT product big or small has some Indian connection.
Without the terror and the technology part, you will actually not see any difference - both of these countries used globalization for entirely different aims. Which goes on to show, each of these countries could have swapped paths or could have used it in a synergistic manner.
No, I am no peacenik, but the consequences of the path one chooses will come to haunt them at some point.
Yes, this is slightly rehashed from a previous post...probably will take it further
Sunday, November 30, 2008
A tale of two countries. Separated by about 24 hours at their (official) birth, both countries have taken a different path.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
The media is sounding its alarm bells - either our government planted it themselves or someone with interests in the piece (of land) process has planted it. US officials fear Indian response, or so it goes. Why would the US fear it? As a country which launched full blown attacks on 2 countries, what is the big deal for it?
But, in any case, dont worry. We will do nothing of that sort. Words, statements, committees and probability are our biggest weapons remember - not the army. The army is used to build security rings around our politicians, their sons-in-law and other important people. At other times, we simply run down our army by reducing their wages, ranks and what not... And blah, blah, we are a non violent nation, when someone bombs our city on the west coast, we just turn the other coast and ask them to strike there also. Wait for vermins from that side to be inspired by vermins from this side.
Ideally, we should be blowing up the LeTs (wiki entry) camps in Muridke and elsewhere, but you know we wont.
Over the last two days you have witnessed how citizens of this country were attacked by terrorists for no fault of theirs. Many of us have thought what is it that we can do about it?
To begin with, simple answer, go out and vote.
Delhi, Mizoram and Rajasthan please go out and vote. Hit governments and parties where it hurts most. Make yourself herd. Go out and vote...
Point to think about while you vote: Might mouse called for the ISI chief to visit India (useless unless we had planned to arrest him and try him or something of that sort), but the Pakistan government refused. Let us go back to our hand wringing now...There is no strong law against terror on the flimsy grounds that "even POTA did not prevent terror attacks" By that logic, we do not need any law, police forces or rules including traffic signals - since people routinely break them while they are there, right? Think about it...
Update: Good show Delhi 60% turnout there...
Friday, November 28, 2008
It is a familiar story after any terror attack. Has been and will continue to be. Fiery editorials rule the roost.
Its War (TOI)
This is war waged against the nation (Pioneer)
Our nightmare, our wake up call (IE)
An affront to the Indian state (National Newspaper)
The longest day (HT)
We had a nice cut and paste speech by the PM which included the following words
We will go after these individuals and organizations and make sure that every perpetrator, organizer and supporter of terror, whatever his affiliation or religion may be, pays a heavy price for these cowardly and horrific acts against our people.
The TOI has already denounced it as an empty threat, though the Acorn has hope.
Thankfully, we have no tired edits on the "Spirit of Mumbai". As I have often argued, it is not spirit, it is simply helplessness (Brilliant post). Nice to see most people tend to agree with this - even Amitabh Bachchan does - a very sensible post there very aptly reflecting the sentiments of a lot of Mumbaikars - not necessarily the media.
And of course I have had the greatest pride in those from the forces that have and continue to fight for our freedom. Brilliant officers and police personnel have laid down their lives for us. I can only but salute them and respect their sincerity in the call of duty.
I have been at the receiving end of a million calls and an equal number of sms’s the whole day to come live on TV or on the print media to express my views on the current situation and am being lured by words such as ’we need you to speak to express solidarity and for the people to maintain their calm’.This is disgusting !! I will NOT do that. TELL ME AND ORDER ME INSTEAD THAT WE REQUIRE FOR EVERY INDIAN TO GET UP AND WALK INTO THE FACILITIES WHERE THE ACTION IS ON AND I WILL BE THE FIRST TO WALK. But, please do not ask me to come and make sloppy statements [Amitabh blog]
Despite all this, the vacuousness of some media outlets wants me to want to puke. Read this post.
But in the meantime, what stands between you and me and death? It is probability. In a nation of a billion, the last 4 odd years terror attacks have taken a toll of some few thousands. If you think there is a long way to, you may not be completely way off the mark, but if you are in any place long enough, there will be a bomb under you or you will be shot. Politicians have reduced the probability of their being under a bomb by creating rings of security around them. Till they day their security reduces, they will not see our pain. In the meantime, we lose our best officers.
Meanwhile worse things can happen to us and we are grossly underprepared - not necessarily from a reactionary perspective - commandos can be called in pretty soon after a few people have been killed, but from being proactive. The intelligence lapses in the Mumbai attack are huge. Coastal security is a big hole (a trawler is missing since Nov 13 and nobody/heard saw any link).
Unless there is an attempt to identify the enemy, its ideology and a real effort taken at hitting them where it hurts, you and I are at the mercy of probability. The last few things India tackled, we went after them without mercy - Mumbai gangwars, Punjab terror or Naxalism of the 70s. There will be collateral damage, but please let us let the police and the forces do their job without politicising it. The one encounter that happened few weeks back has been madly politicised. (See this search and judge for yourself).
Another thing. Till now, we have always believed terror attacks, bombs are something that happens to somebody else. But as the years progress, the proverbial seven degrees of separation comes closer. Each of us knows someone who was affected by terror attacks or knows someone who does. The degree of separation keeps on reducing. Sadly it is only a matter of time before it comes closer.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
They are fighting it in our cities and I hope (though I dont have too much hope) we take it to its logical finish...Mumbai is now the most attacked city in India - wait for the agencies to come up with more stories, dates, inane theories, headlines and statistics...
"The first attack of its kind"
This time with grenades, automatic weapons exploding taxis, hostages and hospitals and hotels. They have struck at our root - your root - the common man - even as you and I survive by mere probability...
Expect people to commend Mumbais spirit to get back on its feet the next day - but remember that it is not spirit, it is helplessness
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Link via Marginal revolution...
Exports constitute nearly 40 percent of China's GDP--far too high a figure. (By comparison, in the U.S., exports account for about 10 percent of GDP most years.) And the global financial slowdown is already taking a terrible toll. Some 10,000 factories in southern China's Pearl River Delta area had closed by the summer of 2008. Gordon Chang, a leading China analyst, estimates that 20,000 more will shutter by the end of this year. In the third quarter of 2008, Beijing also reported its fifth consecutive quarterly drop in growth, and several private research firms expect a sharper slowdown next year. Additionally, unemployment is skyrocketing; in Wenzhou, one of the main exporting cities, about 20 percent of workers have lost their jobs, Reuters recently reported.
This was inevitable in many ways I guess. When demand goes down, suppliers are bound to be hit. But the next question.
What about India? The FM has warned not to use the R word, so I will use the word recession. One thought is that India will ride out the storm - though I am less sanguine about us emerging completely unscathed. Politicians are living in denial (they need to do so only till the election).
But Niranjan has a good thought over at Mint: Seek happiness in recession...
We already see some of this in the reports of young professionals taking a break from the insanities of corporate life to work with non-governmental organizations. More of that could happen, as corporate animals slow and seek clarity in life.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
IT companies are going in for longer working hours...
One of my friends had this to say, "Ever heard of a restaurant that is open longer and hence attracts more customers?"
The logic is that 70% work is Time and Material - which means customers will pay for more work that is being done. But then, when your customers are affected by a slowdown the last thing you want to do is increase your billing? Would you rather not shrink your margin and share the pain?
Second, for people to work longer hours, more work needs to come in. When work itself is less, what happens? (I do agree that in the short run there will be more work coming in...)
To me, this is a patently bad idea. Working longer hours does not contribute to higher or better output. Fortunately everybody is not thinking this way.
The last time I went to Bangalore railway station, I was amazed at the security they had put in place. But this time, there was none. Unmanned metal detectors, no guards at the entrance - no sniffer dog, indeed it was as if everyone was on a break.
The big difference? Last time I was there late in the evening and this time early in the morning.
So, two possibilities. One that the day I was there last time they had some specific input and had put in higher levels of security. Second, is the assumption that mornings are generally "easy". I hope that the latter assumption is untrue...
Monday, November 24, 2008
I guess I (or anybody) could start a separate blog and keep writing about the railways day in and day out. How much talent does it take to delay an 8 or 9 hour journey by 25%? Not too much evidently, as our train dawdled its way to Kerala.
In train announcements are imperative and as far as I know not very difficult to implement. Nobody has a clue whether the train is on time or on the right route. Back in the olden days railway stations had a board that announced whether trains were on time or running late - meant for passengers boarding it, but when the train stopped, I remember we used to check it to figure out if the train was on time...
Anyway, here is an example of jugaad. Door is misaligned, does not lock. Instead of refitting the whole door, just fit another lock at a place where the door is aligned. Problem solved...
Of course, that could sound deceitful for some, but thats not the point.
Christianity in Kerala has adopted quite a few "Hindu" customs and symbols like the Kodimaram (see the cross on top) and a stone lamp (Wonder what it is called) - often seen in Kerala temples and never associated with churches in any other place other than Kerala. They even have a panchavadyam variation - our cab driver told me about it once.
Religions adapting to India is not a new thing, though of late, there are trends to the contrary...
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I really believe that Cloud computing is one bus Indian IT service providers missed and missed badly.
With our inherent cost advantge, India was a logical place to do something like this. The only one that did so, is a company by the name of Zoho.
The JD (S), an ex political party now reduced to a few chairs in the local assembly held a rally in Bangalore. The party which can be safely called Bangalores most hated party - after successively toppling two governments (including its own), crippled the city during its 4 year regime. Now, they crippled the city for a few hours by holding a rally in the city.
Times of India went hammer and tongs at them on Monday
Kumaraswamy's show of strength may be forgotten as time goes by; it's another matter if he'll be forgiven for the inconvenience he caused this manic Monday.
but the party honcho came out all guns blazing the very next day.
Let These Sophisticated Non-Voting Bangaloreans Learn Villagers' Problems, he said.
Well sir, I am one of those sophisticated Bangaloreans you talk about. For all it is worth mine and other "sophisticated" peoples lifestyle here is a lot more modest than your own. Want to count the number of cars and land and petrol pumps you own vis a vis the average "sophisticated" Bangalorean? You will win hands down.
And yes, I voted or perhaps you mean voted for your party. Yes, many of the so called middle class are apathetic, but this time they were goaded into voting by your successive governments non performance. Among the people I know (and this includes migrant types), there were very few who did not vote. And almost everybody who voted, pretty much voted against you. The results showed that did they not? Whatever miniscule little chance you had, you blew it up. Somewhere along the way during your CM ship, you did have goodwill, but you did everything in your power to ensure that it disappeared as the roads did during your tenure.
And before I forget, during your kindly regime we did know what problems villagers face. I think the entire state knew that. After all did you not treat the entire Karnataka as your village - with you as the Zamindar. Roads were dug up and left, projects were left incomplete - indeed projects were not even allowed to begin. But ho-hum that was a while ago; we moved on and elected a government which seems to be doing the right things - including splitting your non existent party.
The party spent 10 crore for the "suffering masses to voice their problems". Shabaash. And no, we dont need a traffic jam created by you to be "enlightened" on villagers problems. So, please spare us the pontification.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Cost cutting zindabad. Well, this is what happened. Arent IT firms supposed to be focusing on IT? But the hotel industry here has made them create their own hospitality divisions, becaue outsourcing is too costly.
First the rooms were too expensive and the hoteliers rubbed their hands in glee.
As Bangalore faced a shortage of rooms and IT companies found it difficult to get rooms they took matters into their own hands. They began to build their training centres, rooms for trainees and then went onto build rooms for visitors - and some of them better than these very hotels which overcharge them and using many of their staff. Now they crib.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Anybody taken Google books for a spin? Please do.
I spent some time a few days back seeking information on South Indian/Kerala history in the 1900s and I quite liked it. I loved that some of the books which showed up in the search were published in the 1900s (digitized from Harvard and other libraries). I like the ability to build a digital library, search through books et al. Neat. They have even created hyperlinks on digitized books - that let you go from the TOC to the actual page. Do note that every book is not available - some are full view (those that are considered to be in the public domain), some are limited preview while some are neither, but from a search perspective and considering many of these books would never be found by us, it is simply amazing. Sadly, publishers are not very happy with google, have filed a suit and settled it at some level. I wish Google converts this into some sort of subscription model and gets publishers to digitize and upload their content. Ideas that spread win, guys. Today many people dont even know your books exist. What better way than to make it available...
This is really a model that can run on a subscription model - imagine searching through all books digitally - that isnt possible in a library now. I mean, given the dearth of "real" libraries, something like this is a godsend.
To track how it is evolving, read their blog...
Now that is available on the google network (or the internet or your phone) - the logical next step is to read using your phone. Hmm. Is it a Kindle killer already?
Bangalores auto drivers are not exactly not angels. But every now and then you find someone with a heart of gold. This happened a few days back as I got into a rickshaw. As the rickshaw pulled into a signal, he started off, "The software industry is going down no?"
I concurred and said, yes, possibly, not wanting to go into details.
He said, "If the software industry goes down, we will be affected."
Now that was saying something. And guess what, he is right. Each one of those who cribs about old Bangalore and new Bangalore misses the whole point that software has benefited Bangalore and Bangaloreans immensely. He continued. "Earlier, I used to get people so easily. Now, not too many people take autos. I hope it picks up soon."
Of course, thats partly because of many unscrupulous drivers, I told him. He agreed. He went onto sharing his story about he was from a nearby village, earning for himself and his family in Bangalore by driving a rickshaw. He has saved enough to purchase a site in Bangalore too. His kid goes to school here, he said and he sends earnings back to his village where they tend their farmland. He is grateful for the opportunities he has got in this city, unlike a few idiots who claim that the (ex) boom is bad for the city while they are happy with all the money that software gives them.
And that is the point of a boom like this, however it will go in the future. When you talk to people, talk to people like him who have benefitted from it, instead to talking to hypocrites. Otherwise with their small land holdings, they would have had barely anything to do in their villages. The countless drivers, restaurant workers, gardeners have benefited out of this boom miss the point. Not to mention software engineers from far off places, landlords and vehicle owners and many many others...
His final recommendation, "Companies should only reduce salaries. They should not layoff people..."
More power to people like you!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The idea is to have a Handloom day once a week for teachers and students. We can follow it by Synthetic day, Woolen day, Rainy wear day, Khadi day, Cotton Day, Terrycot Day, Silk day. What? The week has only 7 days? Lets divide it by states then. We have 28 states and 7 UT. Lets all assign them something...
New idea for a bailout. Decide what people can wear, eat so that every industry is saved, day by day :)
Whats worse than people forgetting your birthday?It is robots remembering your birthday.
Banks, phone companies and everybody else have discovered a new source of CRM. I can imagine how this must have transpired in a boardrooms meeting.
"We need to improve our customer relations" said the bearded honcho.
"According to psychologists, people love their birthdays the most." said the customer relations vice president
"We have all the customers birthdays don't we?" added the ever thoughtful network head
"Lets send them birthday presents." piped in the management trainee
"What sort?" asked the finance head, ever looking at cost
"A coupon for a kg of cake at one of their favourite outlets." added the management trainee
"Naah. Too costly." dismissing it with a "heard that so many times before" wave.
"Or a voucher from a restaurant chain." added the MT hopefully
"No, again costly." This time the finance guy does not even look at the MT
"Or a higher rate of interest on deposit." added a piece of furniture
"No, against regulations." dismissed legal
"Free chequebook?" said the fan
"Nobody uses them anymore." said the MT
"How about free SMSs?" added somebody in the room who could not be given credit
"Come again?" said the CR head
"Free SMS or email wish on their birthday. They will fall in love in with. They will simply be amazed that their bank - the nameless faceless bank remembers their birthday. They will rush with whatever money they have into the nearest branch. Wont that be great?"
"Brilliant." all the heads nodded sagely...
Except that the customer in question thinks they are spam. Stop it guys. If you really care, do something more meaningful...
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
The standard performance rating in any corporate environment is a 4 or 5 point scale. Either alphabetical, numerical or some other variation with a nomenclature. Below Par Performance, Meets Expectations, Exceeds and Outperformer. And a bell curve. The bell curve is ostensibly to reduce the Lake Wobegon effect, but in reality, it does a lot more than that. But I digress.
The entire purpose of this tenacious exercise is to identify the people who have performed well in the last rating cycle. On the one hand the management or HR wants to fit the company in the bell curve, while they are fitted in the bell curve. On the other hand, every employee wants to be on the right of the curve.
How can someone get to the right? As long as they outrun their peers, they can, in theory. How? By allowing themselves to be consumed by the inferno of performance, they fuel the company into an orgy of delivering growth. Sometimes they sell the unsaleable, fit unimaginable amount of work into a smallish time frame to fit a customers budget or expectations, make the most outlandish promises that someone has to fulfil. Once that has been done by the sales outperformers, there are the delivery outperformers. They put in long hours, put in really long hours to justify somebody elses mistake, helping other teams in distress, creating "visibility" for themselves in the organization by engaging in initiatives over 16 hour workdays and ensuring that somebodys false promises are met. They achieve the same by interacting with their family and kids over phone and meeting them once a week. After a while they get bored of this situation and quit to take up another similar position at a higher salary so they can continue to outperform their peers. There are a few other methods, but lets keep that out, please.
And on the other hand, there are the losers. Losers because thats what the performance management system makes them. They work diligently from 9 to 5 and complete the tasks assigned to them. Occassionally they stretch to make up for some gaps. These guys are good, but unlike the former, they are there to earn a living. They usually have a life outside work. Alongwith work they take care of their families, pursue a hobby or two. They earn a little lesser than the outperformers, change jobs a little less frequently and often, are the rock solid base for the company.
When the outperformers have sold the unsaleable, promised the heaven and earth and moved to the moon to get a better salary, it is these "middle of the bell curve" who rise up to the task and deliver.
But the performance management system does not always provide for them. After the sycophants, loyalists, the "too big to fail" and some real outperformers have been rated, incentivized and turbocharged to deliver yet another record busting performance, the crumbs that remain go to the middle of the bell curve. "How do we retain the outperformers", the board mulls over in yet another meeting while forgetting the role of the performers.
The real question. Is growth (driven) the only way to measure performance?
Update: Two good links from Saravan. This and this. Take a look.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Overloaded sand trucks are a big problem in Bangalore. As it is roads are small, traffic enforcement is poor, roadsense is terrible - sand trucks add to the eclectic mix of traffc by breaking down in the right lane of a busy road, and staying there...
The things vehicles need to do in Bangalore to move that extra one metre in a kilometre long traffic jam includes going over "footpaths". This truck on the left completed a difficult maneuver.
Regardless of all the good intentions, unless rules are enforced and rule breakers fined, traffic here will continue to be a nightmare for a long time to come....
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
You would have heard of them before, with the C as Confused, but this is a sub breed. ABCD - American Born Communist Desi
Those, who, are born in the US or spend a disproportionately long time of their lives in the US, enjoy (should I make it enjoyed now) all the benefits of capitalism and return to India as communists to prevent globalization of any sort including from one district to another.
The previous post actually referred to two such souls who with their Mac air books and latesht Wii want India and Indians to be stuck somewhere in a time warp nearabouts 1987, but with ample food and water and cheap servants.
This is what happens, they win awards.
The cliched writing award goes to...this piece in BW
In the early 1990s, before the world had heard of Bangalore, it was one of India's most pleasant cities, with great weather, cheap housing, and cultural and educational institutions that offered a vibrant mix of theater, film, literature, and music. Now, with 500,000 IT workers living alongside nearly 7 million other residents, the metropolis is choking on its own success. The roads have become parking lots for much of the day, rents are soaring, and small-scale theaters and bookstores are being shouldered aside by American-style malls.
Substitute Bangalore with any random town or city in India and it will be the same. (Ok, sorry about the weather part). Yes. Even Bombay - compared to the prices today.
The vacuous writing award goes to someone we have encountered here before...
But I am tired," I said. "It's not just working at a start-up. It's running the household, the uncertainty of water coming out of the tap, the driver showing up. And I cannot have one more parent-teacher meeting about my moral opposition to colouring in the lines. The school thinks I am crazy."
It wasn't the first time guilt consumed. There, of course, came reminders every day as beggars tapped on my windows or, if I happened to sit in an auto rickshaw, they touched and probed. I tried to pack a few extra rotis on some mornings to hand out but there was never enough. And moments abounded where I would be caught off guard. One night, my husband and I walked hand in hand after an amazing dinner at a Thai restaurant with a friend. It was just one of those times where the conversation and booze had flowed and we all were feeling good about the state of the world. And then I saw a group of street children. Suddenly, I hated the world.
I read Robin Sharmas books - four of them actually. The first one was The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and the other two were his The Greatness Guide series. The fourth one, I dont remember. You will see why that does not matter.
The amazing thing about him is the consistency of ideas. He has a few ideas which he has continuously revised, recycled and put in different books with different titles. Every book of his reads like the other one. I am inclined to see his other books to see if there is any difference. That by the way is his Marketing Genius. This is not to say that his ideas are not good. They are. I love them. Practical. Simple. Get up early in the morning. Enjoy life, personal mastery. Very nice ideas. Very inspiring. Makes you sit up and think.
The other aspect of his books is the passing mention of his own la-di-dah life in it. His great moments are at some of the worlds most expensive places and restaurants. He has learnings while typing on his blackberry flying on business class. While jetting across the globe for his seminars or for his kids birthdays, he comes across the finer points of his life. In any case, he has not sold his Ferrari just as yet. But then again, why should he? Is there anything wrong in being rich? There isn't. Is there anything wrong in being where you are to enjoy life? There isn't.
It took me a while to think about this. I mean, the kind of stuff Robin writes goes something like this. "While sipping coffee at the French Riviera I was amazed at how beautiful the world is" Well, that may work for him. For you and me, it may not be the French Riviera, but it does not have to be. The nearby CCD will work just as well or your own balcony. But being dissatisfied about not being at the Riviera would be missing the point.
I thought about whether I liked or disliked that aspect and whether his writing was vacuous. Now I have the answer. Whether I agree or disagree with his preference for the good life or the places where he gets his ideas is immaterial. What I agree with are his ideas. That took me some time to reconcile :)
Monday, November 03, 2008
The US Presidential elections are on and the Indian media does not want to be left behind. So, there are newspapers endorsing Obama from here (huh? Does he need that?). But, an entire worlds media is fawning over one man, so our media surely does not want to be left behind.