On the road…

One of the longest exams in India is finally drawing to a close and the final results would be out next week. Apart from the extreme extravaganza created by the aspirants, the principal difference between this time and preceding elections has been for whom any particular person has actually voted for. In the alphabetical order, the letter M comes before P but this time P has gained precedence over M, for one to decide which button to press on the EVM…
Despite all the frenzied talk all around, any particular individual’s daily routine life may not change much irrespective of who actually stays at 7 Race Course. Each MP candidate in my constituency had raised his or her own manifesto, which mentioned hi-fi stuff like Public-Private-Partnership, Collaborative efforts, Healthy lifestyle, Clean town, etc, etc. While these points may or may not cut ice with the public at large, I, as an ordinary resident wish that next time atleast the MP candidates talk on simple, small, micro-level improvements in our daily interactions with public systems and establishments, which  can go a long way in enriching our daily routine and make it less tiresome.

Commuting from home to office and back is by no means an enjoyable ride. On the other day, while I was on my way to office, I actually realised that there were a few areas , on the road, which can be changed and which can make the commute a bit less frustrating and daunting.

1. The very first mission is to catch hold of an auto rickshaw for the station. Only shared rickshaw display boards remain at many places, but no autos care to line up there. Strict implementation of auto and taxi stands, monitoring and penalty for the defaulters and to those who refuse passengers will help accomplish the first mission.

2. Nowadays, with almost every road dug up mercilessly, there is not much difference between a ride in an ordinary vehicle on an ordinary road and the one in a roller-coaster. With the roads dug up and their sides left incompletely filled after completion of road repairs, the pedestrians, hawkers, parked cars need to utilize space meant for travelling cars, aggravating the overall problem.The least an MP or MLA or the local nagar sevak can do is to ensure timely and quality completion of roads under his locality of governance. Punishments for defaulting road contractors is needed. Is asking for basic infrastructure by any law abiding citizen, a too much of a demand?

3. Railway administration and operations may not be under authority of local government bodies but atleast they can be people’s representatives. Foot-over bridges closed perpetually for repairs, not enough bridges, not enough shade on the platforms for respite against the scorching sun, frequent changing of platforms for arrival of trains at very last minute, no clean washrooms, etc are adding to daily problems already faced while travelling in overcrowded trains.

There are many more problems, which although look small in the overall scheme of things, add to troubles faced by ordinary citizens. Some are common across while some differ from place to place. The state or the national level government leaders may continue releasing larger and broader level level manifestos. But, if there is any MP or MLA candidate who can promise to deliver on micro problems like these, rather than make huge macro level commitments,  he can assure himself much more than just a few brownie points  in the next upcoming election.

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Some things (don’t) change

It is a common practice to sum up the events of a year about to wind up. In this post ,we will look at some of the things in a couple of fields which have undergone small but positive changes and some others which still continue to remain more or less the same, in their good, bad or ugly format.


David beats Goliath…

Perhaps, the biggest surprise event of 2013 has been the rise of the Mango Man party in the country, in virtually no time. The country which had become used to the (in)efficiencies of the 2 grand old parties got another option and they seized it with both hands. It showed us that one can achieve something if one dares to dream big, even in a field like politics where oligopoly always has its ugly head raised high. Now, whether the party will perform upto the self created expectations or not, whether it will deliver its promises or not is a topic of discussion for some other day. The fact remains that it did manage to bring in some encouraging change in a field like politics and manage to give some sleepless nights to the old mighty.

But corruption remains stubborn…

The scam cases are continuing to build up so fast in our country that one might run out of words in the dictionary to be prefixed to the popular word ‘gate’. 2013 was no exception, with perhaps even the most vocal TV new reporters and masala news makers losing the count of it. High profile arrests of a few have been reduced to just non-consequential events with the accused walking free out of prison in virtually no time.

Indian television

Dawn of TV 2.0 ?….

Indian TV has always been characterized by saas-bahu dramas and serious-turned-comedy crime serials. In came a TV series which featured a few top actors of the Indian cinema. The serial although too short in length considering the average duration of Indian sop dramas running into decades, did manage to bring in a complete new image which was immediately accepted by the young audience. Whether it remains a one off change in Indian TV or encourages other serial makers to tow its path remains to be seen.

No real change here…

Our News channels debates remind me of Group Discussions in Management Schools. Everyone is simply shouting, neither debating nor listening to each other, the only difference here being that the GD moderator keeps quiet and is definitely not the most heard or the loudest voice unlike in our news channels discussions. Adding a few big bossy serials to , and barring a few exceptions like the one in section above from the list, one can very well say that the quality of Indian TV is still nowhere near to the global standards set by their western counterparts and has still a lot of homework to do.

Bombay talkies..

Small but significant steps forward…

Biopics generally don’t cut ice, especially if they revolve around a character from a sport which is not cricket. The film Milkha Singh changed it all aided by delivery of a spectacular performance from a person who is fast becoming a big all-rounder in Indian cinema. Another film on assassination of a former PM of our country brought some welcoming refresh. Indian cinema needs more of these refreshes to get bigger attention in the global scene and shed the perception of a masala movie making industry.

Yet some score an undeserving century..

Breaking 100 crore mark in revenues has now become as simple as hitting sixes in IPL. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can do it. The worrisome part remains that there is still a huge question mark on the quality of film making in our country. Multi Record breakers and blockbusters like Chennai Express and Dhoom 3 cannot exactly be called as masterpieces. The sad part is that my article on the poor quality of Indian films  written 2 years back still very much holds ground…

In civil administration also there have been a few positives like intention to make lokpal to have some teeth..but civil cases, especially those against women continue to remain more than a blot on our country’s image. Infrastructural woes, inflation worries, mismanagement and lack of control of man-made and natural disasters, etc continue to more than simply hurt us. We haven’t been quite successful in a couple of other areas with respect to implementation of important changes.There remain a few ifs and buts which could have made things better, but the past is past now. The year 2013 needs to be introspected in respect of its failures and successes to bring in more positive changes in the year lying ahead of us.

Wishing all a very happy and prosperous new year…!!!!

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Hypocrisy towards Retirement

The last 2 weeks have been quite busy for Indian sports. First, the master left the scene, (un)arguably leaving a permanent void in cricket. The ‘experts’ who were always busy advocating that the master had become too old to play anymore, suddenly found themselves with nothing much to say or write about. But, they must have heaved a sort of a sigh of relief when they got an opportunity to train their guns on the chess legend who had to recently surrender his title to a newbie.

The biggest irony in India is that most of us actually got to know that Anand held the title of  world championship for the last 6 years, only after he actually lost it ! Perhaps we will all claim that we definitely knew about Anand’s success all along these years but surely were’t quite excited about it. Afterall it is just chess; any Indian would anyday watch a 7 hr ODI than watch a 7 hr chess game involving some 50-odd moves. Then the question in front of us is why so much noise about Anand’s retirement. Chess doesn’t involve use of any physical strength. It is a game of minds and mental strength, which in all probability is not inversely proportional to age. If it had been, then India should have done much worse with the plethora of aging politicians accumulated in our country. I believe a Chess player must be like a wine or an automobile, getting better with age. Yet, many who don’t even know much about chess, except that it is played with white and black pieces on a 64-square board, have started expressing disappointment in Facebook messages, tweets, etc and writing open letters to Anand urging him to consider his next moves off the chess board. Anyway, how does it matter if Anand retires or not ? Is anybody going to stop following chess after Anand’s exit just like people say there is nothing left in cricket after Sachin and they would stop watching it ? Highly unlikely, as most of us any way don’t follow chess ! We should ideally leave Anand alone to contemplate over the last few days. I am sure he is mature enough to know when to call it a day and doesn’t require opinions from ‘experts’ like us.

Now, I would like to take a different angle to the captioned subject. Does anybody’s retirement really hurt as much as claimed ? Newspapers and channels had nothing to say other than Sachin’s retirement for the last 10 days. No thought was spared for the crores who don’t watch cricket with much enthusiasm these days. People firmly believed at that time that cricket has died. many considered it a national crisis. Yet, now the economics ‘Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility’ has prevailed. I don’t find even a single article talking about Sachin’s achievements. People have moved on, and so has cricket. People have already started talking about next potential legends in the pipeline. Although the emotions expressed in droves on the social media immediately after retirement were in no way false, it’s just that the hoopla created about retirement has met its natural death. The memories of legendary player will however remain with us forever. We all say that the next generations are unlucky to not being able to watch the legend play. But even we haven’t experienced great singers, actors, great fast bowlers who retired from the active scenes before we were grown enough  to understand their performances. Did we miss them ? Not really, because others did fill in their shoes perhaps not entirely. Moreover, how can someone miss something he has never experienced or something which has been unknown to him. Our generation knows about performances of actors from earlier era through their songs and movies. But, how may of us have seen Gavaskar’s centuries or the wickets taken by the West Indian fast bowlers ?
Time moves on…

The point is retirement of a legend from any field is bound to create gaps. Institutions need to be aware that every person is bound to leave it, at some point or the other. Even our accounting principles separates the company as an entity from an individual, be it the founder or any shareholder. Efforts should be to get over the ‘temporary crisis’ and work towards rebuilding towards the future and not get emotionally overwhelmed by someone’s exit. Perhaps the individual himself can continue lend a helping hand to his institution through a more behind-the-scenes role. That would perhaps take a lot of courage on his part as the constant inner feeling that he would have done much better in his days that what the current set of players are capable of,  needs to be controlled for overall betterment of the institution.

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Review the review

In the recent Ashes series, the major point of talk is not about the teams but about the umpires and their follies. Many have tweeted their views as to how could the umpire miss the nick in Broad daylight, how could the hot spot camera miss the edge, etc. Unless the ICC reviews the DRS itself, these talks about the review system will continue to build up , and unfortunately without taking anyone to any logical conclusion.

Do we really need DRS ?

I vote in the affirmative. Cricket like tennis is a game where there are ‘pauses’ between the successive deliveries. DRS can fit in here, whereas it would mar the continuous action flow in sports like football. In fact we require DRS more in cricket than in games like tennis because the elements to consider are quite a few, starting from the no-ball review, position of the ball pitching, position of the ball hitting the pad, batsman nicking it or not, the height factor, direction of the ball trajectory after pitching, etc. Humans are prone to errors , more so when there are so many points to consider. So in short the BCCI who is vehemently opposing the basic premise of DRS existence, doesn’t really have anything substantial to support its stance.

Why the confusion and controversy then ?

Technology has never been cricket’s best friend, is it ? The Duckworth-Lewis method of calculating the scores and arriving at the final winner raises eyebrows more often than not. The DRS has now joined the party off late. Let me illustrate a few instances which opens the doors for these controversies.

The controversial side

The leg side has always been given a step motherly treatment in cricket. The main element of confusion is when the ball trajectory in the reviews shows the delivery making (not)just enough contact with the leg stump and the decision is left to the on-field umpire. The legendary bowler McGrath has shared reservations about this and rightly so. There have been instances where the ball was predicted to be hitting more than half inside the leg stump but the on-field umpire had originally ruled the batsman not-out. It was judged to be just clipping the bails but the umpire had declared the man out. DRS passes the responsibility back to the on field umpires in such cases and both decisions might prove wrong, in relation to one another. There has to be some uniformity in the treatment of the poor leg stump. In tennis, the ball even if it barely makes any contact with the lines, is declared as good. No arguments are entertained. Some final decision should be planned here too. Passing the buck back to the umpires defeats the purpose of going for review in the first place. DRS must give some decision: Either Out or  Not out and not keep things in the grey by passing the buck back to the originator.

Limited reviews

Someone has rightly said that the batsman in contention in the ongoing series might have walked if the Aussies had one more review left in the bag. The question is if DRS technology is present, then why should the team suffer because of some inexplicable decision of the umpires. Yes, the teams are partly to blame as they feel that any LBW decision just has to go in their favour and go for the reviews once or twice more than actually necessary. One solution for crunch of reviews in crucial situations can be granting a fixed number of reviews to the teams before the test match starts, say 4 per team per department. The teams can distribute them as per their choice in 1st-3rd innings and in 2nd-4th innings of the match. This provision wont help in ODIs but the idea is worth experimenting in tests.

Doubt in Benefit of doubt

If there are no camera angles to clearly suggest whether stumping is successful or not the verdict is ruled in favour of the batsman. Then if there were no cameras to suggest whether the ball had hit the bat on its way or not, why was the benefit of doubt not given to the batsman ? It is definitely not the batsman’s fault if the hot spot camera was found napping. There should be no doubt as to when to invoke benefit of doubt and when to not.

There are many more grey areas in various other modes of dismissal which require discussions. Technology isn’t and cannot be picture perfect. Its optimum and beneficial use is in our hands.Trade off between preserving the original essence of the natural game and elimination of human errors is needed. Over use may kill the beauty of the game, for instance every second batsman would get declared out lbw if DRS trajectory projections rules so even if the ball manages to barely make contact with any stump ! Uniformity and common sense in drafting the rules will however help reduce the number of eyebrows raised for the decisions by the DRS and help improve the falling standards of umpiring decisions.

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Tourism: A double edged sword

The recent flood fury news has been very disturbing to read and difficult to digest.Many have blamed the unchecked and haphazard construction as the main cause of nature outburst. The construction is mainly done to accommodate the growing demand of tourism in these regions, which has now in turn sadly brought more pain than relief to the entire valley.

I recently visited a famous hill station in the Himalayas (and luckily came back just before tragedy stuck). It was the beginning of the end of the season and the crowd and traffic jams over there were so huge that they would have embarrassed the ones found regularly in cities like Mumbai. The narrow roads and the sloping terrain of the Himalayas were finding it a Himalayan task to manage the tourists who had come in thousands of numbers. A person could reach a place faster walking rather than travelling in automobile !!
Good, bad or ugly , but the picture of our hilly regions has definitely gone a transformational change over the years, and will continue to do so in the years to come.

Now on the positive side what do the ever increasing number of tourists bring to any tourist spot? A huge spike in the incomes, enough to make their ends meet even in the off season.I had visited the same place 2 decades back and saw huge positive developmental changes, with plethora of branded shops and establishments flooding the market areas. Internet connectivity was also available in areas where not many years ago, telephone connections were unheard of. So yes, overall things have improved in these tourist spot regions with the growth of tourism industry over the years.

So, is the growing tourism to be blamed for the current mess? Partly yes, with garbage getting accumulated on the roads due to indifference shown by us towards the nature. But with countless hotels being constructed carelessly on slopes with loose soil, erosion was always on the cards. Power projects have also been recognized as one of the main culprits.Global warming is anyway already causing the snow to melt rapidly, adding to the velocity of the ravaging rivers.

The biggest irony is that although tourism and unregulated construction have caused pain in the valley off late, the lack of tourism for the next couple of years is going to hurt the locals as much as now, if not more. Tourism as a principal source of income will cease to exist for the time being. The huge costs for restoration of property destroyed by the floods are only going to add insult to injury for the locals, who are getting punished for really no fault of theirs.Just as the rivers are leaving no stone unturned in their path, the politicians are, as expected leaving no stone unturned in creating this a political issue and hampering rescue efforts through their worthless aerial surveys.

So what are the leanings for us from the event ? Heed the advice of the ‘real’ experts and regulate the construction and development of eco-sensitive regions. Increasing number of tourists are handled much better in other countries, including ones less developed than us. Take a leaf out of their book. Strict punishment to those polluting the environment here is a necessity. We need realistic and sincere efforts from all towards protection of the flora and fauna here else we would lose the beauty of our natural resources in the not so far future.The direct fallout of destruction of any hilly region will be the ever increasing diaspora to urban cities, a problem already so huge that we really don’t need any more means to aggravate it.

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Redefining MBA

It is sad to note that not many Indian B schools figure in top business schools globally. I, myself being an “MBA” know that MBA education, atleast in India is not much more than a 2 year academic journey, very similar in style and structure to technical education, with its main (if not sole) purpose is to get admitted in a top firm offering top bucks.

I have always wondered how we can redefine MBA to enable students to truly become “Masters of Business Administration” Here are a few inputs, some of them having drawn from a few of my earlier posts.

1. Moving from specialization to generalization
In most MBA curricula, students are given a feel of all subjects/ domains in the first year and later they choose subjects of a domain of their liking. This is exactly opposite to a person’s career path. He generally moves from a specific domain/department in the initial days, later to assume a more generalist, managerial role as he climbs up the ladder. He is the pseudo HR manager for his team/ function. So, to reflect this flow, why not reverse the flow of MBA curriculum? To make matters more interesting, let second year students of specialisations say A, B and C study subjects of specialisation D along with those first year students who have chosen D as their branch. This will ensure fairness and healthier competition among students across the two years.  I have provided a detailed note at one of my posts at Case for change in MBA course flow

2. The “Real” MBA subjects.
With the advance in Internet and mobile technology, access to technical knowledge is too easy and doesn’t really require a MBA teacher to deliver it. There are a few subjects which currently are treated as complimentary ones, but need to be given top slots in the ladder of importance
a) Self management
You cannot manage a business if you can’t manage oneself. Here is where subjects dealing with personality, self development and behavior, anger management, crisis management, one’s behavior in organisation need to be given high priority.

b) Strategy
This is one of the most misused words in MBA education. No one really knows its real meaning but everybody wants to talk about it. To give students a good dose of strategy, show them the complete series of the greatest epic “Mahabharat” which is full of plots and strategic moves. In fact its main character Lord Krishna is the best strategist, crisis manager and street smart person known to us. I am sure all will learn about strategy much better than they can through powerpoint presentations and flowcharts.

c) Languages
Learning of foreign language: Help grow business in new frontiers across the globe and regional language : To be able to communicate with local allied partners better are as important as other technical gyaan

d) Some other important subjects like Business Law: Know your rights and restrictions and Yoga/ gym workouts: To keep you mentally and physically fit, Disaster Management: To be able to protect oneself and all around  us in case of any unpleasant situation, etc are as important, if not more.

3. Guest lectures
These have been reduced just to another formal exercise and 2 hours of sleep amongst students. You really cannot learn much about business through hi-fi talk in 2 hours. Better would be to invite personnel known to us better in our day to day lives such as the food caterer: One who manages food arrangement for over 500 guests, minimising costs, maximising consumer satisfaction, etc or infact even someone like a pilot who deals with stress much more and better than us. I have detailed this thought at one of my earlier posts The real management gurus

Traditional way of class room lectures need to be seriously re-looked at when it comes to MBA. Case-studies, group interactions which are right now treated as a supplement need to be brought in the forefront. A person’s thought process should have undergone a change at the end of MBA, something which doesn’t happen at undergrad courses.The course should aim at all round development of an individual and if required reserve marks for the extra-curricular activities also. Through these and through a lot many more such simplistic ideas, we can make MBA education much more meaningful and help the seekers (I am not referring them as students) gain out of it better to help make their businesses more successful.

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The Hawk Eye

Recently, for the first time in more than half a century, the bustling vegetable market near my place of residence wore a deserted look. Reason: It had just been a ‘victim’ of a raid against all illegal hawkers, carried out by the Hawk(er) Eye specialist of Mumbai. I write here to describe the mixed reactions of people to this cleanliness drive.

The common man have always talked in support of the demolition man whenever he raided the parties of the biggies. Intrinsically and physiologically ,we feel good (about ourselves) whenever some illegal activities by the super rich and Almighty are brought to task. After all , in a fight involving the powerful and any other individual, the former just has to be perceived wrong. We even equated the demolition man to the super cop which every actor is now possessed to play on the silver screen and thought that at least there is some cop who does something visibly good for the common man. All his deeds were seen as good since they did the common man no particular harm and only added a topic for discussion amongst us, apart from cricket and corruption.

Now, one fine day or rather night, he marshaled his troops and pulled down temporary establishments of all the hawkers ,who as per the law were occupying the market place illegally. The very first reaction from us was that it served the hawkers well for illegal occupying public property. Things did turn sour from the consumer point of view though. The permanent establishments and legal hawkers protested against the drive by shutting shop. Things were no longer amusing when there was not a single gram of vegetable in one of the biggest vegetable markets of Mumbai for more than a week. Not everyone was complaining though. Small centres involved in home delivery of vegetables and nearby super markets saw their businesses grow multiple times in a week’s span. Politicians, as usual got an opportunity of trading charges and fighting over the transfer orders of the Man of the Moment. Media also threw its hat in the ring by sensalising the death of a hawker by equating it to the death of his daughter, the latter caused by natural reasons and not circumstantial ones.
Now, since we were getting affected, we the common man revised our opinions about our good man to suit us. We opinionated that although the drive against illegal encroachments is not bad, still some restraint must be shown, especially while dealing with poor hawkers who struggle to make two ends meet. Nobody has the right to snatch away their only source of living.  Suddenly, the compassion and humanity inside us woke up !!! Some questioned why doesn’t the ‘Adharsh‘ cop go after other huge illegal towers constructed in our city and target only the helpless and powerless. In general,  people supported the reinstatement of Mr. Clean, but with caveats of their own. After all these events, somewhere I feel we need to accuse ourselves of double-standards and hypocrisy  Cleanliness, goodness is good only till it doesn’t affect us. Any good intentioned individual is only good till the point he directly or indirectly does no harm to us….

It is true that the city needs many more Mr. Cleans but unfortunately they always face the music eventually and we are partly and indirectly to blame for the same. There are far too many illegal
activities on at the moment to put on paper. The need of the hour is to publish clear, concise guidelines and rules enlisting legal and illegal activities. Application of the rules should be uniform across sections, power, hierarchy without any caveats. The demolition men need to be rewarded bot reprimanded. In this process, if we as a common man suffer or are inconvenienced a bit, so be it. As a Hindi proverb says ‘Kuch paane ke liye kuch khona padega‘. To achieve a city with a visibly cleaner image, there cannot be any ifs and buts while cleaning up the dirty things. Yes, at the same time it should not look like the drive is politically motivated nor the use of force turn ugly at any time, else the entire purpose of drive against illegality will get defeated in the first place.

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