Thursday, June 8, 2017

Does (our) democracy encourage criminal politicians? Knowledge@Wharton Podcast

Does (our) democracy encourage criminal politicians?
- A couple of books are coming out on our political leadership! By Indians in US universities. Thankfully their interests are beyond cricket, movies and 'politics'!!
"In India, the world’s largest democracy, 34% of parliamentary members are involved in criminal cases. Does democracy fuel crooked politicians?"
- And the numbers are only going up!!! In spite of 2003 Supreme Court ruling 
- do we want these modern 'Robinhood', taking care of their self-interests or their little 'vote bank'?
- we are a young democracy, but with a rich heritage
- black money, weak judiciary & institutions are the main problems.
The buck stops with us, every Indian, who vote for these leaders. As educated Indians, we got to strengthen these pillars of democracy & institutions

Friday, April 7, 2017

Shared office - An Entrepreneur's Struggles

Chandra left for the office, 'on time'. "What's the big deal?", you may ask...

Today is Saturday and "on-time" for Chandra is to be able to do stuff in the morning in an unhurried way 
- Few moments in prayer, when it is quite and peaceful, just before Sunrise
- Take the dog out, with no hurry to get back 
- Flip through newspaper headlines (ET: Ola founder complaining about capital dumping, World travel & tourism body 'advising' us how to handle the new SC order on alcohol outlets to SRK's team winning in IPL... no good news!)
- Not rush through morning 'rituals', though nothing ritualistic about it!
- Break the fast (even if not healthy and/or delicious by own preference and obsession)
- Drive slowly... he drove so 'slowly', he almost banged another car parked on the left, the "blind spot". The car belonged to his apartment complex!!
- Grateful for '50% less ads' in FM 95 and also better music. RJ Naved's prank call was on a young lady who had just taken up her 'dream job'. The prank was initiated by her own boyfriend! Kaisa 'boyfriend' hai yeh :)
- He drove in no hurry. The traffic was smooth. At 9 AM on a Saturday morning, 'light traffic on Bangalore roads' is a news!

- Being a Saturday, he does not need to get the Universe to conspire for a parking space. The parking is outside, in the open. To park inside, there was additional cost. As an entrepreneur, he was cost-conscious. It was always head vs heart when it came to it. He wanted his car to be in basement parking. But reluctant to spend. Are all entrepreneurs so stingy?!
- When he parked the car, the new security came out and took a circumambulation of his car. 'where is the sticker?' he asked. Chandra pointed to it. He nodded in approval and went away. These boys have a good knack of picking up the nuances of their jobs, "security", pretty quickly!

- Once inside, the place was about to get a major week-end clean-up. It was all mess, in the common area, just before the mega-clean up. 
Chandra always wondered why do we have to make it messier or messiest, before making it spick & span?! Why can't it be a continuous process? Many people do this at home too?!
- Naturally, the place was smelly! AC was not on. The office boy, the boss on a weekend, when others are away, said, "No AC on weekend and holidays"!
- Chandra was struggling to control. While the shared office makes a big pitch to come in and work 24X7, 365 days, how can one spend time there without basic ventilation and acceptable room temperature! Chandra would not take a no for an answer. Without losing cool, in an assertive way, he dropped a line to the real boss there. 
- As he was about to settle down, the AC went on, with a big noise. Even the AC unit was objecting to be called for service on a Saturday morning...

Chandra switched on the computer. The first mail was from the shared-office accounts team. 
- It was from someone, who had the name of a Philipino dictator
- It said, "Urgent action required. Your services may be terminated"
- Chandra could not write back to the dictator, equally dictatorial in his language, 'sirji, payment ho gaya hai! last month's and next month's. No dues. Check your records....etc'
- But the smart dictator has sent an automated mail, with no option to reply or write back. Quite unprofessional for an international shared office, Chandra felt. 

He had come to office to do a lot off pending stuff. He needed all the concentration and focus. He is off to a bad start. But has no option to fight it out and get cracking! 

Reader, how has been your Saturday morning? 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

M&M-Ford pact to focus on joint tech - ET

Coming close on the heels of Tata-VW/Skoda, India's automobile sector is in interesting space.

M&M with Ford seem to be better, for both TML (PV) and Skoda have not lived up to potential in the Indian market.

Skoda Service: I was pleasantly surprised to see a big shift in the quality of service when I was at Skoda dealer early this week. Skoda suffered on after sales, whereas TML product quality. M&M has shown more tuned to the market and customer, though Ford is making strides in Indian market.

Big opportunities to collaborate and deliver safety, quality and delight to car owners in India.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


Chandra has started his yoga classes.

It has been on his bucket-list for a long, long time. Finally, after a couple of bad-starts (cricket jargon!), he has settled down to a routine. Yet to become a "habit"!

As part of Yoga Nidra, the trainer took him to a beach. He could only visualize Marina beach, Chennai. And he was distracted by recent news items related to Marina! He struggled to concentrate. He allowed thoughts to come & go, with a resolve to work on it in future sessions.

'Chitta vritti nirodhah' is still few sessions away!

And this appears on his mail! ('nothing is a coincidence')
TripAdvisor Top 25 Beaches — World
#Marina is not one of them!
#8 Radhanagar Beach, Havelock Island, Andaman and Nicobar Islands

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PIXAR - a metaphor for the Middle Way

Just finished the book: "To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey with Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History"  by Lawrence Levy

I heard about this book on Knowledge@Wharton Podcast with the author. Felt connected immediately. 

- It was about Pixar, one & only...

- Naturally, it was also about Steve Jobs & author's own 'unlikely journey with Steve'

- The author was a lawyer by education (Harvard). He was recruited to the role of the CFO at Pixar. He was now an author. 

- He has a beautiful (Pixar) story to tell. 

- A CFO's perspective of everything would be an interesting one. 

Some of these really touched me, Lawrence:

  • For a CFO, the author is a master story-teller. Not that CFO's can not be story tellers. We all are story-tellers. Some just does it better!
  • Author's relationship with Steve was so professional & deep, minus all drama that is generally associated with the Genius. I am a fan of Steve Jobs. The fact he was very sensitive, temperamental, actually makes him special. 
  • It was great to hear how the author moved into Pixar (reminded me of how Steve reached out to John Scully...Pepsi to Apple)
  • It touched how the author went about professionally handling diverse challenges within & outside. 
  • Handling DIsney part was great stuff, as it was about the creative thrust.
  • The decision as to how to handle the creative element at Pixar & how to retain the unique DNA of Pixar even at Disney, most inspiring.
  • Author's effort to get credit for the supporting staff showed the emotional quotient of himself, and all others who found a way of doing it. 
  • I always maintain a supporting spouse is critical to professional success. Hillary was a beautiful example (It is valentine's day today!) 
  •  A lot of lessons for corporate leaders. Also a lot of inspiration about building a unique brand. 
While Steve is associated with brand-apple, Pixar is as much a part of his brilliant legacy. 
  • The changing geography is brought out very well. We have moved away so much from Nature. 
  • The experience of going through two accidents, second almost fatal. 
  • It was a beautiful journey. And somewhere it made sense to let go. No better way than to move to spirituality? Isn't that is the ultimate goal, purpose of life?

Pixar is indeed a metaphor for the Buddhist concept..The  Middle Way

BIG Thanks, Lawrence for this beautiful book. 

Link to the Audible book:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Morning Blues in Bangalore

- Late night flight, lack of sleep...
- Misplaced car key prompted me to look for Uber. The app showed ten minutes.
- Checked Ola, not available!
- Went back to Uber, waiting period was now 22 minutes. These are "official" indicators only. The actual may be much different.
So, decided to opt for "ola share".
With Bangalore likely to cancel the "share" option by Ubers & Olas of the world, I was more "aware" of the option to 'share'.

Ola has introduced two options within the share! Ola keeps bringing in new initiatives frequently. At times the add-ons become 'too many-too soon'! I finally opted for 'Fast Share' and decided to walk to the main road - "just 6 minutes", indicated the app. But not the heat & dust of the stretch, from apartment to the 'State Highway', not a 'stately' highway though.

I kept waiting... several cabs passed by, not the 'share' cab assigned to me.

A passing auto driver (smartly) sensed a business opportunity and stopped. In spite of all taxi options, auto drivers stick to their pricing strategy, continuing to demand exorbitant fares. I demanded a 25% reduction. He readily agreed. I knew I would be paying a cab fare for a bumpy, noisy, dusty/non-AC ride. But reaching the workplace quickly was more important. As the auto driver, a gentleman (except for his pricing) in his fifties took off, I canceled the Ola-share!

What should ideally take 15-20 minutes, took a full hour. As the cars patiently waited in a line, my auto-guy, a veteran on Bangalore roads, took short-cuts to move ahead. He mostly got away with all his histrionics, except a traffic cop. The latter let off with a big shout at the auto guy. I 'compensated' by paying him what he had originally asked for. He had to endure a 60 minute ride too. But for him, I would have taken longer.

It is a normal day at work for both of the cop & the auto guy, but not for me... Monday morning can't be so 'cruel'
An audio book kept me going. I saw so many professionals on the way to their office, badly stuck - in buses/cars/company transport vehicles, two-wheelers.

Many of them already had their ID cards around their neck or clipped on to somewhere on the body, shirt to belt. Most of them, almost all of them (yours truly included) had an expression of frustration & anger on their faces.
I wondered... 'are we living our life-purpose? Is all this worth it?" 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A day in the life of an entrepreneur - Between banks for a Rs 100 DD

Chandra is a former banker, who left the corporate world to spend the second innings of his career as an entrepreneur. Any resemblance to anyone living/dead is coincidental (no pun intended).
- There is nothing like a "former banker". Banker once, banker for rest of life.

Chandra was sitting at the third branch in less than 2 hours, and looking at his phone... a conversation among one Whatsapp group on entrepreneurship caught his eye. It was all about 'being' an entrepreneur... "Who is most affected when we take the entrepreneurial plunge"? More so if they are first generation entrepreneurs, who left corporate jobs?

Chandra participated in the discussion and also reflected on his own journey from a banker to an entrepreneur.

This image was shared by one of the group members... 

As he looked around the new branch and also outside the window, he felt grateful, he was out of it. That is when the story unfolded...

2017: Chandra is back from his New Year break. Three days away can do wonders to you, at all levels of existence. So, this morning, when he volunteered to help someone with a demand draft (DD), it was with all its purity.

- - Why a Rs 100 DD in this era of demonetization and digital money (and some demonization thereof)?! That is a story by itself...

- - As an entrepreneur, Chandra is clear of his priorities. He always was but was less vocal about it. These days his son threatens to call him, 'Priority Pops'!

Thanks to his obsession with priorities, he went about doing some urgent work in the morning hours. After all, it was his first day at work in the new year.

Bank#1, Branch #1 - Late in the morning he went to his bank branch:
- At the 'May I Help You' counter, there was a new face. And not a friendly one. The old staff, one of the best, was missing. The new staff was seeing Chandra for the first time. And Chandra is not one who is very good at making first impressions, esp at banks!
- He enquired about DD. She said, "that line, sir". The lone teller-counter had some ten customers in a queue. 
Who said only Mumbaikars stood in line, with discipline and patience. Or has demonetisation taught us to be more patient at banks? Not in case of Chandra...
- He said, 'I am your affluent customer (not cattle-class, Shashi Tharoor may add?). Should I also stand in the queue?" Priority/preferred/wealth management being the tag in different banks. Banks also believe in priority! But sadly only lip service, not in terms of banking service
- She looked offended with an expression that said, "reservation at the bank counter?" type.
- Chandra,  an ex-banker, would not relent.
- She said, "try (your luck) at the next counter"
- He walked up to the 'next', empty counter, like a parent to his child's class teacher and asked for a DD.
- She took her eyes off her mobile and said, "pls join the next counter". She was free. Also, a couple of other employees in the bank. The branch manager was around too, blissfully unaware of the travails of his customers. But, those who are destined to stand in a queue, better stand, quietly. That is Karma!
- Chandra wanted to get out of the bank. But he had a promise to keep... to get a 100 rupee demand draft. 
- It was now Chandra's turn to look at his mobile and clear some mails, all official of course. One of his resolutions for 2017 was to reduce time spent on gadgets. He is off the target at least today...
- As he stood there he reflected, 'as a kid, when I accompanied elders to a bank or as an employee at various banks, banking was a lot more personal. Not any more'.
- As he was just getting used to standing in the queue, just like a lot of Indians since Nov 8, he was distracted by some commotion at the entrance.
- Another banker was asking, 'whose i10 is it? Traffic police taking it away'.
- A lady, who was ahead of Chandra, stopped talking to her mom, to raise her hand and an alarm..

Chandra was more agile. As he rushed to the door, the compassionate banker asked, 'is i10 yours?' 

Chandra said, 'no, the one behind it'. Chandra's car was parked right behind the Hyundai i10.

At a different setting, he would have updated the banker, his evolution from a company-owned Fiat Premier Padmini to Fiat Uno to Maruti 800 Deluxe to (own) Santro to Swift and beyond.... also, how he helped thousands drive their dream cars, as a car-finance banker in his previous avatars. No time for all that. He did not want to depend on the inefficiency of Bangalore's traffic police, notorious for their speed for action, often lack of it.

Chandra reached his car, took a quick look at all four wheels, for any lock. He was relieved to see his car was untouched. The car had just got a wash at  3M, before reaching the dusty road-side at the bank.

It was well past 1 PM, so he rushed home for a quick lunch.

- Why do banks open branches with nil parking space? And they are no. 1 car financier in India!
- Why do local authorities to RBI, allow opening branches at such inconvenient locations?

Bank #1, Branch #2 - After a quick business lunch at home, he went to another branch of his bank, which was near his flat. The area was at least away from the scrutiny of traffic police.
- At the 'May I Help You', he asked the lady if he can go to the counter for a DD. She said, "yes". Perhaps she had not had lunch or not kept herself sufficiently hydrated, her energy was low. (Chandra's interests include wellness)
There was one elderly lady withdrawing cash at the counter. Then it was Chandra's turn. He felt, "thankfully, no queue"
- Teller at the counter told Chandra, "Can not issue DD. Speak to madam at counter #5"
- Chandra went to counter no. 5. The lady said, 'system down sir, can't issue today'
- Chandra said, 'ok'.

As he stepped out he wanted to tell the lady at the counter, "you could have actually helped me more if you had told me your branch systems were down, instead of wasting my time"! Chandra was getting used to the inefficiency of the system and lack of empathy of professionals.

Bank #2, Branch #3: Chandra had to complete the task, not carry it over to next day. He remembered there was a new branch, not far away. Another leading private bank, and also where he worked for 6 years in early 2000.
- The new branch was brand new, so clean.
- Hardly one or two customers, more employees. They were all busy with their stuff/discussing.
- There was no "May I Help You" counter at the branch. That was better than misguiding clients.
- Branch manager, a young looking guy, was busy with some paper work.

Chandra does not expect red-carpet welcome when he enters any branch of the bank, where he spent 6 years and remains a loyal customer. The account is still his old salary account. "Misplaced sense of loyalty?",  he has asked himself. But he was comfortable being old fashioned.

- Chandra went to the first counter and asked for DD form. He was directed to the Personal Banking counter, with a disclaimer, "it will take some time, as madam having lunch". At 2:20, she was entitled to her lunch.
- He still went to the teller and enquired. She directed to the desk of a deputy branch manager. 
- Deputy branch manager gave the DD form (why it has to be asked for, why not on display?) and said, "it will take 20 minutes, as the person-in-charge was having lunch".
- Chandra sat down to fill up and found it was half filled form. He asked for a fresh, blank DD form.

He filled up and went back to his phone to participate in the conversation on 'being an entrepreneur', on WhatsApp. He looked around, outside the window, It was clean and professional settings inside, including the color-code of the interior. It was sunny, but clean outside. Chandra felt
... the bankers operated from high IQ, not from EQ.  That is poor leadership, professional & personal.
- Branch manager left, promising to come back tomorrow.
Very optimistic? Chandra's family lost the senior most cousin of his mother early morning. He was mourning, as his mother was very close to her cousin.

- After few minutes, Dy BM started the process. By then, the DD-madam was back from her lunch. She signed the DD and handed over to Chandra.

As he stepped out, he was more at peace. That bank had given him a lot. Still, did he want to come back? Not sure... Loyalty has its own limits. Afterall priorities matter to Chandra.

Post Office: Chandra rushed to post office, checked for registration-counter. The guy at the counter said, "closed sar".
- Chandra enquired on the timings, he said "930 AM to 3 PM" It was 3:20 PM. (These timings are not customer-friendly)

Chandra did not feel like using his persuasive skills to get the post office staff to accept his letter. If banks were not working for him, how can a sarkari post office deliver the service he expects? He would rather come back tomorrow...

Gandhiji's quote on the customer is no longer part of bankers' DNA. That was not the case in the past.

Banking was always people driven. Whatever be the level of tech-penetration at our banks, it was still people-dependent. Technology did not provide seamless service to the hassled customer. Jugaad still rules...

- ET said, 'Not happy with restaurant service? You can opt not to pay service charge'. What about banks? (ET 3 Jan 2017)

Any amount of external effort to demonetize will not help.
Demonetisation has to happen from within. 
The transformation has to happen from within, for the bankers. A shift from IQ to EQ, for sure, if not SQ. We are far away from that, as of now. If people can not service, they should not be in the service industry. These white collar bankers do not know, AI can do most of their jobs, in the near future. (Consumer-oriented tech to shine in 2017 - ET 2 Jan 2017)
Ease of doing business ki aisi ki thaisi . . . It is day-to-day hell for an entrepreneur
Sir Richard branson's advice to young entrepreneurs: "Just do it..." (ET Panache 2 Jan 2017)

For Chandra, the banker-turned-entrepreneur, tomorrow is a new day. He will pursue his dream, in spite bankers, post office, government, connectivity (mobile or 4G). 

He passionately lives his life-purpose...