Monday, August 10, 2015

Book: The Life and Times of Layla The Ordinary by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

I finished reading ‘The life and times of Layla the Ordinary’ by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan (written popularly on the front cover as Minna Madhavan) recently. I would definitely say that I am immensely impressed by her writing quality. And the book gave me mixed feelings due to miscellaneous reasons touched upon in subsequent portion of this blog post.

If I have to rate the author on writing ability; I would give her 10/10. In this book, she appears witty and funny and shows an understanding and maturity so demanded on such sensitive stories. The story told in the form of ‘journal entries’ looks very appropriate and natural. I also noticed that Layla explained why she was writing a journal and it showed author’s care for details. There are sketches in the book, making the experience very interesting. Author is very innovative in such aspects. When I started reading it; I got to know it that I had not read something like this before.

The book mentions that it is meant for ‘young adults’. I think it can also be called ‘teenage melodrama’ or ‘growing up pangs’; or any other interesting way to put it. I confess that I have already crossed the (teen) age and hence I can afford to be skeptical about it. Anyways, that counted as my nostalgia for the beautiful years gone by. The main character of the story is called ‘Layla’ (she is touchy about the spelling btw!). She is still (blessed to be) in school and the story is written from her viewpoint. Here, I did have some objections. I believe that a girl of her age can’t have that much knowledge and understanding (or pretend to lack it) of herself; as it comes out from the book. In these pages, I guess the author has taken over the stage from Layla. And if Layla indeed was like Layla; she could not have been a bit confused and a self declared ‘ordinary’ at all. 

Btw, I did not like it that Layla had to break it with Advait (the most popular boy in school). In fact what she did could very well be called ‘use-and-throw’; which boys popularly accuse girls with. But I also think that she won’t have broken up if her so called brave friend Suze was not there. It may be comforting to know that someone knows you better than you do; but we can never be sure about that. And I also think that Layla starting to flirt with Akash even when she was Advait’s girlfriend was indeed ‘cheating’. But it seemed that for Layla, the joy of no longer being an ‘ordinary’ girl was so high that she did not care at all about what was right and what was wrong. Anyways, it was her learning experience and we can’t be correct all the time. But I felt sorry for Advait; and I felt angry at Akash.

While the beginning of the book is brilliant and the author keeps the story exciting till very far; the later portions of the book became a bit boring and predictable. So I had to skip a few pages. But at an overall level, this is a good book.

Recommended only if you like to read such teenage stories; otherwise not.


- Rahul 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Why Petrol Price Won’t Reduce with Same % as Crude Oil Slumps


A newspaper published a big news item saying that in last n months, international crude oil prices have come down by 20% but in India petrol prices have come down only by 8%. It says that price of petrol should also have been reduced proportionally.

Now imagine if govt has do reduce finished product's price by the same fraction its primary raw material's price has reduced. Govt will need to reduce salary of all staffs by 20%, reduce payments to vendors etc by same 20%; each cost component's % reduction may vary but overall should necessarily reduce. It is near impossible to achieve this.

Now add to that the complexity of inventory. Public sector oil companies and refineries bought crude oil at the rate of Rs A. It takes time to refine, process and make finished product. Due to this time lag companies can't start selling petrol and diesel at much lesser price at the moment, since price will be according to the cost of crude oil it paid several months back; and that was much more than current price.

There may be other several other factors than the important ones I have highlighted. For example these companies may have long term contract with crude oil suppliers. Or they need to offset the losses made in recent past. Obviously this subject is as complex as it is interesting.

But then why newspapers and media houses run such populist stories which are half-understood? It is said that half knowledge is worse than ignorance. If you don’t know that you don’t know; it is a worse situation than when you know that you don’t know.


- Rahul 

[Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Magical Journey Called #Baahubali

I watched ‘Baahubali: The Beginning’ during the second weekend after its release. I would confess that my expectations were very high; given that the movie had garnered some very positive reviews and also because it was Indian film industry’s biggest production. It was supposed to destroy Bollywood’s over reliance on a mediocre genre of same old aged superstars dancing around with new actresses 20 years their juniors. I would also add that before this I have watched only a few movies produced in the Southern states of India and I was not impressed. This time though, Baahubali was to bring not a gush of wind but a ready storm.

As it turned out for me, I had not watched anything like Baahubali before (from Indian cinema). I love this genre of epic war movies and hence I judged Baahubali critically after comparing it with some of the greatest ones from Hollywood. And I can say with confidence that I loved Baahubali at least at par or even better than those Hollywood flicks.

As the screen opened in the theater after mandatory singing of National Anthem (customary in Maharashtra), the opening scene of an injured queen running away with an infant in her arms with a pack of enemies chasing her was mind-blowing. You put that intense scene in the beginning and you risk being judged with your own standards all through the length of the movie. But Baahubali turned out to be a magic – whole length of it was as intense and as enjoyable. Of course there were scenes where ‘hero’ chased ‘heroine’ on the mountains; and where both sang some romantic songs even if in imagination – but such songs mostly did not appear imposed or ‘out-of-place’. The war near the end of the movie was as epic as it could get.

If you have not watched Baahubali: The Beginning; yet, the best time is now. But there is a warning: the movie has plenty of violence. Though you must have learnt to manage it, for example by closing your eyes, so as not to get affected by it. If you don’t mind such scenes, go there with a feast waiting for you.

My Rating: 5 Starts out of 5.

- Rahul


[Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal] 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mother Cat

A cat in our neighborhood started crying and moving around restlessly some days back. Cats do that when they don't find any of their babies at their expected place. When cats cry in this manner, their voice resembles human voice and it is heart-wrenching to hear. But this cat continued doing that daily; never giving up; and we wondered what the matter was. Yesterday we got to know what had happened. 

One of the houses in the neighborhood had picked one of her babies to keep it as "pet". When cat was restless and crying, a man from the house brought the kitten in his hands to show it to the mother cat. This is typically a "human" behavior. Was the man expecting that when mother cat would realize that her baby was in "safe hands", she would stop pursuing it? Cats have not learned such evolved human tendencies and she still cries every evening; waiting to get her baby back... 

I think our "humanity" is overrated.


- Rahul

Monday, July 20, 2015

SAP SCN: 12-month Leaderboard

Hi,

Something good to share: 

Today if you go to SCN (SAP Community Network) and SAP APO – Production Planning, Interfaces and Global ATP page, and checkout the “12-month Leaderboard”; you will find that yours humbly is hosted at worldwide #10 :)


- Rahul

[Disclaimer: Screenshot taken from SCN.SAP.COM and copyright of SAP]

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Finally Watched ‘PK’ and a bit Disappointed

A few days back the famous movie 'PK' appeared on TV; and I watched most of it. I had not watched this movie in a theater when it was released because of the negative controversy around it. So you may find my opinion interesting.

Having watched it now, if I have to summarize my feelings in one word, I would say I found it "undeserving". Here is how:

The movie did not really appear 'controversial' to me; the scenes which were publicized as being offending to Hindus were actually funny and silly. I did not even find 'Shiva chasing' scene insulting to Lord Shiva despite being His 'fan' (modern word for 'disciple').

While watching the initial portions of the movie I found those as hilarious, interesting, funny, stupid and idiotic. A lot of scenes were 'supposed to be funny' while those were actually 'hyped'. The later part of the movie after a Guru took over, was actually 'boring'. Bollywood has simply ran out of ideas when it comes to making religious Gurus as villains - it is the same old story of fake Gurus in saffron robes fooling followers, pick up anything from year 1975 to 2015.

I found 'PK' an average and hyped movie. It should have come on screens and gone away after doing 'okay' business. But alas, religious and social organizations made it appear like an 'apocalypse' which it was not. I am sure it gained popularity due to the controversy around it. People like me who actually did not go to watch it because of controversy would have been outnumbered by people who actually went to explore it because of the hype around it. (Also because other big flicks were not released for weeks following it.)

It appeared like a casual movie but it had gone to be the most successful movie of all time from our country; earning Rs 700 Crores worldwide. It is sad that while our movie industry has produced so many really great movies, those have done average business. But this average movie did greatest business ever.


The message for religiously sensitive audiences and genuine social organizations is - the more you protest against it, the more you will do disservice against your own cause; so don't be hyper about such movies. But one interesting lesson for other movie makers is - hire some PR agencies to inflame religious sentiments of some from the previous set; and if they are not inflamed, make them appear so by planting stories in the media; and soon you will see the magic - your rotten potatoes will start selling at the price of potato chips!

- Rahul

[Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.]

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Case: Importance of Adapting Your Managerial Style

By Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], 12th of July, 2015

As Rohit came out of the VP’s chamber, he loosened his necktie and let some fresh air cool his nerves. He was still in a state of shock. What happened inside during last 30 minutes seemed to be a bad dream which unfortunately happened in real. As Rohit walked towards his office building, he recalled what had happened during last one year in his current project.

Rohit carried with him experience of managing five mid to big size teams. Some of the assignments were pretty challenging. That was one of the reasons why he was chosen to manage his current team for a very big account. His company was in the field of services; with foreign clients paying on a fixed-price model. To make its margin, his company constituted a team with pyramid structure – keeping large number of fresh or less experienced team members and a few highly experienced ones. All through his career, Rohit has led teams which mostly had less experienced members. He knew this game very well. From the beginning in this project also, he used his usual managerial style. But within a few months of having started, one of the senior members asked for ‘release’. He said he wanted to use his skills in a different type of project. Since he was a high performer, he got released. During next 6 months, four of the five senior team members resigned from the company. They mentioned different reasons for their decisions to quit. The unit’s VP asked Rohit for a meeting, which he had just finished. In the meeting the VP blasted him for loss of key employees with the premise that it had something to do with Rohit. But Rohit was really clueless!

On the same day, Rohit got a call from a senior HR manager who chatted with him for two hours straight. After going through all the aspects of the issue at hand, the HR manager’s verdict starred Rohit in his eyes. The resignations were due to Rohit’s managerial style. In fact the release request near the beginning of the project was also due to the same problem but Rohit had not understood what was wrong and hence did not do anything about it.

It started occurring to Rohit and subsequently he became aware of the root cause. Rohit had adopted a ‘directive’ managerial style to manage his team. This style is best if the team members are beginners and hence ‘freshers’ in his team were fine with it. But it was highly unsuitable with experienced members of the team who ‘deserved’ a different managerial style. ‘Delegating’ would have worked well with the one team member who was a high-potential employee. A reluctant but experienced member would have met different fate if Rohit adopted a ‘supportive’ managerial style with him. Similarly another member could have been ‘coached’. Rohit had used a single ‘directive’ style to manage his entire team and it had produced disastrous results.

Many of the experienced managers use different managerial styles to manage different team members differently without realizing it. But many others treat two employees in the same manner even if one of them is at the peak of his performance and the other is highly disillusioned or demotivated. It is not always that managers ponder over how their managerial styles result in consequences in the lives of their team members.

If you do it right in all the above cases, congratulations to you and keep it up! If you do at some times and not at others, be more careful. Remember – as a manager you will never be happy if your team is not happy. Rohit realized this in a hard way. With a little smartness we can avoid being in his place. It is very important to adapt our managerial styles for different team members in a diverse team.

***

[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with. Examples cited are for illustration purpose only. All characters and events mentioned are fictitious in nature and no resemblance with any real person or organization should be perceived. The piece has been written as a Case Study for brainstorming. Picture Credit: Loopup

Sunday, June 28, 2015

[SAP-APO-PPDS]: Improvements in Production Planning Heuristics Logs

By Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], 28th of June, 2015

In a three part series of SCN Blog Posts, I have explained about how to achieve improvements in production planning heuristics logs in SAP APO. If you work on SAP-APO-PPDS, you would agree that the current planning logs are a bit confusing and hence we always wish there were some ways to improve it. Although I think the improvements through the method I describe in the blog posts are not radical but only partial, you can test it in your system to judge yourself.


[Disclaimer: Kumar Rahul works as Senior Consultant with Infosys Limited, based out of India. These posts in the series are written by the author based on his personal experience while working on SAP. Before implementing any solution you are advised to always do the analysis as well as reach out to SAP in case needed and adopt a solution only if it suits you and testing is successful.]

Friday, June 19, 2015

Case: Do Comfort Zones Form Only @ The Bottom of Pyramid?

By Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], 19th of June, 2015

As Rohit came out of the training room, he looked around. In these four hours, he met so many colleagues he did not know from before. He thought about his experience during the training session and felt satisfied. But one thing made him think again. Almost all the participants of the training were unknown to each other; as one could see them entering the room alone; not in groups. But every time there was a group activity, the instructor asked them to “come out of Comfort Zone” by randomly selecting group members. In fact this was being done so many times and at so many events in the company that it had become a “ritual”. Without doubt, there was some sound reason behind it. Given that the company was an IT services company where employees worked on “projects”; it meant they had to join new projects every few years and it was like making a fresh start every time. New client, new team, new colleagues and also a new manager. “This is the new normal – comfort zone just can’t form!” Rohit thought.

As Rohit entered his office building, he met Amit, his teammate from the previous project where both had worked. “Where are you these days”? Rohit asked. Amit told him the name of the new client he was working for and also that it was a new “win” for the company. But their manager from the previous account had gone into this account and he had picked up a few of his trusted team members for building the new team. Listening to the names, Rohit knew instantly how and why some team members from the previous project were selected to work for the new project. Was it also not the same case as the manager’s “comfort zone”? Rohit wondered…

As he reached his desk and started checking new emails that he had received during the time he was in training, he saw some organization level announcements. Some more former colleagues of his CEO’s previous company had joined in and they were being given some powerful roles. Some old veterans were reacting by putting in resignations. It was a vicious cycle - their resignations were creating more ‘openings’ in the organization, which were then being filled by more of his CEO’s former colleagues. “Why should the CEO break his old organization by stealing its senior resources? Why can’t he work with the existing team?” Rohit wondered. Was it also not because of the same “Comfort Zone”? Now that sounded like a million dollar question.

As Rohit started thinking on the lines, he saw new and more places where “comfort zones” were in play. For example the main reason why onsite rotation policy had been a non-starter was because the managers did not want to take risk – the existing onsite resources had formed their “comfort zone”… The company was not expanding in certain geographies and certain business areas because its “comfort zones” lied in some others. This “comfort zone” culture was seen virtually everywhere… Except perhaps among the employees at the bottom of the pyramid who were always tossed from one technology to another; one unit to another; and also from one location to another.

“What does the management think? Do they think that we don’t have sentiments? I am not asking for a so called comfort zone, but why do they allow almost every senior person holding position of power to enjoy it?” Rohit was left wondering…

“Is the need to come out of comfort zone only for the bottom of pyramid?” This question was not only in the mind of Rohit but gradually it was becoming apparent to many others… There was a growing unrest simmering within the bottom levels while senior management was completely unaware of it. Given the situation now, how do we see the company and its employee satisfaction matrices after one year from now?

Disclaimer: The case is written by Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA] on 19.06.2015. All characters and events mentioned are fictitious in nature and no resemblance with any real person or organization should be perceived. The piece has been written as a Case Study for brainstorming. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moving out of Aerospace Client Account

As I will be moving out of my current Canada based aerospace major client soon; it is natural to reflect on the last one year which has passed by. When I reflect about it, I feel satisfied with the work period during which we moved from turbulence towards stability; and which gave me immense opportunity to learn as well as contribute and achieve as a Track Lead and a team member.

Within a few months of joining the account, we reduced backlog tickets to zero in our track. Client feedback which was negative earlier, became positive and client appreciated our efforts in the next feedback cycle. The reason why a senior consultant like me was inducted into the account was that client feedback was negative and our track was not stable in terms of processes and incidents handling. So after turning backlog to zero, we reduced the queue size to within control. Then came the Continuous Improvements (CI) initiative. I proposed total four continuous improvement proposals for my APO track, out of which two were implemented and evaluated. The remaining two were not implemented because of client side constraints, but were nevertheless appreciated by client. I also led the CI proposal initiative at account level, i.e. coordinated with all other tracks and helped them propose and close more proposals. Along with that I also represented our account at the unit level CIs monitoring. When it came to Business Value Articulation (BVA) document preparation, I prepared one BVA document which was loaded in project management portal; only one other document was prepared by another track in the account. When we applied for CMMI level certifications, I prepared the following documents every month – Defect Prevention and Causal Analysis Report (DP & CAR), which made me appreciate the importance of defect management and causal analysis very well; and also Trend Analysis Report for both incidents and RFCs. Due to our collective effort, we were awarded CMMI level 5 and my contribution was appreciated by our manager along with others. Along with that I also prepared several SOPs and documents for better project management; e.g. Service Transition to Support (STS) document. I also documented all business processes (L1/L2/L3) and KT gaps for APO; prepared two RCA (Root Cause Analysis) documents; first one being the first from any track; and presented to client; which was appreciated. I also prepared 7 Knowledge Artefacts for client individually; out of total 8 for our track; for the purpose of documenting and sharing of knowledge between client and Infosys.

When it comes to SAP APO, this account gave me immense opportunity to learn PP/DS (Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling) module of SAP-SCM-APO while working on it. I had worked for many years on this module but I can say that my most learnings are from this client.

The client is an aerospace or aviation sector client; manufacturing aircrafts in a Make to Order (MTO) production process which is highly complex process. I gave my best and I think we did a good job altogether. The challenges were unstable processes since the client was new and this whole outsourcing process which was a first for the client. In between we had many large scale changes at the client organization, often impacting our way of working. It needed a proactive approach of team management as well as reliable and responsive SAP support. Before I had joined the account, the manager had talked to me and given me a challenge to stabilize the account and making client feedback positive. We did a good job at fulfilling both.

This was also an account where we needed to work till late evenings and night. It required change in lifestyle and impact was seen on the way back home. Since my wife is a working lady, there were times when we could meet only once in 3 days. She went to her workplace early in the morning while I had to go out around noon. By the time I returned home, it was her night since she had to wake up early. To make it worse for a long period I had to commute long distance and it was very stressful. I also saw that in so many other tracks, team had to cover support till early mornings and hence spent whole night in office. I can only hope our managers and organizations understand how much the employees have to sacrifice on the personal front.

When I look back at this stint of my career, I can feel a sense of satisfaction. At least in my track, all challenges were won over and we were ready for more when this had to be an end.


Over the time I have gotten used to working in this account. I shall remember all the wonderful people I worked with here. While moving on, I do feel a sense of vacuum. I wish all the wonderful people here best of the health and time. Thank you.

- Rahul

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal.   

Sunday, June 14, 2015

10 Management Lessons from Life of Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya




After a protracted wait, Government of India finally honored the legendary educationist and freedom-fighter Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, also known as ‘Mahamanaa’ (meaning one with a great heart/thinking) with the highest civilian award “Bharat Ratna” for the year 2014. Ever since the announcement, Pt. Malaviya’s life has been analyzed by newspapers and the media. But I am not sure if one aspect of it has been analyzed enough – the Management Lessons from life of Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya. That is something I am going to do in this small article.

Management Lesson# 1: The Power of Stretched Goals

We all understand about the power of ‘stretched goals’ and how it leads to never-before achievements. It contributes immensely to an organization’s and individual’s growth. Pt. Malaviya’s stretched target to establish Banaras Hindu University (BHU) or Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya is a fine example of the same. Malaviya ji was deeply affected by lack of proper education in India and he wanted to do something about it. When he first thought to setup a university, his friends and seniors asked him to be ‘realistic’ and settle for a small school. They told him that his idea of setting up a university was impractical. But Malaviya ji had a stretched target in mind. He wanted to setup a university and never settled down for a school or a college.

Management Lesson# 2: Think Big and Match it with Great Effort

There is no doubt that Pt. Malaviya’s vision to start a university and not to settle down for a school or a college was a perfect example of “Thinking BIG”. He not only thought big but also matched it up with his really great efforts. When it came to funds collection, he showed a courage and industry which was of unimaginable scale. He went to the Darbhanga Naresh, Bikaner Naresh, to the rulers of Kashi, Kashmir, Mysore, Alwar, Jaipur, Indore, Jodhpur, Gwalior, as well as collected funds from the common masses across the length and breadth of India.

Management Lesson# 3: Nothing is Impossible

When Pt. Malaviya started out, perhaps no one would have thought that a man of such humble means like him would one day actually realize his big dream. But Malaviya ji proved it literally that where there is a will, there is a way.

Management Lesson# 4: Leadership by Example

Setting up a university was never a one man’s job. It needed a team and some great team work. It needed the entire team to work hard towards a single goal. Malaviya ji’s personal life and his setting up of a personal example worked as a great motivator. He was born as fifth child amongst seven of his parents’ kids. His father Pt. Vrajnath Vyas ji was a ‘Bhagawat Kathakaar (reciter)’ and of humble means. Malaviya ji had to work very hard to finish his studies and become a journalist, advocate, and to do great in the fields of politics and social movement. He was an achiever in his own right when he started the BHU initiative and hence his team followed his inspirational leadership by example. The first donation for the university was given by his father in the form of hard-earned Rs 51.

Management Lesson# 5: When Life gives you a Lemon, Make Lemonade

Once Malaviya ji went to a Nawab asking for donation for the university’s cause. Perhaps Nawab was not in a good mood at the moment and hence he threw his shoe at Malaviya ji in order to send him away. Malaviya ji picked up the shoe; thanked Nawab for it and went to the market and announced his interest in auctioning the shoe with proceeds going to the university’s cause! In another event, when Nizam of Hyderabad declined to give any financial assistance, Malaviya ji started collecting coins being thrown at a funeral procession. When people asked why he had to do that, he answered famously, “When I return to Varanasi and if people ask how much the rich Nizam of Hyderabad contributed for the university’s cause; how could I tell them that I got nothing? So in order to save Nizam’s reputation I have to show them some money!” When Nizam got to know about it, he felt ashamed and honored Pt. Malaviya with good amount of donation for the university.

Management Lesson# 6: Act Local but Think Global

Malaviya ji ensured that BHU had a global outlook. There were hostels for domestic as well as international students because he expected some foreign students interested in studying Indian arts and culture. He hoped that it will serve as a means to remove doubts in the minds of foreigners about India and Indians. It was his vision which sets Malaviya ji apart and makes him appear really extraordinary.

Management Lesson# 7: Keeping a Larger Vision

In 1935, while addressing BHU students, Pt. Malaviya said, “You don’t only have to do studies in this university; you also have to build your character. If we join learning with character building, then we will earn respect of the world.” Whenever a student or a youth asked for his autograph, Pt. Malaviya used to write in Sanskrit, “Satyen Brahmacharyen vyayamenath vidyayaa. Deshbhaktya-atma-tyagen sammanarhah sadaa bhava.”, meaning, “Be worthy of receiving honor by practicing truth, celibacy, physical exercise, education, patriotism and self sacrifice.” He did not want to restrict himself into providing only education but equally focused on life skills and character building. Malaviya ji also focused on women education and also started a school for girls. Due to a leader’s vision he earns respect and trust from his followers.

Management Lesson# 8: Scalable enterprise, ready to expand and diversify

Pt. Malaviya noticed that lack of good hospitals and proper healthcare was also causing much harm to the nation, apart from lack of education. Hence Sir Sundarlal Hospital was started in BHU which gives both modern allopathic and ayurvedic medical facilities to all. By starting it, Malaviya ji expanded and diversified the university, since there was a compelling reason behind it.

Management Lesson# 9: Leadership with humanity, empathy and kindness

Once one of his employees did a theft in the office. The man was caught and brought in front of Pt. Malaviya. When Malaviya ji realized that the employee had to steal because of poverty and insufficient money, instead of punishing him he raised his salary! We can only guess that the employee must never have done anything wrong in the rest of his life. There are several other incidents during his life which show the human side of Malaviya ji where his actions were full of empathy and kindness.

Management Lesson# 10: Dedication and commitment

Pt. Malaviya showed immense dedication and commitment towards his work. The best example comes from near the end of his life. When Malaviya ji was sick and signs were showing that he won’t survive for long, his colleagues were planning to shift him to the mainland Kashi, because of a belief that a person who died in Kashi got God’s mercy. When Malaviya ji heard of their plans, he immediately called others and told them, “Promise me that they won’t take me to Kashi or anywhere away from the university. There is so much work pending for me in the university and for the country that I don’t want Moksha yet.” Ultimately Pt. Malaviya took his last breath in the BHU; on 12 November, 1946. This was the level of his commitment and dedication!

***

There are so many other life events and character traits which set Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya apart and we come across plenty of other Management Lessons too. For example, Pt. Malaviya never bothered about personal rewards and praise. He was ready to work as shadow warrior towards his greater goals. The fact that he got Bharat Ratna after so many decades, itself tells a lot about relevance and endurance of the values and ideals he stood for.

I think, we as a society and a nation need to learn many of the lessons, both on the management and personal ethics sides, from the great Ratna of Bharat – Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.

***


[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with.]

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Vivek Jyoti Magazine from Ramakrishna Mission





'Vivek Jyoti' is a Hindi magazine published by Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Ashram, Raipur (C.G.). It is a wonderful magazine with some regular features and articles on various aspects of spirituality, yoga, religion and society, many written by the monks of Ramakrishna Mission and some reproduced articles written by Swami Vivekananda.

Earlier I had shared about it with friends and some of them asked to share a few pages as sample. I have now scanned and uploaded a few articles from its May 2015 issue which you can view and read. The document is in .XPS format which opens with XPS Viewer. 

If you are not able to view it online, try to download it and then open.


Subscription details are on Page-2 of this document. You can also view it directly in below image (click on the image to enlarge):



If you have any queries, let me know. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Problem with Historic India - Bangladesh Land Swap Deal

Today, India PM Narendra Modi is in Bangladesh and he will be freezing an agreement over resolving land disputes by exchanging land pockets (enclaves) with Bangladesh. It will be a historic decision which will indeed prevent infiltration, disputes and inconvenience to people from both sides. Despite being a Modi fan, ever since I learnt about this plan I have been a little disturbed about it. What is the cause of concern? Before I come to that, let us understand what are these "enclaves" which the two countries will be exchanging?

Enclaves are small pockets of land belonging to a country which are completely surrounded by land of another country. The most common enclave in a way is the Vatican City which is completely surrounded by Italy. India has about 106 enclaves inside Bangladesh while Bangladesh has 92 enclaves inside India. It results in infiltration and extreme inconvenience to the people living inside these enclaves. To make it more complex, 24 of these enclaves are actually "enclaves inside enclaves"! These enclaves came into being around 300 years ago during wars between the Mughals and the King of Cooch Behar. Mughals won over certain regions but could not defeat certain local Cooch Behar Jamindars from their lands; similarly Cooch Behar King defeated Mughal forces but could not evict their soldiers from certain pockets and hence by the time a treaty was made, these enclaves came into being. Later, since East Bangladesh went to Pakistan, there could be no solution to this problem because of India-Pakistan rivalry and wars. Now let us see my dilemma about the land-swap deal.

The problem with the land-swap deal is that India is giving away more land to Bangladesh than she is receiving in return! Although the land size India is losing is only around 40 square kms. But still, our "mother India" is going to become smaller and it is an emotional issue for the patriotic population.

If we think of pure economics, this decision does not make sense. Why would someone give you a land worth hundred million and ask for another piece of land worth ninety; unless one's life or something extremely critical depended on it? I am sure even in the stone-age human beings did not do "barters" in this manner. So why are we doing it now?

If we think of the two nations, Bangladesh being one of the most densely populated nations needs land more than a big nation like India does. So Bangladesh may be able to gain more than India does by swapping land.

In international politics, such land-swap deals are associated with "monetary compensations". If we have to give some land to Bangladesh in order to simplify matters; we could take compensation. Some news reports say that Bangladesh was ready to pay compensation for the extra land it has to receive, but India said she won't take any. It displays a kind of "Big Brother" approach India naturally plays in the region. Although, India seems to have been blind eye towards how Bangladeshi political parties use the same "Big Brother syndrome" to build a public anger against India (to garner votes)! India sees such large heart gestures as her natural role; but the same largess is seen with suspicion amidst conspiracy theories about India being a ‘hidden aggressor’! So far India's foreign policies have not done anything to quell these fears. India could have been less emotional and more economics driven in order to appear like a neutral force in the region. But maybe then India won’t be like India!

There is another concern about the deal according to which more than fifty thousand villagers from both sides will be given an option to choose nationalities. I guess logically more people will choose to become part of India (since it is more economically prosperous), resulting in increase in population which is undesirable. There should have been a better way to identify nationalities.

I know that we can't really blame PM Narendra Modi government for this decision. In the past many other PMs including Indira Gandhi tried to do the same deal with Bangladesh but failed. PM Modi in a way is exerting his "strong" image when he is solving a "300 years old problem" which all past governments failed to solve. Still, India giving away more land than it receives does not make sense to me.


I also understand that Indian governments “gifting away” lands to other nations is not new. Way back in 1974, Indira Gandhi virtually gifted an island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. In an article titled “Island Lost” (S. Raja, New Indian Express, 10 Sep, 2013) for example, the journalist writes that Indira Gandhi gifted away the island as if it were her “family silver”. So perhaps Bangladesh deal’s loss is not a first or nothing new; still I think it is not a rational decision. I call it a failure of India’s diplomacy rather than success of it. 

My solution is simple. If India accepts monetary compensation for the lost land, it will not be enough. It will appear like a nation is "selling" land for money. I think Bangladesh should make up for the loss India is incurring by exchanging enclaves. Give us another forty square kilometers anywhere along the border you find suitable. Is this too much to demand?

What do you think about it? Let me know through your comments.

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[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with.] 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Will Nestle Do a Cadbury or Coke with its Maggi?

Maggi, a popular brand of noodles, was recently found to contain high content of lead and other harmful chemicals. Maggi is a Nestle product; the company is headquartered in Switzerland. If you compare this fiasco with anything else in the past, we can remember two other cases easily - when Cadbury chocolates were found to contain "worms" (year 2003) and Coca Cola and Pepsi soft drinks were found to contain high levels of "pesticides" (year 2006)! Guess what is similar between Nestle, Cadbury and Coke? All are foreign companies selling in India. And during the current controversy over Maggi, what do you think Nestle management must be planning? If I see history, I guess that would be - a new PR campaign!

I think what must be giving comfort to Nestle is the fact that others like it have been able to successfully rehabilitate themselves after their life-threatening fiascos. Indians, who pride themselves of keeping highest standards of hygiene and purity in matters of food, it seems, don't mind keep eating chocolates with worms and soft drinks with pesticides; so why will they behave differently with noodles?

Amitabh Bachchan must be quick in denying anything fishy in campaigning for lead-infested Maggi noodles, but do you know how he played a pivotal role in “rehabilitating” Cadbury after the "worm controversy"? Yes, that is correct - when Cadbury launched a PR campaign to win back customers incensed over worms, Amitabh was a pivotal part of the advertising campaign. Till date, people remember the biggest cine star of India dancing on TV to sell some chocolates. "Kuchh meetha ho jaye?" It seems we have forgotten about worms as if those never happened… Celebrities may not have direct role in promoting ‘bad’ products, after all they also promote so many other ‘good’ products, but we can't deny how clever marketers use them to win back their lost market share - which in the long term sets a bad precedence.

I know there is an undercurrent prevalent in Indian society, though it gets weaker day-by-day. According to it, the foreign companies and MNCs keep double standards - one for the developed countries and another for the so called "third world". We can't deny there are reasons behind such thinking - till a few years ago, a lot of items like toothpastes by foreign companies did not carry an "expiry date" exclusively when selling in India (and perhaps countries like India). Things have certainly improved over time, but now there is another popular theory, especially among the young educated population – due to which people keep supporting foreign brands even though serious violations are done by those. The basic ideology is that a foreign company from a developed country can "never" do something wrong! Both approaches are extreme and I think the truth lies somewhere in between.

If Maggi wins back its market share even after compromising its product quality, will it be only by a repeat of Cadbury or Cola-Pepsi like clever marketing campaigns, or will it be by rediscovering quality control and by firing people responsible for the lowdown? Only time would tell. But the bottom line is clear - Indian consumers are being taken for a ride and the earlier we wake up, the better for us.

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[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with.]

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Mass Insurance Schemes by Modi Government


I hope you would have heard about the new social security schemes including two mass insurance schemes launched by our central government [Ref]. 
  1. Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana: Accident insurance
  2. Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Yojana: Life insurance
  3. Atal Pension Yojana: Pension plan

I have gone through the policy details and find that the insurance schemes are very good. I suggest you can consider these policies and subscribe for both insurance schemes, unless you are already sufficiently insured. 

One major benefit is its simplicity. Premium will be auto-debited from the bank account, so it will continue forever (as long as you have sufficient balance).

Currently almost all banks are providing subscription facility by sending SMS. These policies can be taken from any bank but SMS details of all banks are different. SMS details for ICICI (to be sent from registered mobile number) are as follows:

PMSBY NOMINEE NAME Y --> Send to 5676766 (Accident insurance; premium Rs 12)
PMJJY NOMINEE NAME Y --> Send to 5676766 (Life insurance; premium Rs 330)

I confirmed from the branch and they informed that since policy is effective from June 1st for those who send sms by May 31st, policy document will be ready in about 15 days after June 1st and we shall be able to download it from ICICI Bank website, perhaps from insurance tab.

If you heard PM Modi on TV speaking from Bengal while launching it; the main attraction of this insurance policy is that it can be taken by anyone, even by a person on deathbed or having a terminal illness. This is how this policy is different! Mainly because it is launched by govt.

I think claim process will be similar to the ones we have for other insurance policies; we have to contact the insurance company.

Someone asked if it matters which bank we take the policy from. From what I have read, this will indeed make a different, as a customer friendly or unfriendly bank or its associated general insurance company will behave with us like they behave with other customers – customers of this scheme won’t be treated differently or preferentially.

Someone asked if these polices have any drawback. The only concern as it appears is that suppose there is a Govt change at the center after 5 years and next govt discontinues it- then what happens. But since both these schemes are kind of term insurance, i.e. you get insurance until you keep paying premium, even if it covers us for 5 years; what do we lose? We don’t lose anything but we are insured for the years it is active in case of any eventuality. So I think we should definitely subscribe since both are at very cheap rate of premium.

Also, while Atal Pension Yojna/plan is only for unorganized sector; insurance schemes are for all. Because pension and insurance are different. People in the organized sector already have either PF or pension and hence don’t need Atal pension plan. But when it comes to insurance, both organized and unorganized sector employees lack it – also because regular insurance is costly; and hence govt launched these two insurance schemes which are for all no matter in organized or unorganized sector…

My recommendation is that we should definitely take these policies (if we meet the eligibility).


Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Culture of Conformity Could be a Drain on Productivity



Recently I saw this scene on TV (I forgot if it appeared in some movie or in some TV show; perhaps in Game of Thrones) where a soldier was expressing some doubts to the military commander; who in turn asked him, “Do you wonder about this world? The way it is going and about its things in general?” “No”, replied the solider. The commander concluded plainly, “It is better not to start now.” The soldier’s eyes showed fear and he quietly went back to follow his orders.

This snap-conversation made me reflect and think about my own attitude towards “world in general”. It seemed that the conversation could also be perfectly meant for me. I have this habit of thinking or reflecting about “this world in general”. This conversation kept lingering in my mind for many days during which I was not writing anymore; until I made up my mind about it. I knew that somehow I had felt the same “fear” the soldier had felt. More than anything else it was the fear of consequences in case of ‘nonconformity’.

Psychologists say that people in general ‘like’ others who are ‘like them’. Perhaps that explains why so many great individuals in our history were not understood in their own lifetimes and it was only centuries later that people went on to ‘worship’ them. People did not like them because those great individuals were not ‘like them’ (nonconformity); perhaps they were much better and lived up to higher principles. But people had no problem ‘worshiping’ them later on when those individuals were dead (and hence no threat anymore), because they would worship those individuals after elevating them on a higher platform; which essentially separated them from common masses. This meant that the common masses did not necessarily have to carry a burden of ‘trying to be like them’. World history tells that society has not been too kind towards ‘nonconformists’, be it the social reformers who thought differently or scientists who made radical discoveries.

I think not everyone needs to be chained by conformity; the military commanders who say, “do not think” and “do only what is told to you”. This is why someone famous said, "The opposite for courage is not cowardice; it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow." So true. If you try to do anything great; or better; you have to break ‘conformity’ of your family, friends, or colleagues. But no innovation or breakthrough is ever possible without breaking the ‘conformity mold’.

While working in organizations I have seen conformity doing so much harm! Many a time an employee knows a better way of doing something which is both cheaper and less time-taking; but due to prevailing ‘culture of conformity’ one decides to keep doing it the way it was told by the boss. And if an employee comes out with an idea to change things radically for the better, the idea is shot down as soon as possible by a committee or by the higher management, again because there is pleasure and comfort in the status quo! Worse is when the bosses or management ‘fake’ it that they respect new thinking; perhaps this may be called being conforming to appear nonconforming. If it goes on like this for a long time, the organization builds a very strong ‘culture of conformity’ with unshakable foundations. In the long term, it does much harm to the organization’s top line as well as bottom line; even driving it towards losing competitiveness or to bankruptcy!

Culture of conformity also plays a role in other areas of organizational management. It plays a role in recruitment where companies have fixed ideas about what type of employees they want to hire and what type they do not. It plays a role in selection of suppliers; or in deciding compensation, or in addressing demands from employee unions. The way it works, it goes well for a certain time after which the trouble starts showing in the form of different symptoms. Very often the organizations don’t really know what is wrong until some real damage is already done.

I think this is one area where the HR managers and senior management have to be very watchful. They should intervene at early signs of such a culture of conformity and also make transparent and fair policies and systems to avoid it in the first place. When John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”, he meant it!

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[Kumar Rahul [BE, MBA], works as Senior Consultant at Infosys Limited; based out of India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect views of the organization the author is or has been associated with. Examples cited are for illustration purpose only. This article is also published on LinkedIn Pulse.]