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Showing posts from November, 2011

FDI in Retail and Education

Let's try and separate the truth from the lies. The lies are everywhere for all of us to see. I feel as if I was back in the 1960s, or 1980s, where licensing was the norm, and supply was artificially constrained, to help a select few- among them were the traders and the license holding manufacturers. All strangled by a massive red tape.

We seem to be back at square one. This time, though, the opposition parties have got it completely wrong. Don't know if they genuinely believe what they are saying- hope not, because it is anti-consumer, and it is utter nonsense.

For instance, this stop Wal-Mart business is ridiculous. Would you be OK if an Indian retailer becomes as big as Wal-Mart with the same effect on the categories of people (small trader, blah, blah...) that are supposedly threatened by it? Because nobody under the current law can stop an Indian Wal-Mart from happening. So what's the big deal about Wal-Mart?

Most importantly, what if the consumer benefits? Does anyone…

Golftripz

Golftripz is an Indian company that takes Indian golferto play abroad and provides a complete package with golf course selection, travel and management of your accommodation and so on. All you have to do is relax and play some golf at stunning golf courses with amazing facilities wherever you go. They also do tournaments for amateur golfers, and one such is coming up from February 21st to 25th in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I went with Golftripz to Thailand last year and it was an eye-opener in terms of what India lacks by way of golf facilities. I almost feel like starting one myself. Maybe one day....

If any reader is interested, do check out their website www.golftripz.com or get onto their mailing list. They also do organise inbound golf into India.

Biggest Boss Kaun?

Instead of a moronic congregation of out of work actors and controversial no-gooders, I propose to hold a congregation of the greatest villains of all time, maybe for a week, to find out who is the Biggest Boss of all. Might just be more watchable, and fun.

The list will include A-listers like Jeevan, Prem Chopra, K.N.Singh, Pran, Ajit, Amrish Puri, Anjad Khan, and Anupam Kher. They will all get one dialogue each to stake a claim for the recognition of becoming the Biggest Boss. The conversation may go something like this-

Jeevan- Hain, hain, hain, yeh main kahan aagaya anaadiyon ki basti mein, jahan koi mere kadmon ki dhool ke barabar bhi nahi, hain, hain..

Prem Chopra- Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra. Rape, murder aur jaaydaad ki chori mein mera koi muqabla nahin kar saka chaalis saal mein.

K.N. Singh- (with one eye closed, to no one in particular)- In sab ko maar ke nazdeek ke gutter mein phenk do...

Pran (in a suit, chewing on a cigarette)- Is ghalatfehmi mein mat rehna ki tum apne aap…

I am Starting an Airline, How About You?

Budding entrepreneurs, I am letting out a secret. This is the business to be in today, in case you are not in it.

Start an airline. I am starting one in a couple of days. Apparently, it takes very little to start one. There are venture capitalists to fund you, fuel companies to give you credit, and others to bail you out. And passengers who book flights in the fond hope that they'll take off. And employees who will work in the fond hope of getting paid.

You can blame everyone and everything but yourself when anything goes wrong. Like the fuel prices, the global slowdown, the Al Qaeda, 9/11, 26/11, anything/11, and their ancestors.

And if the airline fails to take off, you can get into a socially relevant field, say microfinance? If nothing else, you can always sell out, because the urge to own an airline is stronger than the urge to create your own spitting image in humankind, so there is always a buyer.

The Business of Forecasting

What would happen if a financial analyst forecast a big loss in his annual forecast for a company? He might get the boot. Forecasters are typically an optimistic bunch, therefore. Imagine if a King's courtier told him that he thought the neighbouring army is going to defeat his master soon? He would have been fed to the lions, or crocodiles, whichever were available nearby.

But imagine for a moment that the world had turned on its head. That forecasters were suddenly gloomy about everything in sight. The oil prices, the food prices, the environment, the stock markets, the Greek civilisation, the Roman Church, the Irish whisky, the American presidency, and the African wildlife, according to them, are going the wrong way. With no redemption in sight.

Is that a futuristic scenario of forecaster behaviour? I am not so sure. Is the world coming to an end even before the forecast doomsday of 2012? From the forecasters' perspective, maybe.

You've Been an MBA for too Long When...

You've Been an MBA for too Long When....

* You ask the waiter what the restaurant's core
competencies are.

* You decide to re-org your family into a
"team-based organization".

* You refer to dating as test marketing.

* You can spell "paradigm."

* You actually know what a "paradigm" is.

* You understand your airline's fare structure.

* You write executive summaries on your love
letters.

* Your Valentine's Day cards have bullet points.

* You think that it's actually efficient to write a
ten page presentation with six other people you
don't know.

* You celebrate your wedding anniversary by
conducting a performance review.

* You believe you never have any problems in
your life- just "issues" and "improvement
opportunities".

* You end every argument by saying "let's talk
about this off-line".

* You can explain to somebody the difference
between "re-engineering", &q…

More Murakami

I just finished one more of his books (South of the Border, West of the Sun) and am halfway through another (Norwegian Wood). Don't know where he gets his ideas for the titles, but these and the cover designs of his books are both startling, and attract even a casual browser in a store. That's how I got introduced to him. Not through a book review or a recommendation from anyone.

I am still struggling to find the right adjective for his prose. Dazzling, lyrical, emotional are all possible adjectives. But it's somehow not adequate. Other-worldly, Surrealistic, sound more appropriate. Because even when he is describing physical love (the first book has some of that), it somehow transcends the known. Even his decsription of a mind and thoughts is something unexpected, and so is his description of Tokyo sewers. Or earthquakes. (After the Quake is also a collection of his short stories)

The stories themselves are varied, from the normal growing up angst of a teenager to mid-year …

USPs of Countries-Part 2

Continuing from where I left off...

Cuba- The cigar is a lasting symbol, though the economy went up in smoke a long time ago.

China- Their English is funny or music to the years, depending on how you look at it. But their political aggression is not.

Indonesia- Good 'bad'minton players- a paradox? And lots of earth-shakes.

Australia- People of dubious ancestry who managed to spoil the gentleman's game with rough play- and the virus has caught on.

Sub-saharan Africa...where is that exactly? Except in reports on poverty, nobody talks about it.

South Africa-Mandela is absolutely the most forgiving man who ever lived. Hats off!

Kenya- the most famous giraffes in the world live here.

Brazil- The Samba, Pele and the annual jamboree on the streets make a heady combo.

Bhutan- They measure the Gross Happiness Index. Could they be the most sensible country on earth? Possibly.

Norway, Sweden, Finland- There's light at the end of six months here, so everyone who lives there must be an opti…

USPs of Countries

In marketing, we used to have differentiation, which morphed into Unique Selling Propositions or USPs as I morphed into middle age. Brands are supposed to have or unique attributes so that consumers would prefer them over competing brands. Similarly, countries (they are also brands) can develop unique intangible attributes, so that consumers (tourists) or people at large view them accordingly.

Here is an attempt to view some countries through the lens of a distant and disinterested observer.

England- The guys love to talk about the weather. They invented cricket, and their neighbours invented Golf. Shakespeare continues to give an inferiority complex to writers.

France- They like to think they invented love. But who wrote the Kamasutra is a relevant question to ask.

Italy- The word mafia owes its origin to somewhere in Italy. Lions ate men in their colosseums.

Switzerland- Their Banking is famous like the pirates were at one time in the Caribbean. Clocks are out of fashion.

Greece- They us…

Disappearance

Sometimes, to make a mark, you have to remain silent in a crowd of babblers. Or speak out in a silent majority. Or do something that others aren't doing. Thus, it should be no surprise that some who disappear from the public sight, for whatever reason, become overnight celebrities.

Would the Buddha have had a chance at being the enlightened, had the media those days been as active? or would they have hounded him out of his silent meditation under the tree? Even when he walked away, he could not stop himself becoming famous after being 'found out'. Even hermits who make the Himalayas their home are constantly being accosted by wannabe hermits like Steve Jobs and many other ordinary mortals.

So what does that say for disappearances? Appearances may be deceptive, but disappearances are no less. And effective. They serve a purpose, at least until someone finds you. The stories from childhood always had a magic cloak or coat that would make the wearer invisible, and then he could…

Anniversaries

Like my marriage anniversary, I almost forgot my second anniversary of joining IMT Nagpur, which happened on 12th. I instantly celebrated by eating an orange- absolutely delicious! I was very new both to the city (had visited briefly once or twice though), and the institute. What I found here was a pleasant surprise-on both counts. Don't tell anyone, but Nagpur is a heaven in terms of traffic, living conditions, friendly people (though they break traffic rules-but don't they all?), and peaceful life. Even the Vidarbha protests are peaceful. Can you beat that?

I am afraid I shall have withdrawal symptoms if I ever leave this place at some future date. Like our students have, when they leave IMT and go out into the big, bad world. I meet countless alumni who fondly remember their days at Nagpur, and are still in love with IMT years after they moved out. There is magic in the air, and I am sure the people are a large part of it. From profs to staff, the people seem at peace (despi…

Lips Don't Lie- Review of Rockstar

This movie (Rockstar) has to be one of a kind. It gives immense scope to the heroine's lips. They dominate the scenes in which she figures, to the exclusion of everything else- by design or accident, one does not know. So much so, that Shakira of the 'Hips Don't Lie' fame could have serious competition. And an aside for those in the weight-reduction business- liposuction does not mean a de-fattening of the lips.

Anyway, coming to the serious stuff, Nargis Fakhri (of whose lips the para earlier speaks) looks gorgeous, though she seems weak in the acting department, a little like Ash in her first film. Her Hindi diction can improve too. Ranbir acts well, looks cool, and convincing for the most part. The songs are good, and may grow on one after multiple listening occasions. The support cast- Aditi Rao Hydari is competent, and could be one to watch out for. The funniest character in the movie is that of the music company tycoon Dhingra, and his 'being-massaged-by-a peh…

A to Z of Nuclear Power

I read an intriguing book by Saurav Jha called 'The Upside Down Book of Nuclear Power'. It is the most comprehensive stuff about nuclear power you can find in one place, and is written by an economist who seems to know almost as much as nuclear physicists- at least more than electrical engineers like me- do about nuclear power. Many of the myths associated with this energy form are cleared effectively. I think the govt. could do well to make this compulsory reading for all those involved in policy making AND SELLING THE POLICY to the public.

I found the research fascinating, and some of the gems hidden in it are mind-boggling. Example- nuclear reactors can, as a by-product of their core activity, desalinate sea water! Can you imagine how that would affect future water-warriors of our world? And an unhidden gem is that India can do more than many with Thorium instead of Uranium-at some point in future.

The arguments about renewable versus nuclear power are pretty persuasive, but…

Goa 2011 edition

Goa conjures up images of the sun, sand and sin. But it is possible to do some sensible work there too. And enjoy yourself in the process. This is exactly what we did at the International Centre there last week. This was a case conference co-hosted by IIM Indore and IMT Nagpur.

Faculty, students and company executives wrote cases on an organization of their choice in a functional area such as Marketing, Strategy, Finance, Operations, and Human Resource Mgt. These were pre-read by people in the session, including a chairperson. Sitting around a table, participants had to present their case to a small group and get feedback from them on various issues.

There was also a plenary session (all participants) discussing their expectations, and feedback at the end of it all. Very stimulating ideas came from people, and learnings were tremendous. This conference will be repeated next year around November at the same venue.

There was also time taken out to go to the beach one evening. Dodging the …

Repositioning the Book - Joke

Image
Recycling a humorous piece which also appears in my autobiography (left, available from pothi.com for free download as an ebook).

Repositioning the Book

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade-named B.O.O.K.

B.O.O.K. is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on.
It's so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere - even sitting in an armchair by the fire - yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Here's how it works:
B.O.O.K. is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets of paper (recyclable), each capable of holding thousands of bits of information. The pages are locked together with a custom - fit device called a binder which keeps the sheets in their correct sequence.

Opaque Paper Technology (OPT) allows manufacturers to use both sides of the sheet, doubling the information density and cutting …

The Music Room by Namita Devidayal

If you have the slightest interest in music, particularly Indian classical, this book is a must read. I enjoy listening to it, and that was enough to keep me engrossed in the story of a young girl pushed by her mom into learning a difficult form-vocal- of Hindustani classical from a reclusive genius who did not get her due during her lifetime, but gave it all to groom this youngster- only to find her going away to the U.S.

The style of narration is such that you identify with the girl and her "modern" views, yet you are curiously drawn to the mysterious world where gurus give their wisdom, a few drops at a time, to deserving shishyas. The system has its minuses in terms of lack of documentation and passing on secrets to anyone who wants to access them, but develops a learner at a different level of commitment.

As an aside, there is social commentary on a variety of issues like the Devadasi system, the Hindu-Muslim issues that started with partition of India or a little before,…

Of Sequels, Prequels and Teaquels

Maybe we need more categories to quell the preponderance of sequels...like the pottery related ones with a lot of wizardry, or the blood-sucking vampire tales, or the Dhoom machaoing ones creating a lot of Dhamaal and hoping to be Houseful (!).

Instead of a sequel, some have also tried prequels like Star Trek and some others that I can't remember too well. I hear the Dabangg team is making a sequel too, with hardly any of the originals in it..not even Munni, who apparently jiggled the cash counters at the box office, along with various parts of her anatomy. And shared the status of item girl of the year with the equally illustrious Sheela. She also had a cure (Zandu Balm) in case you had a headache from watching her lightning-fast moves.

A teaquel would be a simple tale told with no resemblance to the original, except that over a cup of tea, one could watch it in about ten minutes. The idea is that you would at least enjoy the tea, if not the head-or-tail-less story, which most of …