Showing posts from October, 2011

Suicide Rates in India

Something that I found truly sad in today's newspaper. Reporting about suicides in India by categories of people, there was a mention that Nagpur scores high on girl students' suicides. I find it sad that something (education) that is supposed to elevate a human being leads them into despair and despondency. And for what? Fear that a bad performance in an exam will bring about reprisal from parents, peers or the society. Is that why we want our kids to study? Not for shaping themselves into a better individual? It is obnoxious that a failure in an exam (which is someone else's evaluation of how good you are) should lead to such drastic consequences for some. What is it that we are doing wrong as parents, peers or whoever?

Everyone wants to be "successful", no doubt. But what if you are not? Is it such a big deal if I can't pass an exam in engineering, or the higher secondary or MBA? Why can't I make a second attempt? Or even, drop out and do some other co…

Formulas and Controversies

Yeh Formula 1 kya cheez hai bhai? P.T. Usha of Olympics' just-missed-the-bronze fame has criticised Formula 1 in India as a waste of money. But then, except for some roti, kapda , makaan, and admission fees for kids, everything else is- a waste of money.

We as a culture believe in the formula. We have a formula for everything under the sun-and the moon. From suhaag raat to karva chauth, everything has a formula. Even though the grandmas who seem to know the formulas have mostly migrated from homes to Ekta Kapoor serials these days, come the event, they seem to reappear out of the woodwork and start dictating how things should be done. Gaddafi would feel slighted (if he were alive) at the absolute authority they wield at such times. For example, Indian Gods have to be appeased with 5 fruits at each Pooja, it appears. No wonder fruit-sellers make hay every time a Pooja is around the corner- and one always is.

We have a formula for Hindi movies, where a happy ending is a must. No harm …

A Book about Books

I am now halfway into "This is not the end of the Book", a conversation between two authors, one of whom is Umberto Eco. I am not familiar with the other, a French writer. But they have a freewheeling conversation about the future of the book. That's what the book is about. Ain't it a novel idea?

Early into the conversation, one of them pokes fun at a futurologist who made a few stupid predictions at a Davos gathering, pointing out that futurology is a dicey business, and the only thing known about it is that it will be a surprise-that's why it is the FUTURE, and not something else.

Anyway, the context of their discussion is ways of preserving learning, history, culture through books, scrolls, digital media, film, etc. They convincingly argue that we have already lost a lot of stuff, such as the work of some excellent Greek playwrights, because someone thought them unworthy of preservation in libraries. This kind of filtered reality of cultures and realities past i…

Placement Masala IIMB 1984

This is vintage stuff from our wall mag during placement of our batch -circa 1984, but worth a look even today.

Overheard- On The Placement Front

Usha Mohan- Hoechst. What Next?

‘Banker” Sridharan (after Lovelock Lewis’ abortive interview)- With most people, it is Lovelock, then Wedlock and finally Hemlock. With me, it was Wedlock, Lovelock and then Hemlock.

‘Big-Bong Chakki’ (after his 25th interview)- What shit yaa! They did not ask me a single question! (legitimate question. But not after the 25th interview, Chakki.)

‘Monto’ Hemant- Only BEML, Only BEML, Only BEML (what about Only Vimal fans?)

Alka Mehta (after the Ulka interview)- Why didn’t my parents name me Ulka? I could’ve walked in!

‘Big-Bong Chakki’ (before an interview with a Bombay company)- I have visited Calcutta and Delhi. Now I want to visit Bombay.

Usha Mohan (after Usha Microprocesors Interview)- My husband has 50% equity participation. The ‘Usha’ part.

Shobha Iyer (during Godrej & Boyce Interview)- I want to know why it…

Tollywood of the East

I thought Tollywood was a word used for movies from the south- Telugu films. Therefore I was surprised to find a new Tollywood rising in the east. The rising Bengali film industry is referred to as Tollywood in today's newspaper - I suppose it arises from some of it being located in Tollygunge (my assumption).

These various 'woods' gave rise to some pertinent thoughts. What's a new wannabe heroine in one of these film industries likely to be? A babe in the woods? Also, what's an actor who has no expression on his face- like Manoj Kumar of yesteryear or John Abraham of current years, likely to be called? A block of wood?

Given that starlets now debut in one neck of the wood and migrate to others, would we consider these as bridges being built between various woods? And with jingoistic controversies over dubbed films from Hollywood being released in Indian lingo, are we trying now to burn the bridges between the original wood and our various variations?

Maybe our cont…

What Makes a Good B School?

A slightly different take on this. One, being good. Second, proving you are good. First is equivalent to the "Product" . The second is more like "marketing" of the product. If you are good and no one is the wiser, it does not help the stakeholders. The list of must haves in a good B school, in my view are-

1. Good students. Without them, your glory would be short-lived. By extension, good alumni.

2. Faculty who do more than teach. Contributions, originality, creativity, willingness to contribute to brand-building in some form is a must these days. Anyone can read a text book, or google the 'content' a teacher is more like a mentor and a brand ambassador. He may have to do research, or executive training, or other activities, to make a mark. Maybe write a book.

3. Promoters' vision. All top schools of business have a strong vision to be among the best.

4. Intellectual Resources and Atmosphere fostering Innovation. Basic databases and software, simulation…

Maun Vrat- Period of Silence

This is, as far as I know, India's gift to the world. I am inspired to go on one every now and then, like now. Blogging does not count as talking, therefore I can rightfully claim to be on one.

When does one go on a period of silence? When you feel disturbed. I understand in the meditation system called Vipassana, you have to switch your mouth off for a week at a time. If that makes you go weak in the knees, all the better. Children do not understand the need for silence, and can be forgiven their lapses. But adults, with new-found toys such as mobile phones, find it hard to keep shut, even in (or maybe particularly in) public places. By far, the most effective way to shut the males of our species is to get them married - to a female of the species.

Silence is supposed to be golden, and with gold prices being at an all time high, one would imagine that silence would be at a premium, and so it is. Noise is one of the biggest problems mankind faces, and the idiot box contributes much …

The Indians by Sudhir and Katharina Kakar

This is a book I am reading, and contains a fascinating portrait of us Indians. Some of the authors' observations are insightful, and ring true from experience. Particularly if you have had a close look at other cultures or people, you may get more out of this.

Their take on leadership and team work are relevant for all students of management. Sample this-

"Among the subordinates, there is a tendency to idealise the leader and look upon him as a repository of all virtues, an almost superhuman figure ...."

"Since Indian institutions are markedly hierarchical, collaborative teamwork across levels of status and power proves to be difficult. Decisions tend to be pushed upward.."

"The absence of a democratic mode of functioning in Indian institutions is not resented as long as leaders develop a close relationship with the led."

They also talk of the family being the cornerstone of an Indian way of life, and not the man-woman couple as in many Western societies…

Coal, Telangana and the "Power" crisis

Half the country is struggling coz apparently, the coal got wet. Also, the AP govt. undertaking, Singareni Collieries, is on strike. There seem to be two 'power' struggles going on here. One for the yet-to-be formed state of Telangana, and in particular, the Nizam crown jewel, Hyderabad (do I hear the Nizam laughing?) Apparently intractable problem, making Kashmir and Palestine look like a 3 year old's jigsaw puzzle by comparison. What's so intractable about it, I am still not too sure. Maybe the next committee will tell us.

The other struggle is far more interesting, and I believe, presents us with a great opportunity. Why not go all out for renewable energy sources, now that we know what the future looks like- BLACK, or dark, if you prefer, if we continue depending on coal and oil. Actually, the U.S. and Greece could start doing this research too, to bring them out of debts/bankruptcies, etc..might be good for everyone.

A Mighty Heart- movie and reality

Saw the movie with this title last night. It's about the Wall Street Journal reporter (Daniel Pearl) who got kidnapped and then beheaded by terrorists in Pakistan. Reminded me of Roja in some parts- the movie by Mani Ratnam about the kidnapping of a cryptologist. Also the movie that launched A.R. Rahman's music. The similarilty lies in the doggedness with which the wife in both cases fights to get her husband back. In mythology, Savitri did that to get Satyavaan back from Yama, the Hindu god of death.

It's a real story, and keeps you on your edge, with a lot of expected and some unexpected happenings. What it also makes you feel is that the whole world of terrorism is also governed by some Do's and Dont's. For instance, in the confusion of a Pakistani or Indian city, how difficult is to kidnap anyone if someone puts his mind to it? Not very. But does not happen too often, particularly with high profile people, say foreigners. Is it because the terrorists are also aw…

Pseudonyms and Suffixes

Some people don't like their names. I didn't, for a long time. But got used to being called names- so many, that it ceased to matter after a while. And I am not including the unflattering ones that I may not have heard of. At home, in school, in college, at IIMB, and in the US of A, I always had a re-christening of sorts. But I find the recent news item about a certain Iqbal Mirchi quite intriguing. What makes a gangster tick? A suitable name?

One would assume that to be a gangster, one must be able to throw one's weight around- even if you are a featherweight in real life. As a part of this need, you must have a suitable name which suits you- jo shobha deta hai (as in Shobhraj?). Chhota Shakeel has a ring to it that just Shakeel does not. What if you were confused with the lyricist Shakeel Badayuni? Just think. Al Capone would not be Al Capone with any other name. It has a certain respectable (for a gangster) ring to it. Branding the bootlegger? Maybe.

But it would be a mis…

Doing Research- The Basics

Academic research done for the purpose of publishing a paper or presenting it at a conference or for a doctoral thesis is not everyone's cup of tea, and should not be. But if it is, how should one go about it? I get asked this question often, and it's not so difficult to answer. Let me attempt to do so. Sorry if it sounds like gyan from a baba or a baby!

The most important part of any research is not the statistics, but well, ...RESEARCH. Or, in easier to understand jargon, the literature review. Of past work done in the subject area you want to work on. Many researchers start with questionnaire design, do a survey of sorts, and wonder what they did! The reason is, there's no link with theory, no justification for what you did or how (methodology, to use jargon).

A good literature review can be done at your desk with the help of an online journal database like EBSCO or ProQuest these days. It takes only a day to download your readings for a particular keyword or phrase (res…

Origin of Company Names

Some interesting trivia on how company names came about. Can't vouch for their authenticity, but interesting nevertheless.

This came from the name of the river Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of founder John Warnock.

Apple Computers:
It was the favourite fruit of founder Steve Jobbs. He was three months late for filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if the other colleagues didn't suggest a better name by 5 o'clock.

It is not an acronym as popularly believed. It's short for San Francisco.

This name was formed by using COMp, for computer and PAQ to denote a small integral object.

The name was derived from the founder's name Dr. Michael Cowpland. It stands for COwpland Research Laboratory.

The name started as a joke boasting about the amount of information the search-engine would be able to search. It was originally named 'Googol', a word for the number represented b…

Jagjit Singh

Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh has passed away. I, for one have been a fan for about 30 years now, give or take a few. He appealed with his super-smooth voice and touching lyrics (not his, but acquiring a new voice). He had a way with words, playing with them as if they were music.

Whether it was nostalgia for a lost, carefree, golden childhood, or the pining for a beloved, he had amazing grace and a dard in his rendering of the situation, with feeling. At one level, his voice reminded one of Talat Mehmood, another silky voice in filmdom. Though he also sang for films, his best work is non-filmy, and rightly too, because film songs are typically hemmed in by a lot of boundaries- story, and the need to cater to a certain audience- which is limiting. The non-filmy world is much larger and the choices are plenty, from which to pick the ghazals.

I particularly remember a ghazal that was sung by both Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali. Both were fantastic. The words are "Kal Chaudhvin ki raat th…

Glengarry Glen Ross and The Deer Hunter

Saw two old films on DVD. One movie is about selling and salesmen, and the other about the Vietnam war from a humanitarian point of view. Both are terrific in their own way. based on a play centred in a real estate firm. A spent old salesman (Jack Lemmon is stupendous), a star salesman (Al Pacino in a very good role), and a blood-sucking boss (Kevin Spacey) make up the main star cast of this movie that takes you through the twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies of a salesman's life through the examples of the first two. Brilliantly scripted, it is riveting drama of the politics of distributing leads among salesmen, incentive systems, intrigue, smooth tongues, beating the system, etc...Keeps you engrossed with some great actors playing their parts well.

The Deer Hunter is a warm human drama about three Pennsylvania steel workers forced to leave their tranquil life behind and go to the gory reality of Vietnam. The barbarism and futility of war is brought out starkly, …

Making Life Interesting

How to make life interesting is a challenge. One can focus on oneself, or you can look outwards. Both have possibilities. You can learn new things, do new things, delve into philosophy or the meaning of life whatever interests you. You can learn to sing, or play an instrument. Or more easy, read. Or travel. Blogging might be an option too, though it is a little harder for some.

I visited a factory set up by an engineering classmate today, and refreshed a few engineering fundas that I had forgotten long ago. This is an engineering niche product sold across the world by only 3-4 companies, his company being one of the elite crowd. We got to discussing competition, and surprisingly, he said there was little of it. In this day and age, I thought it was amazing that there are businesses without much competition. Wouldn't we all love to be in one such? But then, look around and you will find that in each industry, there are some companies that customers love, and others are also-rans. Wo…

Shaw Wallace Placement Process at IIMB

This was a piece written during our MBA placement season after Shaw Wallace had visited campus (IIMB, circa 1984). Enjoy!

Managers 'Pygmalioned'

George Bernard Shaw happened to visit IIMB yesterday, since he was passing through Bangalore. With him had come the irrepressible Eliza Dolittle. The news of their arrival spread like wildfire. In no time at all, a line of twenty-six 'suitors' was ready, asking for her hand. The elite of IIMB were invited, and the rites were to be performed by the placement officer, in the event of Eliza falling for one of the eligibles.

Contrary to tradition, Eliza's creator made a 'proposal'. Said he, "Anyone willing to marry my sweet girl will get Rs. 1,500 a month."

Many eyebrows came up. Mistaking the sentiment behind these, Shaw continued, "Also, you will get Rs. 200 per month..for tiffin."

Now, a few (not less than 15) of the suitors got up from their seats. Bernard Shaw moved forward, to try and contain their…

Turning 51- Man's Search for Meaning

On the verge of turning 51 in a few days, I read a meaningful book. Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. This guy also wrote a book with the 'ultimate' word missing- Man's Search for Meaning. I had read the first book as a part of our recommended reading during MBA at IIMB ages ago, and don't recall the whole story, but it was about retaining sanity in the face of a concentration camp experience. The author went through it, and survived.

This one is more elaborate about schools of thought in psychotherapy, and what the author calls logotherapy- the search for meaning kind of therapy. His basic contention is that man is more than the bone and muscle and brain, and is mainly driven by what he perceives as "meaningful" stuff. He argues fairly convincingly, that a person who finds meaning needs little else- not that other things hurt, but they are not sufficient for people. He cites several people who are well-to-do by their own standards and y…

Obesity and Gross Domestic Product

Most people say obesity is gross. I say, it contributes majorly to the Gross Domestic Product, and therefore, economically at least, it is lovely. Imagine the impact of 'no obesity' on the world. It would be horrid beyond imagination.

All dietary advisors and magazines and TV shows would have to shut down. This includes ayurvedic prescriptors, nutritionists, and the Atkinses of the world. Imagine how much damage it could do to the already slow economy. I say, we can't afford it.

Food production and farmers. What would be the fate of all the poor farmers, middlemen and food retailers if nobody ate the stuff they produce or sell in humongous (and beyond necessary) quantities? Well, they would starve, if not commit suicide, but for reasons different from the present ones. We can't afford that either.

Almost half the "beauty" consultants offer infinite tips on reducing obesity (lately there have been bestsellers in India too), while laughing their way to their resp…

Force - Movie Review

Finding myself in the vicinity, I decided to walk in and see the movie 'Force'. Not bad, was my reaction at the end. But it could have been very good. Actually, there are elements that are really good. Genelia, for one. She brings in a much-needed breath of fresh air in a chor-police serious drama. She is good at this bubbly stuff, as we found out in her Hindi debut, Jaane Tu...John Abraham can't act, but the director smartly uses that to his advantage, joking about his serous (wooden?)expression through Genelia's character.

There is also some good action. But some loose ends are jarring. For instance, the hero who correctly gauges the maniacal nature of his adversary fails to take precautions, knowing the dangers fully well (having been warned on the phone), to protect himself, and his colleagues. The heroine dying was unnecessary, and it makes the force look stupid. In the scene where the villain escapes from 4-5 cops surrounding him, it makes no sense that the cop do…