It's Not Just the Wines

We lay too much emphasis on what others tell us is good. It's not just the wines though.

The experts tell us what to do in many spheres of life. And we listen to them. Sometimes they are right. More often, they are wrong. Any person of average intelligence knows what's good for him. But this is clouded by what others (experts or not) keep signaling to us.

You can only do so much to please others. That also ends up not pleasing you. There has to be a balance. " Not listening" to someone- particularly elders- is considered a sin in our society, and the popular refrain of parents is "he/she doesn't listen to me". While the parental anguish is justified when the kid is a kid, this persists when the kid is a grown-up too. That's when he/she needs to discover himself, make a few mistakes of his own, and learn.

In adulthood too, we have know-alls who have a solution to every problem. These guys are dangerous. You need to think for yourself, and this skill can only develop through practice. Who was it that said, " I think, therefore I am?" He was right.

Highlights of 2015

Looking back, I made a maiden trip to Japan for a conference in Beppu. Learnt a lot about Japan, and was impressed by their politeness. Skinny-dipping in their onsen (hot water spring/bath) was a first, after childhood. Made another trip to Singapore, and met a couple of former students, Vidya and Swapna, from KIAMS-from the 2000-02 batch! Caught up with another KIAMS alum, Jogeswari, who runs Golftripz, at Hyderabad. Met a few IMT Nagpur alums in Hyderabad (Nikita), and Delhi (Meghna) as well. And Animesh Jain in Bhopal. And of course, enjoyed interactions with lots more on facebook-too numerous to list! Caught up with a few IIMB classmates during visits to Bangalore and Delhi. An XIMB alumnus I taught in 1991 introduced me to a music group on Facebook. We are fans of old Hindi film music.

In Indore, my current abode, taught a couple of new courses (including at the Mumbai campus), and planned a couple more. Completed an interesting study on Personal Branding with some qualitative research, for a change. Started one on Identity and Social media, to be completed soon. Wrote a case on international marketing by Euroflex, an Indian B to B (Business to Business) marketer. Got some new clients for our MDP (management development programs) this year, including Tata Trent.

 My niece having fun at Mandu-Jahaz mahal.
 At Indore campus with my wife and cousin.
A road trip to Chittaurgarh (a song from Guide was shot here), and Jaisalmer (pic above in the dunes) via Jodhpur with family was another highlight. Five days of fun culminating in a desert safari. Another one with friends to Munnar to play Golf there was different, as it was my first visit to the place. One to Nagpur to rekindle old golfing days was also good. Wound up the year with a trip to Shrivardhan on the Konkan coast with some cousins. And for good measure, a party at Pune to celebrate a niece's wedding. My brother who lives in the U.S. was also in attendance.

Saw some good films, like Masaan, Dum Laga ke Haisha, Court (Marathi), Bahubali, Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (Marathi) and Bajirao Mastani. Read fewer books this year, but some good ones, as usual. Twinkle Khanna's was a surprise. Matt Ridley's book about the Evolution of Everything found me agreeing with him that almost everything is about slow and steady change. Maybe that explains why slow cooked food tastes so good!

Bajirao Mastani- Film Review

It's a sort of Mughal-e-Azam in reverse. In terms of the religions of the hero and heroine. Here, Bajirao is a brahmin warrior and Prime minister of the ruling king (Shahu Maharaj), and Mastani is a lady warrior besotted with him from Bundelkhand, who follows him to Pune and is content being his second, mostly unaccepted (by society) wife.

But what makes this story come alive is some great acting by Ranveer Singh. I never thought of him as a great actor, but I have revised my opinion. Given a good script, he can act, and how! Deepika is very good, too, as Mastani, and Priyanka is adequate in hers as the first wife Kashibai.

The high points for me were the choreography of the song Malhari-very energetic, and different-and the visuals (the sets are opulent). The story itself is gripping, though a couple of songs less would have made the pace even better. But I am not complaining. A dose of history (tweaked, as per the disclaimer) that I enjoyed.

Personal Branding and Digital Marketing

Two hot topics, and that is a good reason to research them.

I am involved in doing just that, with a journal paper on Personal Branding with my co-author Bhagylakshmi, due soon, and a case on which I am working as a precursor to offering a course on Digital Marketing in the next academic year.

Personal branding is about how you as a person can become a brand that is polished and well-known, in a systematic manner- using all available media, including word-of-mouth, social media and any other mainstream media (of course, the last may be too expensive for most). Other avenues to build a brand could be to write books (assuming people will read these!), and becoming known as an expert in a given field. Red Adair was a guy known for his expertise in capping oil-well fires, for instance. So find out what you are good at, become an expert through honing your skills, and brand yourself accordingly.

Digital marketing is about using any digital media to advertise, promote or market your brand (personal or corporate). It may include organic and inorganic methods, including creating a buzz without paying for it, and paid advertising and marketing where you need a budget. In either case,  the likelihood of measuring the response is higher than for traditional media. Of course there is much more, but this is the gist of it. As preparation for teaching the course in the near future, I am on the lookout for stories about successes and failures in Digital Marketing. If you have some, email them to me at can disguise the names if you wish to protect identities.

Book Review-The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley

I am in the middle of a fascinating book about how everything has evolved, and will evolve. No, it does not tell you what will be the end result, but says that it won't be planned. Instead, it will evolve as a result of various events, pulls, pressures and so on. And this covers every aspect of life as we know it.

Almost anything you can think of is covered, not just our evolution from a Darwinian standpoint. Culture, religion, morality, civilisation, institutions, the Law, and almost everything. The central argument of the author is that you can only achieve so much through planning, and free enterprise actually works better than control. Human action helps, but design, planning,...very little.

All you control freaks out there, you need to take a chill pill, if what he argues is even half-correct. For instance, he finds that the Epicurean principles espoused by an ancient author were suppressed a long time because they were inconvenient to, and contradicted the Church. The author's writings were accidentally found and propagated to an extent (or at least were out in print) in the fourteenth century.

Many interesting fields bound together by a common thread. There are references to another book I had read a long time ago, Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, about our evolution.

I can't wait to read the rest of it. See you later.

Katyaar Kaaljaat Ghusli-Film Review

This is a Marathi film based on a renowned play by the same name, which translates roughly into -"The dagger pierces the heart."

It is probably the best film I have seen this year. Subtitled too, so non-Marathi speakers can enjoy it. The story, acting, music, production, and photography leave you spellbound. The main roles of the court musicians are played by Shankar Mahadevan and Sachin, who we remember from a few Hindi films. Both are awesome, and these may well be roles of a lifetime for them. Amruta Khanvilkar as Zareena and Mrunmayee Deshpande as Uma, the daughters of the protagonists, excel in their respective roles. The director, Subodh Bhave also plays an important role.

The music and singing is also a hero in the film, and keeps you captivated. Shankar-Ehsaan Loy and Jitendra Abhisheki have scored the numerous songs. The story has some similarities to the rivalry between Salieri and Mozart in Amadeus, but lots of new dimensions.

To anyone who loves music, this film is a treat. Brilliant piece of film-making. Go watch it.

If Women Ruled All Countries

There is a joke going around that says if women headed all the countries, we would have no wars-just a lot of countries not talking to each other. On these lines, a few other things one might expect in a country that was headed by an all-women govt. (disclaimer: this scenario may not resemble reality, and is a flight of fancy)-

The National Animal- Teddy Bear
National TV channel- FTV Men
Banned- Arnab Goswami, as he stifles women's self-expression
Man of (our) nation- RaGa, for supporting Women's Empowerment

Free land for Retail chains, or anyone promoting shopping in any way
National Pet- Kitty Cat
National Pastime- Kitty Party
National Icon- Ekta Kapoor
National Brand- Joy Alukkas (a gold jewellery retailer)
National Award- To any film that resembles a marriage video, such as Hum Aapke Hain Kaun

Traffic- Whatever women do is right
Banned-Parking fines
Admissible Cause for Divorce- Not listening
Punishment for Call Drops-Death by hanging

Birthday and Anniversary Reminders through large outdoor hoardings at major traffic junctions for all females residing in the area (meant for male commuters), in addition to SMS provided free by service providers.
Chocolates and flower shops to be mandatory every 200 metres on major roads.
National greeting- Awww..

Singing in Singapore

Well, not really, but sounds good as a title. And titles count for a lot. I would never watch a movie with a title like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo..for instance.

Anyway, Singapore after about 6 years again, for a conference hosted at NUS, was a nice experience. The conference itself was a mix of Canadian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Singaporean and Indian academics, and deliberations were nice and well-attended. A keynote speech from an exec of EMC was also useful. I presented a  case study on international marketing from an Indian (small) company.

Singapore is a lot of hype for such a small country, and some substance. I found the cleanliness and the MRT worth emulating for public transport in Indian cities. The taxi service is also easy to get hold of, and disciplined. The food options are multi-cultural and many. I found all major South Indian joints there, from MTR of Bangalore to Ananda Bhavan of Chennai, and Andhra/Hyderabadi Andhra Ruchulu in between.

The riverside Clark Quay is lovely in the evening. There is a surfeit of malls, in one of which I found a design-inspired store with quirkily designed products. A wide range, from purses and mugs to larger items. Thought that was a nice one. Shopping streets like the one in Bugis had an Indian feel to them. I was mostly doing the window-kind though.

The Sri Lankan Airways flights were surprising-a first for me. Smooth, courteous, and excellent-tasting food. Saying a lot for airline food, I guess.

Some pics for good measure-from a walk in the woods, and from Haw Par Villa, by the Tiger Balm founders..and a garden called Chinese Garden with some bonsai and a pagoda.

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