Saturday, September 27, 2008

Karan Thapar is a joke

That Karan Thapar - what a public disgrace he is! The guy has been in Indian journalism for as far back as I can remember, and the more I see him, the more I wonder how he has even lasted. He is the most disgraceful Indian journalist that I have ever seen.

He does not have the basic decency to let another human being speak. Not only that, he interjects at every opportune moment. To top it off, he brings in his own brainless analysis and over-reaction to any statement made by his interviewee. He loves it when his interviewee fumbles for words. And the one thing I completely hate about this guy is his perennial use of vocabulary, which the average interviewee would not even comprehend.

There have been enough number of times when interviewees have told him point blank, "Karan, let me complete what I have to say", or, "Karan, I think this is an interview and I have a point of view", or, even more disgraceful & direct when they say, "Karan, can I say something?". These statements from people who are invited on national television, time and again, to this so-called famous journalist is beyond me. I sometimes wonder how he even gets a prime time slot to interview all these famous politicians, bureaucrats and what have you.

The man does not have the basic courtesy of a conversation. One of the most unforgettable (in the negative way) interviews was with India's famous lawyer, Ram Jethmalani. That was on CNN-IBN on a Sunday evening, where the lawyer just stopped short of asking Karan to get out of his residence where the interview was being hosted. While I have my own thoughts about Ram Jethmalani's arrogance and airs about being a great lawyer, I think, that Karan Thapar did not ever merit the Asian Television Award in Singapore, based on that one interview. It was disgraceful!

At other times, I have noticed many of this journalist's shows bordering on personal accusation, not to mention, extreme use of words. Yes, politicians have a way with words, but with Karan Thapar around, the situation just gets a wee bit uncomfortable. There is no debate, but only point-counterpoint in the sense of an accusation. The other party ends up feeling," why did I even bother to entertain this interview?".

I am usually very respectful of every profession, as it has its own things to contribute to the Indian economy. I also appreciate the fact that different industries have their own dynamics. And, I am especially a big fan of the media industry & have tremendous respect for the folks who get us the news. But, sadly, like with everything else in life, people like Karan Thapar, are those elements, which make you wonder about how such people even make it in the first place. No sour grapes, the man sucks! Period.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Jogging and its charms

After having come back home in the last month or so, I have gotten back to a lot of my old ways. Given that I have more time to myself, and given the fact that there is a social structure in place, I guess there is room to navigate around oneself and do things that one genuinely loves(but never had time to do, earlier!).

One of these charming things that I have regularly started doing are my weekend jogs. There is this beautiful, big park cum waterway + sidewalk near home - Sankey Tank. This is usually the haven of numerous walkers and other fitness freaks. But it provides a fantastic stretch to jog right around the 2 km stretch. Three rounds around this massive park cum waterway/lake makes me feel so refreshed.

And there are a variety of people that I get to see during these one hour jogs. People who are very serious about reducing their weight;folks who just want to stroll around this huge park on a weekend;young lovers/boyfriends-girlfriends/couples walking around the park hand-in-hand, oblivious to the outside world and lost in their love;fitness freaks;casual/irregular walkers;older folks/couples catching up with each other and having a laugh together in the twilight of their lives and looking at the sunset together(wow!) and so on. I also think that the quality of the girls around this park is very good and scores very high on the "attractiveness-quotient"! I guess that in itself is a motivator to go around jogging every weekend!

But jokes apart, I just wish I had more time on weekdays to make this lovely experience of jogging and feeling refreshed, a more regular affair. Not only does it keep my ever-increasing midriff in check, but also contributes immensely to my mental framework. There is great sense of satisfaction in the sweat that beats down my body at the end of my jog on weekends - though I am tired, I feel so refreshed and ready to take on the world for the whole of the coming week. Just wish I could do this everyday, so that I feel even more refreshed every single day.

The highlight, of course, is the beautiful and incredibly satisfying hot water bath that I have after returning home and cooling off. Sunday evenings are even better - after I get back from my jog and am waiting for my body to cool off, I get a good 30 minutes or so on the phone to catch up with my old friends, who would generally be free and available for a chat at this time of the week ( given that most of us have no life to speak of during the weekdays!).

I hope to expand this beautiful, new-found(yet, old habit) of jogging to extend the happiness quotient in my life. Exercise sure can be fun - always knew it; have just begun to experience it in full steam.


More often than not, he comes as the specialist on prime time TV shows about stock markets. In India, people reach out to him first for an opinion on any minor variation/misbehaviour of the stock market. His word is almost the last authority for many a stock broker starting out on a career in investment management. He goes to business schools and charitable organizations and talks about how wealth creation is not at all a bad idea, as long as it is used for the greater development of the Indian race. He is flamboyant - sporting the latest gadgets in the world etc. But, I think, he has earned it. And from what I make of him (though I don't know him), I think he has earned it the very hard way.

I am talking of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala here- India's very own Warren Buffet!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Are we the instant era?

All of us in the current generation have grown up hearing about how our ancestors had some harrowing times in building their lives, economies and indeed countries. A large part of their efforts has resulted in the modern generation that we have today.Their sacrifices have significantly contributed to the goodies that all of us enjoy today.

But, I have been wondering for a while, whether that concept of a dream job actually exists? I mean, this whole concept did not even exist in previous eras, when most people were just about finding ways to meet 2 ends meet. They were unable to (completely because of circumstances) look at things beyond the concept of their lives (to a large degree - you have exceptions everywhere). But, look at us now. We are part of the instant generation - instant coffee, instant tea, instant career, instant relationships, instant policies, instant solutions, instant preferences, instant(read impulse) purchases, instant publicity, instant "sporting greatness", instant jobs, and so on. We are obviously a result of the generation that we find ourselves in, where we want everything in the span of time that we find ourselves on this planet.

But, in all this, that concept of building something over a very long-term, seems to be a rare phenomenon these days. Of course, I am equally to blame - as I belong to the modern era. I am however, in awe of people who have managed to do that. I mean, look at that thing called Google - it did NOT exist right up till1997. And how it has transformed our lives - including giving me this chance right here to blog! There are so many other things that have become instant.

I do not expect the long-term horizon too much these days, but that is the core part of what I learnt in my MBA(but never applied it!). Companies want instant results, bosses want instant answers, clients want instant solutions, customers want instant gadgets that does everything & so on. That concept of strategising, building something long-term & sustainable seems so rare these days. And having lived in Bangalore all my life, I can tell you that the IT revolution has its immense ramifications, right up to the matrimony market. What I mean is, if one is a non-IT pro in Bangalore, its considered a cardinal sin! I just don't know why the aunts/uncles, and "downtown/market" conversations revolve around, "Oh, my son is going onsite to the US!". This invariably leads to the cliched response from a passer-by, "oh, where?"..and so on! Its IT, that rules the roost - instant "marketeability" of the prospective candidates, you see!

And when very recently, the one man in India, Dr, Singh(he sure is King in my books!) did something that will sustain India's energy problem for the next 4-5 decades maybe, you have these jokers from CPI-M, with their pre-historic notions calling things the way they want to. And the so called opposition party, trying to score points that it was when they were in power that they had the vision to initiate the process of India going nuclear. Again, instant publicity!Why!

Or, that "honourable" human being called Mamata Banerjee, who will do all she can to stop India from creating the next revolution in the car industry. Poor Ratan Tata, from hero to a nonity, in no time, thanks to the 15 minutes of fame that Ms. Banerjee wants. And she is taking on a man with a Cornell degree, for Christ's sake, and someone who has so much of vision in his life and for the country's auto sector! Again, the instant

Having seen all this and having been a victim of the instant mania myself, I am beginning to think that we are not the modern set of folks in this new century. I think, we should be remembered as the instant era - just like we had the neolithic era et al!

How I beat the Bangalore traffic now!

I had been hearing of the Bangalore traffic whilst I was away from home in the last 5 years. Of course, I had tastes of this traffic during my vacation trips. But, now that I am back home for good, I have to negotiate this traffic on a war-footing, everyday! Its a mix of a nightmare, test of skill and indeed the ability to stay focused on achieving a goal i.e. reaching office in the morning and returning home in the evening!:)

In the first fortnight of my sojourn from home to office & back, I have learnt the variety of ways to tackle this 24 km stretch. And there are variations to the duration that I spent on the road to office i.e. morning is quite easy to negotiate in a span of 45 minutes, but ht evenings seem to behave in sync with the stock market fluctuations - at times taking 45 minutes and on other days going anywhere between 2-2.5 hours!

Now that I have so much of time on my hands, all to myself - with complete disconnect with the world (save for the wi-fi on my comp & my mobile - bad enough, I guess!), I see a good opportunity to spend things on myself during these trips.

There are a bunch of things that I think I can do during these long drives to the office. Some of the things that readily occur to my mind (and already have been implemented!) include reading books (finished a Jeffrey Archer novel recently & started on a Chetan Bhagat book - light reading you see! Of course, my new iPod is a very handy companion on these rides everyday - listening to songs that transport me to a different zone, prepare me mentally to gear up for a long day at the office, not to mention, make me forget all the worries in the world. So, music and books are a good starting point on these long rides everyday.

And I am getting newer and newer ideas as to how this can be remembered as "time well spent". One option is possibly professional development - you know, registering for yet another professional course and equipping myself to face the future! But, that needs some serious motivation, which, in the honeymoon period of a new job is not very forthcoming!

Other options (which seem more appealing!) include, engaging in an active dialogue with comrades who accompany me on these rides. There are a couple of interesting faces in these shuttles, and maybe, just maybe, they are wondering who is going to make the first move as well. I have however noticed, that these interesting faces have the same interests as I do - reading a book, listening to music!:)So, that's a good starting point maybe i.e. asking them first about what they are reading, what the story in the book is about, before getting on to more interesting stories!:). Who knows, a duet may be right around the bump that our shuttle negotiates!:)

And given that I usually drive down to office on Fridays, rather than using the shuttle, maybe I could administer some “car-pooling”, based on the “negotiations” of these shuttle rides in the rest of the week!

So much for thoughts on using transit time...!:)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My first taste of an IIM education-even if for 3 hours!

It was sudden, and happened even before I realised it. It started off as a quick conversation between my boss and I, early in the morning. He briefly mentioned about a workshop on organization behaviour by an IIM - B professor, and whether I would be able to join in. It was the first time ever that somebody had offered me anything to do with the IIMs, in terms of the latest management thinking in the premier institute. I automatically said a yes - after all, how can I forget those endless nights when I struggled to bell the CAT, but never made it anywhere close to a tier I school (no regrets, though, but I know I tried way too hard!).

This session was by a leading authority (infact my boss's former prof - wow, howzzat for connections!) on organization behaviour. And this prof in particular had even more impressive credentials - IIT Madras and a Kellogg P.hd! Whoa!!

The audience for this session was the set of Managers & above, in my organization. I expected a good session, but never in my wildest imaginations did I expect an eye-opening session! Yes, it was academic, but it was also replete with practical examples and real-life scenarios. The prof was brilliant in his presentation, not to mention his terrific ability to keep the audience engaged at all times with his quick-wittedness. At times, I felt that the man was a lot younger than he looked - that's the kind of connect he had with all of us (young managers).

There were numerous angles to the session. While organization behaviour was the overall theme, the sense of direction and vision that the session threw up, just made me feel great. I saw, for the first time in my life, why an IIM professor is as good as he is claimed to be - he did not necessarily tell me things that I did not know. But the manner of his presentation, the way in which his slides were constructed, his diction and oratory style, the live examples that were embedded, and last but not the least, the ability to engage with the audience were some of the most appealing things that I saw from an IIM prof for the first time.

If the presentation was terrific, the content in the presentation was exemplary. It had a bit of theory - as is to be expected from folks in the academic world - and, it had some videos. The first video was for 30 minutes, and had a leading global authority on organization behaviour talk about positive frame of mind, vision and the need for it etc in an all-encompassing manner i.e. not restricted to the corporate world alone, but extending to all walks of life. It had shots of beaches, Athens, war fronts, studios, offices, academic layouts, corporate setting et al, to drive home the point of being positive in life. The second video was closer home, and talked about a man, who, after his retirement, pioneered a legendary hospital in the south of India, that was aimed to provide the solution to blindness in the world. This video gripped me and sent me into a tizzy of thoughts, leading me to believe (yet again), that man is limited by his thoughts and ability to visualise. Rest, is a question of fighting all odds. Terrific, terrific video! Made me feel proud as an Indian! Do check out the Aravind Eye Care Hospital in Madurai, when you get the chance - it is one of those places that has put India in the medical world map!

So, that was my first taste of an IIM education. And, I can only thank my boss for inviting me over to this session. I think I will remember those 3 hours of today afternoon for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Change in office cultures

Its amazing how life can change. And change with a degree of difference, that it is almost tough to believe that the change has happened to you. I write with reference to the change in the culture of the new organization that I have just joined. This is the first time that I have moved out of the research and consulting world and joined the mainstream industry - the IT industry, to be specific.

The changes are manifold:

- The degree of pressure is different

- The stakeholders are radically different

- The end-user/client needs are different to the extent that it is taking me time to adjust to the new job with a new lens. Every project requires a lens that is something unique and different to what I have used in the past. And that way, its a phenomenal learning experience for me!

- The timings are different - people leave office at a sane hour i.e 530/6 pm - unlike my previous firm where 2 a.m, was more the norm than the exception. Thank GOD, I got out of that rat hole and have some sane timings going for me now. People who have not seen that world of 2 a.m. on a daily basis, will fail to appreciate the essence of leaving office early in the evening/on time/within the stipulations of the official working hours.

- The approach to work is different i.e. there is no quickfix system here. In this industry, (or, may be its in this firm that I am in), people take their time in defining the problem area, identifying possible alternatives to crack the problem, assess what might work best in the given scenario, and then finally go about implementing things(after long rounds of discussion). There is no rush to finish things in a jiffy, like it used to be in my earlier roles. I find this system of measured output - after evaluating different scenarios to be better

- Mode of discussion. This is a striking factor for me. There is so much of collective knowledge in my team & in many other teams, that people sit down to discuss things, analyse various perspectives, learn from each other, cross-question each other in the spirit of discussion & not so much in the spirit of pin-pointing inaccuracies. I have already learnt so much in my first few days here and am excited to be a part of the great learning curve in the years ahead.

- Duration of tenures is so much longer. In my new firm, people stick. There is no rush to change jobs every year; there also seems to be a fairly long-term view of things, in that, careers are shaped over a period of time and there is no quickfix method to jump levels, or change designations, in order to be more marketeable. Things seem to be measured here in terms of the content of work and level of contributions made. That, I think, has shaped many a career in the firm I am in. I have met quite a few people with tenures of 4 -5 years. And some really senior folks have been around for 10 years!Howzatt! And we are actually talking about the IT industry, which is traditionally regarded as one of the most unstable verticals for people's careers!

- Learning curve is steep. Like I mentioned above, in every project that people undertake, there seems to be a lot of thought, discussion and overall evaluation done, in terms of the full context. I have not seen too many half-measures as yet, and from the indications given in the induction programme itself, it appears that we need to do things right, even if it takes time. That is so different from the previous world that I was in, where, "anything" close to what the client needs is ok.And in hindsight, it appears that it was all quickfix! Nothing against what I did in the past - I did learn to work under extreme chaos in my last firm - but, the personal learning in my last job was close to NIL.

Well, that is a snapshot of what I feel about my new firm, and the differences I notice being on the client side of things now, rather than in the side of analyst firms/consulting houses, that I was earlier associated with. Not to disregard my previous stints, as I got my current job purely on the basis of what I built earlier - but I think, real learning happens in an industry. And it need not be the IT industry alone. It could be telecom, automobile, retail, banking or any other industry.Maybe, that is where the reality is - I will know in times to come. And I am hoping that this hypothesis is right!:)