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Showing posts from April, 2010

Making India Work

I am in India, as reported, and in the middle of my usual cycle of passion and depression, accentuated by an odd migraine and excitement in discovering various possibilities. It is hot, in both senses of the word, and we are in that opportune, supreme moment, Kairos in Greek, Mahakshan in Sanskrit, where we shall script India's future - either to greatness or to abyss.

I am conscious that it is easy to get carried away in India. A country's future is not the property prices in Powai, which has gone up by 40% year on year, or the BSESensex, which seems to be soaring again to that 20,000 mark, making a lot of paper millionaires across the country at this time. Despite the excitement of the English language press, which is intent on selling the India story 24x7 to whoever cares, this is still a very poor country, with intractable problems. Full of possibilities, though, as I keep mentioning in this blog, but so far, we have failed to imagine and failed to act.

I am reading a brilli…

IPL & An Encounter of a Special Kind

I am in India, doing my last business trip for my current employers. I am always very proud about the work I do, and hence, always wanted to be a good leaver: Leaving things in order as far as possible.

India, as usual, is always enjoyable, and compellingly different from my rather bland life in Britain. Here, I experience none of the solitude that, strangely, bores me these days. Here, it is almost the other world, full of people, ringing phones, friendly strangers, business contacts who become friends, people who know people who know people I know - a constant stream of events, noises and the feeling of being in the middle. Every time I come to India, I feel like staying back.

Interestingly, the current national obsession of India is the Indian Premier League, a football-like version of Cricket, packed with cheerleaders, glitz and glamour. Conveniently packed into 20-overs, 3-hour variety, along with a sprinkling of celebrity businessmen and actresses, IPL is a bold, and failed, attem…

Initial Thoughts on an 'International' BBA programme

In continuation of the earlier conversation about setting up truly Global universities, I return to the subject of creating a truly global bachelors programme as the fundamental building block of such an effort.

I know when talking about such initiatives, the conversation usually starts and ends with global research initiatives and building excellence at that level. However, it is difficult to build research excellence without a fundamental change in the way education is perceived, and unless a level of excellence is available in the student pool. Besides, while it can be assumed that it is easier to achieve excellence in tutoring and research leadership, because of the global movement of talent and the fashionable trend of reverse migration, an excellent student pool and a level of commitment to research excellence is usually the precondition for attracting good tutors and research guides.

Now, I shall argue that none of this actually possible without creating a good, internationally o…

Mangement As A Practise

Henry Mintzberg says Management is not a science, but it is a practise, in his new book, Managing. Recently, Strategy+Business interviewed him on this and other issues, which can be accessed here. This is a significant departure from the current managerial wisdom, which seems to assume that we know exactly what makes people tick, and use extensive modelling to predict and manage human behaviour. Mintzberg's timing is excellent, this comes at the back of the biggest economic crisis in recent history, a crisis which exposed how little we know about people's behaviour and how models and theories are not exactly good guides to reality.

Instead, if we follow Professor Mintzberg's prescription, we can make Managing a more involved, interesting business. However, before that, one possibly needs to answer a more fundamental question - why manage? It seems like a no-brainer, but people will actually have different answers to that question. Some manage because they have a job to do -…

New Masters of Management

The Economist [April 15th, European Print Edition] produced a Special Report titled 'The New Masters of Management', on the subject of innovation and new management paradigm coming out of emerging economies.

Most of the staff is well known. We have read about this in the writings of NirmalyaKumar, TarunKhanna and C K Prahalad.

The emerging economy companies approach M&A, as Dr Kumar has pointed out, with not so much cost savings in mind as they want to acquire brand, know-how and market access. This makes M&As like the acquisition of Corus by Tatas, of Axon by HCL, of Volvo by Geely, fundamentally different from the other M&A activities carried out by Western companies mainly on account of synergy and cost savings [of Cadbury by Kraft, for example].

Dr Prahalad has written extensively about the Bottom of the Pyramid approach, where companies innovate to bring products and services to consumers who live in rural areas and have very low income in dollar terms. The low i…

Watching The Election Debate

Last night, I did spend all those 90 minutes watching Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg and David Cameron doing an American style debate on TV. I must admit that I do not admire any of these men much, and I in fact thought such debate is inappropriate because the United Kingdom has a parliamentary system and all this was too presidential. But, since this is an event of interest, and may have an impact over the future of this country, I thought it worthwhile to watch and make a mental note of the strategies that the leaders were pursuing.

Here is what I thought:

Gordon Brown

His big plus is that he sounded in control, knowing his staff and having clear answers. He sounded convincing. He wanted to project competence, and he somehow managed to do it. Though this is no surprise - all questions were carefully screened, answers prepared and the chosen questions were non-confrontational - but it is still the 'being in control' thing matters. Brown's performance did not give the impression th…

On Career Decisions

At the time of writing, I am in the middle of an amateur reassessment of all the things I have done in my life so far. In fact, I am forced to do this, I actually did not have a choice. Those who read my blog know that I agnonised over my current job, and that I 'resigned' about 18 months back and agreed to stay on till a sustainable business model could be constructed. This was a difficult 18 months, but at this time, the shape of a different, sustainable, business model has started to emerge. I chose this time to step down, in line with what I promised to myself at the beginning of 2010, and start my life afresh.

This is a time both for profound sadness and relief for me. I hated the job, but loved what I was doing. I saw a purpose in my work - that of changing lives of many people across the world by opening the doors of the world to them. And, I must add, quoting one of our business partners, by transforming lives, in the context of the Philippines, making teachers out of t…

Career Advice from An Unusual Source - Me

I generally don't get asked for career advice. This is because I did not have much of a career in the traditional sense, the big company jobs and all that. But, then, there are questions I do get asked - like why I never pursued a career in the accepted sense of the word - and I usually avoid the question [and depending on who is asking, quote Robert Frost: 'I took the road less travelled by and that made all the difference.']

But, personal eccentricities aside, there is a reason behind doing what I did. It was about where I came from and where I wanted to go. For a starter, I came through the vernacular education system in India, not learning to speak English even when I was through with college. My family, traditional and straight-laced, visualized me in some sort of a Government job, and as I moved through my classes and did progressively worse than what they expected, they started mentally relegating me to a lower and lower rank. They can't be blamed visualizing me …

Emergence of the Global University

The modern universities were instrumental in building the modern nation state. Think Oxbridge and Britain, the Ivy League and the United States or the Ecoles and Modern France, and one gets the idea. The modern secular universities effectively took over learning from the Church, and promoted scientific research and nation-based citizenships instead. So, the universities and national identities remain tied by some sort of intellectual umbilical chord to this day. But that may all be changing. We are currently experiencing one of the severest economic crisis since the Second World War. Once in a lifetime recessions such as this, with the social pains it brings, act as inflection points for civilization, and brings new ideas and concepts on its wake. This recession is no exception. In years immediately preceding the recession, despite the great progress of technologies of globalisation, the human civilization was going the opposite direction intellectually: the reaffirmation of nation-sta…

The Dimensions of India Experience: Duality

Duality, as in Dualism, is an essential part of the India experience. I said before, whatever you find in India, you will also find the opposite. It is the coexistence that both of opposing, chaotic and diverse world views is the only thing that is truly Indian. India is not an EITHER-OR country, it is mostly an AND country.

This is not to say there are no conflicts in India; those tales are just too well known. But the idea that opposites can coexist, non-violently, is an important idea which remained at the core of the idea of India. I have talked about this again and again while talking about democracy and diversity, but the dualism, coexistence, is quite central to Indian cultural ideas as well.

But duality is different from diversity, which we already discussed. India's huge diversity brings the idea of reconciliation to the fore all the time, but it is still not the variations of caste, class, religion and language which makes you see two Indias at the same time. Rather, it is…

The Dimensions of India Experience: Divinity

My initial guilt about using the word Divinity is now gone. Initially, this was word play, I meant religiosity, but to keep up with my 5 Ds, chose this word, which is actually quite different in meaning. But more I dwelt on India, the word sounded more and more appropriate. Sorry Kerala, India seemed to be the God's own land.

That was flippant, indeed. But, more flippant will be not to believe in God, if you happen to be in India. A British friend told me that she came to believe in God when she saw the traffic in Mumbai. I am now used to the signature British sarcasm, but there are more reasons than just chaos which brings you close to God in India.

God is omnipresent in India. You will always find a shrine, small or big, beautifully maintained or just makeshift, in India. You will watch thousands of people touching their head and muttering a silent prayer as they pass by even a roadside stone which, by chance, looks like an idol. Most Indians, 80% of them, are Hindus, and Hindus a…

Britain's Choice

One month to go for the elections in Britain, and the newspapers united have written off Gordon Brown. The verdict is unanimous: He is too grey, too serious and too unsexy to lead us for next five years. They are saying - spare the horrors, please - the whole newspaper industry will fold if they have to live with Brown for another term.

David Cameron, in more than one sense, will be better. Because he looks better, to start with. Besides, he says a lot, without giving out much, which bodes well for newspapers, which can then analyze and fill the columns. He may be a touch less interesting than Nick Clegg, and may not have the Lib-Dem leader's army of lovers, but he is more plausible.

The public seems to agree. Enough of labour rule, had we not? Brown can't escape the blame for everything that is wrong in our lives, including the fact that most footballers cheat on their wives and most new chart toppers are atrocious. He is clueless about what happens next in our lives, never min…

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