Showing posts from June, 2009

Should Air India be saved?

Air India is in trouble. But not in as much trouble as it should be as a commercial aviation company. After all, it is India's national carrier and the government has pledged to save it with taxpayer's money. The Aviation Minister, Mr. Praful Patel, made a statement that the government will step in and bail out the company, provided the company is willing to restructure and become a leaner, profitable operation. I do not know what options were on table for the Indian government, but the broader question is whether the government should intervene and inject tax money to keep things going. Obviously, it is politically convenient and that's exactly why this will be done. But, is it expedient to do so, and we must assess the impact this will have on commercial aviation in India. To start with, bailing out a commercial entity like Air India is anti-competitive. Why give one company the access to public funds, and therefore an unfair advantage, over the other companies in the se

A Sad Day for Northern Ireland

Yesterday, a number of Romanians decided to take the option of flying back home rather than staying in Northern Ireland after the racist attacks. The Northern Ireland executive offered its support to them if they stayed - and indeed they paid for the flights when they did not - but only two Romanians among the affected decided to stay. The Social Development Minister, Margaret Ritchie felt that this was a sad day for Northern Ireland, and indeed it was - as the public display of xenophobia came precisely at the wrong time. For the political correctness, it will not be last time that a migrant community will feel threatened in Northern Ireland. The sectarian violence has subsided, but the recent recession needed its own demons and the immigrants were the easy ones. Romanians bore the brunt - they were indeed one of the most hated immigrant communities in Northern Ireland [and possibly across the UK] - but it will soon be other communities. Polish, for example, who has a large presence

Note on Vocational Education in India

When I picked up my phone this morning, I noticed I missed a call from a colleague of mine in Hyderabad. The call was oddly timed indeed - very early in the morning - and signified a sense of emergency. This was not one of those done by mistake for not being sensitive to time differences: I speak to this colleague almost on a daily basis, and he will know exactly what time is it. So, it must have been indeed an emergency. And, as I set myself to return the call, I had to glance over the day's news - just in case the office is not on fire and the whole computer system did not break down - and instantly knew what it was. Michael Jackson! I knew my colleague was a huge fan - and remained loyal through the years - and his untimely death, which saddened me as well, must have triggered his early morning condolence call. But, to my eye-popping surprise, the excitement was about Indian education sector, and not about Michael Jackson at all [and there was no fire]. Indian education has long

What Dictators Don't Seem To Get

The news from Iran is getting grim by the moment. The deep division in the Iranian Regime is now in the open. I am optimistic that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the Iranian Regime, and its power will prove to be fictitious like that of other dictatorial regimes of the past. An iconic figure - Neda - has emerged in her death, an young lady shot by the hired assassins of the state, and hopefully the amateur images of her dying moments will stir an otherwise indifferent world into action. The lesson that the world's dictators don't seem to get is that technology has moved forward and the usual methods of gagging - banning the journalists, stopping the newscasts - are no longer good enough. As Iran continues to dominate Twitter and the blogs, and as the street videos shot on mobile phone keep leaking out on the Internet, the evil men of Myanmar will surely call the Iranian Elite to offer an word of advise - we told you to keep Internet out! We have seen this before,

Private Notes : Recalibrating Myself

I was told, by a well-advised friend, that I have a disease. Attention Deficiency Disorder, it is called. I found it very appropriate, and laughed - only to be told that it is indeed a disease and needs medical attention. I found myself in a rather silly position where I mistook a serious statement as a joke [though I much prefer it than doing the other way round] - I did not even know that there is a disease with such a normal sounding name, and was further enlightened that there were many great men and women, including Paris Hilton, whose greatest achievement was to reach the tabloid centrefolds on both sides of the Atlantic, had the privilege of having this disease. I was also told that if someone is already rich and successful, it is indeed delightful to have such a disease [provided one can employ a diligent lawyer without any trace of distraction and keep oneself covered by a permanent pre-nupital agreement and avoid costly divorces], but not so if one's working class, like m

Way out of Recession : Eastern Europe

In this video, tThe ex-Chief Economist of European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, Willem Buiter, discusses how Eastern European countries handled the recession, and seemed to be coming back from the brink. I found this interview on The Economist website and believed it is worth sharing.

The Capitulation In Iran

Iran shows all the signs of - well, senility. Like an old man who had his best days, it is stuck in the middle of the road, without the strength to move on or the willingness to move back. The key to democratic election is that the opposing parties come together to agree on the basis of the number of people they get to support them. It becomes not a debate who is right, or better, but who has the maximum number. It is an incredibly simple system, indeed a stupid system that is so easy to manipulate. This is really how all the dictators around the world get elected at a regular interval - they obviously always win by a resounding margin - and depending on who is protecting them, gets away. The Iranian regime, by no means, is friendless. It has the support of China, which is the anti-democracy in chief of the world, and of Russia, despite the not-so-friendly history of these two countries in the past. But, this time, it has staged an election too far, not unlike the other inefficient and

Does Macaulay Matter?

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana [1863 - 1952] An email made my day. As I opened my mailbox, I saw a mail from Gaurav , someone who I did not meet before. The subject line is Macaulay, our favorite whipping boy, and it reads: Supriyo , your article is fantastic but the issue is are we doing anything to change the tomorrow or we are just cribbing of the past. This is our country we need to change the tomorrow. This is indeed the first time anyone had anything nice to say about the impromptu post I made about the spoof passed on in Macaulay's name. I am indeed grateful, thanks Gaurav , but he makes a very valid point. Does Macaulay matter any more? I gave away my answer pre-emptively in the quote I have put at the beginning of this post - I do think he matters and we need to have this discussion. In my mind, there are three reasons why he

Private Notes: Moving Forward

I am back from Ireland with a very positive mindset. That's a rarity these days for me, especially after I decided to leave the current employment no matter what happens by the end of August. As some friends and well-wishers reminded me - we are in the middle of one of the worst recessions in a lifetime and walking out of a job isn't the cleverest thing one should do at this time. But then, to state the obvious, time is more valuable than money. To quote Edmund Wilson, there is nothing more demoralizing than a small but adequate income. One can waste a lifetime just being contented, being in a box, recession or no recession. And, so, I must do what I must do, because it's time has come. Why must I move on - I was thinking for a moment last week - when I was sitting with my MD and he was describing the grand vision he had for our International business. He was indeed sincere, speaking from the heart, and was talking about what he wanted to achieve. He is indeed a brilliant m

The Cult of The Amateur: A pointless book

I have finished reading The Cult of The Amateur, Andrew Keen's rather vicious and bitter polemic against the New Media, Web 2.0, participatory and democratic culture of the Internet. It was a clear waste of time. I have compounded that waste by attempting to write a short review, just to warn my fellow Linkedin members just how bad it is. I would not want to attempt to write about it yet again - will just quote what I wrote on Linkedin: One of those pointless polemic against the Internet and participative content - Web 2.0 - by an author who seemed to be bitter about everything. He blames internet for the demise of all the good things in life - Newspapers, Music, Hollywood, Encyclopedias, Universities, Bookstores, Music Shops - and for the rise of all the bad things - Intellectual Theft, Pornography, Gambling etc. I must admit that I skimmed through most of it, and thanked myself that I did not waste my money by buying it. In the end, I came to one conclusion - only a Public School

New Media/ Old Media: My Reading List

I have just finished Bringing Nothing to Party: Confessions of A New Media Whore , a rather brilliant story of the author's venturing into the new media/ web 2.0 business scene. Yes, despite its title, which may put off many people. But, then, it is true to the spirit of the people it talks about, and talks to, and I guess those new media types will still want to read it. Including me, of course. One rare book which I managed to read from start to end. Primarily because of Mr. Carr's caustic, very British sense of humour. Mr. Carr starts from his law school days of Nottingham, first book deals, his time with the Guardian and finally into his projects like Friday Projects and Fridaycities , which will finally become Kudocities . On the way, he talks about the new media business scene in London, its people, its rituals and its hopes and disappointments. Most of it is very real and other parts very enlightening. On my part, I have some experiences of raising funds in London, thoug

Higher Ed In India: All Change

I have been off-Blog for a while, trying to come to terms with my new set of priorities, which included planning for a slightly longish stay in Britain than originally planned, an impending career change and a focus on acquiring a new set of skills. So, I missed out on writing down the comments about the incoming cabinet in India. As expected, this is nowhere near my wish list, but then, most people I wished for are there. Except Rahul Gandhi, who seemed to have decided to follow his father's footsteps and ascend straight into Prime Ministership when time comes. [Or, to be fair to Rahul , may be his mother's footsteps of staying out of administration and focusing on the party forever, though it looks highly improbable] But then, one appointment is far too significant to be ignored, that of Kapil Sibal in the HRD Ministry. I like Kapil Sibal , an erudite man and a successful lawyer, and wished to see him as the Minister of Law. Our legal system is indeed in the need of an

Private Notes : Day Whatever

I have again lost track of my 100 day plans, but it does not matter anymore. I am clearly at an end now - which means a new beginning for my kind of people - my patience running thin, and my enthusiasm surging ahead. At precisely the wrong time to start a business, when one predicts the British economy is deeply hit by this recession, when Gordon Brown is floundering at the top and the nation's morale could not be any worse, I am raring to go. This is possibly because I am forty. I got the sense of urgency back in my life with that magic moment of Birthday - or should I call it rebrithday - which opened an window for me to re-see everything, everything including myself. I am still killing time. Killing time is just an essential part of middle class life, it is as if we wait for our retirement benefits are handed over to us, that we don't seem to find an escape route easily. But, I am tired - let me go. There were momentus decisions to be taken. Like, on my future in Indian poli

Universities merged into business: BBC News

England's department for higher and further education has been scrapped, just two years after its creation. The prime minister has created a new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills under Lord Mandelson. Universities do not figure in the name of the new department, whose remit is "to build Britain's capabilities to compete in the global economy". Number 10 said it would invest in a higher education system committed to widening participation. The role would include "maintaining world class universities, expanding access to higher education, investing in the UK's science base and shaping skills policy and innovation". "It also puts the UK's further education system and universities closer to the heart of government thinking about building now for the upturn," the statement said. 'Unhelpful' The new department will be headed by Lord Mandelson. John Denham, the secretary of state for the former Department for Innovation, Unive

Five Forces That Shape Training Businesses

Let's call this five forces of training, after the five forces of competitiveness. Any training programme today needs to address each of these forces - shall we call them dimensions - to be relevant and effective. But before we plunge into this discussion, a moment on my favourite topic - the training / education divide. The lines are surely getting blurred. The educational institutes are often judged by the starting salaries of their graduates, not unfairly, because most of these education courses have to be privately paid for. But, in my mind, education still remains distinctly different from training. Education is about broadening the perspective and preparing the learner with a wide variety of knowledge, so that s/he is prepared to meet the world half way and with an engaged mind. Training, on the other hand, needs to be narrower and deeper, focused on a specific skill, based on the assumption of certainty - we know what's needed - and the learner, in the end, should be equ

GORDON BROWN: The Last Hours of A Missing Leader

Yesterday, as the Works and Pensions Secretary James Purnell sent his resignation to the media first, and Downing Street next, and in the carefully crafted four page letter asked Gordon Brown to go as well, he was gambling on a rather obvious bet: That Gordon Brown will surely go soon. Mr. Purnell's intent may have been to play greater role in the incoming administration, or may be switch over to Tories at some point, as some have alleged, but he was just following his political instincts. Luck is fast running out for Gordon Brown, as several Ministers stepped down recently and the Labour Party's poll ratings have become abysmal since he took over. It is indeed ironical how fast good things turn to bad. In the harsh light of reality, how a thorough and professional Chancellor turn into an incompetent, radar less Prime Minister. There is also a sense of tragedy in observing the flighty nature of public attention - the man was seen as one of the finest Chancellors in history w

Planning Ahead

I am now focused on next three months, the period ending 31st August, beyond which a new phase of life will eventually become. Those who know me know that I thrive on these three month periods - something programmed in me by the quarterly cycles of my earlier employers and practised since on my own initiative, in a rounded 100-day review cycles. This comes naturally to me, setting objectives which are medium term and allow a bit of breathing space and my characteristic patience, but not too far that no meaningful effort can not start today. As I start this, my agenda is more or less set. As I write, my application is being reviewed by the Home Office for an Indefinite Leave to Remain in Britain. If this comes through, and I shall know by today end, this will mark an end of a five year long project, when I stayed in this country, in the middle of various restrictions and meeting various odd and awkward criteria, to go through the process of settlement. Indeed, I wanted to experience how

The New Rules of M&A

I am reading Nirmalya Kumar's India's Global Powerhouses , a story about Indian businesses expanding abroad and rewriting the norms of global business. It is indeed an interesting read - particularly in the context of my stated belief that India will assume a pre -eminent position in the world commerce post-recession - and to read about various Indian companies going through the process of 'breaking out' is indeed exciting. At the same time, I also came across Professor Kumar's article on How Emerging Giants Are Rewriting the Rules of M&A in Harvard Business Review and thought it fit to put the two in context. Professor Kumar's HBR article seeks to answer one important question. As most M&A activities fail [the article states that over half the mergers fail to deliver their expected business value], why then do Indian, and other important emerging nation, companies are pursuing global M&A with a vengence ? Obviously, there were several high pro

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