Showing posts from July, 2009

At Crossroads Yet Again

Being someone else is too much of a waste of a person you are. The Google quote hit home. My life is more or less about playing out role types set for me by others. Parents, family, friends, all others who I thought mattered - it was always about meeting the expectations. And, so I did - lived a spectacularly ordinary life of meeting expectations. But I fail, as I must. It is never possible to be someone else too well. You can at best achieve mediocrity, and let your senses die, and live somewhat longer. But be conscious and hungry and yet being someone else is a tough ask. Most people - no, no one - can actually do it. Yes, I am back to square one, where I was. It seemed like a big loop, where at certain times I seemed to be on top, master of own fate, but invariably it must turn and I am down again. This is one of those moments. Over last many years, I have not accepted one clear fact, that I have changed. My expectations have changed, the way I behave has changed. I have become far

Why Training & Recruitment synergy seems common sense, but does not work

I speak about this every day and thought of making this a public note that I can share. The synergy between training and recruitment businesses appears to be common sense, but it rarely works in practise. I have seen this in a number of training organizations - who see value in adding a recruitment wing as their trainees can find a job - and then expect that recruitment function to compete in the market. I have seen mergers committed on the basis of this common sense expectation, as well as recruitment organizations trying to get into training, as 'our candidates regularly fall short and we must assist them'.  The problem is that this does not work in practise. Well, mostly, because of two key reasons: Bias : Recruitment businesses are supposed to be independent arbitrators of jobs and candidates, but if it is to complement a training organization, it must necessarily operate with a bias, that in favour of students trained. Time : Recruitment is

About Pakistan: An Indian View

In India, the most distant country in the world is Pakistan. The country we always watch with the corners of our eyes, the one whose mention makes us cringe and the one we almost always wish should never have been. We share a long border, similar food and culture. Pakistanis use a language, Urdu, which originated in an Indian court, Lucknow, and our histories were identical up to 1947. Indians have a strange feeling about Pakistan - most of us believe that we should drive all our Muslim citizens out of India and into Pakistan, and also that we should conquer Pakistan and undo the partition. Also, the ultimate blasphemy in India is to state the obvious - India can not conquer Pakistan, as it is a strong country with plenty of nuclear weapons and missiles, which can wipe out most Indian cities if an invasion was ever attempted. Because of Pakistan, India has a seize within. We remain a country in fear. We always see the world conspiring against us. We have created a permanent schism wi

Private Notes: Returning From India

I am now through with what has been an extremely demanding visit - to India - during which I got caught inside general strikes, a sudden flu, some very unpleasant business transactions, and yet, going back with a fair amount of hope and optimism. This visit was an eye-opener, unusually quiet in a sense, allowing me more than average time to reflect on what I am planning to do, and what I wish to do. I also got the feeling that with age, some amount of maturity, shall we say realism, is also seeping into my character, and where none existed before, this is indeed a welcome change. Last two years have been quite an experience in my life. Never before I was expected to rely on my own personal abilities so much. It was the nearest thing to entrepreneurial existence I ever got to, in terms of brinksmanship, though not in terms of freedom. My abilities, along with the commitment to remain ethical, fair and open was constantly tested, and the highest amount of personal sacrifice was constant

United States and India: A Special Relationship

I was in India last couple of weeks and noticed the debate around 'selling out' of India following Hillary Clinton's visit to Mumbai and Delhi last week. The principal debate is focused on the End Use Monitoring Agreement that the Indian government agreed to sign with the United States, allowing, theoretically , Americans access to monitor all dual-use and military technology bought from them. The opposition parties immediately conjured up the image of US inspectors, mostly CIA operatives, roaming around freely inside our most secret and sensitive military facilities and Indian government having to ask the US bosses before they use an weapon. Much of this is indeed nonsense, as India has been signing such agreements in every high technology deal entered into since 1998 and this umbrella arrangement will actually eliminate the need of negotiating such arrangements for every deal. Besides, United States is only one of the suppliers, and there is indeed an open and competitiv

Private Notes: Off to India

I am off to India tomorrow early morning, and this one promises to be one of the most interesting, make-or-break trip. First, because I am planning to make a complete overhaul of how we operate there. Time has come to settle for a more realistic course and acknowledge that we can not do all things ourselves. Also, it is important to factor in the shifting nature of the world economy and the fact that while there are signs of recovery, but no one really knows that for certain yet. For a long time, I have followed a strategy of holding the fort, keep my head low and somehow wither the storm; and, indeed, this came at a significant personal cost to myself, as well as others involved in the process. The current trip, starting tomorrow, will indicate a tipping point, a departure from the wait and watch and a full fledged transition into a more realistic course of action. Second, this will also signify a shift in my personal commitments. I have stated that I wished to continue with my curren

Eurocentricism in Business

The last two years have been extremely useful to me in studying and understanding how cultural differences come in the way of business and working relationships . Elsewhere in this blog, I have referred to the phenomena of Anglo - Saxon arrogance, something which I experienced on a day to day life in business. But, in a broader sense, and when I reflect with neutrality and perspective, I realize that this odd arrogance - the assumption that the Asian business culture is essentially backward and wants to emulate the West - comes from the pervasive eurocentric concept of civilization . Therefore, it is harder indeed to explain and teach a western business executive ways of the East, though I must not apply a stereotype and there are many exceptions of conscious efforts made by western executives to be truly global citizens. The problem of this eurocentricism , apart from the brazen disregard of other people's sensibilities [which are usually toned down by good manners], is tha

Fixing Higher Education in India

Kapil Sibal is trying to fix education in India. Hard task, indeed, and a thankless one. Somehow, education never received the priority that it deserves in Independent India. Surprisingly so. When one looks at the nations emerging from colonialism, the most successful ones are always seen to have focused on education. India's recent success story also has a lot to do with its limited experiments with educational excellence with IITs and IIMs . But, then, Education, like every other country, is a political subject, and somehow it never got the political prominence it deserves. Compare it against the South-East Asian countries and one knows that we never cared much for education. For example, almost all Malaysian Prime Ministers held the Education portfolio before they became prime ministers - education was always a politically sensitive, high profile portfolio. To draw a parallel, I wanted to search how many Indian Prime Ministers actually held the Education portfolio before the

An Uncertain World

Have we reached the end of recession yet? The global business confidence is up, in the sense that it is not down, and though many people expect the state of affairs to be gloomy for at least another 12 months, there is this undying optimism that things can not go worse than this. Indeed, there are some positive signs. Stock markets are up. Historically , stock markets recover about six months ahead of the real economy starts recovering. But then, one can not feel optimistic because stock markets are up, because stock markets are up because people are feeling optimistic. There are other things too. The inventory levels are down. Primarily in the United States. The commodity prices are moving up. Some credit, though at a high interest rate, started flowing through the banking system. So, it seems modern governments could beat the recession down, somewhat midway, by resorting to Keynesian public spending schemes. All the economics education then did not go waste - we have almost tamed rec

Private Notes: Feeling Free

I am feeling free. Yes, that liberating feeling that lets you be your best. That's very me, indeed, nothing much had to change in the real world to make me feel this lightness, almost unbearable. It is not that a gate had opened yesterday. It is like the feeling of being able to swim, when the sea goes beneath you rather than being on top of you. Or, is the comparison with air more apt, for this is a flighty feeling. But the lightness, as if I am being carried, is like that of swimming, not of flying; and so is this choice that I can just be still - still as in unmoved - and enjoy the moment of lightness. Is Ireland doing that to me? I was in County Fermanagh for most of last week, staying up at Anne's. Working indeed, but literally setting my mind free to question all old assumptions. As if I got a new slate to draw on. And, indeed, I did draw on a new slate, questioning why we do what we do and finally coming up with a plan that makes far more sense than pushing the wall poi

Being A Socialist

It is fashionable to be a socialist these days. Even in America, that is. In Europe, various socialist parties have always existed, though past their prime after 1970s, but in America, being called a Socialist was an abuse. That remains unchanged indeed - last week we have seen various schemes being labelled socialism - but there is a new openness to the new socialism. The family tree of new socialism, as presented by Kevin Kelly in WIRED , traces its roots to Utopia and the high point in Paris Commune, but connect up Linux, Twitter and Blogger in the same family. Indeed, the biographies and a new film about Che Guevara has made a comeback in Europe even when we thought we have seen the last of Fidel Castro. And, the universal acceptance of capitalist way of life is suddenly looking challenged in the face of a global recession brought about by the wisdom of the markets. But, then, what about socialism's blemishes? The state socialism is dying. Theocracy and autocracy has taken over

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