Showing posts from August, 2009

7 Leadership Principles for 2010

As we get ready to emerge from the recession this time, we should learn from this near-death experience. If this recovery should sustain, which means that we shall not have an inflationary run, absurd interest rates and countries going bankrupt in the near future, the way we conduct ourselves must change. So far, it seems that we have learnt little, and waiting, like little boys, to return to life as usual. The only way we can move forward is by accepting that there will be no return to life as usual. We must move forward, not back, and that includes not trying to replicate past templates. Bonus et al included, we should not wait around to banks get back to their old ways soon and start buying houses beyond our pay. We should save and not go back to our free-spending days. Businesses must focus on create value, and not just sustain themselves on easy credit or the naivety of investors. But, before anything else, we must acknowledge that we have this terrible habit not to learn, and m

Bankers' Bonus: Looking Back in Anger

I am contributing in the blog on the Institute of Wellbeing website. This is an interesting assignment, as this will allow me to reflect and write on various subjects on the news on British tele . Here is another post I sent last week. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Alistair Darling is looking angry. He has a right to be - his dream job turned out to be one of 24x7 crisis management almost the day he started. And, just when he seems to be getting a grip, there is an embarrassing possibility that some bankers, the same bankers who gambled with their depositors' money and rewarded themselves with hefty bonuses, may be at it again. This time, they may play with taxpayers' money, of which Mr Darling is in charge. He can clearly see something coming. AIG , the ailing insurance company which was kept in business by a huge injection of taxpayer's money in the United States, decided to reward its executives and traders few months

A Note on Bonus

I noticed this video on Alex Goodall's blog and then on Comes at a time when we were talking about bankers' bonuses paid for by tax money. To retain talent, that was the standard excuse that the banks were giving out. I thought this was a very timely outing of whether bonuses mean better performance.

Why There Was No Post on Sunday?

Because there was nothing to write. I suddenly feel - almost for the first time - very depressed. Oh, yes, with a laugh. But it seemed either age or recession caught up with me. I spent an useless weekend doing nothing, wondering where I am now and where I wish to get to. Not for the first time, those who know me will testify, answering the second question was very difficult. It almost seemed like a series of flashing images, an endless list of alternative futures. But, for the first time in my life, I craved for some certainty . My first problem, indeed, is that I am homeless. It was always there - I sure recall days long time back, when I shall stand on the terrace of our family home in India on a wintery morning and feel that I do not ever want to go away, but at the same time telling myself that I must go and see the world. I lived a life of compromises - going away with a promise to return - but I obviously know how difficult it is to return, to anything, at any time. I intended t

China's Consumption Challenge: Video Interview from McKinsey Quarterly

Diary: Why do we love a bomber?

It is perplexing to see a hero's welcome being extended to one of the Lockerbie bombers who has recently released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi , a convicted man for the Pan Am Jet explosion above Lockerbie in 1988, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer and was released by the Scottish government based on the principle of justice usually applied in such cases. This led to worldwide condemnation, drawing angry reaction from victim's families, and also from English and American leaders who saw this as an excellent opportunity to show they are tough on terrorism. The Scottish government indeed was following the letter of the law. They applied the principle that normally applies in such cases, and chose not to make an exception. The British government, not wanting to appear soft on terrorism, tried to keep this as low key as possible, first by being less than clear whether the appeal will be granted and then by trying

Lead India video

I liked it so much that I gave in to the temptation of putting this up here.

Diary: Dealing with Wallenda Factor

I had this interesting conversation with a colleague yesterday, who was describing my state of mind being similar to one of being in an unhappy marriage - can not stay, can not go away. With a little reflection, I realized that is exactly correct. This blog trail, and many other conversations, will point to the fact that I have always talked about my responsibility to 'complete' the job at hand, but never looked forward or communicated my excitement about what I am doing. This has lasted very long, I would guess since early 2008, and particularly since August 2008, when I decided to leave and put myself in a self-determined long notice. She indeed pointed out that I am not giving 100% to this job, which is indeed correct. I keep saying I am doing my best, a statement designed to confuse, and in every sense is a qualified statement. This is one of those statements in English which has an underlying mitigation - under the circumstances, as the qualifier - and funnily, I am doing

Diary: The Flip Side of Talent Management

Talent Management was, and still is, the buzzword. As championed by numerous management gurus, including the uber -guru, Tom Peters, Talent Management is envisioning your company like a football team. He says, you must have the stars and the others. Like a football team, you must have the miracle man, who will pull up that miracle goal, which will make all the difference between winning and losing. In today's hyper-competitive economy, that's what makes a difference. Makes sense, indeed, just that the companies are not football teams. They are not even an orchestra, which is the next best parallel that Talent Management consultants draw. Well, they can seem to be, if you all you care for is 90 minute glory. But if one sees a business organization as the hard long term slog that it actually is, suddenly the poor knowledge workers seem to be as much valuable as anyone else. The point I am making is - yes, stars make a difference. But since building a great company usually is a lo

Diary: My Plans

I have been writing this blog for three years running now, and it has been extremely useful to me personally. Unlike some of the other bloggers , I did not start with a purpose. I did not have a product or service to sell. Instead, I used this blog as a scrapbook of ideas, partly to keep a tab on myself so that I can look at my years in 'exile' later on and reflect back on these days. Also, I intended to use this blog as 'morning pages', following Julia Margaret Cameron's advise to practise writing everyday so that I can learn to overcome the writers' block. But, as I started writing, I achieved something else which I did not anticipate - I started building friendships. Friendships with people I know and did not know, but a continuous friendship without the barrier of spatial limitations . It did not matter how far or near I stayed, but we kept in touch, with people managing to visit these pages once in a while and leaving comments, either here or by email, and

Diary: National Identities

I would have titled this post - 15 Th August in Croydon - to denote how sad it feels to spend this usual Saturday of shopping and housework away from home. Yes, India is surely home, however much I settle in Britain and even if I take up a citizenship here, as my life is so deeply shaped by the culture of my origin that I shall always be an alien anywhere else. This is not to condone any narrowness or stating whatever Indian is good and need no improvement; culture is a dynamic entity and any culture that fails to change with time normally gets wiped away. So, my way of looking at this is that I am deeply Indian and will remain so always, but I shall travel and learn, engage with the world and accept the learning with humility. Woodrow Wilson told the American salesmen at the beginning of twentieth century to go out to the world and sell the brand of America. Time has come someone tells this to us Indians too. I make no secrets about my wishes to remain Indian all my life. Frankly, I

Blogging for IOW/ Social Issues: Remember Peter Connelly?

I am contributing in the blog on the Institute of Wellbeing website. This is an interesting assignment, as this will allow me to reflect and write on various subjects on the news on British tele. Here is another post I sent last week. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Well, Baby P. We have been watching the stories of cruel torture and bureaucratic indifference leading to the tragic death of an unsuspecting toddler on the media for weeks now, which alarmed many and ashamed us all. As if we needed proof of the demons within, Baby P stood for many things that keep going wrong - abusive adults, an uncaring and violent mother and indifferent social workers - and gave us a reason to cringe and a symbol to hate. But, then, hate it is what helped us arrive here in the first place. Because the people involved defied the normal human instincts of affection and love for a child. Because, they cared more for themselves and had little capacity to think ab

In Defence of the NHS

Cousins sometimes fight, but it gets too personal if the beloved NHS looks 'evil and Orwellian ' to politicians in America. Have the Americans not had enough of this myth about socialised medicine and still believe the stories that boards decide which medicine one can get? That's utter nonsense; for all the little disappointments I had with NHS in Britain - and I am an immigrant - I can't ever say it is evil, because it was mostly better than I expected. Agreed, I come from India. But then I am not benchmarking against the state hospitals in India, but against the better run private ones, where one can get world class treatment if they can afford it. More like America, I would say. Or the ones in Thailand and in Dubai, which is no less expensive than anywhere else in the world and no less luxurious. True, our local Mayday hospital may not stand in comparison in terms of luxury, but I have met some of the best professional doctors there, who were really committed to pa

Diary: Reactions to India's New Tax Code

The Finance Minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee , released yesterday a draft tax code, which is expected to replace India's Income Tax code by the next fiscal year. India's Income Tax code was indeed dated, written in 1960s, and confusing, with too many amendments and exemptions earned by pressure groups riddled all over. The new tax code, Mr. Mukherjee stated, will 'simplify' the matters. Besides, it is expected that this will modernise the India's tax system, and rationalise it for the new Indian economy. It is a revolution in waiting, indeed. Consider the changes it proposes in personal income tax. Today, a tax payer pays tax of 10% once he [there is a different slab for women] crosses Rs. 160,000 in income. This applies up to Rs. 300,000, above which, and up to Rs. 500,000, one has to pay 20%. They have to pay 30% on anything above Rs. 500,000. Besides, there are a number of surcharges, completely irrational levies that the government puts in ad hoc , on to

Conversations on Culture

I am fascinated by the studies I am doing on cultural variations among the countries and peoples, and how this affects business, people management and marketing. I am current reading Marieke de Mooij's Consumer Behaviour and Culture: Consequences for Global Advertising and Marketing , a very insightful book which, in my opinion, should be an essential read for everyone trying to sell to international consumers. Which is to say pretty much everyone, including my neighbourhood pub, as the pubowner told me, in a friendly non-racist way, that he has more Indian patrons these days than the Brits and planning to add some Indian dishes on the menu. The key debate in this field is whether the world, integrated by internet, facebook, google, instant and mobile messaging and above all, twitter, with the common footballer heros and Daniel Craig, is becoming a more uniform place. That's the conventional wisdom - enthusiastically proclaimed various anglo-saxon writers who variably want to p

Diary : India's Asian Future

India is a strange country. It is truly central to Asia, sitting right between the Middle East and Far East from the modern European perspective. Indian scholars like to point out that it has always been the meeting ground of ideas and civilizations; we should add that this is primarily because of its geography than anything else. It was always easier to get into India than to get out of it, and India has accumulated an wealth of knowledge and possibilities from the various tribes that set foot on its land. There was a distinct shift in India's history, however, during the last 500 years. The intruders of the age came from its south - via the sea - rather than across the Himalayas. This time, the Europeans sought to change India forever, by creating a country within a country, and by tearing a group of people apart and made them more like themselves rather than their fellow Indians. This was a brilliant strategy and it sure worked - for a while. While this contributed to a long ter

Diary: Burma - The Forgotten Country

My first exposure to Burma was when I went to live in Rangoon for a few weeks in early 2002. My purpose was to set up a computer training network there. Before I left Dhaka for Yangon, I tried to study about the country as much as I can. However, not too much information was forthcoming, except for the fact that there was a big conference about ICT development in Rangoon in January. Besides this, the ever helpful first secretary in the Burmese embassy in Dhaka connected me up with his brother-in-law and sister, who were in business and could possibly look at getting into IT training business. This, and a Lonely Planet Guide, was all I had for Burma. Rangoon did not disappoint. I was expecting quite a backward country and preparing myself for quite an adventure. Instead, I landed up in a $200 a night Trader's, and realized that with the unofficial rate of 1200 kyat a dollar, I am quite well off with my par diem . I learnt, just before the ICT conference, that what the Burmese r

Diary: One Asia?

For me, the years of living in Europe was significant learning experience in many ways. I learnt about the deep impact technology can make to daily lives, and saw an advanced economy in action. Besides, I understood how liberty frees up minds and gets the best out of most people, something which 'planned' societies failed to do. But, above all, I discovered my Indian, and Asian, identity, and saw, with the benefit of perspective, how Asian countries pulled themselves down in the past and continue to work against their own interests. My current reading list is full with attempts to go beyond the euro-centric vision of the world, and discover the Asian heritage, which India is a part of it. Paradoxically, I would not have appreciated this as much if I did not stay in Europe, and saw not just unbridled racism in some quarters, but a sophisticated euro-supremacist conception of the world in other, more educated quarters. Not only I found this offensive, but increasingly, I am find

Diary: Training Sales People in India

While I am on the subject of Leadership Training, I had this interesting discussion about sales training in India with a friend. He was emphasizing the need of developing sales training modules specifically for India, and not rehashing the western modules available off the shelf. He also made the point that sales has a changing priority in India, because the new commercial frontiers are the villages and hitherto untouched customers for most industries. His point was - and he had been doing this for more than a decade - that the western models, if it ever worked in India, are losing their effectiveness in the context of this new marketplace. Indian trainers, indeed, covet the western practises. This is primarily based on, I believe, the faith on the superiority of Western business culture. After all, modern business culture in India is deeply influenced by Western business thinking, passed on through customer interfaces and expectations, or through consultants and executives trained in

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