Saturday, September 6, 2014

Decision making of the worst kind

“Vinash Kale Vipreet Buddhi” is a very old saying. Loosely translated, it means that one tends to make the worst types of decisions when the good times are up.

Let us look at recent events (mainly political) that are the perfect example of such kind of decision making.

#1 Satyam – Mr Raju admits to wrongdoing
In India, even murderers and rapists are beyond the “long arms of the law” I am in no way suggesting that fraudsters commit a lesser degree of crime than the above but the fact is that criminals in India never get punished. One popular movie had a dialogue – no minister in India has ever been prosecuted. No wonder all criminals want to be politicians (if they are not already).
Given this background, Raju’s admission of wrongdoing at Satyam is at the top of the worst decisions. If he would not have admitted to his fraud, he may still have been running the company and if not, would definitely have been out of jail. For those who don’t believe this – Mallya has defaulted to banks, government (TDS and other dues), PSU’s (unpaid oil bills), employees and vendors and god knows who else. He is still out of jail, maintains his flashy lifestyle and comes to India regularly to see his teams IPL performance. Who cares, dude?

#2 Nitesh Kumar – big ambitions
Nitish Kumar took a big gamble and took a tumble after that. While only his die hard loyalists were in agreement with him when he decided to part ways with BJP before the general elections, what he has had to endure to undo the damage has been worse. He had to give up his CM post and also kill his ego and tie up with arch rival Lalu. While one cannot be faulted for taking a wrong decision (everyone makes mistakes) a politician who cannot read the mood of the electorate should seriously consider a change of profession.

RaGa – I want to be PM
Before the 2014 general elections I thought only Sheikhs had it in them to blow money. Having seen the money Congress spent in trying to project RaGa as PM, in my mind now Italians are right up there with the Sheikhs. I also strongly recommend that the actors who came in the ad fllms sincerely recommending us to vote for RaGa be recommended for Oscars. After all only the talent of the highest order can really appeal to the people for a cause like this.

AK – I don’t want to be CM – I actually want to be CM
I really like this one. But since I have already written on the same I will be brief. This is truly iconic – a flurry of bad decisions – someone who clearly cannot make up his mind. A man who was running away from power. Then he started running after power. Then he got the power. Then he decided to “kick” the power. Now he is again running after power. I thought only Ekta Kapoor soaps had characters ready to do anything to keep busy. Now AK has joined that hallowed list.

Kans – From mythology (on a lighter note)
Kans was the maternal uncle of Shri Krishna. The prophesy was that he will be killed by the ninth child of Shri Krishna’s parents. So he jailed the parents. Brilliant. But he kept them together in jail and killed their first eight offspring. He could not kill the ninth (Shri Krishna) and the prophesy was fulfilled when Shri Krishna killed Kans. If you knew this would happen, why not jail the parents separately? But then, as they say “honi ko koun taal sakta hai” who can change fate?

We take numerous decisions every day. Most of them are routine and some of them have implications for the long term. The time span for decision making is getting shorter. The only thing to watch out here is the implication of the decisions. What if the outcome of the decision is not as the same as expected? Are we prepared for the downside? In normal course this answer should determine the course of our decisions. May the power be with us to make the correct decisions.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Winner takes all (and much more)

Newspapers headlines recently bought to notice of readers how the market capitalisation of TCS was more than the combined market capitalisation of the next 4 largest IT companies.

The same stories were repeated 6 months back when it was pointed out that the market capitalisation of Sun Pharma was more than the combined market capitalisation of the next 4 Pharma companies. This gap will only increase when Sun completes the Ranbaxy acquisition in the next 9 months.

Flipkart is valued 5 times the entire listed retail space in India (although none of them are in online retail).

Salman Khan and other superstars make more money in one movie than what the next rung of actors make in their entire careers.

Indias 100 richest are worth 25% of the Indian GDP. The top 1% of the world’s population holds 50% of the world’s wealth.

Look at any profession – the successful are getting super successful. The payoffs of success are now very disproportionate. This is particularly true of recent times and the new economy. The world seems to be moving towards monopolies – Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google – the online market seems to be “all or nothing” play for its participants.

Earlier for every Coke there was Pepsi. For every Boeing there was an Airbus. For every Visa there was a Mastercard. For every Nike there was a Reebok. Not that duopolies are good, but they are definitely better than monopolies.

What is the net result of all this - the world seems to be getting prosperous but not happy. As this trend gets more pronounced “success at any cost” may become the non negotiable philosophy that everyone will believe in.

 It will take a big effort from those who “have it all” to share their spoils with those who are less fortunate than them and in turn make the world a better place.  I am very sure that the effort will be worth it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Successful Repetition – Yash Chopra Style

We love Bollywood. We love our actors and directors. We indulge them, criticize them but still love them. One of the points that I repeatedly hear is that our people are not experimental enough.

Creative people are expected to experiment with their styles and try to be different. Repetition is a big no no for creative people and SRK is flogged for repeating himself in his movies. But apart from theory, is this really true in real life?

Not exactly. Look at the life and works of Mr Yash Chopra – undoubtedly one of the most successful and creative brains of Bollywood who single headedly built one of the most successful production houses in India. Most of the movies that he directed had the same theme – one hero and two heroines – with slight variations in the plot. I am in no way questioning the creative genius or the talent of the man – the point here is that if something is successful then one should not tinker too much with it.

Movie Name
Year of Release
Main Cast
Mala Sinha, Shashi Kapoor, Ashok Kumar
Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Raakhee
Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Raakhee, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh
Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor
Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Raakhee, Parveen Babi
Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha
Sunil Dutt, Rekha, Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval
Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri
Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna
Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman
Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna
Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor
Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee
Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Other directors have also done well to stick to their genre – Karan Johar to Romance, David Dhawan to comedy, Rohit Shetty to comedy/action, Farha Khan to light hearted movies, Raju Hirani to light movies with a social message – maybe it helps for the audience to be aware of what to expect when they go and see a movie by a particular house or director. Same is true for heroes and some supporting actors as well, what we call their “signature styles” Even sportsmen have their signature styles.

Typecast may be a point of criticism but it definitely leads you to success. If you are very successful it also inspires duplicates to copy you. Repetition is only looked down upon in the creative field, in other fields it adds to your experience – the more surgeries a surgeon performs the better he gets at it – no one asks them – so you are a good heart surgeon, but how many knee replacements have you done? No one asks Zakir Hussian – so you play the tabla well but why havent you tried the flute? Then why the obsession to see our actors and directors play different roles all the time? I haven’t found the answer yet – maybe the readers can.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Beyond the numbers - observations from Elections 2014

The dust has now settled and a historic mandate delivered. Enough has been written on the magnitude of the mandate, as it should be given the unexpected results.

Let us look at the key takeaways from the campaigns of the three main parties in these elections -

From the BJP -

Well begun is half done –
The party was down and out after two consecutive defeats in 2004 (hey have no idea why they lost the election) and 2009. They began early by backing their best candidate and the campaign started in earnest a year ago. That gave them a huge head start which became impossible for the others to beat.

Full backing of the party machinery –
Once they selected their head of campaign and the PM candidate the full party backed him whole heartedly. Dissenters were put in their respective places (Sushma and Advani). Others who did not fall into place were expelled (Jaswant). No emotional drama, no nonsense’s. Everyone else automatically fell in line.

Get likeminded people together –
While the religious leaders of the Muslim community have been openly wooed by various political parties, till now Hindu religious leaders were only met behind closed doors so that political parties remained “secular”. For the first time people like Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar openly backed NaMo. This “we have nothing to hide” policy paid rich dividends for the BJP especially in the Hindi heartland.

Longest ever poll season –
The longest ever poll season (9 phases – 7th Apr to 12th May) gave enough time to the one man army (NaMo) to travel to practically all the constituencies and campaign to gather support. Congress was hoping that Modi’s campaign will peak out in the long season, not realising that it will go from strength to strength.

Hard work with smart work is an unbeatable combination –
There is no doubt about the hard work that NaMo put into this campaign. He also worked smart with a great team backing him. The results are for everyone to see.

Get your best people in the most problematic areas –
BJP was down and out in UP. They sent Amit Shah there to set things right. What he has delivered is unbelievable – he was an outsider there and he got the best mandate ever for his party from a state that is as complicated as the Duckworth Lewis method. On a lighter note, he can make the BJP win in Pakistan if he were to go and spend a year there!! Then the BJP will become an international party!!

Ignore the noise –
In the start of the campaign there was a lot of noise from the media, intellectuals and a section of the BJP clamouring for an aggressive stance to counter the AAP. Modi believed in his message and ignored the noise choosing not to get drawn into the negative agenda of the AAP.

The product has to be good –
His opponents tore into his “Gujarat model”. Anarchists went on a whirlwind tour of his state to immediately declare that there was “no development” in the state. Dynasty came up with baloon model, toffee model and what not. Ultimately the truth prevailed.

If you want it badly enough – it will come to you –
I called NaMo “destiny’s child” in my earlier blog.
The stars aligned for him to become the PM of our country. Look at the way things fell into place – political vacuum in the BJP, his 12 years of delivery as the Gujarat CM, massive corruption and resentment against the UPA, longest ever election phases, BJP gaining the momentum by winning key states over the last 2 years, the opposition ignoring the writing on the wall out of their arrogance, Social media becoming a force multiplier, none of the regional parties thinking big – it all beautifully came together for NaMo and for us.

Get the opposition to play on your pitch –
The whole campaign was “positive” in approach. “Acche Din Aane Wale Hain” was the mantra. The entire political discourse was cantered against NaMo – he dictated the tone of the campaign and he kept it positive till the end. His opponents helped him by talking only about him in their campaign instead of talking about what they stand for and will deliver.

Note of caution –
NaMo is assuming power at a time when the expectations from him are running high. He is mindful of the huge responsibility that he has taken and will deliver. As his well wishers we should be mindful of our expectations.

Congress –

Numbers are no match for quality –
Three members of the dynasty were no match for the one man army. Although I have not done the numbers, I am sure that NaMo addressed more campaign rallies alone than the three dynasty members combined.

Learn from your mistakes –
The “zeher ki kheti” and “maut ka saudagar” had failed 4 times earlier. You still choose to stick to that. Blunder blunder. Rahul had failed miserably earlier. What do you do – instead of being despatched to the wilderness he comes on the centre stage. Either it is foolhardiness or just plain stupidity.

Be accessible, be humble –
The dynasty is never accessible except to the few who derive their power from their access to the clan. The dynasty also believes in their god given right to “rule” this country. My limited point – be more accessible, build your credentials by participating in governance and above all, be humble.


Know your limits –
They contested 424 lok sabha seats. How many did the BJP and Congress contest – 427 and 462 respectively. I rest my case.

Stick to your strengths –
The DNA of the party was “anti corruption” but they were seen as fighting only the BJP and being soft on Congress. Did not work.

Pick up your candidates well –
They did well in Punjab as a result of picking up very good candidates and the public resentment against the Akalis. If the parties can create a scientific way of picking up good candidates then the elections in the future will become very interesting.

Respect the electorate –
We Indians are easily swayed. But we are also unforgiving if taken for a ride. By running away from Delhi and then justifying the same you insulted the very people that brought you into power. Unpardonable.

Be long term greedy, not short term opportunist –
Like everything else in life, politics is for the long term. Mr Vajpayee contested the first ever elections in 1957 and became the PM only in 1996 (for 13 days, returning back in 1999 to become the first non Congress PM to last  full 5 year term) – nurturing his vision and the party for 40 long years. Same for Congress which was built with a lot of toil. Do not take short cuts – they will lead you nowhere in the long term.

Now that the good days are here let us hope that India achieves her destiny in the same way as NaMo has achieved his.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wishing you a riot of colours in your life

What would our life be without colours? We have a colour for every mood and occasion. It is apt that a culture as old as us celebrates colours by the way of a festival – Holi. No other festival in the world comes close to Holi with its gaiety and multitude of colours.
Colours are everywhere we see, an intrinsic part of our everyday lives. Colours mix with each other to create new ones – sometimes without losing their individuality and sometimes while losing their essence creating something totally new.
Nature is at its imaginative best while using colours – look at the range of colours in the plants and animals around us and the complexities while these colours interact with each other to create patterns that only mother nature can think of.
Other than mother nature, women make the best use of colours. Yes, more than even artists. They use it for looking good, in their garments, while they cook and even dictate the colours of the home.
Companies also spend a lot of money to create logos with various designs and colours so that their names and products are identifiable in a clutter of competitors.
Would food and drinks be as appealing without their varied hues?
What would our power point presentations be without the colours that we us to make them appealing?
What use are traffic signals if we didn’t have colours in them
What use are the spices with only their flavours and bereft of their colours?
TV’s and smart phones – imagine them only black & white
Colour brings diversity, through skin colours for example, while also brings universality – the colour of blood is the same – in humans and animals alike.
Our mood also dictates the choice of colours – “feeling blue” and “green with envy” are expressions that need no further elaborating.
What I like the best about colours is that while they are individually different, they come together to form the best and purest of them – white. I wish the same for our lives – may various vibrant colours come together to deliver peace and harmony that we so desperately need.
Let this holi bring all that is colourful and joyful in our lives.
Happy Holi!!