About the Blog

This is my diary....what I make sense of, around me. You'll find short prose on contemporary topics that interest me. What can you expect - Best adjectives? …. hmm occasionally, tossed around flowery verbs ?…. Nope, haiku-like super-brevity? … I try to. Thanks for dropping by & hope to see you again

December 23, 2008


Two interesting articles on Indian polity appeared in Newspapers recently. Written by two proponents on either sides of the political spectrum, one was by a high heeled NRI turned grass root level & local governance activist (Ramesh Ramanathan) and the other by a seasoned politician who weathered many political storms to be the third successive chief minister of Delhi state (Sheila Dikshit).

The former explains why the middle class is irrelevant in the present polity-- heated & emotive debates on TV , banner & candle demonstration on streets and informed public opinions do not matter as long as they do not carry to ballot boxes. He goes on to write how the polity works on caste & creed lobbying and fits like a multidimensional jig saw puzzle. Here I beg to differ with Mr. Ramanathan’s and my take on this aspect is as follows;

Caste & creed based politics is a form of mass lobbying that is inevitable in democracy, it is an expression of “the will of the people”. In essence what gets elected & represented in the assembly & Parliament are 'special interests' that organize on party lines to influence Govt.

This will of the people , when spread over layers & layers of ethnicity,cultures, dialects & economic strata over a vast geographical area takes a complex hue and is rarely visible as a homogeneous mixture. This probably explains the death of a two party dominance & arrival of coalitions on the Indian political scene. And this represents the masses & not the classes.

In this din of mass based politics what constitutes & represents public good is always debatable. The latter part has been largely under the realm of the media (especially electronic media) and urban middle class. And what happens in debate-o-sphere is largely irrelevant and is akin to shouting in vacuum as it never gets the political momentum because it never translates into votes and even if it does , does not carry any swing factor. This is true as far as small & medium urban and semi-urban electorate is concerned. However large urban electorate is getting organized and Sheila Dikshit’s rise gives a ray of hope and an answer to this dilemma.

She probably represents a unique constituency in the country, a large urban electorate which is young, cosmopolitan, aware (if not fully literate) and upwardly mobile. And it thinks & votes for what have been largely urban issues like development & good governance and less on issues mentioned above. The bijli-sadak- pani kind of issue that makes for citizen movements in cities is something that she has addressed effectively to retain power. With changing demographics and increasing urbanization (which is expected to grow from current 28% to 40% of Population by 2020) this model of polity is likely to be replicated in other constituencies elsewhere as well.

December 16, 2008

The Biz Pied Piper from Germany

For the past one year or so I have come to known my friend & business acquaintance Mr.Wolfgang Hoeltgen from Germany . A man probably in his sixties but combines the vivacity and inquisitiveness of any bright teenager around. He is also a known Indophile, someone who combines his love for India alongwith Business acumen, honed by his multi Industry & country work experience, to foster better Business ties between India & Germany. It is in this connection that he had made a trip to India recently and I had extended him an invitation from the Mysore chamber of Commerce & Industry to hold a colloquium on “gateway to Germany” in the heritage city. Wolfgang readily acceded to this invitation even though it had not been a part of his original plan & Budget. And so we traveled together to Mysore in the company of my colleague Sakharam Athavale over the last weekend.

India has not ceased to amaze Wolfgang, the colours and people around in India are something that he confesses to be captivated of. He has traveled extensively throughout the country and he says that the real India does not lie in the common tourist places that foreigners are so accustomed to explore. Such is his penchant for sightseeing that he is always ready to hop into any kind of Bus provided it gave him a window seat and a daylight ride in the countryside. During our trip he clicked away relentlessly with his Nikon camera and everything from hillocks to hawkers got captured in his inquisitive mind through his overworked camera. An oft repeated remark that you get to hear from him is that he may have been an Indian in his previous birth & that the past karmas may have brought him back to this country.

On the Business side he is a firm believer that the effects of globalization & a flat world has not truly reflected in the Commerce and Business relationship between India & Germany . He sees a tremendous opportunity especially for emerging Indian Businesses to explore in Germany. It is this conviction that made him to set up the German India Business Center that is supported by German trade & Industry especially by the region of Niedersachsen. His road shows emphasize the cultural differences between the 2 countries & how this can be harnessed in the right direction to make a potent combination. His remarks on the cultural differences  essentially highlight some of the inadequacies we face in our system and the difference it makes while engaging the Germans or operating in their home-country. What he finally underscores at the end of the day is a sense of optimism about the future and his eagerness and sincerity in pursuing the cause of furthering the German-Indo Business relationships.

December 6, 2008

Decoding Nilekani’s Imagination

During my college days I had read a book called “the wonder that was India” by AL Basham which was in fact the bible book on Indian History & General Knowledge for all Civil services aspirants of that time. It was a seminal work of a true historian who reflected on the glories of a mature civilization and its myriad qualities. In essence it was harking back to the past, which most of us in India essentially do, the difference being that the historians do it as a systematic academic work while for the rest of us it is a clichéd habit in our argumentative discourses . Talk to the older generation & the discussion usually meanders towards the clichéd phrase “ in the good old days...” which essentially is the premise that the past was good, vibrant and certainly glorious. In a very oblique way it somewhere reinforces a thought that the present may not be as good as the past .

It took a technopreneur like Nandan Nilekani to change that cliched vision of the past to the future through his book ‘Imagining India’. It is as though someone took the arc-lights of our mind& its incandescent energy (read latent energy) from the past to the future . Certainly no better person could have taken this work up better than Nilekani who along with Naryanmurthy & others defined the paradigm change in India’s mindset towards adoption of new ideas & technology as harbingers of the new age economy. In essence they replicated the golden era of Vijayanagar Empire (which is touted as the pinnacle of Indian civilization reflected in its glorious architecture & famed street wealth ) , albeit as a small pool in the economy where all those who straddled within the campus became either millionaires or novae rich. Coincidentally both these happened within proximity of few hundred kilometers.

I had one memorable rendezvous with Nilekani when I  visited him in his office with V Vaidyanathan, currently the Country Head at ICICI Bank sometime in 2001. After the usual pleasantries we got down to a Business chat & Nilekani inquired Vaidy about the Bank’s performance on the Business side .And he listened with genuine intent & interest . His body language was languid but behind his still countenance I could sense the hum of sharp mind that was probably designed to whirl at a higher RPM(revolutions per  minute). When I interjected somewhere in the discussion, he replied me back by with my name which pleasantly surprised me. It could have been one of his charming ways but was certainly reflective of his sharp wit & his attention to detail.

I will not get into the review details of his book, Imagining India which has been done so far in umpteen Newspapers, magazines & television channels. I only emphasize his 180 degree shift in thinking and admire his locus standi on a very important theme that was propagated albeit differently by another great of our times, Abdul Kalam who had earlier published a book, India 2020, another inspiring read.

December 2, 2008

The people fevicol factor in Organizations

Pidilite, the manufacturers of adhesive brand Fevicol brand have captured their brand USP through very imaginative & interesting advertisements on TV.

Whether it is the fisherman catching fishes with a few drops of fevicol, be it the overloaded bus with people clinging to it on a rickety ride or the guy hanging to his lady on a precipice, have very creatively rendered the brand's proposition - its ability to bind on any surface & in any condition.

Is there any such ‘X’ formula that Organizations can replicate to create stickiness with its employees? I have heard a lot of lip smacking verbose that Companies often dole of when they talk of their employee relations, however to the contrary the reality may be.

On their part, It may be a necessity borne out of the usual PR (public relations) demands and the business posturing required in the marketplace .

Last week I was speaking to someone I knew who after putting in 6 months of work in a consulting firm had left in a huff recently without a job alternative on hand. He attributed his exit to the style of leadership in the organization and lack of transparency and empowerment given to him on the job.

 He said that the mails from his boss started to get nasty and a feeling crept in him that he was not being valued at job. All this when he felt that Business was looking up after signing a couple of new clients!

From our talk I could gather that his engagement process with his employer had soured quickly and the relations got strained to break point quite abruptly.

Talking of effective employee engagement, Hewitt Associates define engagement as comprising 3 measurable behaviors on the part of employees.
1. Stay - people stay with the company despite tempting offers elsewhere, the extreme opposite is what happened in this case, people move on despite no job on hand.
2. Say - people say and advocate good things about the company. Employees also like to have their say on job, when that get stifled engagement breaks.
3. Serve - they exert a lot of discretionary effort which may not be part of their job description. This is particularly true of small organizations when one person dons many hats.

So in essence is effective employee engagement the invisible glue that binds people to organization? the secret sauce of successful HR departments?

Engagement in its entirety could mean a lot of things, developing and communicating effective career progression, transparent performance appraisal & feedback, Performance linked incentive programme with buy in etc.

Business Guru and a leading current genre influential thinker, Howard Gardner, has examined this aspect in his book “changing minds” where he says work place behavior is influenced by factors like role models (that turn out good or bad), & responsible (or otherwise) Co-workers.

But at its core it remains a heightened emotional and ntellectual connection with a job and the Organization sustaining it.

December 1, 2008

A requiem

The city of million dreams
Stands on the ruins of battered screams
Blood & gore, in all its yore
from a few men across distant shore,
what they achieved in the end, they themselves not know
Helplessness stems after the anger & rage
Mumbai will again find its ways, its indomitable spirit will sway,
Until the next time again when Hell prays & showers its pain
Our leaders watch when things unfold again
with pointed fingers in political blame game,
Before they slip into their comfortable den,
The City will scream again.

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