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

January 24, 2009

The Business of Conferencing

This week I attended a International conference in New Delhi, it was a 2 day affair with about 250 Foreign delegates participating from 32 countries in Africa. 

For the past 2 years I have attended several conferences in India and with a bit of hindsight and experience sharing a few thoughts on the business of conferencing.

I treat them as cardinal truths taken with a pinch of salt and humor
• Essentially they are networking forums where people with a nose for business opportunities sniff around intensely. The conference may be packaged with paraphernalia like speeches by experts & eminent personalities, panel discussions, exhibitions etc but it all boils down to Networking, some discreet and others not so.

• You will find conferences of every hue & type packaged as Colloquium ,Symposiums, Theme events, Industrial fairs & exhibitions or simply Summits throughout the year. This industry feeds a whole array of sub industries ranging from exhibitors, event organizers, expert speakers , hardware vendors, PR agencies and other service suppliers.

• For business starters, the conferences provide a platform for leapfrogging into the mindset and; perceptions of intended segments, for established players it’s a way of keeping up with competition and; staying relevant in Business.

• The Business of conferencing draws the best of suckers ,the big fishes come in as Platinum, Gold & Silver Sponsors while the small fishes get hooked up as partners to every conceivable item on the table ranging from Delegate kits, Travel, Media etc etc..

• The economics of conferencing assures that the promoter at least breaks even if not make tidy profits unless of course he goes overboard with spending.One way they keep the expenses under control or even minimize it is by hitchhiking on others. For instance an educational institution can be roped in to sponsor the event hall and food services by making them event partners. If the budget does not draw expert PR agencies to bring media traffic and coverage just go ahead & tie up with some nondescript media house willing to suck up as media partners. Internet B2B business portals are another cheap source to find event coverage that front line media cannot.

• Dont expect enlightened speakers to come & deliver insightful sermons on burning topics of the day at conferences. It could be some apprentice at the foreign embassy with horrible diction or some foreigner in some other orbit of his own. If it’s some motormouth bureaucrat you can expect him to be all over the place eating up precious time and adding little to the event

• Inviting top notch Govt ministers and official’s is a sure way of inviting trouble, not only is their itinerary unconfirmed till the last conceivable minute but due care has to be taken to protocol lest you rub them on the wrong side. 

• Don’t expect great food or services in the conferences even though they may normally be held at 5 star hotels. There can be a total blackout also (as my experience counts) , as the regular & alternate supply may go up in smoke at the same time.

January 17, 2009

How Green is my Internet

A recent NEWS bit on how much the ubiquitous Google search- a query click, which has become contemporary internet ritual, effected the environment came as a shocker. What apparently came into the picture was the carbon footprint it created in basic exchange of information in this digital age. And in an extended way, it also raised questions about organization’s communication infrastructure & its carbon impact arising out of the emissions from running their network.

The “ I am feeling Lucky” convictions that I got out of my regular Google searches turned into a moral baggage & burden of a thought that it was not being so lucky for the environment. Because as per recent NEWS reports; performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate the same amount of harmful carbon dioxide as boiling an electric kettle for a cup of tea. I presume this was computed on energy consumption equivalents and therefore hydrocarbon usage , and as per the Harvard university physicist who made the calculations, a typical search generates about seven grammes of CO2! To put this in a broader perspective, available data suggests that computing industry contributes 2 percent of global carbon emissions, similar to the global aviation industry, and this will increase its carbon emissions by 6 percent per year, due to unparalleled demand for computing hardware, software and services.

The underlying driver for all these is the lucrative Internet search market. Google leads this with its engine processing nearly two-thirds of the Web’s queries but there are hundreds of smaller search engines. The economics behind this is quite simple, in the US alone, companies spend $17 billion (Rs.69,700 crore) a year on online advertising, and 40% of that is spent on search engine sites. And the mad scramble to embrace e-commerce has resulted in companies hiring specialists to drive their websites higher in search results on popular search engines to drive traffic to their sites. This in turn is propelling the Internet search industry, not only are the algorithms that drive the search engines are getting better but the search output itself is evolving from traditional text links to unified search results that offer Web sites, news, pictures and video on one page. The searchable index is also increasing exponentially while companies like Google are also building huge repositories of data to support this information binge. The next generation of voice based search has already been lined up. All this frenzy is a build up to feed 4 billion information hungry PCs by 2020.

Meanwhile the browser war has intensified with Google coming up with chrome to take on Internet Explorer version8 to make the internet even better but the big question is how much of an impact will all these have in increasing the network of search engines in this world wide web & its fallout on the environment?

January 13, 2009

Carry on Stereotyping

Bollywood seems to be stuck in eternity, Golden globe notwithstanding, when it comes to the same old archaic formulas of Love -Marriage- family retribution-rebirth etc ,etc .. and the usual stereotyping of characters & cultures. Take the latest flick ‘Chandni Chowk to China (CC2C)’ , the chink in the movie is the usual flat faced funny looking character who wildly swings his hand & legs in martial arts mudra and grunts ‘haiee yeaah’ when he is not mouthing ‘ching chong choo’ or something to that effect . This stereotype is much like any south Indian character in Hindi film , being in a Lungi with a forehead smear & yodeling ‘aiye yaye yao’ and mouthing Hindi in funny accent & flavor. And he is usually dark skinned. Similarly a Pakistani in our movies have to be a bearded slimy Mulla or an evil character in Uniform while a white foreigner is usually some dumb crook or a sidekick in a song & dance party. The list goes on.

Cut the chase to Hollywood & you'll find it no better when it comes to stereotyping us, notwithstanding Elephants, Snake charmers , Idols, turbaned despots ,Sitar etc (remember Steven Spielberg’s Temple of Doom & its ilk?) nothing excites their sensibilities better than Slums , rags, poverty & deprivation in all its Indian glory. The current movie ‘Slum dog millionaire’ based on such ‘researched’ formula have always found favour with the western media & critics and somewhere reinforces the usual stereotype about India. Perhaps Arvind Adiga also scored a Booker prize recently riding his ‘White Tiger’ with a similar theme on India’s underbelly and found favour with western literary critics. In both these instances what i find is a common thread that somewhat mirrors the way foreigners especially the western world have been getting to read & know about India of late ; its economic progress & the rags to riches stories, the Urban-Rural & Rich-Poor divide etc.

January 9, 2009

Go Kiss the World

My traveling schedule went into disarray recently, thanks to the inclement weather in the North & as my Flight to Delhi got delayed by a couple of Hours, I headed straight to Crossword in the Mumbai Airport. I have great admiration for Mr.Bagchi & have been following his articles in Magazines and Newspapers quite regularly (Businessworld column - Arbor Mentis - and Times of India column - Times of Mind), so when I saw his book “ Go Kiss the World” in the bestseller category I picked it up immediately.

Subrato Baghchi can be a magician with words, he builds a tapestry of images that provides a rich background to his early life. As someone with similar experiences, my mother was a Govt Doctor & she used to get posted in the Deccan hinterland where I used to spend my vacations & absorb the life away from cities, I could immediately relate to his early life which he describes in verdant & colorful details surrounding those small towns & villages in Orissa where his father, a Govt Employee was posted. Throughout the book he describes situations & instances that are not only captivating but some profound truths on life emerge from his uniquely narrative style.

In the early part of the book he sketches out his childhood days & the growing up years where he explains how he tries cope up with the apparent contradictions & challenges of setting up a career path and choosing what to do in life. He then goes on to describe the trials & tribulations he faced early on in his working career. The Office politics & challenges he describes can be very common and everyone can relate to. His experiences at Wipro, a failed venture in Project 21, a wrong career move with Lucent before he finally hit upon Mindtree makes for interesting reading. It has been one roller coaster ride for Bagchi but throughout all these experiences he has imbibed & drawn a lot of great value laced lessons. By explaining situational issues he also touches upon Management skills that a good manager brings to fore. This makes the book the handy for any budding manager or anyone interested in good biographies.Throughout his narration are small nuggets of wisdom drawn by earthly experiences and relevant to the topic under consideration. Eminently readable & releatable.

January 6, 2009

Foggy deal: The Conniving ways of Airlines

Delhi & the north was engulfed in a thick blanket of Fog over the year end, the newspaper & channels screamed of the innumerable flight & train delays that had been a result of this . The Fog would descend like a thick white blanket early in the evening & would refuse to budge well into the middle of the day later. And worse, I had a number of scheduled flight tickets between 30th Dec & 3rd Jan in & out of Delhi especially in the early mornings & late evenings. I had to cancel some of them & reschedule the others. So when I approached the airlines reservation staff at Delhi with this problem they were to give me a different picture. They said all flights had departed on time the previous day & that they were non committal on any possible delays the next day. That meant I would either have to forgo the cancellation charges or wait till the last very moment to check on delay status for full refund. And their rule book said that I would be eligible for a full refund on cancellation only if there was a preponement of 20 minutes or postponement of 50 minutes or more.

One look outside was all it required to figure out the situation but the Airline staff kept on repeating the usuals; weather can change anytime, clearances may be given based on ground situation blah blah... The delays of the previous days or the severity of the current situation did not seem to in any way have a bearing on them . While I cancelled one of my trips & took a similar schedule for a different destination the same day did I realize the true picture. My Flight to Lucknow which was scheduled to depart at 9 a.m actually took of at 1:00 pm. But there was technically no delay on behalf of the airlines, because they gave us the boarding passes at 8:45 am saying that the flight would depart on time and made us wait for a full 4 hours subsequently on the bus at the tarmac & inside the aircraft. A good part of 25 minutes were spent in the near freezing conditions in the former, with elderly & small children having to bear the brunt. A similar thing would have surely happened with my cancelled ticket which was to depart at the same time. Yet they refused to acknowledge any delay & made me forgo the base fare charges even after I had cancelled 1 Hr prior to the flight. For the conniving airlines, and a blind & indifferent Airport authorities , this was not a delay since the flights boarded on time.

Why did the airport authorities give clearance for boarding when they knew that visibility was low & flight would be delayed by hours? The flight attendants said that this could possibly be due to accommodation problems at the airport! Now this shows the state of Apathy in the authorities who seem to have more sympathy for airlines than passengers. For the airlines it is a convenient way to skip the cancellation refund clauses by technically boarding the passengers & make them wait for hours on the runway. Now who says the airlines are Bleeding?

January 4, 2009

Phew! What a Year

2008 has been a defining year for me in many ways, a year that has changed my life in many ways. Numerically speaking (2+0+0+8 =10), my friend Shaz says that the year was of ups & downs showing shades of both, a very turbulent Year. Appears that he was right on spot on this !

The year began on an exciting note, as usual I spent the New year eve with my father & we went to a nearby hills (Panhala Ghats) to mark the vacation. I learnt to my pleasant surprise that dad had also made special arrangements to celebrate this New Year by booking a private farmhouse of his Business friend on the outskirts of the city. And so we heralded the New Year by raising a toast on the Scotch that I had carried for the purpose from Bangalore. Just a week into the year & my world came crashing down, my beloved Dad passed away in near perfect health. His passing away created a chasm in my heart & mind that I found very difficult to cope, especially at a time when I needed his reassuring company the most. Because this was the year when I had taken my fledgling steps to entrepreneurship after years of dilly dallying & Dad who stood by me all these years like a friend and a guide was no more.

Later in the year the Global Melt down & stock market crash that followed later in the year had a sedative effect on my Investment habits ,and in the process burnt a big hole in my Investment portfolio. However that has not fazed me, I have been investing even in these troubled times, maybe be with some forlorn conviction that averaging might kick in. Or so I hope.

The year also brought Terrorism to our doorsteps, first in Bangalore and other cities and finally in Mumbai has been heart wrenching. The sheer statistics of terror attacks over the past year ( 8 strikes & 444 dead ) is frightening, one doesn’t feel safe anymore , the nagging feel creeps up in me whenever I step into a public place and that probably made me to double-up my Insurance amount this year by buying additional policy from Aegon Religare. I could have suggested Thomas Friedman to add another word “Dangerous” to a book that he published this year “Hot Flat & Crowded ” to describe the world we live in current times.

The year also had its sunnier side for me, my 3.5 Year old son took school for the very first time, rather a pre school and it has been wonderful just watching all those lively tiny tots coming out to their parents after the school hours. Also my Niece, Risha stepped into a formal school, the 1st standard, a first again and it was happy news to see her get into a good school. Schooling children in a good place has become a big challenge and a major worry for parents especially in major crowded cities like Bangalore and any happy development on a personal front is always welcome.

The other positive that I have been able to draw from the year has been my exposure to several projects that kept me challenged & engaged. I have found it good to set new benchmarks for myself and attempt things that I only imagined earlier. I express my gratitude & thanks to all those people who made this change possible and supporting me in this endeavour - Lalit Popli, Rajeev Karwal, S Athavale, R Krishna, A Ramana Rao et al.,

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