December 13, 2011

Karmanya Vadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachan

The famous Sanskrit shloka "Karmanya Vadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachan" offers a strategy for living life that is incomparable.

This sholka can be literally translated into English as "Continue with your efforts and never worry about the results".

At first thought it might appear that it runs on the face of result-orientation in today's society.

On the contrary just the opposite is actually true.

Individuals and institutions are so much focused on return on investment today that the first question that arises always is "what's in it for me?".

However at times this leads into unhealthy competition.

Rather than trying to do one's best the attention shifts to prove that one has done the best as compared to the others.

And in the process the results achieved are lesser than what could have been otherwise.

The Sanskrit shloka does indeed say that one should "never worry about the results" but it implies very subtly that one should be so much engrossed in taking the actions that complete, unwavering attention should be on taking the actions in the best possible manner and certainly with concern about the results but in a very very healthy manner.

And if one takes actions in this way the results will certainly be the best possible one could have achieved.

Airports In India and Outside India

I suppose it is quite interesting an exercise to try to compile the list of cities whose airport one has visited. So here goes the list of airports in India and outside India that I have either taken off from or landed at:

In India
  • New Delhi (Delhi)
  • Mumbai (Maharashtra)
  • Calcutta/Kolkata (West Bengal)
  • Bangalore/Bengaluru (Karnataka)
  • Madras/Chennai (Tamil Nadu)
  • Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh)
  • Pune (Maharashtra)
  • Dabolim (Goa)
  • Nagpur (Maharashtra)
Outside India
  • London (United Kingdom)
  • Frankfurt (Germany)
  • Chicago (Illinois, United States)
  • Rochester (Minnesota, United States)
  • New Orleans (Louisiana, United States)
  • Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania, Unites States)
  • Atlanta (Georgia, United States)
  • New York (United States)
  • Amsterdam (Holland)
  • Salt Lake City (Utah, United States)

December 6, 2011

Reduced to One Page of Wikipedia

I think being famous and successful these days interestingly and simply means there is a page about you on Wikipedia. If there is no page about you on Wikipedia then you may really not be as famous and successful as you probably think you are.

That one page of Wikipedia is what you are or at least what others think of you.

You are Rich and Famous if You have a Page of Wikipedia about You

By that logic the world has two kinds of people these days – those who have a page about them on Wikipedia (and hence are famous and successful) and those who don’t have one (the lesser mortals and obviously non-famous and non-successful).

Whenever there is an addition to the list of famous and successful people in the world it takes real form only when a Wikipedia contributor adds a new page and over time through edits from multiple contributors the page evolves. This continues right through until the famous and successful person departs the world.

While the Rich and Famous are Alive

Whenever a famous and successful person (actor, artist, politician, sportsperson, scientist, etc.) dies the Wikipedia page of the person gets updated accordingly.

In fact, I have been observing since last few years that whenever a famous and successful person dies the Wikipedia page of the person gets updated in no time.  This clearly shows the life of a famous and successful person is being followed very closely, at least by those who think of that person as famous and successful, moment by moment.

After the Rich and Famous Depart

Until the death of the famous and successful person updates to the Wikipedia page of the person may have been quite regular.

After the death of the famous and successful person though the Wikipedia page of the person enters a phase where that page will get updated lesser and lesser both in terms of frequency and also the content.

In the End it's Only About that One Page of Wikipedia

In the same breath it can also be said that the events, achievements, successes, media coverage and, in fact, the whole life lived by a famous and successful person get reduced to nothing more than that one page of Wikipedia.

It may sound demeaning or belittling but it is more of a philosophical leveler than anything else. Our lives, in the end, amount to one page, that’s it! That one page of Wikipedia is what you are or at least what others think of you.

November 29, 2011

IITF 2011 at Pragati Maidan Delhi

My family accompanied me to IITF 2011 as has been the case almost every year. IITF 2011 was an altogether different experience for me as for the first time I was able to fully understand the layout of the various halls and pavilions in Pragati Maidan. However, as is usual the communication regarding how to reach the fair venue and from where to purchase the tickets left a lot to be desired.

Buying the Ticket

Based on newspaper notifications what I could gather was that the tickets were available only at Delhi Metro stations and at selected gates in Pragati Maidan. First we went to INA Market Metro Station and came to know that the tickets for the day had all been sold - very surprising since it was around 10am in the morning.

After that we went to the Race Course Metro Station on one side of the circular roundabout only to be told that only those who board the metro at that side of the station can purchase tickets. Others need to go to the station on the other side of the circular roundabout. Negotiating the traffic in the circular roundabout was highly inconvenient and unsafe as well. Anyways finally we managed to get the tickets from the other side.

Reaching IITF Parking - Sunheri Pullah near Dayal Singh College

Again based on newspaper notifications I came to know that car parking facility was available at Sunheri Pullah near Dayal Singh College (at stone's throw distance from CGO Complex). The arrow marking was all confusing. And it appeared to me that the parking site as mentioned in the newspaper was actually not  the one where I finally parked my car which I think was actually the DTC bus parking. In fact I am still not sure where Sunheri Pullah actually is?

My father told me that there used to be an open area near CGO complex which apparently got converted into Sunheri Pullah during the preparations for CWG 2010. Reaching Sunheri Pullah is quite simple. If one is coming on Lodhi Road from Safdarjung Tomb side, one needs to take a right turn immediately after Dayal Singh College. And if one is coming on Lodhi Road from Nizamuddin side, one needs to take a left turn immediately before Dayal Singh College

Reaching IITF Venue - Pragati Maidan

Well after all the hard work to purchase the tickets and to reach the parking venue I got some relief when I came to know that free shuttle buses were available right from inside the DTC bus parking to Gate 2 of Pragati Maidan. However to add salt to the wound I found that the trade fair tickets were being sold in the bus itself. It seems this came in the newspapers but was not as widely publicized.

Visiting the Pavilions 

We sat in the bus and after 15 minutes or so it started for the onward journey to Pragati Maidan Gate 2. After getting down there and going through security checks we were finally in. This time we decided to give a miss to the state pavilions other than of two states - Uttarakhand and Jharkhand.

Right when one enters Gate 2 one would come across Hall 6 so we started from there. After that we went to Hall 1 and then after some refreshment walked across to Hall 18 on one side of the fair venue. From there we walked in almost a linear fashion and came back to Hall 7 (passing through 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, etc.).

And of course we did purchase some stuff from the trade fair. The best part is one gets to see so many things. For kids it's a great learning experience watching the replicas and models of dams, mines, power generation plants, etc. And yes one can also watch the Dog Show performed by the Canine Warriors of Indian Army. An amazingly entertaining show to say the least!

Back to Pavilion

After a full day well spent we came out and took the return bus from Pragati Maidan to the Sunheri Pullah car parking! And as is said all is well that ends well we felt in the end it was an experience truly worth it.

P.S.: It was good to note that for crowd management and security the organizers have made some excellent arrangements like after a certain time no tickets are sold, after a certain time entry is not allowed and also at the entry point there are scanners like the ones at airports.

November 26, 2011

Nature, Inc. versus Human, Inc.

Development of world economy has brought the battle between nature and human to the very front. For now it might appear that Human, Inc. is winning the battle over Nature, Inc. but that's not true if one scratches the surface a bit. What will come to the notice is not very surprising but also deeply concerning.

Nature Doesn't Need Human but Humans Can't Survive Without Nature

Nature doesn't need human beings but human beings need nature for their existence. If tomorrow there were another world war which exterminates the human race for ever nature won't come to a halt. Sun will rise every morning, rivers will flow on their course, wind will blow, stars will shine and earth will continue its movement.

It is imperative for human beings to exercise extreme caution and care as they put nature to its service. Utilization of natural resources shouldn't cross the boundary where use turns into abuse and/or misuse and/or waste.

Cleanup Act - For Humans to Survive Nature Has to be Saved

Governments the world over have been propagating awareness and actions in many areas, as listed below, which are aimed at taking care of nature:
  • Elimination or reduction in pollution causing substances
  • Use of renewable sources of energy
  • Conservation of water and other natural resources
We human beings owe it to our future generations and we must take care of nature. The people who will inhabit earth, let's say a century from now, will thank and fondly remember us not for all the technological advancements that have been made (especially in the last 5-6 decades) but for a very simple thing: they are alive!

Nature, Inc. for Human, Inc.

Yes taking birth and staying alive itself will become the primary endeavor and the biggest challenge for human beings if we don't clean up our acts. Being able to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, eat hygienic food, will become difficult in times to come if we continue our current adversarial relationship with Nature, Inc. It is clear that for it not to become extinct Human, Inc. must follow the will of Nature, Inc. We must remember that Nature, Inc. was always supreme and will remain so.

November 23, 2011

High Designation Doesn't Mean Higher Level of Leadership Skills

The experience of coming across someone with a high designation in the organization but low level of leadership is quite interesting. I had such an experience recently.

One Experience on Leadership Skills or Rather the Lack of It

For some activity the person's department was selected, probably for the first time. On top of it the person missed some of the email communications sent earlier and when a direct communication was sent to him subsequently (by someone who was authorized but having a lesser designation) it was taken as an insult.

The person tried to wriggle out of the whole thing by asking basic questions - why me? if not earlier why now? why no one told me earlier? why is this needed? what is needed from me?

What Can We Infer - Some Feelings

It brought the following feelings: 
  • Amazement - how this person got promoted to such a high designation? leaders can't be leaders in the true sense if they have closed mind and hard attitudes 
  • Anger - how can someone react to a 'change' in this manner? leaders are expected to not just accept but also drive changes. 
  • Agony - how someone like this can help in organization's culture building? leaders are expected to help build and nurture organizational culture through positive actions. 
  • Anxiety - how someone like this can possibly destroy the organization's value and systems? leaders are supposed to demonstrate organization's value and systems in every instance.
Why this Happened - Some Probable Reasons

Equally important to what happened is to try to understand why it has happened. Here's my take on it:
  • When one thinks he/she is above the crowd and expects special treatment as a birth right
  • When one is the proverbial blue-eyed boy and think he/she can get away with anything
  • When one sees change as a threat and responds to it by opposing it
  • When one is not sure of his/her abilities or the way he/she performs the work
  • When one thinks he/she is indispensable to the organization and can pressurize others
Why Such Persons are not Needed in Modern Organizations

Whatever it might be such persons should have no place in professionally managed and progressive organizations. And the logic is simple, in a knowledge economy such attitudes are obsolete.

Job Titles, Roles and Salary Bands

Many organizations struggle with parity between job grades, roles and salary bands. If one were to categorize companies they would invariably fall into one of the two categories:

Job Grade Obsessed

In such organizations one would hear conversations like, "how many M4s we have currently?", "let's hire another M5", etc. In these discussions the focus on competencies and responsibilities might get diluted. And as a result such organizations can have a situation like this - three employees work on similar assignment though one might be M3, another M4 and the third one M5.

It is generally the case that Mi will be associated to a certain salary range. And regardless of the value added, actual performance, etc. Mi will generally draw higher salary then Mi-1. In case of salary range overlaps it is possible for a high-end Mi-1 to draw a salary marginally higher (and sometimes significantly higher) than the Mi.

Because of the job grade obsession it is possible in such organizations that the head of department A might be an M4 and the head of department B might be an M7. In terms of accountability in respect of their department's performance both will be treated at par but the M7 will have higher authority than the M4.

For high performers such organizations will prove to be a career trap since one's responsibilities might undergo no or little change when one is "promoted" from M4 to M5 to M6 to M7. This is especially true in case of small sized organizations and is generally amplified due to the "old boys club" (OBC) culture prevalent there (Old Boys Club in Small Companies)

Salary Band Obsessed

These organizations are more direct in terms of using the term salary band explicitly since an employee is seen as nothing more than an expense in pure accounting sense. So higher salary band will mean higher cost. Hiring in such companies will focus on money that is kept on the table for the selected candidate to accept the offer. The mapping of salary band to competencies and responsibilities might be a weak one. One would hear conversations like, "how many B4s we have currently?", "let's hire another B5", etc.

In such organizations an B10 might be a Principal Engineer or a Senior Manager. And this when not seen in terms of the role the B10 will perform might lead to hiring misfires. In such organizations the Job Titles might sound confusing at times.

Because of the salary band obsession it is possible in such organizations that a B10 might have no one reporting into that position whereas another B10 might have 100 people reporting into that position. Obviously the competencies required for both are different and salary band being same doesn't convey much.

For high performers such organizations may be better in terms of career growth. Since the salary bands have a direct correlation to the money on the table, the organization will try to add more work or more complexity to the existing work which will result in ensuring the higher salary spent translates into higher value added to the organization. There exists strong possibility though of no or little change when one is "promoted" from B5 to B6 to B7 to B8.

Why Role is More Important than Job Grade and Salary Band

Somewhere job grades and salary bands are correlated to the years of experience on one's resume and also the loyalty factor as trust scores over talent (What Comes First - Trust or Talent?)

However for professionally managed and progressive organizations, it is imperative to look at role as the driver for career growth and progression of an employee up the organizational hierarchy. If one gets promoted as "Senior Manager" from "Manager" this should also mean the promoted employee does something more, something different or the existing work differently (more complex, more challenging, etc.). If that's not the case then it's difficult to understand what "getting promoted" means.

In the back-end though there has to be salary range so that someone in higher role draws a higher salary. It's justified in this case since "getting promoted" is translated into "contributing more" to the organization.

A flat organization should ideally be defined as a hierarchical arrangement of roles where any role higher in the hierarchy requires "getting promoted" in the real sense. It is ironical to note that in many organizations even the HR promotes the job grade and salary band concept over role concept. It probably allows ego-massaging of the employees where one might perform the same activities over 10 years but as M4/B4 in year 1 and gradually "getting promoted" to M8/B8 in year 10.

September 12, 2011

Difficult Situations

A good test of one's real strengths is how he or she handles difficult situations. And difficult situations can arise in various ways.

Here is a list of some difficult situations that one must learn how to handle:
  • One misses the train or a flight
  • One looses the original copies of some important documents
  • One meets with an accident on the road
  • One is diagnosed with life threatening disease
  • One is fired from the job
  • One looses a close family member or an acquaintance
  • One is passed over for promotion
  • One is given a low performance rating
  • One is criticized in full public view
  • One is challenged by someone else wrongly or mistakenly
  • One gets into a heated argument or unhealthy exchange of words

Baba Prakash Puri Mandir in Gurgaon

If one were to imagine a temple as not just a place of worship but a place to relax and clam down one's mental faculties then the Baba Prakash Puri Mandir in Gurgaon is probably a temple one must definitely visit.

The best part is the peace, tranquility and closeness to nature that one can experience in this temple. Baba Prakash Puri Mandir also serves as an "Ashram".

Reaching Baba Prakash Puri Mandir

This temple is located off the Chauma Road in the Rajendra Park area of Gurgaon.

This area is close to the New Palam Vihar area on one side of the Delhi Gurgaon railway line opposite to the Palam Vihar area.

There is a village with the name Alwardi Sarai close to this temple.

Some Quick Facts about Baba Prakash Puri Mandir

The Baba Prakash Puri Mandir being an "Ashram" as well is also a staying place for Sadhus and one can find many of them inside the Mandir complex at any time.

The Mandir is lush green with many trees (Neem, etc.). There are many birds as well (Peacocks, Parrots, etc.).

Not only that, there is ample parking space both within the main temple area and outside the imposing temple gate.

Major Attraction - the Ancient Shiva Temple

A major attraction is a Shiva temple which is supposed to have been there since the time of Pandavas.

For those of you who have some idea about Gurgaon's history will probably know that Gurgaon was called as "Guru Gram" earlier and is the place in the Hindu epic Mahabharata where Guru Dronocharya's ashram was situated.

The Pandavas and Kauravas were trained by Guru Dronocharya in "Guru Gram", or the Gurgaon of today.

Special Prasad

The devotees who come here offer all kinds of eatables in the name of God and Baba Prakash Puri Ji.

One interesting fact about this temple is that tea (apparently prepared using the milk from cows that are reared in the temple complex) is offered to the devotees as prasad.

Some Photographs of Baba Prakash Puri Ashram in Gurugram (earlier Gurgaon)






August 25, 2011

Learning from Mistakes

All of us make mistakes. And I think making mistakes is not a bad thing as long as one gets another shot at it (at times this may not be possible and one mistake is enough to wipe out one's existence, growth or future plans). Another aspect of making mistakes is that one must learn from it. Making the same mistake again and again should be unpardonable.

I have come across many people who don't seem to realize the gravity of not learning from the mistakes. Some of the people I have interacted with in my professional career seem to carry a casual attitude to mistakes and learning.

There are some who get disheartened easily and there some who are overenthusiastic and at times utterly unrealistic. The learning from past may not remain relevant in the current situation so one must be willing to unlearn and then learn new things as well. This is another aspect of learning.

August 17, 2011

Why New Hires May Quit Early On!

Companies and prospective employees invest a lot of effort in engaging each other in meaningful conversations before the company makes the offer and the candidate accepts it. A serious and honest effort on the part of both sides result in the candidate to finally come on board. Despite that some new hires may quit early on for reasons explained below.

Why New Hires May Quit Early On!
  • One is hired into a position where the reporting is to someone which is not natural for the position. Examples of this include manager hired in a group reporting into another group's senior manager. The senior manager may have a higher designation but will be useless in adding any meaningful value to the manager and this will trigger the manager to start looking outside.
  • The role one is offered provides no real learning and growth opportunity and the new hire will start tuning out from the company.
  • The actual profile of the new hire on the job varies significantly from the promised profile. This will result in the new hire to reassess his/her decision.
  • Cultural challenges in settling down in the new company may also trigger some of the new hires to think of leaving early on.  This can happen in case of someone joining a small company from a big one or the other way round.
What Else Should New Hires, Especially Senior Professionals, Consider While Quitting?

Out of the four reasons cited above the first one would be most relevant in case of senior professionals. In some companies the new hire might be functionally heading a department but will still not get to represent the department in different forums. In such cases the simple advice is to strongly indicate this to those who matter and if  this continues just move on.

The second reason is a good reason for professionals at any stage of their career. Constantly getting opportunities to learn and grow is important for everyone. In case of senior professionals though it may be needed at times to create learning and growth opportunities for themselves and for others reporting into them.

In case of reasons three and four, professionals in early stages of their career will generally be more concerned. This might concern professionals at other stages of their career also but they would have become mature to live with it as they would have come to realize that changing a job entails risks in respect of the actual profile and cultural differences.

July 26, 2011

Old Boys Club in Small Companies

Many of the small companies start with a set of folks from a handful of big companies coming together. These folks would generally know each other and would have in all likelihood shared working relationships sometime in their careers.

In certain situations it might be the result of a senior person being forced to move out and deciding to start another venture. The senior person may be forced to move out from an organization due to company ownership changing hands, company board wanting to purse a course of action where the senior person becomes a 'misfit' or the senior person's performance not keeping pace with the others in the senior management team.

How Old Boys Club Get Formed?

So a small company would normally start as an "old boys club" (OBC). For certain roles the OBC may get a senior person from other organization but this can be viewed as an exception rather than as a norm.

For those who decide to pursue career opportunities in small companies it would come as a quick realization within a short span of time that moving up and joining the OBC may be just impossible. Once this realization sets in it may be a wise thought to move out rather than wait for growing upwards in the organization to become a part of the OBC.

What are the Common Organizational Challenges Resulting from Old Boys Club?

In such organizations one might come across strange reporting structures like the Accounting head reporting into the Facilities head or the IT Support head reporting into the Process Excellence head. From a pure role perspective a function head reporting into the other function head may have little logic behind it.

However, from the OBC's angle this is a perfect organizational construct. Having an outsider become a member of the OBC will not be easily acceptable to those in the OBC and especially the person heading the organization (who will invariably be the head boy of the OBC).

Why the Talented Folks who are Outside the Old Boys Club may not Remain with the Organization for Long?

For those who are highly competent it may not be a good idea to stick to such an organizational construct for a long time as it may mean no opportunity to grow into strategic management.

Even if one is the head of a function the role would remain mostly an operational one.The head would be held fully accountable for the function's performance but will have limited influence in terms of budgeting and resource planning.

How Old Boys Club Impedes Organizational Growth?
 

Attracting talent may be always possible in such organizations as some of those who join a small company might aspire to get fancy titles (VP, etc.) in a shorter time frame, equity options, more freedom as compared to a bigger organization.

Retaining talent, however, might be challenge if the OBC mentality is too prevalent as the smarter ones of those who join will realize in no time that they have no opportunity to grow into strategic management role. Hence for small companies the OBC mentality must be overcome if they dream to grow and become big in the future.

June 4, 2011

Can Strong Management Skills Rescue a Venture?

I have thought of the answer to this question many times and every time concluded that the correct answer is a big "No". Many people I have met say and suggest that strong management can achieve anything. I totally disagree with that thought.

For any venture to be successful many ingredients need to come together and create the right mix. So what are the ingredients that are needed to rescue a venture and make it happen successfully? Here is a list of some of the most important ones: 

Clear goal, direction, timeline and approach for the venture

This is critical to start the venture in the right way and then drive it on the right track until it is successfully accomplished. False starts, missteps, two minds, etc. are not good for any venture.

Course correction is of course needed but complete change of direction (especially more than few times) are never good for any venture.

Right number and quality of people

Many people argue that having a team with less than needed staff but all star performers can do the trick. This is not true at all. Right number of people with the right quality is needed for any successful venture.

For people to stay motivated the stretch while working on a venture cannot be extremely high from start till end. Hence it is important to have right number of hands on the venture.

Also, in any venture the various activities which need to be performed are of varying volume, complexity and newness. Hence a mix of average, good and star performers is essential to have a balanced team. Imagine what would be the motivation level of a team which has all star performers and the tasks are all routine and simple.

Adequate software, hardware and other resources

Can a person fly in air like a bird? The answer is no and we know why. Of course if someone can buy an air ticket for this person she can fly in air.

Due to inherent limitations and systemic constraints certain things are just not possible. They can turn into difficult (and hence achievable) with resources becoming available.

Resources of all types - software, hardware and others - are necessary for any venture. Money and budget for a venture is the first step in ensuring resources can be made available.

Positive engagement of relevant stakeholders

This is important since stakeholders play an important role in proving direction and resources to any venture. The sponsor(s), customers(s), reviewer)s, advisor(s) in any venture must however play a positive and constructive role in ensuring the successful completion of a venture.

Loads of luck (especially in respect of external, uncontrollable factors)

Many a times even when everything in a venture looks picture perfect something that happens outside the venture may adversely impact or kill the venture. In the context of business world this might mean a major policy change.

Many of the external factors may be uncontrollable and at times unpredictable. If they manifest then it may spell doom for the venture. That's why it's fine if lady luck does not smile on a venture but it must never frown on it!

Strong management skills

Yes they are also important. You need someone to take the driver's seat in any venture. But as can be seen from the points explained above this is not the sole criterion for a successful venture.

May 23, 2011

2 day Trip to Jaipur in Apr 2011

Jaipur is around 250 kms from Delhi/Gurgaon and is well-suited for those staying in NCR region for a weekend trip. I planned a 2-day visit to Jaipur with my family over a long weekend (Friday off in addition to Saturday and Sunday being off as usual). I thought it will be a good plan to start on Friday morning, see around some places in Jaipur, stay there on Friday night, see around some more places on Saturday, start from Jaipur by Saturday late in the afternoon to come back by the night and take rest on Sunday to get over the travel exhaustion.

Reaching Jaipur

So off we went on one of the Friday in Apr 2011. We started in our car in the morning from Gurgaon and headed towards Jaipur on the NH8. I expected to reach there well before lunch time but due to huge traffic jam in Manesar (which I believe is the usual thing there) and the construction work going on the entire stretch of NH8 (road widening was under way) we reached Jaipur well after lunch time. Besides, I found NH8 clogged with lots of heavy vehicles (trucks, trailers, container carriers) Overall, the drive wasn't that enjoyable. 

The Hawa Mahal - from Outside

After reaching there we headed straight for the famous Hawa Mahal. On the way I stopped my car to ask someone the direction "can you please tell me how to reach Hawa Mahal?". The gentleman raised his hand and gave the response smilingly "it's right there". Lo and behold our car was on the road opposite to Hawa Mahal! We planned to come back to see it next day and went ahead in search for a place to stay in the night.

The Amber Fort

While searching for a decent place to stay in night we enquired in various hotels and lodges but couldn't make up our mind and in the process reached all the way till Jal Mahal. We did not intend to stop there bur rather were attracted towards the signboard for Amber Fort (Amber is pronounced as Amer, b is supposed to be silent).

At the spur of the moment we decided to visit Amber fort. I drove up on to the hill where Amber fort is situated. One can take the car right till the main gate of Amber fort where ample parking space is also available. If one has never done hill driving or slope driving then one must avoid driving all the way up.

The Jal Mahal, Hotel for Night Stay and Night Outing

After seeing Amber fort we started back towards Jaipur city to find a place to stay in the night. While on the way back I stopped the car at Jal Mahal and we spent some time there. Finally, and since it was getting dark we resumed our search for a place to stay. After checking out in many places we managed to book place for staying in a decent hotel.

After rest again we headed towards the main city (the Pink city). The idea was to see the city in night time and do some shopping as well. Due to parking problem we did not feel like shopping and after a long drive back and forth in Pink city we started back for the hotel room. On the way we had dinner as well.

Inside the Hawa Mahal and City Palace

The next morning after breakfast we went back to Hawa Mahal. It took 1 hour to complete sightseeing of Hawa Mahal and then we went to the City Palace. Seeing City Place took another 1 hour. Thereafter we came back to the Hawa Mahal road and had some Kulfi and Lemon Soda (they make is real good in Jaipur).

The Jantar Mantar

It was now time to see the famous Jantar Mantar of Jaipur which is much bigger than the one in Delhi. It was interesting to find out that even back then Indian astronomy was so advanced. It was afternoon and we thought of returning to main city for shopping before starting back for home. While I waited my family spent time buying some Jaipur special stuff like Rajasthani Saree, Puppets, etc.

The Nahargarh Fort

Shopping time over we thought of starting back for Delhi/Gurgaon. But as we reached close to the road that connects the Delhi road, we decided that it would be better to visit the other two famous forts in Jaipur - Nahargarh and Jaigarh.

The drive is in the same direction as Amber Fort but after climbing up the hill a little bit one has to take the road going towards left. I drove all the way till Nahargarh fort first. There is ample parking space there. The view of Jaipur city from this fort is simply breathtaking.

The Jaigarh Fort

After Nahargarh we started back and on the way took the road going towards Jaigarh fort. The best thing I liked is that one can drive the car into the fort itself and take the car to a very high point on the fort. There is ample parking space otherwise in Jaigarh fort but at the high point the parking is limited. The high point has the biggest canon of the world at that time. The canon is really huge!

An interesting fact I came to know of was about the treasure of Jai Singh which was supposed to have been hidden under a water tank there. I also came to know that during 1975-76 this fort was searched for the treasure.

Returning from Jaipur

It was evening time now and we thought that we should start back immediately. And so we started back. The journey was not that enjoyable again. And since it became dark after some time the roads became difficult to navigate. The traffic was heavier than what I has found a day before - lots of heavy vehicles, etc. It took 5-6 hours to hit Manesar where again there was a traffic jam. And finally we reached home later than we had planned, all tired and exhausted. The sweet memories of Jaipur were still fresh though. It was a memorable experience.

March 17, 2011

Head in the Crocodile's Mouth

Ever heard of this phrase? Well this is something which has occurred to me - as part of certain experience with a renowned builder of the NCR Delhi area (let's call this builder as big O, big as in bully).

I had the misfortune of applying to one of the schemes about to be launched by big O in the Noida / Greater Noida area. I paid a certain amount of money initially (M1). After 2 years the big O and broker (more on him in the paragraph below) misled me to pay some more money (M2). They told me the project had approval which was a complete lie and when the project failed to take off they refused to refund the money.

And to  make the pain worse this was suggested by a broker (let's call him A1) who happened to take care of some of my property matters (he was also a close family friend or so I thought, which was not the case as I came to know later to my regret) . This taught me another invaluable lesson that property dealers are simply crooks for lack of a better word and trusting them with your money is akin to financial suicide. The property dealer is wholly capable of buying house from one of his brothers and selling to another brother for the commission.

Coming back to big O, after many years of follow-up big O suggested that refund is out of question and I should take up house in another project. I was asked to pay some more money (M3) as booking amount to big O because big O said they are a branded company and blah, blah, lies, lies, and more lies. Big O and A1 misled me to believe that this was an approved project but what I came to know that this second project was also not approved at that point in time and another round of harassment by big O and fruitless follow-ups from my side ensued.

I was also misled by A1 to pay the booking amount (M3) even though big O was sitting on a huge pile of my cash already (M1+M2). What I understood much later was that this was a trick played by A1 and big O (brothers in all shady deals) so that I am on a weak wicket legally speaking.

Then came a representative of big O, a gentlemen who swore by big O's name and goodwill (let's call him A2). A2 came to my residence and said big O is a good company, blah, blah, lies, lies, and more lies. After 6 months of discussions and agreering to big O's unfair terms and conditions, the matter hasn't moved much.

I am now feeling as if my head is in the crocodile's mouth. When your head is in the crocodile's mouth, it means:
  • If you try to pull your head out, you'll have to loose your head to the crocodile.
  • If your head stays any longer in the crocodile's mouth you'll loose it. If the crocodile is more wicked than you assume it might try to pull your neck, torso and more into it's mouth.
Now replace crocodile with big O.
  • If I try to get out of big O's grip I loose my money (M1+M2+M3). I may get a refund but no interest and no compensation.
  • If I continue pursuing big O it will force me to accept it's unfair terms and conditions. If I go further with big O, Iexpose myself more.
As big O is just a name, no trust, no professionalism and no ethics my head is literally in the crocodile's mouth. However, in this battle between me (you can me H) and big O, it's always the case that individuals lose to institutions. So I know I will loose. I can see big O, the crocodile with its open mouth. In fact, I also see more people like me - individuals fight separately and loose collectively against any battle with institutions.

March 13, 2011

Tsunami and Earthquake in Japan in March 2011

The havoc and damage caused by the Tsunami and Earthquake in Japan seems to some kind of a warning from Nature. It seems like a demonstration by nature that despite all the progress made by mankind and the material developments that have accrued from harnessing of nature in the form of science and technology, nature is still more powerful than mankind. Man may imagine that by constructing a building which is resistant to certain intensity of earthquake there would be no more problem only to find nature come back with a higher intensity earthquake.

Mankind at the Mercy of Nature

Japan is used to earthquakes and construction rules and regulations there ensure damage from earthquakes is either eliminated or minimal. However, the earthquake and the ensuing Tsunami this time has been so powerful that the rules and their adherence mean little. It is interesting to note that had it been any other country where rules and regulations are flouted with complete disrespect the damage would have been unimaginable. This not only shows nature is more powerful than anything mankind has been able to do till date but also the fact that mankind must frame stringent rules and regulations and follow them religiously so as to ensure nature's fury is controlled to certain extent. 

Nature Can Surprise Us Anytime

However, there's still a big question that remains with an answer mankind may not want to hear. And that is the unpredictability of nature's actions. Let's assume Japan was prepared to handle an earthquake even more severe than 8.9 richter scale. Is there any guarantee the earthquake's would have been of lesser intensity? In fact, what is the guarantee it will never be 100 on the richter scale or even more? Mankind is so fragile that if and when nature decides to wipe it out it will take it just 10 seconds. An earthquake with intensity of more than 10 has never been recorded and no one except nature and God would know what is the intensity beyond which the earth may split into two and life ceases to exist (it has been theoretically postulated that an earthquake above 12 has the potential to split the earth into two!).

Nature Doesn't Really Care for Human Civilization

All said and done mankind is at the mercy of a supreme being which allows earth to be hospitable for mankind to survive and the day the supreme being decides to bring down the curtains that will be the end of it. Nature doesn't care whether mankind survives or not and even after major damage and possible wipeout of the species "Homo Sapiens' nature will go on as if nothing ever happened. Sun, moon and other celestial bodies will continue their movement, rivers will flow and trees will grow as if nothing ever happened. And not that only even if these things don't happen the supreme being won't care.

March 10, 2011

Handling People with Attitude Problems... Let it Go

In personal and professional lives you come across many kinds of people. In some cases you feel bad due to the way others treat you. Such people generally have an attitude problem or carry a complex. One such person I have met made me feel that way initially however when I analyzed that the person has an attitude problem or carries a complex I let it go.

This person was working in an organization heading one of the functions and was a senior person there. I met this person many times in different forums and meetings. After meeting this person couple of times I had imagined that when we meet the person would recognize me. However, contrary to me expectations, the person used to behave as if I did not exist or we were meeting for the first time. One certain occasions I took lead to strike a conversation but it did not go too far.

Then I decided that since the person has an attitude problem or carries a complex I should let it go. On one of the occasions I went on with my activities without bothering about the other person - in fact I did not even bother to look at the person. I had to catch a cab and I walked straight ahead passing this person without bothering about the person's presence and his very existence. I guess letting it go has helped.

February 18, 2011

Visit to Surajkund Crafts Mela, Faridabad in Feb 2011

I visited the Surajkund Crafts Mela earlier this month. Surajkund Crafts Mela is organized every year in the Surajkund area of Faridabad. This fair has become quite popular owing to the richness and diversity of things on display. This is a must see for those who wish to learn about the traditional arts and craft work in India.

At the Surajkund Crafts Mela

In the fair I was able to see stalls from all the states of India showcasing the richness of our cultural heritage. There were many stalls which were manned by award winners.

The terrain where this fair is organized is another unique feature of the whole event. The place is not a plain ground but has uneven, rocky formations. Going up and down with the uneven terrain has its own charm which I found to be a totally different experience.

For the food lovers there is a food court which offers a variety of delicacies from all corners of India. In fact, I tasted jalebis (a sweet item) which were of a different type than the usual jalebis, they were much thicker.

Improving the Surajkund Crafts Mela

Overall it was a good experience. However, I don't think it's worth a second visit. The other dampener is the traffic and parking arrangement which is nowhere like that for the Trade Fair organized every year in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. In fact, I had to spend more than an hour in the traffic jam on the main road in front of the fair venue.

January 19, 2011

Performance Awards in Organizations

The annual performance awards in most organizations is the occasion when the management recognizes the contributions of high performing individuals and programs in the organization. The purpose of such awards is to inculcate the spirit of healthy competition in the organization.

Another purpose is for the management to demonstrate in clear terms to the masses what is the "right" behavior that would earn recognition and rewards (referred to as R&R in many HR-driven organizations).

Such awards also give opportunity to one and all to celebrate organizational success stories and may also be clubbed with a gala party for all the employees.

What happens before such events is more interesting and intriguing a tale than what happens in such events.

The discussions and decisions behind the closed doors where the success stories (individuals and programs) are finalized need closer look to understand what such events finally end up achieving (whether acknowledged by the management and HR folks or not).

Here are few points to ponder about:
  • The program/project that goes through maximum crises becomes a natural choice in the name of stretched targets being achieved. This is generally true in case of a team working on new types of programs/projects or on programs/projects with tight deadlines or on high profile, strategic projects. And by definition projects that run smoothly will fail to make the grade. It is hard to imagine a program/project getting rewarded if it ran smoothly and never went into crisis due to proactive actions by the team.
  • The individual who worked on critical assignments becomes a natural choice in this case. Someone who brings maximum dollars through a new project is also a natural choice however this works only in the fist year of the project. And by definition a smooth, silent worker will fail to make the grade. It is hard to imagine an individual getting rewarded if he/she worked smoothly and never went into crisis due to proactive actions.
Overall it appears that the driving factors for such rewards are around results (generally in terms of money) and not values. So this may encourage behavior where "what" is a clear winner and "how" is a distant second.

This also encourages the tendency in a typical employee to be part of only the "award-able" programs/projects and also "getting it done" somehow. In such a situation the values the organizations tends to so proudly flash everywhere may gradually start loosing its sheen and make the employees not to take it  seriously.

Taking this further, it may even lead to ethical breakdown in the organization. There are ample cases to demonstrate that:
  • Kenneth Lay of Enron was one of the highest-paid CEOs in his time (results driving rewards) until the Enron scandal broke out due to the "how" behind the "what" not being fair and ethical (value breakdown)
  • Ramalinga Raju of Satyam won several awards and global accolades (results driving rewards) until that infamous letter he sent to the company board admitting the massive fraud going on for years altogether (value breakdown)
The above illustrates the point that value-based rewards are better in the long run than results-based rewards.

This idea means that even if a program/project made a loss (for uncontrollable reasons) but displayed full respect to organizational values (including the systems and processes) it should be rewarded rather than a program/project that made a lot of money but ignored the organizational values.

Right values will yield into right results in the long run in a sustainable manner.

January 16, 2011

Selling or Customer Manipulation

Salesmen are known to be quota driven.

They have revenue targets to meet to get their commission. This compulsion of salesmen can lead to customer manipulation.

The one philosophy that guides salesmen is to sell for as high as possible and still make the customers believe that they have got it for dirt cheap.

The typical tactics used by salesmen to strike and close a deal are as follows:
  • Close the deal come what may and close it as soon as it can be done. This means the salesmen may have to use all means including contacts, personal relations, time-bound discounts and even kickbacks or bribes.
  • Quote a price that is within the range of the competition's quotes. In case the price differential is too high the salesmen may have to convince the customers about the additional items which are part of the package or the key differentiation in the offered products/services or the reason for premium pricing, if any even where none may exist.
  • Make the customer think that the best deal has been offered at each stage of negotiation. The salesmen will always know the margin and may have already done calculations with all permutation and combination.
  • Make the customer look nice and knowledgeable in all the meetings. The salesmen may actually blast the customer (in curse words at times) while having a blast with other friends the very evening/night.
  • Sound and look very genuine and concerned about the customer and his needs while meeting them. The salesmen may have to put on a fake appearance to make the customer think that the salesmen is so genuine and good person. However, the salesmen will do it more for manipulating the customer to say yes.
  • Attend conferences and industry events to meet future customers. The salesmen is like a hunting wolf in such forums ready to "trap" an interested customer.
No doubt, any sales job is a tough one which needs not only a good thing to offer to a prospective customer but also sell it to the customer using manipulative tactics if needed.

While some of the tactics used may be based on scientific research into the sociological and psychological weakness and characteristics of the needy customers, looking at them from a pure and honest angle will make them look like manipulations.

It may appear that most of what happens in the name of selling is but another name of customer manipulation.

January 4, 2011

Dying Happy and Healthy

One must strive to live and die as a happy and healthy person.

Dying happy and healthy is the epitome of a successful life as it means the person has been able to achieve most of the desires (happy) and has been able to enjoy the achievements as well (healthy).

Happiness is a relative concept which essentially embodies the following aspects:
  • Understanding one's god-gifted inherent talents and potential - everyone is unique
  • Achieving what one is truly capable of - stretch out without breaking apart
  • Living a balanced life - both in personal life and profession
  • Not regretting any moment in life - no regrets, no if and should
Heath is a holistic concept which embodies the following aspects:
  • Physical condition - body immunity, vital organs, accidents
  • Mental and emotional condition - calmness, relaxed mind
  • Spiritual condition - philosophical outlook, purpose of life

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