Wednesday, July 2, 2008

You become a Manager When...

You know you have become a 'Manager' when -

  • Your first reaction on seeing timelines submitted by your team for any task is that of complete bewilderment
  • You try to use your long lost technical knowledge on your team to bring down the effort estimates, but are completely outsmarted by the team by their arguments
  • You go ahead anyways and cut down the effort, and tell the team that this is what the client has agreed upon
  • Your list of 'Recent Programs' consist only of Excel, PPT, Word, MPP, Acrobat, and Calculator (also Games & IM's, if your company allows them)
  • Your anwer to questions on career development by a team member is a cryptic discourse on how great the company is, its vision & values, what all wonderful opportunities it has blah blah .... (all with a straight face) even though you may be serving your notice period with the organization
  • Your are able to resolve all the queries of your team members without having any idea of what you just talked about
  • You start blogging because the company firewall won't let you do anything else with your time (which you have in abundance as you NEED to sit in front of the computer to give an impression that you are working on something!)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

India on short fuse

Have you noticed that off late there have been increasing number of protests across the country. Here are some which have made headlines in recent past - J&K protest over land transfer to Amarnath Shrine Board, Gujjar Protest over SC status, Sikh protest over Dera chief, Gorkha protest in Sikkim/WB over different statehood, Farmers protest in Karnatka over fertilisers, Shiv Sena/Raj Thakeray protest against north-Indians, Tibetan protest against Olympic torch, Protests against inflation and price rise .. and all this is just within last two months!!

Do you observe something here -
  1. Only one of these protests is of any consequence to the nation - price rise/inflation, and the only one organized by political parties
  2. All others are protests by specific communities to assert their opinion/demands - regardless whether they are right or wrong, and as can be seen by the list of protests above the protests are not limited to people of any specific religion, or region- we are a true secular democracy as far as protests are concerned!
  3. Sadly, almost all of them have been violent resulting in loss of human life and heavy disruptions in everyday life of people having nothing to do with these protests

It is thus clear that 'aam aadmi' is increasingly taking to violent protests to get his point across as he believes there is no other way of being heard or to get his issues addressed - which is a very sad reflection on our political system. Also, since there is generally no action against protesters (due to political compulsions), it sends out a signal to rest of the communities/ groups that this is a legitimate way to air their grievances. Media is further fuelling these protests as anyone with 4-5 goons can now start a protest and TRP hungry media would make sure that it becomes a 'Breaking News' across channels.

Its high time government at all levels starts soothing frayed nerves by working on equitable policies, and we, as citizens, vote out politicians and political parties who promote or shield factionalism.

Monday, April 28, 2008

What next Mr. Ramadoss?

Mr. Ramadoss must be a very worried man right now. He must be thinking what can he take up next after banning smoking from films, and advising actors not to use liquor and chips (!!) in their movies? Here is an idea - he can ban showing cars in movies, and ban all car related ads too! Here is a perfectly good logic for that -

1. They pollute air which is certainly bad for health
2. Bigger sin - people get killed in car accidents

So if we dont show cars, younsters wont get influenced & will not buy cars. This would not only lead to safer roads and cleaner air, it would also force them to walk to their destination which is again very healthy!

Go ahead Mr. Ramadoss, and I am sure your last year in government would be as successful as your last four!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

My Top 10 Things To Do For An Entrepreneur

Some of the things that have helped me in my entrepreneurial journey so far -

  1. If starting as a team of 2 or more partners - make sure that you know each other well, and that you are ok with strengths and weaknesses of your partner. Starting an organization together is like getting into a marriage with your partners (you would actually be spending more time together then with your spouse!), so knowing each other, and ability to respect your partners is very important for long-term sustainability of relationship.
  2. Have blind trust in your partners. However, create a framework (e.g. regular board meetings) which would allow any one of you to discuss any action/issue/initiative etc. - this is very helpful as it allows everyone to get together and brainstorm regularly, discuss and find solutions to specific problems, and diffuse tensions (if any).
  3. Have a vision, and business plan in place when you start out. However, be flexible to change your plans as per requirement.
  4. Make sure you have working capital, or source of working capital for the projected break-even date + 6 months (or more depending upon nature of your business). DO NOT START WITHOUT HAVING FINANCIALS IN PLACE (we have already faced failures in 4 initiatives because we started action before financial closure).
  5. Burn all your boats - there is no other option for you other than making a glorious success out of your venture - it's with this attitude only that you can succeed. If you have an option to bail out, you most probably would take it when the going gets really tough.
  6. Stop bothering about your peers salaries or progress. In my opinion this is one of the biggest reasons why bright, young entrepreneurs give up when their initial plans don't work out. Have complete confidence in yourself (remember that's the reason you started out in first place!), and believe me success would eventually come to you.
  7. In continuation of the above only - Be Patient, & Persistent. Remember its not a 100 meter race - its the longest, and toughest marathon you would ever participate in, and it's all about being strong mentally and not necessarily about running the hardest.
  8. Try understanding financial world (specially for techies who start out on their own) - take help from friends/seniors and keep your records straight from day one.
  9. Always keep trying to differentiate yourself from your competition (by however small margin that may be). Not only will this help you sell yourself better to your customers, over period of time you would create an edge for yourself which your potential investors would appreciate and invest in.
  10. Get good people as soon as possible, empower them to take decisions, let them know that failure is acceptable, and then let go of the reins. However, do put processes in place which would guide your team to stick to organization's vision, values, and objectives.

And most important of all - don't forget to have fun along the way!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

India @59 - Hope and Despair

We would be 59 year old republic tomorrow, and I think we have come a long way over last 60+ years of independence. From the initial euphoria of Independence, to economic, food and military crisis of 60's and 70's, to some period of stability of mid 80's, and then venturing on a completely new path starting 91, India has been through quite a journey.

Today we have become one of the fastest growing economies, and an envy of the world. But beneath these numbers and glitzy malls tension is slowly building up in masses who are left untouched by this growth. While private sector is growing rapidly (wherever its allowed to function with minimal interference), the sectors that require government support the most, such as healthcare, infrastructure, education, speedy resolution of legal issues, support in fighting against the land sharks in name of SEZ's etc, are either falling behind, or fast loosing public confidence.

The contrast is evident everywhere, and nowhere more so than Gurgaon which is fast becoming BPO capital of the country. On one hand we have New Gurgaon with high-rises where people shell out extra money for electricity generators for 24x7 electricity supply, and on the other hand we have old-Gurgaon, which is largely dependent upon electricity supplied by Government controlled distribution system, and which typically goes without power for atleast 10 hours a day. We have people who can get themselves treated at Apollo Hospital by shelling big bucks, and then we have people who depend on government run hospitals, which are nothing but a sham in name of health care. Situation in villages or towns of other states is even worse.

Why is it like this? Why is certain part of India growing so rapidly, and why is other India being left behind? Answer is simple - while Indian enterprises after being unshackled from regulatory framework have started to find their feet in new global system, there is no pressure on Government, or civil services to improve. There is no pressure because the ones who are affected the most due to government inefficiencies are not united, and do not put pressure on government to improve. They are not united because they have been divided along the lines of caste, and religion by opportunistic politicians - a trend which is growing with emergence of even larger number of regional parties.

If we continue to ignore majority of our population, and if they don't get their due share in the growth pie, then one day the masses would rise and pull rest of India down with them (essentially what naxalites are doing in certain pockets these days - which I very much doubt can be solved by gun as our PM has suggested).

We need to shake things from the top to bring about any significant change - strengthen national parties who have clearly defined agenda of growth and not of divisive politics, select powerful prime-minister (and not merely a rubber stamp), make Government (ministers, civil servants) accountable to people (RTI act being one positive step in that direction).

I know all this sounds too Utopian, but I am sure even independent India would have sounded Utopian 100 years ago!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Indian Entrepreneurs - Finding System in Chaos

I was wondering why Indians are such entrepreneurial in nature. If you look at it, India is not a very entrepreneur friendly country -

  1. Company laws are archaic - opening a company takes time, and closing one is almost impossible
  2. Labor laws are not favorable - one can not fire an employee without permission from State Labor Board if number of employees in the organization are more than 100
  3. Infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, be it electricity, roads, health care etc.
  4. Laws are confusing, and God forbid if you do get into a litigation it would take ages to get a judgement
  5. Manufacturing industry is still mired with bureaucracy, and red tap

So from the surface it looks like an impossible task to start and run your own enterprise. But then why is India known for its entrepreneurial people around the world?

I think the answer is that we Indians are very street smart, and know how to work the system in our favor. The laws are tough but lack of enforcement works in our favor, and penalties are not very stiff to act as deterrent for people to be adventurous. Even if one gets caught, that person knows how to get out of the trouble by greasing the right palms (for minor oversights). As far as infrastructure is concerned, electricity I think is the most important requirement for most industries and entrepreneurs meet that by installing their own generator sets.

So in effect, the very things that would be considered a show-blocker actually work in an entrepreneurs favor.

But street smartness can only take you to a point. To grow beyond that one needs institutional support, easy funding opportunities, and most importantly a mind-set which can think beyond immediate profits and look for value-creation. It's the third point which I think is our Achilles heel (first two - though lot to be desired, are still slowly getting into place)- most of us are short-sighted and only look for immediate gains in bottom-line, and generally do not invest aggressively in something innovative that can generate value in future, and quickly catapult a company to next level. That I believe is one of the core reasons why there are so many successful SME's in India but very few examples of large enterprises built by first-generation entrepreneurs.

With booming stock market (which is relatively a recent phenomenon), Indian entrepreneurs too have started realizing the value their can organizations can offer to them if they stay focused, concentrate on long-term gains, and work towards building world-class organizations.

I am positive that in next 5-10 years we would see many more big companies emerging out of India as more and more entrepreneurs align themselves with global best practices, and work towards creating innovative solutions rather than just creating need-based solutions.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Photosynthesis to Clean Development Mechanism

I had this brainwave which lead me to do bit of a research on Internet, which threw some very interesting information on the subject I was thinking about. Here you go...

Well, energy is a big concern these days, and so is pollution, and global warming. From my elementary chemistry I remembered that photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide to oxygen by using sunlight. So I thought why is there no mechanism where we can artificially simulate this process - it would generate electricity (since sunlight must be getting converted to energy for enabling whatever chemical reaction had to take place to convert CO2 to O2), and also reduce carbon dioxide from environment!

So began my interesting journey to find out if there is something that is being done on this topic - and interestingly yes, some work is being done on this specially by group of scientists in Australia, and US. Apparently it is a difficult task to achieve the efficiencies as achieved by trees, and scientists are trying to figure out how they can make 'artificial photosynthesis' more efficient to make it an industrially viable option. This book is a very informative if you would like to read more on this topic - 'Artificial Photosynthesis - From Basic Biology to Industrial Application'.

This search took me to another area - Carbon Collection & Storage (CCS). Now that artificial photosynthesis is not going to happen in a hurry, CCS seems to be an attractive option. This technology is particularly useful for large scale stationary sources of CO2, such as power plants, cement plants etc, and this involves first separating CO2 from emitted gases, capturing it, and then storing it in heavily pressurized format in geographic locations, or in sea from where it can not escape. The technology to do all of the above is available, but is costly (as of now) and adds to per-unit of electricity. That is why power plants are reluctant to install the technology.

Here comes Clean Development Mechanism, or CDM in short, which is a result of Kyoto protocol and essentially translates into this - developed nations that can not cut CO2 emissions themselves pay for projects being set up in developing nations to cut CO2 by using advanced technology. The companies which set up these CDM approved projects get carbon credits, which are then traded in open market and are bought by the companies in developed world.

Currently CCS is not covered under CDM, but is expected to be added to the list of approved technologies by end of 2008. Now here's the idea - form an organization which would have consultants on board who would get trained on CCS and CDM in next one year, and then take the plunge when the time comes, or maybe even earlier with consulting projects on other approved technologies and project types. Yes, there are companies already operating in this space (CDM that is) - but the pie is too big and is going to get bigger only, and can accommodate many more players. Interested? If yes, let's forge ahead!!