THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Indians

Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit by Harsha on November 29, 2007

An oft-repeated question is “When will India become a superpower like the US or now like China?”

There are visions abound in India that forecast it’s supremacy in the next decade. The dream is that India will finally harness it’s economic horsepower and acquire a commanding stature in the world. Since 2000/2001, the economic and cultural climate in India has changed tremendously. Goods that were once luxuries are now commodities. Foreign nationals now are common sight in the city streets. Foreign Direct Investment is at an all time high. India is the leading outsourcing destination since a large chunk of it’s populace speaks fluent English (it is one of the official languages in India and a uniting factor in a country where every state speaks its own unique language). Over 400,000 engineering and business graduates come out of educational institutions yearly and Indians are adaptable. The top 10 Forbes richest include multiple Indians. The largest steel company is Indian-owned. Hotmail was an Indian’s creation. Bentley sold more cars in 15 days than what it planned for 1.5 years. You have diamonds encrusted million dollar cell phones. The list is endless.

All these are commonly known things in the world and often trumpeted by Indian politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists to show you that India is the next major force to contend with in the world. Next major force – that is an interesting phrase, kind of almost like setting up a constant expectant goal in the distance that is never reached. I am skeptical because I have suffered at the hands of Indian organizations that purport international awareness only to be backed up by ultra-poor Indian quality standards.

Try purchasing and using a calling card or a credit card or use an Indian website like www.sify.com or www.chennaionline.com. How lousy is your experience?

So, in order not to be skeptical or sound bitter, I spent sometime thinking about these problems and the two questions that go hand-in-hand. One – how is India going to become the next superpower and two – how did China become a superpower in ~10 years?

You think you know the answer for China: their non-democracy (what else can you call a capitalistic looking communist-dictatorial state?) is probably why they are leaders in today’s world as they are able to develop slave labor, charge nothing for resources and send their citizens to the US to improve their English and learn international/American customs. And India still seems to be stuck in a rut. True, there has been a lot of economic development but do you know that it is a tiny % of this largely agrarian based economy?

But the truth of the matter is, you need to look into history. Both countries were marauded by the British and America herself is a former colony. This is the common factor that binds these three diverse nations. Yet even though they are cousins in their legacy, America has been the world leader for 300+ years and now China is reaching up for the stars. India remains a distant last. Why?

Everyone jokes about how the world lives it’s life one way and America is pointed in the opposite direction (light switches, driving on the road .. you get the point). The fundamental reason is that America cast off it’s colonial shackles and the very basis of this country’s founding takes it away from colonial pressures and lifestyle. I believe that the only reason that China is where it is today, is because it is slowly doing the same – casting away the aspersions of it’s British legacy and going in the opposite direction.

India, dear India, on the other hand is firmly set in it’s British ways. It’s people, like me, are set in their approach and thought. We are still our British-servile selves because it gives us a “solid” foundation to base our preferences and lives on. It is deep rooted in our psyche. But it is not about preference for tea or old country clubs.

Until such time that Indians figure it out, we are going no where. I am not talking about the technological and economical development we see in India today – it is just a small piece of the pie. If you want to sum up the outsourcing industry in one word, then I believe it is “parasitic” – depending on others to feed you when your own infrastructure reeks.

No, I don’t hate the developments at home nor am I jealous of it. I am just frustrated at our ability to adapt so well and yet remain as a parasite, and be so reactionary to the whole situation. The variables for outsourcing presented themselves and we jumped on it. When are Indians going to create those variables for ideas and industries that the world has not yet seen? Nassim Taleb writes in his book and I paraphrase that despite all the ridicule, people around the world can’t seem to live without their iPods and their email and Internet – all American inventions. That is what I am referring to when I say that outsourcing and India itself is a parasite parasitic in today’s world.

China found it’s niche by employing it’s super-cheap natural resources, slave labor, lack of copyright protection, iron curtains and took it, no, embraced it.

So, what is India’s niche?

Nita Kulkarni, a freelance journalist in India writes about this topic.

Big Luxurious Green Lies

Posted in Pulpit, Roadtrip, TOOBs by Harsha on November 28, 2007

Andrea Barnett of Travel And Leisure writes on CNN about the hospitality industry’s Eco lies.

I saw some of what she writes (like being “asked to recycle towels and use a key card that controls your room’s lights and climate” on my recent road trip).

But here is something I wrote about what Auden Schendler now says, in a recent BusinessWeek article.

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Dealing With The Jerk At Work

Posted in Big Thought, Pulpit, TOOBs by Harsha on November 27, 2007

Mary Lorenz of Careerbuilder.com has an article on CNN about jerks in the office. You know what I say about this, right?

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Playing Well With Others

Posted in Big Thought, People, Pulpit by Harsha on November 8, 2007

Imagine you’re waiting in the lobby area of a company that builds playgrounds and you find yourself in in a faux-playground with play stuff lying around. Would you pick try to use the slide or sit on the merry-go-round? Interesting way to understand a person. If it were me, I’d probably just look around and smirk.

Oops, I won’t be getting that job.

Apparently, a non-profit called KaBoom does this to check out how interviewees would react. Though I probably won’t make it, I think this technique is pretty solid.

Another company called LindBlad Expeditions doesn’t do the idiotic trick-and-pony show that employers usually do, by showing their prospective employeess a super scary DVD that has quote “two shots of a crew member cleaning toilets. A dishwasher talks about washing 5,000 dishes in one day”. Now there is a sure-fire way of figuring out if you (as a prospective employee) have the chops and guts and desperation (aka ambition) to put yourself through the grinder.

These are some examples on the Associated Press article on CNN. All this is done to figure out if you are a “team player”. Can you get along with other people who are working at the company you want to work at. Do you play well with others; how are your interpersonal skills. See, technical skills are teachable. I can learn how to create Pivot Tables in Excel if I have to, it is easy. What is harder, is how I present these tables to others, how I talk with my cohorts and explain the data to them. THAT is the real deal. You’re sick of hearing this, aren’t you?

Keep this in mind the next time you step into an interview. Keep this in mind next time you subscribe to status quo in interviewing techniques. If you work for a large company, then good luck to you. If you’re a small business person, then really, really spend time thinking about this issue. It is tougher than you think. I have always felt that interviews are nothing more than a total waste of time and don’t let any consultant tell you otherwise. You can ask ALL the dodgy questions you can think of and yet hire a sociopath. I know someone who did.

I believe that behavioral interviewing is the best way to find out if a person is worth their words in reality. Put them to the test. Make them do the job as is, under the pressure, under the gun. If they are that interested in your position, then they’d commit to the process. True, you may leave out some good people out in the wild but what you’re looking for is a passionate person. And this is a good way to put the pedal to the metal, to put your money where you mouth is.

On the flip side, what if you’re one of those “good” people and do a job for a job’s sake and are not particularly passionate about the job or any company’s job for that matter? You can use this tactic to figure out if the prospective employer has it’s head screwed on the right way. The article states, quote: “In the mating dance of job interviews, employers traditionally put their best feet forward, too, trumpeting their wonderful benefits packages while leaving out the bit about working late, eating cold pizza”. So if this company makes you do the job as part of the interview process, they are probably TOO intense for you. They probably do have a ton of cold pizza eaten by their employees at midnight.

At the end of the day, it is about and only about a fit. Try putting a round peg in a square hole to see how hard it is to fit into a place or a clique where you just don’t feel like you belong.

Here is the AP article on CNN.

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Yahoo! (not)

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on November 1, 2007

You use email, right? You send and receive emails daily, incessantly.

Then what made the developers and managers of Yahoo! Mail create this all new look? It is much slower (in the US; imagine how slow it is on dial-up), overloaded with features and bells and whistles.

The funny part is the spam filter is entirely out of wonk. I am always amazed how people can create an email system that is so out of whack when their needs are probably similar to ours. Hey, just because you have to innovate, doesn’t mean you have to. Capish?

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Working with someone you HATE

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on October 23, 2007

It is great and easy to work with people that you like.
You also know how it painful and hard it is to work with people that
you don’t like!

I think one’s true value is demonstrated when he/she can get work done
and better yet, make some money through people they personally don’t
like. For instance, we recently had to let someone go who was
generating quarter of a million dollars in revenue for us. Personally,
the guy was borderline hostile with a pinch of weirdness thrown in for
good measure. When he got canned, I was relieved and sad at the same time. I broke into a smile and then frowned.

But working with people you like, is boring, compared to the
challenge of working with someone you dislike. Think of all the times your
blood boiled when they spoke? You’d dismiss every
idea of theirs as idiotic. Think of your increased heartbeats, palpitations, the sweaty palms and the scowl that grew steadily
on your face; the emotion of being riled up and ready to fight.

I am no guru at this exercise but the first progressive step is to
recognize the value in taming your feelings to let you work with
people you hate. And hate is such a relative term – someone you hate is
someone else’s loved one. So your emotion is merely an illusion that
makes you perceive the person in a certain way. It doesn’t make anyone
bad or good fundamentally. That was decided much earlier on by Nature,
Nurture, whatever etc.

So if you can make ____________ (fill in the blank with any measure of success you like) working with someone you hate, I think that makes you one heck of a smart person. I am honest – there are some people I hate even though I know I shouldn’t, but that is the fallacy of being a human being – conflicting realities. So going back to the guy who got canned – if I can put him to work and make another quarter of a million dollars off of him, then sure, why not? It makes me a better person from all angles (materially, philosophically and spiritually).

Events and electronic events management

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on October 16, 2007

WhizSpark recently tied up with Strategic Auctions Inc. It is in their Simulcast Auctions post. During the Web Innovators Group event, their President said that he is in the business of increasing attendance for events. Disclaimer: I know nothing about their sales or business strategy, these are just my opinions.

I
think the events management space falls some where under PR umbrella,
so anything and everything must look and feel like PR work. I am not
sure I get that at this point from WS. I don’t think they view
themselves as being in PR but view themselves as being in IT. They have
extensive event tracking functions, but that is easily replicable by
off-the-shelf products or custom built code. Have you seen Google Calendar?
It is free (yes, it is not as feature-rich but how long will it take
for the world’s largest database to add a metrics tracking tool?). So
technology-innovation is clearly NOT the differentiator. It never is,
unless you sell consumer electronics or highly-customized business
products/services.

What is the value-innovation being offered? None.
Obviously some people have signed up for the service but is it
sustainable and will it grow large enough, in stable yet quick way?
These are some Qs I’m trying to answer myself and am drawing a blank.
Of course, if a sell-out is the exit strategy then I’m just babbling
here.

I think by forward-integrating into the events management space
creates a viable model. You can never replace an events management
service with technology. Bodies on the ground and intelligent code on
the backend is a powerful combination to orchestrate everything cost
effectively.

Consider this example: Your networking group is having an event. As
an organizer, what do you need to make this event a success? Let’s say
you’re looking to hire a cost-effective service provider since budget’s
are tight. You also want to attract a 1000+ size crowd, will offer a
free buffet and a cash-bar. The venue needs to be in center of town and
the entry fee is $100 per head.

1. Event registration & money management
2. Catering (food and drink) and venue decoration services
3. Venue set up and management
4. Cleanup services (assuming the venue does not offer this service)
5. During-event attendee management

I would set up agreements with 3 catering companies and store their
menu offerings, rates and quantities electronically, tagging them as I
go. I’d also sign up with decoration services (flowers and
event-environment services) and do the same for their rate cards. Ditto
for the rest.

Patience and Intention Experiments – 2

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on August 14, 2007

I had an interesting experience this past weekend.
At a Starbucks in a mall, I waited at the pick up counter. A young
girl, clearly overwhelmed by the order volume, was struggling
to keep up. She barely made eye contact or smiled at any of us (wasn’t that part of the Starbucks allure?). She churned out coffee after coffee and yelled out it’s name (and not of the person who ordered it). Most of what she made were not even real orders – she was making extra coffees by mistake. But she did manage to serve some real orders as well.

No one gave her a hard time, but they just had looks of anger. I stood extra
longer than all those folks, not a whimper out of me. All this time, I
was observing her – it was clear to me from the get-go that she
was tired (probably at ending her shift soon) and unable to cope with the order volume without help from her coworkers behind the counter.

She did not have a name tag. As a regular reader of this blog, you will
know that I *always* address someone serving me by name. So I used
"miss" as a replacement and lowered the tone in my voice.

5-7 minutes later (not that long actually) she walked up to the cashier
and had her fish out 2 free coffee coupons for me! Cynics and others
who have gotten their share of free coupons may snicker, but I
appreciate and reward good intention. I said "thank you miss, you are
very kind" and believe me, it made her day.

I wanted to go one step further, but must admit that it probably would
have been over the top. Also, I needed to get out of there quick since
my party was waiting to move on. I intended to buy her a cup of coffee
to thank her for the intention.

Intention is
shaping my approach to situations and people. Remember, she is doing her job to pay her bills just like me and you. And since my intention has been to empathize with people who serve me, it
seems to reward me as well.

Chrysler Nitro Ethics

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on July 20, 2007

Chrysler Group was dismayed to discover that an advertisement created
by an ad agency supporting our Netherlands Market Performance Center
goes far beyond the bounds of what the company considers appropriate,”
Chrysler said in a statement.

The company says it was dismayed to find that fictional animal torture was outside what it considered appropriate. No one really enjoys torture except a perverted mind.

Nice way to push the envelope to find out how far people’s sensibilities can be tinkered with, and oh, the dismay is because they found the limit. It doesn’t matter how far one went out of bounds – an out is an out.

Or am I reading too much into it?

News link on CNN.

On another note – Relationships

Posted in Pulpit by Harsha on June 5, 2007

I recently lost a close family friend’s father, known to my family for over 20 years. That event was catalystic in prompting me to write this post.

This garland of souls that one has in his/her life – parents, siblings and spouse, is probably once-in-a-lifetime combination. You can never get them back even if you were the most powerful person on Earth. This is especially painful if you deeply love any or all of these people.

This friend’s death made me reconsider my parents’ mortality, something that has deeply bothered me ever since I understood the ever-looping cycle of births and deaths. My mother, father, sisters, and now wife, are probably exclusive to this lifetime and may never come together again.  Of course, this is a moot point if you don’t believe in rebirth, unlike me.

I share a very tight relationship with my folks so it breaks my heart to imagine that when they pass, I won’t be able to talk or touch them, spend time laughing or hearing how their voice resonates. Once they go, they’re gone for eternity; who knows if I’ll ever get back with them in the same ring of relationships.

The sadness turns to emptyness because it is truly unimaginable by someone who hasn’t suffered a close personal parental loss yet to fathom the void. Both my parents are alive but I’ve been consumed by this mortality review to the point that every word spoken with/by them, is like a drop of water on dry land – a fading memory that slowly seeps away. It adds to the misery that those memories can never truly capture the tenor of their voice, but just be a distant, pictorial playback of that sound.

Pictorial playback of sound. That’s how the mind stores audio memories. You can never hear their voice again. You’ve lost them forever to Time or Nature. While it is good to let go of the past, it tears my heart. These painful words written now are mere reflections of the inevitable true pain of final and permanent separation.

When my time to lose comes, I won’t have the courage to flip the page on the biggest chapter in my life so far, and move to the next. True, Time is a healer, but fundamental to healing is undergoing terrible pain, the inability to retrace your steps, nee, turn back Time and go back to the point of contact – talking with your parent or feeling their  warmth in a hug or a kiss. 


No matter what happens, I am fortunate to have been associated with these souls, whose passing is something I know for a fact, I will never get over with. It pains to enact the actual moment of passing, the sinking feeling of the reality and the need to take action in a moment when all you want to do is take it all in. I am more cognizant of this delicate balance, the "defective" system where you are forced to give up your oldest and most sacred/loved relationship in an instant. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.