How to instil confidence?

The human brain has a high capacity to overcome problems and find solutions. It thinks differently given a chance. It feels the need to see in an innovative way of moving forward. How does this happen? It happens if you allow the child to be curious, questioning every small thing. Sometimes a parent is so fed up that she ends up telling the child, “Every why has no reply because the Sky is very high!” It is easy to suppress curiosity because you are busy; you do not know the answer or the child has asked an awkward question, say about sex! It is not the child who is awkward, but it is you! In today’s time when Google is around, finding an answer to anything is a matter of a few minutes. But we avoid it or do not try it.

Effects of intellectual freedom and curiosity are there to see in this world. The other day, I was watching an interview on India Today TV by Rajdeep Sardesai, and he was interviewing BMC Commissioner Mr Chahal. The problem was the availability of Ambulances in Mumbai. Some organisations or individuals own ambulances. In today’s times, their availability has become essential due to the pandemic. Mr Chahal explained an attractive solution. He approached Uber, who anyway is not highly active currently. He got hold of all the ambulances, ensured that there is a driver available all the time. Uber agreed to allow BMC to use their software. Anybody needing an Ambulance must access Uber app and simply order it. It is a classic example of Government-Private partnership.

The way Mr Chahal was ready with data, actions proposed, and actions already taken instilled a lot of confidence in viewers like me. Same Mr Sardesai, who was upset with the Government, which transferred the previous commissioner Mr Pardeshi. I am sure now Mr Sardesai must be feeling quite confident about the capabilities of Mr Chahal. Honestly, I was not satisfied with Mr Pardeshi.

https://youtu.be/RmGROMFF3U0

Given below is a video about Naman Gupta and his organisation. Where ever we travel in the world, cities and places where we visitors go, are spic and span except for one thing. In each country and continent, one thing common is the cigarette butts thrown all over the place. Why it is so common is difficult to understand. But Naman Gupta decided that enough is enough. He decided that he needs to do something with this problem. He made a plan, formed an organisation and has been collecting and processing these butts- Code Efforts Private Limited. I will not go into the details of their operations. But Naman and his company are working with great zeal to correct the situation about cigarette butts. They have been doing this for the last four years- the company started in 2018. Their first problem was collecting these butts; they found an innovative solution. Friends, I leave it to you see the video and decide for yourself about the effort.

What Naman’s effort has done is to instil confidence in people like us that things are okay in this world. Somebody wants to do something and cares about our mother earth. That too, by doing something exciting like converting these butts into usable products. When we see apathy and disrespect about nature everywhere, these small beginnings give us confidence that things will improve in future.

Similar effort but on a much larger scale was started in Pune by Adar Poonawalla- CEO of Serum Institute in Pune. He pledged Rs.100/ crores to launch an initiative called http://adarpcleancity.com/

Adar Poonawalla founded the Clean city initiative in January 2015 with the sole purpose of improving the environment and waste management in the city of Pune his home base. He said “I am a proud Indian. My pride takes a hit when I look at our streets and roads compared to those of other more developed nations, and so instead of criticising any government, I decided to pledge 100 crores to pick up and manage our waste and garbage in the city of Pune. The waste and garbage not only is damaging our health and environment, but it is an embarrassment to foreigners and visitors who visit India. Today we have over 200 trucks/ machines and over 400 employees for managing this activity covering more than 600 km of roads in Pune (roughly 60% the city)”.

Such efforts take away our mind from the doomsday predictions about the world. There are people, and there will be more and more people who will come forward and make this earth a better place to live.

Historically, which personalities instilled confidence in us? It is said that during the second world war, Churchill had a high command on his oratory, and he instilled confidence in the British people. There is a joke on this subject. Churchill was taking a taxi to go to the studio to give his weekly speech to the nation. He waved to a cab. The driver stopped and said, “If you are going in the direction I live, I will take you. I have to listen to Churchill’s speech.” Churchill took out a One Pound note, a princely amount in those days. The driver said, “Hop in! If you are giving me a pound, to hell with Churchill!”

In every society, there is a goto group of people. In case of difficult times, calamities, disasters, this group of people simply starts working to help people. We are lucky to have two such groups in India. One is the Sikh Gurudwara Samiti, and the other is RSS. Both groups are a part of religions. Gurudwara Samiti is part of Sikhism, and RSS (Rashtriya Sahayak Sangh) is part of Hinduism. But surprisingly they are apolitical.

Gurudwaras have a tradition of Kar Seva. I have visited a few in Pune and the Golden Temple in Amritsar. While I neared the open space outside the temple, it was spic and span. There were volunteers around to pick up stuff thrown by you and me. They would discretely stand on the side and every fifteen minutes or so pick up stuff and clean the area. People told me that even if you throw something in front of them, they will never challenge you; they will simply clean the area. Their humility will change any nasty person who would behave indecently. Inside in an area, Prasad was offered to everybody in a Dron (a cup made of leaves). About fifty feet away, a person was standing with plastic bags to help people carry Dron. Mind you these are all volunteers who in real life could be industrialists, business owners or CEO’s of large companies. It is their way of giving back to society. Their Langars are famous for feeding every person who goes to Gurudwara irrespective of their caste, creed, sex and religion. During disasters, they run these Langars all over the world. I have read about the Langars run by them during the pandemic, in London and New York too!

See this interview by Barkha Dutt of RSS workers in Dharavi, Mumbai. These workers are helping the corporation of Mumbai to test the people for infection. There was a doctor, a physics professor, a chartered accountant, a businessman, a hawker in that group. All these people had taken a break from usual work to help the corporation, and thereby the nation. When asked by Dutt, “How come you are working here since your government is not here?” The simple answer was, “We do not help the governments, we help people.” RSS workers have rushed to areas in Kerala during the flood, to the eastern coast of India during the tsunami. They do not wait for someone’s instructions. Their organisation is such that volunteers simply gather together and travel to areas where help is needed.

Friends, with Gurudwara Samiti, RSS, Mr Chahal and Adar Poonawalla in our society rest assured that everything is going on well in this world. There will be blips, and there will be obstacles to surmount. Of course, there will Trumps of this world around. But goodness and keenness of these people will instil confidence in humanity. If all of us do some good work in our “personal” ecosystem, our mother earth will always look the way she has been! A great place to live!

 

Pathbreaking?  

We are lucky to be around in 2020, especially for those from my generation because we have used bullock carts, radios and we have used computers, cell phones, apps changing the world. I am comfortable using all the new technology, and I am not overwhelmed by various apps. The gadgets and apps galore are changing the way live. Sometimes I wonder how we survived during my childhood. But everything always has two sides. There is proverbial another side the society finds at some stage, once the euphoria dies down for anything new.

I am talking of Cell Phones, FB, WA and Instagrams and many such 21st century things; along with this, there are game-changing apps, too, like Air Bnb and Uber/Lyft/Ola. These were designed to create a lifestyle previously unknown to us. But you will be surprised how the apps get used for the purpose not thought of by the creators. Those who create such apps also make errors of judgement in the software will work, or users could use it. I know a bit about software as I ran a software product company for almost twenty years.

We had a product called DMS, dealership management system. The product did everything for authorised dealers who sold and serviced vehicles. The product created for such companies followed all statutory rules, but for private dealers, we modified it to suit their requirement in the initial launch phase. One problem these dealers faced was that some vehicles were brought for repairs by the drivers hired by owners. They would demand some easy money from dealership owners. We tweaked the system to include some spare parts in the bill but did not reflect on the inventory. The extra money was paid to the driver from the vehicle owner’s pocket. An enterprising dealer used this system for engine overhauling work. The user would replace 50 spare parts but display 70 spare parts in the bill and skim the money! Software users are smarter!

Let us consider Airbnb. It stands for Air-bed and breakfast, or Airbnb (“Air-b-n-b”) for short. Airbnb is an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations while travelling. How does Airbnb workAirbnb lets people rent out their properties or spare rooms to guests. Airbnb takes 3% commission of every booking from hosts, and between 6% and 12% from guests.

Okay, this is the business part. But what it means that I have a home where I have a room available for temporary renting. I make it available on the site. Travellers who are going to be in your city, look for accommodation. They see various options with the help of photos and writeups; the home may be an average home to fancy home. You advertise the rate for the stay. If people find it suitable, they will book and stay. When you leave, you bring it back to the condition you received it in and go. It is more like a homestay.

But in London, they found a big fraud had taken place in the system. A group of people came together and created a system whereby various “homes” were under the umbrella of an organisation. They got these properties on Airbnb and fictitious owner names of Jack, Daniel, and so on. They would rotate the same properties in the name of these people. Furniture, arrangements inside were similar, but they would publish photos taken from different angles so that homes looked different. Airbnb has a separate business company where they list hotels too! But Airbnb is only for individual households. The group in London was running a big fraud probably because Airbnb charges a small commission for such homes. People tried to take advantage of some loophole in the system to cheat the company. When people offer their homes, they generally provide with great care. But this group had poor cleanliness standards and in general, had the mentality of fly by night operators. Why people go to any extent to cheat for a few extra bucks? Such episodes bring different thoughts in mind. Should I save some dollars or book formal hotels? In these hotels, at least I know what I would get.

Let us now think about Ride-Hail apps. When talk of these apps, Lyft, Uber and Ola (in India) names come to mind. The apps were supposedly THE solution to pollution problems. What was expected from the apps? People would stop using personal vehicles; they would stop buying private cars in large numbers. Lower emission and lower pollution will make a happy world! But has it happened the way it was supposed to happen? Yes and mostly no.

Why is it so? It is because there was one assumption made in the model. These ride companies expected that a lot of their business would be given by sharing of the rides, because of cost-effectiveness. But in reality, it does not happen that way. To begin with, a person like me who is used to travelling in my own vehicle, I don’t even consider sharing a ride.

How does share work? Assume that you are going to the airport. The software maps your path; you then select a share option. The software would track a customer going in a similar direction with share option. Cab will pick up the customer or customers! They all could be going to the airport or in that direction. You are already late to catch the flight, and you might just make it. On the way, the Cab takes a five-minute detour to drop or pick up a customer. You become jittery. I hope that I have created an extreme situation. The situation may not be critical every time, but would you give an additional 15 minutes buffer to handle such eventualities? It is an individual choice. But data indicates that ride-sharing is very low though sharing ride could be cheaper for customers.

Another thing that the app designers did not consider was, would ladies share rides with unknown males? If you regularly share with your colleagues, it is another issue, but otherwise, this possibility is remote.

What is the result? There are not many shared rides, but there are more and more cars on the roads. More importantly, the data says that cab drivers drive for 40% of the time on the streets, empty. Pollution is not reduced, and drivers are not happy. What has the app done for society? For people like me, when I feel that there could be a parking issue, I hail a Cab. Some of the younger folks don’t buy cars these days. They use these Cabs extensively. If the benefit expected was ten, then I think we have achieved between three and four!

Why such errors take place? Do people not think through correctly while designing the business model? These companies do not own cars, but their product is the software which runs their business. Sometime back Uber CEO had mentioned in an interview that he does not think Uber will ever make a profit! Currently, it is losing money heavily.

 What other effects does it have? As the number of cars has gone up, the peak time traffic speed has considerably reduced in all Metropolis areas. As these vehicles are available anywhere, they have sucked people away from buses and trains. People used to walk short distances, but now they hail a Cab. All these consequences were unintended, but the fact remains that it has happened!

What is the lesson for the future? Wait for any new system to show its results; immediate results are meaningless. Many VC’s have invested tons of money in these companies. Is it really worth it? Does it mean that product designers made mistakes and the VC’s also misjudged? How does the entire ecosystem make errors of judgment? Mind you, these are not small systems.  We have also seen the intended and actual use of social media apps. A classic example in India is the way people use “Missed Call” to send predefined messages.

In future, it is going to be tough for the human race to decide which new processes, products to use!

Slowdown! Recession and the cycle! 

Economic cycleThe science of economy is something which I don’t understand, seriously! Noble laureates give their theories, experts write essays, but an engineer like me understands only physics. Whatever goes up must come down! It is the theory of gravity. Sometimes it goes up slowly and comes down fast with a thud. Sometimes both speeds are similar. Economic growth goes up swiftly and comes down slowly sometimes. India has been lucky that it came out of the 2008 recession reasonably unscathed and bounced back for the last eight years to a decent growth rate of 6 to 8%.

Many factors lead to growth. Similarly, different factors slow down the economy. These factors are market sentiment, buying power, and so on; the Indian economy since independence did not show correct growth due to a parallel economy. The parallel economy, in the local language, is called Black Money. What is black money, and how does it get generated? Many businesses like construction, land dealings, trade pay each other by cash. Cash payment is made to avoid Income Tax. A part of business activity is never shown on paper. When there is “no business” there is no profit hence no Income Tax. The parallel economy also grew because of unprecedented corruption activity. Nobody takes bribe by cheque, so spending is also done in cash.

In some cases, corruption is in kind by gifting condos, high-end cars, or items which can be bought in cash. Such gifting is done in the name of non-earning spouse or a relative. In Many cases, such assets are “Benami” assets in the name of one’s sweepers, peons and drivers. In a recent interview, Mahindra & Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra said that the economy has been going through a process of ‘detoxification’. Since the negative impact of disruptions is now over, the economy is expected to see an upside in FY21, Bloomberg TV reported Chairman Mahindra as saying at an event in Davos, Switzerland. “The prime minister has been quite obsessed with the kind of growth he wants, and that is transparent, free of corruption” Mahindra also said. He also felt that the upcoming budget is expected to be watched closely by different quarters of the economy amid the slowdown.

The Indian economy is seeing a slowdown for some time now on account of a fall in consumption and demand. The government announced a slew of measures in the past few months to revive growth ranging from bank recapitalisation and boost in liquidity.

The perception right now is that government actions caused the slowdown. But on the other hand, if you are going to detox yourself, you always have a process of cleansing before you start recovering and running again. Demonetisation and GST were the part of disruptions that have now ended, and the economy is already seeing signs of life. From the next fiscal, India will surprise the world on the upside is the general market sentiment.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently slashed the growth estimates for both the Indian and the global economy. The global growth is expected to reach 3.3 per cent in 2020, compared to 2.9 per cent in 2019, the slowest pace since the financial crisis a decade ago. The Washington-based international crisis lender revised downward India’s GDP growth projection to 4.8 per cent for FY20 and 5.8 per cent for FY21. “India’s domestic demand has slowed more sharply than expected amid stress in the non-bank financial sector and a decline in credit growth,” the IMF report said.

Detoxification had to be done. It has not eliminated black money. But the reports say that it is reduced to some degree. The government is relentlessly after the businesses and businessmen who have cheated their customers and banks. People like Modi and Mallya are in jail in Britain. Other business people like Sahara Subrata Roy, D S Kulkarni, Wadhawan are in prison. Unitech projects have been taken over by the government to give homes to 21000 people like you and me. The authorities did not have the guts to detoxify the banking system in olden days. The detoxification process has started bringing out huge NPA’s (non-performing assets) of many banks. These NPA’s were created with the help of bank employees sometimes. But many times, the businessmen cheated the banks. Under the garb of hidden NPA’s our economy was “doing well”. When the cleansing act began a few years back, the loan sanctioning processes became a little tougher. The result of more scrutiny was that credit availability came down. When the available credit comes down, business activity slows down. It is a spiral that any economy dreads. But system correction was a must.

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Growth any any country cannot be perpetually high. As the base increases rate of growth is bound to come down.

On one side, the automotive industry has slowed down, but there are reasons like availability of Ola’s and Uber’s of this world. But there is a surprise that the SUV introduced by KIA is selling like hotcakes. There is going to be one more hurdle here; the government is pushing for Electric Cars or initially more efficient IC Engine Hybrid cars. These cars will be more expensive than current IC Engine cars; the young generation is now changing their thought process. They don’t buy cars, but prefer Uber and Ola; they rent homes instead of buying homes. India has now become number two in the world behind China for the Smart Phone market. Spending ways are changing.

I am happy about this downturn for another reason. Gita Gopinath from IMF explained that the Indian recession has caused a 0.1 % reduction in the growth rate in the world economy. It indicates that India is not a small cog in the world economic wheel. At the same time, she has also said that the worst for the Indian economy is over, and it will start the upward movement in growth rate from this year 2020! The statement will disturb some people because they hoped that bad times would continue. Each group has his/her agenda! Some for political reasons and others for TRP reasons! The lousy news is THE news!

Indian economic experts had made similar predictions and statements! But we believe in someone who sits in cool climes; even if the person is desi, it is okay! Old habits die hard!

I have observed an interesting thing in international diplomacy. Turkey and Malaysia had no business to poke their nose in the internal affairs of India. They made some statements which were not necessary. When India protested, they continued in the same vein expecting the docile Indian response of yester years. But they must have got a shock of their life. India kicked them where it really hurts. India had ordered one ship worth US $2.2/ billions, on Turkey; it was put on hold. For Malaysia, India was the most significant customer of refined palm oil. A few hints here and there, the purchase pattern changed within a few months. Indian traders switched over to Indonesian palm oil. Malaysia was shocked, and they have no option but to accept it. Their prime minister accepted that Malaysia is too small to retaliate. They are trying to offer some sweet deals to India. But India is ignoring them.

Friends, in the economy of any country and for that matter world, there are always cycles of growth and downturn. A downturn can be because of market sentiments, inflation and sometimes the combination of two, stagflation. The experts of every country find ways that suit their economy. Japan for years is not doing great because of their efficient methods of working. The Japanese markets are too small for some of their giants like Toyota, Honda, Docomo. They have no option but to export and open plants in different countries. The German case is also like Japan because its economy is entirely dependent on the exports of superb engineering products. The economies of different countries are now changing from a global open market to the one which is suitable for own requirements. The US has become a leader of such self centered thoughts.

It is going to be a game of diplomacy where each country will look for ways which will be to their benefit only. Brexit is a latest classic example of this thought process. In each country, the opposition plays the political games of troubling the incumbent governments. Whichever is the government in any country, they can make mistakes, but they all put the interest of the country ahead of everything else.

For commoners like you and me, it is necessary to be remember that economic activity is a cyclic process. It goes down and then it bounces back; we need not worry about these issues.

 

 

 

 

Connectivity- the Big Brother!  

I am all for technologyThe technological changes that took place in the world in the last 50 years are beyond our imagination. My definition of the period in human history changes to suit the subject of discussion. In my blog published yesterday, I was talking of “Before the Internet” and “After the Internet” time. When there is a discussion about the human race, we consider the period in terms of “B.C. and A.D.” But today I am going to consider the period as “Before Computers” and “After Computers.”  

Such technological changes happen very discretelyThese changes occur for a particular work, but later the same is used in altogether different work or applications. Computers were born in 1936. After the second world saw the birth of transistors, that made computers real handy; those machines were full room behemoths. Now, modern cell phones have computing power, which is thousands of times more than those computers.  

We never knew when the WWW term came into our lives. I came to see this term in the mid-nineties of the last centuryThe name could be used because of the birth of the Internet. Internet, what is that? It was a term used in those days to connect computers in a network with each other; computers were used only for the scientific workOh, how do I care? Was it about the scientists? Who knew that all things would be in our day to day life in a short period of twenty-five years. Then connectivity became easier and easier and easier! Now sometimes, it is a little scary!  

Now connectivity connects everything in your life. My neighbour Sameer jokingly told me, “I can look at financial data of anyone in a matter of a few minutes.” He does not do it. He is head of Cyber Securities in a big multinational and has a team of “Good” hackers. Good hackers are there to prevent Bad hackers from stealing our data and, if possible, money!  

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But still, we are connected in ways which we will not even imagine! The example I am going to share with you is funny and scary. A couple decided to take action to remain fit. So, they bought two Fitbits! Like beautiful couples, they thought it is a good idea to sync the two devices. The syncing helped them in ensuring that they completed their daily workout. It enabled them to encourage each other by knowing if one of them failed to achieve the daily target. So far, so good! The husband once travelled for work. Then on one night, the wife saw an unusual “Physical Activity” of her husband at three a. m.; she thought that there must be some error. But then she realised that “activity” was happening for almost an hour. She called him, and the stuttering husband said ….. ! He was “caught” with his pants down, literally! Now, do you know what I meant by funny and scary both? 

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Alexa is Amazon’s cloud-based voice service available on more than 100 million devices from Amazon and third-party device manufacturers. With Alexa, you can build natural voice experiences that offer customers a more intuitive way to interact with the technology they use every day. In our day-to-day language, it is a device that listens to your voice commands and acts accordingly. When a friend comes to your homeyou want to impress her. You say, “Hey, Alexa! Please start the India Today news channel! I want to listen to the news guru!” Alexa “tells” the TV to start the channel! Then you say, “Hey Alexa, reduce the volume by half!” Your slave does your work, which could have been easily done by a remote. Your friend is duly impressed and says, “Hey, Pramod! I am impressed! Let me buy it from Amazon!” You never knew when you had become an unpaid marketing agent for Amazon!  

How does it do it? I am sure it listens to your voice, processes it, and sends it somewhere on the web. On further processing, it sends the command to the TV. It stores the sound bytes somewhere! Now assume you are talking to your wife, ApekshaYou are telling her, “ApekshaBla Bla Bla!” Now Alexa is confused. It does not know to whom you are addressing. So it still sends the voice data, stores it, but cannot generate a commandI hope you have not forgotten that Apeksha is going to create the commands. She will tell the husband! She would say, “So many times I have told you not to believe in Ashok! In the future, I don’t want him to enter our home!” Alexa is still confused, but the data goes where ever it goes! Is it not a bit scary? I don’t know whether voice data is stored, but you never know! Are your secrets also stored somewhere? 

Any time you access your phone, you may get a message, “Uber is accessing your location”! You access a site on your Laptop, and Google will ask you, “Hey Pramod, do you want to continue accessing as  pan….@gmail.com”? “ No, thank you!” But Google knows all the time what you are doing! It sends you a message every month. “Hey, Pramod! You went to the following locations last month!” They don’t provide an option to delete the entry when you went see your girlfriend! 

Google, you will break my marriage, man!  

When Microsoft was introducing Windows 10, during the downloading, I received a message that Microsoft may be using nearby computers to increase the speed of installation. It did not ask the nearby computers if they could be accessed for this purpose, Yes or No question. They simply used them.  

My daughter wanted to send some funds abroad to her own account. We went to the concerned bank in Pune; she filled up a form, gave all the details. Her regular branch bank authenticated her information. Against the form submitted, they did not provide any receiptThe next day her bank abroad sent her SMS that they had received the funds. There were no issues in that process. But it sometimes gets scary. One has not issued any chequethere is no receipt for receiving the form. Bank has access to your funds. Could there be misappropriation at some stageThe bank can take all the actions quickly because of its excellent connectivityI am sure the bank has checks and balances in the system!  

In recent times doubts are raised in India that Orwellian Big Brother is watching us. The reason for this doubt is not being discussed here. But connectivity everywhere will make the task easy for the big brother to keep track of everything. Governments, the world over, keep track of emails, Facebook accounts, and Instagram accounts. So Orwellian doubts are not as farfetched as we think.  

But the human tendency is funnyOn one side, we talk of Orwell, and on the other hand, we share the smallest of the personal things on social media. You break up your relationshipthe first thing you go to social media and change your status to single. You don’t give yourself a chance to find out if somehow, two of you can come back together again!  

Connectivity, human or electronic, has its pluses and minuses. If used properlyit can be gamechanger! There are bad aspects of your life, but make sure that you don’t have one thousand Facebook friends, but not a single friend in real life!  

 

 

Deep Discounts or Deep Distress?

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I am as usual caught in a conundrum when I read some stories. On the 15th of August National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) launched a logout campaign against the deep discount coupons that are offered by these five aggregators Zomato, EazyDinerNearbuyMagicPin and DineoutSince then, more than 2300 restaurants across the country de-listed themselves from these food apps claiming that “discount structure, terms and conditions, by the food tech companies are unjust and unsustainable.” The president of NRAI said that to stay competitive in the market, some aggregators give discount of buy one and get one free. Others have done the same thing differently; they have straight away offered a 50% discount, which means the same.  

The story does not end here. On particular Gold Card membership, such discounts are allowed on one itemBut our desi brain works interestingly. The people go to restaurant A and take starters- 50% discount. They go to another restaurant to take drinks- buy two get two free! Finally, they go to the third restaurant and order the main course- buy one get one free! Using this method, they get the whole meal at 50% discount which kills the business.   

The worst part of the whole thing is that the discounts are being borne by the restaurants and not the aggregators. The association wants these discounts to be removed so that customers get used to not getting high discounts. It is a sort of detox action that is essential, according to the association. It appears that both the sides have understood the problems created by deep discounts and they also know that it will take some time to reach normalcy and come out of the deep discount issue.  

You and I are naturally going to be unhappy with these changes. We have to now look for happy hours or special days to get good discounts. Now, these changes are going to take my outflow back to normal, which I do not like. But we should not forget that such gimmicks never work in the long term.  

I always felt as if I am an uneducated person, though I have run a small business for more than 35 years. Giant organisations like Amazon and Flipkart have been in the deep discount game for quite some time. The difference is that they give deep discounts from their pocket. For years, they offer deep discounts, give Prime memberships and so on. They keep on investing billions of dollars for years. Amazon has never made profits in the last twenty years. But they continue to invest in the business to get more and more customers all the time. Uber CEO has recently made a statement that Uber may never make profits. What is the business model of such companies? Jeff Bozos has become “poor” when he settled his divorce, and his wealth is at lowly US $ 65/ billions. He bought some time back Washington post for an all-cash deal of US $ 250/ million.  

Uneducated me does not understand the principles used in these businesses. Uber charges higher rates when demand is up. But I have seen that as a routine, they charge about 10 to 15 % more than an Auto Riksha in Pune. The price difference between an Auto Riksha and a car can be three lacs of rupees. Many Rikshas give mileage about 1.5 times more than the cars. 

On top of that, Uber takes 30% of the amount we pay to the driver. To me, the driver may break even, Uber’s figures show that they make losses. Other than making vehicles available quickly to us, are they running a charity organisation? Is it not similar to deep discounts offered by Zomato or Amazon?  Or for that matter, Oyo?

Venture capitalists, angel investors, put in their money in such companies. Venture capital is defined as capital invested in a project in which there is a substantial element of risk, typically a new or expanding business. I am sure that those who invest in such companies expect reasonable returns on their capital. By what I have described above, there are no returns, then why are the investments continued? Where is the source for such unlimited funds?  

There is no doubt that Amazon, Uber, Zomato are market disruptors. They have shown the world a new way of doing business, which even 25 years back did not exist. New methods, new ways of doing things make a lot of difference in day to day life. Consider AirbnbThe concept is so good that it is helping people all over the worldIt reduces the cost of travel and uses people’s assets which have been remaining idle.  

Amazon, WalmartJio are gamechanging companies which have made a big difference in our lives. But they are making these changes with their own money or at the cost of competitors. They are disrupting the market and making their competitors think; I am sure the competitors will come up with even newer ideas.  

But this deep discount business with own money or someone else’s money is not sustainable business model. I am not surprised that NRAI has revolted against it. I was talking to someone about these aggregators. It was felt that the aggregators probably sell the data of their customers to make money! When companies like Facebook have done it, what will stop the aggregators from selling data!  

Ultimately, market disruptors come with ideas and business models which were never seen before. But one thing will never changeSuch organisations have to make profits at some stage. Unless, of course, you are an Amazon or an Uber. But don’t forget that Amazon is the market leader in Cloud Computing business; so as a group, they make profitsBecoming Unicorn company (market value exceeding One Billion US $) is fine for publicity; it will help companies get more VC fundingBut if they don’t start making profits, such companies fall in the group of 95 % plus companies, which close down sometimes even without a whimper.  

 

Trust the potent weapon!

Roti, Kapda Aur Makan! Food, Clothing and Shelter are three basic things we need in our life. But there is one more important thing that needs to be added to list, Trust! You will now add WhatsApp, FB and Internet to the list but then these are not basic things. Trust means a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something. 

It is equally applicable to personal relations and in business. We put our firm foot forward without any doubt if there is trust in the relationship. Trust is a central part of all human relationships, including romantic partnerships, family life, business operations, politics, and medical practices. For example, if you don’t trust your doctor or psychotherapist, it is much harder to benefit from professional advice. In politics, a government falls when no-trust motion is passed against it.  

Trust is a set of behaviours, such as acting in ways that depend on another or is a belief in the probability that a person will behave in specific ways. Trust is a general mental attitude towards a proposition that someone is dependable and is a feeling of confidence and security that our partner cares.  

Behaviours and verbal expressions are certainly evidence for trust, for example when someone treats you well and says beautiful things to you, but these behaviours are merely evidence for the internal mental state of trust that causes them, not the trust itself. Trusting people may involve trying to guess how they will behave, but people usually trust others without any understanding of probability or any precise predictions about their behaviours. Trust is an abstract feeling like love. But, it is challenging to define trust, but humans do it by gut feeling.  

Trust2

Our first and topmost gut feeling gives us the confidence to accept our mother’s trust. A child blindly believes in whatever the mother does and commands. From babyhood, we trust the mother. It probably has to do with being in her womb for nine months. During that phase, the mother and the child have an interdependent physical system, but still, they are oneThe child does ALL its activity in the safety of the safe atmosphere of the womb! In that period, humans get the training of learning to trust.  

The same trust is what drives our life; we expect and hope to have similar level of trust from others in both personal and business matters. Some people and companies achieve it, but many don’t. The reason could be that maybe we expect too much from organisations. But I will share some stories which suggest how I handled them.  

Years back, I had bought a couple of dongles. I found that they did not perform to my expectations. Hence, I closed my account with them by paying cash to avoid any discrepancy about final payment. I kept on receiving their bills for the next three months. Then a bouncer came to my office for the unpaid bills; I showed him the details and told him that next time he comes, I would call the police. Eight months later, I got an invitation for tea at their regular customer meet where a wellknown lawyer was to explain intricacies about bills. They threatened discretely in the end that they will sue me if I did not turn up. Two years later, I got a phone from a cell phone by a lady who claimed that she was talking from Delhi. After using choicest bad words, she threatened that the company would sue me in Delhi and a lot of my time and money will be wasted etc. When I counter threatened her with police complaint, there were no calls again. The amount involved was Rs 785/I am told that when such follow up is done 80% of the people pay the money out of fear. It is an extortion racket run by these companies. Will I ever trust such companies or their group companies?  

I have been using Honda cars for sometimes. Very rarely, I have had any problem with these cars. Whenever I had any technical or commercial issues, responses from their dealers and the company would be swift and resolved the problem. That has ended in my trusting Honda totally.  

Companies make mistakes in their responses, in their products and customer relationship. But many come out of them quite well, though some of them are still controversial. Take the case of Uber. It has many many issues with customer relationships, but somehow, they overcome them. But the product they have provided is such that it has given us comfort that a taxi will be available when we want it. 

I had hired an Uber taxi sometime back, and the driver turned out to be nasty. The trip never began, and the driver ended up telling me to cancel the trip. I did it, and during cancellation, I wrote about the incident. By the time I came home using the lift, (elevator) I had got a phone call from Uber. Their customer care called me to say sorry and to find out the detailsPhone calls continued for three days, and I got calls from different levels. They informed me of what action they had taken against the driver — Uber way of getting the trust back.  

Trust is rarely absolute but somewhat is restricted to particular casesa wife may trust her husband to pick up the groceries but not to buy a party dress for their daughterSuch decisions are based on previous experiences, knowledge about husbands capabilities and interests in doing something girly!  

Wife’s trust in the husband is not just an estimate of the probability that he will pick up the groceries but also a positive feeling toward husband in this respect. Her gut feeling tells her that he will be able to buy the groceries correctly, but she may not be sure about his buying the right dress. She may feel that he is not reliable enough to do such a chore! Trust is the highest when the previous history, the gut feeling, and persons’ interests match.  

Trust3

Talking of trust in business, Facebook has made a significant blunder by sharing user data with Cambridge Analytica. At the same time, they have shared data with Microsoft, Netflix, Yahoo and Amazon. Google is already capturing many of the activities we do without informing us. Boeing has made a blunder by not sharing the details about the problems in the model 737 Max. They had this information with them for more than two years before two major accidents took placeIt has created a distrust about them. On the commercial side, they have already spent the US $ 5 billion due to this episode. It will be tough for them to gain customer trust again.  

Building trust isn’t glamorous or easy. And at times it involves making complex decisions and difficult trade-offs. Trust is less fragile than we think. Companies can be trusted in some ways but not others and still succeed. Trust can also be rebuilt. 

Trust1

Trust is never objective, but it is subjective. People do not suddenly stop believing in others or companies. When the specific reason for the loss of trust is removed or corrected, trust can be restored. But there is only one relationship between the mother and the child where distrust never gets created, at least from the mother’s side! Conserve your most expensive asset, the Trust!

Trust me to share good blogs with you! emrgency1

 

 

 

 

 

 

996 or else!

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You must be wondering if I am going to start writing blogs in the digital language of 010101. Don’t worry; I am not doing it! But what is this 996? Chinese companies now expect their employees to work from 9 to 9, all six days of the week! For workaholics that sounds like great news. But 996 workaholics, by choice, are rare. People do work longer hours. But can that be the reason enough to work 996, all the time? I don’t think so. No sane person can follow that schedule. If you work 9 to 9, all six days of the week, where do have time for family life, time for personal chores? Time for enjoyment and time for quick picnics. Spending time with spouse and children on the seventh day is out of the question because it is likely, that one will sleep it out on the seventh day! Below is the status of 996 people on Sunday!

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How has this come up? Competition? Dictatorship? Fear of losing the job? Unrealistic goals? Or probably it is a combination of all the factors. Add to this, for international companies, with headquarters in America, and offices in Germany, Israel, India and China. Working with colleagues in different continents can play havoc on the lives of the people. In any organisation, the work is done by different teams in collaboration with each other. Hence there is a need for telephonic meetings regularly. But does it mean that 996 should be the norm? How longer hours will complete the complex jobs shown below, more efficiently?

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Jack Ma, the big boss of the Chinese company Alibaba, says, “The 996 schedule – which means working 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week – is “a huge blessing that many companies and employees do not have the opportunity to have.” He further says that if you don’t work this way when you are young, when are you going to work hard? The question comes to mind what the definition of young is In a group of 100 people if 80 members are young and 20 are not so young, then can you have different timings for young and the not so young? He also feels that such a work regime has allowed Alibaba to become a giant on the world stage.

Why do we work? To win our bread and butter, to learn new things, to go ahead in our careers. How many of us are bothered about the last aspect? The main thing is to achieve, is to steadily get our bread and butter, to pay our bills on time. Educate the children and pass life peacefully. Not everybody is looking to become highly successful in life. Would such people be interested in 996? Would they be able to sustain 996?

I remember about a young engineering graduate who was in the US for his master’s degree, for a couple of years. He joined a company in Pune, where the atmosphere was not 996 but hectic. It was a group of smart engineers working to do some great technical work. Three months later, he went and met his boss and said, “I cannot work with such a smart group of people; probably this is not my taking.” Later he started playing bridge and made his career as a professional bridge player!

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Is 996 feasible in the long term? I don’t think so. There is murmur going on, “family or ICU?” The 996 types of lifestyles are bound to create issues — even our 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle is against the fundamental requirement of the human body. Before the industrial revolution, our lifestyle was based on nature. Sunrise and Sunset would decide the daily routine. 9 to 6, five days a week lifestyle also involves travel, business dinners and late meetings. So even this lifestyle is hectic. What made Jack Ma think that 996 is sustainable in the long term, I would not know.

Following two paragraphs are taken from a webpage

https://hub.packtpub.com/developers-lives-matter-chinese-developers-protest-over-the-996-work-schedule-on-github/

Working long hours at a company, devoid of any work-life balance, is rife in China’s tech industry. Earlier this week on Tuesday, a Github user with the name “996icu” created a webpage that he shared on GitHub, to protest against the “996” work culture in Chinese tech companies.

The 99icu webpage mentions the Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China, according to which, an employer can ask its employees to work long hours due to needs of production or businesses. But, the work time to be prolonged should not exceed 36 hours a week. Also, as per the Labor Law, employees following the “996” work schedule should be paid 2.275 times of their base salary. However, this is not the case in reality, and Chinese employees following the 996 work rule rarely get paid that much.

These two paragraphs indicate what is happening at the ground level. Can the developers come together and fight the system? I doubt, and it may not be possible even in the US as well as in India. But probably breaking laws in China appears to be blatant. Companies are getting away without being prosecuted by the authorities. The latest information says that 996 will be replaced by 10107! Ten AM to 10 PM seven days a week.

I understand the aspect of profitability in business. But will 996 achieve those numbers? It is evident that people are continuing this out of fear, and also because of no immediate options available. Years back I had met one engineer from Wipro on a flight. He said that his job was quite laid back, but every day he felt like changing his job. After office, he took 2 to 3 ½ hours to reach home. In 996 and 10107 the commute time is not even considered. I read on the website that someone changed residence and moved into not a very decent home, to reduce commute time.

Many companies are not into 996 or 10107, yet. But the number of hours put in plus the commute time makes it terrible. If both husband and wife are working, then the practical solution will be to look for jobs in areas nearby and move residence near the workplace. I know of a couple whose total daily commute time is six hours daily, minimum. One of them has a health issue and is required to exercise daily. But this is not possible due to commute time.

The Chinese colloquial term for a developer is “码农. Its literal English translation is “code peasants” — not the most flattering or respectful way to call software engineers. I call them white-collar workers on the lines of blue-collar workers. Mr Anand Mahindra, Chairman of Mahindra group, had tweeted, “I feel as if I am a businessman from Dinosaur times.” He made this comment after he read a statement by Uber CEO that Uber will never become profitable! I have a run very small business all these years; I am also surprised that Amazon has never made any profits, ever! I am told that these are 996 companies!

Mr Naraynamurthy of Infosys had sent an email to all Infosys employees to make sure that they leave office on time. But his instructions have never been followed in the spirit! I have discussed with people working in larger companies, especially the coders. All of them have said that they can concentrate on their job for not more two hours at a time. If 996 culture is followed how much will be the real productivity is anybody’s guess.

996? 10107? To me, none of these makes sense but what is the option? We had apartheid! We had slavery! The only difference is that compensations are high in the new bondage! Hopefully, there will be an organised movement against these systems, so let us wait and see, fingers crossed!

Startups, Venture and Angel Investors!

I am venturing into an area where even angels are afraid to tread! For a long time, I have felt lost with the terms mentioned in the title. To my understanding as an oldie, anyone starting a new business is a start-up. Investopedia definition of a startup is below:

A startup is a young company that is just beginning to develop. Startups are usually small and initially financed and operated by a handful of founders or one individual. These companies offer a product or service that is not currently being provided elsewhere in the market, or that the founders believe is being offered in an inferior manner. 

If we go by the strict definition of startups then the names like Uber, Airbnb, Zomato, Oyo and their likes come to mind. These companies have provided a service or a facility which was never offered before. These facilities became possible because of the internet and IT. I wont call Tesla a startup because they are providing a variant of an existing product; that variant is no doubt a game changer as it will change and push the Petroleum economy. But the car itself is not a game changer. 

 

Unicorn1I read a news item today which said that Delhivery a startup has become a Unicorn company. Unicorn is a mythical animal depicted from thousands of years and appears unique; maybe that is the reason this name Unicorn, a unique company. Unicorn company is defined as a company whose valuation as per markets is One billion (One thousand million) US $, i.e. Rs Seven thousand crores. As a semi-retired person nearing 70, I feel out of depth to read such figures. But for records, all my life I have run a business (a dirty secret- a software business) and had consulting assignments. In both my activities, I have dealt with companies from a couple of billion dollars to nearly 40 billion dollars. So, these numbers don’t scare me, but personally these days I go to an ATM to withdraw money for myself, I am a small man.  

Many of these Unicorn companies have been based on the internet, and IT technologies but some of them are doing the work of brick and mortar things as mere mortals do. Here is a table that I got on the net and made me start thinking. 

US $ Million  Revenue 2018 Funding   Valuation  R/F  R/V  F/V 
BYJU  219  784  4000  0.28  0.055  0.196 
Swiggy  72  1500  3300  0.048  0.022  0.455 
Zomato  47  653  2500  0.072  0.019  0.26 
PayTM  51  2200  10000  0.023  0.005  0.22 
Oyo  400  1600  5000  0.25  0.08  0.32 
Policy Bazar  62  35  1000  1.77  0.062  0.035 
Udaan  4  285  1000  0.014  0.004  0.285 
Freshworks  14.5  249  1500  0.058  0.010  0.166 
Delhivery  15  365  1500  0.041  0.010  0.243 

 I will briefly mention what they do.  

  • BYJU is in online training– revenue from students 
  • Swiggy and Zomato are restaurant food delivery companies- revenue from the restaurants whose food they pick up and deliver. Tie up with restaurants and menu details is unique 
  • PayTM is a wallet plus allied things company
  • Oyo- helps book hotel rooms and takes money from hotels– this is unique 
  • Policy Bazar- helps you buy many policies online- commission on the sale 
  • Udaan is like Flipkart and sales products online 
  • Freshworks offers sales and support solutions 
  • DelhiveryPhysically delivers goods from place A to place B and has warehousing facilities.  

To me except Oyo, Swiggy and Zomato others do not fit the strictest of the definition. Are other companies providing products and services that did not exist before? No, still they are called startups! By this definition then, like other companies, my company was also a startup and faced the same problems as these companies are facing today. The only difference is that some experts in the world thinks that they are doing something extraordinary!  

As usual, my mind started whirring, and I have questions! What is so unique in becoming a company which some experts” feel is doing fantastic work; they have invested large sums of money in them. For an oldtimer like me what matters is how much I am selling and what is the profit that I make out of the business!  Is the business sustainable over a period of time?

I will introduce two more terms now for better understanding. 

Venture capital firms are investment companies that operate only to handle investments in business ventures that may be considered high risk. 

An angel investor (also known as a business angel, informal investor, angel funder, private investor, or seed investor) is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity.  

Now that we are through with definitions, tables, please help me solve my queries. When the companies are creating variants of existing available services and products, how do they become startups? These companies are supposedly creating products and services which are not existing. So how do investors and angels analyse them, study them and invest considerable sums in them? Uber concept never existed, Airbnb is a new concept; so in these two cases, the investors seemed to do more right than wrong.  

I have read that more than 90% of startups fail. What could be the reason? The reasons for failures are the same as the reasons for any failed businesses. These are 

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of motivation 
  • Too much pride and ego; that you were a smart techie does not mean that you can create and run business 
  • Taking advice from wrong people (including advisors brought in by investors) 
  • Lack of general and specific domain knowledge in life finance, operations and marketing 
  • Raising too much money too soon. 
  • Lacking good mentorship  

From what I understand about the world of business, you need experience, maturity. How will young guns have this? Recently I read some story about a 15-year-old who has done something great in creating a platform for short story writers. He has two thousand hits to his short stories! Come on, its not two million hits. I also happen to be a blogger, and I know what hits are and how difficult it is to get them.

Similarly, how can 25 years old be know all? He may be brilliant both in his techie side and convincing the investors about his ideas about which others don’t know much, anyway. How do dollars get converted into a sustainable running company? 

The table above shows all the figures in million US dollars. It shows revenue, money pumped in and valuation! The revenue is tiny when compared to the money invested. Who does the valuation? What is the significance of the appraisal? I will tell you something about valuation. How can an unproven company, with unproven management, product or services with 4/15/14 million dollars have 1.5 billion dollars valuation?  Do investors not understand these things? But since private money is involved, who cares?  Is this gambling, horse racing equivalent?

Apple was the first company whose valuation reached one trillion (I can’t count zeroes) US dollars. But once the US-China trade war started, it appeared that Apple may have problems. Immediately its valuation has come down, now Microsoft is numero uno! Apple valuation with tons of money and great products and with proven track records can come down. The companies listed in the table above are both brick and mortar companies and IT companies with nothing proven. Their valuation is going up and up and up! Any logic? 

Friends I will introduce you to more things. What people called in olden days as an investment, is now called burn rate. These companies burn money, it’s not yours anyway. Then there are serial entrepreneurs a la serial killers! They create startups, burn money (a % goes to own pockets), take the company to a level and start looking for larger companies for merger and acquisition! Someone decides and declares them more valuable. So promoters, investors, angels all make money as a new set of people replaces the old team. The show goes on. Nobody keeps track of what happens to such companies. Since bank funds and financial institution money is not involved nobody cares. No Nirav Modis and Mallyas are created. Start next company and go through the same cycle, make a million or two. The cycle goes on.

The end result of all this is that “Startup Culture starts in your country. The startup language is a new language which most don’t understand and I am sure you have still a lot of questions on the subject discussed, even after you have read this piece!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harried because of Hurry!

Remember the Blackberry? Blackberry was the ultimate device fifteen years back. People could get to process their emails on the device. What more did you want? Waiting for child’s skit to start, take a peep into your emails, going for potty, oh that ultimate place to see your emails in peace! Wake up at 2 am for a pee, check emails and then reply to your colleagues in India or the USA or where ever. By the time you went back to sleep, it was 4 am. Oh! An hour to wake up to catch a flight. So, it went on. I am sure it still goes on. You were a proud owner of Blackberry after all.

How much time does it take for burnout to start? Two years, four years or five years! Then we started thinking that this is the only way to work and we have ultimately joined the bandwagon of stressed, tired, grumpy executives. Oh! I forgot about the app synced with everything, your calendar! You became a slave of your calendar and proud that most of your time in the office is blocked by meetings. I must mention the old cliché. The meeting is an event where minutes are kept and hours are lost! The beauty of your calendar is that it could be accessed by all your colleagues; it is like the modern open plan offices. Transparency is the name of the game. You have committed five different things to your customers, your boss and your colleagues. Yes, there is a small thing like wife’s birthday! On that day, you are lucky and have one and a half hour between 3 and 4.30 to finish your commitments. Ding, ding and ding! You are blocked for 3 pm by your boss, 3.30 by your HR boss, 4 pm by a cross-functional team. Of course, your time after 6 pm is free, as this is after office hours; your time cannot be blocked. By the time you are in the car …..

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Not all the stresses are harmful, and there is eustress which helps humans to better work — definition of eustress made by Virginia Miltary Institute is “a positive form of stress having a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance, and emotional well-being,” during positive stress (“eustress”), such as a promotion or vacation, feel-good chemicals called endorphins are released. But humans tend to go beyond and stretch the eustress too!

We all know why we work but time has come to think how we work. Is getting stressed out, day in and day out worth it? With every colleague going through the same grind of anxiety and stress, irritation levels go beyond limits. Now Blackberry is lost to time, and any smartphone can be used for emails. Now another new stress creator is born, WhatsApp groups. I know of various companies where WA groups are formed to send group or individual communications. WA is known as “Instant Messenger” so there is no hiding from the message. You can’t claim that you have not received it.

How should we work? As usual, we can start with something small. People have been following specific methods to reduce stress. Reducing stress does not mean that we should go away from work, but the atmosphere can be changed. There is a Swedish tradition of fika (it means coffee); they take fika break, go for a dose of caffeine and have a discussion. Going for a break makes a change in the atmosphere and reduces tension. In Britain, there is tradition to go to a pub nearby and take your small dose of Ale or a Beer while discussing serious matters. People have started going for a stroll in a group in the office garden and discuss things. These small changes are known to be great stress busters.

Talking of meetings, are so many meetings productive? Are any decisions taken? People take decisions swiftly when they meet in smaller groups. I had jokingly asked a General Manager in a large company, “Where is the time for you to act on decisions taken?” He smiled and said, “I hope to convey decisions to my colleagues who are expected to implement decisions. Of course, we meet three times a week to check if the implementation is carried out!”

Another great idea will be to involve families in picnics or some outings. When people socialise outside the work domain, chances of improvements in an interpersonal relationship are quite high. The mixing also encourages people to develop social relationships between families.

Formal work culture started with industrialisation, but it began in a big way in the last 50 years when large global companies were born. Every company had its methods. A vast organisation started a practice that every meeting should begin with a presentation. When this company started having trouble, the new CEO stopped this process. Some processes and methods are started for a specific reason, but many times they continue without people understanding why they started in the first place.

A classic example is that of a report generated in Solapur district in the state of Maharashtra. The report captured some information and sent it to the Queen of England. Somebody started preparing this report in the 19th century. The report continued for 50 years after India became independent, till 1997; a sensible officer stopped this practice. Since 1947 the report was generated and kept in a file! Many such processes are followed in private sector organisations too! Each such process adds to stress!

All modern organisations have a sickness of “do it fast”. Everybody is always in a hurry! The reason for hurrying everything is because a lot of different demands are made on people. Heavy demand on freshly joined or junior staff causes people to get crushed under the burden.  Hence emphasis should be shifted from “why” do something to “how” to do something. Unless this is done, people will not get the fulfilment of doing a good job and will always be anxious.

When anxiety and stress are removed from the work atmosphere, the efficiency of people goes up. They perform better and may show their real potential. In the organisations, there are many certifications required, and audits are always going on. With severe competition from global companies, new management techniques are used. As people remain anxious and dissatisfied, some rebellion is observed. Google had a tough time when staff protested about the treatment given to the female team. In Uber, one lady complained openly writing a blog on the same subject. She also explicitly said that the female population in Uber is going down drastically.

The hurry is the root cause of the most disappointing things happening in the work domain. Things do change fast in the world these days. But it is not possible to match speed with everything. We must remain with the nature in thinking. A child is going to be born after nine months, whatever you do to push for early delivery. The required “PUSH” starts after nine months!

Your Future Self!

Create-your-future

Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using  an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?”  I said, “Go, ahead!”

He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.

He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”

You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!

You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.

You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.

Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.

In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!

Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”