India Innovators Association Meet in Hyderabad

India Innovators Association is organizing its first meet in Hyderabad. It is an open event for all innovators to meet, network to build and nurture a culture of Innovation. This association is spearheaded by Dr A S Rao and few years back I managed the Bangalore Chapter for them.

Event Details:

Date:   Jan 19, 2013

Time:  1:30 PM – 4:30 PM

Venue: Seminar Hall, B Block VNRVJIET, Vignan Jyoti Campus, Miyapur Bachupally Road, Near Dr Reddy’s Labs

Here is the Facebook event link:

It would help if you can RSVP for the event on the Facebook event.

If you have any questions, please use the comments section to ask.

Look forward to meeting Innovative Minds of Hyderabad.



Define Strategy

This S&B article intends to explains Strategy in as simple terms as possible. Simply loved reading it.

It says Strategy is different from vision, mission, goals, priorities, and plans. It is the result of choices executives make, on where to play and how to win, to maximize long-term value
If you can answer these 3 questions for your business, you have your strategy in place:
1. Who is the target customer?
2. What is the value proposition to that customer?
3. What are the essential capabilities needed to deliver that value proposition?
Now I wish business managers could think so simply and ask themselves and their teams to think with simplicity.

Measuring Globalization….

World is globalized…is it, or was it not always? Well, it is not evenly globalized, and you need to understand the extent of globalization based on your world i.e. your product or your service or your market or your country.  Pankaj Ghemavat in his Mckinsey article talks about root maps that show the extent of globalization for your pie of the economy. He takes an example of the entertainment industry which maps hollywood’s map as that of English speaking parts of the world and then contrasts it with the Bollywood map that follows the Indian Diaspora.
For example, this map shows the share of domestic film industry in countries around the world:
I think this is a very interesting data analysis, that can be a very important input into your strategy and planning. This clearly shows you where is your string customer base and where are the potential new markets. Think of intersecting this map with a English speaking world map for Hollywood and Diaspora concentration map for Bollywood and you would know where the untapped potential for both the products lies.

Open letter to ICICI’s Ms Chanda Kochhar

Dear Chanda,

I just received an email from ICICI telling me about its Go Green initiative. Your email also had a link that helped me calculate my carbon footprint. It was indeed good to know it and makes me think about ways to reduce the same.

I have been a customer of yours for almost 15 years now by way of retail banking, credit card and a home loan, so I have had a pretty long and strong journey with you.

I opted for e-statements which I do get regularly. When I get my credit card statement, which is never more than a page, I receive 2-10 pages along with it, which is nothing but advertisement and promotional stuff. Now, do you see a contradiction…while you do not send the mandatory statements on paper for “Go Green” reasons, you send loads of paper printed with advertisements and promotions. Can you not send them e-mail as well? I understand you get paid for those Ads, but in my opinion instead of spending on CSR intiatives it would be a good idea to check the bank’s carbon footprint because of these tons of paper that you send with each cycle of credit card billing.

See the cost benefir analysis between spending on the CSR or not taking the promotions and you may end up being gentler to the earth.

Wish you all the best in your Go Green initiatives.


JAI (Just Another Indian)

Being a Politician

Being a Politician - An Essay

Politicians are one species that most of us like to hate. In my conversations with people from more than twenty odd countries, I found that all of them unanimously and genuinely believe that politicians in their country are the worst. I wonder if there is any other class of people which generates such a unanimous opinion about themselves across all kinds of diversities. So much so, that the phrase Good Politician is always a perfect example of an Oxymoron.

Recent Lok Sabha elections gave us another opportunity to see the media focus on politicians, staking their claim to be in power and then re-aligning their strategies once they got the mandate from the public. As I sat through the hours of footage covering a whole lot of politicians and their election campaigns, read the reams and reams of paper on them and got all kinds of humorous messages in the mailbox, my mind started thinking of what it would be like to be a politician.

What would motivate one to be a politician, assuming that most of us are not inclined to take it up as a career option, what would keep them going even in the age when most of their peer would have retired and are leading a laid back life, why would the rich and famous go and plead to the public to choose them as their leader. These are some of the thoughts that crossed my mind:

First of all, to be a politician, you need extremely good health. You should be fighting fit to be able to work around the clock, be available to people and appear energetic enough to be able to lead people. If you look at the schedules of the politicians in the last few months, you would admire their energy. Of course, they say that power itself gives you the energy to go, but then your physical body has to co-operate with you. Imagine Advani ji going around the country and talking to millions and managing leaders both in his party and in the other parties at this ripe age, and also keeping himself abreast with all the current affairs and constantly creating a strategy in mind while responding to the public via media. Imagine the high level of mental alertness required almost 24 by 7.

Next, you need to have very thick skin. You should be able to hear any comment about yourself and your intentions, let people speculate about your intentions, lets opponents tear you apart, but still be able to smile in public. At the same time, you should be able to take in your stride the potential positive things that are said to you that you may know are not true. You should be able to balance the praises and brickbats that come your way and be not driven by either of them.

You should be able to listen to everything that is said to you and about you and still not be impacted by either and do what you want to do. You should be ready for your friends turning foes at any time and be ready to kiss and make up with people who you are fighting today. You should be able to manage your emotions all the time unless you decide to use them to your advantage. Think of it how many of us can do that and virtually every politician does that all the time.

You need to be an extremely good communicator, even if you do not have excellent language skills. You need to communicate with potentially everyone in the society, the people who would vote you to power, the media which keeps you under constant surveillance, businesses who fund you with an intention to help them back, your own people whom you have to hold together and your opponents who need to be kept in check all the time.

How many of us can manage so many diverse sets of people simultaneously and get them all together to be able to lead them and make them believe that you are actually serving them? You need to be able to let people decide, what you actually want them to decide.

You should be ready for a grind at least once in five years, if not earlier. Come election time and no matter how rich or famous you are, you have to hit the road, go through the grind, eat what you get on the way, with the people and be ready to rough it out.

It may seem glamorous, but even after having chartered plans to your disposal, it is not easy to criss-cross the country, address rallies, meet the local workers who would have worked day in and day out for your visit, take stock of things while keeping an eye on what everyone else is doing, what media is saying and are they covering you enough or not. You are bound to fall off and on, you should be able to get up and start running again, till you either step forward or fall again.

You need to be multi-dimensional, you should be able to switch from topic to topic and have a view on most of them and if required be able to change your views based on the situation. Today you could be from one constituency, tomorrow you may be asked to contest from another and you have to do it, connect with the locals, learn the local language, and convince people that you will take care of them.

Today you may be asked handle one portfolio, tomorrow another and something else the next day, you are expected to not only understand all the nuances of the portfolio you handle but also give the best performance as expected by millions of people, who between themselves would have thousands of ways to measure you. You need to be extremely flexible and adaptable, both for the expectations from you and for the environment in which you may land up.

It is usually not apparent but you do need to have nerves of steel and a hell lot of grit to be able to be a politician. Any other qualities or characteristics that you think are required for being a politician…?

Purpose of Education

Not by design, but for some reasons, since last three months I shifted to reading a lot of business magazines and the common theme of course across magazines had been Slumdog Millionaire, Lok Sabha elections, IPL and ongoing recession. But in not so highlighted way, lot of magazines carried stories on education. There was a story on executive education offered by most leading business schools across the world and how it benefited some of the managers. There are number of stories on how the industry wants the education system to prepare students for employability. Lot of industry leaders come out with the preparedness that they are seeking in their potential employees, as they want them to be productive as soon as possible.

This led me to think about the basic purpose of education in Life. The question I had, and I am sure this would have been discussed earlier many times over, is if employability is the only purpose of education or if it is more than that. I tried to look at my life back from the time I started my formal education to the time I was employed and my continued education on various fronts as I moved forward in life. I also thought about the way our education system is structured and what it imparts us during various stages.

In the initial stages of formal education, say till the primary education, the purpose of education is to impart us with widely accepted conventions of communicating with the world. This includes imparting us the knowledge of languages and basic rules of grammar. We are taught to learn the basics about numbers and how to add, subtract, multiple, divide and a few more operations. We learn the basics of social science, something about the plant and animal kingdom, a bit of poetry and a lot of stories, most of which give us the ability to visualize and dream what we probably can not see with our eyes. Basically we get acquainted with the world around us and learn the basics of communicating with this world. There is mix of knowledge and skills that we receive at this stage of education.

Moving on the senior school levels, we start looking at different subjects and get the basics of them. For example, if we study Botany we understand how the Botanists look at the world and how they classify it? It is still learning the conventions of the world of Botany but a level deeper than what we learnt in primary school. We appreciate the classifications of the world in terms of subjects. We study history to know how the world around us evolved to this stage, how our ancestors lived and how various civilizations evolved. We study geography to know the world as it exists today. We study science to understand the unseen and to probably be able to define the future one day. We study social science to understand the society that we live in, and the way it is structured. We start getting introduced to the literature and the world of various art forms. We study the applications of mathematics and some theory behind it. We play some sports and it’s the only place where we learn to operate in teams. Unfortunately we are not explicitly taught the interlinking of the various subjects at any stage. At this stage we understand the worlds of various subjects.

After the school, we choose our area of interest and go a level deeper into the chosen combination of subjects. We understand the nuances of the subject. Pure students look at the subject from learning perspective, they look at its evolution with an objective to potentially contribute to the evolution. The practitioners look at the subject from its application perspective and try to see how the humankind can use its application for improving the quality of life. E.g. a physicist may study the laws of motion and in the process study motion theories of movement of particles to movements of heavenly bodied in the universe, but an engineer may use these laws of motion to design a vehicle that can be used by people to move from one place to another.

On the sidelines, there is life that keeps teaching its own lessons. We learn from the place, society and company that we live in. The more no of places we live in the more we learn and the more we learn more we are open towards other people, cultures and places. We learn skills based on the events and surroundings in our lives, on the basis of interests that we get to pursue. We learn everyday, almost every moment from everything that we do and from everything that we see, hear, feel or touch. The trick is how much of it is added to our knowledge and how much are we able to convert into our wisdom. Everyone does it to some extent but some people do it more than others.

At any point in time, there are a few industries that are in high growth stage and they require specific skill sets in huge numbers. This is a very transient requirement in ever changing world. There are a lot of people who choose to respond to these transient requirements and equip themselves with the skills required, irrespective of their area of interest. The euphoria in the air says that if you are not equipped with these skills you are probably not prepared for a good future and a good life. In the process, the industry probably manages to the get the quantity of manpower that they need, quality is always a point of argument. But what looses is the subject area where the student would have been interested and might have made his or her best contribution. After a few years most good minds would get a feeling of going back and pursuing what they really want to do, some people manage to do it, some get lost in the rut of life. This is where the real education comes in play, people who would have gathered the wisdom from their education would be able to pursue their professions and their passions and lead a satisfactory life.

There is no undermining the fact that we need employment and hence we need skills that would make us employable. But then should the whole focus of our education be focused upon getting employed, or should it take a part of our time and effort to build our skills that would provide us employment. Should education not focus on providing us with the basic life skills and an open mind which is adaptive to the external changes while developing the inner core? Being employed is necessary for surviving, but living is more important than surviving and education should prepare us for a living a quality life.

A well rounded education gives us or should give us the knowledge, skill, attitude and an ability to be a learner forever. The skills that are in demand today are bound to be obsolete tomorrow, so at the skill level we should be adaptable and ready to learn new things at any point in time, depending on what field we are in and where we want to be. At the knowledge level, we should develop an ability to keep enhancing our knowledge by being open to learning from everything and everyone around us. We should learn from our experiences, be open to new experiments and experiences, while also absorbing from experiences of those around us. Attitude is something that always is a function of our grooming in initial years and in later years our ability to use our observations and experiences to define our behavior towards everything in life. A good education in the initial years can help us with an attitude that helps us in living a full and complete life.

Though they say that education is something that is a lifetime affair, but learning is more of a habit and that too an acquired one most of the times. Learn for no reason or for any reason, but as long as you are learning, without limiting yourself by the employability factor, the returns will also not be limited by the returns that the employment gives.

Psychology of Car Pooling

I have wanted to write this piece for a quite sometime now, but yesterday a peace of newspaper report made me sit down and write it finally. The report in yesterday’s TOI says that 78% people do not carpool at all. Going by my experience as someone who has carpooled for years, I would say the figure may be as high as 95%. People are just not open to car pool.

The most often stated reasons for car pool are saving on the fuel cost and being eco-conscious by consuming less fuel and hence a lesser contribution to polluting. Some other perceived benefits are lesser congestion on the roads etc. All the above are well publicized and understood, but what most people who have not experimented with car pool do not understand are social benefits of car pooling. I used to car pool with 3 other people for more than 6 months or so and all of them remain by good friends till date. I have given lifts to a lot of my colleagues who lived in the vicinity, and all of them are my good friends today. They are not my friends because I obliged them by giving free lifts, but they are my friends because we got to spend quality time with each other.

The not so obvious benefits that I saw from car pooling were:

Sharing of driving pressure– you drive only 50/33/25 % of the times, depending on how many people you pool with. This is a huge advantage, as driving in traffic jammed roads can be quite tiring as frustrating

You do not get bored when you are stuck on a spot for hours, even during rains as you have people to talk to and think of alternatives

You can have car parties when you expect to spend a lot of time in traffic. I remember in 2005, when Bangalore used to be flooded with rains everyday and 2 hours in the evening were a norm, we used to stuff our cars with all kinds of eatables and enjoy them while stuck on the road. It was fun to see guys in other cars envying us at times.

If you have regular car pool partners, you start sharing your daily life with them, after all who else do you spend quality 2-3 hours everyday with. They become your buddies, something that a lot of us living metro lives miss, and of course buddies are your very strong support system.

In case of any breakdown or accident, you are not alone.

There are small compromises that you may have to do when you car pool, especially with more than one person. You have to be little flexible with your timings, you have to at times go a little early or come a bit late if your partners need to vary timings. But once you start enjoying the company, you would be more than willing to do that for your friends.

I have come across a lot of people, in fact most people fall in this category, who are absolutely averse to car pool. Their point of view is that I did not buy a car to share it with someone, or loose my flexibility. At times I have found it ridiculous when people from same large apartment complex go to same organization with thousands of employees, but each goes in his or her car. There is a sense of status in some people, who would not want to share it with anyone who is below in hierarchy to them, some would not want to be disturbed while they take their calls in the car, and most just want their own space and pace. I have heard remarks like, I did not buy the car to share it with others.

I have been trying to think of the reasons behind this thought process and one of the reasons that I can think of is probably the fact that most people are owning the cars for the first time and have not grown up with cars. And it is when they owned the car that they separated themselves from the crowds or the shared spaces, and by car pooling they do not want to again share this hard earned space. I am not sure if this random thought of mine makes any sense. I have seen efforts at large organizations to promote car pool just falling flat, as no one wants to adjust even a wee bit for someone they would carpool with.

I hope some people would look at the social benefits of car pooling, which are more personal in nature and at least experiment with carpooling sometime. Like I say for everything in life, Experiment and Explore, if you like it stick to it, if not move on or go back!


India’s Green Buildings

I read about the Green Buildings in a newsletter that I receive. It had some interesting data on the Green buildings in India. Among cities it is Chennai and amongst corporates, it is Wipro that are leading the way for Green buildings in India. Incidentally, Bangalore has none till now, in spite of its reality boom.

City Name of Green Building
Chennai Olympia Technology Park
Vestas India Pvt Ltd
World Bank
Grundfos Pumps India Pvt Ltd
ABN Amro Central Enterprise
Rane Institute of Employee Dev.
Gurgaon Wipro – Gurgaon Dev. Centre
ITC Green
NOIDA Spectral Services Consultants
Kolkata Technopolis
Hyderabad HITAM
CII-Godrej Green Business Centre
Mumbai Hiranandani BG Building
Kochi Wipro – SDB 1
Gulbarga IGP Office Complex

The typical features of green buildings are:
– Energy efficiency
– Water efficiency
– Use of recycled materials
– Waste management
– Building management systems
– Sustainable sitting
– Innovative design to achieve sustainability

In order to achieve the above, a series of nearly 30 design and technology measures need to be incorporated. By doing so, the green buildings provide health and safety benefits, environmental benefits and economic benefits. In all cases of green buildings, the costs of provision of various features provide a payback in 4 to 7 years.

I did some basic search on this topic and found these interesting facts and the opportunities available for entrepreneurs in this space:

  • According to Wikipedia, Green building is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings use resources — energy, water, and materials — while reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal — the complete building life cycle.
  • The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, provides a suite of standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Since its inception in 1998, LEED has grown to encompass over 14,000 projects in 50 US States and 30 countries covering 1.062 billion square feet (99 km²) of development area
  • The Indian Green Building Council is in the process of indigenising the LEED Green Building Rating System to suit India. They also have training programs for new construction. They also conduct examination for becoming IGBC accredited professional. You can find a list of certified professionals on the site. Parameters for LEED rating are available here.
  • Green Business Centre discusses the business opportunities that exist in India for Green Buildings.

The world over, there are over 1,300 LEED certified projects and over 16,000 projects awaiting LEED certification. I guess this is a potential area that entrepreneurs can explore.

Charity – A Receiver’s Perspective

Last few weeks, I have been working with some of my colleagues on launching a venture in the rural tourism space. While we were discussing, debating, brainstorming on the nature of the venture along with our friends and associates, there were a lot of arguments that triggered the thoughts for this post. Most frequently asked question was “How are you going to help the villagers? Some thought we might end up exploiting them while others thought we are going to do something great to by helping the villagers come out of “assumed under privilege”.

Now here is my view on this. First of all I do not assume that people who live in villages are in anyway living a lesser life than those living in big cities. They both have their own advantage areas and pain points. Second I do not believe in charities and giving anything to anyone for no value delivered. Everyone must earn their own bread and butter. A lot of people who think they have lots of money, today want to do something for the under privileged, and how, by giving away checks to charities who spend a lot of money on their own marketing and PR.

All those who feel great after giving some part of their wealth to those who are under privileged in their eyes, have they ever thought of how does it feel to receive something as charity. Just close your eyes for sometime and try to imagine someone walking up to you in a jazzier car than you have, and looking at you in pity. He pities you for having a smaller car, a smaller house and lot of other small things. While you are completely comfortable with what you have, but this person pities you because he has more than you. How would you feel receiving some money from someone who looks down upon you and thinks great of himself by giving you some money?

I am sure most of us would not want to be in a situation where someone gives us money that we ideally do not deserve. And if we do not like it, I think we can safely assume that most other people would also not like it. Everyone has a right to lead a respectful life, and we must not take that away by assuming that they need our help. In my opinion, if you really feel like helping people, create some channels for mutual value creation, where both parties feel they are adding value and reaping benefits that they deserve. The right to live respectfully is the most fundamental right and must be respected.


Art “Appreciation”

Yesterday I happened to attend a small session on Art Appreciation, the write-up for the session indicated that I would be able to appreciate art works better after attending the session. It was an interesting session but what came out was not the appreciation of art but the appreciation of the “Value” of art. The speaker spoke briefly about the characteristics of an art piece like lines, shape, colors, texture, mood etc, after which it was all about the high dollar figures associated with the famous paintings and painters. And the amounts mentioned were atrociously high, for you to hold your breadth and think, why do they command such a huge price, and who benefits out of these crazy auctions. I asked a lot of questions (hope the lady pardons me for that) and these are some of the insights I got:

1.Artists are classified in various categories like Brands, Blue chips and young artists. Brands are names like Hussain, Anjolie Menon, Raja Ravi verma, who have the capability of raise the price of a piece by just putting their signatures on the art piece. You will probably not get a ‘Brand’ art work for anything less than a Crore. Blue chips are probably tomorrow’s Brands, and they would cost you anything of 50 lakhs plus. The younger artists are the one who are either promoted by famous auction houses or art galleries, and hold a promise to be a blue chip or a brand in few years. They sell at various prices depending on who is grooming them, who is promoting them and how they able to build an aura around the.

2.Every artist have a per sq cm rate at which they sell their art pieces, and this rate though not publicly published, is well accepted and acknowledged in the art fraternity. The per sq cm rate goes up usually once a year and the average rate of hike is in the range of 10-15% (sounds like rent rates), but for popular artists it goes up with every big auction.

3.An artist in his / her productive years can do anywhere from 150 to 200 art works per year. Now it seems difficult to imagine that you pay crores for something that was done in a couple of days, but then it may not have been done completely by artists himself, but by his students who develop a similar style as the artist.

4.Most artist start by doing landscape paintings, which is observing something and depicting it as such on the canvas, and move to figurative, which is depicting the human figures and emotions and then finally to abstract work, which is sometimes the expression of their experiences in life. Interestingly most of the figurative work is usually done on a particular community and tribes, where the artist would go and spend time with the tribe and then paint his observations / associations.

5.Once the art work is sold, the artist actually do not directly benefit from the premium that the work demands, so they end up disowning their own work at times ( I thin some royalty based model needs to come up here, otherwise its all the traders who are making money at the cost of artists)

6.The percentage of fake art being sold is very high. Some of the renowned galleries give an authenticity certificates for the art work, but that does not ensure authenticity.

7.Just like the world of writers and poets has the concept of ‘ghost writing’, art world also has the concept of ‘Ghost Painting’, though they do not call it so. Ghost painting would mean that I do the painting, but no one knows my name and hence would not pay any price for my work, while you are a renowned name, so you put your signature on my work and sell it as yours and pay me a base price for the work. Something like outsourcing but without credits. But what is interesting is that despite the huge prices that the art works command, we really have not heard any controversies around the ownership of the work, or am I being ignorant?

8.In last 5 years, the investments in stocks have given a return of 200%, real estate 210%, and Indian art a whooping 1200%. Not sure about where the data comes from, but the lady insisted that if you invest in art, the value can only go up, rate of growth of value can vary, but it can never ever go down. Need to check that out with some authentic data

9.Some popular websites like Saffronart, auction art online and are set to replace the real world auctions.

10.There are Art funds that invest in Art and give you a return on your money

While comparing the negatives and positives of the increasing value for ‘Art’, she said the sad part is that Art is becoming a commodity and people are buying it only as an investment, just like they buy a piece of land or a stock and are not really appreciating the aesthetic value of the work, and people are not investing time in understanding the art, or connecting with the art. But at the same time is it not true that Artists go out and do a PR activity to highlight their products and the crazy prices that people are paying for them. My final question that I still need to answer is to make money out of Art, does one really need to appreciate art, does one have to be an artist, or just be a smart investor who launches an art gallery and then promotes the artists groomed under its umbrella in the right way and in the right markets?