Saturday, January 26, 2013

Never say never

I feel like a warrior who never gave up until I conquered the fort – admit to one of my dream schools –the IIM. It has been a very long journey (5+ years) and a difficult one too. There were so many setbacks, both personal and professional. Frustrations increased over time but so did the willpower. I was prepared to take the beast by its horns and tame it. The motivation never died because I knew I WILL make it one day. And I DID. Now it is time for a new era to usher in and with that renewed enthusiasm and optimism. I am thankful to my family for its perpetual support and my friends who supported me during low tides. I am also thankful to all those individuals who because of their ‘actions’ or ‘inactions’ inspired me to go for the kill. Moral of the story is “Dream big and never say never”.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Thought of compiling those little things that often make me go wild. The list is open-ended.


Annoyed with people who sneeze without using their hankies in public places! I mean, this is something which is taught to all of us during our kindergarten days. The matter becomes worst when the next person in a choc-a-block situation, say a public transport bus, sprays a nice doze of his/her saliva/mucous on your face ‘without’ being even slightly apologetic. Eh! Add to this the fact that common cold is an air-borne disease. Poor guys like you and me have to suffer because that idiot relished an ice-cream the other day. Completely unfair and annoying!

Elevator manners:

Occurs 70% of the time at my workplace! Before I can get out of the elevator the person(s) waiting to get in block(s) my path. Is it so difficult to imagine that the first priority should be given to the incumbents to get out so that the elevator space can be freed up? By not doing so you end up creating a deadlock for both the parties! Just because you are late for a meeting doesn’t mean that you ignore others! Unfair and annoying!

Name suffixes:

I have no reasoning behind name suffixes. Just that I get annoyed when people place a “Sir” or a “Bhai” after my name, or even the stupid "Baka", especially friends and elders. Period.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dancing on the floor

The so-called “skilled” workers in the IT industry think that the entire world revolves around them. Though being wage slaves, they feel and act like emperors. Money speaks. I am also a part of this little ignorant world. Just like all disciplines, IT has its pros and cons. My general observation is that these skilled workers have transformed themselves into machines. Working with functions and stored procedures has made them more and more process-oriented. And they expect everyone in this world to work like a machine, religiously obeying the rules of the book. They prefer to wage email wars and shun more effective ways of direct communication. They are low-hanging fruits for companies targeting their relatively high disposable incomes. Sadly, many of them do not realize (and accept) the fact that the world is not all about IT. And hence, “dancing on the floor” is a must, especially for such skilled workers.

Let me start by describing my journey from Bangalore to Baroda. This time I changed my usual itinerary and took a flight to Mumbai, with a follow-on night travel to Baroda by train. Bangalore and Mumbai are quite opposite demographically. Bangalore is the home of skilled workers with fat salaries whereas Mumbai is the home for everyone from the top to bottom of the income pyramid. I could notice two strikingly different tones that said a lot about the difference between these two cities (read on).

Bangalore airport was hustling. The skilled workers formed queues as the flight departure announcements came in. Most of the things were in place. In between the announcements came in the warnings “Please look out for any suspicious items in your vicinity and report them to the police”; reminiscent of the skilled-worker’s way of looking at dangers. My flight was on-time.

Mumbai airport was chaotic. The same baggage conveyor belt was used for three flights. Eh! Fortunately, I had buffer time to reach Borivali, my destination railway station. Hence, contrary to my plans, instead of hiring a taxi, I decided to ‘get on the floor’ of the suburban locals. Wow! After a bit of bargaining with the auto guy, I reached Ville Parle. It was 9ish, peak time for Mumbaikars traveling back home after office. The trains were choc-a-bloc with passengers hanging out of the compartments. I had a 14 kilo backpack (weighed at the airport) and a laptop bag to carry. This is way too much if you want to travel in the locals. It surely needs some guts to take a chance. Man! The pressure was enormous and from all sides. I felt like a lemon waiting to be squeezed. Add to that the humid conditions that mercilessly suck any fluid out of you. You don’t have the liberty to move your feet without stamping on to someone else’s. But all this is taken for granted. When you turn around you might end up knocking a forehead with your elbow and yet there will be hardly any stare. Mumbaikars are used to such lifestyle. Even the elderly do not hesitate traveling in such chaos. I was really amused to watch an old guy finding time and space to happily comb his hair. Hats off! I alighted at Borivali. This time around the warnings were “Please do not try to climb the train as we have a 2500 watts supply that could take away your life” – reminiscent of the Mumbaikar’s way of looking at dangers. This is life and this is how we have all have to deal with it!

Dancing on the floor is what I love…to feel what is life…to understand how chaotic yet lively can life be….to appreciate the value of hard-earned money….to get more insights on how this world works...rather than being a self-proclaimed emperor whose life is confined to cubicles and ego-walls.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three incidents that kept me thinking

This is going to be different, not the usual ‘lessons learnt’ and ‘best practices’ stuff. There are three incidents, unexpected and trivial yet thought-provoking, that have kept me wondering. I am always curious to uncover the reasoning behind strange things in life. For e.g. I often wonder why does the soil smell like it does when rains arrive for the first time, or, what causes the release of mucous and sweat when people eat spicy food, or even the weirdest curiosity as in why do people(read guys) always spit after they urinate in a loo? Most of these questions can be answered with the help of science. However, today I am going to write about the human aspect, which is hardly understood by people. Although I have no clear answers to these incidents they have surely touched my heart.

Is this me?

I guess this happened back in 2007. I used to commute by our company shuttle. At times, I used to take the late morning shuttle that plied during peak traffic hours. It is hard to define ‘peak traffic hours’ when you are in Bangalore, especially, when you are talking about the old Airport road. You have to pause two, sometimes three, times before you are allowed to cross a signal. Hence, on a safer side, you need to start 30 minutes in advance to compensate for the loss of time. This implies that in order to catch a shuttle scheduled to reach your stop at 11:30 you should think of at least a +/- 10 minutes of tolerance. Sometimes you can see your shuttle on the other side of the road, approximately 100 feet far, but you have absolutely no chance to walk across your side of the road before the shuttle leaves your stop! Helpless! Eh! This is the beauty of Bangalore.

It was a usual day. I reached my stop at 11: 25, which means I reached ‘just in time’. I had 5 minutes (if I go by shuttle timetable) to 15 minutes (if I add a tolerance) at my disposal. Spending time was never an issue as the hustle and bustle kept me engaged. Now, then…I saw an old woman, 70s something, standing about 20 feet apart. I assume she came from a lower-middle class family. Clad in a grayish saree (south Indian style), wearing a pair of glasses and holding a stick she appeared to me as a perfect grandmother. She took a couple of little steps to cross the road and suddenly retreated when a bike zoomed past her. I realized that she was blind. Surprisingly, she was alone! That was sad. Neither could she be nimble enough to cross the road nor could she see! Subconsciously I started cursing her near-ones for letting her out alone. How can people be so indifferent? She pleaded a passer-by in Kannada to help her cross the road. He walked away as if he didn’t listen or could not understand, maybe he didn’t or maybe he did and simply didn’t want to take the extra pain. I looked at my watch. It showed 11:35. The shuttle could arrive any moment and once I crossed the road there was no guarantee that I could cross it once again to catch the shuttle. Something pushed me to help her. I held her left hand and wrapped my arm around to support her. I had to bend a little due to her short stature. Her hand felt just like that of my Nani (maternal grandmother); small, soft with prominent veins. I guided her to the other side. There were no words exchanged, no thank you, no welcome. I crossed the road and came back to my stand. The shuttle arrived 5 minutes later, I got inside, thought about my Nani and the day continued as normal.

Sounds like a typical love-at-first-sight Bollywood scene, only that most of the time the protagonist is our heroine and our hero is watching her help the needy. I am not unique. Most of us would have done the same. However, there was something special about this episode. It made me think: Was this me? Do I really care about the needy? Did I help her only because I visualized my Nani in her? Would I do that if I had bigger things at stake? I don’t have any answers. Yet, this was one of the most satisfying incidents in my life.

Is this him?

This incident happened last monsoon. Bangalore’s weather is notorious to pour rains between 5 to 7 pm in the evening. I was waiting for the public transport bus outside the company campus. There was a light drizzle, quite enough to soak me up within few minutes. Traffic was moving at a snail’s pace. Buses were chock-a-block. The chances of getting a bus, with at least some space to be able to stand, were feeble. Even if I got one I was sure to get drenched by that time. This was not a major problem for me. Drizzles are always welcome, especially when I am leaving office. I was mentally prepared for the shower.

A car stopped right in front of me. The window opened and I saw the driver doing some gestures. I could not figure out what was he trying to convey. I went closer and realized that he was one of my ex-colleagues. He was asking me to get in his car. I got in. My apartment was half a kilometer away from his place, only that he had to take a sideway to drop me. I insisted that he should drop me at the main street to avoid the pain of taking a sideway just for my sake. He told me “Dude, it is raining. It doesn’t matter. I will drop you right in front of your apartment”. And he did.

Doesn’t sound special, right? It was a special episode for me. I never talked with this guy in office. He was a bit weird with his reasoning abilities and most of the time made a mockery of himself. I always thought he was a foolish character. I was always biased against him. I even mocked about him on his back with my colleagues, who apparently had a similar opinion about him. The point is, he was strange and I was uncomfortable being with him. This incident was a shocker. I felt so bad. Sometimes we create impressions about people even without dealing with them or even before trying to understand them. I am not justifying whether this guy was good or bad. He might have changed for better over a period of time. But why did I judge a person based on someone else’s experiences? Why was I so much biased against him? Shouldn’t a person be given a chance to change himself/herself? Does professional expertise mean everything in life and is it fair to shun someone just because he/she is not as intellectual as you would want him/her to be? I have partial answers to some of these questions. Indeed, this was one of the most embarrassing incidents in my life.

Who is she?

Strangers come and go out of our life. But some of them, knowingly or unknowingly, leave long-lasting impressions. Last Friday was special. It was 9 pm. I left office after a refreshing work-out at the gym. I took the usual public transport bus to head home. For a change, the driver opened up the door (first door) at his end. This end is generally occupied by ladies, though it is not a rule. I was surrounded by 4-5 gals with enough room to move around. Unintentionally, I was blocking the side-view mirror every now and then and got instructions from the driver to move aside a couple of times. Everything else was usual.

Suddenly I heard a sound from behind “Excuse me!” The sound was feminine. I wondered whether I did something wrong again. I turned back and saw a pretty gal with a sweet smile coming towards me. Pointing her finger towards my footwear she asked “Can you please tell me from which store did you buy these?” Eh! I was in a state of shock. Everyone around was looking on to our conversation. How can a stranger ask me about my personal stuff? To be more precise, “How can a gal, whom I don’t know, ask me such a question in public?” I answered plainly “The new Bata store near Reliance Fresh”. “Where?”, she asked again. Again, I gave a plain answer. She thanked me and started moving back before giving her last comment “These look really smart and cool!”. I understand that the compliment was made solely for the footwear, sigh! The best part was her smile that seemed to have come straight from her heart. I smiled back and thanked her for her compliments. She alighted at the next stop. I got down a couple of stops later and walked down home feeling much happier than before. She made my day!

Strangers are unbiased, hence, everyone likes compliments if they come from strangers and even more if they come from opposite sex strangers. I am no exception. It made me feel good. Did she think twice before approaching me? Does it mean that there existed a sense of mutual trust? Is it okay to compliment a stranger if you really love the stuff he/she is wearing? What would be the reaction of a gal if a guy did the same? Has our society become open enough to accept such behaviors? Maybe I am thinking too far. Indeed, this was one of the most shocking(pleasantly) incidents in my life.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Is it great to be a leader?

Over years of my professional service I have had wonderful opportunities to work with a wide spectrum of people, some of them as my peers, some as stakeholders and some as my leaders. Due to a keen sense of observing people I am always inquisitive about the behavioral traits that people display in their respective roles at job. Fortunately, being in the IT industry, I had a lot of exposure and experience to work with teams of different sizes and skills. Also, I had chances to don different hats with respect to the roles within teams. One of the most coveted roles is 'leadership' and that is why we have the following question.

Question: Is it great to be a leader?
Answer: Yes, with its own demerits.

Before we get into the depth of the topic it makes sense to discuss about the cons of being a leader (pros are trivial). It is also useful to understand what it takes to be a true leader. At the end we shall talk about those little practices that have much bigger impacts on the acceptance and hence the success of leaders.

People are not born as leaders. They only possess leadership ‘instincts’. Leadership is a skill that is to be honed over time. Some do it at a rapid pace, some take their own time. Unfortunately, the definition of a leader is misunderstood in many instances, resulting into a lot of unrest and disbelief over this role. It is definitely great to be a leader; at the same time, being a leader brings together a lot of perils.

The Perils

The latest economic downturn has uncovered many secrets about leaders and their responsibilities. We have seen many heads roll over during the past year. Some of them can be justified, many of them cannot be. Is it an injustice to those who were sacked just because they could not control the economic tsunami? May be yes. However, the bare truth is, someone has to be blamed, and that ‘someone’ is always going to be the one who is at the helm.

When things go wrong, leaders are expected to take charge. They are expected to turn around companies with a smorgasbord of rapid changes. At the same time, changes will always be resisted and fingers will always be pointed on the credibility of those changes. What is the best way to handle this situation and still not lose the confidence of people?

Pundits often blame the ex-bosses of investment banks for the economic crisis that engulfed not only the financial markets but also had a cascading effect on the world business. The reasoning is their aggressive risk appetites and their unwillingness to stand out of the crowd and pull the chain. What is the best time to pull the chain? What are the risks associated with taking such hard stances?

The message is clear: Leadership is not always easy.

What makes a ‘true’ leader?

Every leader is different in terms of leadership ‘styles’. There are a set of baseline principles that are common across all these styles. The crux is to understand the difference between a) Adaptive management and b) Routine management. Gone are the days when leaders were only expected to do routine management jobs. Competition is fierce and leaders with non-adaptive styles will be confronted with difficult questions. Gone are the days when leaders used to ignore people and didn’t share the pie of the cake. It is absolutely necessary to take along people and make them a part of the success chain. Forming a clique of favorites is backfiring. A true leader is someone who is of the people, by the people and for the people. As someone correctly said: It is not important for a leader to be the smartest person in the room; but it is important for a leader to be able to pick the smartest persons in the room. Bossing around is over. Leaders should get on the dance floor and feel the heat; watching from the balcony alone will not work.

There are multiple ways to implement these principles. Leadership styles come into the game. However, styles are influenced by the intrinsic nature of leaders. It is difficult to tabulate which style scores more points over the other. Also, styles are situational. Sometimes it becomes imperative to shift gears.

There is no master guide to successful leadership. No B-school can transform oneself into a true leader; it can only facilitate the transition. It only boils down to one’s understanding of the role and the great amount of responsibility that comes along. The following lists down certain best practices that can prove handy as a leader.

Little practices with bigger impacts

“I” am avoided. Leaders are not expected to display their dominance (even if they follow a dominating style). Recently the CEO of a multinational was mocked at due to his frequent use of the word ‘I’. Phrases such as “I have decided”, “I will take a call” are best avoided.

Micro-management. The notion of micro-management is obsolete. People want freedom and more importantly they crave for their leaders’ trust. Micro-management is a negative move and should only be employed when trust is at stake. Enquiring about number of hours spent in office or watching out for people’s desktops during their leisure time are some of the mistakes that old-timers often make. Of course, business ethics have their own place in the system and it requires skill to draw the line of distinction.

The credit barter.
It is all about playing the fair game. All of us love to be appreciated, be it in any form. Deserving candidates should be given their share of the credit; in fact it is their prerogative. Hence, it is also important for people, as well as their leaders, to make sure that deserving people are fairly credited. Also, such a barter system should not be skewed with any kind of ‘favoritism’. Coteries are always short-lived, nothing can be predicted about team dynamics and it is only a matter of time to realize the ill effects of coteries.

Timely and effective communication.
This requires skills of the highest level. “When to communicate and what to communicate” has always been a dilemma. The issue is so sensitive that mishandling will almost always prove detrimental. Commands are mostly abhorred. Sweeter tones are often misinterpreted. The balance should be striking. When decisions are communicated, reasons affecting those decisions should also be communicated. It is not enough to say “Following is the guideline”, people also need answers for “Why is the guideline defined?” The first hand information to a subordinate should mandatorily flow from the leader and not from the peers.

Assessment and assignment. This is one of the most common areas in which leaders tend to flaw. People should be given ample and fair opportunities before their skill-sets are evaluated. Every person is unique in terms of his/her comfort level with varied skills. And ‘every’ person has a place in the organization. It is the onus of leaders to unleash the skills and find the best fit for people within teams and organizations. Forcing people to excel in skills that do not interest them can never produce great results. Multi-skilled employees are always desired. But, in reality, only a few of the lot have that kind of potential. Rest fall in the average and below-average range. In order to maximize productivity it is critical to understand individual skill-sets and identify fitting jobs for the rest of the lot, thereby, making everyone happy and comfortable with their respective jobs.

We often come across a famous management cliché about “getting people out of the comfort zone”. This is a good strategy when it comes to the professional development of employees over time. However, it is worthy to note that this will work only if individuals and their leaders have a mutual acceptance. Moving people out of their comfort zone without consent brings dissent. It is important for leaders to make people realize the pros and cons and present the bigger picture before they are moved out of their comfort zones.

Back your people. Leaders often tend to be diplomatic and let lose their stands under situations that challenge their positions. True leaders should always back their people, provided the issues are correct ethically and rationally, even if their jobs or roles are at stake. This takes a lot of mutual trust and courage. Everyone should feel safe and secure working with their leaders, no matter what their opinions might be.

Earn your respect. Respect cannot be bought; it can only be earned. Being a leader does not oblige people to respect you as a leader. At the same time, demanding respect is a sure way to lose respect. Remember that true leaders will always be hailed, wherever they go.

Hone leaders.
One of the greatest qualities of true leaders is to identify and hone leaders. Unfortunately, at times, leaders try to suppress people who show potential to be future leaders because of uncertainties to their own roles. True leaders will always find their way to the top. If one cannot identify and appreciate leadership skills in others, one cannot be a true leader.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. It only lists few of the practices that I have learnt or would try to adhere to. As our HOD used to say: "Life is a learning process", and it indeed is ! May be I will add more points as time goes by..


It is definitely great to be a leader. But it is equally important to understand the responsibility it carries along. Leaders are aplenty but 'true' leaders are and always will be a rare commodity.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010


All my blogs represent 'my' standpoints derived from personal experiences, observations and facts from contemporary literature. I try to stick to 'advocacy journalism', meaning, most of my blogs (exception: travelogues) will be opinionated, factual and unbiased to most extent. You may agree or disagree with the text and are free to post your comments. However, please be informed that the intention is not to initiate a debate.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Is it a great time to be a woman?

I have been frequently confronted with this question during my years of professional service. The sensitivity of this topic has lead to heated skirmishes with many females (friends, colleagues) I encountered. Recently I went through a debate on this topic. The discussion enlightened many aspects that we tend to dismiss or accept due to the intense emotions associated with the idea. Let me give an answer to the question.

Question: Is it a great time to be a woman?
Answer: Yes for sure.

Of course the answer only reflects my stand on the issue and is not intended to be generalized. I will try to describe why I believe so and the cons of not realizing that the world has indeed changed for today's women.

Why is it a great time to be woman?

We have been debating on women rights and their exploitation since childhood. However, things have changed dramatically and the motion that women are still being exploited no more holds true when we talk about careers and economic independence. Agreed that developing nations are still way behind in terms of imparting women education and enabling women empowerment, but this is largely prevalent in the rural or economically backward communities, where poverty and ignorance are major contributors. Let us reduce our scope to "women in urban India" (I term this WUI)

There is no second thought to the fact that WUI have all the opportunities that men have. I am aware that statistics say otherwise. Only 3% of global CEO's are females. Is it reasonable to assume that 97% of the lot was deprived due to sexual discrimination? Even if we believe so the point I am trying to make is that the attitude of society has changed and now it is the onus of women to make inroads. The law of nature is 'survival of the fittest'; whoever performs shall rule. [This raises another issue about parenting and social obligations, that make women 'not so fit' for survival in the corporate arena. I will talk about this later] Nobody is going to pamper women and make them climb the ladder. I doubt that still there are multiple instances in which deserving women are not promoted. The unfortunate story is that women still crib about inequality citing their traditional roles in our society. They are definitely better off than their mothers. We have most of the legislation in place to enable women empowerment (exception: abortion). We have 'reserved' places for women at global B-schools. We have tax benefits for women. The stage is set and they are welcome aboard. However, the sad part is that the societal transformation has given birth to a new pedigree of WUI characterized by a combination of idealism and feminism. Women in this pedigree have good as well as bad attributes. Let us talk about the good part first. They are:

a. Goal-oriented b. Display commendable fighting spirit c. More deserving than their male counterparts d. Independent

All these attributes make them unflinching warriors to conquer the male dominated world. No second thoughts. The dangers are associated with their bad attributes. They are:

a. Hypersensitive to women issues b. Indifferent to traditional roles

It is extremely important to understand these issues and their consequences to avoid friction and chaos. India has a rich cultural heritage bolstered by institutions such as marriage and 'the family'. In order to hold together our society both sexes should understand the need to change attitudes without compromising on aspects that endanger 'the family'. Men should stop being egoistic and women should come out of the "why only me?" attitude. We don't want to surpass the western world with a record number of divorces or abortions. Since the blog focuses on women, I will stick to the scope and describe the attitude that the new pedigree WUI have and need to change for the betterment of the society. Yes, we are digressing from the main topic. For now let us accept the fact that it IS a great time to be a WUI. Let us shift the focus to the question: What are the impacts of this social change? Will this change bring cheers all around and contribute to the economy or will it bring chaos and hinder our progress?

Hypersensitivity to women issues:

This is all about hype and hoopla. The new pedigree WUI feel that they are always targeted by their male counterparts. They always feel strangled and want to break free from the shackles. It is just a mindset. The shackles are imaginary and inherited from their mothers. In pursuit of freedom they lose sight of the gamut of opportunities that have been opened up. Most of the lost opportunities are blamed on sex discrimination. The primary motive is to be better than the opposite sex rather than being the best of all. All arguments boil down to the same question: Why not me? ( or why me? )

Let us take an example:

Mr X and Mrs Y are a working couple in a metro. It is imperative that the household chores have to be divided between the couple. Mr X is good at buying grocery from the market and Mrs Y is good at preparing food. Hence, logically, the act of making food is a combined effort of Mr X and Mrs Y. Also both these acts are equally important in producing the final result.

Unfortunately, there is a high probability that our new pedigree WUI will raise questions about her role. The question will be: "Why do I have to prepare food for you?" In asking this question, Mrs Y has made a handful of wrong assumptions. She has assigned a weightage to the tasks and based on the weightage she has concluded that preparing food is a menial task. Also Mrs Y has ignored the fact that it is more important to execute a task in the best possible way rather than complain about "why me?"

Indifference to traditional roles:

The new pedigree WUI do not want to be like their mothers. They want to be more independent, both financially and emotionally. They want to pursue higher education. They want to advance their career and not remain a mere house manager. They want the freedom to voice their opinions and want their voices to be heard. All this is right until it is overdone. Unfortunately, our new pedigree WUI crib about their social obligations of child rearing. I have no question in accepting that such traditional social obligations have crippled women in pursuing their desired careers and sometimes have left them short of options. Either they have to abandon their careers or take a break, which hurts their growth within the organization. Is there a solution to this problem? No. We have to accept the limitation and move on. Today most of the organizations provide paid maternity leaves and work from home options. Then why crib about this? They need to introspect. What would have been the results if their mothers thought in the same way?

Also, are WUI simply going to measure their progress in society by financial comparisons? The answer depends on the way an individual woman understands her role in society. An important consideration here must be self-fulfilment. Keeping a family together, raising children as they should be raised, creating responsible citizens: these require values and skills common to all humanity, that transcend rich and poor countries and that should transcend the sexes. Men need to learn this lesson. Women know it innately but my fear is that in the battle for workplace equity they could lose sight of some of the defining aspects of womanhood.


It is definitely great to be a woman, in case of India, a WUI. But it is equally important to understand that our society is now ready to embrace this new social change and it is the choice of women to determine how best they can help in this transition without hurting our society.