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Friday, December 24, 2010

Handling Poor Performers

A poor performer is probably the worst nightmare for any manager. The amount of energy any manager needs to spend to cover up for a poor performer could be enormous. The poor performer may be a very nice person otherwise but doesn't seem to have the competence or the drive to perform the assigned tasks to the required degree of satisfaction.

Identifying Poor Performers

At times poor performers may hide for years altogether but may find themselves exposed in case of organizational changes like takeovers, recessionary conditions, new supervisor, etc. The most crucial question that challenges any manager when faced with a poor performer is how to communicate in clear terms to the concerned employee: "shape up or ship out".

Shaping Up Poor Performers

Coaching, mentoring, providing opportunities, feedback sessions, tough messages and much more can be done to help the poor performer "shape up". However, these methods don't work beyond a certain extent. If the concerned employee lacks in fundamental or functional competencies and has no drive to improve himself or herself the above methods will not work.

Shipping Out Poor Performers
 
It is always a tough decision for any manager to let go a person reporting to him or her. The decision to communicate the concerned employee to "ship out" is probably the toughest for any manager, even tougher than answering the questions from executive management. The manager would always tend to think of the impact the letting go decision will have on the concerned employee and his/her family both emotionally and financially. At the same time continuing with the poor performer with no improvement in sight for days and weeks altogether may be dangerous to the manager himself or herself and to the organization eventually.

Shipping Out is Not the End of the Road

All said and done the "ship out" decisions cannot be completely ruled out in an organization. At the end performance matters and is needed by an organization to stay competitive and to survive and grow. These decisions must be taken albeit in a sensitive manner as the poor performer is a human being and deserves to be respected as such. And it very much the case that the poor performer may use the "ship out" opportunity to do something different he or she is really good at and highly motivated to do. Given the right opportunity it's possible that the poor performer may turn into a "high performer".

Monday, December 20, 2010

Does Your Boss Need You?

One of the questions that one should ask constantly is "Does Your Boss Need You?". The answer should be a 'firm yes'. If it is a 'weak yes' or a 'no' then the die is cast. In the latter case one must try to change the 'weak yes' or 'no' into a 'firm yes' and if one fails then be wise enough to read and understand the writing on the wall.

What are the situations in which the answer will be a 'weak yes' or 'no'? Some of such situations are listed below:  

Your goals are not aligned with your boss

And it is possible that your goals were set through consultation and concurrence of your boss. This is the case when the boss has a hidden agenda and this may be related to his or her own view on what would land him or her the next higher role. In that context you may be irrelevant for your boss and so will your goals be.

The best way out in this situation is to try to see the picture from your boss's eyes and offer to change your goal.

This may mean that you have become irrelevant to the organization in a real sense because what you do or don't has no impact on your boss's performance. 

Your boss holds a grouse against you

This is the case when you are technically superior to your boss and everyone in the organization has the same view or the boss feels threatened by your growth in the organization.

The best way out in this situation is to downplay your technical superiority and never cut your boss down in any meeting where even one more person is present other than the two of you.

This may mean that if your boss doesn't leave the organization soon you better start looking out for growth opportunities.

Your boss doesn't like you because of socio-political factors

This is the case when you probably joined the organization before your boss and are well established especially when your old boss becomes the boss of your new boss.

The best way out in this situation is to play it safe and ensure you are informally connected to your earlier boss.

This may mean that in case you happen to violate any of the company policy (even by chance) the boss may exploit it to make your life tough 

Your boss doesn't have your mobile number

This is the case when your boss doesn't think he'll ever need you for anything urgent and crucial and you don't matter for him or her.

The best way out in this situation is to proactively own up certain activities which you know your boss is deeply concerned about.

This may mean that you may end up doing things which don't excite you or add value to your professional career and hence it would be better to work with another boss who would care to take your mobile number as you'd matter for him or her.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Supply Chain Management

    Supply Chain Management (SCM) is about managing ones suppliers to procure semi-finished products, integrate with them with other semi-finished products to create the final finished product for delivering to the end-customers.

    In today's business world, where outsourcing has come to be recognized as a competitive tool for businesses to survive and grow, SCM has a crucial role to play.

    Strategic Management

    Strategic management is the highest level of executive intervention in an organization which has far reaching impact on the survival, sustainability and growth of the organization.

    Importance of Strategic Management

    Strategic management plays the most crucial and decisive role in respect of the following pertinent questions:
    • What an organization must do to become successful?
    • What should the overall approach to business execution be so that the organization continues to stay successful at what it does?
    Right Strategy is Important - Execution of Strategy is Equally Important

    Choosing the right investment opportunities is the first major decision for a corporation. Deciding on the overall investment strategy for the selected opportunities comes next.

    Then comes putting the strategy into action by assigning personnel and resources. And finally, monitoring and correcting the execution is needed to ensure success.

    End to End Strategic Management

    Strategic Management involves following key activities:
    • Strategy Formulation
      • Evaluating alternative investment opportunities
      • Selecting the 'right' one based on the organization's capabilities and competencies
      • Identifying capabilities and competencies to be developed (in support of 'existing' and 'new' business objectives)
      • Allocating budgets and setting performance targets on projected returns
    • Strategy Deployment
      • Focusing on execution
      • Building and sustaining capabilities and competencies
    • Strategy Evaluation (which drives changes to strategy formulation and deployment)
      • Reviewing actual progress versus performance targets
      • Taking corrective actions or adjusting performance targets

    Return on Investment

    "To invest or not to invest, where to invest and when?" - these are the questions top business leaders must answer on a daily basis.

    Return on Investment (RoI) comes to the rescue of business leaders to answer the above questions. RoI simply means the returns must justify the investments.

    Mathematically and Economically speaking:

    Suppose,

    Cash (I) = Cash invested
    Cash (Ri) = Cash earned at time point i

    Then,
    TI (Total Investment) = Cash (I)
    TR (Total Returns) = Summation of Cash (Ri) over all i

    So,
    IF TR > TI by more than a defined percentage
    THEN Invest
    ELSE Don't Invest

    The "more than a defined percentage" is the Rate of Return.

    Organizational Change Management

    Organizational Change Management (OCM), is about managing an organization's cultural make-up during a organizational-level change initiative. OCM strategies generally lead to cultural changes at the end of the change initiative.

    Organizational Culture is a heavily-loaded word and means a host of things that includes:
    • The behaviors rewarded or discouraged in the organization
    • Top management team's energy levels and behaviors - this is influenced by the top man himself (the CEO)
    • How vocal employees are at management and other meetings
    • The emphasis (or over-emphasis) on business ethics
    • Whether employees come on time and leave on time, come on time but stay late, or come and go flexibly
    • Jargons and keywords most often used in the organization - again the CEO leads everyone on this
    • What happens on days when most of the top management is away (for off-site meetings, etc.)

    Customer Relationship Management

    Customer Relationship Management or CRM has emerged as an important business activity for an organization to protect and grow its revenue stream. Revenues depend on customers and that makes customer the end goal of any business activity and hence the growing importance of CRM.

    Corporate Governance

    Remember Enron and Arthur Andersen? They are classic examples of how not to do business. After Enron and Arthur Andersen, Business Ethics has become the most important consideration for business corporations, big and small, the world over.

    The emergence of Corporate Governance as an extremely serious area for corporations to pay attention to every hour, every day is not a very old phenomenon. One slip and the consequences are serious and may lead to closure of the corporation.

    Ethics is the number one ingredient for sustaining business success. The role of CEO is the most important in this context.

    Managing Money

    Money makes the world turn and go around - all of us agree to this oft-repeated statement. Money has the power to make us materially happy or unhappy (note the word materially... money can't guarantee real happiness!). Knowing the techniques that help us in earning money, spending money and most importantly saving money is what is required for managing money effectively.

    Earning Money

    Earning money at a personal level can be equated to the earning of revenues by a business organization. It's a measure of cash inflow into Me, Inc.

    How much one can earn depends on many factors such as one's educational qualifications, effective job experience, kind and nature of job performed, sector or area of economy where one works, etc. It also depends on the prevailing economic conditions.

    In addition to what one can earn through a regular job, one can start individual-based ventures or small business to augment the income.

    Some of the ways in which one can earn additional money while continuing in the current job are:
    • buy residential or residential property and earn a certain income through rent or lease
    • start a shop or commercial establishment and hire people to run it for you
    • do temping - part-time or freelancing jobs
    The ultimate way to earn money is to have one's own full-time business or company. This approach, however, has many associated risks. This approach is not for everyone but only those who have entrepreneurial qualities. Only if one has adequate skills in Entrepreneurship one should consider this approach.

    Spending Money

    Spending money at a personal level can be equated to the incurring of expenses by a business organization. It's a measure of cash outflow from Me, Inc.

    How much one needs to spend depends on many factors such as one's socio-economic status, effective lifestyle, family commitments, personal choices, etc.

    In addition to what one needs to spend on a regular basis (on paying utility bills, groceries, travel, phone calls, etc.) one may also need to spend on big-ticket items occasionally such as buying electronic gadgets, buying a car, etc.

    Unnecessary and impulsive spending should be avoided completely. Planned spending which includes bulk purchasing, discount shopping and bargain hunting are good techniques to follow in all situations.

    Another major area in spending money that requires constant vigil and absolute discipline is managing one's EMI on a big-ticket purchase. EMI becomes part of one's regular spending like the utility bills and deafults in its payment carry heavy financial penalty. Out of all EMIs, home loan EMI is generally the biggest one for most of us and hence Managing Home Loan EMI should get the right level of attention.

    Saving Money

    This is the most crucial aspect of managing money. One difference between business organizations and individuals is that while business organizations get taxed on the Gross Profit (the amount abusiness organization has at its disposal after deducting the expenses from the earned revenue), individuals get taxed on the Revenue (the amount an individual earns through salary and other means).

    Saving money assures that as an individual you can comfortably handle cash requirements:
    • During the times of need – in this context, the insurance premiums are saving towards contingencies such as untimely death, accidents, critical illnesses, etc.
    • During the time of major purchases such as home, car, expensive electronic gadgets, household items, tourism packages, marriage of children, etc.
    • During the time one is unemployed and retired - retirement is a certainty (especially if you don't have your own business or company) and unemployment is a harsh reality of today's business world.
    One should define and religiously follow a Savings and Investment strategy to take care of this aspect of managing money. This strategy should vary depending on one's age, current and projected financial health, existing financial assets and liabilities.

    Savings and Investment

    Start saving early and invest your money wisely is an oft-repeated statement all of us would have heard many times before.

    Savings are important to take care of the following:
    • Uncertainties of life
    • Major expenses like children's education
    • Retired life
    • Investments
    Investments are a way to protect and grow the savings. Having a diversified portfolio that is suited to one's age and income, risk apetite and financial liabilities is the key.

    Work Life Balance

    What is more important for a person - work commitments or personal commitments? The best answer is probably "it depends".

    Work Life

    Most of us work not because we like the organization we work with or want to see it succeed but because if we don't perform we'll be out. Not having a job will not only have immediate financial impact but also play havoc with one's emotional and mental constitution.

    Personal Life

    At the same time, it can be said that personal commitments should generally come before work commitments. The reason: one will not generally change one's family and friends in one's lifetime but will change the place of work multiple times.

    With the workplace one's commitment stops at a certain level - it usually is never emotional in nature (of course there are persons who do feel emotionally connected to their workplace). With one's family and personal life the attachment is usually highly emotional and at times irrational also.

    Work Life or Personal Life

    So where then is the need for balance? Well... for being able to enjoy one's personal life and provide material comfort to one's family, money is needed and that makes work important. And it doesn't stop here, we all have our big, "always wanting more and more" egos to satisfy.

    One always wishes to buy newer, bigger, costlier car... and hence needs more and more money. It is important to make sure that not only one keep's one's job but also grows progressively in the professional life. Getting promoted to the next position not only brings in more money but also makes the ego feel nice and good.

    Balancing Work Life and Personal Life

    So the conclusion is, both work and personal life are important. The key to balancing the commitments on these two aspects to to understand the situation, set priorities and act accordingly. However, it must always be remembered that doing progressively well in work is the means to the end of having a great and fulfilling personal life!

    Managing Job and Career

    Everyone - those having their own business (self employed professionals or business owners) or those who work for others (employees) or those who stay back at home (homemakers) - must analyze their job and career and try to determine how to manage it effectively. Even those who stay at home, have a job to do. Homemakers and housewives are actually in a 24x7 job, even if it is traditionally not viewed to be a job.

    For Self Employed Professionals or Business Owners

    Those having their own business must invest their effort on following:
    • Learning ways to expand the business
    • Establishing contacts and leads to grow the customer base
    • Be on the lookout for opportunities to increase revenues and reduce expenses
    For Employees

    Those who work as an employee must invest their effort on following:
    • Keeping skills and competencies current so that one can remain employable
    • Developing generic soft skills like communication skills, presentation skills so that changing companies is easy
    • Keeping current with new technical and managerial development in the line of one's job
    • Constantly be on the lookout so that one can spot career growth opportunities not only inside the organization but more importantly in another organization
    For Homemakers

    Those who stay back as homemakers must invest their effort on following:
    • Finding bargain deals
    • Maintaining household items and equipments properly so that they serve a longer useful life
    • Ensuring healthy diet and lifestyle for all family members (resulting in lowered medical expenses)

    Planet People Profit

    Planet, people and profit - we are assured of a future only if we do things strictly in this order of priority. And in this context becoming green and eco-friendly becomes the most important point.

    Green lifestyles and technologies are being promoted by governments and corporations the world over.

    Planet - this comes first, always

    Major Economic Trends in 2010

    It is clear that the future of all world citizens is intertwined with the world economy. We all a part of it in some manner and our individual fates are tightly linked to the health of the world economy. The future of the world rests heavily on how the world economy behaves. Economic forces around the world have led to the business landscape changing significantly.

    Some Major Trends

    Some of the major trends in the world economy are:
      • Outsourcing and off-shoring (supply chain distributed across the world)
      • Emergence of trans-national corporations
      • Knowledge becoming the decisive factor for sustained business success
      • Increased regulatory controls (Corporate Governance)
      • Heightened awareness of their rights amongst customers and employees (especially in light of the massive layoffs during the recessionary times)
      • Emergence of EU, China and India as economic powerhouses
      True Purpose of World Economy

      World economy must become subservient to the primary objectives of holistic development of the various countries and the world. The economy must be able to create newer jobs for everyone, allow individuals to acquire purchasing power, pay taxes to the government administration for its functioning, and in general promote the development of a prosperous and vibrant nation.

      Politics and World Affairs

      World affairs are directed by the actions and reactions of the political leaders of the various countries. Our present world has been shaped by the political leaders of the various countries at different times in the history.

      If History Were Different than the Way It had Happened

      Imagine how the world would have been if the results of the actions and reactions of the political leaders in the past had been different. Think for a while that the following events occurred instead of what we have read in the history books:
      • Napolean conquered Russia
      • Mahatma Gandhi stayed back in South Africa
      • England did not colonize India
      The history we read today would have been different had the above events actually occurred. One thing to be kept in mind is that history is written from the perspective of the victor and not the vanquished.

      It is obvious that politics and political leaders are important for countries and societies to run effectively and efficiently. A well-developed and stable political system is a prerequisite to a prosperous and stable country, society and its citizens.

      Purpose of Political System

      Politicians play an important role in policy making at the highest level - these policies guide the rest. The key objective for the political system are as follows:
      • Equitable economic growth
      • Stable and safe society
      • Well-developed infrastructure and utilities
      • Safety and security of the geographical boundaries

      Visit to NDA Khadakwasla

      Sometime during the middle of this year (around May'10) I got a chance to visit the cradle of Indian Armed Forces, the National Defense Academy at Khadakwasla, Pune. This is the place where the future Army Generals, Air Chief Marshals and Navy Admirals undergo training and mentoring.

      Getting into NDA

      Getting admitted into NDA is a tough task as other than possessing mental aptitude and passing stringent physical fitness requirements, having the right kind of psychological and behavioral attitude (which is also known as OLQ - Officer Like Qualities) is a must.

      The NDA Experience

      NDA admits cadets, as they are generally called, right after senior secondary schooling. The years immediately after this stage in any student's life serve as the foundation for whole life. Training and mentoring the selected candidates in their formative years inculcates right values, alignment, bonding with fellow officers in making, pride in one's profession and above all the sense of duty towards one's motherland.

      Integrated Training for Army, Air Force and Navy

      Having cadets from all the three wings of the Indian Armed Forces - Army, Air Force and Navy - getting trained together is another distinctive feature of the training program at NDA. The key advantage this provides is an integrated approach to national defense program. All wars these days are necessarily a joint operation of the three wings of the Armed Forces. The combined training I am sure helps greatly in facilitating smooth operations by Indian Armed Forces in any war or war-like situations.

      The NDA Campus

      While I was there, I had a look at some parts of the NDA campus. It's big, well-maintained and amazingly stunning. I also saw the tanks from an enemy nation India has defeated many times in the past. Interestingly but befittingly, the turrets of the enemy battle tanks were pointing down, towards the ground!

      The Sudan Bhawan

      I saw the Sudan Bhawan which is named so to honor the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers in the Sudan theater during the East African Campaign. It was inaugurated by the then Ambassador of Sudan to India. Very interestingly and appropriately the word Sudan means supreme sacrifice. "Sudan" is a Hindi word also which literally speaking, means 'Good Charity' ( Su = Good, Dan = Charity). Sudan in this context means "Supreme Sacrifice". Those who pass out from NDA are taught to lay down their lives in the service and security of the nation - that's what supreme sacrifice means.

      The NDA Feeling - Post the Visit

      The time spent there was quality time. I came to learn about many things related to India's defense traditions and history. After coming out from there I felt a renewed sense of pride at being born in this great country - India.

      Zero Oil Chicken Dish

      All of us know that oil is used while preparing any dish to make it tastier. However, these days everyone has become quite health conscious which means always watching out for the oil content in our diet.

      Cooking Chicken the Healthy Way

      While trying to come out with a low oil content dish I experimented with a chicken preparation with not low oil content but with no oil at all. Yes, what I cooked was a zero oil chicken dish. This was many months back and since then I have cooked this dish many times with greater success (meaning better taste) everytime.

      Recipe of Zero Oil Chicken

      If you are interested you can try it as well. I am giving the detailed recipe below. This can be used for preparing this chicken dish for 2-3 people. For more or less people you will need to calibrate the proportions of the various ingredients accordingly.
      • Ingredients
        • Chicken - 500 gms, small to medium pieces
          • Spices in powder form
          • Lal mirchi (red chilli) - 1/2 to 1 tsp, as per taste
          • Kali mirchi (black pepper) - 1/2 tsp
          • Haldi (turmeric) - 1 tsp
          • Dhaniya (coriander) - 1 tsp
        • Namak (salt) - 2 to 3 tsp, as per taste
        • Tamatar (tomatoes) - 2, cut into small sized pieces
        • Pyaz (onion) - 1, cut into small sized pieces
        • Shimla mirch (capsicum) - 1, cut into small sized pieces
        • Adrak (ginger) - a little bit, crushed
        • Lahsan (garlic) - a little bit, cut into small sized pieces
        • Hari mirchi (red chilli) - 1 or 2, cut into small sized pieces
      • Cooking Steps
        • Take 200 ml water in a non-stick pan and bring it to boil
        • Mix all the spices in water and let the water boil for another 5 mins
        • Mix the tamatar, pyaz, shimla mirch, adrak, lahsan, hari mirchi in the spicy water. Let the whole thing boil, covered with a lid, for 10-15 minutes or until the water dries up a little bit
        • Mix the chicken now and let the whole thing cook for 20-25 mins, covered with a lid
        • Remove the lid and keep on cooking while continuously stirring the dish, for another 5-10 mins
        • The dish is ready to be served now.
      Enjoying Chicken the Healthy Way

      Hope you would enjoy this dish. The trick which makes this dish work is that chicken already has high fat content which ensures the taste is just right. That is a bad news in some sense since the zero oil chicken dish is unfortunately not fully fat free.

      Visit to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

      Do you know who an Ornithologist is? Have you ever heard about Dr. Salim Ali? Maybe no... but I am sure you know about birds. The above three - Ornithologist, Dr. Salim Ali and birds are inter-connected. And if you are interested in knowing how they are connected you must visit a bird sanctuary.

      Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary

      While the above questions have been there in my mind since many years and I have always longed to visit the world-famous Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (near Agra), I haven't been able to do so till date.

      Instead, in the process of exploring the options for weekend travel around Delhi, I came to know about the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (I guess that was couple of years ago). Since then I have been thinking about visiting this place... and finally over one of the weekends, I managed to do that. I drove to Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary and managed to spend some time there.

      Reaching Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

      The Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary (it's actually a National Park now), is near Gurgaon in the NCR region. For reaching Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary from Delhi, one needs to reach Gurgaon first. One of the ways to reach there is to pass through Sector 4 in Gurgaon and then take the road going towards right (don't take the road going towards left which goes to Sector 9) and cross over the railway tracks.

      Follow this road through a place called Dhankot and take right on the main road. Continue on the main road towards Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary. The road going towards Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary is in good condition and quite wide. The drive is quite pleasant. The distance from Sector-4 Gurgaon to this place is around 15-20 kms. 

      Going Around at Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

      There's ample parking space in the Sanctuary. The entire area at the entrance and inside of the Sanctuary is very well maintained. There's a guest house also, in case you intend to stay there overnight.

      I took a walk in the Sanctuary and spotted many kinds of birds - Crane, Duck, etc. (I saw many more but am no Ornithologist to know their names!). The best thing is that there's a 4-story Watch Tower there. I climbed all the way up and had a panoramic view of the entire area. In fact, in addition to many types of birds, I could spot some Deers and "Neelgai" as well. From the Watch Tower, I also saw the "Jheel" (water body) in the Sanctuary.

      Overall Impression of Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary

      Overall, a great visit. I am planning o go back and spend some more time there... maybe spend a night there. I guess it'll be a different experience to be there in the night... listening to chirping of birds (not sure whether birds chirp in night or they sleep like us human beings) and the noise of jungle in the night!


      Combined Business and Pleasure Trip in Delhi

      Around Feb'10 this year I got an opportunity to have a combined business and pleasure trip in Delhi. This was a local trip so I went by my car. I took my family along so that they could also enjoy themselves.

      Reaching Netaji Subhash Place in Pitampura

      I had a business meeting in the afternoon for which I started around 10:00am. I had to go to the Netaji Subhash Place in Pitampura. This is an upcoming commercial hub in West Delhi, which is opposite to the Pitampura Dilli Haat and the Netaji Subhash Place Station of Delhi Metro.

      We reached there half an hour before the scheduled time and had a walk of the entire area. After that I went for my business appointment and while I attended to it my family waited for me in a park outside the North Square Mall. This Mall also houses the Fun Cinemas (incidentally, the cinema hall was showing "My Name is Khan" starring the Delhi-boy who made it big in Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan)

      Pitampura Dilli Haat

      After I was through with my business meeting, I joined my family. We walked across the road and visited the Pitampura Dilli Haat (I found it to be bigger and better-designed than the original Dilli Haat opposite INA Market.) The famous landmark in this area, the Pitampura TV Tower, is just behind the Dilli Haat - we could see it so clearly when we reached the rear section of the Dilli Haat.

      Fun Ride on Delhi Metro - to Rithala Station

      On the spur of the moment, we decided to take a metro ride. The Delhi Metro has one of the lines running through this area. We walked across to the Netaji Subhash Place Station and boarded the "now so very famous" Delhi Metro. We went till Rithala which is the last station on the Rohini side. This line of Delhi Metro runs from Dilshad Garden till Rithala. On the way we passed Kohat Enclave, Pitampura, Rohini East and Rohini West. The ride by Delhi Metro is a superb experience - its fast, comfortable and safe as compared to the Blue Line buses or even one's own vehicle. The view of Delhi from the running train is simply amazing. Delhi is really so big and beautiful!

      Fun Ride on Delhi Metro - Back to Netaji Subhash Place Station

      Afer reaching Rithala, we took another Metro to come back to Netaji Subhash Place Station. After exiting from the station, we had a glass of Mausambi Juice, a slice of Paneer Hot Dog and a slice of Veg Sandwich each. It was so tasty and fulfilling. And finally, we walked back to the place where I had parked my car. I took the Ring Road again (I had used it to come to Netaji Subhash Place) and passed through the many Flyovers on the way in a jiffy.

      Back from Netaji Subhash Place

      The time spent at Netaji Subhash Place in Pitampura and the drive to and back was truly a wholesome fun and enjoyment for me and my family.

      Delayed Train Journey

      A few days before Holi in 2009, around Feb'09, I traveled by train (our own Indian Railways) from Pune to Delhi. I had this travel on the Indian Railways after a gap of many years.

      Stations on the Way from Pune to Delhi

      The train was supposed to start on Friday at 2pm and reach Delhi by 4pm the next day. Instead it started from Pune at 8pm (6 hours delay at start!) and reached Delhi on Sunday at 1am in the morning - total delay of 8 hours.

      While on its way to Delhi the train passed through many stations. Here's a list of some of the stations I remember - Bhusawal, Khandwa, Itarasi, Bhopal, Jhansi (Rani Laxmibai), Gwalior, Agra (the Taj Mahal).

      Some Observations on Trains, India and Indians

      I traveled by train after a gap of 3 years and it was pure fun leaving apart the delay. Here are few observations I have made based on my train travels since my childhood:
      • The journey by train is a good way to see the countryside. It also makes you realize the size of our country. Those of us who live in metros and cities can get a glimpse of the countryside.
      • The differences in eating habits across the country also become evident from what is available at different stations. For example, in Maharashtra, you would get Vada-pav at the railway stations but when you move Northwards (towards Madhya Padesh and beyond), you would get Samosa instead.
      • Hindi, Bollywood, Cricket, Railways, Indian Politics and History are few of those binding threads in the country. Most of the people who have traveled by train across the country on more than few occasions would pick up some understanding of the above five areas. Having passionate and energetic conversations with fellow passengers is a national pastime while traveling by trains and knowing the above five areas helps in making train journey 'conversational'.
      • Though on roads we are not so accommodating but on trains we are quite flexible. Most of the passengers are okay with exchanging their seats especially if it concerns old passengers. If you have the 'Middle Berth', you can expect your fellow passengers to voluntarily help you in unhooking the latch from the 'Upper Berth', raising the seat of the 'Middle Berth' and hooking the latch down on to the 'Middle Berth' to hold it in position.
      Some Thoughts on Indian Railways

      And here are few thoughts on improving the Indian Railways system:
      • One key area of improvement is related to cleanness and comfort of the bogies, seats, wash basins and toilets. A lot can be done in this respect. 
      • The eatables and other goods sold on the platforms of the railway stations are a perfect example of "Transient Economy". As the sellers and hawkers know that they are dealing with one-time customers, the price, quality and quantity leaves a lot to be desired. Through the actions of railway authorities and IRCTC, the overall price, quality and quantity is still under some control but a lot more is possible.
      • It may be a good idea to allow the branded food chains to start mini-outlets in railway stations. I know some of the stations do have such joints - like I have seen the Comesum restaurant in both Pune and Hazrat Nizamuddin (Delhi) stations.
      Nostalgia and Some Good Things
        Time permitting, I would love to travel by train more than by flights. Also, I am looking forward to somehow manage to travel by the Duronto Express (Delhi-Pune). My mother had traveled by it two months back and it seems a travel by Duronto is definitely a "highly recommended" experience on the Indian Railways.

        MG Road Phenomenon in India

        I have traveled to many cities in India, and in the process I have come to know about the MG Road phenomenon. Whether you go to Delhi or Bangalore or Pune, there's always one road which is named as MG Road. And I think this is true for many of the other major cities in India.

        The MG Road is generally one of the famous road in that city and visitors should be able to locate it easily. This road is also generally in a widely visited, well-to-do locality or area of the city.

        Delhi

        In Delhi, the 'Inner Ring Road' is actually the MG Road. Of course, in the recent years MG Road has come to mean 'Mehrauli-Gurgaon' Road.

        Bengaluru (Bangalore)

        In Bengaluru (Bangalore), MG Road is probably the heart of the city. MG Road and Brigade Road in the city of Bangalore are widely known as hot-spots for youngsters.

        Pune

        In Pune, there's an MG Road in the Camp area. And again, it's quite famous though not like the MG Road in Bangalore

        Kolkata (Calcutta)

        In Kolkata (Calcutta), the MG Road connects Howrah Railway Station to Sealdah Railway Station. It passes through the famous Burra Bazaar area.

        Other Cities

        I have heard about MG Roads in other cities also - Chennai (Madras), Secunderabad (Hyderabad) and Guwahati.

        Tribute to MG

        I think I must also add that MG in MG Road refers to "Mahatama Gandhi", the father of our nation. He was truly one person who deserves to be respected and remembered in all possible ways and the MG Road phenomenon is, in some sense, a tribute to him!

        Religious Spots in India

        I have been very fortunate to have got opportunities to visit some of the famous religious places across the length and breadth of India. Here's a list of some of the places which I remember visiting since my childhood.

        List of Some Major Temples and Temple Cities

        I don't think this list is going to be complete the first time I attempt to create it. So I may have to extend this post several times in the future.
        • Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine (near Katra, Jammu & Kashmir) - This is one of the most revered goddesses in North India. The most famous city near to this shrine is Jammu. Incidentally, Jammu has many temples including the famous Raghunath Temple.
        • Kamakhya Temple (in Guwahati, Assam)
        • Tirumala Temple (near Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh) - This temple regarded as one of the richest (or is it the richest!) religious shrine in the whole world
        • Maa Sheetla Devi (in Gurgaon, Harayana) - Gurgaon is supposed to be the place where Guru Dronocharya (Mahabharat) mentored the Pandavas.
        • Akshardham Temple (in Delhi)
        • Dakshineshwar Temple (in Kolkata, West Bengal) - This temple is devoted to Maa Kaali

        Touch and Go Trip to Chandigarh

        Towards the end of November 2009 I had gone to Chandigarh to attend a close acquaintance's wedding. As my family was accompanying me I thought it will be better to drive down from Gurgaon to Chandigarh in my own car.

        Touch and Go Trip

        I started from Gurgaon around noon time and reached Chandigarh late in the evening along with the Groom ('Dulha') and others accompanying him ('Baraatis'). After attending the wedding ceremony in Chandigarh for a couple of hours, I started back from there around mid-night and reached Gurgaon next day, early in the morning.

        On the whole, my touch and go trip to Chandigarh was a great experience - I drove for around 600 Kms within a day which also included driving during night-time. The pleasure of attending a close acquaintance's wedding is always there!

        Reaching Chandigarh

        The distance from Gurgaon to Chandigarh is around 280-290 Kms and the drive time is around 6-8 hours. For going to Chandigarh from Gurgaon/Delhi, one has to take NH1 till Ambala (NH1 connects New Delhi to Wagah, a town near Indo-Pak border in Punjab), then NH22 till start of Chandigarh (NH22 connects Ambala to Khab, a small-town near Indo-China Border in Himanchal Pradesh), and finally NH21 to reach inside Chandigarh (NH21 connects Chandigarh to Manali).

        Entering NH1 (Grand Trunk Road)

        While going to Chandigarh I took the following route to hit NH1 (Grand Trunk Road):
        • Gurgaon
        • Najafgarh (through Bajghera Road)
        • Kanjhiwala
        • Bawana
        • Narela
        • Hit NH1 at Kondli (Sonipat)
        Exiting NH1 (Grand Trunk Road)

        And while returning I took the following route to exit from NH1 and reach Gurgaon:
        • Exit NH1 near Rohini
        • Janakpuri
        • Uttam Nagar
        • Dwarka Mor
        • Najafgarh
        • Bijwasan
        • Gurgaon
        On the Way to Chandigarh

        The road to Chandigarh is in excellent condition. It is very safe for driving as the left-side and right-side vehicles are separated by a divider. While going from Gurgaon/Delhi to Chandigarh, one passes the following well-known places on the way in the sequence given below:
        • Gurgaon/Delhi (Starting point)
        • Sonipat
        • Panipat (Battle of Panipat)
        • Karnal
        • Kurukshetra (Mahabharata)
        • Ambala (Cantonement)
        • Chandigarh (Ending point)
        Chandigarh City

        Chandigarh is a well-planned city. All the roads I drove on were wide, well-maintained and well-lit with proper and functioning traffic signal systems. There were many trees lining the roads on both sides.

        Exploring South India - in God's Own Country Kerala

        Many years ago, I visited couple of places in Kerala with some friends. That time I was in Bangalore (in these so many years Bangalore has become Bengaluru!) and I was always on the lookout to travel to different parts of Southern India.

        Kerala is one of the many states in the southern part of India (others being Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka). Kerala is also know as God's Own Country due to its natural beauty and greenery.

        Reaching Kerala - Chalakudi, the First Stop

        We took a private travels bus to a place in Kerala called Chalakudi. We started from Bangalore in the evening and reached Chalakudi next morning.

        At Chalakudi, we had our breakfast consisting of typical Kerala food - though it's been more than 5 years I still remember eating Appam! There is a water fall also in this place which we visited.

        Munnar

        From Chalakudi, if I remember correctly, we traveled to a place called Munnar which is regarded as one of the best hill-stations in Kerala (or is it the whole of Southern India, I am not very sure). As we reached Munnar late in the evening, we couldn't find any decent budget place to stay.

        We managed to be the "paying guest" of someone who was working in the Tea Estates of Munnar. There are many Tea Gardens in Munnar which makes Munnar a place worth visiting. The Western Ghats and greenery add immensely to the beauty of Munnar.

        Kottayam and Alappuzha (Alleppey)

        From Munnar, I remember starting for Kottayam the next morning. We passed through many places on the way and reached Kottayam in the evening where we took a night halt. The next day, we took a back water boat ride from Kottayam till Alappuzha (Alleppey).

        The back water boat ride took around 5-6 hours with halt at a place where we ate Lobsters and another place where we had our lunch. While traveling by the boat, I requested the boat pilot if I could also steer the boat for some time. He did agree and I took command for some time!

        Ernakulam (Cochin) and Kozhikode (Calicut)

        After reaching Alappuzha (Alleppey), we started out immediately for Ernakulam (Cochin). We came to know about the Naval base in Cochin and also the Fort Cochin but couldn't go to either of them.

        We traveled further on and if I remember correctly, we took a night halt either at Thrissur or at Kozhikode (Calicut).

        The next day morning we went to see the beach near NIT Calicut (I think that time it was called as REC - Regional Engineering College earlier and not NIT - National Institute of Technology). 

        Tellicherry (Thalassery), Kannur, Kasargod

        From Calicut, we traveled northwards passing through places like Tellicherry (Thalassery), Kannur and Kasargod.

        I remember we took a walk on the beach at Tellicherry and also met a gentleman from that area who in fact took us on short-drive in his own car and also took us to his house for a while.

        He was such a nice gentleman that he dropped us at the bus station as well!

        Back to Bangalore via Mangalore

        Finally, after being in the travel mode for 4 days, we reached Mangalore, which is actually a coastal town in Karnataka. We boarded a bus back for Bangalore in the evening and were back in Bangalore the next morning.

        Visit to IITF 2009 at Pragati Maidan

        Last year I took my family to the Trade Fair (IITF 2009) at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi (26th year of the Trade Fair). As is customary, this fair is organized for 2 weeks - starting from 14th Nov (celebrated in India as Children's Day to mark the Birth Anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru) and running till 27th.

        Reaching IITF Venue - Pragati Maidan

        Pragati Maidan is situated at an excellent location - it's at a walking distance from many well-known places in Delhi like the India Gate, ITO, Delhi Zoo, Purana Qila (Old Fort) and Supreme Court of India.

        Visiting the Pavilions

        Since I had been to the various State Pavilions during my last few visits to the Trade Fair, I decided to give most of them a miss this time. I went only to two State Pavilions - Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. Thereafter I went to the Pavilion showcasing traditional handicrafts, decorative and eatable items like Pickles, Honey, Mouth Fresheners, Chips, etc.

        Then, I went to the International Pavilion where there were Stalls from various Countries like Thailand, China, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. After that I went to the Pavilion displaying and selling Processed Foods like Pickles, Jams, Tea, Fruit Drinks and Goods and Gadgets like Microwave Utensils, Cutters, etc.

        Overall Impression of IITF 2009

        The visit to the Trade Fair was truly an entertaining and informative experience like it has always been in the past.

        Visit to a Resort at Karla Near Lonavala in Maharashtra

        I visited a Resort at Karla couple of times in 2009-10. This resort is owned and managed by MTDC (Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation).

        It's a nice place with an excellent restaurant and attractions like Camel ride, boat ride, etc. There is ample parking space too.

        It is approximately 2 kms off on the old Mumbai Pune Highway at around 60 kms from Pune. It is, in fact, very near the Lonavala city.

        Visit to a Sugar Factory Near Islampur in Maharashtra

        Last year I got an opportunity to visit a Sugar Factory near a place called Islampur in Maharashtra. Islampur is 3 kms off on NH4 (the National Highway connecting Pune to Bangalore) at around 180kms from Pune.

        It is around 35-40 kms from three major cities of Maharashtra - Sangli, Karad and Kolhapur. I stayed overnight in Islampur in Panchratna Hotel. There are not too many good hotels in Islampur and it seems this is the best.

        The visit to the Sugar Factory was as interesting as it was informative. I observed the entire process from the time the sugarcane arrives at the factory (laden over Bullock Carts, Tractors and Trucks) till the time the sugar (in the form of white crystals) is ready.

        The whole process is carried out in multiple stages and involves crushing, filtration, mechanical churning, heating and cooling in huge towers and containers.

        Long Drive in NCR

        Last year sometime in Oct-Nov'09 I drove across the three states of NCR - Delhi, Haryana and UP - on a single day. I started the drive from Gurgaon, then went to Noida, then to Greater Noida and then to Faridabad and finally drove back to Gurgaon. The total distance comes to approximately 200 Kms. That also gives an idea how large the NCR area is.

        I tried taking the best route - which is optimized first for time and then for distance. One trick which has generally worked for me (as I have realized through experience) is to take the roads which have lesser number of red lights, are in good condition and do not have too many large vehicles like buses and trucks.

        Here's the route I took for the different legs of my drive.

        Gurgaon to Noida
        NH8 -> Mahipalpur -> Vasant Kunj -> Ber Sarai -> IIT Delhi Flyover -> Okhla Flyover -> Apollo Hospital -> Kalindi Kunj -> Sector 37 Noida 

        Noida to Greater Noida
        Sector 37 Noida -> Mahamaya Flyover Noida -> Expressway (one has to just keep on driving) -> Pari Chowk Greater Noida 

        Greater Noida to Faridabad
        Pari Chowk Greater Noida -> Mahamaya Flyover -> Kalindi Kunj -> Nahar Road (one cross over the Nahar once to the other side and cross back again near Tigaon road) -> Tigaon Road -> Sector 78 Faridabad -> Sector 14 Faridabad -> Ajronda Mor Faridabad (one has to cross over the Nahar through the bridge near Ajronda Mor) -> Neelam Chowk Faridabad-> Metro Chowk Faridabad -> NIT

        Faridabad to Gurgaon
        Metro Chowk Faridabad -> Sainik Colony Faridabad -> Pahadi Road -> Bristol Hotel Gurgaon -> IFFCO Chowk Gurgaon

        Visit to London in 2006

        London is truly a modern city with rich and colorful historical heritage. There are many places to see for anyone who visits London. When I was there once, I pulled out time from my schedule to visit the following:
        • Greenwich (the famous GMT Line)
        • Trafalgar Square
        • Piccadily Circus
        • Tower of London
        • Hyde Park (the famous Speakers' Corner)
        • British Museum
        • National Maritime Museum

        Proud Indian

        I saw the Hindi movie "Kaminey" (yes that's the name!) in a move hall earlier this year. I saw this movie at the Big Cinemas Multiplex at Chinchwad (Pune) Big Bazaar complex. Now I am not going to talk about the movie but what happened right before the actual movie started.

        Our National Anthem was played in the beginning. As soon as it started, everyone got up (including small kids who were wondering why everyone stood up). Along with everyone else in the movie hall I also experienced a strong sense of pride in being an Indian.

        Mumbai Pune Expressway

        I traveled through the Mumbai Pune Expressway many times in 2009-10. It was great to observe that we have such good roads in India. Otherwise, what we normally see across the length and breadth of this country are poorly constructed and maintained roads.

        When I drove from Delhi to Dehradun and back in my car in the beginning 2009, I had noticed hectic road construction activity on the way. I hope to see better road next time I go on that route (I wish it’s similar to the Mumbai Pune Expressway).

        I remember reading about the Golden Quadrilateral project started by the Vajpayee government (when BJP was in power earlier in this decade). For people who love driving, having more roads like Mumbai Pune Expressway will be a most welcome development. I am sure this would make roads across the nation a pleasure to drive.

        Travel Luggage Packing Checklist

        I have realized, after traveling for so many years, that it is extremely helpful to to prepare a list of items that one must remember to carry - something like a "Travel Luggage Packing Checklist".

        This is something that I suppose all of us need. I myself used to search for such a checklist earlier but now I have been using this one for quite some time.

        Click here to download the Travel Luggage Packing Checklist


        Change, Accept or Quit

        Many a times we come across situations where we not only don't like what's happening to us or around us but also seem to have almost no control over the situation. Such situations make one unhappy and unsettled. How should one approach such situations? One must choose amongst the following to be happy in life:

        Change

        If one doesn't like what's happening one should try to change it. The attempt to change should be an honest one based on fair considerations. Sometimes one may be actually be wrong but may think otherwise so it's important to realize that the situation is actually not right and needs to be changed. The second aspect is that one must be willing to bring about a change based on one's values and beliefs.

        Accept

        After one has tried to change and failed one can simply accept what's happening. This is not to be seen as a failure as everyone has inherent limitations which are extremely difficult to overcome. And even if that is possible the cost to overcome these may not be worth it at times.

        Quit

        After one has tried to change and failed one has another option and that is to quit. Quitting may be seen as a sign of weakness but is really not. One must understand the fact that one is not good at everything and can make wrong decisions. Quitting should be considered as correcting a wrong decision. One would surely get down from a bus if one wants to travel to a place other than where the bus is headed for, even if initially one wanted to go where the bus is headed for.

        Tagging Web Pages

        I have heard that tagging web pages is a powerful tool so that visitors to a site to quickly reach to the content related to a specified topic. Tagging, as I have myself realized, is also a powerful tool for webpage authors and bloggers to write good quality content.

        Tags are essentially the major themes around which any content is generated. Tagging also helps to make changes to content for better alignment with a certain theme which eventually becomes the tag as well.

        I stick to generally 2 or 3 tags per page or post as I believe for the length of page and post I typically write, the major theme cannot be more than this number. I have also found that tagging is easy if the content is well thought and very difficult otherwise.

        I am still to explore how tagging can help increase traffic to a website but I am sure it has some impact. And no matter what, if a visitor comes to a website which has a tag cloud, then it is always helpful.

        Can We Wipe Out Poverty from India?

        Yes it is possible. However, based on what we see happening all around us it seems too difficult for the next few more decades. But we must try to fix this problem for the greater good of this great nation and its people.

        There are many things the Government is already doing since last many years. The NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is a commendable step in this direction. This scheme and many other similar schemes have helped take development to the poorest of the poor.

        In Jul'09 when I was in Delhi, I saw lot of development work going on to face-lift Delhi as part of the preparation drive for the 2010 Commonwealth Games (CWG 2010). This has also provided employment opportunities to the daily wage earners.

        So in summary, there are many initiatives from the Government which either directly (NREGA) or indirectly (CWG 2010) help reduce poverty. What is lacking, is not strategic and political will and funding but the planning and implementation at the ground level.

        Monetization of Cricket

        I think the IPL (Indian Premium League) is a good example of monetization of cricket. The amount of money cricket has seen in the last 3 IPLs (the 3rd edition is going on currently) puts to shame the money which was there in cricket so far.

        Thanks to Indian cricket officials, IPL has become a grand success. It has benefited everyone, especially the players. Most of the players probably don't play for more than 10 years and therefore must get an opportunity to earn enough to sustain themselves after they leave the cricket field. The money pie has gotten bigger enough for everyone to partake a big enough chunk to make this possible.

        I think this means well for the future of Indian cricket. I also see this becoming the talent pipeline for the Indian national cricket team. Competition is surely bound to increase manifold and so will the quality of cricket.

        Critic, Cynic, Doubter, Negative, Hardliner, Biased, Rigid

        These words came to my mind after I went through an interesting experience. This happened when I was presenting about something to a group of people few months back. One amongst the participants, who was questioning just about everything, made me think of these words: "Critic, Cynic, Doubter, Negative, Hardliner, Biased, Rigid".

        It was a good learning experience for me. These are times when one would be extremely annoyed. Such behaviors are quite provocative and when questions are asked with a negative tone, deliberately and with a not-so-good intent, it can be extremely frustrating and irritating.

        I let my imagination run little ahead and thought of a situation where this comes from someone you are reporting into. I guess then it will be quite funny and dangerous as well.

        Without doubt, handling such situations makes one better. After all every day is a learning opportunity for all of us as it presents us with new challenges and situations.

        From Manager to CEO

        Some interesting thoughts came to my mind as I was coming back from work today evening. How does a manager become a CEO? What is it that differentiates a CEO from a manager?

        Here are some funny observations I had based on two favourite pastimes for most managers and all CEOs - meetings and presentations. This observation is in terms of the percentage of time that is spent on meetings and presentations.
        Activity                                 Manager     Senior Manager     VP        CEO
        Attending Meetings               20%           30%                       40%     50%
        Listening to Presentations      5%             20%                       30%     40%
        Giving Presentations              40%           30%                       20%     10%
        Creating Presentations           30%           20%                       10%     0%
        Work that Earns Revenue      5%             0%                         0%       0%

        The message is loud and clear - for a manager to become a CEO, the difference is in terms of what percentage of time is spent on meetings and presentations.

        Posting on My Blogs

        While going through the web traffic details and other statistics for my blog some weeks back, I realized that I had posted more than 150 articles in the last year or so when I started blogging more regularly.

        I guess this is remarkable for someone who doesn't do this full time. I hope to continue with this pace in the future as well.

        I don't think I can claim to the completeness and correctness of the facts, figures and information I provide on my website. However, I do try my best. In fact that's precisely the reason I thought putting disclaimer as part of the Terms of Use will be useful.

        Posting on the blogs gives me an opportunity of self-expression and a way to vent out the thoughts, aspirations and frustrations. I love to write and express my thoughts and my blogs help me in making this possible.

        I have full control over penning my thoughts in the manner which I desire. And due to the web technologies, making it available widely is taken care of.

        The Internet and web technologies, I believe, are great equalizers. I guess for everyone like me who is a 'regular guy' or a 'common man', this makes it possible to get a platform for expressing and presenting one's views and thoughts at one's own full control.

        Of course, self-restraint and self-control is needed to make sure it doesn't hurt others opinions and sensitivities. I have tried my best to take care of this aspect.

        I hope to continue writing more and more and better and better, going ahead in the future. And must say a big thanks to the Internet and web technologies which makes this possible!

        Buzzwords of the Corporate World

        Based on my experience of working with many organizations, big and small, here are some common buzzwords (typical words, phrases, acronyms, etc.) I have come across:
        1. Fyip - For your information please
        2. Value addition
        3. Managers as mentors
        4. Star performers
        5. Proposed actions
        6. Road map
        7. Capability building
        8. Competencies
        9. Data-based decision making
        10. PPT

        Death of Human Sensitivity

        Few months right since morning, the TV News Channels (almost all of them like NDTV India, NDTV 24x7, India TV, Star News, Aaj Tak, Zee News, IBN7, Headlines Today, etc.) were repeatedly telecasting the video footage of the very shocking incident of a police officer (SI - Sub-Inspector) bleeding to death somewhere in the Tirunelveli district of the state of Tamil Nadu in India.

        The fleeting images of the policeman raising his head, flailing his hands in despair at the onlookers for some help in relieving him of his enormous pain and suffering have stayed will and will stay for a long time to come.

        This case highlights the death of sensitivity of one man towards another man. And while watching this shocking incident just one thought ran across my mind - it could have been me or you or for that matter, anyone of us instead of that helpless police officer.

        The media seems to have found it more offending than usual perhaps for the reason that the men who appear to be mute spectators at the scene of this incident are those with power (politicians, government officials) and could have easily helped the dying SI had they wished to.

        Just a parting thought and a very relevant question – how many of us (including those in the media) would stop and help a man lying injured on the roads due to accidental injury or something more gruesome like what the helpless police officer had to go through?

        How to Make Changing City Easier

        In my experience, changing city in India is never easy. Moving oneself and one's family is first part of changing city. Second part involves moving the household goods (for which one can avail the services offered by the 'Packers and Movers'). The third part which involves 'settling down' in the other city (and requires changes to documentation concerning oneself and family) is probably the most time-consuming and cumbersome.

        I want to explain the third part in detail and talk about ways this can be made smoother. The main point is that if someone moves to another city on temporary basis (even though it may last couple of years - for example, one goes to another city for doing an engineering course which in India takes 4 years), he or she shouldn't be made to worry about the third part.

        Here are the typical problems one faces on the third part, especially for temporary move to another city. Many of these do apply to even permanent move:

        1. Telephone, mobile number:
        For land line, it may probably not be possible to have unique number which can be used from anywhere in India. But for mobile, this is entirely possible. There should be nothing called 'roaming' and hence no 'roaming charges'. Mobile taken in one city should work with no difference in all other cities.

        2. Car registration number:
        Cars should be registered once in its lifetime and shouldn't need to go through change in registration number every time it changes city.

        3. Ration card:
        Ration card should have unique id which needn't be changed on change of city. It may be a good idea to combine this with the unique identity scheme that the Government has initiated.

        Priorities for My Properties

        One thing is sure, my areas of interest remain unchanged. Last year, in the very first year of the existence of my website on a domain name owned by me, I created wikis and blogs around Business Excellence, Personal Excellence and Excellence in General. In addition, I created two blogs (including this one) to capture my personal opinions and activities.

        I don't see the need to extend beyond the areas I have decided to focus on. What I do see is the need to build more content on my website, especially content with multimedia - videos, presentation files, pictures, figures, etc. I also see the need to structure and integrate the content in an improved manner which will make moving across the entire website easy and interesting.

        Another aspect I want to focus upon is on attracting higher volumes of traffic to my website. This will increase the likelihood of getting feedback from the site visitor's so that I can identify opportunities for improvement. Not only that, this will also help in monetizing my website. I am not expecting to become millionaire through this route but am surely expecting to earn enough to pay the monthly hosting charges. In any case, even if I fail in this endeavor I intend to go on paying the monthly hosting charges by myself. The thrill of expressing my thoughts and ideas is simply too much for me to do otherwise.

        2009 - Oh what a year it was

        For me as an individual, 2009 was quite eventful in many ways, both on the personal and professional front. 2009 was “good, bad and ugly” and not just “good and bad” as has been the case in the past so many years. I feel there is probably no better way to describe my own experience than to use the phrase “good, bad and ugly” - this is based on the name of the very famous western movie “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood, et al.

        For the world economy, it was a devastating year which challenged the fundamentals of doing business. The world economy saw a massive contraction in growth rates cutting across all developed, developing and under-developed countries. Most of the corporate organizations had to revise their revenue and profit margin targets for 2009 downwards as compared to 2008.

        Employees cutting across all sectors of economy and cutting across all countries added lot many buzzwords to their workplace vocabulary – job cut, lay off, retrenchment, firing, rightsizing, downsizing, furloughs, mandatory unpaid leaves, outplacement, job offer withdrawal regret letter, ‘asked to go’, etc.

        This was probably also a time when the above buzzwords overran and overpowered the usual management buzzwords we hear so often while working in the corporate world like TQM, BPR, Efficiency, Effectiveness, Productivity, Quality, Six Sigma, Process Improvement, ISO, etc. Of course, revenue protection and cost reduction remained very much there and in fact grew in stature to become major themes for corporations battling for their survival.

        All said and done, the experience of 2009 can be summed thus, “2009 - Oh what a year it was!!!”

        How to Say I Don't Know Your Language

        India is a country with amazing diversity. From Kashmir in North to Kanyakumari (Tamilnadu) in the South, and from Gujarat in West to Kolkata (West Bengal) in the East extending upto Tawang (Arunachal Pradesh) in the North East, the quantum of diversity one would come across is amazing.

        The above also holds true for the languages and dialects spoken across the length and breadth of India. The number of languages and dialects spoken in India would, in fact, easily run into an extremely high number.

        Almost all Indians are generally comfortable with their Mother tongue, be it Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Malyali, etc. Many of them know and understand Hindi also (that's probably what makes Hindi movies coming out of Bollywood so very popular). Anda good number of Indians know and understand English as well (which is increasingly and extensively being used for business communication).

        Amidst the diversity as explained above, I have realized over years that when one goes to any place/state it is a good idea to learn to say "I Don't Know Your Language" in the local language of that place/state. I have been to many parts of India in the last so many years and whenever I used to visit any place/state in India I used to find out and learn "How to Say I Don't Know Your Language". This list, I feel, will be helpful for others as well so I thought of compiling it and putting it on my website. Here you go...

        Language (State) - "How to Say I Don't Know Your Language" in that Language
        Kannada (Karnataka) - "Kannada Gotilla"
        Bangla (West Bengal) - "Amaake Bangla Bujte Paadi Naa"
        Marathi (Maharasthra) - "Mala Marathi Ait Nahi"
        Tamil (Tamil Nadu) - "Tamil Teriyadu"

        Monetizing Web Properties

        Around more than a year back, I became sort of quite serious about creating and managing my web properties (websites and blogs) on the Internet. Incidentally, I created my first web property (a blog) many years ago.

        And right from the time I created my first web property, I have constantly heard about people making money through their websites andblogs . I have also heard a lot about the Google Adsense and Google Adwords program and text-linked ad programs like Infolinks and Kontera.

        In addition, I have also read numerous articles on the Internet around this theme such as:
        1. How to monetize your website or blog?
        2. Making money from your website or blog
        3. Tips on how to make money from your website or blog

        So finally, inspired with the above I have also got my account open in some of these money-making schemes. It may help generate few dollars if not more. But more importantly, however, I think putting ads on my web properties would be an indirect method of validating the content type and relevance of my web properties vis-a-vis the target visitors in my mind.

        On this front, I can say, the ads which are appearing on my websites and blogs have been very useful. They have helped me confirm that the type and quality of content on my website has been created quite effectively!

        The Performance Appraisal Ritual

        Once in a year (generally) the annual performance appraisal process is initiated across companies, almost in a religious manner. Having worked with various organizations so far in my own professional career, many times I get a feeling that Performance Appraisal is performed almost like a ritual by most of the organizations. Calling this as ritual may appear to trivialize it but the manner in which this is usually carried out makes it look like one.

        And this is despite the tall claims made by companies that they have a structured, fair and objective method in place for performance appraisal. The HR staff at companies which are worth their Fortune (as in the Balance Sheet, P&L Statement and also the Fortune 500 List) will generally talk with glowing pride about their Employee Performance Management System being the best and based on solid scientific research and years of actual use. Many companies also use 360 Degree feedback which is considered to throw light on an employee from all sides - supervisor, sub-ordinates and peers. At times, in certain companies they even include customers and suppliers within the scope of 360 Degree.

        The big question remains: "can companies and especially their HR staff really claim their Employee Performance Management System is effective in terms of being structured, fair and objective in a true sense?"

        I totally agree that the importance of Employee Performance Management System cannot be ticked away as a trivial matter as has been explained in Employee Performance Management System.

        Why do I say that this has become a ritual? This is because of the blind belief on the process or method used for Employee Performance Management while ignoring or forgetting to factor in the inherent limitations of an Employee Performance Management System as explained in Limitations of Performance Appraisal.

        Designing My Web Properties

        While designing my web properties I follow one basic rule - have a simple and clear looking design (theme and content organization). This allows me to spend my efforts on content creation and organization rather than technical maintenance of the web properties.

        Why do I want to focus on content creation? I have read in many articles and blogs on the Internet that what matters the most for a website to have high page rank is just its content quality. It's a fact that most of the visitors reach a website these days through a search engine. There are many theories behind how search engines rank a website but all of them seem to agree on at least one factor - compelling content for the target visitors. I just want to focus on content quality as I believe that content quality makes a site search engine friendly.

        And why do I want to focus on content organization?. Content organization is also important so that visitors can navigate through a website once they reach it. Besides content organization makes it easy to maintain the content. I want to focus on content organization as well as I also believe that structured content organization makes the site maintenance friendly.

        Upgrading TikiWiki Module

        One of my earlier personal website with own domain name and hosted by Hostmonster was built using the TikiWiki module. At the release of newer versions of TikiWiki I used to get the message for upgrading everytime I used to login to the Control Panel.

        I thought it will useful for others using TikiWiki and Hosted Web Services to list the steps down to upgrade. So, here are the steps:
        1. Login to the Control Panel (cpanel) of your website
        2. Click on 'Simple Scripts' - this is under the section 'Software / Services'
        3. Look out for messages for upgrading the installation
        4. Follow the instructions thereafter until upgrade is complete

        I also noticed that I needed to upgrade the Database version too. Here are the steps for the same:
        1. Login to your website Admin Console. If Database upgrade is needed, a message about the same will get displayed. A link for upgrading the Database will also be available as part of the upgrade message. Before clicking on that link, complete steps 2 to 5.
        2. Click on 'File Manager' under the section 'Files'
        3. Go to the folder that contains the Database files
        4. Find a file with the name 'lock' and remove that file - it seems 'Simple Scripts' creates this lock file during installations and upgrades
        5. Find another file with the name 'local.php' - this contains the username/password for the Database
        6. Click the upgrade link (only after steps 2 to 5 are complete) and supply the Database username/password, as requested
        7. Follow the instructions thereafter until upgrade is complete

        Hindi Movie Songs on Life and Philosophy

        Here are some of the songs from Hindi Movies which I have found to be quite motivational in nature. These are mostly on Life and Philosophy and offer profound thoughts and insights.

        Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le, Hamne Bhi Tere Har Ek Gham Ko Gale Se Lagaya Hai, Hai Na...
        Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Hai, Kabhi Yeh Hasaye Kabhi To Rulaye...
        Rote Rote Hasna Seekho, Haste Haste Rona... Jitni Chaabi Bhari Ram Ne, Utna Chale Khilona...
        Aadmi Musafir Hai, Aata Hai Yeh Jaata Hai, Aata Jaate Raste Main Yaadein Chhod Jaata Hai...
        Zindagi Ke Safar Main Gujar Jaate Hain Jo Makaam, Woh Phir Nahin Aate...
        Tujshe Naraaz Nahin Zindagi, Hairaan Hun Main... Tere Masoom Sawalaon Se Pareshaan Hun Main...
        Ham Na Samjhe The, Baat Itni Si, Khawab Seeshe Ke, Duniya Pathar Ki
        Musafir Hun Yaaron, Na Ghar Hai Na Thikana, Mujhe Chalte Jaana Hai Bas Chalte Jaana...
        Badi Sooni Sooni Hai, Zindagi Yeh Zindagi...
        Jindagi Hasne Gaane Ke Liye Hai Pal Do Pal, Ise Khona Nahin Kho Ke Rona Nahin
        Itni Shakti Hamein De Na Daata, Man Ka Vishwas Kamjor Ho Na
        Sochna Kya, Jo Bhi Hoga Dekha Jaayega

        Job Market and 'Sabzi' Market

        'Sabzi' is a Hindi/Urdu word which means vegetables. In a wider sense it includes fruits also. The job and sabzi market are similar in many ways and different in many other ways. While thinking about this some days back, I came up with the following similarities and differences. I thought it is something interesting enough for sharing with others so here it goes...

        First, the similarities:
        1. Bargaining is the name of the game
        2. The seller (job-seller or the company, sabzi-seller or sabzi-wala) always has more information about the market prices than the poor buyer (prospective employee, customer)
        3. The seller always gets to set the base price for effecting the sale

        Now, the differences:
        1. The job-seller always operates with an upper bound on the sale price (the salary). Any buyer (prospective employee) demanding for more than this price won't get the job. On the other hand, the sabzi-seller always operates with a lower bound on the sale price. The buyer (customer) willing to pay lesser than than this price won't get the sabzi.
        2. The job-seller doesn't need to compete with other job-sellers in open (though generally the job-seller has the required information - or they easily find it out by calling the candidates themselves).On the other hand, the sabzi-seller has to compete with other sabzi-sellers openly (and loudly).
        3. The job-seller is selling a non-perishable product (a job not sold on a given day could be easily sold the next day or a week after or even later).On the other hand, the sabzi-seller has to sell the product within its shelf life otherwise he would incur complete loss.

        The funny reality is that all of us need sabzi... and all of us need job as well to buy the sabzi!

        Entering Stock Market

        I entered the world of stock (equity shares) market investing in 2006 with an IPO (Initial Public Offering) purchase. My second purchase was also an IPO. I have lost money on both - even today both are in red.

        Then I decided to purchase subscription to a Trading-cum-Demat Account. The first Brokerage Firm I applied for lost my documents so I decided to avoid them altogether (lack of professionalism).

        And then in 2009 beginning, I managed to open a Trading-cum-Demat account with another Brokerage Firm. Within a week of all formalities getting completed, I had an user-id. For two months I did nothing as I didn't know what to do with the trading terminal! After few e-mail complaints to their customer care someone from the Brokerage Firm came and gave me a demo. And in fact, while the person was there I bought stocks of two companies. Well... both these have been in green so far.

        I have started testing the waters more and more. It's still step 1 for me but I guess I have learned enough (and am still learning) how to be an intelligent investor. I have read Benjamin Graham's book also on the same subject. And a couple of other books by "experts".

        I will have more to share about 'shares' as time passes... And I hope after a while I can emphatically say "Yes" to the question - "Is investing in Stock Market safe?"

        Unethical Credit Card Companies

        Many credit card companies have perfected the art of cheating customers. Some of the unethical practices are listed below:

        1. The cheque a customer drops in the drop-box goes missing (and it is done deliberately with a malicious intent). The customer is informed that his cheque was not received and he will have to bear the late payment and finance charges.

        2. The cheque dropped by a customer is not processed deliberately until a few days after the due date. And then the customer is informed that he will have to bear the late payment andfinance charges.

        I had a really bad experience with one of the "branded" credit card companies. I was wrongly/unethically charged for late payment (unethical practice 2). I agreed to pay the ethical/correct/fair amount and dropped a cheque in their drop-box. And then they informed me that the cheque was not received by them (unethical practice #1).

        I communicated with someone who was holding the position of "Asst Vice President - Customer Service". After this experience I was wondering how come this person got to this position? She should have been actually given the designation of ""Asst Vice President - Customer Harassment".

        Anyways, I have canceled this credit card and am fighting it out with them.

        Job Search Sites in India

        Are you looking for a job in India? Are you searching for better career opportunities? Do you want to use the Internet for getting to know about the jobs available in your skill area?

        Well I went through an intensive job search exercise myself sometime back. And while searching for jobs in my skill area I came across many job sites. After spending considerable time on many of these job sites I came to a simple conclusion - everyone is looking for a list that provides names of the "top" job sites. Such a list will help save time and effort in reaching to one's dream job. I thought it will be helpful to the job-seekers if I create such a list based on my experience. So here's my list of the "top" job sites that you can use as you search jobs in India:

        Multi-site Job Search (my preferred method - these job sites don't have any job data of their own and search sites which have actual job data. One would need to create account in almost all the sites that appear in the job search results.)
        http://www.indeed.co.in/
        http://www.bixee.com/
        http://www.careerjet.com/
        http://www.oneclickjob.com/

        Major Job Sites (these sites have actual job data - one can apply directly for a job from these websites)
        http://www.naukri.com/
        http://www.timesjobs.com/
        http://www.monsterindia.com/

        A Really Bad Accident

        While going to the office many months back I happened to see a horrible accident. A vehicle had gone over a woman lying dead on the road... both of her legs seemed to have been cut apart and were lying on the road.

        It was a bad sight and made me feel very sick. And I guess anyone who has seen anything like this would empathize with me. Words fail me as I try to write this post. I guess road safety is an important aspect that all of us should not only be aware of but MUST practice.

        This makes me really scared... And in an overall perspective it teaches us all to be nice and good to others as any day may prove to be our last day. All our achievements, worries, happiness, etc. could leave us in no time.

        Regulatory Body for the Housing Sector

        There’s an urgent need for establishing a government authority to regulate the real estate companies – on the lines of TRAI or IRDA. In today’s context, home should be seen as an essential commodity and not a luxury. After all we do say that all humans need and deserve “roti, kapda and makaan” – out of these three, makaan is the one that costs significantly more than the other two.

        The recent strain on the entire real estate industry has made the “proverbial wolf to come out of the sheep’s clothing without any pretensions whatsoever”. Even in earlier days, the builder community was not known for ethical business practices.

        My own experience in dealing with one of the top builders of NCR has been very painful. I went ahead with the booking of a property relying on the builder’s brand image. After having failed to get home loan for making the down-payment I tried to get refund but have been made to go in circles just like what you see on a “jalebi”.

        I am still trying hard to settle this matter – either get the builder to hand me a list of banks who have pre-approved the project (so that I get loan) or get refund of the money.

        It is true that many customers are requesting for refunds (even the genuine buyers). The primary reason includes the delays and indefinite waits which home buyer s have experienced since the last quarter of 2007. On top of it, builders have taken money from home buyers even for those projects which have not got approvals from government authorities and banks. The poor customers are in a fix as they cannot afford to pay additional amounts to the builders since getting home loans disbursed these days is next to impossible.

        In the above situation, either the government should step in to settle the matter or like good old capitalist rules of game the builder files for bankruptcy and pays the home buyers whatever salvage value is possible.

        Numerology Based Baby Name Selector

        While searching for a good name for my daughter (few years back when she was born), I developed an excel-based utility to select a name based on numerology.

        The Numerology Based Baby Name Selector is a useful utility that can be used for selecting the name of you baby boy or baby girl as per Numerology calculations.

        The utility is developed using spreadsheet.

        Click here to download the Numerology Based Baby Name Selector

        Moving to My Own Domain

        After careful considerations of many factors which included the "money" involved with purchasing a domain and a hosted website, I finally went ahead and bit the bullet!

        I purchased a domain which came along with a hosting package I bought from www.hostmonster.com. The domain name is my nickname that I have been using for quite sometime now.

        I was maintaining four blogs on www.blogger.com and have moved them to my own domain. Just to make sure that the visitors to my existing blogs don't have any difficulty in reaching here I have posted about the move to this domain on all the four blogs.

        The web platform I decided to use is TikiWiki. This decision came about after extensive trials of various web platforms like TikiWiki, Drupal, Joomla, MODx, BuddyPress and few more.

        Tikiwiki provides a comprehensive platform that can be used to create web content of various types such as blogs, wikis, articles, forums, etc. I am currently using the blogs functionality and will soon start working on buildinjg wiki-style content. The admin console offered by TikiWiki seems quite easy to use. Especially for someone like me who doesn't want to get into the techie-mode for maintaining a website, it seems to be just the right solution.

        Creating Personal Website, Blogs and Wikis

        Here are few learning that I had in the entire process of streamlining my web assets - personal website, blogs and wikis:

        1. Blogger is the best in my opinion as it seamlessly integrates with other Google services. Also, I felt more comfortable with managing my blogs using Blogger than with Wordpress or with the other Wordpress-based blog site that I used.

        2. Blogger does not provide great themes as compared to Wordpress but that is fine as for a blog the main strength should be its content rather than other aspects.

        3. Importing a blog from Wordpress into Blogger is quite time consuming. There is a converter available for this at http://wordpress2blogger.appspot.com/ but the quality of conversion is not upto the mark. I found an innovative way to do it though - I will explain more about this in later posts.

        4. Blogger has the option of adding "Label" to posts, whereas Wordpress provides "Category" and "Tag" options. I felt that Label option is fine as it could be used both as a category or as a tag. Anyways, for any post, both the "Category" and "Tag" have to be very close (or at times same) as they would refer to the same content.

        5. Weebly is an excellent website builder. My suggestion is to start with a free version and when you have enough eyeballs move to the Pro version. I also intend to follow this path.

        6. I used http://feedburner.google.com/ for generating the RSS feeds of my blogs and can say that this is simply a great tool. When I was trying to connect my Blogger blogs to Weebly personal website, I found problems with the simple RSS feed that Blogger was generating by default. Blogger allows you to use the feed from FeedBurner instead of the default feed. Once I did that it worked fine for me. I will explain more about this in later posts.

        Managing My Blogs

        I am now maintaining four blogs :-

        1. Personal blog (this one)
        2. Blog on business and business excellence
        3. Blog on life and personal excellence
        4. Blog on the world and excellence in general

        The first one will have random thoughts and musings that occur to me. The other three are for the specific topics as mentioned above. The idea behind this change to the way I plan to manage my blogs is to make sure I have specific blogs for specific content.

        Streamlining My Personal Website, Blogs and Wikis

        In the last 3 years, I have spent considerable efforts in experimenting with many ideas and tools for streamlining my web assets - personal website, blogs and wikis.

        1. I deleted my personal website which was on http://geocities.yahoo.com/ and first moved it to http://www.weebly.com/, then to a hosting company (www.hostmonster.com), then to google apps and finally to the google sites. The movement out of geocities was, in fact, not really a movement; it was rather a fresh creation from the scratch. The geocities site was created by me in 2003 or perhaps in 2002 - not very sure now. I had virtually stopped updating it for all practical purposes since 2005.

        Note - As per the information on their site, Geocities is closing down later this year.

        2. I had a personal blog right since 2005 but I was hardly updating it. Recently I created few more blogs on certain niche areas of my interest. This all was done using Blogger - http://www.blogger.com. Then I decided to move them to http://wordpress.com/, and then again decided to move them to another Wordpress-based blog site. And finally, I have moved back the whole of it to Blogger. And I think I will continue this way going forward.

        3. I am still stuck on my wikis. I never had any so have created one using http://www.wikidot.com/. Overall, I am okay with it though it needs one to learn the Wikidot language. I will post about my experience later on when I am able to bring it up.

        From "Made in Japan" to "Made in India"

        I would like to see the above transition happen. I think that will mean something for us as Indians. This is not a reality today as we all know. Making 'Made in India' a name to reckon with requires serious effort from all quarters - government bodies, industrialists, professionals, academicians and even ordinary citizens.

        This should really start with us - the ordinary citizens. If we demand high standards everywhere, the service providers will soon need to change gears to meet up with the enhanced expectations.

        The other side to this is: can we really afford to do this? With a significant majority struggling below the poverty line and having to constantly worry about their next meal, this idea sounds Utopian.

        What's the way out then? Not sure... business excellence in this context should probably encompass all walks of life and must include the business of governing a country in addition to what we normally understand from the word "business".

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