Monday, December 31, 2007

Mohit Anand, Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft India


Q: Is price a constraint? Are you bargaining for tax cuts?

A: Yes. Price is of course a constraint. But we are steadfast in providing Indian consumers the best possible service at the best possible price. It will be relevant to highlight the high import tariffs that exist today on consoles and games. Import duty reduction can stimulate growth in the gaming market like it has for the mobile industry In India where the duty reduction catalyzed a boom in mobile handset sales resulting in exponential increase in mobile penetration throughout the country.

Towards effecting this change, we are closely engaging with industry associations like iGITA who are championing the cause of import duty reduction for the benefit of the entire Indian gaming industry.

Let me reiterate here that we at Microsoft EDD India believe in value for money when it comes to our consumers. It is our constant endeavour to give our consumers the best products at the best possible rates and keeping this in mind we have launched 3 MEGA offers this festive season with savings upto Rs 24,000/.

We have collaborated with Panasonic this festive season bringing to Indian consumers, the “Super Stylish Super Saver offer” - a Xbox 360 Core console, and two popular games with Panasonic 32” LCD TVs. The customer price of the Panasonic LCD – Xbox 360 Bundle is Rs 49,990/.The customer saves over Rs 24,000 on the entire deal! There are other such offers available as well.

On the computer peripherals side, we have recently launched special ‘Gamin combo-packs’ of our range of gaming peripherals products. With our special ‘Gaming combo-packs’, we aim to redefine the PC gaming experience and offer gamers the comfort and convenience of two complimentary products at an affordable price. The first of the combo packs on offer comprises of a Reclusa Wired Keyboard (Rs. 2900) and a Habu Laser gaming mouse (Rs.2700) with a special gift the latest Microsoft Halo2 game and save Rs. 2521 with every purchase.

The second combo comprises of a Reclusa Wired Keyboard (Rs. 2900) and the Sidewinder gaming mouse (Rs. 2900) with a free Microsoft Xbox 360 wired dual platform controller. With this bundle the gamer saves Rs. 2798 with every purchase. The third of this trilogy of combos is the pair of a LifeCam VX1000 (Rs. 1250) and the Sidewinder gaming mouse (Rs. 2900) with a free Microsoft Flight Sim 2004 Cent/Flt. With this bundle the gamer saves Rs. 1889 with every purchase.

Mohit Anand, Country Manager –Entertainment and Devices Division, Microsoft India

In an e-mail interview.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Crisis communication


Q: Are there measures of crises, and the response effectiveness?

A: Probably the most common measure of crisis response effectiveness is media coverage, both the amount and quality.


For amount, less media coverage is considered better but that is not very effective. It is more important to examine the quality that would include your messages being used, your spokespersons being sources, how experts evaluate your response, and if there is any erroneous information about the crisis.


Organisations that regularly track their reputations can use the data to determine if or how much a crisis has damaged their reputations. There has been some attempt to examine effect on stock prices and sales but other factors can influence that data beyond the crisis response.


Dr W. Timothy Coombs, author of 'Ongoing Crisis Communication' (http://www.sagepublications.com/)


In an e-mail interview.

The making of South Africa

"The first diamond was discovered by accident. It was picked up by a Boer farmer's son in 1866, close to the banks of the Orange River on a farm named 'De Kalk' in the Hopetown area of the Cape Colony, and used to play children's games of 'five-stones'. A neighbour, Schalk van Niekerk, spotted the stone several weeks later and, thinking it might have some value, offered to purchase it."


"The farmer's wife laughed at the idea of selling a stone and told him that if he took a fancy to it he could have it for nothing. Van Niekerk told her that if it proved to be a diamond, he would share the proceeds with her. It was later valued in London at 500 pounds."

"The De Kalk diamond was regarded as a freak and aroused little lasting interest. Though smaller stones were occasionally discovered in the area, geologists confidently declared that the terrain in that part of southern Africa was not 'diamondiferous'..."

Martin Meredith in 'Diamonds, Gold and War' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

A mathematical novel

"Cantor's mathematics does have axioms. They were set forth after Cantor developed his theory of infinity."


"Wait a minute. Why did the axioms come after the theory? Shouldn't he have started with axioms?"


Nico laughed. "You'd think so, wouldn't you! But that is not how mathematics works. For many mathematicians axioms are not important. There is a pervasive belief that as long as a hypothesis produces results and there are plausible demonstrations to show it is true, then mathematics can and should proceed."

Claire, who had been doodling a pentagon into a circle looked up and nodded. "That's what I think. I know a proof is true when I see it and I don't need any axioms to be certain about it. For example, I believe that there is no largest prime..."

"Nico nodded. "Most mathematicians think the same way, Claire. They feel a proof in their bones and don't feel the need for any axioms. But every so often they get trapped in a logical impossibility - a paradox. One of the main reasons mathematicians began to axiomise mathematics was to avoid paradoxes from occurring."

Gaurav Suri and Hartosh Sinh Bal in 'A Certain Ambiguity' (www.crosswordbookstores.com)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Investment tips for 2008







Q: If you had Rs 1 lakh to invest in 2008, which would be the companies you would buy shares in, and why?

A: My percentage distribution would be as in the chart...






However, I would be reviewing my portfolio every quarter, and commit investment only systematically. That is, buying in small quantities at regular interval.

Mr Bhavesh Shah, Vice President (Research) of Asit C Mehta, Mumbai.

In an e-mail interview.




The 15-second principle

"The simple act of conscious breathing is a very dynamic action..."

"Many people, when they encounter something or someone they feel they don't deserve to have or to know, will respond by unconsciously holding their breath. This bracing or freezing will prevent any receivership and spontaneity from occurring."

"To counterbalance this tendency, become more aware of your breathing patterns. Make sure you are receiving air when you meet a beautiful person, see a luxurious car, and pass a magnificent home. Your receivership breath will remind you that you deserve to have it all."

"Exhaling will remind you to share more of what you already have. Exhale your love and generosity. This action can also assist you in releasing any excess tension, exhaustion, or fear. It is helpful to let the air out naturally rather than aggressively forcing it out. In breathing, as well as your life, what you are after is a harmonious relationship between receiving and giving."

Al Secunda in 'The 15-Second Principle' (www.jaicobooks.com)

Commodity Derivatives

"Different tax treatment of speculative gains and losses discourage many speculators from participating in official futures exchanges, thereby affecting the liquidity of the markets. Hedgers are affected as well; the necessary link between futures and physical market transactions is too rigidly defined."

"Tax issues need to be clarified so that futures losses can be offset against profits on the underlying physical trade and vice versa. The treatment of 'speculative income' is a major deterrent. Exchanges argue that the government must recognise commodities trading as a 'line of business' and not as pure speculation, as considered under Section 43(5) of the Income-Tax Act..."

'Commodity Derivatives' from Indian Institute of Banking & Finance (www.macmillanindia.com)

Understanding stocks

"The ironic thing about technical analysis is that it's sometimes not technical at all. In fact, some people believe that technical analysis is easier to understand than fundamental analysis (although not at first). Have you ever heard the saying that one picture is worth a thousand words? If you have, then you'll appreciate technical analysis because it relies on charts and graphs to help you determine what stocks to buy or sell. When you rely on mechanical tools like indicators and oscillators, you will be less inclined to trade on the basis of emotion."

Michael Sincere in 'Understanding Stocks' (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

The Joy of Money

'Basis point'

"The City calls them Bips. This just means 0.01 per cent. So 100 basis points sound enormous but are in fact only 1 per cent. The need for such teensy-weensy calibrations in interest rates has arisen because such vast quantities of money are being chucked around in the form of loans, bonds, currency trades, etc., that every tiny movement in interest rates can mean the loss or gain of a huge sum of money."

Michelle Doughty in 'The Joy of Money,' second edition (www.vivagroupindia.com)

A call for openness

"Leading change is not a solo act. It's not a function of individual brilliance or skillful manipulation or cunning. The enduring truth is that change leadership is mostly about people."

"What an avalanche of data confirm is that an open, collaborative, transparent, and approachable style is far more successful in generating and replenishing energy in exchange for discretionary effort than any species of a closed, rigid, paternalistic, or authoritarian approach."

"Can you be an unassuming or introverted personality and succeed? Of course you can, provided that at some level and in some way, you are able to express genuine concern for people, invite them to challenge you, reveal your motives, and demonstrate emotional control under pressure. The way you manifest openness can vary, but it must be present and discernable to others."

Timothy R. Clark in 'EPIC Change' (www.josseybass.com)

Friday, December 28, 2007

The changing nature of diplomacy

"One of the interesting issues in the study of diplomacy is the relationship between 'open' and 'secret' diplomacy..."

"Much of modern diplomacy is in practice conducted on the basis of secrecy. There are a number of reasons that suggest that the overall degree of secrecy has become much more extensive."

"In the first place are those factors relating to the decline of open diplomacy...."

"Many bilateral and other diplomatic interactions and exchanges are on the 'closed access' web pages of foreign ministries."

"The extent of secrecy in international relations has been influenced particularly by the level of violence in the international system. Ongoing military operations are inevitably supported by extensive private and secret meetings between the principal players."

"The kidnapping of and attacks on diplomatic personnel, journalists, contract workers and tourists has led to the increased involvement of intelligence officers as diplomatic envoys in mediation and associated diplomacy."

"The diplomatic profession has never been a safe one, and in this respect has become less so."

R.P. Barston in 'Modern Diplomacy,' third edition (www.pearsoned.co.in)

How to win any negotiation

"Have a game player's mindset."

"Life is not monochromatic. Negotiating opportunities are not uniform. There are no McDeals, so there can be no scripts or formulas to see you through..."

"With a game player's mindset, you will view your negotiating opponent as a challenge rather than an enemy or adversary. As a game player, you will set and revise goals. You will seek perspective..."

"And without perspective, you will never see the butterflies - those small, simple, but profoundly important possibilities of the persuasion progression..."

"As a game player, you will analyse and appreciate relationships and sequences of events; you will identify your negotiating problems so you can correct them next time; you will be less behavioural and more analytical; and you will develop a defensive awareness to the other side's use of tactics, becoming more sensitised to your own tactical and strategic opportunities."

Robert Mayer in 'How to Win Any Negotiation' (www.jaicobooks.com).

Dollarisation

"Full dollarisation describes a situation where an FC (foreign currency) is used as the sole legal tender instead of the domestic currency. It is considered an extreme case of of a fixed exchange rate, whereby the exchange rate is actually eliminated along with the local currency."

"Dollarisation is a general term, and does not imply that the FC is actually the US dollar. As such, if US citizens opted for the Lebanese Pound (LBP) for their local transactions, the process or phenomenon would still be called dollarisation. This has been referred to as full, official, or de jure dollarisation."

"While very few cases of full dollarisation exist today, the issue has become a debated alternative for many Latin American countries. Indeed, the full dollarisation of Ecuador in 2000 and El Salvador in 2001 could explain the renewed interest in exploring the costs and benefits of such a drastic solution to macroeconomic imbalances."

Armen V. Papazian in 'Trust, Freedom, and Wealth Creation: A political economy of dollarisation in Lebanon'

An essay included in 'Globalization and Development' edited by Ashwini Deshpande (www.oup.com).

Soft skills training


Q: Can there be over-training?


A: "Yes, there can be over training! We know a few organisations where employees ‘suffer’ from too much training. This typically happens when there is a mechanical training calendar and employees must log in ‘hours’ or ‘man days’ of training – also when there are too many initiatives happening at the same time."


"We believe that training is not a panacea for all evils! It is one spoke in the organisation wheel and it works only when all the other spokes are in place."


"For example, there is no point in training when there are systemic issues that need to be addressed. No amount of training can set right an environment where there is dictatorship and hierarchy! It would only lead to more cynics in the organisation."


Naresh Purushotham and Lakshmi Kruti Vasan, co-founders of Crestcom India


In an e-mail interview.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The international hospitality business

"In most developing countries, employee expectations focus primarily on the two lower levels of needs in Maslow's hierarchy. Making a living and worrying about job security are the primarily motivated needs for most employees. Therefore, monetary awards are often used to motivate employee performance."

"Radisson Hotel in Russia even pays half of its employees' wages in foreign currency as a motivational tactic. In some countries, working for a foreign hospitality company is a prestigious job. Many individuals express self-esteem by seeking employment with foreign hotel and restaurant companies."

"A recent revealing study on what motivates Hong Kong's hotel employees found that the top three factors are: (1) opportunities for advancement and development; (2) loyalty to employees; and (3) good wages."

"These motivational factors suggest that hotel employees in Hong Kong have a strong concern for career development, and they want to grow with the company. They also want respect and trust by the management. Then they want good wages since Hong Kong has very high living standards."

"Applying Maslow's hierarchy of needs model to Hong Kong hotel employees, one can clearly see that hotel employees in Hong Kong have the highest levels of motivation needs."

Larry Yu in ‘The International Hospitality Business’ (www.jaicobooks.com)

RDE in India and China



"We clearly see and strongly believe that Asia – India and China particularly – are prime areas for RDE explosion."

"First, the Asian industry needs to develop new and competitive products for export to many diverse countries and be able to promote and sell them internally. And it has to be done fast and efficiently."

"Second, you want to stand out from the crowd and beat the competition."

"Third, Asia wants to know the algebra of its customers' mind not only in your countries but in other places as well."

"Fourth, you do not want to spend a fortune to receive an answer, especially if you already know it, which is common for many legacy methods. With RDE, you can do fast, inexpensive and highly actionable RDE studies in a foreign country without ever leaving your office in Bangalore and paying exuberant fees for a custom consulting company in the West."

Howard Moskowitz and Alex Gofman, authors of ‘Selling Blue Elephants’ (http://www.pearsoned.co.in/)

In an e-mail interview

Leadership brand

"In our work with executives involved in leadership development, it's not unusual to find out that many leaders have no idea what they should be developing. Without assessment, focused development just isn't possible. Instead, people tend to choose to develop in areas they find most interesting rather than the ones that are most needed."

"For example, senior leaders in one global professional services firm recently sent a marketing executive to a two-week program at a prestigious university. The senior leaders believed this executive needed to develop a stronger financial perspective, and they saw the program as including offerings ideal for that purpose."

"Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell the marketing executive anything about this goal, so the exec naturally lapsed into tourist mode, taking courses in organisational behaviour, marketing, and globalisation and avoiding all discretionary finance courses. The opportunity was squandered."

Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood in 'Leadership Brand' (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

Fashion can bubble-up

"Fashion is always the product of the culture and the society that spawns it, embodying the concerns of the wider society in its myriad styles..."

"Inherently contradictory, fashion constructs a relam that is ambiguous, able to bear the weight of the varied meanings and values that flicker across the body of the wearer and the society that surrounds it. Fashion articulates a tension between conformity and differentiation, expressing the contradictory desires to fit in and stand out..."

"The idea of fashion change is often interpreted as a phenomenon that trickles down, or emulates from the upper echelon of society to their subordinate groups. The theory contends that that the process of imitation and differentiation between the superordinate and the subordinate groups in the social ladder has a progressive character and the new status markers are eventually subject to subordinate appropriation, and still newer ones must be created..."

"Today, the group who sets the 'hip' is often likely to emerge from the streets, from youth cultures rather than from the elite at the top and the mainstream of the social strata... In other words, fashion can and does 'bubble up' the social hierarchy from the bottom up to the status of high fashion..."

Editors John Dawson and Jung-Hee Lee in 'International Retailing' (www.jaicobooks.com)

How LPG won over firewood

"A leading petroleum company launched LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) in certain rural pockets. The launch had its share of technical difficulties."

"One of the most important problems was related to distribution. The problem was resolved using mobile filling stations. The availability of these filling stations on pre-announced days at designated spots took care of the problem of refills."

"The company found to their pleasant surprise that the product acceptance was high. The reason was that it replaced firewood which had a very high price/performance ratio that is, a very low relative advantage for firewood."

"The villagers had to collect firewood which was becoming scarcer by the day. This, therefore, required an adult to take time off for collecting firewood and therefore loss of wage for the day. The price to be paid for LPG, considered to be high, worked out cheapter for the villager than collecting firewood. LPG was also a much more convenient and efficient fuel."

"The relative advantage and the cost therefore favoured LPG. The cost for LPG was its price, and for firewood, the day's wage."

Sanal Kumar Velayudhan in 'Rural Marketing,' Second edition (http://www.sagepublications.com/)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

GAAP vs non-GAAP

“We analyse a sample of earnings press releases in the period 1999-2004 from companies listed at Euronext Amsterdam. Our findings indicate that reporting non-GAAP measures is a common practice and that the frequency of reporting non-GAAP earnings measures has increased despite the concerns voiced by regulators.”

Miriam Koning, Gerard Mertens and Peter Roosenboom of the Erasmus University, Rotterdam

In 'research round-up'

Richard Monk


"We have a history in Canada of responding to embarrassing scandals and reports of misspent public funds by immediately ordering a new set of rules and regulations to plug whatever gaps were exposed by the scandal. Unfortunately, these new rules and regulations can overlap with existing rules and lead to a very complex web of accountability measures within the Government of Canada. One important lesson learned is that it is preferable to use sound principles of management accountability and transparency instead of detailed, transaction-level rules."

Richard Monk, Chairman, CMA Canada

In an e-mail interview

Monday, December 24, 2007

Not age, but energy level

"When I look at a person I don't look at his age. I look at his energy level." (Masamoto Yashiro, chairman & CEO of Shinsei Bank)

Liew Mun Leong in 'Building People: Sunday Emails from a CEO' (www.wiley.com)

Remote disaster recovery site in Mauritius!

"Sudharshan really created an Al-Qaeda like self-mutating organisation of crack Indian IT and business minds across the globe. An organisation seeeded by Wealthy Desai's incredible network of Indians but one that multiplied and grew from strength to strength. An organisation bound by a common ideology and a common goal as it spread deeper and deeper into the most well-guarded secrets, operating models, methodologies and intellectual wealth of the unsuspecting organisations and institutions it targeted. And then there was the command centre in Mauritius to which they fed back information."

"A mammoth, government and industry funded, state of the art war-room created in Sudharshan's remote disaster recovery site in Mauritius. In the round-the-clock war-room in Mauritius, a team of business and technology scientists continuously mined and collated the unending stream of information streaming back from the network. The information flowed in indiscriminately from all over the globe, originating mostly from digital pens and flowing undetected over Rajiv's telecom infrastructure."

"The team in Mauritius assimilated the information and intelligence in real time into organised cohesive methodologies, processes, training plans, roadmaps for new service offerings, delivery locations et. Cutting edge stuff like technology focused industry manuals - Insurance Bibles, SAP handbooks to name a few."

"Most importantly, the team in Mauritius eventually produced organisational and infrastructure blue prints for the Indian IT business of the future..."

Anil Goel in 'Release 2.0: The Bangalore Imperative' (www.undercoverpro.net)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Charity snowball

"When the public is interested in a charity, the attention feeds upon itself. Even if most supporters only pretend to care, they nonetheless will give money and time. Interest in the tragedy snowballs, often at very rapid rates..."

"So once a snowball of a charitable publicity starts rolling, support the trend. Bigger snowballs are more likely to gather force and spread to others. Malcolm Gladwell wrote of the 'tipping point,' by which a series of small actions add up to a large sequence of final effects. Most of our charity doesn't contribute to this kind of snowball effect, so when we have a chance to leverage our efforts, we should do so."

Tyler Cowen in 'Discover Your Inner Economist' (www.crosswordbookstores.com)

Present-moment awareness

"When a situation is troubling you, then ask yourself, What's wrong right now? If you do thins, then you realise that in this moment there are no problems. Separate the situation from the moment, because the situation will pass, while the moment will remain. The situation always transforms, but every moment remains perfect and unchanged."

"Keep your attention on this moment. This moment is the only moment you have the power to act. You cannot take action in the past or in the future, so if you dwell on the past or on the future, you feel powerless. Life is in this moment. Therefore, live in this moment. Act in this moment. Intend in this moment. Detach from worry in this moment. Stay in this moment. This is life-centred, present-moment awareness."

Deepak Chopra in ‘Power Freedom and Grace’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

At the Christmas party

"How to be cool at the Christmas party?"

"This is a really tricky one to get right. It has all the concerns of every tea and lunch break compressed into one horrendous evening. As ever, there's a balance between aloofness and trying too hard. Here are some handy dos and don'ts:

DO - Have a dance at some point in the evening. It shows that you don't take yourself too seriously.
DON'T - Dance like a robot, exotic dancer, astronaut on a space walk, or Wookie on heat.

DO - Exhibit platonic tactility. Hug people. Spread a little love.
DON'T - Wear one of those hats with mistletoe sticking out of the top...

DO - Give cards to the people you really like.
DON'T - Make a collage with pictures of you and them and the words 'Bestest Buddies' written in pasta shells underneath.

DO - Sing along to 'Now That's What I Call Christmas'.
DON'T - Bring in a portable keyboard, distribute carol sheets and threaten to punch anyone who doesn't join in with your bossa nova version of 'Once in Royal David's City'.

DO - Make a play for that person you've been flirting with for several months.
DON'T - Get drunk and cling to their leg crying 'Just hold me! I'm so alone! It's like living in a prison...."

Will Smith in ‘How to be Cool’ (www.landmarkonthenet.com).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Putting pen to paper

"When it comes to putting pen to paper, Indians prefer English. As the nation stumbled from one crisis to another, or achieved the occasional triumph, people around the country found writing letters to the editor in English the best way of catching the attention of the ruling elite - the same reasoning which led quacks and other traders to turn to English advertising..."

Binoo K. John in ‘Entry from Backside Only’ (www.crosswordbookstores.com).

'Bruce', the shark in Jaws

"'Bruce' was the nickname given by the Jaws film crew to the giant mechanical shark which had to stand in for the real thing... There were three Bruces: one with machinery exposed on the left side; one with machinery exposed on the right; and a complete shark for overhead shots..."

"The shark's movements were remote-controlled but, with over 1500 m of plastic tubing, 25 remote-controlled valves and 20 electric and pneumatic hoses powering various moving parts of the beast, there was plenty of scope for malfunctions..."

"Each 'Bruce' had to have two sets of teeth: one made of metal for the timber-munching scenes and the other of rubber, which were more suitable for stuntmen-munching. Each shark cost $250,000 to build and over $1 million (1975 prices) to operate during the filming."

"The geniuses behind all this were Joe Alves, the film's production designer, and Bob Mattey, who had built another famous sea monster, the giant squid in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."
**
Press-ganging

“(This entry is not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition)”

“Kidnapping men for service at sea was called ‘press-ganging’ or ‘shanghaiing’. They were made drunk and dragged on board ship. When they woke up the next day, they were far out at sea. A master of the art was the publican Joseph ‘Shangai’ Kelly in Portland. He pulled off his greatest coup when he found 22 men unconscious in a mortuary. They had broken in, and mistaken the embalming fluid for alcohol. Kelly loaded them on to barrows and took them on board a ship. The Captain assumed that their lifeless state and their low rattling noises resulted from a heavy night’s drinking. But next morning he discovered the rattling had stopped: Kelly had sold him a crew of dead men.”

Lorenz Schroter in 'Skylarks and Scuttlebutts' (http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Don't bark metrics

"Employees should see metrics as an ally in clarifying where to put focus. Because so many managers use metrics as a weapon to justify punishment, people tend to be intimidated by them. Worse yet, some managers think that simply barking at subordinates about their metrics is coaching. As a result, there is a lot of mistrust in metrics because of poor leadership...."

"Some managers mistakenly view metrics as the reality instead of a representation of a part of reality."

Joe Healey in 'Radical Trust' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pankaj Ghemawat


"The downside of China’s capital abundance is that it has depressed returns and led to overinvestment, especially in construction and infrastructure, by companies not noted for their self-restraint. Indian companies have been consistently more profitable. In addition, the best Indian domestic companies have typically gotten less support from their home government than the companies that the Chinese government is trying to build up into global companies. Part of the Indian companies’ response has been a more disciplined, less investment-intensive approach..."

Pankaj Ghemawat, author of ‘Redefining Global Strategy’

In an e-mail interview

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Math and medicine

"And so, in due course, Ramanujan is taken to see Dr. Lees, the cancer specialist. By now his condition seems actually to have improved a little; that is to say, he manages the train journey more easily than he did the first time, and seems even to take some pleasure in being in London. Unfortunately, Dr. Lees proves to be even less helpful than Batty Shaw. While he agrees that Ramanujan's illness is not following the typical track of liver cancer, he can't say what track it is following. The liver remains enlarged and tender. His white blood cell count has increased only slightly. 'A disease brought back from India?' he asks, and Hardy remembers the early proposition of an 'Oriental germ.' This calls for yet another expert, Dr. Frobisher, specialist in tropical diseases. Unfortunately, so far as Dr. Frobisher can determine, Ramanujan's symptoms do not match the pathology of any known exotic malady. Swabs for malaria have come back negative. 'Tuberculosis?' Dr. Frobisher asks, with hesitancy and humour in his voice, as if he is making a guess during a game of Charades. So they are back to tuberculosis! Oh, what a sloppy science is medicine!"

David Leavitt in 'The Indian Clerk' (www.crosswordbookstores.com)

No thanks, please!

"Corporate 'thank-you' rituals have become a staple of American public life, but it remains unclear who exactly deserves thanks. 'Ajay, please come up here!' Bill Clinton summoned a Citigroup executive, Ajay Banga, onto the stage at his annual corporate give-a-thon. Before a full house of CEOs and millionaire investors, Clinton praised Citigroup for committing $5.5 million to support financial education for the poor. But who exactly was Clinton praising? The $5.5 million wasn't Banga's money. Presumably, it came out of Citigroup's profits. If Citigroup's shareholders benefited indirectly from the positive publicity because it improved Citigroup's bottom line, the shareholdes didn't deserve thanks; they had sacrificed nothing. If they did not benefit, Banga and the other Citigroup executives deserved to be criticised rather than thanked because they had no business giving away their shareholders' money..."

"Corporations do some good deeds but corporate thank-you rituals mislead the public into beliving companies do these things out of selflessness - indeed, that there is a 'self' there deserving commendation in the first place. But there is no corporate selflessness, and there is no corporate self. In supercapitalism, companies exist only to serve consumers and thereby make money for investors. This is how they serve the public."

Robert B. Reich in Supercapitalism (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Save yourself actively from the passively aggressive!

"Passive-aggressive individuals can be a serious problem for a team. In failing to get their work done, they can stall the work of the entire team and leave people with nothing productive to do with their time as they wait for a cruicial step in the team's project. Their negativism can seriously damage morale and enthusiasm just when the team needs these most. They are also inevitably late to meetings and returning from breaks, leaving everyone sitting around waiting. They are also high-maintenance and draining. They tend to complain about being unappreciated or misunderstood, often envy others, and complain about their personal misfortunes. They often become depressed, and when depressed, their behaviour is likely to be at its worst."

Roy H. Lubit in 'Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates... and Other Difficult People' (www.pearsoned.co.in)

Friday, December 14, 2007

A fast-track mechanism for the litigations?

Should there be a fast-track mechanism for the litigations involving taxes, since they seem destined to stretch on over 10 years, serving no interests of both parties involved?

That would be a good move if it can be implemented meaningfully. The issue of course, would be in categorising them and perhaps also dealing with those that are more generic, so that a few cases could have a (positive) cascading effect on other similar cases. It might also be useful for both the Government and the tax payer to refrain from litigation on smaller amounts, since often, the cost and time spent on litigation cannot be justified given the quantum involved.

Mr Mr Ketan Dalal, Executive Director, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Mumbai.

In an e-mail interview.

Family isssues, hard and 'soft'

"A comprehensive strategy for any wealthy family needs to begin with a clear understanding and awareness of the family itself."

"...Managing a family is not just about such 'hard issues' as asset allocation or investment policy. The real concerns are the 'softer' issues regarding a family's legacy and sense of identity, its organisation and governance, and, finally, the human interactions of the individuals who make up the family itself."

"Mastering these social, organisational, and human issues is not easy...These people issues, these so-called soft issues, aren't 'soft' issues at all. Maybe we should call them the 'even harder' issues..."

Mark Haynes Daniell in ‘Strategy for the Wealthy Family’ (www.wiley.com)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Celebrity CEOs

"...I've been sketching two possible ways of understanding the media lives of contemporary celebrity CEOs."

"First, the celebrity CEO offers a means for a corporation to gain maximum exposure for little cost. This relates to contemporary promotional culture's emphasis on PR, branding and developing 'through the line' publicity. Using 'tabloid culture' is a key way for CEOs to gain celebrity power in a society which now likes to think of itself as meritocratic.

"Second, in the context of management and business philosophy, the transition from 1980s thrusting entrepreneurialism to 1990s modes of 'soft capitalist' corporate profit-seeking has created a context in which celebrity CEOs are often conspicuous because they foreground 'bottom-up' modes of power (often manifest through 'unusual', offbeat or 'cool' business practices). Contemporary celebrity CEOs can be seen to be using an expanded media field and the widening realms of 'tabloid culture' to attempt to articulate discourses of heroism with those of bottom-up power. Turning the despised figure of the 'fat cat' into a media-friendly 'cool cat' is predominantly a way to encourage customer intimacy, increase promotion and offset the charge of CEO greed."

Jo Littler in 'Celebrity CEOs and the Cultural Economy of Tabloid Intimacy' - a chapter in 'Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader' edited by Sean Redmond and Su Holmes (www.sagepublications.com)

Monday, December 10, 2007

E-business is not our sales strategy


Does e-commerce form part of your sales strategy?

E-business is not our sales strategy, but in certain countries like the US, Korea, and Japan we do have close collaboration with the local e-retailer shops. The IT platform provides us with a good communication and data mining as regards our overseas business partners. We would, therefore, rather use IT for information collection than materialising the same into business, so as to avoid channel conflict.

Andrew Tsui, Managing Director, Asus India

In an e-mail interview

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The world of active lifestyle

"Nike's dominance in the athletic shoe and apparel market continued into the 21st century, with new inroads into golf and football, the latter the most prominent sport in much of the world and one in which Nike had lagged. But Nike's next key challenge was women, a segment for which many of its products seemed to hold limited appeal."

"Though women were definitely interested in sports apparel, spending more than $15 billion on it in 2001, nearly $3 billion more than men's apparel, Nike was low on their shopping list. It was time for Nike's marketers to discover why."

"Nike's researchers soon learned that for most active women the key issue was fitness, rather than a specific sport. Clothes also needed to do double duty - handle an intense workout then look good worn on the street: 'We never appreciated the whole world of the active lifestyle', conceded Mark Parker, Co-president of the Nike brand."

"From these insights came new product lines, designed as coordinating fashionable collections, with the performance for which Nike gear was known. The new lines paid dividends. In 2005, Nike's combined women's business grew by almost 20 per cent, outpacing the company's overall growth, and performing strongly in every region and in apparel as well as footwear."

"Will Nike's women's lines one day rival its offerings for men?..."

John W. Mullins in 'The New Business Road Test' 2e (www.crosswordbookstores.com)

The last decades of Mongol rule in China...

"As in the case with every empire, the collapse of the Great Mongol Empire was fueled by many factors, among them incompetent leaders, corruption, revolts, decadence, factional struggles, assassinations, external attacks, and bad luck. Not all parts of the empire fell at the same time. Mongol rule in China ended in 1368, when the new Ming rulers - triumphantly ethnic Chinese - sent Genghis Khan's descendants fleeing back to the steppe..."

"The last decades of Mongol rule in China were sordid and chaotic. Rumours began circulating throughout the country that behind the palace walls the Mongol rulers were plotting to exterminate Chinese children and participating in bizarre sexual rituals. The latter rumour was at least partly true. At the urging of the Tibetan clergy, the Mongol ruling family engaged in lurid sexual dances, supposedly part of the path to Tantric enlightenment..."

"In 1333, Toghon Temur, a boy of 13, ascended the Mongol throne. Around the same time, the bubonic plague struck China, leaving 90 percent of the population dead in Hebei province. By 1351, as much as two-thirds of China's entire population had died. Meanwhile, trade and commerce dried up, hyperinflation set in, and peasant revolts brok out."

"According to Bayan, one of Toghon Temur's minsters, the root cause of all these problems was excessive sinicization. As a solution, he reportedly proposed that all Chinese throughout the empire surnamed Chang, Wang, Liu, Li, and Chao be executed. This plan, which would have eliminated 90 percent of China's population, was never carried out, but it illustrates the intolerant atmosphere that marked the Yuan dynasty in its last years."

On what happened after 1368...

"Over the next 300 years, China would sink ever deeper into ethnocentric isolationism. When it became clear to teh Ming emperors that they could not subjugate the 'barbarians' surrounding them, they built massive walls to seal the Chinese in. Foreign merchants were expelled, and travel abroad was prohibited. At the same time, there was a crackdown on non-Chinese customs, religions, and ideas. Foreign languages were banned, while traditional Confucianism and Taoism were reinstated as official orthodoxy. Not until the 21st century would China again be as open, cosmopolitan, and outward-reaching as it was during the Mongol era."

Amy Chua in 'Day of Empire' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Move outside of your boundaries

"What I learned was that if you spend all your time with people who are just like you, you just hear the same thing over and over again. If you want to hear new things, you'd better spend time with people who are very different from you."

"Over the years I've thought about how I might do that, and I think one thing is that it's quite difficult actually to move outside of your boundaries, but it's really important. I think it's really important to spend time with people who are different from you - different things, different personalities, different countries, different types of organisations."

"But to do that, you have to give yourself time in your life for serendipity to enter. You actually have to open yourself up to the possibility of the unexpected coming into your life. And one of the ways I think you have to do that is to give yourself space."

"If you fill your diary up every single moment of the day, then all that happens in your life is you do the expected. It's only when you give yourself time that the unexpected can come in, and serendipity can happen."

Lynda Gratton in 'Managing Your Career' (www.tatamcgrawhill.com)

How to serve the people and be patriotic?


Aren’t there are better ways to serve the people or be patriotic, if that is the spirit behind civil services?

True. One could serve the people and also be patriotic by being in other callings including politics!

Dr G. Sundaram, IAS (Retd), Former Secretary to the Government of India

In an e-mail interview...

True love

"Too often people who have a great deal of sexual attraction believe they are in love. Sexual attraction can be a potent elixir. It has a magnetic pull. When you add things in common, such as travel, fine dining, and summers at the beach, they believe their love will last forever. Time passes and sexual attraction dies down. Their common interests become mundane. They feel they have fallen out of love. These people were never in love in the first place. It wasn't love, it was attraction. This attraction was not strong enough to penetrate into the soul. So it died..."

"Sexual attraction and common interests are important. But they are not enough. They are solely physical. It is all material. It does not penetrate into the soul. When two people love each other on a soul level, it lasts. The qualities of the soul are connected to our higher self. These qualities are integrity, honesty, patience, courtesy, kindness, compassion, understanding, and tolerance. The sum total of all of these qualities makes an individual's character. Your character is your soul. Like attracts like. When two people of like-minded character come together, it results in a lasting connection. It is a merging of their souls. It goes beyond the physical and material constraints. When they love, it is true love."

"To find true love, you must begin by being a loving person..."

Mary T. Browne in 'The 5 Rules of Thought' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Our single greatest human asset is self-awareness

"My experience in working with clients all over the world, and all over the map psychologically, long ago convinced me that our single greatest human asset is awareness, particularly self-awareness. This capacity to be reflective, to be conscious, is our most sacred capacity..."

"While consciousness may represent a mere 5% of our complete mind, the influence this fraction exercises over the vector and tone of our life is far profounder than that. This precious one-twentieth resides in teh cerebral cortex, and it might be likened to the steering wheel or the gas and brake pedals in a car - only a slight but very intentioned touch to each significantly redirects the several-tonned vehicle, turns it 10 degrees or 90 degrees or makes possible a complete U-turn, speeds it up or slows it down, starts or stops it altogether..."

"It is our conscious 5% that allows us to make course corrections... especially when the 95% has taken us off a desirable course. The conscious 5% is unquestionably the most important portion inside us. It is, in fact, what truly separates us from all other species. It is what creates the possibility for self-directed change."

Jim Loehr in 'The Power of Story' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Should there be tax sops for housing?

"In a perfect world, the full benefit of taxpayer-financed homeownership incentives would flow to homebuyers. Ideally, the beneficiaries would all be people with incomes too low to qualify for mortgages without subsidisation. After all, if folks who can afford to buy homes simply subsidise one another's purchases, they are no better off in aggregate. In fact, they are collectively worse off because the government has squandered some of their tax dollars on administering a pointless, circular handoff of cash..."

"Incentives that lower the cost of purchasing a home increase the demand for housing. That means more business for builders and real estate agents. Furthermore, the increased demand for housing produces a windfall for the owners of existing homes. They capture part of the subsidy by boosting their resale prices, making it harder for young families to afford homes."

"Politicians don't dwell on the fact that some of the money thrown at homebuyers lands in the pockets of builders and realtors.... Curiously, homeownership is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill of Rights. But what the proincentives proposition lacks in intellectual honesty, it makes up for in political potency."

Martin Fridson in 'Unwarranted Intrusions' (www.wiley.com)

Two simple truths

"And what secret formula had Stratton discovered that allowed all these obscenely young kids to make such obscene amounts of money?"

"For the most part, it was based on two simple truths: first, that a majority of the richest one percent of Americans are closet degenerate gamblers, who can't withstand the temptation to keep rolling the dice again and again, even if they know the dice are loaded against them; and, second, that contrary to previous assumptions, young men and women who possess the collective social graces of a herd of sex-crazed water buffalo and have an intelligence quotient in the range of Forrest Gump on three hits of acid, can be taught to sound like Wall Street wizards, as long as you write every last word down for them and keep drilling it into their heads again and again - every day, twice a day - for a year straight."

Jordan Belfort in 'The Wolf of Wall Street' (www.landmarkonthenet.com)

'We all are responsible for our own lives

"They all sat in the garden from where they could see the snow-capped mountains in the far and beautiful blue sky, in the background. The old man called it 'Atma chintan'...

"They were sitting down together to solve a problem which affected each one of them individually and as a family collectively. Santanam envied the old man for his maturity and wisdom...

'We all are responsible for our own lives and we have to decide how we want to live,' he explained.

'What do you think is our problem and what is the remedy?' asked Santanam.

'The problem is that both of you want to have everything too fast. In fact you want too much too soon... Unfortunately, this a problem of modern times and it is happening in almost every home today.'

'The remedy is that you have to slow down, you have to learn to wait for your turn. The first step to the solution is that you have to take a decision to make a few changes in your life and in your life style.' ...

Yamini's mother said, 'You know that there is no job which can be termed as a perfect job. Similarly there is no marriage which is a perfect marriage. You have to make a marriage work. This can happen if you care a little for other person's requirement.'

'The whole society is on a short fuse today. People have started losing their composure and taking drastic steps for very small little things. People make issues out of non-issues and then blame each other.' ...

The old man said, 'You must remember that husband and wife don't compete with each other, in fact they complement each other. Problem starts, when we start competing and saying we are both equal. Remember you are both equal, but not identical.'

Virender Kapoor in 'My Honeymoon with a Pinch of Salt' (www.ubspd.com)

Those who build power centres suffer from deep insecurity


"Controlling your people like puppets by creating power centres is not the way of managing smart. Those who build power centres suffer from deep insecurity. So are the people who have an ego - they are mentally sick people who suffer from their own inadequacies."

"Managing smart should not be misunderstood for managing power centres. Those who build power centres suffer from inner inadequacies and insecurity. To overcome these, people build power centres and act larger than life. They are sick managers for they do not know that the energy that flows from the power centre is 'dysfunctional'. The energy that flows from competence is functional. Remember not to treat people as puppets or build a power centre. There is nothing remarkable about a power centre because it takes a sick mind to start one!"

"You cannot come out unhurt when you meet a person with an ego."

Moid Siddiqui in 'The Smart Crow Never Goes Thirsty' (http://www.wisdomtreeindia.com/)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Myths that make nuclear deal unclear



“Many half-truths and myths are doing their rounds about the nuclear deal.”



Shivanand Kanavi, Vice President - Special Projects, Tata Consultancy Services, New Delhi.

Funding environment for pharma


The domestic formulations sector seems to be ripe for buyouts to occur. Actually, PE led buyouts could provide the ideal option for many managements who would be keen to explore the option of divesting a large stake (including control)...


Navroz Mahudawala, Associate Director, Transaction Advisory Service of Ernst & Young

On Pakistan rating


About a month ago, soon after Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan, S&P revised the outlook on the sovereign rating to ‘negative’, stating that the action would ‘prolong and exacerbate the uncertainties, potentially putting downward pressure on the ratings if fiscal and external balances deteriorate.’


Mr Agost Benard, Associate Director, Sovereign and International Public Finance Ratings answers questions...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Quantum teleportation and 3-D videoconferencing!


"Quantum computation has its origins in highly specialised fields of theoretical physics, but its future undoubtedly lies in the profound effect it will have on the lives of all mankind. Quantum teleportation might become a reality and support 3-D videoconferencing in another 50 years!"

Vishal Sahni, author of Quantum Computing (http://www.tatamcgrawhill.com/)

In an interview.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Create a sense of urgency, but not panic

"But how can we convince them, if change includes downsizing?" asked the vice president of human resources.
"By changing their mindset, convincing them to see the world differently, getting them to see the opportunities that lie in our modernisation," replied Irani. "Get them thinking about it. Get them used to the idea. Then make reduction an attractive proposition. So when we ask them to actually leave, they do not have to even think twice."
"I think we should launch an internal communications campaign," said Sanjay Singh, the chief of corporate communication. "I will deliver emphatic statements, full of promises, describing our company's intention to offer world-class products to the customer with world-class service. Then we will see changes in attitudes toward our work practices, our goal orientation, our customer satisfaction. But what do I say about downsizing?"
"Leave that to the line managers," interjected vice president of human resources Pandey. "First, you must give everyone a new vision of our company, to get the obstacles out of the way."
"To get the message across, speak from the heart. Do not let them think you are fabricating the figures. Show where we are behind, how we must improve," advised Dr Irani. "And for God's sake, don't say anything that can be contradicted or shown to be untrue. Do not hold anything back. Do not exaggerate. Do not understate the problem. Keep repeating, refining, bringing the message up to date. Above all, repeat the message until everyone knows it by heart."
...
"Finally, remember these points," Dr Irani concluded. "We must be credible and consistent. We must speak with one voice. We must be the first to change. We must assure the stakeholders that their expectations are being met. We must create a sense of urgency, but not panic. The change we are asking for is not superficial; ingrained habits must be questioned and discarded, and new ones learned. We must maintain communication while we break with the past."

Joann Keyton and Pamela Shockley-Zalabak, editors of 'Case Studies for Organizational Communication' (www.jaicobooks.com)

Coaching is a 1:1 activity

What is coaching? It is "the process of helping people enhance or improve their performance through reflection on how they apply a specific skill and/or knowledge."

"Coaching is a 1:1 activity and can take place on the job or away from the workplace. It is about applying the skills and knowledge already learnt to a specific situation, thus resulting in an improvement in performance."

"Coaching is a technique in its own right and should not be confused with on-job training, mentoring or counselling. There are probably as many 'varieties' of coaching as there are coaches; however, for the context of this book, we are referring to work-based coaching as opposed to life coaching or sports coaching, to name two examples."

"Coaching has grown in popularity in recent years. In the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) annual learning and development survey report of 2006, 79 per cent of organisations that responded stated that they now use coaching. The survey goes on to identify that of the organisations using coaching, 80 per cent say that they aspire to develop a coaching culture and 47 per cent indicated that they are training line managers to act as coaches."

Jackie Clifford and Sara Thorpe in 'Workplace Learning & Development' (www.vivagroupindia.com)

Shakespeare's real gift was as a phrasemaker

"Among the words first found in Shakespeare are abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, critical, excellent, eventful, barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany and countless others (including countless)... "

He also attached un- as in "unmask, unhand, unlock, untie, unveil and no fewer than 309 others in a similar vein."

Some words didn't take off: "Undeaf, untent and unhappy (as a verb), exsufflicate, bepray and insultment."

"His real gift was as a phrasemaker."

Sample these: "One fell swoop, vanish into thin air, bag and baggage, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, be in a pickle, budge an inch, the milk of human kindness, more sinned against than sinning, remembrance of things past, beggar all description, cold comfort, to thine own self be true, more in sorrow than in anger, the wish is father to the thought, salad days, flesh and blood, foul play, tower of strength, be cruel to be kind, blinking idiot, with bated breath, pomp and circumstance, foregone conclusion - and many others so repetitiously irresistible that we have debased them into cliches."

**

Theatres had a tough time those days... "Puritans detested the theatre and tended to blame every natural calamity, including a rare but startling earthquake in 1580, on the playhouses. They considered theatres, with their lascivious puns and unnatural cross-dressing, a natural haunt for prostitutes and shady characters, a breeding ground of infectious diseases, a distraction from worship, and a source of unhealthy sexual excitement..."

"There may actually have been a little something to this, as popular tales of the day suggest. In one story a young wife pleads with her husband to be allowed to attend a popular play. Reluctantly the husband consents, but with the strict proviso that she be vigilant for thieves and keep her purse buried deep within her petticoats. Upon her return home, the wife bursts into tears and confesses that the purse has been stolen. The husband is naturally astounded. Did the wife not feel a hand probing beneath her dress? Oh, yes, she responds candidly, she had felt a neighbour's hand there - 'but I did not think he had come for that'."

**

A few insights on advertising...

"Plays were performed at about two o'clock in the afternoon. Handbills were distributed through the streets advertising what was on offer, and citizens were reminded that a play was soon to start with the appearance of a banner waving from the highest part of the structure in which the performance was to take place and a fanfare of trumpets that could be heard across much of the city.

General admission for groundlings - those who stood in the open around the stage - was a penny. Those who wished to sit paid a penny more, and those who desired a cushion paid another penny on top of that - all this at a time when a day's wage was one shilling (12 pence) or less. The money was dropped in a box, which was taken to a special room for safekeeping - the box office."

Bill Bryson in 'Shakespeare' (www.harpercollins.co.uk)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

How honeybees and humans learn alike

"Honeybees follow the same three routes of learning as human beings.

Honeybees learn by experience. A single bee will visit different flowers in the morning and, if there is sufficient attraction and reward in a particular kind of flower, she will make visits to that type of flower for most of the day, unless the plants stop producing reward or weather conditions change.

Honeybees also learn by observation. In experiments, bees have been observed to enter a simple maze with a choice between two paths...

Honeybees can also learn through symbolic communication... The communication takes place by means of a strange dance, called the waggle-dance, that honeybees perform when they return to the hive after a successful foraging trip."

Stepen Denning in 'The Secret Language of Leadership' (www.josseybass.com)