Cerebral Shangrila

Friday, February 27, 2004

Building Respect , Brick by Brick

Here is an excerpt from an article by Subroto Bagchi (COO & President,Mindtree Consulting) in Businessworld.Good one.

Gone are the days when political leadership was the icon of a nation. Today, a country's pre-eminence in the comity of nations is directly related to how many institutions it has been able to build. Names like Sony, Matsushita, Honda, Epson and Mitsubishi are not just companies any more. They are institutions. Building institutions is not an accident. It is a slow, laborious process. People must recognise it as a larger goal and relate to the over-arching vision. Today, companies like Infosys, Ranbaxy, Jet Airways, The Taj Hotels, TVS and Wipro are no longer just places of business. These symbolise India's achievements and aspirations.

The typical Japanese work ethic is central to their institution building. The average Japanese worker goes to work for a career, no doubt. But they are also known to be acutely aware and proud that their work and output is linked to keeping Japan high in the esteem of the world. Japanese workers are known to have a mental sequence of what constitutes a priority. It is country first, company next and individual last. Contrast that concept with the way we have been brought up in the last 50-plus years of independence. Our sequence is - myself first, my company next, and last comes my country. That pecking order is probably a legacy of a survivalist past, and, to some extent, the history of imperial rule. To go forward, we need a change in mindset. People who build institutions need to think in longer terms and make many personal needs subservient to the larger process.

I heard a simple story long ago. Two men were laying bricks. A passer-by asked the first one: "What are you doing?" He said he was laying bricks. Then he asked the second one. That man said: "I am building a temple." Building a temple requires different perspectives of architecture, structural strength and visual sensitivity. Above all, it requires 'oneness' with a need that is very different from here and now, a need for personal survival and self-definition.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Brand Loyalty

Most of us are Brand conscious . We buy a particular brand of Paste / washing powder / soap / TV regularly and are proud of it. Was thinking about it today and discussing it with my brother & came up with a list of my Brand favorites :

Toothpaste -- Colgate -- For ages I have been buying Colgate . Can't think of having ever used another Brand.

Bath Soap -- Pears -- Though I have changed this brand occasionally , on the whole I seemed to have used Pears most often than others .

Washing Soap -- Rin -- Never used any other Soap Bar than Rin.

Hand Wash -- Dettol -- Its always been there beside my wash Basin.

Health Drink - Horlicks -- Since I neither drink coffee nor Tea , Horlicks has been my favorite drink for years.I love that taste.

Music System -- Phillips -- Had a Phillips system at Chennai , bought one in the US , Bought a Phillips TV at Chennai , Bought a Phillips Boombox at Delhi . I have been a very loyal fan of Phillips.

Shaving -- Gillette - Once again both the Foam & Razor has always been Gillette .

Headache reliever -- Amrutanjan -- Its always there in my Medical Kit .

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Bollywood Films ?

Sometimes when you read an article , you have a feeling of deja vu. This article says exactly what I feel.

India Shining

India shining campaign has met with with as much criticism as exuberance. Though there is no denial that the ads are an election stunt (That money is well off spent elsewhere) , the truth is that India is definitely shining in some areas.

In my opinion the biggest achievement is that Indians have started believing in themselves & also now for the first time truly believe that we can become a superpower. To me that is "India Shining "and not the mere numbers .

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Hindustan Times - Safe Driving

I got some press in Today's HT (Hindustan Times) , Thanks to the good work our Social services committee has been doing. A write-up has appeared in Today's HT on our "Safe Driving Awareness" program , an initiative which we have been doing for the last few months. Please Drive safely. Here is the post from today's HT :

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Fear of failure - Michael Jordan

Most of us fear failure. But we don't realize that failure is our biggest teacher. We hardly learn anything from success. I was at the cubicle of my colleague & found this on pasted on his Desk . Thought will make a good reading :

I know fear is an obstacle for some people, but it is an illusion to me . . . Failure always made me try harder next time.Heart is what separates the good from the great.I've always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.

I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up.Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it .

You have to expect things of yourselves before you can do them ---- Michael Jordan

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Brand Equity Quiz

Yesterday evening was lots of fun with Brand Equity Quiz. Though we lost , the Quiz was oodles of fun. Derek O'Brien was at his witty,naughty best . We missed out on some pretty easily guessable questions. However , I got an audience question right and managed to come home with some gift vouchers as a consolation. For my partner Vijai it turned out to be a much enjoyable evening. For him it was a mini IIM-L 2003 Alumni meet since he met most of his batchmates there & had fun.

Publicis (The ad Co) won the delhi round and did some very intelligent answering in the last rounds.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Education of Poor

Most of the Social evils plaguing India owe their roots to illiteracy . As the Chairman of the Social Services Committee at my office, I have been fortunate to work with a lot of NGO's which has given me some understanding of how things work at the grass root level. I have been associated with the NGO,Deepalaya in Delhi since last few months.

It had been on my mind since last few months to sponsor a poor child at one of their schools. Finally , I put that thought into action today and I would be sponsoring a girl Child's education ( 5 Year old hailing from a very poor family) from this academic year . India's future lies in how fast we abridge the chasm between the literate & the illiterate.

Sunday, February 15, 2004


Well the recent wave of protests against outsourcing is rather surprising. But one musn't forget that its the Election year in the US. As Khrushchev said "Politicians are the same all over: they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river". So most of it could be due to the looming elections. However , found a good write-up in TOI today . Read this story & find out why neither (US nor India) are right :


A small frown in America

Chidanand Rajghatta

Clintwood, Virginia (population about 2,000), is not a town you will see easily on a regular map of the United States. Nestling amid the Appalachians on the Virginia-Kentucky border, it is what you would call ‘boondocks’ in city parlance, a place so remote that even the nearest big cities, Johnson City and Lexington, barely register on the urban American landscape. It is 98 per cent white. There are no Patels or Singhs. The only Indians locals know are native Americans, who are 0.6 per cent of the population. The economic and social indices of the town during the past decade were dismal.
However, for the past three years, Clintwood rejoiced at having struck a small economic bonanza. In 2001, the Internet company Travelocity decided to locate a call centre here. Nothing big. It began with a 250-seat customer service centre, but it provided a way out of the hardscrabble existence for a community that for years depended on employment in the area’s dying coal mines and disappearing apparel industry. In time, the call centre was to grow to a 500-seater, making Travelocity the largest private employer in Dickenson County, where Clintwood is located.
The County went out of its way to embrace the newbie online firm, proud to become even a minor techno blip in an America hooked on the Internet. It gave tax breaks to Travelocity. It forked out a $250,000 loan to expand the facility. The local congressman rounded up $1.4 million in federal funding for a childcare centre next to the call centre, with 45 of 107 slots promised to Travelocity.
For 30 months, Clintwood and its Dickenson County Technology Park thrived. Travelocity was the showpiece of white collar employment in blue collar boonies. Young men and women (80 per cent) of backwoods USA found work answering calls from all over the country in their sweet southern accents. Life was good.On Wednesday morning, it all ended quite unexpectedly. A senior Travelocity executive informed them the call centre was being closed by December. Travelocity lost $55 million last year and was falling behind rivals such as Expedia, which were outsourcing such jobs abroad to cut costs.Travelocity had to follow suit, and send the jobs to India. Employees would get some severance pay and there would be a few openings at facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. Otherwise, they had ten months to figure out what to do.There was shock and gasps as the announcement filtered through, a few sobs and sniffles. Although they had heard of outsourcing, no one had seen it coming to Clintwood. At $8 to $10 an hour, they were at the bottom end of America’s salary scale. How much could the company save by moving the jobs to India? About $10 million a year, company officials said. The arithmetic was a little more complicated than mere wages.
When I called Clintwood Mayor Donald Baker on Thursday, he accepted my sympathies and queries with karmic calm. ‘‘We have been here before and we will get through it,’’ he said. The county was talking to two other telecom companies to see if they wanted to come in and take over the facilities.Will Mullins, 23, hopes they will. He was just beginning to enjoy white collar service and does not fancy going back to the construction job that paid him just above minimum wages ($5.50 an hour).
It’s not just Wall Street and Silicon Valley which are stung by outsourcing. Middle America is hurting too and that is why the politicians are upset.


Tuesday is the Brand Equity Quiz. I am a hard core quiz enthusiast & got lucky to have been chosen by my company to represent them in the BEQ Delhi Regional event . The quiz is on Tuesday . So post CAT its preparation for this event for the next two days. My partner in Quiz is my colleague Vijai ( IIM-L 2003 Alumnus) & hope we crack it.


CAT this time was a bit tougher than the Nov 23rd one. My biggest weakness was the Math Section & it turned out to be a bit tough today too. I have attempted close to 85 questions & letz see how things turn out. .

Friday, February 13, 2004


The Valentine's day every year comes with a baggage of Hype,Hoopla,Glitz & protests . So what are you doing on V-day ? is the most asked question this month. Well the answer is I will be doing what I used to do before I knew something called V-Day existed. Love is a private emotion & the hype just paints shame on such a wonderful emotion. I remember reading a Ghazal by the Great Sahir on Love & Taj Mahal :

ye chamanazaar ye jamunaa kaa kinaaraa ye mahal
ye munaqqash dar-o-diivaar, ye maharaab ye taaq
ik shahanashaah ne daulat kaa sahaaraa le kar
ham Gariibo.n kii muhabbat kaa u.Daayaa hai mazaak
mere mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujhase!

(Translation : Known throughout the world as a symbol of love and for its beauty, the Taj Mahal, in Sahir's opinion, is an insult to the love and aspirations of the millions of common men and women who live their lives quietly, toiling,sweating, ceaselessly working to scratch a living, and amongst all that, still finding the time and optimism to love. They don't have the wherewithall to proclaim their love by building something as grandiose as the Taj Mahal but that does not mean that there love is any less than that of any emperor.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

IIM's & IIT's Vs HRD Ministry

The feud seems to never end . God knows the Logic behind Mr.Joshi's decision to implement only select recommendations of the U.R.Rao Committee Recommendations. The IIT's & IIM's India's only World Class institutions are in the danger of losing their autonomy . Found this nice article in Hindustan times's Editorial Page by Sandipan Deb (An IIT-IIM Alumnus) on this controversy:

In a few weeks from now, the campaigning will begin for the Lok Sabha elections. And Dr Murli Manohar Joshi will be boasting to vast crowds across the country of how, by slashing the IIMs’ academic fees, he has made the country’s best management education accessible to the less-well-off and the poor. It will be a straight lie.

The decision to dramatically reduce the fees is unnecessary, stupid and dangerous. Unnecessary, because, one, the admission process of the IIMs, one of the toughest and fairest such tests in the world, makes no distinction between rich and poor. You could be the prime minister’s grandson, but you stand as much (or rather, as little) chance of getting in as a poor farmer’s son from Jhoomritelaiya. (I did not give this example for effect. I interview for IIM Calcutta every year, and a few years ago, I was privileged to recommend admission for an engineer whose father and elder brothers still tilled a small plot of land at Jhoomritelaiya.)

I, like every other alumnus of the IITs or IIMs, have personally known dozens of boys and girls from impoverished or rural backgrounds who have got into these premier institutes through sheer merit and transformed their own lives, and the lives of their families and communities. More than creating poster boys for Silicon Valley and Wall Street, this empowerment of thousands of disadvantaged Indians to reach their true potential is the signal achievement of the IITs and IIMs.

Two, no IIM alumnus I know has ever heard of someone getting an admission to an IIM and then not joining because he or she couldn’t afford it. If you do not have the money to pay the fees — and the fees, let’s admit it, are pretty steep (as they should be, more on that later) — you just walk into the nearest bank. An IIM offer letter is 24-carat collateral as far as any bank is concerned.

Since the early Nineties, when the government started cutting its subsidies to the IIMs, hundreds of students have availed of these loans and paid back the loan after they graduated. In fact, you need not take my word for it. Check the government’s latest India Shining ad. “By choosing to study further, I widen my knowledge,” it reads. “By taking a loan for my education, I share the burden with my parents. By taking care of their savings, I help them live a richer life... I make my India shine. I am India Shining.” The ad also mentions that anyone — for example, Murli Manohar Joshi — wishing to know more about educational loans at lower interest rates can email information@indiashining.com.

The fee-slashing decision is stupid, because, by increasing the government subsidies to the IIMs to reduce the fees, it just ends up wasting some more taxpayers’ money.

In effect, each IIM student every year is now going to get an extra subsidy of Rs 1.2 lakh from your and my pockets. We are going to make the IIM product 80 per cent cheaper. But are you and I going to enjoy the benefits of that product? No. Those are going to be enjoyed by blue-chip corporations across the world who are going to recruit these hotshot MBAs.

Are these would-be-gods, in their gratitude to you, me, Dr Joshi and the nation for making their education inexpensive, going to join the social sector, or manage our transportation or healthcare systems? A few of them will, and they would have done so even if their fees had not been reduced. The vast majority will join the Citigroups and Goldman Sachs of the world, earn salaries that look like telephone numbers, and pay taxes in the country they are posted in. In these times, when finding safe investment options which guarantee you anything more than 7 per cent a year is nearly impossible, Dr Joshi has just created a scheme with a startlingly high return on investment. Most IIM students would be recouping their entire expenses — academic and non-academic — within the first two months of their working lives!

So, instead of spending money where it is needed, improving our basic school system, the government is actually shelling out our hard-earned tax money to subsidise giant multinational corporations! I am seriously considering joining the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

And finally, the decision is dangerous, because making the IIMs totally dependent on subsidies could be the first step towards the government taking charge of all aspects of these fine institutes. Ask any alumnus or faculty of the IITs and IIMs, and all of them, invariably, will tell you that the most important reason for these being centres of such excellence is that the Indian government has always let them be. Successive governments have given the IITs and
IIMs freedom to chart their own course. Once Dr Joshi and his minions establish complete financial control of the IIMs, surely it’s only a matter of time before they start meddling with appointments and syllabi.

And we know where that road is going to lead to. Dr Joshi has already announced his intent to change the admission process, have a government body conduct the entrance examinations, do away with the interviews and group discussions. This will open up the admission system to political and bureaucratic manipulation, have a serious impact on the quality of the intake, and deny these institutes their fundamental right to choose who they want to admit and teach. And this could just be the beginning.

There are so few institutions we have built post-Independence that are still left unsullied. Indira Gandhi’s cynical politics damaged our public sector and banking system so grievously that they still haven’t recovered. The IITs and IIMs are almost the last few systems we have that are world-class. While his government speaks of aggressive disinvestment, the human resource development minister is hell-bent on nationalising our finest educational structures. And regiment our finest minds. For, education is finally about minds, both teacher and student. And the minds are the final prize that Dr Joshi will be looking to grab and tweak. He must be stopped.

The writer, an IIT-IIM alumnus, is Managing Editor of Outlook. He is also the author of The IITians

Inspiring thoughts

I would be quite busy the whole of this week. Found some good inspiring thoughts to share :

1. "None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. "The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do." - Walter Bagehet

3. "We should not let success go to our heads, or our failures go to our hearts." - Unknown

4. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

5. "It is a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it." - W. Somerset Maugham

6. "A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." - William Shedd

7. "Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose." - Bill Gates

8. "What we see depends mainly on what we look for." - John Lubbock

9. "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

10. You're never a loser until you quit trying -- Mike Ditka

Tuesday, February 10, 2004


I saw the movie Khakee on Sunday. A very taut , action-paced screenplay with great visuals and some wonderful acting . AB,Ajay Devgan,Akshay Kumar in particular had acted very well. The first half just zooms past at an incredible speed and though the second half is typical hindi cinematic , it still not a bad movie. Rajkumar Santhoshi's Dialogues are very good. However , the songs are unwarranted and mar the pace of the movie.

The movie somehow to me seemed very similar to L.A.Confidential (*ing Kevin Spacey,Russel Crowe). Apart from being a story of three cops, the other coincidence is the nature of their characters & a top official sending them on a wild goose chase.

Hindi Cinema is caught in a transition these days. They want to improve but still want to satisfy the front benchers ( Item numbers ?) and end up satisfying neither . Mr.Santoshi , People would have liked the movie a lot more without those meaningful songs . The audience you are trying to satisfy do not come to such movies . So why such songs ?


The weekend was quite hectic with Washing Clothes ,Cleaning the House ,Studies , French classes & the movie Khakee. Also my cousin had come to Delhi from Sydney for a few days and I met her almost after 4 years. It was funny when she recollected that within those 4 years I had lived in 6 different cities & changed 3 companies !!

Also managed to Update my Photo Gallery on webshots (I will post the Link) . Uploaded some photos. Next time I visit Chennai will have to upload the others.

Friday, February 06, 2004

US Democratic Presidential Candidates

John Kerry has won it. Almost . The Iowa & New hampshire results have given a surprising win for Kerry which he has further consolidated in the last few days. Howard Dean , surprisingly has done rather badly in the elections with Joe Lieberman & Wesley Clark now distant in the race. Al Gore's VP Nominee , Joe Lieberman , had he won would have been the first Jewish to contest the US Presidential polls. (Had it happened , a rather unprecedented surprise even bigger than JFK , a Roman Catholic winning the US Elections) . Afterall the US President is one of the most powerful man on earth and hence this Elections is of immense interest to everyone & also let us see if Saddam's capture can save Bush from Defeat.

On a Humorous Note, its been a great time for the American Late Night shows with Dem Elections . Here are some quotes from the Tonight show with Jay Leno :

1. Today in the "L.A. Times, one critic wrote that the problem with John Kerry "is he looks like he thinks too much. Well you won't hear anyone accusing President Bush of that.

2. Today Dennis Kucinich vowed to stay in the presidential race. "Stay in? How about get in?

3. Howard Dean was out talking about health care today it has nothing to do with the campaign, I think he realizes he is going back to being a doctor real soon.

4. You all excited about this big Democratic race heating up? In his big victory speech the other night, Senator John Kerry said he wanted to defeat George Bush and "the economy of privilege." And then he hugged his wife, Teresa, heir to the multimillion-dollar Heinz food fortune.

5. General Wesley Clark has spoken out both in favor and against the decision to go to war with Iraq. In fact, this weekend in South Carolina, he'll be debating himself.

6. Lieberman did well in the exit polls. Every poll said he should exit.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Indian Legal system ?

The Delhi High court in a judgement today acquitted all public servants including Rajiv Gandhi from the Bofors Scandal. Most of the prime Accused in the case are already dead. I am wondering how the judge felt announcing a verdict acquitting a person who has been dead for 13 years now. How ridiculous is that ?? The Indian Legal system with its Lakhs of pending cases needs a complete overhaul. Imagine a Judge sitting in the Chair and announcing in 2004 " I pronounce as Guilty Mr.X for the Theft he committed on August 30th , 1987 in the Y case " . Come on , give us a break.

When Arun Jaitley , an eminent lawyer himself , took over as the Law Minister a few years back there were lots of expectations that the legal system would be modified to deliver swift decisions which are of chronological relevance. But nothing much seemed to have Changed.

It is said "Justice delayed is Justice Denied" . Hope the Indian Legal system gets a much needed breather of fresh life. Found an interesting article by CVC (Chief Vigilance Commissioner ) on the same & also here is the Chronology of Bofors events.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Battle at a Different Terrain - Airtel Vs Hutch

They are the most fierce competitors in the GSM Arena. However , the battle off late has shifted to a different terrain Viz Advertising. I am not a GSM user and hence have no idea about their Quality of Service. However, Their Ads are awesome .

The Hutch Ad is already the rage of the Nation . The Cute Boy & the dog which follows him everywhere with some great music has caught the fancy of the Nation. O&M Once again proves itself as one of the most Creative Ad agencies. The Sale of pugs (the dog used in the commercial) have skyrocketed .My personal favorite among the different versions is the one where he is seen writing the exam and the pug is seen cutely sitting beside.

The Airtel Ad too has a nice Concept - Express Yourself. A picture can say a thousand words. The ads based on the entire gamut of Human emotions urges people to express them . The Visuals are good and the concept in itself is much more intellectual & stimulating. Rediffusion & DYR has done a great job.

Hope both Airtel & Hutch improve their service to match up to the Quality of the Ads.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

MyDoom - Worm

Internet these days is a dangerous place. The Mydoom virus has now officially been declared as the most destructive Virus ever,causing Billions of Dollars in Loss. The Variant A caused the SCO Site to be shut down on Monday due to Denial of Service Attacks. The Variant B targeted Microsoft website today but petered out due to inferior code. However, the most worrying statistic is that 20% of all emails circulated on internet were Mydoom emails (During its peak infection period) . As someone, who has worked as a Security Admin warding off Spam & viruses , I have had my fair share of fire-fighting with the Viruses,worms & spam and know how virulent they can be.

To think that an Hacker could Blackmail SCO and be successful ( SCO couldn't ward off the attack though they knew a few days before the day of attack) , proves that Internet could have finally met its nemesis in itself. Both Microsoft & SCO have announced $2,50,000 as reward for anyone helping to catch the Hacker responsible for this attack. For those wondering why SCO & MS have been targeted , the answer is, right now these two are the biggest enemies to the Open Source movement ( MS becos of obvious reasons & SCO becos of Intellectual property squabble with IBM over Linux Licensing ) .

The Spam is still thriving & continues to grow. Out of the 100 mails I receive in a day in various mail accounts almost 95 are spam. Unless we rein in Worms,viruses & spam,the internet will continue to remain a murkier world where anything is possible.

Monday, February 02, 2004


That is the motto of the DDA (Delhi Development Authority) . This weekend I got to see the good side of Delhi (The one sans pollution,Traffic Jam) . After the NDTV Shooting on Saturday , Venkat & I headed to a South Indian Restaurant "Nayvedhyam" in Hauz Khas , Delhi. The restaurant had great ambiance filled with Tanjore paintings & wonderful south Indian Thali served in authentic Plantain leaf .

We then headed to the Deer Park. The Deer park was recently in the news for its overcapacity of Deers (The authorities were considering Sterilizing the deers to control over-crowding) . The park had hundreds of Spotted Deers , a few Nilghais & plenty of Rabbits and ducks. We crossed over to the Rose Garden which is a dream spot for joggers & walkers. The Roses were in all colors and in full Bloom . I took plenty of snaps with my SLR camera. The trees and the gentle breeze make this place a must visit for any nature lover.

We then drove to the "Garden of five Senses"in Mehrauli (near Qutab-Minar) . Its a park dedicated to the five senses of Humans viz Sight,Hearing,Touch,Smell,Taste. It had tastefully ornated gardens , Cacti,Bamboos and Solar power units. Its a very quiet place far from the chaos of Delhi and a great place to spend an evening.

Already DDA has done a wonderful job by quadrupling trees in last 5 years and with such gardens Delhi truly has the potential to regain its status as the Metro of choice to the tourists.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

NDTV - Big Fight

NDTV has been calling me up for the last few weeks asking me if I was interested in attending their "Big Fight Program". Since I didn't have french classes this saturday, I decided to go & be part of the Audience during the Shooting of the Program "Big Fight" hosted by Rajdeep Sardesai on Saturday. The Topic was "Do Indians prefer Dynasty (Read Nehru family) rule ? " . The BJP and the Congress got into a verbal duel ( they even fought during the commercial break time!!) with Omar Abdulhah(NC) providing some unbiased inputs. The program was recorded very well in the studio and I was lucky that my Question " Even in family run businessess the progeny spends at least 10 years in different depts/positions before gunning for the CEO post . Why does Congress , a 119 year old party with 10 million members convey the desperation that only the Nehru family can save them ? " got selected as the first question and I got my 20 seconds of TV Time and my Question was answered by Anand Sharma (Spokesperson,Congress) & Omar Abdullah. Got a first-hand experience of the Animosity of our politicians .