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Journal Journal: Tata and the Indian One Lakh Car

Tata Motors India announced in 2004 a three year dream venture to create a 4-wheeler that would be priced at INR 1,00,000 which would be roughly USD 2,515. To do this, with most of the expert theories on how this could be achieved, Tata would actually have to sell this vehicle at a loss. I compare this to Reliance Communication's attempt to Mobile Telecom market share by price skimming. The largest market share in India for the 4-wheeler private vehicle is with Maruti Udyog Ltd., a collaboration with Suzuki, Japan.

Either which way, I don't see Tata gaining too much ground by hyping a product before any prototypes have been released in the field to get people believing. Over 3 years of hype, and no real product on the roads has made people start disbelieving in the venture. Most think its vaporware and possibly a cover for another project.

Clearly decreasing the cost of an automobile does not exactly provide a high volume market for cars in a country where the road infrastructure imposes strict limitations. Maruti's entire strength in the market is based on service coverage rather than just pricing and the availability of spare parts. In my opinion, companies started by visionaries like Tata (JRD) should think of public transportation as a larger problem that can be resolved differently.

Instead, gimmicks like a 1 Lakh car pull them low down into a sector they shouldn't really be looking into. Worse still their petrol engines haven't really shown them in good light. Their diesel versions are better, but that's just relativistic. I hope they revise the whole idea and come up with a concept car, a greener car or something of that sort rather than a "easily affordable" car. They shouldn't be reading Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. That's not where they get their pickings anyway.
User Journal

Journal Journal: The Farce of Flat Teams

There are many start-ups which go on a recruiting binge claiming they have a "Flat team structure." Some people think that there is such a place where everyone is equal and the whole company moves together. If you would only care to read Stephen Baxter's "Coalescent", "Exultant" and "Transcendent" of the "Destiny's Child" series you will understand more on the hive-minds.

The truth is 150,000 years of recorded anthropological evidence (discarding recent discoveries) reinstate that the first grouping of man was "Hierarchical" hunting teams. These resembled Wolf-packs. Most mammals have an Alpha Male. Lions, Wolves, Elephants and a whole list comprising both predator and prey all have an alpha-male and hierarchy. Looking closer to our Primate family, there is hierarchy.

If we work further down the order, we find that our Military is the best response force and the last resort for every state. The moment social order breaks (which may be a blend of hierarchy and peer-to-peer networks), imposition of Hierarchy has shown to restore order. This entire argument might seem irrelevant to the topic, so I'll get back.

Flat teams are a farce. Every Organization has a creator, a leader who creates a sub-group who share his/her vision. The hierarchy might work at multiple levels, but they are usually pyramidal in many ways. "C. K. Prahlad" writes in his book "Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid" that Fast Moving Consumer Goods (a.k.a. FMCGs) are the way the lower ranks of society tap into the mainstream economy. Society in itself is hierarchical. I've worked in an outfit that claimed to have a flat team, but had an implicit hierarchy.

My message is no matter what your employer might tell you, there is Hierarchy. If they mention a "Flat Team" (not Open Communication), they imply hierarchy that is ill defined. It is better to work in a company with a well defined Hierarchy, rather than one that is confused in expressing the same.

Journal Journal: Skipping Stress at work

Living in Bangalore, I find a huge number of people absolutely stressed out from the workplace. I see this at the place where I work too. While there has been quite some hue and cry over "outsourcing" and work being sent eastward, I don't see significant measures taken up to help people perform better. There are many people who actually believe that they perform better under stress. That, I would term is the worst mistake one can make.

Most of the jobs that people work on, can use a good amount of creativity. Everyone needs to achieve two things at the workplace. They have to help their employer or organisation or co-operative grow; and at the same time achieve self-growth and improvement. Civilisation, it is theorised, was created solely because people had time to rest from "food-gathering" activities (including hunting and farming.) The time that people could spare was used to creatively "understand nature" (and hence form the fundamental premises of modern science) and "invent machines" including the wheel.

Today, we seem to have taken a step backward forgetting the very roots that brought us here. Everyone (A good percentage of tech workers and the like) spends 12-13hrs of their waking time (roughly 16hrs on an average) in activities targeted towards their work ("food-gathering"). People tend to spend lesser time with family, for themselves, to open up their own minds. Half of the "urgency" created in the Information-age is artificial and in many cases unnecessary. Companies want to get to market faster and faster, but this can be done only by improving the invention process, not by employing a Blitzkrieg with a Mongolian horde.

Fundamentally if an Organisation wants to achieve more in less time, that's exactly what its people should be able to do; achieve more in less time. To do this, stress due to overworking and under-sleeping, boring communication techniques - like meetings (where people ponder endlessly and argue towards no end) need to be reduced to the bare minimum. People should learn that each task that they do must be in the path of making them better at whatever they would love to do. Companies should help Personnel achieve their personal objectives and dovetail them with the Company's own. An Organisation is no more than its people, there are no bricks and walls which can meet ends without people.

I see people making mistakes and I recently cut a bit of my own sleep only to see that things were going amiss and out of control. When this happens there is a tendency to repeat it and go into a tailspin which I almost did. I realised that a good number of people were doing this. There are of course others who don't care a damn about their roles/jobs. Those are the kind who lack self-discipline and need to be dealt with by administration as peer influence is unlikely to help them.

The lessons to be learnt are simple. Companies need to learn to have and respect "High value" individuals to achieve their ends by empowering the individuals themselves. Individuals need to take time to improve themselves creatively as self-improvement is in itself a leap in the growth of civilisation. Employing thousands and thousands, or making people work 80-90% of their waking time is most likely counter-productive in the long run. Even the military does this only when they go "Red alert." I see no reason why companies like to always set unrealistic goals and pass stress to individuals. One must understand that the very managers/administrators who create stress to others and themselves need to grow to avoid underestimating problems.

People have always termed that my ideas are hypothetical and less practical. The naked truth is, today's society is quite close to what Plato dreamed of in the "Republic" and an extension or growth of Ancient Rome. The hypothetical has slowly entered the realm of the practical and is the sole process by which change in Civlisation and life is created. It takes quite a strong will to plan well and learn to avoid stress. The free mind is the most powerful tool mankind has ever had. Inside a box, and constrained by time, it is unlikely to bring out its best.
Linux Business

Journal Journal: Performance and Appraisal

Right now, I'm sitting with a team, in a company whose attrition rate is relatively high compared to its geographical competitors. I am slowly seeing the reason surface. They suffer from the inability to appreciate great work in a "tangible" manner. Whenever I tell my reporting manager that a big leap in identifying a chip related bug or a solution to an issue that would be far too difficult had the complete principle of deduction been followed; I get the shallow reply, "I acknowledged it, I even clapped in the meeting, sent out e-mail; we always acknowledge good work."

The grim truth, if I clap in front of a store or a vegetable vendor about how nice they are at running things, they are least likely to sell me their wares. Modern economy is based on a "value" representative termed money or to be more correct "currency". As many advertising taglines go, there are somethings money can buy; and so are other things that a company can provide as a Unique value addition for its employees. I work in a product company; a free laptop, ethernet switch isn't gonna damage their finances a lot, but that's what I term "tangible". Most people who come to product companies, land up, because they shun having to sit in service companies listening to how requirements got misinterpreted/changed over time to have a partially satisfied customer. Don't get me wrong, but I have seldom heard of the "fully" satisfied customer in the services business. The difficulty is you never get to read their mind, moods and their real needs.

People come out to product companies to make something they can feel, see and experience the fruits of their creativity (no matter how it turned out.) I have also learnt, having employed people to work for me, that people are in constant need for growth and providing financial growth is good, other than promotions and the like which are merely considered add-on posters. Of course, not all people are dumb, there are the engineering techies, fans of Dilbert; who really see their managers behaving like the Mad Hatter of "Alice in Wonderland." What I fear most, is that a good team, well-jelled and strong, will disintegrate and leave, just because the management likes to "blame" loud, offer less financially or tangibly. For the managers, it's easy to dump one's mental stress down the chain till everyone feels it. Those who can soak pressure are the best managers; there are fewer and fewer of them, thanks to the well established "Peter Principle" which is gaining popular usage at IT firms; sad indeed.

To get people who can spend 8 hours entirely of their day for a company; exercising self-discipline not to indulge in anything else (chit-chat and all that may be deemed time-wasting); there is much a company must do. "Ask not what the Country has done for you, Ask what You have done for the Country," was not spoken of companies, nor of this time. It is from the Americans we inherit the Job-hopping culture that is so common in Bangalore. Today, Companies seriously need to revisit the roles of "Personnel Managers", not "Human Resource Managers" (that's like saying we have 2 Printing resources, 62 Human Resources, 1 Electrical Power Resource, 4 Air-conditioning Resources ... well you get the point.) Otherwise, in this gameplay of the fight for survival, which is no different than the Darwinian "Survival of the Fittest", the extinct shall soon have to sound the Bugle.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Making an Organization "work"

My labors of recent have changed to accommodate a new order; the very point of helping the organization I serve in, survive. I have found that the middle managers, have risen to their posts by the "Peter Principle." Unfortunate, as it is for the organization when it is about to start a fight for survival led by someone who believes in excellence; the day of Judgment is near. There are products being "Made in India", which need to match International standards. Patriotism in itself doesn't hold great virtues. The pursuit of excellence, however, does hold in itself virtues and a sense of achievement that every stakeholder will be proud of.

In such situations one is surrounded by distractions with shearing forces of enormous strength. Politicking, Ethnic division, Prejudiced reasoning, Procrastination, Disregard of Time and by far, the worst of them all, self-induced Communication blockades. In today's Organization information economy, the free flow of information is the only thing that ensures the success of any Organization. People who somehow block themselves out of the communication loop, either by not receiving or not sharing information create land-mines on the field of operation.

I have decided that the one tool that can help subvert all other ills is an increased way of communication. It helps to push people out of the mangers; those who hide their ignorance behind curtains acting like those who understand. The free flow of information accompanied by a commitment to excellence and the usage of time can save an organization from any and all ills (even the financial woes.) Added to this people have converted the workplace into a battlefield of wits. One cannot spend their entire intellect creating answers to the peripheral problems that are created for the purpose of subversion and politicking. Companies sometimes do not have enough money in their coffers to pay everyone, save senior management. At this point, they experience attrition; which usually starts with the more experienced and helpful resource they troubled until then leaving. Those who initiated it do feel happy and feign a sense of anger at such a course. They almost always know who's leaving because they've been trying to make that person feel uncomfortable in every way.

There is little doubt that it has been tried out one me too. I have stepped from Organization to Organization in the hopes of finding the more ideal or rational environment. I have only seen that the variables are somehow different, yet the net resultant is the Institution filled with all prerequisites for self destruction. At this point I have realized that jumping hither tither is of little help. I've decided to stand back and get the job done, no matter what it takes. By this I mean that anything or anyone standing in the shared and accepted vision of the success of the Company (more products sold, a better bottom line, more brand equity ...) will be faced with a Juggernaut. I would be the force that works to remove all inertia and get teams to achieve. In this, I shall be fiery and hell-bent, and that which blocks me shall regret it. Everyone I admire in history has found themselves a role, which they have played no matter what difficulties beset them. It seems that my time has come.

Journal Journal: Behavioral Inertia 2

From my last entry, I am starting a series of journal entries on my views of Organisational behaviour based on the observations at my workplace. Over the past month we have had repeated meetings on how we have to avoid ad hoc work methods and start doing things with better planning and predictability. This move was taken after having experienced a tumult of anomalies (inclined to the negative) that affected our work. After having taken assertive decisions (definitely from my side), we set on a course of systematic working. We shed our human skins as much as we could, to act as cogs in clockwork. It worked really well, while we were at it. Everything was more predictable (one does not snare chaos in ignorance) and went on fine.

Just yesterday, we had one more development milestone reached. Immediately, having been accompanied by a few more problems; the team we are interacting with returned to their human vagaries. It showed me a clear picture of how a small set of variables influencing a situation, either when it turns positive of overtly negative can set back a group to an old unorganised behavioral mode. They have gone back on assertions decided a month back on how uncertainty should be avoided as to the procurement of some software tools related to our work. They are just happy with what they have. I call this the ever-present scotoma of the human race.

I have a friend of mine, who used to keep telling me that, "People may change the way they appear to behave, but they can never change the way they actually behave." I have just seen that happen again . The only consolation I have is that, I also fall within a similar category of suffering from behavioral inertia. I act with fiery assertion (labeled by some as anger with veracity; dubbed a self-destructive trait.) I shall have to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself. The very statement that "history repeats itself", is based on human behavioral inertia that gravitates towards certain practices that are deep-rooted in our psyche. The only way for positive growth is to learn to unlearn . The lack of growth seen in many countries, tribes, groups and communities is a simple example of the lack of this ability. The lack of not being able to solve problems without violence (strictly an instinctive primate trait) is ever prevalent with mankind today.

So, my future with my present organisation is closely linked to my ability to change behaviour and add more predictability in actions and their outcomes. To do this, I need to be most assertive to avoid being trampled by the behavioral inertia that looms over like a shadow without no bounds. At least today, I believe this is possible; and shall work.

Journal Journal: The Management Sandwich

I have recently been involved in the production of a Consumer Electronics product. The development process has been fun. The fortunate part is that I've had to code, debug and learn through the whole development cycle. However, being the man in between the techies and the Middle managers is a bit worse than being a middle manager. This is like being squeezed in a sandwich.

All companies I have been with have an attitude to ignore what works. To put it quite simply, no human would take global warming seriously until the temperature all over the globe shot over 50 degrees Celsius. Until then, all that nature gives is taken for granted. Water is taken for granted unless you're in a desert. So when things work more of the time, they're taken for granted.

Things fail (Murphy). What results, however is ugly. Whenever things fail, companies, even with the best of managers like to do postmortems. They forget that postmortems are done on corpses not Corporates. The question I hate most is, "Why couldn't this have been done earlier?" after a team brainstorms and finds answers to something that has been perplexing. That's the same as a Doctor diagnosing a patient with atypical syndromes over a period of time and a contemporary Colleague saying, "bah! that was easy; I'd have done that in an hour."

There is no better explanation to why the attrition rate in the place I work is high than what I have just seen. Being a fiery player though, I take nothing sitting down. I like to show my mental state. People tell me that it is unwise and not nice to probably stick up to your boss (and give him/her a piece of your mind.) I have found that it works, like a miracle pill; people start waking up and doing what they are supposed to do. My job in the sandwich is to manage the team, manage the boss (and his boss, if needed) and get stuck sometimes doing that.

Dealing with the techies who don't like the management part is usually easier. They have their interests and love pursuing them. There are those who are sometimes braindead and need some Voltage to wake up, but most techies like being just that. By law, they will rise to the level of their incompetence, be in the sandwich one day; and thereafter rise beyond it. A mentor of mine calls this the inevitably rising tide that shows no difference to competence or the lack of it.

This entry is for the unsuspecting techie; who's taken the tide and got stuck in the sandwich. My message is, there's only one way out of the sandwich; and that's like playing "Doom." The only way out of Hell, is through. Never lie down and be the nice guy; it might work very well in professional relationships, but if you are anywhere near ambitious, you're in for depression. The one way to get the job done is to get the job done, no matter what stands in the way. This is the bulldozer approach; you would get noticed, sometimes scorned, but the job will be done and depression would probably not hit you. I see so many people working cringing, afraid of their bosses (better read Dilbert), talking behind their backs; achieving absolutely nothing. If you want to change the way your boss treats you, you've got to make the statement; you can always keep trying. Jumping from one job to the other is going to get you nowhere unless you change. The grass is always greener on the other side.

People tell me, I get angry too easily and that they "never" get angry. In the culture I hail from, not being able to be angry is not considered too healthy a trait. I do get angry when people get mistreated, or people act stupid. I start with a polite approach only to see that in 6 out of 10 cases it fails. The bulldozer approach has a 1 on 1 success rate. Something Happens, that's most likely to your liking and if well done, in the best interests of everyone. I don't mind techies and friends arguing with me, it is a nice way to pour out emotion and get rid of any negative feeling one has. Usually people are seldom angry with a specific person, they are angry with an action by someone or an idea from someone; debating those doesn't create enemies. I have found that it creates better relationships and understanding.

Journal Journal: The Truth about Nations - from a Civil Libertarian

I've just gotten interested in this after I saw a news item claiming a Chinese Official denied that China had anything to do with Internet censorship. I saw another news item stating that Iran had banned broadband internet access to ensure that their citizens were "protected" from the foul ideas flowing all through the world.

Every country, defined by its constitution grants some "Civil Liberties" to its citizens, which it protects economically, socially and politically with its strengths. This, of course is a give and take transaction, you lose something (taxes, etc.) to gain those Civil Liberties. However, one can infitely argue that most of the Civil Liberties of one individual can clearly be used to violate those of another individual and by that render the constitutional protection invalid.

Furthermore, another state (say Uncle Sam) can be feeding false information to citizens of another nation. Hence, even though the Liberty of right to information is available to a citizen of another nation (say Iran), they might be willing to remove it from their citizens in order to truly protect them and the belief systems.

"The Republic" has wide arguments as to why an ideal state cannot be constructed; while many of those who have read it believe it to be a model for a state. I consider Plato a cynical commentator; who never laid out plans. You might think otherwise, but remember Timmaeus and his two references to Atlantis and you would really think of a reason to agree that he is indeed a cynical commentator.

So laws, constitutional freedom and whatever is offered with the citizenship of a country appear to be a simple contract. Something, that's as good as one you make with your employer. Only, a great deal more complicated covering far more serious issues including conditions under which all your liberties will be revoked, so on and so forth.

I had once read a paper (intending to write a book) on futuristic scenarios researched by the US military. One of the scenarios was about a unified world where corporates ruled. The other was a pangea kind of idealistic scenario, while the last was a oligopolic, Tristate power and space sharing thing. I believe today's world is already an oligopoly requiring alignment to one side or the other. It's just a matter of the contract agreement, the give and take. There's one big difference, countries tend to be far more immoral than any corporate and can go to any level including destruction of all civil liberties (including the right to live.) If you're thinking I'm crazy why not try and find out how you can "buy" a citizenship in this rather small-sized city state.

There are enough companies and organisations who already have casteist, linguistic or ethnic requirements other than technical requirements that they normally post on a job notice. Citizenship seems no different. Nativity is not always a guarantee of citizenship unless there is a huge chance that you will be brought up in the same country within their belief systems.

Through the looking glass, things seem far more lucid than the fairy tale world that the media presents on my idiot box. We already live in a corporate world, where almost all rights are a give and take. There are no moral idealisms to dwell upon, only real contracts. Not all these contracts and rights are monetary, making some idealists dwell within their delusional schizo-matrices. After the creation of Rome there was no turning back.

It is better that we agree and understand that nations, patriotism, nativity are just catch-phrases in a world built on contracts (give-and-take.) We can stop talking about morality, flawed laws, corruption and look for the best CEOs to handle India Inc., Sri Lanka Inc., Thailand Inc., N.Korea Inc., so on and so forth. Everyone must understand that idealist patriotism and believing in a nations religious alignment, so on and so forth are mere facades screening the truth behind it. It's true, I finally see it, we are living in a world of mirages and illusions, the truth fortunately isn't bitter. We can make things better just by understanding where we are and what we are. It's the same steps you take within your organisation/company/school/university to try and make it a shade better that you can do with a nation, which merely is a much larger aggregation that might need a bit more abstraction to let the human mind "divide and rule" rather than be divided and misruled.

Journal Journal: The End of the BIG BANG

After close to 30 years of growth the "Software Product Industry" is slowly experiencing an inertial slowdown, having experienced at early times huge profits that made them Billion Dollar houses. To them, the Big Bang is finally over. It is now a slow and tough march to earn a living, and even the Big Blue has decided to be labelled a 'Service Company'. The Infotech industry hype, the Bubble; all of this has happened, come by and passed.

Most people have started looking for the next possible industry and a boom. Most analysts predict this could be the Energy industry as they are reaching a critical position. Microsoft has seen most of its early executives step out of their shoes, waiting for new faces. No Industrial segment, be it Automobile or Pharmaceutical or any other that has risen in recent times, has been able to survive what appears to be a fixed cycle of a blast and then heavy inertial breaking in the momentum of progress.

Partly, I believe that every Industry starts with a spark of an idea, one that is lateral, relativistically dissimilar to prior ideas that helped people in a certain way. Then everyone piles on top of that idea attempting to pour logistics, finances and processes* into the same idea, until the idea becomes a way of life and is no longer dissimilar from the way things are done. The original fact that the idea in itself was born out of being different from all its predecessors and in most cases absurd is lost; this being the inertial factor for any industry or area of operation.

I believe that the very minds that build what we call "software" today, have the capabilities to assist people in more ways than they are used to with a bit of a creative leap in thinking. A left brain - right brain bridge that lets dreams and reality mix up within the realms of imagination and reasoning. This seems to be high time, or else we will find ourselves lost (temporarily if not for ever) in ever darkening borders of infinitely empty space, which we'd term boredom and void. Blogs of many programmers reflect spikes of interest and boredom, but reveal an eerie adherence to a common environment. The dreaded stereotype has come to stay, and must be destroyed.

Journal Journal: Gujarat and the Violence

This is the second time under the same Chief Minister Mr.Modi that violence has erupted in Gujarat. From what the press/media presents it appears as if the muslims alone are being victimised.

The last time this happened, muslims were victimised, their women burnt to death after being massacred. Eye-witness accounts of many who were too scared to testify (for very few survived) at that time confirmed that the police too were involved. A man implicated in the pillaging, rape and burning of the islamic society in Gujarat has been given a high office in the state police department. Mr.Modi was then hailed as the Hitler of India/Gujarat as he stood by letting the burning happen. Human rights groups protested nationwide, no action was taken. Special videos and photographs that were evidence of this massacre were confiscated and disappeared from the scene to be never heard of again; Truth too as usual became a casualty. I was in Maharashtra when the first set happened late 2001, early 2002 when the issue was slowly bleeding borders, but finally was contained to that state. I wouldn't have liked to have been in Gujarat (whatever my religion be.)

The people somehow elected the same man who did nothing to stop the massacre and allegedly supported it. What is fact is that he did (or could do) nothing to stop it and he never took a moral stand nor tried to step down on account of such a gross violation of human rights. The only person who came out to try and present witness was scared out of the procedure and made to give contradictory affidavits dissolving the case. The other advantage of the "war on terror" is that it provides governments license to exclusive attack those who take up the Islamic religion. There was an encounter death of another person who was a likely witness to the tragedy when the person had actually escaped all the way to Mumbai. This is clearly a "How to create terrorist and rebellious attitudes in the name of religion?" book being written by this power-hungry politician (there are many of them of course.)

It has started all over again. Whoever is to blame, people, humans suffer for it. Politicians, irrespective of cast or creed sit back at home and watch television reports. "Vadodara" is the city now, what will be the place next? The centre (Indian Government) promises to intervene if the situation goes out of control.

I'd like to ask, when does the situation go out of control? When 10,000 are dead? when all of them have been raped, burnt and a genocide with no evidence is complete? Why can't someone act while the situation "can be controlled?" Today no one believes they are morally responsible if lives under their sleeve are put at risk, if life is abnormal and people suffer the worst indignation in the name of religion or of legislation (that selectively removes Islamic Durgas labelled as encroachments.) What happens if there's a terrorist uprising? Who takes control then? More armed forces sent as cannon fodder for the terrorists as politicians keep making mistakes and the brave die for their folly. History has a funny way of repeating itself, but I can't believe it does it at such short notice.

The Islamic community issues many a fatwah against authors, sports stars and quite a few unimportant people; providing them with good press coverage and publicity. But do they really care a damn about those whom they label are their own brethren. From their actions earlier, and this time, I think not. No one cares; people die sooner or later, and that's how they take it. Burnt or tortured to death, it makes no difference to stone cold hearts sitting and worrying about their bread and butter, some jihad for a cause unknown.

For the average Indian, it doesn't matter till it happens to you. At this rate it will happen to everyone unless it is stopped. Call this 'much ado about nothing' or a raising 'a storm in a teacup', but far simpler to control something smaller than a typhoon, where all you can do is run for cover and hope that you're safe.

I believe an imposition of president's rule in the state is required, the military have to take over. A serious leader from the centre must be sent to patch the situation, make amends and bring a truce and stop any sort of civil war. The guilty must be punished by special courts (otherwise somebody is going to start shooting down whoever they think is guilty.) I believe that acting sooner rather than later is always better. The CM must step down as a moral show of his inner strength, else he will always appear in the eyes of all people (and the media) as a monster who created the situation. Ethnic cleansing has failed and created lasting disorder in many locations in the globe. Decades haven't been able to heal the pain that the places went through. No Indian wants this happening in India, not in any form, not in any part. We don't want to take a billion steps back and descend into apes after trying our best to move forward.

The opposition party to the centre which is also the ruling party in the state (having chosen the same man as Chief Minister again), is stirring trouble in the centre. This is after a senior leader in their party has been allegedly (not yet proven in court) murdered by his own brother. Shouldn't this opposition party go and show a mark of respect to the recurrent problem in Gujarat and pull a party whip to help and stop it instead of questioning the Government at the Centre? The superstitious are definitely thinking, what curse has befallen this land all over again. Democracy is the only form of government where people seem to get the worst that they deserve, perhaps there are worse governments, but democracy only ranks among them and stinks.

Journal Journal: The Press and Media Fuzz

The Indian news media has taken a slow march from bad to worse; (it is the speed I am unsure of.) Press myopia combined with severe tunnel vision is a known phenomenon. However, in the past few weeks it seems to have dilated this stain. Television News media has completely lost any sense of meaning of Live images. It is frequently used on any recorded videos without alerting the viewer; except for the simple note that when the same set of images loop repeatedly through, one knows they are no longer "current" or "live". The media conveniently focuses on a select set of issues claiming to have each done their own journalist work; yet I cannot understand how all New TV channels report the same news. They simply provide no credit to the PTI (Press Trust of India) which is a common source for news.

Recently there was the case of Attempted Murder[?] BJP leader Pramod Mahajan in which too little information was available except that his brother had indeed shot him and he was in a critical condition in the hospital. The rest of the details including the news of the number of bullets, the place of firing, the manner of injuries inflicted and their severity was unknown to the press. No press member had been allowed to reach the premises. The press was reporting gossip, so much so they could not cite the sources of the information they had received. Yet, they were trying to prove their credibility on this worthless information by not stating that these were not dependable reports. The newsprint media (owing to the nature of printed material and laws related to printed material in the nation) take a little more care, and within the next day try to cite sources and in the absence declare it "unconfirmed" which at least provides the reader with some level of information.

Add to this the requesting of SMS votes on irrelevant issues like "Sibling Rivalry" relating it to two major stories touted by the Press - The Ambani divide and presently the attempted murder of Mr. Pramod Mahajan. I say that this is unfair commercial use of the right to voice opinion; the right of expression that a democracy offers. The simple irrelevance of the above events to the issue is the fact that the people concerned are probably amongst the wealthiest in the nation; The events having more to do with political manipulation and possible vendetta (speculating).

I am bound to ask which of this - "Press Censorship" or "Freedom of the Press" is the lesser evil. Right now, by the looks of it, this is a choice between Scylla and Charybdis. I'd rather live with the former and allow Government agencies and concerned spokespersons to provide what would be more diplomatic and far more credible reports of news. Of course we have the freedom to view the Movie channel which at least confesses that all that is shown is indeed fiction or switch off Television sets and avoid news media completely. The nation seems to have all sorts of strikes creating Denial of Service at different levels, polls going on in different states and yet the issues that come to the forefront are those that happen exclusively in front of the Newspaper or News-Television offices or reach their ears without the aid of any intensive journalism. These do appear in small insets on Newsprint many of the time, that they are oft missed by the readers, although their importance is of more concern. Perhaps the less credible blogs are slowly about to win more credibility owing to the folly by the actual press and public information sources.

Journal Journal: Polity, Literati, TV and the Folly

Recently there's been a huge row in the Indian media triggered by a parliamentary law passed recently. This law reserves almost 49.5% of seats in the premier educational institutions in India (IITs,IIMs primarily.) Many students have been confused as these institutions have been inducting candidates only on merit and providing them the necessary education to be competitive and of high demand in the corporate and technology arena worldwide.

This recent law would permit more substandard candidates to be inducted, and leave out more deserved candidates in the view of the public. Originally the quota allows for 22.5% seats reserved for those from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). This has already been in effect for several years. The new law adds 27% reservation for a group labelled "Other Backward Castes" (OBC) who hail from the Middle-Class (Lower Income Group primarily, some from the Higher Income Group.) That results in about 49.5% of seats being reserved. The premier institutions within the global economy face stiff competition from private institutions with scaled-up infrastructure. A recent example is ISB who claim to have bettered the IIMs in quality and becoming the most sought after Business institute in the country. They were in the news for having one of their students secure the record highest entry-level salary originally held by an IIM. Companies even within India or abroad recruiting premier candidates do look for IIM graduates as they are considered to be cream. However with such a law people feel that they will start having to look elsewhere for good candidates.

The undercurrent however is that the Law has not been effected. So it's a big if. IIMs in recent time have been undergoing reform. Recently N.R.Narayanamurthy of Infosys fame who chairs the IIM-A committee has worked hard to hike up the fees from 150,000 INR p.a. to 175,000 INR p.a. There was a huge row about that too, although the strong answer from the Chairman was that this increase was necessary to improve faculty as stiff competition was on the rise. This increase is in effect. IITs face a dearth of growth in facilities. Many of the research programmes inside IIT campuses are sponsored by Alumni who are NRI entrepreneurs today.

What the Government has done, is a cheap manouver during election time to pull a law from dusty shelves passed long ago and not effected ever in an attempt to win volume votes from the "bottom of the pyramid." News channels airing this controversial move have not properly connected the political stratagem employed as an election ploy and delivered it to the people. The news media primarily the Television news channels, hoping to attract more viewership air only part of the news and opinions ignoring the more relevant issues that allay fears. This is a mixture of rotten politics and media stunts. It is an irony that candidates (the cream) applying to institutions now cannot see this. From what I see, this is a "STORM IN A TEACUP." The real storm is the degradation of primary and basic education that no one seems bothered about.

Journal Journal: H1N5

The dreaded Avian Flu, much talked about is in some ways hyped up by the media. It is true that the scientific community powered by improvements in biotechnology has been able to anticipate a pandemic and warn us before it happened. Now that the worst hasn't happened, I see people complaining that businesses are failing. I am not sure what they intend to see happening. Are they waiting for thousands to die before they declare that Avian Flu is indeed there? Human perception of a threat is often postpartum.

Living in India, I see no strong measures being taken to protect the birds from the strain. There are of course poultry farms that fill an important food requirement and I continue to eat eggs and chicken hoping that frying eggs and chicken potentially can destroy the viral spores. Further, since the flu is a respiratory disorder the easier way for it to spread is probably through the people who actually deal with poultry who are in direct contact with live rather than dead birds. Bird Sanctuaries have had no reports yet, but migration periods are yet to begin and that is when a widespread threat could raise alarms. Earlier last year, a swarm of cranes flying in the northern part of the state of Tamilnadu in India reportedly fell dead. At that time such a threat was not perceived and the reason for their death was not pronounced nor investigated.

Whatever the result, the threat posed by this viral strain to several forms of life (not just human, but almost all birds and mammals alike) goes on to point out how connected we still are in the foodchain and ecosystem we live in though we pay lesser and lesser attention to notice it.

Journal Journal: Job Recruitment Firms and Future Recruitment Trends

The recent trend with Job recruitment firms at least in India is quite disturbing. They catch resumés on the internet and just bombard their clientele with them. Whenever someone makes a hire from such a lot, they take a brokerage. A model suitable for companies that can't afford HR firms. But I find that small companies require people with a special niche most of the time and someone who understand the environment with the risks. So they rarely benefit from these firms. That leaves the medium sized ones which can optionally afford their HR departments to throw up an ad and spend time in a long winded process.

The Monster and Naukri do claim to provide a certain quality of service but there are no strong definitions here because the requirement is to specify the quality or skillset of an individual. Hence quality of the provided contact is almost always measured in "experience years" rather than in true capability or skillset. I know many firms for whom such a method didn't work. More so, there are even smaller firms that cater to both medium and large sized companies following the same model. The only catch is they may be a shade cheaper and may pull out more CVs in lesser time than a HR department. Ultimately the whole process ends up on the head of the team recruiting and he has to meticulously judge each recruit. Leaving the entire process to HR as far as the IT industry is concerned is still not a smart option.

I believe that firms like Orkut or Hi5 who establish networks will soon get into the business of providing job listings and contacts. A social networking technique is bound to work with a little more success than one that is purely based on published CVs or such information. The possibility is there, and I believe this will be a stronger method than going to a firm with millions of resumés in different sectors. That serves not the purpose and consumes precious time, both of which are usually too difficult to spare under recruitment pressure.

The other issue that is most disturbing is inaccurate listings. Either ask for people who know everything in the world or ask for people with illogical experience times (12 years experience in .Net would be an example - and I ain't kidding.) Worse still non-tech jobs asking for people to know XML, Java, 5 years experience in using Office 2000 which sounds ridiculous. Such listings are also very common. So the issue goes both ways, the job seeker has to wade through nonsense, the recruiter has to wade through nonsense. I see a huge opportunity for someone to come up with a smart idea to help both the job-seeker and the people-seeker. The approach of using people networks would however require one to perceive people as asset/resources rather than salaried liabilities on a financial perspective. This would ultimately be the path to grow in a "Knowledge Economy", a transition step from older approaches that still continue from the "Industrial Economy".

Journal Journal: The $100 Laptop 1

With another hype for Negroponte's Dream $100 Laptop and his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative I see this pipe dream go on and on. The corporate world works on an economic equation. Among Food, Clothing and Shelter - the minimal human necessities to be provided with sanitation and humane living conditions - The UN has had far fetched ideas on providing this to all humanity. But they simply don't seem to be going anywhere inspite of the fact that these are but the basic necessities (not luxuries). Literacy campains have been hard to work out in many parts of the world. Now Negroponte I assume wants to make the Literati become the Digerati with this device. This bridging of the digital divide is more of an issue of user interface, support and continual services (more so like the phone/PDA industry) than just "affordability". Affordable mobile phones in India work because each segment of the population is able to help out the other segment (economically separated) in using different classes of phones (from the $1000 PDA handphone to the $50 utility handphone.) Still, they share common services and the economy thus is able to support the different tiers comfortably.

Massive Food manufacturing technology which could help undernourished and malnourished children in unfortunate environments is still lacking. This again is worsened by the lack of a safe distribution system in politically volatile areas. With so much of the basics still left to tackle, I do not see the "PC" or "Computing" as a knowledge/education tool entering the picture. We are talking about places where per capita income is averaging about $1000 a year. If these machines are even economically feasible to manufacture and distribute (this is no joke) how is the average (possibly illiterate child) going to benefit. Wherever education has been given importance, the economically viable cost vs. features of the computing devices has adapted to markets and become more availabe. Commoditisation (which happened to Phones and Televisions) is a gradual economic process which cannot be accelerated. Earlier every family had one phone, now each member of the family has one phone due to extreme commoditisation and the process has been gradual. I can say the same about Television sets too. Even if you actually introduce a product at $100 simply because the market would not be there to receive it. The market's needs would be different. MIT's techies may be the best in the world, but Maslow's need hierarchy is still valid in most circumstances and circumventing it is of no great economic or political consequence. As I remember Negroponte has had this dream long ago and has always blamed any failure (if on starting or on continuance) on the right time and opportunity.

I still feel that this is a plan going nowhere as the deployment and utility (even if the economy were to absorb this with a necessity) would pose significant problems. Further still, I know that Redhat pulled out of the "Desktop" business because it wasn't as profitable for itself as its own "Enterprise" business. They also did a cut down on embedded activity to give a full push to their bread-winner, a proper corporate move indeed that kept their balance sheets growing. Now, I see them suddenly step up and offer all support to the $100 Laptop cause which is contradictory to their corporate image. IMO, Redhat need do no more lipservice to linux, their staff have done true service already and continue to contribute. There's no point in posting a press release saying we'll provide the linux support - because the press release reads MIT's tech team has had over 20 years experience in computing. Now, Are we supposed to assume that this team can't just take a neat Debian or Ubuntu and offer it. Under the same argument I could ask why not go to Dell or Lenovo and ask them to help for this humane cause? MIT too is seeking publicity here. (duh!) How could Redhat which partly stepped out of Desktops because it couldn't work out the usability equation on its distributions suddenly come and provide an "education"*usable $100 laptop? To be a successful corporate doesn't mean imitating every corporate in the block by making flashy press releases. This is really negative if it doesn't work (and the odds aren't really good here.) I simply read that Redhat is vacillating looking at Ubuntu after a prior decision to address enterprise customers in a big way.

The last news item I would want to be laughing on news is "100 Somali children have been presented with $100 Laptops courtesy of MIT and Redhat technical teams." Sometimes everyone needs to state their goals and priorities right, and I don't think that's what this is about. In India, HCL came up with an almost $160 PC that wasn't a radical success as the population already had set its mind that INR 16-20K (roughly close to $500) was where they could afford a truly usable PC. They didn't want a mock-up PC that would crawl and slow them down even if it were affordable. They could still go to cafes and rent PC usage time for less. Practicability is sometimes lacking in University campuses as they cease to look at the real world.

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"Most of us, when all is said and done, like what we like and make up reasons for it afterwards." -- Soren F. Petersen