October 28, 2009

Process inhibits Innovation

I happened to be part of the debate organized by the CII, as part of Knowledge Management Summit. I was quite surprised (appalled, perhaps:-)) that most people confused Innovation with Adaptation, Optimization, Higher Efficiency etc.. And I am glad one of the speakers pointed out the folly and corrected the misconception. He was obviously arguing for the motion that Process inhibits Innovation.
Innovation, once done, can then be processed and optimized and customized etc.. But talking of innovating via process is crazy and impossible actually! Mr. Dave Snowden brought out the point quite elegantly by asking us to wonder how come Start-ups didn't have a Process Department:-), and he also illustrated with the example of 3M. When they had 15% of their time for innovation, they had new products, but with change in management and removal of 15%, innovation died.
Typically, small organizations encourage innovation and as they grow bigger and large, processes take over and innovation suffers. We have seen it so often in so many organizations. What is the guiding principle to continue to innovate, while growing, is a challenge for any management.
Needless to say, Mr. Snowden won the debate, hands down:-)

October 26, 2009

Fall of Communism?

I have never been able to relate to the leftist' ideology and I always found it highly impractical and far too idealistic in this non ideal world that we live in (I often use the analogy of absence of ideal gas behavior in reality). I was always amazed that there were some people who believed in it and attempted at implementing them. Needless, to say, they have failed repeatedly, in every country such attempts were made - because man, by nature is unique and artificially clubbing them and homogenising them is a crazy adventure!

But I believe the best line that describes why communism failed is a letter written by somebody when the Berlin Wall was broken, to a newspaper editor. I read it in the Swaminomics column, yesterday in TOI. He has, in his inimitable style, chronicled the fall of Communism in World.

The letter captures the reason why so many people chose to leave 'the comfortable, full social welfare, and full employment, of East Germany and instead join the inequal, perilous world in West Germany' and I quote, "My daughter’s hamster (a pet white mouse) has food, water, shelter and even medical care, and a cage full of fun curly tubes. The hamster responds by constantly trying to chew his way to freedom. I think we all understand what freedom is, and it is not a gilded cage."

This is truly the Last word on Failure of Communism in the World

October 23, 2009

India's biggest internal problem today

There is so much going on in some states like Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and some parts of AP & Maharashtra, we hear in newspapers everyday, for the past year or so. The past two months have seen heightened activity and the news is alarming, to put it mildly. Yes, I am referring to Maoists' movement in these states.

What do they want? Who are they? Why are they resorting to such tactics? We all know the group started as a peasant movement in WB in a village called Naxalbari in the late 1960s, therefore the term maoists and naxalites are used interchangeably, I guess. But this movement has evolved with time and the groups are fragmented but loosely associated across many states and estimated to cover almost 50% of India's geographic area. Enough to get our Home Minsiter worried.

From what we are seeing, the locals seems to be on their side. This is a very interesting picture. If the locals are with them, either out of fear or because they are benefitting from the cause. If its the former, the support does not last and increasingly, the profile of these leaders suggest that they enjoy enormous local support.

To be frank, I have not been following their movement in media these past few years, but offlate, I am attempting to read up and learn about this movement. When Kobad Gandhi was arrested last month, there was a little story about his life and family which I read with great interest. And recently there have been quotes from two of their popular leaders - Maoist leader Kishneji told the BBC: "We will show the government what is people's power. No police or army can crush that." Another leader said, ""During a revolution, one does not see how many people or who are killed. Only when the goal is finally achieved, will this bloodshed be over," says Ravi Sharma, an agricultural scientist turned Maoist! And, what is that goal? "Our aim is to establish socialism in India to end the inequality between the rich and the poor."

Tall order, that. If you notice, it was interesting to hear our Home Minsiter drawing a parallel to a politician's role in society and a Maoists'. Both want equity, help the marginalized and want peace in every district of the country. But both are fighting each other!!! How ironical the situation is!

October 17, 2009

There is Hope for the Congress!

Those of you who have been reading my blog may inadvertently think that I am anti-establishment or may call me 'Angry young woman' a.k.a. 'angry young man' (Amitabh in movies), are in for a pleasant surprise... This post will debunk that reputation, if it exists in any of your minds:-).

I would like to bring your attention to the positive, grass root level connect, that Rahul Gandhi is doing. He is touring problem areas, all states and interacting with 'aam aadmi'. This, in my opinion is a fantastic way to understand real problems and concerns of Indians and also helps in developing an image and building a profile of a mass leader. To be fair, I would give him lot of credit for the work he is attempting to achieve. He comes out as a genuine person, only in a wrong party:-). If he is able to effect a change in his party, it will do India a lot of good. That, however remains to be seen.

Those of us who are not much into headline reading, he has been responsible for the good showing of the Congress in UP in the last election. Judging by the manner in which he is criss-crossing the country, talking to partymen, infusing his party with new blood and youth and also speaking to people in the street, he is sure on the right track. He didn't choose to don the mantle of his family legacy as was expected by many within, and without, the party. He is instead, really working and learning his way up the party and taking his time too! Besides, he seems to be doing things with a lot of strategy and planning, normally lacking among politicians.

Kudos to Rahul Gandhi!

He who plays the Piper calls the tune

I was so outraged with our Minister for Corporate Affairs last week asking CEOs to take salary cut and refrain from vulgar salaries!! Now, I have a problem with this call. Firstly, how can he interfere in this domain of internal company affairs? Secondly, who decides what is vulgar display of wealth and what is decent?

I wanted to shoot off a post immediately but got delayed:-). Today, the Times of India has carried an excellent column by Gurucharan Das and you all must read his article. He has articulated my sentiments so completely, and I could not not have put it down so beautifully.

Its a very disturbing trend I am noticing with this UPA government; during their previous stint, Manmohan Singh called for reservations in the Private Sector and that got canned for obvious reasons. Today, his colleague wants a cap on CEO salaries. There is surely a limit to which politicians can go with vote-bank politics!

How can we ever hope to come out of poverty and uplift or empower the poor, if we continue with such regressive, short sighted visions of politicians? How can industry and entrepreneurial spirit of Indians ever prosper and flourish in this warped and stifling environment?

October 15, 2009

China - as a neighbour

There are so many articles about the growth and development seen in China and the every analyst, columnist is always talking about China's growing stature in World Economy. A lesser dealt aspect is about China - as a neighbour. And India has excellent relations with our neighbours, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & China.

However, most of our attention is mostly towards Pakistan. I would say, we need to step back, look right and watch China more closely. A day may not be far when we will have more serious problems from China than any other neighbour. Why we may have a full blown war with them as against a guerrila-like war with the Pakis we are waging since the time I was born.

Last month, China was protesting Dalai Lama's proposed visit to Arunachal Pradesh! Our External affairs Minister defended saying the Lama was free to move anywhere in India. Today, they have the audacity to protest Indian PM's visit to Arunachal Pradesh. What beats me is the reply our Finance Minsiter is giving. Why should we have to explain to China, Indian PM's movements within India?? By replying, we are undermining ourselves, in my opinion.

As recent as August 2009, China successfully blocked a ADB loan meant for development in Arunachal Pradesh. China pressurised US Prez Barack Obama not to give audience to Dalai Lama when he visted US last week. China seems to be having its way with influencing International Policy. There is a lot of hearsay that even the Nobel Norwegian Committee was pressurized to not award the Nobel Peace prize to a dissident Chinese leader, Hu Jia, this year.

In my opinion, we have to be smarter than those times of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and develop our capabilities to fight Chinese. We are currently grossly underprepared to fight any country, forget Pakistan or China.

October 13, 2009

R K Laxman

I grew up reading the Times of India and unlike many who read headlines or some who read the Sports page first, I would read the 'You said It' cartoon first. He is simply too good and his cartoon is as good as the reading the headlines.

Some months ago, I bought a Collectors' book of his cartoons. And as I was reading it, I suddenly realised, it was like tracing India's recent history - through these cartoons, from the time of our independence to present day scenario. Simply brilliant this man is.

I highly recommend it for all with a good sense of humor. I happened to have a few saved on my PC which I am uploading here. Enjoy!

October 12, 2009

Nobel /Noble Peace Prize?

Oh yes, the dust is settling on the outrage and shock recipient of this year's Nobel Peace Prize. I wanted to blog that Friday itself but I was numbed by the decision of the Committee that I couldn't write:-). Ah yes! you got it, I think this year's decision is one of the most outrageous of all Nobel Peace Prizes. Now, having said this, I must tell you all that I was a strong and still am an ardent supporter of Mr. Barack Obama for Presidency. But Nobel Peace Prize is a different ball game.

My understanding is that it is given to a person or an organization that has brought about lasting resolution to conflicts in the world / region or atleast shows a potential to bring lasting peace to the region. Now, pray how does Barack Obama figure in these Qualifications. Yes, he made an impassioned speech and called for wiping out nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth! Wow!

Sounds great! And USA possesses the maximum nuclear weapons. They have always demonstrated double standards by having one rule for them and another for the rest of the world. They ask developing nations to bring down carbon emissions but will not sign the Kyoto protocol themselves. They will dictate terms at WTO talks and play Big brother. They will arm twist United Nations and dictate World policy. In my opinion, just by these acts, any USA politician gets automatically disqualified to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I am not a coloured comrade doing anti US bashing. I definitely admire a lot of things about USA and I also think very highly of the current President. I do think its amazing for a person to have overcome racial discrimination and risen to the highest office in that country. No denying that. But he has not done anything to bring Peace to any region, apart from a speech he made which at best can be dismissed as a gimmick.

The Nobel Committee member is supposed to have said and I quote, "The question we have to ask is who has done the most in the previous year to enhance peace in the world. And who has done more than Barack Obama?" Well, my answer is if there is none worthy, then we need not award the prize that year to anybody than by awarding it to a person less deserving and bringing down the credibility of the Award itself.

If I were Barack Obama, I would say, "I am extremely humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee but I would like to say that I have not done anything tangible to deserve this award, yet". Alas, I ain't Barack Obama and that is the bottomline.

October 11, 2009

A Century and Not out!

Guys, I just hit a hundred:-). I can't believe I have actually done 100 posts!! Appears to be quite a feat. And like most batsmen, I was looking at the score once I hit the nineties and was in a tearing hurry to race to 100. I just hope I don't get out like most batsman do:-)

Looking at the labels, I seem to lean on current affairs and philosophy, mostly. Science comes a close third:-). On the whole, my experience has been very satisfying, being able to put down my thoughts, in words. And its my friends and family who egged me on, by leaving comments and encouraging me to write.

At 100, if I am asked say one sentence, I would say, its very nice to blog and an excellent way to give vent to your views and opinions about anything and everything under the Sun. So, all of you out there, just start blogging if you haven't started yet.

I would really like your comments on the posts and the blog

Adi Shankara - Part 2

Adi Shankara was a great unifier of Hinduism and so he went in search of Mandana Mishra in Varanasi. When Shankara knocked on the door, nobody opened, as Mandana Mishra was performing Shrartham, a ceremony propitiating his ancestors. It was considered highly inauspicious for Saints or for that matter anybody to enter the home during the ceremony, more so if it was a Saint. Adi Shankara is supposed to have jumped from the roof of the house straight into the havan where the rituals were being conducted. This dramatic entry was chosen by Adi Shankara primarily to debunk the superstitious and ritual-bound Mimamsa practitioners.

The story goes that for days the two scholars debated and Mandana Mishra's wife Sarasawani, a scholar in her own right was appointed as the judge. Apparently, after days and weeks of scholarly debate, Sarasawani is supposed to have expressed her inability to decide a victor as both were equal and articulately justifying their school of thought. At last, she decided to put a garland of flowers around each of them and proclaimed that the one whose garland withers first, is the loser. Apparently, Mandana Mishra's garland withered first and he accepted defeat! How gracious people were in those days:-)

During the debate, Mandana Mishra is supposed to have challenged Adi Shankara that he is not eligible to debate as he was a Brahmacharya and therefore has not experienced life, fully. So, Shankara excused himself and left his body for a day and entered the body of a King and experienced the life of a King and returned back to continue their debate. Science was truly advanced in those ages:-)

Adi Shankara traveled the length and breath of the country and won over different schools of thought and unified worshipers like Kapalis to Mimamsis under one umbrella and codified Sanathana Dharma.

Adi Shankara - Part 1

Looks like I have got into a mood of story telling:-). This is another awesome story of a great Vedas exponent called Kumarila Bhattar who lived in Allahabad. He was a great Hindu philosopher, of  the Mimamsa school of thought. He was greatly disturbed by the progress Buddhism was having in India and the story goes that he joined one of the Buddhist ashrams as a Bhikshu in disguise. He went there to learn about their philosophy in order to refute them and propagate Sanathana Dharma. Apparently, he was found out to be a betrayor and he was to be thrown from the top of a hill, for deceit. Apparently, as he was falling down, he is supposed to have said, "If the Vedas are true, no harm will come to me". Kumarila Bhattar landed safely but he lost his vision on one eye. He was shocked and he exclaimed, how could this happen, how did the Vedas not save me? A celestial voice was heard saying that you used the word, 'if', which meant you had a little doubt, instead if you had said, "The Vedas are true and so no harm will come to me", you would have escaped injury.

Kumarila Bhattar was satisfied with this verdict and he went on to preach and spread Sanathana Dharma across the land. He was a complete believer in the Vedas and the Mimamsa theory which was to follow the rules and shastras, as prescribed in the Vedas. He actually didn't think there was God! As years rolled by, he was overcome with guilt about the betrayal he had committed by going in disguise as a Bhikshu. So, he decided to inflict punishment for this act of his. The shastras said for betrayal, he would have to roast his body in burning coal, unto death.

Apparently, Adi Shankara was passing by and saw Kumarila Bhattar in this state. He argued and debated with him on honoring the body, not torturing it, and that there are Rules and there was a God. Rules are not everything, the last word on any subject and that God was the ultimate truth. He is believed to have explained that extremism of any kind, be it in Buddhism or the Mimamsa was not the right approach and the moderate middle path was the way. Apparently, Kumarila Bhattar was convinced by the intellectual debate and he is supposed to have told Adi Shankara that his Guru, a greater Mimamsa exponent had also to be won over through debate. His name was Mandana Mishra in Varanasi.

Watch this space for his story:-), equally interesting and profound.

October 8, 2009

Devotion unparalleled

This is a very old story but one of my favourites. Its the story of an once obscure poet Poonthanam Namboodiri who later attained the unenviable status as one of the most favoured devotee of Lord Guruvayurappan. The story goes that Poonthanam wrote a poem in Malayalam in the Lord's glory and wanted the famous Narayana Bhattatiri to read it and offer comments and suggestions. Apparently, Bhattatiri who was the famous sanskrit scholar at that time, the one who wrote the Narayaneeyam, sneered at Poonthanam and said he would not read anything in as lowly a language as Malayalam.

The story goes that, that evening, when Bhattatiri was preparing to recite the Narayaneeyam, a small boy came home to join him. And after reciting the first verse, the small boy pointed out a mistake. Bhattatiri accepted it and moved over to the second verse. The small boy pointed out to two mistakes and three mistakes in the third verse and so on... Soon, Bhattatiri realised that this boy was the Lord Himself and prostrated before HIM. The boy then tells Bhattatiri that the Lord knows no difference between languages and what was more important to HIM was the Devotion.

Bhattatiri is supposed to have then called Poonthanam immediately and heard the poem which was flawless. It is said that this was the Lord's way of kindling humility in Bhattatiri.
This is the poem -

kaNDu kaNDen irikken janangaLE kaNDinennu varuttunadumbhavAn

reNDu nAlum dinam konDuruttanE tanDiletti naDatunnadumbhavAn
mAniDamuvEyil EriyEDa tOLil marappu kETTunnadumbhavAn
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE

eNNi eNNi kuraiyum idAyittum maNDi maNDi karErunna mOhavum
itta OrOru cindittirukkavE cattu kOvunnu shivs shivs 
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE 

kUDiyella pirakkum nerattum kUriyella marikkunna nErattum 
madhyE ingaNe kAnunna nErattum mattarikkunna dendinnunAmruta 
krSNa krSNA mukundA janArdhanA krSNa gOvinda nArAyaNa harE 

October 7, 2009

The Phantom of the Opera

Now, we all know that its the longest and most successful of all Broadway shows of all times!!! In 2004, this was made into a movie which I managed to see on DVD very recently... I must say I enjoyed it... there's not much of a great story.. but it nevertheless manages to be gripping, wonder how!! The music is indeed outstanding. Its amazing, with a low budget, unknown actors, the movie is still able to hold the audience... it must be due to the music and gripping story. I recommend all fans of musicals to watch this movie, if you can't see the Broadway show.
I hear a sequel to this is scheduled for release in 2010 and wonder if it will be as interesting to watch.

Norman Borlaug - a Scientist and a Humanist

Recently, I woke up to the news that Prof. Norman Borlaug - the man who saved Indians from starvation had passed away. It is only fitting that as many Indians today know the implications and magnitude of the contribution of Dr. Borlaug. Prof. M.S.Swaminathan recently gave an interview recalling the days of the 'making of the green revolution' in Rediff and I encourage all readers to read this interview

It really pains me when I hear people criticizing the green revolution and blaming it for extensive, consequent use of fertilizers and pesticides in growing these hybrids. Its is so easy to sit back and criticize. Very few realise that we had no food to eat and our then PM, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri called upon the citizens to have only one meal a day!! Such was the dire situation we were in, that, USA had classified us under the 'triage' principle, as a country, that cannot be saved with supply of foodgrains. To those who don't know, we lived a ship-to-mouth existence - when the ship arrived, we had foodgrains, else no food!

It was under such dire straits that the Green Revolution happened in India and our production multiplied dramatically, manifold, and therefore termed as a Revolution.

I would like all right thinking Indians to please read and educate ourselves before we get swayed by activists who only know to propagate 'don't do ecology'... If you notice, they never give solutions, they only criticize and are always against something.

Jai Ho! to Norman Borlaug, Prof Swaminathan and such people who have striven against great odds to help the farmers

Solution to global economic crises?

There was an interesting forward some weeks back that makes sense to share with everybody...

It was August. In a small town on the South Coast of France, holiday season is in full swing, but it is raining so there is not too much business happening. Everyone is heavily in debt. Luckily, a rich Russian tourist arrives in the foyer of the small local hotel. He asks for a room and puts a Euro100 note on the reception counter, takes a key and goes to inspect the room located up the stairs on the third floor. The hotel owner takes the banknote in hurry and rushes to his meat supplier to whom he owes E100. The butcher takes the money and races to his wholesale supplier to pay his debt. The wholesaler rushes to the farmer to pay E100 for pigs he purchased some time ago. The farmer goes quickly to the hotel, as he owed E100 the hotel for using hotel room for some family function in past. At that moment, the rich Russian is coming down to reception and informs the hotel owner that the proposed room is unsatisfactory and takes his E100 back and departs.

There was no profit or income. But everyone no longer has any debt and the small town people look optimistically towards their future. COULD THIS BE THE SOLUTION TO THE Global Financial Crisis?

Surely not... So what is the catch?? There was an intelligent reply to this mail which makes interesting read

Very interesting story – macroeconomists call this story the “Keynesian theory” – the hypothesis that additional money supply will stimulate an economy to come out of recession.

Unfortunately the Russian tourist has gone back. So there will be no one to eat the meat that the hotel owner has bought from the butcher. So he will not buy any more meat from the butcher. So the butcher is not going to buy any more pigs from the wholesaler. And therefore the wholesaler will not buy any more pigs from the farmer. Which means the farmer is not likely to use the hotel rooms for any more family functions. So the gloom continues.

Moral of the story – money supply alone will not help the economy to come out of recession. There has to be a genuine upswing in underlying consumer demand.
Do we see a deja vu here?? US is currently pumping in money and flooding the market... so, perhaps it appears as though things are looking up but actually, the gloom continues:( ?? Any comments?

October 5, 2009

Mayan Calendar & Solar flares

From the hits on my blog, I noticed that readers are fascinated by the Mayan Calendar and what holds for us in 2012... So, keeping readers in mind, and also my interests, I write this second post that continues where my original post ends.

More Likely scenarios:
What makes 2012 significant is that it coincides with the alignment of the center of the Milky Way galaxy, our sun, earth, and the large planets. If it was not for this fact, 2012 can be dismissed as just another Y2K hoax. But the astronomy makes it believeable. People say that this cosmic phenomenon could cause such a huge tsunami that could cause the sun to scorch the earth and kill all life forms and take away our protective magentic field unless we have the Divine intervening for us. Scary stuff??

Is it a coincidence that the next peak in the solar cycle is in 2012? The Sun operates on a 11-year cycle, alternating between active and quiet periods. We are currently in a quiet period, with few sunspots on the sun's surface and fewer solar flares, though the next cycle of activity has just barely begun. It is expected to peak around 2012, bringing lots of sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). CMEs can interact with the Earth's magnetosphere, causing problems for satellites, communications, and power grids!! The next solar peak is expected to be more severe than the previous one in 2001 because when the solar magentic poles shift in 2012, we will see aligned and then anti-aligned fields with the earth's poles, amplifying the effects of the storms as they hit.

So, we can expect lots of action and thrill in 2012!! All amusement parks can shut down. Living on this planet will feel like we are on a roller coaster ride:-)

October 2, 2009

Crocodile Bank

A lot of Conservation efforts have been initiated by the Govt. of India, targeting ecosystems, species, flora and / or fauna etc.. but rarely have our efforts been very fruitful. But one such is the Crocodile Conservation effort that has paid off handsomely and we have been more than successful in breeding crocodiles in captivity. This was a challenge and I must say that the Crocodile Bank in Chennai under the able guidance of Dr. Romulus Whitaker has done an amazing job with different kinds of crocs. So successful have the breeding been with these crocs, that they are over populated and many have been gifted elsewhere and shifted. I recently went to the Croc Bank as a tourist and saw many croc pits full of them... lazying in the Sun and some cooling off in the waters. See some of them here

I was a bit disappointed to see very few snakes... Being such a great herpetologist (Dr. Whitaker), I was hoping to see lots of snakes too:). I guess I must go to the Snake Park for that:)