Friday, August 12, 2005

The Chinese Administrative Dragon


I just got back from a trip to Shanghai - China's business hub. My first impression - shock. The next one - awe.

Many persons have cited that the scale of development that has happened in China is unbelievable - it can only be seen. And thats absolutely true.

There are skyscrapers everywhere - 6 tier flyovers - efficient city administration etc. For example: the ride from the airport to the city took us around 1.5 hours and its around 60 KM - there were literally no red lights - the drive was absolutely smooth - and it was an 8 lane superhighway.

A typhoon hit Shanghai while I was there - the met department issued a warning 2 days in advance that this is going to hit and geared up the city administration. Literally the system works like a well oiled machine - even though there were torrential rains and high speed winds - everything was normal. Even though streets were flooded during the rains - by the morning it was completely clear - and without any resultant potholes. Although trees were uprooted, they were cleared within hours.

Now compare this to the Indian reality - torrential rains in Mumbai - resultant flood. No city administration to speak of - dead carcuses lying around - shit all over the place. Delhi is worse - one rain (not even heavy) puts the entire system into a mess - not to mention potholes and endless traffic jams.

If it weren't for the dominance of English as a business language, this era would be termed as of the Chinese!!! We have a huge amount to learn from them.

I think we need to send loads of our IAS officers to the country for training - both military and administrative - to set things right!!!!

The Chinese also excel in their business - especially manufacturing - to give you an example - an extremely good replica of a Mont Blanc is sold at Rs. 40. I can't imagine what would be the manufacturing price of this and top up all the margins etc. This is an entire different story and an entire different article

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

6 equals 14


I recently had the most unforgettable experience. We were traveling in a group to Vaishno Devi and were booked on a train. However, we were 14 people and only 6 tickets got confirmed. So we travelled Swades ishtyle - 14 people on 6 seats.

The fun began when we left the station - with almost everyone walking past our compartment looking at us in amazement - it was a sight to be witnessed - people were coming out of all cracks. And the ruccus we created was almost enough to drive the next compartment people to give us their seats in order for us to shut up.

Time came to catch a few winks - we all knew that the next day will be tough since we were going to do an all night journey of 24 Km on foot. So we thought let the Husban and Wives share one seat. Now this all seams a great idea and you get to hold your spouse close enough while sleeping. However, I am 6'1" - broad - not thin. I had almost a crazy experience - I would rest one leg ontop of another - try different gymnastic positions and try to sleep. Ditto for my wife since she was also trying to sleep and make me comfortable. At one instance I was doing a meditation yoga asan like a rishi-muni and trying to sleep.

As for the other 12 persons - it was hillarious - one of them was lying on top of another - and with the jhatkas of the Indian Railways - it was quite funny.

All in all, a crazy, hillarious, tough, endless journey came to a hault after 9 hours. We reached with a stiff and cramped back, neck, knee, hamstrings, feet, hands, and whatever other parts you can imagine (off course not those ones!!).

As my friend put - this was a first in the history of the train - and an unforgettable experience for the rest of us.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Classic Manager Subordinate Crisis


I was recently faced with a question - how to take to tasks subordinate team members who have not done their job while they might have more grey hair than me (well more hair than me will also work since I am going perpetually bald :-) !! )

Anyways, here was the situation - there was a document to be made. The person incharge has ample time and opportunity to make the document. A template and a similar document for reference is already in place. However, there is no think through. So the first draft is edited by me and considerable additions are suggested on paper. This was incorporated partially. The second draft went through a similar scenario. The changes were again not picked up. A third attempt was made albeit fruitless. As a result, a number of linked tasks got delayed till the last day of the project.

Now, my problem - I may be the project manager, but i do not have more number of years of experience. I do have more quality consulting experience, but in the Indian scenario, it is more years than knowledge (which is strange since we now are an integral part of the knowledge economy!!).

1. How do I take to task these people who inspite of writing down suggestions were unable to think through the document? (My problem is aggrevated by the fact that I have recently joined the firm and they have more years with the firm than I)
2. How do I ensure that this does not happen again? What are the best feedback mechanisms in such a case when the feedback is written as well as verbal.
3. If I complete the work in the first instance, how do I ensure the growth of my team and also that I am not taken for granted?

I managed my last project by putting in some extra effort. But the next deliverables are coming in ------------------!!


Friday, June 17, 2005

Budget Flying - To Book or Not To Book


I think whoever I have met is extremely excited about the budget airlines phenomenon. Its so cheap to travel because of them. No doubt - it has brought joy to a lot of consumers. However, there is definately a dark side to this.

What is the reliability of these airlines? What is the service level gaurantee that they can provide. What customer service do they provide?

If my flight is delayed by lets say 5 hours plus - what good is a refund of the discounted fare since any alternative will cost me almost 2 times to 10 times more?? Whatif they cancel the flight due to OPERATIONAL reasons? Well these all seem like plausible scenarios - but they are true and have happened with me!!!

I have missed prior appointments and other meetings due to flight delayed. The reason termed as fog from Mumbai (so not that good an excuse in mid-November). My brother-in-law just the other day missed some very important meetings due to this. There are several other examples.

Delayed flights are not a new phenomenon. However, bad customer service is the clincher. These airlines in a fit to cut costs have not realised that customer service is the key and then cheap tickets - the short run cheap tickets attract a lot of interest and thus traffic - but in the long run (not as long as Keanes suggested - before we are dead), they will lose. Customer service is the single-most differentiating factor that defines customer pull as well as customer scare. You have to be sensitive to the customer.

Try and accomodate - maybe incur a few losses on a flight - book them in a competing airline. Do something innovative. These are clear messages that are important for such airlines. Non-chalent attitude and irresponsible comments just put oil over a fire.

All in all - no less stress can be emphasised on customer service. As they say, if the customer is happy - he will stick to you as glue. If the customer is unhappy - he will fly away as fast as a fresh good cold blueberry cheesecake (drool!!!!).



Thursday, June 09, 2005

If heaven is anywhere beyond kashmir - its there!!!!!

Hey guys and gals,

Well Kashmir we all know is the most beautiful place on earth. But, due to our dear neighbours has been toiling in blood and gore and violence - so much so - that kids are now not even aware of the beauty of Kashmir and are only concerned about PoK and the border clashes etc. Our generation even may not have even visited Kashmir (apart from Jammu and Vaishno Devi) as an adoloscent.

In any case, my article is not about the troubles of Kashmir, but of this amazing place I had good fortune of visiting. Its called Tanjhung Rhu and its located in Langkawi (Malaysia). Wow - it is the most amazing resort that you can conjour up in your head.

All rooms are mini-suites - the one I stayed had an amazing bed at a raised level, a sunken sitting area. And best of all the sitting area had window shutters to open into the Bath area - with a beautiful and large bath tub.

The experience is amazing. They take care of little details. For example, I had a slight cold (terrible considering I could not savour any of the good wines they were offering) and wanted room temperature water. Now in Malaysia - they know two types of water - hot and cold. Water at room temperature eludes them. In any case after several iterations they got it right. That was the first meal. After that at each meal - I would get my room temperature water at any of the resort's restaurants without even mentioning it!!!!

The view is breathtaking. It resides amongst 100 acres of lush green forest. they have a beautiful beach shaped like a crescent. Its white and the water is blue and very clean. At low-tides - you could walk around 500 meters into the sea. The experience is amazing.

And if you are like me who enjoys a glass of wine with a good cigar and some music - lie around in the deck facing the RHU - oh it is breathtaking.

Anyways - no words can describe it - go see it yourself.

However, this comes at a hefty price which promises to blow a hole in the pocket. Thats why the Indian travel agents do not know of this wonderful resort.

Hope you guys make it there and enjoy it as much as I did.



Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Da Vinci Code??? - Holy Schmoly!!

Hey Everyone,

Well I am not doing another bashing here - I intend to through some light (holy?) to the subject. I was quite intrigued by the entire saga of the Da Vinci Code and the themes proposed - Christ was married and may have siblings!!!!!

Now thats Holy Christ!!! (Sorry for any blasphemy - but I'm no christian!!!!)

I think after seeing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - the idea of a relic as the cup of christ has been more than compelling. So any book questioning this was very intriguing and exciting.

So I started exploring a bit and came across this book called Holy Blood Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, and Richard Leigh. Well to set records straight, this is no novel as many might think. This is actually a documentary based on facts, researched documents and ample references.

If you are intrigued as to what actually happened - I suggest you check out the book for yourselves - its quite a heavy read and I am still reading - but believe me - history is not so clean as it is projected!!!

The truth is out there!!!!!!!!!!! (ha ha ha)



Monday, June 06, 2005

Star Wars Episode III - A Tale Gone Haywire??

Hey Guys and Gals,

Well the titke of this blog suggests I would be getting to the DARK side of a lot of Star Wars fans. But hang on people, I am a die-hard Star Wars fan myself - and I loved the movie. I think this was a perfect ending to a great saga.

But........... (always comes up doesn't it!!!!)

A few things come to my mind which don't seem to gel with what George Lucas created as Darth Vader:

1. Darth Vader is supposed to be in awe of the emperor and he states in to Luke that the emperor is very powerful. However, in this episode, we see our dear senator stating that anakin is extremely powerful - to the extent that he is more powerful than I. Now how come suddenly Vader becomes more powerful than the most feared Emperor. If he was more powerful, it would've been easy enough to kill the emperor in Episode VI (Return of the Jedi)

2. Vader is known to be calculating, extremely sharp, cool kinda guy. Off course the best part of Vader is the voice (but thats not what I am cross about!!). Then how come he is shown to be so emotional. He is supposed to love Amadala, however, he tries to kill her. What happened to our cool guy?

3. In just over 20 minutes of the movie - you witness the change in Anakin - wow - thats kinda fast. Well - even in the movie its just a matter of one-two days that this transformation takes place - quite surprising!

4. Darth Vader convertes because he loves his wife and wants to protect them. In a second after knowing that they are dead - no emotions - just a dull ok.

The most important part of the movie to me was the two minute speech by Palpatine to Anakin wherein he explains how Anakin was born and how the mysterious dark side provides and takes in the same instant.

All in all - I think the transformation to Darth Vader was underplayed and should've been more prominant - after all he is the key!!!!