Friday, December 31, 2004

Supply overdose - what next?

My IIT batchmate, Sriram (a.k.a. SKD), from an NGO called Akanksha, called me up last night to let me know that he's organizing some supplies for rehabilitation for the Tsunami-affected people of coastal south india. He also mentioned that he's networking with other friends to see if all efforts can be aggregated so that relief and rehabilitation has a larger reach. At such times, I guess all these people will face lot of challenge in order to avoid duplicating efforts - leading to supply side excess. Also, it must be interesting to see how they handle the field efforts - ensuring that the stuff reaches the people, rather than just arriving at some collection points. And, it is definitely the 'last mile effort' that will help these initiatives.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Law as intelligence!

The arrest of Avinash Bajaj, CEO of has prompted lots of action from the fledgling internet industry captains in India. A gist of the incident and post-facto actions in CXO Today.

Here are some questions, pertinent from my view:
1. How does a group of law-makers argue for a non-standard way of evidence from an industry? For example, the court is asking for some signed papers regarding Terms of Agreement from a company where the online acceptance is deemed to be legal. Does this create a question of 'deemed' versus 'authorized'?
2. At the entrance to a restaurant in a strict 'No Smoking' area, if your customer smokes without your knowledge (though there are signboards to that effect), do you hold the restaurant owner responsible for the customer's smoking. All this when you fully realise that the cigarette, matchbox or the lighter were completely owned by the customer? Or, do you insist that once known, the restaurant owner should have stopped the customer or evicted him/her?
3. If lawmakers are not understanding enough about the way business is conducted over a given medium (that too, one where the growth of customers / users is very rapid, to say the least), then what right do they have to impose their own staid laws and regulations on this medium? Will it not result in detriment to the medium of business itself?
4. From a long-term perspective, education, rather than punishment - has always resulted in benefit for mankind. Repressive regimes and actions not just fall short of disciplining people, they also infuriate the masses to take up to worse stuff! Isn't it the duty of the court to 'correct' rather than to 'punish'? Or, has law already fallen short in trying to correct the wrongdoer that it finds solace in punishing the unwitting and unwilling accomplice?

Ultimately, I feel law-makers must understand the paradigms on which business is being conducted in the online industry and mould their approach based on what's suitable in that industry rather than try fitting a square peg in a round hole! In that context, it's high time they acquired intelligence in business.

What do you have to say?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tourism and safety!

The last episode of Powerr Trip, the program in Sahara One where Shobha De has a rendezvous with corporate bigwigs and other celebrities, was an interesting one. The person in question was Ashwini Thakkar, the CEO of Thomas Cook India.

Shobha De's question was,
'How do you improve Tourism in India?'
to which the profound but simple answer Ash had was
'Tourism is about giving confidence to the visitor that (s)he is safe and secure in our country. It's not about fashionable branding and promotions. It's about giving clean sanitation and healthy places to stay, have beggar-less streets, have merchants who do not cheat the foreign visitor. By creating such a comfortable and secure place for visitors, we automatically promote more people to come here. The best marketing tool for tourism is 'Word of Mouth' and that will happen only when the visitor feels safe and comfortable on a visit here'.

Simple things underline most of the frills and bloat that we see...

Friday, December 10, 2004

Link between Zen and Capitalism!

Prathamesh asked me 'What's the connection between Zen and Capitalism'. He's got a nice blog at Zenkatha.

Here's my view on Zen and Capitalism:

Zen says 'The best way to focus on your goal and achieve it, is by not focusing on it all the time'. This means, by looking at the details, the nitty-gritties, the brass tacks, the ropes, what have you, you'll slowly and surely reach your goal.

Now, look at how a state can improve its economic conditions? One of the essential principles of Capitalism is that the state is a provider of security and promotes free market, devoid of state's hand in running the industry. In such a context, by focusing on promoting a safe and fair climate for conducting business within its premises, the state will in turn, create a condition so conducive for industry that the economy will become better on its own!

So, there's the connection between Zen and Capitalism. Thanks prathamesh for asking that question.

Overture advertising on Google!

Found an interesting set of Ads by Goooooogle on SearchEngine Journal. There were 4 Text Ads that were from Overture advertising 'Get 50% off here' et al! What do you call this?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Good ideas - Dump or Recycle?

I blogged about the usefulness of having segregated garbage and how Chennai Corporation is going to collect only segregated garbage from Dec 4th. Apparently, that's only in some areas where the Onyx Corporation [Onyx is the garbage management arm of the French multinational Vivendi Environment which has interests in water, transportation, communications and energy.] does not collect garbage from. So, despite your efforts to segregate the garbage into decomposable, non-recyclable etc, you may end up putting all the stuff in the same drum!

So, do we dump this idea or recycle it to include even the areas under Onyx's purview. Looking out for resources, I found that all's not great and gung-ho about Onyx and how it's working at cross-purposes with Vivendi, whose off-shoot Onyx actually is.

At the same time, the power of a self-motivated community is there for all to see in some outskirts of Chennai, like Pammal etc where the society itself has risen to the task of maintaining a cleaner locality. Check out this article:How Wasteful can be Wealth?

Indian Students losing Steam in GMAT!

When I was at IIT, we used to have an in-hostel acronym called GMAT that means 'Give Me ATtention'! Over a period of time, Indian students desiring to do their masters and doctorates in US universities have been doing just that - telling 'Give Me Attention'! And, today, saw this article in that talks about how Indian students are ranking very poorly in GMAT performance.

See what the Dean of IIM Ahmedabad has to say to this:
The Dean of the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Indira Parikh, sees the revelation as startling.

She has a piece of advice for Indian students: They should increase their speed in responding to questions as those from other countries like China have developed the habit of answering questions faster than the Indians do.

"There is also another reason for such poor results in spite of the fact that Indian students do fairly well in overseas B-schools -- they are more comfortable in responding to questions in text format rather than in the objective format. Also, Indian students are still not habituated to responding questions during online examinations. This is an important issue and needs to be addressed urgently if their performance is to be improved in international examinations like the GMAT," Parikh told Business Standard on Tuesday, reacting to the GMAC report.

The ranking of countries based on mean score in GMAT for 2002-2003 is as follows:
1. Chinese (are you surprised?)
2. Australia, New Zealand and UK
3. Bermuda (triangle, third - any correlation :-)
4. Belgium
5. Romania
6. North Korea, Gaza Strip (! Battered land, unfettered brains?)
7. Singapore
8. Uruguay
9. Canada
10. India!!

USA, the originator of GMAC has returned a total mean score of 524 compared with 593 of the Chinese and the 556 of Indians.

One can argue that in smaller countries, the number of people serious about the exam itself will be lesser and so the mean score will go up proportionately. And the other consolation from this report is that Indian students tend to fare well in the schools, though they're not doing great with the exams!

Friday, December 03, 2004

English Standards - going down or coming up?

My basic learning of English consisted of The Hindu, a newspaper in India that has been known for a high degree of proficiency and quality of the written English word. I used to pore over the pages, especially sports editorials and columns, during my school days. Over a period of time, I started finding spelling mistakes and logical / grammatical errors in certain 'not-so-prominent' columns. And, the last straw was when I found an incorrect sentence in an Editorial!! That was when I realised that the standards of the written word were going down.

I thought it would rather be an aberration than a norm but sadly, I was mistaken, for the very next day another funny paragraph appeared in the Sports section. I don't recall the content of both these editions but suffice it to say that it normally does not escape the curious eye, and I have one hell of that.

While thinking about it, I felt that the westernising pattern of our society and the birth of a stylish way of speaking the language were resulting in people learning very little of the fundamentals of the language. This was resulting in bad sentence formation when they write. Though I don't have documentary evidence to prove this, it's largely my conjecture. Also, till recently, I thought that this is just another geographical aberration, with India getting anglicised and such instances to be expected. But, going through one of the Harvard Business Resources articles of 'Is your work just WORK?', I found another error that confirmed my worst fears that the standards of English are indeed going down!

Check the following conversation and its prelude:
His new book on this subject, Just Work was recently published. Muirhood participated in this HBS Working Knowledge e-mail interview.

Mallory Stark: The title of your book Just Work has a double meaning. Could you elaborate?

Russell Muirhead: The double meaning gets at the two faces of work. One is the side of necessity. Work is something compulsory, not merely an option or a lifestyle choice. The other side is more hopeful. It invites us to find work that is fulfilling, that is part of a good life.

Are the two words in red not supposed to refer to the same person? So, how did two 'o's get in the way of an 'e' and an 'a'? Is this what one calls a 'vowel effect' (transient term, coined by me for usage of immediate nature).

How do you expect English to improve if some of the famed names of education follow a poor pattern of simple stuff like spell-check? Beats me!!

Googling for errors in English, came across this interesting site: Common Errors in English. This project also seems to have come out with a book Common Errors in English, promising to be an interesting read. I'll grab a copy of that soon...