Thursday, February 18, 2010

of Policies and Trust

Its amazing how companies devise policies that treat the highly educated individuals they hired as children! Its all too often that an over ambitious policy maker creates a policy clouded with the fear of abuse rather than with the intent of making a difference. I think lives are complicated enough without daft policies that increase angst.

Here's a great link on from Business Week on "Ten Management Practices to Axe".

Sunday, September 7, 2008

IPhone - A miscalculated marketing campaign

5 reasons (oh, there are so many many more) as to why the IPhone is a miscalculated marketing campaign in India. To start with, I don't own one, would love to, but am not going to, because its priced ridiculously.

1. An unlocked IPhone in the US after penalties and a 30 day plan works out to $200 + $100 + $172 ~= $500 x Rs. 45/$ = Rs. 22,500 for a 8GB IPhone.
2. At Rs. 31,000 its still locked to Airtel and Vodafone, oh pray tell me why?
3. If AT&T can give me an unlocked IPhone at Rs, 22,500, I wonder what prevents our friends at Airtel and Vodafone? Perhaps they should render unto Cesar... :-)
4. No 3G in India for another 1.5 to 2 years.
5. The IPod Touch costs ~ Rs. 17,000

Either Apple thinks Indians are very rich or it must be something I drank last night. This is logic defying for what is arguably the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world. (Okay I stretched that a bit, its China I'm sure) Apple could have had a lot more sales than Airtel and Vodafone are now witnessing. Look around and tell me how many IPhones you see at the company you work at. Meanwhile, I'll just wait a couple of years.

Emerging Storage Markets - Spotlight on India

India has a urban population of 286 million, with Mahrashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamilnadu, West Bengal and Andra Pradesh accounting for nearly 150 million of these urban people. Additionally, India has a 742 million rural population. Of the total population, some 68 million use banking services and 34 million workers are in manufacturing industries. With the highest person density between the ages of 20-45.
One can view this as huge human capital, which it undoubtedly is. Also, as the economy grows, this same population will result in a very very large data storage market. Consider that a market such as the united states with a population of about 281 million proves to be the largest storage market with its financial, utility and governmental needs (to name a few) fuelling over 50% of the revenues (unsubstantiated at this writing) of most storage companies. 20 years from now given reasonable economic growth India and China will prove to be markets of much larger magnitudes. Already most storage companies have a strong presence in both these markets and are very bullish about the future.

As an example, the drive by the Indian Income Tax department to move filing from paper to electronic forms. Even without a regulatory requirement like Sarbanes-Oxley, the sheer volume of data is stupendous. Take the State Bank of India, The Planning Commission, The Election Commission (Voter ID cards) and you have a database that needs replication, disaster recovery and high availability. Who is tapping these markets today. Oh yeah, we haven't even started with electronic ration cards (cards for availing produce at government controlled retail stores that offer fixed price to low income households).

Many decades ago the major car manufacturers of the United States worked with their government to build roads so that their own sales and revenue would increase, will our storage companies do the same?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bang! - a - lore

The afternoon meeting was slowly interrupted with news that Bangalore had become another statistic in the list of targeted cities. Within the next 30 minutes the networks were jammed as citizens desperate to get in touch with loved ones were calling frenetically. News trickled in on Television channels and the Radio. Rumors were strife on whether it was eight, nine or ten blasts. Decision makers struggled with, whether to ask people to go home or to stay put. Initial reports listed 10 casualties and fears of more. Within chaos order prevailed, businesses brought contingency plans into action. Backup plans swung in for critical data centers. Shifts got adjusted at call centers, transport was arranged where necessary, security stepped up, meetings rescheduled where possible or telecommuted. Within the next three hours further reports spread a sense of relief as citizens realized that Bangalore had gotten away lightly. Remarkably other than a two hour interruption most people were at work! Amazing!!! Two hours later the regular conversation on schedules, costing, sales and high severity tickets was back.

The bridge between, reading and knowing to experiencing has been crossed and it hasn't been without cost. The reactions from citizenry were however, anything but typical. A strange sense of normalcy was prevalent. The odd joke and light humor pervaded the office floor. Someone even suggesting we stick to the middle of the road while driving since the bombs have been on the footpath. Friday evening the streets wore a deserted looks, but Saturday showed that Bangalorean resilience is back. Make no mistake, people realize, "That could have been me!". Happily, the public has proven everyone wrong and was out in full strength, shopping at the malls at the cinema or at work. That is the best response any city could have given to terrorism and break the cycle of disruption.

Our best response is to not give in to the disruption and feeling of mistrust and to instead support the authorities, to take a more active role in ensuring that our politicians make it a priority to increase our terror response and to most importantly to step out and say we cannot be subjugated by cowardly threats! There have been voices of dissent in this period, with questions raised on the state of the police, the intelligence wings and the state and central governments. Public debate has begun. We aren't a perfect country and no one realizes this more than us. So lets do our bit and get there! Happy shopping, working, camping, mall ratting and whatever else you have planned. You need it, so does the city!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cracking the GMAT

I wrote my GMAT in 2006 and ended up with a score of 700. This post is about where I was to begin with and how I got to this score.

When I decided to write the GMAT it was seven years since I had taken a look at Math. I am not your average Indian who ace's his Math exam. I work at it! and work I did.

To begin with, I decided to go and get myself the required material. A little bit of research told me that I needed the Official Guide (OG) and Kaplan 800 at the very least. I borrowed any material I could find from my friends. Additionally I went and bought some CBSE math books for Class 8, 9 and 10, at the local book store. Compared to what the OG costs, these are cheap!

Next, I put in some solid study hours. I spent a month accumulating the material and once I was ready, I spent 14 weeks preparing for the test. Since I was working full time this meant, waking up early in the morning, staying up late at night, giving up my weekends and NO vacation. Wow, not a lot of fun you say. Let me make it easier, it is definitely NOT a lot of fun. But its what I wanted to do, Clarity of purpose is useful here. Okay, I did take a day off every two weeks. :-)

I would recommend you take one of the 3 tests which come from GMAC (available free online) after you have gone through the material. Preferably in your first or second week of studying. The score will tell you where you stand without any preparation. I would add that I found the difficulty level with the real thing way higher.

There are plenty of sites out there offering course ware and prep tests you can purchase/download. If you have the money, I would recommend. You can also look at the many books available on the GMAT. Many of them come with full length tests. Princeton offers a course for about $1,000 (please verify rates in your country/area) and has great material IMHO.

I did about a 100 questions everyday from the OG and a test every weekend. I did not re-visit questions that I got wrong, but I have read posts from some test takers who say that it worked for them. Your mileage might vary.

Early on, I realized that I was strong with my Verbal and that I needed work on my Quant and work on my Quant I did. 14 weeks worth. I also made cheat sheets, I think they were about 20 pages worth. :-)

Kaplan 800 is a wonderful book. I highly recommend it. Keep it for the last month. Also maintain a schedule. Don't do just quant, quant and more quant. Make a calendar and work towards your test date. Split between, Quantitative and Verbal exercise, make your brain adapt.

Get your grammar straight, I bought a high school grammar book so that I got my either or, neither nor and the rest of it straight. 8 years of business writing had ruined me grammatically. I converse and write fluently, but grammar was an eye-opener. I had picked up a few bad habits over the years.

Don't don't don't practice before test day. If you are not feeling so hot on test day, don't attempt the test, forgoe the money. It is extremely important that you NOT psyche yourself out on test day, be relaxed, calm and look at your cheat sheet a few hours before test time. So don't ask a friends test score or put undue pressure on yourself. You can always take the test again. What is important is that you give you best honest attempt!

Oh yes, and do visit the test center once before so you know where it is and how long it takes to get there. Also chose a time of the day that works for you. Remember its a 4 hour test, so take adequate nutrition. Your brain works only when your body has enough glucose!

Remember to attempt all the questions and DO NOT spend too much time on a question. The best test takers are ones who know when they are spending too much time on a question have already narrowed down their choice and are able to take a guess and move forward. Remember the test is adaptive. Irrespective of what you may have heard, I believe what they say in the OG is correct, your answering that first N questions does not guarantee a better score. That my 0.02 rupees on that topic.

For the numerically inclined, I know of a bunch of people who have scores in the 720-750 range and who got admits in wonderful programmes. Remember the GMAT is one of the factors to your admission. Its NOT the only factor. There are people with awesome GMAT scores not making an admissions and conversely I know of people with lower GMAT scores who did get admission.

Use all the resources you can afford or borrow, spend the time, put in the effort, stay focused.

Best of luck!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The networking economy

The week has mostly been occupied with more bad news on the economy and some more on the political maturity of this country. More on this in another post. Recent events have inspired me to take a stab at what works with networking and what does not work. I decided to take a few steps back and wonder why some networks succeed and others flounder somewhere in sub-space. After a few late night conversations and many beers later, here's something to chew on.

Types of networks

This one I didn't think of at first. SJ made me think this one through. Based on how you enter a network of people, networks themselves can be broadly classified as,
  1. Situational, you work together, the same Taekwondo class, shop on the same Wal-Mart aisle.

  2. Societal, we need to socialize, at least those of us not living in Flagstaff, Arizona

  3. Opportunistic, need to be associated with a successful person

  4. Accidental, You don't care, like that business card you gave away


This is the easiest of networking opportunities, but the hardest to create. Its what happens, at the workplace, the gym and at that friends party. These prove to be the most valuable of networks professionally, because the situation defines a commonality and therefore compatibility. As an example, let us think about why we have great friends in school. It may be because,

  1. Economic/Intellectual parity, We can afford to attend the same school or we are equally smart or a combination.
  2. Cultural parity, We come from the same cultural.
  3. Temporal trap, We spend more time together (school ensures you are spending time together) and may be sharing goals.
  4. Sociological desire, Our innate desire to want to fit in. Everyone loves to be loved.
Situational networks operate similarly. So next time you are at that party, the gym or staring at an opportunity, ask yourself this
  1. What commonalities do I share with this person? (Note : This is pretty hard and you have to think out of the box here)

  2. What cultural parity do I have? (Same country, region, are you both immigrants etc.)

  3. Do we have an opportunity to spend time?

If the answer is yes to these, then you may have a high chance of a successful network. Two gotcha's come to mind right now.

One, There is always someone who is trying to network specifically with people who do not have any commonalities or cultural parities with her. Such persons are the outliers. Which means, their networks are either amazingly great or amazingly bad. You'll find out soon enough.

Two, What do you do if you answered "No" to most of these questions, but still want to network. You probably still could do that, by manufacturing these requirements to scale your entry barrier. But the going may become increasingly tough as you spend more time in the network.


Humans demand social gratification by definition. We all want to fit in and be popular. So throwing a party for the neighborhood, starting a garage sale, throwing a Christmas party for your relatives and friends are elements of this need.

Societal networks contain people of similar ethnicity, ideology, locale, or economic strata and importantly are a function of your belonging-ness. For e.g. you need to be a citizen of a particular country, or have lived in a neighborhood for a number of years or have worked in the same company for many many years.

Societal networks are tightly bound.

Let take an example, Immigrants to a new country will find themselves often in Situational as well as Societal networks. Societal networks, by definition, are more likely to be in a position to help you with your daily challenges as you adjust to a new country, neighborhood, climate and workplace.

A friend of mine tells me, how he always wondered where his other friends got the lovely furniture. They didn't seem like they could afford it. After a few months of Societal networking he realized that much of the furniture was Free! and very often in mint condition or requiring little work.

Situational networks on the other hand consist of, your friends at work, at the gym or a coffee shop you frequent. These networks offer memberships in a shorter time period as opposed to Societal networks. You wont be in their Societal network, by just sharing a similar situation you need a stronger commonality.


Mark, that surgeon who lives down the block. I heard if he recommends you, you can get into John Hopkins for your internship. Gary who lives down the street, his wife's best friend is Mark's assistant. How do we meet Gary?

This is more opportunistic and direct, but several times, we befriend for long term benefits. Opportunistic networks require you to define Societal or Situational parity before you gain entry.


I love these, its that sheer accident, didn't think about it type of networking, that just happened. You were playing cricket, the ball went across the fence, you went to fetch it and had a chat with the kid who lived there. Next thing you know, you guys are exchanging greetings.

This is purely accidental.

Networking Opportunity vs. Success

Networking can be viewed like an onion, with your societal network at the core, and the other networks as layers on top. With one network leading to another or they can be viewed as disparate objects. It's how you view it and your attitude that defines your interaction and your success. The success of your network largely depends on YOU. The element you put in is your effort.

In revisiting some earlier networks and examining why they may have worked, we can see that,

School networks are strongly preferential and choice based. They may possess higher diversity depending on the school. However these networks are rarely opportunistic.

Professional networks on the other hand tend to be highly opportunistic and commonalities may not be immediately apparent. Entry barriers could seem high, but forms of viral networking, where you network with A to reach B and ultimately C through B can penetrate these seemingly closed societies.

10 Steps to the Network (or 20, or 30...)

  1. Be open, honest and truthful in the why of your interaction.

  2. Be ready to lose the network.

  3. Network, Network, Network, you'll get burnt beaten, stabbed or worse, but the old adage is still true, no pain, no gain.

  4. Approach because you want to, not because you need to. This of course means that you'll have to spend time on this. But I didn't say it was going to be easy.

  5. Do something for someone without having to find a reason (yeah, I know, Pay it forward, its cool!)

  6. Ask yourself this, "What do I want here?"

  7. Accept diversity (this one is harder than you think it is). Have an appreciation of the other persons perspective. You needn't accept it, but knowing it is important.

  8. Don't aim to please. Your insincerity has more visibility than the 10 second Ad at Superbowl halftime.

  9. Be fun, people want to have a good time, if you are the brooding dark type, that doesn't make you fun, conversely this doesn't mean that you have to be a party animal. Find your fun self. Go do something crazy. The returns on this investment in yourself are very high for you. The rest plays itself in

  10. Be ready to try something new. You'll make new friends and gain a perspective.

All the best with your network! and spare a comment or two for this post.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Nuclear Winter

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struggles to cobble together consensus among his warring coalition partners to gain approval on the Nuclear agreement with the United States. Given the recent recessionary economy and its strong tie in to Housing and Oil, a Newsweek article on the decoupling of US Oil consumption and the coupling of BRIC Oil consumption to the Oil Price. (Ref: The Economy - Why its Worse Than You Think - Newsweek June 2008) and the push the US has been giving on this nuclear deal. I wonder if the incentive for the US is more than just business. India moving to Nuclear Energy does two things

1. It introduces a dependence on the US for the technology at least for maintenance and a deep dependence on the NSG for fuel. At least till we get around to reusing the ore.
2. It reduces India's intake of Fossil Fuel. Cleaner Environment, plus reduced demand on Oil.

The US is one of the last countries to worry about noxious emissions when it is put headlong with economics if the stand of the current government is anything to go by. This is a country where its okay to drive 20 miles each way to your nearest Wall Mart, so that you can save a couple of bucks on groceries!. The interest therefore must be clearly economic, not just in terms of fresh business for its Reactors, but in terms of a larger fillip for its own economic growth. India decoupled from Oil demand would mean lower Oil consumption resulting in lower Oil prices.

In itself this is a good idea. I think there is much in terms of technology which the US can help the rest of the world with. In this case, higher gas prices may be just the tonic we need for a cleaner and more fuel efficient world!

However, I wonder what it will take to get there. $200 for a barrel of Oil? Crippling subsidies on the balance sheets of much of the third world?