Monthly Archives: January 2017

​Run your race. Hit the finish line.

I just watched Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon.

The main marathon of 42.195 kilometers was won by an African participant, a regular. It was captured by a lot of cameras following or leading him.

But, at the same time, many other marathons were run and won, which may have gone unnoticed, because no camera was covering them. But still, the races were won. Triumphantly. Gloriously. Proudly. Silently.

For a physically challenged girl on a wheelchair, riding a few kilometers freely on a Mumbai road, was a personal race won.
For an 80 year old grandmother, walking a few kilometers with a group of similar age friends was more than a victory.
For a senior citizen who had just undergone a bypass surgery before few months, completing a dream run of few kilometers was a real dream come true.
For an HR manager of a company, successfully organizing a group participation of 70 employees in the dream run was a proud moment in her career as a new recruit in the company.
For a product manager who organized free promotion of their orange juice packaged drink, consumption of 5,000 units was a great thing because so many people could “experience” her brand firsthand.
For a newbie orchestra to perform live on the footpath of Marine Drive was a big thing. Similarly, a singer won her own marathon when she sang some songs for the first time in a live scenario like this.
For a large number of full or half marathon runners, just being able to complete the run successfully was a huge milestone in their own lives.
For a brand manager, organizing a “below the line” brand communication initiative in the form of a noisy dance booth on the marathon route was a big, bold resume bullet point.

For a shy employee in a company, being able to wake up and reach the venue on time and run along with the scores of his colleagues in the company’s dream run troupe was a big self esteem boost.
For traffic police heads, to successfully manage traffic bypassing the marathon route was a sigh of relief.
For Mumbai police, “uneventful” completion of the marathon is a big achievement.
Except the main winners who got the prize, others were not honored publicly. But each one of them ran and won their own private marathons.
It is a beautiful feeling running and winning a marathon, public or private.  We must set our sights on some race and proudly hit the finish line. There are very few joys which are more joyful.

When museum curators run a state, they hire stenos to dictate…

Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Service Selection (UPSSSC) is looking to recruit 352 stenographers and many more junior stenos. (Check here: http://upsssc.com/upsssc-stenographer-recruitment/ )
Now, how many in this time may be knowing stenography? If you search for stenography as an employee skill on any job portal like Naukri.com, a large majority of the candidates will come up of age beyond 50 years . That says that stenography is the skill of bygone era. It is outdated. It is not relevant today. Stenos, dictation, typing etc are the symbols of lethargic bureaucratic inefficiency of the past. In today’s times of speed, steno is an article fit for museum. Today, if dictation is needed, it can speech recorded and possibly be coverted into text…!
In India, more and more progressive governments at the centre and the states, lead by progressive leadership, are using new technology to save time and to increase productivity. Such states and governments are on their path to progress.

 
Then, in the age of Siri and OK Google, voice commands and Artifical Intelligence, we get to see examples of such a regressive step. This shows how much we are still behind. This also reflects the poverty of thought leadership at the helm which allows such regression. When the government itself chooses to embrace antiquity, who can save our future from mediocrity?

Such mindless examples of extreme contrast create a picture of the not-so-beautiful incredible India. When a section of the nation is embracing future by moulding its own mindset and habits, there is another slow-moving elephantine attitude which takes time to understand the nature of the winds blowing around its ears.
As long as such ugly combination of progressive leadership and regressive bureaucracy coexists in the same country, it will keep pulling the country in two different directions, one towards a bright future another towards a dark, dead past. This tug of war will slow the speed of the country, as it has always done in the seven decades of our independence. The country must move in one direction, the one towards a bright future.
The Incredible India campaign may pride itself in the rich legacy of the country. But, past cannot be lived forever. Museum is a place to visit, to learn, not to stay there. 
But, if museum curators sit to run the country, they will only turn the whole country into a museum, a glorified relic of the past.
Then, looking at the whole country as a living museum, not ready to grow up, the tourists may say, “This happens only in India. Really, Incredible India.”

Flipkart and Ola are proving that copycats lose….

Recently, at a panel discussion, the founders of Flipkart and Ola cried for help from Indian government asking it to “protect” them from their foreign competitors (Amazon and Uber respectively) playing the nationalist card.

In doing so, both the poster boys of Indian startup industry have proved that “Birds of a feather flock together”. I say, mediocrity finds itself.

Here are some points to show how hollow and greedy the demand is.

  1. Both have chosen to forget that they both are poor copies of some foreign firms. Just like any copycat, they have proved right from the beginning that they are second class, inferior, followers of a leader. There was nothing original about them, and it is coming out.
  2. Both the companies are funded by foreign investors. Both have said that they want foreign money, but don’t want foreign companies. How self-serving….!
  3. On its part, Flipkart has chosen to register itself in Singapore. Now what makes it an Indian company, which wants to take advantages from India but does not trust its system…?
  4. They claim that Flipkart and Ola generate employment in India. Ironically, they forget that right from CEOs to almost all employees of Amazon and drivers of Uber are Indians. Where is the difference in employment generation?
  5. The fact is, both have run out of tricks after initially copying the concept from their respective leading competitors. They can’t match the innovation abilities of those firms and hence now they are crying foul.
  6. The major difference between Flipkart-Ola and Amazon-Uber is not their country of origin, but their missions. Amazon-Uber, both lead by visionary founders, are the companies founded to change lives of the people. On the contrary, our copycat Indian founders have founded their companies solely for getting high valuations and selling out to some unsuspecting investors. Greed cannot match right intentions. Excel sheets may succeed in faking valuation, but can’t create real value.
  7. In business, companies which provide better service to the customers, win. Both Flipkart and Ola are finding it difficult to provide good service to their customers or partners and hence they are losing. I have been a customer and a seller on Flipkart and I have a first-hand experience of their poor quality of service. Same is with Ola. I have spoken to at least 50 Ola drivers in Mumbai, Delhi and other cities. Hardly any one of them is happy with Ola. On the other hand, most of the Uber drivers are very happy. Same is the observation with Amazon customers. Both Flipkart and Ola should focus on customers instead of wasting time on competition.
  8. Instead of grumbling to seek narrow minded protectionism, they must innovate and provide solutions what the country needs. Anjana Menon has rightly pointed out in Economic Times (here) that both these companies need to focus on providing solutions what the rural India needs, in order to earn the respect and value that they aspire to.

Flipkart and Ola are behaving like children playing in the compound going to their parents crying for help when they lose a game with the other kids. Both and their ilk need to grow up and put their own house in order first.

In failing to do so, as Anjana writes in the ET article above, “(they) risk writing their own obituary. They shouldn’t expect too many tears at the funeral.” There can’t be a more appropriate reply to the poor demand from the clueless copycats.