His Masters Voice

Ravi Shastri it is. The three wise men of Indian cricket had decided that Ravi Shastri is a better cultural fit as a coach to Indian team than Anil Kumble. In the corporate world ex-COO of Flipkart, Nitin Seth has filed a case against his former employer. The reason given for Nitin’s sacking was ‘he is not fitting with the culture of Flipkart’. Outside of religion and private life, what is the culture that we talk about? We spend more time with strangers than with our own family. How does this work culture affect our way of work?

On August 6, 1997 Korean Air Flight 801 crashed into the hills around the airport in Guam, a United States territory killing 228 of the 254 passengers & crew. Investigations confirmed that it was a pilot error. The flight engineers and first officer warned the Captain about the landing path but he over ruled them causing the crash. Later analysis revealed that it was not just technical or individual error but at the heart of it was the culture of Korea and Korean Air. Can culture of a country or an organization hurt to such extent?

In the year, 1965 Greet Hofstede founded the personnel research department in IBM. Between 1971 and 1973, he conducted a survey among 117,000 IBM employees from various subsidiaries located across the world of this multi-national. The study was to find out about national values differences among the employees in different countries from which he constructed a theory about culture. His theory is one of the first that tried to explain the observed differences between cultures. From the study, Hofstede developed six dimensions of national cultures. Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV), Uncertainty avoidance index (UAI), Masculinity vs. femininity (MAS), Long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation (LTO), Indulgence vs. restraint (IND).

The most potent of these dimensions is the Power Distance Index. Wikipedia defines PDI “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.” Simply put what is the ‘distance’ between the boss and the subordinate or parent and child in any given culture. Many countries have been given scores on these indexes. For example, Austria has a PDI of 11, USA 40, Pakistan 55 and Malaysia 104. India’s score is 77. South Korea’s score is 60.

Simply put, higher the PDI, the lower level member in the chain accepts the fact to treat the higher-level member with reverence. The boss in Malaysia, India and South Korea is not someone whom you disagree with! He is the mai-baap, the benevolent dictator. That is what Kapil Sharma reportedly told his team during the in-famous flight back from Australia.

Reading the second dimension Individualism vs. Collectivism (IDV) along with PDI, the entire culture takes a new dimension. I, me, myself score is low in Malaysia at 26 whereas the PDI is 104. That is, an employee in Malaysia is fully subservient to the institution, boss and the system. In USA, the IDV score is 91 wherein each American is free to pursue his dream and pull himself up the society’s strata. The IDV of India is 48. We are for ourselves to the extent that our boss and the system permits us!

Now let us try applying this to the two scenarios – Virat Kohli/Kumble and Korean Air. In Korean Air disaster, though the first officer knew what the Captain was doing wrong he just informed him but did not warn, stop or protest about it. If the first officer were an American, he would have probably slapped the Captain to make him see the facts and take the right action.

Though we do not know what exactly happened in Virat/Kumble episode, one can harbor a guess. Virat is clearly an alpha male (dominant) with a higher than 48 IDV score and lower than 77 PDI score. Being older, Kumble must be from the higher PDI school, who believed that being the senior and boss his word should be final because that is what he practiced in his playing days. Virat has low PDI and high IDV. Kumble high PDI and low IDV. Adding up of Virat’s score and Kumble score resulted in a net zero!

Many more factors determine our response within a cultural set-up. I am not a sociologist to dissect it more professionally and it would be interesting to read the observations of one.

A parting thought. What is the reason for success of Indians outside India especially USA? High PDI that makes them acceptable as an immigrant but with high IDV that drives them to achieve more? Is it our culture or our systems – traditions, caste, reservations, corruption, bureaucracy etc. that is stopping us (suppressing our IDV) to achieve more?





UBER in us – values vs valuation

Behind every great fortune lies a great crime – Honore de Blazac

King Croesus of Lydia was one of the richest kings of the world ever (hence the phrase, Rich as Croesus). Once Solon, the wise legislator from Greece paid a visit to him and Croesus tried show off his wealth.  Solon was not impressed. Try as he might, Solon dismissed Croesus’ wealth to the quirk of luck. Croesus believed he was rich because he deserved it and nothing less than that.

The tale of Croesus has a further twist, as after sometime Croesus was defeated in war by the redoubtable Persian king Cyrus. King Cyrus captured Croesus and put him to death. Reportedly, as he was about to be burnt to death he shouted out, “Solon, you were right”. King Cyrus stopped the burning and asked Croesus to explain. On knowing from Croesus the words of Solon, King Cyrus let him free as he reflected similar possibilities in his own fate.

In the past few weeks, Uber, the richest start-up in the world has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. For those not in the know, a quick round up of the happenings at Uber. Sexual harassment cases, bad recruitment calls, boardroom battles, unpalatable culture at work and much more hit Uber in quick succession finally ending with its founder CEO quitting. As Shakespeare put it, “when sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”. Uber is paying it big time for choosing the shortest route to success.

Many of among us nodded in agreement with the fate of Uber. Arrogance, greed and abrasiveness has put paid to the image of Uber. Do we realize that most of us live the life of Uber? In our desire to be successful as measured by material wealth, properties, designations and such symbols what have we given up? If Uber gave up corporate governance, decency at work place, fairness in business practices and more, can we make a realistic assessment of our own progress?

Have read, heard and witnessed this struggle for ‘success’. Men and women in positions of power use their power to hide truth, divert blame, usurp others achievements, lie and cheat. The most disgusting has been exploitation of their junior colleagues to further their goals. Promises made to obtain loyalty to get the work done only to conveniently forget all the words later. Truth is a convenience, not the basis of their work. They recruit teams to build their empires only to dismiss them later to cut costs as a strategy! As the food chain gets higher, subverting law, cooking up accounting books, bribes, debauchery and much more are the norm. In the corridors of power, honesty is a word found only in vision statement and not in action.

With all the wealth and ‘success’ thus earned, they build a life of insecurity. Corrupt ways of life corrode the innards of their conscience and their health suffers. Sadly they do not realize that they are being admired by their lackeys for the share of the spoils that they give out or for fear of retribution and not because they are good. Like King Croesus, they believe they deserve it all and like him, they are wrong.

Uber was valued at $65 billion or so in its last round. If they had followed fair practices, did not tolerate anything or anyway route for success and growth probably they would have been valued much lower. Say $40 billion and not a bad number though! Today, if a fresh round of investments is attempted, Uber might end up with a valuation around that number. Mind you, it is only a valuation and not real money! In economics, there is a phrase to describe it. Reversion to the mean. Eventually all things end up at the average. As it is with Uber, it will be with those of us whose chase the world of ephemeral success.

Today nobody wants to know the valuation of Uber. Everyone is asking what Uber’s values are. Similarly, it will be with each one of us. Likes of Uber can buy up any competitor, deploy the latest technology with all the wealth they have. Pray, from where can they buy what need now the most, respect? Forget Uber, from where can you buy it?

As Steve Jobs realized on his deathbed, buried with our body is our success and valuation. What remains afterwards are our values.

Choose wisely.







Alphabet soup of life

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has in school – Albert Einstein

Results are in. HSC, ICSE, CBSE, JEE, NEET, UPSC, SSC, IIT, EAMCET…the alphabet soup of exams have set out future of the children of India. By the age of 16-17 years, half of school going children in India go through stress and struggle than an adult goes through in 30 years of his working life! Every year crores of children write these exams hoping to build a future for themselves. Many stories emerge from these exams. Some familiar, some out of the box.

Girls outshine boys in schools, boys outshine girls in engineering and medical entrances, sons and daughters of samosa makers to rickshaw pullers emerge triumphant against all odds. North India is more inclined towards Public Services and South India towards IIT /engineering & medicine. Some take to extreme steps in face of failure. Psychologists, sociologists and educationists analyze advice and caution on the ways to win, handle the victory and the defeats in these exams. Every year the story repeats.

Education, especially up to pre-university level is probably the biggest business out there in India. Bigger offshoot of this is the tutorial college business. Kota in Rajasthan, Hyderabad and southern states have famous factories that produce these purported future heroes & heroines of India. Anand Kumar’s Super30 in Patna, a truly non-profit study center, gets a near 100% results every year. The parents of these children spend lots of money, lose lots of sleep and pin great hopes while over burdening their children match the gruel that their children go through. As one of the mentors in one of the factory colleges told a group of parents (including me), “ask him to give 5 years of his life now, he can have a great life forever afterwards”. If he does not make it, who will give him back 5 years of his youth!

Due to the sheer size of population, only one country’s children and parents go through a similar grind. China. Few days ago on June 7 to 9 this year, 200 million children and 400 million parents in China went through an ordeal called Gaokao. It is a popular name for National Higher Education Entrance Examination. Gaokao is a must exam for every child in China to pursue higher education. While In India’s IIT, EAMCET etc. are restricted to Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Zoology, Gaokao is an exam with much wider range of subjects including Chinese language, history etc. Gaokao sets the pecking order. Higher the score, better college you get to go. Apparently, the race of life begins very early in India and China.

If you are wondering why parents of teenage children (especially boys) are more upset with Donald Trump than Americans themselves are, it is these exams. For many parents, especially in South India, an engineering degree is a passport, visa and ticket all combined to United States of America. IIM is the next abode for any many IITians and engineering graduates in their educational pilgrimage of life. For many IIT+IIM is a combination more powerful than nuclear fusion. It is another matter that, many of these bright engineers end up selling soaps, sugared water and investment products!

India produces the highest quantity of unemployed (& unemployable) engineers. Quality of education in India, at every level save few institutions, is a cause for worry. Surprisingly while the cost of education is going up, while teachers are grossly underpaid! Today’s newspaper report highlights that 38% of urban families’ expenditure is on higher education. Many schools in India resemble a low-level office complex sans any facilities apart from ramshackle classrooms. Playground is a dream, sports an option and proper desk a comfort.

During the British rule, Thomas Macaulay created an education system in India that had one objective. Liquidate the indigenous culture of India by substituting it with an alien system to meet the needs of the British Empire. India produced clerks to serve the British Empire. British and Macaulay left long ago. Macaulayism remains entrenched in the schools, desks of the children and minds of the parents. We replaced clerks with coders.

Which school shall we go to get rid of Macaulaysim? Take an entrance test for the same!




These jobs wont go away

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. – Benjamin Franklin
Jobs are (reportedly) being lost every day. All that we learnt or we are learning or to be learnt will be irrelevant shortly. Machines, algorithms and bots are taking over what essentially made man what he is – work. It is work that differentiates man from other creatures. While other creatures work only for two reasons, sustenance and survival, we humans work to sustain, survive, enjoy and conquer apart from other reasons.

If all jobs are going to be done by machines what will we humans do? Of course some humans are required to create, manage and maintain these machines, the rest are plain burden on the planet.

Wait, are all jobs going to be done by machines? Not really. Let’s look at some jobs which we, only humans, can do!

Salesmen: Agreed self-service kiosks and e-commerce has reduced interface between buyers and sellers but salesmen are not going to away anywhere soon. At least the ‘real salespeople’. Every company has customers who buy and there are customers who are sold. Essentially the future salesforce will be split into two – bot and non-bot. Bots will serve to customers who buy what they require. To ‘sell’ products like double the money in 3 months, magical weight loss pills, three units when all you need is one etc. you need human salesmen!

Drivers: This is one job that will never go away in India. Driverless cars will take you in the right direction the right way. To jump signals, go in the wrong direction, go around a cow, double-park etc. is something that we can never programme a driverless car.

Actors: Already one of our superstars in Bollywood is a bot! The way Salman Khan sleeps walks through his roles, a bot might find it difficult to copy. Deadpan expressions (or the lack of them) are something likes of Salman Khan have in abundance, so what can the bots replace. With bots already replacing people, films might be one place where actors can replace the bots! A nerdy revenge.

Lawyers: IBM Ross is the new artificial intelligence based lawyer. AI is said to be threatening the existence of lawyers. That is ‘true’ lawyers. If IBM Ross was Salman Khan’s lawyer in the in-famous car accident case he would have been in jail! It takes a genuine ‘lawyer’ to create a driverless car and convince the judiciary to absolve Salman in the case!

Babus: One job that will never go away will be that of the sarkari babu. A sarkari babu has to take the decision to replace his job with that of a bot. Can’t happen for sure. What can one expect for sure is to have more babus to supervise the bots. Eventually if bots replace babus, the meaning of ‘greasing’ the palms of babus has a different meaning!

Politicians: Now someone has to rule us and the bots! Tamasha of democracy, corruption, stupid politicians are truly irreplaceable. Imagine Trump being replaced by a bot. How boring the world will be without his rambunctious tweets and in the face body language. If there is one section of humans with true artificial intelligence, they are the politicians! Ronald Reagan read out what was there on the tele-prompter which was put out by his advisors. 25 years later, politicians have not gained any more intelligence and depend on artificial intelligence!

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and what else to come cannot stand up against one thing in India – jugaad. From buses to offices to even governments everything here runs on jugaad. I think human intelligence needs to go many notches higher before it can automate jugaad.

Until then, many jobs in India are safe and sure.



PR needs PR

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers. Daniel J. Boorstin

Airlines have hit an air pocket. Our own Air India got bashed up and ended up licking the wounds inflicted on it by our neta. United Airlines seems to have ‘dragged’ itself into a bigger mess.

Yesterday we watched with horror of a passenger who paid for his ticket and occupied his seat dragged, beaten up and carried away by United Airlines staff from the aircraft. What followed (and continues) is a public relations disaster.

Today morning news is filled with stories in the media that do not paint a good picture of the passenger David Dao. After pulling him down physically, United is now trying to pull him down as a person. Wait, before boarding are we supposed to get our character also checked apart from our bags and bodies?

United CEO’s initial response was belligerent. He has since apologised thrice in space of a day but the damage is done. Many PR professionals have put forth their views on how United should have managed the situation. However, it is not the first time nor it will be the last time it will happen.

General Motors did the same mistake in public relations nearly 53 years ago. GM launched Covair, a sporty car in 1964. To cut costs, GM compromised on few parts and hid the facts from the customers. Many accidents were reported but GM kept quiet even though they knew the problem. Ralph Nadar, an automotive engineer wrote a book “Unsafe at any speed” highlighting safety problems with cars due to compromises by makers. Of which only one chapter was on Covair. The book hit the market at the time the complaints about Covair were increasing. Big GM got enraged.

GM’s PR team got into an aggressive mode. They dug into the life of Ralph Nadar and splashed dirt about his life, political leanings, sexuality and much more. It clearly backfired. The book got publicity and more people read it. Those who never found a problem in their Covair suddenly started finding problems! GM apologised, withdrew the car and paid compensation to Ralph Nadar. Positive fall-out was increased auto safety norms, consumer rights, seat belts were made mandatory and much more.

Public Relations is mistaken to be a magical wand that will drive away any bad doings by the organisations. If an organisation is wrong, it is wrong – after all it is run by humans! Apologise, take corrective action and ensure the mistake is not repeated. In today’s world, the loss of face and money (United lost a billion in stock price in a day) is instant.

Good organisation rules are the basis of good PR not the other way round. Take this example.

How much do two crates of mineral water bottles cost in Starbucks? For all the over pricing, it should cost $150 dollar. But it costed Starbucks two million and 150 dollars! On 9/11 2001, few fire service men entered the Starbucks restaurant in Manhattan to ask for water as they were dehydrated due to fighting the fire at World Trade center after the terrorist attacks. Starbucks employee billed them $150. They felt it was grossly overpriced and also inappropriate to demand money due to the situation. The employee was no mood to relent. Rules are rules and you need to pay. All the firemen pooled their monies and bought the water bottles.

Later these firemen sent a representation to Starbucks requesting for refund considering the situation but got no response (after all, rules are rules aren’t they?). A reporter picked up the story and finally it reached top management after lots of unwanted publicity. Starbucks refunded $150 to the firemen and also donated 2 million dollars on their behalf to their favourite charity. PR is costly.

Rules and regulations are necessary for any organisation. Or else there will be chaos and lack of standards. However, organisations should treat rules as guides and not as rings of fire which employees (or customers) can cross at their own peril. Humility, honesty and compassion override and overrule every rule any organisation can ever draft and circulate.

You don’t need a PR agency to manage that.




Democracy is the worst form of government one can imagine. Until one tries to imagine a better one. Winston Churchill

Potholes, filth, corruption, flooded roads…any party would have lost the BMC election. ShivSena-BJP shockingly came back to power 2 days ago.  Past 2 months has been a tumultuous time for the concept of democracy. Be it Trump in USA or happenings in Tamil Nadu, tone & tenor the election campaigns in North India, people have are really wondering is this what democracy means? Elected (or even un-elected ones like Sasikala) representatives behave with impunity, blurring the lines between tyrants, dictators and those who were ‘chosen’ to rule. Democracy is truly crazy!

Democracy as an idea is very simple. Though all human beings are born equal, we are like sheep who need a shepherd to keep the flock together. Best among us is chosen to lead us, guide us to ensure we live life in an equal and constructive way. The need for a democratic system can be likened to a concept in economics called ‘tragedy of commons’.

As per tragedy of commons theory every individual pursues his own interest independent of the others in the system, eventually leading to disaster of the entire system. For example, all of us have a right to drive on the road as we choose, as we are independent beings. In absence of road rules, everyone goes his way and eventually nothing moves defeating the very purpose of driving on the road. We need to create rules and regulations to ensure traffic flows in a particular way so that all will benefit though it may not suit few. Question is, who creates these rules?

Democracy in the form we know now took its birth in ancient 5th century Greece, opposing the concept of aristocracy and replacing it with rule by the people.  In Classical Athens, democracy had a flawed beginning – there was aristocracy in democracy. Only free men were eligible for democratic citizenship, slaves and women being excluded. The first true democratic government was established in Finland in 1906. Today only 3 countries declare themselves ‘not’ to be a democracy – Saudi Arabia, Vatican City and Brunei. Rest all (yes all!) have elected governments. It is entirely another matter that in some countries only one person stands for election and gets 99% of the vote! How I wish to meet the 1%.

Success of democracy funnily is not in the hands of the people but in the hands of the one who has the power. Unchecked power in the hands of the leader reduces democracy into a Kakistocracy (a form of government in which the worst people are in power). Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is an example of running Kakistocratic government. Reason people are aghast with Trump administration is that they believe he has staffed, (including himself) with all the wrong people. So democracy boils to selection of the right leader. That raises the question, who is the right leader?

Greek philosopher Plato put forth a solution – philosopher king. He believed that we need men of highest knowledge to be the kings (rulers) as he believed that knowledge is what is required to rule and not power. The ‘kallipolis’ or the beautiful city (country) is a just city where philosophers rule through knowledge and not through power. In his masterpiece Republic, he outlines the way to groom such philosopher kings and build  a just city.

However, it is not so simple for two reasons. A philosopher after gaining all the knowledge may not be interested in trappings of power and politics. Two, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Philosopher king comes with all the ideals but gets attracted to power and may end up looking like any other politician or a tyrant, that too an intelligent one. Example, Manmohan Singh. Here was an economics philosopher who got attracted to trappings of power (even if remote controlled), looked other way to the corruption around him and did not give it up all and walk away even at the age of 78.

Nevertheless, democracy is the only choice we have to avoid ‘tragedy of commons’. Exercising the choice (of leaders, parties, to vote) is a power every individual possess. Otherwise, democracy as philosopher Nietzsche said will remain ‘a mania to count noses’.



Where are the bowlers?

A gun is no more dangerous than a cricket bat in the hands of a madman – Prince Philip

Which of these is the toughest job? Traffic police officer on the streets of Delhi, speaker of Indian parliament or bowler in a one-day international. Silly, the answer is too obvious.

“There might be some movement for the first 4 overs. That too because 2 balls are used which effectively means that the movement can be expected only for 2 overs with each ball”. Sanjay Manjrekar’s words at the start of India’s innings (the second one) during the last one day international between India & England sounded like death knell to one of the finest arts in the world of sport – bowling!

Watching cricket these days is akin to watching a boxer practicing with a punching bag. Bowlers in cricket today, be it test, one-day or T20, exist only one purpose – to enable batsmen bang the ball into the stands. Rare it is to watch to a batsman flummoxed with an exceptional ball from a bowler. Swing, bouncer, turn etc. may be words that are on the way out from cricket’s lexicon.

Look at the list of 10 players of the day. Kohli, Root, Williamson, Warner, Smith, de Villiers, Amla, Cook, Ashwin, Starc. Only two bowlers! Expand the list to Top 20 and you may end up with one or two more bowlers at the best. Look up the list of top 10 players during 2000-2005. At least five of the top ten players will be bowlers. Such has been the fall of the stature of bowlers.

Take a nostalgic look at the time when Kapil, Botham, Hadlee, Imran, Garner, Marshall, Roberts, Holding, Kumble, Murali, McGrath et al were playing. Whenever they stepped up to bowl, you expected something to happen. While facing them fans of the batsmen were either pitying the plight of the batsmen or admiring their skills in negotiating their skills of batsman ship. When was the last time you felt that way while watching any match these days?

Let’s look at some things that changed the game and made it into ‘modern cricket’. Ball, bat or protective gear, everything has improved a lot – all in favour of the batsmen. Pitches have lost all their bite. Perth or Kingston Jamaica pitches were batsmen’s nightmare. No longer. Every pitch report of every match is the same. “Flat, even bounce and outside chance of turn,” every commentator can say for every match to be played for the next 3 months! Next are the rules. Every rule is being re-written to make it a batsmen’s game all the way up to the tail. Imran, Walsh, Akram etc. were well known to wipe out the tail. Today, the tail plays as good as the mainline batsmen.

Technology has removed any degree of uncertainty that made the game of cricket what it is. Unpredictability and human error played their own part in swinging the games fortunes. DRS, third-umpire, Snick meter, Hotspot have virtually nullified any stroke of chance a bowler to snare a wicket. Again this technology is in favour of the batsmen. Last but not the least, the boundary line. As a first step in making a realistic comparison between batsmen of this era and of yesteryears is to reduce their runs scored by 10%. Most of today’s sixers (except may be a few by Chris Gayle) were either caught out on boundary line or would have earned four runs few decades ago. Let’s not forget that a six demotivates a bowler more than anything else. Again another anti-bowler step.

Only one thing is working in favour of the bowler, sometimes. Nature. Swing due to cold and heavy weather. Rest is stacked up against the bowlers. A run feast sells more than a wicket feast. Gross commercialization meant playing to the stands (literally!) than playing in the true spirit of the game. One spell from an unknown commodity can bamboozle batsman like what Chhal’s did to the Englishmen.

What is the hope? We can try few things. One, stick to one ball rule in one-day internationals -scoring against an older ball is part of the charm of the game of cricket. Two, uncover the pitches, so that nature plays its part. Three, pull back the ropes of the boundary and let the batsmen earn their runs.

If not, who needs bowlers? Few bowling machines can do the job. When machines are replacing many human jobs, why not that of a bowler?




New resolutions, old habits

I know. I’m lazy. But I made myself a New Years resolution that I would write myself something really special. Which means I have ’til December, right? –Catherine O’Hara

Gyms are back to normal attendance. Your morning walk companions are the same and the rush has come down. Cigarette, alcohol and junk food sales are steadily returning to normalcy if not growing. What’s happening?

No, it is not remonitisation. It is because 18 days of January have passed. If you haven’t got the drift of my point, here is the fact – new year resolutions are falling apart. If your new year resolution is not progressing as you had planned, don’t worry. One by one, by the thousands and millions across the world, people are giving up on their new year resolutions and getting back to… well normalcy. More often than not for most people resolutions (new year or any other) fail. Why?

Simple. We are creatures of habit. We behave the way we do is because of what psychologists refer to as a Habit Loop – a neurological loop that governs any habit. In electricity a loop is a closed circuit. In a computer it is a sequence of instructions that repeats numerous times until an end condition is met. In us it is the patterns of behavior which we call habit.

A Habit Loop has three elements in it – a cue, a routine, and a reward. Let’s take the most favourite new year resolution to understand habit loop – dieting. Cue is hunger, routine is to eat to satiate hunger, and the reward is a happy tummy (or is it the mind?). If you want to diet and reduce weight it is not enough if you starve, undertake a crash diet or change the menu. Starving and crash diet are not recommended and the last gives you limited success. For success, you need to break the pattern of how you eat, when you eat and with whom you eat (true!).

Charles Dhuigg who wrote the wonderful book The Power Habit explains how he broke the habit of snacking at 3:30 pm every day in the office. He would go to the cafeteria buy a cookie and socialize with colleagues. He analysed his habit and realized that the reward was not the cookie, but the opportunity to socialize with friends. He simply set an alarm at 3:30 PM on his watch and walked up to colleague’s desk to chat for 10 minutes. Slowly with conscious effort, he weaned away the habit of snacking at 3:30 pm.

If you are someone who eats dinner while watching TV and is serious about dieting, try this. Eat your dinner standing with the TV switched off. Researchers have noted that one tends to eat more while the mind is busy – note the number of cookies you eat during a conference or a meeting. If it is TV with your favourite characters, sound & lights an extra helping will always be the norm (or the habit!). Also, if you need to eat less, have less food around. As the great behavior scientist Dan Ariely points out, if you need to eat less, make the plate the smaller!

Don’t challenge your will power and test it to check if you can resist chocolate when it is in the fridge. The result is clear and definite – failure. As our sages from the vedic times pointed out this body is the seat of pleasure. Our mind is the great accumulator of the pleasures that we experience. If you want your new year resolution to succeed, win over your mind. You are what you are because of your habits and what you want to or will be is because of habits. Analyse the cues, routines and the rewards of our current habits. Break them and change them. Viola! Your mind starts forming new habits. Easy isn’t it!

Need more help? Try the powerful WOOP strategy created by Oettingen, Pak, & Schnetter. W –wish, O- objective or a goal, O- obstacle recognition and P – plan to deal with your obstacle. You need to genuinely Wish to diet & reduce weight. Then have a realistic and measurable Objective/goal (inches or kgs) and know your Obstacles (which foods, which times and with whom you eat). Based on the above make a Plan to overcome the obstacle (don’t have such foods in the house, pack food from home, have a small plate, eat not in the sofa and eat alone if needed).

Finally, what’s there in January 1 that you need to start on that day? It’s just a date! Start any day you want but with a plan and act on it. Be your own judge and jury.

Happy New Year (Resolutions!)



PS: What’s my New Year resolution. Be happy!


Money Walks


The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles – Karl Marx


That is the size of the money laundering business in this world. No. Not created by thugs, mafias and their ilk. It is a world that has put together by well-educated lawyers, bankers and financers working in blue chip organizations with an elaborate code of ethics charter listed on their site and filed with regulatory authorities.

Post demonitisation, stories are being filed of Jan Dhan accounts being topped up with cash, post office officials changing the color of money from black to white, bankers helping people get new notes for old for a consideration and many more. If you believe that if it is an ingenuity that we Indians came up with in a few days to beat the demon in demonitisation, you are mistaken. It is a regular and vibrant business across the world. More sophisticated than the software in your iPhone.

Cook Island, Panama, St.Kitts, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, Jersey, Isle of Man, Ireland, Monaco, Mauritius etc are places that are coveted by the rich and famous. No, not for their great beaches, picturesque mountains, and lovely sunsets. They are the places where they hide their wealth. Not in cash, not in gold bars like in a pirate story but in shell companies and trusts that are so complicated in structure, probably even the owner does not really understand where his money is!

Reading one such structure of holding for a rich individual is no less than a Hitchcock plot. Fake (shell) companies are created in the investments are held from which payments are made on which loans are given for which insurance is paid while losses are booked on profits that are earned while the individual is a resident of 3 different countries but lives in a yacht so that no law can reach him. It is a sample of the ways of the rich, who infamously hide their wealth.

These men (and women) are not drug lords or criminals. They are well-respected entrepreneurs, champions of capitalism, politicians, movie stars etc. These and likes of those who are admired, followed and aspired by many trying to make it big in their world.

If you think that only the rich individuals who indulge in this tax tripping, think again. Corporates are not far behind. Where do you think 98% of Apple’s its profit is taxed? USA. No. It is somewhere in the middle of Atlantic Ocean! Such is the structure that Apple created with Ireland that Apple pays just 50 euros for every million euros profit it earns in Europe! To quote the European Commission, “the arrangements enabled Apple to funnel profit from two Irish subsidiaries to a “head office” with “no employees, no premises and no real activities”

Karl Marx propounded the Conflict Theory in which he stated that society is in a perpetual state of conflict due to competition for limited resources. The biggest resource is money. Thanks to these unscrupulous but intelligent professionals, haves escape tax and there is no money for to be shared with the have-nots.  Rich remain a minority that is shrinking while the poor grow in majority. To add insult to injury, these very rich get bailouts from governments, which surprisingly do not have money to fund healthcare or education for the needy! Read “A Good Book in Theory” by Alan Shears and James Cairns for entertaining version of the grim way conflict theory plays out in real life.

If you are struggling to get 10,000 from your account while someone is getting crores and are you are upset, note that it’s just not the banks, the entire system is rigged against you. Remember Trump said he avoided taxes in a smart way and he won as President! It is a system of the haves, by the haves, for the haves. There is a class conflict even among the rich. The foolish rich and the smart rich. If some rich are feeling the pinch of demonitisation as they are stuck with trunk loads of old cash, it is not their failure as they are the foolish rich. It is the failure of the sales men of those banks and legal firms who failed to reach them and sell their wares to hide their wealth.




PS: The above number is $21 trillion.



Money maketh the man


Money is like a sixth sense – and you can’t make use of the other five without it – William Somerset Maugham

Demonitisation. This one word captured our imagination, time and in some cases our sleep over the past few days. No, this not another blog about the merits and demerits of it. It is a look at the way we Indians have reacted to the whole activity.

As per Discrete Emotion Theory, all humans have a set of emotions, which are universal. Paul Ekman and his colleagues did a major cross-cultural study and arrived at the conclusion that all humans have these six emotions in them: anger, disgust, surprise, fear, happiness, and sadness.

If there was any one thing that could have brought out all these emotions in us, it had to be money. Let us look at how these emotions played out in the last few days as demonitisation unfolded.

Humour (surprise or happiness): If anyone had any doubt if we Indians have a sense of humour, the last one week sealed the argument. Memes, SMSes, videos, images and more turned up in social media within couple of hours of the news. Photoshopped images of Rs.500 & Rs.1000 notes being used a paper packages to toilet rolls appeared. If you cannot cry, laugh was the message. Perfect timing with great speed.

Conspiracy (disgust/anger): Social media is a perfect platform to spin a web of conspiracy theories. Best of them was this one. Reliance Jio is giving away from airtime and data until December 30 so that Mukesh Ambani can convert his black money into white, which will come back to him in January 2017. How? Beats me. Can anyone explain it to me? Here is another. Urjit Patel was working with Reliance (true) and he had a hand in all this to help Ambani (how?) Though he became Governor 2 months ago his signature is already there on the Rs.2,000 note which means everything was kept ready 6 months ago (mind you it was only the design) ignoring the fact that you can incorporate a signature in few minutes and print in a couple of days! Social media is free and unaccountable so you can get away with anything. Creativity in conspiracy!

Nationalism (happiness): From hailing Modi as a messiah, to predicting death knell of the super-rich to visualizing a great nation, nationalists went overboard. Yes, it will (hopefully) have an impact on the way we do business, use cash etc. but to tout it as a panacea for all the ills in India is stretching the argument too far.

Help, support, and compassion (fear): Fear of loss set in the hearts of those with stacked notes but a wave of compassion arose in the hearts of many for the ones without the mean who will get affected the most. They put their best efforts to suggest ways and means to help these affected. From advising us not to palm off our old notes to unsuspecting petty vendors to asking us not to jump to unfound rumors and news, they have done a great done. Thanks.

Greed (disgust): It is the feeling that one started having for the haves. How to convert black to white is now the biggest trending search item on Google from India! Rich have paid out hundreds of crores of property tax, utility bills etc. in the last few days. Which means they had they had the means to pay, but did not. Why? For what purpose did they stack up that money? It is clear that the rich have not been paying for the public services and get what they want without paying for them! So it is the middle-class that’s has been holding the Indian economy up. God save the Indian middle-class!

We had a chance to see every shade of human emotion in full display in just a few days all thanks to 2 numbers written on a piece of paper. What then is our true worth?