Tuesday, June 19, 2012


We have heard this word 'Inflation' a lot of times when we watch the news channel or read newspapers. Inflation in monetary terms is the rate by which the prices of goods and services are raising when compared to sometime in the past. Many economists claim that a controlled monetary inflation is good for the economy.

Apart from the inflation in currency, inflation in various other fields are witnessed today. For example, if anyone gets admitted to a private hospital in India, they spend a certain amount of time in the intensive care unit (ICU) no matter what kind of illness they initially had. A decade earlier ICU was used only for 'intensive' care. But now, ICU is just another ward. To combat the loss in value of ICU, some hospitals have introduced a CCU (Critical care unit). Some see that CCU is the new ICU. Isn't this inflation too?

Almost anyone who earn around 20,000 rupees a month gets a gold credit card. A gold card was something preserved for general managers and CXO level people a decade and a half back. Now, platinum and other levels have taken over as the superior levels in the credit card market. This has brought down the value of a gold card. Isn't this brand inflation?

A customer care executive of today is the receptionist a decade back. A marketing officer is someone who sells soaps door to door. Now, executives are at all levels such as a facilities management executive who sweeps the floor. There was a time when executives were the top level people who had great powers within an organisation. The value of executive has fallen down so much in the past years. Isn't this designation inflation?

In the earlier days, clothes are measured in inches or centimeters. Now they come in sizes. It was discovered that size 10 of today is an inch bigger than size 10 of last decade. Inflation has crept in size too.

A controlled monetary inflation is good for everyone. Inflation, in any other area, can only bring the value down. It makes us feel that we have access to bigger things such as possessing a gold card, or working as a customer service executive, or fitting into size 10 all the time or staying in a critical care unit. Although we are led to believe that we are doing greater things, in reality, we are only fooling ourselves.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Man versus machine

During the industrial revolution, the idea of mass production and distribution flourished. Large factories with machinery were installed. Workers in the factory work with the machines that produce various products which are then sold. Factory discipline came into existence. People started working for a specified number of hours a day in set patterns.

In those times, roughly the productivity of a worker is largely dictated by the productivity of the machine in which he worked on. If a machine is capable of producing 100 bottles a day, then the productivity of the worker is also the same. The output of the worker can only increase when the output of the machine increases. This is one of the main reasons for the fixed hours work culture to come into existance. The management team can clearly know in advance how much the factory can produce based on the number of hours the machine and the worker works. This is the era in which time and productivity are very tightly coupled.

Fast forward to the current times and see the life of a consultant or an IT engineer. The basic guideline still is to work for nine hours a day. The assumption is that the employee would produce a specified units of work in those nine hours. One of the common feedback from an appriser to the apprisee at the end of the year is the time the appraisee spends at work. Even if an employee has never missed deadlines, he would still be pulled up for not putting enough hours at work or for not working on the weekends.

Are we still living in the industrial revolution era? High end job needs free thinking and every person's productivity is different. An employee should be paid for the amount of his output rather then the time spent in office. Clearly, the time and productivity link is much weaker now when compared to the previous era. In organisations like Wipro, it is mandatory to spend specified number of hours at work even though the employee is perfectly capable of producing the output by working lesser hours. How does an organistion reward an employee with higher productivity, or punish less productive workers? Is it fair to judge an emplyee with the time he spends in office everyday, rather than his output?

One of my friends used to work till late night and work from home after that as well. One day, after completing his work, he sent a mail at 1 AM to his manager informing her that the work was complete. The next day when the manager asked him whether he worked until very late in the night, he said yes with a big smile on his face. The manager looked at him for a minute and said "Plan your work properly next time and try to be more productive"

Isint that the difference between a man and a machine?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fair plays and politics

Cricket is a gentleman's game. No matter at what level one plays the game, winning or losing does not matter. All that matters is whether the game is played with a gentleman spirit. This is especially tested when playing under extreme pressure to perform. However, the best players in the world know how to conduct with utmost dignity on the field. Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble are among the greatest players the future generations can look up to.

However, in the current edition of the IPL, the number of Indian players that show dissent and involve in unnecessary argument is raising. The normally sedate Munaf Patel was close to hitting an on-field umpire over a decision and was found guilty on another occasion for verbal abuse. Ashwin picked up a few fights as well in this edition. One with Steve smith and one with Praveen Kumar.

Not surprisingly, the Chennai super kings and the Mumbai Indians are among the bottom of the fair play list this year. Twenty 20 is a hit and miss game. It is not the purest form of Cricket. As a team, you win some and you loose some. But, how you play and how you conduct yourself is of utmost importance in cricket. Though Chennai or Mumbai are not in the best of its form, both can put match winning performances on any day and could even win this edition. But, for me, improving their fair play rating in the second half of this IPL edition is more important than winning the title. As MCC puts it, play hard, play fair!

On the other side, Sachin Tendulkar became the first cricketer and an active sportsman to become a member in the upper house of Indian Parliament. Many hope that he can bring about changes in the way sports authorities are run in the country. Sachin is the biggest sportsman in Inida. No doubts about that. But, if you look at his wonderful carrier, you may find that he was never successful as a captain. He failed to get the best out of his players and even for Mumbai Indians, he was tactically not the best among other T30 captains.

He has never held a leadership post and has no experience in politics. He has never took a post in the state cricket association or the national cricket academy. Also, he has never spoken about his desire to improve sports facilities in India. Hence it took me by surprise when i heard about this new job. But why Sachin Tendulkar? Why this obsession when there are people who could do a better job than him? For instance, Anil Kumble has a much better CV than Sachin for this job. Giving sachin this post , when there are better people around, is a mistake!

Monday, March 19, 2012


It was raining heavily. For the past three days. Streets became rivers and cars became boats. Tropical cyclones are not uncommon in southern coastal parts of India, but every year three days of cyclonic storm provides water to the community for the complete year. This year, the storm is accompanied by recurring lightning and loud thunders.

Kumar was standing outside the corridor starring at the empty streets filled with dirty water. He carefully pulled a pack of cigarettes from this pocket and lit one of them using a cheeta fight match box. Under the dimly lit entrance of the government maternity hospital Kumar's face can be barely seen. A bright lightning filled the dark village street when he exhaled the first puff of smoke.

His face can be barely seen even under brightest of the lightning. He is only a five feet tall man in his mid thirties, weighing 80 kilos. Adding to that, his skin colour was as dark as kajal. In South India, there is always an obsession with the colour of the person and people with darker complexion are considered inferior. Another obsession in most families is having a son to ensure continuity of the family after their time is over. Also, at the time of marriage, a son is considered an asset while a daughter is a liability.

Kumar was puffing away cigarette after cigarette. He had been in the same position a couple of times in the last five years. His thoughts went to the day when he became a dad for the first time. When the nurse showed him his first daughter, he was disappointed on more than one count. He not only was unhappy to become a father of a girl child, but also was unhappy that her complexion was exactly like his own. If a daughter is considered a liability, a darker one is a double liability.

Kumar puffed away another cigarette when he heard a faint voice by his side. When he looked down, he saw an old beggar asking for either food or money.

"It has been 3 days since I had anything to eat" she begged.

Kumar wanted to chase her away. He was too nervous to confront anyone at that stage. He pulled out his wallet from his pocket and gave her two rupees.

The beggar then thanked him for the money and left. Kumar didn’t utter a single word. When he was about to place the wallet back in his pocket, he closely looked at a photograph in this wallet. The photo contains a nice looking, smiling, white complexioned woman standing next to him. He touched her face in the photo. Another lightning filled the place with bright light while his thoughts wavered to the time he was in the hospital the second time.

"Congratulations Kumar! You are blessed with a girl child" the beaming nurse said.

Kumar was disappointed, yet again.

"And she looks exactly like you. Isn’t that great?" she exclaimed

Kumar was almost in tears. He was utterly disappointed twice in two attempts. The least of his expectations was to have a daughter who looks as beautiful as her mother. Every clause of his prayers was unanswered.

Third time in five years, he was standing at the end of the corridor, puffing away smoke. This time, he had a clear plan to avoid disappointment. He knew that he had no control over the gender of the child his wife is giving birth to. But, he thought he had a lot of control over what could happen afterwards.

When he puffed his last smoke, the same nurse appeared with the same beaming smile.

"Is it a boy this time?" he asked with great anticipation, not even caring to ask about the state of his wife. According to him, three daughters are too much to handle.

"No" The nurse replied. "But, she is gorgeous just like your wife. I have never seen a newly born child as beautiful as she is"

Kumar stood motionless. It does not matter to him how beautiful she looks. It does not matter to him, as long as she is not male.

The nurse took him to a dark corner and said "There has been only one boy in the whole of today. All others are girl babies"

"Did you manage to..." he asked with some hesitation.

"Yes. I have exchanged your girl with the boy from room 23 in the first floor" she said.

"Thank you" he said. "You have no idea how important this is for me"

He opened his bag and gave a small parcel to her.

"This one has the remaining 50 we talked about" he said in a hiss. She slipped the small package under her skirt and disappeared quickly.

Being constantly pricked by his feeling of guilt, he assured himself that he had done the best possible thing for him and his family, even though it means that he would be bringing up someone and pass on his values, traditions and wealth to someone who does not belong to his bloodline.

He opened his wallet again and saw the beautiful eyes of his wife in the photograph. His eyes became moist yet again.

"They have for a separate room in the first floor. It means that they should be reasonably wealthy and so she would have a better quality of life than living with him" he assured himself.

On his way to the second floor to see his wife and 'son', he stopped in the first floor. It still was raining heavily outside. He looked at his wife's photo once again. He was unable to control his urge to see his daughter, who is as good looking as his wife.

He knocked on room 23 saying "Hi, my wife is in the next room. I just happened to see your child from outside and she looks beautiful" while stepping in. The kid’s mother was still unconscious. He saw a middle aged woman with excessive makeup on her face, sitting by the side of Mom and daughter. She was wearing a silk sari and was wearing a couple of gold necklace to go with golden bangles and rings.

Kumar felt happy for the first time that day. His feeling of guilt slowly started leaving him as he thought her new family would give her all the comfort to lead a quality life. He saw his daughter from a close range for the first time. He froze for several moments as he fighted tears from falling onto her.

"Mahalakshmi" he said. "She looks like a Mahalakshmi and she has a beautiful eyes"

"Yes, she has. Isn’t she?" she exclaimed.

Looking at her happiness, he asked "Are you her Aunt?"

"Not exactly. But I take care of both of them now"

"Are you not unhappy that you have a daughter instead of a son?" he asked.

"Unhappy? You must be joking. Look at her. She is the prettiest I have ever seen" she said with joy and pulled out a lipstick from her handbag.

Looking into the small hand held mirror, she smiled and said "And in some years, she will be the rockstar in my business"