The Mumbai Indian T-Shirt

Friday, April 02, 2010

“But Papa, this looks exactly like the actual T Shirt of the Mumbai Indians”, pleaded Krtin, my 8 year old son.

We were walking the shop-streets in Vashi – a customary stroll that I take with the family just after we have had the habitual PAO Bhaji / Vada PAO / Usal PAO / Missal PAO and every other derivative of the much plagiarised PAO that has grown on me over the last 9 months now that I have made Navi Mumbai my new home.

The stroll, of course, is always more expensive than the damage that the PAO inflicts on my liver and the associated organs that work in tandem, overtime over the next 3 days and nights before the last remnants of the PAO are egested out of my system. The stroll also, without exception, has broken-down, walk-able pieces that Krtin and his younger sister can manage on their small feet.

In my early parenting life when my children checked in, and in a more general understanding that I have of the co-existence of big people and small people and of street-walk ergonomics of the small people and their small feet, I had thought that the broken-down, walk-able pieces are truly a way of them telling me to slow down in life and pace my big feet with their small feet. Now as time goes by and the small feet grow bigger, I see, more to the dismay of my wallet, that there is a more sinister ploy at play.

What they don’t teach you at the Harvard Child Psychology School or Kotler’s missing chapters on Children’s Buying Behavior, is what I learn at the post-PAO promenade. I discover that my kids puff like the ‘long distance runners just about dropping dead’ when they near or pass by the stores that stock toys and gizmos and game zones. They would want to get in and collapse on the Barbies and the mobile phones or sit on that power bike that takes you flying up the mountains by the swipe of a game zone card.

But the last stroll had Krtin particularly targeting what he had been clamoring for, for a while, ever since Lalit Modi unleashed the IPL Season 3 on an entire generation of instant cricket  foodies – gluttons and gourmets alike.

The shop at the Vashi street had all the T Shirts of the teams that are on the block in the IPL. And they had every brand boldly embossed on these T Shirts – every brand that sponsors the Teams in the same exact logo and font measured to the last millimeter. Of course, adidas was spelt with an added d and Reebok was spelt minus an e. The ‘Mumbai Indians’ was particularly spelt as ‘Mumbai Indian’ on the left breast side of the T Shirt.

And that – was my grudge!

The object of my grudge was priced at Rs 300. I said, “Krtin, see – this is a duplicate T Shirt. And you can’t be wearing this. It doesn’t make sense”. I knew I would have to explain ‘duplicate’. “See – this is what I mean”, I showed him the original when we went over to the adidas outlet 2 stores away. Krtin could compare the T Shirts and the difference was evident. The other palpable difference was that this T Shirt was priced at Rs 1,299 an exact Rs 999 more than the one next door.

In all the Blue Ocean energy that Lalit Modi has created in the cricketing world, including in all the 111 allied industries that he attached the IPL with, the one segment that he failed to capitalise is the possibility of revenues through affordable branded apparel, memorabilia, other objects of desire and an IPL wax museum especially with statuettes of the celebrity franchisees doing a Pappee-Jhappee with their auctioned idols!

My memories flashed back to 1997… when I first landed in Sydney – just about 3 years still running up to Sydney 2000 Olympics. Every bit of paraphernalia that was sold as a souvenir had the Sydney 2000 logo on it. The marketing was intense, the preparedness – impeccable. 5% of the sale value of any item that had the Olympics logo, mascot or the emblem, would go into the infrastructure building and development for hosting the Olympics. There was no counterfeit material on the show and each storekeeper proudly displayed the wares and were made affordable – for the natives and the tourists alike.

No guesses on where most of the stuff was manufactured and shipped from. And the entire show was state sponsored with appropriate contracting out to private enterprise.

While IPL is a capitalist dream of Modi and his apparel merchants – what if, well  – just imagine – if the entire IPL paraphernalia were to be original and made available to the masses at a small mark up price that would benefit all? For the record, adidas and Reebok make a 500% profit on what they sell through their outlets, and the state rakes in about Rs 200 crores on taxes levied on IPL 3 related products in the 40 day carnival.

I am in Delhi while I post this. The Commonwealth Games are just 5 months away. The city wears an “under preparation” tattoo everywhere you go. The sporting and residential infrastructure for athletes from all over, will just about be ready – if you are lucky – a day before the games, and hopefully – against hope – will be of international standards.

Delegations after Babu delegations had descended on Beijing 2 years ago to check out what China had done to host the Olympics in 2008. While a lot of work may be clandestinely carried out right while you read this and we may put up a brave face to the outer world that we are all set for our date with September 2010, the one lesson that we haven’t learnt from capitalism and Sydney 2000 and all other global sporting events that were ever held and will ever be held is to master the marketing chutzpah!

I bought my son, the Rs 300 T Shirt – for 2 reasons. First – the obvious – I did NOT WANT to afford the 1,299 T Shirt because Krtin would outgrow the size in the next 6 months. And 2 – there is no guarantee that Mumbai Indians would win IPL 3 and even if they did, will be able to hold on to the trophy the next season – what with 2 more teams thrown in for more chaos and cacophony!

While Krtin figures out this dismal logic of mine and our Babudom figures out a way to save face at the forthcoming Commonwealth Games…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

ITCH Makes The World Go Around

Friday, March 19, 2010

This is truly an awakening! A eureka moment amidst all newfound reason that dawns on me every now and then. Earlier this week was one such definitive moment!

I found out – and I must say this loud and clear for the benefit of the eardrums of all those wannabe scratch cream pharmacologists – it’s not love; it’s not jealousy; it’s not the carbon credits or the IPL;

Itch is… oops… it’s the “ITCH THAT MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND”!

So, in the underbelly of this “itch principle”, lies a more profound and noticed-by-the-naked-eye and tangy-to-the-twisted-tongue theory – YOU SCRATCH MY BACK AND I SCRATCH YOURS!

For the last many months, Fursat Friday has been off air. Not because I did not meet enough intelligent folk in my newfoundland – Mumbai – for me to scavenge on their sanity and live off it to displace a few million electrons on my blogspot every Friday and definitely not because I did not have enough “Fursat” in my new life and in my new city. Over the last few months – honestly – nobody had the time to scratch my back, and so I stopped scratching others’ backs.

There was no itch! Till earlier this week when Google reminded me of my renewal of annual payment for this blogspot! Yesss – I pay 10 hard earned dollars for this domain annually – for this small little electronic kingdom that I rule, to ensure that the counter on the left hand side of this column (do you see that?) keeps ticking for traffic to flow in here and I see more added flags on it and clap in glee.

Google scratched me – so I needed to return the favour! And while the itch was still inglorifying, I thought I might as well post my next blog!

Then it was Mayur Jangam. My dear team mate reminded me of a task that I had left unfinished and in a limbo for the last many months. He has started writing his own blog. Mayur attributes his renewed energy to the auspicious start to the Marathi New Year – GUDI PADVA. And that reminded me of my own New Year’s Day – UGADI (in Andhra Pradesh… Telangana… Hyderabad… well…) and I thought I must revive my own self commitment, which I diligently fulfilled for weeks in a row over the last 2 years – most of the time to my own amaze!

So, Mayur – thanks for scratching my back! As a favour in return, I have left comments on your blogspot. May you be more financially savvy than me and earn dollars (Google calls it ‘monetize’) through the electronic footprints that forlorn bloggers like me leave as we float in the electronic space!

My good friend Pardeep Pahal is a great philosopher. In fact, up there in the north in Haryana and more specifically, amongst his significantly sophisticated, uber-elite ilk i.e. the Jatt community, the legend has it that between Socrates and Pardeep, there exists a huge vacuum that would be inarguably uphill for even Dyson, Miele or Eureka Forbes to clean. For the Jatts, every other philosopher has risen to self proclaimed stardom sans wisdom. Pardeep is their messiah for world’s sense of equilibrium and confirmed perspicacity.

So, in effect, Pardeep, like Socrates, is a much acclaimed academic. Not just in Haryana or amongst his community, but equally so, here in Mumbai. Pardeep has made Mumbai his ‘weekday home’ as he flies back every weekend to be with his family and followers back in Haryana. And as a truth seeker would know when to scratch whose back and with what, Pardeep found Amitabh Bacchan in Mumbai.

At every stage when his followers are lost in life, like I have been over the last few months on Fursat Friday, Pardeep would quote a leaf out of Amitabh Bacchan’s life. A leaf with a relevant lesson in it for followers like me; mortals who have met neither Socrates nor Amitabh. I have seen Pardeep pull this leaf out a few dozen times in as many weeks. Not that the leaf is any greener now than when he pulled it out the first, Pardeep’s manner of looking at this leaf every time he pulls it out is awe inspiring.

Pardeep would sermon his followers. “Look at Amitabh Bacchan. What has made him successful ultimately? His acting ability – a competency that he has laboriously nurtured and groomed with time. A natural skill that he would never go bankrupt with. Why did he fail when he wanted to do his business? When he joined politics? He failed because those were not his competencies. So, look at what you are best at. Soul search for what makes you happy when you do what you do best”!

Pardeep – thanks for scratching my back. I think Fursat Friday was what made me extremely happy over the last couple of years, every Friday, more so at times when the rest of the week really “s u c k e d”! So, getting back to it is really my ‘Guru Dakshina’ to you for this new leaf of life – (read – my way of scratching your back)!

Getting back to Fursat Friday also means I will now be scratching down everybody’s back that are a part of my default mailing list, and all those who happen to pass by this blogspot – whether it itches or not! Trust me – a good percentage of this mailing list has been entirely incognito in my life since I stopped writing. So, Fursat Friday is my way of letting the world know I am alive, ale and arty!

Google, Mayur and Pardeep – I learn a new lesson in my life this week. If I feel the ITCH, I need to scratch your back! Because only then will you scratch mine!

Because, while the universal truth is that it is “ITCH THAT MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND”…

Have  A Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

INDIA : To Do or Not To Do

Friday, May 15, 2009…

“In India, articulation is mistaken for accomplishment” said the eminent Indian – Nagavara Ramarao Narayana Murty, in one of his recent media encounters upon the release of his first book -“ (Penguin/Allen Lane).

Translating this into simple English, one of my good colleagues on the ‘Trainers’ Forum’, on LinkedIn, floated an electronic debate with a tacky catchphrase – “Indians are not Doers”. I have withheld his name lest the world knows he may not be the best ‘doer’ around…

Well, I am damned by the sight of this catchphrase.

What else, but ‘doing’, have we been doing for the last 60 years? We have been ‘doing’ and ‘doing’ seems to be the only evident, tangible and measurable favourite national pastime. By doing what we have been doing, we have outdone many and will soon outdo many others up north of us… and by doing what they have done, they will soon lose the great opportunity to be the most ‘done’ nation in the world, unless of course, there is another Tiananmen Square uproar against sanctions to ‘doing’!

And lo and behold! “>We are a Billion and a half – only and only – because we have been ‘doing’ it. And trust me, there doesn’t seem to be either a stop or sanctions to this ‘doing’. And if there is (a stop or sanctions i.e.), it will ‘undo’ everything that the powers that are have politically and laboriously built as electorates and vote banks.

And with a twist of fate and the demand and supply economics of this blown up billion plus equation, the ‘doing’ has perennially been accompanied by ‘doing in’. So our next most favourite passion in the country has been – everybody doing somebody in – or out – on some pretext or the other.

I reserved this week’s Fursat Friday till Sunday because I wanted to link NRN’s comment, my Trainer friend’s interpretation and the results of the biggest political circus on the face of this earth, which have unfolded this week.

Let’s see what has all this ‘doing’ got us to. This ‘Ant and the Grasshopper’ story was sent me by my good friend Joy Patra. With a wee bit of a twist in the tale, here it is – RETOLD!

We all know : The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs; dances; plays the summer away. Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies, out in the cold.

“The Indian ‘Do Them All In’ Version : The Ant does it – works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper doesn’t do it – thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs; dances; plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering, and the Grasshopper does it – calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The world is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy does it – stages a demonstration in front of the Ant’s house. Medha Patkar does it – goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter. Mayawati cries fowl – this as ‘injustice’ meted out to minorities. Amnesty International and Kofi Annan criticise the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt Support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance). Opposition MPs do it – stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Bandh’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers. Lalu Prasad does it too – allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’.

Finally, the Judicial Committee does it too – drafts the ‘Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act’ (POTAGA), with effect from the beginning of the winter. Arjun Singh makes room for ‘Special Reservations’ for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions; in Government Services. The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes its home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it ‘A Triumph of Justice’. Lalu calls it ‘Socialistic Justice’. CPM calls it the ‘Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden’. Kofi Annan invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

Many years later…

The Ant has since migrated to the US and set up a multi-billion dollar Company in Silicon Valley. Hundreds of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservations somewhere in India. As a result of losing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the grasshoppers…India is still a ‘developing’ country!

This week we did the Congress back in – or have they done us in – as they have always been doing for the last 60 years?

We will figure that out over the next 5 years – and the next 50…

Have a Great Week ahead…

Ravi Kodukula

The Psychiatry Of Psychometrics

Friday, May 08, 2009

W (that’s his name – trust me), my friend, sent me a 10 scenario, multiple-response, determine your ‘Sanity Quotient’ on a 0-100 score-scale, kind of a questionnaire earlier this week. This is called the Dr. Phil test.

W, my friend, is the first W to have happened to the English alphabet. The other 4 W’s (who, where, when and why) came much later. While the psychiatry behind W and who, where, when and why he is called W will unfold in the 106th episode of “Fursat Friday”, my Sanity Quotient, which I duly determined after I ticked on those responses to the 10 scenarios in the Questionnaire, unduly gave me what most Psychometric instruments duly give you – a severe headache, pain in an already feeble heart connected to my posterior through an array of nerves, bones and blood, shooting my already high blood pressure higher, stressing me out to no end and sinking me deeper into the great depression, caused for a year now by the western disturbances.

I scored 21, which is the lowest that anyone sane could score. And that meant that my ‘friends’ see me as ‘painstaking and fussy’; as ‘very cautious’ and ‘extremely careful’; a ‘slow and steady plodder’. It would really surprise them if I ever did something impulsively or on the spur of the moment; and they would expect me to ‘examine’ everything carefully from every angle and then usually decide against it.

And because 21 is a borderline score, Dr. Phil advised me to look at the other side of 21 too – which read no less than a ghastly ghost story that would demean the most sane in the northern hemisphere. It read – ‘people’ think I am shy, nervous, and indecisive; someone who needs looking after (assylum – here I come), who always wants someone else to make the decisions and who doesn’t want to get involved with anyone or anything! They see me as a worrier who always sees problems that don’t exist (hallucination – schizophrenia). Some people (am I glad it’s not all?) think I am boring. Only those who know me well know that I am not (thank Phil for small mercies)!

Phew… Phil – you got me there!

My first brush with psychometrics was when my first girlfriend asked me to take a ‘compatibility test’ a few moons ago to determine if we could live happily ever after. Both of us passed the ‘test’ with flying colors – so much so that the passion of the colors – flying or otherwise – would put the brochures of Asian Paints and other color and paint companies to some definitive terminal shame. Both of us scored extremely high and the results of this ‘test’ were touted open in the college campus as the next best thing to happen to the world of psychometrics, in which the most conclusive relationships were formed and endured till eternity, by the power of a 50 question ‘compatibility test’.

My girlfriend and I parted ways 4 months and 14 days later. We are living happily ever after in our own, respective, current relationships, based on the psychometric power of a DET (Daily Endurance Test)!

W and a few of my other friends – largely in the Venus dominion – are psychometric freaks. Fraught with an obsession to prove you are God’s gift to humankind – or just exactly the opposite – as the mood may be, they would frequently subject you to a variety of ‘tests’. There are occasions when I dread these tests more than my math exams when I was in school. Once the results are pompously published, my relationships take a new turn with them – swinging anywhere between bosom friendship to buxom hatred. Till the next ‘test’ brings us together on the plane of sanity.

And the range of these psychometric tests is amazing. Personality tests top the charts. Aptitude tests are a close second. If you are in your teens, as I was when I was in college, and if you are serious with your life, you take career aptitude tests. If you are really serious with your life at that stage, you take ‘compatibility tests’ – as I did. And they come with all kinds of nomenclature – ‘Romantic Chemistry’, ‘Passion Quotient’, ‘Live your Libido’ etc. If you are in organisations – like I am, the HR folks – like me, have a plethora of ‘validated’ and ‘well-researched’ ‘tools’, ‘instruments’, ‘inventories’ (‘tests’ is politically incorrect in organisations) that are lined up to psyche you every now and then – depending largely on how you and the business interact with each other. There are the ‘ease you in’ and ‘ease you out’ psychometrics (read hiring and firing); there are ‘development drill and drain’ psychometrics (read emotional intelligence); ‘are you worth your job’ psychometrics (read role evaluation); and when all else fails, you have ‘customer asked me to sack you’ psychometrics (read Customer Satisfaction surveys and IVR feedback).

The most interesting part in the questionnaires is the questions themselves. Take Dr. Phil for instance. One of the 10 questions asks you : When you are in bed at night, in those last few moments before going to sleep, you lie…

a) stretched out on your back

b) stretched out face down on your stomach

c) on your side, slightly curled

d) with your head on one arm

e) with your head under the covers…

Trust me, in the last 12 years that I have been married, it has been none of the above. That’s purely because when I was born, I did not have my wife sleeping next to me – because of which, I had developed this funny habit of twisting myself up in the air and putting both my feet in my mouth – which had unfortunately stuck on for a long time till I got married. Then my wife brought me down to earth… er… literally!

Getting into the psychiatry of psychometrics can get quite psychic – especially if you know how to con these instruments. Yes you can con – if you are like me – with a few certifications in your bag to administer and run these instruments on others and have fun.

Till I take the next Dr. Phil ‘test’…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

The Great Indian Teacher Talent Show

Friday, May 01, 2009

This last one month, in the most opportune moment in the cosmic chrono-spatial readjustment of suspended particles, I saw an overwhelming movement of teaching talent in the country.

Consider this – 6 of my teacher friends have moved schools in the last one month. 2 of them, from the school where my kids go to. And many more that I do not know of. Considering I am not a hugely networked human face on this side of the equator, 6 is a hell of a huge number. And guess what? Smita (my wife) is preparing overtime, writing (by hand) those volumes of teaching assignments that once submitted as part of her B.Ed (Bachelor of Education) certification, will be duly consigned to the first available bin in the Department of Education’s sullied corridors.

Welcome to the Great Indian Teacher Talent Show!

With the mushrooming of umpteen private schools and with curricula ranging from IB (International Baccalaureate) to PYP (Primary Years Program) to i-Discover-i, to U-unearth-me to I-am-reinventing-myself-because-I-have-been-laid-off scenarios, the teachers in schools in urban India are happily smiling all the way to their banks. Today Gurgaon alone boasts of at least 10 different new schools that kick off every year – for the last 5 years. How many of them will really see the light of the real day, is anybody’s guess.

Like the way Corporate India struggles to manage the rise and rise of any new industry – the most recent being the BPOs – the business of education brings with it a similar set of challenges. The top amongst them is the ever popular Tom & Jerry show, where the talent demand and supply are in constant chase of each other. Surprisingly though, compared to anything trivial that you type in Google that churns out those thousands and millions of pages on that subject, there are only 7,250 pages of electronic debris on Google explaining the ‘churn’ of teachers in Indian Academia. Just type ‘teacher attrition in schools in India’, and you will know what I am talking about.

Which tells you that the teacher talent is too insignificant in the entire scheme of things to devote time for analyses; that dedicating consultant energy and converting the output into visible action to develop and retain teachers is a sheer waste of time; that there is enough teacher talent available out there and this is just a trickle, and shouldn’t bother us – really; and that the 6th Pay Commission has really armed the teacher community with weaponry to negotiate with the new crop of schools that keep popping up – so why bother, they would move anyway!

For the teacher talent, the mantra is – just SUMO – Smile Up and Move On…! ‘Moving on’ in the teaching industry has a few interesting connotations and consequences. Here are the Top 5 that I discovered when my teacher friends moved schools. Forget why they moved. Just see the world of possibilities once they did.

1.     Hired for New, Unique skills – Customer Orientation.

After the schools have marketed and advertised themselves through glossy brochures as the most promising of cathedrals of education to happen to humankind, promise fulfilment is next – amongst other things – the teachers who are expected to develop vocabulary that would give any service brand a run for its money. So much so that, one of the schools that I know puts its teachers through ‘customer orientation’ and ‘brand management’ workshops. And two of the teachers that moved were hired for their customer orientation skills – in a ‘competency based selection process’.

2.     Teacher Get Teacher Incentive Schemes.

Are the next best thing – with handsome incentives thrown in for internal referrals. It’s a pack of teachers that is moving these days. School Management Teams are aware that this behaviour is a growing threat that they face for now and the future. While it wipes off a part of the talent base in one school, it creates a new talent pool in the new school. The Management in the new school ‘employs austere retention measures’ to ensure that this coterie is broken over a course of time – so that the next new school is unable to hire the entire pack again a couple of years down the line. The reality is – if it can happen to Peter, it sure can happen to Paul!

3.     Create a “Least Pestering Parent” Group.

In English, this means satisfy the parents by bending your back, forward or backward till it breaks. With an increasing set of neuro-urban parents to whom schooling for their kids is next to a 5-star club experience, handling ‘customer’ complaints is a routine for the teachers. ‘Teaching’ is one of the bottom two KRAs (Key Result Areas), the bottom-most being – (at least) 35% coverage of the syllabus. The newly moved teachers are ‘encouraged’ and ‘incentivised’ to ‘influence’ such elite set of ‘least pestering parents’ to move their kids from the old school to the school where the teacher has moved.

4.  New School, New Building and the Smell of New Paint.

Sick of the old walls and bored of the same 3 subjects that she was teaching for the last 3 years in two different schools, this teacher has now become a ‘start up’ specialist. Doesn’t matter which subjects she teaches – because the new school doesn’t care as long as she stands up and manages the bunch of kids; the kids are too young to figure out that she has job-hopped too fast too soon; nor the unsuspecting parents to whom it doesn’t occur that they check out the skill pool of the school that will groom their wards – as long as they get admitted in a school – any school.

5.  Move for Higher Education – Literally!

You have been teaching in junior school? Sick of communicating with kids who do not understand your adult vocabulary or your frustrations in life? Welcome to the new school. Welcome to teaching the higher classes. Well – you don’t know how to? You haven’t got the experience of teaching higher grades? No problem – this is your OJT (On the Job Training) for you. Learn while you earn!

This electronic space on “Fursat Friday” is dedicated to all my teacher friends who have moved in recent times to life improvement opportunities – just like you and I – have moved brands and workplaces. Unlike the corporates which are a ‘Going Concern’ irrespective of employee movement, I truly wish the teacher talent churn doesn’t become a ‘Growing Concern’ as we grow!

Have a Great Weekend!

Ravi Kodukula

C-Tier B-Schools

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two days ago, I got a note from an esteemed B School in Delhi NCR. I must add that this is run by a mid-rung Indian Business House.

Our mutual love – between the School and me – is because of my association with this Institution as a Guest Faculty about twice in the last one year. On the first occasion, they called me because of a genuine interest that the students expressed to have some handsome dude (see photo on the left here – that’s me) from the industry who can also talk – about how any of the much renowned OB (Organizational Behavior) theories practically play out on the shop-floor.

The second occasion was when I forced myself to be invited – because I genuinely felt that these young students needed some tips on Corporate Grooming and Etiquette – because of what I observed in the class when I went there first.

Of course, this School is not Ivy League, but the interesting thing in this mail that I got, was a bunch of 48 CVs – of their MBA (PGDBM) Graduates – outgoing this year. All 48 graduates, out of a batch of 80 plus students, could not be placed through the campus placement program and so, this mail to me.

More than the fact that we are in the middle of a downturn, what struck me hard was the quality of these CVs. One look at some of these CVs and my thoughts went back to some early guidance that I got from my father and Readers Digest when I wrote my first CV. That ‘quality’ was missing here in almost all the CVs.

Most of these CVs were photocopies of each other – except for the Father’s name, contact details and date of birth. 62 years after independence and 59 of them after we became a republic, it still amazes me as to why a 23 year adult in this country needs to mention his / her father’s name in a CV. Unless there is a biological explanation to this inclusion, I can only see that the next gen CVs will need to carry a strand of the father’s DNA in every CV – a lock of hair perhaps, or other established forms of lawfully admissible DNA samples.

That’s fine with me as long as it’s a paper printed CV. But if you are transmitting CVs through e-mail, electronic DNA transmission will have to follow a different biological convention. How about a .dna or a .bio file?

Another interesting inclusion that caught my fancy was – there were at least a dozen CVs which carried 2 mobile numbers as contact information. Well – when I was younger, I was quite desperate to get a job too, but flashing even 1 telephone number on your CV was luxury; email was virtually inexistent; and network marketing was a sure-shot way of landing up in a job. Your chances were brighter, of course, if you carried a printed CV and a bunch of scholastic credentials and testimonials of extra-curricular brilliance into every interview that you took.

Today, you carry your multi mobile phone opulence to the interview – because everything else has electronically travelled already – with or without you.

Next, there was a genuine lack of ingenuity / individuality that the CVs carried – even when it came to people’s interests and hobbies. Most of the hobbies were ‘listening to music’ and ‘reading books’ and ‘surfing the net’. Well – nothing wrong with that – but all these in the same CV with nothing else under this head – gave me shivers. My fear is – are we creating colonies of loners and iPod junkies?

Dramatically, 42 of these CVs had the ‘Career Objective’ as the following copiously correct quotation : “To work hard and prove to be an efficient member in the organisation and apply innovative ideas, knowledge and skills for its growth” – till death or the exit interview does us part!

Like charity beginning at home, apparently my young friends thought home grown innovation meant grammatically replicating what has been written in the neighbor’s CV. Same as Above. Ditto!

Above all else, interestingly many of the young folk were from middle class north-western UP / Uttarakhand – the Hindi heartland. Barring the political resolve in these states to shun English, and barring the homogeneity of socio-economic-scholastic backgrounds of these young ladies and gentlemen, what stared me in the face was this BIG QUESTION : what has the School done in the last 2 years to be able to break the stereotypes and help each individual develop a distinct identity? Or worse still – on the flip side – I would dread to imagine their ‘Teaming’ orientation!

So, if this is this B School, it doesn’t take much intelligence nor is it an unknown fact, that the state of affairs in most of the B / C Grade B Schools is very similar across the country.

I had a dialogue with the Placement Officer yesterday. Not surprisingly, the lady seemed to be caught between the tremors of the directives of the School Management on the one side and the thousand tsunamis that the students were causing on the other. And above everything she sounded time warped. She painfully explained to me why things can’t change – even if I were to voice any need for change loud and clear with the Management, which also runs a few other businesses-for-profit, including this business of education.

I spoke to the Dean next. I tried instilling a thought in him about the state of readiness of his students; the current recession; and how the industry and prospect set of students for the next few years might react and adversely impact his School. He was of the opinion that irrespective of everything, Management Education will continue to sell.

My guess is they haven’t seen selling yet. They have only seen buying by unassuming wannabes for whom a Management Education – irrespective of its form, shape, manner and brand – is the next level of social elevation. Management Education – as we know it today – is soon going to reach its sell by date. It would be interesting to see how this, and the other similar B Schools in the country tide over the post recession blues. Those will be the testing times.

Within the next one week, I intend presenting a white paper to this B School’s Management on what ails and what needs to be improved. I hope I will have a meaningful discussion with them. After all, this set of students in the B and C Tier B Schools, will be the ‘vital many’ that will do what needs to be done tomorrow in the industry! The Ivy Leaguers will always remain a minuscule dot on the broader canvas.

While I do that, you have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Schooling On A Shoestring

Friday, April 17, 2009

“Papa, why won’t you pay the fees?” asked Krtin.

My 7 year old son remembered that he got the fees bill a couple of days back from the school and I normally give him the cheque to be dropped in the box the next day morning.

“Your school has raised the fees and it’s a big raise. I don’t think the raise is justified. So, I will talk to your principal before I pay the fees”, I said.

“Papa, what is ‘justified’”, asked Krtin.

I thought of various ways to explain him what this could mean to him. I knew that I was getting better at the English language as I dump more and more garbage on Fursat Friday week over week for my own reading pleasure. On the contrary, by the power of the flag counter that I have recently set on the left vacant column of my blogspot, which, most normally, many financially intelligent bloggers clog with ad-space and revenue churning square centimetres of prime blog space, I also knew that the readership on the blog isn’t going any places. I mean, the latest flag indicated Oman. Somebody must be real peeved with life to want to trespass onto my blogspot from Oman without even knowing me!

But most unknowingly, I discovered that I cannot use all my acquired expertise in the English language with my children. I decided to be simpler.“Your school is ‘not right’ in increasing the fees by so much more money”, I offered.

Krtin thought for a while. “Papa, why did they increase the fees? What do they do with the extra money?”

“Well the Government – OK the Prime Minister – said that this year onwards, the teachers need to get more money as salaries. So, to give your teachers more money, they have charged all the parents more money”, I explained.

“But that’s all right. My teachers do a wonderful job. You should give more money to my teachers,” said Krtin. He asked me again. “How do you get the money to pay for my fees?”

I said, “I work hard at my office and my office pays me money, so that I could pay your school fees, pay for our food, this house, your books and all so that we could all live happily”.

“So, where will you get this extra money to pay my teachers Papa? Is your office going to give you extra money this year?”

All the dire threats of the Hewitt and the Hay and every other salary survey loomed large in front of my eyes. Every curve that the recent surveys projected meant to have been going south. Adding incense to the inferno was my own company, which has until now kept all the volumes of these freely obtained sundry surveys from the Google Search as closely guarded company secrets. The situation is so dire this year that we hired a hacker on contract to hack into the Hewitt website, instead of buying the survey documents from them. Including the monetary reward to the girl in HR who suggested we do this, this was much cheaper than what Hewitt would have sold us the survey for.

Will I get a raise this year? “No Krtin. I don’t think I will get more extra money this year”, I said.

“Will mummy get more money this year? She is also a teacher – isn’t she?” asked Krtin.

Smita, my wife, teaches at an NGO school, where on occasions, she pays out of her pocket to get things moving. “No, she won’t either”, I said.

“Why won’t she? The parents of the children in her school must also pay more so that mummy gets more money” argued Krtin.

“The children in her school are poor Krtin. They don’t have to pay any money to go to school. Their parents do not have enough money to feed them. At times, they go to sleep without food”, I said.

“Oh”, he sighed. It was a lifetime before he came back again. “So, if you put me in their school, you won’t have to work hard to pay my extra fees Papa. Is that right?”

I hugged my son. With an alarming simplicity, he had humbled me. And all the capitalists that run educational institutions in the country and those that have unduly raised the fees in umpteen schools under the pretext of the 6th Pay Commission, under various illicit heads with no heed to recession and with no remorse about their own cost structure.

I would pay teachers, the supposed beneficiaries of the Pay Commission recommendations, the rightful recipients of the raised remuneration. If I touched my heart, the only way to get more people in the country to get into teaching is to pay them well. I would do that – any day!

I protest a raised transport bill. I protest a raised books and stationery bill. I protest the very nature of commercial opportunism in education.

Pay the Commission or Don’t!

Have a Great Weekend.

Ravi Kodukula.

Shelf Life

Friday, March 13, 2009

“Papa, why is Bipasha Basu STILL dancing to this song (Bachna Ae Haseenon)?” asked Krtin, my son…

We were watching the Idea Filmfare Awards on Sony last Sunday… and Krtin used a tone condescending enough to send me a strong signal which when transcribed, read like – ‘Bugger – go get yourself a life – move on – don’t get time warped’…“So, what’s wrong with that Krtin? This is a live awards show for all the films from the last year and Bipasha is dancing to a song which was in one of her movies released last year”, I replied…“But Papa that was almost 6 months ago”, said Krtin…

I stepped back… I called Manoj, one of my very good friends from childhood… one with an immense knowledge of Bollywood music and happenings… and one, whom we worshipped as a living Bollypedia… and whose advancement, like mine, of all empirical evolution of the Bolly world stopped in the early eighties… when Bolly stooped to absolute lows with the new emerging southern pelvic thrusts by a Jitendra and a Sridevi or a Jayaprada amidst a bunch of clay earthen pots and the nine yard sarees flowing in mid air… Tohfa Tohfa Tohfa Tohfa… dancing to the D Rama Naidu or a Dasari Narayana Rao dramas… or when Amitabh Bacchan went abysmal with his Toofan, Jadugar, Coolie, Mard combine along with a host of other ‘most forgettable’ films of his career during the late eighties… when a Shabbir Kumar or a Mohammed Aziz sang for Amitabh… imagine Mohammed Aziz… for Amitabh… Main Hoon Maerrrd Taangewaala… or… Sun Rubiya – Pyaar Ho Gaya… eeks…

Manoj, my friend, would still be able to recall with micro-sonic precision, all the Rafi, Lata, Kishore or a Mukesh numbers… and after a few you know what… would also sing for you a Saigal or a Chitalkar number… he would be able to tell you who wrote the lyrics, who composed the music, the director of the movie and the production houses too…In fact, come to think of it, I can too… to a certain extent…

I guess, it doesn’t have anything to do with Manoj’s or my ability to remember the classics… it was the power of ‘shelf life’ that these classics carried…

Barring, of course, an occasional bright spot in the Hindi film music world, the eighties and the nineties can best be shelved for what they were worth… a lack of brilliance and longevity… a lack of an instant capture of your mind or heart space… an ability to churn rot after rot for your listening pleasure… an Anu Malik who lamented about only ‘saat sur’ (7 notes) in music and he shouldn’t be blamed if he plagiarized others’ music… worse still… his own music later… and of course, for a lack of shelf life…

But I guess, 911 changed a lot of things for me… with the turn of the millenium and with Krtin coming home on 9.11.2001… OK – 9th November – about a couple of months after the Towers fell… things changed… hindi film music of the day again became a part of my life… I could see beyond a Kishore, a Rafi or a Lata and acknowledge that Bolly music was taking a positive turn… to please my ear buds…

Not that from Day 1 on his way from the neo-natal centre to home, did Krtin force me to tune in into Radio Mirchi – 98.3 FM – It’s Hot… but I realized that, truly, mobility – in life in general – and music went together… and that’s probably one of the very few ways that I discovered, I could carry out some commonsensical, contemporary communication with my son… and my daughter who was to follow him into the family a couple of years later…

What with an Ismail Darbar’s music in Devdas… which incidentally was Krtin’s first movie in the movie hall… and with AR Rahman coming of age – well until about just before Slumdog… and with Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy building a block upon another right from ‘Dil Chaahta Hai’… it has been a great going for some extended shelf life in the Bolly music world…

Incidentally, last Sunday Smita (my wife) was with Mata (mother)… not her mother… but at Vaishno Devi (a divine shrine in the north of India)… and as such, I was missing her… not at the Filmfare Awards ceremony… but generally as a habit (trust me, after 12 years of staying married, your spouse does turn into a beautiful habit – of course the adjective is relative)… a habit of watching TV together on a Sunday evening… and I tried recalling what would shelf life mean to Smita…
And of course, as Mata would ordain it, my phone buzzes… and Smita tries correcting me of my behavior of excessive watching of TV with Krtin… despite my loud protest of – ‘hey – this is the ‘Mata of all Film Awards’ – and both Krtin and I deserve to watch the celebration of the magic of movie making in the country in the last one year – with all its hysteria and histrionics of a Ranbir Kapoor and an Imraan Khan to go with it’…

I realized, I was protesting in vain… the only thing that still has a shelf life in my 12 year matrimony is Smita’s unrelenting resolve to rid me of my petty pet pleasures…

As for Krtin, I guess he will grow up with Hindi film music that would sound dated after a week of it’s release…

And I think I would still need to change… to be able to rid myself of this week’s releases and adapt fast to what’s coming next… the only way for me to enjoy a longer ‘shelf life’ with him…

BTW – Gulaal – Anurag Kashyap’s next after Dev. D – released this week… has some nice music… I just heard it… lyrics and music by Piyush Mishra…

Have a Great Week ahead…

Ravi Kodukula…

DHEP : Domestic Help Engagement Program

Friday, August 29, 2008

My good friend Ashish is a philanthropist… he just gave Babloo, his car cleaner, a raise of 33%… Babloo’s salary now stands at a grand 300 rupees a month… and by some simple arithmetic that Babloo learnt in his school called life, his Total Compensation is 2,400 rupees…

In times of regression in the Indian wage economy when the average compensation increases did a ‘hung ho’ at a 13%, this is a hefty hike… Ashish last got benevolent with Babloo very recently… about 6 years ago, when Babloo got his previous hike… actually when Babloo started working with him…

About a year ago, my ‘live-in-domestic-help’ (maid if you will)… one of the artefacts of symbolism of ‘hey-you-have-arrived-in-life-if-you-employ-a-live-in-domestic-help’… asked my wife and I for a raise… the demand was atrocious… or at least that’s what we thought… she had asked for a 25% hike… this is despite the YoY increase of about 10%-12% that we were causing in her life for the last 3 years…

We could not retain the Talent… we lost her to a more affluent ‘husband-and-wife-in-global-roles-and-kids-in-International-schools’ family across 3 blocks… in the new neighbourhood ‘luxury’ condominium complex… the Manhattan for the maid, if you will…

Well, that may not have changed anything for this Manhattan family from a ‘you-have-arrived-in-life-if-you-could-hire-a-maid-from-competition’ standpoint… but it did sure make a difference to two sets of people in life…

Our ex-maid got a 35% hike…

And my wife and I spent stressed out sleepless nights for the next 3 months when the position continued to remain vacant because of paucity of the ‘right’ talent in the market… and we spent excruciatingly exorbitant Talent Acquisition dollars… much more than the 25% of our ex-maid’s base compensation that we could give have given her as a raise… only if we had retained her…

Unlike the white collared ‘sandwich-stuffed-in-your-mouth-and-write-software-in-a-compter-in-a-cubicle’ industry… the no-collared, in fact, sari-clad-and-getting-into-a-pair-of-jeans industry… the domestic help… is an astounding, guesstimated 500 crore rupee industry in urban India… since it is unorganised and union-free, my friends from Hewitt Associates could not muster enough financial or moral muscle to help me do a compensation survey at the time when I was struggling to replace my maid…

After about a month of the position of my runaway maid remaining vacant, we contacted the domestic help hiring agencies… of course, this is a little more organised… they would charge you a fee for getting you the talent… and if the talent turns truant… they would replace the talent at an additional cost…

We interviewed a few maids… we could not find one that was a right ‘fitment’… while the Technical Skills were astounding in a few, the Behavioural Competencies were found wanting in many… some were too old for the job… they had outgrown and were overqualified for the position… some were too young to handle the young kids that we have… we weren’t very sure who would end up handling whom… some were male… my wife wasn’t very comfortable with that…

We turned to other hiring channels… maid referral mechanisms… maid-get-maid schemes that we floated with maids employed with our friends… this attracted a heap of referrals in our in-box… my wife had to literally spend 2 days in short listing the right profiles and umpteen phone calls to our friends and reference checks later, we ended up meeting with a few short listed candidates…

In the maid-get-maid hiring channel, we discovered a few other challenges… more infrastructure challenges than the skill challenges required for the position… some of the referees were totally unskilled, which meant we spent a lot of Training dollars on them post hiring, which wasn’t an option… we didn’t have the right Learning and Development frameworks in place at home to train maids… apart from the occasional unstructured OJT that we could put the maid on to…

We thought of an innovative first in this industry… kind of pioneering work that we wanted to do in the L&D space… a maid-mentoring or a buddy program… our maid could shadow our friends’ maid for a few days and get on with life after that… and we would pay her too, while she was on the mentoring… which actually posed us a new ‘emerging-industry’ challenge… the mentor maid wanted additional incentives for Training the trainee maid… well… whosoever said Training doesn’t come at a cost…

We hired a trainee maid… we sacked her a week later… based on the feedback of the mentor maid… the trainee maid had teamwork challenges and her learning curve was too steep… her readiness – a combination of her skill and will to do assigned tasks, was too low for anybody’s comfort… especially her boss management skills… for a week, we kept figuring out who was the boss at our place…

After 2 months and 26 days later, we finally filled the position… with a maid, whom we hired at a CTC of 30% more than what we paid our last maid…

Over the last one year, my wife and I have made some serious changes to our DHEP – Domestic Help Engagement Policy… a variable incentive that we would pay them when we got our incentives… 1 movie show every quarter on our big screen, with Act II butter popcorn and regular coke (my maid doesn’t like Diet Coke) thrown in for a good measure… a dating allowance after putting her through the advanced sex education program… a travel and entertainment allowance for maid-meet-maid quarterly MASSCOM (Maids Sorority and Communion) seminars held in the neighbourhood park… the policy has provisions for including many other industry level initiatives that our maid may want to be a part of, as a part of her development plan…

My wife has also agreed to be the Chief Guest for the MASSCOM Annual Summit held every March… where the Maids R&R is also a key feature… though a few of my neighbours have complained that cross neighbourhood poaching has been on the rise, especially after the last Annual Summit…

My wife now heads the Task Force that we have constituted to tackle mattrition (maids attrition) in the neighbourhood… she has been able to convince 43% of the households in the neighbourhood to sign a no-poach agreement…

Meanwhile Babloo has quit Ashish despite his recent hike… he has relocated to the DLF part of Gurgaon… which is a more attractive market… Ashish tells me Babloo is happy with 300 rupee a car proposition… In effect, Babloo has doubled his salary since the last 6 months…

All the best Babloo…

Have a Great Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Posted by Ravi Kodukula at 9:04 AM


Alok said…

Oh.. and I thought I am the only husband being pulled into “have-nothing-at-work-help-me-sort-maid-stuff-at-home” menace so rampant in our society now a days.

Kudos.. you managed to get one.

August 29, 2008 12:34 PM

Bhavna said…

ah- you will touch many hearts with this one- and obviously you have the right understanding of the domain to be able to empathise with your women colleagues. Alas – like our conversation some time ago, maid management & people management are 2 of my challenges that I will constantly struggle with.
But of course, I can now look forward to some appropriate understanding on both the fronts ( ha ha)

August 29, 2008 2:17 PM

Shruti said…

This one is hilarious of, not all that you wrote but of the ones I read.

But congratulations for you found one finally and I hope the strategy so formulated adds to the durability of the ‘maid’ in the market where demand > supply which has led to their expectations go really high when it comes to their employer of choice. Ev’n no poaching may not help sustain for long. The DHEP would also need to be reviewed every year to keep abreast of the growing market . All the best again:)

August 29, 2008 2:23 PM

Tanuja Prasad Ranjan said…

Aaila! I am taking full responsibilty of what I am posting here – In my secret mind I am planning to start a maid agency – it seems like a very lucrative proposition.
Besides, mine is leaving this week.. sniff….
Great article!

August 30, 2008 11:53 AM

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