Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The British Summers


Human beings in general have a habit of being in a denial mode. Last year for the 1st 9 months of 2008 the economists of the world were in a denial mode about recession and made the world believe that recession might never strike and could possibly be averted. It took a Lehman and a dozen banks in succession to formally declare recession. And by that time it was too late. I kept wondering why were the economists in a denial mode.

A similar analogy can be drawn with the ‘British Summers’. The summer season is allegedly in full swing. People refuse to carry their umbrellas. On a cloudy day when the temperature is sub 15 degrees and the Cumulonimbus is ready to enact Shakespeare’s pathetic fallacy, it’s not uncommon to see people lying in the parks pretending to be scorched by the elusive sun.

Mortals like me who prefer to carry their jumpers and jackets are almost looked at with a degree of contempt. I am bemused when people say, ‘what a lovely weather’. I chuckle and say 'yes sure – only if you happen to be a duck’.

Why can’t we simply sacrifice this denial mode for good and be snug and warm in our jackets and avoid getting wet and catching a cold.

Britain has no summers. It only has winters and rains.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dissertation Blues


One of the hot topics of discussion these days is the pending dissertation to be submitted by the ides of September. A paper comprising of some 15000 words.

I am convinced that this dissertation is a ‘high quality’ and ‘thoughtful’ – cut copy and paste. And people have been vehemently disagreeing with me. Some have made library their home. Some have become insomniacs and some are just too nervous.

Well if dissertation was to be a fruit of one’s intellectual or academic prowess then we don’t need literature review. Just sign off the dissertation confidently under your signature - no references required. I would love to do something like that. But won’t risk it. And if we could actually submit an original paper that gets accepted by the supervisor, doesn’t it qualify to be a theory?

If all we are doing is reading, mutating and reproducing the literature that already exists and referencing it with pages and pages of bibliography, why are we loosing sleep?

It’s an interesting thing that I observed recently. Every subject has thousands of books written on it and each paragraph has a reference to another journal or a book. Can I therefore assume that 99% of books are just clever mutations and reproduction of someone else’s work?

I would be happy to come across 1/1000th the number of theories or masterpieces as the number of books that have been written in the last 40 years.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The degenerate society and the economic crisis

I was travelling to Nuneaton recently on a bus that goes through Bedworth. A large number of people go to Bedworth or go from Bedworth maybe because that is the only place in vicinity that has a Tesco, Aldi and a few other stores.

The bus stopped at a traffic light to let the pedestrians cross and then I saw an old lady (if my guess is right she must be 90) with a push stroller full of grocery crossing the road. She was frail, was struggling to cross - conscious of the traffic that had stopped by and had a sadness on her face that was visible. The loose skin had a story to tell of the number of moons she had seen and what all she had gone thru in life.

She took 7 minutes to cross the road and disappeared.

Then it struck me – The reason why the developed countries are going through this present avatar of economic crisis, credit-crunch, mortgage delinquencies etc.

And it’s got nothing to do with economics, stock markets or risk management.

It’s got to do with the changing social order.

The lack of responsibility has percolated through the system. A few decades ago when families were joint, people were responsible and answerable to each other. The head of the family had a say. The answerability was in every aspect of life. Finances. Relationships. Men and ladies married to make marriages last. Raise children. Take care of children and so on.

Somewhere something snapped. People stopped being responsible and answerable to each other. Youngsters went away on their own - early in life. Families became nuclear. Elders were left alone while kids went on to have their own life and freedom. Teachers and elders were no longer addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Relationships became casual. Formality vanished. Responsibility vanished.

Spouses redefined their relationships. Spouses no longer remained spouses. They became live-in partners. Nomenclatures like friend, partner, fiancée, girlfriend, all acquired different meanings according to individual conveniences.

Divorce was no longer a stigma. Breaking up and making up and breaking up became a fashion. The new generation calls it ‘experience’, ‘my-life’, ‘my freedom’, ‘space’.

And this triggered the breaking of the bond. Bonding became weak. When family bonding becomes weak so do all other bonds.
Bonding with your banker
Bonding with your lender
Bonding with your friends
Bonding with the society

Answerability to all these above relationships too has diminished to negligible.

And carelessness becomes a genetic makeup.

And that’s why people just prefer to walk away from a mortgage rather than pay.
Overspend rather than save for a rainy day.
Walk away from a difficult marriage rather than make effort and stay.
Have life and make decisions where elders have no say.
And that’s why world is at its present Mayday.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Customer service - a science or an art. Can it be taught???

Singapore airlines (SIA) has been discussed to a point of irritation during the last few months during my MBA. And yet I often reminisced – the airline must have done something right to have been adjudged the best airline for the last over 20 years. Even though I am yet to travel on SIA, I know what they must be doing to be where they are.

My recent to and forth journey to the US was on Virgin Atlantic and even while I was welcomed in person by Sir Richard Branson who suddenly appeared like a genie on the television screen, with his wavy hair and confidence (that would turn Don Juan in his grave) assuring me of Virgin’s commitment and endeavour to make my flight experience a memorable one, the promise crashed suddenly as if the negative G had completely taken over just before all my expectations drowned forever in the Atlantic.

This happened twice over--

Flight VS009 London-NewYork
It’s a short haul flight and flight stewards are in a hurry to get over with all the service. Even while I was sitting quite close to the pantry, I was – for some reason, one of the last one to be served. And when I was asked what I wanted for dinner, I wanted to know what the choices were.
“We have chicken and beef with pasta etc etc”
“May I have some chicken please”
“Sorry mate you are out of luck – we only have some beef left if you want to have”

Well…. I had no choice and even though being a Hindu, I eat beef – when I have to, I wondered, will I ever want to travel on this flight again?

Flight VS0046 NewYork-London
I had flown from Frisco to NY and waited 6 hours for this connecting flight and was tired (its not easy to travel between 3 time zones with a waiting of 6 hours in between). This time the cosmic intervention of God ensured that I got chicken. But my bad luck – I asked for a spare pillow because my lower back was hurting.
“We only have as many pillows as seats – can’t help”
“Are you sure that an aircraft that is carrying 400 passengers does not have a spare pillow”
“NO”

I did eventually travel all across the plane and counted 43 pillows that were strewn all over by guests who were not using those. I borrowed one easily.

CEO’s vision is of no consequence if the last person in the line does not understand it.
Commit only if you can service your commitment.
Mean what you say.
Be sensitive to your customer and if you can - consider him GOD.

Can any airline ever be as successful as SIA – I guess no…..
The Asian culture of care, respect, sensitivity is a genetic makeup that has been perfected over generations.

Why else has no western airline in the last 2 decades ever made the cut?