Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some of the people who made a difference to my life-II

Golf courses are known to be the playgrounds of the rich and the famous and I have heard that people strike big business deals there. For me the experience was entirely different when during an idyllic Sunday in early 2000, while playing at the Annadale golf course, my path crossed with Brig. R. C. Shard on the 8th hole.

He said “Son seeing you for the first time on the course, you seem to be a promising golfer”.
And that was the start of the most beautiful relationship that is my most treasured treasure till this day.

Brig. Shard, then Col. Shard was the Col.Q for Army Training Command and had recently moved into town. He subsequently invited me home for a dinner and rest as they say was all history. Even while I called him a friend he endeared me as his son right from the very initial days of our acquaintance. I was the General Manager of a hotel but longed for a home as my jobs and travels had kept me away from my parent’s home since 1992. Mrs. Ira Shard would call me home now and then whenever she would make ‘Rajma’ (kidney beans made in a certain style and extremely popular with north Indians – which I loved to eat) and later I would simply tell her that I wanted to eat ‘Rajma’ and she would smilingly oblige.

The affection that both Mrs. And Brig. Shard bestowed on me was unusual and early in those years, our friendship graduated to a level of close relationship and not a single day would pass when we would not meet or chat. He would share his plans, ideas and thoughts with me and I was touched beyond words when he first introduced me as his eldest son in a public forum. And his love and affection matched his words and to this day I enjoy the respect and the honour of being the eldest son of Brig. R. C. Shard.

It so happened that he moved to Binagudi as a Brigade commander when I had just taken up a challenging assignment in Assam and once in every few months I would drive 8 hours to spend a few days with them. The bond became stronger.

Very few people have the luxury of 2 sets of parents, Biological and Foster.
It was always a hard choice at every opportunity, whether to go to Chandigarh (my hometown) or to go to Brig. Shard’s home.

During the lower ebbs of life there was always a sound advice and emotional and physical support. Mrs. Shard encashed her bank bonds to finance my MBA and made up for the shortfall. Such are times that one can easily differentiate between friends for a reason, season or a lifetime.

While I was away in the UK, they would check on my mother’s welfare and would call mom to give her strength frequently. Till this day the degree of mutual trust and respect has ensured that no major decision or a function can happen without mutual consultation.

Wealth for most is a function of zeroes in their bank balances. For me wealth is quality of relationships in my life and support system that my near and dear ones provide all the time, unconditionally.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Decoding the festival of lights - Diwali

Diwali is a festival of lights as light is a metaphor for knowledge and darkness represents ignorance. Therefore this festival of lights symbolises the destruction, through knowledge, of all negative forces- wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering.

People distribute sweets among friends and relatives as a token of affection and bonhomie, visit each other’s homes and symbolically start a new year. But lately this festival has acquired enormous proportions and is seemingly the best time to grease the system. Economic activity is at its highest because Diwali allows people to accept gifts (it’s no longer considered bribe during these couple of days). What was traditionally an exchange of sweets (with negligible commercial value) has evolved into baskets full of gold biscuits of considerable sizes, iPods, gift vouchers of premium stores etc. And of course it’s Diwali so it’s all acceptable. Govt officers visit offices even on their off days because they would not want to displease their visitors by not being there and it’s wrong to deprive someone of the opportunity of giving gifts.

And talking of mythology, Lord Rama isn’t getting pleased with the fact that spend on crackers over a single night is over $2 Billion and the industry employs 90% child labour in unsafe and hostile conditions in the cracker industry. All put together by conservative estimates, Diwali costs are close to $10 Billion.

It’s been over 20 years now that i haven’t spent a single penny on crackers – instead I prefer to give monies to a few needy around me or to people who struggle to make their 2 ends meet. It gives me happiness and satisfaction that I haven’t burnt up money in crackers causing noise and environment pollution.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The un-Commonwealth games

I have been receiving messages from my friends in Britain about some juicy dope on the ill fated games that are likely to start in a few days. I am ashamed that some greedy individuals in the position of authority have brought immense disrepute to the nation and to Indians at large.

While I am worried about the images that are being flashed across the world media, the collapsing bridges and the filth, I have a strong belief in the fire fighting abilities of Indian managers who perform far better in times of crisis. The games will be over even before they start and if my guess is anything to go by – with negligible glitches. But I cannot help but stop and reflect as to why India is topmost on the corruption index and why it is still growing at 9% annually and how on earth are we still as resilient as we are that every single business school across the globe is doing case studies on Indian businesses and entrepreneurship.

India is the only country that has never ever attacked any other country in its recorded existence. Instead, it has continuously been attacked and plundered by proselytising invaders. The Mughals and the British have had the maximum impact. Lord Macaulay addressed the British Parliament on 2nd Feb 1835 – “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation”

So the Plunderers have been successful in inducing the gene of corruption and lethargy amongst the population of the country that invented the ‘0’ and algebra amongst hundreds of significant discoveries that changed the life of people forever.

But here I am not propounding achievements by Indians. I am making a simple point. We have come a long way in the last 60 years ever since we got our independence. We are still healing our scars left by over 200 years of suppression. And it will be a while before our genetic makeup stops fighting starvation, corruption and suppression.

The wealth in any case was not common or else David wouldn’t have said what he said - David Cameron “I know there is also a great argument about the original provenance of the Kohinoor diamond. I'm afraid this will disappoint viewers, but it's going to have to stay put. What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museums will be emptied”. So what do I say – An empire and its alleged history and treasures are all a result of mass plundering – the world over.

Meanwhile it’s pertinent to mention that that the games village is actually looking good and hopefully everything would be just fine.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some of the people who made a difference to my life-I

Technology has really made our life simple to the extent that applications like facebook allow you to choose a few people from your friend's list and categorise them as people who made a difference. I think tagging people is an unthoughtful way of appreciating or saying ‘Thank You’.

Its been a while that I have written anything on my blog and I thought that while I am settling in my new job after 2 years in the UK, this would be a great opportunity and forum to say a real Thank You to some people who made a difference to my life and touched me to the core.

My Uncle (Mom’s sister’s husband) has been the most exemplary individual whom I have ever come across.

I shifted from Chandigarh to Delhi in 1988 to complete high school as my mom thought that her love and affection was spoiling me and it was showing adverse results in my academics. My Aunt is the vice principal of a school and mom thought that a hint of Aunt’s discipline would do me good. For the 2 years that I was at my Uncle’s place he would return late evening from office, tired but would still find time to solve each of my academic queries in math, physics and chemistry even if he had to read the entire chapter many times. Never ever did I see a hint of irritation while I would constantly pester him for answers.

While preparing for the big exam, if ever he could not sate my academic thirst, I would see him awake at middle of the night reading my text book and trying to ensure that he has an answer for me by morning. I vividly remember a classic case on the first day of my board exam and he offered to drop me to the exam centre. Halfway through the journey, amidst all my nervousness, I remembered that I had forgotten my admission ticket and he quietly turned back the scooter and came home to pick up the ticket and we resumed our journey to the examination centre only to realise a few minutes later that I had forgotten my scale and eraser as well. He turned back again and rather than reprimanding me for my sheer carelessness. He simply said ‘beta’ (son) we might be late for your exam, would you like to re-check if you are forgetting something? Any other parent / guardian would have reprimanded the ward immensely. I got top score in the exam.

A few vicissitudes of life – but proudly so – bestowed on me the responsibility of my sister and I was lost when my little angel was to get married. For 1 full month Uncle left all his occupations and commitments and shifted to Chandigarh (my hometown) to ensure that the marriage went off successfully and he gave all the emotional and financial support to the family. His blessings have been a great catalyst in Tanu's happy married life.

A few years later, when I thought of taking a sabbatical to do my MBA from Britain, lady luck turned its back on me when my education loan temporarily got stuck in some administrative issue of interpretation of my student status and Uncle encashed a major part of his retirement savings and gave me unconditional loan so that I could embark on this journey.

Throughout our lives and for everyone in the family, Uncle went out of the way to help us, guide us and stand by us in every moment of need.

His greatness and selflessness has touched me and educated me as to what humility, goodness, love and affection are. Thank you dear Uncle. May you live a very very long life and may your love continue to enlighten the lives of everyone in the family forever.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Lately I have come to believe that commitment is one of the most important dynamics of strategy. Organisational and personal success is simply a function of commitment. When we lock ourselves into a commitment and leave little choice to ourselves, we as risk takers or decision makers are forced to act prudently and to make things work.

2 months ago I took up an assignment in an industry that is totally new, and has yet to establish itself in India. Many people advised me to test waters before plunging in. But my contention was simple. If the commitment isn’t 100% on the first day, success would be elusive forever. When I moved to a lesser known part of India, 7 years ago, to set up India’s first river cruise vessel, hostile environment, untrained staff and regional alienation added to the anxiety of commissioning a ship within 4 months – Maiden voyage being sold out. The company has 2 ships and 2 hotels today.

Large investments in new projects in which entrepreneurs go all in, is a reflection and evidence of their belief in their commitment. History is replete with examples. Reliance industries’ largest Greenfield refinery in the world, Tata’s $2000 Nano Car, Sir Hillary’s conquest of the Everest, Gretzky’s resolve ………...

Lock yourself into a commitment else you will lock yourself out of success forever.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The health index of organisations

I stole an opportunity to speak to the CEO of a well known company at a dinner to which I was invited - courtesy of a guest who stayed on my ship a couple of years ago. Of course – being unemployed at the moment is a bit of an embarrassment when one is among a group of people who are – by any stretch of imagination – multi millionaires.

I was keen to start a conversation ( as a result of the quantity of food I saw on his plate ) and while he was gleefully savouring the lip smacking food, I asked – what are your criterions of measuring the health of companies. Yours and in general.

He forgot that I was an MBA graduate (finance to be precise) and took me through the jargon of debt equity ratio, current ratio, interest cover, EPS, PE and all that s&*%.

I asked him - has he ever considered reflecting on the health index of his organisation.

No!! Because it doesn’t exist.

An important parameter to judge the health index is simply the health of the CEO. It might sound strange – but a CEO who is fit and worries about his personal health would worry about the company’s health. Unfit sloppy obese CEO’s aren’t a great reflection of the company’s health.

Employees who lack discipline and can’t take care of themselves cannot take care of their departments or their companies.

A large quantum of the problem originates from the eating habits of people. ‘I love my food’ is a common adage. But one doesn’t have to over eat. You love your food but does that mean you hate yourself? Does that mean you hate the company you work for?

Annual increments and bonuses are based on sales figures, profits and all tangible parameters. For the greater common good of the companies and for employee effectiveness an additional parameter of personal health (dependant on weight, cholesterol levels, health of liver, exercising schedules) would do the corporate world immense good.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My blogging inspiration

I did not know what a blog really was till Oct ’08 and it took a while before I started penning my thoughts and reflections online.

Nicholas Bate is an immense source of inspiration who initiated me to blogging and his lectures at Warwick have made a considerable positive impact on me. Time management, presentation, project management and articulation are some skills that Nick has imparted. He has definitely enriched lives of executives and students round the world. His books are great and are an easy read. His blog is thought provoking and provides simple solutions to seemingly complex issues of life.

On his birthday today, I would like to thank him very much.

‘Happy Birthday Nick’.
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