Thursday, December 22, 2011

There is something about Japan - Workoholism

Quite frankly, english dictionary does not have an accurate word to describe Japanese passion for work. Workholism is the closest. May be they should introduce a word Workadict or something which represents the addiction.
Japanese people work all the time. After Fukushima disaster, government appealed to their people to save on electricity. The easiest option would have been to limit office hours and save energy on air-conditioning and lights. They rather opted for switching off lighting in shopping areas, billboards and escalators going down. Office hours and working hours largely unchanged. A Japanese mind would thinking just after a big disaster, one should be working more not less. �
My Japanese colleagues check mails round the clock, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Their client contacts are no different. Commitments are taken very seriously. If you say a file would reach client at 5:00, the mail needs to leave your inbox by 4:55 if it has a heavy attachment. Otherwise it is considered as a delay.�
The last train from downtown generally leaves closer to midnight. Due to work or work related socializing a significant chunk of people miss it. What is amazing is, instead of making alternate arrangement to go home and creating a possibility of turning up late the next day, they check-in a night stay hotel. This hotel provides common bathroom and a bed with provision to keep a small bag. Those who missed the bus just sleep there rather than going home and resume their working the next day on time. Their family is used to such things and don't think of any alternate solution.�
But the incidence i faced with one my clients takes the cake with cherry on top. We were looking to meet an important manager on client's company on a particular day. We were seeking an appointment. His secretary gave us an appointment at 9:20 pm. We were perplexed and asked for another appointment. She said sure.. How about 10:40 pm? Needless to say we took our appointment at 9:20. The meeting started on time, discussions were excellent, we could not believe we are working well past dinner time.�
On our way back from the meeting we got the mail from the manager profusely thanking us for the visit. Before we went to bed I saw a mail from my Japanese colleague capturing minutes of meeting and confirming next action items.�
I was really speechless. Help me to find a suitable word for this degree of workholism.

Friday, December 16, 2011

There is something about Japan - aging gracefully

Of various countries I have travelled, Japan is very special. There is something different about this country, something very special about how people age here. Looking at ageing people is a paradigm shift in Japan. It is incredible to see so many people who age so gracefully together. Officially, Japan has become the first country in the world whose population has started declining. It is evident as you move around in Japan, the high proportion of old people hits you on your face!�
What you notice almost immediately is the ageing is not sad, pitiful, waiting for the death kind of ageing. The ageing active, graceful by leading a normal life. Men after they retire find a job, get dressed nicely in their formal coats and work. It is very easy to spot a grandma whose age might be hovering around 80 riding a bicycle in shopping area.�
In Japan context 70 is not old. I discovered this the hard way. I was quite impressed and taken in by their politeness. Somehow, i had this urge to match them and feel belonged in this foreign country. I was actively looking around for opportunities to be polite and nice to others. I saw this 70+ kind of a gentleman standing in the train next to where I was sitting. I stood up and offered my seat to him and...boom... He got offended. He not only refused to take the seat but also murmured something which sounded like " young man, buddha hoga tera baap.Arigato gozaimasu" Out of courtsey he did accept the seat. A little while later an old man in 80's appeared on the scene and the 70 year old offered the seat to him. Couple of stops later a woman in 90's appeared and got that seat. It is incredible to watch such old people living and ageing gracefully.

There must be something about this country where peole age so gracefully.

Friday, December 9, 2011

There is something about Japan - Polietness

There is something  about Japan - politeness
Of various countries I have travelled, Japan is very special. There is something different about this country, something very special about the people. They are polite from bottom of their heart, not just for the sake of it but thats the way they want to be. Even when they are speaking on phone, they bow down to show ... Sorry, none can really see it.. To communicate their respect. I got into the airport limousine bus at Narita airport. As the bus was leaving I noticed that the luggage handlers had bowed down and stood in that position till the bus disappeared. Isn't that amazing? 
They follow rules. Everyone does that, what's so different. The difference is how the rules are enforced. I live in Singapore - the fine city. The government uses "fines" which are imposed on almost everything to force people to follow the rules. US uses police presence and empowerment to make people follow the rules. Guess what makes people follow rules in Japan - social pressure. No fines, no penalties, no police just the desire to be seen as civic and accepted by society. You can't speak on cellphone when you are traveling in Japan. Japanese believe it annoys the neighbors. Personally, i find it quite strange, its is OK to speak to one another loudly in Japan but not on phone. But this rule is followed to the limit. You will not find a Japanese speaking on phone ever in a train or a bus. Many foreigners - like me - do it, but they are pardoned out of politeness. 
The best incidence I experienced is the cream with cherry on top. I was standing in my friends home, his neighbor's dog looked at me and started barking. Within 30 seconds, his lady appeared to investigate. She noticed her pet was being impolite by barking on someone needlessly. She bowed down, 45deg, I could hear or understand what she was saying, but an apology from bottom of her heart about irresponsible behavior of her pet was written all over her face. She took the dog away and bowed down again as she was leaving. 
There is something special about Japan, people here want even their pets to behave politely with other!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Simplest Parenting Style

I have read many parenting books, all in search of the right parenting style. First I started off with the noble thought that i want to provide a great life to my son. We got him into this world and it is our duty to make him a great person, to teach him what is right and what is wrong etc etc.  By the time my son started to walk and more importantly talk, all these noble thoughts gave way to a only one thing : how to manage this guy whom we brought into this world? I went back to these books and saw a big disclaimer one page 1, which I had completely missed in my first read. The forward said - every child is different. Wow! That means I have to figure out my own way of dealing with this situation.

When I stopped hiding behind the parenting book, I realized there are so many things I need to teach him and none of which he wanted to learn. Parenting soon turned into hourly confrontation drill. I checked with my friends and fellow parents who were going through the same thing. I realized that there were 2 types of parents around. First type was Non interfering types : these parents adjusted themselves to child's demands, wishes and nature pretty quickly. They soon announced everything was hunky dory between them and the child even when the child was on a completely wrong path. I could not appreciate this. So I turned to the other type who were very strict. They would punish the child, scold him badly even beat up. This was definitely not my cup of tea.

I had to teach good habits to my son and was lost for the right way to do it. Thats when I saw an innocuous looking sentence from some great thinker. (Apologies, Mr. Great thinker, i remember your thought but not your name.) It meant "Don't worry about your child not listening to you. Worry about the fact that he is imitating you" What a scary insightful sentence! This was like the flash of lightening in dark woods where everything became clear and visible in a flash!

A simple style of parenting. Do what you expect your child to do. If you want him to brush his teeth before going to bed, please demonstrate that you are doing the same. If you want him to be friendly and nice to people, you do the same. If you want him to study at a particular time, you switch off the TV, turn off the music system and facebook updates and study with him.

Till a child become 5 years old, parents are their heroes. They want all the attention they, love, affection they can get from parents. Anything that parents are doing, saying is very important for them. It is we parents who don't realize this and make mess of things.

Like all parenting books, even this parenting style comes with a big disclaimer. This parenting style is very simple but not at not at all easy.

I am trying. You try too. Let me know if it works!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long term impact of thailand floods on automotive supply chain

Thailand is flooded with unprecedented amount of water. Bangkok is somehow holding up. But thats not the news. What I am most curious about is what Japanese automotive companies are going learn from this double disaster, first Tsunami at Tohoku and now the floods in Thailand

Scale of both events is quite different. Japan is almost 8 times bigger production base than Thailand. Tsunami was probably more devastating than the floods. But the impact of both events is idetical. Local production has stopped, component production has stopped which has a ripple effect on production facilities all over the world.

What are the learnings?

1. Propser assessment of climatic risk has to be done before opening new plants. Going one step forward stress test of current production facilities in the wake of changing climatic conditions must be done. One must de-risk the supply chain from climatic conditions.

2. Multiple Sources in different climatic conditions must be the foundation of new supply chain. Current Thailand floods have resulted in production stoppages in Malayasia and US. The reason : Thailand was a single source for the components and CKD kits. This needs to change.

3. Finally, JIT has to be put under scanner. No doubt its the most efficient system to manage supply chain. It also the lowest cost to automakers who are already struggling to stay in black. But these frequent climate related production stoppages are not good either. JIT needs to evolve to overcome short term disruptions. The automotive companies need to figure out how to ensure the supply chains carry at least 2-4 weeks inventory to keep plants running in case of such unforeseen circumstances.

Japanese companies had paved the way to lead the world in innovsting the supply chain a few decades ago...may be its time they need to do it again.

Spoke on CNBC about the Thai floods

Spoke to Bloomberg about Impact of Thailand Floods


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Apple's Impact on my life - Thanks Steve

Last few days Steve Jobs and Apple has occupied entire cyberspace nd mind space too. Experts have analyzed his life history, lesser known side of his life, future plan and everything else you wanted to know. He was truly a great guy. I never got a chance to meet him but he has deeply impacted my life.

Currently, I work in Consulting company which has its strong foundations in market research. The founding principal is "market will tell us what they need and you have to provide it in fastest, cheapest and best possible manner". Wrong. Steve Jobs proved that this was wrong. None of his runaway successes were based on market or customer research. He proved that when it comes to technology, companies need to lead the way. Pathbreaking innovation is never based on market research. It is based on brilliant idea backed by impeccable execution. He helped to widen my horizons and look at my own job in a different light.

Steve Jobs also gifted me world's cheapest, the most entertaining and guilt-free baby sitter.ipad. I have to share it with my son, there are more apps on ipad for him than for me. He spends considerable time on it...whats more I dont even mind it. He had learnt new words, small sums, mandrin and many other great things. Ipad is a must have thing to carry in any outing more than 2 hours. As a parent I feel guilty to let my son watch TV for a long time but I don't feel guilty handing him over an ipad.

It may take centuries to get another Steve Jobs but the path of innovation that he has shown will continue to inspire us and would soon be well trodden.

Thanks Steve.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Repairing a leaking water tank

I grew up in a very old house. It was built by my great grandfather in teak wood, bricks, stones and local soil which acted as cement. It did not have any modern day amenities not even a storage water tank that would assure us availability of water when we visited the toilet. My father decided to do something about it. He built a storage water tank in concrete, did the recommended water treatment. He was happy that no water leaked out of the tank for a few days. Soon something went wrong and water started leaking out of the tank. The tank would run out of water in hours and we were back to square one. My father went in search of a specialist who could fix the leakage but did not find anyone. He was not going to get bogged down. As a quick-fix, he fixed a water pump which would pump in water whenever level dropped. It did not work. The water pump would work only a few hours a day , leakage happened 24 hours a day. There was no match. Morever, the water seeped in the walls and started weakening the structure. More we pumped water, more was the damage to the structure which held the tank. My father realized that there is no alternative to fix the leakage. It was a painful process. It involved digging through the walls, finding the cracks and sealing them. It caused a lot of inconvenience but when it was done it worked very well. We now had water in the tank whenever we wanted and the structure was strong too.


I was reminded of this when read about current global economic situation. Many countries like Greece, Spain, and Portugal are on the brink of bankruptcy. Greece is in fact getting second bailout package in less than a year. Metaphorically, their storage tank is not able to hold water. My father’s experience suggests that there is no alternative to fixing the leakage. Bailout package which is equivalent to pumping water is never going to solve the problem completely. The money in the coffers is leaking out and is being spent in unproductive way. These cracks need to be sealed. Sealing these cracks is a painful process but unless it is done the storage tank would always run out of water. It would damage the structure. The citizens would never learn to live within their means, if the nation does not lead by example. Pumping water in a leaking tank is never a sustainable solution.


My childhood experience suggests that there is no alternative to live within the means and prevent leakages, whether you are a water tank or a nation. It is not easy but one has to do it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dhoni and his Cycle of Success

Indian cricket team was flying high. Test team ranking was no. 1. They were reigning T20 champions and to top it up they also won the world cup. They could do nothing wrong.  All credit went to their leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni, MSD as they affectionately call him. He won 2 IPLs in a row for CSK and nudged Sachin Tendulkar from the charts of top grossing brand ambassador. They said he had a midas touch. Within 2 months of English tour, everything came crashing down. They got whitewashed in test series. Even unpredictable weather in England could not save them. They were hoping for a turnaround in one-day series, which never happened. Except for the fourth match which was a tie they never came close to winning anything. Fingers are being pointed at everyone and MSD takes the major share.


"I have never seen so many injuries in the last five years. To lose nine to eleven players in one series is something I can never forget, We lost five tosses and we bowled second in nearly the same conditions, which were wet and that made it tough for our spinners," Dhoni said at the post-match conference.


Was that really it? Or is there something more to it? It’s more of later than first.


MSD has a unique style of captaincy.  He builds up the team from his predecessors. He has opted for young budding players against more established players. He respected senior players and got their support and buy-in to his captaincy and then cracked down on the fence sitters. He brought in truck loads of young talent, build bench strength. Backed his players in difficult situations and motivated them to perform.

  1. Appears very calm in any adverse situations.

  2. Leads from front.

  3. Backs young players

  4. Regularly surprises opponent team with unusual moves and make them work.

  5. Has luck on his side at crucial junctures

MSD has performed well during this tour on all these points except point 4. This surprise element was always a great differentiator for Dhoni. Be it changing the batting order during world cup finals or handing over the ball to Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over of T20 to numerous changes in batting order, bowling changes, numerous field placements. He has dared the unknown, the unconventional and made it work. Guess the competition has measured it up. All his surprise moves, unusual changes are measured up by the opposition.


From the leadership style point of view, Dhoni needs to reinvent himself. He has no choice. He needs to relive his own cycle of success all over again. He should crack down on fence sitters again. Look at the performance of key players again and see if they deserve a place or should they be replaced by young talent. He may find players like Bhajji, Raina who are promising but the promise is not reflected in their performance. He should bring in some more new talent and build some more surprises up his sleeves.


Surprising the opponent is the strength. It is difficult to do it every time. There are bound to be some lean phases in between. He should take them in his stride and relive his own cycle of success.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learnings from Angry Birds

Angry birds, casual smartphone game developed by Rovio Mobile has created a history.

Conceptualized in December 2009 and developed with mere Euro 100,000, it has achieved the impossible. The total downloads have exceeded 300 million and still counting. Angry Birds does not just have fans, it has addicts.

The addiction has spilled over in merchandising, which is even more lucrative. There are T-shirts, bags, caps, cell phone covers, pencils, erasers, compass boxes and innumerable other types of items with Angry Birds branding on it. One gets a feeling that this is just the beginning. Just imagine, for total human population of 6 billion, angry birds has achieved roughly 5% penetration of human race. Incredible, isn’t it? I am not aware of any other product or service which has achieved such a feat in 18 months flat.

There are many entertainment options available, no single option can dominate so much unless they have a strong value proposition. Unless the product or service creates deep emotional connection with the target segment achieving this feat is impossible.

What have they done right?

  1. Simple and Easy: The first thing that hits you while playing this game is it is incredibly simple and easy. This is not a usual combination.  My 3 year old son cleared first level in this game in 10 minutes flat.  Our personal and work life is getting more and more complicated by the day. A working executive or a tired housewife needs an active entertainment which is simple to use, which has very few rules that are easy to follow. Angry bird offers just that in an easy to use interface.

  2. Legitimate way to vent out frustration: Frustrations with work, colleagues, bosses, clients, spouses, kids, girlfriends/ boyfriends, traffic, delayed flights/ trains, weather drives us crazy. We feel like breaking the glass on boss’s table or feel like throwing the glass after an argument or honk loudly or hit that car who got in front by breaking lane discipline. But we don’t do any of this. We present a pleasant face, smile and store all our frustration inside. Angry Birds provides a legitimate way of venting out the frustration by destroying large structure, killing pigs and monkeys and feel happy about it secretly.

  3. Challenge in installments that keeps you interested: We don’t like challenges or problems that are too big to solve. If I was told that there are 1,000+ levels in Angry Birds I would never start playing it in first place. The game breaks the total challenge in smaller, digestible steps and approaches them one by one. I get an opportunity to savor my victory and feel happy about it. The same is true with real life, we like to break a large project in smaller milestone and feel happy that we have achieved them on time.  Lack of challenge also makes you bored and disinterested. Angry Birds takes care of that too once you complete a level, you get special birds, better abilities and bigger challenges that keep you interested in the game.

  4. Instant Gratification: All of us lack patience to wait for a big pot of gold after a long painful journey. We want everything here and now. We are much more likely to take pay increase in our monthly salary rather than big far bonus at the end of the year, if we had a choice. Each game of Angry Birds gives me star ratings and also tells me my global rank after every game. I remember the surge of motivation I got when my rank went up from 3 million to 1 million in a span of 2 games. This is no achievement to feel happy about, if you really ask me but it keeps me interested in the game and makes gives me a gratification I need.

  5. Comical entertainment: Angry Birds is not just a game, it’s an entertainment. The appearance of birds, their sounds, and the music are all the elements that are quite entertaining. That adds to the whole experience. My 3 year old son, another fan of Angry Birds, simply switches on the Angry Birds music for a dance.

The popularity of Angry Birds may fade away, new games may become more popular but fans of Angry Birds would always cherish the emotional connection the game has made with them and played a part in their daily lives.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Anna Hazare – Baba Ramdev = Mountain Dew

Dar sabhi ko lagata hai  (In a difficult situation everyone is scared)

Gala sabhi ka sukhata hai  (everyone has butterflies in the stomach)

Lekin dar ke age jeet hai  (Victory bestows those who overcome fear)


The advertisement shows a group of friends moments before dangerous stunt like river rafting or bull fighting. Everyone is nervous and scared, looking at each other, not sure whether they want to plunge themselves into the unknown. (Then they have mountain dew) Get the courage to overcome that moment of fear and decide to plunge themselves into the unknown.  They live through these moments of fear and “victory” awaits them on the other side.  (


That essentially summarizes the difference between Shri. Anna Hazare and Guru Baba Ramdev.


Baba Ramdev was actually the pioneer in this modern era of mass, media-friendly and mega event style ‘uposhan’ (fast until demands are met).  Baba Ramdev had everything set up. A nice stage with air cooling systems, drinking water, covered spaces for about 10,000 followers. He was all over the media in that week, until Government decided to crack down. Instead of facing this action bravely and calling the bluff, Baba Ramdev decided to dress like a female and escape. It was a very unfortunate, cowardly act which has resulted in character suicide for him. Any budding political ambitions that he might have are ruined. He would have to restrict himself to his core strength of teaching yoga and practicing Ayurveda.


Anna Hazare had initially resorted to more classical Gandhi style uposhan which. What happened when Anna decided to follow "Ramdev's  model" ? The main difference was he was fearless. He knew what he is getting into and was prepared to face to the consequences. He was not ready to leave his position against politically powerful opponent. Second and which perhaps was the game changer was anticipation and pre-empting the opponent. The recorded message which was released after his release  was a pure master stroke designed by his team. Government probably thought that if they arrest him and prevent him from speaking then they would be able nip this problem in the bud. Technology came to rescue. Anna’s message to India, at the point in time he did not have sizeable followers, was released. Although he was in prison, his voice still reached the common man. Then it was great uprising. The rest is history. (


Anna is creating history. Jan-lokpal bill may become a law with little bit modifications but that may not completely eradicate corruption. A lot more needs to be done to weed it out. Still, when modern India’s history would be taught to our grand children, they would definitely learn about Anna and how these 10 days had a deep impact on India. I read that the people who are visiting Ramleela ground in these days are not affiliated to any political party or association. These are common men who are the victims of "cutting edge" corruption and are coming there to support the cause.  They are living moments of history.  All this was possible because Anna overcame that moment of fear and plunged himself into unknown.

Knowingly or unknowingly we are faced with such moments of fear which can possibly change our lives or create history. Be “Anna”, overcome that moment of fear and plunge yourselves in unknown.

Because success lies beyond fear!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Anna reached Ram Leela Ground, What Next?

Anna has reached ram leela ground. It is a great triumph for the “aam adami” who is fade up with corruption. Government made their biggest blunder of decade of arresting Anna four days ago.  Back then nobody believed that we will see this day. Anna was escorted by police to a much bigger venue, allowed fast for more days, allowed to gather more number of people. Really wonder what was the government was thinking while arresting Anna and subsequently negotiating.

Spontaneous country-wide response to the arrest made all the difference. It actually worked well for Anna. There are many who don't support the Lokpal bill but they could not tolerate Anna being sent to the same jail as Mr. Kalmadi and Mr. Raja. They joined Anna as anti corruption crusader rather than the Lokpal bill supporter. Anna has created history! Great moral victory for a frail 73 year old who stood against the establishment much more powerful than him. Hats off!!

The question is what next? A battle is won what about the war? The first battle was against congress government but is the war against them? Who is the enemy? Defining Congress government as the enemy would be too myopic. The actual enemy is corruption. The Lokpal bill is only means to an end and not end in itself. It would be too naïve to think that once the bill is approved the corruption would end.
I am reminded of Harry Potter and deathly hallows at this juncture. In the final confrontation of Harry Potter with Lord Voldemort, Harry discovers that one part of Voldemort’s horcruxes is within his soul.


Similarly, some part of corruption’s horcruxes is within our soul. It is difficult to irradiate corruption as long as it lives inside us. We are tempted to pay 100 bucks to avoid a fine of 500 buks. At registration desk we are ready to grease the palms to change the sequence of the registrations. A corrupt groom does not find it difficult to get a good bride even if his corrupt lifestyle is clearly visible. A rich but corrupt officer is envied than hated forget about exposure. The same tendency when escalated at the level of companies, organizations and corporations are responsible for 2G scams and CWG scams.

Now that Anna has resumed the war against corruption, the next target should be to fight against this tendency to support corruption in direct and indirect ways which is deeply ingrained inside us. A candle light march or sympathy fast to show solidarity to Anna has limited impact. If we really want Anna to win we should take vow that today onwards we will not bribe anyone for selfish benefits. If we come across any corrupt person we will do whatever we can within our limits to expose or discourage him. That would the true victory for Anna and his movement.


Jai Hind! Bharat Mata ki Jai!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Haveli ki Umra saath saal! (Big mansion can last only sixty years)

News 1

The country is close to bankruptcy….government is likely to default on its own commitments…teachers, public servants may not get paid…unemployment is at record high level….


News 2

Looting on streets…rich shops being targeted…mobs are burning down shops, burning buses…police are either missing or not doing anything…


Frankly, I could not believe my eyes when I read this news in last couple of weeks. Not that the news was unheard of. In fact such news was staple diet for my news hungry childhood. 1980s were my formative years in India, I grew reading about frustrated youth, unemployment, mobs causing riots and empty government coffers. The news wasn’t a surprise but the country definitely was. It is happening in the “United Kingdom” and “United States of America”. I was also amazed by the coincidence about two unrelated but disturbing events happening at the same week. Why am I so surprised…this was on cards for years, right?


UK and USA both were world powers who dominated the world politically and economically for many decades and are struggling today with problems which are pretty basic in nature. That’s the surprise!


UK was the first acknowledged world power. They ruled the world directly or indirectly in 19th century. Unchallenged at sea and powered with industrial revolution, they adopted the role of global policeman and were called workshop of the world. At one point in time they controlled USA, India, Australia and parts of Africa. “The Sun never set on British Empire” they said. They did contribute a lot to the world during their domination. Parliamentary democracy, post offices, railways were the inventions popularized by UK. In 18th century they lead industrial revolution, many breakthru’ theories such as laws of gravity (Newton), Theory of evolution (Darwin) originated in UK. By turn of twentieth century, UK had started losing its influence on the world. Two world wars weakened the economy. USA was the rising power and UK resorted to gracious exit by endorsing the next global power United States of America.


United States of America, assumed global central stage by their decisive participation in World War I which tilted balance in favor of UK and allies. Since then the baton of global policing from UK got passed on to them. USA assumed the role of global policeman and the military. UK had ruled with their domination on sea, USA ruled with their domination in Air. They became the “market of the world”. Times had changed and consumption had become more important than production. Services had become more important than manufacturing. USA redefined the ruling the world without invasion. They discovered economic domination by making their dollar the world currency. Their contribution to the world includes atomic energy, internet, cellphone and google.



I can’t help but remember a saying that goes in Indian business community (generally marawadis) “Haveli ki umra 60 saal” which roughly translates to “Big mansion can last only sixty years.”  The story goes like this that there was a struggling entrepreneur who worked very hard to build his business and that was symbolized by a big mansion (haveli). Money was his top priority and he earned it. When his son took over he did not really care about money, he wanted to power. So he ran after power and by the time his career ended they had both money and power. However, when the grandson took over he cared neither about money nor about power, he wanted “self expression”, he wanted to leave his mark. So he floundered all the wealth and power that was accumulated for couple of generations. The big mansion was thus, sold off after 60 years. And the great grandson probably started all over again to build another mansion.


There must have been a generation in UK who braved the sea and unknown territories and fought wars to earn money. The next generations would have used the money to establish itself as the power center of the world. The generation today however is different. Some self confessed looters in London riots mentioned that it was their best day ever in their lives. Some others who looted things that they did not need, just show that they could do it. Many looters are not needy people we thought initially but those were youth from well to do family who wanted to express themselves.


UK and USA now need to accept the fact that their “60 years in the mansion” are over. Comfortable and cushy life in haveli is a thing of past, now it’s time to put on the running shoes again.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Child the disciplinarian: Learnings from Parenthood IX



Most parents think that parenthood is about enabling the child, making him or her capable to face the world and challenges and generally lay foundation for successful life ahead. This definition is true but when we are actually bringing up a child all we are doing is setting up a list of Do’s and Don’ts and motivating, asking, insisting, enforcing, coercing and sometimes even beating the child to adhere to them. Being disciplinarian is the foundation of parenthood, we tell ourselves. The common trait among most of the parents I have observed is one of the parents assumes the role of the disciplinarian and the other plays the good cop.

All growing children mimic their parent’s behavior; proclaim most of the parenting books. If you want them to do certain things, you must do them in front of them. We took this advice and started implementing it.  

My son had a bad habit of throwing his toys around and to convert his toys room into a mess in the shortest possible time. We wanted him to choose the toys he plans to play with, keep back the rest, to ensure his room is not an obstacle race.  We started to discipline our son by setting the right example. So I stopped tossing up my office bag on the sofa when I am back. My wife set right her dressing table, we started putting our clothes in laundry basket rather than tossing them on the bed. Suddenly the TV remote could be found exactly at arm’s length from our sofa. Our shoes were back in shoe stand as soon as we arrived home… so many small, mini, micro changes were made and practiced. The parenting books were right. It worked. Our child started playing with one or two toys at a time. He would keep back the rest. Suddenly we could walk anywhere in his room without getting pricked or slipping over anything or without getting startled by unexpected sound of a toy which was disturbed. There was a particular place for every toy. He could walk into his room in pitch dark and walkout with the toy he wanted without any problems. Wow! We were impressed.

We noticed a small cavity in his tooth. So tooth care became a mission critical assignment. Both of us had to demonstrate that we brush our teeth as soon as we get up. We had to show him that we clean our teeth after every meal, whether big or small. No matter how tired we were, we never went to bed without brushing our teeth. The parenting books were right again. It worked. Now my son takes good care of his teeth. He rinses his mouth and cleans his teeth even after a glass of milk. Super.

There are many such stories with every parent. But just take a step back and think what has happened? In an attempt to discipline the child we disciplined ourselves.  My parents had tried to instill this discipline in me for about 18 – 20 years. My parents tried to make me brush my teeth before bed but the success rate was less than 10%. The scene now is completely different. I don’t go to bed without brushing my teeth. Period. It is not us who had disciplined the child but it’s the child who had disciplined us. My child had just outperformed my parents in disciplining me.

Let me share another story. One of my friends who was a chain smoker, quit smoking overnight. All his earlier attempts had lasted less than a week but this time it was different. He did not touch cigarette for over 2 months. “Once I was walking with my daughter and she showed me a person who was smoking”, he said. She pointed to that person and told him that the person was very bad. He was a doing a bad thing which made him ill slowly and very soon he will become a star. His daughter would miss him and cry a lot.  Boom!!! Unadulterated eye opener!!! Smoking habit vanished in thin air overnight.

That’s the power of a child. They are looking at you as a role model all the time. They are observing every step, every move. There is no room for error. Trying to become a person that they think we already are, is the ultimate goal.

Being disciplinarian is no doubt the foundation of parenthood, just that it works the other way round. You are not disciplining the child. It is the child – the biggest disciplinarian who is in action!!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Gandhi Vs Gandhi

I salute Anna Hazare!

“If it is blackmail, I will do it again”, he said firmly. No roaring, no tantrums, just statement of fact. It was an unequal fight. One 73 year old, frail gentleman, who holds no official position, sits in a village and starts fasting. It shakes the foundations of people with all the powers, money and influence to run a country of a billion people. He does not target anyone in particular but those who are sitting on the chair not only have to take notice but have to bow in front of him and have to swing into action. Unassuming Anna emerges winner. No celebrations, no pumping fists, just one statement “(if required) I will do it again”.

Isn’t it a big irony?

Anna Hazare is one of the handful living Gadhians. The rulers did not believe in Gandian principals of rural development. But Anna practiced it. He transformed Ralegan Siddhi with sustained efforts. The village was on a typical downward spiral of poverty, jobless population, addiction to local made liquor, no rains so no agriculture. Anna started off with attacking the liquor addiction, got the jobless youth to work on fields, implemented rain water harvesting projects, empowered people. Today Ralegan Siddhi is transformed place. A brief description of the achievements:

  • Earlier just 300-350 acres of land was usable after water harvesting projects and building a micro dam the water table level increased and now villagers are able to harvest 2 crops in 1,500 acres

  • Milk production earlier was just 300 liters which has now gone up to 4,000 liters

  • The per capita income of villagers Rs. 225 to Rs. 2,500

 But the irony begins with Anna having to use the same principles that Gandhiji had to use against British rulers against our own rulers. There was no dandi march but he gets the same level of support from the “public”. People don’t gather in a place to become easy targets for police but the pressure of public opinion, amplified by media is immense. The rulers have to bow. Again.

64 years after independence satyagrah has to happen against our own rulers. That too for a something as basic as “corruption”. A 73 year old has to threaten to kill himself because people with power are not honest? Isn’t it ironical? Isn’t it shameful? Does it put question mark on what is India’s so called “progress”? In 64 years of self rule, we have not been able to create a single political party that is corruption-free.  India has to go a long way to be a mature democracy…forgets about being global superpower.

Anna has shown us the way. Gandhian principals still work. In a fight of principals Vs power, Principal wins. In a fight of Gandhi’s satyagrah Vs Gandhi’s name, satyagrah wins.

This victory should be the beginning. Battle is won, the war is still ON.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Management Lessons from India's World Cup Win!

For a change, as expected India has emerged as world champions in Cricket World Cup 2011. This was not the first time India went in as favorites to lift the cup. They were slated to win the Reliance world cup in 1987 before they were swept of by Gouch and Getting in semifinals. They entered the finals in South Africa in 2003. But they first got Gilchrist-ed, then Ponting-ed and Mcgrath-ed. So what was so different in 2011? Was it is because of Gary Kirsten the coach? Was it their inspirational coach Mike Horn?  What did team India do differently than other teams?

It is very well said that when the players reach the level of representing India at highest level, the coach is can’t really teach them more skills. His main job is the leverage the strengths of all existing players to overcome the conditions and the competition. Gary Kirsten did that really well. He did work closely with MSD, did not try to hog the limelight, worked with all senior players and created a cohesive unit. He backed match winners although they were out of form and Yuvi responded with 4 man-of-the-match and man-of the-series-award. Inspirational coach Mike Horn was a great addition. According to recent interview by Yuvraj Singh he taught the team that their hunger for winning has to be higher than their fear of losing. He ensured that the unit is hungry for wins.

To my mind, all these things were great preparation work but this was not the reason for success. Let me put it this way all these were necessary conditions but not sufficient ones. Indian team won because of application of all these things. I learnt some lessons about management from this great win.

Lesson 1 : Perform when it matters

Due to the peculiar structure of the world cup, there were only 3 matches that mattered. Quarter finals, Semi finals and Finals. Out of top 8 teams in the world, on a given day any team could beat another team so it was a question of winning these 3 games. In Super league matches, South Africa had a spotless record but they choked in the match that mattered. On the other hand, India’s position in league was unconvincing, but they peaked at right time to win these 3 games to take home the cup.

In corporate world, we see 2 types of people. Those always work hard and are consistent and those who may not be as consistent but peak at the right time. It might be hard for the type 1 people to maintain their consistency and failure at wrong moment could get their entire efforts down the drain. The conclusion for me is no matter what you do Perform when it matters.

Lesson 2 : You can’t fight competition weakness with your weakness

In World cup final, both India and Sri Lanka decided to spring surprises on each other. India included Sreesanth in place of Aswin and Sri Lanka flew in Randiv who was not in the original squad and played him ahead of Mendis. In both cases, both the teams opted surprise inclusion over performance. In the end, both moves had failed. Sreesanth was the most expensive bowler for India and Randiv went wicketless when he was supposed to break the back of Indian middle order. Perhaps, inclusion of Mendis would have altered the result for Sri Lanka. Or perhaps inclusion of Aswin would be have helped India to restrict Sri Lanka to a more reasonable total. But both teams go carried away in surprise the competition.

In corporate world, we are trying to outsmart out competitors all the time. On many occasions, one may design strategies which are focused on competition weakness but they may not necessarily be their areas of strength. They may drift into their area of weakness while targeting theirs. One needs to ensure that we are fighting competitor’s weakness by one’s strength.  There is a need to ensure that inadvertently, the battle is not drifting into their areas of weakness.

Lesson 3 : In moments of crisis, Leading from front is the best option

Two matches standout from the leadership stand point. Pakistan Vs India, Semifinal match. Indian bowlers were chipping away the wickets and pressure was building on Pakistan. Shahid Afridi still invokes fear in Indian minds, if not the players at least the spectators. But he was not just coming out to bat. He promoted Abdul Razaq to bat ahead of him. He claimed he was out of form and wanted to give a chance to players who had better chance of success. Fair enough. But it did not work. Now consider final match between India and Sri Lanka. Yuvraj Singh was slated to bat at no. 4. He was in top form; with 4 “man of the match” awards under his belt he was super high on confidence. MS Dhoni, the captain, on the other hand had failed consistently with the bat in that series. He was neither in best of his form nor confidence. But he walked out ahead of Yuvraj. The only reason was he wanted to lead from front. He wanted to send a strong message to opposition about his intentions. In retrospect, this turned out to be the master move. He had such a calming influence on Gambhir who played knock of his life. He could also control the situation with some on the spot decision making about run rates, which bowlers to take on which bowlers to let go. This made all the difference in the end.

Empowering the team, leading from the back are becoming buzz words in Corporate world. Leaders who get things done from the team are considered better than those who do it themselves. Becoming disposable is considered to be the best style of management. The lesson for me is, even if that is your ultimate goal, watch out for crisis. In moments for crisis, leading from front is your best options. That increases your chances of success and even if you don’t win, the team respects you more.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

3 Crisis, 3 Responses, One learning

Crisis 1



Hurricane Katrina


The Crisis

Hurricane Katrina one of the deadliest and costliest hurricane hits Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It caused unprecedented damage of residential properties which rendered 300,000 inhabitable.  In these states about 2.4million to  2.5 million power customers reported outages.

The storm crippled thirty-eight emergency call centers,  and knocked out more than 3 million customer phone lines. Broadcast communications were likewise severely affected, as 50 percent of area radio stations and 44 percent of area television stations went off the air. In fact, Hurricane Katrina caused at least ten oil spills, releasing the same quantity of oil as some of the worst oil spills in U.S. history. The

storm surge struck 466 facilities that handle large amounts of dangerous chemicals, thirty-one hazardous waste sites, and sixteen Superfund toxic waste sites, three of which flooded. The surge also destroyed or compromised 170 drinking water facilities and dozens of wastewater treatment facilities.

About 1,800 human lives were lost in this tragedy. The total impact was estimated at $200 billion.

The response

Response from People

Thousands of people left separated, stranded with no access to home. Wide scale looting was reported in the areas struck with disaster. The looters were armed, formed gangs and did not shy away from shooting at police helicopters and rescue workers. Security Management report Group international paper quotes “By August 30, looting had spread throughout the city, often in broad daylight

and in the presence of police officers. Incapacitated by the breakdown of transportation and

communication and overwhelmed in terms of numbers, police officers could do little to stop crime,

and shopkeepers who remained behind were left to defend their property alone. Looters

reportedly included gangs of armed gunmen, and gunfire was heard in various parts of the city.

Along with violent, armed robbery of non-essential valuable goods, the majority of incidents were

of residents simply gathering food, water and other essential commodities from unstaffed grocery

stores. There were also reports that some police officers participated in this same kind of looting”

Government responded by activating a team of 58,000 national guards. Unprecedented amount of aid, food, medical supplies and trained men arrive at the scene. But they have to face a completely different problem. Instead of focusing on searching for survivors they have to protect themselves from attacks of looters. In many instances, looters overpower them hence unprecedented amount of police force needs to be called in. Once situation was under control the aid workers had to go an extra mile to generate confidence among the local population and win their hearts before they could carry on the rescue efforts.

The Aftermath : 2010 census shows that New Orleans which bore the major brunt of the hurricane has reduced to one third its size because of Hurricane Katrina. Two third of the population has migrated elsewhere.





Crisis 2



Mumbai Floods


The Crisis

Unprecedented 994 mm of rain swooped down to Mumbai in less than 24 hours. Antiquated drainage system which is capable of carrying on 25 mm of water per hour was thrown out of gear. The whole city resembled a pond with men, women, vehicles, shops floating around. As every natural disaster, this crisis hit the weakest the hardest. Hundreds and thousands of school children were stranded in schools, office going men and women who  typically travel about 30-50 km to office were stranded in office. Water rushed in low lying areas and in several places water levels in excess of 6 ft were recorded. Several people drowned within the city (unthinkable isn’t it) and the official death toll rose to about 1,100. The entire mass transportation system came to a grinding halt and all roads were clogged with vehicles and standstill traffic jam lasting several hours.

The response

It took several hours for people and government authorities to understand what had happened. In-city flooding is nothing new to Mumbai but the scale was unprecedented. So after sitting in their cars for 4-6 hours without moving an inch people decided to do something about it. Food and shelters were offered to anyone and everyone who was in need. Some houses opened set up a tea-stalls to offer a steaming hot cup of tea to the passer bys for free. Many school children and office going people took shelter with people who they had never known, never met before and in probability may never meet them again. On roads, to beat the rising water levels people formed human chains and waded chest high water to reach home. The eye witnesses say that there was no sense of suffering or victimhood, in fact there was a sense of brotherhood and willingness to support each other.  They were singing songs, cracking jokes and chatting loudly and inviting those who were standing on the sidelines.

Government responded a bit late to the crisis. Basically, most of the people helped themselves, government agencies swung into action to clean up the mess.

Mumbai by no stretch of imagination is a safe city under normal circumstances. But during crisis, very few crimes were reported.  Magically, crisis turned Mumbai into the safest city and epitome of brotherhood.

Aftermath : After a gap of 2 days, which was just enough for the water to recede, life was back to normal. This incident has almost faded from the public memory.  



Crisis 3

Tohoku, Japan


Earthquake, Tsunami resulting in nuclear radiation threat

Enough and more is written about this crisis. It is also well known that the crisis is still not over. Japan government is struggling to contain nuclear radiation, which barely 200km away from one of the most populous cities in the world.

What strikes me is the way the people and government has reacted to the crisis. More than 10,000 human lives are lost but I have not seen one drop of tear in the public media. The Japanese government is accused of not publicizing enough information about the crisis. By whom? Mostly western government or western media. I have not heard a complaint from Japanese people. Media was trying to sensationalize the crisis but they did not get enough ammunition. The videos which all of us saw were striking but we did not hear any Japanese family coming forward to share their woes with the world. The government, the public quietly went about resolving the crisis, reconstruction, get the loved ones home and started gathering food and water. One of my friends son, mere 5 year old, walked for 6 hours from his school to reach home after spending over 24 hours in the school. Did we see any such story on media, almost none.  Almost immediately there was electricity outages in Tokyo but none complained. In spite of being one of the biggest natural catastrophe in recent times, in spite of being under glaring media, this is one of the most under-reported news. The Japanese government and people wanted it that way. People showed complete trust on the government, yet helped themselves out of the crisis. There was complete trust, cooperation to government agencies but almost no expectations nor over dependence.

Hurricane Katrina and Mumbai floods were completely different but what strikes me the people-government response. In Hurricane Katrina it was government Vs people; in Mumbai floods it was people minus government and in Tohoku earthquake it was people AND government. The Japanese have given world several world-class concept. Reaction to this crisis should go down as one more such practice the world can emulate.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Earthquake in Japan and Impact on Automotive Industry


Impact of Great Tohoku Earthquake on the Automotive Industry and on Personal Mobility

Comment by Vivek Vaidya, Vice President Automotive & Transportation, Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific:

“The Great Tohoku Earthquake has a profound impact on the global Automotive Industry. It is a triple disaster of unprecedented levels, and despite good news from the nuclear power plant Fukushima, the problem is far from over.

The Automotive industry is one of the worst hit industries by the earthquake and its consequences and the impact is profound, not only on Japanese OEM’s and suppliers, but on the global Automotive industry as a whole. For Japan the short term effects encompass a production stoppage, a shortage of parts and an overall impact on the financial performance of the country. For the global industry it will mean a production stoppage in the U.S. and Europe, coupled with a stronger emergence of U.S., European and Korean brands.

These short term effects would seriously impact the financial performance of Japanese companies. A stop in production would lead to the loss of revenues and result in the inability to makeup for the shortfall within this financial year that ends on March 31, 2011. The impact on the supply chain remains still unclear. Normal operations may not resume unless the entire supply chain will be back to normal. On top of this, the logistical challenges remain unsolved.

While the impact on the supply chain of Toyota is on a medium level with a production loss of 40,000 to 50,000 units during this period for Honda it is very high with a production loss of 30,000 to 35,000 units and for Nissan, with a production loss of about 25,000 units, at the lower end. It is however, possible for each of these companies to cover up for this shortfall in 2011 if the underlying demand remains strong.

Considering the fact, that a production cut or stoppage in some plants in US and Europe might be due to the fact that components such as batteries are sourced from Japan, this short term impact on the global industry will provide a window of opportunities for Korean component manufacturers.

Ford and Hyundai and other competing brands will have growth opportunities due to the fact that a shortage of certain models would lead to higher sales, since fast moving models, such a Prius, Insight, and Fit are hit by the disaster.

Ford’s line-up of hybrid cars would get a boost, since the company’s dependence on Japanese components is low. The situation is similar for Hyundai, whose dependence is almost non-existent, and the company’s line-up of compact cars could be affected advantageously. GM’s overall gain in market share would be moderate though, since the company’s Shreveport plant stopped production due to the lack of Japanese components.

Looking at the long term effects, the direction of the Japanese market might be affected by two contradictory developments. A rising Yen, which has appreciated by 3.75 % during the last ten days already, might hurt the profitability of Japanese companies. On the other hand, the reconstruction of the country would provide an impetus to the Japanese economy, by creating an economic activity and a demand for the replacement of cars, which might mean a re-conceptualization of the supply chain.

The global long term effect will move the focus on the energy portfolio and proven technologies, like clean diesel technology or natural gas  technologies. Governments might re-asses their energy portfolios in light of this incidence and new safety norms for nuclear and other forms of renewable energies would emerge, accelerating a diversification in relatively safer technology areas. At the same time green technologies based on IC engines would get a boost, while EV plans founded on nuclear energy might experience a slow down.

Based on Frost & Sullivan’s current global research on global urban mobility patterns, commuters currently show a higher preference towards innovative mobility solutions such as carsharing and car pooling than to EV or Hybrid vehicles. Frost & Sullivan believes that this trend will be further strengthened by the Tohoku Earthquake, thus leading to a big boost for alternative forms of mobility in the future.”

This was also covered in a few publications


Bloomberg TV


Kenya Broadcasting Corporation


The Financial Times


Monday, February 14, 2011

Detroit Motor Show 2011 and Future of Mobility

The Detroit Motor Show typically kicks off the year and sets the tone for rest of the year. After taking 2 years of bashing and undergoing a turmoil, this show marked the solidarity of automotive industry in general and three American automotive companies – General Motors, Ford and Chrysler in particular. They have removed a few brands but have emerged leaner and healthier.  European automakers  understand the subconscious need of American customers - maintaining the carmaker’s identity yet be seen as American. Volkswagen valued that and presented an all American Passat model. Hyundai stamped their mark by stunning designs and new concepts that are likely to become legends. The show is abuzz with all new models on the showcase trying to wow the customers. It was a  motorshow as usual, unless you notice the small undercurrents that point towards future of mobility.

It is widely belived that mobility is on the verge of a great revolution. It is going to change far beyond recognition from what it is today.  At Frost & Sullivan, I am heading a global program called Global Urban Mobility Tracker. In this year long tracking program, we understand the issues and challenges in Urban Mobility by talking to over 26,000 commuters in 23 cities across the globe. The findings are indeed very interesting.
We calculate Journey Experience Index (JEI) based on speed of travel, timeliness, comfort and overall experience. This Index indicates how satisfied the commuters are with their current mode of transportation. The gap between JEI for individual transport (such as Cars) stands at 71 and that of public transport at 42. There is over 30 point gap between both of them. This indicates that car owners are happier with their mode of transport than the public transport commuters. This is in spite of average expenditure on car is significantly higher. Our data suggests that average travel time does not reduce drastically because of car. In fact, car usage introduces further delays and wastage in travel time as significant time is spent on searching for parking, accident, breakdown and repairs. Despite all this, commuters love the comfort and convenience offered by the car, which reflects in the JEI.

Urban Mobility tracker also has some findings about car commuters that set you thinking.

  • Globally, average speed of travel within cities is 28 km/hr only

  • Close to 60% of the commuters travel alone.

  • 8% of the time is wasted to search for parking globally

Travelling by car leads to wastage of time and Journey Experience in Publich transport is below par.  The latent need for a new mobility solution is quite obvious here. Detroit Motorshow 2011, also presented the alternatives. They did not attract the media attention they deserved. But for me they are the first footsteps of revolution in mobility.

  • Ford occupied the centerstage with a track for test driving electric vehicles. Ford Focus electric which was displayed in other motorshows was present. The other model being test driven was “Transit connect”. The name itself suggests that Ford has started thinking about multimodal transport and how they can create a product that can dovetail into the new mobility world.


  • GM displayed working model of EN-V. This is a futuristic concept of a travel capsule which is one fourth of the size of the car and weighing less than 500 kg. It is an intelligent mode of transport. It can sense obstacles and avoid collisions by itself. The maximum speed is about 40 km/hr which is well above the average speed within cities. This mode of transport is expected to provide the last mile connectivity that is required for a sustainable mobility solution.


These are some of the notable mobility concepts that were on display in Detroit. Modern Mobility concept are taking baby steps and making their presence felt as a sci-fi to real life. If the trends emerging out of Global Urban Mobility Tracker are to be believed, these concepts would become reality sooner than we think.

More than 100 years ago, the automotive industry in Detroit had revolutionized urban mobility globally, by mass-producing cars, when the conventional mode of transport was horse carriage. Can Detroit do the same trick again by inventing new mobility solution when the conventional mode of transport is a car?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Successful Parenting and Traffic Management by Sameer Joshi

Lately I am thinking that parenting is analogous to US Govt. system of traffic (a.k.a. DMV++ i.e DMV and more) I guess you will be shocked that any govt system can have positive effect. But I truly think that this system is very successful. In spite of tremendous overburdening, this system has managed to keep very low accident rates and absolutely low fatality rates.

Everything begins with education. System emphasizes that early driver study the rule book, understand the traffic conventions, learn the driving and pass "not so simple" tests.
Govt. provides a very nice infrastructure. Roads are wide and neatly marked. Boards properly explain the distances, destinations and directions. Lot of infrastructure is available online on phone, through GPS and through Maps describing where to go, ways of getting to that destination and pros and cons.

If someone wants to go for a trip or a hike or a tourist place, they can get the information and take their own decisions.

The roads have side guards to prevent any accidents. The lanes are defined . Cars have safety regulations and so on. Insurance rules are present.

But there are also rules, laws. The system enables the drivers to reach the destination but also prevents them from driving recklessly ensuring their safety. There are punishments, they are being watched and if they encounter accident they are helped as well.

Parenting should be similar. You emphasize on education/learning. Provide resources and information to enable the kid to take right decision. Provide infrastructure (finances, housing etc.) so that kid can pursue the goal which he or she has set. Ensure that there are certain rules and laws which keep the kids on track. And of course assurance of help in case there is actually any problem like insurance.

With "chinese style" govt will have to tow everybody's car to desired destination

Tiger Mom and Lion Dad - By Roopali Paranjpe

Two interesting characters.. A Tiger Mom, celebrity of the week Amy Chua. A Yale professor and mother of two girls, Amy expects nothing less than A on her kids' report cards. She does not allow playdates and sleepovers, ruthlessly punishes her 7 year old for not mastering a piano tune, calls her kids 'garbage' or something like if they don't meet her expectations, and justifies all this as her way of preparing her kids for the challenges of the future..yada yada yada

And then there's a Lion Dad, from a very obscure movie 'Udaan'. A drunkard father of two boys who runs a small factory, beats his kids with a belt for getting complaints from school, calls them disgraceful if they can't be what he wants them to be etc, etc, etc.. (watch movie for more, very well made indeed !)

What is the difference between the two? IMO, Nothing !

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Beijing’s New Car Quantitative Restrictions: A step in the right direction

In Jan 2011, Beijing’s Municipal authorities announced a restriction on number of license plates to 240,000 for the entire year. This represents close to 80% drop in sales over 2010. The dealer fraternity in Beijing is under threat of going bust. There are dooms day predictions about the entire Chinese Automotive Industry being devastated by this move. In year 2009, China became the largest automotive market in the world surpassing United States where the markets had declined by over 30%. As a response to global slowdown China unleashed a slew of incentives to boost the urban and rural markets. And they did. The trend continued in 2010. Despite recovery, United States still remains a close second biggest market in the world. So the question is whether why did Beijing Municipal authorities took these steps now?

The simple answer is :  Beijing municipal authorities did not really have any choice. A move on easing traffic was only a question of time. At Frost & Sullivan, I am heading a global program called Global Urban Mobility Tracker. In this year long tracker we understand the issues and challenges in Urban Mobility by talking to over 26,000 commuters in 23 cities across the globe. In my analysis, Beijing stands out as a city which has severe challenges in Urban Mobility. 45% of total journeys in Beijing are in private transportation such as cars, 24% of the journeys happen in public transport and rest in walking or cycling. Average commuter in Beijing travels over 55 kms per day which significantly below global average of 71kms per day. However, the travel time per day is marginally higher at 2:29 min (Global average 2:27 min) This indicates that average speed of travel in Beijing is mere 22 km/hr way below global average of 28 km/hr. Interestingly, the only city which had lower average speed of travel lower than Beijing was Jakarta. The quality of journey is also quite poor in Beijing. Frost & Sullivan’s Journey Experience Index (JEI) which is calculated based on average speed, cost of travel, overall experience and comfort is way below average 57 against global average of 61. 64% of the waiting time is accounted by traffic jams, which is one of the highest in the world. This is not surprising considering that there are estimated 4.8 million vehicles on road in Beijing which has increased by 85% from 2005. It is quite obvious that the city infrastructure needs a respite.

The question is whether the restrictions are good enough to solve the traffic woes of Beijing. The answer unfortunately is No. More needs to be done for improving the JEI for Beijing.

The number of journeys in public transport are still limited to 24% and what is even more worrying is the JEI for public transportation (Beijing : 24) is one of the lowest globally. (Global average : 42) Over 80% of the public transport commuters complain that public transport is crowded and slow. Lower proportion journeys in public transport combined with complains that public transportation is crowded indicates that Beijing needs to further bolster the public transport availability by enhancing the network.

Globally there are 2 peaks in average traffic flow; morning peak between 7:30~9:00 and evening peak between 5:30~6:30. For Beijing both morning and evening peaks are quite sharp. One of the low investment options would be to work on reducing the peak traffic during these hours. This can be done by staggering the office hours, offering flexi-time facilities in major corporate and even encouraging video conferencing / remote working in offices. The available infrastructure would be better utilized if the peaks are not so sharp.

Last few years have seen furious growth rates in Chinese automotive market. It has outstripped the growth rate of infrastructure in many cases. Policies such as this would provide a welcome respite in furious growth rates and allow the infrastructure to catch up with number of cars on road. The resultant growth after that would be more sustainable, solid and real.

Automotive market size in China is about 18 million by end of 2010. Loss of three to four hundred thousand units in Beijing is not going to change the fortune of the industry. But the message coming out of this move is very strong. World’s largest automotive market is choosing sustainable, structured but slower growth over indiscriminate, fast paced growth, which we believe is the right way forward. Current volume restrictions is a good beginning, more needs to be done to improve Beijing Journey Experience Index (JEI).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Learnings from Parenthood – Learnings from Amy Chua

Tiger Mom Amy Chua has sparked unprecedented debate about parenting styles and what is good and what isn’t, what works and what does not. Apparently, her article in WSJ titled “Why Chinese Mothers are superior” was the most forwarded title for 1 week, ahead of adult videos.  Amy has literally opened a pandora’s box by attacking western parenting style and positioning what she calls as Chinese parenting style as the supreme style. There is a consensus emerging in the blogosphere about her views not being representative of the Chinese community and that her methods not really keeping up with times. I have however, learnt a lot from her thoughts and I want to thank Amy for that.

Thank you Amy Chua. For starters, there is some truth in her basic assumption that a child needs to be driven in a specific direction sometimes against their wishes. There are many issues they don’t really understand and from three years of parenting experience and 40 years of experience of being a son, I can say that children don’t really take bottomline responsibilities for their decisions. On many occasions they take the decisions and blame their parents for not stopping them from making wrong choices. I have also found that those children around me who enjoy autonomy in their daily life are often more confused and unsure whether they have made the right decision. Children subconsciously expect their parents to draw a boundary line and expect to be protected within that boundary lines. I thank Amy Chua for reinforcing my belief.

Thanks Amy Chua for highlighting how self esteem is treated differently across the world. In some sense I agree with you that if you treat the child as if they are strong, they will be strong. If you treat them as though they are weak and need to be protected, you would need to protect them. When I started treating my three year old son as grown up child, he started acting like one. As a parent, my first duty is to communicate what is good for my child than trying to double guess how he would feel about it. Offcourse there would be pain but when the child learns about my intention, he will start respecting me more. Trying to sugar coat the message, ignoring the problem is the biggest disservice that you can do to your child.

Thank you Amy Chua. You highlighted the stereotype of those parents who consider academic success in school as be all and end all of the world. They measure the success in medals and grades. They forget that schooling and education is meant to prepare the child to be successful in the world. They forget that school is end to the means not the end in itself. They forget that life is a marathon and not a 100 m sprint race. They celebrate completion of first 100 m segment so much that often the child forgets that he has to run another 42.5 km. What helped them to win first 100 m may or may not help them to even complete the entire stretch. Thanks Amy for highlighting this stereotype so I can ensure that as a parent I don’t venture anywhere close to that profile and prepare my child for the marathon irrespective of how he performs in first 100 mtr.

Lastly, I thank Amy Chua for giving a biggest idea about how to launch your book all over the world. How to use electronic media and how to be politically incorrect to be noticed. I am sure your book is doing much better than expected. Ultimately, what works for one child may not work for another but what worked for one book may certainly work for another. Thanks.

For those who have no clue who Amy Chua is , her is the link