Friday, September 29, 2006

The ‘Consciousness’ paradigm

The scientific inventions have brought too many new things to this world. There is no second thought that these inventions have made life easier. But still this science is not able to answer one question: ‘What is the purpose of human life?’ If we take a minute off from our busy life, we are also left with the same question. The science will not be able to answer this question but Indian philosophy can. Sounds interesting? Read on.

The fundamental paradigm of Indian philosophy is built on the basis of ‘Consciousness’. The modern day science is only able to answer ‘rational’ questions but there is a limit to the level of human thinking. The ‘Consciousness’ paradigm is beyond what humans can explain. It’s more to be experienced than explained. Sounds confusing? Let me take a modern day example and then try to explain this concept. In the year 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed human beings hierarchy of needs. Starting from physiological needs Maslow lists safety, love, status and actualization are the next list of needs. The actualization need, which exists on top of this list, can be explained as “The true meaning of life is to be found in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system....Human experience is essentially self-transcendence rather than self-actualization. Self-actualization is not a possible aim at all, for the simple reason that the more a man would strive for it, the more he would miss it.... In other words, self-actualization cannot be attained if it is made an end in itself, but only as a side effect of self-transcendence”. So it is all about attaining the self-transcendence state.

The Indian philosophy suggests thee ways namely Bakthi Yoga, Gyana yoga and Karma yoga for attaining this self-transcendence state. In the olden days ancient yogis attained this by having ‘Bakthi’ towards the god and completely surrendering to themselves to god. By channeling the whole inner energy towards this supreme power they attained ‘mukthi’ stage. The second way is more of attaining the state through knowledge or ‘Gyana’. This is more about learning about the ultimate purpose of life (Dharma) in a formal education methodology. It was possible to do these ways because of the ‘non-materialistic’ lifestyle our ancestors lived.

But as the time has changed and human beings are involved in too much of ‘activities’ or ‘karma’. In today’s world (Which is called ‘kaliyuga’ according to Indian history) every human being is involved doing some or the other work. In order to achieve the ‘self-transcendence’ state in this kaliyuga our mythology proposes ‘karma-yoga’ this is the basic concept of ‘Bhagavad-Gita’. In Gita lord Vishnu tells Arjuna to feel the inner consciousness by doing karma or the work that he is assigned to do. By doing the work without expecting anything back one can attain ‘mukthi’. In today’s world karma yoga seems to be more applicable.

Now again one more question may pop up in your minds. What the heck is this ‘consciousness’ or ‘inner-being’ is all about? Is there any scientific proof behind this? How can anyone believe in such things in the world which is ruled by technology and people are so busy in gaining ‘materialistic’ wealth. Recently I came across the following article forwarded by one of my friends, which proves this fact.

This article reports about a brain area which when stimulated artificially can reproduce out-of-body type of experiences (extra-sensory perception). What we need to understand from this is that what we perceive as 'reality' is inside us and not outside. Mind constructs reality from the sensory stimulants and it doesn’t matter whether the stimulants are generated by external objects or the stimulants are generated internally. If an internally generated stimulus can make me perceive a human in front of me, isn’t it as real as a human being perceived by the external stimulus of light? The science of yoga is based on this premise: concentrating the mind through a technique can generate internal stimuli which will make you realize certain realities which would otherwise be impossible to understand by externally generated stimuli. When one acquires the understandings of such internal realities, one begins to wonder whether the external world is 'real' or not. Can you appreciate the deep resonance of this deduction, with Aadi Shankaracharya’s conclusion 'Mithyamidam jagat' meaning 'this world is unreal’?

The presence of a spectral figure lurking behind one’s back is a feeling often reported by people who manage to psych themselves up when walking down a lonely street or past a graveyard at night. But now neuroscientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne seem to have accidentally replicated the same phenomenon far more realistically in broad daylight under lab conditions. A 22-year-old woman being evaluated for surgery to treat epilepsy by having a part of her brain electrically stimulated, suddenly reported sensing someone sinister behind her. The illusory presence was that of a young person of indeterminate sex standing right up against her back silently mimicking her body posture and actions. When she lay down it lay beneath her, when she sat up it sat behind her and when she leaned forward and grabbed her knees she had the creepy sensation that the shadowy figure was embracing her. Ultimately it even attempted to take a test card from her when she tried to participate in a language exercise. So real was the phantom that the woman repeatedly looked back to see the apparition. The scientists believe the woman was actually experiencing a perception of her own body. That may well be since the area of her brain being stimulated, the left temporoparietal junction, is in fact what coordinates different sensory information to give a sensation of the body’s location in space. When this function is disrupted, the brain perceives two bodies instead of one and mistakes the second for that of a stranger — an impression that schizophrenics with paranoid delusions or persecution complex routinely exhibit. At the same time, the idea of a body double, ghostly twin, mirror image or doppelganger that besets its fleshly counterpart is almost universal among peoples of all cultures who are not necessarily psychiatrically impaired. Could it be that our consciousness has become so reflexive by dint of constantly being aware that it’s aware that we’ve developed the natural internal knack of being able to access and disrupt the same areas of our brains that external electrodes do artificially? If so, it would certainly explain things like out-of-body experiences without resorting to arcane mumbo-jumbo. What it would not explain is why we need to haunt ourselves with unknown entities which are nothing but ourselves, in an already demon-haunted world.

In conclusion I would say the modern science and the western world is ‘re-engineering’ things that were ‘invented’ by Indian philosophy. Feeling as if a chord is hitting your head very strongly?

Monday, September 25, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Marketing Maayajaalam – Tamizh (The Marketing Magic)

Author: Satheesh Krishnamurthy
Price: 60 INR
ISBN: 81-8368-103-4

Being a techie, I have only exposure to ‘software development life cycle’ and it constitutes only 15% of the ‘product life cycle’. To put it in other words if any product is sold at $100 at the shop, only $15 is spent towards ‘engineering’ that particular product. Assuming that $15 is the profit margin, the next simple and obvious question is where the remaining $70 constitutes to? Also in my previous company we had a wonderfully ‘engineered’ product, but it became a big time ‘failure’ in the market. Why did it fail? What was wrong with our product? These questions have been lingering in my mind for a long time and this book gave me answers. The answer is ‘marketing’ :-)

The author (Satheesh Krishnamurthy) starts the book with the answer for my question by saying ‘Marketing is the only difference between the success and failure of your business’ and goes on explaining various aspects of marketing. Starting from the 4Ps of marketing (Product, Pricing, Place and Promotion) and author clearly explained how the marketing has got the prime importance in any organization because of the ‘open market’ situation. The author also gave pretty good perspective of consumer behavior, market influencing factors in the following chapters. I particularly liked the chapter on STP (Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning), in which he has given nice examples ranging from Colgate paste to cars and explained the concepts. This book also covers topics on pricing, distribution and marketing communication.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of two particular reasons. Firstly, the book is written in Tamizh and I have never seen such a high ‘quality’ book in the topic of ‘marketing’. Second the book is very ‘simple’ to read and understand. I know very well that marketing is a huge large subject, but this book really gave me a ‘bird’s eye view’ of marketing. To put in simple words I am in a position to understand where the $70 is spent in software products :-)

Leadership - What is your style?

The thumb rule of leadership says ‘The success of the real leader is determined by how many leaders he or she has created’. Leadership is all about ‘enabling others’ and this can be applied to all walks of our life ranging from family to corporation. The latest form of leadership is ‘thought leadership’ as the world is in knowledge era. The knowledge is considered as the most powerful entity than anything else. In Indian tech industry I have been observing two leaders and thought of comparing their leadership styles. They are none other than Narayana Murthy and Azim Premji.

Looking into them more closely, we can say they both are totally different personalities and their companies reflect their personalities. We can take the following examples:

  • Premji built Wipro as a ‘family owned’ company, whereas Murthy built Infosys as an ‘employee owned’ company. Murthy believed in sharing the wealth with their employees by making them as ‘stakeholders’ which is not true with Wipro.
  • Premji never believed in the media and never accessible for media personnel. In the past five years I have seen him in only on couple of TV shows (NDTV-walk the talk and CNBC Power-Turks) apart from announcing Wipro’s quarterly results. Whereas we can see Murthy appearing and giving his opinion on fee reduction in IIMs to RTI act. I have never ever read any news about Premji’s family members, whereas everyone knows almost everything about Murthy’s family.
  • Infosys have a ‘leadership training’ institute in Mysore where they are grooming next generation leaders for Infosys. It is more of a systematic approach where the leaders are ‘grooming inside’. Because of this reason it is very hard to see people quitting Infosys and becoming Entrepreneurs. In a sharp contrast Wipro had ‘grow outside’ approach, because of which many of senior executives quit the company and went on to become Entrepreneurs.

In conclusion I would say both of them are great leaders in their own style. They strongly believed in their ‘ideology’ of running the business and stuck with it for about 25 years. In both the cases they have ‘created’ new leaders, but again in different styles.

What is your leadership style?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Emertxe – A bridging company

The IT ‘outsourcing’ boom in India is now slowly turning into ‘off-shoring’ boom. The earlier one was more of doing the ‘non-core’ software development for any of the north-American companies just because of low cost advantage. The later one is more of doing ‘core’ product development from India and it requires real ‘quality’ engineers. If at all India wants to capitalize on this boom, number of quality engineers needs to be increased.

About a month back I was watching the ‘walk-the-talk’ program in NDTV in which Mr.S.Ramadorai, CEO of TCS appeared. He gave the real statistics of the ‘skill-shortage’ problem and the excerpt goes as follows:

Shekhar Gupta: You employ 60,000 people already, most of them well-educated, technical people. Do you have concerns over where more of these people will come from? Are you beginning to see a problem there?

Mr.Ramadorai: I definitely have some worries on this. The reason I'm saying that is, if you're producing six and a half lakhs of engineering graduates and almost 10 million science graduates in the country, how many of them are really suitable for high-tech jobs? That is the fundamental question. The 6.5 lakhs translates into a suitability pool of about 2 lakhs and then the 10 million comes down to about 1.8 million suitable people.


Apart from the above mentioned example, there is loads of media coverage on this latest ‘talent-crunch’ buzzword, what is being ‘done’ to address this problem? At one end bunch of fresh engineers are waiting in the queue to get jobs and at another end companies like TCS are feeling ‘pinch’ because of the talent crunch. Even though Indian IT companies are spending as much as 2000 US dollars (Roughly about one lakh) per fresh engineer to train them, it is proving out to be a costly affair. According to me it is more of a ‘reactive’ approach.

Recently I came across this company Emertxe (http://www.emertxe.com/) who have taken a ‘proactive’ approach to address ‘industry-academia’ gap. Basically this company is promoted by some of my friends and they are into Embedded Systems trainings and product development. They offer a five months training program ‘Embedded systems and systems programming’ in which they train people on practical approach towards systems programming. Their real ‘value-add’ comes from the fact that all of their faculties are working in various MNCs in Bangalore. I would say it’s really a ‘welcome’ move and they have taken a ‘real step’ towards bridging the industry-academia gap. I also came to know that this program can be taken by experienced professionals who want to shift to Embedded Systems domain.

Companies like Emertxe are really playing the ‘bridging’ part in the IT industry by really ‘doing’ things rather than talking. I am sure it will create a real ‘long term value addition’ as far as Indian tech industry is concerned.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Suguna tender chicken


All my friends know very well that I am a ‘vegetarian’ and I would like to be the same. Then you might be wondering what I got to with ‘suguna tender chicken’ and write a blog on it. There is an interesting business story behind it. So please read on.

During December 2005 I got a chance to visit Coimbatore and observed that there is huge number of ‘suguna chicken’ boards are kept in small road side chicken shops. I thought it might be a local chicken brand and forgot about it. But last week when I went to my native town Erode (Which is 100 kilometers from Coimbatore) I could see the same boards (Same font, same logo similar to McDonalds or Pizza hut boards) appearing in my home town road side chicken shops as well. Apart from that, I observed couple of things in local Tamizh news papers:
  • A column named ‘Today’s suguna broiler chicken rate’ and it was mentioning that day’s broiler chicken rate per kg.
  • Lot of local farmers gave half page color advertisements (imagine of doing it in a small town) thanking ‘Suguna poultry’ for bringing light to their life.

I couldn’t control my excitement and started digging more into this. I found that the company ‘Suguna poultry’ (http://www.sugunapoultry.com/) is Coimbatore based, 1100 crore (which is about 11.02 billion Indian rupees) company who are into poultry products. They are the second fastest growing company in the Indian poultry industry and planning to capture 20% of the poultry market by 2010 which is about 3000 crores. They have already hired IBM and Oracle to implement ERP solution for their organization. This is truly mind-blowing!

They have an excellent R & D facility using which they have invented high quality broiler chickens breeds. In the production side they have formed tie-ups with local farmers for nurturing these chickens by giving them necessary tools and instructions. This is serving as additional revenue for farmer’s families and creating a ‘win-win’ situation between Suguna and farmers. In a way they have adopted the ‘co-operative’ method followed in Anand which is popularly known as ‘Milk-capital-of-India’. From the distribution side they have formed tie-ups with road-side chicken shops and created proper distribution mechanisms and already built a brand name for themselves.

From the macro standpoint, they have targeted an un-organized sector like poultry and slowly built a ‘brand name’ by taking advantage of rural Indian farmers. There are similar brand names (like ‘real good chicken’) existing in India but only in urban India. By taking the ‘bottom-up’ approach, Suguna poultry has once again proved ‘Management guru’ Prof.C.K. Prahlad’s famous argument ‘Future at the bottom of the pyramid’.

Going global

It’s been three months since I am into ‘serious’ blogging. For people who are reading my blogs would have found my blogs are more India centric. I feel it is the rite time for me to start blogging on global technology and business trends and you can see more blogs in these areas as well.

Stay tuned…

Career workshop for IT professionals

This weekend there was a career workshop organized by the ‘Silicon India’ group. This is the fifth time they are organizing such a career workshop and job fair. I attended this workshop for the fourth time and this time the theme was on ‘tech trends’. Country heads and senior directors from various organizations spoke about product development, web 2.0 and software services. It was pretty good to get senior people’s perspectives especially in the area of product development in India.

Since the enterprise and retail markets in India is not showing immediate potential for software products, most of the Indian software product companies are building products for global markets from India which is a challenging task. Lack of customer awareness, time-zone difference, attrition and shortage of senior technical people are some of the problem areas that need to be addressed. It was good to listening on how various organizations are dealing with these problems.

The organizers ‘Silicon India’, is having a very successful magazine in the silicon valley USA and they are promoting a similar magazine ‘The smart techie’ (http://www.thesmarttechie.com/) from Bangalore. I have been a regular reader of their magazine as well. The magazine gives the business angle of Indian software industry which I feel is very vital for tech industry professionals. In their current issue one of my articles titled ‘The manager mania’ got published and you can access it from http://www.thesmarttechie.com/Magazine/

Sunday, September 10, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: Complete Chanakya Neeti

Author: Chanakya (Translation and comments by Vishwamitra Sharma)
Price: 80 INR

This is a wonderful book, contains couplets written by Chanakya. Chanakya is considered to be one of the brilliant strategist and economist of all time. Due to his political wisdom and diplomatic skills he is called as ‘Machiaville of India’. The Dos and Don’ts suggested by Chanakya in these couplets are very much true even today. I could also compare these couplets with ‘Thirukkural’ (In Tamizh) written by Thiruvalluvar. This book once again proves the ‘superior’ thought process of Indians which they had thousands of years ago. But in this book Chanakya considers and comments on women in a very bad fashion which I am not able to agree. Following are some of my favorites from this book:

• An industrious person can never be poor, always keeping God in mind keeps one away from sin, the silence doest not let quarrels appear and an ever vigilant person has no cause for fear.

• The following six things are living funeral for a man: To live in a village of bad characters, to work for an evil family, to get bad food to eat, a short tempered wife, a foolish son and a widowed daughter.

• Do not be too simple and too straight. Go to the jungle to see how the smooth and straight trees have been cut down mercilessly but the crooked ones stand unharmed.

• A person who is shameless (Bold) in the matters of: Dealing with money or trade, learning some art or skill, eating and behavior, is a happy one.

• Be content with what you have already got as wife, food and income. But don’t ever be content with your knowledge, self-improvement and charity.

• In this world, those who desire only for wealth are lowly people of lowest level. Those who desire wealth and respect are people of middle level. The persons of highest level only desire honor and respect.

• Sages say that one Yavana, the foreign invader is as filthy as thousand scavengers.

• No blessing is greater than peace. No joy is greater when contentment. No disease is worse than greed. No religion is greater than mercy.

• It is of no use to give advice to persons who have no capacity to receive or imbibe. The fragrant winds coming from the forest of sandalwood trees do not aromate the bamboo groves which continue to be offensive smelling.

• Brain power is the mightiest power. The physical power may look fearsome but it has no clever edge to sin against wisdom. Remember the story how a lion got killed by a clever rabbit.

• Something which looks too far off to achieve, intangible and too high to attain, can be reached through perseverance, dogged effort, hard work and single minded devotion. Nothing is impossible. Even God is just a true penance away.

The ‘AND’ phenomenon

For quiet some time my mind is thinking about this ‘AND’ phenomenon wherever I go. It may sound very abstract but I could feel this pattern in almost every walk of life. Let me give some examples:

1. In his bestselling famous book, ‘Built to last’ author James Collins talks about successful habits of Visionary companies. The author has observed that these visionary companies are having a great ‘Vision’ at the same time have strong ‘Action’ towards the vision. So the ‘Vision AND Action’ is important for any organization to be successful.

2. Another bestselling book ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’, author Stephen Covey talks about ‘Dependence’ and ‘Independence’ of human beings. In the initial stages human beings were ‘dependent’ on each other and promoted collective living and sharing. But after some centuries the ‘independent’ paradigm started, driven by various ideologies. In this book the author argues, in this knowledge area there is another new paradigm emerging called ‘Interdependence’. In this new paradigm human beings needs to be independent ‘AND’ collaborate with others to share knowledge as knowledge is in abundance.

3. The eastern part of the world is comparatively old to the west. The thought process has matured in the eastern world long time ago. This can be easily seen in looking into ancient Indian philosophy which is in the form of Vedas, Upanishads and various scriptures. By deeply understanding this philosophy one can answer the ‘Why?’ part of the human being’s existence and intellectual wealth. In sharp contrast the western world has invented excellent management methods. This has helped them to build excellent materialistic wealth and answers the ‘How’ part of the human existence. From an individual’s standpoint the ‘Intellectual AND materialistic’ wealth is important today.

Are we proceeding towards some kind of ‘Unification’?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Indian Railways : The sleeping 'Giant' ?

Believe me, its true! Indian railway minister Mr.Lalu prasad yadav is going to take classes in prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad. He is not going to talk about ‘How to make Japan as Bihar in a day’ or ‘Bainsa’. He is going to give lectures about how he has turned around Indian railways (which according to him ‘Sone-ki-panchi’) to a profit making mode. Leaving the fun apart, let us get into statistics:

Indian Railways is the largest commercial employer in the world, with more than 1.6 million employees and it is one of the largest rail networks on the world. As per the 2006 railway budget Indian Railway’s revenue touched 12.3 billion USD which is really a huge number in any scale. After Lalu became railway minister, the cash reserves of railways rose to 13,000 crores compared to 240 crores in 2001-2002.

Indian Railways is one of the ‘sleeping giant’, and its complete potential is yet to be harnessed fully. The success of densely populated countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore is mainly because of their excellent train transport system. Apart from these Asia-pacific countries, busy cities like New-York and London are also having excellent system. Apart from carrying people, the rail track can be used for moving raw materials and managing it effectively. This could bring in huge amount change in India which will drive growth in manufacturing sector.

Even-though it is the biggest corporation in the world as far as number of employees are concerned, ranging from train timings to internet booking there are enormous amount of problems existing in the railways system. This is mainly because it is owned by the government. By allowing private players into Indian railways its efficiency can be improved drastically. This will also solve India’s infrastructure problem to a larger extent at-least in the long distance segment. The famous author Gurucharan Das put it in a nice way: ‘Let the government govern the country and not think of fixing toilets in Indian railways’.

The Telecom and Finance segments are the standing examples of success of disinvestment. This success is achieved mainly because of the regulatory bodies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). So the ‘mantra’ for success is, ‘Open-up-and-regulate’ Indian Railways. I personally feel English language and Indian Railways are the only two advantages of 400 years of ‘British-Raj’ in India. We are already taking advantage of the English by capitalizing on the ‘Out-sourcing and Off-shoring’ boom and it is high time to unlock the second one.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Mindtree is going public


MindTree to raise $70M via IPO

Mindtree consulting is planning to raise 70 million USD in 2007, which is one of the long awaited public issues. Founded in 1999 by Mr.Ashok Soota along with senior executives from Wipro, this second generation mid-sized IT company has successfully sailed through the difficult '2000 bubble' times. I have been observing this company for quiet some time feel their IPO will open door for another 'wealth-creation' drive because of the following reasons:
1. Compared to other services companies Mindtree have their 'Services + Consulting' combination working for them, which is the next big thing. By being an early mover in the consulting space mindtree has created a strong and robust business model.

2. The senior leadership team are from Wipro but with an 'Infosys' mindset. They believe in shared wealth creation and sharing it with the society. By design they have made that the company is no-one's property. This has already created a unique brand both inside and outside the tech industry.

3. Being a mid-size company, they can be more agile when it comes to serving customers.

4. Mindtree is one of the very few indian companies to demostrate their 'innovative' behaviour by demonstrating the 'component ownership model'. Their indegeneously designed chip (Which is designed for mobile phones) has already caught the attention and will play a major role in the company's future.

So, this is a MUST PICK stock which is having a very good long term potential.

Think flat : An Infosys initiative

The infosys 'Think Flat' link

After reading the book 'The world is flat' by Tom Friedman, I am able to see the 'flat' word in many places. The funda behind the flat world goes like this: The invention of Internet and emerging countries like India, China, Russia and Brazil has literally made the world look flat. The 'open trade' policy has added about 3 billion people to the existing talent pool which is totally reshaping the world.
From Indian perspective Infosys is one of the companies benefited most because of this flat world. They have started the 'Think flat' blog (See the link in the beginning of the blog), where they are sharing their 'flat world' experiences with general public. This blog contains entries written by Nandan Nilekani and looks really cool. These kind of initiatives are very vital in promoting the 'Flat world' concept inside India.