Sunday, December 30, 2007

Height of e-governance

Last week I went to sub-registrar office in Chennai. I got a big shock when I saw the notice board. The e-mail ID of the sub-registrar was mentioned as: (See the picture below)

This exactly shows how clueless our government systems are when it comes to deploying technology.

Long live India’s e-governance!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Games Indians play

In 2002, I visited USA for the first time. During transit I spent some time in Singapore and Hong-Kong. I was totally shocked to see the great infrastructure, well defined rules, robust systems and responsible individuals. After I got back to India, I was frustrated and disgusted to see the Indian system. We Indians just don’t follow any rules; Even if we follow, it is short lived. Take example of Indian roads: We can’t lay good roads; Even if we lay, we will not maintain it; within months, the newly built road will have numerous potholes; Added to that we spit, throw garbage, urinate on it and make sure it is spoilt to the maximum. This phenomenon is very unique in the subcontinent. Take the well developed western world, Middle Eastern and south East Asian countries – they all well built and properly maintained.

After some more experiences, I learned that it all finally boils down to an individual’s behavior. Even though Indians are as smart as anyone else in the world, what makes us to behave the way we do? Why can’t we follow basic rules by taking responsibility? The same Indian follows rules, exhibits basic civic sense, and drives properly when they travel or migrate to other countries. This has got nothing to do with culture, tradition, education, rural-urban divide, globalization etc. It is just the way we are; what goes behind this ‘Indianness’ behavior?

On top of all, I had very interesting observations when I visited Singapore earlier this year. The whole of Singapore is clean and rule-bound. But there is an area called ‘Little India’ where things are totally out of control. I can just cross the road without even bothering for traffic signals, just like the way we do in India; The interior streets of Little India really stinks and I have seen people even spitting on roads in late nights. Some of my friends in Singapore told me that the government couldn’t impose the rule in Little India area in spite of consistent efforts. How can I explain this behavior? Wherever Indians are living in larger chunks and form a community, the system goes for a toss (Another example: Edison in New-Jersey area). Why on this planet we Indians are like this? If we can boast of having a great system for sanitation during Indus valley civilization times, why the system is in pandemonium now? While I can give a whole lot of philosophical explanation for this condition, it always great if somebody gives an analytical perspective of the situation. The book ‘Games Indians Play’ just does that and much more.

The Author Mr. Raghunathan (professor at IIM-A) came across very interesting observations when we was teaching ‘Game Theory’ for his B-school students. Basically Game Theory is a mathematical technique, used by economists in the behavioral context. Using some of the principles of Game theory (especially prisoner’s dilemma) author has tried to characterize the whole behavior of Indians. The author has mapped the game theory with practical situations, which gives great motivation for the reader. I was getting multiple feelings as I was progressing each chapter; Sometimes I felt like a student; Sometimes I broke into laughter; Sometimes sad; Sometimes guilty; At the end of the book the author leaves the reader with an urge to do something to make the system better by exhibiting default ‘co-operative’ behavior. In the last chapter he compares Game Theory with Bhagavad-Gita, which left some ever last lasting impact on me.

In conclusion, this book is a must read for every educated Indian. As an engineer I was able to appreciate the book better as it combines analytical and emotional aspects of Indian behavior. As India is becoming more important piece in the world map by growing economically, behavioral change is the need of the hour to sustain it. Books like ‘Games Indians play’ are very critical to sow seeds for the behavioral change. If not anything, at least the reader will think before throwing garbage or spitting on the roads.

Brilliant book!

Related posts:
India : A garbage land
Am I proud to be an Indian?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

IT.India part – II: Workplace diversity

Before reading this post, please check out this link for my opinions about diversity.

Here is the latest buzzword among Indian MNCs -- ‘Workplace diversity’.

The amount of non-sense going behind this topic is pretty interesting. It also shows how, we Indians bow our heads and accept things without asking any questions. Whatever told by the parent organization in US/UK is taken as a ‘mantra’ and we end up implementing it without knowing head or tail of it. Especially the senior management of India based MNCs has no clue of the rationale behind many of such initiatives. The latest ‘workplace diversity’ campaign is a classic example.

According to ‘Wikipedia’ the diversity in workplace or business is defined as:

The "business case for diversity", theorizes that in a global marketplace, a company that employs a diverse workforce (both men and women, people of many generations, people from ethnically and racially diverse backgrounds etc.) is better able to understand the demographics of the marketplace it serves and is thus better equipped to thrive in that marketplace than a company that has a more limited range of employee demographics. An additional corollary suggests that a company that supports the diversity of its workforce can also improve employee satisfaction and retention.

What does that mean? It’s very straight and simple. When hiring new employees organizations need to make sure that they hire people from diversified background. This really helps in business as different set of people bring strengths in different areas. For example: the diversified mutual funds have proven track record of giving consistent, better returns for a long period of time. This is mainly because it has stocks from various industries in various proportions. When one sector is not doing well another will balance it, which eventually keeps the ROI intact for the investors.

In western countries, organizations promote diversity by -- hiring more women candidates (gender diversity), physically disabled, African Americans, Asian Americans etc to have the proper balance in the workplace. Even in those developed countries (like US) they are very particular and make sure all sectors are represented properly. In the past, initiatives like ‘Affirmative action’ ( were taken to promote the workplace diversity at corporate level.

As we all know, US/UK based companies have started their offshore centers in countries like India to take the demographic advantage. Now these western organizations want to promote initiatives like ‘workplace diversity’ India. What is the result? The ‘workplace diversity’ is narrowly interpreted as ‘gender diversity’ and companies are hiring women candidates with special recruitment drives. Here is the pattern of advertisements I get to see in job portals and local news papers.

"Diversity initiative for women candidates at company XXX"

And one of the HR guys makes a generic statement like:

Hiring more women into the organization has brought in stability and
maturity within the organization. We find that women are also better at
multi-tasking and move more easily from one project to another.
I can agree on the advantages that gender diversity brings in; I am not agreeing the narrow interpretation these companies are doing a about diversity. When it comes to India, it is the country with diversity at its best. People are different in terms of food, culture, customs, caste, religions, regions etc and no-body need to do any diversity hiring in India as a special drive. When a team has ten people, they are naturally diversified given India’s nature. Given this Indian context I am not able to understand how hiring more women candidates will bring in strength to any organization? This might have worked well in the western world, but requires some amount of retrospection or customization when it comes to India.

The local management and HR folks in India need to evaluate such initiatives before implementing. This also shows how much un-aware the local folks are when anything new is asked to be driven. I have one simple word to tell them: ‘Grow-up!’