Friday, 30 November 2012

Why WRITE, when people DON'T read?

"I Hate Books" - A children's
fiction by Kate Walker

I came across this interesting blog-post (also published on ToI edit page today, 30.11.12) by one of my favourite author-cum-journalists, Jug Suraiya. The blog post, titled, "What's for launch?" (Read the blog here) is an open and frank take on the razzmatazz that goes on in launching books round the year (as per the author, it's almost half a dozen in every other big city around the world every day). The launch party almost certainly has a chief guest, who may or maynot have anything to do with literature or writing in any way, but is only there to add the glamour quotient! The unfortunate reality, which is of a bigger concern today (and that is what I want to stress on in my post here), is the fact that people have almost stopped reading - books, blogs, newspapers, etc. And what the author cites, "... it is generally accepted that books are injurious to mental health in that they distract from watching Bigg Boss, doing Sudoku puzzles, and catching up on the latest tweet that's doing rounds on Twitter. Books, shooks. Who's got time for them?" intensifies the concern further.

I have worked with students closely. Most of them (nearly 100%) are within the age group of 17-22 years. By the time they joined our (IIPM's) management programme, they have almost lost the tendency to read. By reading, here I do not mean mere text books, which of course are the only source of getting pass marks (an unfortunate truth of our education system), but fictions, newspapers, magazines, anything that would give these wise souls some more wisdom in life. At our institute, we even went to the extent of creating special incentives for students to read more often by sharing a list of some of the best management titles, works of fictions, notable websites, etc through an initiative called Read to Lead! As expected, there were not many takers. We even had 'negative consequences' linked with this initiative of ours, trying to put to task these kids who otherwise would not fall for the more positive strokes, by engaging our communication faculty members to monitor their progresses. This also had least reaction. So where did we all go wrong?

Pic courtesy:
Analysing back every aspect of these students, their areas of interest, their schooling, their social environment, we did reach a conclusion: these students hardly had any orientation towards reading. It was not only the school system (which we always tend to find the lone scapegoat), but also the parents and the family environment, that had to be blamed. There have been no extensive thrust put on by the parents to 'educate' their offsprings in the real context of education, beyond those text books (to be read as 'test' books). Schools have also failed to cultivate the interest of reading in their students by not attaching sizeable incentives to this exercise. Every school, from the primary to the high school level, has a dedicated 'Library' period attached to their curriculum, once a week. Why have they not given some weightage to these library periods in ensuring students imbibe the practice of reading, lifelong? 

So, when we looked back at these 17-22 year olds, we somehow realized that it must be too late now to make them pick up an interest in reading. The interest in reading should be nurtured from the early days, even before the kids start reading all by themselves. There has to be a culture in the family for the father or the mother to spend some time with the kid reading out stories from a book. Here, I would emphasise on the word book more as it becomes a visually accepted tool for the kid to lay its hands on, by the time it grows up and starts reading all by itself. Atleast once a week, even when the kid is going to the primary sections at school (that is upto class 5), parents should spend a few hours together with the kid in discussing books, interesting articles in the newspapers, joint reading of some science fiction or even reading out a story on Akbar and Birbal or Panchatantra together. Development Psychologists believe that most of the development in our interest areas happen within the age group of 6-12 and that is the time wherein more focus should be given in reading - not for the kid to grow up to become an anchor or newsreader, but to carry on the legacy of read to lead in every important milestones of its life.

Reading is so boring!!Pic courtesy:
Thanks to technology, books and articles are easy to access these days. One need not go to a bookshop anymore to locate a title and pick it up. You may order a book online or flip through the pages of an e-book as per your convenience. But what is the use of all these technology, when it fails to excite the human brain to READ? I may have an access to e-book through kindle or other e-book readers, I may also have an option of placing an order through the likes of Flipkart, but why should I? I don't enjoy reading. Period. The future looks really scary with our new breed of youngsters who have lost the enthusiasm or excitement of reading. Jug Suriya rightly points out, "As it is highly unlikely that anyone - least of all those present at the launch - will actually ever read the book being launched, wouldn't it save the writers a lot of time and effort not to write all those different books - all those novels, and memoirs, and factual fictions, and fictional facts...?" The question is quite loud and clear, while the answer is still pretty blur, blurred by the haze of consumer-centric-obtrusive dissipation on unworthy lifestyle. So, the choice is in our hands - should we read to lead (more effectively throughout our life) or we decide to destroy this practice for our progeny, once and for all!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

'Aam' Chors (The Mango Thieves - a satirical play)


Monu's Gang

Gadu's Gang

Big Man at meeting
6-7 elderly men
3-4 kids

A brief introduction: This play is about 3 different groups of kids staying together in a colony called Bharat Nagar, located somewhere in Delhi. Two of these groups are bitter rivals, each headed by their leaders – Monu and Gadu. There has never been an instance when these two groups have met and they have not fought tooth and claw. Monu’s closest friends include Sonu (a cute little girl who has spent the first 7 years of her life abroad), Diggy (he loves digging his fingers in his nose quite often) and Sallu (he has been in class 6 since the past 2 years), while Gadu also has his own group of ‘yes’ men Prasu (son of a politician) and Jaitlu (son of a criminal lawyer) and his little sister Sushy (a girl of just 6 years with a husky voice). The third group is a neutral group, headed by Keju, liked by most of the elders in the colony because of their good behaviour. There is one more kid who stays in the colony – a loner and a snob – whom not many kids like to spend time with because of her very irritating nature of complaining, screaming and eccentric behaviour. Her name is Mammo, daughter of a scrap merchant.

Scene I
The play starts with Monu and Gadu having a fight on the street in the presence of their respective group of loyalists, all cheering their own bosses.
Gadu: Monu, I dare you… do not cross your limits and try to poke your long nose in our business.
Monu: Chal haat! Who are you to decide what I want to do. And no one dares to stop me in doing whatever I want…
Sonu: (Cheering for Monu and pumping her fist in the air) Monu, wah wah, wah wah…
Sushy: (Jeering at Sonu) Oye, you better keep away, when two men take the pitch!
Prasu & Jaitlu: Right, right!!
Godu: You stay away Sonu! You anyways do not have any right to interfere… you illegal migrant!
Monu: How dare you tell her illegal migrant?? She is as legal a citizen as you and me…
Diggy & Sallu: Very right… she is more legally here, than you and us!
Sushy: Ha, ha!! I never knew there would be so much fan following for our dear little Sonu. (Sushy makes faces at Sonu, while Prasu & Jaitlu boos her).
(From the background comes the scream of a girl, who shouts out in Bangla – Cholbe na, cholbe na. Everyone turns around in surprise to find a small little girl with a pony and a tattered white frock entering the scene with some twigs and grass blades in her hands. Enters Mammo. Everyone looks for cover with a frown on their faces).
Mammo: Cholbe na, cholbe na… (she playfully throws the twigs and the grass blades on the gathering around)
Sonu: What the hell Mammo!
Diggy: Why do you throw these on us?
Jaitlu: Are you out of your senses?
Mammo: Cholbe na, cholbe na…
Sushy: What ‘cholbe na’? Kuch to bata bhai!
Mammo: (Pointing a finger at both Monu and Gadu, Mammo cries out) Both of you are fools to befriend me… cholbe na, cholbe na!
Monu: Arre Mammo, who says so? You are still our friend.
Gadu: Yes, yes, you are still my friend.
Mammo: Cholbe na, Cholbe na… (and she runs out of stage, in the same frantic way, the way she had entered)
Everyone looks at each other. By now, their fight and anger has stopped. The light dims.

Scene II
Keju’s house. Scene of a sitting room with sofas, chairs and a coffee table in the centre. A carom is kept on the coffee table. Keju is playing carom with 3 other friends of his. Keju’s mother walks in with 2 platefuls of peeled ripe mango. The friends dig in and relish the taste.
Keju: Wah Aam!! Itna mitha rasila aam… (he thinks for a few seconds and says) Every Indian should have aam and only aam. This aam will be the binding force for one and all in this country of diverse caste, culture and religions…
Keju’s loyalists clap and speak out in one tone – Wah, wah!!
Keju: These aam are the fodder for my brain. I have got some great ideas! I have been planning for quite some time to keep both Monu and Gadu in their skins. They have become too notorious lately, plucking out all the raw mangoes in the mango orchards, leaving the people with no option but to switch to bananas or pears. I have a plan, come here, let me share it with you…
(all huddle around Keju and Keju speaks something in a low voice, while the light dims)

Scene III
A street scene. Monu, Sonu, Diggy and Sallu have gathered around a corner chatting. Suddenly two small kids come running from nowhere and hurl some mangoes at the group and run away, equally fast.
Monu: Huh! What was that?
Sallu: (Pointing a finger to the direction where the kids disappeared) Those kids threw mangoes at us!
Diggy: I know them very well, they are not aam kids - are a part of the Keju gang. I am sure Gadu’s group has asked them to do so… those morons, always looking for opportunities to dirty us with their dirty antics.
Sonu: Hmmm… Monu bhaiya, we should report this to the elders.
Monu: As you say!
(Mammo’s voice is heard in the background - Cholbe na, Cholbe na. All kids scamper for cover)
Mammo: Arrey, where did they disappear? Why is it that no one plays with me? Cholbe na, cholbe na… (Mammo exits and the light dims)

Scene IV
A street scene. Gadu and his group - Sushy, Jaitlu and Prasu are hanging around a lamp-post, having a laugh at something. Diggy passes them from a distance. Gadu looks at him and attempts to chase him, but Diggy runs away. The group laughs out at Diggy and mimics his running.
Gadu: Ha, ha, ha… that Diggy is a real mess. He cant even run straight and wants to take panga with us!!
Sushy: Arre Gadu, one day we will catch hold of him separately and give him a knock of his lifetime… he calls himself Diggy Raja!! Ha, ha, ha…
Before Sushy could have finished, two kids came from the background carrying a plastic bag and hurled some 3-4 ripe mangoes at the group and vanish.
Prasu: Arre, what was that?
Jaitlu: I thought bombs…
Sushy: It must be Diggy only, he must have heard us laugh on him.
Gadu: But I know those kids… they are not aam kids, they are a part of Keju’s gang. Ah, so Monu and his team must have used them against us.
Sushy: Gadu, we should report this to the elders.
(Suddenly from the background, there is the typical hoarse voice of Mammo, Cholbe na, Cholbe na. Hearing Mammo approaching them, the group looks for cover and runs out of the scene. Mammo enters)
Mammo: Arre, these guys have also abandoned me? Cholbe na, cholbe na…

Scene V
A meeting in progress. There are elders attending a meeting of the residents’ welfare association. Enters Monu’s group from one side and Gadu’s group from another side.
Sushy: I am sorry to barge in like this, but I have to state something.
Diggy: Nehi, we need to speak first.
Gadu: How dare you!! (Turning back at the audience, he speaks out in a complaining tone) They have been throwing all sorts of aam-s at us.
Sonu: That’s a complete lie. In fact they have been doing that. They have used Keju’s boys to target us and dirty us in broad day light on open streets!! (She starts sobbing, Monu embraces her and tries to pacify her)
Jaitlu: I have evidence to prove that it is their act of misdeed and they have used Keju’s guys. In fact Keju’s group is the B-team of these loafers here.
Sallu: Huh! Just listen to their lies… haven’t you guys been targeting us and picking up a fight with us? You are a lot of incorrigible bandits.
Diggy: Yes, they are the ones to have engaged Keju’s guys, not us.
Prasu: Liar, liar… (all kids now speak out) – liar, liar.
A person with a big torso stands up and tries to separate the kids, who by now have almost got into a fight. Another person with a deep voice barks out…
Big Man: Shut up! You bunch of rascals, always fighting among yourselves. In fact today we had convened this meeting to resolve on how to stop your stupid pranks once and for all. You guys are a big shame for us and your parents… (he looks up over the head of others and motions someone to come towards him. Enters Keju in a white kurta-payjama and with a big smile on his face!)
Keju: Namaste!
Big Man: Keju, thank you for getting these ruffians up over here. Had you not been there, then we would not have got to know that they have all been stealing mangoes from the orchard. We will take strict actions against them…
Keju: Uncleji, this is not the only thing that they do… they have also been removing the bulbs from the street lamps, beating the street dogs away, scaring off the old people out for their evening or morning walks… and I have all the evidence with me. (He reaches out deep in his side bag and takes out a handful of papers). See, I have also collected statements from people who have complaints against them and have also clicked pictures of their misdeeds. They are the ones, who had attached the gardeners Bholu-bhaiya and the house-maid, Kanta bai and have abused the dhobi, Laluram.
Big Man: These are a lot too many accusations on you all. You all need to pay for it. (Turning to the other elderly people sitting in audience). So, I put it upto the house to decide what punishment to be given to these kids. (There was a loud murmur, some shouted – they should be punished, while some shouted – their parents should send them to boarding school, away from here, while some favored the kids – they are just kids!!)
Big Man: I think, we have all discussed among ourselves what to be done with them. The accusations against them are quite significant and cannot be ignored. So how many of you are in favor of punishing them? (Majority raises their hands) So we reach a consensus that punishment is what they all deserve. Anyone having any objection can speak now…
Even before he has finished speaking, Mammo’s voice was heard from the background – Cholbe na, cholbe na… Mammo enters.
Mammo: Cholbe na, Cholbe na…
Keju: Hello Mammo, what happened?
Mammo: Cholbe na, cholbe na… they cannot be punished.
Keju: But why?
Mammo: Because, because… Cholbe na, cholbe na…
Keju: That’s your problem, you know. You have no answer to anything and the only thing you say is Cholbe na, cholbe na. No one can make anything out of that.
Mammo: Well, I want to reveal something. Actually, I have also been a party to their pranks. Whenever they used to steal the mangoes from the orchard, I used to steal some from their kitty as well. And they never got to know about it!!
Prasu: You… I always knew you are not to be trusted.
Sonu: We used to wonder where did our mangoes disappear. And I used to think it was Sushy’s work – that little brat!
Big Man: Will you guys hold on! Listen to your punishments now. Sonu and Sushy, you guys would be helping the slum kids with their studies for the next 2 months, every evening. Diggy and Jaitlu, you are going to help all the senior citizens with their errands from the market for the next 6 months. Sallu and Prasu, you are going to supervise a cleanliness drive in the colony over the next 6 months. Finally, Monu and Gadu, you two would be guarding the mango orchard for 4 hours everyday, once you are back from school, for the next 6 months.
Everyone in the audience cheers. The kids put up a frown. They turned around with their heads down and started to move out of stage. The Big Man asks them to stop and turns around towards Keju and addresses him.
Big Man: Keju, since you have been a great help for all of us here, there is a reward from all of us. You will be entrusted to lead this entire pack. They have to report to you and you need to certify their performance at the end of the 6 months. And yes, if they are found good performers, they would certainly be rewarded.
All the kids now got back their smile.
All kids together: Yeah!! We will certainly work hard!
All the elders stand up to cheer the kids and the light dims.

End of play

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Kejriwal is not just another aam admi!!

RK Laxman's
'The Common Man'
The setting is apt for the rise of the Great Indian Common Man (in our very own RK Laxman ishtyle... or should I say like Naseeruddin Shah's - phata poster, nikla hero!!). Jokes apart, there have been many a 'shool-veers' who had tried to question the incorrigible Indian political system in their own ways, but a very few have actually walked that extra mile the way Arvind Kejriwal, former IRS officer, anti-coruption activist turned politician and leader of India Against Corruption (IAC), have treaded in his short innings so far. He could have continued playing second fiddle (although he was the chief strategist) to his more popular mentor Anna Hazare in mobilising all the hunger strikes till eternity without any assurance of results and that's when he decided otherwise - to become the pied piper himself - quite a daunting and uphill challenge for this 5ft. 5 inch 'short' aam-admi.

His courage, conviction, determination and game-plan, need to be given due credit, if not for anything else but for the character he showed to move out of the shadow of Anna - a Gandhian in true spirit, practitioner of ahimsa and satyagraha and a staunch believer of staying apolitical - and declaring his plunge into active politics. He did realise that to be in Rome, one needs to do the way the Romans do (and in Indian politics, to check mate the king, you need to do that in the garb of a politician only!).

Is Mr. Vadra looking a bit
angry, tensed and perplexed?
And what a better way to start his political campaign, than to reach out to the public at large (this strategy of his needs to be applauded and appreciated - it has been a complete turnaround from his previous satyagraha mode, wherein the target group was pulled towards him; his currently employed push strategy helping him reach out farther) and increasing his connect with the aam-admi. He announced his arrival at the political scene by dropping a huge bomb - more like the US airforce's daisy cutter used in the Afghan war - and created a huge crater full of intimidating political bickering and debate on the nexus between Robert Vadra, DLF and the congress ruled government of Haryana. Whether it was a master-stroke or not, would be left to be seen in the coming days, but undoubtedly, what he has done is that he has opened a Pandora's box which many never dared to (Robert Vadra's ascent financially or otherwise has been seen quite suspiciously by many - opposition, media, aam admi, but no one dared to raise a voice ever, given his political clout). Along with the heavy artillery, he decided to employ light infantry attacks from the flanks, by taking up the cause of the aam admi against the inflated power and water bills in Delhi. He was also seen climbing up the electricity poles to restore power connections, disconnected by discoms after consumers defaulted on the payments (although it's yet another story about how and why the bills got inflated!!) 

His actions in the past couple of weeks have given him a lot of visibility and the much required goodwill among his target votebank for sure, but what needs to be seen in the coming days, months and years are - whether he can create an equal impact pan India or not, whether he can stir up the conscience of people across the length and breadth of the country or not, whether he really wants to achieve utilitarian goals or ride on mere populist agenda like just another aam-admi turned politico and whether he can translate his political mandate into achievable and measurable results. The coming days would be very crucial for Kejriwal, as his every move would be followed closely by political outfits of every shade (red, green, blue, saffron, etc) and by millions of aam admi. He would eat up a lot of air-time and newsprint space for sure, which we can only pray, should not go in vain.

A leader needs to don
different 'thinking hats'!
He should not end up becoming just another archaeologist who digs out prized memorabilia only for the sake of winning recognition for his competence, rather he should act like a good sales man to sell his find to the highest bidder - the aam admi - and then ensure that it has added a value chain for one and all. He should necessarily be as much ruthless as possible to people proved corrupt and should also ensure choosing his friends and colleagues with a lot of caution. Many may start comparing him with the Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, fighting for the cause of dharma, but a Krishna (an avatar of Lord Vishnu, immortal in all the three worlds) was also mortified by many around and was killed by a diminutive, harmless looking arrow shot from the bow of an equally unimportant character, who is introduced in the last chapter of Mahabharata. The bugle has been blown and the arrows have started flying all around hitting targets - newer targets have been promised by Kejriwal (today's newspaper also had Salman Khurshid targeted - ToI, 11th Oct 2012) and many more would be hit by the time you have finished reading this article.
Are we?

I am not very sure of how strong a vote-bank Kejriwal promises to create or whether he can actually uphold himself as an alternative. But a political party cannot be just another one-man show. It has to be democratic to the extent that any decision taken needs to be debated and deliberated among a central committee. We have seen many such politicians who have run a one man political regime (how can we forget the current Mamata government in Bengal or the former Maya regime of UP) and the group of sycophants around them. We, as aam admis can only hope for the best alternatives to govern us, lead us and take care of us, without diluting national interests while framing foreign affairs and defence policies. We probably would not reach the European standard of living in the next 20 years (it may take 2 more generations before it happens), but at least we can aspire for a cleaner, more transparent and intent-driven governance within the next 10-15 years.

Kejriwal tum aagey baaro, aam admi tuhmahe saath hain!! Jain Hind.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The MBA bubble had to burst, it’s too late though!!

Now admission is open round the year -
but where are the students?

Circa 1982: If anything that an Indian graduate in science, commerce or economics would have dreamt of to finish his/her academic qualification in style, it would have been surely a master’s degree in business management. It had been a dream nurtured since his senior school days even before he had written his secondary examinations, in some cases, fumed by the likes of his uncle or one of his cousins, who made it big after completing his business studies. Wow, the dream of fat pay checks, glamour, luxury, social status – it was a fairytale career waiting for those who could walk through the competition seamlessly keeping their head and nerve still.

Circa 2002: If anything that an Indian graduate in science, commerce or economics would dream of to finish his/her academic qualification in style, it could be a master’s degree in business management. “They say it’s too easy to get through an MBA these days and I may consider finishing my master’s in commerce first and work for a couple of years before trying to get into a good executive MBA later. Pay-checks, glamour, social status?? Yeh, they are there no doubt, but then there is no differentiation. It seems everyone wants to do an MBA these days!!”

This bubble burst can hurt a lot more
than the dotcom burst!

Circa 2012: If anything that an Indian graduate in science, commerce or economics would not dream of to finish his/her academic qualification in style with, it would surely be a master’s degree in business management. “How would I know which is a better institute, with everyone claiming themselves to be the best, everyone providing a laptop, sending students for a foreign tour, getting professors from abroad, etc etc…?” With every institute in the market, aiming to be a me-too, trying to ape one another, there are just a few serious players left out there, who still guarantee serious academic pursuit. A few ‘good’ institutes mean a shortage in supply and (strangely still!) a sizeable demand for admission. 

Going out of business - it's just
the tip of the iceberg, more to follow soon
When The Times of India reported (on Monday 8th October, 2012) the news about 225 B-Schools and over 50 other technical institutes which have shut shop in the past 2 years, the news never came to me as a rude shock. With the mushrooming of B-Schools across every nook and corner of the country, catering to every possible tiers (Tier A, B, C and god knows how many more!), cutting through every SECs (the MR firms can only interpret that), MBA was no more restricted to a select few – academically brilliant, financially sound, intellectually outstanding. Although, there was no merit in making a professional, higher education system accessible to a select few based on academic or financial background (which was truly condemnable as it made higher education more elitist and cartelized) – as the need of the hour for a resurgent Indian economy was and is a large pool of well-trained and well-groomed executives with sharp entrepreneurial/business acumen – but unfortunately, many later players who entered the MBA ‘industry’ soon commoditised this form of education and made it ‘just another’ business venture.

These non-committed edupreneurs (an entrepreneurial venture in education started by an individual who dreams of making it big like a Gates or a Jobs in IT), neither had any hindsight nor any foresight. Till the time, the market was ready to gulp down anything that was thrown to them, they were all ready to pump in the required investment and settle for a strong bottom-line. Mind it, it was just another business transaction for them. So, there were the creamy layered farmers (from the green belts of India), the pot-bellied and once-upon-a-time warlord-turned-politicians and various corporate houses (why not take advantage of the tax benefits) who made a ‘frog-line’ to water and nurture the ‘mushrooms’, that would make MBA education ‘open to all!’

Made in india MBAs are a
hot commodity in the U$ markets
There was a belief, once upon a time, which echoed the feeling that if you restrict access to higher education (read: MBA) to a select few, then the institutes, which do so would be deemed the best in the business. So, institutes of ‘national importance’, with an aim to stamp their superiority, were soon formed and they started to create the sharpest of business executives to drive the Indian growth story, although most of the students from these institutes preferred to show their commitment to the cause of American growth, once they all graduated. Thus the outflow of ‘Made-in-India’ talents went on uninterrupted to fuel the American Dream, leaving the political pundits back home to debate on why India is still growing miserly (during the mid 80s)? Then came in the first of the several influxes of B-Schools. Many wanted to ape the already existing ‘institutes of national importance’ and framed a curriculum very similar to theirs. But the results were more or less the same - the growth of B-School seats failed to match the growth of applications for MBA programmes. The end result: more ‘Made-in-India’ MBAs were manufactured to oil foreign economic machineries leaving behind a few back here in India.

100% placement - a reality or
just a chimera!
India Inc, by the mid 90s, enthused by the post liberalization growth prospects, started to demand for trained manpower to drive their bottom-line, which obviously India had a shortage of by then. Like yet another Ice Age of yore, came another influx of B-Schools in the Great Indian MBA market, opening the floodgates to hundreds of thousands of applicants and making MBA education more accessible. Everything looked perfect till this point of time. The market had a large demand for MBAs, the supply side was also more or less balanced, young graduates beaming with confidence in their black suits were walking out of campuses to secure a job – things could not have been better for the MBA market. But the honeymoon did not last long. Soon a report published by FICCI lead everyone to sit up and take a note of the fact that although the market was strewn with MBAs, but most of them lacked the knowledge, the skills, the attitude and the temperament to push India’s growth story to the next level. The bubble had started to burst. More MBA seats meant more students to apply, quality standards in academic delivery was horrendously compromised due to shortage of faculty, easy loans gave people from every section of the economic strata the freedom to dream for an MBA career (don’t forget the facts that people went to the extent of mortgaging their land, properties and gold to avail such loans), companies of all sizes realized that only a handful of the end-products from these MBA schools were worth the salary paid, while the rest were of minimal value – thereby forcing them to stay away from campus, leading to negative demand in the job market and rising number of unplaced B-School graduates. Students securing placements were either getting them off campus through references or in jobs at the salary of a general graduate.

The bottom line:
In the next 12 months, there is a high likelihood of many more of the small, medium and even large B-Schools to shut their operations. Student volume has depleted considerably because of alternate training and skill enhancement opportunities that graduates (BCom, BSc, etc) are availing at a fifth of the price paid for a full time MBA programme. Employers prefer visiting college campuses to pick up these graduates, train them in their processes and absorb them at a cheaper rate compared to low quality PGs with a self-flaunting MBA tag.
In the coming years, two things are going to shape the market for MBA programmes:
1) Larger educational groups will consolidate their positions by acquiring smaller/medium players, thereby getting access to their facilities and infrastructure and reaching out to a larger market under a common brand name, and
2) Fringe players will concentrate on niche markets by offering specialized MBA curriculum to cater to specific market needs, instead of producing MBA in marketing, HR and finance in hordes and ending up piling some more bad assets!

Government’s Role:
The government should work selflessly, without worrying about vote-bank politics or political alliances, in redrafting a policy framework to reform higher education in general and professional studies (MBA/MCA, etc) in particular. A higher education regulator like SEBI or TRAI needs to be formed to register every institute working in the domain of professional higher education and lay down measurable guidelines for institutes to offer professional programmes. This regulator should not be manned by bureaucrats, but instead by academicians and corporate representatives and should function like a professional body, independent of interference from the HRD or the state technical education department. Such a committee should also offer advisory services to institutes in meeting operational efficiency, faculty training, student-skill development, and placement, among others. Accreditation bodies like AICTE, NAAC or NAB need to be abolished as a process of accreditation is the most corrupt means to asphyxiate growth, while the guidelines formulated by the regulatory body should not be based on size of campus or numbers of common rooms, but should be more inclined towards intellect development, pedagogical improvement and development of faculty quality.

Need for educational Think Tanks:
Let's think big, for a change!
Almost every other sector – defence, foreign policy, economic development, commerce, etc. has its own sets of think tanks, which work parallel to the government machinery, often providing key inputs, lobbying for some specific causes and actively generating public awareness. Educational Think Tanks, if any, have till date failed to generated the much required momentum in addressing the government apathy to education as a whole (which is reflected from its miserly allocations at the Union Budgets, year after year and more so from its wretched attitude in bringing about large scale reforms).
This article is not intended to enrich the readers with the facts plaguing the MBA scenario in India, much information is available in various forms online and offline. This article intends to generate the much required buzz among like minded professionals from the academic world to join hands and offer new insights to the government and the general public with a view to strengthen the MBA infrastructure in India - there is of course no denying the fact that the programme, if delivered with the right intent, in the right manner, with the right content, would make the right candidates ready for the right placement opportunities.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Entrepreneucide: 3 ways to kill your own business!!

When the economy starts behaving awkwardly, when job cuts and salary delays become a norm, when your work seems to get monotonous and unexciting and when the fire within to prove your worth gets tough to quell, then my dear friend, the time is just perfect for you to head the entrepreneurial way. It is never late to be an entrepreneur and neither is it too early to start your enterprise. You just need to have the hunger within and the passion and conviction for whatever you want to start your business in. 

Beware of the symptoms leading to Entrepreneucide -
an act of killing your own venture mercilessly
In the past 5-6 years, you must have learned a lot from your mistakes; you have also felt as if you have reached the end of the world when your efforts (read: performances) were blown to pieces by your tormenting boss(es). But, my dear friend, there is always a learning in all these and nothing goes in vain.  You learnt how to work on a business proposal by staying awake for 2 nights, you learnt how to make that powerpoint presentation look more slick and fascinating after getting yourself tortured by your boss, you learnt how to stand your ground and negotiate hard with the client, when your job was all that you could have traded off for and you learnt a lot more in order to stay focussed and get the numbers moving. You have finally arrived - you are all set to take the plunge in the world of your own venture. 

But, entrepreneurs have their own setbacks, their own shortcomings, which if not taken care of, are bound to doom him and his venture - he may lead on to an Entrepreneucide (a new word: killing your own entrepreneurial venture). So, take a cautious step forward, as right now you are the one to drive your own destiny without any confirmed paycheck at the end of the month - you are all alone out there, with just your passion, commitment and conviction to stand by you.

So, what are the common mistakes committed by entrepreneurs? Let's take a close look at the top 3:
a) Being rigid and dictatorial: Examples are abundant of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs who have been rigid and dictatorial in nature. While some are open to ideas from people around, there are many out there, who may trash them completely, stamping their authority when it comes to ideation and decision making. Now, that is suicidal. An entrepreneur, no doubt is highly passionate about whatever he is into and probably knows a lot more than many in his line of business, but there are other functionalities in a business, for which he need to depend on professionals who have worked it out in the domain for years. You can have a say in terms of how your product should be like or what should be your target base or what are the kinds of people you want to have in your firm, but there are other strategic decisions related to finance, HR, marketing, production, quality, etc, for which the right man at a senior level should be given the freedom to perform his duty for which he is being paid a fat paycheck. Unfortunately, there are many such duds, who decide to wrap their entrepreneurial venture, even before it has set off, simply because, he thought he was the best mind in every department.

b) Being profit focussed, not value-focussed: An entrepreneurial venture has to be value-focussed. It needs to create and add value for all stakeholders. The value creation need not be in terms of the market capitalisation (remember, all entrepreneurial ventures need not be listed) or the bottom line, but should encompass creation of more jobs, focussing on sustainable income generation for the internal customers (employees), touching the lives of its end consumers (by maintaining high quality standards of the product/service it delivers), creating positive rapport with the media (creating goodwill and positive image), etc. Entrepreneurs who fail to see beyond the commercial realm of business, fail to add value to their stakeholders. This does no good to the entrepreneur or his venture and soon he may decide to wrap up his trade. 

c) Being eccentric and not practical: To be an entrepreneur, one needs to be superlatively creative and eccentric. If someone tells you so, he would be a big fool and he understands nothing of entrepreneurship. Yes, thinking out of the box, or working on a blue ocean strategy, may lead you to start a business with a fantastic idea, but to really establish yourself in this huge world of millions of entrepreneurs - big and small - you need to be practical. Eccentricity, to an extent is fine, but if that's what becomes your mantra, then you end up like that idiot crow in Panchatantra, who wanted to look beautiful and hence decided to put on peacock feathers on its wings. Entrepreneurship is all about practicality. Start with a low profile, put in your heart in the venture, be the person you always used to be and win as many friends as possible. You try to become the crow with peacock feathers, you end up losing friends, you end up being called an eccentric hypocrite. There are many in this world, who, intoxicated with a false sense of deja vu, end up losing focus in their lines of business. You do that, and you are half dead!!

Although I do not claim to be an authority in the current subject, I am open to criticism, flak and 'death threats' from some of those entrepreneurs who would seethe in rage reading about some of the harsh realities that I have quoted here. From my experience as an academician in an institute (which specialises in entrepreneurship), I have been witness to many entrepreneurial ventures (by students and colleagues), which have lost steam due to various reasons - funds, market conditions, etc. But, successful ventures which have hit a rock bottom because of the entrepreneur's intent to commit hara kiri (or Entrepreneucide) have been equally numerous and astoundingly shocking.

I welcome my readers to comment generously in whatever they have found right or wrong in my article, but I am sure this article would be a lesson for many of my students who have set sail in their entrepreneurial journey.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A memoir on the evolution of India’s socio-politics and economic policies from the pre-colonial to the mid-nineties

(Book review on THE IDEA OF INDIA by Sunil Khilnani)
The book is a vivid description of the socio-political-economic order of India from the pre-colonial era till around 50 years after independence (around 1996) – the year Sri H D Deve Gowda, assumes the Prime Ministerial responsibilities of this great nation. While traveling through time, the author takes the readers through a celestial journey in the most descriptive, yet lucid manner, spread across 4 chapters – Democracy, Temples of the Future, Cities and Who is an Indian? In every chapter, he leaves behind a lot for the readers to ponder upon and to debate on the current (mid-nineties) socio-political environment.
The opening chapter on Democracy could not have been a better description of the country’s struggles to come to terms to the concept of democracy, after centuries of colonial oppression. As the author himself notes – “Few states created after the end of European empire have been able to maintain democratic routines; and India’s own past, as well as the contingencies of its unity, prepared it very poorly for democracy. Huge, impoverished, crowded with cultural and religious distinctions, with a hierarchical social order most deliberately designed to resist the idea of political equality, India had little prospective reason to expect it could operate as a democracy.” But, this concept of democracy, which the author defines as – “a type of government, a political regime of laws and institutions,” had “penetrated the Indian political imagination and has begun to corrode the authority of the social order and of a paternalist state.” What follows next is a frank description of the evolution of democratic systems in the nation through the layered social structures of varnas & jatis (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras), explaining how economic and social balances were maintained in the days of the yore and finally raising a question – “Did British rule ruthlessly fracture the patterns of Indian society, or was it compelled to adapt to native styles, and merely preside in glorified manner over the more subterranean movements of India’s history?” This is where, the author introduces the Indian National Congress and its gradual evolution from “a stiff debating club that met annually during the Christmas vacation” to what Nehru once commented it as, “the mirror of the Nation.” The author then goes on to give an account of the role of Congress under Gandhi and Nehru during the freedom struggle and moves on to define the phase between 1947 till Nehru’s death (in 1964) as “… unsurpassed importance, during which the state stabilized, became a developmental agency and aspired to penetrate all areas of the society’s life, and showed that it could be subject to democratic procedures.” The author further illustrates the various political and economic changes that followed hereafter, from Indira Gandhi’s rule to Emergency to her assassination to communal tensions during the Babri Masjid demolition and the resurgence of Hindu nationalists. He finally ends this chapter by stating, “Conflict is a part of what Democracy is: a raw, exciting, necessary and in the end ultimately disappointing form of politics, that encourages people to make for themselves that most intimate of choices – to decide who they are and how they wish to be recognized, and to refuse to be ruled by those who deny them recognition.”

 In the next Chapter, Temples of the Future, the author describes how in the mid-50s onwards, a new and resurgent India tried to cope with the economic and commercial requirements by investing heavily in various infrastructure projects – starting from the Bhakra Nangal Dam in Punjab to building a new capital in Chandigarh (by Le Corbusier) to the gigantic steel plants in Durgapur, Bokaro and Bhilai (aided by the British, Germans and Russians) – “embodied the vision of modernity to which India had committed itself.” This is where the author comes down heavily on the developmental agenda of the newly elected Governments in the early phase of post Independent India by stating, “the economy created in the name of the intellectual blueprint of the 1950s, state-directed and regulated, founded on heavy industry and isolated from international competition, has not delivered its promises.” He goes on to critically dissect what went wrong through the first 50 years in post independent India and explains, “Nehru’s economic design was unquestionably more coherent than any of its Indian rivals in the 1950s. But it had to be built in real and particular circumstances, and inevitably intentions did not match outcomes.” The difficulties, he points out, “were rooted in the land: a very unequal distribution of land-ownership, defended by a powerful social order and very low levels of productivity.” Khilnani raises the question why, even with the Congress party ruling most of the states until 1957, economic reforms could not be administered. He finds out, “…Congress had never been a strongly ideological party… it was a broad political coalition, itself dependent on what some have described as ‘India’s ruling social coalition’ of commercial and industrial capitalists, rural landlords and the bureaucratic and managerial elite (in later decades, newly enriched farmers and unionized public sector workers would clamber aboard this coalition raft).” An interesting account on the failure of Indian planning and Planning Commission follows with the latter gradually “toppled from its throne” shifting the economic decision-making powers to the Finance Ministry in the late 1960s, while the commission continues to exist as “a sophisticated accounts office and a retirement home for the socially benevolent.”

In the third chapter, the author pens down the sentiments of Nehru behind building metropolises with a vision to “not only make them symbols of a new sovereignty but an effective engine to drive India into the modern world.” Khilnani gives an elaborate description of how the port cities of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras came into existence during the colonial regime and later, in the post independence era, newer cities were built to relive Nehru’s vision. The author went on to describe the changing skyline over the next couple of decades and how India’s modern cities competed for global visibility and recognition.

In the ultimate chapter of this book, Khilnani raises an interesting question – who is an Indian? At the time of independence, the country had a “multitude of Hindu castes and outcastes, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and tribes; speakers of more than dozen major languages and thousands of dialects; myriad ethnic and communal communities” – how to unite such a diverse group as citizens of a new, free and democratic republic under a common code of law? He sets the tone of the chapter by recounting the horror of the Ayodha communal riots (read: carnage) and linked it with BJP’s electoral manifestoes, which saw this as the forging of ‘one nation, one people, one culture.’ The author further depicts how the various communal, ethnic or social movements, for the demand of an independent Bodoland, Khalistan or Tamil Eelam, have further dented India’s image as a nation united in its diversity. He concludes by explaining, “The contest is over economic opportunities and about cultural recognition. It is a contest for ownership of the state.”

Overall, the book finds close semblance to Nirad C Chowdhury or VS Naipul’s historical delineation of facts, while it is enriched with political economic detailings of Amartya Sen or Dreze and the socio-political perspectives of Pawan Verma.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Understanding the psychology of mob behaviour: A case on Maruti mob attack (July 2012)

Burnt and vandalised cars left in the 
Manesar plant of Maruti

 It was a black day for the industrial community in India, the day when a young HR personnel at the rank of a GM suffocated to death in his office due to a fire put on by workers, who had no respect for law or order, least to say any worth for human life. Media reports also stated that the same person was first beaten up by the workers with steel rods and blunt auto parts, which resulted in multiple fractures in both legs, thereby making the person an easy prey to the engulfing inferno. Left to perish, with no help in sight, he finally succumbed to his injuries and was reported death by suffocation along with 100% burnt.

This was no one-off incident, which took place in a factory in the depth of rural India – away from the civilized urban world. Unfortunately, this incident took place in the very heart of civilization within 50 kms from Delhi NCR in Maruti Suzuki’s plant in Manesar – one of the fastest growing industrial townships in North India. And, this GM was not the only prey in this mob-frenzy that broke out that day, in that doomed Maruti plant. Some 40 other executives, many of them at the ranks of GM and some at the ranks of VP were predated upon by hordes of workers, with little knowledge of what they were up to.

The above-cited incident reflects on to an action, which can be commonly termed as mob-attack. Let’s first try to understand the meaning of the term ‘mob.’ A mob is a crowd of people with no defined objective, although the group is big, most-often leader-less and highly emotionally charged. What starts off as a systematic protest, in the above case, by a trade union, actually moves on to become a disoriented, mass movement, with a goal to cause unwanted destruction of life and property.  

According to social psychologists, there are various factors, which come into play when the term mob mentality or mob behaviour is referred to. Two of the main factors are the greater anonymity that exists within a group and the distribution of responsibility for the group's actions. These factors sometimes make a person believe that they can act a certain way within a group and not have the same consequences that the same actions would have if he or she acted alone. For example, if a person is in a group that is vandalizing a building, he or she might believe that there is less of a chance of getting caught than if he or she was acting alone, because it might be difficult to identify every person who was involved. He or she might also feel less guilt because other people also vandalized the property.
Another factor in mob mentality is the sense of confusion or even panic that can exist in a large group. An example of this can be seen when people in crowds suddenly begin rushing in one direction. Although many people in the group might not know why this is happening, they see the urgency in the group and begin rushing in that direction, too. In extreme cases, the urgency and panic increases, creating a sort of crowd hysteria, and some people might even get trampled as a great number of people try to move in the same direction as quickly as possible. Even for something as seemingly innocent as a department store sale, a mob mentality might be evident as dozens of shoppers rush toward the sale items, push each other out of the way and fight over the items.

According to Floyd Allport (1924), noted social psychologist, "there is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of individuals". When it come to collective action, Allport declared, still more famously: "the individual in the crowd behaves just as he would behave alone only more so". Crowd members lose their unique and idiosyncratic identities and behave in terms of a primitive animal substrate.

Crowd members who take part in violent action or action against the social order might be expected to have violent or anti-social personalities - or, at the very least, to be under- socialised or marginal to society. As the official US Riot Commission report of 1968 acknowledged, the most prevalent view was that "rioters were criminal types, overactive social deviants or riff-raff - recent migrants, members of an uneducated underclass - alienated from the society." Drawing analogy to the incident that took place at Maruti with the commentaries shared above, it can be very well justified that the vandalism that took place there was ignited by the demands of the working class – a demand to reinstate a suspended worker – which was not to be accepted by the management. Although the workers were not marginalized in terms of their numbers – the media had quoted around 2000 workers – but their sense of feeling marginalized was evoked by their social class order (working class). When the long negotiations in the plant failed to get any peaceful resolutions, the workers erupted in the most antagonistic manner.

Most mob attacks or acts of vandalisms are caused by
mindless, brain-dead individuals who have no concern
for life of property
As a common man, one can only wish to stay away from such mob-attacks, but one never knows when he gets dragged into one. The incident that took place in Maruti’s plant at Manesar is no doubt one of the most horrendous incidents to have happened in my lifetime. My heartfelt sympathies go out to the family of the bereaved as well as to all the workers, for whom the future employment in the plant seems bleak. One miscalculated, misjudged and mistimed step taken by an immature group of brain-dead people has lead to undesirable consequences – most often turning sour, rather than getting any sweet results out of such unwanted actions.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Myopism: The new religion of the short-sighted generation

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines myopic as an adjective used for a person who lacks foresight or discernment and takes a narrow view of something. Unfortunately, they do not have any definition for Myopism - in fact, no other dictionary online or offline even has the word archived with them. But, going by the definition of a myopic, we may go on to define myopism as a mass followership of the act of myopia, wherein every person in this congregation necessarily believe in developing and maintaining a narrow view of anything around them.And believe me, this is a national phenomena today in India. Youngsters and grownups, teenagers to executives have all been swept off their feet with the intense gratification that they derive out of Myopism.

So what exactly do we understand by Myopism and how can one get baptised in this new religion? It's simple. You don't need any priest, no temple or house of worship, no preachers or religious discourses, you just need yourself! Yes, you read it right. This is a religion which has a mass following, with no one knowing who all are there in it - you just know that you are a part of it. Sounds interesting? Read on. To be a follower of Myopism, as most others are today, you need to shrug off everything around you, for you are the chosen one - you are the most powerful being on earth - the masthead of your own self. You may be guessing how come everything involving you can become a religion! Don't bother about it. You just need to know that it is about you and only you. If you have not got it till now, then let me put it in bold letters - Myopism is a belief, wherein you stop thinking about anything beyond yourself and you tend to unlearn everything related to SELFLESSNESS. Now you seem to get it right. You grow even more selfish day by day and evoke in you the chasm of greed, dishonesty and fraudulence.

Myopism has actually taken the country by storm. Everyone across every age group, every profession, every gender, caste, creed, are blindly following this religion. It seems to be the new age mantra to salvation or moksha. Forget about others, in some cases, these self possessed myopics are all eager to lay their own life on the altar of sacrifice, to appease the cravings of the capitalistic demi-gods. Okay, let me make it sound lighter. What is our intent to live? To lead a life which covers our basic necessities and then to look forward to live longer for ownself and others (read: family members and next to kin). But, why is it that, we have lost the foresight to live? Take a look around and pick up any urban teenager. You get to see him spending hours on various electronic gadgets - be it the cell-phone, the tablet or any other gizmo. Of course, life has been made easier, but also shorter. Why dont you guys see the writing on the walls? Our media goes on to glorifying terms like finger fatigue, as if it is some short ailment while missing the suicidal steps taken by these youngsters by exposing themselves to hours of electronic devices, thereby letting pass various electro-magnetic radiations for hours through different parts of their body. What looks cool today to these myopics, is actually going to be uncool in days to come, when they will lie on the pyre - lying cold from carcinoma of the brain, the testicles and other parts of the body. (I may sound very harsh and raw here, but is there any other means to put this message through the plastered brains of these young adults - glorified as tomorrow's change agents?)

Myopism is also very popular with our politicians. Be it Mamata in Bengal, Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu, Maya in UP (sorry to miss out the male folks - no female bashing intended!) or our most beloved Soniaji and Manmohanji in the centre. To look a distance, they probably would request for the latest high resolution army binoculars but will still not open up their mind's eyes to think of how to be popular and retain their vote banks for years to come. Oh no! I am the CM of state A or state B and I am only going to see that I, with my team of 'yes madam or yes sir' cabinet return back in the next 5 years. And why not? It is the most lucrative means of becoming a Mukesh Ambani, without even working hours in setting up petrochemical plants or offshore oil drilling projects. I need to dictate terms with the babus and the industrialists and the flow of Bapu (the Indian currency notes) remain intact in shades of grey to black. Why else, would our fiesty politicians, who when they are in the opposition, show every reason to fight for the cause of the common man, change their ploy the moment they sniff the thrones of power? Why else should one invest lacs to fill the  oesophagus of the hungry millions with cocktail of the deadly methyl alcohol, when sacks of rice and pulses go rotting in the state warehouses? We all seem to know the answers, but are blinded by our faiths of Myopism to actually question what is wrong or unjust.

And let's not forget our industrialists. They are supposed to be the drivers of the Indian economy, but when they start driving people crazy with their short sighted vision to maximize their wealth at the cost of the investors, the employees and the final customers, it is once again the tainted babus and ministers, who come to their rescue using all the forces against a public uproar. So an effective tool like the RTI or a PIL falls flat with the power of the trinity - the babu, the minister and the corporate bigwig! In today's India, there are many a success stories of entrepreneurial growth. But, I wish I had the power and the authority to subject each of these entrepreneurs to a test using lie-detectors (these myopics do not even have the faith to say the truth by putting their hands on the holy book, and hence, some technology is required to get the truth out of them) and question their sincerity, their commitment and their truthfulness in areas covering employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, tax and financial transparency and corporate governance. And lo, we would have seen a pandora's box opening. These short sighted, insensitive industrialists, who have always maintained the charm of the prince in any public gathering are nothing less than creepy goons in their private chambers - looking at means to maximize their wealth and power.

Long live Myopism! Long live our shortsighted vices.