All posts for the month December, 2014


Published December 31, 2014 by vishalvkale

I didnt say this for Sachin, nor for Rahul… great though they were, and far better cricketers… 

But for you, MSD, A short post. A vote of thanks from my side for leading our India through thick and thin…

You, Sir, Captained Our India, and that to me personally is the most important. You were the leader! The man who represented us all in cricket, the king.. for several years… 

You were there to take the brickbats when we lost. You were there to share the spoils with the team when we won. You took the failures on the chin, and yet shepherded Team India in Cricket for several years… through the highs and the lows… through victory and defeat… in the manner of a king, a true leader… you took us to Number 1; and when the fall came… you were there equally unperturbed… in the true manner of a king! One of the finest Captains India has had! 

And that is why you deserve this… 

Thank you from a fellow Indian… 

Thanks a lot, Mr. Mahendra Singh Dhoni… Ex-Captain Of India!  

NaMo, The International Prime Minister

Published December 30, 2014 by vishalvkale

Our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, has seen a remarkable rise in his overall popularity and perception as a leader on the international stage. This has been done by partly some aggressive and bold diplomacy, firm positions and tough negotiations at various stages and with various players on the international stage. This has been further supported by his extensive touring abroad, so much so that I recently read one article asking when is NaMo in India, or words to that effect. 

Let us not forget a simple reality : we are a developing country with limited financial resources of our own. The fulfilment of the need can be either internal through home grown capital or external through FDI-FII etc.  And that is where the positive international perception of our leader is so vital. However, international perception of a leader, and of a nation is not entirely based on diplomacy; rather, in some ways, achievements in diplomacy are in reality based on a few internal factors.

International Perception is driven primarily by : 

1) Returns to be had from investments into that nation, 

2) The safety of those investments, 

3) The strategic utility of relations with that nation, 

4) The depth & breadth of the financial markets and currency markets, 

5) Internal legal setup, 

6) Conformance of laws with international standards, 

7) Ease of enforcement of laws and contracts and 

8) Stable political atmosphere. 

Note that Democracy is not a pre-requisite; equitable income distribution is also not a factor.Strong diplomacy is also not mandatory. In many ways, these two are intertwined – the internal strength of a leader gives potency to the diplomatic moves; the successes in diplomacy tend to strengthen the leader domestically. But the base of the leader is his or her own bastion, the mother country. 

It is inarguable that Narendra Modi’s international reputation is very favourable at this point in time; further, this favourable impression has actually improved India’s standing and image as well, as also his reputation of being a strong, tough, aggressive and pro-business leader.  A strong leader gives a hope, a direction and a clear vision – and, as of now, Mr Narendra Modi has brought all three to the table on the international relations arena, which bodes well for India especially since that vision is largely in line with the interests of international money. 

Analysing the points above, we can easily see that 1) – 8) all points are hugely in Narendra Modi’s favour. Hence, the perception of India is bound to rise in the global race. Add to the above one additional point : the ability of the nation to propound, present and enforce its views and interests in international negotiations. As we have seen in Trade, Climate and Indo-US talks, India is in no mood to compromise on anything, period.  Our successes in that sphere have been driven primarily by the points enumerated above; thus supporting the hypothesis that our international standing has improved; while simultaneously further buttressing the standing of NaMo!

On a global scale, it is all all about trade and money, pure and simple. The modern world is a connected world, and money drives the world. Further, we are an investment starved nation, and need investors – who will need a return on investment. From a trade perspective, money put into India will get superior returns to the tune of several percentage points over and above investments in the developed world, given the interest rate differential. That is the single most vital factor driving investments into India – be it NRIs, PIOs or FIIs or MNC Firms FDI Investments. 

In a finite world, it is primarily a question of attracting surplus funds in the global economy. Few people do it for patriotic reasons, or developmental reasons, or for strategic relations. Money drives money. Even our own NRIs and PIOs {exceptions only prove the rule} invest in India only and only due to better returns, driven by more attractive special packages for them, and the better returns from the economy; not patriotism. 

It thus becomes a question of creating a conducive internal atmosphere for investments and economic growth. Given that atmosphere, even sworn enemies will trade, like India – China – Pakistan. And when we the matter view from that perspective, this government has taken steps, or offered promise/s like : 

1) Giving a chance of a stable future, given its majority in Parliament 

2) Taken steps perceived as pro-business, like easing of Land Acquisition Laws, GST, roll back of Taxation problems, negotiation on peripheral matters 

3) Taken steps to simplify trade, with steps like  the promise of the GST and action starting on the same

4) Shown firm intent, as demonstrated by the Ordinance on the Land Bill recently

5) Taken steps to improve governance w.r.t. to the matters above

This is not to state that there aren’t real and present worries regarding any number of issues related to the Economy, Social matters, Politics and other issues in India. I myself am on record raising a few of these in no uncertain terms. But credit where credit is due; let us understand and appreciate the good that is happening while pointing out the negatives, in the highest traditions of our democracy. 

I respectfully submit that the points raised by the critics are thus not relevant to the international public at large, and Governments in particular. Particularly since their time-frame in the short to mid-term. And the true impact positive or negative of the points raised by others will show up in the long term, unless something is done now. And between then and now, a lot can happen, there are other internal social and economic parameters to be considered that are not relevant to this discussion. These parameters may curdle it, or may solve the issue; but that is another story…

All {or at least some of the points} are {or may be} accurate; granted. But I was talking from the external POV, or, in other words, how much will Rs 10 fetch if an international investor invests in India, in what level of security of the capital investment, under what economic / demographic conditions vis-a-vis investment in other nations for the same parameters. That is what will drive investment in India, which will benefit us as a nation given our finite resources

It is a question of attracting excess liquidity in the Global Economy, and offering a better return on investment vis-a-vis other comparable nations, nations with a higher chance to reach middle-income levels. And on that, with our professional legal, financial and currency setup, with the current status of the economy combined with the demographic factors – is where we are scoring under the current political dispensation, with their aggressive approach on the international front, building relations while providing, or trying to provide a conducive atmosphere at home for the business community. 

It is too early to take any call on these matters yet; this Government is only 7 months old. While on some other matters 7 months is more than enough time to gauge direction and intent; on these matters, it will take a little time to see and gauge the results, and see whether the signed agreements and promises convert into tangible gains for us as a nation. Our Prime Minister has made an excellent start by getting these in place through his extensive touring and outreach to other nations, now the task for us as a nation is the conversion of these promises into results and tangible benefits for all of us…

Note & Disclaimer : These points are my own analysis; having said that, my views are formed on the basis of my study of the following reference material :

1) Breakout Nations – Ruchir Sharma {Book Review Here}

2) Pax Indica – Shashi Tharoor {Book Review Here}

3) Fault Lines – Dr Raghuram G Rajan {Book Review Here}

4) Assorted business newspapers and diplomatic and political analyses in various news media both in print and on the digital medium

Book Review : Scent Of A Game

Published December 29, 2014 by vishalvkale

Scent Of A Game

By Raghav Chandra

The Author can be found on Raghav Chandra : His Website Biography : He is an IAS Officer, and the pertinent aspect of his career is summarised below. 

He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1982 and was posted as Assistant Collector in Satna and Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Ashoknagar near the Shivpuri National Park, and Sihora midway between Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves. Later he was Additional Collector at Korba near the Achanakmar Sanctuary where he was exposed to the conflict and interface between the development needs of the tribal communities on the one hand and the aspirations of the burgeoning mining/public sector/industrial sectors. 

Why You Should Read This Review :

The internet is a fantastic tool : one google search can reveal a lot; and that one internet search has led me to reviews by wildlife websites, as well as others more specialised into these matters. My take on this will therefore be from a more consumerist point of view; giving reasons to read, the weaknesses and the strengths of the novel, and its most scary aspect. 

The Plot

The plot, shorn of all its embellishments, is straightforward and simple. The scary part lies elsewhere. This is about Tigers, or more generally about wildlife conservation in India, the illegal trade linked around the conservation, the various nexus that operate around it. There is absolutely nothing else to it, period. Please note my use of words. 

The embellishments are an excellent attempt at creating an engaging fiction novel out of this concept which is boring in the extreme to anyone not from this field, or not interested in it, or not having an education in Biology. The story is told mainly through the trials and struggles for survival of two individuals who get caught in an ugly nexus partly by chance, partly by design.

One is an NRI, who gets caught in the quagmire of poaching due to no fault of his. The other is a journalist, who is on the trail of a story on Tiger Poaching. The entire story revolves around a famous Tigress Badi Maadaa, who has disappeared, despite being radio-tagged. The experiences of these two as they trail, or are entangled in this affair, and how they get out of it form the bulk of the book. 

In short, there are, in effect, two parallel but entangled tales here; one is of the missing Tigress and/or Conservation of Wildlife, and the other about these 2 central characters and their struggle to survive, as one is framed, and the other targeted for Termination of the permanent kind. This is the essence of the entire plot.

The Analysis

The book is slow and tedious, make no mistake about that. It is painstakingly slow in places – not boring, but slow. This is not a fast-paced thriller. This is a painstakingly, lovingly put-together tale, with incredible attention to detail and plot. The plot, though unbelievably simple at one level, is exceedingly complicated at another level, as we shall see in the remaining analysis. 

The key question is, for a lay reader, has the author managed to keep the interest alive? Yes, he has – through an engaging use of the related and intertwined plotlines, with both plots moving forward alternatively; a few pages on the frame-up, or personal lives, or the journalist’s experiences; then interleaving it with the details of the wildlife conservation efforts of the Tiger Park, or moving the poaching and international smuggling plot forward

The punch of the book is the real and main story, shorn of the embellishments : the tiger poaching ring, the movement of smuggled skins and other items, and the nitty gritty of the entire modus operandi, told in detail. The book is a fascinating repository of information of National Parks like Pench, Kanha, of wildlife conservation and of the working of the forest departments, as well as the forest ecosystem including tribals. Importantly, here you get the corrupt officials, the incompetents and the high-and-mighty who are involved in the entire matter.

This is something you can find in other novels as well, with a difference : in this novel, the author has exposed the interplay of incompetence and low-level corruption and its interaction with high-level corruption and serious crime, carried out in an atmosphere of bureaucracy and political control. This is where the author is in unique territory; read the book solely for this, if for nothing else. 

And that is the scary part; the Author, as I pointed out, an IAS Officer with practical experience in this precise geographical tract, spanning these Tiger Parks. The shocking callousness and incompetence, the vicious nexus that operate in this fiction novel, when seen in the backdrop of the Author’s background, paint a terrifying possibility, and underline the need for positive change in India, and the need for supporting the good officers from the IAS Services, as has been shown in the book as well!

This is a must read for all… dont miss this one… 

Music : A Question Of, And A Case For, Marathi Music

Published December 26, 2014 by vishalvkale

Music : A Case For Spreading Marathi Music

I am not a music expert, or practitioner; far from it. I am a regular, casual fan of Music; this post is not a post of an analysis of the two languages’ musical traditions. Furthermore, as a confirmed former member of the Macaulay’s Children Family, I am a fairly new convert to Marathi Music. But basis what I have seen, and heard {!}, I am stunned, and more than a little sorry that I ignored my mother tongue for so very long. 

It is perhaps because of my newness that I have noted the things I have; principally, the total lack of exposure to Marathi Music in the mainstream Social Media, as also Marathi Films. There is an abundance of exposure to the latest as well as the oldies in Hindi Music and Cinema, while the vernacular rarely gets exposure, at least insofaras Marathi is concerned. 

People can and do share Hindi music, articles and updates related to Hindi Music and Cinema, performers, artists and stars; this same is muted in the case of the Vernacular. At least, I havent seen many posts. The sad part of it is, the vernacular music section is truly filled with wonders, and we run the risk of it getting subsumed; there are two ways to solve this : write an article analysing this behaviour, hoping to change people {unlikely; forlorn hope}, or…

Do something about it, be the change you want to see in others, by starting to share Marathi Music and Cinema updates alongwith my other FB updates and Blogs. This is what I have started doing, so that I can repay the favour to the unnamed person who exposed me to the wonder that is Marathi Music and Cinema, and made me a convert. This is an article that highlights some of my favourite new Marathi singers and Musicians – not through their biodata and life-stories, but through their prominent songs… some you have heard of in Hindi music, while some may be new to the readers…

Vaishali Mhade, Bela Shende, Swapnil Bandodkar, Vaishali Samant, Hariharan, Shankar Mahadevan, Kirti Killedar, Suresh Wadkar, Sonu Nigam… and Nilesh Mohrir, Ajay Atul & Avinash-Vishwajeet among others {Music Directors}

This song stands as among my top favourite, sung by Vaishali Mhade who is in singers, ahead of even Bela Shende in my favourites, who features later… Vaishali has an unforgettable voice, with such haunting melodies as this one : Dhuke Daatle Megh Zaraashe…

Or this rendition of Soor Anandaghan with Suresh Wadkar :

There were others I could not find, like Mounaat Bolte Raat… 

Moving on, listen to this beautiful number Paavsaa Re Paavsaa from the talented Kirti Killedar, featuring music by Nilesh Mohrir {featured in the previous post as well in Devaa Tujhyaa Gaabhaaryaalaa Umbaraach Naahi}… 

I have already given one of her top duets – Sar Sukhaachi Shraavani Ke Naachraa Valiv Haa – in one of my previous posts; let us look at a couple more from the talented Bela Shende, with Swapnil Bandodkar; Music by Avinash Vishwajeet : Aikaavi Vaatate

The next song in my list is the soft, soothing morning number Padat Aakashi Sonsade : Kedar Bhagwat/ Hariharan / Shankar Mahadevan; listen and enjoy this absolute stunner bejewelled with equally fabulous lyrics : 

Sonu Nigam, a known name… well, prepare to be suprised by this lovely lilting tune sung by him : Hirvaa Nisarg

A superb love song sung Swapnil Bandodkar and Music by Kedar Bhagwat, Parat Tulaa Paahataa Parat Tulaa Sparshtaa

Kedar Bhagwat features yet again in this post, along with Hariharan in the touching sensitive love song Shwaas Mee Aakaash Tu Re Bhaas Mee Swaprakaash Tu Re

The last 2 in this list of 10 contains two songs diamterically opposite to each other, one a complete classical song, the other a fully commercial song… first, listen to the fantastic Jeev Bhulalaa from the house of Ajay Atul, sung by Sonu Nigam and Shreya Goshal

Let us close this list of 10 with 2 renditions of an old classic song – Kathhin Kathhin Kathhin Kiti Purush Hrudaya Baai; one by the inimitable Hridaynath Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle

And then listen to this rendition of this same old number  by Rashmi Moghe… to get a fuller idea of the contemporary scene in Marathi Music, which is cutting across all genres… 

Literature and Arts / Music are what keep a language alive; we are already in a society where we get little chance to read Marathi {or our respective Mother Tongues}; not only that, we – at least Urban people like me – are not too good at reading Marathi. We just arent used to it. Thus, the only way to continue our heritage is through arts and music… 

For residents in Maharashtra, this is not that much of an issue; but for the rest of us, the exposure was hitherto limited. This is now changing rapidly with the inroads made by Technology, as I noted in my previous post on this issue. And, to be honest, for some reason, I find Marathi Music and even films {the topic of one of my future posts} more attractive, diverse and fun… could be because it is my Mother Tongue, and I am new to its Arts. Be that as it may, I am enjoying and revelling in this new hobby…

Book Review : The Mouse Charmers

Published December 23, 2014 by vishalvkale

The Mouse Charmers : Digital Pioneers of India  

by Anuradha Goyal

Anuradha Goyal has a Master’s Degree in Computer Applications with practical work experience in the IT industry for several years; she has subsequently moved on; She has co-authored the India Innovates series published by CII, and was a Jury Member for the Economic Times Power Of Ideas Contest 2010. Her papers on Business Innovation have appeared in various journals and forums

The digital industry is a nascent industry, with a long way to go, as I have myself noted in my previous articles; the road is long, and we are at the very beginning. We have no idea what works, and what doesnt; essentially we are learning as we go along, making processes, dreaming ideas, charting strategies, monitoring tactical execution as we go along. There are no defined roadmaps, and no study material in an organised format; there are no case studies and previous experiences to go by. We ourselves are the case studies of the future…

And this is precisely what Anuradha has done in what I can only refer to as a landmark in this industry; a first book of what can be called case studies of digital entrepreneurs of India. That there will be others, is beyond question. But this work will be the one that was the first, the one that was to set the ball rolling… and full marks to the author for this!

The focus of the book is to lay before the readers a set of Indian Entrepreneurs who made brands out of their ideas, and became successful in converting an idea into a successful business venture. Given the nascent nature of this industry, the author has further decided not to go too technical on us – whether in terms of technology, or in terms of business jargon and strategies, and has opted to keep it simple. 

The net result of this approach is that the reader gets 12 superb analytical case studies, with a relatively short, precise but very meaningful historical précis of what went wrong, what worked, and how the business got to the current status. In addition to this, you get a basic of the technological platform used, as also the difficulties faced and challenges overcome on a strategic front. In addition to these 12, you have a mention of other businesses that didn’t make it to the 12, but are good enough to have done so. 

The choice of the 12 cases is the hallmark of the book, as they set to define the digital space into 3 clear logical segments : ECommerce, Content Platforms and Connectors. In simple terms, sites that provide trading facilities, content generation platforms that provide reviews, or other digital content; and thirdly connectors – sites that bring users together in the B2B, B2C or C2C space. This approach serves to clearly define the digital space in our minds, and gives a clear view to the reader as well as gives a defined form with clearly demarcated broad market segments to the nascent space in the digital marketplace. 

The book is divided into 3 segments accordingly : ECommerce, Content and Connectors. And, the best part is that there is a concise description of each segment in which the scope and breadth of the segment as well as its emergence and future possibilities find an adequate mention. Again, this serves to clearly define each segment of the market, and gives us a firm and clear idea of the digital marketplace. This is the most important take-away from this book : it will give a firm shape to what was once a shapeless concept, helping to channelise your thoughts and ideas. 

The 12 cases are a wide variety, a kaleidoscope, almost – of India; they are so diverse, that they typify our India! Here you will find the story of names you know very well : Flipkart,, MakeMyTrip, Zomato, Indiblogger. But you will also be surprised to learn of the success of niche sites, or different sites like  BigBasket, Caratlane, Games2Win, ImagesBazaar, Chai With Lakshmi, Rang De and Commonfloor, in areas that you would not have thought that the digital marketplace can make inroads… like the unique case of a C2C Microfinance firm on a digital platform! This is a book that will set you thinking of the enormous potential of this new medium will double force, which is the second takeaway from the book.

The way the different cases monetised their offerings, making a financial success of things as diverse as selling online to making money from reviews of restaurants is a real tribute, and a study in ideation, logical application of mind, perseverance and sheer chutzpah. This gives the reader a basic insight into what are the requirements for a person who wants to get into this industry. 

But the most important takeaway from the book is the marriage of the online with the offline; the old with the new; and the brick and mortar with the click. In each and every case, the way the offline gels in with and strengthens the online is the most vital learning. Be it the stunning efforts of Team Zomato who collected those hundreds of menus initially, or be it the dedication of Team ImagesBazaar who personally compiled the photographs to start off, every case has an offline presence in terms of hard work, and dedication, or in terms of creating and further leveraging a strategic advantage, like logistics. 

You get to appreciate and understand the stunning level of effort required to create a running business; you get to understand how they went about building it up brick by brick; looking at the strategy, the technology, the market, the customers, the monetisation, the failures, the marketing of the products – be it advertisement or be it the core product, This is a book that covers most aspects of business, creating a complete picture and business case in front of the reader. All in all, rated 5 stars!

Corporate India : Understanding The Ethical Dilemma

Published December 16, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second part of the article of Is This Business? Professionalism? Planning? Management?

We looked at some real-world examples of the result of unethical behaviour in the Corporate World in the previous post linked above; these can be easily added to by the simple means of a google search; any number of real cases will appear for ready consideration. As I asked in the conclusion of the previous article, why does this happen? 

There is no simple answer to this; I personally refer to this as the Ethical Dilemma that each new employee is faced with. At this juncture, let us all move away from the oft-repeated excuse that we are a corrupt society, and this is the way things happen. That is not the issue here; the focus here should be to understand the underlying factors that result in on-the-job unethical behaviour, and how are they rooted in core corporate concepts, processes and methods. 

It is only through such an exercise that we can evolve new processes that can alleviate the problem. The objective is not Gandhian or some abstract social change paradigm; I am a hard-core, hard-wired corporate professional, and my objective here is only to assist in creating a more smoothly functional organisation that can deliver better bang for the buck while remaining within legal and moral parameters; in fact – harness ethics and ethical behaviour as an asset, rather than as a liability that most people currently believe it to be. It can be done; that is certain. All it requires is a process-centered approach and an iron-will…


In this article, I shall focus on the ethical dilemma; we shall subsequently look at some processes in the 3rd part of this mini-series. Before we move into corporates, let us establish the bedrock : our society. Whether we like it or not, the current trend is that morality and straightforwardness is not an asset in the modern world, with corruption being almost endemic, and there being an almost ubiquitous belief in “duniyadaari” or being worldly wise. And most discussions on ethics are brushed aside by saying you need to be worldly wise. Keep this in mind; this is a vital attitude that we will return to later in the 3rd part, as it betrays a lamentable lack of understanding of  a few basic concepts. 

To be frank; such an attitude is neither here nor there, and is in reality totally irrelevant. There are only two terms that are relevant to us : being ethical, and being naive. If you open all your cards in a business negotiation, you are not being ethical; you are being naive, and foolish. This has nothing to do with ethics! As another example, if your channel partner is not giving adequate focus to your business, then the question of how to proceed is not one of ethics, it is a straight and simple business question, and has nothing to do with ethics. 

We need to be specific : what do we mean by the term ethics? By that, let us be clear  that we are referring to illegal behaviour, actions and steps that are against standard societal norms, and such actions that will eventually lead to loss to the organisation in the long term due to their being focused on individual gain. Let us qualify this last point with one caveat : unless short term steps are deemed to be necessary for short-term organisational survival, and documented as such by the concerned management.


Let us start with an example; you are in a negotiation with a prospective business partner. In the course of negotiations, you hold back certain information; as I stated before, that is a standard and indeed essential practice. But this needs to be clarified : all information that is pertinent to the decision of the business partner as well as is vital for a long term association needs t0 be revealed; holding that back is unethical. Such is the fine line between ethical and unethical behaviour in a business situation. 

Furthermore, there is also a very high degree of probability that the above may be against the law, which mandates release of all pertinent information in a business contract. Be that as it may, the decision as to what is pertinent is a very situational parameter, and requires experience. Look at it this way : if the Channel Partner is looking for a long-term association with a solid or upcoming brand with a clear way forward, whereas you are in it only to solve a short-term crisis without having any long-term intentions, there is a potential fundamental disconnect. If your brand then does not have a clear way forward in terms of new products, marketing activities and their range & scope, and you nevertheless imply or commit that you do, then you are in unethical territory. 

So long as you give complete disclosure, that you need a business partner urgently, can provide a solid business case to the potential partner, and can meet objections, you are fine. All you have to do is identify the core non-negotiable points of the other party, and what points can be negotiated on, and build your case on them. But the moment you cut corners, and start lying, you are on suspect ground. This leads to a disconnect between the partner and the organisation upon the start of business when the partner learns that there is no clear way forward – leading to him or her withdrawing from the business. 

This is just one example of the ethical dilemma, wherein professional falter  : my KRAs versus Solid Business Logic. The inability to connect the two is the ethical dilemma; the word dilemma means specifically “a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable“. Here the choice is the unpalatable choice of breaking norms and lying to achieve the goal, versus the equally unpalatable choice of having to struggle hard while keeping on the right side of ethics. 


Why should the employee be faced with such a hobson’s choice : KRAs, or Ethics? The next question then comes automatically : Are the two really mutually exclusive under current circumstances? Or is the entire feeling of a totally different origin? Or is it that both the KRAs as well as the other factors need consideration and reworking? And what are these other factors? 

One thing needs to be clear at the outset : the question of ethics is fundamentally an individual decision, an individual choice. And yet, we see the improbable sight of a large number of people sacrificing ethics at the altar of the rat race, the race to succeed, to survive, and to get ahead. This is the single largest indicator that there is something, some fundamental weakness or oversight within the core processes of the companies that either catalyzes or fails to check unethical behaviour. No company states unethical behaviour as acceptable; 100% frown upon it, and yet large swathes of companies are struggling to bring unethical conduct under control, which is a strange paradox. 

Optimally, the ethical dilemma should not occur to employees in the first place; ethics should support and in fact strengthen the business process. That they dont is a manifest reality, as indicated in the examples I mentioned in the first article linked above. Granted that in the real world, there will always be difficult choices and borderline cases; but that does not take away from this core reality. 

Since the choice is one of individual behaviour, and is made with an objective to achieve some business goals, KRAs automatically become a part of the discussion. So does the entire system that the employee is exposed to; why is the employee having to make such decisions on a regular basis? KRAs, Relations with superiors, Support systems, Checks and Balances, external environment all come into the gamut of discussion. For the ethical dilemma may be that of an individual, but it is of an individual who is a part of a larger system, which shapes as well as influences the thinking and decision making of the individual. 

The key point, the way forward is to understand the functioning at an organisational level, and plot the pulls pressures and developments in both the organisation and the external atmosphere it operates in. The reason is simple : we are in business for profit, not an NGO for social development. We need to plot a way forward that is largely ethical, that rewards ethical conduct, and that does not instill a feeling of threat while being ethical; all the while operating in the external atmosphere as it exists in the modern day – and we certainly arent living in a Utopia. 

This is the subject of the 3rd part of this series… 

Book Review – Vishnu’s Crowded Temple

Published December 12, 2014 by vishalvkale

Image result for vishnu's crowded temple



A treatise on Casteism, Religion and Political Inteplay from 1857; A look at how Caste was shaped by The British Raj

This is a book that belongs in your collection, its weaknesses and shortcomings notwithstanding; a book that helps us understand, or at least get an insight into why and how we Indians are what we are today. This is a study, an investigation, an attempt to understand Modern India, and trace how it arrived at the current place, a unique effort to present our history and our today as a single connected and linked thread.

The book successfully challenges many current beliefs, takes them on head-on and demolishes them in no uncertain terms. It very successfully traces the sad interplay of Raj Politics & Modern Independent politics, Religion and Social Forces; and analyses their cumulative impact on Indian Society. This is a hard-hitting, thought provoking and deeply disturbing yet engaging research into the origins of the modern Caste relations, Religious fractions and how political forces came to be influenced by these tectonic forces

On casteism, it delves into excruciating detail, proving the impact of the Raj on caste equations, analysing the situation at the advent of the Raj, and going on to provide factual details, events, strategies, tactical maneuvers and machinations that resulted, inadvertently at times, into the solidification and cementing of casteism into its most repressive form. The painstakingly put investigation comes as a revelation, despite it being exhausting in its detail. A better presentation would have made the absorption of the material much easier; having said that, there are no discernible logical gaps in the material, apart from it being slightly tedious due to the stunning level of detail. 

As a matter of fact, the main overarching theme of this book, throughout the 449 pages, is caste, and its interplay with various societal and political forces from 1857 till around 2006. This is a stupendous effort, and thus deserves accolades. Furthermore, it provides the proof of a connected chain of events, leading to a better understanding of what we are today. That is what makes this book a must read for all Indophiles; its many weaker points notwithstanding!

Woven into this main theme is the theme of colonialism, and how the forces of the day intervened in all facets of Indian life, from the mundane to the esoteric, definitively shaping them for the worse. Before the advent of the British, the caste construct was fluid and interchangeable. The British intervened with their coloured glasses, and  created a system of differential treatment of various classes and castes, differential economic treatment and power-sharing, combined with labelling of some tribes as criminal {who could be imprisoned on suspicion alone}. This led to a cascade impact, as a caste identity became the key to economic, political and social status under the new dispensation

The book also looks in rather uncomfortable detail at the rise of what The Great West {as also some Indians} likes to call hindutva; and the rise of aggressive Hinduism. This fills in a major gap in most contemporary books, which focus on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in India and elsewhere. This book does more than the reverse; it looks in painful detail at the rise of Hinduism in a more aggressive form. 

While it is true that this is a needed exercise; societal movements depend on all forces in operation within a society : the fact remains that this comes across as excessive, targeting the Hinduism movement, the rise of the Hindi language etc in needless detail. This is done without a proper reasoning of the full background, which gives a biased picture. Furthermore, given the seeming bias added to the evident inconsistencies and ill-disguised disdain for a few facets of ancient history, this tends to give a skewed picture of the scenario as it existed in those days. This is a significant weakness throughout the book, one that lessens its impact. 

Post independence era, the book falters a little, but is a treasure trove nevertheless, as it traces the rise of Indian Democracy through the early years, right till the modern day. However, the content fails to leave as deep an impact as the section dealing with the pre-independence period. In this section, the effort, though laudable, comes across as disjointed, and lacks focus in my opinion.

The book traces, or attempts to trace, key events in this period, like the secularism debate and the entire common law issue, going into the history of this debate in parliament. It also looks at the changing caste equation, but sadly in much lesser detail , preferring to focus on economics and political intrigue. This is where the book loses steam and finally surrenders its engagement quotient.

The entire Indira Gandhi – Sanjay Gandhi – Rajiv Gandhi saga has been dealt with in considerable detail, almost too much detail. In this phase, the story meanders into unfamiliar territory, leading to a lack of focus, as it swiftly looks into the Rajiv years, before metamorphosing to Mandal and VP Singh. Despite that, it does manage to recreate the canvas of India quite successfully, plotting the problems and events in various states in relatively short sequences, creating a kaleidoscope of the nature of the country in those days. This is what makes this section invaluable; it places in one contiguous section all the problems faced by our nation; you begin to appreciate our development as a people with double force and pride. 

The rise of the BJP from its genesis in the Jan Sangh, and the entire sequence of events has been dealt with in detail; as has the tumult during the Mandal years; this is in keeping with the overall theme of the book. Thus, at the fag end of the book, it manages to return to its core theme after meandering into politics. While the impact of politics on society is a given, in this section, the connection and the impact has not been fully traced. It comes across as half baked. It attempts to trace the rising equality in castes, and the influence of the downtrodden, but partially fails to do this, giving a definite idea, but stopping short of a deep insightful analysis…

The main criticisms of the book are 3-fold; first, it is irreverent towards Hindu sentiments, Gods, History and tends to take an ill-disguised condescending tone on more than several occasions. The unbalanced and one-sided analysis of Hinduism in its more aggressive form comes across as rhetorical in the absence of an equally rigorous examination of other forces. It  is frankly dismissive on many points which have common acceptance and have proofs in support. To be honest, I felt as though this is a look at only one side of the equation, and more data and facts are needed from the other side. Furthermore, there were some sections that I felt were inaccurate, and the portrayal of Hinduism as being completely negative and objectionable almost throughout the entire book…

Secondly, it is also surprisingly kind towards Pakistan and Islamic terror. But the most objectionable point was the reference to Kargil, and the claim that this was an operation carried out by Kashmiri insurgents! Similar are the unflattering references to terrorism in India, and a completely inaccurate analysis of the same. 

Thirdly, and most damning, is the shoddy presentation, and editing / finishing. The book is extensively researched; but the bibliography, annotations and end-notes are just not upto the mark. The impact of this is a lack of conviction, as the links and references to the statements contained in the content do not immediately link back to the source of the said claims. This significantly impacts the readability of the book

All in all, this is a must read book, despite the weaknesses mentioned above, for the simple reason that it adds enough value, despite being unreasonably critical {in my opinion} of Hinduism, and economical with the facts in some cases, as I mentioned in the third point given above. I would rate it 3 stars, and as a book that is a good read, and a great value addition, given that it clear many cobwebs… 

Book Review : The Dust Will Never Settle

Published December 8, 2014 by vishalvkale


By Mukul Deva

The king of Indian thrillers is back {on my blog, at least} : Mukul Deva. This is one of his older books…


Ravinder Singh Gill – Inspector-General Of Police: wish all police officers were like him

Govind Mohite – Deputy Inspector-General Of Police : give this guy a lollipop, he loves to lick! Also a first-class idiot!

Ruby Gill – Terrorist-Daughter, or Daughter-Terrorist? What does she turn out to be?

Raj Thakur – Home Minister, and a fool, not necessarily in that order. Should have stayed at home and ministered other ambitions and interferences. Royal nuisance and the pain in the Mohite-flavoured lollipop, if you get my point! 

Mark – Ruby’s sidekick

Chance Spillman  – Good man… a gem

Simran Gill – The wife of the redoubtable IG, unforgiving but grand in every sense of the term

Jasmine Gill – Sweet, innocent but perceptive; the second daughter of the IG


The plot is based on an inadmissible premise : that India plays host to a Middle-Eastern peace conference between Israel and Palestine given their proximity to both. As a result of this ill-conceived idea {Ill-conceived as per me; not a direct part of the plot} , the two warring parties head for Indian soil for a negotiation. This isn’t a bad idea, as you will understand in due course of the story. Wont say more : read the book!  A hint : We can learn from this, why invite trouble? Furthermore, why invite them despite a massive terror attack that was bloody effective? What are you – rank idiots, or what? Bhaiyya, Aa Bail Mujhe Maar kahaavat suni hai?????

Enter the Prime Minister, The should-have-stayed-at-Home Minister, IG Ravinder Singh Gill and DGP Loll – oops – idio – double oops – Mohite. Also enter the snobby and snooty American “Ms. Its Classified” {Already forgotten the name, with no intention of looking it up! That name I gave her – Its Classified – is so perfect}  and less snobby and less snooty Englishman Chance Spillman. And of, by the way, some rank idiot and first class moron has  – aah, how shall I put it – announced in “disinterested public of the wrong kind” that the meeting and peace conference is to take place. Even better, the same geniuses also announce the venue. 

Well, it so happens that this – aah – “disinterested public of the wrong kind” decide that they want a part of this peace conference. And these ladies and gentlemen spell peace as w-a-r, with a synonym of t-e-r-r-o-r. Enter Ms Gill, estranged daughter of the redoubtable IGP, now an MI6 agent, who has been turned into a terrorist due to her mother and family’s bad experience, and a nice little fib…

The lady gets to know her Dad is the IGP and in charge of security; the Dad gets to know his little princess for the first time since she was 3 years old. Perfect, wouldn’t you say? At least, perfect from the lady’s point of view, especially with a fool and an idiot in close proximity. The Dad and the Kid Sister aren’t either, by the way. But did they wise up fast enough? Read the book for that!

The plot races along, as the terrorists build their capabilities, weapons and plans, and the police forces prepare the security, in full view of both the fool and the idiot-who-should-have-his-mouth-taped. The complicating factor is the proximity of the key terrorist to her Dad and his family, which begins to build bridges through the perceptive Jasmine. And critically, Ravinder tells Ruby the true story of her past… does she believe Ravinder? {Why should I tell you? Come on!}

The buildup is, in classic Mukul Deva fashion, filled with action and stunning combat scenes of the Jerusalam attack, and Ruby’s escapades, skillfully recreated with awesome skill – you can almost smell the gunpowder, and visualise the scene. This sets the tone for the riveting climax, and the story is set for a thundering finish… this is not a book that you should miss. An absolute stunner, it stands as his best book, his best book by far. In fact, this book is the best action thriller I have read in my entire life. 

The author is himself on record calling this book as the one closest to his heart in the preface. He has put his heart and soul into it, and it shows. This book is just plain brilliant, and sets a gold standard for fiction thrillers. It is also a lesson in terrorism, diplomacy, and plain common sense. A racy, fast, believable and stunningly realistic book, this is one that belongs in your collection…

Corporate India : Is This Business? Professionalism? Planning? Management?

Published December 5, 2014 by vishalvkale

1) An employee of a top Indian firm was physically roughed up and beaten up in the market in 2010

2) An employee of a top Indian firm was held by the local distributor as old claims were not settled

3) An employee of a top Indian firm was held by a channel partner due to old disputes

4) An employee of a top Indian firm was stabbed due to on the job disputes

5) A few employees of a good Indian firm were stabbed due to internal disputes

6) An employee of a good Indian firm was shot to death due to channel disputes

This is Sales? The above is professionalism? The above-mentioned is business? Are we in Business, or are we in a combat unit? If that is the case, then I am better off not knowing such excellent and praise-worthy tactics! I readily admit I dont know anything about Sales! These are not isolated cases; there are the outliers in an extremely disturbing trend that I have spotted in some industries. The trend can be seen in the rising number of scams, exposes like cobrapost, murders, suicides, sackings and pink-slips, lifestyle diseases, divorces etc. Most sales people I know of can readily recount such tales as given above… 

All the cases above are true cases. All the cases above really happened; and there are several others that have happened that I havent listed; like the many arrests of telecom employees, the threats that I have seen and heard in the market etc. Add to this the cases of suicides, harassment, rising work stress and lifestyle diseases that are on the rise in Corporate India. The net picture that emerges is not a very healthy one, as a multitude of surveys have clearly indicated.

Is this why I work? Just to get killed, roughed up, or kidnapped, or arrested due to reasons entirely outside my control? Is this business? Is this professionalism? And most importantly, why does this happen, and why are these incidences increasing by the day? Where are we going wrong as professionals, as human beings, and as specialists in our trade? 

It is important to understand that the cases highlighted above are not isolated cases; they are the product of a brutal system that gives no credence to the proper process, the optimal way of doing business. While it is certain that disputes will arise in any business due to a variety of reasons, these disputes ought also to be settled in a manner that does not create harm for the organisation and its employees. Especially its employees; if in any situation, the choice is between the organisation and the employee, the employee, his health, his career and his safety  has to come first. 

Does this happen? Arguably, it doesnt. Why do I, as a professional, then give my 100% to an organisation that does not care for me, for my family, for my health, and for my safety? People make organisations, not vice versa; and in the modern days’ chase for numbers at all costs, people are the ones who get used and forgotten once their perceived value recedes. With the demand supply imbalance in the job market, there is an assured supply of manpower as ready replacement. This further erodes the perceived value alluded to above; there is no incentive for the boss or the organisation to focus on true employee development; this is why average tenure in an organisation is on the decline.

These words above may sound defeatist, the words borne out of failure or dejection. They are neither; they are simple hard facts, as I shall now proceed to elucidate with categorical evidence and proof. Let us consider the case of the Sales function, and look at some real-world scenarios, situations that happened in the real world, the response and its analysis. 


It was the month-end in a major Indian company, where pressure sales were the norm rather than the exception. During closing, a few deliveries were punched in without there being any orders from the concerned distributors. In other words, billing without there being any order from the market. The local Sales Person, at a grade of Assistant Manager, had to do it, or lose his job. This person then went to the concerned distributor  to ensure that the material got offloaded into his godown. During the stretched negotiations with the distributor, the State Sales Manager was overheard on telephone telling the transporter – catch hold of the Manager there; beat him, or threaten him, or whatever – but the material wont come back! HR was informed – and no action was taken by them on this rather serious complaint. HO was informed, with a similar lack of action on their part


In another top Indian company, the local collection team took a full-body scan video of the back-office lady staff at a distributor point. The ladies complained to the Sales Manager in charge of the distributor, who escalated the matter as it concerned a sexual harassment case, and was an inter-departmental matter. The company blamed the concerned Sales Manager for escalating the matter and not sorting it out saying boys will be boys! The Sales Manager was held responsible for the entire matter! 


For the third example, let us go deep into the sales function, into specifics. In a top firm, fake commitments were made to the entire channel. This led to a situation wherein the balances of the distributors did not reconcile with the company accounts due to undocumented claims. The channel subsequently stopped ordering fresh inventory, leading to outdated products in the market, resulting in loss of marketshare. This has happened in at least 4 companies that I know of personally,  across several states


In another top company, fake documents were the norm for case closure. If any document was incomplete, the procedure was simply to fake it. In this same company, fake sales were common, very common – generate fake sales to make your sales numbers look great, and never mind the channel health or anything else. These fake sales would get flushed out later through delayed secondaries or through adjustments, and pretty soon this became the norm. Point to be noted – this is something I have noted in 3 industries and several companies

Each of the cases mentioned above has its causes in one simple habit : The end justifies the means. Be it fake documents, or not taking action against a key employee, or fake commitments, or fake sales, or fake documents – these are all the symptoms of the real disease. These are not the disease; they are the symptoms of a much deeper malaise that needs urgent attention from all stakeholders within an organisation. 

The pressure to deliver on your commitments in the modern organisation is extreme; this is combined with a total lack of a safety valve for outlet of pent-up tensions and pressure. On top of all this is the constant fear of a job loss, and the attendant difficulty of finding a new job and providing for your family. The icing on the cake is the driving ambition of the Managers {at all levels} which does not normally have the safety lid of empathy, teamwork, process-orientation, organisation centricity & long-term orientation.  

And this occurs in an atmosphere with a pressure to conform, where any attempt any individuality is a sign of weakness and a sign of not being a proper “fit” in the concerned function. For example, if an employee has a personal safety valve – music, switching off, or just being mentally strong and not showing tension – he or she runs the risk of being called a misfit! Thus, you have not only to perform, but also conform; or perish! If perceived as a misfit, all mistakes get amplified and  all achievements get devalued…

It is into this pressure-cooker cauldron that the employee steps in and is expected to perform miracles and wonders, and from day one. Please understand : the ultra-competitive modern world means that you actually have very little time to adjust; you have to hit the ground running. This can be a major source of competitive disadvantage if employees take too long to adjust. And this is where organisations go completely awry. A human being isn’t a machine; an automaton. He or she is going to take time to adjust and get used to it.  And rather than evolve systems and processes to mitigate this circumstance and ensure that the employee has time to adjust, organisations place the entire load onto the employee. 

Be that as it may, this person enters, and takes charge. He or she now has to deliver; previous experiences have taught the employee that perform or perish is the norm…

In the concluding part of this article, I shall go into the details of why the cases highlighted in the beginning take place… 

Secularism : Modern India and Pseudo-Secularism

Published December 4, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the second and concluding part of the article series on Secularism. The first part can be found here : Secularism
In the first part, we have seen the development of the two principal communities : Hindus and Muslims, albeit in a shortened and simplified manner. We noted the developments of the period 1757 – 1947, and their combined impact on the Indian society. At this juncture, let me clarify I used these two communities for the perfectly simple reason that the entire debate focusses most on these 2. For the adherents of other faiths, let me assure that I hold no bigoted views or assumptions, or that I hold their views in a lesser degree of importance, as I hope to make clear in this article.

From the above shortened historical perspective we can see that in 1947, and for sometime thereafter, there was no question of doing anything but what our leadership did. It was the need of the hour, and a justified response to the situation. Indian Muslims are Indians – need I remind everyone of Paramvir Abdul Hamid? 

The birth of Pakistan itself was on the basis of suppression of Muslim rights, and way of life, tenets etc. Had the reverse been done, in howsoever well-intentioned a motive, it would have fanned the fire, just after independence or at anytime after it. Therefore what you call pseudo-secularism is actually true secularism, whereby the majority community did in no way hamper Muslims in the practice of their religion. Had this not been allowed, it would have strengthened the case for the secessionists who went to Pakistan, who would then demonstrate that Muslims cannot co-exist with Hindus. 

If some segments were, in 1947 – as is an established fact – feeling the need to protect their culture, shouldn’t the state provide it to them? Besides, that served to satisfy discontent, reassure that they were safe in a united India based on common adult franchise. Not doing so leads to discontent, and future trouble. Keep in mind that in 1947, this was the precise factor that led to partition, What other response was feasible, other than affording them protection? None! 

I have pointed out in detail how and why the steps taken by Panditji were spot-on accurate;  how on earth was it possible, just after the 1947 riots, to do anything else, thereby giving further strength to the anti-national sentiment? It was manifestly impossible! We are looking at it from a majority perspective, which is not admissible! India needed Panditji and his mature and balanced handling, due to which we avoided the pitfalls… 

This response was responsible for building the strong and vital India we see today – a land where everyone is free to follow his or her religion with full state protection… That is why I stated that the Historical perspective is needed to understand this. 

The very basis of Pakistan was Islam in Danger in a Hindu India! The moment we would have tried to ride roughshod over the sentiments of the minority community, we ran the risk of  creating an opportunity for external forces to foment trouble. This way, we could assure the minorities that they lose nothing in a Majority Hindu nation; they are free to follow the tenets of their religion! 

We may not agree with their practices – but it is their religion! We, as outsiders to their religion, have no locus standi on this. They are Indians, who have sacrificed for the nation as well. If a segment of the community needs a comfort and protection for a separate set of personal laws within reason, where is the issue? This is not appeasement, it is democracy pure and simple! It is also smart, as this prevents any chance of anyone fomenting trouble.

The next key question is, has the situation changed enough to warrant a shift from the status quo, by steps such as a shift to a Uniform Civil Code, to take one pertinent example, an example that is repeatedly quoted by people?  

To that, my response is, how can we the Majority Religion determine that? This is something that can only be ascertained by gauging the feelings of the Minority Community! Which is why I stated the minority perspective, and gave no credence to the majority perspective, who have no locus standi on this issue. 

Put the entire picture together : from that, it becomes eminently clear that what some people state is manifestly impossible. If even a few disaffected elements are created, if even a minor fisiparous tendency is created, then we have the potential of trouble on our hands. This in no way means that the status quo is great, or that nothing should be done, as I deal with later!

While some segments of Muslims in India are ready for a UCC, this is certainly not shared by all. And these are not matters that concern Hindus, the best we can do is stay out of it, and trust the Government and The SC to sort it out! Intervention by unrelated majority community is not the need of the hour! 

As recently as July 2014, some elements of the All India Muslim Law Board had strenuously objected it. While some elements are in favour, there are others who are not in favour. This is a complex matter, which can give rise to needless tensions – given that there is no consensus. Simply put, this is a matter of faith for Muslims, Christians, Buddhists etc, and Hindu intervention is not required. We are a democracy, they are citizens, and we have a Government, a legal framework and a constitution to safeguard these matters and direct them. 

As regards the other nations, not just Muslims but other minorities are also regularly rubbed the wrong way. As regards Muslims, note that terrorist – home grown variety- is now a reality everywhere, with Muslims from all countries being a part of it; this is now a major red flag worldwide. 

Except India, which has remained at peace, and has had only a few sporadic incidents, like the one from Thane. We dont need a ham-handed so-called reform movement in these times; we need mature careful and considered handling… Again, given the international and security perspective of a rising Islamic fundamentalism, do we want to give rise to reasons for disaffection within our own nation, at a time when we are winning the battle by keeping our nation calm? How then, do we proceed should be the key question!

This is a matter of Muslim Minorities, and the Government. And the fact is that some sections of the minority community are not ready for it. Do you want to enforce it, and leave open the door for external elements to exploit the resultant feeling of hurt? As it is, the community in general is under stress due to increasing violence and fundamentalism across the world. 

There is a vast difference between actions undertaken on a majority community and a minority community; you cannot equate the two! Not in an atmosphere like the one we currently have, with a nosey neighbour watching our every move, and not with the history of partition. Even without this, we have enough trouble. Even though it is possible that the majority of Muslims might favour it {I dont know this, just a supposition}, the fact remains that this is a classic sign of majority intolerance. We have to show our tolerance, and let things settle themselves by the concerned minorities. 

There are elements within the Muslim community that do not accept the Uniform Civil Code; to say nothing for other religions. This is best left out of the public discourse, and limited to the Government and the Courts to sort it out, discussion with the concerned community leaders and schools like Deobandh etc so that the general people are behind them. People like you and me, who are from the majority community have no locus standi on this matter. We are not welcome; this is not a matter where we should intervene. This is a matter that can arouse needless debate and claims-counterclaims… 

Furthermore, given the vast difference between Sanaatani thoughts and Muslim thoughts, it is far better for us to keep silent. The norms, societal and religious expectations and basics are at complete variance; and are nearly incompatible in their details. Sanaatan Dharm is massive, to be frank; and accommodative; that is why interventions in it were acceptable, and did not create much of an outcry beyond the ones you and I mentioned. It is not as per our practices to enforce change, which is what you suggest tantamounts to. And this also classic secularism; no enforcement of religious dictums from above. Sure we would like to move to a UCC; in fact, there are voices from among Muslims themselves that are calling for it… but it is for them to call for it in a secular atmosphere, not for the majority community to dictate! Both views are before the courts : for and against, indicating the difference within the community. 

And though it pains me to state so, but they are not Sanaatan Dharmis, who are accommodative; they are of an entirely different thought process and religious norms – a religion, some of whose constituents might just take otherwise to intervention. We as the majority community had better keep out of it; we have no locus standi on it. Let the Courts and The Government decide, alongwith the concerned minority communities! That is classic secularism, one which understands the differences between communities and governs accordingly!