India

All posts in the India category

Movie Review : Hampi

Published November 20, 2017 by vishalvkale

I review only the best movies; the next one that qualifies is Hampi. Some people told me Hampi was a movie. Some told me it was a great movie. Some told me it was a travelogue. Some told me it was a sweet movie. Well, all the above were wrong; all the above were right – and all the above did not, in my opinion, come even close to what Hampi is. It was a relatively short movie – if you can call it that; which I don’t. It was over in 1 hour and some 40-odd minutes tops. It wasn’t a moving movie; it wasn’t a deep movie; it didn’t deal with esoteric subjects. It also isn’t a movie that will appeal to everyone, that is also equally true. You need, in my opinion, a particular kind of emotional / artistic / simple outlook in your mind to truly connect.


हंपी एक नुसतं चित्रपट नसून एका उत्कृष्ट कवी ची कल्पना असावी; एका विलक्षण चित्रकाराचे चित्र असावे. हिला  एका महान कवी ची कविता जरी म्हंटलं तरी चालेल. ह्या चित्रपटाची सर्वात मोठी गोषट तर हि आहे कि ह्याच्यात एक एक फ्रेम, प्रत्येक सीन, प्रत्येक क्षण फार विचार करून ठेवलेला आहे. पात्रांनी म्हंटलेली एक एक वाक्य त्यांनी म्हंटलेले एक एक शब्द खूप विचार करून ठेवले गेले; एवढे जर पुरत नसेल तर हे पण खरे कि ह्या चित्रपटात शांतता चा वापर सुद्धा खूपच उल्लेखनीय आहे. फक्त हेच नाही – संगीत आणि पार्षव संगीत, म्हणजे बॅकग्राऊंड स्कॉर व गाणी सुद्धा चित्रपटाशी, संपूर्ण वातावरणाशी आणि इतक्या सोप्या आणि सरळ रीती नि मिळतात आणि एकजीव होतात कि अगदी तर्क संगत व स्वाभाविक वाटतात


This is a labour of love; it is a poem, it is a lyrical story of a maestro author, a signature painting of a top painter, it is a masterpiece of artistic creation with each and every cinematic sub-item in perfect consonance with the beauty of the story and the script. If there is perfection anywhere – it is here, it is here, it is here – in this stupendous creation of love, harmony, art, entertainment, poetry, prose, painting, canvas all rolled into one.


THE STORY
The story, per se, is simple – it is a story of a disillusioned daughter, whose parents are going through a divorce. She decides to get away from it all, and plans a holiday to Hampi {a tourist destination of breathtaking natural beauty in Southern India} with her close friend. The friend cannot make it and cancels – so she lands up alone, and runs into a co-resident in the hotel she stays at. The story is of her experiences in Hampi, with the taxi {auto} driver, a handicrafts-woman, a sadhu; and most of all, for the large part, her continuous banter with Kabir, the guy who stays at the hotel. Until that is the other lady, the best friend, arrives… no, don’t jump to conclusions, please. Nothing like that. But it does cause a bit of a change in the scenario. Saying anything else will be a spoiler!
THE ANALYSIS
As I observed earlier, a story is one thing, the script quite another. The difference, the magic is in the script and screenplay, which weaves in a scenic tour of the magnificent ancient township of Hampi, effortlessly co-creates a story of ethereal visual appeal that will transfix you with its awesome cinematography, which is one of the biggest pluses of the movie. At no point does the slow pace of the story get to you, such is the hypnotic beauty on screen!
This is a movie in which every word has been chosen and placed with great care and attention; every frame has been tastefully placed almost – with great love; every note of every musical score has been crafted to gel into the entire scenario, and blend in effortlessly. Even the silences interspersed throughout the movie are chosen with great care, passion and add to the story, the overall hypnotic transcendental magic and the beauty of the overall product. This is a true Gem in every sense of the word. Loaded with memorable dialogues, even more memorable silences, heart-warming music and background score, and superlative cinematography. What more can you want?
What more can you want, you and I say? The stunning, natural and effervescent performances by the entire cast; Lalit Prabhakar, whose talent we saw earlier in Chi V Chi Sau Ka; Sonali Kulkarni – who needs no introduction; and the supporting cast – all played their part to the best of their considerable talents. Everyone has a strong, scriptwriter-backed role; but they have put in the performance of their lives. Sonali as Isha is a revelation in this excellent role; Lalit as Kabir is, as usual, tops. They carry the story on their shoulders, ably supported by Priyadarshan Jadhav and Prajakta Mali.
Reviewer after professional reviewer has stated about the absence of a story, of the lack of a coherent narrative; they are flat wrong, period.  It once again shows that the so-called professional reviewers are totally out of touch with audience tastes. While the professionals rate in 2.5 stars, the audience ratings are above 3.5. That shows the divergence in audience and the professionals. The film has a lovely, deep story – one that has to be understood by an emotionally awakened intelligent person.

It is a story told through sparse words, words pregnant with meaning; through soulful music, through penetrating and telling silence, and their combination which together craft a story of the conversion of one person – Isha, from a negative, slightly depressed, slightly angry element into a vivacious soft person. One can easily see, at the end, that this is the real Isha and that the depression was a temporary trauma brought by a painful divorce of her parents.  It has a moving, mesmerizing story; that the professionals weren’t able to fathom it shows they need to understand a real artistic creation, not just go through the motions of watching it! All in all, rated 5 stars. Note that I only review the best of the best Movies; and it has qualified for my blog…
Advertisements

Is There Hindu Terror?

Published November 10, 2017 by vishalvkale

Hindu terror {or similar terms like Extremism} – the buzzword of the past week or so. This is, at best, a topic that ensures passion – but we need to confront this allegation head-on as a society, for our own well-being. In the past week or so, two or three articles have appeared that open this debate; the author’s courage and forthrightness needs to be appreciated, that much is certain. Opinion is strictly divided into two camps – one says, with a marked lack of eloquence at times, what terror? The other side says, look around. As in much else, here too, I have a middle opinion – and no, I am not sitting on the fence on this one, as a couple of my friends and seniors have alleged in some cases


IS THERE HINDU TERROR?
So, we first need to examine whether or not there is Hindu Terror at all, in the first place, and then look at its dimensions. Now in this, sorry to state, there can actually be no debate : there is no terror so far as we know from what information is present in the public discourse. Terrorism means, in the words of Collins Dictionary, “Terrorism is the use of violence, especially murder and bombing, in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to do something.” Oxford has this to say : “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”
In the public understanding – using my own personal understanding of what terror / terrorism means, I can state that terrorism is organized large-scale violence meant to achieve some objective, religious or otherwise. I may be wrong, but the above might just be approximately correct. Now if the above three are generally correct for the large part, then I am very much afraid that there is no case for Hindu terror, of that there can be no doubt whatever
But does that mean all is hunky dory, as the Bhakt Brigade makes it out to be? Well, I am very much afraid, not so. All is not well in at least one way – and I don’t refer to criminal activities like hurting and beating up people due to Cow Vigiliantism. That is another matter entirely, one on which we had best remain silent, and not cause tension. Let that be. Having said that, those incidents are worthy of severe condemnation; and I hope the scourge is controlled and eradicated fast.
ARE THINGS PERFECT?
So what can we say of the point I allude to above – that things are not entirely right? Some people believe that there is no issue – I would like to think so; but, I regretfully admit that this is not the true reality, and I do not refer to any political aspect / censorship / defamation cases  and other cases filed as we have been reading. As I have repeatedly stated elsewhere, I am trying to be apolitical, a lover of democracy who keeps {or tries to} keep his political views a secret, not for public consumption.
I refer to my friends and family; to my associates, acquaintances, and other people – people like you and me. They are the reason I am slowly going silent on many issues; yes I do feel scared. I feel terrified, more than terrified. I feel scared of losing relationships, getting into arguments with those I care for, love; those I have to work with, socialize : arguments around politics & religion tend to sour relationships in the personal space, reduce efficiency & productivity in the workplace, and are manifest time-wasters, imho.  Given the harshly defined positions in the mindspace of the people, it is hard to convince either side; leading to hot talks, arguments, with neither side willing to concede.
CLEARLY DEFINED IDEOLOGICAL SPACES
The political space in India is rapidly evolving into two clear ideological spaces; far from this being a flashpoint of worry, this is actually great, as it promises the end of fragmented opinion, voter-groups, and will slowly over time evolve into a much stronger base for our already rock-solid democracy. So long as open free and fair discussion is encouraged, it will enable learning, evolution of national choices, with clear directives emerging over time. Let us all welcome this; that said – there are flashpoints for worry emanating from the extremely charged debates we tend to indulge in with those of us not on our side of the POV. I myself have been discussing, till the time I saw the light and disengaged in totality. On the aspect of religion, I have nothing to say. Perhaps, my silence will be more eloquent than all the words the English language can muster up on this matter. That says it all – Samajhne Waale Samajh Gaye Hain!
Each person is entitled to his or her opinion; let us all grant that space to everyone. So long as that opinion is not a physical, real harm to you, it shouldn’t matter. I readily admit that this rather grandiose statement is very difficult to actually achieve; given the ready availability of information, one or the other side is bound to be proven wrong at some point in time. I further admit that there is a manifest misunderstanding regarding some issues, perhaps on both sides – but our highlighting these will not work, as the beliefs are too deeply held, and will require deep seated change; which is never good when sudden. Change is best when gradual.
CONCLUSION
In conclusion, there is no real Hindu terror. I must also regretfully re-iterate that as of now, for me at least, it is just not feasible to openly discuss anything regarding my political views, or views relating to some aspects of Religion. This is deeply regrettable  – but is not terror; I have a fear in my mind, a fear of losing relationships. Yes, I have lost one or two good friendships, as have other people in my knowledge. And frankly, in retrospect, I see nothing gained from our discussions; in fact, in the one or two cases where I backpeddled and went silent, and let matters lie, I now have a great relationship.

I cannot speak for society; I am not an opinion leader, neither am I a known personality. I am just one person in a Billion, quite literally. I can only speak for myself. And speaking for myself – and only myself, I must admit a creeping distaste and phobia of indulging in charged discussions around Politics and / or Religion nowadays. What does this mean for free speech? Fine – you {metaphorical you} don’t agree with my views – cant we agree to disagree? That is what I have started practicing. There is no need to get personal, or get vicious with words, when we are discussing, is there? So, my call – let it be. I will now try and keep my political views limited to the secret ballot. It is between the ballot and me now. And Religion– is between me and God now… Silence is the best option in this scenario! Now the only aspect on Religion I feel comfortable sharing is quotes of Swami Vivekanand, and some Geeta or other  Scriptural learnings. Nothing else. 

NPA Problem – 2 : Afixing Responsibility Properly

Published November 8, 2017 by vishalvkale

In the previous article – India’s NPA Problem, 2001-2012; we got an overview of the NPA Problem, and could see from the graphs its genesis lay in the high growth period between 2003-2008. As the NPAs started rising from 2008 onwards  they clearly pertain to investment decisions taken in the previous years. Now in any high growth period, some investment calls are going to go bad; if we play too safe – we sacrifice some growth. But, when the same investment decisions turn bad to an extent that Bank Credit to industry dries up, it becomes a serious issue that needs to be dealt with.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE AS PER CURRENT DISCUSSIONS?
There is a tendency by some to blame the UPA Government, and some to blame the NDA Government; as I looked at in the previous article, no one is calling the industry/s to task for failing to judge the environment properly. Is it the contention of the people that 100% of all NPAs were caused by unforeseeable external shocks? There is a strong case in these numbers for the industries & the regulatory authorities to re-visit these industries norms of operation and managerial skill-sets as well as operating environments to analyse where the real fault lay.
GOING INTO SPECIFICS
Let us look at the sectoral spread of these NPAs, and the details to get a more precise idea of the ground realities. NPAs are divided into Priority and Non-Priority Sectors, as we saw in the previous article, India’s NPA Problem 1. We also saw that the significant increase was from the Non-Priority Sector, which is what I choose to focus on to drive home my point. This Non-Priority Sector includes Loans {Retail, Housing, Credit Card, Durables, Auto etc}, Infrastructure, Coal, Iron and Steel, Textiles, Power, Computer Software, Rubber, Metals, Construction, Sugar, Food Processing etc.
HOW ABOUT DISAGGREGATED SECTORAL ANALYSIS



These loans – detailed in one sample chart above –  comprised investment decisions taken by thinking, responsible managers and boards basis available information, as well as their own understanding combined with industry trends and organizational strategic priorities. Given the above, this surprising tendency to question only the Banks for these NPAs is unacceptable. Agreed that looking at it from a Bank perspective allows us to study aggregated data. Also agreed that disaggregated data is near-impossible to come by, which makes any serious study of this at sectoral disaggregated level a rather specialist task. But, it can be done.
WHO IS REALLY RESPONSIBLE – ANALOGOUS EXAMPLES…
Let me start with one or two real examples of failed organizational strategies. Once upon a sweet time, an investment decision was taken by the Senior Management, and was communicated to the hapless Business Head chosen for this misadventure – me. The BH said nothing, put his head down, and started on the GTM Strategy; detailing which produced irrefutable evidence that this was a certainty for failure. This was duly documented with Top Management, who refused to agree – saying let us set a stop loss {!!} and proceed. They also stated, don’t be defensive, go all out. 7-12 months later, that industry was driven to obsolescence by market changes – it was a Technology Product, with massive unsold inventories across brands and states, for the entire industry. Who is responsible for the loans decision/s that went into the seed capital for the new division/s?
Another example – once upon another sweet, sweeter time, several companies {How do I know? From my trade, but of course! I was heading a Region in one such} ventured to take a decision to invest into products of a particular technology, or solution, despite the presence of free, rampant, ubiquitous and effervescent, bubbly and exciting new information of a new product. Now this product was costlier, so these industry veterans bethought that there will be a market for the older range- logical. But – they forget two key aspects – the rate at which costs are cut in the trade, and the probable size of the market for older products. Result was, once again – unsold stocks at distributor and company levels. Marketshare tanked, companies shut in some cases, and new products shot up. The companies have stocks of old products several times that market size. Who is responsible here?
CUTTING TO THE CHASE – AFIXING RESPONSIBILITY
In both the cases above, companies and managements lost, big-time, as the investments did not give the projected returns. Was it possible to at least limit this loss, if not avoid it? Most certainly, it was eminently feasible. Now we can either go on a blame-game, and find fault with these managements, as is the normal case; or – alternatively, we can go deeper into these cases, and find connecting threads, understand why erroneous conclusions were reached despite the presence of evidence to the contrary. Remember, these were thinking decisions reached by domain experts, good people, people who were proved comprehensively wrong. What we do is our decision now –  the choice is ours.
And that is the key point – thinking decisions, taken by good people, domain experts – proved wrong; this happened on a scale that caused the Banking Sector to come under stress, caused economic issues and other connected problems. That is what we can extrapolate from the above analogous examples given above. While I do admit not all the problems could have been foreseen, fact remains that some decisions were proven wrong. The RBI report clearly identifies such issues, if you read between the lines:
The problem of NPAs is related to several internal and external factors confronting the borrowers (Muniappan, 2002). The internal factors are diversion of funds for expansion, diversification and modernisation, taking up new projects, helping/ promoting associate concerns, time/cost overruns during the project implementation stage, business (product, marketing, etc.) failure, inefficient management, strained labour relations, inappropriate technology/technical problems, product obsolescence, etc., while external factors are recession, non-payment in other countries, inputs/power shortage, price escalation, accidents and natural calamities. According to another study, the major reasons for NPAs include improper selection of borrowers’ activities, weak credit appraisal system, industrial problems, inefficient management, slackness in credit management and monitoring, lack of proper follow-up, recessions and natural calamities and other uncertainties {See Bibliography}
That is why, looking at NPAs from a Banks-only perspective is fraught with risk; that is also one of the reasons why some experts are opining the Bank Recapitalisation is like the kicking the problem into the future – unless structural reform is not undertaken. This problem is far deeper, and is also rooted in the culture prevalent in Corporate India as well. Structural Reforms will of course mitigate the problem – as I may attend to in some future article; but these wont fully solve the internal issues identified in the report mentioned, as also proven by the two real examples shared above. The question we should be asking ourselves is simply this : how can we ensure better decision making within our organisations? This is something I intend to try and answer on these pages, which document my thoughts… stay connected!

Fresh MBA Hirability – A Practical Industry/College Solution

Published November 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

An article in The Hindustan Times today caught my eye –  Fewer than half of new MBA graduates getjobs as economy sputters, trend at 5-year low. The articles open with a hard punch to your gut : “Job offers for fresh management graduates in India are at a five-year low, official data show, a trend experts blame on a sluggish economy as well as a mismatch between the years-old curriculum and industry expectations…. In 2016-17, just 47% of Master of Business Administration (MBA)graduates got placed on the campus, a dip of 4% over the previous year, marking a five-year low. At 12%, the drop was far sharper for postgraduate diploma holders.
Image Source : from HT Article linked above


I said this on my blog nearly 4 years ago – there is a dire need to revisit the MBA Curriculum; but it isn’t the only aspect of this problem. I say this with authority, as I have seen both sides – having been a Visiting Faculty, as well as a current Industry Veteran. There is an issue with the MBA Course, but correcting it requires a will; it requires a combination of fresh talent in MBA Colleges – Industry Veterans who should team up with Academicians for solving this complex problem. At the same time, Industry needs to invest in training – which it doesnt; it needs to re-visit the entire Performance Management System, which is hopelessly obsolete, number oriented and simply fails to capture the modern reality of business; it also needs to set up realistic expectations from new recruits. Let us consider these two problems one-by-one in detail
THE MBA COURSE
The view that all in wrong in the MBA Course is inaccurate – for any number of reasons. First of all, the MBA Course is an introduction to Business & Management, and establishes the fundamentals in business – without which we are lost. In my experience – all the courses I have been associated with, do it admirably, at least in letter. The difficulty is the absence of proper teaching aids – and I don’t mean AV equipment. Frankly, they are enablers; we require content. And content is the real issue – there is a need to revisit the content of the books, and make them more relevant.
The content is woefully inadequate in terms of Indian Examples. As a Management Book Reviewer and avid reader of Management Research Books,

  • ü I have observed many-a-time that I am yet to read too many Indian Institutes & teachers coming out with real  case studies on the Indian Market and Brands, as also Management Thought. We aren’t creating intellectual property – which is the real issue. Simply making cosmetic changes to the course will not suffice.  
  • ü Add to this the Language and Affordability barrier – content and books are damned costly, and in English, which is a major barrier
  • ü You need to make the content richer in terms of relevance to Indian Markets, which will enable deeper learning and also provide a deeper connect with students as they can easily relate.
  • ü The course as such is just fine; there is little that is missing. It needs to be made more contemporary in these terms.
The MBA Course is supposed to give basics of Business, Marketing, Finance, etc to prospective employees for the corporate sector; this is what it does. 



  • ü What it doesn’t do is – give a connect with the realities of the Indian Market. That is why we need Indian Original Content, not copied Western thought.
  • ü In addition to this, there is a need for students to do more realistic projects on all subjects; the course is far too theoretical, and gives the students zero idea of the domestic realities. The marking system needs to incorporate genuine brain-work on realistic projects, not just exams. 


  • The way to do this is simple –
  • ü deeper Industry College interaction; and
  • ü lateral hires at Professor level for MBA College teaching options
  • ü Given the lesser stress, it will be easy to attract talent for the universities;
  • ü this will require a re-visit of the qualification norms, and the development of precise judgement criterion to ensure the lateral hires fit in, have knowledge of their domain, and can contribute positively.
  • ü The pitfalls of hiring only basis visible achievement is inaccurate, as designation is no guarantor of true ability and knowledge, which needs to be kept in mind.



CORPORATE INDIA

In the paragraph above, I stress deeper Industry-College interaction; this cannot happen unless Industry understands that it is a part of the problem. I stated in the opening that both the colleges and the companies are responsible for the glut; let me add a third factor here – the students. The industry grouse that the MBA expects too much and knows too little is grounded in reality, that much is sadly true. But with deeper interaction – this can be attended to, as the reality sinks into students. Before blaming the students, we need to accept that we are making no effort to educate them as well.
The key question is, how will this interaction happen? This can only happen in the Human Resources Function, and some other staff functions; for reasons I attend to later on in the article. 
  • ü One possible way is regular interaction of HR / Staff function managers with a selected bunch of colleges – in terms of lectures by managers – properly curated by the College in terms of content;
  • ü Co-hosting real-time tiny projects in real scenarios, which same to be designed to be of very short {daily projects}, short {week-fortnight} projects.
  • ü An example of a daily project could be market survey of all retail counters in a street – which will take only 2 hours; or checking documentation in back-office etc. This can be suitable added on by a thorough training intervention – which should be regular, not sporadic.
  • ü Even a child requires help to walk; and a fresh MBA is a Child in the Big Bad World of Corporates.
The other aspect that needs attending to – the toning down of expectation from new hires. That will not happen unless you re-design the entire PMS – which leaves no scope for learning, or real training. I understand we are in a hypercompetitive market; and that bottom and top lines need to be achieved; but chasing numbers mindlessly, without heed to basics is fraught with even higher risks – as many in my parent sector, Telecom, found much out to their chagrin. There needs to be a balance between pure numbers, and business basics – and at all levels. You need to judge strategic ability at all levels – and this is even more vital in a hypercompetitive market, where the cost of a strategic misjudgement and improper strategic implementation are the precise same – Business Closure.
The list of companies that have paid the price for the above is incalculable; we need to do both – hit our numbers while also ensuring long-term stability of the business as a running enterprise. This we have clearly failed to do in many cases. And once you shift focus to the nitty gritty of business – the nuts n bolts, the basics – the need for a strong fundamental and theoretical basis will emerge ever more strongly. You don’t need an MBA to just hit numbers, to be brutally frank; but you need a good thinking and  trained MBA to be able to judge the medium and long-term impact of your short-term tactics even at field level, and  modulate your responses in the field accordingly.

  • CONCLUSION – INDUSTRY
  • ü Industry expects immediate numbers;
  • ü industry expects top performance without any time for learning; 
  • ü industry expects a softened person, whose edges have been rubbed off.
  • ü All three require training and experience.
  • ü You need people – so why not associate with idenitified universities – in Tier B and C towns and colleges as well and step in in a win-win situation?
  • ü Second, as a line manager myself – I too feel at risk when I used to go for a fresher; the risk to me personally, or my team targets, as well as the complete absence of a support mechanism or space in operation deny me the space to create my own strategies. {That is one reason why I feel this initiative has to be owned by the staff functions}
  • ü This, in a nutshell, is the gist of the problem on the company side, which is complex mutli-layered problem with no easy solutions…
CONCLUSION – COLLEGES

  • ü On the education side – they also need to do the same as above; they need to open up and admit lateral hires, as well as be more open to partnerpships with companies.
  • ü Create Intellectual Property of your own… invest in Research, papers, books creation on the Indian Market, and make them publicly available. Don’t treat them as classified secrets!
  • ü Revise the course to make it more contemporary
  • ü Increase the practical work importance, content and relevance so that students are in touch with reality!

Kesari Wada – Hidden Gems In Pune

Published October 17, 2017 by vishalvkale

I was on my way to a business meeting, when I chanced upon something that looked a lot like it as related historically to someone I hold very dear to me heart – Lokmanya Tilak; so, on a lark and with an attitude of “wont hurt to see what this is”, I walked in. It was rather late, around 7-ish, so the place was closed – but there was enough present in terms of indication and signboards to tell me that I had indeed hit on a hidden gem, a vintage place of historical significance in my hunt for the origins of the Indian Independence Struggle, documented regularly on my blog for the past several years. 


The next day, I walked in on the next leg of my pilgrimage – a visit to Kesari. As I have noted before, there was a complete absence of people there, which was immensely saddening and tragic to my eyes & heart, which was sold to the Independence Struggle and the people who achieved the impossible. To be fair, the people present there did state that there were visitors to came – but on my visit, the silence was total, and the presence of visitors a grand total of zero. This is near-par for the course, and what I have seen in my previous experiences, with limited or zero attendance at some other places.


  
To be doubly fair – these are out-of-the-way places, and are out of the public consciousness. Though I am an ardent admirer of The Mahatma, I frankly admit that there is a dire need to highlight the other leaders who gave their all in the quest for independence. This isn’t just about The Mahatma; we place emphasis on Panditji, The Sardar, Bhagat Singh, Netaji – these are all key players. Each played a major role, and each deserves our undying gratitude for their sacrifices. But there were many, many others, some vital – like The Lokmanya, and some unknown, like Vasudeo Balwant Phadke. Why we cant have organized tours of these places, well marketed & backed up – and highlighted properly in public? Why should we not have proper systematic importance in visibility given to these vital places as well?


The Lokmanya was by no means a small figure; he stands as one of the most important figures of our Independence Movement; that is why, the zero attendance in the Kesari Museum was stunning. I will of course visit again – it is too mesmerizing a place to visit but once. I noted the same lackadaisical presence in The Aga Khan Palace – another landmark in our struggle, and another places that merits multiple visits. This was the same scenario in Wardha, also documented on my blog. Each of these are exceedingly well preserved, maintained – yet were near empty to empty on my visits.


Why should we not visit these places? I know, gathering from heated, not-so-heated, calm as well as reasoned discussions on social media, our organized media articles as well as my personal interactions with people that the entities in whose honour these memorials are made and preserved have a following and a sense of gratitude among us.  It isn’t as though we have forgotten. Why should we not have it in our hearts to, at the very least, spend some time at their memorials, if for no other reason – then just to bow our heads, have a tear in our eyes, and say thank you? Is that too much to expect?


Speaking of myself, I was immensely saddened and disheartened by the emptiness of the place; the caretaking managers assurance that people do visit was small solace. Having seen the emptiness in other vital places before, I was not assured. To my readers – rest assured, if I do find people visiting – I will also document that faithfully. As for now, basis my previous experiences, I am slightly disheartened. Even at the Army Memorial the attendance wasn’t upto the mark, though visitors were present. Again – next time if I find the situation better – I will certainly document it.


I know for sure only one thing – as I wandered around in that museum, I felt I was in a temple, almost: this was the place where The Lokmanya sat, discussed in nightlong discussions with eminent leaders of that time; launched his newspapers, planned for Indian Independence, and more. You can find more details about it here. As for me – I felt blessed; I felt “dhanya” – like I was lucky, and chosen to be here in that moment, in that holy place. My heart was heavy, yet proud… it was a moment I shall carry to the funeral pyre with me; it was one of the most special moments of my life… 



Book Review – Re-Imagining India: Unlocking The Potential of Asia’s Next Superpower

Published October 14, 2017 by vishalvkale

Re-Imagining India – Unlocking The Potential Of Asia’s Next Superpower is a collection of essays by an eclectic mix of writers from various fields, Indian as well as foreign, edited by McKinsey & Company. It is subdivided into 6 sections : Reimagining, Politics & Policy, Business & Technology, Challenges, Culture & Soft Power, and India In The World. The authors of the essays range from Foreign Policy experts, to businessmen, to eminent Indian sportspersons, to journalists – listing some pretty famous and accomplished individuals from the various fields. Out of a total of approximately 63  essays, approximately 21-22 are by foreign authors; this gives a nice gives, while also being revealing

Mckinsey

THE NEGATIVES
First, for a book on Reimagining India, I got the distinct impression that the focus on agriculture was woefully inadequate, underrepresented – and in some ways questionable.  Agriculture & Rural India comprises the majority of the people, of employment; by contrast, there were few essays on this topic. The few that were present did not deal with the issues by and large. In fact, only one dealt with the relevant issues directly – India’s Farms, Harvesting The Future on Pg 247. Agreed that Energy, for example, is an issue – but when you give more real space that as opposed to Agriculture / Rural Sector, then it becomes hard for me to see how you can re-imagine India!
Second, several write-ups by foreign authors {Exceptions prove the rule} are preachy, slightly impractical; and in at least one or two cases, unimplementable and objectionable. For example, the foreign policy “experts” who opined, some of them at any rate, were off the mark by nearly 100%. The Americans were quick to shift the blame, as I perceived it, off their own shoulders, and advising India to take the forward step! What else have we been doing all these years? So, that part was frankly the worst in the book. But it does serve to highlight the fact that The West still has somewhere near zero idea of India, sadly.
THE POSITIVES
There were many top essays that provoke thought – all of them by Indians, bar one. Next time, kindly use more of Indian Authors – people who understand India, not look at it through either rose-tinted, partially informed, uninformed or through biased lenses! And that one is the Polio essay by Bill Gates, which was stupendous to put it mildly. Moving on, I recommend the thought provoking essays by Ruchir Sharma, Anand Mahindra in the first section; topping it with the classy Gurcharan Das essay dealing with hard reform, dealing with citizens and institutions.
The book comes alive in the second section, with a series of really educative essays starting off with Sonia Faleiro on Rural Women empowerment, and Shekar Gupta’s Something Is Working being topped off with Ashotosh Varshney’s essay on regionalism, language, diversity & federalism – these make the forceful point that our decisions on Language, Federalism are excellent. There were many other essays that are noteworthy: Aziz Premji is another example. I found the western critics in this section uniformly negative, which is strange considering the topic. You don’t reimagine by criticizing; you do so by suggesting positivity and change for what isn’t working. There is a fine dividing line.
The third section is on Business; and misses the bus by somewhere around 81%. The Indian Economy is 19% Corporate India, around 60% MSME + Unorganised, and rest Agriculture. Not one of these latter 2 – not one- appeared significantly anywhere. What is more, I noticed 9 of the 16 essays by non-Indians! Who is expected to know more about my economy & business environment – Indians, or outsiders? Among all the 16 essays, I found barely 2 or 3  upto the mark, so I shall not name them. Suffice it to state this section was uniformly preachy or anecdotal.
The lackluster third section is made up for by the fourth section – 100% Indian almost, or at least Indian Origin {if anyone was an NRI or PIO – I don’t know, didn’t check}. Again, slightly skewed – what is our biggest challenge? Without a shade of doubt, it isn’t energy; it is Poverty and Rural Employment specifically agriculture. Energy is but an offshoot of vaious sectoral challenges- and is a part of the solution. But you cannot give a proper solution without first defining the problem! And here, one essay – India’s Farms – Harvesting The Future by Barnik Maitra and Adil Zainulbhai stands out as best not just in the section, but in the entire book.  That said, this section does identify Health care and education – brining some sense of balance to the book, elevating it to a large degree.
The fifth section again loses it – cannot understand the relevance of Mumbai Movies, Cricket, Chess, Western impression of our culture and arts, restaurants, and Olympics – not to Reimagining India! Not when we have other pressing concerns. Nonetheless, most of the essays in this section are good, and  written by Indians by and large, thus practical and realistic. The one that stands out- Suhel Seth on The Fourth Estate – kudos for that one.  
The sixth section is preachy in its foreign policy; you can safely ignore 100% of foreign policy essays in this as impractical, and / or one-sided views as the case may be. But in this lackluster segment – two essays lift it on their own single shoulders each; the heart-warming, and yet though-provoking class write-up by Kumar Manglam Birla on adapting to changing environment, India as a nation and more; and the top piece by Ahmed Rashid on India-Afghanistan
THE CONCLUSION

All in all, rated two-and-a-half stars. The essays are good – by and large; the ones that identify the problems & suggest probably solutions; or the ones that impart positivity. The critical ones- God knows we have much to be critical about – well, frankly – it is dead easy for an outsider to criticize – what about a solution? Have you lived here? Are you aware of the ground realities? And the Indian articles that criticized, well – they were correct, and spot-on; but taken all together, the book simply fails to connect, and does not achieve its objective of Re-Imagining India. It gives an excellent idea, to be fair – but the negatives pull it down. Not worth the original price; I got it as a hefty discount! 

The Power Of Energy – A Business Tool Like No Other

Published October 13, 2017 by vishalvkale

The L&D Rendezvous on the 8th of October at the SILC Pune will remain etched in my memory for more reasons than one; in my previous article I highlighted one reason – Snehwan. But the event, and my overall experience being a part of the Core Team at L&D Global Pune Chapter, has had many learnings and ramifications for me as a professional. Being a Line Function Manager & all that comes with it – the good and the bad, meant that this experience was a truly defining one for me as I document in this write-up; this is despite me being a former Visiting Faculty in Brand & Advertising Management, and having handled training assignments in corporates as well as extensive cross-functional projects.
THE L&D Pune Chapter
My introduction to L&D Pune chapter was a direct outcome of my business blogging and non-fiction books blogging, which lead me to getting in touch with a variety of professionals outside my core function and specialty, {which is and remains Telecommunications / Technology / ECommerce and Channel Sales / Marketing / Business Management / Logistics} – including top Management thinkers / gurus and cross-functional exposure to a variety of domains, whose utility in broadening my horizons I cannot understate. This is not tooting my own horn; I am just underlining that I was not new to cross-functional teams, neither was I a frog-in-the-proverbial-well person.
This habit, or rather, this disconcerting habit {apparently, impression is sales persons don’t read} got me in contact with some LnD professionals, as well as Writers; leading to an association with a fast-upcoming Writers connect outreach, which I shall subsequently document once things are clearer. It was as a result of this that I got in touch with the L&D Global Team Pune Chapter, where I got associated more out of curiosity and without any real expectations, to be honest. Well, I was wrong. Period.


The Difference
The stunning openness, willingness to experiment, learn from juniors, seniors, and easy relaxed rapport impressed me; this was clearly a professional outfit. And yet,despite being hobbyists all, with no personal financial interest in the venture – if you can call it that – their level of commitment, and their thoroughly professional approach and planning floored me. This is difficult to master even in hierarchical teams, as all Line Managers are only too well and painfully aware. But beyond all this, was the transparent enthusiasm – and here I learnt perhaps my biggest corporate lesson.
THE L&D PUNE CHAPTER EVENT TEAM


For decades, Management Thinkers have waxed eloquent of the role of positivity, enthusiasm in Business execution in particular and Business in general. I have documented several management books on this blog itself, and a few also touch on this point. Like most Line Managers {Yup, gross generalization here, basis personal experience}; I remained leery and dismissive of this, for the perfectly  simple reason that I found, through self experience as well as discussions with my teams and peers, that finding or inculcating such a team was next to impossible in the real world. Here, in this team – devoid of documented controls, was the clear proof of the theories written in the books… the enthusiasm, commitment, energy levels, common association with objectives and the way it impacted overall team performance was and is an education. The way this team overcame level, status & achievement differences was exemplary. Stay connected with my blog as I progress further in my hunt for the truth, and how can we create such vibrant teams…
THE EVENT
The preamble above is, in my opinion, vital to understanding events; I have a habit of documenting each significant self-learning on my blog here insofaras it pertains to Business, Management or Indian History; and this preamble will enable my readers to get some vague idea of the energy and spirit of the people behind the event. It is the energy of the people planning and executing that gets translated into quality – be it a product or be it an event. We saw in my latest book review of Management Thought {The Difference: When Good Enough Isnt Enough – Subir Chaudhury} how small things can translate into big epochal business impact. Well, these small things did translate into  vibrant and alive event.
I have seen many events, planned and executed, helped in – many – CXO events, Sales Events; from that perspective I can honestly state this one I attended from LnD Global was among the top drawer events I have attended. We had some 63+ paying members in attendance – all professionals, making for a very targeted and interested audience, as well as alive with energy. They were here to learn and to contact; their interest was two-fold, and it showed.


The focus areas were two learning platforms – Power Negotiations, a panel discussion; and Leadership and Innovation Strategies, A Masterclass. The Power Negotiation Panel was suitable high-profile, fielding an IAS Officer at Director Level, two CEOs-MDs, and one Head of Learning & Development of a top Indian Firm. Given the subject of Power Negotiations, this enabled a wide-spectrum participative look at negotiation as a Business Skill


The keynote speaker was the CEO of Sakal International Learning Center, Mr Debashish Biswas, who took a Leadership and Masterclass Strategy session, which was the frontispiece of the event. One can write volumes on this subject; so I shall desist from describing it, or indeed the one above. My Take-away from this masterclass is my preferred focal point in this article : which was the relevance of staying updated, current – in the words of the keynote speaker – reinventing oneself. I am proud that I have done this throughout my career – but out of a pure play passion, a desire to learn, read, re-skill, try new tasks even in my job {Handling Port Stevedoring Operations for import, or training, or faculty}; I never thought of this as a powerful tool. Until the 8th of October, that is.
Conclusion

This was a paid event – was it worth it? Yes, it was; it cleared my brain, my mind; gave me a kick in the proverbial ***, {excuse my language please – cant put it any better}, and taught me a lot. But most importantly, it was infectious with positivity and free flowing energy, which has a tendency to rub off on others  as well. That, and the fact that it gave me confidence, ideas – rekindled my passion, as well as put me in touch with like-minded professionals made it one hell of an experience. Would I attend one again? Sure I would – spending from my own pocket. Why shouldn’t I? I stand to benefit! And the icing on the cake was I met someone like Mr Ashok Deshmane… to know more about him, click this link