12 November 2017

This is India....

We were planning to watch 'Murder in the Orient Express' movie, my team mates and I.

One of our team members was unenthusiastic.

"I hope this movie is not a sequel", he said.

We assured him that this was the original and not the sequel.

"This is my second english movie ever. The first one I watched was Fast and Furious 7. There were regular references to prequels and I did not understand most of it since I had not watched them", he made a kind of passing comment.

We were shocked. This was his second English movie, like ever...

I had watched three English movies in the last one month and this guy had seen only one English movie in his life. We were incredulous.

What about Hindi movies?

"My first Hindi movie was 'Soldier' starring Bobby Deol and Preity Zinta. Preity used to be Pretty then", he said

Why? How is it that he has seen very few movies?

He was born and brought up in Uttarakhand, a state in North India. In the village he grew up in (and in nearby villages), there were no movie theatres. He watched Soldier when he went to the City with his dad...

Gentlemen and ladies, I give you India. On the one hand you have cities like Mumbai  and Bangalore, where people fight to increase night life, and here we have places like the one where my friend came from, where there are no movie halls.

So when you discuss, argue with someone, keep this in mind. He may be coming from a totally different environment with its own perspectives and value systems.

11 November 2017

Signing with Green Ink....

I was talking to my friend, who is a Chartered Accountant, that I was planning to set up a company and as a part of that I was planning to apply for a Director Identification Number (DIN). This is a legal requirement in India. You cannot become a director of any company without a DIN.

"Once I have a DIN, I would be a very select minority in the country who has a DIN and who is eligible to sit in the meeting of Board of Directors", I told him, "That is an awesome feeling"

"I know that feeling, I felt the same when I was able to sign the Financial Reports of a Company using a 'Green Ink' pen", he responded.

I did not understand. He explained that as per convention generally followed in India, only a select few professionals including Chartered Accountants and Senior Bureaucrats, use Green Ink to sign important documents. So getting eligibility to use Green Ink to sign documents is a big deal....

What about you? Do you have some experience like this which made you feel very proud of your achievements?

29 January 2017

TVS Iyengar: Story of an inspiration...

I am currently doing a project for TVS group in Chennai. The group has HO in Chennai and has offices in other parts of country including Madurai. 

Selvakumar is an accountant with the group and he works out of Madurai. He is a third generation TVSian (or is it TVSser? I am not sure). His grandfather used to work with TVS Group when it was founded by Mr.Sundaram Iyengar. His father followed and now Selva is also working with the group for the last 24 years. In fact many of the people I met are second or third generation employees, especially in Madurai.

Selva is a storehouse of knowledge about the group. I asked him to give me some nuggets into the group.

TVS group was founded by TV Sundaram Iyengar who trained as a Lawyer and worked in a bank, before quitting working to start his business. He originally started his business as a timber merchant in Palakkad district of Kerala. He later moved to Madurai and started a Cycle Repairing unit. When General Motors wanted to enter India, he took the pan India dealership of GM. 

During second world war there was acute scarcity of Petrol. Mr.Iyengar designed a gas powered bus and started running the bus for public transport.

He also set up the first Public Road Transport network in India. The buses were known for their punctuality. It is said that the temples on the route will do their morning pujas based on the horn sounded by TVS Buses plying in their area.

TVS buses did not allow any standing passengers. The buses were frequent and hence that was not a problem for the passengers. 

He also started a logistics business through a company called Southern Roadways Limited which later became TVS Logistics (I think).

TVS group is currently being run by third generation Iyengars. Most of the employees are also third generation employees like Selva.

This is an employee friendly group and has many amenities for employees like Schools for Employees Children, Hospital (both inpatient and outpatient), Houses that can be purchased by the employee based on 100% low interest rate loan provided by the company etc. Hence the turnover is very low.

The story of Mr.Iyengar is fascinating. Every time he saw a problem he took steps. When petrol was scarce, he ran his buses on gas, started the public transport system known for their punctuality etc.

He also took part in the Independence Movement and was a close associate of Rajaji.

For marriage purposes, employment in TVS group company is like US Visa. Just as US Visa removes the need for local vetting by Visa authorities in many countries, a TVS Employment means that the boy is of high calibre. Boy belongs to the TVS Family and that is it. No more vetting is required. This a tremendous honour for the TVS Family. 

Truly great man, Mr.Iyengar. I salute you for all that you have done for the country.

22 January 2017

Has India been ignored in Davos?

This article by Tavleen Singh in today's Indian Express makes me very unhappy. Indian economy was growing at over 7.6% per annum and now where are we? Standing in ATM and Bank queues for withdrawing our own cash. I am afraid that demonetization is inflicting long term damage on the Indian Economy. A reversal in economic growth is not something to be taken lightly. It changes people's expectations and behaviours. Also, one generation may suffer due to a few years of degrowth.

I am reminded of Mr.Pan whom I met in China in 2002. Pan spoke excellent English, but was working as a cab driver in the company that I was visiting. I asked him why it was that, he, one who can speak good English, is working as a cab driver, when China desperately needed English Skills. His answer was eye opener. He graduated in English Literature in 1975 when the 'Gang of Four' was ruling China. They branded English as 'unpatriotic' and barred any companies from recruiting English Literature Graduates. This policy continued for over 10 years during which Pan and his batchmates decided to pursue other occupations. But they were branded as 'Anti National' because they learned English and no one was ready to give him a job. Finally, he learned Car Driving in desperation and has been working in this job for over 15 years...
The point is, two years is a long time in the lives of people. A reversal in their fortunes due to ill thought out public policies could put them on the path to an irreversible loss of quality of life.
This is the implication of even one or two years of degrowth, especially if that was due to badly planned and executed policy. Confidence in the government can take long time to come back...

08 January 2017

Budget Conundrum...

"Should the Budget be presented on Feb 1?", I asked MEMEHIF.
Remember MEMEHIF? I had introduced him to you sometime ago as My Engineer MBA Educated Highly Intelligent Friend. He has views on everything, this friend of mine.
Since this is the issue that seem to be bothering the country now, I wanted to know what he thought about this.
"No, of course not", MEMEHIF was quick and emphatic in his reply, "Government has unleashed demonetization on the country and we are going through a pain. With elections in key states coming up, a budget just before elections will only give this government an opportunity to announce some soaps to the electorates in these states that will tilt the election in their favour. After all Pranabda postponed the Budget in 2012 when elections were announced in UP."
"But people say that at that time India was going through some crisis and postponement of budget helped government avoid some tough decisions prior to the elections. That is not the case now. Economy is growing. At this time postponing the budget means other parts of the country will have to wait for UP Elections to be over. That is not fair on the country", I pointed out.
"But BJP had asked for postponement of the budget then?", MEMEHIF pointed out.
"Are you saying that any time state elections are announced, the budget should be postponed?", I asked
"Yes, of course. Budget gives an unnecessary advantage to the party in power", replied MEMEHIF.
"This is a vast country. At any point in time there will be elections to some states or other. Which means that some of the Central Governmental actions will always be at the mercy of some state elections.". I said
"So what?", replied MEMEHIF, "Heaven will not fall if budget is postponed. Haven't we managed for 70 years now?", he responded
"I think that you are making a case for combined election. Let us have State and Central elections together. That way we can avoid the confusion and constitutional crises. Are you saying that?"
"No, no, no, no....", MEMEHIF's reply was quick and vehement, "I am not saying that. Don't put words into my mouth. Single election to the state and centre will only give absolute power to the party in power. That is not a good thing. We need the checks and balances that we are having now"
"Let me understand this. On the one hand you are saying that Budget should not be presented since state elections are announced. You are ok with the ensuing crisis and the obvious lack of fairness of that action on the rest of the country. On the other hand, you are rejecting the obvious solution to the issue, vis. having a single election to both Centre and State Governments. Am I correct?", I asked
"Yes, I guess you are", replied a sheepish MEMEHIF
P is for Paradox...

25 December 2016

Mindless Application....

"Mind is a vestigial organ, like appendix or ear lobes. 'Application of Mind', as a concept, is overrated.", says Sam Peters

We are sitting in Lutyens Coffee Shop (LCS) an invisible coffee shop in the middle of Lutyens Delhi. This is the holdout of Senior Government Ministers, politicians of all hues and senior government officials in Lutyens Delhi. The entry is through strictly restricted membership.Despite not being a politician or a government functionary, I managed to get membership to this exclusive club.

Sam Peters is the spokesperson of a leading political party. Sam and I are spending a relaxed evening at LCS. Sun is just about to set, though you can't tell with all the smog around.We are talking about the need for applying ones mind before taking crucial decisions.

"Application of mind is an overrated concept. Its role in decision making is debatable at best", Sam continues.

"What if decisions go wrong?", I ask him

"You can always roll them back", quick comes the clear reply, "and if they are irreversible, we have to live with the consequences"

"You can't be serious", I tell him

"Our government has been doing this for the last two and a half years", says Sam, "we have become experts at taking decisions and then rolling them back. Did heavens fall? No, they didn't. All this talk about 'applying minds' (Sam did an air quote) before taking decisions is all a liberal left propaganda",

Sam concludes his point.

When arguments go against him, Sam uses two weapons. First is to call people names. People who debate with uncomfortable facts and figures are 'Liberals'. If they provide facts about how the decisions are impacting the poor and the marginalized, they are 'Left Leaning Liberals' (worst kind of Liberals). If the Press asks tough questions, they are 'Presstitutes'.

If name calling do not work, they use the second weapon. It is called the 'Anti-Modiji' weapon. There are three variants to this weapon. The question variant is 'Why are you against Modiji', the statement variant is 'Your are against Modiji' and the accusatory variant is 'Why are you impeding the progress that Modiji is trying to bring'. 

Both the above tactics are intended to divert attention from uncomfortable questions. Sam Peters is trying the 'Liberal' tactic on me. I am not going to fall for this.

"You bragged that in the last two and a half years, you have taken many decisions and rolled them back. Can you give me some examples?", I ask

"Oh, I can give you plenty", replies Sam, "where do I even begin? Let me start off with Porn Ban. Remember porn ban? One fine day we banned more than 800 websites telling the Supreme Court that they were porn sites. We were accused of intruding into people's bed rooms. Later we found that many sites had nothing to do with Porn. After some criticism we rolled back that decision. Couldn't we have done the due diligence before taking this decision? Of course we could have. But that would have called for the so called 'Application of Mind (AOM)' (air quotes again). Who cares for that? right?" Sam gives me a victorious smile and sips his coffee.

"That is just one decision. It doesn't mean that you regularly take decisions without AOM. One swallow does not a summer make", I point out.

"It is not just one", replies Sam, "Remember the encryption policy that R S Prasad tried to bring in, in the early days of the government? You were not allowed to delete your Whatsapp messages or emails for 90 days (even if they were Spam Mails). That was another decision taken without AOM, which we quickly rolled back", Sam is obviously proud of this.

"You rolled it back under public pressure, correct?", I question Sam.

"That proves my point that AOM is not required for decision making. You can always roll back the decisions", Sam is quick on the uptake here.

"You have given me an example of just one minister", I tell Sam, "It doesn't prove anything. May be the minister is incompetent. One swallow does not a summer make".

"You presstitutes won't give us credit where due, will you?", Sam admonishes me, but it is obvious that he is relishing dishing out the list of decisions of the government taken without AOM.

"My aviary is filled with Swallows, my friend", says Sam, "Let me give more examples. Remember our erstwhile HRD minister? She declared December 25 as a 'Good Governance' day and asked Schools and Government offices to be open on that day and ensure that Students attend schools and staff to attend offices. This decision was rolled back after public protest", Sam finishes with a twinkle in his eye.

"But that decision has not been rolled back. December 25 is still the Good Governance Day", I inform him

"Ha, ha, I had you there, hadn't I? The joke is on you. How many students are in school on December 25? How many staff is working in the office on December 25? None. Nada. Zilch. It is like an effective roll back", Sam is relishing this.

"Just three instances do not prove anything", I am feeling a bit deflated with the torrent of examples that are coming out of Sam. 

"Early in her term HRD minister took a decision to replace German with Sanskrit as the second language in the middle of the school year. This put a lot of students under difficulty. That was another decision taken without AOM. Even a kid would have thought through before taking such decisions. But we didn't. We simply rolled it back when protests erupted and courts intervened", Sam is on a roll.

"Even a decision to have an uneducated person to head the education department was taken without AOM, would you say?", I ask Sam

"Thank you for  giving credit where due, my friend. Yes, you are right. How could I forget such an achievement? Another example that AOM is overrated?", Sam sighs. He is obviously tired of giving this slew of examples.

"Ok, I grant you that two ministers took decisions that were without AOM. But to credit the entire government with a broad brush for the achievement of two ministers is a stretch", I tell him.

"Oh, come on. How many more examples do you need before you give us some credit?" asks an exasperated Sam Peters. What about 'Composite cap' decision made by Finance minister and rolled back the next day?", Sam asks

"What is that?", had not heard about it earlier.

"One challenge that we face when taking complex decisions without AOM is that we not get credit for rolling back the same. One day finance minister announced the introduction of 'Composite Caps'. Currently, in some industries like Private Banks, FDI is capped at 49% and FII is capped at 26%. Composite caps meant that the total caps was shifted to 75%. Market obviously assumed that now 75% FII was allowed and stock prices zoomed. Next day it was clarified that FII cap remained at 26%. The share prices deflated on this news. That was the end of Composite Cap"

"You could argue that the government should do the due diligence before making such announcements. I think you are being too hard on us. Why should we do AOM if we do not believe in AOM. Our policy is 'Act first, rollback next' ", says Sam.

I am not about let him off so easily. "Come on Sam, you have to do better than this. Every government takes decisions that has to be rolled back. The above examples just prove the rule. Your government is no exception to the rule", I insist.

"How many roll backs has to happen before you accept that too many roll backs has happened?", Sam tries a Dylan, "Cut us some slack, won't you?", same says in a beseeching tone.

I decide to be a bit lenient. "Ok, I grant that the decision to roll back the tax on EPF withdrawals was taken without AOM, but that is all. Only five or six decisions at the max."

"What about our PM landing in Lahore unannounced on his way from Kabul. Can you not grant me that one?", Sam begs.

"Ok. Fair enough. I grant you on that, though the jury is still out on that one", I add a caveat.

"What about Amit Shah saying 'Acche Din' will take 25 years? Do you think that promise of 'Acche Din' before elections was done without AOM?", Sam asks

I am not sure election promises fall into this category. Considering that people voted for 'Acche din', I give a guarded assent on that one.

Sam is encouraged by my decision to include election promises into the list. Out comes a long list of unkept election promises. "What about the promise to arrest corrupt politicians and put them in Jail? Considering that we have not put a single corrupt politician in Jail mean that the promise was made without AOM?"

"What about the promise of Job growth? There has hardly been any job growth in the last 2.5 years. What about economic growth? Other than a GDP Growth sleight of hand, we have not been able to deliver on that one. Sensex is at the same level as it was on May 2014. Do you consider these as promises made without AOM?", Sam looks at me expectantly.

"You are trying to take credit for a number of debatable points. All parties make tall claims in run up to elections only to face reality upon coming to power. You can't take credit for reneging on election promises.", I reply.

"Ok, I grant you that. Was worth a shot anyway. But will you grant me that the promise to put 15 lakhs in the bank account of all Indians count as promise made without AOM? I mean, no way we were going to be able to achieve that. It cost us the Bihar Elections, as it were", Sam asks hopefully.

I grudgingly acquiesce to this point. 

"While rollback of all the above decisions were credited to the ministers, PM could not take any credit for this. PM was under pressure to deliver. Press was questioning his decision making skills. That is why, on stroke of 8'O' clock on November 8th, he announced demonetization. The mother of all decisions taken without any application of mind.. This decision proves beyond doubt that our government is capable of taking any decision without due diligence and application of mind", Sam concludes grandly. 

"Wait a minute", I protest, "the jury is still out on that one. This decision could prove highly successful in the long run"

"In the long run we are all dead, my friend", Sam responds with a tone of finality.

The more things change....

Recently I read tweet that made me ponder a bit. 

"I applied for passport on Monday, and it was delivered on Wednesday. Acche din are here".

I thought about time, about 10 years ago, and the hassles of getting a passport.

You had to fill this long, detailed form, give all sorts of details with proofs (copy attested by a Gazetted Officer and verified with the Original at the counter), answer all kinds of questions (similar to the ones asked by the bank clerk when a senior citizen goes to deposit his own money in the bank) and then wait for about a month, and a visit by the local police man to verify your address, before you got your passport.
All 35 pages of them, if you are lucky.
That was then. The philosophy was for the government to distrust the citizens until they proved trustworthy.
The same philosophy is behind the demonetization. Everyone is a black money hoarder until proven otherwise.
It is behind the complex taxation laws asking you to provide multiple evidences if you want to claim tax exemptions
It is behind the multiple security checks at airport. They check your cabin bag at security, check the baggage tag before you cross the check in gate and again check the baggage tag before you enter the aircraft !!
As the tweet shows, things are changing. And contrary to public beliefs, they started changing even before the current government took office.
But then, out comes demonetization...
The more things change.....

The new mechanic in town...

My grand father purchased a car in 1947, exactly on the day the country got independence, 15th August, 1947. He named it Economy. At the time he purchased it, there were a lot of challenges. The automotive technology was at its infancy, there were hardly any good drivers available, mechanics were few and far between, road infrastructure was bad etc were some of the challenges that he faced. He faced these challenges head on and soldiered on with his new car. He used it for over 20 years before passing the same to my father.

My dad used it for over 30 years. Over time Economy had some problems, there was some wear and tear, there were a couple of accidents, one in 1965 and another in '71 and the performance of the car slowly deteriorated.

And on one fine day in 1991, Economy stalled. It could not go on.

There was crisis all around, an expert mechanic, well versed in new global technology and with years of experience in vehicle repair was brought in to repair it.

He completely overhauled Economy. The car was repainted, refurbished, modern engine running on latest technology was fitted, imported spare parts were installed and the drivers were given clear and new driving instructions.

That was the condition in which I received Economy. The car quickly integrated itself with the new technology and the new mode of driving. The improvement in performance was mind boggling.Fuel efficiency almost trebled from about 3 Kmph before 90s to almost 9 Kmph consistently over about 20 years.

I maintained it very well with regular checkups and occasional changes in spare parts. I drove it over long distances. The drive was a pleasure. Economy was chugging along very smoothly.

Over the last 15 years or so, I observed some noise coming out of the car. Minimal noise. Not major. Something that I could Ignore.

I took it to various mechanics. They suggested a few tweaks here and there. They specifically recommended against any radical action, the argument was that Economy was in excellent condition. General opinion was that the noise was a localized problem and needed a localized, targeted solution. A 'Carpet Bomb' solution was discarded by almost all the mechanics that I spoke to.

About two years ago, a new mechanic came to our town. He was touted by his marketing team as the best mechanic ever to have graced the country. There was nothing he could not do. There was no problem that he could not solve, there was no technical issues with the car that he could not repair.

I took Economy to the mechanic and told him about the minor noise. I specifically told him that Economy is running beautifully, much better than the cars belonging to my friends.

He listened to my words and to sounds coming from Economy.

"Economy needs a total overhaul. There are noises all over and it has to be entirely dismantled and refitted with new spare parts", he told me.

He sounded so authoritative that I could not ask him some basic counter questions like, what is the basis of his observations, how good are his support staff, how can only he be right and all the other mechanics be wrong, does he have all the required spare parts and most importantly what is his experience and what are the facts based on which he has come to this judgement.

In other words I blindly trusted him.

How long will it take to overhaul and retrofit the car? I enquired

It will take about 10 days, he told me. For about 10 days you will have to bear short term pain. But imagine the long term pleasure that you could experience, he said pointing a rosy future for Economy. It will run as smooth as a gazelle and as fast as a Cheetah. This will far outrun your friend's car in the long run, he assured me.

I asked him to go ahead.

It has been almost 7 days since I handed over the car to him. Every day I follow up. The experience has not been good till now. I see lot of people waiting in front of his workshop waiting for his intervention. It takes about 4-5 hours just to meet him. When I ask about the status, the responses are curt and terse (Unlike the marketing spiel that he used to give when he was seeking business). Spare parts are ordered, they are yet to arrive, he tells me. Some of his staff fell sick and he is trying to find a new support staff to take over the pending work. After dismantling my car, he found that he did not have replacement for some spare parts. Work is slow, can't you see that this is festival season and staff will not be available?

He still assures delivery in the next four days.

Also he told me that, for the next 6 months or so, Economy will go back to the pre-90s level of performance. Only when it adjusts to the new spare parts will it rev up and zoom like a cheetah.

"In the long run, Economy is going to be awesome", he has promised me.

One lives on hope.

18 December 2016

MEMEHIF and I: Catch me if you can

You know MEMEHIF, My Engineer MBA Educated Highly Intelligent Friend. I had introduced him Here and Here.

We share great times, MEMEHIF and I. We play games, we discuss politics....

One of the games that we play is called 'Catch me if you can'. The rules of the game are simple.

I am the runner and MEMEHIF is the catcher. The game works as follows.

I start the game by shouting a word or a phrase. The only condition is that the word / phrase should be in the public discourse at that time. Politicians should be talking about it on radio and TV, TV anchors should be holding debates on that word / phrase. Every time the narrative changes, I can change the word.

The task for MEMEHIF is to catch me before I change the word. Which means that he has to catch me before the politicians change their focus to a new catchphrase.

Simple? Right?

I say 'Acche Din' and start running. 

MEMEHIF runs after me. He is much faster and can quickly catch me. Only politicians can help me. They don't disappoint. Before MEMEHIF can catch me, the narrative had shifted to Dadri

I should 'Dadri'. MEMEHIF, if frustrated with the sudden change in narrative, do not show. 

Enthusiastic guy.

As MEMEHIF is close to catching me, I shout 'Governance Day'. He is disappointed for sure. But those are the rules, mi amigo.

As I continue the game new catchphrases are getting added by the dozen. Words and phrases like 'Swacch Bharat', 'Yoga Day', 'Vemula', 'Kanhaiya', Jan Dhan Yojana (I was almost getting caught there, just like in 'Swacch Bharat'), NSG, Black Money Amnesty, Demonetization, Black Money, Cash Less, Less Cash, Black Money Amnesty (again) are helping me to win the game. 

I didn't even have to use some heavily polarizing pseudo nationalistic rhetoric that used to be the flavor of the day.

MEMEHIF seem to have given up. He is no longer involved in the game. He is not happy with too many changes in narrative....

I did not tell this before, but I am doing it now. There is a simple rule that MEMEHIF can use to win. He can also say the word / phrase that he thinks is the leading narrative of the Government. Only few words are allowed. They are Job Growth, GDP Acceleration, Economic Agenda, Reforms, Poverty Alleviation and Secularism. I am not allowed to say these words / phrases. Only MEMEHIF can.

Any time he says one of these words, he wins.

So far it has not happened. I have been winning the game, big time.

Catch me if you can, MEMEHIF...

Mistaken priorities....

When there are too many policy reforms to be addressed, why is this focus on moving India to Cashless economy?

Cashless is a natural progression of a middle class economy. As the economy and the technology evolves, more and more of the country will move to Cashless. (It is worth noting that only one village in the whole of India has gone cash less in the last 15 years. So imagine the mammoth effort needed to move the country cash less !!) When government is focusing on and encouraging Cash Less at the cost of focus on policy reforms, only two conclusions are possible.

One, this government do not have its priorities clear. It doesn't know what to do, so like a butterfly, it flits from one agenda to another (Acche Din, Swachh Bharat, Governance Day, Yoga Day, Porn Ban, Skill India, Make In India, Smart City Plan, Jan Dhan Yojana (probably a success, jury is still out on that one) Black Money Amnesty, Demonetization, Anti Corruption, Cash Less, Less Cash, Black Money Amnesty again...)

I am not even mentioning some Social Conservative Issues and pseudo issues that wasted the energy of the country in the last two years.

Two, it has it priorities abundantly clear. It knows that it goofed up by sucking out the currency from the system and is trying desperately to handle the aftereffects. 'Cash Less', 'Less Cash', 'Mobile Wallet'...etc are all euphemism for 'We are hopelessly short of Cash in our country'

My take is, it is point two above. The government is not fool. It knows the reality. There is hardly any cash in the system. Government is trying to make virtue out of necessity by asking country to go Cash Less. 

So what could be the priorities for the current government? Here are some.

Mr.Modi came to power by promising jobs and economic growth. That is the priority. We run the risk of fast losing our demographic dividend.

Power sector reforms is a priority. Coal India announced a dismal latest quarter. I remember the hype generated by Piyush Goyal when Coal India IPO was announced.

Judicial reforms is a priority. So many judges seats are lying vacant.

Financial sector reforms is a priority. Only 3% of India's savings goes to equity while business is paying upward of 19% for business loans.

Tax reforms is a priority, only about 6% of India's population pays Income tax.

Poverty alleviation is a priority, almost 30% of India is still poor,

Privatization of loss making PSUs is a priority, they are a waste of precious national / natural resources,

Rooting out corruption and putting corrupt people in Jail is a priority,

Building national infrastructure is a priority.

Rural electrification is a priority. Rural Banking is a priority, Agri Credit is a priority, preventing the rotting of food in godowns when parts of the country are reeling from drought and famine is a priority. Child education is a priority. Girl education and empowerment is a priority. Electoral reforms is a priority, inflation is a priority....

Improving the quality of public / government schools and hospitals, Strengthening Agri Supply Chain, ensuring that farmers get fair pay for their produce, expanding MNREGA and giving work and dignity to poor people, making India's educational institutions world class...

These are all priorities that the government can and should focus on.

Rural telephony and communication is a priority. Encouraging computer literacy is a priority. Educating farmers on organic farming is a priority. Solar is a priority as is non-conventional sources of energy.

Strengthening secularism and the celebrating the diversity of the country is a priority. Providing level playing field for everyone in the economy is a priority. Increasing our share of global trade is a priority. Making it easier to start business in the country is a priority...

I can go on...

Encouraging cash less by proactive policies and innovative approaches, building proper networks, bringing in the needed fool proof security, ensuring network availability, bringing cash less governmental interactions like automating property tax payments in Karnataka....

That is the need of the hour, if the government is serious about moving country to cash less.

Good policy reforms is like cooking food. Good cooking needs to be done on slow fire with regular oversight and interventions (regular mixing, testing for salt, spice etc). And it needs time. Similarly good policy reforms need time and diligent focus and oversight. And time.

Unfortunately, the demonetization has derailed any focus that the government may have had in getting some lasting policy reforms...Next two years will be a grind.

That is what I think. I hope to god I am wrong...

14 December 2016

MEMEHIF Paradoxes: Episode 2

MEMEHIF (My Engineer MBA Educated Highly Intelligent Friend) recently returned from a trip to Singapore. When I met him, he had only good things to say about Changi Airport.

"Awesome airport, bro", he said, 'bro' being the impact of meeting some young americans in S'pore, I suppose, "Must see, this Changi airport. Huge. Most impressive is the security guys. Young guys walking around with AK47s, their eyes are ever watchful to any funny business. Non-invasive is the word that I am looking for. Security is non-invasive. They trust the people but do a very good oversight and in case of any problem, they are quick on the uptake", said MEMEHIF

Normally this torrent is followed by a philosophical discourse. It was not long in coming.

"Public policy should be non-invasive like the security at Changi. It should not intrude into the lives of citizens. It should gel with the daily lives of people.Government should set rules and have good oversight, but must stay out of people's lives. Government should govern, it should not be running business. 'Minimum government, maximum governance' must be the mantra for any government"

"But demonetization is a serious intervention to the lives of individual citizens, isn't it? Forcing them to stand in line to withdraw their own hard earned money is the highest level of government intrusion into private lives. Do you agree with this?"

"Indian people are different. They listen only to the language of 'Danda' (Stick). You need someone superior to force them to do things that are good for them. Logic doesn't work for Indians", he replied.
P is for paradox....

11 December 2016

MEMEHIF Paradoxes: Episode 1

MEMEHIF is a dear friend of mine. Early in our friendship, I asked him about his unusual name.

"My father wanted me to be a friend to all. He also wanted me to be highly educated. In addition, early in my life he realized the I had a high IQ. So he wanted everyone to call me MEMEHIF, which stands for 'My Engineer MBA Educated Highly Intelligent Friend' ", he told me.

We have some highly involved discussions of late, MEMEHIF and me. Sometimes, I find his arguments paradoxical, though I do not tell him so.

Here is one such argument.

"Investing in FD is better than investing in Stocks. At least your capital is protected and your money earn some positive growth", I tell him

"Are you crazy?", he asks, "Equity is the best form of investment available for long term. Stock market leads the economic growth of the country"

"Ever since this government came into power is 2014, Sensex and Nifty have hardly moved", I point out.

"How can you consider stock market as a barometer of economic growth?", he asks, " There could be umpteen reasons why the stock market goes up and down.", he deadpans.

P is for Paradox....

Here is another example...

"Demonetization has impacted the poor and vulnerable the most", I tell MEMEHIF

"Do you know what is the percentage of poor in India?" he asks me.

"I read somewhere that it is about 400 Million. Should be around 40% or so", I respond somewhat cautiously.

"Your data is so outdated. 400 Million poverty was in 2005. Currently it is about 200 Million. So it is not that 'Poor' are significantly impacted. In fact 'Poor' form only about 25% of India's population. You are making a mountain out of a small hillock". He responds.

"So that means that most of the poverty reduction in India happened during UPA Rule. Right?" I ask him.

"Dont be stupid (MEMEHIF can be harsh, but he means well), what can you get at 32 rupees per day, which the per capita poverty baseline measure? The poverty reduction numbers are a joke. UPA was a disaster.", MEMEHIF replies somewhat caustically....

P is for Paradox...

02 December 2016

Oh the irony....

Note: I fully support the intent of the move by the government to remove black money. My post is about the intellectual dishonesty of may of its supporters.

Have you noticed how ironic it is when:

1. The guy who works in IT Company, with multiple credit / debit cards, Paytm and eWallet accounts, stand in ATM Line to withdraw cash and expounds on the merits of moving to cashless economy....
2. The IT Professional, who, on arriving in a foreign country, withdraws local currency, since 'Credit Card Charges and Exchange Rates are very expensive', expounds on the virtues of Cashless economy as soon as he is back in India...
3. The guy who bribes a cop 100 rupees for jumping signal to avoid paying a fine of 500 rupees, enthusiastically supports the move to curb black money...
4. The government employee, who books AC First Class train ticket from Kanyakumari to Jammu Tavi and cancels the same to claim LTC, pontificates on the ills of black money...
5. The private sector employee, who gives fake medical bills to avoid paying tax on 15000 medical allowance explains to us on the perils of black money...
6. The guy who sold his apartment through 60:40 Scheme ('Because that is the normal practice. Why should I pay extra to government?') expounds on the need to curb black money
7. Many who support the prime minister. criticize the government that he is heading....
8. We say, let us cut currency in circulation and at the same time reduce interest rates...
9. Slogan of 'Let us Curb Black Money' slowly morphs into 'Let us move into Cashless economy' as more and more facts come in...
10. They guy who has never experienced poverty and has not had any meaningful interaction with the poor and downtrodden in his life pontificates on the virtues of cashless economy to the same poor people.
11. Intelligent and knowledgeable people, who should be asking probing questions about public policy, believe the same thing on Wednesday that they believed on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday in between...

In the last one month, irony has turned into farce in this country....

19 November 2016

Demonetization. Aren't we happy?

All of us agree that demonetization is the greatest decision taken by any politician ever in the history of India, we should also be happy about the following.

That across the country people are queuing up to lend their hard earned money (at a very low interest rate) to banks so that banks can improve their CASA position. We all know that Strong banks are the need of the hour. If they are strong, Banks can lend at low interest rates so that we the middle class can start the next bubble. Some may argue that it should be the other way around. That banks should be the ones lending money. Ignore them. It is just negativity

That head of SBI is the one in the frontline championing the decision of government. Some may say that it is the job of RBI Governor to come and calm the sentiments of the country. Some may ask why RBI Governor and the usually voluble CEA are silent. These are stupid questions. Ignore them. It is just negativity.

Aren't we so happy to see the old people standing in line to deposit money in their bank accounts? They deserve it, don't they. After all they are the ones who created black money over the last 70 years. Some people may say that Old people should be withdrawing money not depositing it. Ignore these people. It is just negativity.

Don't we all feel happy that we are more comfortable spending 2000 rupee notes than spending 50 rupee or 100 rupee notes?. Some may say that many of the small business transactions happen in small denominations and the small business people and vegetable vendors are the most affected due to the non-availability of small denomination notes. Ignore them. It is just negativity

That Peps ad asking whether you should bend to collect 10 rupees is no longer funny. Of course you should. Don't we all feel happy that 10 Rupee notes is the new 'Sone ka Sikka'?

Ignore the people who point out that poor, orphan children, who ran away from abusive families with a few stolen 500 rupee notes may be struggling with no support system. They may have no bank accounts and no ID cards / pan cards. They can't even change the money, leaving them more vulnerable. Ignore the people who say these things. It is just negativity

Ignore the people who tell you that the beggar standing at the traffic signal may be the most affected since no one wants to part with small notes. If only that beggar had a smart phone with Paytm installed. We could have transferred 50 rupees so easily.

Aren't we excited that the entire country has become a Paytm marketing machine.?

Some people may act smart and talk all 'economics' and point out that Inflation at 5 percent means that demand of goods and services in the country matches the supply of money in the country. So if you squeeze money supply, the demand will go down and that will have long term implications to the growth of economy. Ignore them. These are just jealous people who can't stand courageous decision making.

Some other people may act all smart and talk all 'Economics' and say that squeezing money supply is tantamount to increasing interest rates in the country. They may say that you can't talk of squeezing money supply and decreasing interest rates in the same breath. Ignore these people. They are not economists. Isn't it enough that Baba Ramdev supported the decision?

Some people may say that the other countries who tried (and failed) it include banana republics like Zaire, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Erstwhile Soviet Union, Myanmar, North Korea etc. They may say that these countries were not known for their expertness in economic management. So what? Just ignore these people who say these. They are experts. They are not worth listening to.

That banker who cried on the national television, the people who spend hours in line to withdraw just 4000 rupees, the families whose marriage is impacted, the farmer who cannot buy seeds because he do not have cash, the fishmonger whose fish are rotting because people do not have cash to buy stuff, the children in poor homes who do not have food because their parents were paid in 2000 rupee notes, the senior citizens in bank lines, the harassed bank clerk who have to take abuse....

Ignore all these people. They are not suffering. They are fighting for a worthy cause. Can't you see that they are so happy to be a part of this sacrifice? Didn't they tell the TV people that the decision was good? Even if we do not have any facts (facts are for stupid people, anyway), we know that this country is filled with black money in the form of 500 and 1000 rupee notes. For long term gains, we have to pay short term prices. Don't bother if Stalin said it first.

Some people may point out that the country, which was one of the fastest growing economies and a beacon of light among global slowdown could be sliding into a short term recession? Ignore them. It is just negativity

Wait...What? Recession? What will happen to my Stock Portfolio? I am banking on it to fund my European Vacation. What a stupid decision, this demonetization....

26 July 2016

'I don't like Diesel Cars'...

"I don't like diesel cars", he comments almost non-sequitur

I don't like absolute statements like this. I HAVE to get to the reason.

"Why don't you like diesel cars?" I ask

"Their vibration make me feel like vomiting", he announces

I have a diesel car. I don't feel the vibration in my car. I don't feel like vomiting when I am in it. I can't let this go without a fight.

I review the weapons in my armory. I could use technology, or I could use fuel economy. I chose technology.

"The new diesel engine technologies make the vibration in the car almost non-existent", I throw down the gauntlet. This is the brahmastra of arguments. A motherhood point that closes diesel / petrol debate in almost all cases.

Not this time. The discussion has just begun.

"Are you talking about CRDi technology?", he asks

I have no clue. I have just heard of CRDi. I don't have any idea about any of the diesel engine  technologies out there. I realize that I have entered into this battle without much preparation. I have underestimated the competition.

I am not about to give up.

"Maybe", I bravely reply. The trick to win a debate is to give your opponent the impression that you know much more than you are willing to divulge.

Fortunately, he doesn't ask me to expand CRDi. (Much later, Google tells me that it stands for 'Common Rail Direct Injection"). He assumes that I know.

"CRDi is not as great as it is made out to be. The difference between petrol engines and diesel engines is that in the former, there is a single source of ignition is created using a spark plug. This means that the flame moves in a uniform linear direction. This ensures smooth and complete combustion of the fuel. In diesel engines, on the other hand, the the ignition is caused due to high pressure. In this case, during the suction phase the diesel gets injected and remains as separate small goblets and the ignition causes multiple flame fronts inside the piston. This damages the surface of the piston and the inside of the cylinder. Also some fuel do not get ignited and this leads to waste of fuel", he says

He is throwing his Timoshenko, Rankine, Carnot and Khurmi at me. I  have no clue about what he is saying.

But, he is in his elements.

"What CRDi does is that it uses air compression to maintain a uniform air pressure inside the cylinder while injecting diesel into the piston. This high pressure breaks the diesel into very small goblets thereby ensuring homogeneity inside the piston and resolving the problem of multiple flame fronts from happening", he continues

I sense an opening.

"This means that CRDi is good technology. That is what I am saying.", I tell him jubilantly

He has not completed. "The problems is that over a period of time (30000 to 40000 Kilometers), the holes will tend to become bigger. Then what will happen?", he surprises me with a question from the left flank

I have no clue. I throw a dart. "The air pressure will reduce", I reply

Surprisingly, this one hits the bull eye.

"Correct", he gives me a quick appreciation and continues, "As the holes become bigger, the air pressure reduces, the goblets become bigger and hence less homogeneous and we are back to the problem of multiple flame fronts", he concludes

I have no way of arguing with him since I have no clue of what he is saying. Apparently at this point he seem to have won the debate.

But I have the weapon of 'Fuel Economy'. I have never seen it fail, though with the recent oil price hikes, the weapon has dulled a bit.

"What about fuel economy?", I play my last card, "Diesel vehicles give more milage per litre of fuel, don't they?"

It is almost like he is expecting this question. "Lets do a quick math, shall we?", he asks and continues without waiting for my answer. "Let us take this car for example. It is a Swift Petrol and I get about 16 Kilometers per litre of petrol. Diesel costs about 7 rupees lower per litre and gives me 4 Kilometers more per litre. So the cost per kilometer for petrol is Rs.4 and for diesel is Rs.3. So the cost benefit for diesel over petrol is approximately Rs.1 per kilometer. A diesel car costs about a lakh (100000) more than a petrol car of the same specifications. Which means that to offset the extra cost, a diesel car has to run about a lakh (100000) kilometers, just to breakeven. An average person runs his car for about 10000 kilometers in a year, which means that it will take 10 years to breakeven. Which business man will invest in such a business?", he completes innocently.

I sit there battered, my arguments ruthlessly demolished. I remember that I paid 1.5 lakhs more for my diesel car, purchased in 2010 and till now, I have driven only 30000 kilometers. As per the above calculation, I will need to drive 150000 kilometers just to breakeven and given my driving history, it will take......till eternity...

Friends, I give you Premnath, one of the few pure play, theoretical and conceptually strong mechanical engineers of Tec'86 batch.

After graduating in '86, Premnath worked for three years in Mumbai. In 1989 he wrote the GTRE (Gas Turbine Research Establishment, under DRDO) entrance examination. Those who came within the first 20 ranks were selected. Premnath scored 21st rank.

"That was a wakeup call for me", Premnath told me over dinner at his home in Palakkad, "I suddenly realized that I have lost the technical edge. Immediately I joined TKM College for MTech in Cryogenics"

Having completed his MTech in '91, in the same year he joined NSS College of Engineering, Palakkad as a lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. He has been in Palakkad ever since.

In the year 1992, Premnath married Usha, she being a BTech from REC Calicut and MTech from TKM College of Engineering. Usha, his always-smiling wife, works as an Executive Engineer in Kerala Water Authority in Palakkad. They have two children. Elder son Dr.Ramu Vinayak is a Dental Surgeon and the younger son Govind Vinayak is currently pursuing graduation in NSS College of Engineering. Unlike his father, who like badminton, Govind loves football and is also goes to gym regularly.

In 2012, Premnath got his PhD in 'Data Centre Cooling Optimization'. I asked him how he managed to do PhD at such a late stage in his career. While all of us aspire to do PhD there are only handful of them in our batch. So his feat, achieved at such an age, is very impressive.

"I, along with a friend of mine, used to do heat transfer audit for data centres ever since they became the norm. We used to travel all over India auditing data centres and documenting results, suggesting improvements and analysing patterns. Since I had the habit of making regular and detailed notes on all that I observed, over the years I piled up a lot of significantly useful data."

"Once I had all this data, the idea of writing a thesis germinated in my mind. I approached one of our seniors, who was a professor in Cochin University to be my guide and he immediately agreed.", Premnath told me.

"But you would have had to put in a lot of reading, a lot of research to prepare the material for your thesis?", I asked

"Nothing. I did not have to do anything special or read anything more to get this PhD. The field was new, I was probably the only person in the world to have done such assignments and the research. So what I write was the first material of its kind ever. Even my guide told me, "Premnath, I don't have a clue about this subject, I can't guide you. So you present any thesis and I will send it for evaluation". So I had it relatively easy", Premnath chuckled at the thought. 

"You are one lucky guy", I thought to myself. Talk about being at the right place at the right time...

We are sitting in the drawing room of his 3000 square feet home in the outskirts of Palakkad, away from all the noise. The entire house is lined with wood paneling. The doors and the pillars are made of teak wood, the ceiling is made of rose wood. The floors are made of exquisite tiles that he purchased all the way from Krishnagiri. 

"If I had purchased them here, the same tiles would have cost me 7 Lakhs. The total cost of these tiles, including transportation from Krishnagiri came to about 2.2 Lakhs", Premnath told me.

The analytical, engineering mind at work, ladies and gentlemen.

The house is situated in a land covering 20 Cents. When he purchased the land, the cost was about two lakhs per cent. Now it has become about 6 Lakhs.

"With the new railway overbridge coming up, the cost will escalate", he told me.

Being a practicing mechanical engineer, Premnath has designed the house with 'Thermal Design' concepts in mind. 

"The ceiling is 11 feet and above that there is a false ceiling of about 6 feet. The entire heat in all the rooms flow out through a duct in the middle of the house using convection currents. At any point, there will be a 13-14 degree difference between the temperatures outside and inside", he says.

I look at the ceiling fans.

"You are wondering as to why we have fans if the rooms are cool.", he says, . "The reason is that during summers the outside temperature can touch 46 degrees and even 33 degrees inside is hot"

Friends, most of us go all over the world in search of getting work, getting money and hoping of finally coming back and settling down in our home state. Then there are few lucky people like Premnath, who have managed to get a steady, well paying job in the home state, build two houses in a very peaceful area of the town, very near railway stations and his work place.

He and family regularly go to any of the many temples dotting nearby. They wake up to the mellifluous voice of Yesudas singing devotional songs, sit and listen to the chirping of the birds or wake up to the crowing of a distant cock...Premnath tends flowers in his garden, his son plucks coconuts from the coconut tree and his wife gets the chilly and Kariveppila from the kitchen garden and make chutney and serve it with hot home made Idli for breakfast....

There is not much of a work pressure for Premnath. He has classes of about 18 hours a week and a lab oversight of another 6 hours. He regularly plays badminton in the morning in the college indoor court and goes for a regular one hour evening walk at Kotta Maidanam in the middle of Palakkad Town.

Regular and relaxed life in the home state. Life that many of us dream about....

Over the years, he had met with a few tragedies in his life. He lost his father in '96 and his elder brother in an accident in 2003. He took care of his elder brother's children and got them educated. His nephew is currently working as Financial Advisor to crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Again in 2015, his sister became a widow and Premnath again stepped up and supported the education for his nephew. In addition to his family, Premnath continues to take care of his mother and sister as well.

In Hindu philosophy, being born in earth is the ultimate punishment. You face a lot of challenges and many tragedies. Many people get in to your train of life, share some time with you and leave you. There is something honorable  in being out there, facing the challenges head on, taking the tragedies and happiness in your stride, continue to do what you are supposed to do irrespective of whether you like it or not. 

Premnath has managed it exceptionally well. Great job, Premnath.

02 June 2016

Case Study of a Conflict Resolution...

Caveat: The views expressed here are personal. This is intended as a lesson in Conflict Resolution. 

They never prepare you for this in management schools, I thought. There are esoteric case studies on conflict resolutions, but a real life conflict? That is tough.

The issue started innocuously, as it were. In our management meeting, the manager (Lets call him ‘Manager2’) of DBA team presented an issue which was related to an area managed by the manager (Manager1) of Technical Team.

The problem went like this. Our organization is on ERP. Manager1 heads the technical team which makes technical modifications to the ERP Application. We have multiple instances of ERP Application, Development Instance, Testing Instance and Production Instance.

The technical team is responsible for developing reports, get them tested in the Test Instance and get the same moved to Production instance. The initial development is done in Development Instance, Tested in Test instance and finally moved to Production Instance.

There are two steps in moving a report to Production. One is to move the report code, known as .rdf file. And the other is to move the system configuration required to run the report, known as .ldt file. The entire process of movement to Production Instance is handled by the DBA team which is headed by Manager2.

To move the .ldt file to production, the developer will first copy the same from Test Instance and then the DBA team will move the same to production. In this particular case, instead of moving a single .ldt file, the developer moved ALL the .ldt files from Test to Production.

We use a tool called Serena to move any code to Production. Serena provides multiple levels of review of the code before the same gets to Production. The process in Serena is as follows. There are three areas in Serena namely development area, testing area and production area. On developing the report and completing the unit testing, the developer moves the code to the development area in Serena and informs the Technical Lead (Tech Lead). The Tech Lead then does two tasks. One, she moves the code (both .rdf and .ldt) to the Test Instance. Two, moves the code from the development area in Serena to test area in Serena. Once both these tasks are done, the Tech Lead asks the users to test. Once the user completes testing and certifies the result, the Release Manager then moves the code to Production area in Serena and raises a request on the DBA to move the code to Production. The DBA picks the code from Production area in Serena and moves the code to Production Instance.

As you can see, the Code movement is synchronized between Serena and Production. Also there are different responsibilities for moving the code from one Serena area to another thereby ensuring multiple review and oversight.

In this case, the Process was not completely followed. For one, the developer directly developed the code in Test Instance and not in the Development Instance.  Secondly, the developer himself (not the Tech Lead) moved the code (.rdf and .ldt) to the Test Instance in Serena. While creating the .ldt file for this specific request to move to Serena, the developer copied the .ldt files of all the objects in Test Instance and moved the same to Serena. While copying the .ldt file, the developer did not follow the basic review process of reviewing the log file. A review of the log file would have helped him to realize his mistake.

On confirmation from the Developer, the Tech Lead moved the code from the Test Area in Serena to the Production Area in Serena and asked the DBA to move the same to Production. The DBA Team picked the code from the Test Area in Serena and moved this to Production as per the request raised by the Tech Lead.

Since the Test Instance was more than 2 months old, all the reports that were modified in the last two months had the wrong .ldt file in the Production Instance !

The complaints started pouring in after about two days. The DBA Team under Manager2 was asked to analyse. They identified the issue and steps were taken for rectification.

Also, the developer who made the mistake was advised to be more careful in the future.

While the issue was under analysis, we had a management meeting. In this meeting, Manager2 highlighted the same as ‘Violation of Serena’ process. Manager1, a veteran in the Industry, took affront at the issue being presented to management without the same being discussed internally between the teams. He felt that we should have waited for a thorough analysis and taken the issue together to the management, rather than, in his perception, one team trying to do ‘one up’ on another team.

Fair enough.

Our organization follows an open culture. We believe that it is better to bring out issues in the open as soon as possible. This will ensure that they are resolved quickly. The objective was to avoid conflicts and blame throwing that follows an unresolved issue. Given the culture of the organization, it was expected that even an expected issue should be presented to the management rather than the same being kept within various teams. This would build the health of the organization and lead to better analysis.

Our organization believes that ‘Crying Wolf’ is better for everyone. Issues gets escalated, reviewed and resolved quickly if brought out in open.

The point made by Manager1 was escalated to the management. Management understood the sentiments of Manager1 and instructed both the teams to analyse the issue and resolve the same quickly. Management also instructed both teams to present a single presentation in all the future meetings. This would ensure effective co-ordination between the teams.

One would have thought that the issue is resolved. It was not to be.

This means that there were two issues. One, the violation of Serena Process. And two, the hurt sentiments of Manager1.

Manager1 started writing nasty mails to Manager2. He focused on identifying the various mistakes committed by the other team. He started looking into mails as old as a year. He started ‘Shouting’ in his emails, by writing in all capital letters.  

The members of DBA Team took offense to the tone and tenor the mails.

Our organization underwent a minor restructuring a year ago. Prior to that, Manager1 was handling both the teams. The organization decided that the team was too big to be run by a single person and divided the teams into two and brought the new team under Manager2.

There had been issues with these two Managers in the past. I as the boss of Manager1, had, on multiple times, counseled both managers of the need to work together. I had told them that our teams were new and the Organization had high expectations from the team. Still there were occasional flare-ups and this was the latest in the series.

As the manager of Manager1, the onus was on me to diffuse the situation.

Always in similar situations, there will be many stakeholders. Some of the stakeholders were visible, the Organization, the company management, me, Manager1, my boss etc for example. There were invisible stakeholders too, mainly the teams that report to the Managers 1 and 2.

The first thing that I did was to inform my manager that there was a conflict situation and that I needed his support to resolve this conflict. He offered all the support that he could provide to help me resolve this. That was a relief.

There was one more advantage to this quick escalation. My manager took it upon himself to inform this issue to the senior management. That enabled me to focus on the issue at hand.

My approach to resolving this was to look for win-win. I made a note of the ‘wins’ that should accrue to each stakeholder.
  • The Organization was looking at a quick resolution to the issue and return to normalcy. 
  • The management of the company was looking at an amicable resolution that will strengthen the teams once the issue is resolved. 
  • Manager1 was looking for an opportunity for his grievances to be heard, he was also looking for a clarification of the basic issue and a clear guidelines for the future. 
  • I was looking for a very good resolution that will strengthen the interaction between the teams rather than weaken the same. The basic issue should be brought out, the mistakes made by various stakeholders had to be pointed out and processes should be put in place to ensure a smoother functioning between the teams and personal references to be avoided at all costs. 
  • My manager was looking for a quick and amicable resolution that will lead to lesser escalations in the future. He also wanted to convey to the management that both the teams comprised of mature individuals who can amicably resolve a conflict.
I had observed that many a times, in such situations, the issues soon deteriorates into the level of Personalities thereby clouding the issues. I was determined not to let this happen.

I called a meeting between the two teams. As an introduction, I informed the Manager1 that his behaviour was unacceptable and that was creating disharmony within the organization. I informed him that he had to take personal responsibility for creating this disharmony. I pointed out to him that he was a valuable player of the team and that he was a cog in the wheel of the team. I brought in context by pointing out how his actions were impacting others in his team and in the other team. It was obvious that he understood the consequences of his action.

I moved on to the actual issue that had caused this flare-up in the first place. We quickly identified a process gap and a communication gap that led to this issue. At one point in the Serena process flow, there was a clash of ownership. I quickly plugged this gap by making Manager1 the complete owner of the process.

Then I asked Manager1 as to the cause of his abnormal behaviour. Initially hesitant, once he started he poured forth a litany of complaints against Manager2 going back almost a year. We identified that there was a lot of communication gap between the two teams which had over a period of time deteriorated. We discussed with the concerned managers and put in place a communications mechanism which was supposed to bring out the issues out in the open at an earlier stage in the cycle.

That was it. The issue was resolved as quickly as it had come. Everyone had got their wins.

This was a perfect win-win for all.