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30 September 2012

Is private sector better?....

Currently, in the US, there is a raging debate whether private sector is the panacea of all ills afflicting the country. Conservatives, who fiercely argue of exit of government from the lives of the persons, is equally vehemently opposed by Democrats who favor a wider involvement of Government to facilitate the private sector to deliver to the benefits of society.

The situation is complex.

I am pro private sector when it comes to delivering business services. I believe that government should not be in the business of business, but should be playing the oversight role, ensuring that the private sector plays by the rules and society as a whole should receive synergistic benefits.

However, I now realize that all my firm convictions are shaken when 'I' receive pathetic service from the private sector.

Take for instance my experience with Kingfisher airlines.

I work out of Mumbai, while my family lives in Bangalore. Every two weeks I make a trip to Bangalore to be with my family. I travel to Bangalore on Friday night and back to Mumbai on Monday morning. Considering that we work on alternate saturdays, you can imagine how precious these two days are to me and my family.

My key parameter in the decision of airline is the timing on Monday morning. On the one hand I don't want to get up very early in the morning and feel tired and sleepy the whole of Monday, while on the other hand, I don't want to go much late and be late to the office.

This is where Kingfisher comes in.

If you are a reader of any Indian Newspaper, the word used to describe this airline of late is 'beleaguered', with 'in debt' and 'in dire straits' thrown in for good measure. This airline is so ailing that the owner's house has become a resort of sorts for the creditors.

For me this airline holds an advantage. It has a flight that leaves Bangalore at 9.05 in the morning, which reaches Mumbai at 10.20 and this takes me to my office at about 11.00 AM. The timing cannot be perfect.
With all the risks attached, it is worth taking the risk of travelling in this airline. 

But this time I have not been lucky. The law of averages have caught up with me.

I had booked to travel back to Mumbai by tomorrow morning flight. Today, sunday!!!, morning, the Kingfisher guy called me and sweetly informed that the flight have been cancelled due to 'Operational Reasons'. So I opted to travel to Mumbai by the 7.20 PM flight today.

You can imagine that this would have been hard on my family. I have not been home for the last three weeks and having finally managed to come home for a precious weekend, the same has been cut short by this airline.

It is hard.

Since it take about 90 minutes to reach the airport, I had to leave home at 4.00 PM. So effectively, I was getting half of Sunday. 

I reached the airport at 6.00 PM. Now I have been informed that the incoming flight has not yet started from Mumbai and the flight to Mumbai will start only after the incoming flight arrives.

For all I know, the flight may even be cancelled.


This brings me to the point I was making originally. In other countries, with such a mess, the license of this airline would have been cancelled long time back. But not in this country. Here, we have an elasticity of policies in one direction. While the policies are highly elastic in favour of any sector, the policy actions are highly inelastic when the business gets into inefficiency and ideally should be wound down. 

Like Mitt Romney told in the infamous NY Times article, it is better to allow the 'Beleaguered' airline to go through managed bankruptcy rather than limping along pathetically. 

One of the reasons of this mess was that Vijay Mallaya, the high profile owner of this airline, does everything other than ensure that the airline flies efficiently. He has is hand in all sorts of nonsense, including modelling and IPL among others.

Mr.Mallaya need to know that when you run an airline, you have to focus on keeping aircrafts in the air. There is a reason they are called aircrafts, they belong there. Else they would have been called 'Landcrafts'.
Keep the aircrafts flying, Mr.Mallaya. Else get out and let some competent persons handle your airline.

Kingfisher (jestly called 'Kingfissure') airline is a classic example that we cannot let private sector do everything. Government has a role. A very important role.

29 September 2012

Shoe Polish Deliberations...

The other day, I went to a cobbler to get my shoe polished...

Having been used in some very dusty roads the previous two days, the shoe looked decidedly dirty and shabby.

The cobbler got to work. He applied the shoe polish, brushed it with hard brush first and then soft brush and then finally with a soft cloth and....

Lo and behold, the shoe was gleaming again.

The transformation was instantaneous and exciting.

While walking back to my office, I was thinking about this transformation. How did this happen? What did the cobbler do to facilitate this transformation? How did a dirty shoe turn into a glistening shoe in a matter of minutes. I could break down the transformation process into the following elements.

First, identification. I identified that the shoe was shabby. The perception of 'Shabbiness' was personal. What I found as 'Shabby' may be just a 'bit dusty' for some people. 

Next comes the Intention. Once I observed that the shoe was shabby, I decided that the shoe need to be polished. The intention started as a thought which was in mind for about two days before that became strong enough for me to take action. 

Once you have the intention, you will have to find the support resources, in this case, a cobbler.

Once I had identified the support resource in a nearby cobbler, next came the action. Even though I had identified the need for shoe polish and had the intention of doing so, I postponed for two days the action  of taking my shoe to cobbler. Until I took the shoe to the cobbler, till I took action, the polished shoe remained only as yet another of those good intentions.

After the shoe was taken to the cobbler, I was observing what he did. First of all, he collected and arranged all the material and resources that he needed to execute the transformation. He collected polish, brushes, smoothening cream and the soft clothes.

Finally came the process. There was specific sequence that he followed. First he brushed away the dirt. Then he applied the cream and spread it consistently across the shoe by the use of the hard brush. Once that was done, he applied the polish and spread it evenly on the shoe. After applying the polish, he kept the shoe aside for two to three minutes for the polish to sock in the leather. Finally, he used the soft brush to bring in the glisten and topped it off with a rub with the soft cloth.

Simple as it is when applied to shoe polishing, the same guiding principles apply to Goal Achievement. Let us take the example of Weight Reduction as a goal to illustrate the process mentioned above. First step is for us to identify that we are overweight. This will depend on our frame of reference. For example, if you are a sumo wrestler, you are fat and obese and overweight, but you do not identify this as a problem. So 'Weight Reduction' is not a goal for a Sumo Wrestler. For the rest of us, who decide that we are overweight,  the measure may be tightening pants, and for others need to adjust your belt lengths. Or a visit to your doctor for your annual check up. Each of us need a specific parameter to Identify our Goals. 

Once we have identified our goal, we need to have intention to change. Most of us will have the intention to change once we identify the goal. Else why we will even identify the goal in the first place? Identification of the goal and intention to change go hand in hand.

Next important step is to identify the support resources. In case of our goal of achieving the weight reduction, we will need to find a nearby Gym, or a playground where we can comfortably do the exercise. The earlier we find the support resources, the faster will be the next step of moving from intention to action. In my case for example, my process of weight reduction got a stumble block when the Treadmill in my apartment conked off and did not work for two months. I had got so used to the treadmill that once it conked off, I lost interest in continuing the process itself. What could I have done differently? I could have joined a Gym or gone for a walk of done something. 

The tricky part is to convert intention into action. Just like I did it in the case of taking the shoe to the cobbler, we all need to convert our intentions into action. Taking that first step is the most difficult. We can follow the steps given by Leo Babauta in his blog Zen Habits to create the habit of moving from intention to action. 

Ok, now we have identified the goal, have an intention of moving from the current state a desired future state and have taken action, what next.

There are three important activities that you need to do next. First is to collect the resources and material required. For our goal of weight reduction, we should have a gym, or a treadmill or a playground or a cycle...Anything will do. The key is regular availability of the support resources. Also we should have a plan B in place. What will I do if my treadmill conks off? How will I continue my exercise program?

Next step is the process. This is very important. In case of our example of Shoe polish, the process was to apply a set of materials and follow the processes in a certain sequence. Do you think that the shoe would be polished however hard the guy polished with a soft brush without applying the polish and the cream? No way. The process, the application of materials and resources in a certain sequence is very important to attain the goal.

And finally, the measure. Like they say, what gets measured gets done. We should have a measure of progress in our goal achievement that we can check on a regular basis. The measure need not be checked frequently, like the lady who checks her weight everyday before and after using the treadmill. The key is, we should have a measure and we should check it regularly.

That is it. Follow the steps given above regularly and consistently and you can achieve any goal. Each and every step is important. Follow the above steps in the correct sequence and you can have the chiselled body that you always desired.


15 September 2012

Are you a growth stock....

I am currently reading 'Goals' by Brian Tracy. In this book, Mr.Tracy asks this question...

Are you a growth stock?

What does this mean?

In stock market parlance, a growth stock is one which appreciates at the rate of more than 25% per annum over a forseeable future. The analysts could take any parameter, be it revenue or earnings, the identified parameter grows at the rate of 25% Year on Year for a forseeable future.

When applied to an individual, the above question, 'Are you a growth stock' implies multiple facets. To answer the above question, you have to consider the following.

1. What is the parameter that you are considering to measure growth : Unlike a company, that has only two main parameters to measure its growth, there are no common parameters when it comes to measuring growth. And these parameters keep changing as one grows older and mature. For some, the measures may be knowledge growth, as in how much more have I learned in the last one year. For others it may be earnings growth, how much have my income grown over the last year, while others may consider other parameters like spiritual growth, altruistic growth (how many more people have I helped this year compared to last year), networth growth etc.

2. What is the measure you use to measure your growth in the chosen area? For example, you may use the number of spiritual discourses that you attended this year as a measure of Spiritual Growth, or the number of articles/ books on spirituality that you read in the current year may be another matric. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done.

3. And finally, are you growing at or above 25% rate in your chosen parameter?

Unfortunately, many people do not even reach the step 1 above. They do not have a destination, a goal, a measure or a plan. They get up in the morning, go thru the motions through the day and go  to bed at night, having wasted a whole day  and a month and a year. These people do not have any curiosity to learn anything new, and without learning anything new, you cannot grow.

Let me just give an illustration. There are many people who work in and around  Bombay Stock Exchange. This is the leading stock exchange in India. The place is dotted with Investment advisory companies. All around, you are inundated with material on stocks, investing and wealth creation. However there are many people who work around this area who do not know anything about Stock Market and Investing. Considering that stock exchanges are engines of growth, shouldn’t one have a curiosity to learn a bit about stocks and investing?

Don’t be like them. Look at the question ‘Are you a growth stock’ critically, take steps and get ahead in life.