Dignity Gritty

Amongst stories of soaring e-commerce valuations, this Mint story on Indiaplaza, and how it ran out of cash, was quite a sobering read. But it wasn’t the business angle that stuck with me long after I finished reading it. I somehow felt that all Mr.Vaitheeswaran was seeking, was a little dignity. I have no idea of what really happened, so I cannot comment on whether that is deserved or not.

A few weekends ago, we were visited by someone who is a consultant for some work we needed done at home. She charged us Rs.2000 for a couple of hours, and after business was concluded, she spoke about how, a few years ago,  she had been a VP at a well known consultancy firm. Her current business, born out of her passion, was not doing well. She wanted to get back to work but was finding it extremely difficult to land a job. After she left, I wondered aloud to D, how she must feel, having to go to strangers’ houses on Sundays, and working for a compensation far below what she might have been earning. What would this experience be doing to her sense of dignity? More

The Change Imperative

Ever since I first wrote about institutional realignment, I have been more conscious of it and its implications on our lives. To a certain extent, even paranoid, because of the pace of change. Ray Kurzweil is hard at work to make himself immortal, and believes we should get really close by the 2030s. He has been right before on many things of this nature. Moore’s law, digitisation and everything related are also getting us really close to the singularity. I am reasonably convinced that I will see both in my lifetime. If you live to be 200 and have robots smarter than you around, what does that do to education, money, marriage, work and pretty much everything that constitutes life? On the flip side, natural resources are running out, and I can see the complications already. It’s not a good sight, or experience!

I am finding it impossible to wrap my head around what all of  this would mean to our concept of life. In the meanwhile, I do know that everything is changing at breakneck speed, and in order to survive, we need to be cognizant of things that can impact our lives – as individuals, and as organisations.  I have deliberately avoided the word ‘disruption’ because it gives me a sense of suddenness and it is a furiously debated topic these days. Rather, to quote John Green (said in another context) I think we’re in the first state of “Slowly, and then all at once”.  This, is my take on ‘Change’.

(Thanks Nikhil for helping on a couple of alphabets and Amit for Unsplash, the source of many images used)

 

My Bar

No, not mine, it’s just a name. Located above Kobe in Koramangala, (map) it occupies a couple of floors, both offering my favourite kind of road-view seating. That’s probably what prompted a second visit. The place has a lot of knickknacks – lanterns hanging from the roof, and everything from compasses to framed Someecards adorning the walls. While the first visit was on a night when D and I were not really hungry, the second was a Sunday afternoon when the bellies were mostly empty! Their bar menu has quite a few interesting cocktails. On our first visit, we tried a Kala Khatta – a mix of vodka, black salt, chaat masala and raw mango mix, with mint, and a green chilli. Quite good, with multiple flavour pops, the only spoiler being the extended presence of crushed ice. We also tried a couple of starters – Beef Pepper Fry and Coorgi Pork. The first was (mostly) well cooked beef with the pepper corn adding a spicy touch. The braised pork was served with Kadamputtu, the pork itself was mildly spicy and juicy, but the accompaniment could have done better for itself.

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And the Mountains Echoed

Khaled Hosseini 

Before I write about the book, I think a disclaimer that I haven’t read the earlier books by the author is necessary. Reviews tell me that there are patterns easily discernible in Khaled Hosseini’s works, so it’s probably good that I was introduced to the author with this book.

It’s been about five minutes since I finished the book, and my eyes are no longer moist. The thing is, I knew the ending. Pretty much everyone who reads the book and realises the intent of the story (within the story) that’s narrated by the siblings’ father at the very beginning of the novel- of a div who visits a village and takes away a child, of the father who braved odds in an attempt to win him back, and its ending, memories like ‘the tail end of a sad dream’ – can picture the frame in which the novel will end, or almost. Yet, like many other points in the novel, it did not fail to move me. That’s probably the defining character of this book – an unbearable sadness. More

Re: Org

Timehop, which takes me on a nostalgia trip everyday, reminded me recently that it has been a year since I wrote The Change Imperative. The opening slide features a quote – “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less“- attributed to Gen. Eric Shinseki. In the times we work in, I believe this cannot be overstated, not just for individuals but for organisations as well. Even as business dynamics force changes on the external manifestation of an organisation – the brand – any organisation that faces a client/consumer will also be forced to adapt its internal structure and practices to suit changing needs.

For a long while now, I have been ambivalent about processes. I have worked in an era, and in organisations, where processes had a way of getting things done. But in parallel, I have also felt that many a time, processes have a way of forgetting what they were made for. The output overshadows the outcome. Over the last few months, my surmisal has been that, to use a Taleb classification, processes can make an organisation robust, but not anti-fragile. This very informative post by Aaron Dignan of Undercurrent – The Last Re-Org You’ll Ever Do -highlights many ways that organisations have tried to change standard structures and practices, and even suggests a six step path to reorganisation. More

Twist

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Straight off the bat, I have not yet been able to figure out exactly why this new lounge in Koramangala is called Twist, unless I factor in the occasional ‘twists’ in the dishes. I’ll admit though that it does have its little quirks in décor – the cutlery themed door handles, the retro electric switchboard, the fake grass flooring and the copper balti washbasin, which, I hear, is fast becoming a norm in new restaurants. Being a rooftop lounge, it is able to takes full advantage of the lovely Bangalore weather, though I wonder what would happen when it rained. The place was reasonably packed when we visited on a Saturday night. For a lounge, I thought the tables could have been a bit more spread out. It also didn’t help that the rattan seating got a bit uncomfortable after a while, enough for a couple of my friends to twist and turn and make me wonder about the name. The other thing that made me reflect on the name was the spelling of ingredients in the menu – a whole bunch of them have been twisted around! Meanwhile, the service deserves a special mention for their friendly demeanour and promptness.

Given that the starters get a disproportionate share of the overall menu because it is a lounge, our focus too was on this section. Rather uncharacteristically, we decided to begin with a salad. My natural aversion to this gastronomic species was reinforced when the Thai Chilly Beef salad failed to deliver the spicy punch it had promised in the description. It probably had something to do with the Naga Chilli not turning up for the show at all! The Pesto Cheese Skewers had every ingredient in attendance but the pesto wasn’t really in a participatory mood, leaving the dish quite bland. More ‘greenery’ arrived in aquatic form – the Charmula fish. The basa was cooked just right and the marinade had enough flavour to turn the tide. The Pandi Papdi lived up to its interesting name – pork served on a crispy version of lavash. The well-cooked, mildly spicy pork and the texture of the lavash made sure it was a reasonable success. The Mozzarella Chicken Sish (sic) was another combination that aroused curiosity. The mince was marinated with Awadhi masala, and tempered with cheese stuffing. Not a bad attempt at all. Our favourite dish was the Chicken Chettinad Puff – fluffy-not-flaky pastry stuffed with tasty chicken morsels – unanimously voted the dish of the day. More

Inequality & Technology

A few weeks ago, I’d written about inequality and the role of meritocracy in shaping its future. Another related force, whose influence has been rising rapidly, is technology. I had written about it earlier in a post – Algorithms of Wealth – and my thoughts ended in at least three directions! At least two are relevant here. In the post, I had mentioned the abundance that The Second Machine Age promises and whether the disparity we see now is an inevitable step towards that. But I had also wondered whether any notion of sustained reduced disparity is a lost cause and that as we advance further, the gaps will keep widening.

A recent HBR article titled The Great Decoupling, based on an interview with the authors of The Second Machine Age, indicates that the authors themselves now believe in the second path – while digital technologies will help economies grow faster, not everyone will benefit equally. In my earlier post I had also brought up how I had hoped that the internet would be the great leveller, and my disillusionment since then when I realised that it created its own hierarchies. (on a related note, read) More

The Seeds of War

Ashok Banker

The second in Banker’s MBA (Mahabharata) series. The book quickly moves through the progeny of Bharata, pausing only for characters who have a direct bearing on the final epic war. Kacha – Devayani, Yayati and Puru are such, with the latter also offering lessons on dharma.

The plot then moves on to the story of Shantanu and Ganga, and thus Devavrata, later to be known as Bhishma, after his terrible vow. The last few portions are focused on Shantanu’s second wife Satyavati and their offspring, and the continuation of the dynasty by Vyasa. More

The entitlement of the self

IMO, Season 4 of Mad Men really took it up a notch. I think it’s because the human condition started showing up much more than before. Episode 6 – Waldorf Stories – offers quite the example. <spoilers> To quickly give context to the non viewers, a flashback shows how Don Draper, the show’s lead character and a fur coat salesman then, was hired by an inebriated Roger Sterling (partner at an ad agency) years ago. Don rises right to the top, becoming a partner at the new agency that Sterling, and others form. When the agency wins its first award, Roger feels entitled to an acknowledgement from Don. When he doesn’t get it, he asks for it. Later, in the same episode, Peggy, whom Don ‘raises’ from secretary to copywriter, also feels entitled to Don’s  acknowledgment of her contribution to the award winning ad. In the first instance, Don is gracious and acknowledges Roger’s hand in making him what he is, but in the second, he is furious at Peggy.

It made me think of entitlement. I have read many an article about the millennial generation’s sense of entitlement, but maybe it’s not a generational thing at all. Maybe, it’s just that this generation expresses it more than others, and this is being documented much more courtesy the web. A point of difference is probably what is being asked for – opportunity (millennials) and acknowledgment. (earlier generations) More

Big Pitcher

Microbreweries have been sprouting all over the place and Big Pitcher was one of the couple that we had not been to. So on one of those Sundays when I had craft beer on my mind, we decided to drop in there. (map) Five floors on Old Airport Road, I thought that was indeed a brave business decision! The first floor was closed during lunch time, so we made our way to the second floor. The place has a theme straight out of some old western movie, complete with guns, Chuck Norris posters and swinging doors!

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The purpose of brand

The Guardian had an interesting post recently, titled “Brand is becoming meaningless“, it (brand) is being replaced by a company purpose that the organisation can rally around. Yes, there is a study that this is linked to, and quotes. To paraphrase, brand is the effect, not the cause, and that has made it lose its fashionable shine.  Someone should tell Maggi this, they just lost $200 mn in brand value, even as the corresponding goods value is ‘only’ $50 mn! (via) Now, just so we are clear, I am not completely against this thought, all the more because this is something I have been writing about for a while now.

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(via) More