Book Review: The Habit of Winning by Prakash Iyer

Prakash Iyer’s new book is an interesting read for all those keen to develop themselves as successful leaders and managers. The author talks about several contemporary real-life stories from diverse areas including those which made a huge impact on his personal as well as professional life. The book is divided into 11 sections and each section has a number of well-written inspirational and motivational short-stories ranging from perseverance and self-belief to leadership and team-work.  Each of the stories culminates in a new lesson.

Prakash has used the simple language which makes the book easy to read. The author’s 25-year corporate stint has come handy while carefully choosing the enriching stories to demonstrate the lessons and get them registered in the minds of the readers. The way he has put-forth his learnings and ideas through awe-inspiring stories really deserves appreciation. The analogies drawn from the stories of people and other living beings to one’s personal and professional life fit really well. Being an avid Cricket fan, Prakash has cited several stories from the game of Cricket and explains how we can learn lessons from some of the Cricket players who have demonstrated their capabilities and attitude in the tough and demanding times. Needless to say, Cricket fans will like the book even more.

I found section-I of the book amongst one of the most interesting parts of the book. It talks about as to how one is made to perceive his role in an organization – Being just limited to his set of responsibilities (e.g. stone-breaker) or extending to help build the organization (e.g. builders of the world’s tallest cathedral)? This is of vital importance for an organization to tread on the path of achieving its vision and goals.  The section goes on to talk about the importance of setting goals by citing that even the best mountain-climbing equipment is of little use if you don’t have a mountain to climb. Then, it calls for being focused and persistent to achieve these goals. The section ends by outlining the lesson that in one’s pursuit to achieve his goal, he should change his tactics, but shouldn’t change the goal itself.

Before reading the book, I was inclined towards the view of one school of thought that leadership can not be learnt. However, after carefully reading through the book, I now feel that leadership can be learnt provided one follows the lessons outlined in the book by Prakash. I firmy subscribe to the author’s view that there is a genius inside each one of us and it’s just a matter of setting this genius free to evolve into a winner. Personally, I have gained immensely by going through the stories put forth by the author. I commend him for coming out with this book which, I am sure, will benefit the readers immensely.

All in all, the book serves a wonderful means for anyone interested in bringing out the  best in himself by shaping up his managerial and leadership abilities.

PS: For knowing more about the author, you may go through his website at URL: www.prakashiyer.com

Note: This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at BlogAdda.com.

The Beginning of the Joyfest – A Festival with a Difference

It all started more than 2 years ago when I received a mail from Mrs. Rashmi Bansal, owner of the JAM Magazine and the author of several best-selling titles on entrepreneurship, asking me if Symbiosis Institute of Operations Management (SIOM) could participate in an initiative for the social welfare. It was not just about donation. Rather, it was about giving our time, our attention and more importantly our hearts and souls. And the real pleasure was in deriving the joy from ‘giving’. The initiative was named as ‘Joyfest’ and it was a part of the national movement called ‘Joy of Giving Week’.

I dropped a line to our Director Dr. Vandana Sonwaney to know her opinion on this initiative. And as usual, she was more than willing to extend her full support to make this noble initiative successful. I along with my class-mate Salil Bansal discussed several options with our Director. Finally, we zeroed in on the thought of launching Cleanliness drive in Nashik’s Panchvati area as it was surveyed by our seniors to be one of the dirtiest areas. And this marked the beginning of the first edition of Joyfest at my alma mater.

In order to spread the message of keeping the city clean and to inspire the people to be more responsible towards the society and the environment, we launched an intensive cleanliness drive in Nashik under the banner of Joyfest on September 28, 2009. Municipal Corporation of Nashik lent its full support to us by providing the necessary things like brooms, garbage trolleys, gloves etc. to carry-out this drive. On the festive day of Dussehra, we carried out the cleanliness drive around the Ram-kund area, the main pilgrimage site in Nashik. Dr. Vandana herself volunteered in this drive along with the students of the institute to lead by example. This is how SIOM volunteered in this initiative to become a member-college of this movement.

Year after year, students volunteer themselves in the Joyfest to extend their helping hands to the society with the continued support from their respective institutes. In the form of Joyfest, the youth population of this Nation has got a chance to use the power of collective action to make a ‘big’ difference to the society. I am sure even this year during the Joy of Giving Week i.e. from Oct 2 to Oct 8, student support will pour in large numbers to bring smiles on the faces of many more people of the country and take this initiative to new heights.

Attrition Effect: Has the Time Arrived to Link Attrition to Performance?

Attrition has been a cause of worry for the Indian IT companies for quite some time now. Last financial year (FY11) saw the attrition in almost every major Indian IT company going up significantly when compared to the preceding year. With the demand for IT services going up, in absence of poaching agreements with rivals unlike Indian Telecom firms, it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult for the IT companies to retain the talent.

I happened to compile the attrition figures of Indian IT majors over the past few years. For IT biggies, the attrition has hovered mostly between 10-15% in the past few years. Here is what the figures look like:

FY11

17.0 %

14.4 %

24.7 %*

-

FY10

13.4 %

11.8 %

13.6 %

15.7 %

FY09

11.1 %

11.4 %

13.2 %

13.0 %

FY08

13.4 %

12.6 %

16.8 %

15.2 %

FY07

13.7 %

10.6 %

-

 -

FY06

11.2 %

-

-

 -
Notes: Infosys attrition figures exclude its subsidiaries; TCS attrition figures take into account both its IT services as well as BPO business but excludes its subsidiaries CMC, e-Serve & Diligenta; Wipro attrition figures include involuntary attrition and correspond to only its IT Services excluding BPO Operations, Indian IT Operations & Other Overseas subsidiaries. For FY11, Wipro has not yet released the overall attrition figures comprising of involuntary attrition, therefore, an estimated 2% involuntary attrition has been added to the voluntary attrition of 22.7% to make the figures comparable.

 

Here goes the graphical representation of the above figures. Clearly, HCL and Wipro have witnessed high attrition when compared to their rival IT majors in the past few years.

Wipro has been the worst affected with attrition amongst the top-tier Indian IT companies and it has witnessed the attrition becoming almost double when compared to preceding financial year. Attrition has become one of the major causes of worry for the IT major in the fiercely competitive marketplace. In order to overcome it, in a first of its kind initiative, Wipro has decided to add attrition as one of the key metrics to calculate the quantum of variable pay. It has gone ahead with linking 20% of the quarterly performance linked incentive to attrition for the senior and mid management.

Although many IT companies have laid many stringent norms like increasing the notice-period to 3 months and strict adherence to this in terms of not allowing anyone to leave the company before serving this mandatory period from the date of resignation. However, even these have not helped the companies to a large extent. Neither do these measures are going to help the companies in the long run.

Wipro’s initiative of linking senior and mid-level management employees’ variable pay to attrition has set the ball rolling for other IT companies to follow the suit. Only time will tell if Wipro’s model of linking attrition with performance drives the point home and if it gets replicated in the IT industry.

Is it Right Time for Facebook to float an IPO?

Facebook, with a base of over 650 million active users, continues to be the top-notch social networking site. The term ‘active user’ in context of Facebook implies a user who has logged in to the site in the last 30 days. More than 250 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices with a level of activity twice that of non-mobile users. Other social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn etc. lag much behind Facebook in terms of the user base and its engagement. Twitter, for instance, has just over 200 million registered users and Linkedin just over 100 million registered users.

Let’s now take a peep into some amazing facts about Facebook (Source: Facebook):

  • About 50% of the active users of Facebook log on to the site in any given day
  • An average user on Facebook has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups & events
  • An average user creates 90 pieces of content including links, news / updates, photo albums, notes etc. every month
  • Facebook users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on it

I happened to compile information on some of the parameters for Facebook as well as its nearest rivals viz. LinkedIn and Twitter. Here is what I could gather as a comparative analysis:

Launch Year 2004 2003 2006
Minimum Age for Registration 13 years 18 years None
Number of Users 650 million+ 100 million+ 200 million+
Employee Strength 2000+ 1000+ 550+
Available in Languages Over 75 languages including Hindi, Punjabi & many other regional langauges English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Turkish
Office in India Hyderabad Mumbai None
Alexa Rank 2 16 9

If we were to go by the Facebook monitoring site Inside Facebook, Facebook has lost users in the some of the regions including in the key countries like US and UK. Facebook has been quick to deny this. However, it has been widely acknowledged in many reports that the rate of growth of Facebook user base is not as good as it used to be in the year 2010. This brings us to the question if it is the right time for Facebook to go public & get listed by floating an IPO?

Last month, LinkedIn became the first major social networking company to go public and its shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “LNKD”. Its huge success can be gauged from the fact that LinkedIn shares more than doubled in value on the very first day of the trading itself. It has paved the way for other social networking companies to follow the suit.

Presently, Facebook terms of registration restrict a person from using Facebook if he/she is under 13 in line with age limit dictated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act which was made Federal Law in America in 1998. However, Facebook founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants the social networking site to let children under the age of 13 use it and he is willing to fight to get the law changed. Probably, this is an extra mile Facebook might be willing to go when the growth is becoming sluggish. Going by these events, the day should not be far when we would also see Facebook going public.

Will Mobile Number Portability Trigger Consolidation?

India’s mobile subscriber base crossed 771 million by the end of Jan 2011. With around 20 million mobile users added every month, by now we must have already crossed the figure of 800 million subscribers. The market share of major Indian telecom players at the end of Jan’11 stood as given in the following figure:

Mobile Number Portability (MNP) was launched in India on January 20, 2011. Just 12 days of MNP during Jan’11 have thrown a different set of statistics. While some of the telecom operators viz. Videocon and HFCL have witnessed negative net addition in the wireless subscriber base (GSM + CDMA) during Jan, some large telecom operators viz. Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance have made substantial gains. This can be adjudged from the fact that these three large telecom operators, which used to together constitute about 40-42% of the net additions prior to the launch of MNP, witnessed sharp rise in this percentage and constituted over 50% of the net additions in the Jan subscriber base. It remains to be seen as to what the statistics will look like when Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) releases the figures for Feb’11, a first complete month of MNP in effect. If we were to go by these trends, this phenomenon may be even more pronounced for subsequent months, more so when the consumers become increasingly more aware. After all, the barrier to change the existing telecom operator is as low as Rs. 19.

I have captured the month-wise percentage net addition of subscribers for the various Indian telecom players for a three-month period starting from Nov’10 to Jan’11 in the following figure:

Now, is this a signal of the consolidation for the Indian Telecom Industry? Only the time will answer this question. Quality of service (QoS) is presumably the major differentiator for users to hop from one service provider to another.  The Indian telecom players are already grappling with the falling average revenue per user (ARPU). In a fiercely competitive Indian telecom marketplace, it is very difficult for the small players to invest significantly into improving their QoS levels when the margins are already under pressure. Mobile number portability, as it appears, has only added to their woes. If things were to continue in this fashion, the time is not far when we will see a wave of consolidation in the Indian Telecom Industry.

Do We Have the Freedom to Protect our Privacy?

Today is our Independence Day – the very day when we got our so called freedom from the British rule. But the question which still remains unanswered is – Do we actually have the freedom? Probably, Indian constitution doesn’t give us the right to freedom to protect our privacy, but it doesn’t mean that anyone can intrude into one’s personal life. We continue to witness an all-out assault on our privacy. This holds more so for popular people like Shashi Thaoor.

Day before yesterday, Shashi Tharoor, former Union Minister of State for External Affairs, got miffed after seeing his wedding card being flashed by some TV channels even before those could be received by his near and dear ones. This was a real example of how media could go to any extent to intrude someone’s privacy so as to gain high TRP ratings. Media has openly published & publicised Shashi Tharoor’s marriage & reception dates and also even e-mail sent to family & friends without seeking his consent. This is what Mr. Tharoor had to write on Twitter:

Horrified: 2 channels r telecasting purloined copies of my wedding invitation cards b4 friends have even recvd them. Has our media no decency?

This is nothing new for him. Even few days back Mr. Tharoor had to vent out his anger against publication of his personal pictures:

U never get used to loss of privacy. Unhappy to see personal pix, never intended for publication, in the newspapers this week. Frustrating

Mr. Tharoor hadn’t given permission to PTI to take his pictures as mentioned by him on his twitter handle. But, probably these pics were sold to PTI by one photographer who was surreptitiously following him.

The whole issue boils down to Ethics. In India, we have close to 1.2 billion people and everyone has to earn his livelihood one way or the other.  The problem comes when someone gets paid for intruding someone’s privacy. Even Aamir Khan productions’ recent movie ‘Peepli Live’ also highlighted this very issue, though in a humorous way.

Sometimes, we have to forgo our privacy for the sake of National interest. National interest should override the individual interest in such cases. Government interception of mails & phone conversations for obvious security concerns falls under that category. But whenever there is no national interest involved, then intruding someone’s policy, I believe, is no less than a crime.

Ethics involve decision-making at three levels viz. at individual, organisation and business system levels. Problems that result from accepted media practices cannot be effectively addressed by any single media house. These are difficult for one media house to change single-handedly, because the company is constrained by competition with possibly less ethical competitors. So, a change needs to come at the level of business system itself wherein the media industry itself sets its standards so that privacy intrusion issues are significantly reduced, if not completely eliminated.

JAI HIND!

Problems Galore and No Problem has a Simple Solution!!!

Everyone in this world has his own problems. Even before taking the birth, a human-being start creating the problems in the womb of the mother. The problems are bound to originate. Where there are humans, there are problems. If I talk in the language of Mathematics, I would say that there can be four possibilities: A complex problem and a complex solution, a complex problem and a simple solution, a simple problem and a complex solution and finally a simple problem and a simple solution. The irony is that none of the human problems has a simple solution. May be we make the problems so complicated that it becomes difficult to find the solution or may be we are not willing to settle for the simpler solutions.

Day before yesterday I was having a talk with one of my friends whose father is planning to wed her sometime soon. Interestingly, her problem looked simple at the first instance as she was ready to go for the arranged marriage, but when she started narrating her constraints I thought even her problem was not as simple as I initially thought it to be. Let’s have peek into my conversation with her:

I: Saw your college pics yesterday… you were looking quite slim! :)

Friend: Oh… thanks! BTW, I look good now also nah?

I: Yeah…definitely! (With sarcasm)

I: So, when will you get married?

Friend: Probably by Jan 2011.

I: Oh… that’s great. Abhi ladke ko khojna hai ya dhoond liya hai?

Friend: Yaar! Abhi dhoondna hai. Mera BF nahi hai… But there was one guy who wanted to propose me… Is se pehle ki vo mujhe propose karta, maine use bhaga diya.

I: Whatttt? Why?

Friend: Because he was not tall… and I like tall guys.

I: Oh… is it? (I started thinking about my height and thought that at “5 ft 8.5 in” I didn’t stand any chance even if I wished to)

Friend: Are yaar kuch din pehle mere dad ek 6’6″ ladke ko le aaye… Main to uske saamne bachchi lag rahi thi…

Friend: And you know, one family came yesterday to see me. Aur ladka mere se pooch raha tha ki vo mujhe kaisa laga…

I: What did you say then?

Friend: I told him that I have just seen him. Aur vo bolta hai “har roz meri photo ko dekha karo… apne aap achcha lagna shuru ho jaunga”… What nonsense? I can’t marry such guys!

I: Of course! Definitely not!

And then she mentioned a whole lot of mind-boggling other constraints also! I said to myself, “Leave alone humans, even God will find it difficult to solve such kind of complex problems!”. I am freely putting this conversation that I had with a friend of mine for the simple reason that she is not going to read my blog post as she is too busy looking to satisfy her objective function subject to her large number of constraints. And even if she does read, she won’t mind! :)

Let me narrate you another interesting piece. Some days back, I happened to get the reply for one of my questions from the famous playback singer Asha Bhosle. I posed the question to Lata Mangeshkar, along with the mention of her sister Asha Bhosle, as to why she didn’t follow her sister on Twitter. However, I got the reply from Asha Bhosle (See the following tweet conversation).

Asha Bhosle was very frank to admit the sour relationship with her sister. Her reply was in the form of an English version of a typical Hindi idiom “Ek miyan me do talwaren nahi reh sakti“. I liked the frankness in her response. However, if that has to be the case, I couldn’t understand as to why Asha Bhosle was following her sister Lata. May be Asha Bhosle wants to keep a vigil on the tweets of her didi. Whatever the case be, it’s none of my business. But one thing is for sure that there are certainly problems in the relationship between the two sisters.

The God created the complex humans and humans in turn created the complex problems and even complex solutions. We need to change our perception about our problems if we have to handle them effectively and find an amicable solution.

The way we see the problem is the problem. ~ Stephen R. Covey

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