Sunday, September 23, 2012
‘Counter Strike: The untold story of America’s secret campaign against Al Qaeda’ by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Bhang vs. liquor
"Does talaq pronounced in a state of intoxication throw out the wife? Well, the matter turns first of all the substance by taking which the husband has got intoxicated. If it is hemp (bhang) then, hold several jurists as well as law books like Fatawa-i-Qazi Khan, the pronouncement does not end the marriage. They give two sorts of reasons for this view: they reason first that, while liquor is prohibited by Islam and therefore a man consuming it ought to be made to suffer the consequences of his action, bhang is not prohibited and so such a severe punishment – of the man losing his wife – should not be visited upon him; second, they reason that as a divorce pronounced by a man bereft of understanding – a minor, a lunatic – is not effective, talaq pronounced by a man who has temporarily lost his understanding because of bhang is not to be given effect to. But other law books – Fatawa-i-Alamgiri being the foremost – argue the opposite: consumption of bhang too has become so widespread, they say, that it too needs to be discouraged and therefore, divorce pronounced under its influence, exactly like that under the influence of liquor, is to be final. Another law book – Al-Bahr Al-Raiq – goes in for finer differentiation: if bhang has been taken for pleasure, the divorce is effective; if it has been taken as a medicine, it is not.'
"What if the husband is intoxicated not from bhang, but from liquor? Does talaq pronounced in that state throw out the wife? The law varies over the entire spectrum – from 'No, never,' through 'Depends,' to 'Yes, invariably' – and the distinctions which the Islamic jurists make are fine as can be."
(pp. 430-1, 'The World of Fatwas or the Shariah in Action' by Arun Shourie – Harper)
"There is a superstition in
"There are many methods of removing the curse. We paid for the services of one of the village women who was reputed to be an expert in these matters. She sat Joshua on the green picnic table in our garden and lit a small fire beside it. Chanting in Konkani, the local language, she then waved handfuls of red chillies in circles in front of his face before moving her hands all over his body, as if cleansing it of the infection. The chillies were flung into the fire. More chanting accompanied by more ritual cleansing movements with herbal leaves and lemons followed, with the woman paying special attention to the eyes. Josh was thrilled at all the attention, but nothing changed."
(p. 133, 'The Book of Joshua' by Tanya Mendonsa – Harper)
Find your passion
"Lisa Ryan, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Heyman Associates based in
"I have known Lisa for several years and she is my gold standard for Executive Search and counsel. I can always trust Lisa to call it like it is. No nonsense, just 100 percent objective advice.'
"'I absolutely believe that people need to find their passion. It doesn't come automatically for most. I think it's something you develop over time. Passion comes through and that's what our clients look for. If you enjoy what you're doing, it shows. It's contagious,' said Lisa.''
"Lisa added, 'People want to work for that kind of person. I can sense it almost automatically with potential candidates. Often, I flat out ask them, 'What is your passion?' Many people are taken aback, but I just sit back and let them think about it. When they think about it, they can articulate what it is and how they've worked towards it. Most people think you just want to talk about skills, but it's so much more than that. It's all about the intangibles that are more important. Of course, you need the skills, but at some point you know you can do the job; it's more about 'Is this where I want to be?' It is about passion and chemistry.' Lisa also shared with me that finding one's passion does not happen overnight for many people.'
"Commented Lisa, 'Personally, I didn't know what my passion was, but I had a father who instilled in my sister and me the belief that we could do anything. He always said, 'Try it, you may hate it, but at least you tried it.' He also believed women could be in senior-level positions.'"
(pp. 24-5, 'Daddy's Logic: Live a life of no limits, no excuses, no regrets' by Anthony A. Rose – TMH)
Left to chance
"There are CEOs who swear that they hire based on their gut reaction. Then there are companies that have detailed interviews that run into twenty to thirty rounds before they hire someone. There are companies like Google whose hiring method has spawned thousands of posts on the net and several books because Google receives a million job applications a year and hires only one of every 130 people interviewed.'
"Hiring is complex. We may hire the wrong person and worse still we may actually reject the right candidate. Twelve publishers are said to have rejected J. K. Rowling's manuscript of Harry Potter that went on to sell 400 million copies and made Rowling richer than the Queen of England. This is a perfect example of rejecting the right candidate!'
"I am sure you have your share of stories about unusual questions that were asked in an interview or about an answer that stumped the interview panel. There is a certain mystique about the hiring process especially since most people who make hiring decisions have never been trained in interviewing skills. So everyone follows his own recipe. The result is that the outcome is entirely left to chance."
(p. 33, 'Don't Hire the Best: An essential guide to picking the right team' by Abhijit Bhaduri – Harper)
Monday, September 10, 2012
The other way
"For thirty years, each concession, each relaxation of standards, the inclusion of each new caste in the reservations list has been decreed with just one thing in mind – the vote banks to whom 'the right signal' needs to be sent. The progressive judge can't be bothered, indeed he sees merit in this pandering to the newly risen. 'Sometimes it is obliquely suggested,' we are instructed in Vasanth Kumar, 'that expressive reservation is indulged in as a mere vote catching device. Perhaps so, perhaps not. One can only say 'out of evil cometh good' and quicker the redemption of the oppressed classes, so much the better for the nation…''
"And that is of a piece. Our political class just throws a concession at some group, it just throws funds at some problem or region, and proclaims itself to be the champion of the poor and neglected. In states such as
(p. 347, 'Falling Over Backwards: An essay against reservations and against judicial populism' by Arun Shourie – Harper)
On the granite floor of the global market
"War is an Aquaguard salesman
He stands on the street across your building
And looks up at your flat with the absorption of a gravedigger
Who's trying to estimate what size holes will be needed
In the event that you and your kin consume rat poison
To spare you the ignominy of impending eviction
When you committed to that thirty-year home mortgage
You thought the future would honour the hopes you'd hoisted on it
The future turned out to be a soapy floor
With no neon sign warning you to tread carefully
You were sliding along smoothly
Till you slipped and cracked your destiny's hip
On the granite floor of the global market
That prowls the planet like an addict
Seeking the next cut-rate labour hit.'
"The Africans are the new drug of choice
The Asians can have their backlit toys
By the time they notice
They'll have become the new Americans
Hooked to newness
Needing too many things of too little uses…"
(pp. 76-7, 'Ministry of Hurt Sentiments' by Altaf Tyrewala – Harper)
Sunday, September 9, 2012
"Dendrimers are categorised as macromolecules. A molecule is labelled as macromolecule based on its size. In Greek, macros means large. The word, macromolecule, was first coined by Staudinger to refer to molecules with molecular weight higher than 10,000. Macromolecules receive significant attention due to their unique chemical as well as material properties. Also, bio-macromolecules, such as carbohydrates, proteins and nucleic acids, play vital role in our lives. Nonetheless, systematic studies of structure-property relations are lacking in many important macromolecular systems. Since macromolecules are relatively larger in size compared to other organic molecules, the size range falls into the 'nano' regime, whereas the size of small organic molecules fall in 'angstrom' size range (an order of magnitude less than nano). Thus, macromolecules constitute 'nano' organic systems, having numerous applications in material chemistry. Until early 1980s, chemists were familiar with different types of polymeric systems as synthetic macromolecules, where each monomer was added to the backbone of the polymer chain to form a large structure of linear assembly. Later, another class of macromolecules was developed in laboratories, where the 'monomers' were added to one core unit with further possibility of branching out to the periphery in a globular fashion. They were structurally different from conventional polymers, and were associated with certain distinct properties. A scientist, named Donald A. Tomalia from USA, named this class of molecules as 'dendrimers' due to their resemblance with highly-branched trees ('dendros' in Greek means 'branch or tree' and 'meros' means 'part'). While the origin of dendrimers was received with much scepticism among scientists, it was later proved beyond doubt that they can be efficiently synthesised in chemical laboratories and can be characterised with routine spectroscopic techniques, such as NMR, Mass and IR."
(pp. 475-6, 'A Textbook of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology' by T. Pradeep – TMH)
Future scope of FSO
"The next generation of wireless communication systems, the 4G systems will not be based on a single access technique, but it will have a number of different complementary access technologies to cater to the broadband multimedia requirements. It is envisaged that the future systems will not only connect users and their personal equipment but also have access to independent stand-alone equipment. Ultimately one would expect that everybody and everything will be wirelessly connected at all time and at all places. This scenario makes short-range communications more dominant and prevalent as the core network is already wired and available. In addition, these links will have to have high data throughputs with distances covering from a few kilometres down to sub-metre for WLANs, WPANs to WBANs, i.e. the wireless body area network. We see optical wireless communications to have a part to play in this wider 4G vision. The wireless optical channel has complementary characteristics to RF. It can in many situations, in order to improve the performance and capability of RF, add to and not replace RF in 4G wireless system. The FSO (Free Space Optical) technology has matured now and is commercially viable to be used for establishing an optical backbone network, for extending and enhancing existing networks, and to be used in access segment. It offers broadband connectivity presently from 1.5 Mbps up to 4.0 Gbps with the advantage of being able to set up in short time and is a re-deployable solution. Both wireless and wireline carriers have tested and approved the technology for use in their networks, i.e. AT&T."
(p. 11, 'Terrestrial Wireless Optical Communication' by Devi Chadha – TMH)
"Poojya Guruji did not like traffic jams.'
"In his discourses he often spoke of the flow of life and the necessity of living in sync with the divinely ordained flow that formed a backdrop to all lives. In the more congenial environs of
"He wasn't sure if the loud shouts of paapaan were exuberant greetings or something worse. The acolyte seated in front had a grim look about him.'
"'What are they saying?''
"'Poojya Guruji, I think they've noticed our saffron robes. Paapaan is a derogatory term for Brahmin.''
"'Do people here always make so much noise? Are we safe?''
"'I don't think they would actually do anything. They like to imitate local film stars but it's mostly bark rather than bite. But better we play safe and smile and wave at them.''
"This Poojya Guruji did, his lack of enthusiasm concealed by the tinted windows. His wave provoked another round of whistles and cheers. He waved nervously again and was rewarded with cheers once more. One group got out from a bus and began dancing on the road. Their movements bore the influence of alcohol. They beat out a cheerful tattoo on Poojya Guruji's car to accompany their moves. This did nothing to further Poojya Guruji's sense of calm and general well-being. His features settled into a fixed look that his followers would have recognised."
(pp. 196-7, 'The
"Time flies. But memories linger. They loiter about listlessly as faithful servants of the mind, eager to spring forth at the faintest acknowledgement of their existence. Memories are poignant and helpless reminders that lurk in the weeds of our thoughts, swelling to all powerful proportions when evoked.'
"It is said that the burden of old age lies not in our physical frailties, but in our memories which come to chastise us for not having seized the moment when we had the chance.'
"Memories are silken threads, weaving one moment to the next, on life's tapestry. They feed our imagination and liberate us. Yet they bind us to an irretrievable past. The measure of our lives lies indeed not just in what we have chosen to remember and celebrate but also in what we have chosen to forget."
(pp. 51-2, '3 Lives in Search of Bliss' by Srini Chandra)
Will by a Muslim testator
"Mohammedan Law limits the power of bequests to 1/3 of the net assets. The 2/3 must, in any case be distributed according to the rules of intestacy. The will is prominently referred to as wasiyyat in Mohammedan law. In simple words, a Muslim male cannot will away more than 1/3rd of his estate, i.e. 2/3rd of the property must be divided among the family members in the shares, as laid down in The Shariat Act, 1937. Mohammedan Law gives the male heirs, the sons, twice the share of daughters. There is a provision that heirs of a Muslim testator may consent to bequest in excess to 1/3rd of testator's assets. A Muslim is fully competent to change his Will during his life time or cancel any legacy. A Will made by a Muslim testator may be treated as void, if a testator after making a Will, turns out to be of unsound mind and continues to be so till his death."
(p. 10, 'Making a Will Made Easy' by V. K. Verma – Macmillan)
"Often one has certain warning signs right 'under one's nose,' so to speak, which one tends to overlook either because of following the herd or sheer indifference. Two such obvious signs are bubbles and depressions.'
"Investors fail to recognise bubbles in spite of the situation staring them 'in the face.' During bubbles, asset prices are at such inflated levels that cash flows do not justify the prices. One would have to stretch one's imagination to figure out where the returns will come from. Almost all bubbles, at peaks, will price shares of companies at the profit expected at least five years in the future. What these figures imply is that the bubble will continue to grow forever! Similarly, property bubbles are there for everyone to see, but guess who gets caught – you! When property prices are driven by liquidity and not supported by real cash flows of property buyers, then there is a bubble. When property bubbles burst, they take years to correct. In the meanwhile, EMIs have to be paid on property values that may have halved. Property developers, who have taken money from you, will default on loans to banks. Typically, large developers will have political and criminal connections and would have stashed away their ill-gotten wealth while defaulting on loans. However, when you default on your loan, banks will come down heavily on you. In spite of bubbles appearing so often in the past and teaching investors a lesson, when the next one appears, investors make the same mistakes and get caught in the bubble thereby suffering financial losses."
(p. 81, 'The Rich Investor: How to avoid common investing mistakes and build wealth' by Arjun Parthasarathy – Vision)
Monday, September 3, 2012
"Ousep is startled by the laments of women. There are about twenty of them, village women, who stand in a swarm on the other side of the road, behind the wooden barricade. They are facing the fasting ringleader, the man who has the table fan beside him. They are beating their breasts and wailing, but they also show the mild wonder of recent arrival. They cry in a distracted way, throwing glances all around, even looking up at the sky, though they know it very well. They are in tattered saris, blouseless, their hair tangled in brown dirt. Most of them are old, some are very young, but in a bestial way. Their wails are composed of the same three words, which probably have no meaning when not delivered in a dirge. They keep kissing the tips of their fingers. It is as if they are begging for food from a man who is fasting to death. But then a woman shows him a banana and it is now clear that they are asking him to eat, they are begging him not to starve to death. They are probably from his village. Someone must have told them that a son of their soil has decided to sacrifice his life for the Tamil cause. So the gang of malnourished women have descended to dissuade this man, whose full belly sits on his lap as if it is something dear to him. He looks at the women with valiant gloom, and their laments grow. He is probably trying to suppress a laugh now, so his face turns more serious. Then, in a master stroke, he turns the table fan towards the women. In the burst of air the women break into giggles. They try to cry again but their lungs are tired now, and they soon fall silent. They sit on the road and start chatting among themselves.'
"All this will go one day, this animal poverty, it will vanish. And future generations will not know, will not even guess, the true nature of poverty, which is the longest heritage of man. Shouldn't this be preserved somehow, like old colonial buildings, shouldn't abject poverty be preserved as historical evidence? That is what socialists are trying to do in this country. Everybody misunderstands their intentions. They are noble conservationists, working hard to preserve a way of the world."
(pp. 70-1, 'The Illicit Happiness of Other People' by Manu Joseph – Harper)
"It was Friday and I could only apply for my South African visa early the following week. So when I got a call from Kitch asking if I could spend a day or two with him in Chennai, I jumped at the offer. He wanted me and a few other friends to be mystery diners at his three restaurants – Kitcha Hut, Kitcha Inn and Kitcha Corner. I was quite excited about indulging in this rather novel experience. The idea was to act like a regular customer and use the opportunity to observe how well or badly the system functioned, something the owner himself might not know since employees tend to behave differently in the presence of their employer. Mina was still in
"On the flight to Chennai, I noticed the airhostess paying particular attention to a passenger sitting on my right. I took a closer look. It was Shankar Mahadevan! I started. What a coincidence! It was just a few days ago that my client told me he had signed him up for a film and now here he was. I was a fan of Shankar's and was glad to have a chance to tell him that. The last time I was with a celebrity on a flight was when Katrina Kaif sat next to me on a flight from
(pp. 113-4, 'Corporate Carnival' by P. G. Bhaskar – Harper)
‘Fundamentals of Financial Instruments: An introduction to stock, bonds, foreign exchange, and derivatives’ by Sunil Parameswaran
"The term treasury stock refers to shares that were at one point in time issued to the public but that have subsequently been reacquired by the firm.'
"These shares are held by the company and can subsequently be reissued, if and when employees were to exercise their stock options. Unlike the shares issued by the firm that are held by the shareholders, treasury shares have no voting rights, are ineligible for dividends, and are not included in the denominator used for computation of the earnings per share (EPS).'
"Why do companies repurchase shares? One motivation could be that the directors of the firm are of the opinion that the market is undervaluing the stock, and they would like to prop up the share price by creating greater demand. For a given level of profitability a buyback program will increase the earnings per share. And if the dividends per share (DPS) were to be kept constant, it will also reduce the total amount of dividends that the company needs to declare. Buyback is also a potent tool for fighting a potential takeover by corporate raiders. By reducing the shares in circulation, the current management can acquire greater control.'
"There are also situations in which a company is generating a lot of cash but is unable to identify profitable avenues for investment or is unable to identify projects with a positive net present value (NPV). One way to deal with such a situation is by declaring an extraordinary dividend. But in many countries cash dividends are taxed at the hands of the shareholder at the normal income tax rate, which could be significant for investors in higher tax brackets. On the other hand, if an investor were to sell her shares back to the firm at a price that is higher than what she paid to acquire them, the profits will be construed as capital gains, which in most countries are taxed at a lower rate."
(pp. 107-8, 'Fundamentals of Financial Instruments: An introduction to stock, bonds, foreign exchange, and derivatives' by Sunil Parameswaran – Wiley)
"From the 1980s on, ATMs and their manufacture became big business, and the industry is currently dominated by American companies, from IBM to NCR. The ATM market is global and continues to grow across various regions, from Asia/Pacific to Europe and
"ATMs were the first big step towards large-scale automation in the services industry. The success of the cash machines signalled to businesses everywhere just how much more efficient it was to have customers serve themselves. With the introduction of ATMs, the requirement for bank tellers to work business hours was suddenly eliminated, and the way was cleared for other services to follow suit. Nowadays, one can pay bills, take out small loans and transfer credit, all at a street-level ATM kiosk.'
"A recent trial in the
(pp. 121-2, '50 Best Business Ideas that Changed the World' - Ed: Ian Wallis - Jaico
Sunday, September 2, 2012
"Icelanders – or at any rate Icelandic men – had their own explanations for why, when they leapt into global finance, they broke world records: the natural superiority of Icelanders. Because they were small and isolated, it had taken 1,100 years for them – and the world – to understand and exploit their natural gifts, but now that the world was flat and money flowed freely, unfair disadvantages had vanished.
"'We were always told that the Icelandic businessmen were so clever,' says university finance professor and former banker Vilhjálmur Bjarnason. 'They were very quick. And when they bought something they did it very quickly. Why was that? That is usually because the seller is very satisfied with the price.''
"You didn't need to be Icelandic to join the cult of the Icelandic banker. German banks put $21 billion into Icelandic banks. The
"Maybe because there are so few Icelanders in the world, we know next to nothing about them. We assume they are more or less Scandinavian – a gentle people who just want everyone to have the same amount of everything. They are not. They have a feral streak in them, like a horse that's just pretending to be broken."
(pp. 22-3, 'Boomerang: The meltdown tour' by Michael Lewis - Landmark)
"Mrado analysed. There are people who can lie. Dupe. Fool anyone. Stand up against cops, prosecutors, and lawyers in interrogation after interrogation. Even stand up against guys like Mrado. Maybe they believe their own stories. Maybe they're just extremely good actors. Other people try to lie and it shows right away. Their eyes shoot up to the left, a sign that they're making things up. They blush. Sweat. Contradict themselves. Miss details. Or the opposite: try to be calm. Pretend it's raining. Speak slowly. But it shows. They're too confident. Their stories are too sweeping, too big picture. They sit abnormally still. Seem too secure in their statements.'
"He knew them all. Paola didn't belong to any of these. Mrado'd been in the protection-racket business long enough. Had squeezed juice out of people. Forced them to show him where the cash was stashed, how much blow they'd dealt, where they were delivering their moonshine, how many johns they'd had. Held his gun to people's temples, in their mouths, against their cocks. Asked for answers. Appraised their answers. Forced answers. He was an expert at answers.'
"Mrado checked her hands. Not her face. He knew people control their mugs, but not their bodies. Hands speak the truth.'
"Paola wasn't lying."
(pp. 147-8, 'Easy Money' by Jens Lapidus - Landmark)
‘The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the way you work to succeed in the consumer revolution’ by Brian Solis
"Brands can use search tools to find potentially influential targets for engagement, but that's not enough. Conversing with anyone and everyone may satisfy certain individuals, but the need to scale conversations to reach the appropriate audience around meaningful topics requires a more sophisticated approach. Businesses can no longer broadcast what they believe are desirable messages to the masses. They must instead survey the customer landscape to identify themes, opportunities, and understand how customers are forming and segmenting markets. Doing so surfaces customer wants and preferences, but perhaps most notably, the way they find and share information. And for those businesses that are paying attention, the connected customers and influential voices who influence customers will also materialise. By identifying and potentially aligning with these highly connected individuals, businesses can more effectively reach their customers. Rather than the traditional one-to-many approach of paid or earned media, influential individuals offer a one-to-one-to-many network within which brand reach is greatly amplified.'
"It's not just about reach, however. Because individuals are connecting with one another in personal networks, trust, authority, and relationships factor into how information is received and internalised. Needless to say, there's greater value in a message derived from someone held in high regard. These influential individuals can take the form of experts, tastemakers, peers, or topical authorities who are active within networks of relevance in which customers are engaged."
(pp. 86-7, 'The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the way you work to succeed in the consumer revolution' by Brian Solis - Landmark)
"Starbucks embarked on the creation of what it calls a 'third space,' a place between home and work. In effect, it was opening up the possibility that people might entertain private behaviours in public spaces, that they might relax and work at a café without being self-conscious. Previously, people who were sitting around in public were seen to be loitering. Starbucks was trying to refashion the rules of public life.'
"This is a Culturematic. In the early days, no one could be sure what was going to happen. What if 'undesirables' moved in and took over? What if paying customers were driven out? What if Starbucks damaged its brand? The third-space notion was a risky proposition. Starbucks knew it wanted a third space, but not whether this idea would work, how it would work, or what it would look like. The company would know it only when it got there.'
"Many are called to the status of a Culturematic, but few are chosen. The world is filled with things that look Culturematic-ish. As the book proceeds, I will distinguish between half-matics, full-matics, and no-matics at all."
(p. 53, 'Culturematic' by Grant McCracken - Landmark)
"One of the most exciting and successful campaigns of my career was developed and executed by TSA. We had been appointed by Gujarat Oil Growers Federation (GROFED) at Ahmedabad for handling the launch of their mustard oil, Arati.
"Kamalika was assigned the campaign and she came up with the idea of 'Molten Gold,' since mustard oil has a golden colour and gold is the purest metal. The ad claimed that it was buying molten gold at Rs 28 as that was the price of a litre of Arati mustard oil. The team decided that the message had to be delivered with an impact beyond the regular media thrust. We thought of various means, till someone in the team suggested going for a teaser campaign and to which I suggested, taking the route Satyajit Ray had taken for the launch of his film Goopi Gayen Bagha Bayen, in which the city was plastered with the words 'GuGa BaBa?' Kamalika immediately scribbled out, 'Golani Shona Rs 28?' (Molten Gold @ Rs 28?) and a small posterette was designed with just these words. Basab Sarkar, our media head, was told to get some outdoor guys who could paste cinema posters, and one fine morning the entire city woke up to see the walls plastered with this message. Speculation began, everyone guessing, and like all good Bengalis, offering all kinds of explanations as to what this could mean. One local paper even suggested that it was a signal for gold prices to crash and how it will affect the gold market adversely. Bengali papers, I dare say, love to hype up anything they can lay their hands on and perhaps since this is what the populace feeds on (other than Tagore, Ray, Marxism and what have you), we actually had people talking about it in public transport and tea stalls."
(pp. 160-2, 'Life in a Rectangle' by Sujit Sanyal - Landmark)
"Interviewing needs time, focus, and lots of preparation. If one is undertaking lots of interviews one after the other, one must allow some time between the interviews to make notes, scribble down certain key words as aides memoire, to ensure that differentiation between interviews can be maintained effectively. Always make sure that you know who you are about to interview, what the purpose of the interview is; refresh your mind by quickly scanning the background papers. I jest not but it has been known to happen that, only some way into the interview, an interviewer suddenly realised that the interview was being conducted with the wrong person.'
"Always stay awake! It is hard at times. Especially when one is involved in a crazy schedule of undertaking say six interviews in one day, one after another with little time between interviews. Or when one is interviewing straight after a long distance flight with all the effects of jet lag, dehydration etc. But if you are interviewing, it is your responsibility, and only your responsibility, to ensure that you are awake and alert; anything else would be the height of discourtesy to the interviewee. It does happen. It has happened to me when I was being interviewed. It is the only time that I can recall when someone interviewing me almost fell asleep, and as many will attest I am fairly animated when I speak. The interviewer happened to be the CEO of Korn Ferry International at the time, who had just arrived that morning from the States. He had a sudden attack of jet lag and was visibly on the verge of dropping off, in fact did drop off for what amounted to a few seconds. It has nearly happened to me, but as I am so very awake I take evasive action the moment I think I am entering the danger zone. (Evasive action includes drinking water, changing sitting position, becoming even more active listener, writing notes, even suggesting a natural break). Whatever it takes, but stay awake and alert!"
(pp. 90-1, 'It's the People: What really drives great management and leadership' by John A. Dembitz - Landmark)
"Geeti's pictures in her profile clearly showed that she was still as enthusiastic about festivals and her excitement had proven contagious.'
"Sid was never particularly enthusiastic about taking family photographs, but this time in
"Geeti dreaded going through his albums, it was painful for her to see Sid in the role of a family man who had a world of his own. His arms flung around Anu, the way Anu stood clinging to him in most photographs…all this troubled her deep within. She thought to herself, why do they have to display such affection in public places and then upload it for others to see. She realised she was overreacting. But her mind would not stop… Why the hell does he want to share all this with me?! He is so devoid of feelings. On one hand, he chats with me behind his wife's back, and on the other hand, he leads a normal family life and sends me pictures of his marital bliss. She was baffled.'
"Sid looked very good in the pictures, mostly because after a long time he had genuinely felt like smiling, grinning and posing. And Anu, on her part, had made sure that he had stood close to her and held her tight. She had wanted to project the image of a happy couple to her own friends spread across the world, all keeping a tab on each other's lives through Facebook.'
"Geeti didn't know that although the pictures may have captured a few wonderful moments of Sid's recent vacation, it was she, and not his wife, who occupied his mind all the time."
(pp. 132-3, 'Romance on Facebook' by Amrita Priya - Landmark)
Saturday, September 1, 2012
Steve Jobs' design
"Pixar Animation Studios is set in an old Del Monte canning factory just north of
"But Jobs realised that it wasn't enough simply to create an airy atrium; he needed to force people to go there. Jobs began with the mailboxes, which he shifted to the lobby. Then he moved the meeting rooms to the centre of the building, followed by the cafeteria and coffee bar and gift shop. But that still wasn't enough, which is why Jobs eventually decided to locate the only set of bathrooms in the atrium. 'At first, I thought this was the most ridiculous idea,' says Darla Anderson, an executive producer on several Pixar films. 'I have to go to the bathroom every thirty minutes. I didn't want to have to walk all the way to the atrium every time I needed to go. That's just a waste of time. But Steve said, 'Everybody has to run into each other.' He really believed that the best meetings happened by accident, in the hallway or parking lot. And you know what? He was right. I get more done having a bowl of cereal and striking up a conversation or walking to the bathroom and running into unexpected people than I do sitting at my desk.' Brad Bird, the director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille, agrees: 'The atrium initially might seem like a waste of space… But Steve realised that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.''
"And it's not just the atrium; the atmosphere of interaction is evident all across the campus. When I visited the studio, during the final, frantic days of production on Toy Story 3, it seemed as if every common space echoed with conversation."
(pp. 149-150, 'Imagine: How creativity works' by Jonah Lehrer - Landmark)
"It was a curious set of circumstances that led the 'Nayagarh Incident' to have been almost entirely overlooked by history. Probably at any other place and on any other date, the purported landing of an alien spacecraft operated by sentient machines, supposedly witnessed by hundreds of people, would have quickly garnered worldwide attention. However, the landing occurred – or was claimed to have occurred – in a hilly, rural area of what was then the Princely State of Nayagarh on May 31, 1947, just three days before the announcement of the partitioning of
"And so, in stark contrast to the mysterious crash near Roswell, New Mexico only a month later, which has over the years become not just a darling of tabloid journalists and conspiracy theorists but an established part of contemporary American pop mythology, the Nayagarh Incident remains barely studied or publicised, in India or anywhere else, even as the last few people who claimed to have been eyewitnesses die out."
(p. 157, 'The Obliterary Journal' – Ed: Rakesh Khanna and Rashmi Ruth Devadasan - Landmark)
Electronic health records
"Each year, thousands of patient deaths are caused by avoidable medical errors in American hospitals. In 1999, the
"Adverse drug errors alone are estimated to harm 1.5 million people per year and kill several thousand, costing $3.5 billion annually. These medication missteps occur when prescriptions are hastily scribbled by a doctor – and then just as hastily read by a pharmacist. 'It seems self-evident that many, perhaps most, of the solutions to medical mistakes will ultimately come through better information technology,' said Dr Robert Wachter, chief of the UCSF Medical Centre in 2004.'
"In a $2 trillion industry (the largest in the
(pp. 118-9, 'The Wide Lens: A new strategy for innovation' by Ron Adner – Landmark)
‘Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? Fiendish puzzles and impossible interview questions from the world’s top companies’ By William Poundstone
"Blame the extraterrestrials for this style of interviewing. In 1950 the subject of flying saucers came up one day around lunchtime at
"'Edward, what do you think?' the physicist Enrico Fermi asked his tablemate Edward Teller. Was it possible that extraterrestrials were visiting the earth in spaceships? Teller judged it highly unlikely. Fermi was no so sure. He spent much of his lunch calculating how many extraterrestrial civilisations there were in the universe and how close the nearest one would be.'
"This was the classic 'Fermi question.' Back at the
"Today's employers have gotten the idea that everyone, including humanities graduates, should be able to estimate odd quantities on a job interview. (No one is expected to estimate weird things after they're hired.) These questions are today's riddle of the sphinx. They often determine who gets to pass from phone interview to the corporate campus. Some are loosely related to the company's line of business:'
"How many petrol stations are there in the
"But more often, there's no discernible connection:'
"How many rubbish collectors are there in
"Estimate the number of taxis in
"How many golf balls would fit in a stadium? (JP Morgan Chase)'
"Estimate the costs of producing a bottle of Gatorade (a
"How many vacuum cleaners are made a year? (Google)'
"An advantage of Fermi questions – for employers – is that it's easy to invent new ones. Thus the candidate can be presented with a fresh question that's never been in a book or on the web."
(pp. 108-9, 'Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? Fiendish puzzles and impossible interview questions from the world's top companies' By William Poundstone - Landmark)
Steps to re-invent
"The first step to re-invent is to break the mundane pattern. Bring some change to your routine. It is actually a very simple step. List exactly how you spend an average day. Try and break it. Here are a few things I did.'
"1. Don't go to work today. Just run off somewhere. What's the worst that can happen? You have got your scheduled leave anyway. Nobody is going to even miss you at the office. If the thought of jeopardising a customer meeting and work is stopping you, then trust me when I say this. Everything will go on as usual: probably better. Someone else will fill in your place or customers will be told to come some other day.'
"2. Stop thinking. It just slows down your brain (read someone's Facebook status). Just let go of the office emails, the blackberries or better still, switch off your cellphone. Tell them you have a serious emergency. Yes, it is an emergency – You want to get your life back in shape! It is a pretty serious situation.'
"3. Pick up your old photographs. Remember your college friends and family.'
"4. Do something that makes you smile. Eat a chocolate cake, or take a long hot shower, go for a workout, play, relax and be happy. Something that brings out the happiness hormone.'
"5. Enjoy the day as if it's the last day of your life.'
"6. Tell your spouse and children about your state of mind. Sometimes love is the only and the best medicine.'
"Why this list? Well, once we fall sick, don't we take rest and medicines? We pamper our body and mind to heal ourselves. That's exactly what we will attempt here. Something is not right. To set it right, you need to heal your mind and body. But this cannot be planned, it should be spontaneous. Otherwise it's the same mechanical vacation or a planned time out. This is not the same as going for a tennis match on a weekend, or to the movies or a vacation with the family. This is impromptu, to be done on a weekday so as to break your pattern. Take a day or two more if you can. You have to bring out that happiness hormone or else you will not move to the next stage – and it's easy. FREE YOUR MIND!"
(pp. 166-7, 'Plunnge: Reinvention for the new generation' by Rakesh Godhwani – Landmark)
‘All Business is Local: Why place matters more than ever in a global, virtual world’ by John A. Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz
Engaging with consumers
"The second generation of the Web is characterised by consumer created content and social networks – from Twitter and Facebook to YouTube and Myspace – that allow users to interact. Naturally, advertisers hope to insinuate their brands into the conversation, and while this can be difficult, there have been notable successes. Ford's spokesperson in social media, Scott Monty, is one of the company's best-known employees and a contributor to Ford's goal for its virtual presence – to be informative and engaging, without being intrusive – and has helped get the brand onto the consideration list of as many consumers as possible.'
"In the past couple of years, Adidas found that messages delivered through social media achieved a five times higher return than those delivered through television, attracting over two million fans to a Facebook page. Dell generated sales by using Twitter to alert consumers to promotions. Mountain Dew, whose soft drinks target younger demographics, spent most of its 2009 budget on its year-long 'DEWmocracy 2' campaign online. Using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media networks and tools, four thousand of the brand's most loyal consumers helped to cocreate three new beverages. In addition to selecting flavours, colours, names, and package design, the fans also collaborated in creating television ads, online media planning and buying, and leading grassroots campaigns in a nationwide contest to select the final winning addition to the product line. In a twelve-week period, the limited-time offering of flavour finalists yielded over seventeen million cases worth approximately one hundred million dollars at retail.'
"Some contend that such aspects of social media will revolutionise marketing. For several reasons, we are sceptical about how far-reaching any changes will be."
(pp. 114-5, 'All Business is Local: Why place matters more than ever in a global, virtual world' by John A. Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz - Landmark)
Q&A - Manav Garg
"What do you think is a key element for success as an entrepreneur?'
"Most of the time, in a start-up environment, market changes, things keep changing. You have to be able to execute properly. What you need is perseverance, that dogged determination to succeed. Take the product story in
"What prompted you to undertake this journey, giving up a high-paying job?'
"I wanted to create something, to build something. The only way to do that is to take risks. I could have been a good trader all my life and earned a lot of money. But the fun of crating something is very different.'
"How do you get good ideas, before you can even think about risk taking?'
"The biggest stumbling block is actually taking risks. I have seen good professionals who can turn around businesses, but they don't want to take risks.'
"You have to start thinking that you want to change something. Then you will start seeing everything differently. If you see a product say, you won't say, 'Hey, this is good.' You will think, what does this not have? What can I change? The mindset has to come first. Then you won't focus on buying things, for example, you will think, can I change this totally?'
"What were your initial days like?'
"I quit my job, I had an idea in my mind about what I wanted to do, so I created a prototype, spoke to experts, industry people. I did that for two years. Entrepreneurship works on a problem statement, which has to be validated. Especially in the enterprise space. You have to build something that solves a client's problems, even if they do not know what they actually want.'
"Where do you think the product story out of
"The potential is huge. But there has to be a culture of risk taking among all stakeholders. Even VCs (venture capitalists) are not as risk friendly as they should be. As for me, I would rather invest with a new entrepreneur than, say, buy a BMW."
(pp. 59-60, 'The New Age Entrepreneurs' – Mint Business Series - Landmark)
The Great Depression
"A few days had passed and our financial advisor finally called us for a meeting. His office was like a typical accountant's office. Lots of computers, lots of cubicles, telephones ringing constantly – basically complete chaos. We landed in his office and directly got to the point.'
"'So, Mr Ram, what is the verdict?' we asked in unison.'
"'Boys, I've been doing a lot of research about this e-commerce thing and I'm not very convinced,' he said.'
"Before we could say anything, he cut us off. 'You see boys, whatever said and done, there will still be only a small minority that would be interested in buying online.''
"'Oh, we definitely don't think so Sir…' He cut us off again with a wave of his hand.'
"'It doesn't matter what you think, boys. It matters what I think. People in
"But Sir, that's changing…,' I said.'
"Guys, have you come here to teach me?' he said.'
"Well, so, have you come up with a figure?' Mal asked.'
"I have, but it's not very promising.''
"And with that he threw the valuation papers at us. I had a bad feeling about this. My fears were confirmed once we read up all the numbers. This guy had screwed us over. He was pitching us at Rs 75 lakh. This was not even our yearly turnover and he had simply predicted that the use of e-commerce would hardly grow in the next three years. This was almost a devaluation.'
"Guys, there's not much of a future there,' said Mr Ram, looking grim.'
"'Mr Ram, what are you saying?' I said.'
"'That's the truth, boys.'
"'Mr Ram…' I got up from my chair and said, 'We have gone through shit in order to start this company. I put my life's savings into this and took a huge loan from my friends, and you can't even imagine how that feels. My partner Mal here quit his job and a secure life, and took three different loans from banks in his own name. We have jeopardised our lives, the trust of our friends, the trust of our families, just so that we could start this. There have been times when there was absolutely no hope that we'd actually be able to keep this company afloat.''
(pp. 211-2, 'How I Braved Anu Aunty & Co-founded a Million Dollar Company' by Varun Agarwal - Landmark)