Monthly Archives: December 2009

Shashi Tharoor: Still stuck in NY?

I really can’t but help feel sorry for the man! It seems he still hasn’t gotten out of his NY State of mind, and woken up to the realities of stuck-up, old school Indian politics.

Wonder which will happen first – will he get his knuckles rapped and stop tweeting? Or will he be stripped off his union ministership and be left free to tweet away all day?

Let’s wait and see how it goes – I am sure he will ‘tweet’ us faster than his brain would have completely processed the message he let loose in the wide world of the web!

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Book Review: The Professional by Subroto Bagchi

A more appropriate title for this book would had been “The MindTree Professional”.

Subroto Bagchi has to his credit an excellent first book “The High-Performance Entrepreneur” and a mediocre second book “Go Kiss the World” (however, it must be noted that his second book was unique in many respects, and does deserve some credit for the same).

“The Professional” neither excels in the content department, nor is it unique in any respect. Mr. Bagchi has published what appear to be a set of policies adopted by his employer MindTree (of which he is a co-founder), and that is the reason I suggest he rename the book to “The MindTree Professional” and eliminate any misconception that may be generated by the current generic title.

There are several “way” books that have been published – for instance “The HP Way” or “The Toyota Way” – this book falls in the same category. If you wish to understand MindTree’s definition of a Professional, read this book. If you are looking for a more “universal” set of rules, don’t waste your time and money.

Mr. Bagchi fails on two counts:

  1. Presenting the relative as absolute:
    Mr. Bagchi presents his subjective views as objective universal truths.
    Certain organizational policies have no “right” answers – every organization has to find its own “right” answer.  Take for instance the policy of referrals – In Mr. Bagchi’s view, referrals are a big sin. If a vendor is related to someone in the purchasing department, Mr. Bagchi advices the vendor must not be entertained. In my view, referrals are priceless – if I know a vendor is related to someone within my organization, I can asses the vendor better. In other words, an organization has to do what is “right” for it.
  2. Presenting the absolute as if it were his discovery:
    The second count on which Mr. Bagchi fails is to present the time tested truths as if they were his brand new discoveries. Don’t we all know, since biblical times, that stealing is bad?

Mr. Bagchi has also indulged in some “below the belt” knocks by writing about Satyam. Hindsight is 20/20 – and it doesn’t take a “professional” to call a self-confessed conman a conman! Had Mr. Bagchi written this book prior to Ramalinga Raju’s confession, would he have mentioned the Satyam incident? Mr. Bagchi says he wondered what a retired income tax bureaucrat was doing serving on the board of Satyam – an IT company. I am not trying to defend Satyam (Raju is a self-confessed crook after all, and what he has admitted to doing is despicable), but I wish to use this point to highlight what appears to be Mr. Bagchi’s poor understanding of the roles and responsibilities of Members of a Corporate Board! I am not aware of any rule, written or unwritten, that forbids an industry “outsider” from serving on the board of an IT company. I would expect Mr. Bagchi to know this well enough, after all he is on the Board of MindTree (the MindTree website on 28th December 2009 listed him as a board member, and a Gardener & Director – whatever that means!!!)

My key takeaway:
After I set down this book, I was left with an impression that MindTree is a very narcissistic organization.
I could be completely wrong, because I am basing my judgment entirely on Mr. Bagchi’s comments about the organization that are sprinkled so very liberally throughout the book.

In an earlier post, I had blogged about the purpose of business and how it centered around customers and meeting or exceeding customer needs. After learning more about MindTree from Mr. Bagchi’s writings, I may have to add a third type of customer to my list (in addition to the “real” end customer and investor) – SELF!

MindTree seems to be founded by a group of individuals who decided they wanted to start an organization whose main reason for existence was to do business the way they believed was right – the end seems to be to serve themselves, to prove their concept and to validate their beliefs. The “paying” customers and investors are only means to achieving that end.

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Indian Institute of Mismanagement

If a premier Institute of Management is unable to manage it’s own admissions process, how are employers supposed to feel confident about the quality of potential hires graduating from that school?

Just as a Chef cannot die of food poisoning after eating his own food, or an Investment guru cannot go bankrupt (while that does happen a lot), or a data backup company cannot lose it’s own data in a server crash – Management schools like the IIMs cannot afford to mismanage and mess up their admissions process in such a spectacular way! It’s not good for their reputation!

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Rocket Singh: Go Watch

In a recent film review, I noted how most directors with a brilliant first film let viewers down with their subsequent work. However, as with all other rules in life, this one has exceptions as well.

Shimit Amin is one such exception. His directorial debut – “Ab Tak Chappan” is one of the best films I have ever seen! It’s right up there in my top three list. He did not disappoint with his second film “Chak De India“, and has managed to stay the course with his third film “Rocket Singh“.

Rocket Singh is a lot like Chak de India, in the sense that it is the story of an underdog winning against all odds – a theme on which countless movies have made. What sets this one apart is how the five or six main characters of this movie develop as the film progresses. As with his previous two films, this one is unconventional as well – it is not a typical Bollywood song-and-dance show. Apart from Ranbir Kapoor, there are no “stars” in this film; the story is the central point around which the characters revolve and evolve.

All the main characters have done an excellent job – to think about it, even a trivial character like Laalwani – the small time computer parts vendor also manages to steal the two scenes he is in! The characters resonate! You know these people! When you see Laalwani, you are reminded of your own Laalwani – your computer parts vendor sitting in a small 4-by-8 hole-in-the-wall in the basement of CTC.

If there is anything negative to report about this movie, it is Giri’s character. Is it just me, or did Giri transform from a Tamilian to a Hyderabadi somewhere after his second scene? I am not sure. I will have to pay attention when I watch this movie a second time (which I will).

If you enjoyed Ab Tak Chappan and Chak de India, I am pretty sure you will like Rocket Singh – Go watch it!

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Paa: Disappointing

I had been looking forward to the release Balki’s Paa. I had enjoyed watching Balki’s first film Cheeni Kum, and was expecting something of the same caliber; but like most other directors with a fantastic first film (M. Night Shyamalan and his Sixth Sense, for instance), the second offering was very disappointing.

Beyond the novelty factor of the real life father playing the son’s part on reel, both father and son, Amitabh and Abhisek let me down. Amitabh’s portrayal of a 13 year old was very contrived, and Abhisek trying to play cool and mouth English dialogues was very painful to watch. In my view, there are very few Indian male actors who look natural on-screen mouthing English dialogues – Saif Ali Khan and Akshaye Khanna come to mind immediately; Shah Rukh can pull if off with ease as well. Watching the rest is very painful and awkward – Aamir Khan and Salman Khan look very uncomfortable; Amitabh gets very Shakespearean – he always seems to be holding up an imaginary skull; Govinda shouldn’t even try – he looks like an idiot!

Overall the movie is trash – how it managed to get average and above average ratings in press is beyond me.

There are only a couple of positives – Vidya Balan has done a good job, and Illayaraja’s music is fantastic as always.

For folks who have not watched it yet, I would suggest wait till it is out on DVD and watch it at home. It really is not worth burning gas to drive to the theater, and to spend Rs. 300.00 and you don’t have to mortgage your house to pay the by-the-minute car parking fees.

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Feels unreal

Paul Graham has articulated so well what I always used to feel when I started on my own in 2004.

Another advantage of ramen profitability is that it’s good for morale. A company tends to feel rather theoretical when you first start it. It’s legally a company, but you feel like you’re lying when you call it one. When people start to pay you significant amounts, the company starts to feel real. And your own living expenses are the milestone you feel most, because at that point the future flips state. Now survival is the default, instead of dying.

For a very long time, it felt as though I was lying everytime I told people I “owned”  a company – it still does sometimes!

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