Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Winners in the Downturn

Recession has quite visibly taken almost everyone for a ride. From the stock market investor to the well-paid CEO to the lower middle class retail chain customers, everybody has tasted the bitterness of this downturn. Nonetheless it has been compared with the Great Depression of 1929. What is intriguing in this downturn is that there are many isolated winners amidst this chaos. Firstly, In any economic downturn, in every sector of the economy there will be businesses that fail. There will be businesses which struggle through and survive, and there will be businesses which grasp the upside of the downturn and emerge as winners. It is not a surprise that new age indian entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in this recession.

Bharti Airtel makes a good example to showcase how recession can be turned as an opportunity. A recent article in Business Today pointed out many reasons that made Airtel a run away winner in this downturn. But i strongly felt that only one of those many indicators was very critical in bringing profits to the Q3 and Q4 balance sheets. Airtel started the initiative to extend it's market share in the rural areas (commonly known as 'bharat'). Airtel did not resort to lower rates to attract customers. The focus was just to extend the market into the rural areas. The prime reason behind such an initiative, in my opinion, is that The buzzword (recession) was least heard in the rural areas. A strong belief about recession is that It´s all in your MIND! And we actually FUEL this recession much more than it warrants. And the rural market consisted of people who actually did not contribute to the "fuelling" process.

Challenging times are the true test of great leadership. Now is the time for owner managers to show the vision, determination, resilience and courage of the great leader. A lot has been talked about what caused this recession which is turning to prove a number of economic theories wrong. For instance, recession in economic terms is defined as a period of dull growth and plummeting GDPs for a period of 6-18 months. We are already crossing the upper threshold of 18 months. Federal agencies and governments are making almost vain efforts by introducing stimulus packages. But these are certainly not the solutions to the problem. These are just steps to reduce the impact on common man. The solution certainly should come from the consumer, from the common man. To be a winner in the downturn one has to be in control, be confident, be distinctive, be strong, be wise and be ready. If the consumer tries to be all those that i listed, We are definitely moving towards a strong bounce back.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Analogies make you think!!!

Keeping oneself engaged thinking of the philosophy around nature and life is not a commonplace activity. I am not an exception to it either. Such things don't usually interest many people. These thoughts generally take you nowhere. Even after hours of thinking one completes a circle of thoughts and comes to no conclusion. But what's amusing about this activity is the reason why you start doing it then after all. I have been wondering why it suddenly comes to your mind then. A tranquil state of mind is an arena in which this school of thought is said to rein frequently. Notice here that i just used an analogy. Reining a 'state of mind' which i just called an 'arena'.

I chanced upon an analogy about life very recently and it interested me a lot. I saw the usage in "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. There is this guy who is on a road trip on a nice autumn weekend and the book goes through his mind as it wanders throughout the journey. Thereby taking the reader through a journey of life from a very different perspective. The book talks a lot about the author's ride on the motorcycle and a lot more about the art of maintaining it during such long trips. At one point the author refers to two different views to life- "The Classic View and The Romantic View". The Classic view involves understanding everything we come across using it's underlying form. The Romantic view involves understanding of things based on it's functionality. To understand these two views to an extent, there was an interesting reference to a blue print of a building. From a romantic point of view, it just means a maze with hundreds of lines leading to nowhere. From a classic point of view, it leads to a huge apartment with a dazzling facade. It is important to see the beauty behind such a thing.

Man is almost always a romantic thinker. A Classic view of anything is tough to comprehend from a human brain perspective. But it is not impossible. Consider the example of the blueprint. An architect would obviously understand the blueprint from an almost classic point of view if not fully. But that doesn't make him a classical thinker. It is important to view everything (even those that you don't relate yourself to or those that don't bother you) from the classic point of view. And then will one realise the essence of nature and life. Laws of nature are understood from the romantic point of view as some supernatural creation. But science created them says the classic explanation. 'Nothing can be called a valid assumption' is also one of the tenets of the classic view. Now the analogy that i was talking about- "Human mind is a knife. It cuts a person's thoughts into two worldly views..The Classic and the Romantic." But the latter half seems to be the dictator of the human mind. The knife that cuts my mind made me write this post where i think i am trying to cross the fine line that divides the two cut halves. It is a very fine line and it is important to try and identify and cross over to the less comprehended but more invading school of thought.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Manchester United !!! Football freaks Read On

Chanced upon this article. This was written by someone just after Man United won the UCL finals against Chelsea last year. It’s a good read, irrespective of the club you support. Enjoy.

Yesterday I saw Man United win the 2nd UCL final in my life. I did not believe it when they won it the first time. Neither did I believe it when they won it again yesterday.

I have been following United from my school days. Although United hadn’t won a major title post-’68, they were still rated as the most famous club in the world! They were famous as George Best (the only player – allegedly – whom Pele rated higher than himself) played at Old Trafford for 11 years. They became the first English club to win the UCL. They were the first English club to have three European Footballers of the Year (’64, ‘66’, ’68 – Law, Charlton, Best). They were the most well known brand in the world!

My friends (in the late eighties) used to support Tottenham (they were good those days), Everton (they won the league once in the eighties) and Liverpool (they towered with 10 titles between ’76 and ’90). Doordarshan did not use to telecast live European soccer matches. But we used to sometime capture live feeds from Bangladesh TV using something called abooster (can you believe it – soccer matches being telecast not in India but in BangladeshJ) and see them. I used to read paper clippings from The Telegraph (Calcutta) and find out about United’s performances.

United had their issues. They were reluctant to play non-British/non-Isles players and were focussed on playing the players of their academy. While Keegan, Platini, Rummenigge, Rossi, Matthaeus, Voller and Klinsmann dominated European club football, I kept on seeing United losing in crucial matches. There were times when I felt that I was let down by United. I lost my face to my friends at school (I used to study in a school run by Irish Catholics and was therefore privy to a lot of sports that dominated the Anglosphere). My friends (in the late eighties) used to support Tottenham (they were good those days), Everton (they won the league twice in the eighties) and Liverpool (they towered with 10 titles between ’76 and ’90). My friends jeered me about United and said that Best was passé and that United were not the best!

In the nineties, something changed. Despite losing a nail-biting season to Leads United in ’91-‘92, I saw United spark. Ferguson not only instilled a sense of belief in them but also strategically acquired Eric Cantona from Leads United. In ’92-‘93 (when I moved out of school) United won their first title after 26 years. Young guns such as Giggs, Scholes, the two Nevilles and Beckham fired. And Cantona ruled. I could not believe that they had finally won. I wished that my school friends were around!

Cantona mesmerised me (in his 5 years at United he won 4 EPLs and 2 FA Cups). I remember that on many occasions United used to win 1-0. A moment of brilliance from Cantona - and they used to go 1-0 up. And then they used to shut the opposition out. They became so good at this that they kept on winning EPLs with effortless ease! Except for Blackburn in ’95 and Arsenal in ’98 no one challenged them in the nineties. Cantona instilled a sense of self-belief in long-time United supporters such as myself. When Cantona left United in ’97, the year I joined Infosys, I was aghast and shocked. I felt that the definitely needed him to win the UCL (United had messed up against Dortmund in the UCL semis). But he had done the trick. Keane and company took over. United were the most famous and the richest club in the world for long. Now, they took a step towards becoming the best.

I saw United beat Munich in ‘99 (after trailing for 91 minutes) in injury time by virtue of goals from Sheringham (the blond bloke in the Ten Sports commentary Box yesterday) and Solkskjaer in the 91st and 93rd minute. I think that was one of most heart-breaking losses for any major team (even the ’70 World Cup semi-final between Italy and West Germany would pale to insignificance). Even after the match I failed to discern the truth from the make-believe. I could not believe that United had become the best in Europe.

Time passed by. I went out of the country for nearly 7 years and saw United lose two more titles to Arsenal in ’02 and ’04. And then the Abhramovic-powered Chelsea took over. They grabbed United by the scruff of their necks and hurled them to the corner of a boxing ring. Chelsea’s power and wealth dominated the proceedings. Suddenly, a club, that hadn’t had a title in 50 years, won two back-to-back EPLs and almost won the UCL twice. Football became demonic and clinical. I was scared. United kept on playing their youngsters and allowed Nistelrooy to leave. United did not even finish second! Chelsea’s stars outshone everyone. Truly, Mourinho was the special one. He delivered a style of football in which you won by playing with surgical precision and using the mind of a strategy consultant! Football became formula-based and a power-game. Maradona, Cruyff, Pele and Best would not survive in that mode of football.

But I did not see United changing their style of functioning. They could not match Chelsea and Arsenal in those two years. They relied on their academy-based players and kept on recruiting and targetting the English and Isles players. And they kept on losing! And I used to get easily frustrated with Ferguson’s tactics in those years. I felt that United could never stop the Chelsea juggernaut. Chelsea were richer and had better players. In short Chelsea had everything that United lacked. And funds were scarce at United as the Glazers performed a leveraged buy-out to take control. Like most United fans, I was shocked! But I kept on being optimistic. I hoped that Ferguson would deliver as he did so in the nineties. Keep the Faith – I told myself.

United played well - at times Ronaldo played with bewildering guile. At times, I detested him. But come ’07, United started pushing things. As their young team matured, they started calling the shots. I think that United believed for the first time that they could win the EPL despite Abrahamovic, Mourinho and the Chelsea superstars. I did not believe it myself. But I felt that United did. As they delivered the killing blow on Chelsea’s dreams by winning it in ’07 in Mourinho’s tenure, I was convinced about football again. And I realised that they would do well in Europe despite their injured team losing to Milan in the UCL semis.

United became confident. They played brilliantly at times and yet won matches even when they played ordinarily. I think that that is the hallmark of a great team. Of course Chelsea’s internal turmoil and uncanny focus on the UCL and Arsenal’s insistence on playing super-attractive soccer and failure to deliver in the finishing third superbly helped United’s cause! But I was reassured of something that became evident when United won the UCL yesterday.

You can still play with your heart and win in life. United did not win this season because of their tactics. They won it because of their heart. United may not win the UCL again in the coming 21 years. I don’t care. They may never break Liverpool’s record in the EPL or Madrid’s record in the UCL. It does not matter to me. My club is the best in the world again. But most importantly, they became so by not compromising on their tradition, philosophy, attitude or flair. In days of extreme depression, I felt that my club’s football lifted my spirits. In days of lost causes, a United victory helped me stave off the vagaries of life. At crucial moments of my life, my club helped me live. I hope supporters of all clubs have such sterling moments in their lives. My club inspired me to aspire for the extraordinary. My club taught me to be optimistic in the lowest ebbs of my life. My club told me that there was still hope for the regular Joe in the world. Yesterday, I became a bit hopeful about life again!

I love Manchester United. I salute Manchester United. I live for Manchester United.

- From a Manchester United supporter of more than twenty years! We are not blue-blooded. The colour of our blood is RED.

Great Article. Not all people would agree here. But a treat to all Manchester United Fans nevertheless...


P.S : Post forwarded by Prashant Sahu (Indeed a RED!!!)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Random Tag

Here is the 25 things about me post!!..I just learnt from a couple of pals that one of the few inital posts ought to be this. Random things about you. I dont know if i can pen down 25. Will try to make a decent number atleast.

1. Firstly i have something close to "brain fog". Dont google it now to see what it is. It might give fearful results. Just that i dont remember things too well.

2. I trust in very few people in life and they ve been there with me since long. One of them is of course my brother who seems to understand me better than anyone else in this world. The other few are a couple of my close friends.

3. I eat anything served (but vegetarian). This habit of mine has come to me recently after a series of events in my hostel mess over my 5 yrs at college.

4. I remember a few things very keenly in life. They are a selected few which seem to interest me. But i emphasize on the "few" here.

5. There are two priorities in my life- My career and my family. Nothing other than these two are of serious importance to me.

6.I believe in Charles Darwin's theory of Survival of the fittest. I am good at adapting to the surroundings andd changing myself to adjust to the milieu.

7. Getting high is one of the irresistable things in life.

8. There are five things i love..Special mention these 5 things require-because i get into a different frame of mind wheni have a majority of these with me at a given particular time.- "Manchester United", "Funky techie cell phone", "my bike", "internet" and "cricket".

9. I love Manchester United-Hardcore.

10. ARR, Ilayaraja, Creed, Switchfoot, U2 and Pink floyd make up for almost 90 percent of the music i listen to.

11.I get angry kinda frequently but only with people who mean a lot to me.An assumption which makes me feel that these people are ok to mess up with. After all they ll be back with you kinds.

12. I can control the hours of my sleep. I am neither hypersomniac nor insomniac.

13. A trusworthy person is how my friends have judged me as yet.

14. I talk to myself more than i talk to others. I love solitude but not an excess of it. I can keep yumm yumming for hours. But there are certain topics which i prefer to discuss with myself.

15. I keep my time and expect people around me to do it either. But a far cry. Not many live up to it. In short i am punctual and a time freak.

16. I can sit idle for hours and hours and hours. It does nt disturb me.

17. I am too pragmatic at analysing situations.

18.I have a very different view of God. In short i believe God created something called evil.It did not start existing by itself... and i feel God makes man think.Man does nothing of his own.

19. I am over ambitious but i am over pessimistic too. So a plethora of confusions rule my thinking in general.

20. I select my friends and keep those which i think add meaning to my life.

21. I expect my best friends to live upto what i think of them.Because i value them a lot and they form an important part of the decision making process in my life.

22. I am afraid of rats since childhood. It is an allergy, a fear or whatever..i really don't know.

23. I am not a great liar. I get caught too easily. Disadvantageous many times.

24. I love the way Indian culture revolves around a number of values. I dont mean to say i am against westernization, but i prefer limitations to it.

25. I cant think about a thing for too long. Lack of concentration i should say...coz i took about 3 hrs to draft this page.

And i would tag somebody for sure to do this bugging task of thinking about oneself for so long.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Election Corner

India during election times is like no other place in the world.The whole look of a city changes. Banners are hung across every street. Posters are hung on every inch of space. Loudspeakers blare campaign slogans constantly. Every party holds huge rallies for their supporters and often distributes food or blankets to everyone who attends. Things have improved a lot in the last 10 years. The key to the change has been awareness. Everybody is very interested in the news, and they discuss political issues (and movie stars) constantly. When people are illiterate, often one person who can read will read the newspaper out loud to a group and then they discuss the issues. Every newspaper, even in rural areas, contains a lot of news about the rest of the world, not just local news. The most important factor that helps awareness, of course, is the television. In our state, Tamil Nadu, for example, the government ordered that every village must have at least one television. People in these rural villages can watch programs in their own regional languages. Political parties know how important television is, and most have created their own cable TV stations. All said and done, most difficult aspect of democracy in India is the caste system. The caste system is a ranking of traditional, hereditary levels in society that have determined a person’s occupation and role in Hindu society for thousands of years. Caste system has reined the vote bank these days.

For the first time I have decided to come forward and cast my vote in this year's general elections. It is high time we realized how caste based votes and winners who emerge out of it are changing the way democracy is viewed in the Indian perspective. We were one of the earliest democracies. Today we are among the largest democracies. But corruption and the titular politicians of today are leading us in a wrong direction. One important step from the voter's side is to change the way these politicians get elected. People who understand the depth of corruption and the dirty political hand which rules this country are those who dont take the pains to go and exercise their fundamental right to vote. If a mass from this class of people come down to vote we can be sure of changin the way we decide our leaders. A more discernible way of voting will definitely change things.

Come forward to vote Young Man!!!!!!!