Friday, September 26, 2008

Colours Of India...!

I am truly enjoying every moment of my stay here in India. Everyday interactions with Shopkeepers, Bus Conductors, fellow Passengers in Train and Grocery Store Owner reinforces the age old saying of "Unity In Diversity" - I see perfect execution of this concept right in front of me everyday. Four of the 7 people I met today were of different culture / geographic locations - yet they were all so cheerful about the upcoming Navratri Celebrations [A Hindu Festival Of Worship & Dance]in Mumbai !! Have things changed for the better in India or have I turned more observant oflate? Well, guess that question appears better without an answer :) Enjoy the Colours Of India and stay tuned for fresh updates from India !

(Photo Courtesy Steve McCurry)
"Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coffee With Helmi...!

This post was one of the things I wanted to do upon arriving in India and needless to say I have never been more happier at pushing the "Publish" button !
I have always had a fascination for Flying though honestly it would take few more years before I get to fly a plane on my own (my childhood fantasy). Anyways, I was wondering just a while ago that sometimes during our travel junkets we bump up against distinguished fellow travellers and few minutes of conversation can leave you phenomenally enriched. There have been times when an informal chit-chat on a plane has made me feel ('enlightenment') as if I am attending an Open World conference :)

Speaking of bonds, last 9 hours have been absolutely fantastic for me !! As of now, I'm sitting here at the Luftansa VIP Lounge at the Frankfurt Airport. After a marathonic flight from US, I am so glad that I got time to breathe, to renew, to relax, to think, text my friends and to take notes (my fav past time). Call it coincidence or my good luck- two absolutely wonderful co-passengers I met on board Luftansa Flight LS-421 taught me more about Games People Play(You & Me inclusive) everyday to emerge as winners on personal and professional fronts. I was both awed and surprised at some of the facts and revelations during our conversations. Here are few excerpts:

Helmi Lanza is one of the most charming lady I've ever met. This lady-an Austrian who's now settled in Boston was heading to Austria to meet her family and was super excited about this seasonal reunion. The fact that her cousin (now settled in Australia) was flying over to Austria thrilled Helmi equally. Anyways, after exchanging plesantries - we talked about how life in the perceived land of opportunities[read USA] has been for the outsiders. I was surprised to learn that few issues I faced during my initial stay here resonated with those she faced years ago !!But on the brighter note, we realised that in general things have improved a lot ! Cuisine was the next area we discussed; and when I proudly declared myself to be a reasonably good cook she laughed out loud and asked me more about Indian Food, Spices, Tradition etc. We also shared some hilarious memories during our respective stay in US though from my side the conv. mostly centred around my now famous 'Cooking Experiments'. The conversation we had can be best summarised as "Culture Fusion" & thanks to Helmi - I so much wish to visit Austria now:). I was a little (or may be lil' more) disturbed since past few days for I had this dozen in Qs in my mind about some strange choices people make after moving to US and I showered her with them in anticipation of clues that might steer me towards the correct answers. Here are few Qs I asked:

  • Other than promise of a better and relaxed life, what motivates immigrants/non-immigrants to extend their stay in US?
  • What extra value people add to the society around them or to their country / family by contunuing their stay here? Inspite of so many opportunities for contribution - Libraries, NGOs, Teaching Volunteering, Event Management at College Festivals - people gravitate more towards new Malls, Las Vegas or Bowling - Why ?
  • Why do so many people restrict themselves to just their field of expertise? I mean being an expert is kool but why not try new things , take few risks and venture into the unknown sometime?
  • I have heard many folks that they miss their countrymen, their culture and feel lonely so much in USA. Is it true? If they seriously do - what are they supposed to do?

Very patiently she offered her logical explanations - I loved each one in totality except answer to last one ofcourse....she said Youngsters should get married soon to avoid boredom and related anxieties - Well, I am so glad my relatives back in India didn't meet her :) Guess I gotta finish this post abruptly for the Lufthansa Crew just made an announcement for boarding the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai - my heart is racing so fast at the mere thought of meeting family & friends after 2 years....something tells me I will have an amazing time in India !! Here I come....Yippee....! Oh and yes - wish you a safe and eventful trip Helmi!!

"What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story or a dream?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Less Than Perfect...!

Back in school we (Me, Ankit, Varun, Yash) used to silently admire the American & European logistics companies like - Fedex (Federal Express), UPS (United Parcel Services), DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom and Lynn) etc. I mean for providing overnight delivery with near 100% accuracy and speed - you sure have to me more than "smart". Personally, what impressed me about these companies was the way they utlised technology to reduce total cycle time and achieve better efficiencies ! This was few years ago when services like Consignment Tracking via Email, Mobile, Pager Alerts were still innovations at large (atleast in Asia) !

I remember having mentioning my reverence for these companies so many times to my Sugandha (Our Comp Sc Faculty) in high school and she always responded with a smile and asked "Thats great ! But which of these companies is the best or which one is your favorite and why?". Well, I didn't have an answer to her question then but my association with Service industry has sure helped me in narrowing down my choices over the years. Anyways note the conversation below:

Customer A : Hey I was supposed to receive my shipment 2 hrs ago...what happened?

Store Agent: Sorry Sir, but we have no updates in our system against your tracking number.

Customer A : What do I do next, I was supposed tor receive some sensitive docs and I have aplane to catch.

Store Agent: We understand your concern sir. Can you call 1-800-FEDEX ?

Customer A : I what? Can you do that for me pls...I am really anxious right now.

Store Agent: We can't use back office phone sir.

Customer A : Hey do you know how much important this package is to me right now? Wish I had visited UPS Store.S

Store Agent (Angry): You can still visit UPS Store if you want.

Customer A (Very Disturbed): Alright Bye-Gd Day ! (Aggghhhhhhhh)

Customer A then rushes out from Fedex Kiosk, grabs his cellphone and punches in 1-800-FEDEX hastily. After 5 minutes of "Dial 1 for this, 2 for that...", Customer A manages to find a Fedex Rep and explains his situation. I spotted this scene at the nearby FedEx Kinkos this morning and seriously wished to suggest the following to that Store Agent:

  • When someone is angry - just nodding head and being a listener helps.
  • When someone tells you - you are bad or someone is better than you, they simply look for your response on the statement. So take a moment before bursting - taking a breath or two helps. Do we really need to react?
  • The problem with disappointing Customers is that - you loose not one but atleast 10 customers. Think about it - I am sure the ratio of your positive to negative experiences with Fedex and the alike is more than one. Yet as individuals we always accentuate more on the negative!
  • Amidst firece competition, you can simply distinguish yourself quickly by the kind of service you provide than the tools / technologies you use. Hey afterall anyone can be trained to use a tool or a device isn't it ? But very few people can be trained to provide superlative service using those tools and empathy.
  • Before declaring a customer as "Exceptionally Crazy" - do a role revesal. Lets say that you had a plane to catch in few hours and your DL/PP shipment hasn't arrived yet - Would you have behaved differently? If yes then suggest the same to customer and yes Calm him down !

This conversation lasted for just 5 mins but it sure made quite an impact on me ! I really wish that Store Agent was a little more patient and polite with the Customer A or wish I had handed a hard copy of this to Customer A. On the brighter side - I am confident that there's phenomenal room for improvement even in the seemingly near perfect logistics industry.

"Do we utter things in a manner that makes them or us memorable?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Miles to Go...!

I have learnt that there's always a pattern amidst the things around us both on personal and professional fronts. If you are smart observer you can spot the thread that connects seemingly chaotic patterns. As I keep my learning hat on, I am sure many of you were keeping a silent yet close watch on the much hyped "Lets Rock" event. event. And in total contrast to expectations worlwide (C'mmon we all wanted announcements like new Macbooks or new product from Apple), we learnt that the event was "iPod" Centric ! Well, many folks quickly dismissed this event as "Boring", "So What?" all. However, I love Steve's brilliant explanations (here) when he admits that iPod sales don't follow a linear / exponential curve and sales peak around Christmas time - when we wish to gift our dear ones with a 'special' gift and Apple Products sure strike a chord there ! There goes a pattern which few of us would like keeping a note of ! One thing is for sure that iPod Sales are most likely to smash the erstwhile records in upcoming months !

Speaking of patterns, conversations with my friends (in IT Industry) over the past few days led me into some serious thinking (such kinda thinking hurts u know :)). Most of them feel that keeping upwith the latest Technologies is getting tougher day by day which accounts for unwanted anxiety and concerns in their lives. This is how most of them (okay that includes me too at times:)) feel everyday !

I am sure their concerns are true and good in case they make them put in extra efforts to get smarter and better ! However, there are always workarounds (shortcuts I mean :-D). If we just take a step back and think about the time when we created something all by ourselves and how much thrilled we felt. Your guesses might resonate on the foll. lines:

  • Creating that beautiful Greeting Card.
  • Composing that sinuous Song for College Band.
  • Designing the award winning Science Model.
  • Engineering that crisp presentation which amazed your peers.
  • Charting Training course for new recruits in your organisation.
  • Delivering notes about your very own research to the audience you were one part of.
  • Creating Blueprint for ur College's TechFest.
  • Capturing that special moment with your Camera.
  • Writing that remarkable Code Snippet which is super-efficient, blazing fast to run and is being used by many in your organisation for reference.
  • Constructing that humble yet catchy website which your social network applauded !

Well, I strongly feel that each one of us is exceptionally creative and we all have our own ways of bringing our inspiration into lifelike tangible forms. In that context, I would like to add that getting that 'Amazing Idea', that 'Inspiration', that ' Super efficient solution to a universal problem' - is tough indeed. But once you have it, all you gotta do is find the right set of resources P2T2 (Platform, Passion, Team, Tools) to deliver the same. Afterall, this is what software industry is all about !!

There are so many unsolved problems around us. Shouldn't we be focussing more on thinking about possible solutions than brooding about that New Programming Language/Tool you need to master? The point I am trying to make here is that being an expert at something is no good of we are NOT able to provide creative solutions to real life problems quickly. Ofcourse, it does help if you are a part of an amazing setup (this, this or this) but if you aren't there are a bunch of ways you can still Rock - in your current role or otherwise !

While I don't have a Crystal Ball with me (for now:)), but I do expect the world economy to remain fragile through the remaining 110.436 days of 2008. Question here is can we do something phenomenal to improve it or forget about the economy - can we break our own status quo? Something tells me "Sure, we can!". That said, I promise to write an even lenghtier post if I grab my 'Eureka' moment as I continue counting remaining days in 2k8.

Think about it!

"Are you the finest in your regime?"

Friday, September 05, 2008

This Day in History...!

Google Chrome, Apple's anticipated new iPODs, Serena Vs Venus Match or Federer's nail biting victory in US Open Qtr Finals, the ever rising hoopla about Presidential Campaigns, the Movie 'Rock On' and Microsot's latest Ad's critical reviews- this week seems to be roaring with remarkable news and each one of these is just swamping the blogosphere with zillions of blog posts ! What a phenomenal week this has been so far !! Sometimes, I wonder whether reading so much of eccentric reviews centred news is good for us?. Before you try a product just lauched in the market and make your own opinion, a phenomenal buzz (ofcourse product needs to be HOT) about reviews of the product are already out there. Well, they do give us an idea or a headsup thereby saving a disappointment later but point is does an overdoze of news hinders one's judgemental ability? Well - I don't know for sure ! Anyways, I was lil' curious and decided to find out events of the past that made news today. Here are few of 'em that (I believe) made an impact in history:
  • French Revolution initiated the The Reign Of Terror [1793]
  • The first United States Labor Day parade is held in New York City[1882]
  • Sylvanus F. Bowser delivers the first gasoline pump [1885].
  • Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was born [1888].
  • First Battle of the Marne [1914] began. This was one of the first battles where reconnaissanceplanes and taxicabs were put to smart use. (Unfortunately war resulted in way too many casualties)
  • The United States declared its neutrality in World War II [1939].
  • Voyager 1 is launched by NASA [1977].
  • Humanitarian Mother Teresa, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the poor, died in Calcutta, India, at age 87 [1997].
  • I wrote yet another blog post [2008].
Oh and yes my room-mate was mentioning yesterday that somehow we seem to performing well when explicit deadlines are declared. What a revelation !! (:P). But thanks to him I realised that there are just 117 days remaining before the year 2008 bids good bye to all of us. I better hurry and revisit my resolutions & promises made for this year or else I'll have an even lengthier list for 2009 :) For the weekend that's almost knocking the door, I wish you'll have a blast with your loved ones around !!
`The world around always seeks answer for "What's in it for me?"`

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Midas Touch...!

Creating content in a form that people connect with instantly is an art most of the IT Professionals master well quite early in their careers! And yes the skill of delivering the rich crisp content in exactly the right words and shortest time (Elevator Pitches) comes eventually with practice. I remember with fondness the preparations me and my partner (now an accomplished Shutterbug & a Consultant with the Big Four) used to do for our then famous Six Sigma Training Sessions during our short stint with TCS's Learning Group in Mumbai(India). The challenge was not in collecting interesting data or catchy fonts or splendid images but rather tossing out the garbage (it was sad to hit delete button on several slides) and convincing ourselves that "Less is Better" before doing a round of rehearsals. But combination of these cut out near perfect (acc. to us of course) slides and few anecdotes from the world around us worked wonders !

Anyways, spotted the foll. award winning PPT while going thru' my daily dose of blogs. Thanks for sharing the same Guy. I loved every slide !!

View SlideShare presentation.

"There's plenty of help around - we just need to ask for it in the right manner !"

Monday, September 01, 2008

The New Microsoft...!

(Photo Credit: Picasa)

Almost all of the distinguished IT firms talk about providing value to end customers thorugh innovative products or superlative services, but then ever wondered about providing an amalgamation of ace products & services? Since past few months I am keeping a close watch on the firms that defy the logic in everything they do and my journey so far has been absolutely amazing. I am working with a close pal to publish few findings that might be a good read. While most of us were caught up in the whirlwind of spotting the best Labor Day Deals today - online or otherwise, few smarter folks that decided to bless us all with yet another remarkable offering. Yes, I am talking about the news that reverberated the web today afternoon - Announcement of Google's much awaited Web Browser - Chrome. Those around me know about my fascination for the reverred firm pretty well and here I am waiting quite eagerly for testing out Google Chrome as soon as it is available for the download. Few points about the browser which makes me love it already are:
  • Amazing Foundation: It has been built from scratch so basics are bound to be right.

  • More Power: These folks have come up with a JS Engine of their own and when you know Google is developing it - it has got to be phenomenal.

  • Open Source: Since they are making the source code available right away, no legal hassles, no anti-trust concerns and plenty of opportunities for contribution for you and me.

  • Private Browsing: We all wanted it since such a long time !
Well, while some of you join me in the Coutdown for Browser's Launch, few others keep sending me screenshots or related news and the rest keep anticipating Google's next move to outwit MS/Yahoo - lets just say that the Show has just begun!
Have a splendid week ahead...!
"You're brilliant, we're hiring..!"
Update: Google is most likely gonna launch Chrome around 11 AM EDT post their Conference at Mountain View Hq. Meanwhile, keep following Tweets :)