Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How a girl saved a kitten that got almost killed by a cruel guy

It was yesterday evening and I was leaving my flat to grab something for dinner and I saw an orange kitten around my door. It was very friendly and gave me a kitty hug by rubbing its body and face against my legs. It was purring and I have never seen a kitten so friendly. And I am sure you would have seen various cat videos and stories about how friendly or unfriendly the cats are. So before you guys pounce upon me for writing that the cat is friendly, let me tell you something that researchers claim. A cat is actually declaring you are its property by rubbing its body against you. So a kitten has adopted me. Now it would bring me whatever it hunts so that I can treasure it.

We have cats at our home in our hometown and I am used to cats since I was a kid. But I have never seen a kitten becoming friendly with a stranger. I stay with my cousin brother and I was not sure whether to keep this kitten as a pet. So I held the kitten by its scruff and went to the flat next floor where a couple of friends stay. They told me that just then the kitten had surveyed their flat and peed in their hall and asked me to take it downstairs immediately.

So I took it down and left it near my door to go buy some milk for it. Meanwhile it started running in the parking area and tried to get out of our apartment complex through the gap in the gate. It got stuck and so I pulled it back and held it by the scruff. That is when I saw this girl on the street who said something to me. I looked in to her to hear again what she said. She was like, "Don't be cruel to the kitten". Cruel? Oh. Alright! She, just like many others expressed her fake love for this abandoned kitten and acted smart by passing her comments and went on minding her own business. So much for an animal lover.

Before these fake people show their fake love to other animals, why not know the facts? I was holding the kitten by its scruff. And she thought that must be painful for the kitten. May be most of the people think that way. The best way to carry a cat or a kitten is to hold by its scruff. Haven't you seen how the mother cat (Be it a Lion or Tiger or a domestic cat) carries its younger ones? When you do this way, the kitten or the cat becomes still and would not be aggressive. May be you guys should check out this article.

In another related incident, I trampled down a centipede with my shoes few days back that was exiting our classroom and I heard my classmates screaming at me not to kill that. I am not sure how these people would have reacted if it was found inside their bag or if it was found near their bed or what would they do if they had a toddler at home. Most of the folks who screamed consume meat and they tried teaching me a lesson on loving centipedes. Either I am a hypocrite who is a vegetarian but do not mind killing something thinking that might harm us or they are hypocrites who eat flesh but do not mind teaching me about loving centipedes. 

PS - I did not kill a centipede on a trekking expedition. I killed one that came out of the classroom. And here I was trying to save that kitten and help it find a new home. And for those wondering what happened to that kitten, when I came back with a packet of milk, the kitten wasn't there.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Why innovation should compliment “Make in India” program?

Recently, when I was flying to the US for a job assignment, I walked down the memory lane and was thinking about the path I had chosen and what could have happened had I chosen a different path. I am happy with my present job, and the path I have chosen is similar to most of the guys from a social background like mine - finished engineering, then an MBA, joined an MNC and life is sailing smooth. I am sure, had I chosen a different path, life would not have been as smooth as the present one. It would have been a roller coaster ride. I am not sure, how my parents would have taken that. This would be the thought everyone at my age would have had.

These days I am seeing lot of youngsters rejecting the plush offers from corporate entities to pursue their dreams. They were definitely not running behind money unlike most of us. A recent article I read mentions that there are many successful people who have changed their field of work not once or twice but around 12 times to do what mattered the most for them. The only thing common among these people is they did not do different things, they innovated ways to do things differently and they shook the entire market by delivering more value to the consumers.

Time is ripe now for people who were waiting at the sidelines to plunge into business. The Government of India is setting up a start-up fund to the tune of 10,000 crores to promote a better start-up ecosystem in India. One thing that we should focus on is innovation. Entrepreneurs should focus on disruptive innovation like what Steve Jobs did to the music player. Music players were always there but iPod changed the way we listen to music. Though India is not known for innovating new products, Indians are known for the so called ‘Jugaad’ innovations where one somehow manages to create stuff with very little resources but the creation turns out to be a very efficient one. We cannot call our Mars Mission as Jugaad innovation, but we did it at the fraction of the cost that had put other space powers to shame. Almost every engineering college hostel would have seen hundreds of Jugaad innovations. From making an omelet using iron box to boiling milk to wearing helmet while chopping onions, we have seen it all.

But these folks once they get placed in an MNC just become one among the herd and all the innovative ideas end up in the cubicle. No one thinks out of the cubicle. A friend of mine once told me that when he approached his boss with an innovative idea, his boss said, “I am the boss here and do what I say.” Now that friend is his own boss. We need such bosses and such guys to take our nation forward. I am very confident that, a nation with 1.2 billion people can generate millions of ideas and those ideas need to be put to use to create innovations. Such ideas not only propel a country’s economy but will be the core driving force for humanity to prosper in future.

 The flagship “Make in India” program of the Prime Minister is aimed at generating new jobs and increasing the GDP growth and I am sure it would attract investments into India in the form of technology and money. But it would make our nation a contract manufacturing hub. We had an edge few years back when BPOs were the sunrise sector in India as majority of the population can converse in English and the outsourcing companies had a cost advantage. But today, countries like Vietnam, Philippines attract such projects and they are cost-effective compared to India. In the future, Make in India might also become less viable for countries that manufacture in India because of the currency appreciation when the economy takes the upward trajectory. It is not only better but a necessity to encourage enterprises and start-ups to innovate and it is the responsibility of the government and the people to create an ecosystem where innovative people thrive and innovations disrupt innovations.

This article is written by Kshitiz Harsh. Follow him on Facebook here.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Am I being watched......

For those of you who know me well, saying that I am observant, would be an understatement. And so it was; my antenna was up early this morning as I waited to board a flight at the Bangalore Airport.

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I find observing people and the goings on around me more interesting than burying oneself in the free newspapers that are ever present in the airport.

I zeroed in on an old man who was tearing parts of a newspaper. He looked around furtively and continued with his task. Peopled around him, muddled in their own world, did not seem to notice this rather strange behaviour. He finished with one newspaper and commenced with the next. When he found something that interested him, he glanced furtively around and tore that bit. Intrigued I strolled over to where he was sitting. What was he tearing? Imagine my surprise when I noticed that he was tearing Sudoku and crossword puzzles from the newspapers and putting them into his pocket. He caught my eye and flushed!

My roving eye took in the youngster listening to his Ipod. The beatified look on his face, the half smile and the nodding of his head indicated that he was listening to his current anthem. A pretty young girl passed him by; there was an exchange of glances. A slow smile formed on his face but it froze as the girl walked on by expressionless.

Somewhere behind me a middle aged lady was taking instructions on her mobile phone as to how to switch it off on the flight. Without looking behind, I was able to make out that she was a novice on using the phone as well as talking on it. Heads were turning as she let loose a torrent of words in a loud nasal twang. She hollered that she could not hear the person on the other end. So natural; when the voice on the other side fades, we tend to raise our own voice.

A family of four was lost. They were probably infrequent fliers. The patriarch was looking for the toilet but was embarrassed to ask anybody around him. He asked his wife and children to be on the lookout for one. Just then their flight was announced. There was panic. The patriarch rushed to the nearest airline personnel and with his digit finger raised asked the directions to the toilet. He was directed towards it; and his entourage joined in escorting him to his pit stop.

Disinterested voices announced the arrival and departures of flights. Ground staff went about their task in robotic fashion. People of all shades and hues passed through the boarding gates; some bored others excited. Physically challenged individuals were hauled along in wheel chairs. Babies cried as if in protest. Then it was my turn to board my flight. One glance at the queue and I had my next victim. 

But was I being watched?

This is written by Professor Lionel Aranha. He is an Adjunct Faculty in the Humanities and Liberal Arts Area of IIM Kozhikode. Follow him on Facebook here.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Way to go, India!

Dhoni once told his wife that she is only the third most important thing in his life after his country and his parents. When asked if he has his newborn on his mind (whom he hasn't even met), Dhoni denied, and said that he is focused only on the job at hand. Playing for his country. Cool, calm, an excellent wicket keeper, an outstanding batsman and one of the best captains India has ever seen. 7 wins, 70 wickets, and a well played semi final.

He had tears in his eyes at the end of the match, especially when asked if he will play in the 2019 World Cup. And the things people are saying about him! About Kohli! About Anushka! The cruel jokes, the insults. When did the mindset of Indians change so drastically? When did it become so disgusting and shameful? And to think we were so proud of our culture, the sense of respect we have in our language, thoughts, actions.

It's not just about cricket. The issue is so much deeper than that. It's about the mentality. Mentality about sports, religion, politics, people, women, the poor, power, equality, rights and a million other things. When did it change so much? Or maybe it's been changing all these years and I started noticing this only with the regular use of social media. I thought some morons I met after moving away from home were exceptional. But I see the larger picture now!

Before that, maybe I was in my own world, living by the advice and rules my parents brought me up with. It's so simple. Respect. Don't judge. Be kind. Don't lie. Love unconditionally. Take extra care of children and senior citizens. Avoid harsh words or fights. Keep your integrity. Don't compromise with your principles.

I know sometimes it's not as simple as it sounds. That it's not just black and white, but numerous gray areas. But the basics? Why can't just the basics be followed? If you peel off the layers of teams, religions, nationalities, languages, genders, age groups, qualifications, orientations, actions, mistakes, and the nature of people, the basic is just to be a good human being. And once you are a good human being, you can be a good everything! All the layers will be as good as the root, then! Why is it so hard to understand?

Once again I couldn't finish the national anthem yesterday without choking up. It's sad that the love for my nation runs in my veins but everything else going on has started to disgust me.
Well, nowadays, every single thing like this results in a rant from me. I immediately start feeling angry, sad, disappointed, helpless, disgusted.. And to think ours is one of the most respectful, noble and rich cultures in the world. What a waste!

Anyway, if I was MS Dhoni, I would retire and decide not to play the 2019 World Cup. No point in playing for morons. But, you see, he wants to serve the army in some way after he retires from cricket. Oh, just patriotism and the satisfaction of being a righteous man. Silly thing to be bothered with, isn't it?

Aah, at least after he retires from the army, he would have his cricket money to fall back on instead of joining the others at traffic signals, hungry and disrespected.

Way to go, India!

This article is written by Krishna Raval Maithel. Follow her on Twitter here.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thinking out of the class - IIMK Professor's advice for the graduating students

Now that you are graduating & moving into the real world of business, a few points to ponder:

1.    Global gas & PPTs do continue to work. But try massaging egos and buffing of posteriors as well.

2.    If you get a good boss, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become an entrepreneur.

3.    Just because your fishing expedition wasn’t a grand success on campus, don’t, for heaven’s sake; fall in love with the first person who walks into your line of vision.

4.    You will be afforded with the opportunity of meeting people who think their crap smells of lavender. You don’t need to imitate them. Remember the story of the rabbit – the poor chap died of strain trying to imitate the elephant taking a dump.

5.    Learn to be humble; humility doesn’t kill. Remember the African proverb: ‘When the great lord passes the peasants bow deeply and silently fart.’

6.    Bide your time & do get married. In the long run, marriage is all about meeting of minds & not mating of bodies. It’s about companionship.

         a.    For the ladies; prince charming is a myth. Remember the Malayalam proverb pointing out that it is difficult to tie an elephant in the cowshed.

         b.    For the guys; never lead a girl whose father considers her as a princess to the altar. She usually thinks she’s the queen.

7.    Cherish the fleeting moments that you get to spend with your parents. They aren’t going to be around for long. There is no point in regretting later that you did not have time for them. Their union of passion resulted in you; your mother bore you for the whole of 9 months & then both your father & mother groomed you for the next 12 years!

8.    Money isn’t everything in life. Don’t chase money. It will come around when you have given up chasing it. Make enough for your needs & some; but not to satiate your greed. Need can be satisfied but greed can never be.

9.    I’ve learnt that the beauty of life does not depend on how happy you are; but on how happy others can be because of you.

10.    Make your children the focal point of your happiness. Allow them to bloom as per the laws of nature. Teach them that there is a brilliant world beyond the government sponsored education system that we helped to perpetuate.

11.    One day, sooner or later, you will have to leave this world. When you came in you bawled your lungs out; when you leave you should be remembered as a smile on someone’s lips in spite of the tears that may flow!


Take care & be good!

This advice is given by Professor Lionel Aranha to all the graduating students. He is an Adjunct Faculty in the Humanities & Liberal Arts Area of IIM Kozhikode. Follow him on Facebook here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Religion: The satanic temple for kids

Does religion actually teach the true values of life to kids and bring out the best in them or does it actually impede their natural potential. Here are the ten advantages of raising children without religion

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1. Fearless - This is true. Kids are not afraid of devil and Satan. They are not afraid of spending overnight in house by themselves. Nobody taught them of devils, hell and Satan. Free their minds of evil and harmful thoughts. Kids are more outgoing when the fear factor to subdue them is not there.

2. Less Friction - There is no friction between kids and parents - no harassment or nagging them to go to church or temple and participate. My childhood memories are full of my mother doing same to me.

3. Family Time - Quality time / free time Sunday. Sunday can be a very good family day for plenty of activities. Sunday was otherwise a lost day in my childhood.

4. Respect - This is very true. Kids respect parents as they think parents are broad minded and kids appreciate parents. As they grow up, they will find out religions are one of the major reasons for wars and fights in the world. Kids feel hypocritical if parents follow religions and then complain about wars and fights.

5. Marriage - Kids can be friendly with anyone and are even free to select their life partners without the bounds of religions. This is huge welcoming factor for the kids to be happy in life after marriage. Lots of time, the person they wanted to be with ended up in a different religion.

6. Rebellious attitude - Rebellious attitude is not there with kids as parents don't tell them to do things which they don't like.

7. Well Mannered - Kids are more charitable, benevolent and good mannered. This is what normally the kids become as against the common belief that religions are only source of teaching morality.

8. Sex - Sexual behaviors are normal: kids when they grow up become sexually active and can do things with an open mind without feeling guilty. This will lead them to behave very responsibly in engaging and in handling sexual desires with the opposite sex. Not feeling guilty is a huge factor in growing to be responsible adults.

9. Ethical - Kids are found highly ethical. Religions play a negative role in making people unethical. Everything religions teach are against normal thinking. Example, Most Christians preach non-Christians will end up in hell. When the teacher lectures about evolution, churches teach opposite. This will make them believe against rational things-parents are irrational as they tell the kids to follow things blindly without questioning.

10. Sensitivity - Insensitive to animals and other species: religions make humans or Homo sapiens a superior species. It is really not true. We are very similar to chimps. However our 20 years of training is what is making us think scientifically and logically. Cave men did behave like animals

This article is written by Abraham Binoy. He is the President at Baylight Construction LLC, Englewood, Florida. Follow him on Facebook here.

Pakistan wants India to win against Australia

Though supporting Pakistan for a cricket match is frowned upon in India, it is surprising for me to find few Pakistanis showing allegiance to India for the semi-finals against Australia in this World Cup. I was browsing through social media for the past two days and I found interesting facts to support my hypothesis. In one post, an Indian working in Middle East commented that he had seen Pakistanis supporting India when Pakistan is not playing. But he equally blamed Indians for not supporting Pakistan when India is not playing. He mentioned, “We Indians do support Sri Lanka or Bangladesh but not Pakistan.” He added that, most Pakistanis support India when their nation is not playing. It is really interesting for someone like me who had never interacted with any Pakistanis.

If you’re an active follower of cricket, you might know about Mohammad Bashir, a Pakistani who supports India when Pakistan is not playing. In fact, Dhoni used to arrange tickets for him.

Image Source

Here is a blogger from Pakistan supporting India after Pakistan lost to Australia. Follow her here


I have heard stories from School and College friends stating that Muslims in India in their locality used to burst crackers when Pakistan wins against India. I personally asked few of my Muslim friends which nation they would support. This question of me blew the fuse of many and they were angry at me for asking such a stupid question. Before jumping the gun and stamping me as an RSS agent, I am sure you’d have heard about the 2011 semi-finals between India and Pakistan when Srinagar was shut down on the day of encounter and fall of wickets on the Indian side was cheered by bursting crackers. May be, I should not have stereotyped and jumped to conclusions. You cannot blame me too. I have asked this question to few of my Tamil friends, “If the LTTE occupied area in Sri Lanka was announced as a separate country and if they had a cricket team, and if they played against India, which team would you support.”

I am sure, the answers I got were very surprising. I remember an article published by a Chinese magazine that said each state in India has a sub-level identity and a wider Indian level identity is missing in India and therefore each state can be disintegrated into separate nations. Though it is a fantasy for China to think that way, the answers to my question intrigued me. Even today, Tamils feel that the media is biased towards the state. Let me quote an example, a leading English daily mentioned, “Indian fishermen fishing near territorial waters of Pakistan got arrested by Pakistan” while when Sri Lankan navy arrest the fishermen from Rameshwaram, the same newspaper mentioned, “ Tamil fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan navy.” Why not Gujarati fishermen in the earlier case and why Tamil fishermen in the latter case? This post was doing rounds in the social media for a while.

May be this is the agenda of the Political masters to divide and rule to keep the powers to themselves. I am not sure how many who doesn’t know the language Tamil know this fact that the word “Nadu” in Tamil means country. So what Tamil Nadu means is Tamil Country. Seems like a larger political agenda. I am not trying to justify the answers my friends gave but I am trying to find answers for myself. Before writing this article I asked few friends why they did not support Pakistan in cricket matches when India is not playing. Pat came the reply, we hate them. When I probed them further, some said, it is because of religion. So I asked them, do you hate UAE too? They said NO. After talking to almost like twelve friends, the conclusion is, they export terrorism into India and have killed innocent civilians. They quoted Kargil and then Mumbai attacks and numerous bomb blasts that happened in India.

In 1999 test match between India and Pakistan, the Chennai crowd at Chinnaswamy stadium gave Pakistan a standing ovation when they won the match. Is that possible anymore? Why is it that the trend has changed and we don't even remember that such an event happened? So people in India hate Pakistan for its terror activities in Indian soil. What could be the reason for Pakistanis to support India in cricket matches when India is not playing? Do they also realize that the terror attacks in India are because of the terrorists who infiltrate from the Pakistani side? Or is it because the very few rational thinkers in Pakistan are the ones active in social media? Whether this was their opinion for long or things changed after Pakistan started imploding on its own due to internal crisis. Whatever it may be, it is a surprise for someone like me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Does honesty really pay?

I would have definitely made my parents proud had I chosen to become an IAS officer.  They were very confident that I could have easily cracked it. Well, I can hear their mumbling mind voices now that I didn't even try for it. It was in my second year in engineering that it dawned on me that we live in India and all such proud IAS officers can thrive only in movies. My friend and I had serious discussions about the profession and finally decided that there shouldn’t be a dilemma between the two, Money and Power. It was never between money and service. Even now nobody considers IAS as a service rather it is known for the power it gives. We chose money. Fast forward ten years, the same friend and I started a business venture (you cannot call it a venture; it is more of a hobby).

When you run a business or work for some business, time is the most valuable commodity. You cannot run from pillar to post to get your files moved and waste your days particularly when you have a foreign partner. Time is money. Either you get it done or your competitor would get it done. It is cut throat competition. But how far will you go to win in this competition. Would you bribe someone through money or other means? Would you desist from wrong-doing even if you lose? Welcome to India, where honesty in life is a rarity. I am sure you’d have heard about honest officers from the cadres of IAS, IPS and IFS being transferred every now and then for being honest. Today when the nation mourns the death of the honest and upright officer D K Ravi’s untimely death, there are few questions that linger. When the entire police force is solving or covering up various scams and rapes in this country, can we expect the Police Department to probe this case without any influence? Already they have concluded that there is no foul-play and it is a case of suicide. It is highly surprising why an officer like D K Ravi would commit suicide. What was he going through? There are lots of stories floating around the internet and one thing that is clear is, today, every parent of any IAS, IPS or IFS officer would be worried. Forget about movie dialogues, which will never happen in a household. My dad would have advised me to go to office wearing blinkers had I been an IAS officer. If everyone is going silent about the scams, why should you worry would have been the exact words he would have spoken.

From the Facebook wall of DK Ravi's batch-mate

I can say with no doubts that he is an honest and proud dad but when it comes to his only child, this is how he will talk. For parents who would love to teach their kids about honesty and being courageous, they would be in a dilemma today whether to teach them to be courageous, upright and lose them or to go with the flow and prosper. What would you do as a parent? I was wondering few days back, would we have Bhagat Singhs in India again. Would we have such patriots for whom the nation comes first? Yes, there are many amongst us. Again, I would like to ask this question, what would you do as a parent? Would you teach your child to be honest and upright or to go with the flow?

PS – My heartfelt condolences for the family of the officer D K Ravi. I have never seen such public outrage and protest for a death of a Government official. You will always live in our hearts!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

1 ball, 4 runs and 1 wicket

No this post is not about cricket.. the title is the name of the Tamil movie I watched yesterday.. and even the movie is not about cricket.. its a Horror movie.. Yes.. and that is the WORST horror movie I have ever seen.. probably because I have not seen any of the movies where Bipasha Basu acted without make up.  Horror movies can be scary, not scary, weird, sad, horrible etc.. but this movie was funny.. extremely funny and that too unintentionally.

What are the ingredients of a horror movie in India? A good looking heroine, horrible looking hero, hero’s comedian friend who always cracks pathetic jokes, a house which looks like a normal house in the day and like an haunted house in the night, a weird character in the house like the servant or a gardener who comes every night with dim lighting to scare the young couple, intimate scenes between hero and heroine before the introduction of the ghost, Ghost gets into the heroine’s body, heroine becomes scary, Frying pan becomes a Flying pan in the house, neighbor’s dog dies, an amateur exorcist comes,the exorcist runs away, professional exorcist comes, everybody in the theater runs away.  This movie has most of these ingredients.. but….

In the opening scene of the movie, one lady is shown hanging from the fan. Lucky person, she doesnt have to see the rest of the movie. Then the scene cuts to a temple where the heroine is shown eloping with the hero. I didnt know if I had to feel happy or sad for the hero. After a fiery chase, few flying vegetables and more flying human beings and tons of artificial screeching sounds of the wheels they escape from her groom and both of them reach the haunted house. Even my four year old daughter could explain what would happen next but in a better way than what they showed in the movie. Yes the ghost in the house gets into the heroine’s body.

The next one hour of the movie revolves around how the people and other objects revolve (literally) around the house because of the ghost. The heroine now has more make up with the voice level literally crossing 100 decibels. She walks around the house without swinging the arm, with loose hair and a plain white saree and turns suddenly when she hears a noise. The movie now has more silent moments followed by a sudden and scary noise err music. The hero gets restless and so do we.

Finally the hero gathers courage and goes near the heroine (ghost) and when we expect him to do something bravely that would chase the ghost off, he falls at the feet of the ghost and asks the ghost to leave the heroine’s body. (Bull Shit – No.1) The ghost does what the audience wanted to do… spit on his face and tells him its flashback. Apparently there lived a woman with her husband in the house. One day both of them fight for watching TV. The husband wanted to watch cricket (Ha!! finally the reason for the title is revealed) and the wife, the last episode of a mega serial. The house was so huge that they have 3 floors in the house all for themselves but they couldnt afford a second TV (BS – No.2). During the fight the husband slaps the wife and she hangs herself from the fan (BS – No.3). Wow.. the first scene hanging and now. Is it the same woman?? Yes… the director did a recall. Amazing stuff from him. Who would have thought?

The flashback is over and now its the hero’s turn to spit on the ghost.. and asks about what she wants to leave the body. The reply is “I have to watch the climax of the mega serial which I missed”. Now I felt like hanging myself. The hero leaves to go to the channel office to get the recording of the serial and the movie gets over with the following line “To be Continued…”. I walked off the theater appreciating the director’s guts to take a Part two of this movie and expect audience to watch it without dying.

This movie review is written by Comedian Praveen Kumar. To know more about his upcoming shows follow him on Twitter @Funny_Leone

Are private airlines any better than Air India?

Customer Service is the biggest buzz word, the key differentiator in the service business.  It is the most profound thing to preach, so profound that it needs to be discussed at the highest level in a company. But the practice is sporadic and very reluctantly done. Irrespective of the money we pay, there needs to be a minimum standard of customer service for any business to grow. But the reality is very different.

For example take the domestic airline services in the country. Is there any real difference in the experience if you travel by Air India or Jet Airways or Indigo. Though Air India gets a lot of flak, the truth is that there is nothing much to differentiate at least when it comes to the aspect of flying itself or the type of aircraft or baggage allowance. 

The only difference is in the service, how friendly are the cabin crew. Granted if you fly in Air India, you get nostalgic. Suddenly you are reminded of your school days. The hostesses strikingly resemble and act like that old School Miss or rather Ma'am. They rarely smile at you. They use polite words but neither politeness nor warmth is reflected in their expression or in their voice. You do not feel the 'Good morning'. It is like the Ma'am in school wishing you Good morning and pausing for the chorus of 'Good Mornings' in return before springing the surprise test on you. But in a way I am not disappointed, invariably the service remains constant. The lady thrusts the tray at you, rushes through the announcements, impassively goes through the safety demo and the captain as usual mumbles something which nobody understands.

Still I Like Air India, I know what to expect, at least they do not scream about customer service. They do not promise anything, and they do not deliver either. But they fly you from otherwise inaccessible, remotest locations even with one passenger on board. They are the underdogs, but without them, many of the sectors would not have connectivity and at least some of the airports may not have had even a single flight. I am not trying to justify the lack of customer service in Air India. They have a long way to go in improving their service.

But look at the so called customer friendly private airlines, is the story any different?

This article is written by Professor Anand Unnithan. Prof. Anand Unnithan is an Associate Professor in Marketing in Indian Insititute of Management Kozhikode and is a visiting Associate professor at School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Follow him on Twitter @anandunnithan

Incredible India!

                          Slaughtering - No, Begging - Yes!

Image clicked outside a temple in Madiwala, Bangalore, India.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Should you invest in Stocks or Real Estate?

We are sure, when it comes to investments; people always prefer real estate to stocks. One reason, people think real-estate returns are far better when compared to stocks. Another reason, you own an asset which you can visit, show off to your family and friends. If it is a house or flat, it is a matter of pride.

            But whether real-estate investments are fool-proof and safe? Or at least they are less riskier than stocks? Does it mean, risk averse investors prefer real-estate investments and risk lovers go for stocks? We are sure; you would have seen a friend or a relative visiting the court for a property dispute. The disputes would be less or almost nil when you buy a flat from a reputed builder. Again, how much you end up paying as interest for the loan is a big question. Here is what Albert Einstein says about compound interest, "Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He, who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it."

          So people who are paying interest are the ones that are paying it. And who earns it? People who invest in equity related schemes or in any real estate property with their own money earns it. But can we buy a real estate property by paying upfront the total money? No, most of us cannot. But can we buy stocks with few thousands? Yes, we can.

Disadvantages of investing in stocks

·        Huge Volatility

·        Intangible

Disadvantages of investing in real estate

·        High transaction costs and commissions

·        Huge margin required

·        Returns are lesser than stock investments

·        Cannot diversify with limited funds

·        Chances of litigation are more

·      Maintenance costs like fencing if it is a plot, Renovation, painting, landscaping if it is a flat

·        Have to pay property tax

·        You end up paying twice the amount of the property if you take a loan

Let us see the advantages of owning a stock

·        Liquid

·        Better return than Real Estate

·        Low Transaction Costs

·        More variety (diversification)

·        Less investment required to own

·     Long term (anything more than a year) capital gains tax is zero (Meaning, just hold any stock more than a year, your capital gains tax is zero

·        Chances of litigation are less

Let us see the advantages of investing in real estate

·        Tangible

·        Interest payment can be deducted from taxable income

·        Less volatile

Seems like it is more advantageous to invest in stocks than in real-estate, isn’t it?  Here is what Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain has to say about real-estate investment, “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”

So is this the logic for people to invest in properties than into stocks? Well, let us dig deeper to find whether investing in real estate or stock yields a better return.

Check out this graph (Historical returns of S&P 500 index versus Housing Price Index)

This chart doesn’t include the dividends you could make by investing in stocks. If that is included, then the returns from stocks could be even more. And if you take a loan for your real-estate investment, you could probably end up paying more as way of interest.

Mumbai is the hot real-estate market in India. Mumbai cannot expand unlike Bangalore as it is an Island. Poor souls, they have to reclaim the sea to expand the city. Whereas a city like Bangalore is expanding in all directions. A standup Comic friend of us once joked,” Bangalore’s new airport is in Hyderabad.” In the year 1980, a sq.ft of land in the Dalal Street area of Mumbai was selling at INR 100 and it sells around INR 27000 today. That works out to an annualized return of 20.51% over 35 years. Similarly a property purchased in Carter Road in Mumbai in 1970s would have given an annualized return of 19% over 45 years.

Had you invested in Sensex when it was trading at 100 in 1979, you would have made an annualized return of 17% (today Sensex is trading at 29000). You must be smart; you noticed that the returns from Sensex was lesser than the real estate investment examples we discussed. Add another 1.5%  as dividend yield for Sensex, it would now match the returns on these prime properties.

Points to ponder

Many stocks that form a part of the index (Sensex) have given an annualized return of more than 30% since they got listed. If you invest wisely, you can expect an annualized return of more than 20% from stocks.

These prime properties are not for the regular Joes like us. We cannot afford to own a piece of land in those areas (Disclaimer – “We” refers to the Middle class and the lower middle class). But can we own a piece of Sensex for few thousand rupees? Welcome to the world of Bulls and Bears where every day is an exciting one!

Monday, March 9, 2015

I choose what dress my friend should wear.

Let me clarify this first. No, I do not choose what dress my friend should wear. I cannot even decide that for my parents and in the future for my kids. I am a VEGETARIAN and not a vegan. I am a Hindu and come from a community who are known for their non-vegetarianism. So eating non-vegetarian food is not an issue in our family. But I was raised to be a vegetarian. We used to have around 20 cows in our home when I was a kid. During our grandpa’s time we used to have bullock carts too. We used oxen to plough our field and to dig out broken rocks and mud for a new well in our farm. I once gave a deadly blow with a thick tree branch to a cow on its head when I was in my early teens (the reason – it had trespassed in to our farm and had eaten a few sq.mts of our crop). Luckily the cow survived. But my mom still believes it is the reason I broke my leg 6 months later.  Does it really have anything to do with beating the cow. Or is it really karma that broke my leg? I do not know. My dad is a heart-patient and has a heart valve problem since 2001. Sometimes he attributes that to the number of rodents and snakes he has killed in the farm. Hailing from an agricultural village, I have seen few people dying of snake bite when I used to be a kid and killing a snake is considered a heroic act. Even the cobras were not spared though we used to visit a Snake temple in a nearby town called Nagercoil  (The name of the town means, “Temple of Snakes” and there is a big snake temple in that town) to offer prayers. Do not know if that was hypocrisy or to wash away the sins.

I have seen my cousins, killing (with an air-rifle) and barbecuing squirrels and pigeons. During my eighth standard vacation, I went to my cousin’s place and my aunt was the ladies hostel warden in the Government Engineering College where she worked as an Assistant Professor. I befriended a guy named Vikas whose dad worked in the same college. He had an air-rifle. I always used to ask him to take it out so we can hunt few birds (Vikas died a year later during one of his NSS camps). He said there is this girl from third year who advised him not to kill birds and lectured him about spirituality. I just wanted to break her head for doing so. Now, he is not taking his rifle out because of her. When I went back home, all I wanted was an air-rifle. Dad said, ask anything but not the rifle. I was like; get me a rifle and nothing else. My cousin had one who happens to be my neighbor and he acts super smart with me by letting my dad know of whatever I tell him. Dad used to tell me, if you have a rifle, you’ll kill something. I promised him, I will not be doing that. He wasn’t convinced.

Later when I joined engineering, my parents told me I can eat non-vegetarian food if I wanted to. But I was too proud in being a vegetarian and not to have even tasted flesh till today. Few months after engineering, I called my father from Mumbai, telling him that I killed a crow. He was shocked and asked me how and why? I bought a rifle with my first month’s salary from Voltas and my first shot from the rifle killed a crow.  It was not intentional. When I was showing the rifle to my friend, he asked me, what the range is and I mentioned 20 meters. He asked me if this could kill a crow that was on the branch of a tree which we could see from the balcony. I mentioned, it should and pulled the trigger and was it beginners luck, I do not know, the crow fell (do not know if that crow was an innocent one). And hence the phone call to dad. But I didn't feel pleasant anymore. Even now the memory of that day haunts me. I could see hundreds of crows gather around the dead crow and paying their last tributes and for the first time I felt guilty for killing something.

Fast forward few years, I told my uncle, let us have a poultry farm, he said, the money we make by killing other animals will not last long. Dad mentioned the same when I wanted to set-up a fish-farm. But I did not stop. I sold fishes for a day to see how it works. That’s it. I could not stand the smell and the flesh of fish being chopped like vegetables. I asked the guy who was chopping it, how does he feel to cut the flesh of a live fish. He smiled and said, “Kid, go home!”. With the blood dripping from the knife he was holding, I didn't protest. That was it. No more money making ideas that involves animals (Rational animals –humans are excluded).

It was in Mumbai, I saw a lady who brought a cow to a temple with a stack of grass. You need to buy some grass from her by paying her and feed her cow. Yes, That is what I saw in Mumbai. It is a very unique business model. The grass is yours, cow is yours and you charge people for buying the grass from you to feed your cow. I have seen people worshiping cows by touching its head/back or both. The college where I studied engineering was on the border of Kerala and we have a few restaurants serving beef there. I have seen friends who never had beef in their life tasting it there. And most of them were not Muslims. They are Hindus. We saw Maharashtra banning beef and the social media getting flooded with posts of people either in support of it or against it. But does it really amount to good karma if you don’t eat beef but you can still eat other animals. Or does karma only apply to eating animals and has nothing to do with killing them. Or this is all just like my broken leg.

Image Source

I am not sure which side to take. But I am sure of one thing. I cannot advise anybody on their food habits. I sometimes stay with a cousin of mine who is a beef lover. Even I take parathas from the same restaurant he buys beef. Once, when a friend visited me, I referred this restaurant to him and added that my cousin takes beef from this one and he likes it. But do I eat? No, I do not. Can I advise him not to eat? Why should I be doing that? They are my friends irrespective of what food they eat or what dress they wear. Can I decide what dress they should wear? Not even in my dreams. Then who are we to advise them on their food habits. If you are a staunch Hindu and if you believe in Karma, wait for the karma to take things over. Do not take it in your hands. Like my dad who attributes his heart ailment to Karma and my mom who attributes my broken leg to hurting that cow, leave it to Karma or God and do what is acceptable to you. If something has to be banned permanently, I would ask the Government to ban polluting industries, polluting vehicles, Ghutka and smoking in public. And not what people should eat or wear.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Business Strategy and Business Schools

This post is not about teaching business strategy in Business Schools. It is about an important question, should a B School require a business strategy? I think yes, one must have a business model; where to and how to make money and how to spend it.

What are the priorities and what are the larger or long term institutional objectives? What kind of an institution do we want to build and for whom? These questions are  explicitly addressed in the case of most formal organizations and there is an articulated strategic plan to realize the corporate aspirations for businesses.

What about a a business school? How do we compare and judge alternate strategic choices if we do not have a clear direction?

There are many, however who may feel upset that I am looking at a business school as a business. The hypocrisy is that we can teach business, but teaching business must not be called a business though it is always one. Mostly academics are the first to reject theory as impractical in their own organizations. Imagine discussing about vertical integration and rapid skimming for a business school and lifestyle segmentation of our customers who are our students. The perpetrator of such ideas may not be liked very much by colleagues.

Should a B school be profitable and how do we do this, what if it is in public sector?
These thoughts were prompted initially by IIM Indore's decision to go for backward integration and start under graduate programmes. Look at the initial furor it created. Many academics said this will dilute the quality of the institution. There are IITs who are better known for under graduate programmes. There are many reputed Universities in US whose quality has not gone down despite running much sought after under-grad programmes. Why should IIMs be exceptions?

After a few years, it is still early to judge whether this programme is successful in terms of acceptance of its graduates by the industry. But in terms of acceptance by potential applicants, it is a success. In terms of profitability, it is a huge success.

Once I worked in an institution where the management claimed that one can study from 'Playschool to PhD' with out leaving the campus. Would IIM Indore pursue this aspiration? They already have Doctoral and Masters. Now they are going upstream to under graduate programmes. Would they continue to have a school also, so that they can straddle the entire supply chain? Or should they  diversify to law, botany, mathematics, medicine etc. Will they remain a market nicher or will they try to be the cost leader or volume leader. 

I also wonder what hundreds of under graduate students and their parents will do to the IIM system. Imagine PTA, progress reports, parents crying on the inaugural day, Imagine the professor struggling to adopt to students in their early teens. It would be certainly an interesting experiment.

A few more years down the line,  I would love to read a case study on what strategic directions are served by this move.

This article is written by Professor Anand Unnithan. Prof. Anand Unnithan is an Associate Professor of Marketing in Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode and is a Visiting Associate Professor at School Of Management, Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.

Follow him on Twitter @anandunnithan