Dear BJP and other political parties

Dear BJP and other such "political" parties,

I heard that you guys had called for a countrywide bandh today. From what I know and understand, a bandh, ideally is a peaceful activity wherein people and businesses supporting the activity, show their allegiance by not working. 

Today however was something else. More than businesses shutting shop by their own accord, it was the hired goons and muscles that forced people to down shutters. The ones who protested were bashed up! There were reports of violence in many parts of the country and the public infrastructure was damaged in at least three states.

You guys must be really proud of what you cooked up. I am sure all of you will sleep peacefully, probably as calmly as as child, tonight. You would have loved every second of the 15 minutes of fame that you enjoyed today, at the cost of us Indians. 

And why would you summon for a bandh in the first place? You wanted to bring things to notice? There are other ways to do it. Lets start with logic and reason. Who stopped you from doing a large campaign on the national media (the kind you do when you are fighting elections) and trying to make people understand why is that fuel prices are going up the spiral? You could have posted intelligent questions in the Assembly and hold the leaders responsible?

Agreed that inflation is getting out of control. I understand that the petrol prices are going through the roof. I know that its getting increasingly difficult for a common man to live a happy and content life in India. But does that mean we make it even more difficult for people! 

Dear BJP and the brains at the helm, a bandh is as anti-progress as anything else could be. If we were to strike about everything, we would not have reached where we are. The prehistoric man, could have decided to strike against the animals of the jungle. And we wont have had a civilization. Gandhi could have sat at home against the British and we wouldn't have had a free India. Stop looking that far back in the history. If businessmen like Tatas and Ambanis decided to call for a bandh every other day for stupid reasons, they wouldn't have had those empires that they have. You know, a man's destiny is not really "written" by some God. Its the man's actions that actually help him create that destiny. While you were forcing the bandh around the country, there were a few men and women who were still working and trying to make this country a far better place to live in. Hats off to them and salute to their spirit. 

You know, with time, typically, political parties grow in stature and they command respect. Their actions earn respect for them. This move has undone a lot of all the hard work you guys may have had done in past few years. I was not really sure if I wanted to get involved with politics but you guys have made my resolve much stronger. Hopefully I would live to see a day where political propaganda like this would not be encouraged by people.

Till then,
A proud Indian.

A real-life coward

A couple of days back, I was going to meet my agony aunt. I was in Gurgoan and I was driving at may be 40 and was singing out loud to my music. There are a few big decisions I needed to take and I wanted her opinion. I was thinking of all the things that I wanted to talk to her about. And I heard a loud noise. I was in an accident!

The other vehicle was a taxi, plying for Spicejet (I would come to Spicejet bit in a minute). The taxi was being driven the way taxis are driven - fast, furious, reckless and brash. I was driving the way I drive. And there was a blind turn. The crash was inevitable.Thankfully no one got hurt in the accident. The two cars got damaged like crazy. Especially mine is beyond recognition.

What had to happen, happened. But right after the crash, at least twenty other taxi drivers ganged up against me. They surrounded me from all sides, hurling abuses at me. Since everyone in an armchair activist, everyone had their version of the story and everyone seemed angry. At least two of them even held my shirt collar. They pushed me around and put my back against a wall. No one hit me but if I had opened my mouth and had uttered a single word, it would have been ugly and I would have been bashed up like crazy. I was held hostage by all these people, most of them dint really have a business being there, and I could not do a thing!

It was broad daylight and there were atleast 100 other spectators. The worst part, the damn voyeurs were actually laughing and enjoying the show. Not a single soul bothered to even try and help me. All the empty noises that I make about being a hero, standing up for what you think is right, being strong, being confident and all that, came flashing in front of my eyes. I was destroyed. I dint know if I was to voice my thoughts and get killed for real or if I was to become a coward and stand there with my head hanging like a guilty man.

At that instant, I realized that I am only good when the person in front of me is logical and understands the situation. There is no way I can handle a mob. Especially a gang of thugs, that is constantly looking for some problem to meddle into. These people are out there to kill or get killed. And for no apparent reason.

Thankfully  this was close to office. I called up a few colleagues, they came immediately. And once they arrived, I took a breather. I finally had someone who I could trust. Even the police turned up after a while. They merely stood there and told us to "reach a compromise" and not bother them with complaints and formalities of FIR etc. I was aghast at their behavior and I was surprised. Aren't they supposed to serve and protect? Aren't they supposed to maintain law and order? Arent they supposed to talk to those goons who had ganged up on me and put some sense in them?

Finally three hour after the arguments and counter-arguments, we reached a "compromise" and everyone left for their respective homes/offices etc. For me, the only outcome is the realization that I am by myself in this wild world. It's like back to those prehistoric days where every animal was for itself and had to fend itself from everything else in the jungle.

In 2012, it's a modern day jungle out there. I am a tiny creature and I need to look for myself.

And Spicejet, I sincerely wish I had a way of reaching your transport department and telling them the kind of people they've hired. But then one things for sure, I am not going to fly Spicejet anytime soon. And all the stock that I own, I would sell. Today.

Hudson News and Dunkin Donuts in India

Yesterday, I stepped out of my home after like 5 days. I am in the middle of a root canal and its painful, even when I dont have any drills or injections in my mouth. Anyways, so I was out and I was going to CP. On the way I saw two new international brands being launched in India. Hudson News (retailers of books, magazines and more recently food, cafe etc) and Dunkin Donuts (retailrs of donuts and coffee etc).

While thinking about these two brands I realized that a brand like Hudson News, probably has no long term future in India (true for most "retailers"). Simple reason. They are in the commodity business. If I set up exact same format at Hudson and called it GargSon and offered as good or better experience, ambiance, convenience, price and service as a Hudson, there is no reason why customers would not flock to GargSon. So if Interglobe (The company that runs Indigo Airlines and is launching Hudson in India), created a new format and a new brand all together, they would have done far better (unless they want to launch house labels or private labels, like a Bharti Walmart).

One may argue about expertise and process experience that Hudson may bring to India from their international presence. But then enough has been written about how India is a different market and how the customers behave, perceive and decide differently.

On the other hand, if its a brand like Dunkin Donuts (being launched by Jubilant Foodworks, master franchisee of Dominoes Pizza in India), customers pay for the product. And for the "association with" and "consumption of" the brand (end of the day its a Donut and there are enough and more good and tasty donuts available in India). The association and consumption of a Dunkin Donuts can not be replicated by a Saurabh's Donuts. And thus, it makes a lot of sense to get international "product" brands in India. These two words - association and consumption - are the only two reasons why host of product brands would do well in India. Starbucks, Ikea to name a few!

And yes, I did try a Dunkin and it was ok. Not close to M.O.D. but it was great to see a Dunkin's in Delhi. Exciting times ahead.

First posted on Sandbox.

Movie Review - Vicky Donor

So I finally saw Vicky Donor, the movie that everyone cant stop talking about. Here is the review!

The plot.
The movie is about a typical young Punjabi guy from Delhi. Like all young Punjabi guys in Delhi, he is jobless, clueless and spends his time in bed, cricket field, malls, clubs and other such places of pleasure. And like all Punjabi guys, he can talk fast and knows all the slang that we use in Delhi.

One fine day when life was hunky dory and he was whiling away time, he stumbles upon an opportunity to donate his sperm and make some quick buck. Apprehensive in the beginning, he eventually gets around and starts enjoying the riches that her sperm gets him. Riches include Plasma TV, a "blue" bedroom, lava lamps, neon bulbs, cash etc.

Then, like all Bollywood movies, he falls in love and gets married. The twist in the tale is that that the man who's been playing the mythical stork, donating sperm to the entire world and showering them with babies, cant have a baby of his own because the leading lady cant conceive for some reason.

And then something happens, followed by something else and some more something elses. The story starts dragging, dragging, dragging and dragging. And eventually the movie ends.

The good 
Few character are brilliantly written. And brilliantly enacted. No, no the leading gentleman or the lady. But Dr. Chaddha, Pepsi Aunty, Mrs. Arora, DaadiJi, the desperate friend. I could totally relate to all of them (no, I dont have any such characters living next door but they are believable and familiar for some reason).

Then, there are few shots that are gorgeous, for want of a better word. They havent made a tourist movie out of Delhi or Kolkatta but some bit is shot outdoor and its been shot well. I particularly love a scene where the heroine is sitting on a bus stop and is crying. Its a visual treat, the way it has been shot. I wish it was slightly longer. I couldn't seem to have enough of it.

And when they get married, the wedding song is hilarious. I have always wanted a court marriage for myself but after I saw that wedding scene, I am very sure I want to have a Punjabi wedding with cars stacked with "whiskey"! Must must see this bit.

The bad
The story in the second half could have been MUCH MUCH better. I cant digest the sudden anger, departure for Kolkatta, reconciliation for a mere party of an acquaintance, even more sudden dispersal of all the pent up anger and the they-lived-happily-ever-after ending. More thought would have made the story more convincing.

The final word.
I would give the movie a 2.5 on 5. Rest upto you. Go see it. The part before the interval is really nice and it does make you laugh. And no, its not thought provoking at all. And no, no comments on the acting skills of the hero or the heroine.

The Outlier!

Recently I was applying for a visa to a difficult country. Difficult because they take great pride in screening who visits their motherland. The screening is downright humiliating at times but then its ok, it’s a little price you have to pay to be an Indian.

So, these guys wanted copies of my income tax returns for last three years. Now I dont really bother about these official documents. I just give all my papers to my accountant and he files the requisite papers. I dont even check with him. I trust him blindly. Today was thus the first time in almost 18 months when I pulled these documents out. And I was shocked to realize that my total income in the last year was exactly half of my total income in my first year post MBA!

I passed out from MDI in 2006. I got placed on day 0 and was picked by GE Money. GE dint pay a lot of money but it was a lot for someone who had no clue how the world works and definitely had no clue what value could he add to a company that took pride in its 100 year old legacy. Obviously I wasnt complaining and I was happy with my 7 6 figure salary. Imagine being catapulted from a zero to seven six figures. And all you had to do for that was play Counter Strike and faff!

So, in almost 6 years since my MBA, while all my friends and peers have moved on to bigger, larger things post their campus jobs, I have moved sideways and actually went down. And went down how. I am on my third job right now and at both places (post GE), I took substantial paycuts. And as a result, I am struggling at low seven six figures (compare it to a few friends who are now at 9 8 figures). And in a world where you are measured by the amount of money you make, the car you drive and by the phone you keep, when I look in the mirror, I see an outlier, on the extreme left of the bell curve! Life is being what it is best at, being a bitch!

But then I dont think I cant blame anyone else for this. While moving on from GE and CLA, I decided that I dint want to work at boring companies and do shitty work. I mean am not too sure if what I do right now is interesting, but well, thats a debate for a different day!

EDIT... And just to prove that I am still a nincompoop, I calculated my measly 6 figure salary as 7 figures. I just cant get maths! Apologies for all the heart breaks :(

Bittersweet Symphony

In my Chennai office, amongst regular folks there are a couple of North East Indian boys. Nothing wrong with them and nothing against them but the sight of them lifting heavy cables, lights and other equipment under the harsh sun was really saddening. It made me want to cry.

I totally agree to the notion of dignity of work and I dont think any work is below human standard but here are two boys, who would have spent most of their childhood and youth in mountains, next to gentle streams of water, amongst beautiful flowers, in the green misty valleys, running after one another on those twisting and turning mountain paths, climbing up and jumping down in probably the best weather that God has showered upon us humans.

Call it twist of fate, most probably they left home for some Rupees and somehow landed in Chennai. Where the life is totally opposite to what they are used to back home! If God had planned life and things little better, he would have made each community self sustainable. May be he did and us humans spoiled it all trying to chase material comforts and such things. Whatever it is, if I could play God, I would either not give anyone any emotions or I would ensure that everyone from the same kith and kin stayed together. To end it, a famous line from The Verve.
Cause it's a bittersweet symphony, this life.
Trying to make ends meet
You're a slave to money then you die

Personal Email Policy

So here is my mail policy. I would divide my emails into two. Things that can be finished in a minute or two. And things that would take longer than five minutes.

For everything that can be done in less than 2 minutes, I would do those, at the moment I get the email (thanks to push mail). This could include delegating things, forwarding messages to people, allocating tasks, replying to quick requests etc. I reckon that these would be about 80% of emails that I get in a day. I also assume that for these emails, since the replies would be short, I wont have to be at the mercy of a laptop as I can use my phone to get these done.

The tasks that would take longer, replying to long emails, emails to friends and family, guest post requests etc, I would take them up in one sitting. For these tasks, I would check my email twice. Once at the morning and other towards the evening or before I sleep. Each time I would allocate as much time it takes to get done with them. Everyday, I would sleep with my mailbox empty with all requests.

And along with, I would need a system to track the followups since I would start delegating a lot more things and experience tells me that people are generally lazy. I have been trying to do the followup using tasks with  Google Calendar. So far it looks nice and easy. Lets see how it goes and how I use it over a long term.

The new email policy would also mean that I would have to unsubscribe from all those newsletters that I love reading (Gapingvoid, Seth Godin, Vimrod, Jason Calacanis etc). And subscribe to those from a regular feed reader or something. Finally, the bigger picture (of having an email policy) behind all these changes, is to try and simplify life over the next few weeks. And reach a point where these things dont clutter my head and I am free to think and work on larger issues.

Originally posted on Sandbox.

The Nidhi Kapoor Story

Did you like this post? May be you want to read my first book - The Nidhi Kapoor Story.

Check it out on Amazon or Flipkart?