Tuesday, January 29, 2013

El camino a la prosperidad

Excellent Customer Service, that’s what is screaming out loud from every store, every restaurant, every nook and corner. Right from the time when one enters a place to the time when one leaves it’s all about customer service and customer delight. 

Walk in to a store or a restaurant and there is somebody with you in few seconds, greeting you with a smile and asking if they could be of any help. Promptly letting you know the options and choices at offer and making every effort to understand your needs. Yes, most of it is process driven so that, every customer gets a consistent level of service, yet there is plenty of customer delight brought in by going the extra mile. For example, greeting when, you step in, to ensuring you get what you want, to wishing you a great day before you leave is great customer service, however throwing in freebies or customizing an item or offering additional options of value is customer delight!

Great customer service is always about, clear and prompt communication, appropriate response to customer’s reaction, unintimidating method of guidance and honesty. Anything over and above this leads to customer delight. I have seen so many instances of that. This country is about entrepreneurship - huge retail outlets, restaurant chains, fast food chains, family owned businesses, large corporations including banks, some are now MNCs and some never left the shores of this country. Yet what combines them in uniqueness of character is – customer service. 

They say that customer service can be only as good as your products, however the humility, respect and dedication towards service is very endearing and I think a thing to be learnt and adapted wherever possible. It is business success through human touch.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dumb and Dumber

For a change I am in a country where you don’t have to convert every cost into $, everything is in $! I am in a country where things are done in brazenly different manner than rest of the world. Switches work the other way, weight is measured in pounds, distance measured in miles, petrol is called gasoline and measured in gallon and so on and so forth. As a friend once painstakingly pointed out, everything done, in order to do away from colonial past and create a completely new Identity. Thank fully they couldn’t do much with time; it is still 60 seconds a minute and 60 minutes an hour.  Nonetheless It’s a very ‘politically aware’ nation and as I write this blog – TV is all about Obama’s swearing in for his second innings at the White house. 

This is what I am driving

There is one more thing that one would obviously notice, something that I have started to hate, driving! Yes as everything else, they drive on the other side, which they call the right side! The steering wheel is on the other side as well! After a day that, it takes for ‘getting used’ it is quite a dumbing down experience to drive here. I have been driving for the last three days here – weigh what sort of stress I have been put through:

-          I don’t need to decide the appropriate gear
-          I don’t need to preempt the worst the guy in front would do
-          I don’t need to worry about how to avoid scratches on the car
-          I don’t need to worry about the car rolling back
-          I don’t need to worry about how to maneuver around junctions with no signals
-          I don’t need to worry about finding out how to squeeze between two vehicles
-          I don’t need to worry about how to intimidate drivers around me to submission
-          I don’t need to indicate in absolute certain terms that I want to turn right or left
-          I don’t need to decide whether I need to stop at a signal or speed up
-          I don’t need to honk at anyone for anything

The Dumb
I fear if I continue driving in this country a few more days not only will I find it tough once I am back where I belong, but also my IQ would have fallen a good 50 points. Changing from survival of the fittest to ‘live and let live’ is stressful and comes with its own pitfalls of lower intelligence! Choose- intelligence or Driving Comfort? Don’t blame me if I look dumb in the picture! A dear friend asked me - 'which one is dumb' and 'which one is dumber'? Be your own judge!


Friday, January 18, 2013


I boarded the waiting cab and was contentedly on my way to the airport. I wouldn’t have gone any further than a Km when, unable to remember something, I broke out into cold sweat. I just couldn’t remember whether I had locked the main door of my apartment.  I could recollect having closed windows, turning of the gas stove but, darn me, I just couldn’t recollect if I had locked the main door. I had to call the security guard to quickly run upstairs to my apartment and check if the door was indeed locked or not!

I was to travel to a nearby city. Just few days before the trip, while buying a consumer electronic item I got a silver coin as part of a promotional offer and kept  the coin in my wallet (no good reason why). I thought it would be better if I left the coin at home and went on my trip. I removed the coin from my wallet and left it on my work table at home. It was a one night stay at the city that I was visiting. Before I fell asleep in my hotel room that night, for some reason, I thought to myself ‘I have left the silver coin on my hotel room table and I need to ensure I keep it back into my wallet next day morning before I check out’! Needless to say I broke out into cold sweat next day morning as I could not find the silver coin on the table at the hotel!

My friend had finished buying some gifts for friends and relatives. There were no surprises in the bill; however when it came to punching in the PIN for payment by debit card, my friend couldn’t remember the PIN at all. He failed repeatedly as he attempted to recollect what it was. I had to divert his attention and then ask him to just punch in the number pad without thinking. Lo! He got the right PIN punched in
The obvious reaction to the above is ‘you are growing old’ or ‘birds of same feather flock together’. Undeniably these observations are true, but not the only truths that exist. Once things like these are stated people tend to come up with innovative advises like, reduce alcohol consumption or even, get married! Needless to say that some advises I have headed to and some I have not. However, it is interesting to delve into this matter, atleast to figure out if I am the odd one out or if I am in bad company.

Unsettled and disturbed, I did some empirical research by sending questionnaires to a few of my friends. The questionnaire asked them about situations such as the ones mentioned above and asked if they had faced any or all of them. 100% of the respondents indicated they had definitely experienced atleast one of the mentioned situations and more than 70% indicated they had experienced more than one of them. About 40% said they had experienced all of those. I chose people of various age groups and backgrounds to ensure we are not talking about senility or mental disturbance. After seeing the response, needless to say, I did heave a sigh of relief!

These incidents, seemingly, happen often to us in our day to day lives. They also form the core of researching consciousness. As discussed in an earlier blog, memory is the key factor in deciding the contents of Consciousness. I think in each of the incidents mentioned at the beginning of this post, the memory seems to have transitioned from being an intentional aware memory to being an unaware memory. This I think is synonymous with muscle memory. In other words, the brain outsources the memory that doesn’t need any processing to the muscles. Hence often when we want to intentionally and with full awareness want to remember certain things that we do routinely, we fail to perform those acts. A car driver or a player of a musical instrument would know what I am talking about. In each of the above incidents the muscle memory was sufficient to carry out the required activity and needed no active processing by the brain, however when the memory was attempted to be recalled with full awareness of the brain, it couldn’t retrieve the unaware memory at all!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Country of origin or Country of birth is often a very emotional and personal affair. We believe our dedication to our country of birth or origin is beyond reason and to be absolute. Patriotism has always been a matter of passion and emotion and treated ahead of logic and reasoning. What if we were to change this status quo and just as a hypothesis look at this equation of Nation/State – Citizen, relationship from the view point of a Product and Consumer viewpoint? A sudden chain of thought that got triggered while attending a short course on marketing and branding.

What struck me was, what if we start treating a country and it's policies as a product and the citizen as the consumer of this Product? What if, like in the case of any other Product, brand loyalty is driven not by compulsion but by choice ! A brand is supposed to have an USP and should build its brand equity on the basis of the value proposition it offers to the consumer. The experience that a consumer gets by choosing a product drives his loyalty towards a particular brand. Now let us replace brand with country/state and it's policy, also we will replace consumer with citizen. A country needs to drive patriotism by voluntary choice of the citizen or atleast, it should  appear so. A country should make it clear as to what it ‘stands for’ and what its values are, and what it has to offer with respect to quality of life and opportunities of growth. These, form the core of its USP. A country has the responsibility of making it clear to its citizens what benefits it has to offer if they were to choose to be its citizen and how it would be a value addition to their respective lives. The quality of life one gets in a country and experiences one has should drive a person's loyalty towards a country. What I would not explore here is the concept of competing brands and a consumer (citizen) having the choice to switch brands depending upon desired quality of life and the value-proposition. (does happen now).

This could appear to be a blasphemous thought to many and ofcourse what I present is only a hypothesis. Though selling country as a brand is not a new idea. Countries have been doing this for ages to attract tourists or top brains and talent from across the world, however selling it as a brand to its own citizen might be a proposition that hasn’t been explored much. On a serious note, by building brand equity for itself, a country could help improve unity among people, boost morale, boost self-image and this could have positive effect on the economy. I thought this was a radical idea, however a quick search on the internet proved me wrong. The concept of Nation-Branding for domestic consumption has been doing the rounds for the past decade or so and the Government in conjunction with the elite have been entrusted with the onus of building the brand equity to drive loyalty of its citizen.

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rape And Society

The news that has made and been making headlines across the world, including China, is the incident of brutal rape of a 23 year old paramedic student in Delhi. The details of the incident are ghastly and stomach churning and yet the brave lady had this to say to her Mom “I want to live”, an exemplary demonstration of courage and fighting spirit that at times only women can demonstrate. It is unfortunate that as I write this post in the New Year, the lady is no more and I have no hesitation is saying that she died a martyr’s death. A Martyr dies for a cause and I think today the whole world has acknowledged the cause that this lady died for. Ofcourse she has expanded the canvas and has made attempts to ask questions much beyond just this brutal incident. I salute the lady’s spirit, spare a moment of silence to mourn her death and offer heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. We all are answerable and responsible for what happened to her.

Myths about Rape and Sexual Violence:
Her martyrdom doesn’t seem to have gone waste as people on social media, roadside stalls, schools, colleges and offices across the world have reacted, expressed anguish and debated preventive measures along with apt punishments for perpetrators of such crimes. It has also raised plenty of questions about safety of women in society and an even larger question of how much freedom does a society give to its women. It has also led to a parochial view point about the Indian society at large being misogynist and being outpaced by the rapid westernization or modernization of people. I think before we jump to conclusions and find out why such crimes are committed, few facts need to be sorted out dispassionately, and then we could embark on a journey to remedy the Indian Society.
  • Rape or Sexual violence against women is an universal phenomenon
  • Developed Economies have significant cases of sexual violence against women as Developing economies
  • Sex ratio of a country has nothing to do with increase or decrease in incidents of rape
  • Conviction rates in all countries continues to be low if not lower than India
  • All incidents of such nature do not get reported to the police in other countries as well
  • All countries have their own degree of issues with respect to Women’s liberty or freedom
  • Research done on Chemical Castration shows it is not proven to be effective always
  • Rape is not a modern society problem
  • Rape is as much common in rural areas as it is in urban areas so women’s dress definitely is not an instigator
  • The marital status or age of the criminal is not a factor, married or old men too rape
Role of Literature and Media:
Literature in all languages and forms (prose or poetry) has always glorified the female body and it continues unabated. From the print media it has now moved to an audio visual format and ofcourse has titillated the male senses for some quite some time. So the objectification of women is complete. A society which struggles to give freedom to women or has issues in providing equal opportunities to women or has repressed sexual behavior, combined with objectification of women, has often led to the male dismissing any right of dignity and respect to the women folk. The problems has gotten more complicated with lot of women, impressed by the audio visual representation, have started to see themselves as “sexy” or objects of “sexual desire”. However a society that believes in respect and dignity to a women and level playing ground wouldn’t dare to see anyone violate the personal space of a lady. Every incident of sexual violence against women is invariably a violation of the dignity, respect and personal choice that a woman deserves and demands of a society. I would repeat here that this is not an Indian problem per say, it is a universal problem; however the degree of the problem definitely varies depending upon the dynamics of respective societies.

Protesters and the Mindset:
I often find it interesting to note protests in situation where we are in a way protesting against ourselves. A rapist, as I mentioned in a blog earlier, are not aliens. They are part of the same society and are one among us. Government can’t be held responsible and should not be held responsible for anything and everything. For example female foeticide is a societal phenomenon and our parents and family members who feel burdened by a girl child or ask for dowry during marriages are to be blamed for such situations and no amount of policing can ever stop such tacit acts. Infact sometimes such acts are perpetrated by women themselves. Many among those who protest would cringe at the idea of their daughter’s or sisters having the freedom to choose a career or a life partner entirely on her own or even decide on the hours allowed outside home. Societal changes are not easy to come about especially where the problem is chronic in nature. Yet that’s exactly what the current problem demands. Question that one has to ask is what aides such societal changes, what aides in change of age old mindsets? What incentivizes people to move out of their comfort zone and ask questions? I think there is a strong need for social scientists or sociologists with strong relevance to India to develop innovative solutions after studying various co-related or unrelated data. I wouldn’t be surprised if nobody among the protestor is inspiring their kids to be social scientists or sociologists and assist in transforming society through innovative methods. Unless people start doing things that they haven’t done before, they won’t get results that haven’t been seen before.
Part of a Solution or Part of a Problem:
Debate has raged on how to appropriately punish the criminals who commit such crimes. The question ofcourse goes beyond just sexual violence and expands to what true justice is. Capital punishment that is being demanded would in a way end the criminal’s agony in one shot whereas the victim or their family would have to suffer all their life, yet if life imprisonment is awarded then the prisoner survives all his life on tax payers money and yet some would say that an opportunity for the person to repent, reform and become productive and reenter society is what we should aim for. And the debate continues with no perfect answer to the problem, especially in the case of rape or any incident of sexual violence.
I think there are three key aspects to think about in the Indian context
-          Reduce female foeticide/ infanticide
-          Prevention of Sexual violence
-          Strict laws that are appropriately implemented to deal with any incidents of sexual violence
-          Rehabilitation of the victim

Let us explore some possible solutions that I could think of, and I don't indicate this to be a exhaustive list by any stretch of imagination or arrogance.
Reduce female foeticide/ infanticide:
            -          Incentivize families with girl child – addition quote under PDS or free education till a particular age
           -          Incentivize states with better sex ratio with greater fund allocation
           -          Incentivize colleges or schools with greater girl representation
Prevention of Sexual violence:
-          Street lights have a strong co-relation with crimes in general and sexual violence in specific
-          Provide Police patrolling in crime prone areas 24x7x365
-          Caste system needs to be dealt with as upper caste men have been known to demonstrate superiority by raping women of lower caste
-          Families and Parents have to teach to their sons about the equal rights that women have in this world and that they need to be protected  
-          Increase the reporting of events so that more and more people get exposed [Needs police to have a mindset of not blaming the victim]- so people get discouraged to perform such crimes in the future
-          Increase the conviction rates  - so reporting increases and it also in turn acts as a deterrent
-          Increasing conviction rates and reporting of such incidents needs a proper redressal system which I describe below  

Strict laws that are appropriately implemented to deal with any incidents of sexual violence and Rehabilitation of the victim:
-          In countries like Denmark, Canada and US there is a special Task force created to deal with Rape victims
-          This task force is responsible for providing a multi-disciplinary (paramedics, doctors, psychotherapist, lawyers) approach to dealing with the victim’s issues
-          The task force is responsible for collecting evidences for forensic activities
-          Only and only if the victim agrees for the information to be exposed or reported do the police get involved
-          If a victim directly goes to the Police the police after filing a report transfer the victim to the task force
-          These task forces have branches in major hospitals across country
-          More Fast Track courts that function every day to expedite delivery of justice
 No changes happen overnight, no changes happen without. All changes take time, are painful and also have to start from within. Ofcourse we need to start somewhere, the earlier we start the earlier we reach milestones, though the journey never ends.

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Random: January 2013