We are now conditioned to the word ‘cost’

We are now conditioned to the world ‘cost’. It was recession which hastened us to think of ‘cost’, otherwise, I am sure, none of us ever have considered cost as prime strategy. During the recent downturn, most of the companies improved or sustained their relative bottom lines with the help of cost cutting measures. According to a recent Mc Kinsey survey, most of the companies made effective and significant cutbacks in overall costs since the onset of economic downturn in September 2008. As the downturn is supposed to be behind now, I feel most of us overreacted to it and become hyper aggressive in cost cutting measures. This resulted in the reduction of investments in productive area, impacting future growth prospects. One reason could be that in difficult times, when managing cash flow is the prime concern, or it is projected as prime concern, all outflow including future investments appear as costs. In this perspective, we must understand the difference between cost and investments.

According to one of the reports of Crisil, India Inc’s planned capex expenditure will be dropped by 25% over next three years. This is an example of cutting investment which was designed for future growth prospects. In some cases it could be postponements. In both the cases, cutting future capacity investments or postponing capacity addition is actually creating a gap which we may face in next two or three years. Companies conservative on their own plan capital expenditures, will loose opportunity if situation comes back to normal, which seems more likely now.

Situation is actually coming back to normal. According to a recent McKinsey report, the number of households in the deprived segment is likely to drop from 101 million in 2005 to 74 million in 2015. Which means around 27 million households will enter into lower middle to middle class. Can you imagine the kind of increase in overall consumption? Who will cash such demands in an environment where companies are postponing their capacity expansion plan?

There is another similar example in form of manpower layoffs cases. Most of the IT companies, who estimated their manpower as more than adequate in number, discovered an opportunity to rationalize their headcount during the period of downturn. They did it. Most of the other companies in various other industries followed the same strategy. I feel this was a wrong decision in the name of cost. Now, when the growth prospects for IT industry is returning back in shape, (estimated software export growth in coming year is over 20%), the manpower strength is becoming the bottleneck. Almost, all IT companies are now back to recruiting in full swing, to fill the gap created by them only. A sudden increase in demand of IT professional means rotation of same net people strength for short term prospects without filling the actual gap in the industry. This means more lucrative offers in form of salary structures. So, who lost in the process? This is one of the example of cutting investment in the name of cost.

A waste is a cost. It is one of the easiest think to differentiate between costs and investments. To reduce the waste two things are required; one is discipline and the other is investment. Discipline at work place can reduce wastages in the form of stationary, electricity; maintenance etc. and to some extent productivity. Investment in new technologies and new skills reduces wastage by improving efficiencies. A more efficient process takes lesser costs. Instead of focusing on cost why should not we focus on process to make it more efficient? This is a tough decision to make, especially in difficult times, as it needs investments. I am sure that few companies must have thought in such direction.If I assume that a company’s lifecycle is long enough to handle one or two economic downturn and believe the cyclical nature of such fluctuations, imagine the gain a company would have who sees downturn an opportunity to invest in new technologies, training and processes at negotiable rate, and is ready for the time when the downturn cycle turns in other direction.

Could fulfillment ever be felt as deeply as loss?

All inherited moral laws taught me that being selfish is the least desired thing. But when I grew up, I learned that this is the most desired option, your mind recognizes when it comes to relative success. Relative success is a success in comparison with some other success referred as benchmark. That is how we earned grades, placements and promotions. In one of my earlier posts “Self Concept” I had argued the meaning of being selfish. And in that context, I’d advocated being selfish is good. Let me keep that separate for a while in this discussion. With all known meanings of selfishness, achieving anything is not adequate to make you happy, as there will always be someone or something as a benchmark to rate your achievements.

If you closely observe history of evolution of human, you will be convinced that selfishness is in our DNA. That is why contentment or fulfillment, inherently, never comes to us. Instead, we brand people with contained or fulfilled, just because of his or her invisible aggression. In this sense contentment is just a philosophy which is difficult to attain. Human beings can not be contained. That is why we are coded for either growth or decline. There is no stagnation. You may check this with physical and mental performance. This is also true in the performance of a relationship or love.

Selfishness and love are inversely correlated. You can not have both simultaneously. If you feel that you have, check the meaning of true love. True love is unconditional and most of us are in love of convenience in which we search for some or other needs. Take the example of great love stories of the past. Why most of those love in the stories triggered at first sight itself? Why selfishness, the demon inside, could not took over to check whether hobbies, thinking and understandings of each other are in right place or not?

So if you are keeping yourself away from contentment to grow more and more, you start making choices for yourself. You start gaining your insatiable demands in installments and start losing the gain of personal and love life. We must understand growth is a must for both personal and professional desires. Remember, there is no stagnation, either a growth or a decline.

So, how would you define the fulfillment of never ending desires? And how would you assess the gain if the desired fulfillment is achieved? I wonder that the extreme of fulfillment is like having everything. That is the point where you need nothing and nothing is available to create a need in you. At this point having everything or having nothing seems equal, leaving no difference for comparison.

Let us discuss the argument made in my previous post “Self Concept”. If I modify the definition of selfish to make it more inwards, towards real self, the inner self, the self who needs to be elevated, I may conclude that being selfish is good. Here, we need to understand the difference between an activity for a self desire and activity for inner self. ‘Bhagvad Gita’ throws some light on this topic in chapter 3 verse 17; “One who remains ecstatic within the self; the self illuminated and fully satisfied within the self only; activities do not exist for him”. Here ‘activities’ is referred as activities for fulfillment of desires.

When to kill a product?

Usually, when a product manager takes a decision to kill a product, service or a segment we assume that a proper analysis must be in place on financial, organizational and strategic factors. This means such products are at the end or at least towards the end of their life cycle. In other words the key performance indicators (KPI) of the product are not healthy. Would you be surprised, if I say that a decision of killing a product should not only depend on the product KPI but also on the business objectives? Rather, a business objective is bigger than the KPI of a product. This means, product managers could often take a decision to kill even their performing products.

So, when is the right time to kill a particular product or service? Based on the observations made on fall of various products in various industries, I have categorized the reasons to kill (or save) a product in three broad parameters which need to be assessed before taking a final call. The notable thing is that the sales and revenue of a product is the part of the first parameter only which may not be appropriate if considered as only parameter. The three broad parameters are:

Product KPI: This is the most visible parameter and product manager often get carried away with the observations made in this category. Declining sales, declining market price because of competition and declining market share are the reasons enough to believe that the product is at the end of its life cycle. In some advance analysis, increasing input cost of the low KPI product can also be considered as the reason.

Brand KPI: We often fail to asses performance indicators of brand while making an assessment of product performance. Brand image especially in the segment in which a product is in question, representation of company in the category and level of customer satisfaction. If you have low brand KPI, it is very difficult to find the root cause of low product KPI. One of the easiest measurements of brand performance is the change in working capital of all the channel partners. If it is declining, it is even more dangerous for a company than the performance of a particular product.

Business Objective of the company: I assume that most of the companies are rational enough to think for a longer term. Short term fluctuations in sales, country’s economy and business environment should not alter the business objectives set for a longer period. Before taking a call on a product company must evaluate the alternatives, alignment of alternatives to company objective and foreseen changes in technology. Driven by business objective, there are companies which replaced their performing products with new innovative and differentiated products and offerings.

Any one or more than one strong observations from the above parameters can be a trigger for a removal of a product from the portfolio. All I suggest is to analyze all three before taking a call. Beware of the fact that some times, a symptom can divert you from the root cause.

Give me facts, I need reasons to believe

We need reasons to accept a view point and logic to change our own. ‘Reasons’ are typically introduced as ‘facts that count in favor’ of an action or attitude* (from Philosophy, et cetera by Richard). However, reason to believe does not mean that the ‘reason’ is definitely a ‘fact’.

Last few weeks were full of news with reasons as well as logic to think over and challenge your point of views. Some logic can be seen in the IIM’s excogitation of cluster placement and Bajaj’s decision to terminate its scooters. The change is welcomed. We’ve also witness the change in bollywood’s approach with ‘3 idiots’. The 6.30 am show and more than 300 screens a day in Mumbai alone. I think B schools must take a case on bollywood’s innovative branding and communication. Interestingly, we’ve also witnessed changing reasons with the government stand on Telangana issue.

With the outline I am critical on television journalism. When news becomes a business strategy, it’s difficult to differentiate real facts with manipulated one. The manipulation of facts is hyped to sell and we buy with TRP or make morning show sold-out. Nevertheless, ‘3 idiots’ is worth watching to satisfy even hyped expectations. But the similar manipulations had disappointed audience of ‘Blue’. We are not even getting interpreted facts; most of the time its judgments already taken by new channels.

The worst example is coverage of opinion poll, where we see beyond statistics, the almost possible government, and coalition, based on voter percentages categorized in religion, cast, language and geography in so called democratic and secular electoral system of largest democracy in the world. Where is the real journalism?
Another important coverage is the cricket. India wins or loses, TRP will remain intact. And you will be presented interview of Virat Kohli’s 6 year nephew on Kohli’s maiden ton. The favorite of all cricket coverage is questioning and unquestioning of Sachin Tendulkar’s form again and again.

The word is flat but shows various altitudes on similar facts. Nike retains Woods as its brand ambassador and congress welcomes Tiwari’s resignation. I am not a journalist, but people will debate the issues of privacy and publishing of privacy. I am not sure of Nike’s strategies, but in view of recently publicized playboy in Tiger, I am not convinced. This will affect me as a customer of Nike. Fact is intact but whom to blame for? Nike acknowledges Tigers accomplishments more than his private life.

Perhaps they know more of concept of positioning and I am not their target audience. I’ll have to wait longer for quality of journalism in Indian television as that is linked with information revolution, literacy and rural growth.

More will always be less

The article in today’s cosmic uplink section of economic times argued the type of goal. And I, in agreement with the post, infer that most of us have more of self centric goals than even a decimal of self realization goal. The phenomenon of self realization evades fear of failure and sense of comparison to which we refer as competition. You will always be in competition with you and more will always be less because realizing self is like realizing universe.

“I am playing with moist sand and trying to make a home.

The shores are wet and the waves are near

When I try to save home I waste time

When I try to save time, I need time

The sun reminds me to pack up

With a success or without

Because, a home of sand is not to live

Finished or unfinished

I have to leave

What is the loss or what is the gain

It is fun only if it’s a game”

The word ‘Goal’ is important here too. The sense of accomplishment will depend on your goal; whether it is to make a home of sand or just to enjoy at the beach.

Who you want to be; a mother Teresa, a Bill Gates or a Sachin Tendulkar? Or you want to be just you?  What goal are you setting?  Did these people set some goal before being visible? Is there any correlation between my goal and theirs? Confused?

Now it is easy to understand why goal of mother Teresa is (yes ‘is’, not ‘was’  ) more universal and perpetual than a goal of an ordinary person who wants everything in life quickly by any means.  You will also understand the level of self actualization a mother gets, being a mother, while upbringing her kid or kids.

‘More will always be less’ is search of self. But it does not mean that you need to understand whole of universe first to understand you. We have adequate knowledge and opportunity to explore love and happiness around us. Self actualization will automatically take place.

Some insights on routine life

Tea, toast and today’s news, and you get a synopsis of changing world. I always bothered; the daily appearing changes are actually resulting from small changes every day. In past 10 years I’ve witness a lot of change in me and in my surroundings. I believe this will hold true for most of us. I am not debating here on quality of change like good or bad. But, even with acceptance of this fact, I get confused while looking at my recent past in the form of a typical day, a typical week or a typical month, I found everything constant, repetitive and continual. When the change actually happened?

I met a person, of my father’s age, retiring from his job, has made a home, supported his children, make them successful by a mediocre, repetitive, constant and continual job in a government organization.  At 60, is he satisfied? How satisfied will I be if reach 60?

There is no harm in repetition. It trains your subconscious to perform in auto mode. You may not be innovative, but you will be less strained and more relaxed person. But the other part of life’s truth is that we have an active life of approx 60 years in which around 25 years are consumed in educating and training ourselves. Do we early have enough time to achieve everything we really want?

The aspirations are always bigger than the capacity of time available, which is why it is called aspirations. But there are some people who, repetitively and continually challenge the capacity of time. For them, their aspirations are continual accomplishments. We have such examples in every field; name any; sports, arts, business etc.

Accomplishments are always balanced. Otherwise, it’s merle money or result. I believe in a balanced approach to life; challenging your capacity of time for all your professional and personal aspirations. If your personal aspirations like your love life, hobbies etc, trigger a balanced personality in you, your professional accomplishments provide a unique identity. In real terms both are complementary. Without one, the other can appear once in a while, but not in routine.

Journal; Journal

Recently, while I was going through a blog post of Pritish Nandi;  “Letters, tweets, one paisa sms” , I got nostalgic on old memories of letters and emails written in patience with full of emotions. Then I recall my habit or writing diary almost on a daily basis. I carried this habit along my journey till now but could not realize when the words “daily” and “monthly” became synonym. I am still carrying some of my college days diaries. Believe me the mental recreation and a feeling of happiness I get while going through those diaries are unmatchable. To keep this happiness to sparkle in future whenever I wish to,  i took a decision to post my journal on this page.

I am writing on this blog site since 2006. Most of my post can be categories in philosophical or managerial perspective of my experience. Now with journals being added, I’ll be publishing my point of view on interesting personal encounters. The only limitation i feel, while publishing a journal,  is the the difference in freedom when writing on someone. Nevertheless, I’ll try to steer my thoughts to flow unconditionally in all possible directions.

Journal; Car Music

Now a days, for last 3 -4 months, I get a chance to enjoy old Hindi song while travelling in car with Patwardhan sir, for office or from office. He’s got a good taste of old Hindi songs especially of around seventies. I am influenced by his passion on not to miss a chance of music concerts in and around Mumbai esp Hindi or Marathi. The effect is to the extent that,  of late , with 60s to70s era music, I got too some of the oldies as my favorites now. You know, a no music to all music taste does not come in seconds…well usually..but my taste for music, this time, got triggered in few seconds.

I always felt that I am not a real found of music. Except Jagjit uncle and Kishore da, no one really drove me to music stores. That was too very selective and more during my college days. In recent times, songs of “love aaj kal” got my attention, thats too in car while travelling with Anoop one day. This song was special. “Aaj Din Chadeya, tere rang..”. It a great romantic score with Sufi touch and a meaningful conversation with God. The first line itself stands both in praise of love and God simultaneously. This song can change my outlook towards music. Other songs of same album, i got attracted to, are ” Dooriya” and “Main Kya Hoon”.

Well.. a song can change your life…

Which category of love you are in?

In my previous two posts Unconditional Love and Beauty of Full Moon, I’d discussed two aspects of love; one, its unconditional which does not seek anything in return  like mother nature and two, you need to be crazy to be in real love like Kalidas’ passionate affection for Ratnavali.

Think of a painter who is mixing various colors to produce his or her thoughts on canvas.  The unconditional love, passion along with a little craziness is evident in his or her real work. He or she remains in unconditional love with his work until the work becomes his or her profession. And at this point he or she starts demanding return in the form of appreciation and rewards. So; unconditional love; when exposed to desires converts into conditional love.

The above example is not ‘love of convenience’ in which we choose the most convenient option available to us. Most of us will fall in this category…Well our tailor made professions are the example. This is for people who take so called sound decisions. The beauty of love of convenience is you never realize when you are in real love with your selected option.

Take a case of ‘Chota Hathi’ (an elephant) who is separated from his family and forced to live with a man called ‘Mahavat’, who keeps and train elephants and uses them for his living hood. The ‘Chota Hathi’ was not happy with this hectic schedule of work coupled with undernourished food. And a day came when the ‘Hathi’ got a chance to escape. But he did not do that. He was in love with the ‘Mahavat’. This is love of no choice. In this you fall in love with one who is closest to you irrespective of his or her characteristics. There could be some debatable examples like love of a son towards his father, religion, community, country etc.

I am not going to discuss “love for all”. Instead I will site “love for self” which is actually inherent characteristics of human being. I’d advocated this in my post SELF CONCEPT.

Well; there is lot to explore on love which will appear in my subsequent posts on the topic.

Time Gap

There was confusion in prioritizing certain individual activities. Thank got it was weekend and i had some time to think over. But you know you can not wait for a spare time to come. The activities around always fill the gap. This time it was cricket, my most fascinating hobby, did the damage. Nevertheless with India winning, you always have a good feeling (Ind vs Aus, Firojshah Kotla, 3 rd ODI).