Welcome to PacozDiscipline

I have a flair for making people & communities successful. I yearn to excel in that arena!

This is a compilation of my thoughts and responses to others thoughts. Most of them are relevant to the world of learning & development, and may be of help to you. Please add your comments and views.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

CLO Summit India... update

Organizational Learning
Impacting Business, Changing the Game
19-20 Nov, 2010, Mumbai, INDIA


From my last blog on the CLO Summit to now, a lot of movement has happened... and am sure you are keeping a tab on the developments.

This edition gives you an expose to some very critical elements which will help you strengthen your conviction on attending the summit.

So, do I get to see you...

WIIFM: What's In It For Me
  • Identifying best practices that could be replicated
  • Wisdom of the leaders in the field
  • Identify skill-sets required to be successful in the field of L&D
  • Possible diversification in the business of learning
  • Ways in which WE can help India Inc.
  • Demystifying Corporate Universities
  • Building Leaders in complex environments
  • Most importantly, Voice YOUR opinion

What's Going To Happen... What To Expect

  • Presentation of Case Studies and interactive session by Harvard Business Publishing
  • Individual sessions by CEOs / Business Leaders
  • In depth individual CLO sessions with ample opportunity for interaction.
  • Panel discussion with CLOs & HR Heads moderated by Harvard Business Publishing
  • A dedicated UnConference session
Broad Areas for the UnConference
Proficiency on ADDIE is good enough to be a good CLO
What will be your role in 2020?
What to measure in L&D… Business Impact or ROI? How?
Basic Rules of the UnConference
No Panel on the stage or Speaker at the Podium.
Participants to voice their opinions, and share their experiences
Keep posting their views on the topics during the course of the conference 

Topics Being Covered
  • Skilling India Inc. Bridging the National Skill Deficit
  • Establishing Certifications & Standards in India
  • Building Corporate Universities
  • Learning & Development: An Integral Competency for the CEO
  • The Business Mandate for Leadership & Competency Development
  • L&D Consulting for Internal Customers and Beyond
  • Learning Challenges in the Public Sector
  • Role of Learning in Innovation and creating new business models
  • The role of the CLO in organizations; A look at current best practices, challenges and needs for the future
  • Perspectives on L&D in Media & Journalism
  • Learning as a tool for Sales & After Sales Service
  • Leaders Build Leaders / Using blended learning to drive scale, impact and continuity

ReVisioning Our Lives

This one-day training program was created in October 2008 during the time when the financial crisis was at its lowest.

The program focuses on creating one's personal vision & mission, and then explores the reasons why we usually give up on pursuing a lot of things in our lives, including our vision, as soon as we face a couple of failures.

The latter is done though exposing participants on Martin Seligman's Learned Optimism, where we sensitize learners on how to recognize 'helplessness' before it starts making its voyage towards depression, and most importantly how do we help people come out of it.

Finally the garnish on the salad is a tool called the JoHari Window, which talks about our openness in relation to the important stakeholders in our life. Openness is a critical success factor when we want help & cooperation from others to help achieve our vision.

Today, standing on 1st November, 2010, we have already conducted this program over 70-80 times for over 1500 people, but each & every time I have conducted this, it has been a learning experience, and continues to be. This program has reigned as one of the flagship programs for EDGE - The Learning Academy of Reliance Mutual Fund

Thursday, September 16, 2010

CLO Summit India

Organizational Learning
Impacting Business, Changing the Game
19-20 Nov, 2010, Mumbai, INDIA

Just as the roles and positions of CFOs, CTOs, and CIOs have gained importance in recent years, so has that of CLO (Chief Learning Officers) in the current context of the knowledge economy.

The 1st CLO Summit in India was organised in Nov 2009 (www.closummitindia.com). This summit is an initiative aimed at the corporate learning & development, coaching & training community. The one-day summit witnessed the participation of Corporate Learning Executives, HR Professionals, Academicians and Students. The summit successfully laid the foundation for a world class platform for the organizational learning, coaching and training community in India.

This year the summit is scheduled to take place over 2 days on 19th & 20th November, at the Le Royal Meridien near the Sahar International Airport in Mumbai, INDIA. Visit the website for registration details, and keep following for updates on LinkedIn (http://bit.ly/bTwggR), Facebook (http://bit.ly/9LP2g2) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/CLOSummitIndia). The format this time will have panel discussions, individual presentations, paper presentations, unconference (!!!... new concept), and a whole lot of networking opportunities. Some spin-off events are also being planned, and they will be announced as soon as the confirmations are recieved.

The event is organised by LeapVault and TISS, and the following organisations and luminaries are supporting / speaking.

Knowledge Partner: Harvard
Academic Partner: Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Strategic Partner: National Skill Development Corporation
Change Coaching Partner: Who Moved My Cheese?
Supported By: EU India Chambers

Mr. Dilip Chenoy (CEO, NSDC)
Mr. Ranjeet Mudholkar (CEO, FPSB)
Mr. Bhavdeep Singh (CEO, Fortis Healthcare)
Mr. Prabhat Pani (CEO, Ginger Hotels - Taj)
Mr. Srikanth Karra (Director HR, HP)
Ms. Anne Dolly (Head People Development, Aditya Birla Retail )
Mr. Simarjeet Baweja (Head, Thomson Reuters Academy)
Ms. Annick Renaud-Coulon (Head, Global Council of Corp. Univ.)

...and more confirmations are pouring in

Hope to see you there!

Friday, September 10, 2010


An experiential exercise to initiate children to the world of Personal Finance

Once upon a time, a child was born in a lovely home with the quintessential hard-working disciplined father, the over-protective mother and the obnoxious sibling; and as the child grows up, s/he realizes quite early and unknowingly in their subconscious mind that it’s not all hunky-dory, and that everyone has to do one seemingly useless activity called ‘work’, for it pays for all of those things that one wants.

We, as parents try to do the same as well; we all want our children to do better than us and get more than what we got. And as our parents, we too have goals, dreams and aspirations and some of us have achieved them, and many of us are working towards achieving the same.

That’s pretty much the story for most of us.

As children, we were always told to evaluate between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’; and that is the understanding with which we all grew up. Some of us were fortunate and some not so fortunate. Nevertheless, our parents made all the efforts to ensure that we get all that we need and want.

Having said that many of us may benefit from a higher understanding of finance. Infact, you would agree that as we grew up, we were exposed to various subjects that enabled us to become professionals and earn money. However, personal finance was not a subject that we got adequate exposure to. And we would have benefitted had we got the correct set of inputs at the right age.

Keeping the same thought in mind, we went ahead and created FirstStep. The design of the program is such that the learning happens on the fly, as the exercise proceeds. Having said that the program has a formal debrief as well. The exercise aims at giving students an exposure in taking decisions about their expenses around their needs & wants, and bank deposits & investments which would fetch them a return. The game expects them to manage all of this for a period of one year (June - May).

The program is divided into four parts.
a. Briefing
b. The Game
c. The Score Card
d. Debriefing

a. Briefing
This section is the most crucial one, as we had to be extremely cautious about the fact that we are dealing with children. While children are quick at grasping, but because it is not a subject that they usually deal with, it takes them that much extra time to get a hang of it. However, thereafter, it is a smooth sail. The biggest challenge is to organise the students into teams of 5 and to get them seated without creating too much of confusion. Each team is to appoint an accountant in the team who interact with the Provisioner. 5 such teams are mapped to 1 provisioner. The provisioner is the person with whom the teams interact throughout the exercise. During the briefing, the children are exposed to 3 critical aspects of the game:
i) Understanding Income, Goals & Expenses, and the rules around them.
Income: The teams start with savings from last year, and they are told that they shall get a fixed monthly pocket money every month.
Goals: Teams have to decide upon two goals that they will have to achieve through the year. They are given a fixed choice of goals to choose from. These goals are things that they may want. However, in all cases the choice are such that the variants of the same products may fall in the realm of 'needs' and 'wants'. For example, in the entire list one could find a low-end mobile phone and a blackberry. The students are supposed to choose a minimum of 2 goals from the list.
Expenses: Students are explained that they will come across some mandated expenses such as canteen expenses &entertainment expenses, and some optional expenses. They have to manage within the budget available. They are also expected to buy two pairs of shoes and the goals have to be purchased within the year as well. For some purchases, there may be bonus points available, and they are a reflection of prudent decisions made.
ii) The activities to be done
To begin with, the students are given an accounting pack which contains the previous year's savings, an blank account book (two pages), pens, goal/expense cards etc.
The steps of the activity per se are fairly simple, however, the managing accounts is seemingly tough because most (~99%) aren't used to and they probably have never seen their parents managing their accounts as well.
Every month is for five minutes. During this time, the students will be shown the monthly expenses (regular / optional)
Step 1: Collect pocket money from the provisioner
Step 2: The participants need to fill up the monthly account statement (Expense, Saving, Banking, Investment).
Step 3: Rush to their Provisioner, pay for their expenses (regular/optional) and close the monthly account statement. Incase they decide to deposit money in the bank or invest their money, they need to collect bank / investment certificates. Incase they buy any of their goals or the two shoes, they need to collect cards against them.
iii) Money Management
This is section which decided whether they make the money or not. Participants have 3 choices for keeping their money. All the modes are completely liquid in nature; that is money can be withdrawn from the bank or one's investments whenever they need. However, interest is applicable monthly and on the money available in the instrument.
i) Cash-in-Hand: Doesn't give any returns
ii) Cash-in-Bank: Gives a return of 0.5% per month, however minimum deposit at one given time is of Rs. 200, and thereafter in multiples of 200.
iii) Cash Invested: Gives a return of 2.0% per month, however minimum deposit at one given time is of Rs. 500, and thereafter in multiples of 500. Investments, in our game, are not subject to market risk!!!
b) The Game
The game is simple to execute. There are 12 months on 12 slides that give them regular & optional expenses. The months are supposed to run for 5 minutes, however, the first three months take about 25-30 minutes, as children need to get used to the idea of filling up their account statement. The image is just an example of how a typical month looks like. The activity to be done is explained in point a (ii).

c) The ScoreCard
This is an important step. While designing we kept two things in mind in so far as the output is concerned; we wanted the children to feel proud of their accomplishments and at the same time get their minds of 'how much money they made'. The scorecard is complicated, however, it is effective in meeting our thought behind the output. The calculations are done manually. At this stage the bonus and interest accrued as a result of deposits in the bank and the investment vehicle are taken into account. Finally the Goal Card is filled up which factors in not only the accruals, but also rewards their work by increasing their asset value and further more uses a coefficient factor to turn the asset value into points. These points help decide as to which team has made more money out of the available resources.

d) Debriefing
The debriefing is important, and the learning needs to be drawn out from what happens in the session, although using the basic framework of questions mentioned below:
i) What was our objective?
ii) Why does the Goal Card give different weightage to goal achievement vis-à-vis cash-in-hand or why is there a different weightage for cash-in-bank vis-à-vis money invested?
iii) How could we play better next time?
iv) How do we differentiate between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’?
v) How is money earned?

vi) What are the avenues of saving?
a) Do you have savings goal?
b) What are the ideas on how to save more?
vii) Do you have your own savings account?
=> What about an Investment Account?
viii) Should we take loans?
ix) What are fixed deposits or Systematic Investment Plans?
=> How can they help you achieve your goals?
=> What do you know about the power of compunding?
At the final stage, we have reiterated that 'Habit comes from Practice', and that the children should discuss their goals with their parents or someone who can & will help them.

As a follow-up of this session, a special initiative for the parents is planned out. Under the aegis of various regulatory bodies of the Financial Services Industry, our organisation, Reliance Mutual Fund has planned an Investor Awareness Program which is essentially a Personal Finance Workshop designed especially for the parents, aimed at
a) exposing parents to the learning that have been shared with thier child, and
b) share inputs with them to establish and manage their personal goals such as children’s education & marriage, their retirement, their home etc by making simple systematic investment plans involving mutual funds.

As a parent myself, I truly believe that this two-hour workshop will help the parents, as a family. Their actions will become a model for their children.

Please send in your feedback & suggestions which will help improve this effort. The pilot program was conducted for 275 students of Ryan International School, Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.

A special thanks to Sumit Kati, Shyamac Jal, Maadhavi Samant and Jayant M Parneria for being part of the team which created the program, and to same set of people and Mihir Shah, Vikram Masand, Gaurav Warman and Krupali Jhaveri for helping execute the program.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Making People, Organisations & Communities Successful

India has seen a rapid growth in the last few years. This growth cannot be called inclusive as it has not been able to bring about development at the grassroot levels. It is important that any economy developmental activity in today's world takes into account emergent issues, especially to do with the underserved population at all levels, i.e., individual, organisation and community.

This write-up aims at giving a peek into my understanding of the same.

Individual Level

There is a lot of traction on the individual level with a lot of focus by Min. of Rural Development and special agencies like National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) coming into the forefront, and adding gusto to the existing set of efforts being made by various Not-For-Profit organisations to help the socio-economic fabric in the underserved areas of the country.

NSDC (http://www.nsdcindia.org/): excerpt

The National Skill Development Corporation India (NSDC) is a one of its kind, Public Private Partnership in India. It aims to promote skill development by catalyzing creation of large, quality, for-profit vocational institutions. It provides viability gap funding to build scalable, for-profit vocational training initiatives. Its mandate is also to enable support systems such as quality assurance, information systems and train the trainer academies either directly or through partnerships.

The NSDC was set up as part of a national skill development mission to fulfill the growing need in India for skilled manpower across sectors and narrow the existing gap between the demand and supply of skills.

The Finance Minister of India announced the formation of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) in his Budget Speech (2008-09):

"...There is a compelling need to launch a world class skill development programme in Mission mode that will address the challenge of imparting the skills required by a growing economy. Both the structure and the leadership of the Mission must be such that the programme can be scaled up quickly to cover the whole country."

Its objective is to contribute significantly (about 30 per cent) to the overall target of skilling / upskilling 500 million people in India by 2022, mainly by fostering private sector initiatives in skill development programmes and providing viability gap funding.

NSDC is also working very aggressively on setting skill-standards in India and am sure are researching and contacting skill-standard bodies in other countries as well. Setting skill-standards and then working towards a metricised approach to building competencies is the way forward. Do look at the skill-gap analysis available with them. Other apex bodies have established active workgroups to build a focus on skill-building (www.cii-skillsdevelopment.in/ and http://www.ficciskillforum.org/) and help establish Sector Skills Council (SSC) like the ones established in developed economies, like UK (http://www.sscalliance.org/)
There are a lot of organisations & individuals who are now preparing themselves or have already got into the fray of skill-building at the grassroot level, and that is commendable. In fact there is a clear business opportunity in this area and those who have the understanding of skill development and have the will to move out of their environmentally controlled cubicles, would see the scope. Organisations like Work Skills India (a Bharti venture), NIS Sparta (a part of Reliance Telecom), and IndiaCan (a JV between Pearson & Educomp) have already gotten themselves in this space, and like many other individuals & organisations are striving to help the country achieve their target. International agencies from all over the world are making their pitch to get into this next big wave of 'creating employable individuals'.

Organisation Level

The next level is that of helping organisations build at the small enterprise level and this is one area in which a lot of work has happened, and there are a plethora of organisations who are helping these organisations to establish themselves. The Indian government has a special ministry called the Min. of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) to aid the effort. Policy makers view MSME sector, which is the second largest employer after agriculture, as a critical vehicle for creating jobs and eradicating poverty. Accordingly, many MSME public support programmes have been in vogue in India for a long time. Such programmes have met with varying degree of success. Lately, to enhance outreach and efficacy of such programmes further, public schemes increasingly focus on MSME associations for tasks ranging from enhancing awareness to implementation to creation of support institutions in Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP). The issue of capabilities of MSME associations in design and execution of such schemes, has assumed critical importance.

Banks & Lending Institutions are also working on helping these organisations grow. Infact the Reserve Bank of India has announced the availability of loans upto INR 500,000 without any collateral guarantee (http://www.fisme.org.in/RBICircular.pdf). There is also Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) which is actively working with to empower MSME sector with a view to contributing to the process of economic growth, employment generation and balanced regional development.

SIDBI Foundation for Micro Credit (SFMC) was launched by the Bank in January 1999 for channelising funds to the poor in line with the success of pilot phase of Micro Credit Scheme. SFMC's mission is to create a national network of strong, viable and sustainable Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) from the informal and formal financial sector to provide micro finance services to the poor, especially women.
SFMC is the apex wholesaler for micro finance in India providing a complete range of financial and non-financial services such as loan funds, grant support, equity and institution building support to the retailing Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) including two-tier MFIs so as to facilitate their development into financially sustainable entities, besides developing a network of service providers for the sector. SFMC is also playing significant role in advocating appropriate policies and regulations and to act as a platform for exchange of information across the sector. The launch of SFMC by SIDBI has been with a clear focus and strategy to make it as the main purveyor of micro finance in the country. Operations of SFMC in the coming years, are not only expected to contribute significantly towards development of a more formal, extensive and effective micro finance sector serving the poor in India, but also ensure sustainability at all levels viz. at the apex level (SFMC), at the MFI level and at the client level to ensure continuance of such arrangement. Most importantly, SFMC has strived to create a mechanism in which there should be no barriers to growth. Under the dispensation, there is focus on innovation and action research.

The Federation of Indian Micro and Small and Medium Enterprises (http://www.fisme.org.in/) has been working to integrate the efforts. After opening up of Indian economy, close to the heels of establishment of WTO, eight state-level SME associations gave birth to FISME in 1995 to gear up the Indian SMEs at the national level to the challenges thrown open by changed economic realities. Today as umbrella organization of SMEs, FISME has associated associations in all the progressive states of the country.

A program called 'Capable' is being launched with the larger overall goal of improvement in MSME associations' awareness capacity and capability to facilitate MSME competitiveness enhancement. The objectives of the program are two-fold:
  • Capability Development of MSME associations to improve their a) efficacy & sustainability, and b) Implementation capability of MSME development programs and schemes.
  • Facilitating better designing, management and effective implementation of various Government sponsored schemes intended for MSMEs and associations.

Lately the entrance of the concept of Social Enterprise has also seen a lot of work. There are a multitude of people wanting to fund these. While venture capital an private equity funds have been helping start-ups build the foundation of some great ideas, there is now a new breed of organisations that are focused on building the social enterprise structure in the country. PE Funds like Acumen Fund are in the constant search for ideas that are exciting, and those which could be seeded to build as successful organisations.

Community Level
An economic community as I see it are of two types, basis their composition, however, emerging from the same concept of 'organisation':
  1. Community of Small Enterprises
  2. Community of Micro Enterprises

I have intentionally kept Medium Enterpises as they may possibly have the ability to handle themselves in terms of their growth in the perpsective that I am about to share. The challenge with most organisations in this sector are two folds:
  1. Unavailability of managerial competence
  2. Unavailability of reckonable brand

My thought around both are that there is considerable business opportunity around the two.

  • Managerial Competence
The right competence is something that I would like to see beforehand in case I want to invest in an organisation (running/start-up), as I want to be sure that the monies would be used properly and that I should have a decent return on equity. Having said that, the lag is the unavailibility of managerial competence in these organisations that take loans to build and/or run. Financial institutions should look a the way in which their funds are being put to use. One could be content that the money being given is a 'loan', so, how does it matter whether the managerial competence is available or not till such time the money is returned along with interest and that the proposition doesn't become a NPA. Here is the difference.
A usual lending agency would have this philosophy, however, lending organisations who are in the business of lending to high risk enterprises of considerably small size should be in a position to offer services which would help build the managerial competence, as this would aid in assuring assured and timely return on the money lent.
Can private agencies look at this as a business opportunity where SMSEs are trained and coached on increasing their own effectiveness as managers hence bolstering the chances of increased efficiency of their organisation. This will not only ensure that the return on investment is secured, but an efficient organisation would ensure that it takes more lending as the 'efficient & effective' organisation now starts to grow. The growth will also ensure better payout to workers and hence increasing consumption... and that's how the cycle moves on an upward spiral. This model could be adopted by lending agencies or they could get into a partnership with organisations which can build such competencies.
  • Reckonable Brand
I visited some villages and what came out strongly is that there are three specific activities that happen in a village. And one need not be an economist to understand the same; production, consumption and sale of excesses. The interesting component is 'sale of excesses'. The excesses are sold in nearby towns (accumulation centres) and from there it goes to distribution centres from where it comes to your and my house. The inefficiencies in this system is not something unknown to anyone.
However, in this environment we have the example of successful cooperatives such as Amul which went ahead and collected milk from everywhere and packaged it and retailed it. The model was so successful that it was replicated by some private enterprises too.
The business opportunity lurking in mind takes off from here. Let's look at an average MSME industrial belt. There are hundreds who manufacture various goods and they are sold across to those who need it which essentially are larger organisations or in larger markets. Let's take the case of the products that are designated to be sold to the market. The inefficiencies of marketing, branding and quality hound them; with every manufacturer having their own benchmark. On the other hand, one could look at a scenario where all the products are pooled together by a cooperative society for the cluster, quality checked against decided norms, and then packaged with a common brand.
For example, if I pick up all the goods produced in the industrial area at Kalyani (70kms from Kolkata) and brand all of the goods with 'Kalyani' as the brand. The cooperative that does it, is owned and funded by partnering manufacturers, but run by professionals. The benefits are that the brand establishes itself as a mark of certain level of quality, uses the 'pooled' funds to mobilise markets and uses economies of scale in distribution system; and hence becoming an efficient system and returning more value to the manufacturers. The manufacturers get to retain their identity and continue to sell to their existing customers as well. As we move on the cooperative could actually revive the organisations that have perished (bankrupt) by sensing the need of the market and getting the same produced. Everyone is a shareholder, so everyone benefits.
The same could work in the micro-industrial sector in another form. Let's say, a similar cooperative is created by a tribal village, and all of their excess produce and handicrafts could be branded by the name of their village and retailed to larger stores in big cities or fed to the same people who were earlier purchasing from individuals. Everyone is a shareholder, so everyone benefits.
This is an idea that I have been toiling with for sometime, and I spoke to a few stakeholders and prospective end users, but they have shown a mixed response towards it. The apprehension lies into venturing in the unknown and someone as the good shephard who takes the onus.

I urge all in the learning and development space to pay attention; the time has come to focus on things that will help the country grow and make it a superpower, and it is in your hands.

Please feel free to comment on this article. The pursuit is to become better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wealth Creation

Teaching your child to 'save'... build the habit!


One has to be more innovative and inclusive than what our parents were when we were kids (not that I have grown up). Our parents also had a limited understanding (barring a few parents I knew).

So, what could one do beyond the piggy bank thingi. To answer this one must remember that there are five important components of wealth creation, and that savings is just one part, and undoubtedly not the only part that should be developed as a habit lest we want to build super-conservative wealth-creators.

The 5 things are...
a) expense management,
b) savings,
c) investment,
d) debt management, and
e) risk management.

As a primary-grader, points (d) & (e) are not required to be practised. As a secondary-grader, point (d) may be introduced in the curriculum, and point (e) may be restricted to an academic expression.

The Three Most Important Things

Simple exercises could be created to ensure that children learn this art. To begin with lets start with the three most important tools that are required...

A. A Piggy Bank
  • Break-to-Open variety, and
  • Lock-n-Key variety

B. A Bank Account & a Mutual Fund SIP Folio
Depending upon how old the child is, one may introduce...
  • A PPF Account
  • A Mutual Fund Investment Folio
  • A Recurring Deposit Account

C. An accounting notebook

How to do it...

A. Earning
  1. Explain the child that s/he will get money from the parents account every month.
  2. One could earn more if one helps in doing certain jobs at home (usually a dad-daughter or mother-son contract)

B. Goal Identification
Help the child to identify a goal over a short horizon (1yr) and one on a longish horizon (three years... may not be easily understood for some children and at certain ages).

C. Saving Practices
  1. The child has to decide how much money goes into the 'Break-to-Open' Piggy Bank - This is the exigent fund.
  2. The child has to decide how much money goes into the 'Lock-n-Key' Piggy Bank - This is the contingency fund which may only be opened by the 'custodian' on request (mother/father), and is to take care of some out-of-the-blue expenses. The money taken from here needs to be treated as a loan (without interest), and has to be returned on a pre-fixed date.
  3. Help the child decide how much is s/he going to save out of the 'income' money on a monthly basis. This money should be kept with the local custodian for investment (refer to point 4 below)

D. Expense Practices
All expenses (daily expenses such as lunch money et al, and occasional expenses such as a gift for a friend's birthday) would be made from this money.

The child needs to maintain a daily account of expenses. Don't pound the child with a heavy ledger, but create a simple one in a notebook. Don't do it on the computer rightaway. Let the habit build, and then one can migrate to using a computer based money management xl sheet. One needs to do it in a notebook as that helps build the daily practice, and the child lives the moment. Computers allow convenient tools such as drag-n-drop and cut-copy-paste, but these are not advisable when it comes to building a habit.
  1. Help the child decide how much money the child will expend on a daily basis (parents' consultative skills need to be at play here. Fix up a moderately stretched target). If the child is not engaged in the 'daily-expense' mode, then you could skip this.
  2. Help the child decide the monthly expenses for events such as birthday gifts, family going-outs, school excursions etc.

E. Investment Practices
The money saved needs to be allocated as per the goals identified. The money saved can be put into broadly 3 buckets.

a)  Money saved out of 'good' expense management (Net of expenses made in points 4a and 4b.)

b) Money saved out of 'good' saving practices (Point 3c)

I suggest that parents take a break in this planning activity after discussing Point 4 for the first time with the child. This would give the parents an opportunity to think through whether the goals are a possibility or not. Remember, that the child needs to taste success, otherwise the interest would be lost, and the practice would never get nurtured into a habit.

Once calibrated, in the second dinner-table meeting re-look at goals and calibrate expense, savings, and income, with your child. Call for decisions accordingly.

> For money saved out of Point 5a, put the money in the bank account and once in a quarter shift the money to a lumpsum investment in a mutual fund.

> For money saved out of Point 5b, put this money in an equity-based Mutual Fund through the SIP folio. Let it get deducted directly from the 'income' source.

F. Review
  1. Involve the child in updating the passbook from the bank. Don't do the internet accounting way. By visiting the bank you would ensure that the child understands albeit unconsciously about the various things that happen in a bank, and moreover, this will help burn few of our calories as well. Once the passbook is updated, ask your child to go ahead and update one's own accounting notebook.
  2. Let the child see the Mutual Fund statements and highlight the growth in the fund that is happening, and how it would help the goals get nearer. Ask your child to go ahead and update one's own accounting notebook.
  3. Review the balances in the contingent and exigent fund balances as per the child's accounting notebook. The contingent fund should steadily move to a limit of 3 month's expense, and the exigent fund should move to a limit of 1 month's expense. When it comes to adults, the exigent fund needs to be kept safely at home to be used in case of an emergency, and the contingent fund should be kept in a financial instrument that is highly liquid.

G. Reward
Its important that the child knows that it is rewarding to invest, and hence, go ahead and celebrate and treat your child to a thing s/he fancies... maybe a chocolate or candybar or an ice cream; whatever it be, it shows that you recognise and acknowledge the good practices.

H. Caveat
All this is not possible unless you and me save and invest prudently. So, the question is do we do all of the above. Is it a habit with us or we keep the conversation restricted to an over-the-drink-intellectual-conversation.

Best Wishes!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Factors Influencing Purchase Choices Among Urban Youth

An article in The Economic Times (http://bit.ly/bWICOw), once featured an interesting article on the purchase choices made by the youth around us. Through this blog I have made an attempt to look at the factors from the perspective of Financial Services Sector and especially from the perspective of 'financial literacy' as an idea that my organisation and other conscientous organizations in the BFSI sector want (request) the youth in the 18-22 years bracket to embrace.

Hereon, instead of calling 'financial literacy' an idea, I shall refer to it as a social product.

The seeding of financial literacy needs to happen at an even younger age, but its never late to start. This kind of an education drive has never taken centre-stage, and today Apex bodies such as SEBI (Securities & Exchange Board of India) alongwith other market participants are drafting concrete plans and implementing the same to ensure that we are able to build a rich and vibrant economy, of which today's youth is a non-negotiable part. This is especially important also because the Government has gone on a political-party-independent drive to add 500m skilled job in the country by 2022 (www.nsdcindia.org), and also on a drive to improve the governance system in the smallest administrative cell in India, 'the panchayat'. For both of these drives, the Government has chosen the PPP (Public Private Partnership) route to ensure scalability, economies of scale, process efficiency and measureable productivity.

With these two in place, it doesn not take a rocket-scientist to expect a lot of money getting generated and getting consumed. Keeping all of this in mind if the concept of 'financial literacy' is not seeded well, then we would have a situation where money is possibly being saved, and but not getting invested at the right avenues, hence building the foundation of a catastrophe in the long-term. Considering an imminent of urbanisation of population (doesn't mean that all of the population needs to move to metros, but what matters is the thought process).

Well, to conduct this study a unique network of 'student transmitters' across campuses was used; these act as insight seekers & conversation seeders. The network reached 6 metro cities and connects with over 10000 students. The sample size makes the study worth reckoning.

The study talks of 7 factors that influence purchase choices among urban youth...

1. Talk Value
2. Utility
3. Substance
4. Conversations
5. Social Relevance
6. Engagement
7. Present at Point of Need


The product does not need to be the centre of attention but should be able to place the young buyer in a position of exclusive attention during conversations. For instance, a growing number of iPhone users are beginning to purchase unique applications, despite the availabilty of many free ones.

My take basis my observations & interactions with the youth has been that if we are able to place our social product amongst the youth in form of a 'knowledge piece' that arouses contextual interest, and one that can be put into use, it will drive the youth to understand more of it. And once the benefits are seen, people would like to flaunt the knowledge building interest amongst others. The same thing happened in its own way for IT, and the Urban India saw a sudden increase in the use of computers amongst the youth in 1995-1997.


Budgetary constraints mean that the products and features must have longterm utility, particularly when it comes to high-end purchases.

My take on this is that 'high-end' has a flexible definition whic is directly proportional to my ability to take risks with my disposable income. So, a 'high-end' purchase for me will not / may not be so for someone earning more than me, like my boss. So, if its all about the risks that we can take with our disposable income, we need to ensure that we have a low-entry barrier for the products that the youth can chose from once they become literate. The next thing comes in is long-term utility which is all about products designed to meet specific future needs; need-based maturity and not purely value-based maturity kind of products.


Yes, enticing packaging is no longer enough. Youngsters today have evolved and place a higher currency on the content. It might not glitter, but it better be gold!

The way I look at it, products need to be simple. Infact, a senior colleague was mentioning yesterday that we need to innovate to keep things simple, and that the masses aren't quite ready for exotic financial products; what was meant that financial products have to match the maturity of the buyers en-masse; and its not about whose-products-are-more-exotic.


At the point of sale, the youth make a choice easily if prior conversations about the brand have taken place within their friends/peer group. These discussions serve as easy references. For instance, laptop purchase decisions are also influenced by conversations in peer groups.

My point is that organisations should now look at making communications to their target segment interesting (and one doesn't have to einstein to know that), but the needs of the youth in terms of communication are pretty different, and the conventional wisdom around it will not work. So, are we using new media types such as facebook & twitter to update information, or are we looking at ways of engaging the youth.


A small but significant trend which is emerging. Students prefer buying products that have a positive impact on society. For instance, young people have started influencing their parents to only purchase ecofriendly home electronics, even though they maybe more expensive.

This is great, because if this is a component of purchase decisions, then we need to focus on various activities that not only deliver social value, but also projects them properly. Basically, what I understand is that making money is not bad, but everyone wants to see as to how much as we seeding back into the masses. So, this is not about socialism in its archaic context, but about how 'social' and 'capitalist' work hand-in-hand in the society... neo-capitalism.


Given the high level of clutter, young people's choices tend to tilt towards brands that engage them in a sustained manner. The target group also responds more positively on activations. For instance, games/events in college festivals where the product is strategically embedded in their environment stand a better chance of achieving higher brand recall.

So, its not just about one-on-one conversations, but also about whether there is someone talking about us, when we aren't there; are we able to engage our customers, and its beyond the online media.


The target group feels more connected and evinces loyalty to brands that are available when they need it. So the propensity to choose the same brand the next time is higher. For example, a new sanitary pad brand was available in dispensaries inside colleges, which created a brand connect with the female target group.

The question is how accessible are we, and that's not an easy one to work around. But, why forget the way telecom companies simplified their product and made it available with every mom-n-pop store, junk store etc. Innovate to remain simple.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Learning from Indian Bosses

Time to rethink what we read and who me follow!

Wharton professor of management Peter Cappelli on leadership lessons from India: http://bit.ly/atsfWd http://bit.ly/d97kvg

Peter Capelli presents an interesting perspective... The interesting thing is that many of these practices we do witness happening around us all the time, but, are biases around 'what is best has to be from west' stops us from looking at these; and while I say that, it is not entirely true too, for I have known of a lot of people (read, quite a lot) including me who have been studying these behaviors of indian bosses closely. There are ills as well, which is OK, considering that they are a part of everything & anything; the 'matter which matters' is to look at the replicable behaviors and move forward! So, net net, it makes me feel proud, and it ain't so bad as it looks!

Follow both the links, and read the entire article presented in two forms... He says...

The idea that what is good for business is good for America -- a common phrase in an earlier generation -- seems a distant memory. Where do we look for business leadership?

Let's outsource it!

In an interesting sign of the times, the most impressive business leaders at the moment may be in India. What makes them impressive is a commitment to social goals that extend beyond the interests of their firms and -- here's the good part -- stunningly impressive performance.

They don't appear to be paying any price in terms of performance for being good citizens.

The Indian economy...

> largely sidestepped the financial crisis because of wise banking practices,

> her overall growth rate is second in the world,

> her major corporations are growing at rates of 20 percent to 40 percent per year,

> her companies have been on an acquisition binge, and the evidence suggests that when they acquire foreign companies, those companies perform better.

A study of Indian businesses based around interviews with the leaders of 100 of the biggest companies in India.

Indian Business Leader Priorities...

1. Chief input for business strategy;

2. Keeper of organizational culture;

3. Guide or teacher for employees;

4. Representative of owner and investor interests; and

5. Representative of other stakeholders (e.g., employees and the community).

Some of the identified key differences between Indian and Western bosses...

1. Social Purpose

2. Invest in Employees

3. Take the long view

4. Work from their strengths

5. Act as a role model

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Portfolio Construct

How Many Mutual Funds Should You Have in Your Investment Portfolio?

This is a trick-question as how many and which type depends upon a host of factors such as my risk appetite, financial goals etc.

Time to take an inventory of your mutual funds. How many are there? What are their investment styles? Is your portfolio of mutual funds cluttered just like your closet? Have you owned some mutual funds so long that you have forgotten why you bought them? Are there some mutual funds on the top shelf, way in the back of your financial closet you haven't even looked at in a while?

Adding new mutual funds to your portfolio is far easier than reorganizing your fund portfolio and discarding inappropriate, redundant, or simply poor-performing mutual funds. The answer to the question of how many mutual funds you should have in your portfolio is not just a number. But if you have many more than eight mutual funds in your closet, chances are you need to do some serious portfolio cleaning; and here's why.

First, in order to be well-diversified, your mutual fund portfolio should be invested in stock mutual funds and in fixed-income mutual funds or income fund equivalents. Within the stock mutual funds, your mutual funds should cover large-cap stocks, small-cap stocks, and mid-cap stocks.

In case you are making investments across the shores, one should cover established firms in industrialized countries and stocks of countries that would be considered emerging markets. While geographic diversification domestically is relatively unimportant, diversification by region for foreign investments is. Representation in Europe for large stock international mutual funds is important, and investments in Latin America and the Pacific Rim are crucial when considering emerging stock mutual funds. Global mutual funds that invest domestically and abroad sound like a one-fund answer, but it is too much geography for one portfolio manager to cover and global funds tend to change domestic/foreign portfolio weights as world conditions change, neutralizing some diversification benefits.

Counting the Mutual Funds
Let's stop and take a count: one large-cap fund, one small-cap fund, one emerging sector fund—so far, three mutual funds. Have we missed the mid-cap stocks? Well, check your large-cap fund and your small-cap fund to see what they include. Usually, large-cap funds leak down into the mid-cap range and small-cap funds push up into the mid-cap range. If not, add a mid-cap mutual fund to avoid any portfolio gaps. Now we may be up to four, all of which are stock mutual funds at this point.

If you want income and the diversification benefit of a fixed-income fund, then a simple choice would be to consider Debt mutual funds with a decent focus towards Government Bonds. These funds on a 3 to 10 year weighted average maturity deliver stability in the portfolio and captures most of the yield of longer-term mutual funds when interest rates change. If you are in a high tax bracket, a stable tax-saving fund might be a better choice. Aggressive investors can reach to high-yield corporate bond funds and while these funds invest in lower-quality corporate debt that pays high income, the individual default risk of the bonds in the portfolio is softened through diversification and the high income dampens portfolio volatility. Furthermore, high-yield bonds tend to be sensitive to the economic cycle, acting more like stocks than government bonds.

So, if we add one to our fund count for a fixed-income fund we have a total of five mutual funds; and another in GILT securities fund would push the kitty to six.

Other Categories of Mutual Funds
What about all those other categories of mutual funds? Do you need a gold fund, sector fund, index fund?

Let's take them one at a time...

Gold mutual funds are concentrated sector funds holding gold mining stocks primarily in North America, South Africa, and Australia. They are extremely volatile, as gold price changes are magnified by the operating cost break-even points of gold mining firms. Do you need a gold fund in your portfolio? No. Most investors use gold funds as a store of value, a hedge against inflation. Over the last decade, however, they have been neither. When stocks are roaring up, you would like your gold fund to behave like a stock, but it tends to act like gold bullion. When the stock market collapses, you hope your gold fund behaves like gold bullion, but unfortunately, it tends to act more like a stock. Hence, I would then rather take a Gold Exchange Traded Fund which is Gold Bullion in that case and would actually provide the hedge the portfolio needs especially given the volatile times we are in.

Sector mutual funds concentrate on one industry or a few closely related industries. Because they are concentrated in an industry, they are not well diversified. Beyond the additional risk, the trick to master is just which sector funds to invest in. At the top of most "best-performing mutual funds" lists will be some sector funds, but they'll also appear on the "worst-performing mutual funds" lists—it's just a question of when. Most aggressively managed stock mutual funds concentrate in some industries and might be viewed as a combination of sector funds. Few investors are willing and able to place sector bets unless they have particular experience in a sector through their education, work experience or vocation, and if they do have expertise, selecting individual stocks may be more rewarding. So, unless there are strong convictions on a sector and one doesn't really have the time to pick up stocks

Do index mutual funds have a place in your portfolio? Yes, but they don't add to the number of funds. They simply are another way of managing your assets in one of the fund categories necessary for a rational, well-diversified, non-redundant mutual fund portfolio. Index mutual funds should be employed in a situation where even the brightest and best of portfolio managers using superior timing and stock selection decisions would have difficulty overcoming the cost advantage of an index fund. Areas of the markets that are efficient, have readily available information, are well-researched and followed closely by the investment community, or are simply not susceptible to very profitable analysis are candidates for indexing. These markets have attributes that make intelligent, thorough analysis more likely to contribute returns that can overcome the cost of active fund management.

Style Diversification in a Portfolio of Mutual Funds
An added classification for domestic funds is investment style—mutual funds can be categorized as growth or value, or both. Growth mutual funds would typically invest in stocks with high earnings growth expectations; value mutual funds would invest in stocks with low prices relative to earnings and net asset values. The style label should be based not on what the fund says it is or what it says it will do, but on what it does. Investment style classification should serve to help investors avoid redundancies and coverage gaps. But they also beg the question, "Should a portfolio of stock mutual funds be diversified by style as well as size of stocks?" Size, yes. Style, perhaps.

Many mutual funds operate in more than one stock size range and many use approaches that are classified as both growth and value. Do you need a value and growth fund in each stock size category? No. One value fund, and it might be the large-cap fund, and one growth fund covering the mid-sized and small stock area provide coverage of size and style. An index fund can be both growth and value, and more extensive indexes will cover value and growth for more stocks and stock size ranges.

Eight Is Enough…
Understanding the style and stock size characteristics of mutual funds will help prevent duplication and unnecessary run-up in the number of mutual funds in your portfolio. Now, back to our count of mutual funds: We left off at six with one fixed-income fund, or seven funds with a fixed-income fund and GILT fund. Add a money market fund and the counter clicks to eight. Be sure you can justify adding mutual funds to your portfolio beyond eight. Make certain you need them, that they truly cover new ground in asset type, geography, or investment style, and that the addition is meaningful.

Taking the time to create an organized, understandable, appropriate and efficient portfolio of mutual funds may be your most important investment.

But, What if one doesn't have time...
Off late, funds with hybrid asset allocation have become popular. These funds invest in different assets (debt & equity) on the basis of predefined asset allocation (moderate / low / aggressive). Also, there are funds with dynamic asset allocation on the basis of statistical models (quant models). Investing in these funds would enable you to have the same exposure to asset classes and reduce the number of overall investments. This is best suited for a person who doesn't take active calls between equity & debt.

The response is inspired by John Markese's response to a similar question put up to him in the AAII Journal, and adapted to the Indian context. John is the President of AAII, the American Association for Individual Investors. I also thank Rajnish Girdhar, Anamika Mattey and Manish Rangwani for their inputs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

EDGEXTREME: An Urban-Outbound program sensitizing learners on what it takes to be a CEO


Early last year, I launched EDGEXTREME, a one-day urban outbound program that focuses on sensitizing learners to what it takes to be a CEO. EDGEXTREME was built from scratch (even scratch was an understatement)... so, no IP issues.

We have run 10-odd sessions across the country, and have recieved wonderful responses. More importantly, those who have attended remember the exercises, and many a times have met me and shared the application of its learning in their workplace.

The training program is labour-intensive (requires 12 people apart from the core facilitator), takes one day to map the geography plus another day to do the on-ground planning a day prior to the program, and is not exactly inexpensive.

Apart from the resources that are required, the most critical and difficult resource to source is a detailed map of the locale. We source these maps from Reliance GIS.

The following write-up is given to the nominees to arouse their interest. To conduct this program, one requires teams (min.-5; max.-10) constituting of participants (min.-4; max.-5) who are mature, have led large teams, and typically have been identified as 'high potentials'. Inexperienced and immature learners tend to remain stuck on their immediate wins & loses, and miss the larger picture. After the debrief, the participants are given a handbook which has some tools and also a Harvard-appraised Case Study, The Team That Wasn't.

Overall, an interesting experience for both the participants and the crew & facilitator(s) as well. Tiring, but enjoyable!!!


When tackling a major initiative like an acquisition or an overhaul of IT systems or introducing a new product line, companies rely on large, diverse teams of highly educated specialists to get the job done. Teams often are convened quickly to meet an urgent need and work together virtually, collaborating online and sometimes over large distances.

Appointing such a team is frequently the only way to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to pull off many complex tasks businesses face today. When the BBC covers the World Cup or the Olympics, for instance, it gathers a large team of researchers, writers, producers, cameramen, and technicians, many of whom have not met before the project. These specialists work together under the high pressure of a 'no retake' environment, with just one chance to record the action.

A leading sales organisation's newly appointed CSO was interviewed before the launch of a 'focused' sales drive. He was asked which was to be done first; a clearly defined approach toward achieving the goal, or clearly defined roles of individual crack-team members. He chose the former. The common assumption is that carefully spelling out the approach is essential, and leaving the roles of individuals within the team vague will encourage people to share ideas and contribute in multiple dimensions. Research shows and so did he realise shortly, the latter needs to be defined first; Collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well-understood – when individuals feels that they can do significant portion of their work independently.

Recent researches into team behaviour reveal an interesting paradox: Although teams are large, virtual, diverse, and composed of highly educated specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done. To put it another way, the qualities required for success are the same qualities that undermine success. Members of complex teams are less likely – absent other influences – to share knowledge freely, to learn from one another, to shift workloads flexibly to break up unexpected bottlenecks, to help one another complete jobs and meet deadlines, and to share resources – in other words, to collaborate. They are less likely to say that they "sink or swim" together, want one another to success, or view their goals as compatible.

We would examine these aspects of High Performing Teams and some more in a simulated context; followed by a structured debrief to highlight the competing-teams' performance which in turn would help the team members to sensitize themselves to various aspects of a team's effectiveness.

The Structure

        Briefing >> Exercise >> DeBriefing

The Field Exercise

EDGEXTREME is a 1-day outbound navigation based field exercise. It would take you on an adventure trip, around the city & the suburbs, and compel you to think differently, pushing you to the limit where innovation & collaboration would be the only means to move forward. It is a physically as well as mentally strenuous exercise. You would be competing with teams from other organisations.

EDGEXTREME will not only challenge you to achieve the impossible but also surprise you with your own achievements. The exercise is designed to be an experiential exercise which takes participants through a journey of avenues to explore themselves and get sensitized to tenets of Co-Competing.

Dress Code
Casual comfortable clothing and sport shoes.

The limitations are just in our mind; and although the intervention would require you to be outside 'in-the-heat', and it may be physically tiring for you, but the learning & its application will be profound. Having said that, as the intervention may be physically exhausting, if you suffer from any prohibitive ailment or your doctor has advised you not to exert, you are advised to refrain from participating in the program.

The Debrief

EDGEXTREME examines the structure of teams in the workplace, a heuristic model of the various elements that impact a team's effectiveness, and finally the factors that lead to a team's success which you can implement to take yourselves and your working teams to a different orbit.


A lot of people have been involved, and at various stages, right from inception to its shape-n-form today...

1.        Inception - Gopal Khaitan, Premal Pipalia, Vikram Masand
2.        BrainPicking - Anand Dewan
3.        Development - Vikram Masand
4.        Logistics - Mihir Shah
5.        Maps - Jagadeesh KM, Kenneth Crasto
6.        Devil's Advocate - Premal Pipalia, Vikram Masand, Ankush Roy, Mihir Shah, Shyamac Jal

Is my employment a 'job' or a 'venture'?

My work is a job!

A colleague in the L&D fraternity recently told me that she wasn't happy with the way in which she was treated during the annual appraisal process; I mean her expectations in terms of a raise weren't met, although the raise she got was in line with what the top quartile got. Having said that she has been unhappy, and told me that if I were her supervisor, she would tell me that the 'experience has led me to look at my work as a job rather than a venture'.

...and if I were her supervisor, I would have told her that it would be an interesting experiment!

An interesting experiment because, I believe that the 'orientation' can't change overnight... i.e., whether to take one's work as a 'job' or as a 'venture'. I tried it, but somehow came back to the 'venture' orientation, and I know people whom I could never get to move from the 'job' orientation; that is when I realised that these are not mere orientations, but a 'way of life'.

She has a 'venture' orientation which is her base attitude, if she can change that, she would have proven me wrong... and I really don't mind being proven wrong. At least I, as her supervisor, would know that I have one less name to count on.

Behaviours are a manifestation of the 'attitude' in differing environments. Environments are temporary, and hence behaviours are! Behaviours create perceptions; they are temporary as well. Our effort, as evolved individuals, should be to not let these perceptions stay long and affect us and others around us, as they then start metamorphosing into biases; and biases are difficult to break, and in some cases run across generations as well. The environment today may not be conducive, but that doesn't stop one from being selfish, and continue to hone our 'venture' skills!

Its just a thought...

My failing memory...

She ended the conversation by saying that 'the one who wears the shoe knows where it pinches'. I kept quiet & smiled, for she was hurt and refused to look around at others. Have I had this kind of feeling earlier; well, I guess we all have had, but the question is 'how have we handled them, and have we come out stronger'.

Today, I know I am stronger, but, ironical as it may sound, I don't even remember the details of the 'hurt'.

Is my memory failing me, or was the 'event' insignificant?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The bane of today's corporate world

An ex-colleague and a  friend, Arup Sengupta, started a conversation recently, on Facebook, on the need to develop skill sets, around Transactional Analysis and NLP, amongst in-class trainers. While many of our friends added comments on the agreeing to the same, but in no time the conversation-thread moved towards the need of BootCamps which are BootCamps in word & spirit; no mollycuddling, but hardcore break-the-horse-and-make-a-stallion kind of BootCamp.

Someone even defined BootCamps as 'cardboard houses so that the trainers sound-the-part without any conviction'. This someone, Kapil Kant Kaul (hereon refered to as K3), also stated a stark truth about the mom-n-pop-stores kind of training companies, that the problem starts when these training companies, with their greater affinity to bottom lines look for trainers who are like onions; can be thrown in any recipe but unable to be a complete recipe in itself.

Well, I agree with K3, and somewhere we are responsible as well. We allowed that to happen under our nose, and like a child who closes her eyes and thinks that the world is calm & quite as nothing can be seen, we closed our eyes as well. These training outfits and trainers operate on the epitome of rehash of content; walk into any of these companies or take a peek into any of these trainers' hard-disk, and you would find 'generations of universal slides with only a different company logo', and as K3 states, that the skillset is only defined by how much can be crammed in a day of presentation and that is followed by a 'vomit' both literally and figuratively in a training session. This phenomenon is seen rampant across India, and while there are some exceptional trainers and training professionals and CLOs, they are outnumbered by these not-did-well-in-sales-and-hence-into-training trainers and training outfit owners... as my friend, Rajat says, 'there are people who live these behavioral models without having being 'certified', and there are more who live life vice-versa'.

I must commend K3 to bring out the bitter truth about cats & dogs... mediocre trainers inform, good trainers share and great trainers inspire; unless the trainer lives those values, authenticity and conviction may never come in. Training ought to be a profession of people who are passionate about actualization, both self and transcendental and not a last resort of burnt-out salesmen to get a regular paycheck.

As bitter the truth is, one needs to take an accommodative view... or should we not!!!

Rajat offers a pragmatic view, and while I agree with him, my understanding of 'mediocrity' gets shaped with what he says in the thread; and this is how it goes...

...and just like in any other profession, there is a range of performers, from passe to the excellent, also in training, there are training companies dealing with knowledge and basic transactions for the masses, there are a few 'evolved' training companies doing work around leadership, transformation, and OD, and, then there is the Aastha Channel (akin to the GOD Channel on cable); just like every sales person cannot be a CEO (of course, one can dream to be one!!!), similarly, every trainer may not evolve to be as inspirational trainer (again, one can aspire to be one!!!)

I do agree that the biggest killer is 'mediocrity', but lately, I have realised that 'mediocrity' also ensures that there is no stress. So, one of the questions that I ask trainers nowadays is whether they want to be good or they want to be superlative. I have seen a lot of excellent facilitators who have remained good and have allowed their round wheels become square wheels as the context changed, and this is my understanding of the initial indicators of mediocrity 'seeping in'; someone, who thinks s/he knows everything, and stops questioning & learning... or being questioned.

So, the question I ask, time to time, is whether its OK to remain mediocre; as no one is aware and hence, no one asks. And as no one is aware, I continue to make people believe that my 'this' current state is superlative. True-To-Heart, 'superlative' is a state, of which there is no single definition, but, many an indicators; the strongest one being, the want & ability to listen without barriers and learn; and to be OK to be questioned & challenged; and to fail.

Somewhere in the thread, one of my earlier supervisors, Rohit, talked about a certain set of trainers as the 'last of the breed'; are they really extinct!!! Well, it might be true, if we refuse to change & bend and be ahead of the pack. I also believe that there are quite a few facilitators or wannabe facilitators who can actually be superlative, and there are many facilitators who have become superlative, and I hope they continue to remain; and continue to encourage others.

Next is What!
(not Samsung)

First - A common-interest society is being formed to get the relevant executive and non-executive people in the fold.

Second - Standards for Roleholders at all L&D professionals, including specialists within the profession, and for all levels... They are in the pipeline.

Third - A 'College of Learning' is on its way.

I hope that my quest for words to capsulate my experience from my-war-of-two-decades-against-mediocrity, does not leave readers confused; India needs a transformation in the way our facilitators operate; but, no one is to blame, let's own up the fact that we all were together when Caesar was being stabbed...

Let's start anew!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Olivier Madel-Felicite's Gift to make us Better Leaders

10 question to make you a better leader...

1- What matters most?

The good news is, there's no right or wrong answer. Yet, what was most important a year or two ago may not be the driving force in the business or in your life today. Press the reset button and, together with your leadership team, clarify priorities and commit to keeping them in focus.

2- What is one "problem" I can turn into an opportunity?

No need for rose-colored glasses — just view a current challenge through a lens of opportunity. Think about past successes in the business and figure out how to apply those skills to the issue at hand. You grow by building on strengths, not "fixing" weaknesses.

3- What do employees need to hear from me?

Be careful about sending the message that you need people to hear. Think from your employees' point of view — if they don't feel understood, they won't listen to you anyway — and resist the urge to tell them how they "should" think or feel. Remember that inspiration doesn't come only from motivational speeches to the masses. It should happen more informally, too.

4- What is our customers' greatest pain?

Be relentless about knowing and meeting that need. Skip the complicated surveys. Instead, pick up the phone and ask. Listen and understand first — then get busy offering solutions.

5- What new business relationships will I pursue?

New opportunities come from new relationships. Inside and outside your industry, seek out opportunities where there is potential for mutual benefit — not just "what's in it for me?" Remember, too, that even in these boom days of social media, significant business relationships begin with real dialogue — not a tweet.

6- How will I be more strategic?

Skip the SWOT exercise. Strategic planning isn't an event — it's a discipline. Get serious about setting direction, always starting with a big-picture view of the possibilities. Resist the urge to discuss and deal with tactics until you're clear on what you want to accomplish. Even then, don't check strategy off your list — put it into daily practice.

7- How can I make swift yet smart decisions?

Now more than ever, you can't afford to overanalyze. Clear the clutter — the "mind clutter" that plagues even the best leaders — and make way for swift, smart decision-making. Hint: Slow down your thinking during the planning process, so you can make faster and better decisions later.

8- How will I recognize success?

You won't know if the business is on the right path if you haven't determined some key markers or indicators. What's more, not all measures of success are quantitative, so consider how you'll know when a result "feels right."

9- What is my biggest fear, and how will I face it?

Name it – and claim it. If you don't, it can be damaging, even deadly, to you and the business. After all, what you resist, you empower. Own your fear — before it owns you — and decide how you'll confront it.

10- What leadership skill can—and should—I get better at?

Fact is, your personal effectiveness affects the success of the business. Pick the leadership skill that most needs your attention—listening, coaching, or problem solving, perhaps—and commit to improvement. Small changes really can make a big difference. Just ask your team and others on the receiving end.

Don't be afraid to answer these questions honestly and openly; the goal is help you with the last one. Infact, if you have responded to the first 9, you would've anyways built an understanding around the leadership skills that you need to build.

Important: As a Leaders or wannabe leaders, you shouldn't be afraid of revealing your fears our doubts as you reach for new goals because it shows employees it's OK to struggle when striving for change.

Development in Kharghar

Kharghar, and in fact Navi Mumbai, is emerging as the 'killer' response for the chaos of Mumbai!

We have been staying in Navi Mumbai since the summer of 2004. Till about 2 years back, when I joined my current employer, we had hardly visited Mumbai as we would find most of our requirements fulfilled by Navi Mumbai itself. And today, but for my employer, some of our friends, and the airport, we really don't have the need to go to Mumbai. One may also attribute this to our needs getting fulfilled here; and while there are a lot of things to do on the island, but they are not on the top of our list of priorities.

Growth in Navi Mumbai - Today & Tomorrow

Starting from the landmark 'Siemens' building Navi Mumbai has grown leaps & bounds since.While a lot has happened, yet there is a humongous lot which is yet to be done. A lot of talk is in the air to make Mumbai, the Shanghai of India; good thought, but I am convinced that it will not be Mumbai, but Navi Mumbai which will steal the crown. Watch out, Mumbai!!!

In the first two years of our stay, there had been a lot of smoke & gas, but no fire. In the past three years, Navi Mumbai has gotten into canter mode. With Greater Mumbai (MahaMumbai) SEZ coming up, the New Airport near Kharghar, the Bollywood Hills project in Kharghar, a world-class Golf Academy in Kharghar, a Central Park in Kharghar, beautifully designed railway stations spread all over Navi Mumbai, integrated railway stations such as the one coming up in Seawoods, 3 metro-lines, India's largest ISKCON temple in Kharghar, the Sewri-Nhava Transharbour Link, the Urban Haat in Belapur (modelled in the lines of Dilli Haat), this is surely going to be an interesting place to live and  bring up my son... and your children. Please do take a look at the links, and feel free to contribute more links.

I personally feel that the Parsik Hills project should now be reinitiated with vigor; and how about getting the likes of ISB & IIM here. In the first para I had written about my priorities; well, I would like to qualify 'priorities'. The flexibility that I offer to my 'priorities' is directly proportional to the 'pain' in travelling / driving in Mumbai, and its a bane. So, what happens if we have a theatres playing Naseeruddin, amphitheatres flooded with Yanni's music & classical dance extravaganza by Hema Malini, book-reading by William Dalrymple, art galleries hosting Hussain, culture centres showing Akira Kurosawa's work, art centre teaching Origami etc etc etc... in Navi Mumbai!!! Well, in that case all of the above would gain priority in my 'list of priorities'; just that, I hope, that traffic doesn't become a bane here!!!

Areas of Improvement

We want a lot, but we should not forget that with developments come newer issues. What is important is that we forsee them and keep their remedy as a part of our plan. So, where all do we need to improve, and plan for 30years from today.

While a lot has to be done in terms of our 'attitude', let us go ahead and do our bit in terms of keeping the place clean, following traffic rules, making the place culture-sponsoring and also build profitable & sustainable communities out of the villages that dot the entire Navi Mumbai space. Technology is catching up in Navi Mumbai, but we need to have this place hot-wired into a wi-fi environment.

The Times of India's 2nd Jan edition had asked a question... "Do you think the Navi Mumbai roads are more accident-prone? If yes what you would suggest to make the city roads safe for commuting?". I responded to it (http://bit.ly/8GDzf8), but by the time I finished writing, I realised that so much could be done.

WE have to make living in Navi Mumbai safer for us and our children.

Links to Checkout...

Cidco plot for Kharghar film park fetches Rs 1,530 crore (http://bit.ly/7EBWTX)
1st phase of Navi Mumbai airport by 2013 (http://bit.ly/4WMy8w)
ISKCON's Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohanji Temple, spread over eight acres of land that will be more than just a temple (http://iskconkharghar.com/)
CIDCO's Navi Mumbai festival begins on 23/Jan/2010 (http://bit.ly/4rFV0Z)
Kharghar park to open doors next week to the 1st Phase of the Central Park (http://bit.ly/8itMfq)

Making Navi Mumbai's Roads Safer

Do you think the Navi Mumbai roads are more accident-prone?

The Times of India's 2nd Jan edition had asked a question... "Do you think the Navi Mumbai roads are more accident-prone? If yes what you would suggest to make the city roads safe for commuting?". This wasn't published for I think TOI must have found this extremely long to put up as an answer or too serious for a 'goody-goody' question or it simply didn't have the space available.

I have the following suggestions...

A) Commitment
B) Construction and Repair
C) Education
D) Enforcement of 'No Tolerance' behavior

A) Commitment: All personnel of Civic bodies, including the Police should follow a top-down signing of charter to make Navi Mumbai roads safer.

B) Construction & Repair
  • All repairs of roads including arterial roads, pavements, walkways, parking bays and bus-stops, and
  • Construction of skywalks, dedicated lanes for cyclists (like in Delhi), clearing of pavements etc need to be done, including erection of seats at regular distances to allow pedestrians to rest.
  • Construction of appropriate road-signs, and road-signs.
  • 'Public Conveniences' at closer distances (Sulabh Shauchalaya).
C) Education
  • Education drive in all schools & colleges, including private institutions like NIIT etceteras on traffic rules. The education has to be done in such a way that students take up onus on following rules, and at the least not allow those with them to flout rules. Children and youth are the biggest drivers of policy, and they are the future.
  • Identifying the best applicable standards, and Relicense all 'driving schools' and get them at par with international levels.
  • A month-long drive of 'no challan', where the traffic police offenders by educating them on the spot, and sending an intimation to them at offenders' homes. This is to be put in place for a certain set of violations, and can't work on violations that end up in occurence of an accident.
  • Education of the 'enforcers' on handling 'violators' by showing a mix of compassion & high-handedness, and especially when to use which behavior.
D) Enforcement of 'No Tolerance' behavior
  • After the 'education' month, all offenders will have to pay two kinds of fines, a) a monetary fine double (or more) of what is applicable on all offences, and b) a mandatory 'time' fine that all offenders would need to pay-up by attending an hour-long video on road safety.
  • Identification of 'No Tolerance' zones across Navi Mumbai (like in Connaught Place in Delhi).