Sunday, April 16, 2017

Is Stayzilla right? Is Jigsaw wrong?

Neither am I a legal professional nor have I enough information to make a judgement or give an opinion on the ongoing tussle between Stayzilla and Jigsaw. I'm absolutely no authority on such matters. But what I do have is a memory and an emotion.

In 2000, after completion of an MBA, I joined a small ad agency in Chennai. The agency was owned by a lady. A first generation entrepreneur who came from a humble background. She had worked hard to establish the agency. She had done some incredible work and was the reason behind the successful branding campaign for an Oracle database training institute in Chennai. Thanks to her creativity and smartness, she helped the institute establish itself as the top Oracle database training institute in the city. In a way, she was behind the bright colored posters which became the norm for many IT training institutes.

Then came an opportunity, a big one at that. Another IT training institute that used to compete with NIIT and Aptech (the leading training institutes at that point of time in India) handed a contract for running their entire campaign in the South.

I was part of the pitching and servicing team. It was a great experience. The work was hectic. I would liaison with multiple points of contact at the client place who had their own ideas of creativity. I collaborated with visualizers and copywriters marveling at what they could churn out. And finally the job also required running to media houses with the artwork before the deadline.

The advertising industry has always been a very competitive space. Agencies, especially the small ones, are always squeezed. Not only did clients extract a great discount but also demanded longer credit periods. This client of ours was no different.

Two months in the relationship and submission of invoices, the client was not processing the payments. Soon, I quit and joined the PR industry. But I kept in touch with my ex-colleagues and found out that my ex-employer was still not receiving the payments. There was a danger of the agency losing its licence. The agency were I began my career was in a shambles. Later on, I gathered that there was some sort of agreement on the payments. However, the delay had already taken its toll. The lady had to merge the agency with another company. The team disbanded.

And my ex-boss who until then was a job provider was now herself in the job market!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Swacch Bharat and Dog Poo

The day Indians start picking up their dog’s poo, India would have become Swacch. Before you start mocking my thought let me admit that spitting and urinating are far worse habits of Indians and far bigger endemic. I acknowledge it. But allow me to make a point. 

You will agree that most dog owners, especially the ones that have pedigree dogs, belong to the upper rungs of society. This cross-section of people (it is safe to assume) usually have better education, exposure and affluence. Then the natural assumption is that they would be far more involved in issues such as sanitation and cleanliness. 

The truth though is that this section of the society is probably not as sensitive as we assume they should be. And that includes me. I have a dog now and had one more a few years ago. For all the 11 years that Cheeku lived with us, I never ever cleaned up poo that he dumped on the streets, roads, and pavements. I was never responsible. And till about a year back, I never picked up after Pumpkin. But now I do. 

So what changed? As a stay-at-home husband who had an opportunity to live in Amsterdam for a year, I found too much time at my disposal and hence I signed up for dog walking services. In addition to walking a dog for a minimum of an hour, the most important part of the job was to pick up the dog’s poo and dispose it. Things were easier. Most parks and pathways had special plastic covers stocked solely for this purpose. One could also easily find a dustbin to dispose of the filled bags. That was my initiation. 

When we returned to India, I came back with my new habit. Every time Savitha, my wife, and/or I take Pumpkin for a walk, we ensure we take one of these plastic bags that we bring back home from shopping to pick up Pumpkin’s poo. Thankfully for us, there are many dustbins in our locality so disposing of filled bags is easy. 

We, probably, are an exception. We live in a relatively affluent locality with nice pavements and roads. Often during my walks, I find dog poo in the middle of the road and on the pavements on which probably an unsuspecting person would have stamped upon and probably slipped making a long stretch of poo. 

It is not that Indians don’t know about hygiene and cleanliness. We probably have very high personal hygiene levels but when it comes to sensitivity to public hygiene, we are uninitiated. 
Neither is it the first time we are learning about the importance of being or becoming Swacch. One of the important teachings of Mahatma Gandhi was cleanliness. Why do thoughts not translate into habits? What would make us sensible and responsible as far as public hygiene is concerned?

Probably, I am very pessimistic about India ever becoming clean. But then, if the crème-de-la-crème of the society cannot take responsibility of cleaning up after their dogs, how can we expect the masses to stop spitting and urinating? 

PS: A slightly modified version of this blog was submitted to Avenues Harrington Road, a monthly journal which appeared in print in the February edition. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Paleo Diet, Change Management, Elephant, Rider & Heath Brothers

I am fat. I am diabetic. I am foodie! It is a no-brainer that this is a lethal combination.

The easy solution prescribed is exercise and eat healthy. In reality it is not as easy as it reads! I exercise. I have played tennis for over a decade and then squash for a year.

The weak link here is the diet. Despite being aware of the perils of uncontrolled intake of carbohydrates, I could never get myself to eat less. I have been a prolific eater since childhood. Not that I have not tried eating less but every time I started a regime, I lost the battle within a short period.

And then about 20 days back, I discovered paleo diet. I had already heard and read about it but it was a visit from a friend that nudged me. Though he was always thin, he now looked emaciated. Tending to skinny. "Thanks to paleo", he said, "in addition to shedding weight, I have also successfully conquered diabetes."

What can I say, I was impressed and duly motivated. Now, after about a month of the paradigm shift in my eating pattern, I can myself see the effects. Both in weight loss and blood sugar control.

I wondered what has changed, this time. Why did my previous attempts fail while I seem to be in control this time. Of course, there are two more months to go, I do believe that something is different this time. How did I manage to control my gluttony?

My blog is not about paleo but about Switch, a wonderful book on change management by Heath Brothers - Chip and Dan. Incidentally, I began reading the book around the same time I embarked on the new diet. To me diet was a dirty word, a word that stressed me out. Almost all other diets tell us to eat limited quantity. Two chapattis, a cup of this or a cup of that. Unacceptable!

On the other hand, paleo is about eating as much as one wants. Only carbs are cut off or limited to a great extent. What probably did the trick for me is there were no constraints in the amount one could eat.

According to Chip and Dan, there are three key elements to change management:
  1. Directing the rider, the rational being
  2. Motivating the elephant, the emotional side 
  3. Shaping the path
I am finding out that I am finally succeeding in the pursuit of health due to the various factors within the three elements that are finally coming together. I had the bright spots before me, I found the feeling and built habits that suited me. Though in all these, the clinching factor is - eat as much as you want. While the rider knew the benefits of diet, the elephant in me didn't budge because eating less was a no go.

If you are grappling with the issue of change management in your personal, professional or organizational level, Switch is your solution.