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A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Stages of Old Age

I have been wondering about the exact time old age starts. When can one be assured that he has entered the old age? Different people have different answers. Without any consensus in sight, I decided to come up with my own theory of old age. And after a period of long research (read observation) here I am unveiling my theory of old age to the world.

Old age is not something which is constant through out the period of old age. There are, in fact, six different stages of old age. Each stage has its own uniqueness and a distinct character with a set of responsibilities. Each stage is a revelation in itself.

35-40: Infancy of old age (Bal Awastha)
Welcome to the childhood of old age. This is the time to bask in the glory of new found old age. This period symbolizes fun, frolic, ignorance and learning. In this period you learn how to cope with graying hairs and how to do that perfect dye. It is also a time when you learn how to behave like a child with your child. It is like revisiting your childhood.

41-45: Adolescence of old age
This is a period marked with sudden physical and behavioural changes happening inside you. You suddenly realize that half the hair from your head is gone. And if that is not enough, you face a bitter truth that your waist is in constant acceleration. All those trousers with 32 inches waistline and those crisp 42 cm shirts are bursting at seems. Similar experiences mark this period. Finally, all these have effect on your behaviour making you look somewhat irritated.

46-50: Teenage of old age
This is a period marked with rebellion. Suddenly you are asking too many questions and challenging everything that is happening around you. You start asking questions like: Why can’t anybody understand me? Your children annoy you a lot and you start asking yourself: Why can’t my children be like what we were at that age? Uncertainty also starts lurking and you start to ask: What should I do now? Do what I am doing since last 20 years or is it the time to be a maverick? All of a sudden you start thinking of becoming a gardener, a farmer, a writer, a film maker, and what not. This is a period of CONFUSION and you are CONFUSED.

51-60: Settled era of old age
With start of this period you are settled in old age. Start preparing for marriage (not your marriage silly but your children’s marriage). This is a time when SINK/ DINK (for non marketing people these are acronyms for ‘Single Income No Kids’ and ‘Double Income No Kids’) is revisited. This happens when children, after their marriage, leave the house of their parents to build their own home. By the end of this period realization starts to down that “I am growing old again”.

61-65: New arrivals
Welcome grandchildren. This period is marked with rain of grandchildren. You witness the return of nappy changing days. It is a period when you are supposed to dance to the tunes and tantrums of your grandchildren. So someday you have to become a horse and someday you are supposed to behave like an elephant and give a good ride to your grandchildren. Happiness all around!

66+: Old age of old age
It is the last stage of old age. It is a time to reflect on the entire life and recollect all the memories of good old days. It is a time to smile and savour the taste of a vintage wine that has matured for more that 65 years.

With so many interesting facets of old age to explore why worry about growing old. Say cheers to growing old.

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Species of Boss

Bosses come in all shapes and sizes, and by shapes and sizes I mean mental shapes and sizes. Some are thick brained, some are sharp, some are confusing, some are boring, some are refreshing, some are thought provoking, some are democratic, some are autocratic, some are genius, some are morons, some are control freaks, some are freedom champions and the list is endless.

Well at the very outset let me make it very clear that fortunately I have been blessed with an amazing boss. It is a reality and not a politically correct statement ;-). Describing my boss is not easy. He is sharp. He is witty as well. Experience is also on his side. He is not a control freak. He is a freedom lover and freedom giver (sadly he doesn’t get too much freedom though he gives me enough). The great thing about him is that he seldom pulls me up but when he does it increases my productivity instantly. That’s what I call a real boss, one who knows when to pull the rug to wake you up from your comfort zone and when to hug you to show he appreciates the good work you are doing. But the best thing I love about him is that he doesn’t throw his opinions on you. He makes you learn, unlearn as well as re-learn and does not believe in dictating the things. But that doesn’t mean he will not slice and dice your opinion from every angle with tough questioning before showing his thumbs up. And he doesn’t get a fit if you go to his cabin every 5 minutes to show the little modification you just did to that plan. He is a boss who commands my respect rather than one who demands it.

But not all are fortunate enough to have such bosses. Here is a sample of some of the species of boss I have come across (thank God they were never my immediate boss):

Do as I say
He is a typical creativity killer. He will dictate you everything that needs to be done. You have to just execute as told. No freedom is there to use your brain or your style even in execution. And his opinion in matters where his skill sets are limited has to be taken at face value even if it is outlandish. His philosophy is “What matters is my gut feel. All analysis not conforming to my gut feel is rubbish”.

He has only two rules for his subordinates:

Rule #1: Boss is always right.
Rule #2: Whenever in doubt, refer Rule #1.

He is a perfect control freak. He wants to be everything to everybody. And if you do some work, unworthy of his attention, without taking him into confidence he will become emotional and start thinking that he has been ignored. Centralization at its pinnacle! Doesn’t it sound stifling? Just imagine how so many people bear such a kind of boss.

You got to do my work too
A lazy bum! He does nothing but takes all the credit. And when it is time for taking brickbats then promptly puts his subordinate on the frontline. His typical style is to paste “Post-it” notes on the documents presented to him with the name of his subordinate scribbled with an instruction to do the needful. So what actually our lazy bum does all day? Simple, he pretends to be busy with bigger things occupying his pathetically small brain.

And all the while Mr. Subordinate is a poor soul with both his hands and legs full with his as well as his boss’ work. But not everything is so bleak for Mr. Subordinate. There is a brighter side to it too. He gets to learn about his boss’ work while doing his work. So a smart chap can always move to his boss’ level in another organization.

I mean business
He is a typical hard nosed, no emotion type of boss. He is one who means business and that is his top priority. He is good at execution but by instilling fear rather than through delegation of authority and accountability. No emotions play at work and his style is purely mechanical. This kind of boss is effective to a large extent but he never wins the heart of his subordinates. People work for him out of fear and hardly there is any trust element. Such bosses get the things done but in the process seriously damage the morale of their subordinates, which in the long term is not going to do any good to the organization.

Respect me because I am the boss
He came, he saw, he demanded respect. This is a creature who demands respect from day one because he happens to be the boss. He wants quick respect from all his subordinates without even bothering to know them well or investing time and effort in winning their trust gradually but permanently. He loves to play with his ego. He makes decision without hearing his subordinates (as if he knows everything and his subordinates are big time morons). He hates suggestions from his subordinates because he feels he does not need anyone’s suggestions. All hell breaks loose if his subordinate dares to tell him that he might be wrong in his judgment. And the poison on the cake is that this kind of boss is generally an expert in Machiavellian practice (yes practice, not theory). Manipulation and scheming is his fort. He barks at his subordinates one moment and the very next moment he starts salivating and wags his tail on seeing his master.

Coterie breeder
He is a type of boss who is intellectually, and to some extent even professionally, handicapped. Typically he finds himself in a position of responsibility either due to some quick turn of fate or due to the presence of a Godfather. He creates a coterie of people around himself who can take care of the various facets of his job but who do not dare to threaten his authority or sense of power. Anybody who challenges his intellect or professional wisdom is an enemy for him and he can go to any extent to demolish this enemy. On the other hand he keeps showering favours on his coterie. Wherever this kind of a boss prowls, it becomes a healthy breeding ground for coterie culture and office politics of the worst kind.

I will eat the cream, you drink the skimmed milk
He is a boss who hates to do routine and mundane work. All routine and uninteresting work, nevertheless important, is delegated down the order. On the other hand, the boss busies himself with more interesting, more visible, and intellectual kind of work. The problem with this setup is that the boss does the entire stimulating job while his subordinate feels like a non-entity in the larger scheme of things. Of course this hurts motivation of the subordinates. Moreover, this type of boss never allows the subordinates to develop professionally and let them move out of his shadow. They are the talent killer of the organization.


CAUTION: Above mentioned six types of bosses is a generalization. It is very much possible that any single boss can have a combination of one or more of these 6 generalized versions. A little mental calculation shows that there can be 63 combinations (2^6 – 1) possible.

Guess the fate of Mr. Subordinate if his boss has a combination of all the 6 generalized versions of bosses.

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Corporate Cartoons

Corporate life in India can be very bizarre sometimes and at the same time utterly funny. I am now 18 months old in this unique world and have had my share of frustration, excitement, boredom, helplessness, hilarious moments, power & politics, Machiavellian scheming, and oxymoronic meetings. For sometime now I was wondering if the corporate life is a live version of “Cartoon Network”.

Today I am convinced. So I am thinking of starting a comic strip of my own on Indian Corporatosphere (People at Oxford Dictionary and Webster please note that I am the creator of this word. As of today, 23rd October 2005, the google result for ‘Corporatosphere’ shows zero result. If the word becomes fashionable and you people decide to include it in your esteemed dictionary then please attribute it to me). Enough of monopoly of Dilbert. It is time now for some competition. If Indian software can do it, so can a comic strip on Indian Corporatosphere. Anyways, US Corporatosphere’s hilariousness quotient (HQ) cannot be as high as Indian Corporatosphere’s hilariousness quotient (HQ). Beware Dilbert!

But the biggest problem is that I don’t know how to draw sketches. But I am a believer in the principles taught in “The Alchemist”. One such principle says, “And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”. So if I don’t know sketching then I will definitely learn it sooner than later. Amen!

If you can let your imagination run wild you will be astonished to see the characters from “Cartoon Network” coming alive in India’s Corporatosphere. There is inevitably an Uncle Scrooge (the millionaire or billionaire uncle who is obscenely rich yet very stingy). There are Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There is Tom as well as Jerry. Then there are Huey, Dewey, and Louie (read management trainees). There are also Pluto and Goofy. There is Spike. And there is Topo, the Neopolitan Mouse. Aha, there is Uncle Pecos as well. And never to forget The Duckling (appetizer for Tom). If you know of a character in Cartoon world then an equivalent is bound to be found in Indian Corporatosphere.

And while writing this I am remembering the famous satire of Colyngbourne:

"The Cat, the Rat and Lovell our Dog,
Rule all England under a Hog"

The Cat was Sir Thomas Catesby. The Rat was Sir William Ratcliffe of Ordsall Hall. The Dog was Thomas, Lord Lovell ( Lovell's emblem was a talbot, a now-extinct breed of hunting hound). The Hog was Richard III ( his emblem was a white boar). The couplet refers to the fact that this hated trio of men enjoyed enormous power and influence in the reign of the equally disliked King Richard III.

Wondering if such a satire can be written for Indian Corporatosphere as well?

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

From TALL DARK HANDSOME…to TALL FAIR HANDSOME!!

Recently, Emami launched a fairness cream for men called “Fair & Handsome” in some southern states. Fairness cream for men? Sounds somewhat shocking to a typical Indian. Even Shobha De, in one of her regular columns in “The Week”, discussed it with her usual enthusiasm and chutzpah. And then today I just saw another piece on “Fair & Handsome” in a “Business World” column called “Double take by emcee”. But for me it’s not a new idea. It’s at least 2 years old idea, if not more.

One fine Sunday in June’05, my dear friend, Mukul Singh, working in Chennai sent an SMS in morning. “Hero, Emami launched fairness cream for men in Chennai. Big advertisement in today’s newspaper”. So what’s the big deal, I thought. May be sort of acknowledgement for an original creator of an idea that he was 3 years ahead of time.

Way back in January 2003, this idea cropped up in my mind. I was doing my MBA from IMT, Ghaziabad then and was in 3rd trimester. I alongwith my then batchmate, Mahendra Kumar Baid alias “Baddy”, made a business plan out of this idea and presented it in the business plan contest during the annual inter B-school fest of IMT Ghaziabad called “Passion”. The judge was Mr. M J Masilamani, ex-CEO of Timex. Finally, the idea was good enough for a 3rd prize. Not a bad start!

So what prompts me now to write on a fairness cream for men? Humm…nostalgia perhaps. Or may be it’s the instinctive urge of a creator to write about one’s creation on seeing that the whole world is waking up to his idea. Truly speaking I am feeling like a surrogate father. The idea sparked in my head and Emami brought it to the world.

But I am a disgruntled father. Oh no, it’s not because I am not directly involved with the upbringing of my idea. Anyway, I was a poor man without enough money to feed an idea in the real world. So no regrets that Emami is the one who brought my son to this world. My cause of concern, as any concerned father would have, is that my son is not being brought up the way I would have liked. But what can a poor dad do when the mother is so super rich. Except of course tell the whole world how his son should have been brought up and how the mother is spoiling his son.

Here are my grievances:

1. What a rubbish name for my son? Fair & Handsome. Sounds like the name of the snobbish boy friend of “Fair & Lovely”. How can “fair” and “handsome” be simultaneously associated with men? It’s blasphemy. Men are known among women because of their TDH factor and not because of their fairness factor. What a cruel joke on men to openly say that they aspire to be fair & handsome? It’s another matter that deep down Indian men crave to be fair in order to be handsome because of the psychological conditioning since childhood that fair is beautiful. But feeling something deep down and expressing something openly are two extremes of the life of an Indian male. It is one thing to surreptitiously pamper one’s face with “Fair & Lovely” of one’s wife or sister or mother and it is a completely different thing to openly say, “Gee, I pampered my face with Fair & Lovely”.

2. Fairness cream. Doesn’t it sound feminine? It’s like dressing a baby boy in frocks with laces and flowers. Oh! How mercilessly Emami is trying to project my son as a girl child to reap some quick money (Isn’t the same thing that father of a boy child artist, who is being projected as a girl on screen by her mother, recently ranted?).

When “Fair & Handsome” was still unborn, I thought I would name him “ADONIS”. I thought I would give him the surname “Gel” instead of “cream” because “Gel” sounds masculine. And I never ever dared to dream dressing up my son with something called “fairness”. I thought, ADONIS, my son, will be known in the world as “grooming for the modern men”. And in the labyrinth of “grooming for the modern men” will be subtly hidden message of “fairness as one of the benefits” to politely reminder the subconscious part of the male brain that “it can also make you fairer without letting the whole world know about it”.

I thought ADONIS Gel would be a grooming gel combined with triple sunscreen, after-shave properties, a strong masculine fragrance which lasts for hours, and fairness. I never intended to narrow the positioning of ADONIS by positioning it as a fairness gel. My roadmap for my son, ADONIS, was to position it on masculine feelings and experiences. There were strategic and tactical considerations for this. Focusing more on fairness might have been counter productive as males would have always been apprehensive to openly showing their inclination towards fairness for self. After all, men will remain men. As such, my idea was to focus more on good looks and smart grooming with the use of ADONIS. Fairness was intended to get a subtle touch in marketing and advertising messages.

Moreover, at a later stage I intended to launch other male-specific grooming products by extending the ADONIS brand (i.e. getting some kid brothers for ADONIS). Hence, it was of utmost importance that positioning of ADONIS should not have been limited to a specific benefit. I intended to project ADONIS as an innovative grooming solution for men. My idea of ADONIS Gel was to position it as a gel for caring and pampering a man’s face even though through media communication, I intended to subtly highlight benefits like fairness enhancement, after-shave properties, strong masculine fragrance etc. But ultimately the direct focus of career planning of ADONIS was “Grooming for the Modern Man”.

Oh! Emami, I will never ever forgive you for spoiling the life and career of my beloved son, ADONIS, now “Fair & Handsome”.

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Love, Longing, and Heartbreak

Love, a 4 letter word with perhaps 4 billion connotations, seems to be a tricky business. Just like one’s thumb impression is unique, so is one’s definition of love. No two people have the same definition of love, not even the Made-in-Heaven type of pairs.

Just the other day, I observed that a colleague of mine was visibly very downcast since last 2-3 days. On inquiring he tried to evade my question with a somewhat amusing answer. Then suddenly, perhaps due to the emotional turmoil he was undergoing through, he blurted out “Why does a young man look downcast?” I got my answer. Yet another heartbreak! And then he, smiling artificially but crying in reality, elaborated how a three-and-a-half year old relationship has been put to gallows. Polite sympathy followed and I was forced me to think what love actually is?

I guess it's a strange kind of feeling. It happens so suddenly and lightening fast that you have hardly anytime even to comprehend what hit you out of the blue. In a moment you are pulled back from a fairy land to a torturous hell. And with time wounds may heal eventually but the scars will perhaps remain forever. Why is love so painful for some? Is the cause of this pain they themselves or the one they love or something else?

Why it hurts and who is responsible for this pain?

Love, I mean serious love and not time pass or convenient companionship, is something that catapults you to a different orbit. Suddenly, the forces and powers that keep you in orbit are not something you entirely have control over. Slowly and gradually, the source of control becomes a shared one, where what you do, how you feel, how you behave is equally determined by the presence of someone else in your life. Your circle of influence decreases and your partner’s circle of influence on your behaviour increases. It does not become apparent as long as everything is going on happily. But the moment discontinuity sets in due to break-up; one becomes suddenly aware of the influence of the other person in one’s life. The more you are absorbed in love, the more this feeling of helplessness will be there in the event of a break-up.

But then who is responsible for this pain? You or your partner? I think neither. It is love that causes pain. There is a common thread that binds love and selfishness. If one loves someone then it starts with selfishness. The more selfishness is present there, the stronger the bond of love is. If you are not selfish in love, you do not really love someone. Why someone loves somebody? Definitely not because of charity. The simplest reason is that loving someone gives you happiness. Mutual love brings forth a feeling of being loved and this feeling in turn results in a feeling of happiness, well being and security. Isn’t this innate combination of happiness, well being, and security a form of selfishness? And if this innate combination is lacking, can there be real love? So isn’t it true that love and selfishness go hand-in-hand.

And this very relationship between love and selfishness is the cause of pain caused by sudden break-ups. Break-up threatens your comfort levels. And there steps selfishness. “How can my comfort and happiness be taken away from me?” But by then you are not controlled by your mind but through the emotions generated from the comforting associations with your lover. And a feeling of helplessness and self pity sets in. RESULT: Pain, mental trauma, disenchantment, agony etc.

It’s a vicious cycle of love, longing, and heartbreak!

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