Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I beleive the strike of 1983 would have never happenned in the first place had there been TV's in the campus as students would have been busy watching them with little or no time to participate in events that precipitate a crisis.
TV changed our lives in many ways. There was education as much as entertainment. Almost around the same time Siddharth Basu came out with his quiz contests "Quiz Time" with colleges from around the country participating in them and was a avidly watched program adding to education and increased awareness. Chitrhaar on thursdays;Humlog;Lucy Show;Sorry;Nukkad; Yeh Jo hai Zindagi;Jewel in the Crown; Ek Do Theen Char; Mickey Mouse ; Cricket and soccer matches were many of the broadcasts that had some spell on the student crowd. The Common Room where the TV was kept was open upto 10:00 in the night. Chitrahaar drew the maximum crowd. Amitabh Bachchan movies not to be left behind.
One of the key world event of our times was the 1984 Benson and Hedges cricket tourney in Australia where India emerged winners and was of continued interest for all. Every match had the hostels spell-bound and euphoria when Krishnamma Chari Srikkanth or Sandeep Patil hit a four when only one run was needed to win. I think this was one tourney where India gave consistent cricketing performance only losing the inaguaral match against Australia. Ravi Shastri emerged Champion of Champions but for once.
Note that there was only one channel in operation at that time namely DD-1 and there was no scope to switch channels. I dont know what is up today and the cable network must have made in-roads into the campus.Another notable event of our times was the news telecast on the 31st of October 1984 about the assasination of the Prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi taking over as the PM. Miss Shrivastav used to be the most favourite anchor among the students on DD and many would come just to hear her speak and smile. Programming on DD was good at that time with a good combination of educative programs and entertainment. james bond
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I wanted to study at KREC but could not get a seat of the state quota and got Calicut on the inter-state quota. Possibly the happiest day of my life should be collecting the admission order from KREC now called NIT-K meaning National Institute of Technology - karnataka at Surathkal near Mangalore for admission to NIT Calicut. Sometimes and quite often I visit NIT-K may be as a subconcious thanksgiving for having given me a seat. My brother and father had accompanied me during the admission process to NIT K and we stayed at Vasanth Vihar hotel on K S Rao road in Mangalore. I will compare these two NIT's in another write-up. Note that both these places Calicut and Mangalore are almost equi-distant from Bangalore and to my experience travelling to Calicut is a more enchanting experience considering the travel is through the steepest part of the Western Ghats and the Bandipur forests. Calicut is not very far from Ooty and must be around 5 hours by bus and many of my friends used to visit ooty when the attractions of calicut become surfiet.
Though may not be relevant but still it would be consistent to mention that there are three approach roads to NIT Calicut from Calicut city. The one through nadakavu into the wayanad road and into kunnamangalam and then to chathamangalam where the institute is located. All government buses take this route.To get on to this route turn left from mavoor road at Baby Memorial Hospital. Yet another route and possibly the shortest is through medical college-karanthur-kunnamangalam and NIT. Most private vehicles take this route. The most circuitous one is through mavoor but you get to enjoy the rustic beauty of Calicut as you take this route but a highly time consuming one. The beauty of Calicut is the many hills that surround the place and sadly so many of these hills are being tonsured of their natural flora a phenomenon that must be contained. IIM K has come upon one such hill and the view from IIM K is truly breath-taking.
The social population at an REC (NIT) of our days was truly heterogenous with a uneven scatter of students from across the country and creates some kind of a culture shock for a sizable duration of time and students do take some time to adjust in. Some of them do not have this problem but in the shadow lies such a scenario. The students from the local state always have an advantage in that they get a large posse of students from their like -minded domain and so do people from the hindi belt . Take the case of a student from Assam studying at a south indian NIT who finds himself in a minority and a huge challenge ahead of him to acclamatize with the collective. This can sometimes be painful for some time but becomes a treasure in the form of a unique experience of having tided over a cultural gap. This kind of transitions and transformations are what make REC products truly different and unique from students from any other institution. This is what makes an REC product priceless in many social contexts. REC concept must have truly contributed to national integration AND KEEPING IN VIEW THE DIVERSE BACK GROUND FROM WHICH THEY EMERGE MUST BE preferred for SOME TECHNICAL AND NON TECHNICAL assignments of the government.
I think to a large extent a REC product must be allowed to retain the identity of the sponsoring institution alongside the institution where he had presented himself. This can put many a ambiguity in perspective. This means he successfully combines to purposeful use his dual lineage. For an instance a student who has graduated from Durgapur on being sponsored from Silichar could project himself prima facie as a Silichar-Durgapur product and the identity of the REC that sponsored him must be removed from the background and projected upfront without delay to settle with urgency the dual nature of his nurturing. I also feel from experience that REC products must be given and tried at managerial positions rightaway on their exit from their institute and not to while away in functional jobs at the outset as a sizable amount of maturity and toughening being inbuilt by default by the nature of the circumstances through which he has emerged. Some law of this nature must have been enlisted in the NIT act atleast or else some injustice of a serious nature is meted out inadvertently on these products and their unique capacities not harnessed and made futile.
I have visited personally only three rec's in my life. Calicut and Surathkal out of purpose and REC Nagpur out of spite. REC Nagpur or MVNIT as it is called now is almost in the heart of nagpur as against the other two which are away from the mainstay. However I have visited almost all the NIT's on the web post internet era and have atleast an inkling of what a particular institute looks like thanks to the internet. May these institutes blossom and so must its products and all blessings and priveleges that are directly and indirectly due may accrue upon them aplenty is one of my fervent wishes and all the trials and tribulations through which a NIT product passes to which I was a personal subject and witness may not go into waste but bear fruit for himself and the community. On having passed through an NIT I have a solemn feeling which I carry every day the pride which is uniquely ours of having got a kind of education that is truly unique, different and special and the joy of an ever complete education not yearning for any more leave alone the Harvard Business School.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Malayalam movies were a hot favourite among many for obvious reasons and though the hindi crowd didnt understand the language an iota were regular visitors for these movies and were more restless when the posters of these movies were stuck on college walls and trees. The malayalam movie that created the maximum ado was Uthpathi . I couldnt see this movie but have only heard of its attractions. My class mate Manjeet Singh Rekhi who rarely saw any movie also seemed highly excited the day after he saw the movie and was going around explaining the scenes sometimes hugging and clasping a fellow student venting extreme emotions.
The cenima halls around NIT -Calicut were as follows in the order of increasing distance. Dhanya talkies near Kettangal, Sindhu theatre in Kunnamangalam and another talkies in Kunnamangalam whose name I forget and another talkies in Mavoor and a theatre in Mukkom. Kunnamangalam is 07 kilometers from the institute and Mavoor and Mukkom must be around 10 kilometers. Dhanya talkies was walkable from REC and had maximum visitors from REC mostly for the second show. I have been weaned by many a friend to see a movie at Dhanya though seeing a movie was simply not on the agenda- just for the sake of company. I was on my way from kattangal where I went to purchase something only to be coerced by some and before long I found myself in Dhanya talkies with many batchmates and friends. Abdullah, Raftaar, Great Gambler; Thiruvilayadal and not to mention many malayalam movies were seen by me here. Actually I loose count but there were many. I cannot forget the movie killungatha changallagal- the first movie five of us who were staying at B315 saw and from then on started the saga of visiting Dhanya talkies. The mood was jolly and when you are in rome be a roman. I fully patook the gaeity at REC and pity people who could not revel in it for their own reasons. I beleive we should not loose any oppurtunity to laugh and be merry especially when life and heavens presents such circumstances to the exclusion of other concerns. To that extent I feel a sense of contentment when I look back to my days spent at this place that I did precisely what one should be doing under such unfettered and joyous environment. Such a situation would never present itself again in life is a reality and there are no regrets in having made merry for once in a place that largely presented the ground for the same and any shortcoming so resultimg could be ammended.
The best part of seing a movie at Dhanya talkies is the walking back to the hostels in the moon lit night. It was a very splendid feel with hardly any one on the road barring a few of us occassionally breaking into peels of laughter that rented the air. Most of the Indian languages could be heard from Bengali to Oriya to Assamese not to mention Hindi. The discussions revolved around the scenes in the movie. P V K Mohan from Bombay was there when we saw Abdullah. Friday evenings were the ideal time to visit Dhanya theatre as Saturday and Sunday were holidays and the friday night used to be an open night. After seeing the movie at Dhanya theatre the night is simply not over as some of us would assemble at the mini canteen again discussing many things over cups of tea upto 2 AM. (The tea at Mini-Canteen was special ;quickly manufactured in a dramatized set of sequences -filled slightly more than half full into a cleaned glass tumbler with few ants big and small on the surface which has to be carefully done away with and had a rare and differing taste on every occassion but was almost an addiction for many. Some of the students clubbed it with a cigarette and were not to be disturbed enjoying the deep enlightenment of the combination).The discussions would range from assignments to be submitted , lab records to be written and sometimes into philosophy and life not to mention the attractive species of the institute. As a matter of procedure no discussions of any kind are complete without the attractive species (female students or the opposite sex )of the institute being a subject with various kinds of nick names discussed and given to the more flamboyant in an instant flow of creativity.
I have seen Amar Akbar Anthony; Majboor; malayalam movie kinnaram etc at Sindhu theatre in Kunnamngalam. IIM-K students must be visiting this theatre more frequently now because it is only a stone throw away from it. After seeing a movie one evening my room mate Giri and myself had walked the entire 7 kilometrs to college just for the fun of it. Sindhu theatre was a full fledged theatre and not a talkies. I have seen the movie nakakshathangal in the talkies in Kunnamangalam. Note that the bus stop in Kunnamangalam came up in 1984 prior to which there was no full fledged bus stop. Every time I travel on this road I take a quick glace of the Sindhu theatre and it is still very much there hale and hearty as usual. We could not hoot and howl in Sindhu theate as we did in Dhanya talkies because we were simply not in our core territory. There were instances in Dhanya theatre where the ongoing movie was stopped for some particular scene to be re-shown with some of the students making menacing gestures threatening to break a few chairs if their desires were not obliged and the manager of the dhanya talkies had no other go but to recast the reels. This was the sway we had on Dhanya theatre. It was for all practical purposes our private theatre or takies what ever one would like to call it. The movies had parallel dialogues and commentories from students that were more enchanting than the dialogues of the movies itself. In one movie the hero averred to the heroine " come to me " as I have cleared 24 paper and got a BA and Martin my senior sitting in the rear commented vociferously that the had just finished the final exam thereby completing almost 58 papers to his count and that he was a better suit for the heroine. This was the uncontrolled free- for -all inside the talkies. There was a country arrack outlet near the talkies and the less temperant of the lot had a stomach full before they entered the talkies and their mannerisms and mood governed by the spirit with some of them shamelessly vomitted the extra that was forced down their throats within the talkies creating a scene. Lady students visited the talkies only for the afternoon show secretly sneaking in and sneaking out without a flutter and knew very well the conscequences of a publicised visit. They visited the talkies in large bands and carefully negotiating the road to the talkies that ran along side the hostels and the men made merry catching their glance from the hostels and making a list of all of them they could identify from far.
Waqt ke shehzade; Blue Lagoon were movies I saw at Abhilash theatre in Mukkom the first one in 1983 and the latter in 1985. I saw the movie Andha Kanoon in the talkies in Mavoor with my batch mate Gautham Balram Hendre.
These are the tents and theatres around REC that formed a part of our lives and the narration was about what happenned at them. Crown theate and Blue Diamond were two theatres frequently visited in Calicut town. Blue Diamond came up some where in 1984 and I have seen Ardh sathya and Akhri rastha here not to mention the scores of english movies seen at Crown theatre.
In retrospect I feel the authorities of the institute must not let film posters to be stuck within the campus as in the ultimate analysis it sets a downward precedent. Educational institutions must be isolated and insulated from environmental noises of any kind for the process of education to progress in its sanctity and students must land up invariably reading journals and text books of the subjects that they study or else they simply land up being a Roman in Rome which may not be their designated trajectory.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The track for the cross country race was as follows. Starting from the main building the track would exit into the main road from D hostel gate into Kettangal from where you take a left turn to papachan and left again at papachan straight into the main road to the temple to the LH (ladies hostel) to the guest house to the farther end of the mini valley down through the valley and back to the Main building through the canteen gate. Should be some 5 kilometers in all.
I was dressed in a shorts and T-shirt and there must have been some 100 runners in all and behold the race began and I ran as fast as I could only to realise before long that I have embarked on a difficult venture. At papachan I had a small stop over for few glasses of water. Many of the more spirited runners were already much ahead in the race. I realized early that even getting the tenth position would be a distant dream. The reality drew on me quite early and the focus shifted to completing the race in right earnest. There were few others who had resigned like myself to this reality and we had almost formed a truce and were running in unison and one of them to my consolation was the deputy to the physical instruction director.
I did complete the race walking sometimes to gather steam and bolting in front of the Ladies Hostel to show that I was something and slowing down again into a walk. Nithyananda kamath who was supervising the race on a motor-bike offered me a lift but I politely refused. Nityananda kamath was a gentle man and met him once in his office at Calicut much later. The best part of the race was descending into the mini valley from the faculty quarters through ferns and bushes and ascending again into the main road in a quick sprint but behold when I finished the race I was one of the last few but I was happy that I completed it.
One of my juniors Binod Ramakrishnan Nair was one of the victors and i dont remember the names of the other winners. I have always tried to follow the philosophy of completing things even though it takes extra time and may be that is what being persistent is all about.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Having served the world as a manufacturing base for decades, is China still competitive for manufacturers? A number of factors indicate that its competitive lead will be chipped away, not least if the renminbi is allowed to appreciate against the U.S. dollar and costs rise. Some experts predict that low-value-added exporters may be driven elsewhere while manufacturers of high-value-added, complex products for domestic consumption will face even stiffer competition to thrive. Against this backdrop, as a new survey suggests, manufacturers in China are learning quickly about staying competitive in this ever-shifting landscape.
It certainly doesn't help matters much that there's uncertainty and tensions brewing on a number of fronts. Among the foreign IT industry, for example, the ugly exchange between Google and China, and a new rule that stipulates sellers of high-tech goods must contain Chinese intellectual property as part of an "indigenous innovation" campaign, have rattled nerves.
Yet despite all this, experts say there's much that's working in China's favor. Costs are still low and the skills level is high. Meanwhile, the pent-up demand of a potentially huge domestic market combined with improving IT, infrastructure and regulatory regimes all put China well ahead of other low-cost countries.
While the recent announcement of China’s first trade deficit since 2004 makes it unlikely that the renminbi will be allowed to appreciate against the U.S. dollar much soon, March's $7.24 billion deficit is also a sign of the fast expansion of China’s domestic market. The auto sector, for example, was up 170% in March from the previous month.
China's burgeoning domestic market is indeed a very important allure for many firms, according to the latest China Manufacturing Competitiveness Study published by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) and management consultants at Booz & Company. More than 80% of 202 manufacturers surveyed said their primary motive for being in China is to provide products for the Chinese marketplace, up from 71% two years ago.
While booming local markets are key, there are other reasons for China's appeal, including political stability. A couple of years ago, companies were hedging their bets and adopted a "China plus one" strategy, so that they set up operations in China and in one other nearby country. Many chose Thailand as the second country and the current strife is bad news for businesses there.The stable currency has also been helpful, adding an element of predictability to budgeting and keeping costs down. Two years ago, the AmCham study found that the rising RMB was the most serious worry for the companies surveyed, but since then government policy has calmed those fears. The AmCham study also notes that “although factories in China are generally still in the early stages of implementing innovative manufacturing practices, these lean techniques and processes are even less prevalent in surrounding low-cost countries.”
Lian Hoon Lim, partner and manufacturing expert at AT Kearney consultants, says companies are benefitting from what he calls "the cluster effect,” The big three clusters in China are the Yangtze River Delta region around Shanghai, the Pearl River Delta region running from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, and the region around Beijing and its neighbor Tianjin. In these areas companies have access to a “skilled labor, an experienced local managerial workforce, material and component supply, and good infrastructure,” says Lim. “If you took those four factors and looked at the countries in Asia, including in the subcontinent, you would find that quite a lot of them lack one or more of these four points.”
Yet China continues to grapple with one of its trickiest growth challenges: Attracting and retaining top employees. The drop in global demand for exports from China during the economic crisis meant layoffs and a softened labor market. But by the end of 2009, as China’s economy re-accelerated, labor was again in short supply. In the fourth quarter of 2009, labor demand growth in major cities outpaced supply for the first time since the second quarter of 2008, according to JP Morgan Global Watch Data. As a result, manufacturers have had to hike wages to attract workers.
“The increasing costs and tightened labor market are driving companies to consider other options for their lower cost, export-driven operations,” observes Stephen Li, a principal at Booz.
The AmCham study found that in 2009, the costs of labor and logistics as well as labor availability were viewed as less competitive in China than they were than two years ago. Yet 28% of the companies surveyed last year said they plan to move or expand within China in the next five years, compared to 17% in 2008. Cities in southwest and central China, such as Chongqing, Chengdu, Wuhan and Zhengzhou, are among the new destinations cited. For companies considering moving outside China, more than half said they wanted to stay in Asia, identifying India and Vietnam as their top choices. Latin America and Eastern Europe ranked a distant second and third.
But for companies staying in China, the study shows that they are readjusting their arsenal of tools to attract and retain staff, offering higher pay and training. Most respondents -- 79% -- said they are providing training and career development rather than relying on compensation to attract and retain workers. “Leading companies are recognizing that attracting and retaining talent in the post-downturn [environment] will mean refreshed value propositions incorporating growth and development opportunities,” says Li.
Case by Case
But despite all of China's appeal, foreign companies are right to exercise caution, weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of being based in the country accordingly. AT Kearney's Lim says that of the six clients he has worked with over the past three years, only two gave the country a vote of confidence.
Lim reckons that the business case for investing in China has changed for many companies in recent years. “If a firm wanted to expand in 2007, it was a 'no brainer' to go to China.” Along with the rising costs, he notes the “viability of long-distance supply chains” as having “prompted a rethink” in how firms view China as a potential manufacturing location.
One of the six -- an industrial-goods firm -- wanted to set up a joint venture but couldn’t agree on the terms with the potential partner so did not go ahead. Another -- an aerospace components manufacturer -- set up shop elsewhere due to intellectual property concerns in China. A third client, who was in the medical industry, decided the return on investment in China would not be worth the effort, while a fourth didn't go ahead with an investment in China, for undisclosed reasons. However, a plastics manufacturer did because of the high demand for its goods in China, as did a maker of industrial equipment because it expects China to be a hub for its sector in the future.
China is competitive for textiles, says Lim, but less so where the value-added and complexity is low, such as bed linen. Men’s shirts, on the other hand, are "quite complex; you need to cut many different pieces, the stitching and sewing is complex, and you have cuffs, buttons and collars, and many different sizes.”
Then there are white goods and consumer electronics. According to Lim, the competitiveness is a function of the combination of labor costs that are relatively low but at skills level that is relatively high. “A company could set up elsewhere -- say, Cambodia -- where the cost of labor is very low," says Lim. "But the productivity and familiarity with the industry is not there, and most of the raw materials would have to be imported."
Made in China
The catalyst causing many companies to re-thing their China strategies started when oil went from $40 to $150 a barrel. Suddenly, transportation costs for goods from China to Europe and America became markedly more significant. Despite the fact that the price of oil has stabilized, “people are more sensitive to the risk of it spiking again” says Lim.
To address the challenges, companies are devising “long-term strategies, which focus on product competitiveness and their supply chain,” says Li.
But whatever the sector or supply chain, another on-going challenge, meanwhile, will be to please China's consumers, who are unpredictable and have varied tastes. As Edward Tse, chairman of Greater China at Booz, writes in the analysis of the study, “Although China’s markets are open to global products, they are also extraordinarily local, rooted in traditional customs and tastes, with extreme variations from one region to the next…. With markets and tastes continuing to change, it is difficult to predict what kind of path China’s consumers will follow.”
The result, he says, means that “companies seeking to take advantage of the Chinese market cannot be complacent but must upgrade processes, retain talent, keep a tight reign on costs and get to know their customer.”