Friday, September 28, 2012

The Mini Canteen at REC NIT Calicut

The above appears to me to be a rare picture of the Mini Canteen of REC NIT Calicut. The character of NIT Calicut is chiseled from this place and every single student more so the hostelites bear on their back like a insignia or trademark the general modification or change of temperament this place brings about.

The MC as it is fondly called has a history and its origins to a fued between the locals and he hostelites some where in 1977 boiling out of a dispute in Kettangal and the stand off lasting for several days and the management of REC deciding to curtail the movement of students into Kettangal by puttng up a canteen within the hostel vicinity itself and thence it came stood conquered and thrived.

This canteen used to open at 8:00 AM  and extend into about 12:00 in the night with a steady inflow and ouflow of students. What is so unique about this place..its conical structure that resembles a monument from far made of thatched roof and a cement floor a specific portion of which is used by the staff who run this place in an orderly and efficient fashion with a high degree of commitment. The best part of the canteen is being there part of some cluster discussing some issue with high involvement and the time bring around 11:00 PM and the lights of the MC off and the only source of visibility being the moon light burning brightly through the trees that adore aplenty in a lush above

Our MC was not just another canteen it had a personality of its own and a character and contribution of its own and every student looked up to it with a combination of reverence and gratitude of some kind..and it was a pristine lighthouse for some one who felt lost in the hostel for some reason or the other only to be bolstered and emboldened by some idea or machination he receives from some quarter during a discussion with fellow friends or acquaintances over a cup of trea and the passing clouds of cigarette smoke. It invigorates, it propels..spells hope and inspiration all in one go and the one who felt forlorn not so long ago is enthused with a fresh bout of  optimism towards a propitious ending. MC was a solace for every one ..a high ground..a think tank..a master mind and a inanimate friend in need with the power to fill life in any loosing hope. Our MC is an edifice worth being worshipped for the lethal education one receives from various sources both the well meaning and deceitful alike and I am sure there is no college anywhere in the world that houses a canteen which is much more to a student than just a place to sip a cup of tea or coffee at leisure. Education of a special kind happens here and it resembles in its height a lucullan party thrown by some Roman King resounding victory.

What does the MC look on a typical day. The time is around 8:00 PM and many have descended into its frontiers and in every nook and corner there are animated discussions of some kind ..and the discussins to some bystander are in a composite of the various languages of the country..Hindi ..Bengali..Assamese…name it and it is represented in our parliament and suddenly there is burst of laughter from some corner sending vociferous vibrations into the vicinity to be experienced to be believed and the euphoria it so created lasting for some time and the whole cycle being repeated time and again from various corners all through the hour. What a place..What a composition of people..What a discussion ranging from philosophy to politics to the most mundane…what a setting and what an involvement.

For more than a year I lived in the D hostel overlooking this magnificence and was entreated countless times into having a cup of tea by many  and every single moment spent was educative and inspiring.

I hope the MC in the new location few yards yonder is a  replica in every sense of its ancestor  with the din. the laughter. the discussions… the parleys. the character and provides the same solace and concern for that weird student who suddenly lands up at its door for some reason of his own only to return with hope and favor as this relic if one would call has always done.

Monday, September 24, 2012

My visit to Cochin Naval Base

In 1984 there was a campus interview conducted by the Indian navy at REC NIT Calicut.. I remember Captain Murthy and another officer landed up at the institute and were conducting interviews for the "Campus Entry Scheme" where the selected students would be provided maintenance allowance and tuition fee for the rest of the course at REC and many were interested. The scheme was simple and novel as the other impediment was the Medical test. I cleared the interview and so did many and the next stage was the medical test at the Cochin Naval Base..and many of us set out on the appointed day to Cochin..and I teamed up with Rajeev and both of us took the evening train to reach cochin the next morning  and reaching the Naval Base soon after. I think we did book a room for the day in Cochin. We were promised accommodation at the Naval base for the rest of our stay at Cochin.

I remember moving from office to office at the Naval base trying to fix up accommodation which we got only at some 3:00 pm owing to some mis -communication of an Administrative kind. I suggested since no rooms were available some large hall be enlisted to accommodate us..then the question arose about the bedding and some one suggested that some beds from the hospital could be trans located and so was it done. We were ushered into a large room and the beds laid out evenly around the room on the floor and we were relieved that something took shape at last..though not very comfortable but at least fit the bill.

I understood that the Cochin Naval Base had three quarters or sections or divisions as one might call it namely  INS Sanjeevini the medical arm..INS Vendruthy...and INS Garuda. Two events happened during this stay a visit to the Cochin Airport of that time and we saw an Airplane take off from very close range and in the evening we all saw a movie at the Naval Base theater..the South Indian remake of the Hindi  film Dostana. Next few days were spent at  INS Sanjeevini with the medical tests going from department to department.

I had passed at the fundamental level all the tests but the Surgeon through oversight did not notice the  condition of my right thumb which was syndactyle and he declared me surgically fit..but this was noticed by the medical specialist who took a relook at the surgical report and sighed how I was declared Surgically fit and raised a note and I was led back to the Surgical department and note hat the concerned surgeon was busy with a surgery and he came out running from the surgery and re-examined my hand only to once and for all seal my hopes of joining the Navy..declaring me Surgically unfit and that was it. I felt very disappointed for many days ..and almost the entire set of people who had accompanied me to the base were selected . I remember the names of some support staff who helped us through this process namely Kashmir Singh and another person called Mohan Lal.

For some time I thought of appealing to the ministry then felt it futile to embark upon such a venture. The Naval base left me impressed..the vast expanse..the large scale resources and facilities..the food in the mess and above all smartly dressed men and women in white uniform all left a striking impression on my psyche and this experience was a first hand opportunity to be part of an establishment though for a few days partaking in what it would mean to be in the Indian Navy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Rolls Royce Phantom

The Rolls Royce Phantom one of the finest precision built cars in its league. I wonder why the city of Bangalore does not have a  proportionate share of these cars .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Professional Sales Management

Determining the number of Sales men required in a territory

1. Classify accounts into  Major ; Medium and Minor. Major accounts need more time and effort and are large volume and high margin accounts. Medium might be smaller organizations and minor accounts might me single individual or small group customers.

Assume in a territory there are 200 major accounts ; 450 medium accounts and  1000 minor accounts

2. Determine the amount of time needed per month to handle these accounts. Say a major account would need 04 hours..a medium account 02 hours and minor account 01 hour.

total work effort needed per year

200 x 04 x 12 =   9600 hours

450 x 02 x 12 =  10800 hours

1000 x 01 x 12 = 12000 hours

total effort needed to cover the market  =  32,400 hours...............................................( A )

3.Assume a sales mans effective work being 06 hours per day and in a year making allowance for two months towards leisure leave and vacations and also considering a five day week ; total effort of a sales man

(06 hours per day)  x (05 days a week x 4 weeks per month) x (10 weeks per year)=1200 hours..(B)

4. Total sales men required   (A)  divided by  (B)  =  27  sales men

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Infosys Story

The story of Bangalore of our times is incomplete without some discussion about Infosys a stand alone IT company that grew fast into a bellwether creating earnings in an unprecedented way and proving beyond doubt how few educated individuals who think differently can create large scale impact of the kinds never seen before. I attribute three factors to tyhe unparalleled growth of the growth of the internet which made international communications and data transfer cheaper and handy...two the y2k problem that put the world on tenterhooks creating excitement in the IT sector in general with some king of an euphoria experienced by the young and the old alike..and the  decision of Infosys to make Bangalore its base where there is a large pool of young knowledge and technological thinkers precocious in their outlook and being offsprings of  employees of various undertakings around the city have a scientific and progressive outlook. Bangalore is the crucible out of which Infosys  grew , sustained and thrived.

What makes Infosys special and me it is the composition of its founders who very conspicuously lacked any background in business at a fundamental level and did not have any links what so ever with formidable business names..they were ordinary people who combined themselves both at a personal and professional level to keep things going who conciously or unconciously took advantage of the situation unfolding around the world. Simply said the owner of Wipro comes from a business does TCS..but the founders of Infosys had no such leanings is what make Infosys and the spirit of it special to me.

I happenned to have a chat with Mr. Narayana Murthy  some time in 2006 and the discussion went into various aspects of the software world and I found in him a reticent thinker of the world at large and areas of human affairs in particular. All the founders had one thing in common..Education of an high order and by far and for sure and without any doubt are the first generation of Indians who had the wherewithal and the courage to think beyond the frontiers of the country and beneficiaries of the Nehruvian Economic policies and thought. When we say Nehru please add Krishna Menon to it.

I am not able to pin-point with precision what put Infosys on the path to its large scale success. When I used to work for BPL in the 1990's in the transformer factory at Koramangala I have faint recollection of having seen an Infosys office on one of the main roads of Koramangala and note that during this time most of Koramangala was owned by BPL ..BPL had its major press shop, pcb assembly, two transformer factories, a service center and not to mention a speaker assembly plant few kilometers down on the main road. As far as Iam concerned no matter what the legal description of Infosys would be today it is a family company which means it is byproduct of not just the individuals behind this venture but also their families who gave support to their men who were treading an unaccustomed path not taken by many largely accompanied by uncertainty which could lead to glory or ignominy and I endorse the families of these individuals who stood the test of time as their men waded through uncertain times and finally landed into glory. It is difficult to start and endure a company which these men and their families did to the best of their composure and abilities with possibly very little governmental support at the onset.

Infosys has come a long way. I had a moment of pride of my own when travelling to Mysore by a deluxe bus an found a foreigner sitting next to me and I asked him what he did. He said he was an American named Scot and he worked at Infosys. Somewhere I felt India has arrived with the potential to influence the economic well being and partake in the larger well being of the world at large.

Now Infosys seems to be at some kind of cross-roads many of its founders themselves leaving the organization to which they were passionately attached and the kind of demands on them changing with time and circumstances. Problems of Corporate Governance and competition set in and add to that attempts of many other global economies trying to duplicate in the short term and medium term what Infosys did and possible hostile approach to such ventures from the markets itself..all these must be forcing Infosys to reposition itself through difficult times but I believe if your basic orientation as an institution is right it would tide over difficult times. Basic orientation means an adherence to values followed by people policies and fiscal discipline. I believe an organization of the kind of Infosys at this juncture must not suffer from Strategy paralysis of some kind ..more than what it does on the ground the organization has to carefully not steer itself but upgrade itself through a series of steps into a more enlightened and well positioned global enterprise. It possibly needs to add more verticals and even get into uncharted areas and reinvent itself all over again keeping what it has gained hitherto intact.

I observe sometimes the biggest challenges of enterprises is to transit smoothly from one level of success to another level of maturity and in both these regimes the need is sometimes for a different kind of people and outlooks. My father buys a car and my brother say drives it very and safe  and before long maintenance problems set in redefining the very way the car gets driven henceforth and at the same time periodic maintenance and prediction of problems becoming dominant. See an add on skill emerging..the skill of upkeep. Some where this analogy can be extended into organizations. The car cannot be sold off as it is a source of income the flag ship must be maintained and put to appropriate use as new vehicles are purchased and it would be a folly of a serious kind if the flag ship is hived away in some act of desperation. New ventures have to be built around the old. All institutions face this crisis.

Infosys had its first level of crisis during an earlier slow down where people were benched , I dont know exactly how long ago but somewhere during the Iraq war during the closing years of the president-ship of George W Bush Jr.. and was a challenge of sorts effectively countered and considering the organization was cash rich tided over these circumstances. Presently sluggish markets and a general constrained world economy hell bent on tightening their economic belts who have regimented corporate activities seems to be the bane add to that the growth of many other new developers of software and also the possibility of repetitive maintenance orders falling away from the hands of Infosys could be creating problems. Organizations have a crucial problem according to me---to think new ventures well in advance when the current venture is progressing well..always there are many What-Ifs? that must be constantly asked when the going is good or very good and in answers to such questions ly solutions for the future.

Was there some thing erroneous about the business strategies of Infosys the closest one can get to answer this question is to study TCS vis-a-vis Infosys. Infosys in my view neglected the domestic software market. I dont see one software in the domestic market that can be attributed to Infosys..a airline reservation software or an ERP for some sector for that matter. TCS is the largest software developer of this country and TCS must be focusing on domestic software market as much as non-domestic. A large scale software developer like Infosys could also contribute to the software development activities arising from well within the domestic market leveraging on its existing experience.

Infosys must develop and also operate at various rims around the world hither-to unvisited..not with rapacity or vigorous sales skill but in a long term approach to handle small development work leading to larger orders both from corporate sectors and governmental sectors. This could happen in China, Russia, Mongolia all neighboring markets for India. There is a huge language barrier that hampers operating in these economies but almost instantly there would be some avenues for getting a foothold. Buy a small software company in China or partner with them to develop softwares in Chinese language for China. Travel times to these countries is so less compared with farther pockets of Europe or USA. Whenever a business institution looks at profits as against other parameters they are more than likely to get into a jinx some time down the line sometimes difficult to diagonize ..the problem seeming somewhere in the way the earlier journey was taken being very precise and focused and not possibly  viewing other factors that might have needed a re-look or added attention.

Who can solve the problems of Infosys if any? It is the founders themselves with the aid of committed professional people from outside who have a varied range of experience occupying positions on the board to the first line developer and testers. New domains are emerging in the software development sector in my view as the process of the way in which software is developed and tested continues to be the same. Infosys of today needs  upfront and at a very basic level remodel itself or model itself in the lines of  one or few other development or business houses apt with the times from which it can replicate strategy and put to use to reinvent itself. It must combine a short term tactical approach with a long term strategic one. Mr K V Kamath might be of succour towards this end as he can bring to the fore what he did at ICICI to the overall wisdom of Infosys.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I S E C Institute for Social and Economic Change

There is an institute in this  city adjacent to a largely residential locality that has large stone buildings resembling an IIM and possibly doing path breaking work in the domain of Social Sciences and the existence of such an institute is unknown to many ,the public and intelligentsia alike.

I chanced upon to identify this institute one day during my visit to Nagarbhavi and had a stroll through its buildings and lawns. This institute owes its existence to Mr. Rao amd Mrs Indira Gandhi and what strikes me the most is that Mrs Gandhi gave her consent to the formation of such an institute with such a nomenclature the kind of which may not exist in many parts of the world because it personifies upfront "social and economic change" and was it a good venture - I think very much so- any society always needs platforms where from various issues can be discussed first and acted upon later. The lacuna somewhere is in the action and institutes like this must ensure that deliberations are followed with action.

I think this institute has ideal moorings to become the  LSE  London School of Economics of Bangalore and India . I don't know if this institute runs a two year masters course which it should do in right earnest the earlier the better focusing largely on social and economic issues of this country and the world . The focus must not be to create few people who would be driven to find placements but a bunch of people who can do something on the social and economic front  and the contents of the course largely delinked from the rigors of just studying for exam work but exams also asking students to portray original ideas in these crucial areas. Such an approach will go a long way in achieving the objectives around which an institute of this kind stands.

For those of you who would like to visit this institute take a bus to Nagarbhavi and this place is just walking distance.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Should we get rid of Semester System ?

The Semester System is a concoction of the modern Education System also leading to trimesters and most of the educational patterns of our times revolves around Semester and Trimester and even Schools embarking such patterns. Is this good ? and does it serve some logic.

I am still some kind of a fervent crusader of the yearly system of education. Oft times the argument against this system is that it does not make a student busy for most part of the year and the approach is lackadaisical. I for one feel that the Semester and Trimesters only make work-a-day laborers largely bereft of any inclination what so ever to taste any element of profundity of any subject they study leading to close minded individuals with inability at problem solving situations.

I believe that any education process ultimately has two dimensions..the conditioning component and the cognitive component and both these components must go hand-in-hand.. The conditioning component makes a student behave and react  in certain ways and the cognitive component helps him assimilate in certain ways. Students and people in general can also be cognition dominant or conditioning dominant..cognition dominance is a tendentious propensity to learn through a thinking process  and conditioning dominance is a dependence on conditioning formats as guidelines to the learning process.

How can a student learn a course like Contract Law in a law college in six months ..or anatomy for that matter in a medical college in the same duration..or say Applied Mechanics in an engineering college within similar duration s. I have always wondered and what is the take-home if any a student gets by undergoing such procedures of Education.

However there could be many arguments around this issue..but I still believe an yearly system revolving around twelve papers with pre-programmed assignments and a final exam at the end of the year at a fundamental level would be adequate to do justice to the conditioning and cognitive components of education and if at all the rigor has to be enhanced the number of subjects could be increased to fourteen .