Being Global in Thoughts

Last year I moved to a gated community, where there is one apartment as soon as you cross the gate, followed by two parallel lanes with independent houses. It felt nice when I was part of the Ganesh Utsav celebrations where everyone in the colony exhibited solidarity by celebrating them together. One thing that surprised me is, no one from the apartment was part of the celebrations. It took me no time to realize that there is some friction between the residents of the apartment and the independent houses in the colony. Recent incidents have bolstered my opinion and the behaviour of the residents from both parts exacerbating the overall relation. Differences are part of life, but those should not creep to an extent of limiting the usage of open spaces and god gifted nature. The residents of the colony have opposed the apartment residents from using the road around the colony to walk. The apartment people don’t allow anyone to pluck flowers from the trees beside the apartment. My brain is nowhere close enough to understand the consequences of someone walking on the road or someone sharing the flowers, that too with the residents of same colony. Don’t people feel suffocated by being confining their thoughts to such narrow lanes? Any community has to follow certain etiquette to keep the place in order, but that doesn’t mean to form groups in the same community and fight with each other. We need someone to tap our brains and say that we all belong to one community, humans.

Recently I watched a video of two people talking at two different gatherings.

Person 1: One week back, I donated blood in a hospital. Two days after donating, the doctor called me to ask if I belong to xxxx community. I was surprised and asked him how he got that information. The doctor said, your blood has high leadership qualities so I figured it out.

Person 2: Recently I donated blood in a hospital. Two days after donating, the doctor called me to ask if I belong to yyyy community. I was surprised and asked him how he got that information. The doctor said, your blood has high courage and manliness so I figured it out.

We are so much attached to our caste, creed, religion, country, colour, community, group, region and language. Our development relies on how open we are in accepting others, but our brain map is directing us to the wrong destination. The map has no clue on where to take us and we are no where close to realizing that we are at the wrong place. We are not talking about illiterates but graduates and post graduates.

One more incident, when a famous corrupt politician granted bail, one of my friends on Facebook posted that he is happy about that. Someone asked him, why he is so happy. He said, because he belongs to my caste and he is from my hometown. This person has done his masters in USA. Raising finger at that person would be abasement to the associations created based on communities. Judging a leader by his contribution to the society has become an obsolete idea. The new norm is to judge based on belonging, irrespective of his character and his administrative skills. One of the states which got divided in the name of region is epitomizing that statement.

Our behaviour has accumulated so much trash, even a top company like Cisco got a share of it thrown by its employees. It has to face a law suit because one of his Indian employees had faced discrimination based on his caste. I wonder if the police officer who killed George Floyd will only reach out to a White American if he has a medical emergency. Labeling yourself belonging to a particular group might make you feel safe among them. But broadening your mind to accept anyone and sharing stuff with anyone will keep you safe anywhere. There are some mothers who advise their children not to share their lunch box with anyone. How can he find friends when he is pushed to be alone and how can the habit of helping others be inculcated?

Bill Gates has inspired many to become entrepreneurs, but the lessons we need to draw from him should be on how to be a global citizen and how to accept fellow human beings. The only connection Bill Gates has with people from many other countries is that they belong to the same group, human beings. He has been working hard to eradicate poverty and to improve health care systems in many countries across the world, irrespective of what language they speak and what is the colour of their skin. Warren Buffet has pledged huge amount of money to Melinda Gates foundation. Azim Premji made huge contributions to help poor in India. One might think they are wealthy people which made them contribute to the society. Daitari Naik dug a canal for the benefit of entire the village, not for himself.  Kalyanasundaram, a librarian, has been donating his entire salary to poor for the last 30 years. These people have exhibited faith in humanity without narrowing it any further.

I am not saying these as I am one of them, but I aspire to broaden myself to become like them one day. No good can happen by restricting others from sharing roads or plucking flowers or by being too inclined to your community. No doctor in the world inquires about caste, colour, region or religion before treating a patient. No teacher cares about which group a student belongs to. We all have to direct our thoughts in the path paved by Bill Gates, Kalyanasundaram and many doctors and teachers among us to keep George Floyds and humanity alive.

Vocal for Local! Are We Ready?

More than anything else Narendra Modi addressing the nation must have received maximum TRPs during the lockdown. The nation patiently searched for any word related to the lockdown in his speech. During one of his speeches, he spoke about the importance of GDP in a country's growth and what the citizens can do in order to contribute to its growth. "Vocal for Local" is the phrase he used to requested the citizens to prefer Indian products over foreign products. But the bigger question is, do we have enough ammunition to facilitate the choice-making?

Let us examine the grocery buying scene that we usually encounter in our daily lives. The first aisle, which is of malt based energy drink powders, is completely occupied by Boost, Bournvita, Horlicks and Complan. Boost and Bournvita belong to Cadburys, Horlicks is by SmithKline Beecham and Complan is by Danone. Though the Indian choices Patanjali Powervita and Amul Pro are available in some stores, they are limited to the least visible shelves. I compared the ingredients and the nutritional information of all these products, except for negligible differences all the products are similar. Also, the price of Indian products is much lower. Though we have a couple of Indian brands to offer here, lack of knowledge and awareness and  the hesitation to shift from a preferred brand could be the reasons for not picking up an Indian brand.

Next comes the section opposite to that of energy drinks, the soft drinks one. What products come to your mind when I say soft drinks? Coca-Cola, Thums Up, Mirinda, Sprite, Pepsi, Maaza and so on, none of these belong to Indian companies. I can't even name any Indian products in this section. The next aisle is of tea powders, popular in this section are 3 Roses and Taj Mahal from Hindustan Unilever Limited, Red Label from Diageo. No popular brand to name in this section too. The sections that make me proud are the one with biscuits and noodles. Biscuits section is dominated by Britannia and Sunfeast and the noodles one is shared by Yippee and Maggi. Yippee's sales surge has kicked off only a couple of years ago when serious questions were raised about the ingredients used in Maggi noodles.

Let us come out of the super market and observe vehicles on the roads. In the four wheeler segment, Maruti Suzuki has been conveniently occupying the first position with 51% of the market share as of 2019. 56.21% of the stake in this company belongs to a Japanese firm, Suzuki. The only relief here is the decent domination of Indian firm Maruti in this. Second position is occupied by Hyundai, a South Korean firm. Third and Fourth positions can bring a smile on Indian faces as the slots are occupied by Mahindra and Tata Motors. The patriotic nerves can relax further when we check the two wheeler market. Hero, TVS and Bajaj dominate the market with 62% of the total share.

When you analyze the brand distribution, Indian firms are struggling in most product segments to find their feet. Where are we failing even to manufacture and compete in relatively low creative product segments. Don't the Indian firms have the capability or capacity to come up with a good tea powder? Don't we have the ingredients to come up with a good energy drink? Don't we have the brains to come up with a competitive soft drink brand? Are we technically challenged to come out with consumer preferred cars?

Mobiles segment is dominated by Chinese firms MI, Oneplus, Vivo and Oppo. Footwear segment is dominated by Nike, Asics and Yonex. Laptops segment is dominated by Lenovo, Apple, Dell and HP. "Let us prefer Indian brands", I love to do that and many other Indians too, but what are options available. Where are we lacking in producing great products. Are we investing enough in research to come up with products that can withstand the competition?

There is a popular opinion that Indians are hesitant to pick local brands. Tata, Hero and ITC proved that wrong. The major area to address is lack of encouragement for research investments. Tremendous effort goes into research even at university level in countries like USA. We need leaders who can reward companies spending time and money in research. Indian spend on R&D is at 0.7% of GDP, far lower compared to that of Japan, South Korea, Germany and USA. No Indian company has found a place in 2018 top 50 companies by research and development spending. We need to address the issue from the grass root level before looking for positive results at the top level.

No Place to the Prime Minister

The Indian newspapers have been following the relaxation norms similar to those of lockdown. No newspapers were printed during the first phase. In the next phase, the subscribers received the newspapers predominantly covered with COVID-19 related news. Now, in the third phase, other stories are finding at least 50% of the space. While reading today's news, one article grabbed my interest. New Zealand has successfully relieved itself from the COVID-19 manacles with a planned strategy led by their prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Businesses in New Zealand have begun to fill up the revenue deficits by receiving customers after a plausibly long hiatus.

Like any other citizen, the prime minister of the country wanted to visit a restaurant for a Saturday brunch. She chose to visit the Olive cafe located in Cuba Street, Wellington, along with her husband. When she reached the cafe, she was welcomed with a piece of good news and an unpleasant one. The good news is that the restaurant was following 50% occupancy rule very strictly. The unpleasant one is that it was completely occupied and there was no place for the prime minister. What, a restaurant asked the Prime Minister of the country to wait? This must be the inner expression of the citizens of the country where even the village sarpanch feels like the most important person on the earth.

Display of political and power-related arrogance has become part of our system. We are evidencing a government doctor being suspended and arrested for raising questions about the shortage of PPE kits. We have heard of a chief minister sending a chartered flight to bring a new pair of chappals for her from the national capital. We have seen a chief minister who made an IAS officer run behind his convoy as there is no place to the premier civil servant of the country. But the prime minister of New Zealand didn't utter a single word to brag about her position. She patiently waited for her turn to find a table. After a while, she resigned from waiting and thought of going to a different restaurant. Her turn to occupy a table has come just on time and a waiter showed her the way.

Remembering where you have come from, treating the other person as a fellow human and not displaying arrogance elucidates how much one has grown in his/her life. Being down to earth is a costly gift, we have Abdul Kalams, Warren Buffets and Rahul Dravids who have led and been leading by examples on how to present that gift to others. Jacinda Ardern is a new member on that list. Following their footsteps is the first step that we can take in that direction.

Let's Be "The Go-Giver"

"The Go-Giver" was presented to all the current employees by the CEO of my previous organization. I knew he is an avid reader and I was confident that there will be important takeaways in the book he recommends. The bolstering for the confidence was the success I found when I read "Who Moved My Cheese" just because he mentioned that book during one of his presentations. Usually, many book stores segregate books into Business Management and Personal Development. But I strongly feel the challenges mentioned in these books greet us in both personal and professional lives. The resolutions can be made by applying the same principles to both parts of life.

The Go-Giver story revolves around a struggling employee and the helping hand he receives in the form of certain principles that guide him towards achieving his goals. Marketers work with many clients, but they go above and beyond only for some clients. The reasons might vary, but the efforts put and the hard work exhibited will be a level above their normal. One such client is ParentEdge, a magazine to help parents about their child's intellectual development, education and enrichment. There has been a constant growth in the worrying index of parents about their children from generation to generation. I felt ParentEdge is a boon to such parents. My involvement in ParentEdge was immense, I was involved in all aspects related to the website marketing. I never cared about the time I dedicated to that or the salary I am receiving at that time. I have received returns in two ways, one is the success of the website and the other one is the value I earned with my efforts. Though I had only two years of experience, my opinion in every aspect related to digital marketing of ParentEdge was valued. Another struggling client, Walltat is also an example to prove that the first law works. We have provided the utmost service to help him reach his goal, irrespective of what he was paying us. After a while, the client didn't even hesitate to disclose the high-level business details. All these have proved that "your true value depends on how much more you give than the payment you receive".

McDonald's has always been finding a place in the list of most successful companies. This US-based company has left its mark in many countries of the world. McD, as people call it, has touched all corners of the USA and went on to become successful in other parts of the world. By customizing the dishes and retaining the best quality service, it has become favourite for many in no time. Their income has touched unimaginable figures as they were able to serve more and more people. Millions and millions of customers blessed McD with an opportunity to serve them. I might have to say, McD has earned the opportunity by providing impeccable quality of service. McD has proved the principle "Your income is determined by how many people you serve and how well you serve them" right.

We all know the strategies politicians in many countries follow to retain their power. Influencing the perception of people by portraying themselves as the best has been the trend for long. The success that comes out of such dishonest strategies will always be ephemeral. But for one leader, Lee Kuan Yew, that success was not short term, it has lasted for 31 years. How did he influence people again and again? The answer is simple but very powerful. Never planning his moves based on the next election result is what he has done. During his tenure, he was always in the exploration of ways to enhance the quality of citizens' life. He influenced the voters just by caring for their interests rather than his chair. He has transformed Singapore into a high economy nation by demonstrating the principle "Your influence is determined by how abundantly you place other people's interests first". I personally feel that the influence part is useful even in personal life. When required, you genuinely must care and put others' interests first to create everlasting relations.

In India, it is pretty common to see anyone who visits the hospital purchasing the prescribed medicines in the store beside the hospital. An exception to this made me wonder why people come to this store even if it is far away from hospitals. I never saw this store in my hometown, without people waiting to get their medicines. Even my friend who stays 3 kilometers away from this store and had to cross at least 5 stores on the way prefers only that. When I went to that store I discovered that the owner of the store knows many people by their names. He was talking to most of them and inquiring about their wellbeing. They never tried to sell the medicines but genuinely spoke to the customers as such they are friends. Even in the busiest times I never saw the storekeepers and the owner without a smile on their faces. There are people who have been going to that store since their inception, which could be at least 30-40 years ago. Not just this store, you can see the people living in towns and villages go to the same place for any product or service just because of the relation that was established. These sellers have realized the fourth law long ago, "The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself".

Whether in personal life or professional life, there is no end to the challenges people or companies face. The probability of reaching for a helping hand in such a situation is very high. On what basis can we provide the best possible solution? If it is a client looking for a solution, it is very crucial for us to provide the right solution. In such a critical time, the support that we get to resolve such issues is the knowledge and experience that has been accrued over the years. You never know what kind of challenges you face and which area of knowledge has to be utilized to resolve that. All we can do is when provided with an opportunity to learn, be ready to accept it with alacrity. Because "The key to effective giving is to stay open to receptivity".

Got the principles right, it is time to implement!!!

Silver Lining on Corona Cloud

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Corona, a word that has changed the course of not just a state or a country but the entire world. A disease-transmitting from human to human, citizens not stepping out of their homes and politicians working day and night. Great countries giving up their fight against a tiny virus. It doesn't take much time to realize that we are not watching a fictional Hollywood movie, but looking at the world around us. Learnings from other countries and a presumed debility to handle such a heart-breaking situation made the Indian government be proactive in taking appropriate measures. The central government and all the state governments deserve resounding applause for being on their toes during such a critical situation.

Straight on the face numbers on corona cases and deaths by 24/7 media shadows the positives and lessons that we can take once the dust settles. So I choose to look at what can be considered as the silver lining on the corona cloud.

World Leaders:
We have the biggest companies in the world, we are the richest and we have the largest fleet of warships. All these statements counted for nothing against nature. Corona is on a rampage in a country that believed that the world has to dance to their tunes. Many believed it as an epitome for realizing dreams and immense opportunities. But a small virus and poor decision making has modified it to the land of trouble, struggle and restlessness. The world leader has been witnessing people fighting for toilet paper and above all looting supermarkets. Not just in the USA, the virus has highlighted the loopholes in the health care and political systems of many rich countries. It has taught us the importance of investing in developing the health care system and research related to it rather than on the defense or entertainment. Nature once in a while has to make us realize that no one is above it. Else, our arrogance will ruin the god gifted planet to the core and look out for other planets. We destroyed nature's creation to such an extent, we didn't even think twice to slow down the rotation of the earth. Can't believe it? Refer the link:

The president of Ghana said, "we know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life". A small and simple statement which highlighted the priority at this crucial situation. Presidents of world-leading countries couldn't realize that.

Rat Race: Before returning to India, one of my friends Dr. Srikanth told me "we humans, knowingly or unknowingly get into a rat race once we start our careers. Be conscious enough not to get into that race." I am fortunate enough not to get into that race, but I have become a silent spectator of that race. I have been silently shouting out at the rats to say that they are running a race where all their goals are different. The much-needed break backed up by the lockdown should help them realize what they are running doesn't make life full. All the buildings, cars and the devices we own, our financial status, our social status come for nothing when death stalks us. Princess of Spain and the Prime Minister of the UK are typical examples.

When a deadly virus like corona knocks the doors our eyes keep searching for the people around us not for the materialistic possessions that we have madly run for.

Nothing is Impossible: Air Quality Index occupies the headlines during the last two months of the year. Delhi gets highlighted at that time for all the wrong reasons. Government mulls over what needs to be done in order to reduce pollution. Now, all the vehicles in the country are restricted to the garages which gave a chance to the air to get refreshed. This is a solution which no one would have ever thought of. Isn't it good if we have lockdown once in six months? We have been sincerely following lockdown to save our lives, can't we do it to save our mother nature? Our struggle to find the possibility of life on other planets can be ceased if we can just save our own planet and make it a beautiful place to live.

Many of us perceive that most of the politicians can't work, but they proved it wrong. It is amazing to see such solidarity among the whole government to reduce the loss due to the virus. This kind of effort continued further will change the face of the country.

Governments invest a lot on statues, not just for unity but also to satisfy their egos. The same politicians bolster fraud business leaders deceive banks by defaulting loans. The list goes endless if we start talking about bad investments in our country. This virus is an eye-opener that provided enough reasoning for us to allocate more budgets towards health care. It would always be worth compared to a loss-making airline or a fraud organization. A small country, Cuba stood tall as an example of how to revamp the health care system. A leader who survived 634 assassinations attempts made it resoundingly clear how critical the health care system to a country. All the medical staff from that country have been sent to other countries to help COVID-19 patients. The country and the leader who made it happen Late. Fidel Castro deserve huge appreciation.