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Trees rustled softly in the wind and crickets chirped.  It was a cold night.  I trembled under my blanket.  The air had a misty, damp smell and the only noise I heard in my tent was the swift shaking of the hood as it swayed in the soft winds of the night.

I pulled the blanket over me,  zipped all the windows shut and snuggled to keep me warm.  I could not move much either on a airbed as they would bounce and the sheets would slip off exposing the cold top of the bed.  Slowly staring into the night sky, making shapes out of the stars visible thru the nets on top of the tent, I must have dozed off into a deep sleep.

The next morning, the Sun shining thru all possible vents in the tent, a pinkish grey color radiated through the helpless tent.  The lake across from our tent shimmered with the reflecting light of the sun.  Some early birds had already hit the water with their paddle boats and little yachts.  I woke up to take in the morning glory and decided to jog.  Jog all the way up to the breakfast area.  Yeah, it was already 7:30am – thinking all along, “Hope I am not late for Breakfast.”

Some habits die hard!!! Ciao. Pooja

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Dabbawalas to market Reliance Power IPO

Dabbawalahs of Mumbai

MUMBAI: Reliance Money, the financial services and products distribution company of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, has latched on to a marketing innovation. The firm has roped in the Six Sigma perfected dabbawalas to get an edge in their run-up to the Reliance Power IPO, among a host of other tradeable financial services. The dabba which arrives on the dot at most office desks with home-cooked food, will have other steaming offers in a bulging paper envelope. Apart from the full bouquet of mutual funds, insurance products and money transfer services, Reliance Money expects to push demat accounts, and IPO application forms through this channel, beginning with the Reliance Power application forms. The dabbawalas will not only carry Reliance Money’s messages across the city, they will even pick up requests and completed forms from customers back to the company.

“Its a dedicated two-way communications channel,” says Sudip Bandyopadhyay, director of Reliance Money. “The idea is to reach out to a maximum number of retail investors.” According to recent estimates, the dabbawalas move around 1.6 lakh lunch boxes everyday across the length and breath of Mumbai, with a workforce of around 5,000.

The alliance ensures that Reliance Money gets access to the most sought after segment of 24-60 year old professionals in the city, “each of who is individualistic enough to insist on fresh, hot home food every day. Reaching out directly to this segment makes more marketing sense than acquiring impersonal mailing lists,” says the director.

Given that some parts of this segment may not qualify as traditional equity investors, putting across a customised value proposition for each individual is an added bonus. According to reports, though the average dabbawala has no formal education beyond class eight on an average, their work practices draw upon a 120-year old logistics system. That means the familiar workforce on Mumbai streets – for whom even the unruly Mumbai traffic stops to let pass – misses no more than one delivery in every 10 million.

Though the deal with the dabbawalas is to be an event-based deal, Reliance Money is also looking at alternate channels to sell its services. It has also tied up with coffee chain Barista, where each outlet has a trading kiosk. Many travel agencies (like Kuoni) as well as courier offices (like DTDC) too will distribute the company’s financial products.

Reliance Money is the electronic transaction platform associated with Reliance Capital, a private sector financial services companies.

 

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‘Chak De India’ is a beautifully made film that makes you laugh, makes you cry, gives you goose bumps, and stirs up patriotism inside you. It is a film that every lover of good cinema must watch.

It was during one of my daughter’s soccer games that I decided to watch it. She had just been beaten in a game, played the defense position instead of her favorite offense or forward position. Added to it was the verbal unsolicited tirade from her dad that she had to listen …..Poor soul. So, I had to do something for her, shall we say, self esteem and confidence to be restored.

I decided to use one of my audio-visual motivational techniques. Borrowed a copy of ‘Chak De India’ and got her to watch it the night before the game. What a move it was. She could relate to the importance of various positions, adversities faced at higher levels of competition, need to play rough when required and most of all inspirational teamwork. Long story short, she managed to score three goals and carried her team to victory AND played midfield as well as defense in the game and did so with aplomb.

‘Chak De India’ is not just a sports film. It is replete with myriad emotions. And the best part is that Shimit Amin tells the story very realistically, making it all the more believable. He also doesn’t bring any unnecessary dramatization into the story.

The movie has a number of intelligently conceived sequences. For instance, a sequence when the girl’s hockey team has to prove their mettle against the men’s team. The girls lose by a narrow margin, but they get an applause and salutation from male players. Or, another sequence when the girls bash up a bunch of eve teasers. These sequences and the last portions of the second half – when the crucial matches are played – evoke a flood of emotions inside a viewer.

I cannot recall a single dull moment in the film. From the word go, the movie grips you like a vice and keeps you riveted until the end credits roll. During this ‘Chak De’ ride, you go through myriad emotions. You empathize with the pain of the protagonist, cherish the clashes and camaraderie of the girls, and you are filled with an uplifting, charged-up feeling as you see the underdogs rise to the occasion.

My son gets so fired up with the title song that by playing it one could shake him out of a dull mood. I am not surprised that the stadium sang to this song in the recent 20/20 cricket match between India and Australia. That sure must have helped India win to some extent.

To cut to the chase, ‘Chak De India’ keeps you on the edge of your seat, even though it is a sports-based film and not a thriller.

The film’s story is simple and yet it carries so many undercurrents.

Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh), the best centre-forward in Indian hockey team, misses the crucial, last-minute penalty stroke against Pakistan and is blamed for the Indian team’s defeat in the finals. So much so, he is labeled gaddar (betrayer) by his own fellow countrymen. Disgraced and dishonored for one momentary failure, Kabir Khan leaves his parental house with his mother and disappears into oblivion.

Seven years later he appears again, not as a player but as a coach of a bunch of girls in whom even the Hockey Federation has no confidence. Kabir Khan has just three months to coach and train these girls for the Hockey World Cup in Australia.

The girls come from all over India – Haryana, Chandigarh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, North East and other states.

On the outside, Kabir Khan is very strict with the girls. Through his toughness he wants to instill discipline and integrity in the team, something which is significantly missing.

Within the team, there is hardly any camaraderie. There are usual girlie fights and arguments. Somebody is egoistic, somebody too self-centered, somebody is hot-tempered and somebody is simply naïve.

Using very unconventional methods, Kabir Khan manages to create a team spirit among the girls. But some differences remain, only to be sorted out in the World Cup tournament in Australia, which the team must win to make India proud. But Kabir Khan is fighting for more than pride for India. For him the victory would bring redemption (for his momentary failure 7 years ago) and reclamation of his lost honor. And when that moment of reckoning does come, he looks on with disbelief in his teary eyes.

A constant thread of humor runs through the film’s narrative. The humor is vernacular, and genuinely funny at that. The funniest of the lot is the rustic Haryanavi girl Komal (Chitrashi Rawat) and the hot-tempered Punjabi girl Balbir Kaur (Tanya Abrol).

The superstar doesn’t go overboard in his performance in ‘Chak De’– there is no quivering of lips and no heavy breathing. Using his facial expressions and intense eyes to his advantage, with utmost conviction SRK plays a man simmering and seething within. Undoubtedly, this one is a praiseworthy performance from the King Khan.

At the end of the day, ‘Chak De India’ is a deeply touching film that offers plenty for you to carry home with.

Do yourself a favor, go and see this film. It is a must-watch. If any of you visit India and get your hands on a legal copy, send me one. This one, like Lagaan, is a collectible.

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It was in 1991 that Kenich Ohmae’s book Borderless World first made its impact on me and got me into trying to becoming a global executive as against a local executive.  In those years, it was an attempt to try and innovate in your functions rather than product innovation.

Being a Product Marketing Manager in India, for products built and developed in the US for most part, it was innovative approaches to positioning, bringing and getting people to adopting it in India.  Sixteen years later, we are now in a completely different world.  A borderless, or FLAT as we call it now, yet, innovating on all fronts.

I had a chance to read excepts of the new book by John Kao, an innovation consultant, who points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, all the key advantages once enjoyed by the U.S. are nearly gone.


His strongest point is that the geography of innovation is changing. For much of the 20th century, the locus of leading-edge thinking was the U.S. and Western Europe. The rise of Asia is evening that out, redistributing the fruits of innovation: wealth and power.

 

From Borderless World  to a Flat World to Innovation Nation to Borderless Innovation – how did things change so soon?


Global Talent. The return to greatness of Asia’s older universities and the building of new educational institutions mean that brainpower is more evenly distributed. In addition, a giant reverse diaspora is under way as tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers, many of them tops in their fields, leave the U.S. to return to their homelands to teach and work.

Venture Capital Availability. Venture capital pools are operating all over Asia and Europe, speeding the generation of new startups. European and American VC firms have offices in most major cities in Asia and Eastern Europe. Initial public offerings have totaled $40 billion in China so far in 2007. Two of my good friends from the Silicon Valley have set up large funds to assist new ventures with a focus on India.

Silicon Valley is no longer only in CA. The social and economic ecosystem that has been so productive in Northern California is being reproduced all over the world. Bangalore in India and Biopolis in Singapore , have found the magic once mainly centered in U.S. innovation hubs.

Dollar is losing its foothold –We see buying power across a few nations growing and Euro gaining strength.  In countries like India, which seem to be delivering the recent additions to the list of billionaires – including arguably the new #1 Mukesh Ambani.

 

_Lower barriers to entry – With access to top computing power, labs, design schools and JIT access to latest and most current, countries like India and China are able to bring out the best products, programs, methodologies that best help their respective economies as well as gain global footage.

 

eShowcase- With the advent of ecommerce, web commerce and ability to show and tell from any part of the world, competitive innovators are able to attract potential clients and user from all across the world.  Thus removing yet another barrier of travel, visa, language and possibly even capital to just show sample work.

 

Kao probably underplays a critical issue: the role of global corporations in innovation’s changing geography. Such companies, he suggests, “operate with increasing independence from their country of origin…. They are shipping manufacturing, design and especially R&D abroad at a ferocious pace.” So fast is this happening, says Kao in his book, that Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel (INTC ), told him his company might not even qualify as American anymore. Is this the beginning of the Borderless Innovation?

Global corporations are benefiting from this global shift. Just as the fall of communism led to a wider pool of labor and capital, so too will the global spread of innovation create a wider pool of talent for companies. Albeit originating this time from the east rather than the  traditional west or to be precise – America.


But Americans are not gaining as much from all this.  In the past, economic benefits have gone mostly to the first mover—the innovator, entrepreneur, or creator. Not to mention the location of the first mover – in a conducive environment like the Silicon Valley for example.

Kao notes that the U.S. already spends more per public-school student than any other major country. He wants new ways to teach, such as integrating game culture with curriculum development. What will it take for more Americans to start getting into the mainstream of engineering, design, technology, medicine instead of the now popular “liberal arts” major?  Will America be able to leverage the education system and potential by collaborating with the universities and curriculum in India and other parts of Asia that is producing these brilliant, wide pool of talent?  Will America start looking at the seeding stages of education while also looking at the seeding capital for Silicon Valley companies?  Will we truly be able to work seamlessly in a world economy that co-exists because of the quality and value of what each delivers and not because of the currency differences and labor arbitrage?

Agood blend of the east and west has always delivered interesting progressive results.  Can we potentially bet on the future by applying some innovative approaches to education and betting on the next generation to bet on the future? Is Global Mentorship an approach?  Is America open minded about a novel “innovative approach”? Only time will tell…..or  will it be too late? 



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It was during the 99-2004 that I was probably living off a suitcase and of course a briefcase with a laptop in it weighing anywhere from 10lbs initially to about 4lbs.

Having been “around” and yet not going around as much lately, my mind always tries to keep a look out for the best tools for a road warrior.

In the recent past, a number of new services for road warriors have been introduced in the market, and they go way beyond email and calendaring. Eventually we are getting to a point where we can potentially leave home without a laptop, live away from your computer and yet stay fully connected. You do need a smartphone–such as an iPhone, or a current model of BlackBerry or like my brother uses the NOKIA e-611–to use most of these apps. It takes very little time to actually get set and go!
Not a day goes by without some friend, client, associate wondering how come I still do not have an iPhone. I guess my business partner and I have worked hard to get over the “theory of gadget attraction” and try to get more out of our investments. Both of us have blackberry devices for the last 4 years or so and have been mighty pleased with it. That said, I am making an effort here to list what potentially could be the best tools for a road warrior. Being from the class of “doing more with less”, all these services are free. Thanks to my friend Dorai for having pointed to a couple of them.

Voice notes

JOTT: If you want to leave a message, make a note, store an idea, just call Jott and leave a message. Within a few minutes, Jott will send back an email with both the audio message and text. Jott also now lets you use your voice. We tried with our inimitable accents, lo and behold…perfecto transcription.

Instant messaging

GTALK: IM for me has become a very convenient and effective way to stay in touch and get things going with as minimum communication as required – quickly. It has enabled me attend to calls and yet ping for required current information. I also heard about Fring that lets you use instant messengers such as Gtalk, Skype and others via mobile.

GOOGLEMAPS: I saw the application on my blackberry pearl when I first got it and loved it. Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google all offer mobile versions of their online portals. They each provide dozens of features, including search, weather, and stock widgets. Whether you choose Google or not, get Google Maps for travel directions. In some areas, it’ll even show you traffic conditions–a major time-saver. Love it especially that now I travel only when needed and it ends up being a MUST travel rather than HAVE to travel scenario.

Grand Central helpfully lets you control multiple phone lines, send calls to any phone, and then listen to messages from any Web browser.

VOICEMAIL: Skype despite all the interesting news it is making today, certainly made a huge impact in mobility of voice mails and ability to call from anywhere. We are a small firm with less than 100 experts in IT and business and do not necessarily need a big IT department. I heard about Callwave to manage office voice mails. It goes beyond the iPhone’s visual voice mail, giving you lots of ways to manage calls. Its latest service converts voice mail to a text message (free during beta).

SPREADSHEETS: Sharing documents and spreadsheets has been a boon in its own way. There are many instances in the last few months both for business and my non-profit involvements we have used these features on Google. If you do a lot of work in Excel, like we do and if I can read the passion to use Excel for proto-typing in my colleague Dorai, we will soon be having them as the official medium for budgets, forecasts, prototypes (yeah, I might just ask him to blog on that discovery soon). Until recently, I probably had to carry my laptop just for the “XL moments”. No more, EditGrid (free for personal use; corporate account prices vary) is a really cool online spreadsheet program; I believe, its new iPhone version gives you full-featured spreadsheets.

MEDIA: With all pictures and videos we take with our hand phone (that is what they call it in India), Youtube, Flickr being a part of ones daily life, an application like SHOZU can help upload images and videos.

MONITR & SMART BOOKMARKS: Last but not the least, is our own productivity tool WEBMonitr. While you have all the capability to browse and limited time, bandwidth, convenience to do the same, this sends you ALERTS of changes, updates, news, current events, profiles, competition, what not as a simple email with a link to your hand phone. You then have to click on the link and check out the site. No need to run thru multiple bookmarks and keep looking for the latest and the greatest.

Cheers! To productive Mobility. Cheers! To Freedom!!

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Going to Goa

Being from a family the ancestors of which apparently drifted from Goa during the Portugese invasion and thereafter seeking a living down south, we have always had a special place in our hearts for Goa. It is the only state where Konkani is the language of the parliament and State. Though heavily influenced by Portugese and has a twang to the kind we speak, it still has the musical notes to it. After many many years, lyricists have continued to add a few lines in Konkani to their songs for the Bollywood movies. ( Remember Bobby? )

Our affair with Goa started in 1974 with a few families – mainly a pilgrimage trip to all temples . This was an awesome train (steam engine – mind you) ride we have never forgotten. The picture of beautiful landscape, occasional fire when coal from the train is thrown on dry grass along the tracks, the sunsets, the delicious nick-nacks from hawkers in the train, the songs, dances, card games amidst the dhadak-dhadak of the train.

Thereafter, we must have visited a couple of times to see family and of course visit temples.

During my engineering days at BMS, we went on an educational tour to various places and industries. Goa stop being one for pleasure, and the rest of them for academic delight we shall say.

I almost took up a job there after graduation. I was actually quite looking forward to it. For whatever reasons I never got to see that realize. Looking back it is a mixed feeling. The company did not do well and would have given a rather bumpy start after all to my career.

Each time the place has extended different flavors and culture to us. Last time we went to Goa was in 2006 and spent a few quality days at a resort in south Goa with family. Despite heavy rains and being indoor, we enjoyed all aspects of Goa. I have always tried to capture the essence of the land, history, culture, tradition, food, festivals etc.,

I found this piece in The Economist. I like the choices, the suggestions and the highlights. Hope you do too.

From hippy to hip: this former Portuguese enclave is no longer the exclusive preserve of the backpacker set

“There’s one thing I know, Lord above/I ain’t goin’ to Goa.” So sang the Alabama 3, a London band famous for singing the theme song for “The Sopranos” television series. “There ain’t nothing worse than some fool lying on some third world beach wearing spandex, psychedelic trousers, smoking damn dope pretending he’s gettin’ consciousness expansion.”

This about sums up a typical view of Goa, once a Portuguese colony situated about 400km down the Arabian Sea coast south of Mumbai, and long popular with hippy-styled Western backpackers. Sure, Goa still lures budget travellers with a yen for trance music and full-moon beach parties, but India’s most laid-back state, also one of its smallest, has also become a hip destination for Mumbaikars seeking a beach-lined reprieve from the city. Returning visitors may be surprised to discover quite a few new boutique hotels, restaurants and bars.

This relatively new demand has helped fuel India’s boom in budget airlines. The best way to get to Goa however is a train ride thru Pune OR try the road via the Karwar coast.

With its relaxed pace of life, unique culture, breathtaking landscape, fabulous white-sand beaches and friendly locals, Goa is the perfect weekend antidote to Mumbai. The mountain range of the Western Ghats cuts Goa off from the rest of India; this natural barrier has let the area develop along different economic and cultural lines.


Then and now

For centuries, Goa was an important trading centre. The presence of the Portuguese (from the early 16th century to 1961, when India annexed the territory) profoundly influenced the state’s hybrid Indo-European culture, affecting local attitudes about everything from food to religion. Catholics form a 30% minority, concentrated mainly along the coast and so remain highly visible to tourists. But most Goans are Hindu, and both religions co-exist peacefully.

Today, Goa is India’s wealthiest state per capita. Although not free from hardship (and battles over development—see this website for details), most residents live in relative comfort. The ideal time to visit is between November and February, well after the monsoon season of June to September.


Getting around

Goa is easy to navigate, and relatively traffic-free. On a weekend break, eschew public transport and hire taxis (the ubiquitous white Maruti mini-van), which are inexpensive, but be sure to negotiate prices, as there are no meters. Hiring a taxi for a whole day is also common, and ensures that you do not waste precious time getting lost.

For those staying only one night, the surprisingly uncrowded beach at Bogmalo is just ten minutes’ drive from Dabolim, Goa’s airport (tel: +91 (0)832 254 0806). The Bogmallo Beach Resort (website) is decent, and all rooms have a picturesque sea view. There are some peaceful beachfront cafés, such as Sea Cuisine (tel: +91 (0)832 255 5969), where you can enjoy the Arabian Sea at sunset, less than four hours after stepping out the door in Mumbai.


On the beach—day and night

If you are in Goa for two nights, you must head either north or south; the coastline is too long and varied to cover both. The more developed—and more crowded—north is the easier option. A good base is the charming boutique Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel (tel: +91 (0)236 622 7631, website), at Querim, Goa’s northernmost beach. Housed inside an old Portuguese fort, it has incredible sea views, well worth the 90-minute drive from the airport. It has only a handful of rooms, so be sure to book in advance. For something more upmarket, the nearby hilltop Nilaya Hermitage (website), Fort Tiracol’s sister, is one of India’s most exclusive addresses and a fine destination for an evening drink or meal.

It is possible to swim at Tiracol, but there can be a strong undertow towards the estuary. A better option is nearby Ashwem beach, where a sandbar ensures that the water remains clear and shallow. Even in peak season, Ashwem is peaceful, and its southern tip is a great place to watch the sun set.

The best examples of north Goa’s lively culinary and nightlife scenes are at Candolim and Baga beaches. At Candolim, Club 21 is the archetypal Goan beach shack, serving the usual naans and curries, as well as delicious fresh sandwiches, fruit juices and cocktails. It also has a weekly barbecue and friendly local staff. Sweet Chilli (off the Taj Fort Aguada junction at Sinquerim, tel: +91 (0)236 247 9446), is a cheerful outdoor restaurant, with great food and regular themed nights. Or head to Ingo’s Saturday Night Bazaar at Arpora, a fun spot with no cover-charge, open from 4.30pm until midnight. Besides an expansive open-air flea market, there is outdoor entertainment such as fire-eating and live bands, and plenty of international food stalls.

At Baga, Mambo’s bar (Tito’s Lane, Saunta Vaddo, tel: +91 (0)236 227 5028/9895), in the open air on the palm-fringed beach, has a casual atmosphere and good music for lounging or dancing. Next door, Tito’s (website) is very exclusive, a touch pretentious and popular with the Bollywood set. For something quieter, simply cross the lane to Baga beach itself, where the Pyramid beach shack has candlelit tables on the shore, and the stillness is more than a little revitalising.


In the capital

To get in touch with Goa’s rich history, head inland to Panjim (also known as Panaji), the state’s charming capital, on the banks of the Mandovi river. Expect an unhurried Mediterranean feel and characteristic Portuguese architecture, particularly in the old quarter of Fontainhas, where you might even hear a snippet of Portuguese spoken.

Stock up on Goan cashew nuts (Zantye’s is an excellent brand) and delicious pastries on 18th June Road. Mr Baker (tel: +91 (0)832 222 4622, on Dr RS Road, opposite the Municipal Gardens) offers succulent lamb, chicken or vegetable Goan patties. Try some bebinca, a Portuguese-style cake made with egg yolks, and take home a pot of mango jam: this is what many Goan families eat for breakfast on the Portuguese-style breads of pao or poee. A sunset cruise on the Mandovi river is an excellent way to wind up an afternoon.

East of Panjim lies Old Goa, the region’s former capital. It is no longer a town in the formal sense, more the site of some beautiful, slowly decaying Catholic cathedrals and churches. The Church of Bom Jesus houses the remains of St Francis of Xavier (minus a toe, bitten from the corpse by an over-zealous devotee) and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (see website). Both this and the Sé Cathedral opposite, the largest church in Asia, are landmarks in Indian Christianity.


Elsewhere

With more time, the beaches of south Goa, the spice plantations at Ponda and even the Dudhsagar waterfalls inland are all worth visiting. A weekend in Goa though, is best spent doing what the Goans do: enjoying life at an unhurried, most un-Mumbai pace.

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Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which
he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease”?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over — 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakh learn to play tennis, 5 lakh learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD “Why me?”. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD “Why me?”

Happiness keeps u Sweet, Trials keep u Strong, Sorrow keeps u Human, Failure Keeps u Humble, Success keeps u Glowing, But only God Keeps u Going…..Keep Going…..

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